"Oh for cryin' out loud! Mercy! Mercy, wake up!" Henri LeBeau reached across the mattress he shared with his wife Mercy and shook her slender shoulder lightly. As he moved, he felt a distinct squish sound that he didn't like one bit. He also didn't like the fact that the sound was coming from beneath him.
Mercy woke up, groggy, and promptly sneezed. She sat up beside her husband, and realized that her long blonde hair was drenched, along with everything else. Even Henri's mustache was dripping. "What de hell is goin' on? Is dis another of Emil's practical jokes?" She asked. Emil Lapin was the young son of their friend Francois, who also happened to be Henri's uncle. Mercy's question was a valid one; the small red-haired boy was famous in the Guild clans for playing pranks on the unsuspecting.
"I'm not sure..." Henri glared at the room they shared off the main underground tunnels the Thieves Guild called home. The entire floor was flooded with several inches of water. "In order to produce dis amount of water, he would've had to shut off de breaker, an' even Emil isn' crazy enough to risk tickin' off Papa for a practical joke."
"You don' t'ink? I do. We should ask him." Mercy suggested.
They didn't have to wait long. Within seconds, an obviously soaked and miserable little boy was standing in the door to their room, trailing an equally wet blanket behind him. "Where all dis water come from?" He sniffled. "I'm cold..."
Henri got up and lifted Emil into his arms. "We are too, petit." After giving his little cousin a squishy hug, Henri handed him to Mercy. "Is dere water like dis everywhere in de tunnels, Emil?"
"Uh-huh..." Emil nodded, his teeth chattering.
Henri frowned, wondering where all the water had come from. "I t'ink it's time to wake up Papa an' call a meetin'. We need to deal wit' dis."
While Henri spoke with his father, Mercy hunted through their clothes and found two dry flannel shirts of Henri's and a pair of her jeans. She helped Emil get out of his wet clothes and put one of Henri's shirts on him. It was at least ten sizes too big, but Emil, who giggled at how small he felt inside it, loved it because it was warm and comfortable. And dry. That was the most important. Emil didn't care if it trailed in the vast amount of water on the floor when he walked. It was drier than the clothes he had on before.
Moments later, while Mercy stepped into another room to get changed, Henri returned with Jean-Luc, who smiled sympathetically down at his small nephew. "Did you order all dis water, Emil?" He asked, playfully spiking Emil's wet red hair.
"Non!" Emil replied indignantly. "Don' like it. Want it to go 'way."
"Me too. It's not pleasant to wake up to de knowledge dat your bed is soakin' wet. Does your Papa know you're here?"
Emil nodded. "Uh-huh. He tol' me to come wake you. Says it's like dis all over de tunnels."
"Well let's go take a look, shall we?" Jean-Luc asked, bending over so Emil could hop up on his back for a piggy-back ride. They left the room, followed by Henri and Mercy, sloshing behind them in the water. Along their travels through the tunnels, they met up with the other Guild clans, none of whom had been uneffected by the wet conditions.
"Dis is ridiculous, Jean-Luc!" Belize Marceaux exclaimed angrily. "Did de breaker shut down or somethin'? It's gon' take days to get everythin' dry an' livable 'gain! Some of us have young children!"
"Belize...shut up." Francois laughed, lifting Emil off Jean-Luc's back and holding him close. "Dis serves us all right for not listenin' to Tante Mattie las' night an' you know it. She said dere was a hurricane watch...dere was one headed right for Nawlins."
"An' hurricanes usually mean serious floodin'." Belize's older son, Theoren, who was also one of Henri and Francois' best friends, finished. "Papa, Francois is right. We should have listened to Tante Mattie."
"Dat's right, you should have." A warm, loving voice said from the shadows. Tante Mattie, a plump matronly black woman who never hid the fact that she was the mother hen of the Thieves Guild, appeared from one of the tunnels, raising her skirts above the water to keep them dry. "De whole city's flooded. Dere's no way you could have escaped it."
"What're dey sayin' on de news, Tante?" Henri asked, curious. Mattie was the only one of their tight family who had a television. The Guild didn't see the point to trying to steal cable when their traiteur could tell them what was going on whenever they needed to know.
"Jus' dat ev'ryone has to wait until de water recedes, what else?" Mattie chuckled, her face lighting up. "Of course, dey don' know dat dese tunnels exist, dey don' know dat y'all live down here...so dey don' know dat your entire livin' quarters are nearly foot-deep in water. An' jus' like ev'ryone else, you jus' have to wait. You could try pushin' all de water into de storm drains, but I'd say dey're pretty backed up right 'bout now."
"How long 'fore de water goes 'way, Tante Mattie?" Etienne Marceaux, much-younger brother of Theoren, asked from his spot in his brother's arms, his big blue eyes bright. At three years old, Etienne was two years younger than Emil, who was falling asleep in Francois' arms, his head resting on his father's shoulder.
"Not soon enough, I'm afraid, chil'. But b'lieve it or not, it's already startin' to recede some. So jus' sit tight. It'll be gone b'fore you know it."
"An' in de meantime, where are we s'posed to sleep?" Mercy wanted to know. "All de beds are soaked, 'long wit' everythin' else."
"We could go to de Antiquary, as much as we hate him, an' ask for shelter in his museum until t'ings are livable down here 'gain." Jean-Luc suggested, knowing his thieves would say no. The Antiquary an' his clan were part of the Thieves Guild, but they were outsiders even by Guild standards, and had never gotten along with the rest of the Guild in many years.
"Askin' him for help is out of de question. I'd rather sleep on a wet mattress." Belize snorted.
"B'sides," Theoren pointed out. "He'd never agree to help us out even if you are de Guild patriarch. He hates us jus' as much as we hate him."
"An' on top of dat..." Pierre Alouette finished, his hand resting gently on his adolescent son Genard's shoulder. "Would any of us feel comfortable spendin' even one night in dat museum?" He looked around and smiled as everyone present, Jean-Luc included, shook their heads. "Exactly."
"Dat doesn' answer Mercy's question, t'ough." Henri reminded them. "Where are we gon' sleep?"
"On de moon." Emil mumbled sleepily. "Dey don' have hurr'canes on de moon."
"How you know dey don'?" Etienne demanded of his cousin, his curiosity piqued.
"De man in de moon woulda said so. He lives dere. He should know." Was Emil's logical answer.
Etienne thought about that for a few moments and then squirmed around in Theoren's arms to look at their father, an eager, hopeful look on his small face. "Papa can we go to de moon?"
Belize blinked a couple of times and then smiled. "I wish we could. But we might get lost. It's really a long ways away...much longer dan it looks...an' we don't have a map."
"Or a spaceship." Genard giggled.
"Dat's true." Belize nodded at him and then looked back at his son. "But maybe someday we'll go there. After you grow up. How 'bout dat?"
"Okay." Etienne agreed.
"De water level's recedin' pretty quick." Claude Potier commented, his voice quiet as always. Claude was the only remaining member of his clan; he witnessed their brutal massacre at the hands of the Guild's long time enemies, the Assassins Guild when he was sixteen. He'd always been quiet and reserved preferring to watch rather than be involved, but the horror of that experience had enhanced his quietness to an amazing degree. He seldom spoke, only doing so when he had something of great importance to share.
"We might not have to look elsewhere for a place to stay then." Henri smiled. "It's still fairly early, an' I bet if de water level goes down enough we'll be able to start dryin' off our mattresses b'fore lunch. We still have de heaters we got las' winter when we got dat blizzard an' it was so cold. Dose would work."
"Good idea, Henri. We'll keep an eye on de water level an' when we t'ink it's safe to start heatin' up our beds, we'll do dat." Jean-Luc agreed, glad that a solution had been found.
Late that night, the water was all but gone from the tunnels and rooms beneath New Orleans. The thieves had spent the majority of the day hanging up wet items and repositioning the heaters around their beds in an attempt to dry them before bedtime. They only partially succeeded, as the mattresses were soaked right through, but they dried enough to be damp, not squishy.
Henri and Mercy sat down on their mattress and lay down with a joint sigh. "Dis is not good on a person..." Mercy commented darkly. "We're all gon' end up wit' colds or pneumonia or somethin'."
"An' no matter if we get dese beds dried completely, dey're gon' rot an' get mouldy. We're gon' have to find new ones. Probably soon."
"I hate hurricanes an' floods."
"Me too, but we can't do anythin' 'bout dem. Dey're part of livin' in dis part of de country. It's better dan livin' in, say, Los Angeles, where dere are earthquakes."
"Dat's true, but I still hate dis stuff too. We could always move..."
Henri shook his head tolerantly. "I know you don' mean dat, chere."
"Well no, but..."