Circle of Life

(Note: The Guilds belong to Marvel. The title belongs to Disney. Everyone remember "The Lion King"? Yeah, that's where I got it. Any original characters, as well as the story itself, belong to me. This one is a lot like "Life and Death in New Orleans" but it's about someone different this time, of course. I have no money, suing will get you nothing except a huge comic collection, a huge royal biography and Stephen King collection and not much else, sorry. I hope you enjoy the story; that is why fanfic writers write them after all. Special thanks go to my dear friend Pejo for his wonderful suggestion that I try to turn our RPGs into stories. This is the first to come from that idea and is a bit of a background to a long RPG we did last summer.)

Chandler Devereaux sat impatiently in the plush armchair in the library of the Boudreaux mansion, tapping his fingers on the armrests and looking at his watch every two minutes. It seemed to the assassin that he'd been waiting for years, but it had only been an hour and a half, by his count. He just wanted this to be over with so he could get on with his life.

Across the room, his fifteen-year-old son, Percival, known in the legendary New Orleans Assassins Guild as Percy, stood gazing out the window at the Mississippi. Sensing his father's unease, the teenager, not turning around, commented lightly,

"I t'ought you didn' care, Father."

Chandler chuckled and stood, walking over to stand beside his son. They were both tall and slim, with unruly dark hair and piercing dark blue eyes. "I don'."

"Den why're we here?" Percy didn't understand the logic behind what they were doing. In a room down the hall from the dim library, Percy's mother, Celeste, younger sister of the Guild patriarch Marius Boudreaux, was in labour with her second child. She was being assisted by Tante Mattie, who was mother-figure, spiritual healer and guide to both the Assassins Guild and their long-time rivals the Thieves Guild.

"We're here because it will make your mother happy if she t'inks we're excited 'bout dis baby, you know dat." Chandler explained. In truth, neither he nor Percy wanted the baby, and were only pretending to be happy about its arrival for the sake of Celeste, who was thrilled with the idea of having another child.

"You shouldn' lie to Celeste like dat." a voice said quietly from the shadows near the doorway of the library. "T'ings like dis ain' to be taken lightly."

Percy and Chandler turned to find the owner of the voice, the beaded-dreadlocked giant known only as Gris-Gris leaning in the doorway. Only Marius knew the large black man's real name, and even he wasn't telling. The stony look on his chiseled face was customary and befitting the second-in-command of the Guild, but his heartless demeanor was a mask for the grief he was feeling.

"Do you really t'ink dis is any of your business, Gris-Gris?" Chandler questioned, his voice hardening. He and Gris-Gris had never gotten along, and it didn't help any that both Marius and Celeste actually seemed to like the voodoo master.

"Oui, I do." Gris replied, staring coldly at them with his dark eyes. Percy noticed, not for the first time either, that Gris' eyes were constantly watching. He missed nothing. Ever. Well, hardly ever anyway, but that wasn't something Percy would know anything about, thank you very much.

Gris-Gris decided not to tell them just then that he had special interest in this new baby. Celeste had asked him only a few weeks before if he would be the baby's godfather, and Gris had accepted willingly, amazed but only half-surprised that she had even considered asking him. He knew Chandler would not have approved, and was glad Celeste had the spunk and nerve to make the decision without asking her husband.

"Why?" Percy asked. "You didn' care too much 'bout your own family, why does ours matter so much to you?"

Gris glared at the teenager, his dark eyes flashing angrily at the comment. His entire body glowed with anger and the powers coursing through his veins. Before he could utter a word, Chandler hastily chastised his son.

"Percival! Dat's quite enough."

"Indeed." Gris-Gris said, his voice hard. In truth, the words of the boy had struck a very raw nerve and it was all Gris could do to keep from losing his composure. He left the room without another word, and went to his own bedroom, across the hallway from the room where Celeste was in labour.

He lay down on his bed with a deep sigh. Closing his eyes, he let his mind wander and ultimately did nothing to stop the tears that started to trickle down the sides of his face into his long beaded dreadlocks.

Gris-Gris had once been a happily married man. He had managed to win the heart of a woman who didn't care what he did for a living, as long as he didn't tell her what was going on. She was beautiful, the essence of love and joy. Her name was Lorraine, and she loved him as much as he loved her. For a few years, they had been very happy.

About a year ago, however, Lorraine had discovered a dark secret within the Guild. Rather than keep what she'd learned to herself, Lorraine, appalled that her husband could be part of something so horrible, had confronted Gris with the information. He had, in turn, told Marius and the other members of the Guild that she knew what their plans were. Julien, Marius' son and a good friend of Gris, had immediately commented that Lorraine was a threat to the Guild and needed to be eliminated. Marius agreed, to Gris' dismay.

Later, Gris was told that if he did not destroy the threat, the other Guild members would do it for him. Heartbroken, Gris knew he had a choice to make and he made it, choosing the Guild over his own wife. He hated to do it, but he knew that if he didn't, Lorraine wouldn't be the only one who was killed.

He went with a painless method, not wanting the woman he loved to suffer needlessly. She didn't even know who or what had hit her after she drank the poisoned juice.

Just before her funeral, Tante Mattie told Gris something that might have actually made him choose differently, if he had known. Mere days before she was killed, Lorraine had received news from Tante Mattie that she was pregnant. The news that he had not only murdered his wife, but also unknowingly ended the life of his unborn son sent Gris into a deep, silent depression which consumed him. He came to loathe himself for his actions very quickly, and shared his pain with no one except Tante Mattie, who, as an empath, could tell he was upset and insisted he talk to her about it. Only she could do that and get away with it.

Somehow, Celeste had picked up on just how miserable her friend was, and when she discovered her own pregnancy a few months later, she instantly decided to ask the grief-stricken Gris-Gris to be her child's godfather, but she didn't make that decision known to anyone until recently. In spite of his shock, Gris accepted the request, hoping that he could be a person the child could look up to, the way he fancied his own son would have done, had he lived.

This new baby was, to Gris-Gris, a chance to redeem himself in a sense. He had screwed up royally with his own family, even if he hadn't known it until it was too late, but he hoped to make a difference this time around, as a role model and guardian to Celeste's baby. He was determined to give it his best shot at any rate.

Across the hallway, Tante Mattie smiled encouragingly at her patient. She knew Celeste was getting tired, but there was no time to rest.

"Come on, honey, jus' keep pushin'. Not much longer now, I promise."

Celeste couldn't help but laugh through her pain. "You said dat…awhile ago…Tante…" she chided, giving another big push. "I can'…do dis…much…longer…"

"Oh sure you can. Jus' t'ink what de end result will be."

"A child…no one…but me…wants…" Celeste gasped.

"Oh, Celeste…dat's not true." Tante Mattie hadn't known Celeste could see through her husband and son's behaviour.

"Get real…Tante…if dey wanted dis baby…dey'd be here, don' you t'ink?"

"I don' know what to say, Celeste, except one t'ing. If you love dis child, den dat's what matters. You can deal wit' Chandler an' Percy later. An' if you push one more big push, de head will be out, so push, girl, push!"

Celeste cried out in pain, bore down and pushed with all her might, falling back, exhausted, afterwards. Two more brief pushes and she looked down at the end of the bed to see Tante Mattie smiling warmly down at the crying newborn in her hands. "Tante…?"

"Shh, petit, shh. Welcome to de world." Tante Mattie handed the baby to Celeste. "I know you were hopin' for a girl, Celeste, so I hate to disappoint you, but you didn' get your wish."

Celeste's eyes fixed lovingly on her new son and she laughed. "Oh Tante, I don' care! As long as he's healthy, it don' matter to me! Look at him! He's perfect!" She took the blanket Tante Mattie gave her, and wrapped her son in it after the cord had been cut. "I only have one problem."

Tante Mattie gave the young woman a curious look. "What's dat?"

"I don' have a name for him!" Celeste laughed. "Chandler an' I never discussed names, he said I could name de baby whatever I wanted to, an' I only had one name dat I would even consider. But it's a girl's name…"

"Questa. I remember you telling me 'bout it awhile ago." Tante Mattie said. "So, why don' you name him Questa anyway? It's a nice name. Who knows, it might end up suitin' him perfectly, an' we jus' won' tell him it's a girl's name."

"Tante, you're bad!" Celeste said, gently tracing a finger over the soft dark fuzz on the baby's head. "But I like it, so I t'ink dat's what I'll do. Questa it is. You know what, little Questa? I love you so much an' I can only hope dat will make up for de fact dat I'm pretty sure your foolish Papa an' brother don'. An' if dey don', den dey don' know what dey're missin'."

"Do you want me to get dem, honey?" Tante Mattie asked after she was finished cleaning up the mess in the room and putting things back where they belonged. While she worked, Celeste kept her son close, already starting the bonding process.

"Would you t'ink me a horrible person if I said no, Tante Mattie?" Celeste asked.

"Non. Should I?"

"Well…maybe. But maybe not. I jus'…Dey're only pretendin' to care for my benefit. But I know someone who is actually quite anxious to have dis little guy in his life, an' I t'ink it would be nice for Questa to meet him first."

Tante Mattie nodded, knowing without having to be told who Celeste was talking about. "I'll get him."

The soft knock on his bedroom door startled Gris-Gris out of his memories. Sitting up, he wiped the tears off his face and prayed he looked respectable.

"C'min." he said, somehow knowing who was on the other side of the door.

Tante Mattie opened the door and joined him with a smile. "It's all over an' your new godson has told his Mama he wants to meet you, so…"

Gris' eyes lit up. "I…really? Do Chandler an' Percy know yet? Or Marius?"

"No. Celeste wanted you to meet him first, because she knows how impatient you've been lately regarding his arrival." Tante Mattie explained. "I'll go tell them shortly. In the meantime, you go meet him. He's quite a handsome chil'."

Gris got off his bed and followed Tante Mattie out into the hallway. She went to find Marius while he joined Celeste and the baby in their room.

"How are you?" Gris-Gris asked, feeling somewhat uncomfortable around the obviously tired Celeste and a brand new baby.

"I'm fine. Tired, but fine. Weird how dat's possible, isn' it?" Celeste laughed. She beckoned Gris to come closer and when he did, she introduced him to his godson. "Gris-Gris, I would like you to meet Questa. I realize it's a girl's name, but it's the only name I t'ought of dat I actually loved, so he's stuck with it."

Looking down at the tiny bundle in Celeste's arms, Gris felt a strange surge of newfound emotion he hadn't felt in a long time. He smiled and said "I t'ink it's a good name for him, an' anyone who t'inks differently will have to deal wit' me."

"Good. I was hopin' you'd say dat. Would you like to hold him?"

"Can I?" Gris-Gris asked. "I jus' hope my scary ol' hide don' freak him out."

Celeste held Questa out to his godfather with a nod. "Of course you can. I wouldn' have asked if you couldn'. An' if you do scare him, he was born into de wrong family."

Gris reached out and took the baby into his arms, holding him rather awkwardly at first, but soon relaxing when he realized Questa wasn't going to break in his hands. It amazed Gris to feel a sudden intense love for the little boy, much like he felt for his own son even though he'd never met him.

"I don' know if I'll manage to succeed an' do right by you, little Questa, but I will try my hardest, I promise you dat." Gris whispered. "I also promise to protect you from de t'ings I can protect you from, an' help you deal wit' de t'ings I can'. You have my word."

While Gris was talking to Questa, Celeste looked up to find her older brother Marius watching and listening.

"You couldn' have picked a better godfather for him, ma soeur." Marius smiled, giving his sister a hug.

"I know. I jus' hope…" Celeste's voice trailed off when they were interrupted by Chandler and Percy, followed by Tante Mattie.

"Godfather? Him?" Chandler demanded without so much as a hug or kiss for his wife. Nor did he even look at his new son. He was much more concerned over the obstacle named Gris-Gris that now stood firmly in his way.

"Yes, him." Tante Mattie replied. "An' I agree wit' Marius. Dere's no one in dis Guild better suited to be Questa's godfather den Gris."

Chandler sighed and looked at Percy. They had both been hoping to be able to send the child away from the Guild without any people stopping them. Now they realized that not only was Celeste standing firmly in their way, but she had Tante Mattie, Marius and the most dangerous member of the Guild standing with her, bound and determined to keep the baby safe.

"Fine." Chandler said shortly, and walked out of the room. He wouldn't hurt the boy. But he would get what he wanted eventually. He knew all he had to do was be patient.

Percy followed his father out of the room, but not before he went over and looked at his baby brother. He didn't say a word, but he silently admitted the kid was cute. Better looking than he'd ever been. Percy felt a stab of jealousy and vowed to himself that he would not let this little interloper steal the spotlight. No matter what.

Gris-Gris instinctively drew Questa closer to him, almost as if he sensed the hostility the baby's father and brother felt towards him. "Don' you pay dem no mind, kiddo. Dey'll come 'round. An' if dey don', you don' need 'em, 'cause you still got us an' we love you."

Late that night, after she had made her rounds making sure all the people in both Guilds were safe and sound where they should be, Tante Mattie went home to her own house and stood by her bedroom window, looking out at the moon. She knew the future was uncertain for the two families and wished things could be different, especially for the sakes of the babies. Questa wasn't the only new little one in the Guilds. Two other babies, one in each Guild family, were due in the next few months, and Tante Mattie knew they weren't going to have it easy.

She couldn't help thinking about the circle of life, as she stood there watching the clouds pass over the moon, blocking it briefly from view. It was an ever-evident thing in the Guilds, this continuous circle of life and death. It seemed that even if it took a few months, or even a year or two, to happen, for every person who died in the Guilds, a new one was born. Of course, this wasn't entirely true, and if the war between the two families continued, the numbers would start to diminish at an even more rapid pace. Tante Mattie shuddered at that thought and brushed it out of her mind.

After shutting her curtains and saying her nightly prayers, Tante Mattie climbed into her bed and turned out the lamp. The last thought that crossed her mind was how wonderful it was to have babies around the Guilds again. Children were miraculous creatures, and Guild reality never seemed quite as harsh when there were little ones around to make the grown ups forget their cares and laugh a little.