Late one night, while a thunderstorm raged outside, causing the old mansion to creak and groan in the wind, a dark, solitary figure made his way down a dim hallway, guided only by a candle he held in his hand and his senses. He had walked the halls of the mansion every day of his life; he knew them well.
In minutes, the man reached his destination. He opened the large, heavy mahogany door and entered the room, turning on a lamp before blowing out his candle. With a deep sigh that seemed uncharacteristic for him, he sat down on the chair by the desk and pulled of his black boots. Lightening flashed outside, lighting up the room briefly and rousing his curiosity. He had always liked watching lightening streak across the sky. When he was very young, he used to watch it and wish he could ride on it through a dark sky. Remembering this, the man stood and took off his jacket, placing it on the back of the chair before crossing the room to the window.
He stood there, a tall, dark man with a stony face and piercing eyes, his hands holding back the midnight blue velvet curtains that hung over the window. His dark eyes missed no flash of lightening, no sway of tree branches in the wind and he found himself counting the seconds in between the claps of thunder and the flashes of lightening, the way Tante Mattie had taught him long ago, to measure the distance of the storm from where he was. As his thoughts drifted back to his old minder, the man sighed again, and as tears sprung to his eyes, he closed the curtains abruptly, shutting out the night and the storm.
"Get a grip on yourself Gris." He scolded himself in a harsh whisper. "You seen way too many people die...an' you killed mos' of 'em yourself...for you to be gettin' dis worked up 'bout her."
Gris-Gris shook his head at himself and sat on his bed. It really wasn't that simple. Tante Mattie had been mother-figure, caretaker, doctor and guide to him and those he called family for as long as he could remember and then some. The twelve people who considered her to be their mother were the last of their families, and the idea that they'd just lost the most important person in their lives was hard to accept, even for Gris-Gris and his fellow assassins, who killed people for a living.
Earlier in the evening, the remaining members of the Unified Guilds of Thieves and Assassins had buried the cajun traiteur. She had died, at the age of 123, after an illness she had not mentioned to any of them until it was too late. The funeral was a solemn, quiet affair; none of them could think of a single thing to say without crying, so they said very little. As they stood in silence near her grave, the first clap of thunder had sounded. With that clap, they went their separate ways, twelve sombre figures of the night, each going to mourn and grieve in his or her own way.
Gris-Gris had opted to return to the Assassins Guild's home, the Boudreaux mansion and the bedroom he'd grown up in. He was angry at himself for feeling sad and wanted to submerse himself in images and thoughts that were more true to his nature as an assassin. The creepy darkness of the mansion helped and Gris felt himself start to return to normal as he lay back on his bed and looked at the ceiling while listening to the storm outside. His attention was caught by a hole in the ceiling and he chuckled, remembering the day when his godson, Questa, who was then no more than five years old, had found one of Gris-Gris' guns and accidentally shot it at the ceiling. Questa had been scared out of his wits and was scolded quite soundly by his father for the action, but, thinking about it now, Gris realized that Questa's fascination with guns had started shortly after the incident.
Tante Mattie had gotten so angry with him for that, Gris remembered. "I know I can' talk you outta havin' dose guns, Chil', seein' as you're an assassin an' all, but for de love of all dat's holy, d'you t'ink maybe you could not leave 'em in plain sight of de little ones?" She'd demanded of him later. "Questa could have killed himself wit' dat gun an' you know it!"
Gris admitted she was right, to keep her happy, and from then on his guns remained out of sight. When Tante Mattie was around anyway.
He decided the best way to remember her would be to start reading the books, and with that thought, he picked one of them up in his large hands. To his surprise, a folded piece of paper fell out of the book, flittering to the floor like a falling white butterfly. Gris shook his head and bent down to pick the paper up. Doing so, he paused, noticing that his name was written on the outside of the paper. Frowning in curiosity, he opened the paper and saw that Tante Mattie had written him a letter. Forgetting the books for a moment, he sat down on the chair and started reading.
"Dear Jovan," Tante Mattie had begun the letter. Gris winced when he read it. (I hate when she calls me dat...!) "Aside from knowing how much use you'll get out of those old magic books of mine, I had other reasons for wanting to give them to you. What I'm about to tell you here is going to shock you, but I hope you'll be able to forgive me for not telling you sooner. I wanted to, but if I had, they would have killed me. And once they were dead...so many years had passed...I didn't want to disrupt your life...after everything else.
"At the back of the first book, you will find the only known copy of your birth certificate. I'm giving it to you because I want you to know the truth. I remember a long time ago, when you were very small, you asked me why you weren't allowed to see me very often, while the other children were. At the time, I told you I didn't know, but I did. I know that all your life, you've believed one thing: what your father told you. I also know you realize now that he wasn't a good man. He lied to you about a great many things, and while I can't put them all to rights, I can right one of them. (What is she goin' on 'bout?)
"The truth of the matter is, when he learned from me that his wife, the woman you grew up believing was your mother, could not have children, your father became very angry and hostile. He raped me in my own house, later swearing me to secrecy. I had no choice but to listen to him, because I knew he would kill me if I did not. A month later, I learned I was pregnant. (What?!) The adult members of both Guilds at the time all found out sooner or later, and they kept the secret out of fear for their lives. Eight months later you were born and your father promptly took you from me. He made sure I had very little contact with you while you were growing up, because he didn't want me getting too attatched to you. Of course, in my own way, I was attatched from the day you arrived and no amount of separation could stop it.
"It broke my heart, watching the way they all treated you...I know it's normal for the Assassins Guild but it still hurt that they wouldn't let me take care of you, especially when you were little. I watched you grow up, becoming the man you are today and not a day went by that I didn't wish I could change things somehow. I've always loved you with all of my heart, but you know as well as I do that I've never approved of what the Assassins do. (Aw man...she was disappointed in us...in me...)
"Your birth certificate proves what I just told you. You were never allowed to see it, because my name is on it. Jasmine insisted my name be put on it because she wanted you to learn the truth someday. She was a good woman, but I don't have to tell you that.
"If you learn properly from the four books I've left you, and I know you will, then you will know everything I know. You will have the power and the knowledge to be a powerful healer. It's the only way I've been able to come up with that will enable me to live on in someone. And I can't think of a better person to carry the legacy than my own son. I love you, Gris-Gris. Don't let me down. Love, Tante Mattie."
As Gris finished reading the letter a loud clap of thunder sounded, startling him out of his reverie. He jumped and glared at the window. He felt as if his whole world had just shifted and the thunder was not helping any. He sat there, looking at the paper in his hands for a few minutes before picking up the book again and finding his birth certificate. Sure enough, Tante Mattie wasn't lying. She really was his birth mother.
"Mon Dieu..." he whispered to the room.
Before he knew what he was doing, Gris was digging through his desk for a pad of paper and a few pencils. Once he found what he was looking for, he took all four books and sat on his bed, leaning against the headboard, using pillows to make it more comfortable on his back. He opened the first book and started reading, making notes on the paper as he found things worth remembering, which made his work very slow. Without thinking about it, Gris had decided to carry on Tante Mattie's legacy. He was going to learn everything he possibly could and finally do something to make her proud of him.