This story was entered in the X-Day 2003 competition. 8 people voted for it in the competition. Its final rating was 5.375.
Well before the Thieves and Assassins Guilds of New Orleans joined to form one unified guild and long before 'le diable blanc' knew of his importance to the future of the two Guilds, a war was waged between the Thieves and Assassins. This war, based on a rivalry and dislike of each other founded by their benefactress, the External known as Candra, had lasted for over a century, with each new generation of Thieves and Assassins taking up the cause and the guild ways under tutelage of their elders.
On a warm, sunny summer afternoon in 1976, the streets of New Orleans were silent. Not one person ventured from home. It wasn't safe, and everyone knew it. There was a fight going on and innocent bystanders would be disregarded as each Guild tried their best to protect their own from the enemy, while also on a mission to kill said enemy at any cost.
"Terry!" Francois Lapin screamed in horror as he heard the gunshot fire and seconds later saw his wife fall to the ground in a heap. He hadn't wanted her to leave their home during this fight, for the safety of their unborn baby. He wished at that moment that she had actually listened, but of course, she hadn't. And now…
Francois moved to go to Terry, who was eight months pregnant with their first child, but his best friend, who was also the son of Terry's older sister Gabrielle, stopped him.
"Non." Theoren Marceaux shook his head, looking for all the world like his father Belize. He put a restraining hand on Francois' arm. "We don' have time. Henri an' Mercy are closer, let dem get her out of here. Dey'll take her to Tante Mattie. We have to go help Jean-Luc."
Jean-Luc LeBeau was the patriarch of the Thieves Guild. He was also Terry's older brother and when he saw what had happened to his baby sister, he yelled to his son and daughter-in-law, Henri and Mercy, to get her to safety.
The fight continued as Mercy helped Henri take a critically wounded Terry back to Tante Mattie's home nearby.
Tante Mattie, the spiritual healer and mother figure to both the Thieves and Assassins Guilds, looked at her young charge with a stern but loving and indulgent expression on her face. Before she could reply to him, she literally froze in place, her expression changing instantly, becoming alarmed, worried.
"Emily Therese…" she whispered. She was the only one who ever called Terry by her full name. Something had happened.
Genard absently shoved his glasses up on his nose and went over to Tante Mattie, tapping on her arm lightly. "Tante? What 'bout Terry? What is it?"
Mattie looked down at the small boy and frowned. "I don' know, petit. But dere's somethin' wrong."
As she said the words, the front door opened. "Tante Mattie!" Henri yelled, racing in as fast as he could go, carrying Terry in his arms. Mercy was right behind him. "Terry's been shot!"
Genard's big brown eyes widened in fear and confusion. Mattie commanded Henri to take Terry to one of the bedrooms upstairs and then followed him there so she could start her work immediately. It wasn't just one life she had to save; it was two.
Mercy knelt down beside the little boy and hugged him. "It's okay, Genard."
"Will Terry an' her baby be okay?" Genard asked in a whisper.
"I don' know, petit. I pray dey are." Mercy sighed. "Dat's all we can do right now. Dat, an' wait."
"Genard. Wake up."
"Mmph?" Genard mumbled, slowly returning to the waking world and looking at his father and the other members of the guild groggily.
"Where are dey?" Pierre asked, knowing that Francois couldn't get the words out. He was too worried.
"Upstairs. Ain' sure what room."
Francois, Jean-Luc, Belize and Gabrielle ran up the stairs, leaving Theoren, Pierre, Claude Potier and Genard in the living room. Genard gave the three older men a solemn look. "It ain' good. Dat's what Henri said when he came down an' tol' Mercy to go up dere."
"Have a little faith, mon fils." Pierre replied. "It'll all work out. I promise."
Once Mattie had realized the others had arrived, she shooed Henri and Mercy out of the room and told everyone they'd just have to be patient. They all waited in the room across the hall for what seemed like an eternity. There was nothing they could say, so they said nothing.
Two more hours later, Mattie sat back with a sigh, knowing what she had to do and not wanting to do it. She didn't have a choice though, and the decision had to be made very soon. She stood up and left the room, joining the others. She was glad to see that Belize, Henri and Mercy had left and gone down to wait with the rest of the Guild in the living room. She hadn't wanted to kick them out.
"Tante Mattie?" Francois asked miserably, his voice laden with unshed tears.
"I don' wan' have to say what I'm 'bout to say to de three of you, but I ain' got a choice. De ones who do have a choice are you. I managed to get her awake, but I don' know how long it'll last. You all have to talk to her, an' you have to talk to each other. I'm 'bout to place a big decision in your hands."
"What's goin' on, Mattie?" Jean-Luc asked.
Mattie sighed. "De way she was hit, jeopardized both her life an' de baby's life. I spent de past five hours tryin' to find a way to fix it, or a way around it, but I can'. Dere is none. If I save her, we'll lose de baby. An' vice versa. De three of you are deir immediate fam'ly, an' you need to decide what I do next. I'm sorry…"
Gabrielle asked to speak to her sister first. When Terry tried to speak, Gabrielle stopped her.
"Shhh…non. Let me speak. I love you, ma petite soeur. If Tante Mattie could find a way to save both you an' dat little baby of yours, she'd do it, an' we all know dat. B'cause she can', I'm gon' let you an' de others decide what's to be done. Whatever dat decision is, I'll support it fully."
"Gabby…" Terry whispered just before her sister made it to the doorway. "I love you too."
Jean-Luc and Francois went to talk to Terry at the same time, each wondering what on earth they were going to do about this situation. Terry smiled at them both weakly from the bed, her face pale and strained. There was something about her eyes that alerted both men to the fact that they weren't going to get a say in the decision. Terry had already made up her mind.
"I want de two of you to listen to me." She said quietly. "I've always been a headstrong, opinionated, obnoxious girl, an' yet somehow you both still love me, which is a miracle. I don' approve of de Guild ways, I never have. But I love you both so much an' I know how important it is to you. An' even I know how important its future is. I've made my decision an' I don' want you to argue wit' me."
"Terry…" Jean-Luc faltered. "Don' do dis…it's not worth it…"
"Dat's where you're wrong, big brother. De future of our fam'ly is worth every sacrifice ever made. I don' t'ink I can make much of a contribution myself to de future of de Guild." She said, putting one hand over her belly with a sigh. "But de little one in here can. Who are we to deny him or her dat chance?"
"But…" Jean-Luc tried again. This time Francois interrupted him.
"Jean-Luc, don'. She said not to argue. An' b'sides, I t'ink she might be right…"
"Of course I am." Terry smiled, flinching in pain. She didn't have much longer, and she knew it. "Go get Tante Mattie. Now. Dere isn' much time left."
Mattie spoke to Terry through the whole delivery. That wasn't her choice; Terry had insisted on trying to hang on until after she saw her baby. Less than forty-five minutes later, she got her wish.
"Terry…" Mattie whispered. The dying woman opened her eyes and saw that the healer had a tiny wrapped-up bundle in her arms. "I can' tell if he looks more like you or Francois…"
"He…? Tante Mattie…I…a son?" Terry replied in shock, reaching out and taking the little boy into her arms. "Is he okay? He's gon' live, right?"
Mattie smiled. "He's absolutely perfect, ten fingers, ten toes, red hair, blue eyes an' even t'ough it didn' wake you up, he's opinionated already. Jus' like his mama. An' oui, he's gon' live."
"Good." Terry smiled warmly at her newborn son and spoke to him softly, even though she knew he'd never remember it. "I love you so much…I wish I could stay here an' see you grow up…but I can' do dat. Don' let dat get you down t'ough, b'cause you have so many people who love you an' will take really good care of you. An' if you ever get scared, jus' remember dat I'll always be alive inside you even t'ough you can' see me…."
Her voice trailed off as her eyes closed for the last time. Tante Mattie gently lifted the baby out of his mother's arms and took him out of the room. She went downstairs to where the rest of the thieves were waiting as patiently as possible. Everyone looked up when she arrived.
"Tante Mattie…is she…?" Francois asked, nearly choking on his words.
"Oui, Terry's gone." Mattie told them, the looks of utter devastation around the room nearly breaking her heart. "However…somebody has got to give dis adorable little boy a name, b'cause I really don' t'ink he'd appreciate bein' called 'Petit' in a few years' time when he's old enough to object to it."
Francois went over and took his infant son out of Mattie's arms. His entire soul was filled with such an immense love it was incredible. He had loved Terry very deeply, and would miss her for as long as he lived, but the protective love he felt for this innocent little boy, his son, was stronger than anything he'd ever felt in his life.
"We'd always said if we had a son, we'd name him after me," Francois told the others. "But somehow…I don' t'ink dat's appropriate…"
"Name him after Terry den, an' use your name for his middle name." Genard piped up with his innocent logic.
Pierre smiled at his son. "Oh Genard…"
Jean-Luc, who was looking over Francois' shoulder at his new nephew, chuckled. "He don' look like a Terry. An' I don' t'ink he'd appreciate havin' a handle like Terry Francois Lapin for de rest of his life, either."
Genard pouted. "Dat wasn' what I meant."
Francois laughed. "I know you can' see him from where you're standin' Genard, but I t'ink you got de right idea. Non, he don' look like a Terry, dat's for sure, but I t'ink Emil suits him quite nicely."
"It's perfect." Jean-Luc and Mattie said in unison.
"Oh c'mon, I ain' dat borin', am I, little one?"
Emil made a gurgling baby sound and reached up with one of his tiny fists. He grabbed hold of one of Francois' fingers and held tightly.
"Quite a grip you got dere, kiddo. Dat's okay t'ough…from today on, what's mine is yours." Francois told him. "Especially if it keeps you safe. I promise you, my dear little Emil, that for as long as I live, I will protect you and love you with everything in my being."
Emil yawned and closed his eyes again, unaware of what his father was saying. Francois decided to follow his son's example and closed his own eyes, getting some much-needed rest.
Tante Mattie came in and smiled at them, putting a blanket over Francois' legs and making sure Emil was warm and secure. Then she turned off the light and left them in peace, leaving the door open so she could hear them if they needed her.
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