I'm a quiet person by nature; I take after my mother in dat respect an' not much else. I prefer to stay in the background an' watch what's goin' on 'round me instead of bein' right in de middle of t'ings. I've always been dis way. I don' speak much, unless my input is needed or requested. A lot of people might t'ink I'm jus' a big dumb jock or somethin', b'cause I like sports an' if I'd been part of a normal fam'ly, I would've liked to be a football player. But I'm not a dumb jock, an' I'm not a normal person. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
My name is Claude Potier an' I'm a member of de legendary New Orleans Thieves Guild. An' if you t'ink I don' talk much now, maybe it wouldn' surprise you to know dere was a ten year period when I didn' speak at all.
Dis isn' exactly my life story. But it is a chapter in my life story, a chapter I felt compelled to talk 'bout after all dis time. First, it might help to know a bit of Thieves Guild background. Jus' so you don' get confused or anythin'. It can get a little complicated an' I apologize for dat. But we're not exactly simplistic people even if we lived dat way for a few centuries.
De Guild used to be made up of ten diff'rent families, or clans, as we call dem. De head clan for many years has been Clan LeBeau, which is why de guild is sometimes called dat. Now dat dere are only seven of us left from de various clans, we jus' generalize ourselves as Clan LeBeau, even t'ough most of us are from de other clans. At any rate, each clan lived for centuries in dark tunnels an' caverns...old abandoned sewers if you must know...beneath de city of New Orleans. Each clan had it's own haunts an' stompin' grounds, all connected wit' de other clans' areas. We stole what we needed...an' de t'ings we didn' need, we sold or gave to our benefactress in return for de elixir of longevity, which gave us extraordinary long lives. We essentially lived as paupers, somethin' dat ever child of de Guild questioned at least once durin' deir youth.
While we t'ieves lived beneath de streets, barely makin' it from one week to de next, our rivals an' long-time enemies de Assassins Guild, also known as Clan Boudreaux, lived in a huge mansion jus' outside de city. Dey're quite rich, havin' made quite a bit of money over de years bein' paid by people to kill others. Quite de contrast b'tween de two guilds, even t'ough both guilds were created by de benefactress. In turn, we were played off each other, formin' deep rooted hatred for each other dat resulted in guild wars an' de death of many.
Quite a few years ago, b'fore de t'ieves moved from our underground homes to de huge safehouse bought for us by Jean-Luc LeBeau, our guild patriarch, de rivalry b'tween de two guilds had reached a peak of violence seen only by a few. De year was 1972 an' I was fifteen years old. In spite of de war goin' on b'tween de guilds, I didn' t'ink t'ings were all dat bad. Bot' my parents were still alive, somethin' dat was rare in dose days, an' I had my older brothers, Allain an' Bastien, to idolize. My father's best friend, Pierre Alouette, had a three year old son named Genard, who was like a little brother to me. In spite of de dangers an' de war an' de killin', I was content, even happy, wit' de way my life was. But on a fateful night in 1972, my world turned upside down an' it was a long time b'fore I felt dat I could be happy 'gain.
I don' know what time it was when de masked assassin intruders ambushed Clan Potier's underground home. One t'ing we never had underground was clocks. Some of us had watches, but most didn'. I didn' even learn how to tell time until I was nearly ten. All I know was, it was sometime at night. My entire fam'ly was snug an' tight in de two bedrooms we had. It was like any other normal, peaceful night until dozens of assassins in masks broke in an' raided de place. I don' remember much of what happened at first, jus' dat my father tol' me to hide in one of de crevices we used for closets an' like any good young t'ief, I did as I was told.
From my hidin' spot, I was safe from de assassins, which is what my father had been hopin' for. I could also see de entire area from where I was, an' I was able to watch de entire raid as it unfolded, much to my horror. De assassins are ruthless, brutal people, especially where de t'ieves are concerned, an' in de five minutes it took dem to finish deir job, not a single member of my fam'ly was standin'. De assassins left jus' as quickly as dey came, knowin' it wouldn' be long b'fore someone in de other clans realized what was goin' on an' alerted de rest of de guild. In deir haste, dey didn' t'ink to check for anyone hidden in de shadows or crevices. I sat in my hidin' place in shakin', terrified silence, lookin' at de bodies of my parents, brothers an' other members of my fam'ly. I knew enough 'bout death to know wit'out havin' to go an' check dat dey were dead, all of dem. Dere was so much blood, jus' so much of it. All over de place. It looked to my teenage eyes like someone had taken dark red paint an' painted de room wit' it. Splatter art, wit' numerous huge blotches for good measure.
I t'ink I sat in de crevice for an hour, maybe longer, b'fore anyone from de guild came to see what was wrong. Tante Mattie, our traiteur, who was also an empath, mus' have realized somethin' was goin' on an' alerted de others. Mos' people wouldn' have known dey were comin', but b'cause I was trained to know where de other t'ieves were at all times, I knew dey were dere b'fore I heard dem, b'fore dey showed up. Jean-Luc came himself, which didn' surprise me. He brought his son Henri, as well as his best friend Belize Marceaux an' Belize's son Theoren. Henri an' Theoren were two of my closest friends even t'ough dey were older'n me.
Deir quiet exclaims of disgust an' horror didn' go unnoticed by me. Dey saw de results of de massacre an' I could tell from lookin' at dem dat it sickened an' saddened dem. Belize commented dat he didn' see me anywhere, an' dat's when I tossed a rock out of my hidin' place, lettin' dem know where I was. Jean-Luc came over and knelt down in front of me, sympathy an' sorrow in his brown eyes.
"Are you okay, Claude?" he asked me, his voice quiet. He reached out and lightly rested his hand on my knee.
I remember how I looked out at him, how I felt seein' dem dere. I was so tired an' scared an' traumatized...all of it showed plainly in my eyes. He tol' me dat many years later. I didn' reply wit' words, choosin' to jus' shake my head. It was goin' to be a long time b'fore I spoke 'gain.
"Do you wan' come out of dere an' go stay wit' Tante Mattie, or Henri an' I?" Jean-Luc asked, still tryin' to get more of a reaction out of me.
I nodded an' took his hand when he offered to help me out of de crevice. I went wit' dem to where Tante Mattie was waitin' at Clan LeBeau's home. I was so tired an' so emotionally drained dat I fell asleep fairly quickly once dere. An' old Cajun lullabye in Tante Mattie's wonderful voice was all I needed to help me drift off into a troubled slumber. In fact, de nightmares dat started dat night b'came a nightly occurance in my life for months afterwards.
I eventually started settlin' into somethin' of a normal daily routine, livin' wit' Jean-Luc an' Henri, an' de other guild members eventually got used to de fact dat I never spoke a single word. If I absolutely had to tell dem somethin', I'd write it out, but most of my communication was done in nods and shakes of my head. I know Tante Mattie an' de senior guild members were worried 'bout me b'cause I never cried, I never mourned for de loss of my fam'ly. De reason for dat was I never spoke. I never let de emotions come out. Prob'ly de worst t'ing I could have done, but at de time, it was all I could t'ink of. I didn' wan' talk.
For ten years, I was silent. About a year after de massacre, I started honin' my artistic abilities. My mother was a talented artist, an' dat was somethin' else I inherited from her, only I couldn' paint or draw worth a hill of beans, so I did what I knew I could do. I made wood carvin's, mostly angels. Eventually, I had carved angels for my entire fam'ly an' many of de guild members who were killed over de years. It was my little way of findin' a bit of peace for my soul an' I cherished it.
As de years went by, Genard started complainin' dat he couldn' remember what my voice sounded like. Henri, Theo an' de others would tease me, askin' if I'd forgotten how to talk. I still knew how, I'd jus' gotten used to bein' silent. But one evenin', not long after I turned twenty-five, two very small boys made me realize dat I couldn' live de rest of my life in silence. Emil Lapin, de son of my friend Francois, was six. Theoren's baby brother Etienne, was four. All de other guild members were in an important meetin' an' when thirteen-year-old Genard, who was lookin' after de two boys, came to me an' said dey were missin', I had to take Genard an' go find dem. Next t'ing I knew, we were face to face wit' one of de younger assassins, a long-haired man named Fifolet, who wasn' much older'n me.
Turns out, Fifolet had found the two little ones wanderin' around close to assassin territory an' had been tryin' to figure out how to get dem back home wit'out gettin' himself attacked by de entire Thieves Guild. Genard an' I showin' up was somethin' of a blessin' as far as he was concerned. Of course de three boys were terrified an' I had to be de adult in de situation, which wasn' exactly easy given de fact dat I hadn' spoken in ten years. I spoke dat day t'ough. I had to. I had to get de boys back to safety b'fore some of Fifolet's guild-mates showed up an' got nasty. So for de first time in Emil an' Etienne's lives, I spoke.
"Boys, c'mere." I said to Emil an' Etienne. Their blue eyes widened in amazement an' Genard smiled. We both watched as dey scooted over an' hid behind me, peekin' out at de long haired assassin standin' b'fore us. To Fifolet, I said, "Dey didn' give you too much trouble did dey?"
Fifolet shook his head, his hair swingin' 'round his shoulders. "Non." he said shortly, his dark eyes cloudin' over. "You got five minutes to get outta here, t'ief."
"Gotcha." I replied, noddin'. I knew what he meant. If we were still in assassin territory when de five minutes were up, we'd be in big trouble. I looked at de three boys. "Let's go, boys."
As we walked back home, Emil looked at me from under his wild red hair. "Hey Claude?"
"Yeah?" I asked, lookin' back at him an' raisin' an eyebrow.
I ruffled his hair. "I know. I guess my years of silence are over."
Late dat night, as I tossed an' turned in my bed, unable to sleep, I stared at the ceilin' an' cried. For ten years I'd kept everythin' I felt, all my emotions, bottled up inside my tortured soul, wit' no release. Because I was talkin' 'gain, dere was nothin' to hold de emotions in anymore. It was as if my speakin' even one word had uncorked de bottle an' everythin' inside jus' came flowin' out in a stream of tears an' painful memories.
Tante Mattie sensed my pain an' joined me in my room an' in true mother-figure style, she did her best to comfort me while lettin' me release de feelin's I should have let out ten years b'fore den. I was finally grivin', finally givin' in to de heartache I'd felt for so long, finally allowin' myself to mourn. I was de last member of my fam'ly, de only one left in de whole guild wit' my last name. De sole survivor, if you will, of my fam'ly's brutal massacre. It hurt. It hurt so much to have dese memories an' de pain dat went wit' dem. It still hurts, but I survived. An' I'll continue to do so, b'cause I don' have a choice.
I still don' talk much even now, but I'm comfortable dat way. I'm happy bein' de quiet guy in de background, de observer. Turns out Genard is de same way, which adds to our pseudo-brotherhood. I do try to talk a little more t'ough, b'cause I know I have to. If I could do it over 'gain, I don' t'ink I'd stop talkin', I don' t'ink I'd keep it all inside for dat long a period of time, b'cause I realize how much dat hurt me in de long run. It made dealin' wit' de pain a lot harder den it would have been if I'd tried to get t'rough it soon after de events took place.
I keep de wood angels I made in honor of my parents an' brothers by my bed an' I talk to dem every night. I know dey're dead, an' talkin' to deir angels helps me stay focused on livin' de rest of my life de best way I know how.
In de thirty years since my fam'ly was killed, I learned a lot 'bout human nature an' de way people t'ink an' react to diff'rent t'ings. I also t'ink I learned a lot more 'bout myself den I would have if de assassins hadn' killed my entire fam'ly right b'fore my eyes. Tante Mattie says everythin' happens for a reason, even bad t'ings, an' I b'lieve dat. I also b'lieve life is only as good or as bad as you make it an' I try my best every single day to live at peace wit' myself an' de people around me. De two guilds are now unified into one an' maybe b'cause I know none of de remainin' assassins had anythin' to do wit' what happened, I don' feel any hatred or resentment towards dem. I still express myself best t'rough wood carvin's, an' last year I made a huge angel for de top of de guild Christmas tree. Took me months to make it, but in de end it was worth it to see how much de others admired my work.
Am I happy? Oui, I t'ink I am. Dere was a time when I never t'ought I would be 'gain, but I guess somethin' else Tante Mattie always says is true. Time heals all wounds.