The Letter

(NOTE: First prequel to "A New Era" in which Tante Mattie reveals everything in a letter to the Guild members. They all belong to Marvel, but they live in my head. This wasn't the originally planned first prequel, but I changed my mind and decided to write the other idea some other time. Enjoy!)

Tante Mattie sat down at the mahogany desk in her safehouse bedroom with a quiet sigh of reserve. She had a pad of notebook paper and her favorite pen in front of her but that didn't make the ideas come any faster. The task at hand was a difficult one under any circumstances, and unfortunately, Mattie couldn't put it off any longer.

Tante Mattie, mystic healer and spiritual guide for the New Orleans Thieves and Assassins Guilds for many decades, was dying. She had known it for months, but had bravely and cautiously done her best to hide the knowledge from the remaining Guild members, not wishing to cause them any heartache and pain. She was determined to hang on, in spite of the frequent fainting spells and dizziness she had been feeling, for as long as she could. She wasn't going to be able to hang on much longer, though, and before she died, she had a letter to write.

Unable to concentrate, Mattie got up, stretched and crossed her room, gently opening the mauve curtains covering her window and looking out into the dark New Orleans night. She had waited until the other members of the household were sleeping or otherwise preoccupied for the night before sitting down to write her letter. She didn't want any interruptions if it could be managed.

After watching the cars driving by on the street below for a few minutes, Mattie closed her curtains and walked over to the shelves that lined her walls. She picked up a pack of matches and lit one, using it to light some insense. She used another to light candles around her room. Then she sat back down at her desk and closed her dark eyes, letting the candlelight and the insense calm her mind and her thoughts.

Mattie opened her eyes and picked up her pen. She had thought of writing this letter so often over the past few months, but no matter how many times she tried, she could never bring herself to do it. Now she knew she had put it off much too long, and it had to be done. She glanced up at the pictures lining one of her shelves with a motherly smile and began to write, the words flowing across the page in her beautiful cursive.

My Dear Chil'ren,

It's taken me months to actually sit down an' write dis letter to you, but now dat I am writin' it, I hardly know where to start. I once t'ought, as I'm sure you did as well, dat I'd be 'round forever, an' I wish I could be. I wish I could change de way t'ings are gon' work out, but I can'.

If you're readin' dis, I've already passed on. I can see all of you sittin' 'round de livin' room here, all sad-lookin' an' uncertain. I wish I could convince you dat dere is no need to be unhappy, but I have a feelin' you wouldn' listen to me anyway. So, I say dis instead: be unhappy an' mourn for me if you must, but I will never leave you. You are my life, my fam'ly, how could I ever go away from you?

You will all be okay. You're already well on de road to happiness an' peace an' I know you will all succeed in findin' dose t'ings for yourselves. Be strong for each other, take care of each other. I know de unification hasn' been easy, an' dere are still a lot of hard feelin's from de past dat need to be worked out, but I trust you will know when de right time comes to do dat workin' out. You're a single fam'ly now, not two separate ones. Dat makes you stronger an' more resiliant, even t'ough it might not seem like it to you right now.

As I'm sure you've figured out by now, I have been ill for quite some time. I'm old an' I'm tired. It's time for me to be joinin' Jean-Luc an' Marius an' my father an' so many other people who have gone before. I've been gettin' anxious to see dem 'gain, an' to join dem in deir neverendin' guardianship over all of you. To be perfectly honest wit' you, b'cause I'm never anythin' but honest wit' anyone, I don' wan' go. I'm not afraid of death or dyin' but I don' wan' leave you. I know you can take care of yourselves an' each other, but I still don' wan' leave you. I guess maybe I'm too comfortable in my place here, dat must be de reason. But my body is shuttin' down on's old an' is havin' difficulty doin' some t'ings now. T'ings it used to be good at doin'.

I t'ought for a long time how to write dis letter an' I t'ink now I know. If you are all sittin' 'round de livin' room like I picture you doin', please pass de letter 'round. Each of de next few sections are for each of you personally an' I don' wan' what dey say read aloud. I'm doin' dis in no particular order, jus' as t'ings come to me, but I'm gon' start wit' Mercy.

Mercy...I know you don' like to t'ink 'bout dis, an' I know you'll prob'ly frown at dis letter when you read it, but it has to be said. Wit' me gone, you're now officially de Momma of de guild. Dere, I said it. Honey, don' be scared of dat concept. Most of dem already look up to you for so much, t'inkin' of you as de mother figure won't be much of a stretch. You're a strong, graceful an' intelligent woman an' I know you'll be jus' fine. It's my goal in dese private sections to give each of you some advice, but I t'ink at your age, you already know jus' 'bout everythin' I could tell you. I will say dis t'ough. Don' ever stop backin' Remy up in his decisions de way you've been doin'. Make Bella Donna feel as though she matters. She's been feelin' a bit like no one listens to her, includin' Remy, but if Remy sees you're listenin' to her, he'll do de same. I can promise you dat. Get to know Fifolet, Singer, Gris-Gris an' Questa better. Dey keep deir distance a lot of de time b'cause dey feel like outsiders in de safehouse. Take Theoren an' Claude out on de town every once in awhile so dey don' start feelin' old an' useless. Help Genard take care of Jean-Pierre. He's gon' need all de support he can get, but knowin' him he won' ask for it. Give Zoe de confidence she needs to undertake her journey into her fam'ly an' past. An' give Emil as many hugs as he'll let you, which I'm guessin' is gon' be more den you t'ink. Take care of dem. Give dem all as much love as you possibly can. I promise you I will be by your side de whole way, t'rough all de good t'ings an' de bad t'ings, to help you an' guide you spiritually.

Theoren...For you to go from bein' second-in-command of de T'ieves to joint third-in-command of a Unified Guild, sharin' dat position wit' Gris, has been more difficult den I know you'll ever admit to de others, but you've never been able to fool me. Your father was always very proud of you, as am I, for everythin' you have accomplished in your life. I know dis will be hard for you, but please try to be as supportive of Remy as you can. I'm not sayin' you have to forgive him, although it would be nice after all dis time, but he needs you as much as he needs Bella Donna an' Mercy if he wants to be a good leader. Emil needs you too, especially wit' Jean-Luc gone. Take care of him, I can' stress dat enough. Actually, help Mercy take care of all of dem. Be confident in de fact dat you are a strong, moral person wit' a bigger heart den you like to let on. I t'ink maybe de best advice I can give you is dis: allow your sense of humor to show more often. Come on, we bot' know you have one in dat serious shell of yours. Laugh a little more. It'll do you, an' de people around you, a world of good. Trust me on dat.

Claude...I've always b'lieved de emergence of your artistic side was a result of de loss of your fam'ly an' I'm glad you've continued to let your sensitive side show through on a regular basis. It's hard to forgive de assassins for what dey did to your fam'ly, but I have a secret you might not know. None of de five assassins alive today had anythin' to do wit' it. I know you're tryin' to get to know Fifolet a bit more an' I'm very proud of you for dat. De assassins really are wonderful people, deep down. Dere's no need to blame dem for somethin' deir counterparts did thirty years ago. Don' ever stop makin' dose beautiful carvin's of yours, dey are an expression of your soul an' are cherished by everyone in dis house, especially Mercy. She loves you, an' I don' t'ink I need to tell you dat. Stay by her side in de comin' months an' years as de guild moves into de future.

Singer...Dat beautiful baby girl of yours is de future, an' I honestly could not t'ink of more suitable people to raise her den you an' Fifolet. I wish I could be here to watch her grow up in person, but I'll be here in spirit an' whenever you need me, I promise I'll be dere even if you can' see me. De next few years are gon' be full of ups an' downs for you, but I have ever confidence dat you'll do a wonderful job of raisin' Cheryl up right. Never forget who you are an' where you come from but let her make her own choices an' decisions 'bout who she wants to be when she grows up. Stay close to Bella Donna...she considers you to be her big sister an' she trusts your opinions maybe more den anyone else's. Keep an eye on Questa can tell possibly quicker den de others when he's feelin' depressed. Take care of him...hug him often...make sure he knows he's loved an' appreciated.

Gris-Gris...First an' foremost, I know Jean helped you learn a lot 'bout yourself b'fore she moved to Alaska, an' if I can stress one t'ing to you it's dis: Remember what she said to you. For your own sake an' for Questa's, come out of your dark world as often as you can. Try to get to know de t'ieves for de people dey are, look beyond de picture on de cover. Try to smile...I know you have a very nice smile, y'know. Keep a close watch over de others, help dem when necessary, an' let dem make deir own mistakes an' decisions when necessary too. It might help to forge an alliance wit' Theoren...if anythin' were to happen to Remy an' Bella Donna, you two would be de guild leaders. Try to ignore de t'ings Emil says dat annoy or anger you...most of de time he don' mean to upset you. Jus' try to be patient wit' everyone. Oui, patient. I know you can do it an' when you feel like you can', jus' t'ink of me an' know dat I'll be dere watchin' over you.

Zoe...Be strong for your brother an' for yourself. Tell Mercy of your dreams an' plans an' she will help you attain dem, I promise you dat. It won' be easy, findin' de truth of your past an' your fam'ly, but I know you will succeed. You are a valuable member of de guild, don' ever forget dat. Dey all respect an' admire your abilities, even de assassins. Dey will all help you an' be dere for you for as long as dey can. Trust me on dat, I know dem better den you do. Know dat Shirow is well taken care of at de Xavier School...Remy is seein' to dat, an' so is Jean. I know you worry 'bout him, but dere really is no need to. He's happy an' is adjustin' well. A hint to help de others understand you more...teach dem somethin' about Japan, or teach dem Japanese. Dey're all interested, but don' know how to ask you. An' try not to laugh when dey use deir Cajun accents to try an' speak Japanese, no matter how much you might want to.

Fifolet...Do not be afraid of bein' a father; anyone can see you're a natural, plain an' simple. Always t'ink of how much you love Singer an' Cheryl an' protect dem wit' your life. Never lose sight of de power of fam'ly an' love, an' remember everythin' you an' Singer went t'rough to get where you are now. Help Gris to control his temper wit' de t'ieves help him to understand what I know you've realized already: dat dey are good people an' valuable assets to your life. Lend a sympathetic ear to Genard when he's dealin' wit' raisin' his son on his own...he will need your guidance. Strive to do your best at everythin' you undertake an' I know you will succeed. How do I know? B'cause dat's jus' de type of man you are.

Bella Donna...Listen to what Gris an' Theoren tell you. Dey are advisors for you an' Remy an' dey are dere to help you even if dey don' agree on everythin' all de time. Don' clash wit' Remy if you can help guild is in your hands, an' even now de Unification is a fragile t'ing. I know you still love Remy, an' in some way he still loves you too, but right now he needs you to be his co-leader an' his friend, especially if t'ings start hittin' bumps. Use your powers for good, not evil, an' remember not to snap at Gris when he starts talkin' 'bout tradition. Tradition is important, even for assassins, an' sometimes dere is a time an' place for evil. I've been tellin' everyone to take care of each other, an' I'm sayin' de same for you. Stay especially close to Questa...he is in a fragile state, even now, an' he loves you more'n anyone, I b'lieve. Don' worry 'bout de future, everythin' will happen as it's meant to happen. It will all work out in due time, I can assure you of dat.

Genard...I know dis is a frightenin' time for you right now, an' a sad time. CJ is a wonderful young woman an' no matter what happens, you have been blessed to have her in your life, even for such a short time. It's not gon' be easy for you to raise your son, but he is a blessin' as well, an' you have a huge fam'ly to help you take care of him. Ask for deir help, especially Fifolet an' Singer, when you need it. Don' be afraid to admit you're lost or ready to tear your hair...parenthood is a scary t'ing. I know you'll do jus' fine t'ough, b'cause I know you love CJ an' I know you love Jean-Pierre an' dat love will help you t'rough any rough times. I will be dere too, watchin' over you constantly an' providin' as much spiritual protection an' support I can give.

Questa...You are not alone, let me tell you dat first off. Jus' b'cause people leave or die don' mean dey've stopped carin' or dey'll never be back. I promise you dat I will never leave you. Ever. Trust de others. Dey want nothin' more den to take care of you an' help you reclaim your life. You can do it, if you b'lieve in yourself de way de rest of us b'lieve in you. Listen to dem, an' listen to your heart. It will never lead you astray. You are a remarkable young man wit' a good soul an' a quick wit an' your whole life ahead of you. I am very proud of you for everythin' you've overcome in de past few months wit' Jean's help, an' you should be proud of yourself too. Keep workin' on healin' yourself an' don' be afraid to ask for help when you need it. De others are here for you, dey love you an' want to help you in any way dey can, but dey won' be able to if dey don' know how. Try to find a way to make Gris smile at least once a day, preferrably in front of some of de others. Remember your promise to Bella Donna all dose years ago an' keep lookin' out for her, even if she don' want you to. It will be worth it in de end. Keep workin' on your friendship wit' Emil an' he have started formin' a brotherhood wit' each other dat will help you bot' get t'rough de trials of livin'. Email Jean as often as you feel necessary to keep her an' Scott up-to-date on what's goin' on here. An' finally, teach Cheryl everythin' you can 'bout life an' guide her t'rough it as best you can. Jus' don' forget to take some time for yourself as well an' keep your spirits up. I'll never be far from you, I promise. dear little boy...non, don' blush. Your mama tol' me to take care of you an' dat's what I've done. I t'ink of you as my own son an' I've tried to do right by you. I hope I've given you enough good advice an' wisdom to get you t'rough de rest of your life, but if not, know dat you still have Mercy an' Theoren to help guide you t'rough. Keep close tabs on de runnin' of de' I know I don' have to remind you to never let your bond wit' Remy waver for even a second. You an' he have always been more like brothers den cousins or friends, an' I know I have always admired your loyalty to each other. So did Jean-Luc, even when de High Council had to punish one or bot' of you for dat loyalty. Stick close to Questa as well. He might not ever say it, but he needs de friendship you an' he are formin'. I know dis is gon' be quite de eventful year for you, an' I am so very happy for you an' Jacqueline an' I wish you all de best in de future. Jean tol' you a few months ago dat she will always be dere for you, in one way or another, an' right now I'm tellin' you de same t'ing. Like her, like Jean-Luc, like your Papa, I will never leave your side. I will be wit' you t'rough everythin'.

Remy...I left you for last on purpose. I have so much to say to you an' so little time. I know you didn' want to be Guild leader, an' dat you've been resentful towards your father for pushin' it on you even t'ough he knew as well as I did how you felt. Don' resent him any longer, he was only doin' what he felt was in de best interests of de Guild in de long run an' he was right. You may t'ink dat Theoren or Bella Donna, or maybe even Gris-Gris, would make a better patriarch den you do, but dat isn' de truth. You are de one who is s'posed to lead dem, an' dey all know dat, no matter how some of dem voted in de Vote of Confidence. Dey want to see how you do an' mos' of dem will back you an' support you in your decisions. Listen to de four of dem, to Bel, Theo an' Gris. Dey are your closest advisors an' dey might disagree, but dey will never lead you astray intentionally. Stay close to Emil an' Zoe b'cause dey are reliant on you for guidance an' support. Don' make any decisions dat might end up hurtin' de Guild in de long run. Neither your father or Marius ever made a move dat might have repercussions on de Guilds an' I hope you will follow deir examples. De unification is a fragile t'ing, don' let dem play off each other any longer. I know dey tried hard to stop, I know dey're still tryin', but wit' past problems an' alliances changin' on an almost daily basis, it's difficult for dem. Cut dem some slack t'ough, when you feel it's necessary, b'cause dey're still gettin' used to de idea of bein' friends, not enemies. Take care of dem. Dey need you whether dey know it or not. Strive to be happy an' help dem do de same. An' remind dem, if need be, dat I will never be far.

As much as I wish I could stay here wit' you forever, takin' care of you, bein' your Mama, but I can'. I want you to know dat I am very proud of each and every one of you an' I love you all very, very much. An' while you won' be able to see me, I will always be here, keepin' a close eye on you. Forever. Don' ever forget dat.

Love Tante Mattie

Mattie yawned and put her pen down. She looked at the clock on her dresser and saw that her writing had taken her well into the night. She stretched and stood, folding the letter up and putting it in an envelope. After puttin' de names of de Guild members on de envelope, she put the envelope in her desk drawer and decided to take a walk down to the kitchen to get a late-night snack. She didn't usually do that kind of thing, but she needed something to wind down.

After getting her snack, which consisted of toast and warm milk, Mattie made her rounds of the house before going back to her own room. She checked in on every Guild member the silent way only parents can do, pausing for an extra couple of minutes to make sure Cheryl was warm, comfortable and safe, giving the baby's tired parents a break from checking on her.

Once back in her room, Mattie blew out the candles and climbed into her bed, feeling tired and content after she finally got her letter written. Now she could go back to enjoying her remaining time with them, her family, b'fore she didn' have any time left.