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Frey Virac (played by Rani)

It was so easy to slip through the crowd unnoticed. Small and gangly, with a hollowness to his cheeks that should have been simply baby fat, he was beneath the notice of most adults in the city. Just another child living in the gutter, with red hair and freckled cheeks dulled by the layer of dirt and grime that was ever present. Barely six, maybe seven, not that he could be sure just how old he was. But he was one of Adalyne's kids, with sticky fingers and an eye for glittery bracelets and golden chains from a gentleman's pocket.

Frey's pockets were laden down with little discoveries, joined by a few coins here or a dangling necklace there -- slipped from its display when the shopkeep turned to help an inquisitive customer. Then the small boy was simply gone, slipping back into the flow of people moving across the ever shifting markets.

And they truly were shifting, with the gentle rock of each flat-bottomed boat as people moved back and forth across planks laid to connect the boats, or others lashed so closely together that patrons could step easily from one to the next until they found a block of solid cobblestones before the next gathering of boats.

The floating markets of Almisca were colorful and eccentric and ecclectic, each day providing a ripe opportunity of discovery. Every day at dawn, merchant boats would wind their way through the twisting canals of Almisca, the very lifeblood of the city, to the heart at her center. There, they would lash together in a network of floating craftsmen and vendors, each boat decorated and with wares laid out to draw the eye. Voices shouted over each other, grasping desperately for the attentions of anyone with some coin to their name. It was a cacophany in the air from dawn until dusk, and Frey loved to slip across the little nooks and crannies and the tight spaces along the edges of boats that only a child could balance upon.

Frey hopped from one merchant-boat to the next, arms wheeling out for balance every so often. He had enough coin, hopefully enough that Adalyne would be happy tonight. His stomach was grumbling, and he had half a mind to go see if the baker was lingering about the edge of the market today. If he was lucky, there'd be a few sticky buns and enough of a luncheon crowd for the fellow to not notice any go missing.

But as the boy slipped from the last boat and onto firm land once more, his bright blue eyes were drawn -- as they so often were -- to something else. It called to him in a way that made his fingers itch to reach out and touch. Of all the wonders there were to be found in the floating markets of Almisca, it was that one little box set out day in and day out that captured his imagination. It was plainer than the others around it, little detailing carved from wood and teased with a bit of paint here and there.

It was surrounded by bits and bots, little useless decorative pieces and elaborate scarves hanging from above. Too bulky to snatch, but Frey inched closer regardless. Only once he had seen it open. Only once, when a young woman had eased the lid up, hinges creaking ever so slightly as the boy looked on, unnoticed.

The hinges creaked softly now, as Frey pushed open the lid of the box. A delicate figure rose up from its center, poised on her tip-toes, intricately carved body dipped to the side, as if frozen mid-dance, silken ribbons wrapped about her as a dress. An intricate little mechanisms lay dormant beneath her, and Frey stared, enraptured as his fingers found a little key just there, on the side of the box.

It was a strange melancholy that washed over the boy. Something sad and sweet, but a longing too. His fingers moved with a practiced ease, searching for something familiar, the tip of his finger sliding into a little notch that lay just at the base and--

"Hey!" The angry shout cut through the haze and Frey's eyes whipped up, a frenzied panic gripping his heart. He slammed the lid of the little box shut, palms sweaty as he suddenly turned towards the merchant. But the merchant wasn't watching him, but the city guard yanking another would-be thief by his jacket -- just across the way. The crowd had pressed back to watch the display, and Frey didn't think. He just turned and dashed in the opposite direction, the funny little box falling from his hands and landing with a heart-wrenching clatter upon the cobblestones.

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