47th Ymiden, 718
The fayre is truly a sight to see Kirei thought as she watched her kids gawk at the varied displays in awe and amazement.
There were food stalls galore, and displays filled with merchandise of many different kinds hoping to tempt potential buyers. But Kirei and Aiden were more interested in the assortment of bards and street performers that could be found in all corners of the fayre. Some had clearly been hired by a number of the stalls, likely for a portion of the sales rather than for a set fee. These performers were trying to attract attention to the stalls that had hired them. Others were working on their own. Kirei had to wonder which scenario was more profitable for the street performers; taking what was likely a small percent of sales from a stall, but having a guaranteed payout at the end of the trial, or keeping a hundred percent of whatever tips they managed to get for themselves...and hoping that their audiences were in the mood to tip them. In this case, she was inclined to think it would be the former. There were surprisingly few people out and about to see the fayre. And the few people who had come were nervous, and quiet. It gave an eerie feeling to the whole event rather than the joyous one that you might suspect. Unless more people came. Kirei thought that the fayre might have to close early. Even so, Kirei was determined to have a good time. And from the looks of it, so were her fellow apprentices.
"Hey, Kirei, come look at this!" Aris gushed excitedly, jolting Kirei out of her thoughts.
Kirei and Aiden exchanged glances. Then they laughed. People turned to stare at them, but Kirei ignored them.
"It's like we have two more children to look after, isn't it?"
Kirei could only nod. For all that Andiron tried to act distant and superior, it was clear that he was just as excited about the fayre as Aris was. "This" was actually an interesting idea. Someone had peeled some bananas, and dipped them halfway into liquid chocolate. The result was a banana that had what looked like a crispy chocolate coating. Kirei was about to suggest that they try some when a frantic woman ran up to her in a near panic.
"Have you seen my son? His name is Jaysen. I just took my eyes off of him for a trill, and now he's lost in all this! He's just a little boy!"
Kirei and her friends began looking around reflexively, but the only children within sight were her own. But the child had to be found. That was the goal.
"I'll go let Elyari know that we're going to be late for work. Then I'll come find you." Andiron said quietly.
We. Kirei gave her fellow apprentice a grateful look for being willing to help search for the missing child. She watched him run off before turning to the distraught mother.
"Can you take us to where you last saw your son?" she asked gently.
"If we start looking from there, we might find some clues of which way he went, and we'll have a better chance of finding him."
The woman nodded, and ran back the way she had come. Kirei and the others followed her. When she stopped, they were standing in front of the Herbal shop that was located in Midtown. It was run by Hannah Yavich. The woman was known for buying and selling all kinds of herbs, plants, seeds, flowers, and roots from all over Idalos. Her shop had an excellent reputation for doing just that for as long as Andaris had existed. That, and the fact that anyone who placed an order there was guaranteed to get it within ten trials. Serin herself was known to shop there for the herbs that she couldn't grow herself.
"We stopped to look at the display of herbs right there. I only took my eyes off of him for a trill, and he was just...gone!"
They split up and began looking once the woman had given them a good description of her son. Kirion and Maerin went with Kirei while Tauriel, Aerin, Eris, and Ryl went with Aiden. Aris agreed to stay with Jaysen's mother. Simple searching didn't turn up any traces of the boy, so Kirei began asking anyone she saw if they had seen him. This had slightly better success in that it gave Kirei a lead to follow...but the lead was very bad news indeed. One of the customers of Hannah's store told her that she had seen a boy who looked like Jaysen heading off towards Lowtown.
Lowtown. Kirei shuddered as memories filled her mind. Lowtown was not a safe place for a young boy on his own. And some places were a lot less safe than others. Like the Water Street Marketplace. She herself had "disappeared" from there when she was a child. And she had spent arcs as a slave because of it. If Jaysen found himself in that terrible place, there was no telling what might happen to him. It was even more important that they find the boy quickly now...before he could "disappear" the way Kirei had.
When she reached the gate leading into Lowtown, Kirei kept her eyes peeled for signs of the missing boy. And her efforts paid off; hidden off to one side, she found a single shoe that looked like the shoes his mother had described as part of his outfit. It wasn't absolute proof that Jaysen had come this way, but it was far more solid evidence than the word of a stranger. Kirei picked up the shoe, and asked the guards at the gate if they had seen a boy matching Jaysen's description. They confirmed that they had seen one pass through the gate into Lowtown several bits ago. The boy had been following a puppy, and they had assumed that it was his.
That confirmed it; Jaysen had gone into Lowtown. After exchanging a grim glance with Kirion and Maerin, the three searchers entered the poorest part of Andaris themselves. As Kirei looked for the lost boy, she slowly but surely made her way towards the Water Street Market. When she heard the shrill, terrified cry of a child coming from that direction, she bolted towards it. Kirion and Maerin were close on her heels.
They saw a little boy being dragged by a man who was scolding him as a parent would...if it was a harsh parent who used intimidation to control their children instead of better methods. He was telling the young child to behave and come with him "or else." Several people were watching the scene, but it looked normal enough that no one else was willing to take any action; if the boy looked nothing like the man, it was clear that people assumed that the child simply took after his mother instead.
But Kirei knew better. The boy matched the description she had of Jaysen. That, combined with the fact that he looked nothing like the man who was pretending to be his father, the fact that he was missing a shoe, presumably the one that had been left behind at the gate into Lowtown, and the location itself, right in front of the Water Street Marketplace was simply too much evidence to ignore. This man was trying to make Jaysen "disappear" much the same way she had when she was a child...and probably for the same reason, to be sold into slavery.
When Kirei tried to make her way through the crowd, a drunken woman took exception to her when she accidentally bumped into her as she tried to pass. Kirei apologized, but the woman latched onto her shoulder, and began swearing at her. Kirei tried to pull free, but several of the woman's friends quickly surrounded her. They were clearly drunk as well. and seemed to be intent on getting even with her for her slight to their friend. Kirei tried to struggle; she was no stranger to a fight, and while she was not really good at fighting, she had to do something. But she was badly outnumbered, and some of the drunks were better at fighting than she was, even drunk as they were. Kirion and Maerin tried their best to help, but they couldn't even reach her through the crows. She had no chance of freeing herself by fighting...physically, anyway.
But the smell of smoke was in the air, coming from one of the stalls that was selling food. Kirei took the risk that as drunk as her captors seemed to be, their reasoning skills would be badly affected.
"Fire!" she yelled as loudly as she could.
It had the desired effect. Most of the crowd simply looked around in confusion, glancing at the food stall where the scent of smoke was coming from. Since there were no other signs of a fire anywhere, they didn't panic. But the drunks weren't that observant. Like the others, they too could smell the scent of smoke. And in their drunken state, they failed to connect it to the food stall. So unlike the others in the crowd, they did panic, and flee. Kirei suddenly found herself free once more.
Jaysen was fighting as hard as he could, still screaming for help. That caused enough of a delay that the man trying to kidnap him hadn't managed to get very far with the boy. Kirei rejoined her adopted children, and the three of them charged the man at the same time. The combination of multiple targets and the sheer surprise at being confronted by two children and a very nonthreatening looking small woman gave them an edge.
There was one blow that was guaranteed to drop a man if it connected, and it was one that didn't require a lot of skill to pull off if the target was caught off guard. Kirei rushed the man, and kneed him in the groin. He dropped with a loud cry of pain, and curled in on himself. While she handled the would be kidnapper, Kirion and Maerin grabbed Jaysen and pulled him to safety. People in the crowd stared at them, but no one seemed inclined to want to get involved, any more than they had been while Jaysen was being kidnapped.
Kirei joined them, and Jaysen latched onto her, recognizing her as the person who had saved him. She rubbed his back soothingly, singing softly as she did when trying to get Tauriel to sleep after a nightmare. It seemed to help, and once she got the little boy calmed down, she and the others made their way back to where Elyari's Hope where they had agreed to meet for updates in the search.