Nix and Ryder pushed their way through the busy marketplace. They were searching for one street performer in particular, but she was never in the same place twice. Finding her was not going to be easy, but if they were going to survive the month, it had to be done.

The marketplace was a dangerous and hectic place. Thieves watched from shadows, picking out unfortunate people to follow home. Pick pockets and false fortune tellers littered the cramped streets, fighting for space with the stalls. Wooden stalls usually cloaked with carpets to keep them clean and separate them from their business rivals in the cramped quarters.

Nix spun, catching the hand of a scared teenaged boy as he pulled Nix's leather coin bag from his cloak. Nix squeezed the boys hand, glaring in silent threat.

"Sorry," the boy stammered, trying to pull away. "'M desperate sir. Not that you know 'at that's like."

"Go." Nix snapped, letting go of the boy and making sure he scurried away. Nix ran his hands through his limp bronze hair, it was a relatively nice cool spring afternoon, but with the close proximity of so many people, it was hotter than was comfortable. He hated to imagine what it was like here in the summer.

"Nix?" his brother was waiting for him. "We don't have all day."

"It's just the damn low lives," Nix growled, starting to make his way forward again.

"What does that make us?" Ryder laughed.

"We're just doing what we have to," Nix shrugged. "Come on, let's find her."

After another hour of searching, Ryder felt ready to give up. His blonde hair was matted from pushing it out of his face so often. Everything felt heavy and took effort to move. His brother didn't look like he was faring much better. There were dark rings under Nix's ice blue eyes, the eyes of their mother that all four brothers shared. Their two younger brothers, Tyce and Finn were at home, waiting for them to come back with good news. That's' why they couldn't give up, no matter how much Ryder wanted to.

"Found her." Nix stopped in his tracks and pointed. Ryder's head snapped to follow his brother's finger. She was stunning.

She sat with her back against a filthy wall and a lyre in her lap with a small black fabric cloth by her feet. There was a crowd around her larger than that of any of the other street performers. They couldn't hear what she was singing from this far away, but the dreamy look on the faces of her audience told them it was beautiful. An man, probably around Nix's age, 20, weaved among the crowd, effortlessly relieving them of their valuables. It was almost amusing to watch.

The girl herself was nothing like she was described to them. They were told that she was a pretty blonde with a good voice and a scar running along the bottom of her jaw to her chin. Well, the scar was barely visible, and she was blonde, blonder than any of them; but she was not pretty. She was breathtaking. her hair was pale and her skin was light too, but it was her eyes that captured you. No matter where she was looking, those eyes seemed to see you. They were as green as the brothers imagined an emerald would be, though they'd never seen a precious stone before. No wonder she was called the Emerald thief. Angels would murder for her delicate features and despite that her figure was hidden behind her cloak, it wasn't a stretch to imagine how beautiful the rest of her was.

"Don't even think about it," the thieving man was at their side. Nix jumped, neither of them had heard him coming. His hair was a shade unusual to this part of the world, dark sea blue, practically black. Most of the blue and purple haired people lived in the forest nations across the sea; where the brothers needed to go.

"We weren't," Ryder defended himself and his younger brother. "We've just come to speak with her."

"Really?" the boy laughed. "What kind of talk?"

"It's not your business," Ryder informed him.

"Any business of my sister is my business," the man looked Ryder in the eye. They were exactly the same height.

"Your sister?" Nix asked in disbelief. He wasn't alone, neither brother could see a speck of resemblance in the two.

"Yes," he said, not breaking eye contact. "My name's Draven."

"Ryder," he took Draven's outstretched hand, then broke eye contact to look back at the girl. "I would rather discuss our situation with her."

"Her name is Esmeralda," Draven said a little sharply. "She does not appreciate being nameless."


"Wait until this song is over," Draven said. "I'll let her know you're waiting."

"Thank you."

They watched at the blue haired man made his way back through the crowd to stand near the front. He locked eyes with his sister for a second and she nodded, not even pausing in her song. They still couldn't hear the words, but they moved close enough to hear the melody, and it was stunning.

For a few more minutes they just stood there, listening and watching her. It seemed almost impossible that a girl like that, so beautiful and fragile looking

could possibly be the great thief, assassin and smuggler they'd heard about.

When the song finished, some people dropped money into the bag and when she stood up to leave, there was a loud murmur of disappointment, but the crowd dispersed. Esmeralda brushed dirt off her skirts and gently put her lyre into it's case. The dress she wore was plane commoners black that clung to her upper body and flared out at the hips. It was sleeveless, which was strange considering how much there was to scrape your arms on out here; most people made sure they had sleeves in the city.

The brothers watched from their distance as Draven spoke to his sister. She nodded, then looked at the brothers, motioned for them to follow and took off through the market.

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