A passing stranger–a dwarf, Merilin thought–looked toward the source of the cries, muttered something in a strange, harsh language, and kept moving.
Cold, damp, and shivering, the small elf child cowered in the alleyway. It had rained during the afternoon, and they had been driven away from shelter by violent strangers. They had managed to steal another naeris from a vegetable merchant, but it was unfulfilling and tasted foul. They hadn’t found their parents today, just like yesterday. They sniffed back another sob, and kept eating.
The elf child started awake, a finger prodding their cheek. A large girl with greenish-gray skin and prominent tusks was staring down at them.
“What?” the elf responded in Elvish.
“Ugh,” she turned to look behind her, and the elf realised that there were a small group of other children behind her. “Anyone speak elf?”
The other children shook their heads.
“Well, we can’t just leave… uh… them here.”
“Can’t we?” a human boy asked. “We barely have enough to eat ourselves!”
The half-orc nudged the small pile of turnips near the elf. “Looks like they can fend for themselves. Probably been here a while–we could use another pair of hands and eyes.”
The elf looked at her in confusion, her words meaning nothing to them.
The half-orc smiled, and held out a loaf of bread. “Here, this’ll be better than those turnips you’ve been eating.”
“Turnip”, a small black-feathered child repeated. “Good name.”
In a tree overlooking the ghostly ruins of Crossroads, Naeris stared at a scrap of paper.
“Merilin,” they said aloud for the first time in 30 years, tasting the shape of their name on their tongue. It felt awkward, but well-fitting, like a newly tailored set of leather armour.