Chapter 4b

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"Well, anyway, you're no snake." I noticed he wore no shoes either, and no shirt. His entire body was covered in those thick bands of grayish-brown armor. A sudden thought entered my mind. "Do you ever get cold?"

He blinked at my sudden change in topics.

"I mean, do you ever need to wear anything more than pants?"

He studied me again, as if trying to figure out my angle. "Not during summer, no."

"And in winter?" I stared at the segments on his leg, wanting so badly to touch them and find out what they felt like.

"What are you staring at?"

"Well that's a silly question. And for the record, I'm not staring. I'm looking. Staring is rude."

He snorted. "Go ahead, get a good look at the freak."

I lifted my chin. "You are not a freak. I look because I like looking at you. You're interesting."

His face scrunched like he didn't understand.

I sighed. "Look, Galen thinks you're here to harm Foresthome. While that is alarming, I'm here for my own reasons."

"Which are?"

Because I needed a diversion. Because I was so dissatisfied with my life and where it was headed, that I needed something to distract me from it. Because I felt so incredibly ordinary, that I needed to surround myself with those who weren't, in the futile hope that some of that specialness might rub off on me.

I said none of those things. "So, who do I look like?"

He blinked at the sudden change in direction.

"Last night, you said the resemblance was remarkable. That means I look like someone, right? Who?"

"Oh. Someone I know."

I rolled my eyes. "Well of course it's someone you know. Who? Like, a girlfriend or something?"

He snorted again. "You honestly think I might have a girlfriend?"

"Sure, why not?"

"Look at me."

"In case you haven't noticed, I've been looking. And my question still stands."

A small growl escaped his throat. "You are exasperating."

"Okay, so no girlfriend. Then who do I look like?"

"You are like a wolf with a fresh kill. Relentless."

"The only way to get me to stop is to answer my question."

He blew out a breath. "Fine. Her name is Niralessa."

I raised my eyebrows, surprised at receiving this tidbit. "Niralessa? Isn't that strange? My name is Nirrin, and I look like someone named Niralessa?"

He had that peculiar expression on his face again. "Yes. Very strange."

"So, who is this Niralessa?"

He paused a beat as he considered telling me. "She's—"

The room brightened as the heavy curtain was pushed aside. I looked over my shoulder to find Galen poking his head in. His face was drawn with concern. "Are you getting anything?"

"You have got to be kidding me! What is it with people interrupting me right when I'm getting to the good stuff? Did you sense the need to check on me?" Galen's gift for sensing danger was not to be trifled with, but his timing was awful.

"I... no." He dropped his eyes briefly. "I was hoping you'd gotten some answers by now."

I sighed and glanced at Fento... Fendi... damn, why did I keep forgetting his name? His face had shuttered again, eyes glaring at the man in the entrance.

I turned back to Galen. "Well I'm not getting anything out of him now." I stood and brushed the dust of my dress. "Thanks a lot."

It had taken this long to get the guy to talk, and now all that progress was lost. I was more curious than ever, but it was time for me to get back to Bren. I was so tempted to tell Galen to go suck a toad.

"Bye, Fen. It was nice talking to you," I said before stalking past Galen out the door.

Galen followed me out. "What did you find out? Why is he here?"

"Well..." I began going through my mental checklist. "I found out he doesn't have a girlfriend, he dresses that way all the time during summer, and that I look like someone he knows. Someone named Niralessa. Isn't that interesting?"

He stared at me a moment, mouth slightly ajar. "All that talking, and that's all you got from him?"

I crossed my arms. "What were you expecting? I can't just march in there and say, 'Hi, I'm Nirrin. Do you plan on murdering anyone in their sleep?'"

"I understand that, but—"

"I was simply having a conversation with him, not interrogating him. That's why he talks to me."

He opened his mouth to say more, but I didn't give him the chance. I turned on my heel and left, content in the knowledge that I had the last word.


That girl is something else! Perhaps something worth voting for?

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