Chapter 23 | Bite

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GRETA

It's late evening going off of the new dimness approaching. The basket leaves my grip as Enoch takes it and sets it between us. He sits down behind the bush with me.

"When did they come back here, again?"

"Early this morning," I admit.

"There's not much I can do. She really must want it built. You may have to leave here," he tells me while plucking the bread from the basket. Beneath the sleeve of his tunic, he pulls out a funny looking dull blade and starts cutting the bread. "You should taste this, I made it specially for you."

I gulp hard, blushing when I feel him tap my arm playfully.

"It's good, isn't it?"

"It tastes like urkmink-" 

"Do you like it?" he asks.

"Yes."

He stretches his legs out. "You can keep the rest. The dough has urkmink blended into it, to um, help you get used to real food."

I hope he doesn't think I'm accusing him of anything, but I want to know the truth.

"Why are there slaves here?"

"The enslaved are criminals," he answers sounding sad. "I'm sure you've witnessed them getting whipped here today. It's cruel, yes. Until my father frees them nothing will change."

I blink, confused. "What?

"Law-abiding Shelliv need not be worried over such matters. Neither should you..." he explains vaguelly.

"Shelliv? What is that?"

"It's the name of our people here in Ashtium. I tried telling you before my father is no god."

I watch him as he stretches out more into a resting position on the ground.

"Are you testing me?" I whisper.

Enoch's movements are rigid as he sits back up. "No," he sighs. He reaches for something in the pocket of his tunic.

It's more powder I can tell, but there's something else and he sets it down on my lap.

It feels much thinner than my tunic. It's very soft and light, more thin than a dead leaf. I'm tempted to stretch it to see how expandable it is.

"Greta, don't. You'll rip it," he chuckles. "It's a slynk, our people wear them for protection in general. It's a thin material, supporting your body beneath, but you'll probably not even feel it. It's much like a second skin. I'm wearing mine too."

"Why?"

"It's a precaution to protect our skin in case this light harms it. Some people refuse to wear them under their tunics. Others can't afford to."

"I don't want it," I mutter.

"Greta, if you are a woman, you should especially wear it."

"No!"

"I'm wearing one right now, see?"

He may be wearing one now, but I don't remember seeing him wearing it yesterday. I don't ever remember seeing him wear it all actually. There are strange tiny little geometric shapes cut into the thin fabric that let me see his shiny silver skin beneath.

I would have definitely known if he was wearing one before.

He holds his arm out, lifting the fine layer of thin cloth from underneath his tunic.

"Yes, I see...ah!" I flinch feeling him touch the nape of my neck.

"Hold still," he whispers. "It may try to bite."

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