Sorry guys, I've been sick for the past few days. Short chapter today. I'll try to make it up with a long one on Saturday :)

Teloria: The Book of the Stars by Elizabeth Frerichs © 2017

Ilane swam to consciousness. Her head pounded, and something blared over and over. Despite going to bed on the hard ground, she lay on a bed, the softest she'd ever used. Ilane's eyes popped open, and she sprang up, her heart trying to beat out of her chest.

A white ceiling spread out overhead. Periwinkle blue walls surrounded her. Ilane eased herself out of the bed, then flinched as her feet hit the ground. A soft rug covered the entire room—every bit. Curtains hung over a window—a window that appeared to be covered with smooth, clear glass instead of open to the air or shuttered. The hideous noise continued to beat at her brain.

She was alone. Trembling filled her limbs—had Iram found her?

"Lina, turn off your alarm!" a voice yelled from outside the door.

Ilane squared her shoulders and slipped over to the door. She reached for the doorknob, but then halted, her fingers still spread. If the door was unlocked, she would draw attention. Better to wait until the area outside was empty.

"Lina!" the voice yelled again, this time much closer.

A knock sounded. Ilane shifted to stand to one side of the door.

Less than a minute later, the door opened, and a woman stood in the doorway. Pants proclaimed her lower than a commoner but her silky top seemed to indicate the woman was of some standing. Her long curly brown hair fell around her shoulders, and her head tilted to one side as she fit an earring in her left ear. "Lina, why haven't you turned off that damn alarm?" When Ilane didn't respond, she grumbled and walked over to the bed, picking up something off the small table next to it. The noise ended.

Ilane continued to watch her, inching her way to the door.

The woman whirled back around. "Now, I want you home by six. I have a meeting this evening with Mr. Browns, so I won't be home for dinner, but—"

Ilane drew herself up to her full height. She didn't know who this woman was or why she was treating her this way, but she was going to find out. "Who are you?" she cut in.

The woman shot her a glare. "Hilarious. Look, I'll be late for work if I don't get going, and you—"

"Who. are. you?" Ilane repeated. "Are you in league with Iram?"

The woman sighed. "I don't know what you think you're doing, but I don't have time to play games this morning." She took a step towards the door.

Ilane moved to block the woman. "How did I get here?"

"Lina, I'm not joking."

"My name is not Lina. I am Princess Ilane of Teloria, and you will address me with respect. Now, who you are and why you have brought me here?"

The woman's brow furrowed. "You're serious, aren't you?" She took a step forward, extending her hand toward Ilane's brow.

Ilane jerked back, but the woman pursued her and rested her hand on her forehead for a moment.

"You don't seem feverish. Snap out of it, Dear. I'll be late for work. What did you read last night? You must have been dreaming something."

"I wasn't reading anything. Now, where am I?"

"At home." The woman studied her for a long moment. "Perhaps you'd better lie down and skip school today. Is anything hurting? Did you hit your head or something?"

Ilane tried to force her body to relax. The woman didn't appear to be a threat—unless she was caught up in an elaborate ruse. Seraphina had magic.

"Jerod?" she called mentally.

No answer.

Fine. She was on her own, and it was up to her to work her way out of this situation. Ilane gave her a small smile. Perhaps this woman would be more forthcoming if she went along with the delusion. After all, she was adept at getting information out of people once they started talking.

"No, I don't believe I've injured myself. Perhaps I am simply tired. I believe I will lie down for a short time. May I have something to eat?" she asked politely.

The woman appeared nonplussed but eventually recovered. "There's cereal in the kitchen." She glanced at something on her wrist, the sharp intake of her breath audible. "I'm late!"

She turned to walk out, and Ilane let her pass. Would they allow her out of the room? Holding her breath, she took a step outside the room and then another. Another large rug covered the hallway. Several amazingly realistic pictures hung on the walls.

"Thank you for your assistance, madam," Ilane said. "Might you point me to the kitchens?"

The woman stopped. "The kitchens?"

"Yes, you mentioned—cereal in the kitchen. I assume someone will be there to assist me."

"Assist you?" she replied, confusion covering her face.

Ilane nodded. "I am unfamiliar with cereal, but I am confident someone in the kitchens can assist me if you'll direct me."

The woman's mouth dropped open. "You have got to be kidding me! Lina, if you don't drop this charade right this minute, I will ground you for at least a month. I can't be late to my meeting."

Ilane frowned. Why did this woman insist on calling her "Lina"? They had allowed her to leave her room—why not explain how and we she had been brought here? However, from the woman's tone of voice, she had issued a threat. Better not to alienate her captors until she knew more.

"Very well," Ilane said. "I will return to my room for now."

The woman continued to frown as though unsure if she were acquiescing. "Try to get some sleep. I'm not sure what's wrong with you, but I don't have time to deal with it right now. I'll check on you when I get home."

Despite her confusion, Ilane turned back to "her" room before the woman got more upset. If she was leaving soon, Ilane might as well wait and then explore her prison. Fortunately, the woman didn't call her back though Ilane could feel her eyes on her.

Ilane partially closed the door—she wanted privacy, but had no desire to end up locked in the room—and walked back over to the bed. After sitting for a moment, she shifted to lie down, just in case the woman checked on her before leaving. Sleep would be impossible given this latest development, but it wasn't an uncomfortable place to wait. Closing her eyes felt like heaven to her aching head, and before long, she drifted off.