No, go away.
No, she didn't care.
Someone shook her shoulders anyway. "Li, open your eyes!"
"Nnnurgh," Li muttered and tried to pull away. It was difficult. She didn't know which way was up or down, or why she seemed to be spinning in a circle, or why it was so dark.
With a huge effort, Li opened her eyes. Ah. That was better. There was light, and blurred colour, and a fuzzy face hanging just in front of her.
"Good. That's good. Now listen, Li, this is very important."
Li blinked a couple of times. Things came into slightly better focus. The face belonged to a man. He looked familiar. Where had she seen him before?
"Are you listening?" The man shook her shoulders again. "I know you feel like death - believe me, I know - but you have to remember what I'm going to tell you."
"Mmm," Li said, just to shut him up. It didn't work.
"You're going to feel like this for a little while. It's the after-effects of the jump. It's like the worst travel-sickness you'll ever get. You'll feel sick, disorientated, you'll probably have a trouble staying conscious, and I'm sorry but - Li! Wake up! - you're just going to have to tough it out, okay?" The man put a hand on her cheek, propping her head up. "Now listen, I made a bit of a wrong turn getting here and I didn't bring you exactly where I should have, but I don't want to risk doing it again, because God knows what that'll do to you. Raoul - remember the guy that was with me? Short, no hair, needs to spend a little more time at the gym? - he's the one who knows what this is all about, he's got all the answers in that bag of tricks he carries. You can trust him, okay? He's just got a few more things to do, then he'll come and find you and take you to Watcher's Pass."
What ? Li shook her head. She didn't know what he was talking about. She just wanted to go back to sleep.
"Wait here until then, okay?" The man lowered her gently back down, then stood up. "They're good people here, they'll look after you. You're you're going to be fine."
I will if you just let me go to sleep, Li thought.
"Right. Okay," The man stepped away, and she couldn't see him any more. "See you at Watcher's Pass."
She was lurching around, her head and arms flopping.
" want me to carry her for a bit?"
"No point, we're nearly "
Strange voices. Li whimpered and struggled.
"It's all right, nothing's going to happen to "
She couldn't see the speaker, but he sounded kind. Li relaxed and drifted away.
She could see more clearly now, but she still didn't understand. She was lying in a bed. A boy sat in a chair nearby, reading a book.
He glanced at her and smiled. "Feeling better?"
"I " Li tried to sit up. Her stomach lurched.
Instantly the boy was propping her up and holding a basin under her chin. Li clutched his arm as she vomited into it, coughing and sobbing.
"Steady, it's all right. You're going to be all right, just take your time "
He sounded like someone talking to a frightened animal. Li spat and gasped for air, and he wiped her mouth gently with a cloth.
"Want to go back to sleep?"
Li nodded, slumped back into the pillows and slept.
When she woke up for the fourth time the only differences were that her vision had cleared, and the boy had shifted around in his chair so his legs were hanging over one arm.
There was definitely something weird about the room, Li thought as she looked around. It was the sort of thing she'd seen in stately homes, from the panelled walls to the leaded windows to the antique furniture, like the four-poster bed she was lying in. Even so, the place had a lived-in feel. She couldn't quite see groups of tourists oohing and aahing at a room with piles of clothes on the floor and a dresser covered in dirty wine glasses.
She looked at the boy, who was still frowning over his book. He was about her age, with scruffy black hair, blue eyes and a calm, friendly face. She could tell he was tall by the way he'd contorted himself into the chair. Scott did the same thing.
Thinking about Scott was like being punched in the stomach. Luckily, before she could dwell on it, the boy looked up.
"Oh, you're awake!" He closed the book and swung his legs around. "How are you feeling?"
"Not so sick," said Li. For some reason she didn't feel scared about being in an unfamiliar house talking to a total stranger. It was probably something to do with the fact that he wasn't waving a gun in her face.
"That's good," His clothes were unusual. Dark blue trousers, fair enough, but also a full-sleeved shirt and a blue waistcoat.
He'd noticed her staring. Quickly, Li pointed to a stain on the front of his shirt that looked embarrassingly like dried vomit. "Um. Sorry about that."
"Don't be, it'll wash out," The boy smiled and held out a hand. "Keir Falconer."
"What? Oh - uh - Liana Coleman," Li shook his hand. She was about to ask where she was, but when she looked down at her arm and saw a frilly sleeve that led to an even frillier nightdress, a more pressing question took over. "Where are my clothes?"
"Still being washed, I think."
"We found you in the lane. You were covered in mud, so Hannie washed your clothes for you."
Li shook her head. "Look, I've only just woken up - I mean, I - I don't know what's going on, so could you just - who took my clothes off?"
"Don't worry, it was Hannie."
"Who's - no, forget it. Listen, Keir, where-"
Before Li could finish, the door opened.
The man who walked in had to be Keir's father. He was brown-haired, bearded and about thirty years older, but otherwise they were identical.
"Good to see you awake," He shook her hand. "Siret Falconer. Pleased to meet you ?"
"Liana Coleman," said Keir, and grinned. "Liana, this is Lord Siret Falconer."
"Ignore my wretch of a nephew," The man pulled up a chair. "Everyone calls me Falconer."
"Um. Everyone calls me Li," Lord Falconer? Li thought. Well, there were a few remnants of the aristocracy lurking in Buckinghamshire if you knew where to look.
"Where do you come from, Li?"
Falconer looked at Keir, who shrugged. "Never heard of it, but I'll ask around the village."
"What?" Li stared at them. "Where am I now?"
Falconer raised his eyebrows. "In relation to where?"
"Well how far are we from Milton Keynes?"
They glanced at each other again. "Quite a way, I should imagine," said Falconer.
Li began to gnaw on her lip. "How the hell did I get here?"
"We don't know," said Falconer. "Keir found you in the lane outside. It looked like well, like there'd been a struggle. Can you remember what happened?"
"I-" Li stopped. Her throat seemed to close up. The eyes, the gun, the blood, the way the man had crumpled up so slowly and died. She started to cry.
"Forget it," Falconer said hastily. "We'll talk about it once you're feeling better."
"No, I'm okay, I'm okay," Li dragged her hands across her face. "I want to talk to the police."
"I really need to talk to them. He might - he might have hurt Scott, and-"
Falconer put a hand on her arm. "Li, it's going to be all right. I might be able to help."
That did it. Li knew it was a police matter, but she was frightened and confused and she just wanted to turn the problem over to someone older and go back to sleep.
Keir and his uncle listened as she told them an edited version of what had happened. She knew they wouldn't believe the boy had just appeared. She didn't believe it herself.
"Then the other man took my hand, and I must've blacked out," She wiped her face, caught sight of herself in the dresser mirror and choked a laugh. "I've still got that chocolate round my mouth. God "
"Right," Falconer stood up. "Well, I think-"
Before he could finish the door opened and a freckled girl wearing an apron bustled in, carrying a large wicker basket.
"Oh, I didn't realise you were still here," She stopped. "I just came to get Miss Alatea's washing. Want me to come back?"
"No, that's fine, Hannie," Falconer kicked Keir's chair. "Come on, you, I think Li needs a rest."
"You'll ring the police, won't you?" Li asked through a yawn.
"We'll sort everything out, don't worry."
They left. Li watched as the girl began to gather up the clothes, which were mostly long dresses.
"Oh, I forgot," Hannie took something out of the basket and held it up, studying it with interest. Li saw it was her jeans. "These are yours, right?"
"Yeah. Thanks," said Li, slightly unnerved by the way the girl was staring at them. "I thought Keir said they were in the wash?"
"Yeah. They took a bloody long time to dry, too, we had to stick them in the furnace room in the end," Hannie tugged at the stitching and nodded appreciatively. "You a city girl, then?"
"Um no. I'm from Middlewick. It's a village. Mostly pubs."
"Never seen a village girl in trousers before," Hannie folded the jeans and hung them over the back of a chair, then picked up her T-shirt. "This is nice, though. What's it made of?"
"Cotton, I think " Li thanked God they hadn't taken her underwear.
"You didn't have any shoes, did you? Nah, they said you didn't. Gods, you wouldn't catch me outside in stocking-feet, not in that mud "
Li chewed her lip, wondering if the question was rude, but asked it anyway. "Are you a maid?"
"Yeah. Been here ten years now," said Hannie, shovelling the dresses into the basket. "Started off in the scullery, then milady trained me up. I mostly work for Miss Alatea now."
"Ten years?" Li exclaimed. The girl looked about sixteen.
"Feels longer. They're good people here, though, I'm lucky," She stood up. "Anyway, better let you get some sleep."
"Hang on - who's milady? And Miss Alatea?"
Hannie grinned. "Gods, you really do need some rest, don't you? They're Lord Falconer's wife and daughter. All the land around here is milady's - Falconer's a farmer by birth. This is Miss Alatea's room."
"Won't she mind?"
"She's not here. She's off visiting the Gaine family with her mum. I dare say you'll meet them when they get back," Hannie balanced the basket on her hip and kicked the door open. "Get some sleep now, you look like you're about to pass out."
"Thanks," Li muttered. The girl was probably the strangest one yet, but she was too tired to care. She settled back against the pillows. It was only a matter of minutes before she was asleep."
Scott stared at the road.
He was playing Queen. The monster was speeding along the motorway, the gun stuck carelessly in his belt, humming along to Queen. It made him sick. Li loved Queen.
He'd kept it together till the man died. Scott had never seen a dead body before. Now a man had been murdered right in front of him. He hadn't know what he was doing till he'd found himself running.
Scott shifted painfully. His eye was swollen and his lip was bleeding.
He'd run away.
At least by the time he'd been dragged back to the car, Li had gone. The young man hadn't been too happy about that.
"Nearly in London," his kidnapper announced, and grinned at him. "Your family has fond memories of London, doesn't it, Scott?"
Scott stared at him. "You sent them?"
"The photos? Nah, not me. One of our Patrollers dropped them off at your house. I'm not a postman, Scott."
You're insane, Scott thought.
"Why are you doing this?"
The young man laughed. "You'll see."
Scott was certain he could describe him. How many people in the world were that pale?
"Who the hell are you, anyway?"
The boy smiled.
"Kadju. Kadju Kimaran. I wouldn't worry about telling the police, though. You won't be speaking to them."
Scott took this in. Well. That was clear enough.
He stared at the road.
Li groaned out loud when she woke up. This was the fifth time, and the novelty was wearing off. She couldn't wait for the police to get here so she could start sorting this out
These thoughts trailed off as she looked around.
It was dark. Li crawled out of bed and went over to the window. The garden was grey in the twilight. She must have been asleep for hours. The police wouldn't take that long.
Stupid. How stupid had she been to trust them?
Breathing deeply, Li leaned on the windowsill and thought. She had to get out of here now. At least that girl had brought her clothes back. If this room was anything to go by, the house would be huge - it might take her a while to find the front door. If she saw anyone on her way out, she'd say she'd say she was going for a walk to clear her head. And if that was a problem-
"Oh, sorry, I didn't realise you were awake."
Li screamed and spun around. Keir stepped back with a startled look.
"Stop doing that! Why are people always doing that?"
"Just just appearing like that!"
"Um the door was open?"
Li forced herself to calm down. "Forget it. Listen, I'm feeling a bit sick again. I'm just going out for some air "
Keir shook his head. "You shouldn't go out."
"I think you should just go back to sleep."
"I've been asleep!"
"Uncle thinks you should get some rest."
"I don't care what he thinks!" Li shouted. "You can't do this!"
"You can't just keep me here!"
"You won't let me out, you haven't called the police what are you trying to do?"
"Then let me go!"
"Listen!" Keir held up his hands. "We're not trying to to keep you prisoner or anything. It's just that you'll be safer here till Uncle finds out who attacked you-"
"That's what the police are for! I'm not stupid!"
"Why do you keep-"
"What is going on?" Li screamed.
There was a sharp hiss. A shape scuttled up Keir's arm, pausing on his shoulder and hissing again. In the shadows it looked like a lizard, but as it crawled into the moonlight Li realised with a cold horror that it had wings.
"What's wrong?" asked Keir.
Softly, Li chuckled.
"That's a dragon, isn't it?"
"I thought so," She grinned. "You know, if I'm really, really lucky, I'll wake up now."
"Well, I'm no genius, but I do know that dragons aren't real."
"I wonder what happened? Maybe he knocked me out "
"That's nice," said Keir, taking her arm "but shouldn't you get back to-"
"Leave me alone."
"Leave me alone!" Li shrieked, and swiped at him. Keir jumped back and she put her head in her hands.
"I want to go home," she mumbled. "I really want to go home."
"Gods, watch it!" Keir yanked her arms away from her face.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"Well - look!"
Li looked. "They're my hands," she said coldly.
He let go and stepped away. "Sorry. It's just-"
"Right," Keir paused as he reached the door. "You might want to talk to my uncle."
Li glared at him until he left. Then she slid down onto the floor, curled into a ball and closed her eyes.
It wasn't real.
She felt so cold.