A/N: Wow, I don't even know what to say anymore. I have waited way too long to update this, and I am terribly sorry :( I've probably lost a lot of readers, but if there are still a few of you out there, please do read. And review, because reading all of the previous reviews probably inspired me to continue writing. On with the story, then.

"Aislin, get in! The water's nice!" Mira shrieked with joy as she splashed the cool water onto her best friend.

Aislin backed away and studied the water skeptically. She shook her head at Mira. There was no

way she was getting in the pool; she never learned how to swim.

"I'll help you, Izzy! Just come in," Mira begged. She waded over to the edge of the pool. Aislin bit her lip and came closer to Mira.

"I…I can't, I don't know how." She looked away ashamedly. Mira giggled and splashed her

again. Then Aislin felt hands grasp her ankles as she fell into the pool.

Flailing, struggling, trying to breathe. She couldn't swim. Where was her breath? She didn't know how to do this. What was happening to her?

Aislin gasped as she resurfaced, but another wave plunged her to the depths of the lake. Mira wasn't here to help her this time.

The hands grasped her arms and pulled her upwards. She gasped with relief as oxygen filled her lungs. Mira was searching her face with guilt. "I'm sorry, Izzy."

Aislin was dragged out of the lake as oxygen filled her lungs. She wasn't dead, then? Coughs traveled convulsively up her throat as she gasped for her life. Was Mira here in Chamyra?

"Who's Mira?" The figure that saved her sighed tiredly. "And why didn't you tell me you couldn't swim?" Aislin squinted at the shadow and realized that it was Darius. She felt relieved and disappointed at the same time.

"I—" she coughed wildly, prompting Darius to glance sharply in her direction. "I can swim, but I can't."

Darius chuckled darkly. "You're making no sense, kiddo." He sighed again, only this time he looked worried. "You scared me for a second…I couldn't find you."

Aislin looked away, toward the now calm lake. The flashbacks in her head while she was flailing in the water reminded her that she never did learn how to swim. "Um, Darius, I can swim. I mean, I know how to swim, but I just can't."

Darius cocked his head to the side. "You mean you're too afraid to swim?" He coughed lightly and shook out his shaggy head of hair.

Aislin sighed and stood up, her legs wobbling a bit. Nothing escaping his notice, Darius dashed forward to prop her up. He glanced over her figure concernedly. "Kinda," Aislin replied belatedly. She showed no signs of expounding, so Darius bit his lip and nodded.

"Look, Aislin, I'm sorry. I promised a safe haven, and you got a fasma with an attitude problem." Aislin giggled, despite her exhaustion, at the last bit.

"You know, Darius, I think the fasma was mad at you. Or maybe she hasn't seen a guy in so long that she went nuts." Darius opened his mouth to protest, but seeing Aislin's tired face, decided against it. Instead, he suggested that they hike up to the meadow and get as far away from the dangerous lake as possible. Aislin agreed, and they began their ascent.

Aislin hobbled up the slope with Darius supporting her back. She glanced sideways at him and noticed that he was smirking. With a frown, she asked him why he was smiling so stupidly. Darius stopped walking and turned to face Aislin. "Oh, okay, I suppose I should be gentlemanly." He grinned again and raised his eyebrows. After a look at Aislin's still confused face, he sighed and glanced down at her body. She followed his gaze and blushed furiously.

Aislin was in nothing but her soaking underwear. At first, the notion only embarrassed her, and she could do nothing but blush brighter and brighter. She looked down at her bare feet and asked meekly, "Can we go back and get my clothes now?"

Darius took pity on the modest girl. "That little tsunami in the lake must've washed them away. I tried looking for them earlier, believe it or not."

Now Aislin was red with anger rather than embarrassment. "You're such a…an evil, annoying little prick." She breathed heavily and cast her eyes upon Darius with bitterness. "I can't believe you didn't tell me earlier. You are a bloody liar, that's what. A bloody, stupid who-knows-what."

Much to Aislin's chagrin, Darius threw his head back and laughed. "Bloody? Oh, Aislin, you're not even British. "

"That's why I can use it," she admitted sheepishly. "I'm not British, so it's not really a curse word for me." Darius was amused at her innocence.

"So you don't curse? I didn't take you for that kind of girl, what with your flaring temper and obvious immodesty." He glanced down at her underwear in a joking fashion. Although he was having fun, the look of mortification on Aislin's face was starting to make Darius feel guilty. He sighed and peeled his skintight t-shirt off. "Here, if you insist on having clothing."

Aislin wasn't looking at his shirt though. She hadn't gotten a good luck at his body before, even though his tight shirt didn't leave much to the imagination. Now, with Darius's chest exposed, Aislin blushed brighter. She couldn't tear her eyes away from his rippling muscles and the tiny trail of dark hair in the middle of his abdomen. However annoying Darius was, Aislin had to admit that he was painfully hot.

"Err, thanks," she muttered, finally grasping the shirt from Darius's outstretched arms. Darius smirked; he obviously noticed her prolonged stare at his shirtless form. Aislin pulled on the wet shirt and started hiking up the slope again. Darius followed bemusedly.

The whole hike to the meadow was spent in silence, Aislin because she refused to say anything more to Darius, and Darius because he was content with studying Aislin's determined face. He stared into her emerald green eyes, unchecked. This didn't escape Aislin's notice, but she pretended not to care. Darius continued to observe her small little nose and rosy cheeks. Her auburn hair was soaking wet, and he reached out to touch it. Aislin flinched at this action but wasn't so quick to break the silence.

Finally, they reached the queer meadow, and Aislin collapsed onto the soft, green grass. Darius joined her quietly. After a while of breathing fresh air, Aislin couldn't take the silence anymore. "Can we go to wherever we're supposed to be right now?" she blurted.

Darius recoiled, but at second thought, knew it was the right thing to do. "Sure, we should start now if we can, before it gets dark. It doesn't take long to get to Raiza." Aislin's face twitched at the unfamiliar name. She got up from her comfortable spot and waited for Darius to copy her motions before ambling along the crude path.

"So Darius, tell me what this Raiza is like," Aislin said as they walked. She noticed that the strange deer and other unique animals had disappeared, probably before it got dark, she reasoned.

Darius's eyes shone with genuine love for this place. "Raiza is where I grew up, where a lot of people in Chamyra grew up, actually. Chamyra's a very small world, and Raiza is like the capital, I guess, of Chamyra. But it's not like those disgusting capitals you humans have on Earth. It's a little country town with neighborly farmers and all-around good morals. Raizans are good people, you know; they don't get consumed with power. You'll like it there, I'm sure. I bet Lara will just adore you."

"Who's Lara?" Aislin was surprised to find a hint of jealously in her voice.

Darius detected it and assured her against any assumptions. "I grew up with Lara, and she's just like a sister to me. She works for her dad in the general store and pretends to hate me. She doesn't though, I know. I mean, who could?" Aislin snorted, and Darius pretended to be offended.

"Is all of Chamyra full of forests?" Aislin asked, glancing around at the endless expanse of trees and flowers they passed.

"Nah, just this part. Raiza, for example, is surrounded by farmland, and then, to the west of it lies the Defendo Mountains." Darius spoke of the land lovingly.

The two travelling companions walked through the forest until the crude path they were following ended abruptly. By this time, darkness had descended, giving the forest an eerie appearance. Aislin stuck closer to Darius, glancing at the dark trees suspiciously.

"Where do we go now?" she whispered, then wondered why she bothered to whisper. She guessed it was just the darkness of the night that compelled her to lower her voice.

"This is where forest meets farmland," Darius replied, whispering too. "We'll just go down this hill and follow the road."

They did just that, and Aislin took the opportunity to examine the farmland. She couldn't identify any of the crops, as they were all foreign Chamyran ones. Behind each gaited area of crops were quaint little farmhouses, each with its own character. She wondered why it was so peculiarly quiet, when Darius stopped in his tracks.

"Yeah, I was wondering that too," Darius muttered, glancing around at each of the farmhouses nervously. "Usually there's a couple of youngsters out doing the evening chores." He resumed his pace, only quicker this time. Aislin had the feeling that he knew something that he wasn't telling her. She jogged to keep up with his pace.

They continued to pass more eerily quiet farms, Darius biting his lip at each one. Suddenly, as if deciding that he'd seen enough dead farmhouses, Darius broke out into a fast run. Aislin chased after him, feeling frustrated, but not voicing her concerns. With a pang of regret, she wished she could know why Darius was so anxious. She suddenly realized that her Knowledge had stopped working ever since she arrived in Chamyra. She guessed that she was too immersed in this new world to realize her loss of power.

Aislin was lagging behind, but she could see red orbs lighting the night sky up ahead. Darius ran, if humanly, or unhumanly, possible, still faster after spotting the orbs. Aislin caught up with Darius at an old rusty gate with a torch on each side. The fire blazing on the torches was unnaturally red. Darius's breath caught audibly, and suddenly he was tearing the gates open with superhuman strength.

"What's wrong?" Aislin whispered, frightened, though she felt stupid asking.

Darius's voice, too, was tinged with fear. "Raiza is under attack."