Author's note: This is part of the first chapter of a Darkangel fanfic that I just started working on. It is set shortly after the last book in the trilogy left off. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for reading!

The water was so blue, bluer than earthshine, bluer than her Irrylath's eyes. She relaxed into his embrace as he carried her away from the shore. A cool, fragrant gust of wind blew softly over the sand. Her light robe clung to her body and her hair was dripping. She buried her face in Irrylath's neck, inhaling deeply, and felt her heart thrill.

"Ah, husband. Where are we going?" Aeriel asked breathily.

"I want to play a song for you on my bandolin." He was staring at her. Although he now truly treated her as his wife, supping with her, speaking to her for hours on end, walking hand-in-hand with her, he still at times seemed to regard her as some supernatural being, someone to be worshipped or held in awe rather than simply loved. I thought your green eyes saw everything, he once told her. Did he still think so?

"The wind wends weary on its way, the haze hangs heavy on the sea…" He sang, his fingers strumming the instrument with ease. Aeriel suddenly felt sick.

"Irrylath, don't let me go," she said, her face wet with tears. He dropped the bandolin and reached out to take her in his arms. But already, she was fading…

Aeriel awoke in a hard bed with rough sheets. She wore the heavy robe from Ravenna. Erin sat up beside her.

"Aeriel, what ails you? Your eyes are wild," Erin said. Aeriel stared into space.

"You dreamt of him again, didn't you? He must be calling to you still."

A sharp pain arose in Aeriel's chest. Yes, Irrylath must be thinking of me, he has not yet forgotten me. Knowing this was both a comfort and a pain to Aeriel. She had been telling herself that it would be better if Irrylath accepted the fact that she would never return and live as if he never knew her, but a selfish little part of her wanted him to wait for her forever.

Aeriel stood up and threw open a window. The air was hot and made her skin feel sticky. She gazed out over the vast barren plains. Soon these plains would be alive with willowherb and francinpour, if she could only perform the ancient rituals as well as she had been for daymonths now. But her strength was waning—much of the time, it was almost unperceivable, but there were moments where she could barely stay awake. She would fall to the floor in an instant, and her dreams would pluck her away. She would awake to the sound of Erin whispering a rhyme to wake her. Erin always acted as if nothing unusual had happened, but Aeriel could see the fear and concern in her eyes.

Ravenna had told Aeriel that her new body was immortal. But the Ancient had also once said that Aeriel's task would consume her. Aeriel couldn't help but wonder if she was to be sacrificed for the good of the world, just as Oriencor and so many others had been.

Aeriel glanced over at Erin and shuddered. Where will Erin go if I die? What will become of her? As relieved as Aeriel was when Erin chose to accompany her on the long journey to NuRavenna, she also sometimes feared for Erin's safety. The energies circulating around some of the ancient rituals were powerful and often volatile, but Erin refused to leave Aeriel's side even during the most dangerous rituals.

"Erin, what would I do without you?" Aeriel said softly, sitting down on the bed beside her. Erin only smiled and embraced her.

Two years was all we had, love. And we squandered them. Irrylath sat in the tower, his head buried in a mess of golden fabric. Aerial's wedding sari. He could never forget the anguish that ripped through his heart as she said that. It was then that he realized what a fool he had been all along, not to see how much she loved him throughout those years. Yes, the White Witch had dominated his dreams. But that did not stop him from loving Sabr. How it pained him now to remember how he would turn away, pretending that he didn't know that Aeriel's heart was breaking every time he and Sabr left to be alone together. Why? Why did I hurt Aeriel so?

He knew all too well. At that time, Aeriel was a living reminder of all the cruelties he committed as the darkangel. Her very presence forced him to remember. He remembered seeing his icy gaze reflected in her eyes the day he first took her away. The tortured little gasps she would make whenever she came across a little animal he had mutilated. The ragged wraiths clawing at him as he struggled to grab Aeriel and strangle her. But it was not only the memories that caused him to shun Aeriel. Ever since her return from the desert, Aeriel possessed an aura of quiet strength that frightened Irrylath as much as it fascinated him. Because of this, she reminded him of the White Witch. Sabr was a powerful woman as well, but an utterly mortal one. He chuckled, thinking of Sabr—she would pout like a child when he teased her, and her voice would rasp when she would speak of Aeriel. How she hated Aeriel, and feared her! And who could blame her? There was no one else like Aeriel; no other woman could compare.