Ashes of the Ylan [A Rama Empire novel]

"I thought you'd kill me," she croaked. "Not much honour if you cannot keep your promises."

Within the world of Convergera, lies the lands of Rama. Though the Rama Empire has long since been disbanded, the Capital still stands as a symbol of prosperity. The Antirian wars are over, but peace is soon disturbed as disaster strikes.

Sarashi is raised on the Wild Plains, but in a culture where freedom is everything, she is tied down by fear and expectations. Her people wants her to embrace her mother's legacy, her own fury screams for vengeance and her heart aches to belong. But when the war between the Sapphire Empire and the people of Rama flares up again, she'll have to make a choice between what she wants, and what is expected of her.

"Both standing on two legs, eyes level, the lion tried to push her into the ground. Her heart beat like never before as it stretched its neck over the spear to reach her face with its teeth. Pain made her dizzy as she growled back, a fiery rage star

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12. Ch 2: Uncrowned Queen (Part 5 of 6)

Sarashi lost track of time, lying on her back beside the corpse, shaking and shivering. Then she turned over and forced herself up on hands and knees, wobbling and still shaky. The sudden thought that lions usually hunted in packs, cleared her head slightly, and through her muddled mind she recognized the need to stop the bleeding.

Untying her sarong with clumsy fingers, she cut it using the tip of the spear protruding from the lion's back, and tore the cloth with her hands. She cried out as the motions made her arms and shoulders burn, pain flaring stronger. Tears continued to stream down her cheeks, and as she tore at the grass to get something to pack her wounds with. Halfway through the work, she had a spell so forceful it almost blinded her, but she managed to stem the worst of the flow from the wounds. The cloth she used for bandages quickly turned red.

She gasped for breath, the entire world turning around her. She knew she needed to replenish her fluids, but for the death of her, she could not remember how far back she had passed the last spring. Her eyes flickered around, searching desperately for a way to survive.

And landed on the lion.

It was too hot out for the blood to clod this quickly. The kill too fresh for the corpse to stiffen.

On hands and knees, biting back moans of pain, she crawled to the beast that had wounded her, and grabbed hold of her spear. She whimpered as she tried to pull it free. At first nothing happened, but slowly it began sliding through the lioness, before she finally managed to free it completely. She let it drop, and rolled the beast to the side, so she could place her lips against the open wound in its chest. She sucked and swallowed the life saving heart blood. The salty taste, and the clods which had formed, brough back her nausea. She forced it down, rubbing the back of her hand against her mouth.

Her heart still beating senselessly fast, she curled up in the dirt, pressed against the lioness' underside like a cub beneath its mother. Still unable to breathe cleanly, she forced air into her lungs. The tribe was awaiting her return, but if she was not back by dawn, no one would come searching. She had been declared dead already. Worse, if she did not return by dawn, and lived, the shame of failing her hunt and having to wait another year would kill her.

She was in no state to hunt down anything. Not even a sleeping thrush would let her close, reeking of blood as she was. No, in her current state she would be the hunted one. Weak, bloody, she would be a walking treat for any meat eating scavenger wandering the plains.

The warmth of the lion against her back made her mind grow silent.

Nobody said the prey needed to be edible, she thought hesitantly. And it is my kill.

A giddy feeling washed through her, a hysteric reaction to the pain, the exhaustion and the fear, but she did not laugh. Instead she tempered herself, taking another breath. There was a chance the lioness' musky scent would keep away smaller predators.

A chance the strain of carrying it would kill her.

But she had made up her mind, so she drew herself back to the lion's wound, suckling more blood. She drew on its strength, drinking as deep as she could. Then she grabbed her spear with bloody fingers and used it to get to a stand. The shaft became a lifting pole in her hands, to pull the corpse onto her shoulders.

Judging the direction from the sun, she took one step. And then another. And another.

She just had to make it to the camp before dawn.

Healthy, sated and freshly woken, she would have made it before sundown.

In her current state she might not make it at all.

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