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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25. Ch 4: Mountains Tall (Part 2 of 8)

White Breath Mountains, Torgian Ridge

(1248 p. CP)

 

A black swallow flew over them, as they followed a small mountain path up into the White Breath Mountains. Winter had arrived a month past, and it was growing colder, and they would soon need to bring a tent and extra furs with them. So it was with a certain amount of relief they greeted the scout who met them halfway up the mountain.

A sharp whistle cut through the air and the thrills of the swallows, and was promptly returned by Silver Song and Janko. The scout, assured that they were not Molterainian bandits, rose from his hideout on one of the ledges.

“Heyla!” he called to them, his voice filled with the song of the mountain dialect. So close to the Torgian border, a lot of their speech had bled into the tribes' way of speaking over the years. “Sun shine on merry meet.”

“And it is kind!” Sarashi called back, as Janko grinned.

The man who met them were of a lighter tan than most on the plains, with a certain amount of red in his dark brown hair, hinting at a Torgian ancestor. His eyes were almost golden, and a bow and quiver hang over his shoulders. He smiled.

“Am I right to assume you'd be the Princess and hers?” he asked them, sliding down on agile legs and making pebbles roll over the rocks that covered the cliff beneath.

“You are,” Janko said, twinkle in his eye. “Though I should take offence to be labelled as anyone's but my own.”

The stranger glanced at him with happy surprise, enjoying the word play and obviously realising it for the teasing it was.

“Then I pray you'd accept my honest apology,” he said in return. “For I wouldn't want to offend.”

“Offend away,” Sarashi said, flashing her teeth. “It's healthy for him to experience being on the other side of his own manners.”

Mya chuckled, a slight blush on her cheeks as she avoided the scout's eyes.

“I'm Erar of the Silver-Bearded Lynx,” the man said and bowed to them, a twinkle to match Janko's in his eyes. “May I invite you to our hearth?”

“You may,” Sarashi said, liking Erar a great deal already. It felt like something tight strung inside of her finally relaxed and the worry that she and her friends would be turned away again evaporated. She did not know what she would do when Janko and Mya found her too troublesome to travel with and left her, as she knew they must. She would never admit it though.

“This offender is Janko of the Wild Horses, and the grey mare is his bonded, Silver Song,” Sarashi interrupted them casually, not wanting to break the light mood. “As guessed, I am Sarashi Enshira, and this is Mya, also of the Wild Horses.”

There was a distinct amount of curiosity in Erar's amber eyes when he gave Janko a once over.

“Bonded to the tribe's beast, then?” he asked softly. Among the Mahaya being bonded to the animal of your tribe was a great honour.

Janko nodded.

“Nothing special about that,” he said dismissively, never much for that line of conversation. “It's quite common within our tribe, as with most of the herd and pack tribes.”

Erar's lips drew back in a cat like smile.

“Among our tribe it is considered a great blessing. Lynx are solitary creatures,” he said, a note of irony in his voice.

Janko shrugged, and looked away.

“Well, I prefer to consider my uncommonly good looks a result of my own amazing nature and not a blessed bond,” he noted flippantly.

Sarashi snorted, and Janko looked at her with mock hurt on his face.

“What?” he demanded.

“You've no reason to worry about your looks being a blessing,” she teased him with a good natured smile.

He sighed deeply.

“You're right,” he said dimly. “It's a curse in disguise to be this good looking. I practically have to hide during feast to avoid being devoured by my adoring fans.” He shook his head theatrically.

“... As I have seen you at said feasts,” Mya commented softly, “I can tell you that the night mosquitoes are the only things to flock, trying to devour you.”

Sarashi shook her head in protest.

“That isn't fair Mya!” she said, and then added, grinning: “His smell attracts flies too.”

For a second there was silence, but then both girls broke into chuckles, and after a begrudging moment, Janko joined them. The chuckles grew into full laughter, and Erar looked from one to another, amusement in his smile. His pupils were large as he settled his gaze on Janko, like a cat deciding whether to hunt or play.

“You seem like good company,” Erar told them.

“They're horrible, really,” Janko told him in return. “Ruthless, these two.”

“Want me to save you?” Erar asked with a mischievous smile.

Janko seemed to consider the offer, but then shook his head.

“It's the fate of those who a great, to be mocked by the jealous,” he said solemnly, and then ruined the effect with a wink at the scout. “I'll survive.”

A loud sneeze interrupted their conversation, and left Mya looking utterly flustered and embarrassed as they turned to look. A blush coloured her cheeks, unused as she was to making noise.

“Sorry,” she mumbled.

“I'm sorry,” Erar said. “Winter is at foot and the mountains are always cool. I should have made sure you were warm, before holding you up like this.” He waved them on, motioning for them to follow him. “The huts are just over the edge there, hidden among some of the larger cliffs.”

“Huts?” Sarashi asked curiously. She knew the mountain tribes settled down during the winters, but had assumed they simply stayed in their tents.

“Living conditions are good here, so we stay there every winter,” Erar explained. “It seemed logical to build something durable and warm for the snows, rather than make new shelters each fall.”

A jittery feeling of excitement ran through her at the mention of snow. It never snowed on the plains, not really. Sometimes, when it was coldest, tiny white specks would fall like dust from the sky, and melt before they even touched the ground.

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