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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26. Ch 4: Mountains Tall (Part 3 of 8)

The huts turned out to be almost cave like. The Silver-Bearded Lynx had dug down to the cliff beneath the earth and build walls around the indentation. The roofs were made of wooden beams, much like those used in their tents, but thicker, covered with thick straws, secured by clay and large hides. The result was a building tall enough to stand in, despite the fact that it only rose about three feet into the air. The doors were cut from a single piece of wood, so no winter storm or cold wind would draft and steal precious heat from within the homes.

Children were playing among the small houses, clay dots on their cheeks, and a dog at their heels. A pair of old men were braiding baskets of long white willow stems, and a woman was cutting a flute from a piece of reed, sitting on the roof of one of the hurts. Despite the chill in the air, there was a warmth to the sight. Goats bleated in the background, fenced in by actual fences. A large herd of Rameras was being driven through a valley beneath the mountain village.

Erar whistled brightly and then let the tone drop to an impressive low. The sound was met by two short thrills, and he grinned at Janko.

“We're taught to whistle almost before we talk,” he explained. “Makes communicating easy because the sound bounces between all the rocks.”

Janko cocked an eyebrow as they all dismounted.

“I'd wager,” he said, lingering on the words. “I'd quite enjoy a demonstration of how good your whistling is.”

“Why?” Erar asked in a challenging tone, and a vague blush spread on his cheekbones. Sarashi wondered if Janko noticed.

“I know a lady whom I bet can hit a clearer tone,” Janko dared.

Erar's eyes flitted between Sarashi and Mya, trying to decipher who Janko meant. They both kept their faces studiously blank.

Janko saw the glance and his grin widened.

“I won't alarm anyone if we demonstrate here, will we?” he asked.

The scout shook his head hesitantly.

Janko lifted two fingers to his lips and let out a long and clear whistle – Only to be joined by Silver Song. As always her tone matched his perfectly, but was longer and more song like in its vibrations. Janko's smile grew proud at Erar's widening eyes.

“Impressive,” a man commented. While Janko had been showing off, this one had come out from one of the huts and joined them, summoned by Erar's signal.

Sarashi bowed her head to him.

“Silver Song is aptly named,” she agreed with the stranger.

“True words,” he agreed, observing her for a second, as she watched him in turn. He looked young, in his early twenties, slender of build and with black stains on his fingertips. His hair was tousled, but his chin was bare. He must be one of few among the tribes who shaved.

“I am Mardik, leader of the tribe of the Silver-Bearded Lynx,” he told her, and returned her nod. “And you must be the Uncrowned Queen of the Wild Plains.”

Sarashi frowned, the same intense dislike welling up inside as when Hia spoke of her mother's title.

“I did not know I was called that. I have no power over the tribes, or the plains, that title is wrong,” she said, remembering the harsh words of the Plains' Deer's tribe.

“Power is a matter of perspective,” Mardik said. “As for the title, it was in reference to your impressive seven day hunt, and not one of my making. This however, is not the best place to talk. Would you join me by my hearth?” he asked them. “Erar can lead your horses to the enclosure where we keep the others.”

“I'll go with him,” Janko said quickly. “Silver Song and I are bonded.”

Mardik nodded in understanding. It was common for bonded to never allow others to touch their animal half, or allow others to care for them. With the bond, the experience felt too intimate, and so most bonded pairs stuck together and only allowed close family and friends to cosset their other half.

The Mahal looked at Erar.

“We'll be in my hut, Cousin. Come join us once the horses are settled.”

Erar gave a cheeky half bow, accepted Timpre's reins and then lead both horses and Janko away. Sarashi looked after them with a slight frown, and then followed Mardik to his home.

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