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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27. Ch 4: Mountains Tall (Part 4 of 8)

There was only one room beyond the door, but it was surprisingly large and held pieces of furniture. A small fireplace with an actual chimney took up the wall beside the entrance, something Sarashi had not seen since she lived in the castle. An actual book case stood beside the sleeping furs, though there was only few books on it. Mya's eyes grew wide and hungry, though she said nothing. She had never seen so much paper.

Once they sat down in the furs and pillows laid out on the floor, Mya was introduced properly, as was Janko despite his absence. Tea was served from a ready pot by the fire, and a short whistle summoned a young women, carrying with her a small tray of cheeses and dried berries. The berries were bitter sweet.

“What news of the plains?” Mardik asked them, and they quickly filled him in on the newest movements of the soldiers. Though they made quick raids, the Mahayas had been quick to hide and disappear, and only few had been killed since those of the Horned Owls. The soldiers seemed intent to drive the Ramas away from the river, but there was not yet an actual war.

“And in the mountains?” Sarashi asked. “You said that Uncrowned Queen was not a title of your making, but whose then? If you know?”

Mardik did not smile, but there was a glint in his eyes.

“I know,” he said. “They sing your stories here amongst the mountains, and tell them round the fire by night. The tales of your hunt and of your promise had spread like wild fire between the tribes of the White Breath Mountains, but the point of ignition is no secret. The Priestess of the Stone Temple by the foot of the mountain ridge tells them to any who would listen.”

“The priestess-” Sarashi lifted her hand and gently touched her fingertips to the skin below her eye.

Mardik nodded.

“So it's true.” He sipped his tea. “You've met Lishka of the Veil.”

“Yes – She was the one supposed to perform my rite of return,” Sarashi admitted, thinking back on the blue eyed woman. “But she said nothing when I returned, and let me speak for myself.”

“She says you slew a lioness, the uncrowned queen of the plains, by yourself and with only a spear,” Mardik told her. “Is this true as well?”

Sarashi hesitated, but then she pulled down the cloth of her sarong to uncover her shoulders and reveal the golden tanned scars from the lion's claws.

“It's true.”

Mardik was silent for a moment.

“Were you taught to read and write?” Mardik rapidly changed the subject, leaving Sarashi on stumbling thoughts. “The history of our people? Of Enshal?”

Sarashi shrugged helplessly.

“A bit, but not well,” she told him. “Only what my nurse could, and that was little, and then mostly the stories and legends told by the Wild Horses.”

“Hmm,” Mardik murmured. “Will you stay for the winter? Kheerl, my father's brother is well taught and wise. He may teach you many things about your people.”

Sarashi's first impulse was to refuse. But the homely atmosphere outside beckoned to her, and they needed some place to lay low through the winter, so in the end she nodded.

“I cannot answer for my companions, but I would like that,” she said.

Mya, who had been a silent listener, as she most often was, fiddled with one of her earrings.

“If I can be allowed to attend those same teachings,” she said nervously. “I would be grateful.”

“Of course,” Mardik told her kindly.

When Janko and Erar arrived, Janko was given the same offer, but rejected the lessons. He too agreed to staying the winter, perhaps because he did not like freezing, and saw a chance to keep warm if he stayed.

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