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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51. Ch 7: Amongst the Ylan (Part 5 of 8)

The eyes of the other captives followed her, as the soldiers dragged all of them out into the morning light. They had been tied neck to hands in one row, so that if one of them fell, all of them would choke. Sarashi's eyes lingered on the iron bowl with the burning embers, and the prod that rose from it.

Are we to be branded? She thought, her stomach rebelling to the very idea.

All around them people were taking down tents and packing up. Horses trotted past, led by men in iron helmets, and instructions were being shouted from one end of the Empire's camp to the other. In some way the chaos seemed timeless.

“General Olston wants to interrogate that one,” the soldier from the day before said in the merchants' brogue, appearing from out of nowhere. “I am to bring it to him.” He held his hand out for her leash.

The soldier presently tying them together answered in Sharek, and loosened her rope from the line of prisoners. He casually handed it over, adding something that sounded taunting. Sarashi's ears were beginning to ring from all the different languages they used in the Sapphire Empire.

The messenger looked at her with a cold smirk, and wondering what had been said, she attempted to cover her bare chest from his gaze. He pulled at the rope, making her lose her balance.

Sarashi held her chin up, a coldness spreading through her and numbing her to fear and pain. She spoke with tight lips and a silent rage burning in her stomach.

Do that again, and I promise I will kill you.”

“It speaks!” he jeered condescendingly. Then he dragged her off, away from the others, and towards General Olston's tent. Or he tried, but she did not allow him to.

She had not bowed to Dawould, and she would not bow to the Empire.

So Sarashi raised her head high, forced her stiff shoulders back, and walked half a step in front of him. Not gracing him with a single glance, but keeping her eyes firmly on the blue tent belonging to the General. When he tried to make her stagger, she forced her tired body to keep its feet. Blood ran down her back, as red as the flag of Enshal behind her black matted hair. With bare feet and exposed chest, the scars from the lioness on her shoulders.

She was thrown into the General's tent in the same manner she had been before her whipping. A shiver ran through her at the sight of him, but she fought not to show it. This time she managed not to fall to her knees.

“Welcome back,” General Olston told her, the merchants' speak almost obscured by his Cahlish accent. “Are you ready to talk, or shall we beat you again?” he asked her. His eyes held no emotion, not even anger.

Sarashi's eyes narrowed.

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

He folded his hands and looked at the soldier. The man translated, and now she saw a flash of anger in the General's eyes. When the soldier finished, the General lifted his fingers and rubbed his earlobe between index and thumb.

Sarashi barely registered what was happening before the soldier kneed her in the stomach, folded her over, and tore the ruby stud from her ear. She gasped, but had no air to cry out, as the soldier laid the earring on General Olston's table. She fought to breathe, her thoughts grasping for what she had seen when the soldier lifted his knee. He had a knife in his boot. A small one, of the kind you used to whittle firewood with. Hope spread in her stomach, a sickly sensation to it.

She raised her eyes and let every bit of loathing show in them.

“Still. Not. Dead,” she spat in merchant speak, making sure that the General could understand every word.

This time the soldier pulled Sarashi's head back by her hair, so fast the rope threatened to choke her. She pulled at it with her hands, fighting to get it off, as the man closed his fingers around the silver ring in the upper arch of her ear, and tore that one out too. The right side of her head was sticky with blood.

When he let go of her hair, she fell to the ground, finally getting the rope to loosen. She dragged air into her lungs with almost frantic panic. She had to fight the need to puke. Her ear burned. Something had been torn through her flesh and skin! Through it!

She got to her feet, half dragged by the soldier as her wounded leg buckled, her back screamed and her ear felt like it was being used as a drum. She kept her eyes on Olston, knowing that if she looked away, she would faint.

This time she did not need to tell that she had yet to die.

For the first time his anger showed as more than a flash in his eyes, but then disinterest flooded his features.

“Take her outside and kill her,” the General dismissed them, as if Sarashi was nothing more than a diseased piece of livestock to be put down.

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