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

The moment Rise had been killed, a lot of the Rama were taken prisoner, and only Erar leading Griba in a near suicidal attack had allowed them to get away. They only realised later that Sarashi had been lost in the chaos.

And chaos it was.

They fled on horseback, scattering in all the winds, so it would be harder to follow all of them.

Rayla kept screeching for her sister, so they had to knock her out to keep the soldiers from finding them. Avan moved woodenly and mutely through the motions of escape. Everyone was in shock, completely unprepared for the sudden attack of the Imperial forces.

Over the course of the next day, the remains of the Uncrowned Queen's tribe found each other again. They hid among a group of the old grey cliffs which stuck up every so often on the plains.

Borak held Liery so tightly she had to remind him of their unborn child, so he would not crush her completely. They had been separated during the escape, Liery and Mya fleeing on the same horse, and Borak drawing off a larger group of the Empire's men.

Mya was completely focused on her current task, as she and Janko fought to stem the blood from Erar's wounds. His lungs seemed unhurt, but a sword had sliced into his side, and cracked at least one of his ribs. But even while ripping Janko's sarong apart for make-shift bandages, she saw Borak press his forehead against Liery's belly and cry with relief that she was safe. Griba was one big grow, running back and forth, and showing teeth, until Erar called her over and whispered something in her ear.

With a miserable yowl, the large cat turned and disappeared into the surrounding grass.

“Told her to find Sar,” Erar mumbled, and looked at Frekla and Tallo. “Somebody follow her,” he asked. Frekla got to her feet, grabbed one of the few horses they had left, and took off after the silver furred lynx,

Mya and Janko tied the last of the bandages around Erar, but Janko's eyes were still wide with frantic worry. In a rush he was on his feet, never saying where he was going, as he took off as well.

Frekla returned hours later, as the sun began to roll down beneath the horizon. Her horse hung its head heavily, and she looked just as exhausted as the poor creature she rode. Her eyes were void of hope.

“They have her,” she told them. “Griba tracked the Princess to the main encampment. If she's even alive... We have no way of saving her.”

“Griba?” Erar asked drowsily.

Frekla shook her head.

“She hid in the grass by the camp,” she told him.

“Then Sar's alive,” Erar mumbled. “Griba'll keep close to her.” He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. He was asleep.

“We have to save her,” Mya said and stood up.

“And lose more of our people?” Avan asked, and looked up for the first time since the attack. “She's not even tribe, and we're few and wounded.” He was mourning, but the pain in his eyes did not choke out the anger.

Tallo shot to his feet.

“I'm not tribe,” he said, his hand twitching towards the slave mark burned into his shoulder. “You'd leave me to die too?” he shouted at the same time as Frekla yelled: “Tribe or not, doesn't matter!”

And then Rayla was screaming again, as she threw herself at Avan, fingers stretched before her as the tried to claw his face off.

“Rise is dead! Rise is dead! Rise is dead!” she screamed. Borak leapt to pull her off of the young Sun Hawk, and held her fast by closing his arms around her middle. Big fat tears streamed down her face as she sobbed.

“I won't go with you to die!” Avan yelled.

“And you won't have to,” Mya told him, her voice firm. She had been watching their surroundings, and had spotted what the other's had yet to notice.

The sound of Janko's characteristic whistle alarmed them to his arrival. Silver Song trotted up to them, and stopped a few feet away as a great stallion strode to her side. Mya almost cried at the sight of Shar and his bonded on his back.

“Chehera,” she breathed in greeting. “Mahal of the tribe of Wild Horses.”

In a rush, the tribe of Wild Horses arrived. Their healer took charge of the wounded immediately, and any who could not write, was placed on litters to be moved. Food and water was shared, broken weapons replaced, and tired horses set free to join the herd that always followed Shar, and replaced with some of the tribe's own on a promise that all would be returned to the original owners later. Everything was done efficiently and fast.

Caeryn pulled Mya aside by her wrist.

“Sarashi?” she asked, not aware that she was probably giving Mya bruises.

“Caught,” Mya told her. “We're going to try to save her, but we don't know if it'll be any good. There's too many, and we're-” She held out her hands uselessly.

“We'll help,” Caeryn said firmly, and took Mya's hands in her own. She looked to her mother, whom nodded.

“Anyone from our tribe who wishes to help, may do so,” Chehera agreed. “Though I doubt I'd be able to stop them regardless.”

Janko returned from where the healer was tending to Erar, and stood beside the folk of his former tribe.

“Erar's bonded is tracking Sarashi,” he said. “Griba will help get her away, if at all possible. We just need to help make it possible.”

“Do you have a plan?” Chehera asked him calmly. She did not remember Janko as neither especially serious, nor particularly decisive. To her he had always seemed to move on a whim, which was why she had allowed him to remain a scout, and had not pruned him as future Mahal, despite his bond to the tribe's beast. When he had been both commanding and decisive as he informed her that they needed her help, she had been pleasantly surprised.

“A distraction,” Janko said. “We'll take only bows, and ride as close to the camp as we dare, before fleeing. Make them think we'll attack. We'll watch their camp, so we know when they're moving her, and when she isn't tied down like they usually are at the guard stations.”

Chehera was silent for a heavy moment. Then she nodded.

“As you wish,” she said. “It is your leader we are saving, after all.”

So things happened as Janko had said, and they attacked the camp when they saw Sarashi on the move. Mya, as one of the scouts, saw the Princess escape on the soldier's horse, and then lost sight of her.

Her tracks were all but gone, and it took Griba returning a day later for them to find them again.

Mya followed the black eared lynx over the plains, Caeryn behind her, followed by Rouko, Tallo and two others. Griba scented the air, leading them through the tall grass towards a grove of black trees. She trotted in between them, and then stopped by the lake to drink. The Ramas followed the beast to the water, waiting for it to continue scenting.

Griba's head rose from the water, a few droplets falling from the long fur on her chin, and gazed around the grove. Her ears flickered in confusion, as her nostrils flared. She had lost the scent.

“No!” Mya gasped. “Find it again! Find it!”

The cat hissed at her, the fur on her shoulders standing straight up. Then her ears turned upward and the lynxs looked up into the crown of one of the trees. The humans followed its gaze with their own, wondering what it had seen. In a few short leaps, Griba climbed the tree, stepping carefully on branches thick enough to support her.

Rouko directed his horse under the tree to see better, his eyes widening.

“She's here,” he shouted, and let the reins to the horse fall. He hoisted himself up to stand on the back of the horse, and reached up into the branches so he could pull himself up. He climbed until he reached Sarashi and Griba. The bonded cat licked her cheek to wake her, but her skin was cold, and her eyes remained closed.

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