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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56. Ch 8: Dream Catcher (Part 2 of 8)

Sarashi was surrounded by flames. They crawled up her skin, making her twist and turn in agony, as the fire ate away her soul and left her smaller and weaker than before. Like a tree, slowly turning to brittle coal.

She tried to scream, but the heat choked away any air from her lungs, and left her gasping.

Dark shadows billowed around her.

They called to her.

Out of the darkness came a large black cat, a panther, like the Enshira's shield of arms.

"Cour!" she cried out.

The panther looked at her, and just turned away. His whiskers rose as she showed his fangs in disgust, and an arrogant flick of his tail, left her falling through empty space.

She hit the frozen ground with a thud that echoed into the vast surroundings.

The cold seeped into her body and left her trapped, motionless, and frozen. Her legs twitched painfully, as her eyes flickered around, looking for escape. Every breath made her colder. Every breath entrapped her and caged her.

She was dying.

Rama after Rama stepped forward around her, enclosing her. One step at a time they came nearer, until they stood around her, staring down at her with empty eyes. Eclipsing the sky. A terrible ache of realisation spread in her stomach as she saw them all wearing salkias, their long tassels brushing her skin. She met their eyes, recognising them, seeing those who had died around her. Mirca was there, old and wrinkled. Rise watched her with sad eyes. A small boy with familiar eyes looked like he had been crying. Beyond them stood others. A tall and broad shouldered man with a gentle expression, his hair as red as Erar's. Another beside him, with shared facial structure, and hair as black as night. A red haired woman with golden eyes, a stern man holding her hand. Hundres of humans, strangers and friends, stared at Sarashi.

A shadow formed on the ground, as a shape taller than life, rose from the frozen earth, spiralling until it took the form of a person. So much more than human, it was covered in a soft grey cloak. Sarashi could not see their face, could not decipher whether they were Rama or other, woman or man.

"Who-?" she croaked.

Sarashi got the feeling that they were smiling, though she could not see their face, and warmth began returning to her fingertips.

They leaned over her, taking her hand, and let her float to a stand. Watching them, she saw them for who they were.

"Have you come to take me?" she asked Death, quiet relief in her voice.

The God shook their head, and released her hand. As they did, they turned their head towards the people surrounding them, and with small sighs, the Ramas stretched their limbs gracefully and turned into black trees.

Death said nothing, but Sarashi got an decisive sense of what they wanted.

Hesitating, she reached out and touched the bark of the nearest tree, the one that had been Rise, and at her touch it burst into fire. Flames sprung from tree to tree, encapsulating her in an inferno.

Sarashi screamed. Her frantic fear drew her back and away from the fire, closer to the Dark God of the Shadow Lands. They did not seem to move, and yet the distance between them stayed the same.

"Make it go away!" she cried.

The wonder emanated from them. An unvoiced question in the air.

Why?

In the flames she saw faces of the people that burned, half hidden as if beyond a screen of cloth. Like shadows.

"Make it go away!" she repeated, her eyes open wide, her body shuddering outside of her control. But the flames only grew larger and revealed more and more faces. Faces she knew. Faces she had never seen before. Faces of people still alive. Sad, gentle, angry, loving, hating, faces! All sort of eyes staring at her. Always staring. And she knew that somewhere in there, she would see her mother.

Instead there was a soft song in the air, like that one spring day in the mountains where she had ridden Timpre to the edge.

The frost around her began to thaw.

She turned from the flames, and realised that the Dark God had gone. The song filled everything, the words and the voice making Sarashi weep. Warmth spread in her chest. It was her mother's voice. It was the lullaby of her childhood, which had haunted her memories with the promise of sweet safety and love, ever since her sixth birthday.

The flames died out, and she felt her mother's arms around her, lifting her up and carrying her like when she was little. Ashael still hummed the melody of the chorus softly, and pressed her lips to her daughter's hair.

And Sarashi fell asleep, thoroughly exhausted and frightened, but safe in her mother's embrace.

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