[Completed] Fire's Promise [Ashes of the Ylan #1] [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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8. Ch 2: Uncrowned Queen (Part 1 of 6)

2

Uncrowned Queen

The Wild Plains

(1248 p. CP)

 

Morning came on swift wings to the plains, and Caeryn woke Sarashi the moment the moon abandoned the sky. They spent the night's final breath on the last preparations. Sarashi washed. Food was packed, and a small protective amulet was added to her spear. Caeryn used half an hour braiding her hair into a complicated weave that would keep it tightly against her scalp until somebody unbound it.

Sarashi was full of nervous critters. The small invisible creatures scrambled under her skin, and made her itch something terrible. She headed towards the sound of rhythmic drums, Caeryn half a step behind her. Two large bonfires lit op the hesitant dawn, a short distance from the tents.

The entire tribe followed in the sounds trail, but they stopped at the camp's boundaries. The only sound was the drums, and the angry thrill of a jay woken too early. Most birds slept still.

An invisible barrier of hundreds and thousand of years' tradition spread from tent to tent. Not one of the people who had been pulled forward by the steady pounding of the drums crossed beyond it. Only one stood guard by the bonfires, swaying slightly from side to side.

Chehera was a regal shape between the fires, like the great Shadow Snake guarding the gate to the realm of the dead. Silver scales had been painted on her skin, and her breasts were bared. In one hand she carried a staff of black wood, decorated with feathers, golden pearls and silk ribbons of various colours. From three cords hang a small bowl suspended, filled with chalky paint. The drums sounded far off behind her, but no musicians were visible.

“Let those who wish to pass stand before me,” the Mahal called, her voice hoarse as the crackling flames beside her.

As if lightning struck sand, Sarashi suddenly felt like glass cooled too fast, immovable and fragile. She stared at edge of camp, the invisible border, as if it would shatter her to cross. Her chest felt tight. The heavy sent of smoke and morning dew, was painfully clear. Her heart beat to the rhythm of the drums.

I can't do it.

If she went to Chehera, there would be a decision to make.

Her breath quickened as reality seemed to slip away.

And then someone crossed the line.

Rouko, a young boy her age, walked from the tribe and towards Chehera. He came to a halt in front of her, seemingly as relaxed as he would have been if it was merely a trivial hunt he was about to go through. As if he was simply about to fetch water from the nearest pond.

Sarashi tempered herself. A small motion by the corner of her eye told her that Mya, the third and final of those going on the hunt, moved to join Rouko. Shame filled Sarashi and forced her to take the first step, and go stand beside the others. Caeryn stayed behind with the rest of the tribe.

The rhythm of the drums changed when they took their places. The Mahal smiled, like a lynx who has caught a fat lemming. These were younglings of her tribe, about to grow up.

“Rouko, son of Raoul and Shive, Mya, daughter of Jarvo and Mila, Sarashi, daughter of Karnal and Ashael. You stand before the gates of death. Will you pass?”

“We will,” they said as one.

“Then carry the mark of the Dark God with you,” Chehera said and dipped her fingers in the white paint hanging from her staff. She painted the circular mark of the God on their foreheads, so that everyone who saw them would know that they were on their seven day hunt. That until they returned, they would be considered dead, and that nobody were to interfere with their hunt. In the eyes of the Mahaya they would be no more than wandering ghosts. The wet paint smelled of fat and dust, and made Sarashi's nose itch. She had to resist the urge to rub it off.

The Mahal stepped aside, clearing their path.

“The fires will light your way back to us,” she told them softly. “You have to the setting of the full moon to bring back your chosen prey.”

She stepped back, bowed to the three hunters and made a sweeping motion with her staff.

“May the Gods keep you safe and guide you,” she said. “For in this, as in all things life and death, you are alone.”

And with that they were truly on their own, about to wander out onto the plains, and leave behind both tribe and any feelings of safety.

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