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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19. Ch 3: Ashes in the Wind (Part 6 of 10)

The next day was spent gathering the few things she wanted to keep and packing them. Despite the horse, she decided to forego the luxury of tents, mats and large woven baskets. Instead she packed only what she needed and a few other things for the future. The rest would be divided among the members of the tribe when she had gone and the tribe moved on themselves.

She secured most of her belongings over the colt's shoulders, and the rest she had carried in her satchel. Her spear she kept on her back as usual, taking care not to poke the horse with the butt of it as she mounted. The horse took a few steps to the side as she did, and rose on his hind legs once before he quieted down. She petted him softly on his neck, relaxing the grip of her thighs. She was ready to go, and had said her goodbyes. Most of them.

There was two important people, whom she had yet to bid farewell

“I do know how to chose a good horse, you know,” the Mahal said, a note of pride in her voice at the sight of Sarashi seated atop the horse. “You don't have to keep checking his every hair.”

“I know,” Sarashi grinned. “But if I don't pad him every so often, he'll throw me.”

As if to accentuate her words, the horse threw his head back impatiently. If not for Sarashi's presence on his back and the leather bridle, he would probably have taken off by now.

Chehera nodded slowly.

“Don't let Dawoul run you round his pen,” she said. “He's a bully.”

Sarashi grinned.

“I won't,” she answered, the smile fading ever so slightly. “Thank you,” she added. “For the horse. For everything.”

“You haven't named him yet?” Caeryn interrupted, walking towards them. Sarashi watched her in silence, unsure of what to say to her. They had barely spoken since Caeryn had told her to go.

In the end she settled for mutely shaking her head.

“I'll give you two some privacy,” Chehera sighed. “Good travels, Sarashi. May the sun rise and be kind.” She bowed to Sarashi before she left them. A lump formed in the girl's throat, her eyes suddenly wet, her hand almost rising to draw the woman back. She would miss the Mahal almost as much as she missed Mirca.

Caeryn allowed the horse to scent her hand, and he did, flickered his ears and dug the ground with one hoof.

“Is it true Mya and Janko will be going with you?” Caeryn asked, not meeting Sarashi's eyes.

“Yes,” Sarashi answered. They had asked if they could join her, once word spread that she was leaving. It was common for young adults to visit nearby tribes, to help keep the blood fresh and create new friendships. The great fall markets often resulted in plenty of new couplings and exchanges of tribe members, though less so in the years after the Tribal Feuds. Still, however common the practice, Sarashi wondered why the two had chosen to make her company.

“You've packed all your things,” Caeryn continued talking. “I saw Gira and Raoul take down your tent.”

Sarashi glanced down.

“Yes,” she repeated herself quietly. “I am ready to go.”

“I'll miss you,” Caeryn offered, her eyes wet and sorry, as she put a hand on Sarashi's thigh. Sarashi took it in her own and squeezed it. Then she slid down the stallion's back and found herself pulled into a tight hug by Caeryn. The other girl closed her arms around Sarashi, kissing her gently on both cheeks. For a long moment they clung to each other like little kids in fear of the night, and then, after a moment long with emotions unsaid, they let go.

“I'll miss you too,” Sarashi said, her eyes seeking Caeryn's.

“We'll meet again,” Caeryn told her. “If you don't get yourself killed beforehand.”

“In any case, we'll always know where to find each other,” Sarashi joked weakly.

“You in trouble and me in the right?” Caeryn's familiar snappiness was returning.

“Something like that,” Sarashi agreed, stroking the stallion's muzzle. His ears turned and he raised his head in response to another horse's approach. Looking up, the women saw Janko leading his bonded mare towards them. The Ramera was a dappled grey, its legs sprinkled with the silver of stars, and its eyes gentle. Mya came a few steps behind them, a knapsack over her shoulder, and her spear tied up beside it. As always Mya's eyes were large and dark as she watched them in silence.

“Got your things?” Janko asked Sarashi.

“I think so,” Sarashi told them, her eyes on Caeryn. “You?”

“I'm always ready,” Janko teased, stopping a few steps from Sarashi. “Chehera gave you the red colt?” he asked, grinning as if privy to some joke. He might be. As one bonded to a horse, he spent a lot of time with the herd.

“So?” she snapped sharply, suspecting the joke might be on her.

“Nothing much, I fear your tempers will fit nicely,” he answered, lifting his hands in defence.

She considered throwing something at him, but found the supplies to do so lacking. Besides, she would have plenty of opportunities to stuff frogs in his sleeping furs on the journey to the Horned Owls. And he was right, the horse did have an easily roused temper, and more fight than flight in his instincts.

“Maybe that should be his name,” she pondered. “Temper. Or Timpre in the old language, with his colour.”

“Timpre is a fine name. Good and strong,” Caeryn said truthfully. Back in the times of the firsts, the name for temperament and for the blacksmith's tempering of a blade had been the same. The word meant the red hot coals where the weapon was tempered as well. “It fits him.”

“Then Timpre it is,” Sarashi said firmly.

“We'll have to leave soon if we want to make it to the Meerkat's Waterhole before dark,” Mya interrupted them quietly. “Janko and I already said our goodbyes as well.”

Sarashi nodded in reluctant agreement. Then she realised she was dragging out the departure and took a deep breath.

“See you, Sister-mine,” she told Caeryn, swinging herself back on the horse. Janko did the same with his grey mare.

Caeryn smiled.

“See you,” she said, her usually iron façade crumbling once more. “May your sun be kind.”

“And yours,” Sarashi answered, her chest tightening as she grasped Caeryn's hand one more time. One last time. She felt a sudden rush of anxiousness at leaving Caeryn behind, but already Janko was helping Mya up behind him on his horse, ready to go. The girl closed her arms around his waist, that she would not fall off as the horse danced beneath them, unused to the weight of two.

They did not look back as they rode off.

If they had, they would have seen the tribe quietly emerging from their tents to see them off.

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