[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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30. Ch 4: Mountains Tall (Part 7 of 8)

It was a quiet morning, just before dawn, when a sound woke Sarashi from her sleep. She got up from the warm nest she and Mya shared in the corner of the guest hut – Janko slept elsewhere most nights these days – and feeling sluggish, she decided some fresh air was in order.

She put on the thick, long sleeved tunic with the thick fur sewn along every hem, which she had been gifted by Mardik, and grabbed a pair of boots before the ventured outside. During the week, a cover of snow had gathered, so deep it almost reached her knees when she stepped down. This morning the surface snow was frozen solid and allowed people to walk atop it. So she left the snow nets for the boots behind.

She marvelled at the strangeness of her outfit. No tribe on the plains used boots, but with the snow and the sharp rocks, the mountain tribes had adopted the footwear from the Torgians.

The cold air made her alert, and the frozen snow crunched sharply beneath her feet in the still dark morning. She realised with a start, that that was the very sound that had woken her, and curiously examined the snow around her. It was filled with footprints from the last day, but she was an experienced enough hunter that she disregarded the ones where the sun had melted the edges. Soon she saw the lighter and fresher tracks, where small ice crystals had been pushed aside by human boots. Two set of them.

She followed the tracks, as quietly as possible, and frowned when they were joined by those from a horse. Soon she had left the small village behind, and made her way onto a small mountain path instead. It was one she had never gone down before, and it twisted and turned unexpectedly. When she rounded a corner, she stopped at the sight of the prey she had been tracking.

A silver horse ran through the snow, white mist flowing from its mouth as it pranced in play. By its legs ran a smaller, stubby creature, with surprising grace. With a startle, Sarashi recognised the grey cat as a lynx. The two silver animals glittered with snow flakes and ice crystals, and in the moonlight they looked like something from a children's tale.

A sound of joyful laughter, so pure it could break a heart, enhanced the spell.

Her eyes flickered over to see Janko run after his horse ad the lynx, glancing over his shoulder just as a snow ball hit his back. Then he dove, grabbed a bit of snow himself, and was about to throw it, when the lynx jumped on him and pushed him down. The lynx was chased off by Silver Song, the horse snorting.

Turning to lie on his back, Janko laughed breathlessly.

“Do you yield?” Erar called as he walked casually over to the fallen member of the Wild Horses, and bent over him to get a closer look.

“Make me,” Janko dared him, reached up, grabbed Erar's tunic and pulled him down into the snow with him.

For a bit they wrestled, their breaths like white clouds in the air, snow in their hair and on their clothes. Chuckles washed over the secret valley, as the horse and the lynx continued to play, galloping about in mock pretence of predator and prey.

Sarashi smiled in embarrassment over the intimate scene she had become and unknown spectator of, and turned back to camp. She had suspected Janko and Erar had deepened their friendship, but had not known for sure, even though she rarely saw one without the other these days.

She was curious about the lynx she had seen playing with Silver Song. It had to be bonded to Erar, but why did he keep it secret? Was it a new bond?

Pondering that, she decided to go back to sleep.

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