[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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38. Ch 5: Widow's Crook (Part 7 of 7)

Sarashi shook the water off her feet when she stepped from the river with the others. Her heart was steady and calm, for this was not so very different from the times she had spied on the soldiers as a child. She did not even realise, that this was the first time since her sixth summer, she had stepped foot on Enshalian ground.

Maybe that was the reason for the strange anticipation coursing through her blood, or maybe it was simply the expectation of a fight.

She had her spear in her hands, and her knife at her side. Despite the walk through the cold water, her hands were sweaty.

This was different than killing a bandit in the mountains, in a fit of panic. Different from throwing stones with little chance of permanent damage. This was better. This was revenge, and justice.

So when she caught sight of the guard leaned against the bellboa, right where Erar had whispered he would be, she changed the grip on her spear without hesitation.

He looked strong. Firm. He was clad in the plate armour of the Sapphire Empire. A sword hung loosely from his hand. They were probably required to have them ready in case of attacks. He had not seen her yet.

She hesitated shortly, but then she noted his golden skin, and took a deep breath. The soldiers were rabid beasts, not humans. They killed her family and kin, without any other reason than cruel madness.

They're a sickness we must purge, she thought to herself.

An empress in the night, she lifted her spear and moved her arm back slowly. In one long smooth motion of her body, she threw it forward. A heavy thud and a crack sounded when it hit, and the soldier slid down the tree, never having seen the coming of his death. She righted herself as she walked to where he lay slain, and grasped her spear. Setting one foot against his chest, she pulled the weapon from his throat and felt to see if its tip was intact.

The blood was warm and sticky on her hand. The tip had broken, but the flint had flaked in a way that left it still sharp, though unbalanced should she throw it. Her throat was dry, but she forced herself to remember the Horned Owls in the trees, and the deaths of her parents. There was a quiet in her head. The expected happiness eluded her.

I am avenging my parents, she told herself. I am protecting my people.

Sarashi left the corpse behind and headed towards the guard station, barely even bothering to disguise the sounds of her footsteps. She knew the others would have killed the rest of the guards along the perimeter. That left only the ones by the station alive.

Galvar had decided on the course of action for this battle, and Sarashi had been relieved that he did. She was not ready to command, especially not her friends, and especially not against such odds. Galvar's plan was straight forward. They would take out the ones keeping watch, one on one in the dark. Janko, Erar and the woman from Galvar's group, Frekla, had their bows with them and would take out the ones by the fire. Seven other imperials stood just within the light of the flames.

A rustle to the left of her, made her look up and catch the eyes of another Rama in the dark. She could not see who. It did not matter.

When Jarmir let out the high howl of a coyote, they stepped into the light.

Arrows felled the ones drinking and resting, shouts of alarm went out, and the Ramas fell over the rest of the outside guards. Sarashi's blood rushed victoriously in her veins at the sight of the slain enemies.

One of the soldiers came straight at her, his angry black goatee as pointed as the sword he swung.

She yelped when the hard iron crashed into the shaft of her spear. Splinters sprung and dragged red lines over her arms, but it held for now.

She had to take a step back, as he pulled the sword free.

“Filthy ravel,” he snarled. She had no time to answer before he swung his sword in a wide arc. The blade flew down at her from above, and she hurried to block with her spear again.

It broke.

She dropped half the shaft and threw herself to the side. A whimper was pressed from her, as she felt pebbles eat away at her skin where she hit the ground.

The upper half of her spear rolled away from her – Taking her only sharp edge with it.

The guard grinned. His kohl lined eyes looked yellow, like a hyena's.

Suddenly Galvar burst into her line of sight, smashing the bottom of his staff into the helmet of the guard. The man fell to the ground next to her, still alive.

She turned, grabbed the tip of her spear with her fingertips, pulled it to her, and before guard or Galver made a move, she twisted her body and plunged the flint tip into the hyena eye fixed on Galvar.

A shiver passed from the guard to her, as he convulsed in death's throes.

Bile rose in her throat at the bloody salty smell, and the strange pop his eye gave as she ruined it.

She left the tip of her spear where it was, and when she rose she took the sword off the ground instead. She rubbed her mouth on her arm, trying to remove the sweat from her face and keep from throwing up. Only then did she remember her knife, but despite the scream of horror in her mind, her heart beat too loud for her to truly consider it.

The space around the station was suddenly filled with Ramas. Two of Galvar's men were blocking the door to the station, pressing a thick wooden beam against it to make it impossible to open. Others were closing the shutters, blocking the windows. It kept the previously sleeping soldiers inside, beating at the door to escape. They were winning. It should have been much harder for them to take the station, but things were going well.

Frekla grabbed the axe from their fire stack, and hacked away at the wooden beam where the captives where chained up with reckless abandon. Already the prisoners were on their feet, crying kids silent and large eyed. The grown ups ready. When Frekla almost lost her grip on the axe, one of them took it from her, and took it to the wood. Splinters flew, but they were efficient about it.

Galvar grabbed a bottle from beside the fire and sniffed it. Then he slung it up on the roof of the station, and the glass shattered into several pieces on impact, falling like glittering rain from the planks. A wet puddle gathered, and some sort of clear alcohol dripped down over the door to the building.

Galvar stepped back to the fire and lifted out a burning branch.

“No!” Sarashi gasped, running to him without meaning to.

The moment the beam holding the chains of the captives cracked and fell to the ground, Galvar threw the stick to the roof, and the alcohol burst into flames. Already the fire spread to the dry planks around it.

The shouts from the soldiers inside turned to absolute panic.

“This wasn't the plan!” Sarashi shouted, terrified by the ever growing flames. She dropped the sword. Cold sweat sprung down her back, and her hands shook in terror. No sin should be great enough to entrap people in the fire, no hatred so fervent and uncontrollable. Galvar took a step towards her, and she held up her hand to push him away.

But he stared at her, and the flames reflected in his eyes made her shy back.

“It had to be done. They would follow us otherwise,” he said.

The soldiers inside screamed about breaking down the door, but already Galvar's men were stacking larger branches against it, so that they would dig into the ground and stay in place if anybody tried to push down the door. Sarashi started towards them, needing to let them out, to right the wrong Galvar had wrought. This was the Sapphire Empire's way! But the flames were too violent and large already and she found herself frozen. She could only stare.

A gentle hand against her back made her entire body tense. Then she realised it was Mya by her side.

“Come. We need to get the Sun Hawks back across the river,” she said quietly to the startled princess. “There's nothing more to do here.”

Sarashi glanced at the burning building again, and shook all over as she followed Mya and the now freed captives.

Mya was right.

There was nothing to be done.

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