[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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39. Ch 6: Night Raid (Part 1 of 8)

6

Night Raid

The Wild Plains

(1249 p. CP)

 

The wounded and weak rode behind their rescuers, slowing them down considerably on the trip back to the Sun Hawks. As the horses were tired before there was added to their burdens, the trip ended up taking all of two days.

When night came they made a primitive camp beneath the stars. There were no nearby groves or rocks to hide among, so they simply stacked their spears and covered them with hides to make simple shelters.

They shared the last of the rescuers rations, dried fruits and seeds rolled with fat, since nobody had the energy to hunt. No one starved, but neither were they full. Griba brought back a thrush, who should have found a safer place to nest. They roasted it over the fire and parted it between the three kids. One of them would not let go of her adult brother's hand, no matter how many comforting mutterings he made to her. Another stopped breathing if people walked to close by him. The youngest simply stayed by Erar's side and twisted her tiny fingers in Griba's fur.

The usually reserved animal almost mothered the little girl and licked her face clean. It was to her the lynx had brought the bird.

Some curled up in the tents and went to sleep.

Galvar stood guard, making it impossible for Sarashi to relax. She caught Rayla's eyes and motioned with her head towards him. She did not trust him, so she would like someone from her own flock to stand watch with him. Rayla grimaced unwillingly, but got up and went to sit on a small bump in the ground. She knew to wake one of the others when she got tired.

Sarashi drew her knees to her chest and leaned her forehead against them. She did not want to sleep, but she nodded off anyway.

The nightmare that woke her tore through her mind like a snarling monster. Her heart raced. Her hands grew humid, and she could not breathe, her legs were cramping with the need to run. But she made no noise despite the pain, only forced air into her lungs and her body to stretch.

The stars were so far above her, white against the deep blue sky. So immensely distant.

A shaky breath forced back her tears.

People were all around her, sleeping in the tents, around the fire, or keeping watch so that she and the rest would be safe. And yet she felt so alone and empty, and wrong. As if there was a hole inside of her, a gaping wound that would never be filled. Why can I never be enough?

Sarashi rose to her feet.

She needed to talk to someone. To not feel like this.

But instead, she sat down again with a shiver and the all consuming knowledge that she could not tell anyone. They would only see how weak and pathetic she was. How uncertain.

She lifted her hand and bit into the part between her thumb and index finger. The pain helped distract her, though it did not take her emotions away. The Mahayas set her apart by the very way they spoke about her.

I am different, she thought. I don't fit in. I never will. But I'll be strong, I'll uphold my honour. I'll kill Tiburon Namur.

No sleep came to her for the rest of that night. She made Rayla go to bed and took over keeping watch for herself, and when they continued on the next day, she ran beside Timpre instead of riding him. She needed the exercise.

When they finally reached the Sun Hawks, she was dead on her feet and happy for it. She almost did not notice the people hurrying forth to greet the rescued Mahayas and their rescuers.

A broken sob of relief sounded from among the tents, as the Sun Hawks approached.

A woman startled Sarashi greatly, when she, tears streaming down her face, ran to the Princess and pulled her into a fierce hug, before franticly continuing to the newly freed man.

He was the one who had taken the axe from Frekla earlier. Now he kissed his wife with hopeless abandon, as if he was never going to see her again. She kept running her hands through his curls and down his beard, pressing her forehead to his, reassuring herself that he was back.

Families went to loved ones they had thought lost. Friends thanked the rescuers and pulled them in between the few domed shaped tents that had survived the attacks. Food was brought, and water. The whole thing became a bit of a blur to the tired humans. Those who had been hurt were tended too, Rise among them, and for once the elder sister let Rayla fuss over her.

Somebody pushed a cup of wanter into Sarashi's hands and she drank thirstily, the water tasting like ash. Everything smelled like blood and soot, and she needed to clean her abrasions from her fall.

“Is there some place I can bathe?” she asked one of the Hawks, a woman.

“There's Dragon's grove,” she nodded, pointing west ward. “It's small, but pretty. Lots of greens you don't normally see here on the plains, them old'nes say it's cause a dragon used to sleep there.”

Sarashi gave her an exhausted smile.

“Is it a long way?”

The woman shook her head.

“It's quarter a sun mark, most,” she explained. “Wait here, I'll get you something to dry off with, clean clothes and such. Least we can do.”

She returned promptly with a woven basked, containing the things she had listed.

“Thank you,” Sarashi breathed. Her skin was itching with old and frightened sweat.

“No, thank you,” the woman gushed. “You know, most of us doubted you when you left for the mountain. We thought you wouldn't keep your oath.” She blushed deeply, shame colouring her face. “We were wrong, and I am so sorry.”

Sarashi looked away, and the woman sensed her discomfort.

“I put in some extra clothes, if you want to ask some of the others along,” she changed the subject. “I didn't tell 'em though, in case you wish to bathe alone.”

“I- I relax best when I'm alone,” Sarashi admitted.

The Hawk smiled and nodded.

“Me too. People can be exhausting, even if they're just there, not doing anything,” she padded the Princess on her shoulder, and went to continue her work. As Sarashi hurried from the camp, she saw the woman shaking a torn tent side free of dirt. Other people were gathering and stacking things. A large black area on the ground showed where the funeral pyre had been.

I'm glad to have missed that. How horrible am I for feeling that way, for not wanting to help the dead find peace? She shuddered. One big fire is enough for me. One terrible fire.

The water was pleasantly cool, and she found sweet minthel by the shore, which she could use to clean her hair. The plant was good against lice, and thought it smelled bright and sunny, it could be poisonous. The lake was deep enough for her to swim if she wanted to, and surrounded by green bushes and small trees, and grasses she had never seen before. As she rubbed the minthel into her hair, she remembered another time she had been by such clear waters.

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