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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63. Ch 9: Where there is Smoke (Part 1 of 8)

Near the centrer of the Wild Plains

(1250 p. CP)

 

 

"Was there any sign of what direction they're going to take?" Sarashi asked Uran, who had been scouting to make sure they kept firmly out of the imperial soldier's way. They all knew where the soldiers had been, since only a day had passed after the column of smoke had stopped rising from the temple.

"Due north, following our tracks," Uran answered her. "They've got hounds on the trail, so I don't think they'll be distracted by the false ones we laid out yesterday."

Sarashi cursed under her breath. If those hounds were Remer-blooded, they would be impossible to shake off. She gathered her thoughts quickly, rattling them off to Uran. "We'll turn around by the next lake, head east towards the river. That migth throw them off. Then we'll go north again. If it doesn't work... We'll split up." She frowned. "Send Janko to see what kind of dogs they've got. If they're anything less than the Remers, we'll set some of the larger predatory bonded on them."

"Are you sure?" Uran asked worriedly.

"Yes!" she snapped. "I'm sure."

Uran lowered his eyes and made no comment. It was rare for predators to bond to the Mahayas, since they kept a distance to each other. For reasons Sarashi could understand better than most, the tribes' never voluntarily walked up to the large felines to find out if they were soul mates. Tumble brains who did, got eaten.

"I'll tell Janko then," Uran said, bowing as he left.

Sarashi unclenched her shaking fists and looked at her palms. Half moon bruises the size of bellflower leaves marked them. She had lied to Uran. Going east and then doubling back south around Lishka's temple, before fleeing to the mountains would be the best option for them to escape the soldiers, but there were too many in her group who might not make such a ride. The mountain terrain would be too uneven, too harsh, for the wounded. Erar could scarcely ride long, not to mention hard, and neither could the others. Sarashi's thigh was already protesting angrily against the strain. So she had decided on softer terrain, and a more uncertain outcome. The way the troops were placed... If it was Tiburon Namur, Sarashi would not attempt the ploy she had decided on, but with General Olston leading the imperial troops, there was a chance of it succeeding. By going east she was hoping to get behind him, figuring that he would assume them continuing straight north, or west, fleeing to the mountains. His opinion of the Rama had been so low, she hoped he would not discover her bluff.

The wind turned so suddenly, her hair whipped against her shoulders. Lately it had become unmanageable- Perhaps it was time for a hair cut, once she found a quiet moment for it.

As sudden as the wind had shifted, she turned too. Running, as well as she could with her current limp, she hurried to the camp.

Janko was already mounted, and he and Silver Song were about to take off when she reached him. Erar was finally well enough that Janko had allowed him to ride a mild tempered brown mare instead.

"Stop," she said, gasping. "Wait-"

He cocked his head and raised an eyebrow.

"What gives? Changed your mind?"

"No," she told him. "Just watch the hounds, but see if you can get close enough to overhear the soldiers talking. If they're planning for a fight sooner, rather than later, or if they seem to be dawdling. It's important."

"I'll keep an eye- ear out, as it is," he said, eyes intent. Then he rode off.

Sarashi watched them go, before turning begrudgingly to Uran, who still seemed wary of her temper.

"I'm sorry," she said, the wordss bitter. "I shouldn't have snapped at you. We haven't got much of a choice, but what we talked about. If it comes down to splitting up, the wounded will go to the mountains with an escort, and the fastest of us will ride out onto the plains, drawing away the soldiers. It's the best option."

Uran nodded, seemingly pacified by her apology, though his eyes were still wary. He opened his mouth to speak-

A loud screech interrupted them, as a blue falcon dived at them with talons flared wide, and wings basking franticly. Terror shone in its yellow eyes. Uran yelped.

As the falcon landed properly, its wings still flapping forcefully, Sarashi caught sight of something. A small leather tube had been strapped to its right leg.

"Shush," she breathed at Uran. Loud noises would just spook the creature further. "It's all right. It's safe here," she muttered, lowering herself into a crouch. She reached one hand forward, fingers touching the ground, so as not to appear a threat. "You got a message?"

The falcon shuffled its feathers nervously, but then jumped closer to her. Once it reached her, it held out its leg for her to free the tube from its straps, and accept the note. The moment the leather tube fell into her hand, the bird spooked and took to the sky- one sharp talon caught on her skin, leaving a stinging scratch as she pulled away with a sharp hiss of pain.

Circling up high, the falcon did not leave, as Sarashi unrolled the thin, pressed bark and read the message written upon it.

"Ramas from the Baronet of Tirsmont are crossing by Widow's Crook," she read aloud. "A greater group is expected by tomorrow night. The Water Deer tribe is helping the front runners flee to the mountains," she grumbled, glaring in annoyance at the bird.

People, who had formerly been packing up the tents, gathered to see what the fuss was about.

"From Tirsmont? Why is such a large amount fleeing from that area?" Uran wondered.

Tirsmont was a baronet within the county of Rossau, her father's family's lands. He had brought her there for a visit once when she was only four, and so, she remembered little about it.

"Why would they do that?" Rayla asked. Her voice was still hoarse from disuse, but she was talking, standing and going through her days almost as normal. Erar stood beside her, propped up against the staff he used for a cane.

"We won't know till someone talks to them proper," Sarashi cut them off. "Nothing much we can do about it now, what with General Olston biting our tail. We'll run into them if we continue north, the way things are going."

With a wave of her hands, she motioned them back to the packing. They had not bothered to set the tents up proper: If the soldiers got much closer to them, they would have to leave them anyway, in order to gain speed. Already they were travelling with as few things as possible, little more than food and water.

Her own packs were already tied onto Timpre, but she reopened them to find a tiny bit of bark. Dipping a feather in a small clay pot, she wrote a short answer to the note, telling the Water Deer tribe of their own current problems. Rolling it up, she put it in the leather tube, before whistling at the still circling falcon.

"Come down! I've got your answer."

The falcon descended and landed in front of her. Its eyes were still rolling with agitation, and it trembled when she re-strapped the tube to its leg. Is it nervous by nature, or is its bondmate in danger? she wondered. There was no time to utter a thanks, before the bird took off into the sky, and away towards Widow's Crook.

They tied the last of their gear over the horses backs, and mounted up.

Timpre had been found while she was out cold in Lishka's temple. Caeryn had personally taken care of him there, and he was in glorious shape.

Sarashi leaned forward on his back, sliding a hand down his neck. He was fully grown now, his temper in full flare, and he kept testing her. How much longer will he allow me to ride him? He was wild by birth, and he would eventually be driven by his instincts to run off and test his strength against other stallions. One day he'll want his own herd of mares, it's in his nature. He won't be satisfied to be part of my 'herd'.

She sighed again, and her breath caught in her throat. Closing her eyes, she turned her horse towards the others.

"We continue north for now."

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