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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64. Ch 9: Where there is Smoke (Part 2 of 8)

Janko caught up to them around midday. They had stopped by a small stream, running between two of the large cliff blocks that stuck up everywhere on the plains. His whistle let them know he was nearing, and not to attack. Silver Song's whinny followed it, a sharp likeness to the screech of a raptor.

"The dogs are a mixed bunch. A few hunters, and Remers between them, some waterhounds and Cahlish cur," he reported. "They got sidetracked by the fake trail, but it was less than an hour before they were back on the real one."

"So how far behind are they?" Sarashi asked impatiently.

"Half a day's walk, maybe more," Janko said. "Their hunting team's got horses, but the larger of the hounds only run so fast in this heat."

"So if we ride till sunset, we should be in good shape to get a few hours sleep while waiting for the moon to rise: there should be a grove around that area too," she added and narrowed her eyes at Uran for confirmation. He nodded. "I'd rather not press the horses too hard, in case we need to make a quick escape. The soldiers?"

"Restless, nervous," Janko told her. "I couldn't get close enough to listen in on their conversations, but it seems they're in this chase for the long haul."

"I guess so are we," Erar grinned, though the joke was weak at best.

Janko glanced at him, but his eyes returned promptly to Sarashi. He looked so drained, it was a wonder he was still astride his horse and awake.

"Did they-" She swallowed. "-did they have any prisoners with them?"

"A few- they're with the main troops though, so it'd be almost impossible to free them."

Sarashi ran her fingers through her hair, pushing a few wild strands out of the way. Mya had tied it back for her when she saw how the wind kept tousling it.

"Let Silver Song drink and rest for a bit," she told Janko. "And thank you for scouting them out. We need all the advantages we can get." She adressed another member of her group, Roah. "Go keep an eye on them. Your horses is one of the fastest in our group."

The man nodded, scratching his beard as he gathered his horse's reins and directed it away from the stream.

"You'll continue north?"

Nodding, Sarashi felt herself tense as he took off in the opposite direction to spy on their stalkers.

Almost as if to hurry them on, the wind picked up, and they turned their gaze back north. An hour later, when they settled firmly into a trot after a long stretch of gallop, Sarashi let herself and Timpre drift to the edge of the group. Mya and her Torgian mare came up beside her.

The wind was cold for a summer's day, perhaps because the sun hid its face behind a veil of clouds.

"Unlucky day," the princess said, nodding towards the sky. "Sun's re-veiled."

Mya was silent, her dark eyes shadowed as she searched for the words she wanted to say.

"You need to claim your title," she said.

Sarashi whipped her body around to face her, and Timpre took a confused sidestep at her sudden movement.

"You know why I won't do that!"

"You have to," Mya persisted, her eyes flashing angrily. "This isn't just younglings' games no more! You almost died, and others did! You can't do it on your own, and you've gone too far to be a coward now!"

Thunder broke overhead, and startled both them and their horses.

"Snakebite and rattails!" Sarashi growled. "The last thing we need is a dry storm!"

"Matches your mood, Highness," Mya bit. "You've been snarling at everyone every since you were captured. So curse the weather for what little good it'll do you, at least you're not spitting at the rest of us."

"Off the horses!" Janko called, though most were already doing just that. Those among them who had not grown up on the plains did not know the dangers of a summer's thunder storm, but dismounted at Janko's command. On the wide open plains it was difficult to determine where lightning might strike.

"Don't you talk to me like that!" Sarashi bit back as she got off of Timpre. "Don't 'Highness' me."

"Oh, but you get to order us around? You were always like this, ever since you first came to our tribe," Mya said. "You and your cursed temper tantrums! If you're going to be a leader, do better!"

"You don't think I'm trying?"

Another loud rumble echoed from the sky, and Mya's mare pulled at the reins, eyes turning inside out in nervousness.

"No, no I don't. I think you tell yourself you're trying, and that everything is so damned difficult, and then you forget to actually do something!" Mya's nostrils flared out in anger. "Why don't you stop over thinking everything and just- Do what's right! Stop being so stuck up."

"I don't know what's right!" Sarashi shouted and instantly regretted it, at the startled looks from those closest to them. Luckily most were too far away to hear over the wind and the distant thunder.

Turning her back to Sarashi, Mya spoke again with quiet surrender in her silky voice.

"Then you shouldn't snarl at those who try to help."

"Don't you think I know that?" Sarashi cried out.

"I do," Mya told her. "But I think you might want to act on it too."

Sarashi wanted to hit her, or run away, or do something, anything. Instead she just stood there, Timpre's reins in one hand, spear tied to her back and long tangled hair pulled by the wind, despite being tied down. Mya's eyes reflected the light as lightning struck on the horizon. If she had repeated the statement about Sarashi claiming her title, Sarashi might have actually punched her. Perhaps Mya knew that.

"We should get going or the others will wonder why we're lacking behind," she said, and clicked her tongue to get her mare going.

Sarashi followed.

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