The Firework-Maker’s Daughter – extract

Lila sat up, astonished, as red fire and flame licked and crackled at the rocky roof. All of a sudden the Grotto was alive with movement, as a thousand fire-imps swarmed upwards to dash themselves against the rock and smash into a thousand more, as a wide carpet of boiling lava spread from side to side, as the clang and clash of mighty hammers and anvils rang with the rhythm of a great fire-dance.

The cavern was full of light and noise. Thousands upon thousands of lit de fire-spirits toiled and blazed and swung hammers, and ran to and fro with handfuls of sparks, and swarmed against the rocky wall till it melted and slid downwards like soft wax. Then the greedy creatures plunged their red hands into it and lifted up the bubbling sulphur to their tiny mouths and ate and ate until another mass of rock slid down and smothered them.

And then into the heart of the light and the fire and the noise leapt Razvani himself, the great Fire-Fiend, whose body was a mass of flame and whose face a mask of scorching light.

Thousands of fire-imps scattered as he landed, and even the blazing flames bowed down to him. And so did Lila.

In a voice like the roar of a forest fire, Razvani spoke.

‘By what right have you come to my Grotto?’

She swallowed hard. It was difficult to breathe, because she seemed to be taking fire into her lungs as well as air.

‘I want to be a Firework-Maker,’ she managed to say.

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