- Isobelle Carmody
I had read reviews of the Quentaris books before I really knew either
of the editors, and I did feel slightly envious of the writers who
had been involved in what seemed to me a fun project. So then I got
to know Michael casually because of sharing the stage from time to
time, but it was when I became friends with Paul, the co-editor of
the series, that it came up that I might do a Quentaris book. Having
desired to be asked, I immediately thought of all the reasons I shouldn’t
do it, like the ten deadlines looming over me, half concerning projects
I was meant to have finished. But it is hard to resist wanting to
write something that has enthused you and I had an idea, plus I really
liked the idea of an excuse to enjoy more of Paul’s caustic
The idea for the story actually arose after reading this fantastic
series written by another good friend and writer, Richard Harland,
which resurrected my long standing love of angels in stories. I had
written a short story I still like very much in the Green Monkey
Dreams collection, called ‘The Glory Days’, about
an angel, and I had written a story called ‘Arcimboldo’s’
for a newspaper, also about an angel, and I once wrote a play with
another writer friend called A Fever of Angels, which nothing
ever happened with. So I decided I would write about an angel again,
only of course Nonerom is no angel...
Eely is the lonely, simple-minded younger sister of one of the Quentaris
city guards. She dreams of becoming a fearless rift guide, but knows
there is no hope of her dream coming true. Then comes a rain-filled
day when she rescues an enormous and beautiful winged man in the rift
caves. From that moment on, nothing will ever be the same for Eely
Then she saw a faint light ahead.
It was coming out of a cave which ran off from the tunnel that she
was in and Eely approached its entrance warily. Her mouth dropped
open in shock when she saw inside, for right in the centre of the
cave, black hair draggling down its filthy back between two black
leathery wings, was a harpy!
Eely nearly fainted out of terror, for she knew that one slash of
its claws would poison her blood and no healer in all Quentaris could
save her from the screaming madness that would follow. The voice of
fear gibbered at her to get back, get away, run, but paradoxically
her fear was so great that it paralysed her. So she saw the harpy
hop sideways on its claws and tilt its head down to look at its victim.
Eely realised that this must be the poor man who had called out, only
she was too late, for he was dead. Full of remorse, Eely prepared
herself to back away quietly when the harpy shifted again and she
saw the man lying on the ground properly.
The first thing she noticed was that he was the source of pale white
light illuminating the harpy and the cave. The second thing she noticed
was that despite being bloodied and battered, the man was handsome
enough to almost take her breath away.
The third thing she noticed did take her breath away, for the shining
man had great soft white wings. There had been winged exotics visiting
Quentaris of course, but they had not been like this man. He was so
handsome and pale and perfect and his wings were so white and pure
where they had not been broken and besmirched. It came to Eely with
dawning wonder that he was not human at all, but one of those beings
that Mama had always said watched over people like her. Angels, she
called them, because that was what her mother called them, when she
told Mama the story of the wondrous beings whose magic came from their
purity and goodness. Eely had believed passionately in angels when
she was little, but she had stopped believing when she got older,
because if such a being watched over her, why hadn’t it stopped
people hurting her?
Now, seeing the angel, she wondered if only people who were especially
worthy got angels to look after them. Or, since angels knew everything,
maybe her guardian angel had known that she would stop believing in
it, and so it had fled from her lack of faith.
‘No!’ the angel moaned suddenly, tossing its golden head.
The harpy gave a hiss of alarm and flapped a few feet away. Then it
moved towards the angel again, lifting one of its vicious talons decisively.
‘Oh don’t!’ screamed Eely, stumbling forward half
dazed with the intensity of her longing.
The harpy turned at once, and gave a dreadful shrieking scream that
seemed to rend the air. Eely cringed in pain and the harpy leapt at
her. Without thought, Eely swung up the heavy lunch pail and by chance
or luck, it hit the harpy a great thudding blow under her pointed
chin. She fell like a rock and lay motionless at Eely’s feet.