- Michael Pryor
Often, the books I write have beginnings
in many different places. This was the case with Beneath Quentaris.
More and more, I find that I’m thinking of Quentaris in historical
terms. I see the city and its buildings as like Italian cities from
the Renaissance. Thinking of history got me wondering about the stories
of Quentaris that happened long before the stories we’re telling…
These are the legends and folklore that people like Nisha would have
Then I started thinking about how stories of the past are handed down
through the ages. Sometimes it happens formally, through being written.
Sometimes it’s as oral history. But sometimes the stories are
passed down in other ways.
It was then I remembered the urban legend of how the nursery rhyme
‘Ring-a-ring-a-rosie’ was a folk memory of the Bubonic
Plague. The ‘ring of roses’ was supposed to be the rash,
and ‘a-tishoo, a-tishoo, we all fall down’ was supposed
to be telling of the final stages of the disease, with sneezing and
death. Research has shown that this is not actually the case, but
it got me thinking that perhaps long, lost events could be preserved
in the rhymes of children…
When a fire is deliberately lit in the city of Quentaris, Nisha Fairsight
and her minstrel friend Tal investigate and soon uncover a plot threatening
its inhabitants. Adding to the city’s woes is the threat of
invasion from the vicious, insect-like Zolka, who are making it even
more dangerous than usual to pass through the rift caves.
Nisha must discover her fire-magic heritage and her place in Quentaris.
Will she be able to save the city and her friends?
‘Nisha leaned forward. The wild draft rushed past, then over
the coals and up the immense chimney. She stretched out, trying to
grasp the sign, but fell far short. There was nothing else for it.
She had to climb into the incinerator.
Once she scrambled through the opening, she wondered why her clothes
and boots weren’t burning. If her power extended to protecting
them, what else could it do? Could she protect others, share this
strength with them? Putting this notion aside, she concentrated on
crossing the shifting surface of the coals. Her clothes and hair whipped
around in the updraught, and a vast chuffing noise came from all around
as she carefully placed each step.
The further Nisha moved into the fire, the more the fire inside her
sang. It bubbled and writhed, making little bubbles of joy, and she
found herself skipping over the coals. Even though she knew her peril,
she almost laughed aloud.
When she neared the pool of fire, Nisha was glad to see that the sign
was within reach. When she tugged, it skated easily across the surface
of the liquid fire. She staggered backwards and almost fell onto the