It’s not easy to become a firework-maker, especially if you’re a girl. But Lila is determined to do it, even if it means having to face the dreaded Fire Fiend of Mount Merapi.
A thousand years ago, in a country east of the jungle and south of the mountains, there lived a firework maker named Lalchand, and his daughter Lila. Her mother had died when she was very young, and Lila spent her days at her father’s shop, learning to make fireworks. Soon she knew how to make all the simple ones, like Java Lights, Leaping Monkeys and Gold Sneezes, and began creating more complicated designs, like Tumbling Demons and Shimmering Coins. All of her creations were great successes, and everyone loved them. But no matter how wonderful her fireworks were, her father wouldn’t tell her the Three Great Secrets every master fireworks maker has to know. “Men make fireworks. Women keep house. You can never be a master firework maker.”
But Lila was nothing if not determined, so she and her friend Chulak tricked Lalchand into revealing how to find the secrets. And as soon as she knew what she had to do, Lila wrote a letter to her father:
I have completed my apprenticeship. Thank you for all you have taught me. I am going to seek the royal sulfur from Razvani the Fire Fiend, and I shall probably not see you again.
Your ex-daughter, Lila
Lila was not only determined to be a master firework maker, she was also very angry with her father, because he had tried to stand in her way.
But Lila doesn’t realize that she is unprepared to meet the Fire Fiend. She has to have more than her determination and her anger. And she has left in such a hurry, that she doesn’t have the Three Gifts for the Fire Fiend, or the flask of magic water to keep her safe in the midst of the Fire Fiend’s flames, and if she enters his cave without drinking it, she will die.
What will happen to Lila in the Fire Fiend’s Grotto? Will she figure out how to survive, or will she become one of the pale ghosts of those who died there?