[ 6.25″ × 2.75″ PICTURE: SUKI IS KNEELING BEHIND A SKY-CUP ROW SURROUNDING A GRAIN FIELD IN HONKAI, WHERE SHE HAS BEEN SENT TO WORK BY THE LADY QIN-LI—SHE IS WEARING A HEAVY CLOTH WORK APRON WITH POUCHES FOR SEEDS—SHE IS WEEDING THE ROWS OF FLOWERS—ON HER RIGHT THERE ARE NO WEEDS, JUST A STRICT, SOLDIER-LIKE BORDER OF PERFECTLY-LINED-UP SKY-CUPS—ON HER LEFT, THERE ARE WEEDS AMONG THE FLOWERS— SHE IS WATCHING TWO FOUR-YEAR-OLD GIRLS DRINK FROM SKY-CUP FLOWERS IN THE FOREGROUND—SHE LOOKS WISTFUL AS SHE REMEMBERS HER FORMER LIFE]
Scene 6: An old slave named Mari Yin-Ong trained Suki in field work. She dressed the girl in a heavy apron with pockets full of seeds and led her to a flooded grain paddy with bare, stripped borders.
"You must plant them between the wall and the young grain plants, so the Beasts will not trample the grain while they graze," she explained.
"What will these be when they grow?" curious Suki asked, plucking out one long, awn-shaped seed with a bluish tip.
"Sky-cups," Mari told her. "They're sweet with nectar and brilliant blue… bluer than your little eyes."
Her feet grew soggy as her mukluks filled with muddy water and her back ached constantly from the bending and stooping.
Suki's field work taught her much. Planting and cultivating around the grain paddies, she discovered the Beasts ate the flowers in a specific order, and always in the same order—first candleblossom, then dangle-dits, then the red flowers (which happened to be called Heart-stains), then the glorious blue sky-cups, which grew up quickly, bloomed, and set seeds in less than one Season. The flower fields were planted in rotation—there were always something just sprouting, something in bloom, and plants from which seed was being harvested to plant over again.
Sky-cups were a sort of delicacy among the local children, Suki discovered. One day when she was weeding the rows, she saw two little girls pluck a few from her field and drink the sweet nectar…ending their snack by eating the large blue cups.
Their carefree play made Suki sad. It reminded her of her own former life… of her little hut, of the Field, of purple mulghoberries, of Mama and Papa, and of Wen, and even grouchy old Dumi and Dumaki. She wondered if she'd ever see any of them again. She even wondered what had happened to Albard.