Prologue: Suki and the Beasts
“That's my Suki, my little wild thing,” Papa smiled over the wooden cradle as Mama rocked it wearily. “You wore your Mama out today!”
Suki, already bright and curious at two Seasons old, reached up and grabbed at the wooden Beast-head the carver had made her as a toy. She shrieked with delight and wiggled her strong little legs. In her infant mind, she was going on some grand adventure….
As Suki grew, Papa added a pole to the Beast-head to turn it into a kind of hobby-horse. Suki raced it through the small village, pretending she really was riding one of the giant Beasts that grazed on wild flowers on the outskirts of the settlement – particularly in the marshy field down beside the Great River.
Papa was helpful to the entire village. When the women who baked at the community ovens complained of the Sun's heat, he put up a tent for them… and decorated it with twin carved Beast-heads in honor of Suki and her playmates.
One day, in her eighteenth Season of life, Suki was helping Mama brew mulghoberry tea as a treat for Papa, expecting that he would soon be home to swoop them both up into his arms and tell them he loved them.
He didn't come home, that evening or any other; Mama cried and worried and cried some more, and Suki, after she had stopped crying, simply puzzled over the problem of where he had gone.