Sorrowless Field

K. Ryan

I dreamt last night/of a Sorrowlessfield/unburdened by destiny's shadow Karine Polwart

New Hope

He caught her toying with the harvest, corn silk clinging to breeches and boots and sensible cuffs, framing her hair.

"Well, this is an unexpected moment of whimsy from our Commander."

"Hush, Neal."

"That was half-hearted, dearest."

"I am enjoying myself." Kel lobbed an ear at him, rolling her eyes as he clutched it, doomed, to his chest. This is wonderful. Produce is wonderful, and this is ours."

"Never have I met a woman so utterly diabolical about vegetables." He sat down in the golden-green, faintly crunchy midst of things, making a face as his tunic caught the stuff. "Is it just because it's all in Goldenlake colours?"

Not quite a smile. "I'd never noticed."

"That, Keladry, is because you are all produce and all poetry."

"We all have to eat." Kel did smile, slow and reflective, pushing hair behind her ears. "And I haven't seen a poem from you in years."

"I keep paeans to my wife's glorious eyebrows strictly private."


"Though," Neal shrugged. "I'm not sure if it is a paean, if it's limited to seventeen syllables—"

"—my goodness. You can learn." Kel caught the ear he threw at her head.

"You are cruel to me in your strange moment of respite."

Kel shrugged. "As Dom says, you're an easy mark. And I'll be up soon. It's just…"

Neal watched her face. Seeing Kel feel was not, actually, rare to him. He was good at languages. Grasping each minute reaction—the slow withdrawal of something bright and essential through anger or sadness; a slow blink for fear, a caught breath for frustration or excitement that would have him tearing at his hear and going about the world in circles, or catching each eyelid smile—had been a well-learned language, more useful than Old Thak. But sometimes, watching Kel—watching her face and words try to line up into something felt outside of body or country or custom—made Neal feel as if he was witnessing the rebirth of emotions, before they were pinned into shapes and words and sentiment. Now, he was seeing shy pride in all its new splendour.

"We all planted this," she said, taking his hands in hers. "We all worked. It's been more than a year, and now—"

"—we're producing."

"My people are safe," said Kel, turning a husk over in weathered hands. "It's a sorrowless field."

"That, my non-poet," said Neal, leaning forward to pluck fibres from her hair, "Was strangely beautiful. Are you blushing?"

Kel cleared her throat. "Sorrowless field," she muttered. "Foolish notion."

"No," he said. "Not at all."

Kel stood, and Neal eyed her from the floor, and, not for the first time, laughed at himself for his arrogance in thinking he could ever truly read her face.

"Clerks and babies and real life await," she said. "I'll see you at dinner."