Kira, the protagonist of "Gathering Blue," is a handicapped orphan who finds a place in her community thanks to her extraordinary gift at weaving and embroidering. For this reason, she earns the right to occupy a room in a civic building (a former church) to restore a ritual garment worn every year at a special ceremony commenorating "the Ruin."
Kira later seeks out an old woman living in "the Fen" (the forest, which is usually considered "forbidden territory") to learn by heart the various plants which are used in making dyes. While she is there, the old woman confides to her that no wild beasts of prey exist in the forest, as supposed. Intrigued, Kira goes about learning her way through parts of the forest hitherto off limits. She also learns that her father is not dead but living in a community far away, having been rescued from "the Field," where he had been left for dead. Two days later she finds out that her mentor, the old woman in the forest, has died - probably fallen victim to the same person who had tried to kill her father. Irony has it that this person, Jamison, is a community leader who has taken Kira "under his wing" and whom she has considered her protector.
Around this time she also learns about another occupant of the civic building, a child held prisoner there for her extraordinary gift of singing (also "in training" for the "Community cause.") Kira wakes up to the fact that people have been sacrificed in one way or another for their utility to serve the group. As indiviiduals, they have no value or worth at all.