In Hearts in Ruin the big professional question for the main characters, Andrea and Daniel, both archaeologists, is just how long ago the events in the following scene, and a few others, took place. Today, the surviving evidence of Bin and Tala’s life together is scant. But it exists, and it fuels a raging conflict between the heroine and the hero. In this scene, set in the distant past, the “Fire Star” has descended and years have passed since then. Bin and Tala, whose love is well established and now have a young family, differ in their views of what it all means.
Bin straightened and admired his work. The terrace was perfect. All he would ever need to support his family. Surely this would show Tala the future was bright.
“Go get Mom.” He nudged his four-year-old son. The tyke scampered away and Bin rested on the rock wall he’d built to mark his crop field on the village’s hill. He sighed. Sure, the neighboring crops looked terrible this year, maybe just as bad as last year. But things would bounce back. They always did.
He glanced at the gray sky. Five years now without sun. It was time for the rays to pierce the gloom. Everything depended on it. But the key was outlook. Too many thought it was the end—the village would have to move—the crops would never grow again—the sun had left them forever. What kind of way was that to look at anything
No way at all.
Tala’s light frame appeared over the crest. He stood and beamed a smile. She approached slowly. Bon scurried in front of her. Tala carried Yami. She wore the skin she’d tanned last spring. Her hair was tied back. He saw hunting shoes on her feet.
“Bin…we…we talked about this.”
“I know, I know. But just look! This is the best terrace on the slope. It was once Garik’s plot, do you remember? I had to twist some arms to get it, but it’s ours.”
Tala shook her head. “The herds are moving. There are very few left as it is. We can’t stay here.”
“We don’t need the herds. We’ve never needed the herds.”
“We need them now.”
“I was talking to some travelers the other day. Two of them reported sunlight breaking through the clouds just two day’s walk from here.”
“What difference does that make?”
“Don’t you see? The clouds are going to break apart. The sun will shine again. It’s coming, and we’re going to be ready for it. We have the best soil. We have the best location. Soon we will have sun. Everything will be perfect.”
Tala adjusted Yami to her other hip. “It’s too cold. The crops won’t grow.”
“They are growing. Just look.”
“I’m not going to do this, Bin. I want our children to survive. The time of farming is over. Our only chance now is to follow the herds. They can sustain us. The land cannot. Not anymore.”
She turned without another word.
Bin stood alone, feeling his heart sink. He cursed the day he first heard of the Fire Star, and he cursed Tala’s pessimistic view of its long-term effects.
Tala began to step away. He moved to follow her. “The curse of your Fire Star is waning.”
She stopped. She turned halfway but did not meet his gaze. “It hit the ground far away.”
“If it hit the ground far away, then it doesn’t matter.”
“It does matter. It matters too much. The history tells of what happens, of the starless nights, the never-ending winter, the need to hunt and track for survival.”
Bin took two more steps and squared himself to face her, planting his feet firmly on the earth from which he wanted to build their future. “I don’t accept that,” he insisted. He knew he was right. If he just stood his ground and made his choice clear, Tala would ultimately see he was right, and she would yield. It was the only way. They couldn’t go out into the wilderness and expect a decent life. It wasn’t what he was raised to permit for his family. He was a provider, and he knew how to provide. It would work. It had to work.
But Tala’s expression did not reflect an ounce of consideration of what he wanted her to do. She seemed resigned and sad. Her shoulders drooped. Her eyes glistened. “You must…”
She paused then. Was she suppressing a sob? He wasn’t sure. But even so, what could he do? His path was clear. There was no choice.
Tala drew a long breath and released it slowly. Finally, she finished her thought. “If you do not, you, and our children, will die.”
Copyright (c) 2014, J. C. Conway
At this point, the story shifts back to today and the main story with its deep personal conflicts and perplexing archaeological puzzle.
Hearts in Ruin is available in print on Amazon and as an eBook in all major formats from all major vendors.