The setting is the Mississippi Delta in the year 2165. A major catastrophe has taken place with only a brief warning. The survivors, themselves, do not know exactly what has happened. Some say that for a while there were two suns in the sky and that the Earth “split.”
Whatever the cause, those left alive take comfort where they find it. The population is small and the races have long since become mixed. Pockets of survivors live in old “moteles” scattered around the area and have formed distinct societies; most are benign while one is undeniably evil.
The main characters:
Part I: A Disparity of Language: the South People
Following a mysterious natural catastrophe, survivors eke out a living and form various societies in the Mississippi Delta in the year 2165.
Donas’ “motele” is run by female leaders who have devised a way to drug their children and to keep them from “awakening” until they hear the “rising song.” When adolescents hear the mental summons, they are given another drug in a cup of red wine, which keeps them obedient for the rest of their lives. The only adults who have not been “initiated” are the leaders and two older men.
Ter, one of the uninitiated men, is First Leader Katera’s brother and is aware of the evil underlying her “motele.” Since he shared her bed as a child — the only love bond existing in this society — he cannot bring himself to leave. Ter is the only person aware that the drug in the red wine shortens his people’s life span and makes them infertile.
Donas, Katera’s daughter, experiments by not eating her apple slice after supper. Her curiosity puts her life in danger, as well as that of her younger brother Mak and little sister Rani. Donas decides they must escape to the south, where there may be other “peoples.”
In a new community, language differences and a jealous young girl’s influence lead Donas to doubt the community’s benign nature. The wary Donas often misunderstands innocent situations and risks losing her newfound happiness.
The peoples of the story have lost or distorted much knowledge from the past, and yet the basis for their legends and heritage remains discernible.