There were enough good talismans to see her through the gloom of these days. There were still hens. They were still laying. And as the hens birthed their eggs with little fuss, so too would Juliet birth her baby. Just as Viola could collect the eggs each morning, so she would collect Juliet's baby. There was nothing to fear.
OK. So now we are getting to the detail. The sisters can't move. They are stuck because one of them is having a baby; and soon. But the war, we know from the brief prologue, is on the move. So not just an orientation, but a conflict, a complication, a dilemma. Yes, bread and butter. But what about the writing? I don't mind these lines except they are a little impersonal. We are no yet with Viola in any real sense; we are being told about her, she is being described, not experienced. Writing is a bitch.
As Viola opened the door of the hen house, she felt warmed by the gently clucking hens. The contented noise reminded her that life went on. She carefully slid her hand under each nesting bird, delighted with each new eggs she encountered. So early in the spring for her girls to be laying so well. This had to be a sign.
This seems to me to be better. Perhaps talisman is too tough a word here, and sign is a bit more gentle; easier to read and to say. Viola feels more present too, we are not so removed from her as a character; more with her, more in her head - or at least somewhere near it. I think that this works.
Putting the lines under the spotlight like this makes the whole thing harder than just writing (well, that was the point, after all), but harder than I would have imagined. In a bunched up couple of pages, the problems that I am encountering here don't present. I want Viola to be an effective heroine, not one just thrown onto the page to demonstrate a thesis (that was the big criticism of a piece I wrote once; an editor said that my thesis was showing, and I can see now what I do). Here, Viola needs to be more - well, not real as such - flesh.