Snow fell all night long, a hard wind heaping it in long drifts along fences and hedges. When morning came, snow covered the thatched roofs of cottages in the village and hid the ruts in the road leading to a dilapidated castle crouched on a low hill beyond the village. The castle had once been imposing, but neglect, war, and time had toppled two of its three turrets and eaten away at the tops of its stone walls until they looked like a gap-toothed grin. Its main building still held traces of its former glory—each window and door sported faded carvings of griffins and dragons, unicorns and rocs. Once it had been a fortress. Heavy wooden shutters barred with iron bands still kept the wind and cold at bay, and the rusted and creaking front door was made of solid iron, studded with spikes. An empty moat, overgrown with weeds and scrub trees, encircled the castle. One entered the castle over a bridge and through an arched doorway facing east. At one time there had been a gatehouse defended by pike men and archers, but it had crumbled away. All that was left of it was a pile of stones the masons used to shore up the castle walls. The stable and a cowshed were tacked on like afterthoughts inside the courtyard. Above them, two small windows faced the main building. One of the windows opened, and a young woman leaned out and looked toward the fiery line of light where the sun was rising above the hills. The sunlight put color in her pale cheeks. Her face was angular and thin, with a high-bridged nose that looked like it had once been broken. She had soot black hair, and her dark blue eyes sparkled like gems. “Hello, sun, it’s me, Tania,” she whispered, as she did every morning, and then she turned and blew a kiss to the west, where stars still shone in the lightening sky. “For you, Mother,” she said. She gave one last look to the snowy courtyard and closed her window. In the stable just below her room, three cows snorted softly, steam puffing from their wet nostrils. Dressed in hand-me-down boys’ clothing, Tania pitched hay into their stalls then took a bucket and milked the cows. When she finished, her bucket was heavy, full of warm, frothy milk. In the back of the stable in a stall by himself, stood a tall, white horse. His mane fell to his massive chest, his tail reached his hocks, and there was something majestic in the way he held his head. Tania whistled as she approached his stall. He whickered in return, nodding his great head in greeting. “Good morning, Shabaz,” said Tania, scratching him softly behind his ears. She patted the old warhorse on his neck, then, making sure the cows had finished their hay, she turned all the animals out into the orchard where they could paw for frozen apples. Tania leaned on the fence and watched as Shabaz rolled. He lay down, forelegs folded beneath him, muzzle dipped in the snow, and for a moment Tania had trouble seeing him. He blended into the drifts. Only his dark eyes and his twitching ears gave him away. Then he snorted and heaved himself to his feet, shaking a powdery fall of snow from his broad back.