Moonlight cast a shimmering glow over the snow covered valley. The first settlers had arrived in the dead of winter to the very same sight that fell over the valley now, hundreds of years later, and they named it Moonstone Veil. There was a network of caves in the surrounding mountains that had served as homes in the beginning. Now, a towering castle rose up from the rocky crags, only accessible through the tunnels or by air.
The once barren valley was dotted with a few clusters of rudimentary buildings. Smoke rose steadily from each crude house into the crisp air. It was the only sign that there was life in the valley. Nothing moved. There was not a breeze. Every creature that might be out at night was holed up in a burrow or hole somewhere. It was too cold to be out and too bright to hunt easily.
Sinae wiped her hand across one of the small square glass panes in the kitchen. She smiled at the beautiful sight of the moon and the pristine snow. For a moment, she imagined what it would be like to run through it. She had spent many winters watching as others did just that. They could run and jump wildly, while she had to settle with watching from a window or the front porch.
Sinae could never join them. An accident when she was an infant had destroyed the use of her left leg. It was there, but it would not do what she wanted it to do. The leg dragged limply. She still smiled. It did not matter that she could not walk or run. She was a pretty young girl with thick brown hair and a healthy complexion. A sprinkling of freckles covered her nose and her brown eyes were as soft as a doe’s. She had a good sense of humor and she was well liked among the people of Moonstone Veil.
Most important of all, Sinae sighed happily, she was loved. Life would not be bearable if she had been overlooked as a child. There was only one loner in Moonstone Veil and he was grumpy and kept to himself. Sinae had heard many stories about other loners. They went crazy with sadness and anger. Some of them settled for others loners, but it never seemed like they were as well off as those who were paired up.
Sinae braced herself on her makeshift crutch and leaned over to pull a small tin of biscuits out of the oven. She was proud of herself for being able to cook without help. She rarely burned herself nowadays. Sinae tilted the biscuits into a basket and set the pan aside. She took a moment to stir the stew bubbling in a half filled pot on the stove. It would be done by the time she returned from the adjoining living area.
“Dinner smells good, Sinae.” Tobe was sitting at the table smoking his pipe. He was the patriarch of the Berrin clan. Tobe and his son were the last of their family line and future generations would depend on Sinae and Laurn, his son. Tobe bore the scars of a hard life in the veil across a young face. He had lost his wife a decade before and had only Laurn and Sinae. There would not be another woman in his life and while the thought saddened him, he took delight in the two children within his charge. “You’ve done a wonderful job with what little we have.”
They had little, but they had enough. Their clothing consisted of cast aways from the castle workers and had been patched so often that none of them were a solid color. Tobe and Laurn served the castle lord as hunters. They supplied the castle with fresh game on a daily basis and received the protection of the Veil as payment. Being cast out of the Veil was a fate worse than death.
“Thank you, Father, Laurn helped.” Sinae placed the basket on the table. She was safe here. An occasional empty stomach was a small price to pay for the security of the Veil.