As the sun set, the land changed. The green trees turned dark, bulbous ghosts flying in the darkening sky ready to grab on to anyone passing too close.  The rolling hills created a sea-wave effect as the carriage bounced passed, up-down up-down. The clip-clop of the horses hooves as they struck down invaded the silence and interrupted the cricket’s song until  the only noises were from the horses themselves.  Even the carriage inhabitants seemed to realize it was not the time for talking, each turning their thoughts inwards.

The house that came into view was more of a castle. The thick stone walls encompassed the building and yard, engulfing everything within its reach.  The iron gate barred their path, ornately but firmly refusing passage to unwanted visitors.  The single tower emitted a light – the only one besides the setting sun that was visible.

A small sigh escaped from within the carriage. The horses snorted and huffed as they slowed before the approaching gate. The last of the sun drifted behind one of the rolling hills.

“Ho, who goes there?” The guard on duty came out from his post, adding his light to the darkness as if trying to repel a thick cloud with only a handkerchief. The carriage driver hopped down and conferred with the guard softly, then resumed his post to guide the horses through the gate the guard was opening.

“Welcome to McKinney Manor.”

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