The Denver sun began to languish as the coach left town that evening and headed up the mountain road to Owl Manor, about an hour’s ride. A mist slithered in through the trees on either side of them, their branches sagging heavily under thick layers of snow. Clumps of knotty underbrush of different shapes and heights peered through the mist like a band of strange, hunched creatures. Elwood shivered as the horses trudged up the narrow path, the carriage rattling and shaking as it climbed the hillside. Here, the hand of man was less prominent, despite the numerous roads which had been cleared for travel.
A sudden flapping sound made him start. As he poked his head out to look, a flurry of brown feathers landed on a branch, settling into the shape of an owl. Elwood gasped as the raptor’s huge, yellow eyes fixed on him from under the tuft of feathers that lay over them, followed him as the coach passed, its head swiveling at an impossible angle. What strange creatures these are, he thought.
He did not know whether to be relieved or not when he eventually reached the manor. Dark and silent, it loomed at the far end of a garden shrouded in ghostly white. The only signs of life were the flicker of light in some of the windows and the pale, wispy swirls rising out chimneys jutting up against the midnight blue sky. A lofty column of fir trees stood in the gloom at the far edges of the property, watching as this stranger invaded their world. And in the distance soared the massive, jagged shapes of the mountains, great giants in slumber.