The night breeze blew bitter cold as Brother Marcus de Bridgemoore rode along the path to Alba castle, his shaggy pony trotting at a brisk pace as the monk wrapped his rough woolen traveling cloak around his shoulders in a vain attempt to keep out the biting wind. It was near to the end of autumn, and light, intermittent snows had already been falling for quite some time in the lowlands of Caldonica, which was not at all unusual in this northern clime. Indeed, this autumn had been unusually temperate, and the harvest bountiful, with no early frosts to blight the crops. Not that Brother Marcus cared much for farming. His sole concern was with things loftier and more mysterious by far than the tilling of land, the planting of seeds, and the gathering of grains though in truth, he reflected, these were all necessarily tied together, however remotely, just as everything in this wide world.
This night, however, despite the mildness of the s