A shortened version of our columnist Tim Porteus’s new book, Road of Legends, is exclusively serialised each week in the Courier. Here is the next mini-chapter.

IZZY continued the story: “Rob unbolted the door and cautiously opened it. A MacGregor clansman was outside, out of breath from running.

“‘Soldiers are at Tyndrum looking for you, Rob,’ he said. ‘They are staying at the inn asking everyone questions.’”

“Where’s Tyndrum?” asked Finn.

“Just a few miles west of here, we’ll see it tomorrow,” said Izzy. “It was an important meeting place for drovers and other travellers, as the roads from the west and north meet there. So the inn was often busy.”

Izzy put a little more wood on the fire, then continued the tale.

“The soldiers hoped that someone would give them information about Rob’s whereabouts but, of course, nobody would betray him even if they knew.”

Izzy described the inn and Finn imagined the unwelcome soldiers huddled by the peat fire surrounded by muttering Highlanders.

“Then a beggar came in and sat near the soldiers. The soldiers began to make unkind comments about him and the beggar replied that if they didn’t stop he would tell Rob Roy and he’d teach them a lesson!

The soldiers immediately demanded the beggar show them where Rob was.”

“No,” said Finn, “surely he won’t betray him?”

“Well the officer promised the beggar a handsome reward so he led the soldiers to a house near Crianlarich, which is close by here, and told the soldiers Rob was in the house.”

“What a betrayer!” said Finn with passion, “I hope that beggar gets what’s coming to him!”

Izzy raised her eyebrows and paused for a tantalising few moments before continuing.

“The beggar suggested that the soldiers surround the house, then he would enter first to distract Rob and the solders should storm in moments later.”

Finn suddenly got it: “The beggar was Rob Roy in disguise wasn’t he? It was a trap!”

Izzy smiled and nodded.

“Aye, Finn, when they rushed in, Rob was ready with some of his men and they immediately put guns to the soldiers’ heads. Then Rob, still pretending to be the beggar, called in the other soldiers, saying their officer wanted them, and of course they were all taken prisoner.”

“Where they killed?”

Izzy shook her head: “Nope, they were kept prisoner overnight, then given a hearty breakfast and sent on their way back to their garrison, minus their weapons of course.”

Finn laughed: “So Rob Roy was a good guy then! Did that happen in this house?”

“Who can say,” his aunt replied, shrugging her shoulders.

“I think it did,” said Finn, looking around the ruins.

He could sense the presence of the past all around him. He’d felt that too at Finlarig Castle but there it had been a feeling of sinister happenings. Here was different.

“Have you got more stories about Rob Roy?” asked Finn.

“Lots,” said Izzy, “but it’s going to be dark soon. I plan to spend the night by a loch so we can have a fire and mores stories there too if you want? It’s where Fionn MacCoul had a fight with a giant. But we need to leave here while it’s still light.”

They packed up, Izzy carefully making sure their presence left no trace. Finn felt a reluctance to leave; it was a special place for him now, so he helped his aunt clear up to keep it that way.

Wood was needed for the next fire, so Izzy suggested collecting some on the way back to the car. Silver birch trees lined the sides of the burn which came down from the hills above, and they made their way down to it.

Then Finn made a discovery.

“Look at that aunty!” he called out.

An old bridge nestled close to the modern bridge, unseen from the road. It was completely overgrown, trees and bushes growing from it, a silver birch even sprouting from its side. It was an incredible sight.

Izzy remarked that it seemed to symbolise the hidden stories and history that lay embedded in the land.

They collected fallen branches and twigs from the ground, then Finn spotted a larger piece of dead wood lying on the other side of the burn. It gave a reason to cross it; they managed, without getting wet feet, but only just!

The burn tumbled underneath the stone arch of the old bridge and then through the tunnel-like modern one, where the sound of the water echoed. Finn was in adventure mode as he scrambled over slippery rocks to make his way under the bridges, dropping most of the wood he was carrying.

He made it to the modern bridge and sat underneath it, on the rocky bank of the burn, listening to the water. Izzy followed him, carrying her rucksack on her back and an armful of sticks under one arm. Finn thought she looked like a Sherpa and belatedly offered to help.

“Sorry aunty, I dropped most of my wood, but look at this, we are under the road.”

They sat and listened together. Izzy was struck by the contrast between the picturesque dilapidated old bridge and the functional ugliness of the modern one.

“This burn is called Allt Coire Chaorach,” she explained, “I know that because I followed it once, when I was hillwalking with a friend. The burn guided us safely down from the hills on a day when the mist was so thick we were unable to see more than a few metres ahead of us. But I never saw the old bridge that day, so you have discovered it for me too.”

Finn smiled but lowered his head into his arms to hide it.

Suddenly, a rumble from above momentarily drowned out the sound of running water as a car drove over the bridge.

“For a split second,” said Izzy, “whoever was in that car was close to us, yet at the same time far away.”

She turned to Finn: “You see, people can be in the same place while being in a different space, you know what I mean?”

Finn raised his lower lip and frowned. “I think so,” he said.

“It’s getting late, Finn. We need to get to the loch before dark so we can find a good place to set up.”

“And I need to phone my mum to say goodnight,” said Finn.

“So let’s go, boyo!” said Izzy, picking up her rucksack and bundle. They emerged on the other side of the bridge. The sun was hiding behind the peaks and Ben More loomed over them, like a dark shadowy giant.

They drove to Crianlarich and Finn immediately recognised the village’s name from the story. He called his mum and spoke for quite a while, recounting how he’d discovered the bridge and been in Rob Roy’s ruined house, and how they would go to a loch side to tell more tales before sleeping.

But when Finn emerged from the phone box he was feeling anxious again.

“Maybe we could not sleep in the camper car tonight?” he said.

Izzy understood and made no attempt to persuade him otherwise.

“There’s a hostel here – let’s see if they have a room free,” she said.

They were in luck and soon they were settled in a room they had to themselves. It was simple but seemed like luxury. Outside it was now dark, and as Izzy closed the curtains she saw the moon, bright and full.

“Look! MacFarlane’s Lantern is in the sky,” she said to Finn.

He came to the window to look. “You mean the moon? Why’d you call it MacFarlane’s Lantern?”

“Well it comes from hundreds of years ago. The MacFarlanes were a small clan who had a fortress on an island on Loch Lomond, just a few miles south of here. They were notorious for lifting cattle and, when there was a bright moon in the sky, people called it MacFarlane’s Lantern because they used it to guide them on night cattle raids.”

Finn looked up at the moon. He had a tinge of regret that his anxiety had prevented them from having another evening by a campfire. The room was warm and nice enough but electric lights were no substitute for the atmosphere of a flickering hearth.

“I’m sorry I’ve spoilt your plans, aunty. Can we at least sleep with the curtains open, so we can see the moon?”

“Course sweetie, and you haven’t spoilt anything, we can visit the loch tomorrow.”

Finn was tired and in a short time he was sound asleep.Izzy sat with him a while, then quietly left the room, locking the door to keep him safe.

She went outside. As she’d hoped, Ewen was waiting for her.

He had been her best friend since they’d been at university together and had remained friends ever since. Their friendship had always been very close, but always just that: friendship.

Ewen was also Finn’s dad. He’d met Izzy’s sister Julie through her and when they had got married she was happy, because she loved them both. When Finn was born in 1983 she had been overjoyed to be an auntie. Her sister was a great mum and Ewen was a doting, loving dad. Finn was so loved and it all seemed perfect.

Then it went wrong.

Ewen hadn’t been able to see Finn for almost four years now. Izzy knew the agony he suffered at losing his son. It was Izzy’s idea to let him secretly shadow them on this trip. It was a betrayal of her sister’s trust, she knew that.

It was no easy decision – She loved her sister too. But she had watched helplessly as Ewen was utterly broken by the loss – and she’d been there when he had attempted to take his life.

This way, she was able at least to let him see his son. But it was vital that it was unknowingly. For Izzy also knew the pain Finn carried: a young boy who had once adored and loved his dad, and had known and felt his dad’s love for him. She knew the truth, but could not speak it to Finn.

“I take it the wee man’s asleep,” said Ewen.

“Yeah, he was so tired. I’m actually glad we got a room; he needs a decent sleep. Sorry that tonight by the loch didn’t happen, Ewen.”

He looked at Izzy, desperation in his eyes, cupping his hands as if begging: “Can I see him… please? I’ve only glimpsed him from a distance, hiding like an outlaw. Please, Izzy, he’s my son.”

“I know, Ewen, but what if he wakes? I can’t take the risk. I’m so stressed by this to be honest.”

Ewen nodded and looked down at the ground as he spoke: “I know what you’re risking Izzy and, believe me, I cannot put into words how to thank you. OK, I’ll go back to the loch. See you both there in the morning. I’ll be at the arranged place behind the trees.”

She watched him walk to his car.

“Wait,” she said, “all right, if you promise to be totally quiet. I will go in the room first to make sure he’s sleeping soundly.”

“Of course, thank you.”

Izzy carefully unlocked the door and went in. Moonlight shone through the window. Finn was in a deep sleep.

Izzy nodded and Ewen entered the room.

For the first time in nearly four years, he was close to his son. He stood, staring at him. Then Ewen began to shake and his face started to crumple. Emotion began to overwhelm him. Years of unbearable pain, loss, anguish and frustration flooded his being; grief engulfed him completely.

Tears streamed down his cheeks. He bent over as if he had pain in his stomach and his knees gave way. He crumpled onto the floor in a heap. He tried to keep it in, but couldn’t. He began to weep uncontrollably.

Izzy knelt down beside him and put a hand over his shoulder; it was totally inadequate, but all she could think of at that moment.

“Ewen, Ewen, you’ll wake Finn, please.”

But he was paralysed by loss.

Then Finn began to stir.

Here are the links to chapters one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and 10.