The mist was slowly lifting but it still cast a grey veil over the glen. Izzy tried to calm herself, breathing heavily and focusing on what to do. She decided to try find Ewen.

She returned to his tent. His sleeping bag and cooking utensils were still inside, it looked like he had left in a hurry. Then she looked around for his car. There was no sign of it.

Utter panic and disbelief rose in her chest; had he somehow taken Finn as she slept? Her mind raced, but she could not bring herself to believe that Ewen would do that.

But where were they? Izzy felt sick. She called out again, more in desperation than hope, but this time she thought she heard Finn’s voice. Was it her imagination? She screamed his name into the mist.

“Finn, Finn, I’m here, Finn.”

Then she listened.

A damp silence hung in the air for an agonisingly long couple of seconds, after which she heard the distant and faint sound of her nephew calling back: “Aunty!”

Her body was flooded with relief. “Finn over here, oh thank God.”

They kept calling to each other and Finn emerged as a shadow from the curtain of mist. Slowly he took on a solid shape, walking along the single track road. Izzy ran to him and gave him a tight bear hug, still shaking.

“Thank God, thank God you’re safe,” she spoke with a breaking voice.

“Aunty you’re squashing me!”

Izzy released her embrace but held his two hands in hers.

“Where have you been sweetie, oh my God I was so worried.”

“Sorry aunty,” said Finn. He didn’t look distressed at all, in fact cheerful if anything.

“I have a story to tell you, but can we have breakfast first, I’m starving.”

Izzy burst into tears. Her nephew gave her a hug, and spoke to reassure her.

“I’m fine aunty, honest, I was scared at first but wait till you hear what happened on the moor. Please can we eat now?”

She lit a small fire in her dish on the rocks by the river. They sat together watching the flames curl around the wood making a snake of smoke which kept the midges away. Then she set up her stove. Its soothing hiss blended with the sound of the river cascading over the rocks.

Soon the porridge began to bubble and steam. A big grin came over Finn’s face; he was very hungry. Izzy dished the porridge into bowls and Finn added jam and banana and devoured it. Above them the Buachaille began to make a gradual appearance.

Finn noticed his aunt looking up at the mountain and followed her gaze. He watched as veils of mist swirled around it, hiding then giving tantalizing glimpses of parts of its rocky mass.

“You were right aunty,” Finn observed, “the mountain is dancing this morning.”

She smiled, but it was a forced one. This would have been a perfect moment; having breakfast by a tumbling river under the watchful gaze of the Buachaille as the sparkling sun of a Highland morning seductively lifts the morning mist.

But the shock and trauma of what had just happened wouldn’t leave her. Her heart was still racing, her emotions were flowing faster than the river. But on the surface she kept herself together. She waited for Finn to finish his porridge; then he told his tale.

“I needed a pee and didn’t want to wake you. So I went outside. It was getting light but it was really misty, and it felt cold. The mist was so thick you could hardly see anything. It was so quiet, it was spooky, I mean really spooky.

“Then I turned and saw this shape in the mist. It was huge, and it was moving. I thought it was a kelpie aunty, I really did. My heart was like going like the clappers, I was so scared, but I didn’t want to scream in case it attacked me.”

Finn picked up some juice to have a drink before continuing his story.

“I just stood there but it moved closer towards me. It was then I saw its antlers and realised it was a stag. It stood between me and the car, and its eyes stared at me.

“It started to stamp its hooves. I knew it was going to charge at me. My legs suddenly had electricity. I ran as fast as I could, just ran and ran, I dunno how long. Eventually I couldn’t run anymore and I realised I was lost on the moor. The mist was so thick I had no idea where I was. I walked for a long time but couldn’t find my way back to you.

“I was lost like the redcoats you told me about in the story. I was so scared and was calling out for you, but you didn’t answer.”

Izzy ran her fingers through her hair, shaking her head: “I’m so sorry Finn, I never heard you, I must have been fast asleep in the car.”

She laid her hand apologetically on Finn’s arm and lowered her head.

“It’s OK aunty because that’s when he helped me.”

Izzy looked up with a startled expression: “Who helped you?”

“An Duine Mor , you know, the great man of Rannoch moor, the ghostly helper you told me about last night. He’s real, and you’re right, he’s a kind ghost.”

Izzy wasn’t sure what to make of this. Was Finn joking, perhaps testing her reaction? He seemed to be waiting for her response.

“Er, OK, how did he help you, and, erm, how did you know it was him?”

“He knew my name aunty, I didn’t see him at first, just heard him in the mist. He called out to me and told me not to be afraid. He said he’d help guide me safely off the moor. He told me he was an Duine Mor and it was his job to help people who were lost. He said to follow his voice. And so I did. It was a calm and kind voice”

“And, erm,” Izzy spoke nervously, clearly agitated, “did you see him?”

“I just saw his dark shadow in the mist, just like in the stories. He led me to the road and told me to follow it. Then he just vanished. I walked along the edge of the road in the direction he told me to. Soon after I heard you calling for me, and, well, you know what happened then.”

Izzy nodded and looked away, which Finn interpreted as her not believing him.

“It’s true aunty, the great man of Rannoch helped me. I wasn’t scared because you’d told me the stories about how he’d helped so many people lost in the mist. Now my story is part of the moor too.”

She gave Finn a kindly smile.

“I believe you Finn, I’m just so relieved you are safe. Please never, ever, do something like that again. Do you promise?”

“I suppose aunty, but I didn’t mean to get lost. I am kind of glad I did though. Can’t wait to tell mum what happened!”

Izzy’s heart sank at the thought of her sister’s reaction to all this. She was tempted to suggest to Finn he wait till they all got home the following day before telling her. But she knew that wasn’t a good idea and, besides, she mustn’t ask him to keep a secret from his mum.

By the time they had packed up the mist had lifted, only whisps remained around the mountain tops. Before they, left Izzy stood on the rocks by the river, arms outstretched looking at the mountains, then she closed her eyes.

“What you doing aunty? Looks like you are praying.”

She remained in her pose for a few moments more then opened her eyes.

“I’m being in the moment Finn.”

“You’re such a hippy, aunty,” he replied.

The sound of a car passing caught Izzy’s attention. It crossed the nearby bridge and towards the main road to Glencoe. It was Ewen. He’d kept his son safe in more ways than one; Izzy was ashamed she’d doubted him.

They spent the early morning in Glen Etive, swimming in a hidden deep-sided rocky cauldron on the river Etive where a white waterfall cascaded into deep dark waters. Old Scots pines which clung to the river’s edge were their only audience.

As they dried themselves, Izzy told the ancient story of Deirdre of the Sorrows whom, according to the legend, spent her happiest time in the Glen before she returned to Ireland to meet her tragic end.

“The Highlands doesn’t have many happy stories does it?” laughed Finn.

“Yes it does! There is the story of a young lad lost on Rannoch moor, who was saved by the ghostly great man, although his aunt almost died of panic when she realised he’d gone missing!”

The plan now was to head for Glencoe and a walk up into to the Lost Valley. Well, if Finn could be persuaded to do so that is. But first Finn needed to make his morning call to his mum. So they wound their way along the narrow road back to the Kingshouse.

Izzy waited nervously as Finn spoke privately, expecting at any moment to be told “mum wants to speak to you”.

But he hung up and came to her with a big grin: “Let’s go”.

Izzy was confused. “How was your mum?”

“She’s good, I didn’t tell her about getting lost, she would just worry and probably tell us to end the trip. I don’t want her to feel worried. I can tell her the story tomorrow when we get home.”

The gaping jaws of Glencoe were before them, guarded by the Buachaille. Beyond, in the glen, the Three Sisters waited to tell their tales; legends of Finn MacCoul, tales of cattle raids, the Jacobites, and the infamous massacre of the MacDonalds.

Izzy played her music they ventured into the glen, the landscape making Finn’s spine tingle. She parked with the view of the Three Sisters of Glencoe before them and Finn was excited to recognise the scene from the movie Highlander.

Here Izzy told Finn the story of the massacre; of the betrayal of trust and desecration of hospitality. She wove an image of the MacDonalds of Glencoe, a hardy, brave, sometimes ruthless clan, who used the mountains as their fortress, herding their lifted cattle into what people now called the lost valley.

Finn followed the route to the lost valley with his eye. The path vanished into the mountains. It was steep and for Finn very long. But Izzy’s storytelling had done the trick. He agreed to try it.

What Finn couldn’t see was that the person sitting on a boulder in the distance by the path was his dad. He was watching in the shadow of Gearr Aonach, like a sentinel clansman waiting for the arrival of his kin.

The plan was he’d climb to Coire Gabhail just ahead of Finn and Izzy, so he could watch his son from a distance but feel close to him and share the experience with him. That was the plan anyway.