A man trudged up a hill, his plaid heavy, the rain still beating its sodden tattoo. The sun was long below the grumbling horizon. A flash of lightning lit the landscape for a moment, and Alasdair stopped in his tracks, thinking he had seen a figure out of the corner of his eye. This was Am Monadh Dubh and strange things could happen here. He stood stock still for a minute or more, listening acutely, then moved on, deciding that it must have been a strangely shaped group of rocks. Alasdair wondered why, on tonight of all nights, he had suddenly got the urge to climb the Black Mount. Tonight was Samhain, when the veil was parted, and it was not a night for anyone who knew what was good for them to be out walking.

Alasdair reached the top of the hill and stopped to rest, taking out bread and cheese from his pack. As he sat down on a low boulder, the hill was once again lit up by the storm, and this time Alasdair was transfixed. Standing in front of him was unmistakeably a figure. Even in the brief moment of illumination, he could see the height, the strange, not-quite-human beauty, the high forehead, the vividly green eyes in a face far darker than those of the people of the Gaidhealtachd, and in terror knew that he was sitting face-to-face with one of the El.

On some level, he knew that he could not possibly have taken all of this in by mere sight, that his Gift must have been playing some part, but he didn’t want to think about that right now. Suddenly, he was struck by a stream of images in his head. It wasn’t a voice; there were no words—the El needed none. If Alasdair had been asked to translate what the El woman had said, he might have said, You are in no danger, Alasdair Mac an Abu.

You can find the complete version of Encounter in issue 72 of TBD.

Josy Shewell Brockway