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Earlier, Thistle had blessed the torrential rain. Now, the smuggler cursed it. A lightning bolt slashed the ink-black sky. The shadows of the night blurred, and Thistle shuddered. The premonition descended with the finality of a coffin lid being nailed shut.
Thistle stood at the left hand of a dark-haired man. Swirls of mist curled around their feet and shadowy forms rose up between them, separating Thistle from the stranger. A flash of steel pierced the darkness. The white mist turned bright red, then faded to nothingness.
The smuggler's eyes flew open! Thistle strained to hear, but thunder and wind obliterated other sounds. Lightning flashed; in the instant it illuminated mountain and glen, Thistle glimpsed a lone rider spurring his mount along the rough Highland track bordered by tall firs. He stiffened and toppled from his horse. Two caterans crept from the trees. While one searched their unconscious victim, the other rifled his satchel.
As the smuggler's four companions surrounded the caterans, Thistle stepped onto a wind-smoothed boulder. With an arrow nocked taut against the string of the black longbow, Thistle aimed the lethal missile at one cateran's heart and waited.
A flash of white light followed by a jarring thunderclap startled the thief. He raised his head and screamed. His companion dropped the pilfered booty. He fell to his knees and crossed himself. "Please, Thistle, spare us! We meant no harm."