A group of highlanders was returning from the Clan Council. Hotly discussing among themselves what happened at the general gathering, the actions of the king, the threat from Styx, the travelers did not notice how dark it was. But they perfectly noticed the thugs with swords, who suddenly blocked the forest road. The dozen bearded fellows could not be anything else than robbers, grinned wickedly and advanced on half the number of clansmen. The highlanders also grinned in response. A gang of night robbers? Two versus one? Ha! The men were determined to show these crooks real prowess. And after, if lucky, urinate on the cold corpses of enemies.
Suddenly, the silence of the night forest was cut by a piercing scream. “The banshee is crying about them. Or about us.” – thought one of the highlanders … and was surprised to see how a knife with a flower engraved on the handle was pierced into the neck of one of the bandits. And then something happened that the men of the Clan McHills had been telling their compatriots for a long time.
With a deafening war cry, a woman ran out of the darkness. Like a tongue of flame, with a fiery red mane of hair, she crashed into a group of robbers, scattered them to the sides with a shield, and whirled a bastard sword over her head. The battle was short and furious, part of the bandits remained lying on the forest road, part – sparkling with their heels, disappeared among the trees.
Later, when the mysterious warrior accepted the squad leader’s invitation and sat down by the fire, at first she was silent for a long time and looked at the fire. The highlanders, impressed by the recent battle, were also in no hurry to ask questions. The wounds that the girl from the forest received from the robbers were overgrown before their eyes, were not added to talkativeness either. But the firewood burned down, the silence dragged on, and finally the youngest of the group could not stand it, took a sip of beer for courage and asked:
– Who are you?
– Keila. – A short answer to a short question.
– What are you doing in the middle of the night in the forest? Who taught you how to fight like that? Where does such a wonderful weapon come from? – the brave young man poured out questions like a generous sower. And the seeds of questions fell into fertile soil. Reluctantly at first, carefully choosing her words, then more and more boldly, as if remembering how to talk to people, Keila told her story.
She was the wife of a knight. The Green Knight, as his comrades called him for the color of his armor, which resembled grass from spring pastures. She was engaged in housekeeping, and at her leisure she trained with her husband, learned to wield a sword and shield. They had an almost perfect life. But one day, returning through the forest from a fair in a neighboring village, Keila and her husband were attacked by a gang of robbers. If the fight was fair, the Green Knight would certainly have defeated the offenders and the couple would have safely reached home. Alas, honesty for a robber is an empty phrase. The knight was shot with a crossbow. Keila was torn off a precious necklace of golden flowers – her husband’s wedding gift – pierced with a sword in the stomach and left to die.
Keila woke up in the dark. But overhead, instead of the starry sky, there was a vault of a cave. Thoughts about bears flashed through her head, after which the girl again fell into oblivion. The next time she was awakened by voices. The voices were female, old women, chanting words in a language Keila didn’t know. Then the old women themselves came into view. They muttered something over Keila, who was balancing on the verge of reality and nightmares, poured hot brew into her mouth, applied something warm and wet to the wound on her stomach. The cave smelled intoxicatingly of flowers and herbs, and the woman fainted again.
Another awakening happened again in the forest, and everything that happened before could be considered a strange dream, a nightmare caused by an injury. But the hole in his stomach closed up, leaving only a thin scar, and next to her lay the sword and shield of the Green Knight. Later, Keila found that all her wounds healed in a few minutes, and her strength and endurance increased several times. It was a pleasant discovery. Unpleasant, even shocking, was the ashes left in the place of his native village. Perhaps it was the same bandits that killed her husband, perhaps the creatures of Styx, a gang from the Free Baronies, the Akkari reconnaissance squad … None of this mattered. Only one thing became important for Keila – revenge. Revenge for her husband, for fellow villagers, for herself. She went into the woods, found herself a cave, and built a dwelling there. During the day, she honed her military skills to the rustling of the wings of bats hanging on the ceiling, and at night she went out on patrol, protecting travelers from dashing people. Keila became the Green Knight, justice from the hills, vengeance incarnate. Darkness.
Having finished the story, the warrior-woman sat for a long time and looked into the fire. It seemed to the highlanders sitting nearby that it was not the flame of a campfire that was reflected in her eyes, but the flame of a burning village. Then she got up, thanked for the dinner and disappeared into the forest.