The stranger raised his arms, and turned slowly towards the guards. “Officers — ” the stranger’s voice was as calm as a still lake in the morning — “you have us at your mercy.”
The guard on the left removed the bolt from his crossbow, strapped his weapons onto his back, and came forward cautiously as the other guard kept his aim at the stranger. The guard searched the stranger, discarding the weaponry he found on the forest floor. Wolf remained on the ground, contemplating her next move; she could easily overpower the first guard, and liked her chances against the second. But now wasn’t time to act; wait for the first guard to attempt binding her, then strike.
Completing his search, the first guard spun the stranger around. “Hands behind your back.” The stranger complied slowly. “You and this damn woman have given us a lot of trouble these past few days,” the guard grumbled as he bound the stranger’s wrists, “but there’ll be no more of that.”
“Indeed.” Wolf saw the hint of a smile curl on the stranger’s lips. “Your prospects appear to be looking up.”
A snap from behind, then the second guard yelled. Wolf saw the guard’s crossbow fall to the ground, as the guard struggled against a man who had him in a chokehold from behind. At the same time, the stranger snapped his head back, striking and surprising his captor, and threw his right elbow behind him and bashing the guard in the temple. The first guard fell to his knees; in the moonlight, Wolf could finally see who the guard was struggling against — the Islander, from the party of pilgrims she had attempted to rob.
The Islander slipped a loop from a rope around the first guard’s right foot, and a moment later the guard was lifted upside-down into the air, the rope hanging from a sturdy branch, its other end now secured to a root by the Islander. Meanwhile, the stranger had the second guard pinned face-down on the ground; soon, he was also hanging upside-down, suspended by a similar rope snare.
The stranger nodded at the Islander, as the guards struggled awkwardly against their captivity. “Killing them would have been so much easier.”
“And also would have brought the entire colony down on our heads.” The Islander shook his head, then glared down at Wolf. “Expected you to run off again.”
Wolf frowned, then pointed up at the guards, grasping at their legs like trapped bats. “Seemed futile, given what’s happened so far.”
The Islander lowered an open hand, and helped Wolf to her feet. “I don’t blame you for not trusting us — ”
“That woman, you still travelling with her?” The Islander nodded in response to Wolf’s question. “She made me a deal last night. Tell her, I’m going to hold her to that deal.”
“You can tell her yourself.” The Islander looked behind and to her left, and nodded. Before Wolf could react, a large burlap sack descended on her, and she was promptly thrown to the ground. Her arms constrained by the sack, she kicked wildly — “What the hell are you doing?”
She heard the stranger’s smooth voice over her struggles — “Demonstrating how little we trust you.”
End Chapter Two