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Nick of Time

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The rope snapped under the blunt knife Tuuri used to saw at it, and Sigrun landed on the ground in a graceless heap. For the beat it took her to drop from the branch after her lover, Tuuri thought she'd killed her for good, the twist of the noose still tight - then the struggling began, and quick as she could blink, Sigrun was on her feet, only to double over wheezing onto her knees again.

Tuuri, despite her shaking hands, helped her untie the noose and picked the chain that tied her wrists behind her back; her stomach roiled with cold, helpless fury, but she already had an idea. One of the members of their little band - Emil, the son of a rich family who'd fallen from grace and washed up half-starved by the roadside where they'd first taken his rich-kid clothes and then taken pity on him - liked fire. Really liked fire. It'd come in useful.

She wondered if, come morning, she'd get to pick a new moniker, perhaps Firebird instead of Blackbird? She'd like that. But revenge could come later. Lalli would find out where the Sheriff and his men had gone to drink, never even staying to watch Sigrun breathe her - luckily not - last. She wasn't sure she was glad about the lack of honour they paid their longest-standing enemy, but it'd at least given her a chance to come for the rescue, so she'd not complain. For the moment, she wrapped her arms around Sigrun, and rested her head against her lover's chest, listening to the uneven staccato of her heart slowly calming to a normal beat, and the rattle of her lungs to a normal breath.

"Better?" Sigrun asked after a while of carding her fingers through Tuuri's hair. Her eyes were half-closed, and she offered a lopsided smile as Tuuri reluctantly drew back to look at her. "I should be taking some of that comfort, I'm the one who almost got hung." Sigrun still sounded hoarse, and there were ugly bruises forming dark on her throat, but there was no trace left in her voice of the terrified anger she'd spat out as the men had trapped, outnumbered and chained her before stringing her from the tree.

The tree they'd made love under the first time, at that, the night after Sigrun had intercepted Tuuri's carriage and held her at gunpoint, almost three years back now. The pissheads, they must have known.

Tuuri forced the thoughts down and back into the present. "Hanged," she said. "Hung is when a man is…" she gestured. "And not just almost. You almost died, and I'd have had to do the robbing without you. I'd be no good at it."

"With that sweet weasel face of yours and all your decoy skills, you'd not have to do any robbing except once, you'd rob a rich someone else's heart and live like a princess to the end of your days with them."

"Don't wanna," Tuuri said. "I don't give a damn about riches unless it's with you. Come on. Onni said something would go wrong today; he'll worry, and Mikkel should have a look at you."

Mikkel - another member of their band, who'd once treated Sigrun's arm in exchange for his life after a heist gone bad - would no doubt be prepared for most eventualities from gunshot wounds to poison to sundry assassination attempts. He'd once claimed he'd cured the attempted beheading of a noble he'd served, but not even Reynir, despite his gaping, had fallen for that one.

"At least I still got my head on me," Sigrun quipped with a laugh that still sounded a little painful. No doubt she'd thought of the same incident.

"I'd like you less without it," Tuuri said, batting her eyes. "I hope Mikkel prescribes you bed rest, I think you do need comforting, too. There are some things I should kiss better before I set fire to the Sheriff's ass."

"Something tells me there won't be any bed-resting if you start doing that." Sigrun slipped her hand into Tuuri's, chafed wrist and all, and they made for the forest together.