Solomon ground his teeth hard enough they should have cracked. Grant was his charge—what fool thing had he done to earn a noose around his neck? He was under observation after too many reports of reckless endangerment and excessive violence. One more offense under Solomon’s watch and Grant was likely to lose his job. And how the hell did he have time to get into trouble? They’d only arrived in the nameless village the night before.

Sol shouldered through the villagers, his bounty’s prayers for mercy drifting toward him. The other two sinners stood resigned to their fates. They all had their hands bound behind their backs. Grant’s clothes were torn and bloodied in places, and his face looked no better. His blonde hair hung in chunks of dried blood and one eye was almost swelled shut. The fugitive looked even worse, but his clothes bore the added wear of running from the law for nearly a week.

Sol stopped just before the scaffold, not sure who held the power to stay the execution. Seeing the executioner reach for the lever that would bring them all to justice, Sol forgot his hesitation.

“Hold!” he shouted. The headsman paused, his expression unreadable beneath a dark hood. Sol followed his gaze as he turned to a woman seated at the other end of the platform.

She wore a thick fur mantle and bore a red stripe of war paint across her eyes. Her sable hair hung in thin braids ornamented by colorful beads. The moment she stood, the villagers stopped singing. Sol fumbled for anything to say, but the cold challenge in her eyes numbed his thoughts. She looked ready to rip his eyes out. Grant was the first to speak.

“Cutting it pretty damn close, aren’t you, Sol?” he spat. “You could’ve gotten me out of this a little earlier.”

“What the hell did you do, Grant? I turned my back for one minute, then you’re gone.” He shook his head disgustedly and ran his fingers through his ragged hair. This was exactly the kind of situation he hoped to avoid; Grant wasn’t supposed to cause trouble with him around. “What the hell did you do?”

“Enough!” the woman on the scaffold said. Her voice rumbled, silencing them both. Forcing a veneer of calm, she eyed Sol. “Who are you?”

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