The gallows’ faded wood plans beneath the weight of the two people walking up the steps. The entirety of Oxcreek had turned out for this hanging, already muttering under their breath. The witch had been caught casting a spell over the mines. The sheriff declared it devil magic, and she was jailed, to be hung. A week later, and the day had come.
Cassidy was near the front of the crowd, feeling uneasy. The witch, named Amelia, stared hard out over the crowd. Cassidy could see her honey-amber eyes glinting in the sun from where she stood, and it made her stomach roll. Whispered prayers and curses flit through the crowd as Amelia leered at them. Cassidy rubbed her hands over themselves. She hated hangings, but this - this felt horribly wrong, and she couldn’t place why.
The hangman, a brutish man named Harold Hayes, pulled the witch beneath the noose. Cassidy watched with mounting nausea as Harold slid it around Amelia’s neck and cinched it tight. Taking a step back, he sneered at her.
“You don’t even deserve last words, witch,” Harold spat, the townspeople booing and shouting slur at the witch, “but let’s hear it.”
Cassidy watched in a mix of horror and fascination as Amelia shot Harold a look of pure disgust, and spat at his feet. The crowd was in an uproar almost immediately.
“Kill her already! She doesn’t deserve to speak!”
”Kill the witch!”
The people revelled in Amelia’s impending death, and it made Cassidy sick to her stomach. Harold flashed a wicked smile to his fellows just as Cassidy leapt forward, gun in hand. Neither of them got to Amelia before an explosion of fire cocooned the gallows, sending Harold and Cassidy flying backwards from the charred wood. The rope around Amelia’s neck went slack as the hangman fell over, and she yanked it off with intent, sending a murderous glare towards her would-be murderer.
Harold let out a cough, a strangled noise emitting from him as he grabbed his throat and doubled over. Blood spurt from his mouth and nose, dripping onto the wood through his fingers as he dropped to his knees and keeled over. Dead.
Gasps and screams erupted from the townspeople, backpedaling away from the scene as Cassidy slowly sat up, the blast still burned into her eyelids. Amelia walked down the blackened steps, brushing ash and embers from her body. She stopped beside Cassidy, who was watching her with awe and trepidation.
Those honey-amber eyes looked Cassidy up and down, scrutinizing her carefully, lip slightly curled. When Cassidy didn’t flinch, the witch softened ever so slightly.
“What’s your name?”
Cassidy pulled herself to her feet, the swagger back in her movements as she stared this woman down, brushing her jeans off and matching the intensity of Amelia.
“Cassidy Williams. You’re the witch everyone’s been talking about.”
The dark-haired woman eyed the gunslinger. “And you’re the ex-leader of the Copper Snakes”
They observed one another for a long moment, before Cassidy stuck her hand out. “You need a place to stay, I’ve got a free room available. Just outside of the town, away from the mines.”
Amelia looked at her suspiciously. “If you’re looking for the reward on my head, that’s a shitty plan. I’ll kill you before you can even blink at me the wrong way.”
Cassidy blinked, then chuckled. “I’m not interested in turning you in. Had my fill of the ‘authorities’ around here.”
Amelia looked between Cassidy’s hand and her face, before shaking it slowly.
“Alright, gunslinger. I’ll take you up on that.”