And his wife, his poor Redpalm, she could no longer work her wheel, could no longer make pots, so deep was her grief. Every day he came home to see her paler, thinner, more shadowed of eyes. All he could do was watch while she, too, was taken from him.

But now? But now with a protector like the Hunter, Jericho was a safe place, a place a child could grow without being taken. His wife was lively, and maybe, soon, they'd have another child to raise. Their family would grow, and with it, their joy.

Trip was happier than he'd ever been in his life, and remained so right up until the point where he was eviscerated by an unseen claw.

The Tower of Jericho stood tall above the flat-topped clay storehouses and homes of the city, rising above its grand walls to the height of the tallest trees. Standing there below the stars of the night sky, Clay could see the cooking fires of the city laid out below, and off beyond its walls, the occasional campfire of a traveler or hunter, on his way to, or away from, the gates.

Dawn stood by his side, watching silently. He was acutely aware of her body's heat even through the thickness of his lionskin pelt, returned to him without comment by the gate guard he'd bribed with it what felt like a lifetime ago.

"It's so peaceful." Her hand closed on his in the darkness. "I've never seen the city this way."

At first the height had made the hunter uneasy, but now his companion filled his awareness. "You've never been up here?"

"No," she said. "It is not forbidden but... as a girl I was encouraged not to. Father said it was unsafe."

"Safe is not the word I would use to describe the stairs we climbed to come up here."

"It has not been much repaired since the days of my father's fathers' fathers," Dawn said. "No one remembers what it was for anymore."

"Now it is for us. But Squint was right. We should get someone to repair it, the way is not safe."

She moved closer to him, pressing herself against his body. "Daughters are often attracted to what their fathers tell them is unsafe."

"You will be safe with me." Clay's mouth went dry as he put his arm around the shepherd. "I won't let anyone harm you again."

Her slender fingers found his arm. "I believe you."

"If I could convince your father of it..."

Dawn's laughter was musical. "You saved my life! Father sings your praises to the council."

Clay stepped away and turned towards her. "Saved. You are a Champion now. Your old life is over. Does he not understand?"

She pulled him back. "He understands that I yet live. That is enough for him. If you were to ask him for his daughter, he would not hesitate."

"You are no longer Dawn Spring the shepherd."

"Just as you are no longer Clay the hunter?" She rested her head against his shoulder. "I am stronger, but now Jericho is my flock. You continue to hunt those who would harm the people of our city, and I will protect them as I did my sheep."

Clay was silent, not entirely agreeing, not wanting to spoil their closeness with an argument. If Dawn did not recognize what she had said – that naming Jericho her flock placed her outside it, as a shepherd herself was not sheep – she would come to that understanding soon enough.

But the night was cool, and she was warm, and that was enough for now.

He changed the subject. "I have never heard of a clan with three Champions. You, me, and Mad."

Hero Historia: Jericho RisingWhere stories live. Discover now