One story relates how, while Nicholas was visiting a remote part of his diocese, several citizens from Myra arrived with the news that, in his absence, the ruler of the city, Eustathius, had condemned three innocent men to death. Nicholas set out immediately for home. Reaching the outskirts of the city, he asked those he met on the road if they knew what had happened to the prisoners. Informed that their execution was to be carried out that morning, he hurried to the executioner's field, where he found a large crowd of people and the three men kneeling with their arms bound behind them, awaiting the blow of the sword. Nicholas passed through the crowd, took the sword from the executioner's hands and threw it to the ground, ordering that the condemned men be freed from their bonds. Later the ruler sought the saint’s forgiveness. Only after a period of public repentance did Nicholas absolve him.
Icon image of the same scene: www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/3082304458/