The day had dawned cool and crisp as a cold wind blew down from the mountains causing strands of long brown hair to dance in the breeze. Today was the start of a brand new year and Vin had much to be thankful for.
As usual, he had ridden up into the mountains to welcome the new year. He would join the others later, for now he was taking some time to reflect on the past and the present, and contemplate the possible future.
Thankfully, the cave he had found was fairly warm, since he didn’t want to start a fire. It almost met the requirement of facing east. Patting Peso’s shoulder and getting a nuzzle of affection in return, Vin opened his saddle bags and pulled out a packet, as well as six doe hide pouches he had made over the last few months, tanning the leather until it was soft and supple and then sewing them together with care so that the seams would not come undone. These had to last a long time.
Next, he closed his eyes and said a blessing prayer over the bags, mentioning the people to be blessed by name. It had taken him three or four times and hours each time to come up with their names, but he had persevered and had them. He was pretty sure Chanu had been laughing about it, but Kojay had understood and helped as much as he could.
Each pouch had pollens from the air, pebbles from the earth, ashes from fire, and pieces of cress representing the water it came from. They were from each of the mountains surrounding the area to represent the four directions.
The bags had been filled and prayed over.
“Storm Cloud,” Vin said over the first one he shut, thinking about his brother in black as he said it.
The name fit Chris. In the same way that the storm brought life in the rain and death in the floods and lightening, Chris could and did bring life and protection to those in the town or death to those that threatened the people under his protection.
“One Who Burns Hot,” Vin closed the second thinking about the mustached rogue. Again, it fit well. Buck was a man of passions, love and hates both burning hotly in him. Thankfully he hated few, and did not have the smoldering hates like Chris. Buck would flare up hot and then pass just as hot.
“Long Thinker,” Vin said, over the third. Josiah was one that, unless alcohol was involved, would make certain that he had seen all sides before acting. He was not afraid to act, though. Vin enjoyed the long debates they had had over their different spiritual views. Josiah was one of few that did not seem to think that a white man trying to follow the Indian belief of balance was odd.
“Care Taker,” Vin intoned, giving Nathan’s name to his pouch. He knew Nathan to be a devout Christian, but was fairly certain that he would not be offended at the gift. Nathan’s name, like the others, fit him well. If someone was hurt and in need, he just had to help. Even Conklin, complaining the whole time about his darkie doctor, had been ministered to when his broken arm had to be set.
“Prankster,” Vin smiled as he said it. How well that fit Ezra. Prankster, not in the way of one that plays jokes, but more in the way of one that tricks people. As cons were the ultimate tricks, so Ezra was the supreme prankster. Chris was the one he was closest to, but oddly, Ezra was often the one who understood him best, and that he understood.
Vin picked up the last one. “Bright Light.” He laughed again, just as he had when it had come to him. As with the others, he focused his thoughts on the young, exuberant, somewhat naive, open book youngster in the group. JD was, and would always be, JD. He was growing up fast, as one had to out here, but had not lost any of his love of life and people. Vin wondered if the kid knew just how important he was in keeping the others from getting hard, cold, and cynical?
Gathering the six medicine pouches, the Texan, mounted up and rode back down to the awakening town. The others would be sitting down to breakfast about the time that he arrived.
Half an hour later, he rode into town, nodded to Tiny and tended to Peso, released him into the corral with the other horses.
Stepping into the saloon, he saw that there was a place waiting for him in the back corner table that the regulators had claimed more or less as their own.
Nodding in response to Chris’s nod of greeting, Vin took his place next to the blond.
Inez brought over a salsa covered egg and ham bake.
Vin thanked her and tucked into the treat.
Finished, he handed them their respective pouches.
“Thank you, brother,” Josiah smiled, hanging his around his neck.
“Cool!” JD exclaimed instantly putting it on.
“Nothing in here will interfere with the ladies?” Buck asked him feigning nervousness as he also put his on.
“Don’t know, They're for protection, so I guess if she was gonna stab you for something it might cause a problem,” Vin grinned.
“Better give them all two,” Nathan teased, but also donned his.
“Thanks,” Chris said, grinning that his had been colored black.
Ezra gave him a two fingered salute, “I am truly touched.”
They all grinned as it was a five minute process for Ezra to get his around his neck and under his shirts, whereas the others had had it done in seconds.
“Thinkin’ about how you lot are, I’ve gotta’ ask. These ever wear out?” Nathan asked.
“Mine’s kept me alive,” Vin pointed out.
“Well, here’s to a healthy year,” Josiah offered a toast.
They all clinked coffee mugs in agreement.
It was a good note on which to start the year.
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