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He rode out across the south pasture and into the woods near the creek. His horse blew vapor into the crisp air as he dismounted and walked off into the trees to a small clearing. Ice grass crunched under his boots. He piled wood, stacking it in layers four high, and made a fire in the center of it. Feeding it leaves and small twigs. He scattered sweetgrass, sage, cedar and tobacco over the fire. He took a twist of the herbs together, laying them on his knee, and took the medicine bag that Marcie had given him, and laid the whole package on the fire.

“I don’t know the name of this warrior, but Great Spirit I offer this to the elements hoping that it will find him in peace and serve him in his journey.” He spoke the words in Cheyenne as the medicine bag was Cheyenne design.

The medicine bag was sacred, given to the owner as a protection for that one person. In it were things that had come to the one warrior to guide him, to keep him safe from harm, to keep him aligned with his particular spirit guides. The only way a warrior was departed from his medicine bag was by force, death at the hands of an enemy. A warrior took his medicine to the spirit world with him.

He made tobacco offerings in the seven directions and piled more wood on the fire until it was nothing but a handful of ashes. Covering it over with snow and ice, he rode along the creek for some time, weaving in and out of the trees as he contemplated the questions Marcie was sure to ask.

Movement drew his attention as a rider came up the road. He watched from the tree line as the rider emerged from the shadows and a bay horse came across the field. It was a girl. Long blond hair wafted away in the chill wind. Katherine. Her family’s place lay just beyond the low ridge half a mile away. She waved as she caught sight of him, and he waited for her to draw closer.

“Merry Christmas,” she called.

“Same to you. Cold day for a ride.”

“I was coming from town. Pa was working, so I took him some dinner. I heard about all your business. You know how towns people are, and Pa gave us most of the stories. You are wilder than I had imagined,” she grinned.

“No wilder than you, I would hazard,” he smirked.

They talked for several minutes when he saw two riders coming from the ranch road. There was no mistaking Mark’s paint. Marcie followed on one of her bay mares. Katherine looked toward them and pushed her horse close to Tyree. Reaching out a hand, she put a hand on the back of his neck, weaving her fingers in his hair, pressing her lips against his.

He tasted peppermint candy on her mouth.

“No need for mistletoe. Have a Merry Christmas, Tyree,” she said as she rode on toward home.

“You too, Katherine.” He watched her for a minute and turned back to Mark and Marcie, only Marcie was gone. Mark raised his hands to his side as he looked back the way they had come. Tyree rode to meet him.

“Dang girls. They are so unpredictable. She begged me to ride out here with her, then she is cussing like a sailor and going back home,” Mark said.

“What’s she cussing about?”

“You. Used words I didn’t know she knew and I couple I ain’t never heard before. She’s loco.”

“Me?” Tyree asked in confusion. “What did I do?”

“Who were you kissing?” Mark asked him.

“Katherine… Aw, hell. She seen Marcie coming. That’s why she did that.” Tyree was already trying out apologies to Marcie for what she’d seen. He threw a few curse words after Katherine. Marcie never turned to look back as her horse kicked up puffs of snow. She was soon out of sight and he turned to Mark. “I didn’t kiss Katherine. She kissed me. Goddamn it.”

“Don’t tell me. I ain’t one planning revenge.”

“How the hell I get myself into this kind of shit? Damn women.”

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