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The Strange White Man 43

Back in Sinking Wells: The blacksmith known as Stiles had made great strides with his training. He could ride and rope with the best of the cowboys and his skill with the knife, bullwhip and pistol were better than average. He was considered a loyal and hardworking employee by the owner and was liked by the local folks.

He would occasionally request a few days off to attend to family business and his employer always granted these requests. What the owner of the blacksmith shop didn't know was that Stiles had no family.

He would hear stories from the visiting cowhands about sightings of ghosts, attacks on the townsfolk and strange newcomers to the territory that were never seen in the daylight. He would ask many questions about what he had heard and then list the towns mentioned on a sheet of paper.

If he heard another story about a certain town he would place a X next to the name. Three or four X-marks meant that it was time to pay that town a visit, that's when he would request some time off. Stiles would take a trip to that town and spend the days hunting and destroying dozens of the walking dead or vampires and their confederates.

Mr. Kilgore was advised of these killings via telegraph followed by letters and clippings from local newspapers. Money would be sent to him within a week and it was hidden among the personal belongings in his room. He would not use the bank as he didn't want anyone to know his business.

Each night he marked off the passing day on a calendar in his room. Before he fell asleep he went over his plans of returning to Springwood and having a final confrontation with that dance hall girl.

"Undead whore, this time the Sheriff and your man will not save you," he said to himself.

Meanwhile back in Springwood: Carpenter had left Marcus some special instructions about arranging a meeting between himself and one of the merchants.The little town had grown since the railroad arrived and it boasted more shops and boutiques than ever before. The merchant agreed to Carpenter's demands and a message was left for him.

The following evening Carpenter and Holly hitched up the buggy and went into town. He asked her to wait at the Cactus Flower as he had an appointment to keep of a personal nature. He rejoined her a few minutes later and took a seat opposite her.

"Holly, I have something important to discuss with you," he said.

"What about?"

In the time it took her to blink Carpenter was on the floor on bended knee and a small jewelers box was in his hand, inside was the most beautiful diamond ring she had ever seen.

"Holly, would you marry me?" he asked.

Holly struggled not to cry as it would have sent crimson trails down her pale cheeks.

"Yes, I'll marry you," she answered. He then placed the ring on her finger and she threw her arms around his shoulders and kissed him.

Holly ran to the bar to show off the ring to her friends who all squealed with delight at the sight of it and hugged and kissed her. The bartender was so happy for her that drinks on the house were offered and everyone toasted the happy couple. The celebration lasted until around 2:00 am before they headed back to the ranch.

Alone in the buggy she admired the ring and allowed herself to weep tears of joy and was not concerned by the blood tears they produced. She hooked her arm through Carpenter's and kissed his cheek.

"We have a lot to discuss," she told him.

"Such as."

"Who are we going to get to marry us?" she asked.

"Brother Sebastian can to it. He is after all a Monk."

"OK, Now what will I call you as I can't keep calling you Carpenter in public? How did you come up with such a name anyway?"

"I really don't remember. My given name is Karl though I have gone by many names over the years and have forgotten most of them. It's something that I hope to discover in my sessions with the Monk," he answered.

"Karl it will be then.Now the big question is when and where do you want to do it? We can't exactly walk into a church in broad daylight now can we?"

"I was thinking around the Fall harvest unless you have a better idea," he stated.

"Carpenter, as long as I am marrying you I don't care where or when," she answered, kissing him again.

The following evening Carpenter visited the Monk and before they began he informed him of his decision to marry Holly and Brother Sebastian was happy for him.

"An immortal life is made easier with someone you love at your side," he told him.

Carpenter took his seat and allowed himself to be paced under hypnosis again and his mind was sent back to the early days of his rebirth. He found himself once again in the wizard's lair again waiting for his old mentor to appear. He found another pile of books that the Felsar had selected for him and began to read.

Despite being engrossed in the pages of his current selection he heard the secret door swing open and his friend's soft footfalls.

"You are up early," he said to the young Prince.

"I was unaware that there was a certain time for me to awaken," he responded.

"Blame those volumes I have read for my ignorance. They all state that the undead do not appear until very late at night."

"What time is it now?" the Prince asked.

"The Sun has just set, Sire."

"Felsar, you above anyone else do not need to address me as Sire or Prince."

"As you wish. It twill be most difficult for me to call you by your first name," Felsar responded.

"What have you learned from the outside world?" Carpenter questioned.

"The prime minister is due to officially ascend the throne tomorrow. He does this with the blessings of the priests and the townsfolk."

"Albert will make a fine ruler. He was one of Father's oldest and dearest friends long before he became adviser," Carpenter added.

"The coronation is scheduled for tomorrow and the feasting will last for a fortnight," Felsar said with a grin.

"Any news of the Princess?" he asked.

"She will stay here for the summer as the surviving ladies-in-waiting are lonely," Felsar responded with hesitation in his voice.

"What's the problem old friend?"

"It seems that prime minister has taken a liking to her."

Carpenter felt a rush of jealousy course through his being, "He is too old for her and she will never consent to marry him."

"Maybe not him, but it's bound to happen. She is young, beautiful and very lonely since your passing."

This is maddening. I have desires and longings to be with her that must go unfilled because of this existence I am now forced to live."

"That is why the state of being undead is called a curse," Felsar offered.

"I am going to see the Princess tonight," he informed the wizard.

"Have a care young Sir. If discovered it would not bode well for all concerned."

"I will old friend."

Later that evening Carpenter saw himself waking in the secret passageways to the room that the Princess occupied. He carried no torch to light his way as his eyes saw everything. Outside the secret door to her room he stopped and concentrated his hearing to ensure the room had only one occupant.

He entered and silently approached her bed, and again found himself mesmerized by her beauty. He softly called her name and she awoke. Upon seeing who it was she threw herself into his arms. The coolness of his touch no longer frightened her and she hugged him as tightly as she could.

He whispered that they should go out onto the balcony to be sure no one passing the door to her room would hear them. Alone in the balmy night air they hugged and kissed each other over and over again.

"I hear you are staying here for the summer?" he asked.

"Yes I am," the Princess answered as the smile left her face and she released him from her embrace and turned her back to him as she crossed her arms in front of her.

"Is there a problem?" he asked.

"The prime minister has taken a fancy to me. He has been sending me poems and letters almost everyday and he personally asked me to stay and attend the coronation and sit at his side. I think he wants me for his Queen," she responded turning her head over her shoulder.

The Princess saw that her Prince was struggling with a response so she placed her arms around him again.

"I will not marry him as he is too old in body and spirit for me," she informed the Prince.

She was rewarded by a large smile and a tighter hug.

"As long as Father doesn't order me to wed all will be well," she concluded.

"What if he does?" the Prince asked.

"Then I will have to obey," she responded and once again the smile left her face.

"You could refuse the order and we could run away together."

"Where will we live and how will we survive?" she asked.

"We could live where ever you want. As for surviving, I have a king's ransom hidden away that will keep us supplied for many years," the Prince responded.

"Truly?"

"Aye. But could you live with me in this condition? I cannot venture out during the daylight hours lest the rays of the Sun destroy me," he held her at arms length as he said this.

"It would be a small price to pay," she answered kissing him again.

She returned to her bed and he waited until she was asleep before he exited the room. It was not that he did not trust her with this knowledge, but if she was forced to ever reveal his secret she would not have the knowledge. He then headed to his old room to recover some more clothes and the secret stash of gem stones that he had hidden there.

He returned to the wizard's lair and posed a question to his friend.

"Is there a secret door to the treasure room?"

"Aye, but have a care. The room always had two guards posted outside its doors," Felsar answered.

"Can you show me how to reach it?"

"Of course young Sir," he responded as he grabbed a torch.

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