Path to the Throne (Part V)

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I think you've already guessed which boy the princess wanted to bear. That's right, a half-demon. Me.

It took two moons for Michelle to reach Torrin. All this time, Martha, Rick, and Henry were trying to dissuade her from her plan. They were too late. Michelle had already set her heart upon that idea as if a flame was burning inside her—a scary, black, mad flame. She had chosen her path and had no intention of changing her mind. In response to all their questions, she simply shook her head. Only once, she gathered her friends and told them her mind.

"You think me mad? You're wrong. I hoped you would understand everything yourself. Rick must, even if not quite. And yet it's simple. What do people think about me right now? That I'm a criminal, acquitted by her own father—a kinslayer, an arsonist, a witch. Abigail and her entourage made sure of that. Rudolph trusts her as if the Bright Saint himself sent her down to earth. And what awaits me after Father's death? That's right. A convent, marriage, or death. Finding a good match is unlikely; Abigail will take care of that. Actually, she already did. My reputation is in shambles. And what's left? A convent? I'd rather die—but in such a way that everyone would remember me for years. So, what's the most important thing for Rudolph and Abigail? Well?"

"The crown," replied Rick calmly. He got it.

"Exactly. The crown and everything it entitles them to. Not the work, no. Balls, jousts, hunting parties, gilded gowns, comely court whores and gigolos—that's the height of their ambition. Not mine, though. But Father cannot leave me the crown and bypass Rudolph. Martha, dear, I would have asked you to hex him, but I know there is no point. They would dispel it."

"They wouldn't."

"Forgive me, darling, but I do know the limits of your power. You're not the strongest necromancer in the world. You would need a lot to cast this curse, and it would only work much later. Rudolph would have enough time to get to me, and Abigail..."

"I could hex 'em both, if I'm lucky."

"I don't mind. But it should be something...not fatal, but quite unpleasant and natural. Could you? Ill health, or..."

"Infertility," Henry suggested smoothly. "I would obtain everything necessary, like clothes or hair..."

"Hair. Or a handkerchief with her snot, a few drops of blood, w'ever you want. Even a nail clipping. I'll manage."

Martha remembered very well how Rudolph had wanted to burn her at the stake, and necromancers have long memories.

"Great. But that's not enough," Michelle tossed her hair. Was it white or grey? "Martha, I want to give birth to a half-demon."

"Wha-at!" that was Martha.

"How!" Henry asked.

"Why!" Rick asked. He was the only one who understood.

"I need a child with inherent intelligence, yet cruel. A predator. You think I don't realize what's going to happen to this country? Rudolph is an idiot. While he's the king, everything will get stolen, and his children will be the same as him. In a few generations of such kings, Radenor will be torn apart, which is why I want my son to become king. I've researched half-demons. They're born cruel—and with a commanding presence. As for the rest, his upbringing will depend on you. Rick will teach him to rule. Henry, to fight. Martha, your task will be the hardest one, sister."

"Michelle, I—"

"Don't. You are more than a friend to me; you're my sister. But it's not the time for tears. My son will likely be born a necromancer. You will have to teach him, and more. I want you to take my place for him, so he won't grow up a feral beast. He needs a mother, and I'll be gone. You'll be the only one left. You will have other children, but never forget Alex, all right? He has to learn about love."

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