Path to the Throne (Part VII)

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We found the silver deposit by pure chance. Every once in a while, Henry took Tom and me for a mountain stroll, to hunt and build up our stamina. We took some supplies, climbed mountains, trained, and got back after five days, tired, dirty, sweaty, but completely content. This time, it was the same.

I love the mountains. They are eternal. I'd like to think they have been standing here for thousands of years and will last thousands more, with their sharp peaks piercing the sky's heavy underbelly. I'll be gone, as will my children, and the mountains will still be laughing while tearing the skies apart, as centuries pass by, leaving them untouched in their haughty splendor.

Their beauty is oppressive, unfettered, untamed, and I feel as if I'm a part of them so strongly that sometimes, I forget myself. Like that time. In many ways, it was my fault.

***

"Alex! Where are you going again? Come back, or I'll box your ears!"

I bent over on a rocky ledge and made a face at Henry. Why was he threatening me? Didn't he know I could climb mountains like a lizard? He had taught me himself! I could also use daggers and hooks and tie knots, not to mention I had claws. They allowed me to catch hold even of a bare cliff. No point in yelling! So what if I got ahead of them and climbed a bit higher?

Wasn't I already six? I was an adult! I just wanted to have some fun sometimes!

"No, you won't!"

"Why'd you think that?" Henry was surprised. And Tom stuck out his tongue.

"Because you love me and take pride in me!" I said, triumphant.

Henry couldn't keep himself from smiling.

"Get down, our pride! Or I'll box them for real!"

Trying to devise a way to climb down as gracefully as possible—I didn't want to simply slide down—I turned around on the ledge and, watching from an unusual angle, got a good look at the nearest mountain. The sun moved a bit, shadows changed, and a spot on the cliffside turned out to be a cave. How could I refrain from exploring it?

That's what I told Henry. He didn't waste time thinking. In many ways, he was still a young boy.

"I'll climb to you with Tom. Is there enough space?"

"You bet!"

The platform was big enough to hold not just the three of us, but two more people. I fixed a rope to the nearest ledge, pulled at it, tested it with all my weight so it wouldn't tear, and threw it down. Henry and Tom soared up as if they had wings. Henry winked at me.

"Show me the cave."

I pointed at it.

We had all the things we needed: ropes, a piece of chalk, torches. Our water supply had recently been refreshed—we were hiking in the mountains, after all, not in a royal park.

In fifteen minutes, we delved inside the cave. Ten minutes later, I stopped to inspect a few pretty sparkling rocks. Henry saw them too.

"It's ore of some kind. We should take some to test it. Let Rick take a look."

We chipped off a few pieces and took them with us. The ore turned out to be silver, and quite pure, too. The cave was a natural deposit. After the villagers realized the potential profits, they started working shifts. We had to work a lot before Rick arranged to transport ore to the plains, and even more before we built the first foundry and a small mint.

It allowed Rick to pay merchants with our own coins. Nobody forbade nobles to issue them, yet even in that, Rick did everything he could for me. Our coins looked exactly the same as the king's, but instead of Rudolph's half face, ours had three letters—ALR—Alexander Leonard Radenor. Me—my full title, Alexander Leonard Radenor, Duke of Altverin and Rwayne, youngest heir to the throne of Radenor.

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