Path to the Throne (part XIII)

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The gathering consisted of me, Rick, Henry, and Martha. It didn't concern anyone else. They still lived here, they were my family, but it was those three who were there in the beginning, with my mother.

Princess Michelle. My mother. Mom.

I was so sorry that she had died, but alas. Any woman would die after giving birth to a half-demon—it's the law. We take too much of their strength, not leaving anything left to continue living. It wouldn't happen with a quarter-demon, the mother would live, but all half-demons were orphans. There were some exceptions, of course—incubi, vampires, all that riff-raff, but they weren't true demons, just low-level rabble. Michelle would never have chosen one of them as my father. No, she picked the strongest one. No matter how her friends tried to talk her out of that, she gave it her all. They knew Michelle's wish and funneled all their energy into her plan.

Rick was the one to speak up. "Alex, you are to visit the court in a year."

I nodded. That's what I loved about Rick; he never beat around the bush, he was always blunt. He had been so tired of pussyfooting around while serving his duke that he pulled no punches after leaving him.

"You need to decide what you want."

What did I want? To become a stronger necromancer than Rene. What else? Nothing, really. I liked my life as it was—which is exactly what I said.

The men exchanged glances. Martha took the floor. "Michelle wanted you to take the crown of Radenor."

I looked at Henry, at Martha, at Rick. "Uncle...why would I need the crown? Is our life here that bad?"

They exchanged glances once again. Rick asked me, "Alex, have I ever lied to you?"

I shook my head. I can even feel when a person is about to tell lies.

"Right. I could tell you a lot, and you'd believe me."

You wish...

"No irony, please. You're still young, and I'm good at wordplay. There are ways to tell the truth and make it worse than any lie."

He was probably right. Rick had taught me that as well—he had even complained that he had lost his touch, without anyone to practice it on.

"Which is why I have a proposal."

I held my tongue, waiting for him to continue, and he did.

"We've got an order for a big silver shipment. I want you to escort it with Henry. You will see the world, learn a few things, take a look at Radenor. And if you think that everything is all right in our country, I won't say a word—we'll leave for Miellen or anywhere else, let Rudolph and Abigail rule in peace. Agreed?"

I nodded. Why not? A promise didn't mean a marriage, as they say. At that time, I didn't know what I had agreed to.

Rick was right. After what I had seen in Radenor, I couldn't bear the thought of leaving my uncle in charge of the poor country. My only surprise after that journey was how people could tolerate that. What could make them rise up and stop this treatment? But that's a story for later...

***

Did I want the crown?

Yeah, right. A crown, a crow, and a crocodile—I had seen a picture of that in a book. Think big! I want it all! Funny.

I was brought up to know that the crown meant responsibility, and it didn't give you crap, it only took things away. But Rudolph and Abigail, they weren't king and queen, not really. Just children who had finally gotten their hands on new toys and played with them while stuffing their mouths with cake. And like most children, they were stupid, cruel, and clueless. But was that a reason enough to overthrow them? There had been worse rulers.

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