The Mountain King

In my land there is a mountain that everyone is forced to climb. From my youngest days, I listened to the elders tell us of it. While other children wasted their time in play, I trained. Some, realizing they must one day face the mountain, trained physically but I was wiser. I knew many skills would be required to reach the summit. I learned to measure people. I toughened myself to endure pain. I studied the known trails. I reviewed the accounts of climbers who had failed, and resolved that I would not fall into the traps that felled them.

Finally my day came. We gathered at the base of the mountain. I could tell most were unprepared. I sneered at them. However, among the crowd I spied a few who shared my ambition. They were my rivals.

I pretended to race ahead, but doubled back to plant traps. Only when I knew my competitors had fallen did I set to scaling the face of the mountain. I armed myself with the gear I had collected for this day. It was light but strong, and I bent my head to the climb.

It took many hours, but eventually I reached the final barrier to the summit: a bare rock wall. I set my hooks and grabbed my ax. The wall was treacherous, but I was skilled. Already my head filled with my victory. I was soon to be the king of the mountain. In my distraction, my hand slipped. The next instant I was reeling backwards.

As my eyes flew heavenward, I saw a vision that mocked me. Standing there, only feet above, was the mountain king, crowned with glory. I screamed in defeat, until the rocks  smashed my bones. I lay broken, and waited for my death.

Then the mountain king appeared again. He bound up my wounds and pulled me onto his back. He fitted his crown on my head, and made the climb that had defeated me. At the top were other broken and defeated climbers. Each wore a crown.

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