Ygraine lifted her head when she heard footsteps entering her den. The large castle mountain was carved deep into the rocks, and ran in tunnels through the entire mountain. There were many dens inside the castle, but none were as ideally located, warm or comfortable as that given to the King and Queen. It was furnished with furs and they made a very soft bed for the Queen, who had not been feeling well, to rest in. Her strength was fading, and she spent much of her time inside the den, away from the eyes and rumors of the Kingdom.

She looked around in wonder, as Uther had only just left and she was not expecting any visitors today. Her guards did not let anyone in that was not invited, and they had not called to her to announce the arrival of a visitor. She pushed her paws under her, shaking a bit as she got to her feet and turned toward the mystery visitor. When the lioness stepped forward, Ygraine stepped back with a surprised gasp.

“Afriti, what are you doing here? How did you get passed the guards?”

“How do you think a Goddess with the power to conceal her appearance got passed your guards? We are alone, to chat, my Queen, but don’t fear. I do not mean any harm. I am just here to talk to you.”

None of her words put Ygraine at ease, and she shook her head with a frown. She did, however, keep her calm, and was poised and composed as Afriti moved closer to her. Ygraine had no where to go, but she did not shrink back or hide herself, looking at the Goddess and taking a deep, even breath.

“Speak, then, Afriti. I hope, perhaps, you are here to speak about my daughter, and find a road to peace between our kinds?”

The Goddess laughed at that. Ygraine still had hope that Morgana was somehow as kind hearted and weak as the Queen herself was, but that was just not the case. Morgana had no intentions of working toward peace, wanting nothing more than to destroy the royal family and take her place on the throne, so to speak, and Afriti took a lot of credit for building that hatred up inside the Druid. Afriti delighted in causing such trouble, sending the whole pride into a whirl with rumors and threats of war growing stronger every day.

“No, nothing quite like that. Actually, I may have lied a bit, before, when I said I was here to talk. I often think actions speak louder than words, don’t you agree? I am here on behalf of the Druids, to take the first real step in starting this war and, of course, ending it. For the right side, our side. You, as you might have guessed, have something to do with that. Yes, I lied a lot, before.”

She grinned wickedly and growled, the sound echoing through the den, though it was not entirely empty. The large goddess moved closer to Ygraine, who realized quickly the danger she was in. She let out a cry for help and ran for the entrance to the den, trying to get passed the Goddess and hoping to be faster because she was smaller, but her weakened body did not allow her to run as fast as she wanted or needed. Afriti spread her massive wings and blocked her path, roaring loudly and without any fear. She charged and caught Ygraine in her front paws by the back of the neck, her teeth and powerful jaws clamping down in short order. The Queen screamed in pain and terror, crying out for Uther by name, begging her mate, her husband, to come and save her.

But he was not in the castle. No one was near enough to hear her screams. Afriti had made sure of that.

The Goddess threw Ygraine back against the far wall of the den as if she weighed nothing, the bloody and torn up Queen hitting the rocky wall hard and falling into the pile of pelts that made up her and Uther’s bed. Her blood quickly stained the furs, pouring out of her wounded neck and back fast enough to make her head feel light and the room spin around her. She could not get her paws under her, though she tried, immediately falling back down as she tried to bear weight on her legs. She was confused as to which way was up or down for a moment, and darkness bore down on the corners of her vision, an ominous threat.

“Afriti, stop this, you will destroy us all if you set us against one another!” Ygraine cried miserably, never wanting to see war. It was the only thing that caused arguments between her and her mate, though they loved each other far too much to ever stay mad. He was bent on war, but she was desperate for peace, and urged him to listen to her, to take her methods. And he tried. But she knew him, knew how deeply and passionately he felt his emotions. If Afriti succeeded here, and Uther found out, war would quickly engulf the pride. It would be bloody and terrible, as Uther’s need for revenge would guide him, and no one would be left whole in the wake of it. But that was what the Goddess of Villainy wanted.

Afriti pulled at a bandana she was wearing around her ankle, holding it out for Ygraine to see. She moved closer, dipping it in the blood that was pooling around the queen, then letting it fall into it. The cloth, Ygraine knew all too well, belonged to her daughter, Morgana. Not only was the Goddess pushing for war, she was aiming to frame Ygraine’s daughter for it, and the full wrath of Uther’s anger would fall on her.

“You monster…”

“Thank you,” Afriti said, watching as Ygraine struggled to catch her breath, and her eyes closed against her most profound efforts to stop them. She grew still and silent after a short, tense moment, and Afriti let out a triumphant laugh as she moved forward and sank her teeth into the Queen’s neck one more time, to ensure her plan came to fruition as she needed it to.

Word Count: 1,054 in Google Docs