Uther had been out in the pride lands with his father for some time, checking up on how things were going, and hearing any new rumors and news that had happened inside the pride recently. It was hard for him to keep a proper eye on things, like the movements of the Druids, if he was in the castle mountain all the time. So he had to come down, at the behest of his father, to see what was going on in the pride and take the time to show he was interested and active in putting an end to the turmoil and finding a way back to peace. Both Talfrid and Ygraine were constantly talking to Uther about peace, rather than war, and their influence was not lost on him. His temper was calmed and they had so far managed to keep him from snap decisions.
He was tired by the time they had walked back toward the castle, darkness spreading over the pride lands, and the Tokakinji denizens returning to their homes to sleep. He knew that more Druids would be coming out once the sun set, but so far no one had done too much to raise his ire. He would keep monitoring their movements, using his Knights as his eyes in the pride when he could not be there.
The mountain was quiet as Uther climbed up, and he knew immediately that something was wrong. Talfrid, walking beside him, sensed it as well, lifting his head and looking around curiously. He saw no one, which was not strange for a pride settling down for sleep, but very strange for a castle that was meant to be well guarded.
“Where are the knights?” The God asked.
“I do not know. They are not to leave their posts for any reason: when their shift ends, another Knight is already there to take over. There have never been so few. There are… none. This is not right.”
Uther growled and ran forward, leaving Talfrid to follow after him in surprise.
“Uther, do not be rash!”
But the King knew something was wrong. Something was terribly, terribly wrong, and the feeling only grew stronger as he ran into the castle dens and through the tunnels, toward the master chamber where he and Ygraine shared a den. It was dark, as it was wont to get in the tunnels at night, but his vision allowed him to see clearly enough. Talfrid hurried after him, though that fear that gripped Uther now settled in the pit of the God’s stomach, as well. There were no more guards anywhere in the castle, and they must have been sent off or worse. But what could have drawn them all away so completely? His mind turned with many possibilities, but he was an even tempered God who did not jump to judgements without evidence. Unlike Uther, who was fully prepared to determined what happened based only on what he saw.
And what he saw when he entered his den was more than enough.
The Queen was gone, though Uther knew she could not get up and walk around too much these days. She was too weak, and he left her in the den, to be comfortable and safe, with more than enough guards to protect her. Except now they were gone, and so was she. He moved forward, the intense smell of blood hitting him as he drew closer to the mass of pelts that served as their bed. His eyes glazed over as his mind shut down at the sight of blood. So much blood. It stained the pelts a strange, reddish brown color, and it was clear the blood had been there for some time. But not all of it had dried, some areas puddled too thickly to do so. He saw the cloth of a very familiar sort in the blood, pulling it out with one claw and holding it up. It dangled in his clutches, dripping globs of drying blood.
He dropped it and turned from the scene, moving passed his father slowly, silently, and leaving the den.
Talfrid had to hurry to investigate the scene, looking over the blood, knowing it had to belong to the missing queen. There was too much of it, and she had been ill at the time. Her ability to escape an attack would have been too severely diminished… whoever had gotten rid of the guards cleared a path directly to the Queen. And the cloth that had been left behind as a marker was all too clear to all of them. It was Morgana.
Ygraine’s own daughter, from another litter. Before she and Uther were able to find each other again, and return to the Tokakinji to rule together. But Ygraine had never held anything but love for her children, and it broke her heart when Uther cast them from the castle and branded them as outsiders. Druids, as their father had called himself. The start, she had always supposed, of Uther’s hatred toward them. And now Talfrid saw that anger consuming Uther as he walked away, as if the darkness of the night grew thicker around him because of it.
“Uther, wait! You cannot do anything now! We must find the guards and conduct a search of the pride. There is no body, only blood! You cannot assume you know what happened, and you cannot let your pain act for you! I know what you are thinking, I know how bad this seems, but trust me, we will find what happened to the Queen. If there is a chance to bring her home, we will do so! Uther, wait!”
Uther stopped, to Talfrid’s surprise, and he was able to catch up to the King and move to stand in front of him. He looked at his son and saw nothing but pain and terrible, quiet anger in his eyes. Whatever Talfrid had said to him, Uther only heard white noise.
“I am King of these lands,” he said in a dangerously quiet tone, “and I have not solicited your opinion on these matters.”
He moved by the God with that, and said nothing more, leaving the den. Talfrid watched him go, and heard a rumble from the sky beyond the stone of the mountain. War was inevitable. Talfrid would just have to try and keep it from consuming them all.
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