The sun had not yet risen as Morgana reached the peak of the castle mountain. The large opening that led into the King's den stood before her, and she took a moment to catch her breath. Getting past all the guards had not been easy, but she had managed to sneak her way through and only had to fight and incapacitate one before she made it to the King himself. In a way, it was a startling lack of security, considering the Queen had been murdered in her den, but it soon donned on Morgana just why that was the case.
The King stepped out of the darkness of his den, growling. His eyes carried all the weight and darkness of his sorrow, the loss of his Queen twisting his heart into a cruel husk of what it once was. Without her to temper him, he let his anger and hatred rule over him. And thus, over the pride. The war raged on and on, with increasing orders for blood from him, calling for his knights and all the Tokakinji to kill and Druid they saw.
So many had died, on both sides, and Morgana had lost sight of her goals long ago. Now, all she wanted was an end to the blood shed. She had never imagined it going so wrong, never foresaw how terrible things would really become. All she wanted was a place in her home, and she always thought taking the crown would fix all her problems. The fight for that place in this land, though, had proven impossible. Particularly after she was framed for killing her own mother, the Queen of the pride.
She would never hurt her own family. Uther was no father to her, but Ygraine? Her mother had only ever shown her kindness, and urged Uther to do the same despite his bad attitude toward Druids. Outsiders. Her death had nearly torn them all apart, but none so much as the King himself.
Like a wraith, he moved toward her, heavy paws falling against the stone beneath them, making her tremble as they thudded in the silence. She took another breath, calming her heart.
"This must end, Uther," she said, as bravely as she knew how, "this is not what I wanted! Not what any of us wanted! This is a slaughter! The entire pride is going to rip itself apart if you don't stop it!"
"Then so be it," the King growled, eyes focused on the lioness he blamed for his pain and misery. His unending hatred toward the Druids. Once they were all dead, they would no longer be a problem.
Baring his fangs, the King charged at Morgana, not willing to hear her pleas. She had no time to even try to tell him she was innocent, at least of the one crime he held above all the others. She was forced to defend herself, but his attack was vicious. They fought until both were bleeding, torn and battered from claws and teeth, but Uther refused to relent.
Limping away from him, vision blurry from blood running from her head, Morgana yelled at him desperately.
"Stop! Uther stop! I didn't kill her! I didn't kill my mother!"
The King, breathing heavily and standing in a puddle of his own blood, snarled his response, charging at her again with renewed vigor simply because she dared to mention Ygraine. She screeched at him to stop, shutting her eyes and trying to defend herself from the powerful hit the was clearly coming her way. It did not land, though, and she looked up to see Uther growling at someone else. Turning her head, she spotted Afriti, the Goddess of Villainy, sauntering toward them. Her paws were bloody, and Morgana assumed she had not taken the subtle road up the castle mountain.
More loss, more death.
Afriti delighted in it.
"Look at you fools," she chuckled, walking near the two brawlers and circling around them leisurely, massive wings coiled against her back. Uther kept his eyes on her, knowing she was just as vital to the Druids as Morgana was, and likely just as responsible for Ygraine's death. Morgana knew better, though, realizing earlier on that Afriti was the one that killed the Queen, and framed her for the death in order to escalate the war and force all of their paws.
"You! You dare show your face?! I came here to ask for peace, but he will not listen to reason because of YOU." Morgana yelled. Uther gave her a sharp look, not liking that they were talking about him like he could not understand them. Angry though he was, he was still King. He looked at the Goddess, eyes blazing with anger and confusion.
"Yes, yes, I did kill the poor, innocent Queen. I took her from the pride, and from Uther's heart, because I knew what darkness it would lead to. Isn't that delightfully wicked?! You mortals are so pathetic, and so easy to manipulate. You fight each other for no reason beyond stupid pride and what you think you see: and then you look to us for answers to your problems. Pathetic! But so, so amusing. So much fun."
The Goddess of Villainy loved a good monologue, and watched Uther's face as he slowly realized just how he had been played.
"You killed my mate?" He snarled, incredulous, and Afriti laughed heartily. He voice carried on the air, full of nothing but malice. "You blamed the Druids, you used them. To what end? What could you gain from all this?"
"I just wanted to see you all die," Afriti said evenly, looking at the injured King and grinning broadly. He saw the flash in her eyes and moved to defend himself, but was too slow to stop the massive, powerful Goddess. She clawed him down his side, biting him and throwing him to the side with a laugh. He slid and tumbled down the cliff face, to the caves below. And his death, of that she was sure. She turned to Morgana then, who stared in wide eyed shock and horror.
"What's wrong, my dear? Isn't this what you wanted? The crown is yours now, isn't it? This pride is yours. A home for your precious Druids. However many are left. So take it. You've earned it." She grinned, and Morgana shook her head slowly.
"N-no, this is not... this is not what I... all this time, you were doing this to... to make this war. To see all of us fighting and dying... for nothing. All of this... all of this was for nothing!"
"Well that's not a very nice thing to say about the war so many of your lions died for. Lions you led to their deaths."
"Shut up!" Morgana leapt at the Goddess, though there was no way she would be able to defeat the powerful creature. She was swatted aside easily and landed heavily on her side, pain and a sharp, cold shudder moving through her body. She couldn't move, shocked and pained, the she struggled to gather herself as Afriti moved closer.
"I suppose you are not strong enough to rule this place. I will just have to kill you, too, and let everyone here destroy themselves in their anger, confusion, and hatred. Yes, I think that sounds rather lovely."
A shattering roar stopped her in her tracks, and she turned to see the God of Chivalry standing behind her, with a badly injured Uther draped over his back. He must have caught the fallen King, though that annoyed the Goddess of Villainy. Good guys always somehow managed to foil her plots, though she had done such a good job with this one.
"You're too late to help anyone, noble Talfrid. Why don't you just go back to pretending to be dead, hm?"
Talfrid carefully eased Uther off his back, stepping forward and forcing Afriti to back up from his sheer size and the power of his stance. She was not a brave warrior, like him, and used her plots and the wills of other beings to fight her battles for her. She watched him, though, snarling. Talfrid bent to Morgana, offering her a gentle, warm look.
"Are you alright?" He asked with an almost tender affection, and she looked shocked as he helped her up and guided her over to Uther. "Stay here. Take care of him, and yourself. I will handle this from now on. The both of you have a very long path ahead of you."
His words left her puzzling, but she did not have the ability to ask him about it now. She put her head down on Uther, who was breathing shallowly, and closed her eyes. Tears rolled down her cheeks, into his pelt, as she quietly told him how sorry she was. Talfrid turned from them, looking at Afriti again with a cold, calm anger.
"Leave this place, Afriti. You have succeeded in taking a King from his throne, but another has risen in his place. This pride was once mine to rule, and is so again. I am the true King of the Tokakinji, and as my son has become unable to rule in my stead, I take the crown once more. You are banished from these lands, under my order, and the uprising of the Druids is over. This war is over. There will be peace, and the bloodshed is hereto ordered to stop. There will be no more violence or death without meaning in these lands!"
Talfrid held his ground and the rising sun seemed to support his cause, lighting up the castle mountain first before spreading down to the lands below. Afriti watched him and growled at him bitterly. She could not beat a God with her usual methods, and had no intention of battling for a land she did not even really like. Her fun was over, for now, though she would never forgive or forget his interference here. As long as she existed, which would be for an eternity, there was always a chance for her to have her revenge.
"Enjoy ruling over skeletons and a river of blood, Talfrid. You waste your time with these pathetic mortals, but if that's what you want to do, then by all means. I've done all the damage I could here, anyway. I'll see you again sometime soon, hm?"
She smiled at him with false charm, winking before she took to the air and flew off into the clouds, though bitter anger clung to the back of her mind. Talfrid watched her go, then turned to the two fallen lions behind him. Mortals really were dangerous to one another, but he knew it was not entirely their fault. They both got lost in their anger, manipulated by a vile creature that took joy in their suffering.
He took a slow breath and looked out over the slowly waking pride. The road back from war was going to be a long one.