Huntress in the Snow
What if Rhys had met Feyre back when she was still a little girl, alone in the woods and hunting for her family? Inspired by this beautiful work of art, here’s the hypothetical meeting between an abused, tired Rhysand and a tiny Feyre.
Rhysand rarely leaves Amarantha’s court Under the Mountain.
He rarely leaves her bedroom, for that matter. Life is just a frenzy of lies, sex, dancing, drinking, hatred and torture these days and he has long given up on making his existence bearable. He doesn’t really care anymore.
He doesn’t care for the stares they give him, the names. He doesn’t care for those pitying glances. He doesn’t care when Amarantha is straddling him, using him, her fingers pulling his hair.
Spring Court is covered in masks right now, but Rhysand might as well be wearing one, too. He doesn’t recognize himself in the mirror anymore. He murmurs things in her ears, he lies, promises, he kills on her behalf, he smirks and laughs and betrays, and he isn’t sure he can ever get back from that.
He’s doing it for Velaris and his beloved ones. That is what he tells himself, over and over and over again, when he’s buried inside her or when he snaps someone’s neck. It’s the only reason he’s still holding on. Velaris. Mor. Amren. His brothers. His court.
Court of Dreams. It’s like a bitter joke, ashes in his mouth. He doesn’t know if he will ever see them again. Doesn’t know if he wants to- after what he’s done.
He probably won’t ever see them again. This nightmare will never end.
Life is miserable. Rhys doesn’t care.
With the way things are developing right now, his old enemy Tamlin is going to join them in a few years- 42 years have passed and that fool, that idiotic fool hasn’t managed to break the curse. If he realizes that he could save them all, Rhysand doesn’t know. Perhaps Tamlin is just trying to protect those he loves as well. Perhaps he’s trying- perhaps he’s fighting.
Perhaps he’s not.
Rhysand doesn’t care.
He also doesn’t care that Amarantha sends him to the human realm today. To find a group of fae from Dawn Court that have escaped; find them, bring them to her, watch her torture and kill them and fuck her afterwards. It’s nothing to him. He’ll play his part. He’ll be urgent and passionate- I’ve been aching for you, my queen, my everything, woman of my dreams- only you, only ever you- he’ll make her scream his name and kiss her afterwards.
All the while, he’ll be somewhere else. He’ll be talking to Amren, quietly. He’ll be drinking with Cass and Azriel, playing cards. He’ll be dancing with Mor. He’ll be walking through the streets of Velaris.
That’s the only thing he has. And even those memories are further and further away from him with each passing day. Rhysand is afraid that he’ll wake up some morning and find that there’s no fight left inside him- that he’ll just give up.
He looks around.
He’s in a forest, close to the wall. It’s spring, but snow still covers the trees and the ground. He will encounter no humans here- none of them would be so foolish, so daring to get this close to the wall. He sits down next to a stream, closes his eyes and just doesn’t think. A few, scattered moments of peace- he takes what he gets.
Just a few moments. Then he’ll hunt those poor bastards down.
Feyre is twelve, and she’s been roaming this forest for a year now. She’s been following the village’s hunters; copy the way they set their snarls, carry their bows. She has a dream: she’ll hunt so much food her father will get better again. Nesta and Elain will get fatter, rounder, and they will both find very handsome men to marry. Then it’ll be Feyre and her father, and she’ll hunt for him while he reads at home, and in the evening, she’ll cook for him and paint a little.
So far, she hasn’t ever shot anything bigger than a rabbit, and that one time was on accident. The snarls are what works better.
Nesta turned fifteen yesterday. Feyre knows her sister has hoped their father would say something, but he has forgotten all of their birthdays. Nesta has looked like murder all day long. Elain tried to talk to her, but she locked herself in their room.
Elain and Nesta are very sad, Feyre knows that. They remember more of their mother and they talk about her sometimes, exchanging bits and pieces of who she used to be. In the beginning, right after they moved into the little hut at the village’s edge, they tried to be there for her- but they have too much to worry about, now. They never even play with each other. They don’t thank her when she brings food home.
Feyre makes her way through the trees. She must always stay away from the wall- dangerous creatures are there, fae. She’s so afraid of them she has nightmares sometimes.
But today, some inner voice tells her that the wall is not dangerous. That no fae will hurt her. And almost by themselves, their feet make her walk closer and closer to the buzzing, invisible thing that separates their human world from the fae.
When she comes onto a clearing, she sees a man. He is sitting on a fallen tree branch next to a river and his head his lowered, almost as if he were praying. He doesn’t carry weapons, but his clothes are fine and elegant- he must be a rich merchant, lost in the woods.
Perhaps she’ll get a reward if she leads him out of here. Curiosity gets the better of her. “Are you okay?”, she calls over to him, and that is the exact same moment he looks up and meets her eyes.
It knocks the breath out of her. He’s a fae. His ears are long and pointed, and there is something otherworldly in his features that marks him as different.
This is it. She is going to die. Nesta and Elain and her father will starve because she’s not there anymore. How could she be so careless, hunting so close to the wall?
The man takes in her unwashed hair, her threadbare clothes, her make-shift bow. “You should not be here”, he rasps. “You should run.”
Feyre tries to be a still as she can be. The man doesn’t get up, doesn’t come closer. As if he knows that she’ll start screaming if he does.
“Go”, he commands, angry. “Don’t ever come here again. Understand me? Don’t go into the forest at all. Stay at home.”
And she should do just that, run until she’s far away from him, but…
“I have to”, Feyre says. “I have to hunt.”
“No, you don’t. A small girl like you should stay with her family.”
“You don’t understand.” She steps closer, her bow still ready in her hand. “My family will starve if I don’t. I am doing all of this for them.”
The man breathes in, sharply, and she swears that she sees devastation in his eyes. “What?”
“My father can’t take care of us.” Why the words are spilling from her mouth like that, Feyre doesn’t know. “And my sisters are scared. I have to be strong, even when I’m afraid- for them.”
The man stares at her.
“Are you going to hurt me?”, Feyre asks. She tries to hide that she is scared of that fae. She tries to pretend that she could shoot him, if she wanted.
He shakes his head, slowly. “Of course not.”
“What are you doing here, then? Shouldn’t fae be on the other side of the wall?”
The man smiles a bitter smile. “Usually, we should. But I…was allowed a little freedom today.”
“Are you a hunter, too?”
He closes his eyes. “I suppose.”
“Then you’re a little bit like me.”
“Well.” He laughs. “Not really. But I am doing this for my family, too. All of this.”
Feyre doesn’t know why, but for some strange reason, it makes her very happy that the man has a family. That he’s not alone.
“That’s good”, she smiles. “You should go be with them, not sit in the forest by yourself.”
He nods. “You’re right, of course. As should you.”
Feyre steps as close to him as she dares. The fae is very pretty, she realizes. All the older village girls would probably be in love with him. But he looks sad, she thinks, and she doesn’t know why, but it makes her heart ache a little. She wants him smiling.
“Here.” The fae nods his head and suddenly, a basket filled with bread and meat appears in the snow. “Take that home to your family. It should give you enough food to eat for the next few weeks. I can’t- I wish I could do more. But my hands are quite literally tied.”
“Is this some sort of trick?”, Feyre asks. “Some bargain? Some fairy magic?”
The fae shakes his head, a flicker of amusement on his face. “No bargain, little girl. Although I’m impressed you’re already so wary for your age.”
Feyre picks up the basket. This is better than the time she shot the rabbit. This is all of her birthdays combined. “Thank you- what’s your name?”
“Rhys”, he says, looking at his hands. “That’s what my friends call me.”
“That family you told me about?”
“Yes”, Rhys says softly. “My family.”
Feyre smiles at him. It comes so easy, the smile- because something deep inside her core tells her that she doesn’t need to be afraid of him. And she trusts that. “Thank you, Rhys. Your family is lucky to have you. You just saved mine today.”
He still looks so very sad. “Then that’s something”, he says hoarsely. “Before you go- one thing.”
And suddenly there are talons in her head, and she can’t move anymore.
“It’ll be over in a few moments”, Rhys says. “But I can’t let you remember me. She’ll find out, somehow. She’ll break you just for fun.”
Some white blanket is thrown over her mind, and the next second, Feyre finds herself alone in the woods.
What just happened? Why is she here?
Oh, yes- she remembers- the rich merchant who she met on her way here showed mercy and handed her the basket-
What on earth is she doing so close to the wall?
Feyre turns around and runs. Today is such a good day. She feels happy, not just because of the gift…but because of something else.
And maybe she can get through all of this.
Maybe she’ll find a way out of this someday.
Rhys has never done something like this, but he forces himself to forget her. He pushes her image into the very, very back of his mind, he uses his magic on himself and forces himself to forget about that girl in the snow, that tiny, little huntress.
Because for some reason, he knows that she is important. For what, he doesn’t know. But he’ll do what it takes to keep her hidden from Amarantha.
It makes him cry out in pain to use those talons on himself, but-
Rhys finds himself standing somewhere in the forest.
Why is he still here? He should go- hunt those Dawn fae down.
There’s a weird feeling of goodness in the back of his mind. Of happiness. And he remembers- that those he loves are out there. That somehow, someday, he’ll see them again. That there is a reason for everything.
He feels hope, and he doesn’t know why.
I have to be strong, even when I’m afraid- for them, whispers a voice inside his head. He knows who said it-
He can’t remember. But that feeling lingers.
That night, when Amarantha is on top of him, moving and moaning about how good this feels after a kill, all he can think is the clock is ticking, you bitch. You’ll go down soon. Someone will come and end you.
When she leaves him, he showers and washes her scent off him. Someone is out there, he thinks. Someone good. This world is not completely lost. And for some reason, he cares again. Cares about what happens. Cares about who wins. Suddenly, he wants to fight.
That night, he has the strangest dream. It’s a hand, unpacking a basket full of bread, apples and meat. A small hand; a child’s hands. But it makes him so inexplicably happy he thinks about that dream for days.
A few years later, when Rhysand has long forgotten about everything, he dreams of that same hand again.
Only this time that delicate, female hand is drawing flowers on a table.
And something inside Rhysand whispers, soon.