The doe-eyed deer stares back at me. Her large, brown eyes look as though they are peering into the inner depths of my soul. The gaze penetrates through the cracks of the wall I have built up in my mind since we left Under the Mountain. The walls that are blocking the guilt that threatens to seep through the fissures from the darkest corners of my conscience. The faces of the two Fae I had killed, their expressions before my knife struck home, relay through my mind whenever I am alone.
The bowstring makes a hushed stretching noise as I pull it past my ears and I angle my chin upwards, causing my lips to lightly brush against the fine texture of the string. I switch off all the background noise; the tweeting of merry birds high up in the willow trees and the rushing of water from a stream nearby. All I focus on is the deer frozen in position and staring straight back at me. The innocent gaze is torturing me and I let out a quick rush of breath as I exhale and the arrow goes soaring through the fresh spring air. A thud echoes throughout the forest clearing and I trudge my way to the body allowing the sounds of wildlife to flood back through my ears.
She's a pretty thing. Her white speckled coat is glossy in the sunlight that streams through the clearing of the willows overhead. Its fur is bronze and soft and the light picks out the golden highlights that weave through it.
Just like the colour of my hair.
It's been nearly a month since we left the old sacred mountain and the Spring Court has been thriving with festivities in honor of Tamlin and the restoration of the court. Houses have been filled; laughter replaces the solitude silence that used to hang over the expanse of the spring lands. It's strange when everyone around you is happy and joyous and your not. I want to be there for Tamlin, and I am. But it is only Tamlin and Lucien who notice my unusual silence and my withdrawn expressions during social occasions. Tam is worried; I catch him staring at me when my laugh is perhaps a little too delayed when someone cracks a joke at a gathering. He stays quiet though, knowing that he needs to give me some space and that approaching the matter will only make me more upset.
Sighing, I cross the last few steps towards the deer and reach down to remove the arrow from her neck. However, I pause suddenly and stare at the spindling black markings that wind their way up to my elbow, looking like a lace glove. The pattern of thorns and flowers decorate my tanned arm and circle around it. No members of the Night Court have been present at the spring festivities and there has been no word of Rhysand either. The month is nearly up and Rhys has not yet sent for me to uphold my end of the bargain we made Under the Mountain. I take my lips between my teeth and subconsciously chew, deep in thought. Where is Rhysand? And what in the world did he see on my face that night that made him stumble?
As if answering my thoughts, I suddenly notice a presence that was not in the clearing before I shot the deer. The familiar tug that comes from my hand forces me to turn around and my gaze slowly inches upwards.
Rhysand stares at me and a half-smile tugs at the corner of his sensuous lips. He leans against a trunk of a tree, relaxed and composed with not a care in the world. His violet eyes bore into mine and warmth spreads throughout my lower stomach and sets me tingling. My heightened senses note the calm rate of his breathing and my own picks up as he runs his eyes down my form lazily. Finally his eyes meet mine again.
"Feyre, darling. I'm sorry for interrupting your little hunting trip, but I believe we both have a place to be." A knowing look accompanies his caress of a voice, low and erotic.
I try and throw all of my fire into the glare I give him which results in him letting out a breathy chuckle at my stubbornness. "I'm not going." I say, and clench my jaw as he saunters over until he is staring right down at me.
"But I believe we had a deal. Do I need to recall the terms for you?"
"No," I reply trying to settle my pulse at his nearness, "One week every month at the Night Court. That was the bargain."
"Indeed. And I have come to collect your end." An amused smile spread across his handsome features. The sunlight casts a glow on his high cheekbones and contrasts against his now tanned dark facial features. "Come." He sweeps his arm outwards in a graceful gesture signifying me to walk with him. Reluctantly, I leave the fallen deer behind.
"Do I need to get anything? I should go and tell Tam-"
"That won't be necessary." Rhys smoothly interrupts, "Everything that you shall need awaits in the Night Court. As for Tamlin…" I eye him suspiciously and raise an eyebrow and my mouth opens about to ask him a question but he simply gives me one look and my mouth shuts.
Darkness surrounds us and through it I see a whorl of gold and silver stars that glitter over a beautiful white palace set on top of a high mountain. " The Night Court awaits." Rhys calls and the breeze of a summer night and magical spread of a thousand lights envelope me and everything goes black.
The rustling of papers and tap of my nails on the polished wooden desk resounds throughout the small study. Things have been busy since Amarantha's death and lots of chores need to be made. Groaning, I arch my back to relieve myself from crouching over the table and make my way over to the windows that look out on the sprawling green gardens of my manor. My muscles loosen and I lean against the wall looking at the edge of the forest that encompasses the house. Feyre went hunting today and hasn't been back for a couple of hours and I kept finding myself turning towards the forest and waiting to see her immerse from the clearing whilst laboring over schedules and letters from the other high lords of Prythian earlier today.
About to inquire one of the servants on her whereabouts, Lucien enters, his red hair streaming behind him as he warily makes his way into the study. He seems to be holding back from saying something and I immediately know something is wrong. "What is it?" I demand and I curse myself over the underlying quiver of my voice and cover up my rising fear by pushing off the wall and making my way toward my oldest friend.
"It's Feyre." Lucien replies and I note the barely concealed anger that shows in his remaining gold eye. I tense and I feel my claws prick my skin as I curl my fists. "Rhysand has come to take her to the Night Court." My nostrils flare and I catch myself before I bring my fists down onto the study desk. An ugly growl rumbles in the back of my throat at the thought of Feyre with him.
"It gets worst Tam," Lucien adds and I notice his hands curl into fists as well, mirroring mine, "Tonight is a special night."
"What do you mean?" I answer with a deadly quiet tone.
"Tonight, in the Night Court, is the Great Rite." An icy wash of cold drowns me in dread. "Rhysand is taking Feyre to the Calanmai."