He had beautiful antlers. Ashe had seen their like mounted on the walls of many fine halls. Indeed, she remembered just such a set in her father's hall – rather bigger and fancier than Ashe liked, though. From the number of points on this buck's antlers and his general physique, Ashe judged him to be in his prime, still young and full of vitality.
Her brow furrowed as she drew the arrow to full tension. It would take only one shot.
The stag trotted to a stop at the opposite edge of the snowy clearing. His ears pricked, searching for the sound of a threat.
Ashe made no sound by movement or breath. Her heartbeat was as slow as the grinding of glaciers.
The young buck swivelled his head around, looking for any predators.
Ashe was stiller than stone. In her white hooded cloak, hidden in the midst of the snowy forest, she was invisible.
He took long, deep breaths, seeing if the air carried any warnings.
Ashe was at a right-angle to the light, yet chilling breeze. Her positioning was perfect.
Having decided that he was safe, the stag lowered his antlered head, taking advantage of his perceived safety to graze on a tuft of grass amongst the snow.
A slight correction. The target had moved – the arrow-point moved accordingly.
Suddenly, the buck froze. A threat approached.
The moment was slipping. Ashe let the arrow fly.
The arrow missed the buck. As it raised its head to flee, the fletching brushed its nose.
On the other side, a grey blur sprang from behind a bush – and fell to the snow, lifeless, a shaft sticking out of its right eye.
A cry of confusion and dismay went up from the wolves, their alpha slain even as he leapt for the prey. Ashe nocked a second arrow just in case, the arrow vanishing from her quiver faster than most eyes could follow, but her first intuition had been right: one shot was all she needed. Having been struck at the crucial moment, the wolfpack retreated in disarray, dispersing into the forest beyond the clearing.
The stag started, but for some reason did not bolt. It was Ashe's turn to start when she imagined the stag looking right at her – but the moment soon passed, and it sprang away through the trees.
"Good job," said a gruff voice close by. "I never tire of watching you make a kill."
"You nearly ruined my shot," said Ashe coldly, returning the unused arrow to her quiver.
"What?" Tryndamere appeared from behind a nearby tree. "I was quiet! I moved exactly like you taught me."
"Quiet? I could've heard you even with a handful of bracken stuffed in each ear."
"Ouch," said Tryndamere jocularly, striding through the snow towards Ashe. "Your words hurt more than your arrows, my queen."
Tryndamere drew close to Ashe – and was surprised to find the Frost Archer's cool, soft lips pressed against his own (which were rather rougher). Deciding not to look a gift horse in the mouth, Tryndamere took his queen in a firm embrace and returned her affection.
Ashe looked up at her husband, smiled roguishly and said "What of my kisses, my king?"
"I think we can say that my wounds are balmed," said Tryndamere, equally playfully.
Ashe pulled back her hood with her free hand, the other eternally grasping her bow, and shook out her sable hair. She rested her head on Tryndamere's broad chest. The two of them shared a silent moment amidst the snowbound trees. It could have lasted forever, but of course it did not.
"They have arrived." This was supposed to be a question, but Ashe said it like a statement.
Tryndamere nodded, his chin gently bobbing against the top of Ashe's head. "Arna has brought an unannounced guest. A man swathed in black. I have no proof, but... I think he is from Noxus."
Ashe didn't even think to question this. She knew Tryndamere's past, though they rarely spoke of it.
"I was afraid of this. What of Alja?"
"She comes with few followers. If her face is a soothsayer, then the years since your departure have been hard for her."
Ashe didn't move, or say anything. Tryndamere knew anyway.
"You did it for the right reasons, my love."
"I know, otherwise I wouldn't have done it. But even the right action for the right reasons can breed wrongness."
"Then endure, my queen," said Tryndamere, raising Ashe's eyes to his with a finger under her chin. "Endure, and persevere. Have faith in what you have done, and what you have yet to do. As always, I will give you what strength I can: of my arm, and of my heart."
Ashe smiled at Tryndamere with true gratitude. "And for that, I will always love you – even past my death."
Tryndamere smiled back. "Undying love. I like the sound of that."