The rest of their walk was uneventful, as Davyn pointed out more of the hanging gardens and shared a little of his kingdom's history with his new bride. His smile grew every time he caught her staring, mirroring her own sheepish grins, but she seemed a little distant on the walk back. Preoccupied, perhaps, with concerns about what they'd just done. Christine certainly didn't seem shy, but he knew as well as anyone how something that seems so right can be devastating even hours later. He feared that he'd overstepped his bounds. In the days that followed, small crises within the kingdom required his direct attention -- discord between vendors and public hearings his father requested that he attend. It was mundane, minutiae that he'd have rather ignored than leave Christine's side, but she seemed to understand the position he was in, and let him leave with an uneasy smile. He wanted to stay with her, to learn more about her and pursue the connection they'd discovered in their first full day together, but she seemed exhausted by the time he returned, and in truth, he was no more available in the evenings than he was during the day. As the sun set, he collected his things from the trunk, working carefully to dress and equip himself out of Christine's sight, since the notion of such violence seemed to appal her. He'd leave with a small apology, and she'd stammer out a small consolating, hardly able to look at him. "I hope you understand why I need to go," he explained. "People rely on me. It's a dangerous world out there, Christine," he would say, and she would nod mutely, forcing a smile. The packs were out in force. He could see their movements in the treeline as he patrolled the walls, keeping a watchful eye on their migrations. Howls echoed impatiently from the forests, and when one strayed beyond the trees, he would stop his patrol and stare, nocking a silver-headed arrow that gleamed in the moonlight. He knew they were aware of him, for as soon as the arrow centered on them, any activity scurried back into the trees, and long growls followed in irritation. The imminent danger was not lost on the citizens, who knew well to stay within the city walls by night, and to avoid the forest by day. Carts and caravans warily followed the major roads into and out of the city -- no shortcuts were taken. It seemed incidents could be avoided -- the people knew how to avoid problems, and the wolves? Well, the wolves had learned to fear him. Sitting on the walls, watching like a hawk into the woods, he recalled his first few watches following the death of his love. It had been less than a month ago, but he'd been a foolish boy back then. Angry. Grief-drunk. He'd gone out with nothing more than a silver letter opener the first night, looking to end it all and be with his woman in the hereafter, hopefully taking one of their ilk with him. He stormed out into the fields, just short of the trees, calling out to them, beckoning them to try a morsel of his savory flesh. One wolf answered, goaded on by several others. Davyn knew he should have been terrified by the enormous thing, walking like a man yet with the countenance of a beast, hunched, hairy, slavering maliciously as it eyed him up like a chicken that had flown the safety of its coup. He should have been frozen with fear, but found he wasn't scared at all. Ready to die, he charged the wolf with his trinket. The wolf miscalculated, or merely underestimated him. Either way, as it tackled him, claws digging into his sides, the small knife drove home through its ribs, burying deep into its heart. Black veins spidered out from the source of the wound, and the creature seemed paralyzed by shock in the moment. Davyn withdrew the blade, burying it into the creature over and over again as strangled sobs became feral war cries. Hate numbed the sting of the gashes in his skin, and he lost himself in glorious conquest. He cut the heart out of the wolf that night, blackened and withered from that initial stab. Ripping it free from the chest cavity, he whirled on the tree line, menacing back at the yellow eyes that peered back, wide with surprise and horror of their own this time. He held the organ high, blood slipping down his arms. The feral battle cry that escaped his lips was loud and long, echoing into the dark of the night, and he could tell that the wolves felt a very human chill crawl up their spines. He tossed the heart into the woods and turned on his heel, storming back to the city where a healer gave him salves to clean his wounds. That night he bought a silver sword from a superstitious peddler. It was ceremonial, clearly, but serviceable enough. That night he returned to the field where three wolves descended on him, hell-bent on fulfilling their newfound vendetta. Three wolves fell, and he cried out into the treeline again, pounding his chest, showing them what barbarism looked like. Five more fell over the next week as he returned each night to re-issue his challenge. After that, the yellow eyes remained in the trees. In the time before Christine, he would march out each night, calling into the trees. "Come for me!" he'd shout. "Are wolves so afraid of boys now?! Come for me!!!" On the nights where grief and loneliness and drink gripped him the hardest, he'd strip off his knives, swords, whips and armor, dropping them into the grasses and re-issuing his challenge. "COME FOR ME!!!" he would almost plead. The wolves would not come. Since Christine, he stayed to the city walls, keeping a clear distance. It seemed the threat of him was sufficient to keep them at bay. At least, for now. A few days of his schedule kept him away from Christine for everything except a handful of short, informal meals. He ached from exhaustion, not having a chance to more than doze in a chair more than a few hours a day, but finally, an unexpected break in his schedule freed him from his responsibility, and he returned to their room. Unexpectedly, she was gone. He checked with one of the servants, thinking she was taking another bath, but the servant alerted him that she had taken a carriage out of the city. Terror gripped his heart in the moment, and he nearly stumbled back from the shock. "When!? When did she leave?" "Yesterday, sir. She said she was heading into town." Davyn felt a familiar dread rush through his veins, that same ominous horror that he felt in his soul the night that Aileena had been taken from him. He quickly collected his things, took his fastest horse and thundered down the road towards the nearest village, fearing the worst. Upon his arrival, he desperately canvased the people he saw. He learned that a woman matching Christine's description had indeed arrived in town, and was renting a room at the inn, but that she seemed to come and go without rhyme or reason, taking long walks through the countryside. One man reported that he saw her leave her room at dusk. Possibilities raced through Davyn's mind, but primarily he was consumed with fear for her. Surely she knew the dangers that plagued this region, seeing him go out each night to hold them at bay! What could be out here that was so critical that it justified such recklessness!? It was early morning, and he went to the inn and found her room. She was not there, so he searched around the outskirts of town, looking for any sign of his bride. The sun was still not yet up, not having crested over the horizon, but enough light was beginning to help him find a trail leading out of the town and into the woods. Across a stream and in a narrow gulley, he found what he dreaded most -- a woman's clothes, discarded and dirty, torn in some places. It looked to be about Christine's size. His mind was so taken with concern that he didn't notice the large, canid tracks leading away from the heap of clothes, or the absence of blood on them. "Christine!" he called out into the woods.