The wolves were always hungry. Lynxes and bears were also famished in the cold dark of the northern winter, but it was only the wolves which frightened me. The gnashing teeth, coated in a fine sheen of old blood, the skeletal gauntness of their sinewy bodies hidden by thick and ragged fur. Wolves haunted my nights and stalked my days. I was never afraid of anything before the wolves came, but afterwards I finally realize how dangerous my world was. The wolves took Torin away from me. I was never alone, and as long as I stay in Jata I will never be alone, but for the first time in my life I found out what loneliness meant.
The wolves came during the day. They never came in the day before so I knew they were desperate. We were often hungry too, but we had learned to store food long ago and the wolves never could do such a thing. They were beautiful, graceful, powerful animals, but they were still animals and could not plan for the future like we could. There was little food in the wastelands outside of the mountains so the animals came into our borders. We became food, we became prey. The rangers patrolled the edges and shooed away any predators which came too close, but the borders were large and complex, and sometimes the fiercest of the animals would find their ways through the twisting mazes.
Torin was tending to his winter garden with my cousin Rasi when the wolves struck. Their screams echoed through the vale. We all knew immediately that someone's world had ended. My mother ran to their aid and beat the wolves away with the only tools she could find – a rake and an ax and her own sinewy strength. Rasi survived. My Torin did not.
When I learned of his death, all I could feel for quite some time was overwhelming regret. I should have claimed him for my own sooner. I was planning on asking him to be my mate that very night, but fate had different plans for us. There would be no gardens or marriage or children for Torin, only cold and dark death, only the faint hope that the stories our grandparents told about webs and afterlives were true and we would one day meet again in another life. The starved wolves took Torin away and I don't think he ever knew how much I loved him. I loved his pale eyes and rich dark skin, but more than that, I loved his gentleness. He would have been a wonderful father and a kind husband, but he never was allowed to be either of those things. Torin was gone forever. I was certain I could never allow anyone else to fill the void in my soul left by hungry wolves and desolate lands.