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Andraste's Flaming Knickers

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        Selene Cousland is the last thing Alistair expected Duncan's new recruit to be. He doesn't know exactly what he expected, but it wasn't her.

        When Duncan set off to find another recruit, Alistair subconsciously expected him to bring back someone, well, male. In his short time in the order, none of the other Wardens he met were female. He knew that the Cousland's youngest child was a girl and he knew that Duncan initially wanted her for the Wardens, but Duncan had said that he didn't expect Bryce and Eleanor to let their only daughter become a Warden. Imagine Alistair's surprise when his mentor sent word ahead that he would be returning to Ostagar with none other than his first choice - Selene Cousland, youngest child to Teyrn Bryce Cousland.

        Duncan's letter was brief, only detailing that they would arrive soon and telling Alistair to behave himself as if he were some child left alone for the first time. However, in a post script at the bottom of the page, the old man told Alistair not to press the girl too much as the circumstances leading to her becoming a Warden were far from ideal and she had lost much.

        Alistair saw the two, or three if he counts the mabari hound Duncan failed to mention, as they approached Ostagar. The young Warden never fails to single out his mentor, even among the swarm of people constantly moving around the ruins. The girl walking next to him must be the new recruit.

        A noble girl as a Grey Warden recruit. So many parts of that sentence don't fit together for Alistair. None of it does, in fact. He may not have been a criminal, and neither was Ser Jory, but one doesn't usually find those of noble birth among the Wardens. Let alone girls. He really has no idea what this Selene will be like. He knows from Duncan's letter that she just endured a lot, so he expects her to be distant for a time, but that's about it. He hopes she doesn't expect a cushioned life or she will be very sorely disappointed.

        Duncan spoke highly of her, though, so he'll try to save his judgments until he actually gets a chance to talk to her. Thus far, she's just been wandering around the camp. She's a curious one - literally. In the time he's been watching her, she's talked to probably everyone she's passed from the Ash Warriors getting ready to scout the Wilds to the prisoner still waiting for his execution.

        Not like he's been watching her that intently or anything. Just people watching as he waits for a mage he's supposed to deliver a message to. That's all. Definitely not watching her because she's one of the few girls in camp.

        It isn't until Alistair is mid-argument with the mage that Selene finds him. At least, he assumes it's her. He hasn't seen her up close, but she has the same short black hair as the girl that arrived with Duncan. He turns towards the girl when the mage leaves in a huff. "You know, one good thing about the Blight is how it brings people together."

        The girl looks at him with an expression that rides the line between confusion and amusement. For a brief moment, Alistair wonders if this isn't Selene. If it is, she's either very good at hiding her feelings or Duncan made whatever happened sound worse that it was.

        "I know exactly what you mean." Her response knocks Alistair off guard. Playing along is, apparently, the number one way to make Alistair forget everything he was going to say. It doesn't help that she's pretty. Oh, Maker, she's very pretty, and Alistair nearly begins to panic.

        "You're Alistair, right?" The strange girl questions, and it startles him out of his bubbling panic. "Me? Yes! Yes, I am Alistair. I take it you're Duncan's new recruit?"

        She nods once and extends a hand in introduction. Alistair almost feels like he's about to combust under the intensity of her pale blue eyes, nearly staring a hole right through his head. He takes her hand in his and does his best to sound like he's not on the verge of panicking.

        "Alistair." He feels dumb as soon as he opens his mouth. She already knew his name, she doesn't need him to introduce himself. Nevertheless, she smiles softly and he could almost swear he saw something twinkle behind her eyes.

        "Selene. Duncan spoke highly of you. I look forward to traveling with you." Oh. Oh no. Andraste's flaming knickers, he's going to have a hard time around her.

        Selene very quickly proved all of Alistair's fears about her false. If he hadn't been told, he'd never guess she grew up as a noble. While she is very thorough with her questions, she respects that Alistair and Duncan are her superiors and follows orders without complaints. Most nobles he's met would complain, at the very least. Used to their cushy lives with everyone at their beck and call, they usually don't take authority and orders well. Selene, though, doesn't even look like she wants to complain. He already likes her more than Daveth and Ser Jory.

        Though, now that he thinks of it, her easy compliance could be a double-edged sword. Would she still accept orders and authority like this when it's obviously wrong? Would she still silently follow someone who doesn't have good intentions? He hopes not.

        "So, tell me," Alistair starts, picking up his pace so he's walking next to Selene instead of behind her. "Did you even want to become a Grey Warden? Duncan said that the circumstances that brought you were were bad."

        The girl's eyes briefly flash with sadness and a frown begins to form on her face, but she masks it so quickly he wonders if he imagined it. She turns her gaze away from him and to the dirt in front of them.

        "I wanted to. I tried convincing my parents to at least let him test me, but they weren't hearing any of it." This time, she fails to conceal the way her face drops as she speaks of her family. Alistair goes to apologize, but she starts again before he can. "This isn't how I wanted it to happen but, to answer your question, yes. I did want to become a Warden."

        "How did you convince your parents?" Alistair regrets the words as soon as they leave his mouth. He can almost feel the way her heart breaks. Duncan told him to to press her, and yet he did.

        Selene picks up her pace, and Alistair is content to walk behind her again. "Sorry, I shouldn't have asked." "It's..." He can see the way her shoulders rise and fall with a deep breath. "It's fine. You don't know. I would just rather not speak of it, if you don't mind." "Not at all."

        And there is the sorrow he expected from her. He doesn't know what happened but, Maker preserve him, the deep look of despair in her eyes makes him wish he never asked.