Alistair's luck wasn't on his side that day.
Duncan had been away for an entire week, leaving him alone to handle the two new recruits; one a balding knight with frightened eyes who complained from morning to evening, and the other, a lecherous thief who made all those who've had to deal with him complain from dawn to dusk. He also had to endure the constant teasing of the other Senior Wardens and the bad mood of the revered mother- who treated him like a servant, sending him to do menial chores.
He was actually on one of her foolish errands- arguing with a boar-faced mage- when the arrival of an armed elf (who could have been scary if he hadn't looked like he had one foot in the grave) told him that his Commander had returned. Alistair was so relieved that he ignored the elf's rude comments and happily dragged them both back to where Duncan was, if only to be scolded for mistreating the poor Circle mage.
On top of all that, he was given the dubious honor of being sent into the Wilds with the three most promising recruits in the history. It wasn't definitely his best day.
He couldn't say when, but at some point the elf, (Duncan had addressed him as Theron) had taken the lead and was guiding them through the swampy wilds; the territories that had been made even less friendly by the ravages of the Blight.
Alistair had to admit that this Theron was doing a great job so far, and the former had always felt that he was not suitable for being in command- so it was with great relief that he let himself be led into the Wastelands. It was a horribly swampy place where Alistair's poor sense of direction left a lot to be desired, and it was all he could do to focus on efficiently killing darkspawn and every enemy that stood before them.
Daveth and Jory weren't doing badly- all things considered, those blighted beings were tough to kill and even the bravest soldiers were terrified by their appearance; but the young Dalish was on a whole different level, he rushed headlong into the fighting with a courage and rage worthy of a berserker.
Theron seemed to have an enormous reserve of spirit; the elf's ferocity with the twin blades against the darkspawn were sometimes all that kept the recruits from being completely overwhelmed. Alistair couldn't help but wonder a little. Nobody loved darkspawn, it seemed that he was particularly motivated, and such a deep hatred always had some very personal reasons. Theron never offered an explanation, and they did not question the surly elf.
They had long collected the three vials of blood and looted anything that could be useful or sold, but the old ruins where they would find the Wardens cache were nowhere to be seen.
They seemed to be going in Circles, and Theron felt increasingly weak, his were limbs heavy and stiff, and despite the low temperatures his blood seemed to boil in his veins. He grudgingly signaled for a rest; and to escape the worried glances the annoying blonde human continued to send in his direction, he wandered off- climbing a nearby hill. "Scouting" was all he muttered before disappearing among the dark silhouettes of dead trees, leaving no room for a reply.
Dark spots began to dot his vision and soon, he was leaning on a log, breathing heavily and willing for his heart to slow down. He was trying hard to catch his breath, and he allowed his mind to drift back to the events that brought him there, and the grief in his heart grew stronger as he thought of his lost Clan, people whom he would never see again, Tamlen...
A snapping sound brought him back to reality and with bow in hand, Theron hastily prepared himself to shoot. He had a snarl on his face as he came out from his hiding point to find himself aiming the sharp arrow-point straight at Daveth's head. The blighted shemlan was grinning, his arms raised to shoulder height and palms facing him with a relaxed stance.
"Hey- hey, and here I thought I was being nice, stepping on that twig in order not to startle you. You know, a handsome elf like yourself should never be left alone, and it is quite dangerous out there- I thought you could do with some company."
The urge to release the arrow was overwhelming, but Theron just glared, hoping for the words inside his head to get across; emerald eyes coldly meeting Daveth's brown ones.
The shemlen thief shrugged and nonchalantly made his way so he was standing by his side, staring in the distance. Theron himself was surprised at that serious expression, though he had to admit that despite the jokes and lecherous comments Daveth did seem sharper than Alistair and braver than Jory (which wasn't much of a task), but he also had light and fast feet, and was good enough with his daggers and bow. These were skills that even Theron could respect.
He allowed himself to relax again, eyes seeing past the distant treeline, and saw that the trees were growing in size and numbers- something that his human companion seemed to notice too. "Better go back to the others. We are reaching the mountain's foot, there's nothing for us on this side."
With a resigned sigh, Theron cast a last glance at the scenery, the land was suffering and the trees were contaminated- making him wonder how long would it take before the taint reached the Brecilian Forest too. A glimpse of a shimmer through the bushes caught his attention, his trained eyes barely discerning a crouched figure, whose form was not like that of the darkspawn.
It was the first time he spoke the human's name and that got his full attention, and the human immediately stopped in his tracks, wondering what could have alerted his usually silent comrade. He couldn't sense any danger near and the Junior Warden with the flippy hair would surely warn them if he sensed the presence of darkspawn in the area.
"There is something over there, call the others."
Without waiting for an answer he rushed hastily back to the body, which was covered with a coarse thick cloth, but he could distinguish the rise and falls that indicated that it was still breathing.
He approached with caution, pulling out a hunting knife, and bent down to topple the body with his free arm. He received a moan of protest and before he could understand what was happening, something hard slammed powerfully against him, sending him flying on the ground a few meters away- knocking the wind out of his lungs.
Cursing and swearing at the attacker, Theron stood up ready to fight, only to hear the sound of quickly approaching footsteps.
Alistair got to the scene to see Theron screaming angrily against a little bundle of clothes kneeling on the muddy soil; it actually took him some time to realize it was actually a person concealed with a heavy cloak that had been torn in several places, covered with slime, blood and all sorts of filth. Hearing his arrival, the stranger raised his head at him, and the dirty cloths fell back, revealing a face.
He saw wide eyes, blue as the sky on a clear winter day, framed by a pale and delicate face looked at him, for a few moment he simply stared, stunned, but then he noted the exhaustion on her innocent visage, and two vertical lines trailed down from her eyes, so white on her dirt-stained cheeks.
Whatever had happened to her had to be a disgrace, he remembered thinking to himself. Alistair now felt an overwhelming urge to protect the stranger.
A/N: And here we are! Alistair is the knight in shining armor and Eira the damsel in distress! How do you think he'll react when he find out she's a mage? XD Many thanks as always to lovely MiiYuKira, I shall post again soon if my home will not be submerged by the snow..