The other Grey Wardens in Ostagar were calling her 'Wilder'.
It seemed fitting, Alistair thought, given the fact that they didn't actually know her name. Since Duncan returned with her from a scouting trip he had taken into the Wilds, the Chasind girl had not spoken one word to anyone besides Duncan. Any conversations directed toward her were met with a cold, indignant stare that burned with a disdain Alistair had only ever seen in Lady Isolde's eyes. And now that Duncan had left for Redcliffe to secure Arl Eamon's assistance for the King, the girl didn't speak at all. She did her duties around the camp diligently, endured jeers and taunts from the other soldiers with grace (perhaps because she can't understand what they're saying, Alistair thought), and did not breathe a single complaint.
And... Alistair had no idea where she was.
Duncan had left him the sole responsibility of watching over her while he was gone and for nearly a week nothing happened, until that morning when she vanished. He'd been making sure that she was always within his range of sight because there was no telling what hazing the other Wardens would come up with without their Commander there, and yet the one moment he turned his back, Wilder had disappeared. Duncan was due back within the day, and if Alistair could not locate his wayward charge… well, he didn't want to think about what would befall him.
He'd been searching for her most of the day and she had not been in any of her usual haunts around the camp. Anyone he asked said that they had not seen her, and it wasn't as if the girl could blend in very well - she was the only person in the camp who consistently wore fur, not to mention that wherever she went people cut her wide berth, wary of what she was. And yet, the girl seemed to be irritatingly adept to disappearing. It seemed the only thing to do at the moment was wait and pray to the Maker that she returned before Duncan.
Alistair sighed as he thought back to only two weeks ago when Duncan returned from his scouting trip with the girl trailing behind morosely clothed in dirt and flecked with blood, and announced that he had found another recruit to add to the one they already had - a rogue from Denerim named Daveth. He thought Duncan mad, recruiting one of the Chasind, and voiced his doubts, but Duncan had assured him that the girl had more than proved her mettle. Her tribe had been attacked by the darkspawn, Duncan and his scouting party had heard the fighting and rushed to assist, but by the time the battle was over, Wilder was the only survivor.
She really hadn't taken it well and hid out in her tent for two days. When she finally emerged, it was during breakfast. Wilder had marched straight into the mess tent with her head held high, right up to Duncan sitting at the King's table and, according to him, apologized for her actions and promised to do better. Alistair remembered how the entire mess tent had gone silent the moment everyone realized she was there, and yet she spoke so softly to Duncan that no one had been able to hear her. Then, she spun on her heel and marched right back out, sparing no one even a fleeting glance.
Alistair didn't really get a good look at the girl until the next morning when she showed up in the training yard. She was definitely not what he expected of a Chasind wilder. The tribal tattoo that was inked into the skin of her bicep and disappeared beneath the shoulder of her armor was expected; the thick black lines were interwoven forming intricate, almost knotted patterns that were all sharp angles and jutting lines. Her long, mahogany hair was streaked with strands of red only visible when they ignited in the early morning sun. Feathers and beads of all colors and charms carved from bone were threaded and braided into her hair, which she wore twisted back from her face allowing the remainder to tumble down her back in thick waves. But what Alistair found the most surprising was that her armor was reminiscent of the armor the female Dalish elves wore, that was not only accented with fur but also lined with it to protect from the chill of the southern lands, and finished with thick fur boots.
He, like the other soldiers and Wardens assembled in the training yard, had hoped they would see Wilder in action, but in that aspect they were disappointed. More than one soldier challenged her to a duel in the sparring ring, and all they recieved in return was an impassive stare. She was perfectly content to stay back and watch the goings on around her. Daveth told him the way she just watched made his nose twitch.
Alistair jolted out of his reverie when he caught movement just over one of the walls that were resurrected in front of the entrance to the Wilds. Alistair drew his sword, watching as the dark figure perched, cat-like, on the wall for a moment, then leapt into the nearest tree completely disappearing into the foliage, before it swung down from the branch and dropped lithely to the ground all in one acrobatic move. It was not a darkspawn, he knew, the tainted creatures were not nearly that graceful. Tightening his hand around the hilt of his sword, Alistair resisted the urge to growl under his breath when the moonlight revealed her angled features to him. It was Wilder - she had somehow managed to sneak out of the camp which was astounding in and of itself, but the fact that she had managed to sneak back in, that was a feat. But before Alistair could revel in his shock, he was sheathing his sword and striding toward her, propelled by his irritation.
"Hey!" he shouted, causing her to stiffen. "Would you like to explain to me what in the Maker's name you were just doing?"
Wilder turned to look at him, clutching the strap to the rucksack over her shoulder, her expression lacking the fear he thought should have been there. She looked at him with complete and utter disinterest, as though he was beneath her notice. Alistair felt his jaw clench, he was a Grey Warden and by Andraste's flaming sword he shouldn't have to endure someone looking at him like he was nothing anymore!
"Well?" He pressed through his teeth. "Answer me, Wilder! Duncan left you as my charge that means you are my responsibility! And now you sneak off to Maker knows where, doing Maker knows what! Do you have any idea how worried I've been? You snuck out of the camp, do you understand that if anything happened to you it would have been on my head! Do you even have any idea of what would have happened to you if anyone besides me caught you!"
It was the first time Alistair had ever addressed her by the impolite moniker, it was also the first time he saw the anger flash through her pale green eyes when it was used, narrowing into a glare that sent a chill down his spine. He watched her dusky skin color prettily with her anger and felt his own ears grow warm out of embarrassment - he had never raised his voice to a woman before.
They stood, locked in their silent irritation for awhile until Alistair's fizzled and burned out. He sighed, feeling his puffed-up posture deflate. "Oh what's the point. It's not as though you actually understand a word I'm saying to you."
He turned to walk away from her and got half a dozen strides away when he heard her make a noise behind him. He turned around, "What?"
Wilder breathed a long suffering sigh and closed her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose. She shifted her weight, crossed her arms and looked back at him. "Anouk," she said, and her voice was soft, teeming with an impatient undertone. "My name is Anouk, I would appreciate you using it, I am quite tired of being referred to as 'Wilder'."
Alistair felt his bottom jaw unhinge itself from the top, quite without his permission. He didn't know how long he stood there, staring at her as if she had grown another head, he was only aware of her shifting her weight awkwardly and raising an eyebrow at him. All Alistair really wanted to do was find a great rock somewhere to hide beneath. She could understand him, which also meant that she could understand the things the other Wardens and the soldiers have been saying about her, both when they thought she couldn't hear as well as when she was well within earshot.
"Why didn't you just tell us your name?" he asked, "That's the quickest way for us to call you by it."
Anouk's expression pinched, knotting in confusion. "No one inquired except for your Duncan. Why should I give my name away to those who are only concerned with what I am, and who make no attempts to change what they think they know about me?"
"I've… never really thought of it that way," Alistair admitted. "Now will you tell me why you snuck out of camp into the Wilds that are crawling with darkspawn, you could have been killed."
"My tribesmen could not be properly laid to rest when your Duncan found me, their spirits still wandered, I had to free them," she replied as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"And you couldn't do that from the safety of camp?"
She shook her head, and by the light of his torch he saw the small smile pulling a corner of her mouth. But it was a smile of indulgence, a smile one wears when enduring the curiosity of a child. A smile Alistair knew all too well. "This structure of stone bears no life but what you have placed inside of it. Their spirits would not find rest in this artificial place."
"Oh, well… all right then," he stammered.
"I don't expect you to understand," Anouk told him. A pause. "I should like to return to my tent, if that is alright with you."
"Oh! Oh of course," Alistair said with a smile. She cast him a small smile and turned to walk away, but Alistair called out, "You know, you're not exactly what I expected of a -"
"Barbarian?" She questioned, turning once more to face him. He had expected her eyes to be alight with irritation once more, but all he saw was a tired sort of resolve that he didn't quite understand.
Alistair shook his head, "A Chasind, I was going to say a Chasind."
Anouk made a humming noise as she nodded, "I see. You expected me to be uncivilized, unable to speak, to understand - a savage with no basic humanity."
Alistair wanted so badly to lie to her then, so she wouldn't lump him in with the rest of the Wardens and the soldiers who ridiculed and insulted her. He didn't want her to think that was how he thought of her until a few moments ago. The problem with lying to Anouk was that Alistair felt that even if he were to lie, she would see right through it and hate him more. So with a humbling sigh, he told her, "Something like that."
"Hmm, for a moment I was sure you would lie to me," Anouk commented, and he could hear the surprise lacing the dulcet tones of her voice.
He nodded, admitting, "For a moment, I almost did."
Her eyes roamed over him for a moment, taking him in from head to toe. She looked to Alistair to be having some kind of internal debate with herself, and he was sure it was over whether or not she should trust him. Most likely, all of her dealings with anyone who was not of the Chasind were less than honorable so to find someone who, to Anouk, was an outsider telling her the truth was probably a strange occurence, one she didn't know how to process.
Finally, Anouk told him, "You're a very strange man."
Alistair could not help the laugh that bubbled up his throat and passed through his lips, "You're not the first woman to tell me that."