Alistair had just got his kit together and was heading over to Duncan for some last-minute advice when he saw Godiva Cousland. Not that she was easy to miss, what with being 5'8'' of dark skin and defined muscles encased in gambeson and woollen chausses. She gave off the impression of being the world's most genteel ballista, in the most complimentary way possible. Her jawline was also quite striking — not that Alistair had paid much attention or anything.
She was standing some distance from the west gate and staring at it with a look in her eyes that Alistair didn't like one bit. He had seen it in many of the other Wardens, a kind of cold wildness, and it always boded really bad decisions.
Turning on his heel, he sauntered over to her and noted the Mabari lying at her feet. Apparently it had escaped the kennel to join its mistress which honestly didn't surprise him, since the hound was a Mabari.
The dog raised its head when he approached and Alistair smiled at it before cheerfully asking, "So, are you the kind of person who would rip my head off if I asked you a question, or...?"
"My grandmother was Chantry Rivaini," Godiva replied curtly, almost mechanically, still fixated on the gate. "She was even darker than I am, it's barely noticeable in my mother and brother, while I'm an inexplicable throwback."
"Uh." Alistair cocked his head and scratched his neck awkwardly. "That wasn't really what I was going to ask. I mean, I was a little curious and I would probably have asked you about it at some point, but it wasn't what I had in mind right now."
Godiva finally turned away from the gate and for a moment she was just staring at him unseeingly. Then she seemed to wake up and her starling-black eyes turned keen. "I'm so sorry — it's usually the first thing people want to know, but that's no reason for being rude. What was it you wanted to ask?"
"Well, you were glaring at that gate like you wanted to challenge it to a duel, so I wondered if I should go get the rapiers?" Alistair said with a grin. He was rewarded with a strained smile but it was a real attempt at one at least.
Godiva chewed on her full lip as her gaze turned distant again and held her hand open by her thigh. The Mabari instantly got to its feet and nudged its huge head against her palm, her long fingers scratching behind an ear. She was completely lost in thought and Alistair began to think of the least awkward way to leave.
"Alistair..." Godiva started, saving him the headache.
"Yes?" She didn't reply right away but Alistair could wait. For all that people called him an idiot, he wasn't actually one. He knew that sometimes you need time to pick the right words. Indeed, when Godiva was done thinking a few moments later, she looked a lot more put together.
"Duncan said you were going to accompany us, help out when necessary. Could you define 'necessary' for me?"
She looked like a queen. Alistair wet his lips.
"I'm not going to do all the fighting for you, if that's what you mean. You're doing all the heavy-lifting and I'm mostly just... there. In case things get hairy. Oh, and to spy on you so I can share all your secrets with Duncan, of course."
"Of course," Godiva agreed with the same sparkle in her eyes she'd had when teasing him about mages and female recruits. It faded as she looked down at her Mabari and she didn't lift her head when she spoke again. "Could I ask a favour of you?"
"Sure. You only very seldom get beheaded for asking around here," Alistair said before inwardly slapping himself. Brilliant move, making casual jokes about murder with Godiva Cousland, apparently he really was an idiot.
Godiva didn't seem to have taken offense, though it might just be that she hadn't heard, since she'd gone back to staring at the gate again.
"I know it would help no-one if I ran off to search for Fergus, I would probably even die in the attempt. There are much bigger concerns at the moment, thousands of lives at stake. I know this but I still..." She swallowed hard and her Mabari whined as it leaned against her leg. Petting its neck, she took a deep breath and returned her gaze to Alistair. "If you notice me straying, could you just tell me don't? I'd be ever so grateful."
"Of course, absolutely," Alistair agreed right away. He could only imagine how Godiva was feeling right now and if he could help just by keeping an eye on her and have a single word at the ready, he wouldn't let her down.
"Thank you, Alistair," Godiva said and proceeded to stun him with her smile. Unlike the earlier weak attempt, this one showed bright teeth and the beginning of faint laugh lines.
"Uh, you're welcome," Alistair stumbled and cleared his throat. "But I'm afraid you can't bring your Mabari along. I think that counts as cheating."
"You don't say?" Godiva reached behind her neck for her braid and slid it over her shoulder before deftly untying the cord. "I don't think you can force him to stay in the kennel, though. Could you hold this?"
Alistair accepted the cord almost without thinking. "Of course I can't, he's a Mabari — and already a canine fugitive by the looks of it. No, that's why I'm very sweetly asking you to tell him to stay here in camp."
He was rewarded with another stunning smile as she finished undoing her braid. She then combed her fingers through her hair and shook her head, resulting in a thick black mane tumbling down her shoulders. As she starting doing something complicated with it behind her head, she said, "Of course Cavall will stay here. Though I'll warn you that if I would end up in mortal danger, he might still show up out of nowhere. His hearing is excellent."
The Mabari huffed well-pleased and Alistair shrugged. "I guess that if that happened, I could convince Duncan it was a special case. Probably."
"Duncan speaks Politics, doesn't he? It's my second language; I'll help you if it comes to it," Godiva assured him and held her hair with one hand as she reached out with the other. "Cord, please — thank you."
She did something involving a lot of moving elbows before lowering her hands. Her hair appeared to have been manipulated into some kind of braided bun which looked very practical. Alistair was mostly impressed that she'd managed to do it blind.
"Looks nice," he said and there was that distracting sparkle again. "Uh, we're leaving pretty soon, so you might want to gear up."
"Then I shall do so," Godiva said and her Mabari got to its feet. When three steps placed her right beside Alistair, she put her hand over his bare one. Her voice was soft but earnest when she said, "Thank you, Alistair."
Alistair didn't even have time to scramble up a reply before she was already gone, heading off to where her belongings and armour were stored. He watched her back for a few moments before he shook his head and made a second attempt to reach the Warden-Commander.
Hopefully Duncan wouldn't comment on the blush on his face.