The Denerim marketplace was still bustling, even in the waning light of the late afternoon, as Duncan and his newest recruit entered. The air around them was buzzing with gossip, most of it centered around the death of the arl's son. Duncan caught only bits of the conversations as he walked through the crowd, but opinions about Bann Vaughn were widely varied as rumors of his poor treatment of the alienage women were well known. Some believed that his death was well deserved while others thought it was further proof that the elves in the city were dangerous and needed to be reined in. None of them were aware, however, that the object of their gossip was walking freely among them.
Duncan looked down at the beautiful, young elven woman walking at his side. She was understandably quiet amid all the bustle of the market and was probably wary of leaving the city for the first time in her life. He had to admit, he was quite pleased with his newest recruit. Not only had she taken out an estate full of trained, armed guards, but she had also shouldered all the responsibility for the assault, even though her hand was forced by her cousin's hasty actions. "She would do well in the ranks of the wardens," he thought as he smiled to himself, "and she'll probably have about a dozen big brothers and twice that many suitors." A fact that may pose a problem later on Duncan mused to himself. Eriana Tabris had all the assets that made a good warden; she was fiercely loyal, deadly accurate with a bow and arrow, and graceful at wielding multiple weapons. However, she was also endowed with the assets that made her race so alluring to most men (and even a few woman). She had a slim, willowy build and sharp elven features. Her blond hair was pulled back into a high ponytail, revealing a slender neck and delicate pointed ears, and the wispy pieces of hair that framed her face seemed to accentuate her piercing blue eyes. But as desirable as she was physically, Eriana seemed to have an innate quality that drew others to her. In fact, most residents of the alienage seemed devastated at the prospect of losing her.
Lost in thought about his new Warden, Duncan almost didn't notice when she shouted and darted off into the crowd, dropping her pack behind her. Grabbing her things, Duncan took off after her. Making his way through the crowd, he found her kneeling over a dark-haired man who was flat on his back looking up at her dagger, which was pointed directly at his throat. The elf had him pinned down with her knee in his chest and looked very annoyed when Duncan walked up.
"Did do something to offend you, my dear?" Duncan asked amusedly.
"Not exactly," she answered and without looking up she tossed him a familiar looking leather pouch. "Did figure that you would need this, though."
Duncan quickly checked his pocket. Sure enough, the thief had managed to make off with his money without him noticing. Duncan realized that he was so focused on Eriana that he allowed himself to become completely oblivious to everything else around him.
"Fine, you got your purse back, now would you mind getting your elf off me," the would-be thief grumbled from the ground. Eriana flinched a bit at the comment, but she kept her dagger pointed at the man's neck. Duncan smiled to himself as the guards made their way through the gathered crowd. He wasn't sure who impressed him more, the thief that had made off undetected with his purse or Eriana who not only noticed it, but also managed to catch him. Well, he did need a third recruit.
The guards who approached the trio immediately recognized the thief. Apparently, he was infamous in the market place for his recent rash of petty thefts and break-ins. As the guards were about to take him away, Duncan decided for the second time that day to invoke the right of conscription. The guards seemed understandably annoyed about losing another criminal to the Wardens, but they merely muttered under their breaths as they walked away. Duncan heard only snidbits of their complaints, "havens for criminals," "bands of outlaws," and the like, but he ignored it and turned his attention to his new recruits. Eriana was looking pointedly away from the thief as he introduced himself as Daveth, but she didn't seem uncomfortable, just annoyed.
As the group made their way toward the city gates, Eriana hastened her pace to walk beside Duncan. "So, do the Grey Wardens ever recruit law-abiding citizens, or are wanted murders and thieves all you guys go for," she asked, an intrigued look on her face.
"We do have a few knights in shining armor, but I personally find them quite boring," Duncan said with a grin. "I have found that most criminals are very skilled and have been forced into crime by circumstances beyond their control. Becoming a Warden gives them a chance to use their skills for the greater good."
"That makes sense, I guess." Eriana replied, looking up nervously at the city gates.
"By the way, next time you decide to hold someone at knife point, you may want to consider holding the knife sideways, blade against the throat. It makes for a more natural cutting motion in case you need to actually kill him. Besides, you have a greater chance of missing your target if you need to pull your arm back to strike; a sideways cutting motion is much more effective."
Eriana looked at him, shocked for a moment, then began to laugh. "I'll keep that in mind if I ever find myself in that position again." For the first time since she joined him, Duncan saw the young elf smile. Yes, thought Duncan, she will do quite well in the Grey Wardens.