The Warden-Commander never smiles. The recruits admire him and fear him in equal measure. He does not raise his voice or threaten, but there’s a coldness and a shadow in his eyes they know instinctively not to broach. He’s a good man despite it, still a strong fighter after so many years, tall and broad-shouldered. His hair is silvery at the edges, his face scarred, hands calloused. He fights on the front lines and his courage speeds them onward.
He leads them well after Adamant, after the sundering veils are closed, after the Joining can be bookended with a Releasing. Their ranks swell, far more people ready to volunteer when they know service only lasts twenty years before they can be whole again, and he commands them to protect their home.
But they never see him smile.
Rumors fly among recruits as they always do. Some say he was always a grim man, chilled and closed. Others claim he used to laugh more than any of them. Most suspect it has to do with what happened after the Releasing was discovered, how he has no family. But he does not tell them much, even those that serve closely with him.
A few of the older Wardens from the time of the fifth Blight are the only ones who still remember the way he used to laugh with her, how the two of them fought side by side, how they swore to die together. Only a few know how she was lost; having survived the Joining, darkspawn, the Blight, the Archdemon, it was childbirth that proved her downfall. The Releasing had not mattered, in the end.
The last time Warden-Commander Alistair smiled was kissing her farewell.