A.N.: I owe a debt of gratitude to Ladyamesindy who helped me kick aside that huge writer's block that had developed with this story. Thanks so much, my friend.
Thanks also to Melismo for the beta reading and also to Bioware for making it possible for us to play with these characters. They own everything here.
Looking back, the first time I laid eyes on Aneirin, he barely made an impression.
I was close to my Harrowing and my attention was taken up with preparing for the ordeal. As a senior apprentice, I was given some latitude in attending classes. That day, I had managed to sneak a book out of the library; it was Aeridell's Book of the Elements. I was trying to take advantage of any edge I could find and was studying up on spells from the primal school of magic. The creation school with emphasis on healing magic was my strength, and I was a little worried about what exactly the Harrowing entailed. I was confident though that whatever it involved, I would prevail.
I was lying on my bunk in the apprentice quarters when I heard the sound of approaching feet. I quickly shoved the book under my blanket as the door flew open. In came Enchanter Daphne followed by an elven child I estimated to be somewhere around 11 or 12. My first impression was a scrawny, red-headed boy with that wild look in his eyes that so many of the elves had when they arrive at the tower. I think it must have something to do with the fact that the templars are usually the first humans they ever have close dealings with. Templars are never warm and fuzzy to begin with, so I imagine to an elven child they were terrifying.
"Here are the apprentice quarters," Enchanter Daphne was saying. "You will live here with your fellow apprentices until you earn your right to be a mage of the Circle. You will be expected to study hard, work harder, and to keep out of trouble."
I rolled to the back of my bunk hoping the enchanter wouldn't see me. She reached out and took the boy by the arm. She pulled him along behind her down another row or two and then presented him with an empty bunk.
"Here, this is your bed," she told the boy. "I will take you to get linen and then you will be expected to come back and make it up. The apprentices will be back from classes in late afternoon. You will join them for dinner and then everyone will be dismissed back here for the night. Now, come with me."
Once the two of them had exited out of the room, I dug the book back out from under the blanket and resumed my study. When the boy returned, I didn't pay him any mind, and he didn't disturb me.
Shortly after this, I had my Harrowing and became a full mage of the Circle. I left the apprentice quarters behind and moved upstairs.
I had been a full mage for four years and just earned my enchanter rank the next time I encountered Aneirin.
I was in my quarters after a long day spent in the greenhouse behind the tower. It had been my turn to attend to all the plants, and I was tired. I had spent a large part of the morning hauling water and then I had a large batch of elf root cuttings that I had potted in the afternoon. I was looking forward to a bath and then a hot meal before diving into my bed. As I was just gathering my things for my bath, I heard a knock on the door. It was an apprentice with a message from Enchanter Irving stating he wished to see me. I groaned inwardly. I really wanted to put it off until tomorrow. However, the gossip in the tower was that Irving would be made a senior enchanter any time now. I figured I had better not delay and go see what he wanted. After a quick glance into my small looking glass to make sure I didn't have any of the potting soil on my face or robes, I left my room and headed for Irving's office.
His door was open when I approached. He looked up when he heard my footsteps on the stone floor of the tower's hallway.
"Ah, Wynne," he said as he rose from his chair behind his desk and came around it to take my hand in greeting. Irving was always a gentleman. "Sit down," he offered as he shut his office door before moving back behind his desk.
"Hello, Irving," I said politely as I took the seat he indicated.
Once he had settled in his chair, he leaned back and gazed at me as if he were measuring me. His fingers were ruffling a file in front of him. I knew it must have been mine. From my time teaching, I was aware of the fact that every mage had a file that contained information on them from the time they first came to the tower. Everything from impressions by the templars who brought the mage here, teachers, mentors, anyone or anything that had any bearing on a mage and his or her magic was noted and kept in the file and available for reference as the First Enchanter saw fit. Irving had my whole past lying on his desk.
I wondered what this was about and why he had my file, but I continued to meet his look calmly. I had nothing to fear from my past. Finally, I broke the silence. "What did you need from me?" I asked him.
He was quiet for a moment more before he began to speak. "From what I read, it was apparent from when you first came to the tower that you were one of the most promising students that had arrived here in a long time, and you have continued to excel in your magical studies. Your control is excellent, and your knowledge of healing is unsurpassed by any mage of your rank in the Circle. However, your interpersonal skills are sorely lacking. You are brusque with the apprentices in the classes that you teach. You brush off and ignore any mage you consider beneath your ability. To take your place and become a valued member of the Circle, you must learn how to share your knowledge and help others develop their own abilities. You have the potential to be a great mage, Wynne, but you must learn how to encourage as well as criticize."
I struggled to keep my face impassive. I didn't understand where this was coming from. I performed all my duties well. I even taught more sessions of what we instructors jokingly called "Magic 101" than anyone else. My students all passed their initial tests and moved on rapidly, unlike some of the other teachers I could think of. I didn't complain about the extra work involved in pushing those apprentices through that were lackadaisical in their studies either. I was insulted that Irving thought my "interpersonal skills were lacking." My time was precious, and I needed to spend it as profitably as I could. Just because I wasn't friends with every mage in the Circle didn't mean anything was wrong with me. Some people just weren't worth the effort it would take to draw them out.
"I'm assigning you an apprentice. You will be in charge of his daily schedule. As it happens, Aneirin seems to be especially strong in healing magic. I want you to nurture that in him. He has been here for about four years now, but he still seems like an outsider. He is aloof from the other apprentices and I suspect at times is bullied by some of those older and larger. Your job is not only to nurture his magic abilities, but to help Aneirin fit in here at the tower."
I looked at Irving in disbelief. This would take up even more of my time, leaving less for my personal studies. Why was Irving doing this? How could I take on the responsibility for an apprentice and pursue my studies into the spirits of the Fade? This was so not fair. There were plenty of other healers at the tower that I was sure would be happy to help Aneirin. "Irving, I must protest," I finally said. "Why not have Enchanter Penelope or one of the other mages who normally oversee the older apprentices take on Aneirin? I really would prefer to spend my time continuing on with my research."
"This is not optional, Wynne," Irving replied. "Starting tomorrow, you will be responsible for Aneirin. Your disdain is the very reason I'm making this assignment."
"Irving, I really don't understand why you are doing this to me," I said helplessly. I knew enough about tower politics to know that if Irving said this was going to happen, then it was going to happen.
"I know you don't," he replied, gently now. "It's my hope that someday you will. I expect you to learn as much from Aneirin as he does from you. I'll make sure he reports to you first thing tomorrow. Good luck, Wynne," Irving said in obvious dismissal.
What was he talking about? What could I learn from a lowly apprentice?