A.N.: Thanks to Erynnar for keeping me straight and whose words led to a small change in the first chapter and Lady Amesindy for "de-hadification.".
I didn't begin to wonder where Aneirin was the next day until he was over an hour late. He had occasionally been delayed in the morning, but always eventually come strolling in. Last night after going back and securing the greenhouse, I had spent some time searching the tower for Aneirin, but I wasn't able to find him. This morning, I went through the stages of exasperation, anger, and finally worry. After two hours passed with no Aneirin, I started looking for him once again. I checked the apprentice's dormitory, the greenhouse, the Chantry, the Great Hall, the kitchens, and even the library with no Aneirin to be found. I questioned those I met, but no one remembered seeing him that day. By late afternoon, I was worried enough to go see Senior Enchanter Irving.
Of course, my interview with Irving didn't go well. I was feeling guilty over the scene between Aneirin and me the night before, but I didn't mention it to him then. When he insisted on informing both the First Enchanter and the Knight Commander, my heart sank. I just knew this wouldn't end well. As I left Irving's office with him (Irving was headed up to the First Enchanter's office), I pleaded with him to keep me informed of what was happening with Aneirin. I was afraid deep inside myself that whatever Aneirin was doing had been precipitated by my words to him last evening.
I went to dinner in the mess hall with the other mages, but was unable to eat anything. My stomach was in knots with worry over my missing apprentice. After supper, I went back to my room, but was unable to concentrate on any of my own work. I just kept pacing the room. Finally, later in the evening, I went looking for Irving. I found him in the most unlikely of places, in the Chantry. He was just sitting on one of the benches. He didn't look to be praying, but just seemed to be minding his own thoughts.
"Senior Enchanter?" I called hesitantly. I didn't want to disturb him if he was truly seeking the Maker's guidance.
He turned his head to me. "Wynne, sit, my dear," he said indicating the bench beside him.
"Any word?" I asked.
He let out a breath. "The templars did a full search of the tower and all the surrounding buildings. They couldn't find him. The Knight Commander requested that his phylactery be retrieved and a hunt started."
"Oh no!" I breathed, horrified at the thought. "They will kill him if they catch him! He's just a boy!"
"The First Enchanter was able to get the Knight Commander to agree to wait until tomorrow morning. If he isn't back by then…well, you know."
"Irving, I'm sorry I didn't tell you this morning, but Aneirin and I had a rather unpleasant confrontation last night."
"Oh, what was this about?" he asked.
"I found him in the greenhouse last night," I admitted. "I asked him how he had gotten in, and he told me he had picked the lock. That's what started to make me angry. Then, when I found out he was reading a book on the Dalish versus working on his studies, I really lost my temper. I don't even remember what I said to him, something about how frustrating it was to work with someone who wouldn't help himself. Anyway, he ran out and I couldn't catch him. That's the last time I saw him."
"Hum," said Irving. "Given what I found out today from questioning the other apprentices, that is troubling."
"What?" I asked. "What did you learn?"
"At first, nothing," he said. "None of them would say anything until finally one admitted that Aneirin had been having trouble with some of the other apprentices, Baird and his group. Evidently, they had been harassing Aneirin, and it seems to have now moved beyond simple verbal teasing and into more physical confrontations."
"Oh no! I asked him over and over if anything was bothering him, and he always told me no. Why didn't he just tell me what was going on?" I asked helplessly.
Irving shook his head. "Some people just have a hard time trusting, Wynne. I think Aneirin is one of those. I don't know what happened to him before he arrived here at the tower, but whatever it was, it must have scarred him deeply."
We sat there in silence for awhile and then Irving said, "Don't blame yourself for losing your temper. I know you tried to help him. I should have been monitoring the situation closer myself. If I had paid more attention to the apprentices, perhaps I would have realized what was going on before now."
I looked down at my hands. "Thank you," I said, but I knew I could have tried harder to make a connection with Aneirin.
Irving looked at me and sighed. "I have to go, Wynne. I'll try and talk to the Knight Commander before he sends the templars out. I'll explain the situation and maybe they can just track the boy and bring him back. He hasn't actually done anything to be branded a maleficar."
I just shook my head as tears came to my eyes. Knight Commander Doughal wasn't known as a kind or sympathetic man towards magic users. He ruled his templars with an iron fist and expected obedience from the mages. I didn't hold out much hope for mercy for Aneirin from such a man.
Irving rose and lightly patted my shoulder. "Get some sleep, Wynne. Hopefully, Aneirin will be back in the morning, and this all will be over."
I nodded but continued to sit on the chantry bench just staring at the statue of Andraste. I figured it couldn't hurt, and even though I certainly wasn't a devotee, I fired off a prayer to her. Perhaps she could watch over Aneirin when others couldn't. I don't know how long I sat thinking about that final confrontation with Aneirin before dragging myself off to my bed. My sleep that night was troubled and certainly not restful.
The next morning, Aneirin still wasn't back. I spent most of the time before breakfast haunting the lower floor of the tower. Finally, I saw three templars all in their full armor carrying packs exit the tower. My heart sank as I knew these men had been sent out after Aneirin and without a doubt carried his phylactery with them.
The next few weeks passed slowly for me. With Aneirin gone, I once again had time for my own studies. Somehow they didn't seem as important as they once had. I mostly drifted through my duties watching for the three templars to return, with or without Aneirin. Weeks turned into months and I found the tower very quiet. I had started back into my analysis on spirits of the Fade, but was addressing it in only the most desultory manner. I was just marking time until I could find out what had happened to Aneirin.
One day, almost three months since Aneirin had fled, I was in the halls between classes when Enchanter Penelope asked me if I had heard the news. When I asked her what news, she said she'd heard the templars who went after my apprentice were back. I just stared at her in shock for a moment and then I took off running. I forced myself to slow down, but headed for Knight Commander Doughal's office as fast as I could. I knew the returning templars would go there first to report what had happened to him. When I arrived outside his office, his door was closed, but I didn't see anyone around. I went past his door and down the hallway to wait. I knew the templars would have to pass me on their way back to their barracks. I tried to control my impatience as I waited.
After what seemed like forever, my vigil was finally rewarded. I heard the door to the Knight Commander's office open and then male voices heading in my direction. When they drew close to me, I stepped into their path. "Please, sers, can you tell me what became of the apprentice you were after?"
The templars stopped talking when they saw me. The one in the lead roughly pushed me aside. "Out of the way, mage!" he said gruffly.
"Please, please, tell me," I begged almost in tears, but my pleas fell on deaf ears. The templars kept on moving, ignoring me. I stood there for a few minutes once they were gone trying to figure out how I could find out what had happened to Aneirin. I realized my sole hope was Irving. He was the only one that would tell me, if he was even told himself.
I had one more class I was scheduled to teach that day. I decided that afterwards I would find Irving; teaching the class should allow time for news about Aneirin to filter down to him. Hanging onto my hope, I headed back to my classroom fruitlessly searching the hallways on my way for a familiar red-headed elf. I'm not sure how much knowledge I imparted to my students that day as my mind was concentrated so firmly on finding Irving and discovering what had happened, but once my class was done, I headed directly for Irving's office. His door was open; however, he was not inside. I sat in the chair in front of his desk and proceeded to wait. It was a long one, but I was determined to get some answers. I was just thinking about maybe checking his room when I heard the familiar sound of his footsteps in the hallway. My stomach gave a nervous lurch, but I clamped down firmly on my emotions.
"Wynne! What a surprise," said Irving as he entered his office. He came around behind his desk and sat down heavily. "Although I guess it shouldn't have been, should it?" he asked with a weak smile.
"What's the word, Irving?" I tried to ask calmly, but I was sure he saw right through me.
"I'm so sorry, Wynne," he started and I felt tears start to form.
Oh no! They've killed him!
"They won't tell me what happened," said Irving. "I don't know why. They won't tell me that either, neither the Knight Commander nor the First Enchanter," he said in disgust as he leaned back in his chair.
I realized this would be worse torture than if they told us the templars had killed him, to always be wondering and never knowing what had truly happened to Aneirin. I couldn't help but think that Knight Commander Doughal was doing this on purpose just to torment us. There were rumors that he might be retiring soon and a new commander installed. I just hoped for all our sakes the next one was more considerate to the mages whose care he was entrusted with.
"You don't have any idea at all, Irving?"
"No, my dear," he said gently. "All I know is that they returned to the tower without him."
I sank into the chair in despair.
"Aneirin was troubled for a long time. I was hoping you would have been able to reach him, but I know you tried your best to help him. Sometimes it's not easy to see what is happening right under our own noses. I, more so than you, should have been aware of what was going on with Baird and his group of ruffians," he said sorrowfully. "Try not to blame yourself, Wynne," he added kindly.
I thanked him and made my excuses to depart. I needed to be alone. I had a whole boatload of "if only" regrets. If only I had spent more time with Aneirin. If only I had really listened to him. If only I hadn't been so absorbed in my own desires. If only he had told me about his problems with the other apprentices. The list grew exponentially from there.
Once I left Irving's office, the tears flowed freely down my face as I leaned against a wall of the hallway. I made a vow that day that I would never let another anyone down as badly as I failed Aneirin. I also made up my mind that someday, some way I would find out what happened to him, and if he was still alive, try to make up for the hurt I caused him.
In the years after that I had many apprentices in the time before I left the tower to assist with ending the Blight. All of them profited from my mistakes with Aneirin. I never forgot him; however, and I thought about him often, hoping he had somehow found a place among the Dalish he had so admired.
Many years later, thanks to a couple of Grey Wardens, I finally found Aneirin again.