In the quiet that only occurred deep in the night in Ferelden's mage tower, Greagoir made his way through the silent passageways. The noise that a full set of templar armor normally caused was muted. Years of wearing the armor made it feel like a second skin, and he was able to move in it fluidly and quietly. He paused by the door that led to what was serving as temporary mage quarters.
In the weeks since Uldred's rebellion, he and Irving had been working to make the tower safe once again, and Greagoir was hopeful that would soon be accomplished. With the deaths from the rebellion and the Battle of Denerim, both the templar and mage ranks were greatly diminished. It would take years before the tower would once again be as full as it had been just a year ago.
He took a moment to try and wipe the tiredness from his eyes. His day had started many hours ago. Their efforts in reclaiming the tower had progressed to the point that they were ready to try and secure the harrowing chamber. As this would be the most delicate of the work they had done in sealing and strengthening the Veil between the tower and the Fade, Greagoir hadn't feel comfortable not being present. Hours spent watching over the mages engaged in that task, an accident with one of the apprentice mages, meetings, and mounds of paperwork had conspired to steal the day and most of the night away from him. Greagoir wouldn't seek his rest, however, until he had finished this last duty he set himself.
As he stood there he realized someone must have been brewing potions again. The scent of elfroot along with that of various other herbs drifted to him through the door, and he thought about the woman he was here to visit. Aithne Amell had been brought to the tower young. He had watched her grow and excel in her studies through the years. She had lived up to the promise of her name, and fire had been as easy for her to control as breathing was for him. Greagoir had secretly rejoiced when she had easily passed her Harrowing. Then had come her unfortunate involvement with the blood mage Jowan, and for a time she had passed beyond his dominion. She had gone with Duncan to become one of the rare Grey Wardens within Ferelden's borders.
When she had come back during the Blight and refused to abandon the mages and templars who had been locked behind the safety doors to their fates, she had once again earned his respect. Greagoir had wanted to throw those doors wide and try to save every person he could, mage and templar alike, but the part of him that was the knight-commander had known he couldn't allow even the possibility that an abomination would escape the tower itself. When the doors had thudded closed behind Aithne and her friends, Greagoir had been sure he would never see them again, but he had never been so glad to have been wrong. Aithne had left the tower once again right after clearing the upper floors all the way to the harrowing chamber and saving the first enchanter to continue her fight against the darkspawn. Then he had only stories of her exploits and how she and her companions had not only stopped the civil war but had also saved Ferelden from the Blight. It was unfortunate that the price for that had been their young king's life.
No one had known what to do with Aithne in Denerim after the destruction of the Archdemon. Losing the man who had become her other half had destroyed something inside the young mage, and Aithne had fallen into an altered state, seemingly unable or unwilling to acknowledge the events that had stolen everything from her. It had been decided by those in the far-off city to send her back to the tower with the surviving mages from the Battle of Denerim. In the weeks since then, she had been kept in a small room just on the other side of the door Greagoir was currently standing in front of. She neither spoke nor seemed to have any connection with the physical world. Her body functioned automatically, but when her eyes were open, they were blank and without expression. Aithne was watched over by some of the healing mages, who exercised her limbs, spoon-fed her one slow bite at a time, and turned her so her skin would not develop bed sores. Through this all, she continued to lie passive, appearing to not see or hear the world surrounding her as she grappled with a loss that she didn't seem to be able to bear.
It had become part of Greagoir's nightly routine to stop and check on her before he retired to his quarters. He didn't understand himself what he was hoping to accomplish with these visits, but he couldn't shake the sense of responsibility he felt for the young mage. She had given almost everything she had to save Ferelden from the Blight. It didn't seem right to him for her to be shoved aside and forgotten. Greagoir pushed the door open and entered the mage quarters themselves. He was surprised not to find Petra outside Aithne's door. In the past weeks, Petra had developed a protective interest in Aithne and was usually the one who watched over her through the night.
With a mental shrug, Greagoir opened the door to Aithne's room and stepped through, preparing to take the position at the side of her bed as he normally did each night. Suddenly a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. He shut the door as he turned, and in the soft lighting of a mage lamp, he saw a figure standing in the center of the room. His eyes flew to the bed, noting its emptiness before returning to the woman standing in front of him. Surprise at her being out of bed held him motionless for the next few seconds, and then Greagoir felt the flicker of energies as Aithne reached for power from the Fade. Seeing the nimbus of light that began to outline her, Greagoir suddenly realized exactly what she was going to do. With a feeling of horror, Greagoir reflexively reached out and abruptly broke her connection with the Fade, stopping the flow of mana that fed her spell. With two strides he was at her side, and he rather roughly grasped her by her arms and shook her.
"By the Black City, woman, what did you think you were doing?" When she looked up at him, Greagoir couldn't stop the jolt that went through him as for the first time since she returned to the tower there was life in her eyes.
"Let go of me!" Her voice, which hadn't been used in weeks, was much quieter than normal. She jerked against his hold, flailing at him as she tried to push him away. "Why did you stop me?" The anguish behind that question tore at him.
"Aithne! Stop fighting me." He wrapped his arms around her and for once cursed his armor. What she needed now was a real connection to another living, breathing human being, not the coldness of a templar's shell. She suddenly sagged in his arms as she expended the last of the energy she had mustered to climb out of the bed. With a strangled curse, he scooped her up, noting how light she was in his arms. He strode back to the bed and gently laid her down.
She turned up on her side away from him. Greagoir hesitated, not sure what he should do next. The broken woman on the bed was nothing like the Aithne Amell he had always known. It was the single word that escaped her, spoken so softly and with so much pain, that decided him.
Gregoir began to move swiftly, grateful for the speed the thousands of times he had donned and removed his armor gave him. With a little twisting and turning, he managed to strip the armor from his upper body leaving him clad in the soft linen undershirt he wore underneath it. Not taking the time to remove his skirts and boots, he reached for her. Aithne gave a small gasp when he picked her up again. Gregoir moved to the chair he had sat in each night when he had come to visit. It had been Petra who had moved it in here, claiming if he was going to spend so much time at Aithne's bedside he should have somewhere comfortable to sit. He ignored the stiffness that came into Aithne's body as he tried to settle her against him.
"Relax," he said very quietly, but he kept an arm around her shoulders to hold her in place. Gradually, her muscles loosened, and she began to lean against him. He had forgotten just how tiny she was. Her head barely came to his shoulder even sitting on his lap.
At first the only thing he dared to do was sit still, but as she accepted him holding her, he began to softly stroke her hair in a soothing rhythm. As she relaxed, he pulled her closer against him and laid the side of his cheek against the softness of her hair. They sat like that for a while as he continued his rhythmic stroking.
When he felt her body start to tremble, he asked very quietly, "Have you cried for him yet?"
He felt her shake her head. "You should. Let it out, Aithne. It's much better than hiding yourself away and trying to deny what happened. I promise I won't let you go until it's over."
She shook her head again as if refusing his suggestion, but he could tell she was balancing on a thin edge of control as her body continued to shake. He began to rock slightly as he kept stroking her hair. He crooned reassuringly to her, letting her know that she was safe and sheltered and could release some of the grief she was feeling. It started quietly as she finally allowed some of her heartbreak to escape. Eventually, she buried her face against his shirt and began to sob, and true to his word, Greagoir held her safe in his arms until the storm had passed.
"And then Remi led the Val Chevin tax collectors on a merry chase—"
Aithne interrupted him suddenly. "Why are you doing this?"
It was the night after her suicide attempt, and Greagoir had been reading to Aithne during his daily visit. Before he had left last night, he had apprised Petra of the situation and ordered that Aithne not be left alone. Leaving her in Petra's capable hands, he had gone looking for Senior Enchanter Melindra who had been the person overseeing Aithne's case. He had probably been a little too firm in his orders, but he had wanted to take no chance that something would happen to the young Hero of Ferelden. He had even informed Melindra that he was taking a personal interest in Aithne's case and would be the one making the decisions for her care.
He looked up from his place in the book to see her staring intently at him. Purposefully misunderstanding her, Greagoir looked away as he replied, "Reading about the Black Fox? Everybody likes stories about him, don't they?"
"That's not what I mean and you know it. I'm sure no other mage can say the knight-commander reads them bedtime stories. Why have you taken such an interest in me?"
"Why not? Someone needed to do it, so why not me?" He kept his tone purposefully light. He hoped she would accept his response without pushing for more.
She blew out her breath in what he took as exasperation, and then it was her turn to look away from him. "I don't know why you interfered. You just should have let me go."
Gregoir carefully laid the book down on the small side table before he leaned toward the bed to reply to her. "Quit being so damned selfish." His words and the force he had put behind them cut through the silence in the room like his sword could through flesh.
She pushed herself up to a sitting position, and he was heartened to see the flush that came to her face as Aithne prepared to rebuff him. "Selfish?? Selfish! Just what do you mean by that? I've spent the last year solving every problem that was thrown in our faces. And Alistair—"
Greagoir saw the tears that came to her eyes at the mention of the man she had loved, and Aithne started to turn away from him. He forestalled her though by reaching out and taking her hand gently, but firmly, in his grasp. Greagoir leaned even closer to her and spoke very quietly so she would be forced to really listen to what he had to say. "Would Alistair want you to chase him to the Fade? To leave this life behind and join him in whatever afterlife the Maker deems for us? Is that truly what he would want for you?"
Greagoir watched as Aithne grew pale at his words, but he could tell he had caught her off guard with his questions. She threw up the hand he wasn't holding to wipe at her tears as she looked down at where their two hands were joined. "No, he wouldn't have wanted that." The admission seemed hard for her to make.
Greagoir stroked her hand very softly with his thumb. "I didn't think so. It will take time, Aithne, and Alistair will always be in your heart. But believe me, it will get easier. You just have to give yourself the time for that to happen."
She didn't reply, but she didn't pull away from him either. Greagoir sat still for a few minutes just holding her hand and allowing her to really think about what he had said.
When the silence between them started to become strained instead of companionable, he spoke again. "Do you consider the tower your home?"
A look of puzzlement came over her face as if she wondered where this question had come from. "I don't know. I haven't really thought about it."
Greagoir watched her waiting for her response. C'mon little fishy. Take the bait.
Finally, she shrugged and then asked, "I guess so. Why?"
"I was wondering if you would be willing to help me with something."
"Well, I would certainly consider it. What is it you need?"
Greagoir was pleased to hear a small note of curiosity in her voice. She needed something to think about besides just brooding on her loss, and Greagoir hoped to provide some impetus to keep her moving down the road to recovery.
"Ever since Uldred's rebellion, there has been an almost palpable tension between templar and mage. The mages see my men as those who would have struck them down, and my knights are on edge, waiting for the next abomination to appear. The first enchanter and I have been working together closely to try and reduce the friction between both groups, but you are in a position to possibly do more than either of us can."
Greagoir nodded. "I'm not sure you realize how much people, especially here in the tower, look up to you. You have the respect of both my templars and the mages. I thought if you put your mind to it perhaps you could come up with some ideas that would help the situation."
Greagoir watched as her brow crinkled, always an indication that Aithne's mind was engaged. "All right, I'll think about it and see what I can come up with."
He was careful to hide the smile her words threatened to bring to his face. "Good. I couldn't ask for more."
A few nights later, Aithne was recovered enough to be out of bed. Petra had set her up in a chair, and they had a table pulled between them as they played Wicked Grace. Aithne threw down the Angel of Death card, and they began to compare hands.
With a small sound of disgust, Greagoir realized she had beaten him again. "I swear I don't know how you win every hand."
A ghost of a smile drifted across Aithne's face. "I learned how to play from a pirate captain. She taught me to cheat."
"You've been cheating?" Greagoir was almost speechless in surprise.
"I'll never tell."
Greagoir was so pleased to see even a small glimpse of the old Aithne that he just shook his head, allowing her possible cheating to pass.
He stood up as it was getting late, and he had a busy morning in front of him. "It's time for me to go. I'll send Petra in to help you get settled for the night. I'll see you tomorrow." He gave her a smile before he headed for the door.
"Are you ever going to answer my question?"
Greagoir turned back to face her with his hand on the doorknob. "What question is that?"
"Why are you doing all this? Taking the time from all your responsibilities to look out for me?"
Oh, this again. Greagoir didn't want to think about his reasons. "Because" was all he said before beginning to open the door.
He could hear the frustration in her voice as she replied, "That's not enough."
"It will have to be." With that Greagoir exited the room, shutting the door firmly behind him.
The young mage was talking his ear off. It had been just a week since Aithne had returned to the world of the living, and Greagoir thought it was time to gradually start reintegrating her into tower life. The mages in charge of Aithne's case had taken his words and instructions to heart when he had laid down the law about Aithne not being left alone and that he was the one who would be responsible for her care. In fact, they had fallen into line so much so that any moving forward of Aithne's rehabilitation had been discussed with him beforehand. Finn would be her first visitor besides him and those taking care of her. Greagoir had wanted someone whom she hadn't known well in the time before she had left the tower. Finn was a few years younger, and he was all afire about questioning Aithne about her adventures and any Tevinter relics she had encountered in her time away.
"But this is just so exciting. You do realize she was the first person to actually see inside Andraste's temple. There must have been some artifacts there that could expand our understanding of the ancient Tevinters."
I'm getting too old for this. "Yes, Finn, but Aithne is just recovering. You mustn't tire her out, and remember, she is not to be left alone."
Finn took a deep breath and noticeably tried to settle himself. "Yes, of course, I understand." The young man smoothed a hand down his robe.
He didn't hold out much hope that Finn would be able to contain his enthusiasm, and Greagoir decided in that moment to stay until he was certain all would be well. As they arrived to the door to Aithne's room, he limited himself to a warning look at Finn before he knocked on the door.
Greagoir took a breath before pushing open the door and entering. This was the first time he had come to Aithne's room during the day, and he was pleased to see how well she was looking. She was actually out of bed and seated in a chair. She was dressed in a set of dark green mage robes that contrasted nicely with the fieriness of her hair. He had warned her the night before that he had a surprise for her this afternoon, and he was happy to see she had made an effort to be up and about.
Neria, who had been sitting with Aithne, stood up and murmured an excuse, quietly slipping from the room.
Greagoir returned his attention to the young mage in the chair. "Good afternoon, Aithne. It's good to see you looking so well." He couldn't help smiling at her before turning to Finn. "I'm not sure if you remember my friend Finn here."
Greagoir looked behind him to see Finn standing as though he had been poleaxed. Greagoir smothered a smile as he realized a crush was being born right in front of him.
"Hello, Finn. It's nice to see you again." Aithne was all graciousness as she assumed the role of hostess. "I apologize for not getting up, but why don't you have a seat?" She gave a wave of her hand to the chair Neria had vacated.
Finn was silent a bit too long, and Greagoir took pity on the young man who seemed to be struck speechless. "Finn's been looking forward to getting a chance to talk to you. He wants to ask you about some of your academic discoveries on your travels."
Aithne turned her attention to Finn, and Greagoir had very little work to do as Finn recovered his ability to speak and conversation flowed between the two young people. As he watched them talking, he realized he had been right to bring Finn here. The time had come for him to start removing himself from Aithne's life. Greagoir had helped her through the rough patch that Alistair's death had caused. It was now time for her to take charge and begin to rebuild her life once again.
Feeling superfluous, he stood to make his exit. He gave a small wave to Aithne when she looked in his direction. Finn never noticed his departure.
As Greagoir left the mage quarters, he realized how strange it was for him to be out and about during the day without a pressing need to be somewhere. Usually, he was either locked in meetings or racing from one appointment to another. He knew he should return to his office. There certainly was enough work waiting for him, but with an unusual feeling of melancholy, his feet took him to the tower exit. He nodded at the templars standing guard on the door as he made his way outside.
Greagoir rarely left the tower itself, but he set off on the path that led to the dock where Kester would bring those who had business at the mage tower. He walked out to the end of the dock and rested a shoulder against one of the pilings. If he hadn't been in full armor he would have sat on the edge of the dock and let his legs swing freely in the air.
Greagoir cast his eyes out across the lake, but he didn't see the water lapping at the wood or hear the call of the birds that flew overhead. What Greagoir saw was the past as he allowed memories he normally kept well locked away to play through his mind.
Even after all this time, he could still remember her exact words and tone of voice that morning.
"If that's what you want, Greagoir, then that's what we'll do. It will be as if we had never met."
The sadness in Wynne's voice had been there for him to hear, but Greagoir had been too young and too confused over the conflict he was feeling to understand. He had only been at the tower a short time, and from the first time he had seen the newly-minted enchanter, he had been captivated. Months had passed, but eventually the chemistry between them had flared into a single night's passion. Afterward, Greagoir had been torn between the feelings he had for the then young mage and his templar duty. It had taken weeks, but he had finally steeled his nerve and told Wynne that what had happened between them could never be repeated.
It was a few months after that when he had realized that Wynne was pregnant. At that point, Wynne had been treating him as a stranger and wouldn't even look at him. He had taken every opportunity to observe her, and as he counted months on his fingers, it had become obvious to Greagoir that the child she carried was his. As had been the case almost since he had first met her, Greagoir had found himself confused. A part of him had been excited to think that he would be a father, but another had been terrified that Wynne would confess and he would be dismissed from the templars in disgrace. He hadn't needed to worry. As far as he knew, Wynne had never revealed the name of the father of her child to anyone.
He had been sent away from the tower to hunt an apostate and so had missed the birth of his and Wynne's baby. By the time he had returned, the child was long gone. Greagoir had eventually discovered the name of the mage who had attended Wynne that day, but she had left the tower as well. Senior Enchanter Elinora had been sent to court because of her healing skills and had suffered a stroke while there and died before she could be returned to the tower. He had never had a chance to discover anything about that day from her.
It had taken a few years, but eventually Wynne had started to speak to him once again. Neither one of them had ever mentioned the time they had shared or the child they had created together. Greagoir had known he was being a coward, but he had believed it was best to not tear open old wounds. The one thing he still wanted to know, even after all these years, was if the child had been a girl or a boy. He had spent many an hour fantasizing about holding his little girl on his knee or the first time he would put a sword in his son's hand. But even that desire hadn't been enough to make him raise the subject with Wynne.
About six or seven years after the birth of Wynne's baby, he had really started paying attention to the mage apprentices. He had figured there was more than an even chance that Wynne's child would inherit her talents. As each new apprentice arrived at the tower, Greagoir would eagerly search their faces looking for a hint of himself or Wynne in each; however, he had never found what he was searching for. As the years passed, he had even started examining each new templar recruit, but that too had proved to be in vain.
It wasn't until he had become knight-commander that he learned that mage children were often transported to chantry orphanages in other countries so there was no chance of reuniting a mother and child at a later date. He wondered if his child spoke with an Orlesian accent or if possibly he or she spent their days under the warm Antivan sun. Once he had learned that secret he had come to accept the fact that he would never know his child and would never be able to watch over him or her as a father should.
In the years that followed, he had found himself watching over the children of the tower instead, observing them when they didn't even realize he was there. From his position on the outside looking in, Greagoir was the one who had seen the bullies in the apprentice quarters or the mentorships that didn't work, and it had often been a word dropped in Irving's ear from him that had solved what had seemed to be an insurmountable problem to a young mage. He couldn't protect his son or daughter directly, but in some ways helping those that he could here in the tower made him feel a little bit better.
He wasn't sure exactly what it had been about Aithne that had called to him. Maybe it was because she was right around the same age that his child would now be. Whatever it had been, he was now fiercely glad that he had been able to be there for her. He knew she still had a long way to go to truly heal from Alistair's loss, but he felt confident that it would eventually happen. Greagoir could only hope that if his little girl was in trouble somewhere there would be someone who would step in and help her as he had been able to help Aithne.
Greagoir gave a sigh as he looked out across Lake Calenhad. Wynne was still in Denerim serving as an advisor to Queen Anora, but Greagoir knew the plan was for her to come back to the tower at some point. Perhaps when she did return home, the time had finally come for them to talk about what had happened all those years ago and the child she had born without him.
Shaking his head at his own foolishness in wasting time reliving events he could no longer change, Greagoir pushed off the piling and turned toward the tower.
It was time for him to return to work. The tower needed its knight-commander. Duty called him back, and as he always had, Greagoir would answer.