Kane as Annis (Joe):

Annis marvelled at the graceful stride of this human through the thick woods. While he was minding the twisted branches and thick underbrush as they collected wood for the fire, Mordekai was well ahead, almost out of sight and seemed almost to float through the dense forest like it was water.

Well practised, this one is. But such a strange soul; seeming to revel in having lived his life isolated from others.

Mordekai glanced back at him again. Annis couldn’t be sure whether this was a nervous habit or a protective instinct in their new companion. He threw back the blonde locks hanging annoyingly from the thick brim of his hat and continued deeper into the forest.

Mordekai (Neil):

Mordekai slid easily through the woods, leading his new companions along the trail left by the orcs. Hardly a challenge, the seeker thought to himself, any fool can follow this trail. They don’t need me, he thought to himself, and not for the first time. Since he crawled his way battered, bloody, and beaten to the gates of Winterhaven, he’d thought of nothing but how ill-equipped he was to be here. He just wanted to go home. Return to the grove, and be with his brothers. But he wasn’t one of them anymore, he thought bitterly to himself. Mordekai felt the shame boil up in him once again as his thoughts drifted back to the fateful day, not that long ago, when he asked to be one of his brothers.

“You must learn tolerance.”

It was spoken softly, a tone that could barely be heard above the babble of the stream water as it poured over rocks. The rustle of the hares through the underbrush seemed like a scream compared to the volume with which Beckett spoke. Elderly, silent, and wise beyond anyone Mordekai had ever met. Which is why his words stung. It seemed cruel to have waited days to hear this answer.

“Nature is not tolerant.” Mordekai, tried to counter. His mind spun. This was not at all what he expected. He assumed his place among The Verdant Brotherhood would be a sure thing. His heart was filled with anguish and pain.

“Does the wolf run in a pack or on its own?” Beckett asked, again, his voice devoid of emotion and quiet. The old druid stared into the stream, his face expressionless. Mordekai wondered if he was avoiding eye contact.

“Does the bear?” Mordekai retorted.

“You are not a bear.”

“Nor am I a wolf!”

“Are you sure?” Beckett spoke. Mordekai was trembling, but the druid before him remained calm. With a sigh, Beckett rose slowly to his feet. It can’t end this way, the seeker thought to himself.

“What happens now?” Mordekai said, his voice shaking, willing this to be a mistake.

“Now you must leave,” the old druid said, his face neither sad nor angry. Was there regret in his eyes? Mordekai could not know. He felt as if the ground was falling away beneath him.

“Where?” he stammered, unable to think properly, “I don’t know anyone out there. I… I’ve lived among the conclave, in the grove for most of my life!” This would mark the second time in his life he’d been abandoned.

“You will walk out of here thinking of yourself as a bear. Proud. Strong. Indomitable.” Beckett spoke slowly, “When you realize you are not a bear, you will learn to be cunning like the wolf. But the wolf needs a pack. Go and find your pack. Run with them, and when you are ready, you will return to us, and perhaps be the greatest among us.”

“I thought this was my pack!” Mordekai blurted, desperate, “I don’t relate well with others. Please, I beg you, I can change. I can be what you need!” He didn’t care anymore how desperate he sounded in that moment.

“You are what we need.” Beckett said with a smile, “You just need to learn that for yourself.” And with that, the old druid, who had been a father figure to Mordekai for the last twenty years, left him.

Tolerance. The word festered in Mordekai‘s mind, as he glanced back. It was looking at him again, the one the called Annis some times, and Kane other times. He tried not to shudder. Is this what they meant? Was this the tolerance he was supposed to acquire? He couldn’t think of it as human. It’s unnatural. It feasted on the life force of its companions. It’s an abomination.

The sound of ripping drew the seeker’s eyes up. Above him, his faithful hawk Kayle was perched on a branch, tearing at a mouse it had caught, its beak red with gore.

Is this so different? It almost sounded like Beckett’s voice in his head.

“It is different.” Mordekai said, to no one, “The mouse does not submit to the hawk. It is the natural order of their relationship that brings them together, and the hawk must hunt the mouse to survive. Vampires are born of darkness.”

Would you watch Kayle die if he could not feed himself, or would you feed him? Mordekai had no answer for that. Would I feed him my own flesh? The hawk screeched and flew off suddenly. Mordekai realized that his new companions had closed on him.

He could hear the vampire approaching. I can’t do this, Mordekai thought to himself. I just want to go home, came the thought he couldn’t get out of his head, I don’t belong here.

Author: Neil