|Disclaimer: The characters and story are based on the series BeastMaster are property of Tribune Entertainment Company. There is no intent to infringe on their rights, this is only for pure enjoyment.|
The Last Sula
Dedicated to the last of a rare breed, Daniel Goddard
Escorted by two Terrons, Dar entered a large hut the villagers used as a meeting hall. He placed his quiver and staff next to the cushion on the ground and sat cross-legged at the low table—a table set for a king. Dar thanked his host with a nod. Zad sat at the head of the table while his warlord sat opposite the Beastmaster. Several village women began serving them. One filled their glasses while another offered them a variety of cheeses and fruit. It wasn't often Dar had cheese, so he took several chunks and a bunch of grapes. A man served the king first, scooping out a hefty portion from the large platter of baked fish and vegetables. The man moved next to Dar and served him next. The meal looked very appetizing. Aromas filled his nostrils and tantalized his taste buds. Never in his life had he dreamed he'd be dining with the Terron king.
"I see you like cheese," Zad concluded, "In order to truly enjoy the taste, one must wet his palate with wine. Drink up. This vintage was made specially for such occasions." It was not the intention of the king to get the Beastmaster inebriated, but he knew the drink would relax him enough to enjoy his company. He lifted his mug, toasted the air and drank greedily. Droplets moistened his lips until his tongue licked them dry. "Exquisite."
Dar savored the red nectar—sweet, not harsh like most wines he'd tasted. He doused his thirst, draining the contents and then held out his cup for more. He smiled at the woman pouring the wine in a gesture of thanks.
Zad laughed. "Maybe you do have the blood of a king in you after all. Most men don't appreciate fine wine. For example, Ratax here would rather drink a hearty ale to quench his thirst. You, on the other hand, seem to appreciate the finer things in life, as do I. In fact, we seem to have the same taste…especially in women. So, I'd dare say you're ahead of the game."
The king's comparison made Dar's blood boil, or was it the wine? He hadn't eaten since early morning. He needed nourishment, something in his stomach because the wine was already affecting his head. Dar took a bite of the baked fish. It tasted similar to the herb and seasonings Tao used to spice up his cooking. Once he swallowed the mouthful, Dar washed it down with some more wine. Time to get down to business. "What game is that, Zad? Why do you keep saying I'm a king?"
"You expect me do dine with a barbarian?" Zad sneered. "If I at least pretend you're king of the savages, then I can delight in your company. It's bad enough you dress like a beast, or do I dare say, barely dress?" Zad ridiculed his guest, spurring his warlord to laugh at his wisecrack.
"Do you always insult your guests, or just me?" Although annoyed with the jeers, Dar was actually amazed by Zad's generosity. He had even allowed him to keep his weapons.
"Forgive my manners once again, Beastmaster, but you freed my tiger, so you owe me. Without the tiger, I need your services. You're probably wondering what you could possibly do for me."
Dar grinned. "I'm wondering what's so important that you would go through so much trouble to make me feel like a guest."
"I'm a desperate man. And desperate men to desperate things. The last time I needed your services, I used tricks and threats. I thought I'd change my tactics this time and use a friendlier approach." Zad studied the Beastmaster; he seemed to be enjoying his meal, certainly the wine.
Dar looked up when the king paused. "This is definitely friendlier."
Zad lowered his voice so only Dar and his warlord could hear his confession, but he was addressing the Beastmaster. "There's an emptiness inside me and I'm hoping to fill it. Are you at least willing to hear me out?"
He obliged the king and nodded.
"I want to have a son."
Dar nearly choked on the mouthful of wine before swallowing. "I don't think I could help you with that one," he blurted. His witty insinuation even forced the stern Terron across from him to laugh.
Zad's fist slammed against the table. "I'm serious!" He glared at Ratax who quickly suppressed his laughter. Zad leaned closer to the Beastmaster. "I'm not getting any younger and I need to raise a son to rule in my footsteps. Is that so wrong? Why should you begrudge me happiness?"
"You're happiness thrives on others' misery." The wine loosened Dar's tongue. ""Why here? What's so special about these people? I'm sure you have plenty of bastards to choose from. There has to be a reason you're this far from the Territories. What have they got that you want?"
"I'm amazed at how perceptive of a man you are. That's a true sign of a leader, a king. Instead, you waste your powers, Beastmaster. If I had them I'd raise an army of beasts and conquer the Downs with ease."
Dar fought off the effects of the wine. "A beastmaster protects the animals, he doesn't use them for his own gain." He stood up. The wine went one way while his head went the other. His body tottered back and forth. "I grow tired of your games, Zad."
"I know why you're here. You're protecting him. Which one is he? I'll find him with or without your help!" the king exclaimed as he jumped up and blocked the exit. Ratax rose and moved behind his king.
"Find who?" The king's true plans still mystified Dar.
"You really don't know?"
"No," Dar shook his head. Bad mistake. The wine played havoc with his head again. His hand clutched onto Zad's arm for support.
The evil king smiled, too good to be true. Drunk men always talked. Zad yanked the Beastmaster closer and whispered, "I've heard rumors of a boy who gets along with animals."
"Lots of children get along with animals, their innocence makes them closer to nature."
"So I've heard, but this boy's extraordinary. He once befriended a wolf. The only people I know who have done so in the past are Sulas."
"You think he's a Sula?" Dar scoffed at Zad's ridiculous suggestion.
"I say he is!" Zad declared. "He's hiding here and I intend to find him, raise him as my own."
"Raise him with an iron fist like your father raised you?"
Taken aback by the Beastmaster's words, Zad sighed. "I never told that to anyone, except Kyra. I see she couldn't keep from talking about me."
Dar wouldn't give Zad the satisfaction of knowing he overheard the king's revelation while hiding on the roof of his yurt. "What gives you the right to steal someone else's child? That's not a good way to become a father."
"A king need not steal…he takes!" Zad laughed and winked at Ratax. "Think about it, Beastmaster. The boy I'm searching for has seen nine or ten years. The Sulas have been wiped out for nearly 14, with the exception of you. It doesn't take an Eiron scholar to do the math. Perhaps it is you who have sired the bastard?" Zad's turn to twist the knife, pleased he could still get the Beastmaster riled up.
Dar squeezed Zad's arm without realizing his anger. "I loved only one woman and you know it! Kyra was my life!" Dar fought back tears. The wine and anger forced hidden emotions to surface. He collected his wits before continuing. "Had I ever been a father, I would have raised the child with the same love and kindness my father showed me."
"So sure of yourself, are you?" Zad took pleasure in goading the Beastmaster; he loved the savage's wild side. "Take him away and make sure he's bound securely," Zad ordered Ratax.
Dar reached back for his staff but found nothing. His weapons were still on the ground next to the cushion. He lunged for them, but Zad swiftly kicked them aside. The Terron king easily overcame the Beastmaster whose actions were impeded by wine. With Ratax's help, Zad tied Dar's hands behind his back.
"I guess this means I'm no longer a guest." Dar had made a grave error and he knew it.
"You'll be lucky if I don't grind you up and serve you to my dogs!" Zad barked as Ratax dragged the prisoner from the hut.
Zad glared at the frightened women. He then raged on. "I'll find the Sula boy, raise him as my own. He'll be bestowed the same powers as the Beastmaster as soon as he's dead. Between my son's power and mine, we'll be invincible and rule the lands. No warrior will be able to defeat the Terrons, not with my army of beasts."
Tao managed to get some rest, thanks to no disturbances during the night. He hoped the Terrons wouldn't bother searching this far down the river. What worried him most was no sign of Dar yet. It was late morning. Kodo and Podo didn't seem to miss him; they were too occupied with Gie. The boy really took to them and they to him.
"Tao?" the boy asked. He tossed another berry to Podo.
"My uncle, Uncle Torm. What will those men do to him?"
Tao frowned. "Your uncle's a brave man, Gie. He let them capture him so you and your mother could escape. I'm not sure what the Terrons will do." He couldn't look the boy in the eye knowing the truth.
"Why didn't you stop them?"
Tao's heart sank. "I'm no match for three Terrons—the Beastmaster, yes, not me. If I tried to rescue your uncle, I would have risked your whereabouts and then your uncle's sacrifice would have been for not."
Feeling better, Jame sat next to Tao. "Gie, it's your turn to bathe."
"I'm not dirty," he protested.
"Now." Jame watched her son until she made sure he started cleaning his face. She then turned to Tao and smiled. "Again, I'm thanking you. It was such a pleasure to freshen up with warm water. You think of everything, Tao. Are you sure you don't have a wife and family? You'd make a wonderful husband."
Tao's cheeks reddened. Embarrassed by her words, he busied himself by chopping up the roots he'd collected yesterday. "I came close once, but things happened and we parted ways."
"Her loss." Jame picked up the strange root. "Can I help you cut these up?"
"Sure," he smiled. "We always seem to be talking about me. Tell me about yourself."
"What would you like to know?"
Tao felt like kissing her instead of interrogating her. Jame wore her hair down, the loose locks falling past her shoulders. It softened her look even more so. "Gie…he must have had a father. What can you tell me of him?"
"In my tribe, Gie means a gift. That he is…he changed my life."
"Children can do that," Tao noted.
"When I was younger, my brothers watched over me, so much so, I barely had any privacy. They were overprotective since our parents' death. Whenever I managed to escape their guard, I went wild. Sudden freedom can make one misbehave. My brothers soon caught on and my nymphomania only tightened my brothers' reign." She watched as Tao's eyes widened and she held up her hand so he'd let her continue. "Finally, one day I tricked my brothers so I could be alone. I enjoyed the solitude until Gie's father showed up. I had to have him. I only saw him that once, but soon after I was with child. My ways changed when Gie was born, I devoted my life to him. I'm a better person because of my son."
Tao was stunned. He never expected she'd divulge her deepest secrets; he only wanted to know if the father was still a part of her life.
"You think I'm wicked. I understand." Jame lowered her head in shame. She never told anyone of her wanton ways.
"No…no, Jame. You were young, experimenting. We've all been there. Yes, even gentle Tao." He snickered and moved closer. "Don't be so hard on yourself. Your brothers may have convinced you that your actions were wicked, but as you said, you've changed. Most immoral people can't change, take Zad for example. You did, however, which means you never were wicked, just misguided. Do you understand what I'm trying to say?" Tao hated to see her look so crushed. He lifted her chin and kissed her lips. He pulled back to see a glimmer of happiness return to her eyes."
"Yes, Tao, I understand. If all the world had your wisdom and gentleness, it would be paradise." Jame felt like a heavy burden had been lifted from her shoulders. She no longer felt disgraced in Tao's company. Her womanly instincts sensed something else was troubling him as he gazed off in the distance. "You're worried about your friend, Dar. If Gie and I are preventing you from searching for him, we can stay here alone."
"I won't think of it. Besides, I'd only get lost. Dar usually takes care of himself. It's just he recently lost the love of his life and I sent him off to handle it alone—something I thought he needed to do. I'm just worried with all the Terrons around…" Tao's sentence drifted off.
Jame took hold of his hand. "He must value your friendship, I know I do."
Excited, Gie ran over to show his mother his latest discovery. He held up the flat, round stone. "See, mother. This is the perfect shape to help Uncle Roog's work easier."
Jame felt like she had to explain. "Roog is my eldest brother."
Circular objects fascinated the Eiron, there were so many applications to use them. "Gie, how would you use that to make work easier for your uncle?" Tao asked, curious to the boy's imaginative mind.
"Uncle Roog has to lift heavy barrels, he's strong but he hurt his back. I figured if I attached one of these round stones to the front of the barrel, it could spin freely and roll, then, Uncle Roog can lift up the back. All the weight would be in the front making it easier for him to push."
The child was a genius according to Tao. "Brilliant! I should have thought of that…so easy. Let's see if we can build one now. I don't have a barrel, but a basket will do." Tao and the boy gathered the necessary parts they needeed to build their 'wheel-barrel.' Jame shook her head. Her heart ached for a man like Tao, a man to fill the needs of her son—a father figure. She also ached to fill her loneliness. If only it could be.
Dar spent the day bound to a post in the center of the village. His parched mouth begged for moisture. The late afternoon sun and last night's wine left him dehydrated. Several townsfolk tried to bring him water, but were sent away by the Terron guards. Dar had to escape soon before he withered away and had no fight left in him. He tried calling Kodo and Podo, but he was too weak. The blows he received from Ratax stung his ribs and jawbone. He no longer had saliva in his mouth. Dar struggled against the ropes, but to no avail.
Zad rode by, followed by half a dozen warriors. He stopped in front of Dar. "Beastmaster, your services aren't required any longer. The boy's fled with his mother. His uncle was gracious enough to confess before he met an untimely death. With you dead, perhaps your powers will be passed on to my son."
"That's not how it works," Dar murmured.
"Enjoy your last minutes of life, Beastmaster, pitiful as they may be."
Zad's laughter echoed through Dar's ears as the king rode off. The Beastmaster made one last effort to contact Sharak—nothing. He closed his eyes and his head bobbed slightly as he passed out.
A strange vapor appeared and encircled the Beastmaster, unnoticed by the guards. Its moist properties wet his lips. His mouth opened as his tongue sought for more. He greedily drank the droplets that formed. Dar's eyes opened slowly as his will to live was rejuvenated. He realized someone was cutting the ropes that bound his feet and hands so tightly. His extremities tingled with numbness as blood filled them. His heart pounded fiercely, overjoyed with Tao's rescue attempt. He turned to bless his friend. "You?" Dar remarked.
Upon hearing the Beastmaster's voice, the Terron guards finally noticed what was going on. They raced over, weapons aimed to halt the rescuer's progress. The lone man looked easy enough to take.
Sharak tossed the Beastmaster his staff weapon that he hid beneath the cloak he wore. He hoped his friend had the strength to fight off the two attackers. With a section in each hand, Dar swung the club at the closest Terron, whacking him in the head. The impact knocked the guard cold. The other Terron took advantage of the timing and clubbed Dar in the side, striking his sore ribs. He cried out in pain and fell to his knees. The warrior raised his battle-axe, ready to deliver a fatal blow. He never got the chance. A stroke of lightning sent him flying backwards.
Sharak blew his scorched fingers to cool them. He hadn't done that trick in several thousands of years. He ran to aid Dar. "We should get out of here. Here, let me help you." Sharak placed Dar's arm around his neck and helped him to his feet. "Can you walk?"
Dar nodded. They headed for the woods. Zad had taken most of the warriors with him, but soon those left in the village would realize what happened and start searching for them. Once they reached cover Dar asked, "How did you know—"
"I owed you a favor ever since you helped me rescue my woman from the Burning Forest. Now I've repaid my debt. Let's call it at that." He knew the Beastmaster's weakened state would slow them down. Sharak had hoped the mist he conjured up would have strengthened him faster than it seemed to be doing.
It wasn't the fact Dar was weak that slowed him down. Instead, the Beastmaster slowed to a halt. Sharak turned to see what was the matter.
"Your woman in the Burning Forest…the Sorceress?"
Sharak looked down. "Yes."
"That makes you a—"
"A sorcerer, yes. Unfortunately, I'm a bit rusty. My concoction should have given you enough strength by now to run on your own." Sharak didn't appreciate the look of distrust in Dar's eyes. "Not all sorcerer's are evil, Dar."
Dar never got a chance to reply. The world around him came to a standstill as time was suspended. The Ancient One's form transformed out of thin air.
Irritated by Sharak's actions, the wizard's voice quivered with fury. "I changed you back to do me a favor, not obstruct fate!"
"He's a friend. I couldn't let him die. Unlike you, I believe one can alter fate." Sharak stood his ground.
"Another one! Trust me, Sharak, you should have let him die. It would have been so much easier on him. What he's about to face may crush his spirit. He's lost so much already."
"It sounds as if you really care about him. What must he face?" Sharak prodded.
"In due time."
In a flash, both Sharak and the Ancient One vanished. Dar blinked several times due to the bright light, believing he witnessed the Sorcerer's exit. He looked up and then behind him. Terrons would soon be on his trail; he didn't have time to waste—nightfall was approaching. He sprinted towards the river, bracing his sore ribcage.
Tao stood at the edge of the camp and stared into darkness. He felt ill—sick with worry for his long, overdo friend. It was odd that Kodo and Podo didn’t seem upset; they were fast asleep next to Gie. Perhaps Dar had contacted them, letting them know he was on the way. He sure hoped so.
Jame placed her hand on Tao’s arm, patting it gently. "I wish there was something I could do. You’ve been so helpful to us. I feel like I’ve known you all my life, Tao. Is it in your nature to be this way with all strangers?"
Tao turned and gazed in her eyes. He couldn’t help but smile. "When I first met Dar, I’m not sure, but I believe he thought of me as a pest. I still ask too many questions for his liking and I’m always in need of his help."
"I’m sure he benefits from your friendship as much as you do from his. I couldn’t imagine otherwise," Jame assured him. She glanced to check on her son. "I can't believe it, you wore the little bugger out. He loves the rolling cart you helped him make."
Tao didn’t take his eyes off her. "You have a very smart son. Are you sure the father wasn’t an Eiron scholar?"
Jame whacked his chest playfully. "Stop it." She laughed. Her laughter subsided when she realized Tao wasn’t laughing. Jame studied him for a moment. Although his serious expression frightened her, she spoke what her heart felt. "I wish Gie’s father was an Eiron scholar, Tao. I wish he were you."
Tao pulled her close and pressed his lips against hers. Jame couldn’t believe her dream was coming true. She matched his passion with her kiss. Please don’t let me wake up, she begged silently.
Site created by BeastWatcher
My Fanfic is based on the BeastMaster: The Legend Continues Series
© 2000 Tribune Entertainment Company All rights reserved