|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
The morning sun, tinged with red tones, broke free of the horizon restoring daylight. Dar’s journey had taken longer than he had hoped, needing a breather more often due to his injuries. Sharak’s potion strengthened him some, but not enough. Skillfully, he crept into camp so as not to disturb Tao and his guests. Kodo and Podo had kept Dar updated on Tao’s adventure. He looked around but didn’t see the mother or child. For that matter, the ferrets weren't around either. Dar moved closer to Tao and realized his friend wasn’t alone beneath the blanket. Surprised, the Beastmaster asked, "Tao?"
Hearing the disturbance, Tao bolted upright. In a sleepy stupor, he checked around and then noticed Dar smiling down at him. In a soft whisper Tao blurted, "Dar, you’re back! Thank goodness!" Tao slipped out from under the blanket and pulled on his trousers, careful not to uncover Jame. "Ah, this is a bit awkward. I can explain."
Still amused, Dar snickered. "No need. And, all this time I thought you’d be worried about me."
"I was," Tao vowed, continuing to speak softly.
Snug beneath the blanket, Jame stirred from the sound of their voices. She rolled onto her back as Tao stepped aside; he didn't wish to disturb her sleep. When he motioned Dar to do the same, he noticed a scowl replaced his friend’s smile. Tao wasn’t sure why, but surmised it had something to do with Jame since Dar was staring at her. He watched the Beastmaster shake his head in disapproval before walking away. Curious as to his friend's change of mood, Tao followed. "Dar, what is it?"
Dar turned to face his friend. "She used you, Tao. That’s what she does, uses men for her own satisfaction."
Tao’s face scrunched with annoyance. "How can you say that? You don’t even know her." He glanced back at her sleeping form and wondered aloud, "Or do you?"
"I know her type." Dar avoided answering truthfully. He remembered her as if it were yesterday. "She's a temptress who entices her prey only to devour them. How did she trick you? What did she offer?"
"Offer? I can’t believe I’m hearing this!" Tao shouted in a whispered tone. He never thought he’d have to defend Jame, especially to Dar. "Jame is a wonderful woman, very loving and giving. She and her son needed shelter from the Terrons…that’s all." He stood his ground, disappointment turning to rage. "Just because you're miserable doesn't give you the right to drag me down with you! Why are you denying me some happiness?"
Was he? Dar reflected for a moment. His life had been isolated from civilization. Those he loved were dead, with the exception of Tao. Yes, he felt disheartened, but he'd never keep others from enjoying their happiness. Zad practically accused him of the same thing. No, he merely wanted to protect his friend. He felt offended that Tao would believe otherwise. Dar lowered his voice hoping to reason with him. "She’ll only hurt you, Tao." Obviously, the Eiron wasn't thinking with his mind. Dar didn’t want to see his friend dejected the way he had been. "She thrives on her wiles. She only seduced you—"
"I advanced her!" Tao revealed. His temper seethed, his hands clenched tight, wanting Dar to stop, no matter what it took.
Wrapped in the blanket, Jame's sudden appearance prevented an altercation. "Tao? Is there something wrong?" Unsure of what to make of Tao’s friend, whom he praised so dearly, she stood her distance. His animosity seemed to stem from her presence.
Flustered, Tao exclaimed, "Jame! I’m sorry we woke you. We were…ah, I was just questioning Dar about his whereabouts. It's still early, go back to sleep." He tried turning her about, but she sidestepped and moved closer to Dar. Tao stumbled from her evasive maneuver, but easily caught his balance.
Overhearing the last part of the conversation, Jame frowned at his lie. "I thought I heard you mention my name. Aren’t you going to introduce me?"
"Of course." Tao stood by her side and glared at his friend. He usually didn't forget his manners, but Dar provoked him beyond his senses. "Jame, this is Dar. Dar, Jame."
Jame offered her hand. "Pleased to meet you."
Dar didn’t take her hand, wondering why she didn’t recognize him. Then again, it had been ten years since their encounter. Alone, the last of his tribe, Dar had pleaded with her to take him to her people but she refused. She bribed the starving stranger with food for pleasure. To top it off, Curupira had spied upon them, ridiculing him afterwards. Yes, he was bitter. Besides, there was a more important matter on his mind. "Your son, where is he?"
Tao was disappointed that his friend didn’t offer a handclasp in return. Why was Dar being so rude to Jame? There had to be reason behind his actions, but what? The questions prattled through his mind until Dar’s question finally registered. "Gie!" Tao realized the boy was missing.
Jame was way ahead of Tao and raced over to where her son had settled for the night. Kodo, Podo and the rolling cart were missing as well. "Gie? Gie! He's gone!" Tao rushed over and pointed out the tracks the wheel left and assured Jame it would be easy to follow him.
Dar was busy communicating with the ferrets. "Kodo and Podo are with him. He's okay! I'm going after him!" the Beastmaster shouted as he dashed off. Out of range, he didn't hear Tao insisting that he and Jame would tag along. Dar hastened his pace following the footprints towards the river.
"How could he know he's okay? Did he only say that for my benefit?" Jame quickly pulled her dress over her head while Tao explained.
"He's the Beastmaster. I didn't tell you because I wanted to surprise Gie."
"The Beastmaster? Then it's not a legend?" Jame received her answer with Tao's smile. "He looks strangely familiar," she pondered, cinching the scarf around her waist.
"He should," Sharak replied. The sorcerer seemed to appear out of nowhere, startling them both.
Tao yelped but relaxed as soon as he recognized the familiar face— the man Dar and he helped to rescue a woman from in the Burning Forest. "You? What are you doing here? No wait," Tao instructed, holding up his hand. Irritated by the man's overbearing demeanor the first time they met, Tao didn't care to know. More than likely, he needed another favor. He didn't trust the stranger. "I don't believe you ever told Dar or me your name."
"It's Sha—" he caught himself. He promised the Ancient One he wouldn't reveal his identity to the Beastmaster or his companion. Thinking quickly, Sharak made up a similar sounding name. "Shan."
"Listen, you came at a bad time, Shan. We were just leav—"
Jame interrupted, curious to the man's comment. "What do you mean he should look familiar? Do I know him?" She seemed drawn to this stranger. To her, he appeared gentle and trustworthy.
Whether it was a tinge of jealousy or his distrust in Shan, Tao eased himself between the two. Jame grabbed Tao's hand and squeezed it gently to reassure him she cared for only him. Tao felt foolish. He rolled his eyes and stepped aside so Shan could further explain to Jame.
Sharak smirked at Tao's absurd insecurity. The mortal was entertaining to say the least. He had no time to waste so he briskly enlightened the woman, "Years ago while you were bathing in a small pool, a hungry boy came to pass. You offered food in exchange for a kiss—a kiss which led to another and beyond. He kept his end of the bargain; however, you didn't."
Jame clutched her midriff and looked at Tao, shaking her head in disbelief. "Oh, no. Dar was the boy?"
"I don't understand." Tao looked from Shan to Jame. "You know Dar?" He reached for her arms to pull her closer, but she jerked away in shame. "What is it, Jame?" He glared at Shan, believing him to be the culprit.
In tears, Jame explained, "Oh, Tao. I was so cruel to him. He claimed he was all alone, the last of his people and had nowhere to go. I didn't realize he was the last of the Sulas. I took advantage of his misfortune and used him for my own pleasure."
"You know him then?"
"He's Gie's father. Dar is Gie's father. I didn't even recognize him. I recall the way he looked at me…treated me just now. I'm sure he knows me. Tao, the last thing I want is to come between friends. No wonder you were arguing. I don't blame you if you hate me and never want to see me again."
"Dar? The father?" Tao blurted.
Sharak stepped forward. "We haven't much time. We must find Dar and the boy. I believe he suspects Gie to be his son." Since the Ancient One made sure Sharak had only limited powers as a sorcerer, he needed to keep them in reserve in case something went wrong. He didn't want to disappoint the wizard; else, he'd lose the three spells to become human again. "This way," he urged the others as he followed the tracks.
Tao was confused. On one hand, he felt overjoyed that Dar was a father, on the other, what of Jame? He cared deeply for her, but didn't want to come between them if they shared feelings for one another.
Traveling since early light, Gie needed rest. He lowered the cart and plopped down next to it. Kodo and Podo popped their heads out from under the blanket. Gie spoke to his new friends. "I'm sorry, I didn't know we were this far from home. It's taking longer than I thought. Won't Uncle Roog be overjoyed with his gift!" The ferrets squealed and jumped out of the basket, scurrying away. "Hey, come back here!"
Gie chased after them but stopped in his tracks when he noticed the figure ahead. Kodo and Podo ran over to the tall, muscular man dressed in a simple loincloth. He appeared savage, his unkempt hair streaked from sun exposure. At his side, he held a magnificent staff made of bone. At first, Gie felt intimidated until the intruder smiled, easing his nervousness. The man's smile was friendly and full of love as he picked up one of the ferrets. The stranger knelt down and placed Kodo on the ground.
Dar slowly lifted his head and looked at the boy. He lowered his staff to the ground to show he meant no harm. "Don't be afraid, I'm a friend," he assured, studying the youth. The blond youngster looked like his mother until he smiled. The boy's smile was comparable to his own. Could Zad be right? Had Dar fathered a son?
Gie stammered, "I'm not afraid. You're the Beastmaster."
"And how do you know that?"
In awe of the legend, Gie explained. "You're as tall as the trees, you look as strong as an ox and your hair is wild like a lion's mane." His description embarrassed the stranger and made him chuckle. Gie continued, "Besides, my friends ran up to you like they knew you."
"That's because Kodo and Podo are my friends too. My name is Dar."
"Dar? Tao's friend? I don't understand. Why didn't he tell me?" Gie was confused and hurt.
"I'm sure Tao had his reasons." Dar yearned to grab hold of the boy and embrace him with all his might. He needed answers first. "Why did you run off? Your mother's very worried."
"I thought I'd be back before she ever missed me. I wanted to give my uncle this present Tao helped me build. That's all. I didn't mean to worry Mother." Gie gestured behind him to show off his invention.
Dar suddenly noticed the basket with the one wheel attached to its front. He rose and walked over for a closer look. "What does it do?"
"You lift it up and roll it. You can fill it with lots of things." Gie demonstrated how his contraption worked. "I was bringing it to my uncle. He has a bad back and this will make his work easier."
"I believe it would, but you can't take it to him now. The Terrons are guarding your village. Some of them are searching for you. We're not safe here." Dar placed his hand on Gie's shoulder. "We'll have to leave that here for now."
"What do the Terrons want with me? I didn't do anything to them." Gie didn't understand his significance to the Terron king.
Dar now understood Gie's importance. He answered carefully. "King Zad heard rumors that you're a Sula, that you have a way with the animals. He wants to raise you as his son, but don't worry," Dar assured, "that will never happen."
"He's not my father, is he?"
"No, Gie, I believe I'm your father." Dar's jowls tensed in anticipation of the boy's reaction.
"Y-y-you, my father?" Gie blinked several times. Could it be possible? That would explain his ability to commune with the animals. "I don't understand?"
"I met your mother years ago when we were both young."
"If that's true, why didn't you stay?"
"At the time, your mother wouldn't take me to your village. My tribe had been slain by the Terrons, so I lived alone in the forest. Had I known she would soon be with child, I would have fought harder to stay with her. I would have gladly raised and loved you like a father should." Dar waited for a response from the boy, but he remained silent. "If it's not too late, Gie, I'd like to start now."
Gie repeated, "My father…the Beastmaster?" A hug was his answer. He wrapped his arms around Dar's neck and squeezed as hard as he could. "I could never ask for a better father!"
Dar's emptiness was suddenly filled. He hugged Gie and kissed his forehead, but the reunion would have to resume another time. "We have to move quickly." To provoke a swift departure, he proposed, "How would you like to be taller than the Beastmaster?"
Gie's eyes widened. "Would I? How?"
Dar chuckled at the boy's enthusiasm. With Kodo and Podo tucked away in the pouch, he placed it over his shoulder. "Here climb onto my shoulders." Dar knelt low to the ground until Gie straddled his legs around his neck and held onto his head. The Beastmaster grabbed his staff and then rose slowly making sure the youngster was well balanced. "All set?" Upon hearing Gie's reply, Dar walked swiftly towards the camp. He hadn't gotten too far when he spotted Tao, Jame and the Sorcerer running in their direction.
Jame caught sight of her son atop Dar's shoulders and cried out his name, relieved he'd been found. Before the others reached them, Dar stopped and lowered Gie to the ground. He held the staff out straight, pointing it at them. "Stop right there. Come no closer."
Bewildered, Tao held Jame back. "What's wrong, Dar? What are you doing?"
"What's he doing with you?"
Tao knew he meant Shan. "He's here to help, Dar." The Eiron wasn't sure why he was defending him.
"He's a sorcerer!"
Tao looked at Shan, backed up and shielded Jame. "A sorcerer?" Sharak nodded and then Tao asked, "If you have magical powers then why did you need our help to rescue your woman?"
Sharak elaborated, "Only the Apparition's powers work in the Burning Forest." Wasting no time, he turned to Dar and the boy. "Beastmaster, I mean you no harm. You must trust me...I only want to protect the child and his mother. I can take them someplace where they'll be safe."
"No!" Dar spat. "I won't let you take him! I'm his father!"
Tao protested as well. He wasn't about to let Shan take Jame and Gie from either of them. Jame glanced at Tao, her eyes twinkling nervously. She now knew Dar figured out Gie was his son. None of their lives would ever be the same.
Sharak ignored the Eiron and addressed only the Beastmaster. "You know he'll never be safe as long as he's with you. Your enemies will always use him against you. He'll forever be a target…you don't want that kind of life for him do you?"
"I'll protect him!"
"Like you protected Kyra?" Sharak hated twisting words like a knife, but it was necessary to make a point. It crushed him to see the hurt etched on his friend's face. Dar's eyes glazed with festering animosity. Perhaps Sharak crossed too far over the line.
Suddenly, Zad and six Terron warriors galloped out of the woods, surrounding the group. "Beastmaster, you have more lives than a cat. I could have sworn I left you for dead." He perceived the hostile look he received from the Beastmaster to be his doing, not realizing he interrupted something. "And what, pray tell, do we have here? A family reunion?" The king studied Dar and Gie, surely related he surmised. "Surrender the boy to me and I'll let you and the others live!"
"Never!" Dar roared.
"Much too long for a king to wait. Get me the child now!" Zad commanded his men. Once he laid eyes on the boy's mother, he added, "And, the woman. Kill the rest!"
Dar pulled the pouch containing the ferrets off his shoulder. He handed them to Gie and nudged him towards his mother. The boy responded quickly and ran to her side as the Beastmaster prepared for the battle of his life. He twirled his staff weapon, inviting the Terrons to attack.
The warrior closest to the others hurled his weapon and struck Sharak in the back. The blow knocked the wind out of him and he collapsed to the ground. Jame screamed and hid her son between herself and Tao. The Eiron was searching desperately for a weapon. Since the sorcerer lay near his feet, Tao grabbed the club, raised it in front of him and tried to look tough. Something caught Tao's eye. He had never seen Dar fight so passionately. Three Terrons had simultaneously attacked the Beastmaster. He leapt in the air, pirouetted and then kicked the largest warrior in the chest while both sections of the staff struck the other two opponents. The club end walloped a Terron's upper arm. Tao swore he heard the man's bone crack. The blade side cut bare flesh. The Terron stepped back to examine the wound to his chest. Outraged, he bolted towards Dar. To his surprise, the Terron was hoisted over the Beastmaster's head where he fell to the ground knocking him cold. A fervent rage engulfed the Beastmaster as he readied himself for more rivals.
Two more of Zad's men moved in once they realized their comrades were losing. The king was furious—his best warriors had been bested yet again. He hoped the next two would prove superior. His prayers were answered when one of the warriors managed to trip Dar.
Ratax, Zad's warlord, approached Tao, Jame and Gie. The boy tugged Tao's shirt to distract his attention from Dar's dilemma to theirs. Without delay Tao positioned the club to block Ratax's weapon. However, the force of the blow hurled Tao sideways and he plummeted to the ground. Jame and Gie screamed as the warlord kicked the downed man.
In the meantime, Dar had skillfully rolled and righted himself. His cobra reflex sent the culprit who tripped him sprawling on his back. Dar whipped around when he heard Gie and his mother scream. That was a mistake. The second Terron behind him swung his club and clobbered Dar against his head. His vision blurred. Before darkness enveloped him, he saw Ratax yanking Jame and Gie towards Zad. Tao lay motionless at their feet. Zad won. Dar had no choice but to surrender to unconsciousness.
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My Fanfic is based on the BeastMaster: The Legend Continues Series
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