|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.|
Part 3Dar rolled over in his sleep, pushing off the heavy fur blanket. In a semiconscious state, he suddenly became aware that his bed was softer than usual. Had Tao done something to soften it? Although he had good intentions, his friend was always looking for a way to change things. Beginning to stir, Dar noticed the scent was also unfamiliar. His eyes shot open. He wasn’t at the camp. Scanning his surroundings, Dar immediately recognized the inside of Zad’s yurt. Worse yet, he was in Zad’s bed.
His mind raced. "Tao?" he called out, but heard Zad’s voice. Dar swiftly leapt off the bed and ducked behind it. He peaked over the top wondering where Zad was hiding within the room. He swore he had heard the man. Voices outside alerted him to unwanted company. Dar stood up seeking an escape, but became distracted when he discovered he was wearing pants. His clothes and staff weapon were nowhere to be found.
Two Terrons entered slowly. The tallest one spoke, looking straight at Dar. "King Zad, sorry to disturb you, but Ratax asks to speak with you."
Dar whipped around expecting to find the evil king lurking behind him. Nothing.
"Are you all right, sir?" the concerned messenger asked. "You seem edgy this morning."
Dar turned slowly to face the two men. They were both still staring at him as if they were waiting for something. Confused, he moved across the room—they’re eyes traced his every step. Why weren’t they attacking him? Dar passed the mirror and stopped. Zad’s reflection caught his eye. He spun around again, but no sign of Zad…just the two guards at the entrance. He returned his gaze back to the mirror. Zad's mug stared back at him. Dar cocked his head and raised his arm. The reflection mimicked every movement. He reached out to touch the mirror wondering if Zad was imprisoned inside. Zad's hand simultaneously reached out…their fingers connecting at the tips. At that moment, Dar knew Zad hadn't been imprisoned at all. He lifted both hands to cover his face and slowly answered the Terron guard, "I don’t think I’m quite myself." Zad’s voice startled him again…but they were his words. Somehow, Dar was trapped inside the king’s body. There was only one explanation—sorcery.
He didn't bother to face the two men. Instead, Dar tested the guise by shouting, "Leave me!"
Fearing his mighty king, the shorter Terron scurried through the exit, while the tall one hesitated. "What of Ratax?"
Dar quickly thought how Zad would respond. "I’ll deal with him in my own time." He waited until the other Terron ducked out of the yurt. "What am I supposed to do?" he spoke aloud. "If I’m in Zad’s body, where’s Zad?" Dreading the obvious answer, he closed his eyes.
* * * * *
Something was tickling Zad’s nose. Could it be the delectable slave girl he had planned to bed? His groggy thoughts suddenly cleared--he would have remembered such pleasure. Opening an eye and focusing on his bed partner, Kodo’s wet nose brushed his cheek again. Zad sat upright and shooed the critter away. Kodo became confused as to why the Beastmaster would treat him so. The dejected ferret decided to find Podo instead. He darted out of the cave.
"Guards!" Zad yelled. Wait--the voice sounded different--not as hoarse. It was a familiar voice, yet he couldn’t place it. "What is this?" he demanded when he noticed he was in a cave, sheathed in a pile of hay. That’s when it hit him. His body was different—younger and more muscular. He picked up the loincloth bundled on a rock nearby. Seeing no other clothes, he stood up and wrapped the primitive outfit around his magnificent new body. There could be only one explanation and he had been visiting her last night. "Sorceress!" he barked. Again, the voice was not his. Perhaps it had changed as well, younger and softer in tone.
He stepped outside the cave into what he considered paradise. He inhaled deeply, sucking in the crisp morning air tinted with the remnants of an early morning rain. "If this is your way of seducing me…it’s working," he wooed, but the Sorceress was nowhere in sight.
"What's working?" Tao asked as he came into the clearing carrying a variety of fruit using the front of his shirt as a pouch. "I thought you'd be up by now…you slept like a bear."
Startled by the man’s voice, Zad whirled around to face the adversary. "You!" he exclaimed. "What trick is this, slave?"
Stunned by Dar’s choice of words, Tao stepped backwards, almost dropping their breakfast. "Y-you okay, Dar?"
"Dar?" Zad questioned.
"Oh, no. Don’t tell me you’ve regressed. This is not a good sign." Tao relaxed and emptied the fruit near the pool. "Let’s go over this again. You lost your memory yesterday when you bumped your head after falling out of a tree. Your name is Dar. My name is Tao and I’m your friend. This place…" he paused, waving his hands around, "…is your home." The talkative man continued rambling on about how they first met.
Baffled, Zad moved closer and leaned over the edge of the pool. Sure enough, the Beastmaster’s reflection stared back. "What kind of magic is this, Eiron? Where is the Sorceress? Is she here?"
A surprised Tao smiled. "You remembered I’m an Eiron…that’s some progress." He stood next to his friend, trying to see what he was staring at so intensely in the water. "To answer your question, the Sorceress isn’t here. She did, however, take you yesterday. Do you remember anything that happened after that, Dar?" Receiving only a puzzled look from his friend, Tao continued, "Well, for whatever reason, she returned you later in the day. I’m not sure what she wanted."
"I’m beginning to have an idea. She favors the Beastmaster over me."
"Wh-what?" Tao asked. Maybe his conclusion that Dar lost his senses, as well as his memories, had been correct. "You're not acting like yourself, Dar. Last night you claimed to have flown home and now, this morning, you're talking very strangely. I thought being home would make you start to remember. Dar, I'm at a loss here. I think the best thing would be to take you to the Shaman. You'll need your strength, so you best eat something."
Zad took the plum Tao offered. "You call this food?" He tossed the fruit aside and it rolled to the edge of the trees. Podo immediately claimed it his. Zad breathed in deeply. "I find no need to visit your witch doctor friend, I feel better than I’ve felt in ages." He paced around the area and then looked back at Tao. "Where are the slave girls? With this physique, I should have no problem taming them."
"Slave girls? Tame them?" Tao couldn’t believe what his friend was saying. Could things get any worse?
Zad spun around to face him. He smiled wickedly…not Dar’s typical friendly smile. "Don’t tell me I was right in my assumption…no women, only beasts?" Zad snickered and stepped closer towards Tao. "And how do you fit in?"
Tao frowned. He didn't care for the way Dar was eyeing him like a hungered animal. "What's gotten into you, Dar? I know you lost your memories, but even without them you were still an honorable man. Exactly what did the Sorceress fill your head with anyway?"
"Wouldn’t you like to know--" Zad laughed.
A chill ran down Tao's back at the heinous laughter--so familiar. Anxious, he suggested, "Maybe we should head out now. It’s a bit of a journey. Do you feel up to it?"
Zad stretched and rubbed his hands down his chest and stomach, getting accustomed to his new body. It felt real, not an illusion. He stopped when the annoying pest addressed him again.
"Dar?" Tao looked worried. "The Shaman helped you before when you where in Valhalla. Remember?"
"See…you don't remember…he can help you. Come on, let’s go…you need your boots…where are they?"
Zad looked down at his bare feet. "I have no idea."
"You have an extra pair in the cave. I'll go fetch them." Tao started to move towards the cave when his taller friend grabbed hold of his shirt and yanked him closer. Tao looked Dar in the eyes and remembered another time when his friend looked this foreboding--the time Ketzwayo had made all the animals in the Mydlands go mad, which in turn affected the Beastmaster. "Dar, please don't do something you'll regret."
"My only regret is that I'm stuck here with you. Why don’t you go on your little journey…alone? Leave me, I need to think," Zad commanded. He pushed Tao away so he'd get the message.
"Thinking is what I do best, Dar. I can help you…remember?--that's what friends do for each other."
"I said leave me alone, you tiresome little imp!" Zad spit.
Hurt, Tao backed away slowly. His face contorted with disbelief. Finally, he nodded, bent over to grab a couple pieces of fruit and then started towards the trail. "I'll see if I can't find you something else for breakfast…maybe some fish. That might put you in a better mood." He walked slowly in hopes Dar would call him back. He never did.
* * * * *
The Sorceress bubbled with glee as she watched them through her crystal basin. She looked up at her mentor who seemed to approve of her deed.
"Quite ingenious, my dear. Switching souls--I've never tried that one before," the Ancient One mused.
She smiled sheepishly; pleased he endorsed her latest stunt. "I felt they both deserved punishment, so what better way than to make them become their enemy." She smiled smugly, delighted with herself.
"I see you're not worried about upsetting the balance of nature…a dangerous game. Good versus evil--who's to tell which is right and which is wrong. Nonetheless, becoming something you despise most, how dreadful. Which one do you think will loathe it the most?"
"The Beastmaster manages to make do with whatever's tossed his way. King Zad, on the other hand, is spoiled and arrogant. I would say Zad is being punished more so than the Beastmaster." She walked around the basin to stand opposite the Ancient One. "I think I'll pay Zad a visit…"
* * * * *
Dressed in the king's black robes, Dar exited the safety of the yurt. The morning sun had already baked off dawn's moistness and the temperature started rising. He felt warm and cumbersome beneath the heavy fabric. Slowly, he studied the village. Several slave girls were bathing in the water while Terron guards stood along the shoreline watching them closely. Dar spotted a number of Terrons gathered around the food yurt, scraping bowls of steaming slop with their fingers. More slaves tended the livestock across the way, while positioned warriors guarded the outskirts of the village. Dar took a deep breath--time for action. He stepped forward only to be blockaded by a large hulking man.
The Terron had a scar that ran down the left side of his face and neck. Earning his reputation as the bravest warrior, Ratax dared to confront his king. "What did you learn from the Sorceress? I presume the truth." Dar stepped back from the man's atrocious breath. He didn't know how to answer his questions without giving himself away. Best keep quite. "My king, did she have the Beastmaster like I said?" Ratax stood firm, demanding an answer.
Relieved to know something of the subject to pacify the Terron, Dar straightened himself and answered gruffly, "She let him go before I got there. You spoke the truth."
Satisfied he was still in favor with the king, Ratax bowed his head and stepped out of the way. "I'll take leave and lead another hunt today, with your permission."
Dar nodded in response, glad to be rid of the smelly brute. He passed the large group of warriors stuffing their faces with the foul-smelling slop. Dar grabbed a loaf of bread that looked somewhat safe. He ripped off a piece and greedily shoved it in his mouth. He was starving and never noticed the tray of food left for him inside Zad’s yurt.
A couple of guards were escorting a few of the slave girls back from their daily washing. Cimma was amongst them. The sun's rays glimmered against her reddish hair, catching Dar's attention. Out of respect, he bowed his head and smiled at the women. Cimma did not return the gesture like the others. Instead, she glared at him with such discontentment, Dar felt as if he had been stabbed.
"Wait!" he called out. The Terron guards held their arms in front of the women to block them from going any further. Dar encompassed the group. He observed Cimma's sideways glance to where her fellow tribesmen were tied upside down upon X-shaped crosses. A slow, but fatal torture--a favorite of the infamous king. Entrapped within Zad's body, Dar had the chance to help these people. He smiled again at the women. "Gather the slaves and prisoners. Bring them to the corral," Dar ordered. A couple of the guards seemed puzzled by his request, but nodded anyway. Within minutes, all those enslaved by Zad were brought just outside the corral. Cimma stood closest to the front, not from bravery, but curiosity. The king seemed different today, and she became mystified by his recent request.
Dar stood by the wooden posts and tried telepathically calling Zad's horse, but the huge steed didn't respond. Either Dar's ability to communicate with the beasts was lost being inside Zad's body or the Terron horse was trained to respond only to voice commands. "Saddle my horse," he ordered one of the Terrons. Dar turned to face the crowd gathered around the corral. "I'm granting you you're freedom…you may leave anytime."
Shouts of protest from the Terron soldiers were intertwined with confused gasps from the slaves. No surprise to Dar. "Silence!" he yelled. Fortunately, Ratax and several other hunting parties had left before his announcement. He could handle the remaining Terrons if need be.
Cimma stepped closer, stunned by his decision. "We're free to go? Is this a trick?"
Dar looked her straight in the eyes. "No tricks. Take what you need, but leave quickly before I change my mind." He didn't want to appear too much out of character.
Another slave woman approached him. "My lord, I am happy here. Must I leave? In my village, I never had the luxuries you offer me…the love you give me. Please, let me stay." She grabbed hold of his robe as she knelt before him with her plea.
Dar didn't know what to make of her wish. There was only one answer. "If you or any of you who are happier here than being free…then stay."
Smiling and wiping the tears from her eyes, the slave girl ran off to take care of her duties. Several others bowed their heads gracefully and followed suit. The number of people who chose to stay behind surprised Dar. Why would they choose such a lifestyle? Confused as well, the Terrons surrounded their king. Dar ordered them back to their posts or they’d face the consequences of his wrath. Mumbling protests beneath their breaths, the warriors resigned to Zad’s wishes.
Meanwhile, Cimma had gathered the others of her tribe and made sure those who were wounded were assisted. She noticed Zad now stood alone, so she approached the sinister king before departing. "You cannot be the same man you were yesterday. Whoever you are, I thank you…my people thank you."
"May your passage be as safe as your destination," Dar replied. He waited until she caught up with the rest of her tribe. Dar jumped on Zad’s horse, glanced around the village and then kicked the horse so it galloped up the trail leading out of the village. There was only one man who could help him out of this situation…he had to find Tao.
* * * * *
Zad wasn't exactly sure where he was…it had to be somewhere in the Mydlands. How would he find his way home to the Territories? His men would surely try to kill him believing him the Beastmaster. He had to think. Perched on a boulder, he pulled on his boots that he finally found in the cave.
The Sorceress appeared next to the pool. To Zad, she appeared lovelier than the surrounding paradise…her gown, a myriad of green hues. She smiled pleasantly at the Beastmaster who returned her smile. "I've never had the pleasure of you greeting me this way. Normally you'd jump up and prepare to defend yourself. I like you this way much better."
Zad rose and moved closer to the beautiful vixen. "You must know who I am…this is your doing, is it not?" Her giggle gave her away, which attracted the king. "This body entices you then? Is that why you've given it to me? You favor the Beastmaster's looks and my ingenious mind. Is this your idea of a perfect man? If it is…I could make you very happy."
To the Sorceress, Zad was an interesting mortal…predictable, but amusing at times. To have his mind inside the body of the Beastmaster, whom she found extremely provocative, seemed a likeable blend. She loved the thought of toying with him, but she had another purpose for her visit. "I've exchanged your soul with the Beastmaster as punishment."
"Punishment for what?" Zad asked.
"Ah, ah, ah...let me finish," the Sorceress stopped him. "You need to learn that I don't take kindly to demands and the Beastmaster should learn to be more courteous. Therefore, I swapped souls…you are in the Beastmaster's body and he is in yours."
"You what? Are you mad? That savage is in my body?--ruling my Territories? This is madness! Change me back this instant, I demand it!"
"There you go again, making more demands," she mocked. "If I were you…that would be rather messy, don't you think?" The Sorceress giggled at the thought of everyone swapping souls…what a mixed up world that would be. "Seriously, if I were you, I'd find a way to appease me so that I'll forgive you for your insolent behavior last night."
"But, how? How can I do that as the Beastmaster? He has nothing!" Zad objected, losing patience with her games. What was her true purpose of giving him this younger, more attractive body? There could be only one answer--to appease her. "Of course, I'm beginning to understand." He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her close, his lips seeking hers.
Surprised by his sudden action, the Sorceress let him kiss her. Zad had kissed her before, but this was different…his body was different. The kiss lit a familiar fire, but she longed to be kissed by only one man. She pushed away and laughed.
"What's the meaning of this?" a baffled Zad whined. He held out his hands as if declaring his presence. "Isn't this what you want? Or have you changed your mind because you prefer the real me?"
"King Zad, as I said before, I've done this to you and the Beastmaster as punishment, not for pleasure." The Sorceress studied the beautiful man before her. Unnerved by the kiss, she turned her back on him. "There is one way you can make amends for your behavior and that would be to communicate with the Beastmaster's eagle for me. I need some information from him. Will you help me or not?"
"You want me to talk to a stupid animal?"
"It would be wise of you not to insult him anymore." Her nostrils flared and her eyes squinted with anger.
"Before I agree, grant me one more request…then, I'll talk to your bird."
"A request? What is it?"
"Another kiss," Zad answered, his smile twisting upward. Desperate to speak with the man she loved, the Sorceress edged closer to the Beastmaster. Soon she would be able to communicate with Sharak…soon. She closed her eyes and imagined how it used to be with Sharak as Zad kissed her more gently this time. Perhaps Sharak would be jealous.
Tao stepped out of the woods, but did a complete about-face when he witnessed the two kissing. He hid behind a huge tree. "Oh, no…she's got him under a spell. I have to think of something." Tao peeked from behind the tree and watched the two lovebirds finally part lips. "No wonder Dar's been acting so strang--"
Without warning a hand cupped over Tao's mouth while another strong arm grabbed hold of his torso and pulled him further back into the woods--out of sight. He struggled to free himself from his captor, but it was futile…the man was too strong. When they stopped moving, Dar spun Tao around but kept his hand over his mouth. "Shhhh!" he warned. From Tao's viewpoint, he was now King Zad's prisoner. He tried to call out for Dar, but the hand tightened its grip. "Listen to me, Tao. I'm Dar. You have to believe me," he pleaded. He needed his friend's help and had to get him to understand what happened, even though he wasn't sure himself.
Muffled sounds of laughter came from under the clasped hand. Things just got worse, Tao thought. Dar realized Tao was laughing at him. He released his grip and warned him to be quiet. "Tao, you're the wisest man I know. There must be a way to help me."
Tao's chuckles soon faded as he thought back at how strangely his friend had been acting this morning--even now--kissing the Sorceress. He licked his lips and stared at the evil king. "If you are Dar, there are several ways to prove it."
"How?" Dar asked.
"Well, first of all, you found your way home…that means you know where Sanctuary is. Then again, you could have learned of the location from the Sorceress." Tao thought back to this morning and then exclaimed, "I know! Do you know what Valhalla is?"
"Yes, it's a place where souls travel."
"Right!--but do you remember going there?"
"Yes, to seek forgiveness from my father," Dar answered.
"Okay…okay. Zad's a clever man and if you're him… then I need more proof…just a few more things to be certain."
"Tao, I know a way to prove I'm really Dar." Curious, Tao asked him how. Dar looked behind them and telepathically contacted Ruh. The tiger trotted out from behind some trees and lay down within the tall grass. Ruh didn't care for the Beastmaster's new body, but he knew it was his friend.
"Of course, Dar! You can still communicate with the animals." Tao smiled, content that this was truly Dar. He was ready to hug his friend when the sight of King Zad stopped him short. "Ah, now that we've solved that riddle…how do we get you back?"
"I was hoping you'd have an answer," Dar uttered. "How is it I can still talk to the animals?"
Tao's mind was racing with ways to swap their bodies when he answered Dar's question. "Curupira owns your soul. She gave you the powers to become Beastmaster. The Sorceress must have switched your souls without realizing you would still possess those powers." Dar nodded in agreement. Tao continued, "Perhaps Curupira can help us…she's due here tomorrow to see if you got your memory back. I still say the Shaman may be able to help…he's done wonders in the past."
"No, Tao, we don't have time. I think I know who can help. The Sorceress is our only hope." Dar ignored the look on his friend's face as he contacted Sharak. "C'mon…you'll want to see this." Dar led Tao closer to the camp, but still out of sight.
Fortunately for the two spies, the Sorceress' mind had been preoccupied with buried feelings that had resurfaced. "Have you contacted him or not?"
Soon the eagle flew overhead and then swooped down, landing on a nearby branch. The Sorceress was elated. "Tell him…" she paused, careful to select her words carefully, "…tell him that he and I will soon be together again."
Zad eyed the Sorceress as though she were insane. Why would she choose an eagle's love over his? Had he truly called the Beastmaster's eagle? Did he now possess the powers to communicate with the beasts? He tried, but nothing.
"Well? What did he say?" she asked, the anticipation getting the best of her.
"It doesn't talk to me. This is wasting precious time…time I don't have." Zad was tired of these childish games. "I have to get back to the Territories. I can't have that savage destroy my kingdom any longer."
"Your men will try to kill you, remember, you look like the Beastmaster," she replied, hiding her true feelings that were surfacing.
"Then turn me back…give me my own body!"
Sharak cawed and took off in flight. The Sorceress bent her head in shame for she knew Sharak was displeased. It angered her even more. "The spell will be broken by morning…I can't change that. Until then, suffer as the Beastmaster." Discouraged, she vanished.
"I'll be damned if I'm going to play with rodents waiting for your spell to be broken! I'll find my way back to the Territories if it takes me all night. Yes, I'll soon know the location of the Beastmaster's hideaway and then I'll return with my men and slaughter him, his scrawny servant and his furry friends!" Zad promised. " Now, where did that runt run off to?"
Tao exchanged glances with the man next to him, unable to adjust to the fact that Dar was trapped inside Zad's body. "Did you hear? The spell will be broken by morning…that's good news."
"You have to keep him here, Tao. Can you do it? Kyra used something once to make Zad sleep while she escaped. Can you make anything like that?" Dar asked.
"Yes, yes I can. If I mix--"
"Good. Use it, but be careful…he's dangerous. I have to get back to Zad's camp before morning. If what the Sorceress says is true, I don't want him waking up here. Make sure he's knocked out for the night…and, Tao…"
"Take good care of the body." Dar smiled and then winked.
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My Fanfic is based on the BeastMaster: The Legend Continues Series
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