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Disclaimer: The characters and story are based on the series BeastMaster and are property of Tribune Entertainment Company. There is no intent to infringe on their rights, this is only for pure enjoyment.

Venom
by  Laurie Allen

Takes place late in Season 2

Part 1 

Dar retraced his steps to where he last saw his missing companion.  “Tao?”  Silence…  “Tao!”  Still no answer.  The Beastmaster crouched to the ground and studied his friend’s tracks at the place where they ended.  It was as if he were plucked from the sky, so Dar glanced upwards inspecting the trees.  Nothing.  He didn’t care for the most probable cause of Tao’s disappearance -- magic. 

Tao thought he heard someone calling his name so he opened his eyes.  Lying on his backside, Tao blinked several times while he surveyed his surroundings.  Loose silt slid off the roots jutting from the walls, creating a dusty atmosphere.  His eyes traced the sides upward until he found the only source of light.  He had fallen into a pit twice as deep and twice as wide as a man.  “Oh no,” he complained.  As he started to lift himself from the ground, Tao cried out in pain, “Ahh!  My shoulder.” 

“Tao?” Dar crept carefully over to the spot where he heard his friend groaning.  Amidst the tall grass he found the large open pit.  He knelt down and cautiously leaned over to examine the bottom of the hole.  A smile stretched across his face at finding his friend.  He then chuckled.  “Tao, if you could live this day over, you may want to change your footing and follow my footsteps.  How did you--” 

“This is no time to bring up ‘what ifs,’ Dar!  I’m sore all over and it hurts when I move my shoulder.”  A rustling sound from across the way caught Tao’s attention, but there wasn’t enough light to see anything.  Although the pit was large enough to house a large animal or two, the dark crevices remained uninviting.  The indistinguishable shadows gave the Eiron the creeps.  “Just get me out of here.  I think there’s something else down here besides me!” 

Dar knew Tao was too injured to be pulled up by his staff weapon alone.  He dropped his pouch gently on the ground and began searching through the tall grass around the pit’s edge for signs of a creeping plant.  Kodo’s head popped out of the sack, his eyes adjusting to the sunlight.  He squealed crossly for being woken but soon discovered the reason why.  He squealed again to get Tao’s attention.  The human looked to be in pain.

Unlike his counterpart -- hunger ruled Podo -- the ferret scampered under some bushes in search of ripe berries.  The Beastmaster busied himself with a vine, ensuring its strength.  “I’ll be right there, Tao, don’t worry.”  Dar yanked the twine and it snapped in two.  Frustrated, he threw it aside.  It landed on a dead tree limb lying several feet away.  He smiled at its perfect length and moved back towards the edge to inform his friend of his discovery.  “Tao, I found a log so I can--”

Tao shielded his eyes from any residual dirt flying about wondering why his friend stopped talking.  He didn’t like Dar’s anxious expression.  The injured man shifted his eyes to the opposite wall of the pit where Dar stared fiercely.  As Tao’s eyes adjusted to the dark shadows he noticed movement.  He pressed closer against the wall behind him trying to distance himself from the huge snake slithering out of a burrow.  From its thick body, Tao estimated the cobra to be three times as long as Dar’s staff until its massive body finally emerged from its hideaway.  “Dar!  Do something!”

“Don’t move, Tao!” Dar warned as he tried communicating with the reptile.  It refused to talk or listen to the Beastmaster.  Panic engulfed both men when the cobra lifted its upper body, spread its neck and began swaying side to side.  Poised for assault, the deadly snake bared its fangs.  Dar had to move fast.

The doomed man watched the cobra coil back before it would lunge towards him.  Tao closed his eyes and braced himself for the inevitable.  THUD.  He felt the ground tremor slightly but didn’t feel the sting of a bite.  His eyes snapped open in time to see the snake striking Dar instead.  The Beastmaster had jumped between Tao and the snake and before he could clobber it with his staff, the cobra swiftly maneuvered itself and struck high.  Its fangs embedded in the soft tissue above Dar’s collarbone.  Naja’s victim collapsed to his knees, struggling to pull the beast from its hold.  Tao could only watch in horror.  “Dar!”

The colossal snake released its prey and recoiled into the same dark fissure it had appeared from seconds earlier.  Dar fought to stay alert but the venom burned inside as it invaded his nervous system.  His body went limp and he fell backwards into Tao’s arms. 

Frantic, Tao clutched his friend.  “Dar… no!”  The Eiron disregarded his own pain and quickly removed the pack from his back.  No time to waste, he had to act now.  A snakebite close to the neck would only take minutes for the poison to be fatal.  Tao searched through his bag until he found the yellow herb and he tore open the pouch, spreading the healing herb over the wound.  “Water!”  Remembering the trick Dar showed him a while back, Tao snapped a nearby root in two, catching the few droplets that trickled out into his palm.  With enough moisture he managed to make a paste out of the dry herb.  “Don’t die… don’t die…” Tao muttered over and over, now rocking his patient.

Podo heard the commotion and returned to join his fellow ferret at the pit’s edge.  In unison they both squealed to their human friends.  Tao looked up.  “Oh thank goodness!  Kodo… Podo… get us out of here.  I don’t care how you do it, just get us out of here.”  Kodo squeaked once more like he understood.  Suddenly, both ferrets snapped their heads towards one direction and then ran the opposite way.  Something or someone had scared the little rascals.

“Kodo?  Podo?  Where’d you go?  Come back here!”  Tao was too distressed to notice the signs.  He checked on Dar.  “Shallow breath.  Skin cold.  This isn’t good.  You little rats!  Dar needs your help!  Kodo!  Podo!”  Puzzled by the large shadow blocking the light overhead, Tao glanced up to see a man glaring back.  “Zad?”

King Zad smiled menacingly.  “Now that’s what I call a befitting environment for a pair of slugs.”  His amusement suddenly subsided.  “What’s wrong with the Beastmaster?”

“He was bit by a cobra.  He’s dying, Zad!  You have to help us…”  For Tao to ask help from a man who usually wished them harm was certainly a desperate act on his behalf.  However, he didn’t care who he had to beg with at the moment, he wasn’t about to let his friend die.  “…please.”  Tao tried to interpret the staunch expression of the Terron king, but to no avail.  How could he possibly know what a madman like Zad was thinking?

The king sneered again.  He had his Eiron prize right where he wanted him.  Better yet, the Beastmaster was harmless and would soon be dead.  “Of course I’ll help you get out.  I’ll just fetch my men and be right back.”  The smug king turned around ignoring the Eiron’s pleas for him to stay.  Instantly, Zad froze at the sight of the Beastmaster’s tiger blocking his path.  Ruh roared, believing the evil man was up to no good.  The tiger advanced forward to scare the human away, but instead of running off, Zad took several steps back, plunging into the pit.  “Arrrggghhh!”

Fortunately for the injured party below, Zad landed on the unoccupied side of the pit.  Uninjured, he sprang to his feet.   “This is a trap!  How dare you--” Zad cut his accusation short when he realized the Beastmaster wasn’t faking his injury.  Feeling uneasy, he whirled around inspecting the dark shadows.  “A cobra… where is it?”

“It retreated back in the crevice over there.”  Tao pointed to the location and watched Zad furiously kick clumps of dirt and rock into the hole to block the beast’s return.  With that done, he turned back to the others as he composed himself.  “Surely there must be a way out of this hell hole.”  Zad picked up Dar’s staff contemplating its use to help him climb out.

“We have to get Dar out of here.  Call for your men…”  Tao tried to shift beneath his friend’s unconscious body, but his shoulder throbbed.  “Ahh!”

“My men are beyond the river scouting the area for more warriors to join us against the Nords.  We’ll have to wait until they backtrack, which could well be after nightfall.”  Zad cursed himself for being so foolhardy insisting he venture off alone.  He should have stayed with his right-hand man.  While searching on his own, Zad heard voices.  He recognized the Beastmaster’s voice and spied upon him only to see him jump into a pit.  Little did he know he’d end up doing the same.  Zad came out of his reverie when he heard Tao cry out in pain again.  “What’s wrong with you?”

“My shoulder…it’s nothing.  We have to help Dar.  Can you climb out of here?”  Tao kept a watchful eye on his friend’s condition while Zad attempted to climb the walls using the roots as handholds.  Being fitter than ever, the Terron king made it up several feet until one root gave way and Zad went flying backwards.

“The soil’s too loose!” Zad barked.  Infuriated by his newfound quandary, he began pacing the small area.  There could be only one thing that would make his day now.  “Is he dead yet?”

Hazel eyes turned dark as they narrowed.  Tao held his tongue.  The Terron king knew exactly what buttons to push to make the easily roused Eiron snap.  His friend was dying, his shoulder stung and when he heard Zad ask ‘Well?’ Tao fumed.  Prepared to release his pent-up anger, Tao was startled by a familiar voice answering instead.

“No, I’m not.”  Dar stretched his jaw back and forth.  His mouth was dry and his facial muscles rigid. 

“Dar, you’re alive!” Tao rejoiced.  All of a sudden it hit him.  “You should be dead…”  Bewildered by the turn of events, Tao studied the bite mark.  “The yellow herb’s never worked this fast.  It’s not always reliable.”

Slightly disorientated, Dar remembered how he and Tao wound up trapped, but couldn’t recall Zad’s entrance.  “Is this your doing?  Another trap?”  Dar started to rise but he wavered due to his lightheadedness and collapsed back into Tao’s arms.  Tao cringed at the twinge of pain shooting through his shoulder.

“Would I be stuck in this hell hole if it were my doing?” Zad spat.  “You’re not as bright as your Eiron friend, are you?  By the way, why aren’t you dead?”  He loved aggravating the Beastmaster, hoping to bring out the savage beast in him.  Zad got his wish.

Dar leapt to his feet and slammed into Zad, pinning him against the wall.  “I’ll kill you!”

 “Dar, don’t!” Tao pleaded, concerned for his friend’s well being, not Zad’s.  He managed to stand on his feet.  “You’re injured.  Zad had no part in this, it was Iara.” 

 Upon hearing her name, Dar released Zad and whipped around to face his friend.  He edged closer, but unsure of Dar’s intentions, Tao backed against the wall.  The last time he saw such a maddening gaze in Dar’s eyes was when Ketzwayo made the animals go insane.  Dar’s face was only inches away from Tao’s.  “What about Iara?  She’s here and you didn’t bother to tell me?”

“Dar, you’re acting strangely.  Something’s not right.  A cobra bit you.  The venom should have killed you.”  Tao glanced momentarily over to Zad seeking his point of view on Dar’s behavior.  Baffled, Zad lifted his eyebrows and shrugged.

“But it didn’t,” Dar protested.  “Where’s Iara now? Tell me!”  He shook Tao by the shoulders demanding answers.  Tao nearly blacked out from the pain that racked within his shoulder.  He tried to wrench free, but couldn’t.

Zad interrupted, “Who’s Iara?  Another love interest?  Perhaps she’d prefer me to you--”  He relished the thought of taking another woman from the Beastmaster. 

Dar pushed himself away from Tao and hammered Zad into the wall once again.  His hands wrapped around the Terron’s neck.  “She’s mine!” Dar claimed as his fingers pressed tightly against Zad’s throat, crushing the windpipe.  Before Dar succeeded, the club end of his staff whacked him across the back, knocking him off balance.

 Tao gulped and backed away from his friend who quickly recovered from the slight blow and easily steadied himself.  “Dar, listen to me.  I had to stop you.”

Busy rubbing his aching throat, Zad watched in wonderment.  He usually thrived on this kind of entertainment, but even he knew the Beastmaster wasn’t himself.  One thing was for sure -- he wouldn’t let Dar hurt Tao, the Eiron was worth far more alive.  Nevertheless, Tao stood his ground as Dar approached and grabbed for his staff.  Tao refused to let go.  “You’re not yourself, Dar.  A cobra bit you…  Of course!  It must have been Iara’s doing.  It was her snake.”

“And it meant to kill you!”  The Beastmaster realized what he just said.  He let go of the staff.  “What game is Iara playing?”  Dar moved away from his friend, studying a way to get out.  “I have to find her!”

Zad crept over to Tao.  Dar’s passion for the woman was clearly evident and this piqued his interest.  He leaned closer and whispered, “Who is Iara?”

“A demon.”

“Like Curupira?  He can have the evil sprite if she’s anything like that forest imp…”  Zad stopped whispering when he noticed Dar observing the two of them.  “Don’t waste your time thinking about climbing out… I tried.”

As if Zad’s words were a challenge, Dar pounced off the ground and grabbed hold of several roots, pulling himself up and over the edge.  He never glanced back.  He was gone in a flash.

“Dar!” Tao shouted, shocked that his friend would leave him.  “Dar!”

“Looks like I’ve gained myself a sidekick,” Zad gloated, slapping Tao on the back.  “Shame, doesn’t look as if your Beastmaster is coming back for you.  Now what kind of friendship is that?  Guess it’s just you and me, kid.”

“He’ll be back!” Tao objected.  “He left his staff… he’ll be back.  Dar?”  He hated the silence from above.  His nauseous stomach made his head spin and he landed on his knees.  The pain in his shoulder throbbed.  Alone with Zad made matters worse.

*****

Pacing the chamber of her lair, Iara was waiting anxiously for Naja’s return.  Consumed by her love for the Beastmaster, her devious scheme had to work this time.  Tao would become a madman and not even Dar could help him.  No doubt, he would seek help for his friend.  Iara would gladly pretend to help, her ulterior goal -- getting closer to a vulnerable Dar.  Iara, tired of being refused by the Beastmaster, had to rely on extreme measures.  She would have to be careful that Dar never discovered the truth, which would easily be achieved once Tao and Naja were out of the picture.  Besides, burdened with the duties Curupira once held were beginning to annoy her.  The demon’s sole purpose of getting closer to Dar hadn’t done the trick.  How could he keep resisting her charms?  No longer… she would make sure of that.  She paced to and fro until a presence entered the cavern.  “Naja?”    The large cobra slid into view and curled up beside her.  “Did you do as I asked?”

Naja felt if Iara could lie, so could he.  He answered her, letting her take note of what she wanted to hear.  A smile lit up her face, replacing the unsettled appearance.  Feeling self-assured, Iara called for the Ancient One.  She promised Naja she would ask the wizard to change him back into a man.  This was one promise she was happy to keep. 

It was only seconds before the Ancient One appeared as if he were waiting around the corner, spying.  Clad in colorful robes, the immortal surveyed his surroundings, not fond of the musty stench.  “Lovely lodgings as usual, Iara.  I love what you’ve done to the place.”  All joking aside, he stood face-to-face with the demon.  “You rang?”

“I need a favor.”  Iara tilted her head and smiled coyly.

“My, my, my… right to the point.  And why should I grant you a favor?”

“You owe me,” she spoke bravely.

“How could I possibly owe you?” he retorted, surprised at her audacity.

“The Sorceress and I made a pact, but you encased her in that amber prison of yours, so she reneged on her end of the bargain.” 

Iara’s eyes were wide with a boldness the Ancient One admired.  Her skin glistened like that of a reptile basking in the sun.  He so loved her vitality and spitfire.  The wizard scoffed, giving her the wrong impression.  “I can just imagine what this pact was about… most likely something to do with your beloved Beastmaster.”

“What was agreed upon is no concern of yours.  You owe me!”  Determined to get her way, Iara stood her ground.

Tired of the damp atmosphere, the Ancient One agreed, “Name it.”

“Turn Naja back into the man he used to be.  I promised to set him free if he granted me a favor.  This he did and now I want to keep my end of the agreement.”  Iara blinked at the wizard as if flirting.

“Well, that’s a first… you keeping your word.  Consider it done.”  A bright flash filled the room and when it subsided, the Ancient One vanished and, in his stead, stood a six-foot man, dark hair falling past his shoulders.  Iara’s eyes traveled up and down the man’s naked body.  A pang of regret for all those years apart coursed through her body.  Tears welled in her eyes at the sight of her beloved.

Naja’s dark eyes glistened as he inhaled, filling his lungs.  He studied his outstretched arms, rejoicing at the feeling of being human again.  The warrior stopped when his eyes met hers.  “Iara…”

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My Fanfic is based on the BeastMaster: The Legend Continues Series
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