|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.|
Takes place late in Season 2
Iara drank in every ounce of Naja’s radiance. It had been a long time since she last saw him in human form. It would be so easy to lose herself within his passion, but she suppressed the feelings resurfacing as if time had stood still. When she gained her composure, she reached for the pile of clothes she had set aside.
Years of being imprisoned as a cobra embittered the warrior standing before the demon of the waters, muck and slime. Had he the will, he would gladly wrap his hands around her thin neck and strangle the last breath from her body, but he heard demons couldn’t die. And yet, he still loved her with all his heart. Part of him wanted to reach out, pull her close and kiss her. Naja eyed the snake demon as she approached him holding his armor from so long ago.
Without words, Iara handed Naja his clothes. She helped him dress as if she were a squire preparing a knight for battle. A leather belt decorated with shiny beads of metal cinched the black leather skirt that she wrapped around his waist. Next, Iara slipped sandals on his feet. She rose and avoided looking into his eyes in fear of succumbing to her desires. As she placed the metal breastplate across his chest, she pushed back his hair and then tied the leather straps in a crisscross fashion against his back. The demon admired his skin… his smell. Too many memories… blissful memories… sad memories -- memories that would cloud her judgment if she let them. She had to release him from her world and soon. Naja’s dark eyes seemed to penetrate her soulless body and she could easily sense his conflicting emotions. She turned to retrieve his sheathed sword.
“Iara…” Naja didn’t take the sword just yet. Instead, he lifted her chin until her eyes met his. “Why are you doing this? You know how much I love you.” Naja had left his homeland, his family and his faith to be with her. She couldn’t end it like this. He wouldn’t let her and pulled her close, smothering her lips with his. Feeling no resistance from the woman, he let the passion flow.
Overlooking the vast lands around the aerie, the Sorceress waited for the Ancient One to return. She enjoyed the view from her perch but unlike his former student, the new apprentice preferred adventure; therefore, chose attire more suitable for travel. Disturbed by the outcome of Iara’s meddling into the Beastmaster’s life, she prepared herself to challenge her teacher. As soon as the Ancient One appeared, she confronted him by moving swiftly to block his path. “How could you let this happen to the Beastmaster? Infected with Naja’s venom he’ll be obsessed with Iara and won’t bother to protect the animals.”
“I’m hoping this teaches Iara a lesson. I’ve warned her many a time not to cross the line with her interference. This latest ploy to replace one lover for another backfired, wouldn’t you agree?” The wizard savored mishaps such as this. He smiled wickedly and clasped his fingers together observing the displeasure stemming from his newest pupil. “You’re still concerned.”
“For the animals, yes.” Her fondness for the gentler creatures that inhabit the world made this sorceress kindhearted to the Beastmaster and his friend. Both men seemed to care about the animals, more so than other humans. “You said Naja’s venom wasn’t fatal; instead, the victim would suffer from the same emotions of rage as Naja, but mostly his obsession for Iara.”
“You were listening. I’m impressed. The Beastmaster now bears Naja’s passion, overpowering his own.” The Ancient One continued to study his blonde apprentice, awed by her quick perception of their Universe.
The Sorceress’ eyes didn’t blink as she tried to reason with her mentor’s response. “Iara will kill him eventually. Won’t you lift this curse?”
The Ancient One turned his back to his pupil -- he thrived on being in control. “If you remember, there’s only one way to break the spell.”
“Death?” She knew this was a game to him, so she had to think fast and outwit him.
“Yes… death. It’s such a mortal flaw. I’m ‘dying’ to see how Iara will react when she discovers her beloved Naja infected her beloved Beastmaster. It should be quite a show and I don’t intend on missing it.” Pleased with himself, the Ancient One started to leave, but the Sorceress suddenly zipped in front of him.
She didn’t find his pun amusing. “Would you mind if I didn’t accompany you?”
Suspicious of her reasons, he asked, “And what’s so important that you’d choose to miss all this human suffering?”
“I’ve been musing over how mortals suffer with regret ever since the incident with the Tasmanian tiger. You mentioned then that humans would wipe out a whole species only to regret it later. Regret -- it’s such a powerful emotion. It’s easy for you or I to change things at will, but humans can only wish to change the things they regret. Wishing gives some hope while it only frustrates others.” Although alarmed for the Beastmaster’s dilemma, she knew she wouldn’t be able to help Dar under the constant supervision of her mentor.
The Ancient One thought over her proposal. “Very well, but you’ll learn that mortals change things by action, then usually end up wishing they hadn’t. That’s where regret comes into play. Furthermore, you’ll discover that mortals are very selfish in their wishes.”
“I think you misjudge them.”
“I’m sure I could find one human who isn’t selfish.”
“Hmm… the Beastmaster perhaps, but under present conditions, he’s obsessed with finding Iara.” The Ancient One tried to maneuver around his student but she wouldn’t budge. Instinctively, he knew what she was thinking. “You’re wasting your time, you won’t find another--.”
“Want to make a wager?” She baited him… now to hook him.
“So,” Zad repeated the question, “if I could relive my life over again, you want to know if I would change anything?” A nod from the inquisitive Eiron made the King sneer. “I’d be a fool not to.” Zad knew he would have to elaborate further. “Given the opportunity, why… I would… hmm.” The king thought hard, his eyes shifting as though they searched for an answer. Soon, his eyes seemed to sparkle when a thought came to mind. “Well, one thing’s for certain, I would never have ordered you killed as a slave. No, I realize your importance now. Instead, you’d be my right-hand man. With your skills, my men would be armed with weapons of equal strength to the Nords and this time around I would be ready for that boy peacock. Why, I’d crush him.” The clump of dry mud he was playing with crumpled to dust when he squeezed his fist closed, demonstrating his wrath.
Tao smiled, understanding the man’s disgust for the Nords, but felt no pity for the ruthless king. Zad had his share of infamous deeds, many of which involved Tao and the Beastmaster. With knees drawn close to his chest and arms clasping around them, the scholar rested his head. Both men sat close together facing the wall where the cobra had first appeared. Tao took advantage of their seclusion and tried to see if he could find out more about this vile king. So far, he learned nothing new, only Zad’s obsession of seeking vengeance on Voden.
Feeling awkward, Zad felt he needed to be polite, but more importantly, he wanted to become Tao’s ally. In his gravelly voice, he asked, “What about you?” eager to learn more about this Eiron scholar whom he believed to be indispensable.
“Me? What would I change?”
“Yes, I’m curious.”
Tao was genuinely surprised that Zad showed any interest in what he had to say. Maybe he was getting through to him. Without raising his head, he answered, “If I had the chance, I would go back and rescue my parents from the Blood Priests in Xinca. By saving them, my brother would still be alive.”
“Blood Priests?” Zad frowned. He had encountered an order of the Brotherhood in his earlier days -- ruthless holy men terrorizing those who honored and served them. A king had every right to be ruthless, not a holy man. Tao’s solemn mood moved Zad… moved him enough to show the slightest sign of compassion -- he patted the Eiron’s knee gently. “I take it they sacrificed your family.”
It wasn’t easy for Tao to ignore the hurt and anger still stirring within, but he was truly stunned by Zad’s kindness. He lifted his head to sit up straight, but the throbbing sensation from his shoulder reminded him of his injury. “Ahhhh, this shoulder. I think I’ve dislodged it, it keeps stiffening up and burns whenever I move.”
“Dislodged, you say? I know how to take care of that.” Zad started to rise, ignoring Tao’s protests. “Several men during battle would dislocate their shoulders. All you need do is yank on the arm to set it back properly. Give me your hand.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. I have some herbs--”
“Give me your hand!” Zad ordered. He wasn’t patient enough to deal with any hesitation. With both hands, the king took hold of Tao’s wrist, balanced himself by placing one foot on the injured party’s chest and with a firm grip yanked the arm forward. It snapped in place instantly. Zad flinched from the patient’s deafening scream that echoed off the walls of the pit.
Tao’s sobs slowly turned to laughter once the initial jolt subsided. Although tender, he could move his arm without the stabs of pain he was experiencing before. He couldn’t help but be overjoyed by the loss of constant pain. “It worked! I can’t believe you fixed it.” Tao rolled his shoulder, amazed at the quick results. “Excellent! Now I know how to set it if it ever happens to someone else.”
“You have to be quick and precise, otherwise, you could cause more pain.” Zad moved in closer, kneeling in front of the Eiron. “Let’s just say I’ve had the pleasure of making some men suffer needlessly.” He realized his words were not encouraging to the righteous Eiron, so he changed the subject. His eyes shifted back and forth with excitement as he began to envision how he and Tao could rule Xinca. “Tao, you and I would make a formidable force. With your knowledge and my power, we could rid Xinca of the Blood Priests and that peacock. Just imagine… me the rightful ruler and you, counselor of the people.”
“My brother already freed Xinca from the Brotherhood.
“But not Voden.”
“No…” Tao whispered hoarsely.
Zad moved in for the kill. “Tao, don’t you think it’s time you settle down, raise a family? You can’t traipse around the wilderness forever with a man who lives like a beast.” Before Tao could object, Zad cut him off, “Just listen to me. There must be some woman you fancy.”
Tao’s smile betrayed his thoughts. Visions of Caro flooded his mind. He imagined two children running up to him, hugging him as he entered their home. And then Caro… her sweet smile as she wrapped her arms around her husband’s neck…
Zad knew he struck a cord… now to throw kindling on the fire. “You should know better than I that the Eiron thrive on their strong family values. You’re not getting any younger, Tao. Join me. Help me defeat Voden and we can rule Xinca together. You should really start thinking about yourself… about the family you could be raising. Why, I would even promise that no one bothers your Beastmaster so he can visit whenever he wishes. That is… if he wishes.”
Grasping the sarcastic remark, Tao snapped in defense of his absent friend. “Dar will return and he’ll get us out of here!” He wanted his words to be the truth, but Tao was losing faith. Where was Dar and why did he run off without helping him out of the pit?
“Tao?” a feminine voice from above asked. Arina seemed puzzled as she peered over the rim. Suddenly, she recognized Zad and her contempt for the king resurfaced, filling her heart. “Get away from him!”
Zad squinted from the sunlight to get a better look at the woman. He growled when he recognized her. “Voden’s wench! Why you--” Zad was cut short when an elbow nudged him in the ribs. Amazed by the Eiron’s bold action, he glared at the guilty party.
Tao ignored the ruthless man’s glower and smiled instead. “Arina! Am I glad to see you. Can you get us out of here?” He glanced back at Zad once Arina nodded and moved away from the edge. “Are you out of your mind?”
“How dare you!” Zad stormed, raising his hand to strike, but hesitated, unwilling to lose the man’s trust now.
Tao breathed a sigh of relief when the king lowered his hand. He leaned closer to Zad and whispered so the Namib warrior couldn’t hear, “Listen, I don’t trust Arina either, but if you insist on insulting her, we may never get out of here. Understand?”
Zad grumbled softly to himself when Arina’s head popped over the edge again. “Move aside,” she warned as she pushed and rocked the log until the length of it fell into the pit. “Climb out of there. Tao first!” Arina snarled as she eyed Zad carefully. “And give Tao your weapon.”
As Zad continued to grumble, Tao tossed Arina Dar’s staff. He then took the king’s sword, confident he wasn’t willing to spend the night in the pit, especially with the chance of the deadly viper’s return. With Zad’s help, Tao climbed onto the log and inched his way to freedom. Several times, the Eiron’s loose satchels that hung from his backpack swung and hit Zad in the head. When Tao made it near the top, Arina reached to grab his injured arm, but he quickly maneuvered, handing her the sword and then offering his good arm.
She pulled him up and smiled. “How in the world did you get stuck down there with Zad?”
Tao was only interested in one thing. “Have you seen Dar?”
“Earlier, yes. I heard shouting. When I went to investigate, I found Dar was fighting off several warriors. He was fighting in a style I’ve never seen him use before. Once he managed to take one of their swords, he started thrashing about like a madman. They all ran off when I joined the fight, but Dar didn’t stick around. I thought it odd that he didn’t even acknowledge me. Then I wondered where you were, so I thought it best to backtrack hoping you’d be able to give me some answers.”
“Fighting my men?” Zad wondered as he listened to their conversation while pulling himself over the ledge. He now faced his enemy, but before the Terron king could catch his balance, Arina held the sword to his throat.
“No further. Put your hands behind your back.”
“No Nord witch talks to me like that!” The point of the blade nipped Zad’s words into silence. He dare not even swallow for the slightest movement would force the metal to cut flesh. Zad obliged the warrior woman by placing his hands behind his back.
Tao frowned while Arina tightly bound the king’s wrists. “Is that necessary?” he asked.
Arina knew Tao’s trustworthiness got him into trouble, once too often. “Yes,” she answered firmly. “Zad is the last man I would trust. If those were his men, I don’t want him fetching them on us.”
Tao nodded and gave an apologetic shrug to Zad. The king smiled wickedly, pleased that the Eiron seemed concerned. Perhaps he had pulled the right strings. Tao’s attention turned back to Arina. “Can you find Dar? He was bitten by a cobra.”
“He wasn’t fighting like a man who was just bit by a deadly snake, Tao.” Arina was more confused than ever.
“It’s not an ordinary cobra. Iara’s involved somehow and that snakebite did something to him. We have to find Dar before he does something he’ll regret. He’s not himself.” Tao’s eyes were etched with concern for his friend.
Arina nodded. “Easily. This way.” She pushed Zad in the direction where she had last seen the Beastmaster. Tao followed behind, grabbing the ferrets and Dar’s staff.
Iara squirmed herself free of Naja’s embrace. Swallowing back any inkling of compassion towards her lover, Iara smirked and hid her true feelings. She explained, “You’re free to go. I did as I promised, now you’re free to go.”
“Free?” Naja spat. “I could never be free of you, Iara. Where would I go? No matter where I go, I’ll never be free of your love. Tell me you don’t feel the same for me. Tell me!” He grabbed her hand, knocking the sword to the ground. The sheath muffled the clanking sound.
“I do love you, Naja, but I must let you go. Your passion was too intense… I was afraid of what that would unleash in me. That’s why I begged the Ancient One to turn you into a cobra. And now you’re back. You’re a beautiful man who deserves better than me. Go start a family. I’ll end up killing you. Just go!” She stood her ground and licked her lips, pulling them inward to prevent the tears from flowing.
Naja’s jaw tensed. “We’ve made love before and you’ve never harmed me.” He knew her. She just doesn’t let something go… not unless she has something to replace it. “You want to set me free so you can have the Beastmaster. That’s it, isn’t it?” His grip tightened around her wrist.
The demon’s quivering lips ceased to shake as anger replaced despair. In a deep voice she hissed, “Unhand me, Naja. Don’t end it this way. Let go before I force you to let me go. Leave now, it’s for your own good!” Iara’s eyes widened and glowed.
Naja had pushed too far and he knew it. He released her hand.
“You’d best leave soon,” Iara warned. She spun around and left the chamber, trying to keep the demon within under control.
Naja looked around one last time. He stepped towards the wall of water and hesitated, glancing back once more. Perhaps he could make her want him again.
Dar reached an opening where several springs pumped water from deep below the surface. The sword he held in his hand was stained with the blood from a fresh kill. He moved to the edge of the largest pool, knelt down and cupped enough water in his hand to quench his thirst. One of these pools had to lead to Iara’s underground world, but which one? “Iara!” he yelled, frustrated by her failure to appear.
Dar rose and spun around, scanning each water hole. He moved towards the largest pool and waded in until he reached knee deep. “Iara! I must see you! Why are you avoiding me?” He sighed when he got the same response – nothing. Movement nearby caught his eye. A python slithered along a low hanging branch that stretched across one pool. The Beastmaster approached the branch and tried to communicate with the snake. It wouldn’t answer him. Annoyed by the reptile’s defiance, Dar yelled, “Tell me which pool leads to Iara’s underworld!” He raised the sword, prepared to slice the beast in half. Before the blade plummeted down upon its victim, a strong arm caught the Beastmaster’s sword arm and held it firmly.
“It’s a friend of mine.”
Startled, Dar whipped his head sideways to face the culprit. His eyes locked with those of a strange man. The skilled warrior who managed to sneak up on him was dripping wet. “Who are you?”
“Not your friend,” Naja declared grimly, unwilling to release the Beastmaster’s forearm.
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My Fanfic is based on the BeastMaster: The Legend Continues Series
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