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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 4

Cold... Dar felt cold.  It was cold and difficult to breathe.  He inhaled deeply but the musty, damp air annoyed his sinuses.  His face twitched away the displeasure as he stirred, unwilling to leave the comfort of slumber.  Needing warmth, he grappled at the cozy blanket covering him, yanking it upward until he drew it around his neck.  Unfortunately, the action triggered his shoulder to throb, still tender from the deep gash.  Dar’s eyes shot open.  The Beastmaster gradually became consciously aware and discovered he was in Iara’s world.  He blinked several times in hopes of distinguishing the dark surroundings.  No light existed except from the glimmering water exit at the far end of the chamber.  He couldn’t tell if it was day or night.  How long had he been out?  As he lifted himself upright the blanket fell from his chest and settled onto his lap.  He scanned the room and came to a standstill when he saw the pair of eyes beyond the dim light.

Golden-green eyes resembling those of a snake stared back.

“Iara?” Dar whispered, his voice barely audible.  Alarmed by the unknown presence, he inched farther back onto the bed, but cringed in pain while repositioning his body, weak from the loss of blood.  He relaxed, eyeing the demon as she slid from out of the darkness.  Mistrusting eyes never left his.  Nevertheless, Dar smiled, comforted at the sight of her.  Contentment replaced fear.

Suspicion, however, pumped Iara’s blood.  She cautiously approached the bed and spoke without compassion, aloof words hinted with disappointment.  “I can’t heal your wound.”  Naja’s sting was that of magic -- the Ancient One’s magic -- too powerful for her to counteract.

Dar glanced down at the tightly bound wrapping.  Iara must have replaced the bloodstained cloth Tao had applied earlier.  He felt moved that she had nursed over him.  Thoughts of his friend were quickly disregarded.  “Give it time,” he assured her.

Iara didn’t enjoy games; she wanted answers.  The Beastmaster was acting too rational to have been poisoned by Naja’s venom.  “Dar, you should be mad!” she disputed.

“I am.  I’m mad about you…”

“Stop this now!  You dare deceive me?”  Eyes wide with disbelief ignored his denials and looks of innocence.  “Mark these words… your words, Dar… ‘Nothing will ever happen between us, because you are not a woman.’”

Dar swallowed back the memory of those bitter words recited to her not so long ago.  “Spiteful words -- words spoken in haste and anger.  Iara, I do love you.  I will go mad if I can’t have you.”  The softening of her facial expressions fueled his hope.

Iara’s soft visage soon contorted back to skepticism.  “You are mad!”  Her words gnawed at his soul, the hurt visible within his eyes.  This truly confused her.  Iara’s tone changed and became timid as she expressed her inner feelings.  “Dar, I really want to believe you.”  She slithered closer and sat herself on the edge of the bed.  The moment of truth would soon be known.  Iara reached out and placed her hand upon Dar’s bare chest expecting him to jerk from the cold touch.  He didn’t move; instead, he held her hand in place, the warmth of his flesh made her long to be held in his arms.  But not so fast… she would not let her guard down that easily.

“All I ask is for your love, Iara.”  With his free hand, Dar pulled her closer and kissed her.  A gentle kiss at first, but it soon hungered for more, his passion needed to be sated as Naja’s venom coursed through his bloodstream.

Iara recoiled from his advances, unable to free her hand, which he still held tightly against his chest.  “Dar, you’re wounded.  You need rest.”  Her concern was sincere.

“The only wound I feel is here.”  He lifted her hand slightly away from his chest but quickly returned it, empathizing the location -- his heart.  “Only your love can mend it.”

If the Beastmaster was tempting to ensnare her in one of her own games, Iara’s defensive tactics were fading fast.  She so much wanted to yield to his passion, but Dar’s eagerness powered her doubt.  Iara decided to play it his way, but by her rules.  She would hold back, hold back the demon not only for the Beastmaster’s sake, but also to retain her wits about her if this was indeed a ploy to entrap her.  She leaned closer, closed her eyes and pressed her lips against his.  Time would only tell.

*****

The morning sun crept above the horizon, casting a colorless daybreak as darkness slowly ebbed towards brightness.  Tao had awakened earlier and just finished gathering berries, nuts, fruit and grains for their morning meal.  He busied himself mashing grapes mixed with a variety of berries to make nectar.  A commotion from the cave where Arina and he had taken shelter during the night caught his attention.  Tao lifted his head to greet his new traveling companion.  “How’s your head?  Did my remedy do the trick?”

Wiping the sleep from her eyes, Arina scrunched her face in displeasure.  “It left such an awful taste in my mouth I forgot all about my headache.  I’d say it worked perfectly.”  She sat down beside him on a nearby rock and waited patiently as he poured her a container of juice.  The thirsty woman took it from him and eagerly gulped the contents down.  The sweet fruity drink vanquished the dry, bitter taste in her mouth.  “You’d make some woman a great husband, Tao.”  She smiled and then laughed softly when his face flushed with embarrassment.  Tao handed her a bowl of mixed grains, nuts and fruit, which Arina nibbled on greedily, intent on squelching the rumbling in her stomach.  When she swallowed, she suggested, “Now that it’s daylight I can easily track Dar—”

“Forget Dar, we need to find Naja.”

“Naja?”  Arina frowned, her forehead puckering slightly, confused by the Eiron’s decision.

“He’s the one with answers.”  Tao knew he would never be able to rescue Dar from Iara alone, but if he could recruit the Netherland warrior… there may be a chance.  After all, Iara had called out his name.  There had to be a connection.  Naja was Tao’s only hope.

A voice from the woods startled them.  “And I owe you answers,” Naja declared as he emerged from the trees, placing his sword on the ground simultaneously as Arina sprang to her feet unsheathing her knife.  He assured her, “I mean you no harm.”

Arina eased her stance, but remained alert.  Even unarmed the man appeared to be quite the champion of hand-to-hand combat.  She reminded him of his untrustworthiness, “You set my prisoner free.”

“Only to distract you.  And it worked.  Did he hurt you?”  Naja’s sincerity seemed genuine.  He smiled flirtatiously at the beautiful woman.

Tao had been standing to the side, glancing nervously around to make sure Zad and his men weren’t hiding in wait.  Still leery of the intruder, Arina refused to return the smile.  Instead, she asked, “Where is Zad?”

Naja smirked.  “Back at his camp.  He’s determined on traveling to the Netherlands to recruit more warriors to help his battle against the Nords.  He’ll start searching for me when he wakens, so we don’t have much time.  May I join you?  I know you have questions.”  He looked from Arina to Tao.

Arina gave the Eiron a curt nod.  Tao smiled, he was finally getting somewhere.  “Yes, join us.  We weren’t properly introduced.  My name’s Tao and this is Arina.”  He settled back down and quickly poured another container of grape juice.  He handed it to the warrior now sitting across from them both.  There was no time to waste, so Tao came right to the point.  “How does Iara know you?”

Naja held the nectar and only inhaled its sweet aroma.  “I was once her lover.”

Tao shook his head in denial.  “It’s well known that Iara kills all her lovers.  She even admits it herself.  How could you have survived?  If you survived maybe Dar can too.  I need answers… most of all, I need your help.”

“Iara feared for my life when our love making became too passionate.  You see... passion unleashes the demon within her.  For my own protection, she let a miserable wizard change me into a cobra -- something she could love without destroying.  This old sorcerer, however, had ulterior motives -- a game he plays with those requesting favors.  Iara agreed to his conditions and allowed him to curse my venom, making anyone I bite infected with the same emotions of torment and bitterness I would suffer being spellbound as a snake.  Unbeknownst to Iara, the victim would also share my undying love for her.  A love I could no longer have and it nearly drove me mad.”

Arina shifted her eyes between the two men.  She was amazed by Tao’s politeness extending out to this stranger as he offered him a bowl of the cereal mix.   Tao then asked him to go on.  Naja made eye contact with them both.  Confession was good for the soul, so he heard.  Reluctantly, he continued.  “Iara promised to change me back into a human if I bit you, Tao.  She wanted to infect you so you’d be crazed to the point where not even the Beastmaster could help you.  She planned to be there when he needed her, but alas, he jumped in the way and became my prey instead of you.”

Tao’s mouth dropped.  “You -- you were that snake?  That’s why Iara called your name when I told her a cobra had bitten Dar.  She looked horrified.”  He looked to Arina.  “That’s why Dar’s been acting the way he has… even to the point of killing.”  Suddenly, a dreadful hunch in his gut churned his stomach.  “Wait… you said he’d share your love for Iara as well?”

“The Beastmaster can’t fight the feelings he has for her.  He’s under a spell.”  Naja looked down, regretting the deed he committed.  He had lost her completely.  “I was turned back into a man and Iara set me free.  But I can never be free of her.  I will love her always.”

The trio remained silent: Naja sulking in self-pity, Tao pondering over Naja’s tale and Arina feeling unnerved as if being watched.  She had every reason to.  Keen eyes scrutinized them.  Naja’s words echoed through Iara’s mind.  The Beastmaster can’t fight the feelings he has for her.  He’s under a spell.  She hissed lowly.  So, it wasn’t Dar’s own free will last night. 

Two pair of watchful eyes spied upon the demon and the three humans.  The Ancient One sensed Iara could no longer contain herself.  The moment he had waited for arrived.  He gloated, smiling at his apprentice, but she didn’t find this amusing, concern consumed her.

Iara zipped out from behind a tree, close to the threesome.  “Naja!”  The silence was broken.

Arina and Naja jumped to their feet, ready to defend themselves.  Surprised as well, Tao tried to stand but twirled so fast he ended up on the ground.  He remained seated where he landed and watched Iara approach the warrior.  A fearless Naja stepped forward to face her wrath, protecting the others.  “Miss me already?”

“You lied to me!”

“Now you know how it feels!” he blurted in defiance.  His dark brown eyes challenged the demon.  He’d rather be dead than lose her after all this time.

Taken aback, Iara was speechless.  It finally hit her how much she had truly hurt him.  The love she held for him still existed, only dulled by her love for the Beastmaster.  Dar had brought such light to her dismal existence.  Now, to find out that Dar hadn’t come to her of his own choosing, but to have a spell over him.  It changed things.  Iara didn’t know where her next words came from, but they were her words.  “I’m sorry.”

Naja felt he might be reaching her, reaching the woman he truly loved.  “I only wanted your love, Iara.  That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

Arina wasn’t sure about being in the presence of a demon.  She didn’t know much about them… only that they could be deadly.  She tried to hold back a bold Tao as she helped him to his feet.  He pulled free and approached the couple.  “How is Dar?”

Iara’s feisty self returned in a flash as she shot the Eiron a warning glance.  A wicked smile replaced the glare and she gloated in her triumph.  “He’s quite the lover.”  Her words were meant to egg on Tao, not hurt Naja.  Nonetheless, her former lover burned with envy. 

Tao’s concern for his friend fed his bravery.  “Lover?  Hah!” he mocked.  “It’s not of his own free will and you know it!”  Something emerging from the trees came into Tao’s vision.  Kodo and Podo left the berries they had been eating and scurried over to their human friend, chattering away.  Tao creased his brow and raised his eyebrows, surprised to see the Beastmaster.  “Dar?”  His friend no longer wore a loincloth; instead, Dar was clad in black eel-skin pants with an open vest -- the bandage still visible beneath it.  Dar looked pale, but the frenzied look Tao had seen in his eyes had vanished.  That is until the Beastmaster spotted Naja.

Dar nudged the ferrets aside with his foot as he yelled, “Get away from her!”  It didn’t take long for the Beastmaster to leap into a somersault through the air and knock Naja to the ground.  Iara barely got out of the way as the two men fell, rolling over and over each other, Dar thrashing out while Naja fended off the blows.  Iara wasted no time and shot a demonic jolt to split them apart, sending both men soaring in opposite directions.

Arina and Tao watched in amazement.  The Eiron rushed over to his friend while Arina moved to check on the Netherland.  He groaned, but was uninjured.  Dar pushed his friend to the ground after he graciously helped him to his feet.  “Tao,” he implored, “stay out of this.”

Tao felt his inner rage boil.  He wanted desperately to help his friend, but how?

Iara spun around and with demonic speed was standing in front of Dar.  Tao scattered behind the Beastmaster to avoid contact with her.  Iara ignored him; she wanted a straight answer.  “Dar, you’ve been infected with venom that forces you to love me.  It’s not of your free will.  Do you understand?”

Tao was shocked to hear Iara admit this.  Maybe she’d free him of the spell and all would be normal.  Dar broke any such expectation with his words.  “After last night, nothing could separate us, Iara.  Nothing.”

“Iara,” Naja spoke her name as if he were kissing the nape of her neck.  He refused to let her go, but knew he had lost.  “It’s my love that drives his words, his feelings.  Remember that.  Those are my words… my feelings… my love… not his.  When you make love to him, it’s really me.”  Naja picked up his sword, turned to Arina and nodded politely.  He spun on his feet and sprinted into the woods.

Iara moved to follow, but Dar held her back.  Her mouth secretly formed Naja’s name without saying it aloud.  She feared she would never see him again.

“You don’t need him, you have me,” Dar vainly stated.  He twirled her around until she was facing him.

Iara fought back the stinging tears that threatened to emerge.  She bit her lip in an attempt to keep her emotions in check.  The serpent demon caught a glimpse of the Ancient One and the Sorceress hiding behind some trees.  This angered her and she quickly regained her composure.  “Who needs free will?  You’re mine and that’s all I’ve ever wanted.  Time to return to my world, Dar.  Say good bye to your friends.”  Iara pried free of Dar’s hold and moved away, closer to the tree line.  She folded her arms across her chest and leaned against a tree, waiting for her Beastmaster. 

Tao was first to speak.  “Dar, you can’t go with her.  She’ll kill you.”

“Don’t deny me my happiness, Tao.  If you’re a true friend, you won’t deny me this.”  Dar looked to his Namib friend.  “Arina, will you watch over Tao?”

“Tao’s right.  You’ve been infected with some kind of magical venom and you’re not yourself.  Come with us, we’ll find you help.”

“I don’t want your help.  Can’t you understand that?  I love Iara!”

Tao shook his head.  He had to reason with him.  “Dar, what about your promise to protect the animals?”

The Beastmaster turned to his friend and calmly said, “I’m still going to protect them, Tao, but I want to be with Iara.  I need to be with Iara.  Grant me this one thing.  Your friendship meant the world to me, but now it’s over.”  Dar held out his hand, offering a gesture of parting ways.

Begrudgingly, Tao took his friend’s hand.  The anger and frustration revealed clearly upon his face.  It couldn’t end like this.  He had lost too much already and he’d be damned if he was going to lose Dar to that snake woman.

“I’m waiting,” an impatient Iara cooed.

Her words were like daggers.  Tao’s back tensed.  Without warning, Dar pulled Tao closer and wrapped his arms around him, embracing his friend as if he would never see him again.  The Eiron didn’t mind the close contact but was surprised by Dar’s action for the Beastmaster had never expressed himself in this manner before.  It seemed too final.  Then Dar whispered in his ear.  Tao became numb and stood motionless as Dar released his hold.  He stared into Dar’s desperate eyes.  Eyes that pleaded one last time before they blinked to reveal uncaring eyes once again.  The Beastmaster turned to join his love.  Without looking back, they disappeared into the forest.

Arina crept softly next to Tao.  She wasn’t sure what had been exchanged between friends, so she placed a gentle hand on Tao’s arm.  He turned to face her.  She expected tears of anguish, but instead received a smile.  Arina’s eyebrows lifted in curiosity.  “Tao?”

“We still have hope.  Dar asked me not to give up on him.  He said I’m the wisest man he knows and he has faith that I can get him out of this mess.”  Tao smiled again as this mind grinded with plans.  “We need Naja.”

“I’m on it!”  Arina trotted after the Netherland warrior.

The Sorceress watched Tao gather up Kodo and Podo in preparation of going after Dar.  She turned to her mentor.  “This can’t continue.  What if she kills him?  Won’t the world be out of balance again?”

“Killing the Beastmaster is entirely different than stripping him of his powers -- powers granted to him by Curupira.  Iara tipped the scale last time.  Death is natural and his powers will be given back to the one who gave them to him.” 

“We must stop this,” she pleaded.

“My dear, are you worried your choice for granting this human one wish could be a bad decision?  Remember, it can’t be a selfish one, otherwise it won’t work.”  He disappeared but his chuckling remained to torment her.

Her eyes watched the gentle Eiron again.  “The Beastmaster has faith in you, Tao, and so do I.”

*****

Naja led Tao and Arina back to the pools.  It wasn’t long before they reached the area.  The guide stopped several feet away and turned to face his traveling companions.  “This is as far as I go.”

Arina thanked him, understanding his reasons.  “We appreciate your help.  Wherever you go, may you travel safely.” 

“Wait, which pool?” Tao asked, leaning on his friend’s staff weapon for support while studying the numerous waterholes.  Suddenly several ripples flowed from one nearby.  All eyes turned as the snake demon surfaced carrying Dar’s body shrouded in a blanket.  Iara placed him on the ground, her visage stolid as she stood straight and looked at the trio.

“His love was too much for me to hold back… I couldn’t resist him… I couldn’t stop myself.”  She glanced down in shame.  “The demon inside me crushed the life from his body.”  Iara, during the height of their lovemaking, had turned into the 16-foot python demon and wrapped herself around the Beastmaster, unintentionally crushing his bones.  In a zombie-like state, Iara returned to the water and submerged herself into her world below.  Her ray of light lost, lost forever.

Tao dropped Dar’s staff weapon that he had been holding.  He couldn’t move.  Every ounce of hope had been drained and he felt nauseous.  He stared at the lifeless body of his friend.  “Dar… I’m too late.”  

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