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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 5 (Epilogue) 

The trio of disbelievers stared at Dar’s lifeless body lying by the pool’s edge.  Draped in an eel-skinned blanket, he appeared peaceful… almost angelic. The water dripping off his wet hair and rolling across his pale face was the only visible movement.  Tao stared in vain as he looked for any sign of his friend’s chest rising up and down.  Nothing.  Suddenly, Tao’s world collapsed… he found it difficult to breathe himself.

Naja noticed the Eiron’s reaction and, although he had previously wanted the Beastmaster dead, felt saddened for both of Dar’s friends.  He could sense their loss plagued their souls, especially the peaceful scholar.  Naja had grown fond of Tao in just the few hours they had spent together.  Each man, warrior and thinker, shared similar values and respect of the world and life.  He placed his hand upon the young man’s shoulder.

Tao still didn’t move… still didn’t breathe.

Arina, too, felt a deep sorrow and loss.  She tried swallowing the lump now growing in her throat as she reached out to console the man next to her.  “Tao...”  Words escaped her. 

Tao released his breath and then abruptly sprang forward, landing on his knees beside the body.  Hands hovered just inches over the still form, afraid to touch the cold flesh and confirm the truth.  Dar was dead.  “Nooooooo!” he wailed as he reached down and lifted his friend in his arms.  Lightly sobbing, he rocked Dar’s body to and fro.

Arina stepped forward to join Tao at his side, but Naja held her back.  She whipped her head sideways.  The contempt in her tear-stained eyes dared him to keep her from her friends.  However, she found herself studying the hesitation in his gentle brown eyes, eyes that looked beyond hers.  Arina slowly traced their trajectory until she discovered they were no longer alone.  Several men were now surrounding them.  She recognized one instantly. 

The Terron king smiled shrewdly  “Well, well, well.  What do we have here?”  He stepped closer and his smile withered into a curious frown.  Zad cocked his head when he observed the Eiron’s angst over his dead friend.  No time to waste on those emotions, he had a battle to plan.  He turned his attention back to the two warriors.  “Is this your doing, Naja?  Why, if you managed to kill the Beastmaster, I just may have to forgive you for deserting me.  You don’t want to know what I do to deserters.”

Unafraid of the Terron’s idle threats, Naja stepped forward, hand on the hilt of his sword.  “I am a man of honor, King Zad.  I left only because I had unfinished affairs to settle.”  He glanced down at his deceased rival and suddenly grieved for the devastated man cradling the body.  “Matters which no longer exist.  As a man of my word, I will join you in your quest to find skilled warriors like myself.  Just leave these two in peace.”

“Leave them in peace?  The Namib wench and the Eiron grub? Hah!”  Zad looked to his motley crew of leftover Nord survivors and laughed.  His men joined in knowing their leader was a ruthless man.  There would be no peace.  Zad fell silent and his men followed suit.  He flashed a warning at the Netherland warrior.  “She was Voden’s personal scout and led the attack on my camp.  I plan to have her head!  Kill her!”

Withdrawn in his deadened world, Tao disregarded the scuffle that swarmed before him.  He was numb from the inside out.  Unblinking eyes shed another tear as he distantly caught sight of Zad’s sword plunging deeply into Arina who was restrained by two soldiers.

The young Sorceress stepped out of the protective covering of the forest towards the action.  The Ancient One grabbed her arm, preventing her from getting too close.  Her sorrow-filled eyes gazed upon the slain woman, then moved to the Eiron clutching his dead friend, and then finally fixed themselves upon her tutor’s eyes.  Was it possible she observed a glimpse of uncertainty in those steadfast orbs?  She boldly asked, “Isn’t there something we can do?”  No reply.  This irked her even more.  “I truly assumed Tao would pull through and use the wish I granted him, but he just sits there.  Why?”  She wondered if her mentor was even listening to her.

The grand wizard frowned, his brow etched with worry lines as he watched Naja fight bravely against those warriors left standing.  Slightly outnumbered, Naja deflected the blows Zad’s men pounded him with in hopes of wearing him out.  Their chief wanted this one alive… they only needed to suppress him.

The Ancient One finally spoke. “Remind me later to have you study the condition called shock.  As for your request to do something, you know the rule about interfer--” 

“I know,” she interrupted, “but it was your interference that caused this whole chain reaction.”  The Ancient One raised an eyebrow at her accusation, but the Sorceress ignored the gesture.  “Your magic turned Naja into a cobra in the first place.  And, it was your magic that changed the venom forcing the Beastmaster to love Iara, which eventually led to his death.  If that’s not interference, then you need to redefine your meaning.”

His student was extremely clever.  The Ancient One’s interest soon diverted back to the fighting however.  He moved in front of her as he watched Zad’s men capture Naja, confining him were he stood – the tips of their blades eager to poke their captive if he moved.  His perceptive student was correct; he must intervene.  He waved his hand in Tao’s direction sending images racing through the Eiron’s mind.

Tao had blocked out the world crashing around him by squeezing his eyes shut and gently rocking his friend’s body as he wept.  Images soon flooded his mind.  Unexpectedly, Tao was no longer holding Dar.  Instead, he was confronting the man-eating tiger that the Terrons had just released.  But out of nowhere, a giant of a man leapt down and fought off the guards single handedly with a skill Tao had never seen used before.  He was free, but when the Eiron whirled around he came face-to-face with a hideous creature in the darkness.  The Minotaur knocked him to the ground, but just in the nick of time, the Beastmaster was there and distracted the beast.  Tao tried to stand up but found himself bound tightly to a slab of stone.  As darkness ebbed to the midday sun, Maloc’s greedy face shadowed over his victim, the sacrificial knife raised high to plummet into Tao’s chest.  Suddenly, the familiar bone staff swung overhead knocking the weapon from Maloc’s grasp.  Relief coursed through Tao’s body only to discover he still wasn’t free.  Tied to a post, he was waist-deep in water.  Something fierce whacked his leg.  Crocodile!  Tao kicked furiously to ward off the deadly jaws until a nearby splash answered his prayers.  Dar surfaced and the attack quickly stopped.  Tao smiled when Dar gently placed his hand on his stomach to assure him that he was all right.  But he wasn’t.  It was dark again and Tao’s shoulder racked in pain.  Wait… he heard Dar’s voice above him.  Focusing his eyes, Tao gulped at the sight of the cobra lifting its body into a striking pose.  Before it could strike, Dar jumped down taking the full brunt of the cobra’s fangs…

Tao’s eyes shot open as Zad’s men pulled him to his feet.  He was forced to let go of his friend and the Beastmaster’s body slumped to the ground.  Tao heard voices shouting at him but he couldn’t distinguish what was being said.  He still felt numb, insensitive to his surroundings.  The images of Dar saving his life, time and time again, haunted his thoughts.  It wasn’t long before the wall of disbelief he had built around him was shattered – shattered by his own voice.  Anger dictated his actions and he began yelling at Dar.  “Why?  Why did you jump in the way?  It should have been me, not you!  Why?”

The Sorceress lifted her eyebrows in a desperate plea, her mouth opening ever so slightly.  “Come on, Tao, don’t let me down.”

The distraught man twisted free from the warriors and dropped to his knees before Dar’s body.  He continued to reprimand his dead friend.  “You always have to play the hero!  Why?  Why did you have to die?  I wish… I wish the cobra bit me, not you!”

The world came to a halt as time shifted.  To the Eiron, the day’s events played in reverse within a matter of microseconds.  Tao found himself in the center of a tunnel that moved past him.  Bright lights bounced off the walls in a whirlwind of time-altering magic until everything came to a standstill.  Tao shook his head to clear the confusion.  It was dark. 

Tao thought he heard someone calling his name so he opened his eyes.  Lying on his backside, he blinked several times while surveying his surroundings.  Loose silt slid off some roots jutting from the walls, creating a dusty atmosphere.  His eyes traced the sides upward until he found the only source of light.  He was back in that pit.  “Oh no,” he cried.  As he started to lift himself, 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--” 

“Dar! You’re alive!”  A rustling sound from across the way caught Tao’s attention, but there wasn’t enough light to see anything.  He remembered everything and knew exactly what was in the pit with him.  He had to stall Dar from jumping down.

“Of course I’m alive.  I think you hit your head.  I’ll find something to help you climb out of there.”  Dar dropped his pouch gently on the ground and searched 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.

“Go away, rat!”  There was no time to waste.  “Dar!  Iara pushed me in here.  She’s up there somewhere.”  There, that should keep the Beastmaster busy.

“Iara?” Dar asked, surveying the area.  That’s all they needed.  The Beastmaster busied himself with a vine, ensuring its strength while keeping an eye out for the pesky demon.  “I’ll be right there, Tao, don’t worry.”  Dar thought it odd when he heard Tao reply not to hurry.  He 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 scanned the area one last time before moving back to the edge to inform his friend of his discovery.

Tao spoke softly to the huge snake slithering out of a burrow.  “Naja… if you can understand me--”  He hesitated… it was futile.  The cobra lifted its upper body, spread its neck and began swaying side to side.  Poised for assault, the deadly snake bared its fangs.  The doomed man watched the cobra coil back before it would lunge towards him.  No sign of Dar yet… good.  Tao closed his eyes and braced himself for the inevitable.

Dar leaned over the edge and panicked when he saw the cobra.  “Tao, don’t move!”  Too late.  The cobra swiftly maneuvered itself and struck its victim, its fangs embedding in the soft tissue of Tao’s upper arm.  Dar jumped down and swung his staff into the cobra’s body.

The colossal snake released its prey.  Spasmodic jolts shot throughout its body until it recoiled to a halt and turned into the body of a man.  Astonished, the Beastmaster stared at the unbelievable feat.  It had to be magic -- Iara’s magic. 

Tao smiled, even though the bite tingled and his shoulder throbbed.  He felt intoxicated by his triumph.  His friend was alive and he had changed history.  A fleeting look at the Netherland warrior gave Tao a sudden awareness.  He soon became sober.  “Naja…” he muttered.  Puzzled, Dar asked him if he knew who the dead man was.  Tao nodded.  Another thought raced through his mind.  He reacted fervently.  “No… I’ll never love that demon.  Never!”   Tao fought to remain alert.

Dar was at his side.  “Tao... Tao, stay with me.  You’re feverish.”  The Beastmaster ripped the sleeve of his friend’s shirt to inspect the bite mark.  It was deep.

“My pack… the yell… yellow herb.”

“Tao, save your strength, don’t talk.”  Dar worked quickly and soon had a paste of the herb plastered to Tao’s upper arm.

Tao tried to recall what happened next.  When did Zad come into the picture?  They had to get out of there and fast.  Wait… Dar had been unconscious for a while.  Why didn’t he feel the same way?  In fact, he felt fine, except for the stinging of the bite itself and his wounded shoulder.  What puzzled him most was the fact that he had no yearnings for Iara like Dar did.  He looked up at Dar, but his heart jumped at the sight of the serpent demon standing behind his friend with hands of her hip.  “Iara…”  He struggled to move closer against the wall.

Dar bolted upward and spun around to face Iara.  “You did this!  Fix it!” he demanded.  “Save Tao!”

“Dar, I’m fine,” the Eiron protested meekly.

Iara glared at the dead snake… not just any snake, but Naja.  “No!  You killed him!”  Things hadn’t turned out as she planned.  The demon’s tongue darted from her mouth nearly touching the Beastmaster’s face.  He jerked his head back reflexively.  Enraged, Iara prepared to strike Dar down for what he had done, but just before her power was released, the Ancient One appeared between she and the Beastmaster. 

The powerful wizard easily absorbed her electricity.  “Off with you, little one!” the Ancient One warned the demon with a foreboding glimpse.  Iara feared his wrath, so she vanished to her underground world, sulking.

Dar stepped back.  It was getting crowded down there and he was surprised to see the powerful sorcerer.  This wizard had helped him before… perhaps he would again.  “My friend’s been bitten by a cobra.  Can you help him?”

“Yes, I can.”  Saying that, the Ancient One waved his hand and disappeared with Naja.

Baffled, Dar hollered at no one, “Not the cobra… Tao!”

“Dar, I’m all right,” Tao insisted.  “Except my shoulder.”

Dar turned around to face his standing friend.  “But…”

“I’m not sure how or why, but it’s different this time.”  Tao smiled.  “We need to get out of here before Zad shows up.”

“This time?  Zad?”

“Dar, we have to hurry!”

Tao was right, there wasn’t any time for questions, so Dar agreed.  He picked up his staff, aimed high and jabbed it deeply into the wall of the pit.  Within seconds, he hoisted himself upward onto the staff.  It started to give way, but not before Dar leapt towards the edge.  A hand grabbed hold and pulled him up.  “Sorceress.”  Dar smiled.  His grin spread wider when he saw an immobile Zad standing nearby.

*****

Sitting by a warm campfire, Tao rubbed his aching shoulder.  He gratefully took the container of hot tea Arina offered him.  After taking a sip of the soothing blend, he thanked her.  “It’s a good thing you showed up when you did, I don’t think Dar would have been as gentle as you were fixing my shoulder.”

“It’s a good thing you knew how to set it.  You said Zad taught you that?”  Arina seemed amazed that a man so destructive could know something constructive.  She sat next to the Eiron and smiled.  “I’m just glad that I could repay you after what you did for my mare and her foal.”

Curious, Tao asked, “Where are they?”

“Safe for now.”  Arina glanced over at Dar and the Sorceress.  They seemed to be having a private conversation.  She frowned slightly.

Tao turned to them as well.  He had been completely overwhelmed by the turn of events that occurred that day.  He sought answers.  “Sorceress?” 

Both she and Dar stopped talking and moved closer to the others.  “Yes, Tao?” she asked with a gleam in her eye.

Dar noticed Arina’s pout, so he sat next to her and leaned close.  “You aren’t jealous, are you?” he whispered.  As soon as he had her full attention, he smiled, his eyes twinkling with mischief.

Arina scoffed at his implication and returned her attention back to the Eiron who was asking a question.  She could still feel the Beastmaster’s eyes on her.

The Sorceress had crouched down, but did not sit.  Tao felt at such ease with her now.  “I remember everything that’s happened.  And you told me you do too.  But, to be able to control time like that.  How do you do it?”

“I’m not sure.  I didn’t do it.  My teacher did.”  She looked at Dar across the fire and smiled.

Arina broke their eye contact.  “I thought he was away and you were on your own.  He’s back now?”

The Sorceress turned and answered as best she could.  “He’s on a quest for greater magic.  I believe he came back to retrieve it.  He took Naja to be his next student.”

Tao smiled in relief.  “That’s great news… so he isn’t dead.  I really liked him.”

Dar gave him a strange look.  “Tao, you didn’t even know him.  He was Iara’s pet snake and he attacked you.  Are you sure you’re all right?”

The Sorceress answered for him, “The Ancient One informed me that the spell placed on Naja’s venom would be broken by death.  What he neglected to tell me was the fact that it could be either the victim’s death or Naja’s.  When Naja died, the spell was broken.”

Tao nodded his head in understanding.

The Beastmaster wasn’t so certain.  “But Tao acts like he knows Naja.  You said the venom makes the victim mad.  Are you sure the spell is broken?”

Tao chuckled and decided he’d best enlighten his friend.  “Dar, remember when I was asking about ‘what ifs’ and if you could ever change something in your past…”  The Beastmaster nodded to make the conversation short.  Tao recognized his friend’s curtness, so he made it brief.  “Well, I did.  I lived a whole day that no one else remembers but me and the Sorceress.  A day where Naja bit you instead of me.  The venom’s spell that made you crazy and in love with Iara.”

“Really?”  Dar found that idea to be impossible.

“Yes, you chased after her, but she wound up killing you.  Zad killed Arina… it was horrible.”  Tao glanced at the Namib to find her astonished by the news.  He turned back to Dar and continued, “That’s when I wished I had been bitten instead of you.  The Sorceress granted me my one wish.”

She interrupted to add her point of view.  “It only worked because it was a selfless wish… at least that’s what my teacher agreed to.  He truly doubted any mortal would be so unselfish.  I had faith in you, Tao.”  A warm smile touched his soul.

Tao returned the gesture before telling his friend.  “You see, Dar.  Sometimes wishing to change things in the past can come true… fate doesn’t always prevail.”

Dar’s expression became serious.  “Perhaps you’re right.  There is one thing I wish I could change.”  He looked at Arina and then down at her abdomen.  His eyes rose and met hers.  That wish would be too selfish.  He turned his head to face his friend.

Tao’s face grew alive with curiosity.  “What?  What would you, a man unwilling to go against the grains of fate, wish to change?”

The Beastmaster glanced at the Sorceress and then back at Tao.  “I’m afraid I wouldn’t be granted my wish, it’s not selfless.”  Dar studied his friend’s face before he spoke up.  His life would be so alone had it not been for his companionship.  “Tao, I only wish that I could have met you earlier than I did.  I could have used a friend like you when I was growing up.”

Tao was speechless and honestly touched.  He blinked several times while wondering how different life would be had he met Dar early on.  He looked to the Sorceress and, even knowing her answer, asked, “You able to grant that one?”

“I’ve overstayed my welcome,” she confessed, eager to make an exit before she got in trouble. 

Tao laughed at her nervous reaction, knowing all too well she couldn’t interfere again.  He was just glad for once, she was able to this time.

 ~The End~

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