The Threads of Time

BeastMaster Fan Fiction
by
aikakone

Rating: R
Summary: Set during the end of season one before Kyra's death, a vicious hunter from the far north that is trying to kill the Beastmaster has an unexpected connection to Sharak. Includes the story of Sharak and the Sorceress as students of the Ancient One.


CHAPTER 2

Archel enjoyed killing.  It was one thing that he found he could do well. He remembered how he felt the first time he watched the life drain out of his prey. It made him feel all the more alive! He was the victor and more worthy to be alive than some dumb animal. Ever since then, he lived for the hunt and especially the kill.

His desire for blood sport drove him from his northern tribe. The men were bow hunters and trappers of great skill. The archers of his tribe were known to be the greatest warriors of the northern lands. Archel was somehow set apart from the others. Those around him looked at him with eyes and hearts full of fear and no understanding. They could not fathom his single-minded purpose and feared madness from him. There was neither respect for the animals nor gods of the forest in his killings. Archel was exiled from his tribe before the gods would exact punishment on them for his folly.

Living in exile was not as difficult as he thought it would be. For him, his own people and lands never felt like a home. His mother, father and family were easily forgotten. He went on to the outer world, away from the seclusion of his tribe. No other was brave enough to leave the secret lands, he had assured himself.

In the Outlands he learned much more about hunting than he already knew. Archel had learned to make traps. He had learned better to track his prey. Archel started his kills systematically. He knew what the prey did and where they did it. He got inside their minds and knew their every move. His knowledge was cold, ordered, and supreme.

While in the Outlands he had encountered the sorcerer known as the Ancient One. Gods and sorcerers were of no importance to Archel. Maybe they were important to themselves, but of no other account. The sorcerer had asked him to kill an enemy. Archel did so because he could. He was completely emotionally detached and killing a man instead of an animal was only that much more of a challenge. Archel did not realize the encounter with the Ancient One changed him, but it had. His thirst for blood, for the kill was stronger.

For the simple act of killing an enemy, one who was not very interesting prey at that, the Ancient One had gifted Archel with his bow. Enchanted, some had said. How could it be enchanted? Archel was the best hunter. It had to be his own skill that made the kills, not some enchantment by a daft old man. Archel liked his gift, though, and did not put much thought into whether it had magic in it or not.

Archel kept certain parts of his more spectacular kills as trophies for remembrance. Sometimes it was a head, a foot, or maybe an unusual pelt. It was all a way to make no mistake in knowing that he was the greatest hunter alive.

He knew that the Beastmaster had both an eagle and a tiger for companions. He could hunt those, but what he wanted most was the head of the Beastmaster, who was nothing more than an animal himself. How could he truly be human when he associated with animals as he did? The Beastmaster was known to be one of the more cunning prey, though, so this would be a great kill.

The Beastmaster would value tigers because tigers were the guardian animals of the Sula tribe. With that knowledge, Archel headed for the dense forest where he knew the tigers would be. He could kill the tigers and as well as some other animals. I t didn't really matter, though. As long as enough animals ended up dead, the Beastmaster would come to him.

~*~*~*~

"Still playing the spy? My dear, what is it that fascinates you so about this human?" The Ancient One appeared before the Sorceress who had been watching the movements of both Dar and the archer.

She gave an unwelcome look to her teacher. "Is there a purpose to this visit, or have you come simply to annoy me?"

Ignoring her comment, the Ancient One sauntered over to peer into the waters. "Things have gotten more interesting for your pet Beastmaster. This hunter is very good."

"Even the best can be stopped."

"True," he sighed. "but highly unlikely. I gave him the bow myself. He did a job for me, you see." The Ancient One's expression turned hard. "Do not try to stop him. You will only fail."

The Sorceress seethed in anger. "I need that Beastmaster."

"Why? To communicate with your precious Sharak? The Beastmaster does not trust you, so he won't willingly help you. And you have already seen Sharak choose him over you."

He further toyed with her new-found emotions by saying, "it hurts to be rejected by your lover, doesn't it?" After a pause the Ancient One concluded, "give up, my dear. Defying me is of little use. I always win in the end."

He walked out of her cavern, seemingly oblivious to the angry stare that bore into his back.

~*~*~*~

Dar and Tao traveled quickly. It was very clear to Dar that the archer was determined to kill. He seemed to have no plan in his killing. It was not to eat because one man could not eat so much. He did not belong to any tribe of the Mydlands. His exact origins were unknown even to Tao who tenaciously guarded minuscule and obscure knowledge.

All around them in the forest they could hear Curupira's displeasure. Her anger at the killings only made Tao want to have this finished this as soon as possible. Couldn't she sneak up on the archer when he was sleeping and give him her kiss of death? It would make it much easier on Dar. What could Dar do? He could try to talk with the archer, but some people do not respond to talk or reason. Others only know fighting and violence, and eventually there would be a fight Dar could not win. Tao feared for that day.

On the second day Dar noticed evidence of the archer. He held his hand up for Tao to pause and be still. He bent near the ground and studied the tracks in the dirt.

"What is it? What do you see?" asked Tao.

"These are the footprints of a heavy man with big feet." Dar measured the space of the print with his hand. "See how deep the prints are in the dirt?"

Looking around cautiously, Tao asked, "is he close by?"

"He can't be too far. The tracks are still fresh, not more than a day old." Dar stood up looking around studying the terrain for any more clues. Dar sent Kodo and Podo to scout ahead, and then motioned for Tao to follow him. They both kept low as they were trying to make their way quietly through the forest.

Tao knew they had to be close to Archel. His nose was greeted by one of the most awful odors he had ever had the misfortune of smelling. It was the smell of rotten and burning flesh. He and Dar moved a little farther and saw a small clearing beyond the bushes. They both crouched low and tried to assess the hunter standing before them.

Archel was standing in front of a fire watching it burn. Tao had heard about him before, but seeing the hunter with his own eyes was different. Archel's hair was a lighter shade of blonde than Dar's, and very short and straight. He did not have much else in common with the Beastmaster. Dar was lithe and graceful and had a fighting style was that based on speed, cunning and finesse. Archel looked solid as a rock wall and full of brute strength.

"I was wondering when you were going to get here. I almost felt lonely waiting for you to come." Archel did not take his eyes off the fire as he spoke. He nonchalantly turned a stick in the fire.

He finally looked up and glanced to where both Sula and Eiron were hidden. "Come out now, and bring your friend with you. He is with you, isn't he?"

Dar stood up slowly and stepped out from his hiding place behind the bushes. He kept his eyes on Archel while deliberately putting together his staff. "You have been killing many animals. Too many animals."

"I know, and I didn't even want them really. I had to get your attention. I can see it worked."

"Now that you have it," Dar said with disgust, "what do you want?"

"I am going to kill you, Beastmaster."

"Many have tried. Unfortunately, I can only die once." Dar became more emphatic, "I don't want to fight you, but I will if I need to. I am here to stop you from killing all the animals in this forest. Don't you know the rules of the forest?"

Smirking, Archel said, "rules are for fools. These animals are mine for the taking, and so are you!"

He threw his stick into the fire as one would throw a spear and whistled for his horse that was waiting nearby. He mounted the horse and saluted Dar before making a charge. Dar stood his ground and blocked the pass with his staff.

Archel then turned with his horse to come back from the other direction. "Let's make sure that your friend won't help you, so that this is a fair fight." The hunter rushed at Tao hiding in the bushes.

Tao was flushed out from hiding like a frightened pheasant. He tried to run away, but tripped and fell. Tao quickly got up and ran in the direction he was herded by Archel. He stepped right into a trap that was disguised under the leaves. A rope closed around Tao's ankles and the trap released so he was suspended upside down in the air.

"This should keep you busy for a while." He menacingly smiled at Tao and punched him in the stomach. Archel tied his hands together behind his back to make it harder for Tao to escape. Tao jerked and wiggled like a fish that was caught out of water.

"Dar, help me!" shouted the captured Eiron.

Dar gave the mental request to Kodo and Podo who could sever the ropes with their sharp teeth. The two ferrets scampered over to Tao to assist in his release, while Dar steeled himself for the fight that would come with Archel.

Archel returned to Dar. He raced at him using the wooden limbs of his bow the same way a Terron would use one of his clubs. Dar deftly blocked the bow and anticipated the next pass. He separated the parts of his staff and watched in readiness. As the man rode by again on horseback trying to strike, Dar pounded him in the back with the knotted end of his club. Archel turned behind him with the most feral snarl.

Archel jumped down from the horse and walked back to Dar. He pulled an arrow from the quiver and aimed at the Beastmaster. The arrow would have hit him had not Dar danced aside and deflected the arrow with the parts of his staff.

Again he tried to aim an arrow at the blonde creature before him. Dar spun gracefully through the air landing on his feet in a new location. Archel let another arrow fly. It did not pierce Dar, but the arrowhead ripped open the skin on his cheek as it flew by him.

He kept his eyes on Archel while putting his staff back to one part. Dar could feel the warm blood trickling from his wound. It became salty from sweat and was entering his mouth. On the offensive, Dar ran toward Archel with his staff in hand. He stabbed one end of it into the ground and used the momentum to vault himself into the air.

The hunter watched his prey land in front of him. "Nice move, Beastmaster."

"Thank you. I have more," he said as he hit him in the chest with his closed fingers. He landed two quick blows like a snake.

Archel gasped in pain and reached for a different weapon. He threw a bola around Dar's ankles. With his legs entangled, Dar fell to the ground. Archel used that to his advantage to jump on top of the Beastmaster and wrap his gloved hands around his neck to choke him.

Dar reached blindly on the ground to try to find a possible weapon. He found a rock and hit Archel on the side of the head. The impact momentarily stunned him, and then he growled angrily back at the Beastmaster. He used his legs to try to squeeze and break the ribs of the man underneath him.

While he still held Dar's neck in his gloved hands, Archel freed one hand to use to strike blows on his face. The gash that Dar had gotten from the arrow became deeper and bloodier. When Dar tried to retaliate with a free hand, Archel leaned over and bit his wrist. He held on to it with the ferocity of a rabid dog. Dar cried out in pain, much to his foe's satisfaction. The hunter then found his bow and readied an arrow to be shot at close range.

As Dar was on the ground with Archel poised over him in the position to kill, Ruh came charging from the jungle with Sharak flying overhead. The tiger had jumped on the archer. His help removed the immediate threat away from Dar, giving Dar the opportunity to slink into the brush to gather his strength.

If Ruh had intended to kill the Archer underneath him, he was taking his time to do it. Ruh clawed at Archel's face, gnawed at his wrists and otherwise played with him like a toy. When he knew Dar was safe, the tiger walked away showing in his feline way the complete superiority he felt over the hunter.

The ferrets had freed Tao in time to see Ruh's intervention. The great tiger's pounce on Archel had helped Dar, but had caused an unforeseen consequence. The arrow their foe had poised for the Beastmaster flew horribly askance as Ruh took down the bow-hunter. Instead of shooting Dar or even the attacking Ruh, the arrow flew threw the air and impaled the eagle Sharak.

It was this glimmering, almost horrible moment that Tao alone saw as the other two men were separately occupied. When Sharak was pierced, he did not immediately fall to the ground. Instead the very air around him began to flash as if the eagle had his own private lightning storm. At least Tao thought he was an eagle because during the flashing Tao started to see two separate forms fight for the shape of the being Sharak. One form was the familiar eagle that he knew and the other was that of a human male.

Tao watched this other battle with complete shock. It was one thing for which he had no words at all, only stunned silence. He saw the form of a human male eventually take dominance. The weight of his body was too heavy for the air that held him aloft as a bird of prey. The newly human Sharak fell to the earth with such extreme violence that the bass boom of his impact was accompanied by the higher tinkling of bones breaking.

Tao was still in his trance when the archer approached him on horseback. He had gotten away from Ruh and was seething with anger.

"You tell your friend, the Beastmaster, that I will be back for him. This is not over."

Tao gave Archel no reaction.

Archel righted himself in the saddle and shouted angrily. "Listen to me when I talk to you!"

Tao dimly heard Archel's voice at the edge of his consciousness. He looked to the man without seeing. Archel booted him squarely in the face. The already stunned Eiron fell backwards to the ground. He heard the departing sound of pounding hooves before his world turned black.

~*~*~*~

Dar unsteadily rose from where he had been hiding. He must have been sleeping because the sun in the sky had moved into a different position overhead. He was not sure how long he had been there nor now long his match with Archel had lasted. He touched has bruised face and winced as he found the raw spot where his cheek had been sliced open by one of his opponent's arrows.

He gasped in horror as a most odious thought came to him. Where was Tao? Had the hunter taken him? Dar quickly surveyed the landscape hoping to find a sign of his friend. Finally, Dar saw a dark colored patch in the field that he hoped was Tao's hair.

He cautiously walked closer in hopes that he would find Tao. He did find a man with raven-colored hair like Tao, but he was most certainly not Dar's Eiron friend. Dar noticed that he had been struck by one of the archer's arrows. The arrow was through the left side of the man's chest between his shoulder and heart. Curiously, the injured man was completely naked and without any covering except for small golden feathers at his temples that mixed in with his short dark hair.

Dar could not understand how he could have gotten there. Dar had not seen anyone else in the area during his fight with Archel. Dar bent down and put a steadying hand on the man's right shoulder. He could feel a very shallow breath, but he was still living. When Dar touched his forehead, the heat nearly seared his hand. Suddenly, the stranger began convulsing from the shock of having been hit by the arrow. The man opened his eyes briefly and looked at Dar, but he closed his eyes and returned to his world of pain.

"Can you hear me? I am a friend. My name is Dar. How did you get here?"

Dar continued to assess the situation to see if there was anything that he could do to help the man. If Tao were here, he could use the water flask to let the man take a drink. He needed cool water to bring his fiery temperature down.

As Dar was trying to administer help and healing to the mystery man before him, a beautiful woman stepped out from the empty air behind him.

"Sorceress!" Dar jumped up, blocking the path to the injured man, his weapon ready to defend.

"I know him, Beastmaster, and this time you will not keep me from him."

"This time? I have never met him before. What do you want?" Dar asked feeling both protective for the stranger and suspicious of the Sorceress.

"This is no concern of yours, Dar" she said with lethal edge in her voice.

"Why should I trust you? Your world and your magic are dark. This man has nothing. He is no one to you!"

"Beastmaster, you know nothing of my world or this man. I will give you a chance to move away on your own," the Sorceress said, ready to use her magic.

At the same time as the exchange between the Sorceress and Dar, Tao had risen from his blow. He was overjoyed to see Dar standing in the distance before him. His joy was severely squashed as he noticed the prone figure of Sharak in the grass and the Sorceress standing before Dar. He shakily made his way to his friend.

"Dar..." Tao whispered.

"Tao, stand back!" Dar said, ready to defend the bare stranger.

"Beastmaster, step aside now!" the Sorceress shouted.

"Dar, do you know who he is?" Tao hissed, trying to make eye contact and emphasize the importance of the information.

Dar turned slightly to Tao with an inquiring expression on his face.

"Dar, he is..."

Before Tao could explain, the man moaned and cried out in pain.

"Sharak, Sharak!" cried the Sorceress, pushing the Beastmaster aside and rushing to kneel in the grass beside the prone figure of her lover. "I am here now. Wake up, my love!" pleaded the Sorceress, letting escape the first real tears of emotion to grace her face in unknown years.

She stroked his beautiful face. Her lover finally lay in her arms, but he was lost in some world she could not reach. He was feverish and murmuring something that seemed to be playing in his head. She could only hold him and stroke his hair while gently rocking him back and forth.

Dar's shocked eyes sought Tao's for confirmation. Tao nodded solemnly.

To Chapter 3


Vita Brevis, Ars Longa

aikakone

mydlands@yahoo.com

Disclaimer: BeastMaster, its characters and images are the property of Tribune Entertainment, 1999-2002.
This fan fiction story is my own work, aikakone.