Photo from BeastMaster World Order.
Tao: So you see, the idea is you can't swim in the same river twice.
Dar: But why not? I do all the time.
Tao: Well, not exactly. You see, the river isn't the same river. The river's changed. Everything changes. Nothing stays the same.
Dar: Oh, so that's why you keep getting lost even though you have all your maps and charts.
Tao: Very clever. What I'm talking about is a new way to look at and understand the world. You see, you can take a step in the river today...
Dar: And we're going to. Right now.
Dar: Strange. Animals don't usually kill their own kind.
Tao: Only humans do that.
Karpen: Did you see what attacked her?
Tao: No. Dar pulled her our of the river and whatever it was didn't surface.
Karpen: It was the phantoms. I know how to treat her. You can leave.
[Tao does not leave.]
Karpen: She needs incantations to heal her spirit.
Tao: I have nothing against spiritual healing, but this poltice is drawing out the poison. So why bother your gods with a job we can do ourselves?
Iara: Surprised? But you're glad to see me.
Dar: As always.
Iara: What's a girl got to do to keep you focused on her charms?
Dar: Just be yourself.
Iara: When death comes stalking, I always look to what the humans are doing first.
Tao: Whatís going on?
Village Elder: Karpen and the other young men do this every night, but every night someone is still taken from the village and they come back empty-handed.
Village Elder: Now youíll see what horrors the night brings.
Iara: When you look into my eyes, what do you see? If you were honest, youíd know itís what you see when you look into your own heart.
Dar: Would you please leave me alone? Thereís something Iíve got to do.
Iara: Wait. Are you going to stay out here all night?
Dar: If i have to.
Iara: There's nothing you can do to help them, Dar. Donít even try.
Karpen: Where were you? What did you do to help?
Dar: Obviously not enough, but I think we can go after them now. Together we can...
Karpen: Together we can what? Search for the scent of a ghost? Footprints of a phantom? They leave no trail.
Dar: So what did you see?
Tao: They looked like crocodiles--all teeth and claws, except they walked on their hind legs and carried the women off on their backs instead of in their mouths.
Dar: We know theyíre not crocodiles.
Tao: Not from the natural world, anyway.
Dar: The question is, where are they taking their victims and why?
Tao: The village worships a crocodile god. Karpen says heís angry because they no longer offer sacrifices.
Dar: Howís the girl? Has she told you anything?
Tao: She could go either way. Karpenís unhappy Iím treating her.
Dar: I donít think thereís much heís happy about. Just try to stay out of his way.
Karpen: How do we know heís not helping our attackers?
Village Elder: Because the Beastmaster is a man of honor.
Karpen: Iíve been a spirit healer too long to believe he just happened to come here. And if the Beastmasterís not up to something, why is his friend spying on us?
Karpen: I know what Iím doing. I'm doing it for the good of the village.
Karpen: Everythingís going to be all right. I promise. If theyíd only listen to me, none of this would have happened. The gods donít want you to die, Marika. They just want us to show them the respect they demand.
Iara: Donít you think that itís interesting that the very people youíre trying to help are hunting you down? Why do you continue to insist that humans are worth helping?
Dar: Maybe because Iím human.
Dar: Why are you suddenly being so helpful?
Iara: You might learn something from him. Heís a lot like me--doesnít have a lot of respect for humans.
Tao: I need the stronger herbs to combat the poison. I thought it was venom, but if it was...
Marika: Then what?
Tao: Iíve seen the symptoms before in sleeping potions.
Marika: Itís a potion my people once used to make the crocodiles sleep while we fished.
Tao: Thereís an antidote?
Marika: The weeping blossom. It grows down by the riverbank.
Iara: Impressive. Very impressive. That old crocodile likes you and he doesnít like very much.
Dar: Why didnít you tell me the crocodiles were starving?
Iara: You didnít ask.
Dar: Some of them are so hungry, theyíre eating each other and it shames them. Thatís why the one I thought attacked Marika wouldnít talk to me. Heís so ashamed of what heís had to do to survive.
Iara: At least heís survived.
Dar: Thereís something youíre not telling me.
Iara: Iím a woman. Iím allowed to keep a few secrets.
Dar: I found the phantoms.
Village Elder: I knew you would.
Dar: Only, theyíre not phantoms. Theyíre men.
Dar: The crocodiles are starving. Thatís why your people are being offered up as sacrificed to the phantoms.
Tao: To whom?
Dar: A one-eyed crocodile whoís too hungry to turn away.
Tao: Why would your people do this?
Marika: Years ago, before my time, young women were sacrificed to the crocodiles so they would leave enough fish for the village.
Tao: So what are you going to do?
Dar: Take down the dam.
Tao: You're making a big mistake.
Karpen: My mistake was not getting rid of you sooner. You and your meddling friend.
Tao: Dar wonít let you get away with this.
Karpen: By the time he comes for you, youíll be dead.
Dar: You didnít somehow suggest the villagers build this dam?
Iara: No, they thought this up all by themselves. For creatures with brains, they certainly donít use them. They never give any thought as to the harm their actions will do to those that live around them.
Iara: Sometimes this whole guardian of nature bit gets tiresome.
Dar: It never made Curupira tired.
Iara: Well, she didnít have much imagination then, did she?
Dar: At least she protected her domain.
Iara: Iím protecting it, too, in my own way.
Iara: Thatís the beauty of all this. The villagers are being taken by their own.
Marika: Iím sorry I got you involved in this.
Tao: You didnít. Karpen did.
Marika: He always talked about the old religion. He said the village had grown fat and we lost our respect for the gods and our need to serve them. One day, a crocodile attacked an old woman washing clothes at the river. Karpen said it was a sign that the old gods were angry. No one believed him. I've never seen him so angry.
Tao: Why go this far? Why kill your own people?
Marika: He said that if we didnít mend our ways, a terrible punishment would be visited upon us.
Tao: And thatís when the phantoms came.
Marika: His respect among some of the men began to grow and they brought offerings to seek protection for their young women. He said the offerings meant that he could care for me and then we could marry. But now, I see that their fear meant more to him than anything, even more than me.
Iara: Why do you do this to yourself, Dar? Why not let nature take its course?
Dar: If youíd help me, we could stop all of them from suffering, both the humans and the crocodiles.
Iara: Well, lifeís tough, isnít it? Not much in this world lives unless something else dies. Phew. Itís a tough balance to maintain.
Dar: And you do it by increasing the killing.
Iara: Youíve to admit itís a very elegant plan.
Dar: Your own version of a balance of nature.
Iara: Yes, and itís working perfectly.
Marika: Why are you doing this, Karpen?
Karpen: This is our religion. I'm the spirit leader of our tribe.
Marika: This is the old way. We left all this behind.
Karpen: Thatís why all our trouble started.
Karpen: People need a savage god. They need spiritual leadership. When things are too easy, the forget to respect their gods.
Tao: Or forget about a spirit healer? What kind of spirit healer kills his own people or poisons his intended?
Karpen: She would have survived and all those who didnít believe in me would have been silenced. Too bad you and your friend showed up when you did.
Iara: Give it up, Dar! Itís hopeless!
Dar: If I can break the dam, the crocodiles will have enough food and all the killing will stop.
Iara: It stops when I say it stops, not before!
Dar: You see? Sometimes both animals and humans know better than those who try to control them.
Tao: Nice entrance. What did you say to that crocodile?
Dar: That the fish are back and Karpen and his men are responsible for starving them.
Tao: That one was going to kill me.
Dar: Tao, you know it wasnít personal.
Dar: Iara, it looks like things worked out for both the humans and the crocodiles.
Iara: Thanks to you. Left to their own devices, the humans would have destroyed themselves eventually. Maybe next time.
Dar: Sheís become very attached to you.
Tao: People always feel close to those that heal them. Besides, with everything thatís happened, she has much to think about.
Dar: Oh, I guess that fits with your philosophy about the river.
Tao: How so?
Dar: Well, sheíll be different the next time you see her.
Tao: A river may change, Dar, but itís still a river.
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