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Chapter 3 - This Is A Joke

Following the events of twenty years prior, a "Cult of Gongora" had emerged, causing chaos around the world. Chief Inspector Jien Austere has apprehended its leader and prepares to lead him to Uhra to receive justice.

Chapter 3 - This Is A Joke

Chapter 3 - This Is A Joke
Chapter Three: This is a Joke

Jien was standing by South Gate with her map; she was highlighting the quickest path to Uhra. If luck favoured their journey they would only need to cross the Ice Canyon to Saman, and from there board a ship to Uhra. However, if someone were to recognise Haleigh, it would be dangerous to spend an extended length of time on a ship. In that case they would have to cut through the Black Cave to Tosca, and from there travel through several forests and smaller settlements to the ranges of Ipsilon Mountain, leading them to Uhra.

In the distance she could hear the clanking of armour; a band of soldiers marched in unison: two stood at the front, two flanked on either side and four marched at the back. Inside this formation was Haleigh Tanequa, chained and gagged.

The soldiers came to a halt at Jien’s feet, and bowed. Without a word they spaced out and presented the prisoner. Haleigh felt a sharp blade nudge him forward. He muffled something and tipped his head as a ‘good morning’.

“Good work boys,” the Chief Inspector complimented, “I’ll take over from here.”

The soldiers were hesitant to leave their post, lest the Bandit General were to assail the young woman. She turned on the soldiers that stood to the front and flicked their arms till they stood clear. Satisfied with the distance, Jien trotted back, drew her blade and ran at the Bandit General, dicing off the chains that bound him.

Panicked by the sudden act, the men all dispersed, drawing their blades, closing in on Haleigh, who didn’t appear fussed. He cracked his knuckles, rolled his shoulder blades and ripped off his gag. “Honestly, you tell one lame knock-knock joke and you’re gagged liked last night’s pork roast.”

“D-don’t m-m-m-ock the d-death of K-k-k-k-ing M-m-mars!” fiercely stammered a middle aged soldier, pushing his sword closer to Haleigh’s Adams apple.

Haleigh shrugged, noticing Jien’s lip curled up irately. “Fine, fine, then would you like to hear some Numara gags? I have two words for you: dragon-sushi.”

A golden band clasped over Haleigh’s left wrist. “And I have two words for you,” replied Jien, fastening a similar band to her wrist, “custody-pain.”

“You wanna talk about pain,” spat Haleigh, scruffing his unkempt dark locks, “I asked for chilled water and received lukewarm brown stuff; I asked for raisin toast and was given mouldy bread – which I suspect was poisoned, but let’s go with a lousy kitchen.” Haleigh leered at a random soldier, who drew back anxiously. “Perhaps you Gohtzans didn’t hear about it, but treaties were signed assuring decent treatment of prisoners.”

Jien admired the shiny blue jewel of her new wrist band. “Oh, yes -”

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!” Haleigh fell to his knees furiously digging his fingers into his scalp. The soldiers spread out, watching the Bandit General writhe in agony, cursing bloody murder.

“I did hear about those treaties,” continued Jien, idly stroking the blue stone, “but those only apply to prisoners of war, not felons.”

Haleigh glared at Jien, who sweetly smiled, pointing to her new accessory. “This is a gift from King Tolten. According to him I only need will it to hurt you. Tell me, did you feel anything, a slight twinge perhaps?”

“I am going to kill y-yyyyyyyyyyyyyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagggghhh!” Haleigh punched at the concrete as jolts of electricity ran up his spine, blasting his brain.

“Ah, so you did feel something then,” decided Jien, walking past him to stand before the soldiers.

“It’s all covered here, you’re dismissed,” she advised them. They took their time to obey, but eventually the men pulled back. She watched them walk up the bridge, and would wave when they’d hesitantly look back. Once they were out of sight Jien returned to her map.

Haleigh limply rose to his feet, his knees shaking and his breath heavy. The Bandit General somehow found the strength to saunter over to Jien, and weakly caught hold of her shoulder. “That hurt.”

“If you behave you will have nothing to worry about,” she informed him, “and you’d better; I’ll bet enough of those shocks could kill you.”

Haleigh shook his head, gruffly laughing. He patted Jien’s shoulder, “It’s a good thing I can’t die then.”

Jien closed her eyes, scrunching the sides of the map, “Utter nonsense.”


A haze of warm steam ever rose to meet the ancient figures chiselled into the walls of the queen’s bathing room. Bright green ferns sat at the entrance and around the corners of the dim room. Rays of light radiated from a high barred window, bearing down on a jewel encrusted round golden bath that resembled a goblet.

Lazily seated within the golden goblet a young woman hummed. Engrossed in fumes of incense and her heated surrounds, she relaxed her position further back, arching one leg. Her hazel-green eyes sparkled, and her bronze tanned skin shone with sweat. The woman’s dark chocolate hair, held up neatly with a silver comb, grew damp from the steam.

She was Tisne, queen of Uhra, the leading country of scientific magic study and commercial enterprise. The country had continued its strong industrial growth following the demise of the pretender king, Gongora. With consent of the good citizens, King Tolten arranged a sizable degree of that wealth be put to funding the restoration of the damage caused by Gongora, most notably, the rebuilding of Gohtza. The king would frequently make trips to congregate with leaders, and ensure progress was on schedule, leaving his queen to manage the affairs of the homeland.

Tisne stretched one hand, searching for a small bottle. When she had found her quarry, the bottle was opened; a peach stream of gel released to her palm. Raising her already arched leg, the bronzed woman purred as she took her time to work the gel up the exposed part of her soft thigh, and over her knee to her well toned calf.

After lathering her other leg, the queen resumed her relaxed position. Sighing peacefully, she eyed a bowl of bright orange Quiberries by her side. She plucked the topmost of the pile, biting into its sour flesh, savouring the refreshing aftertaste.

There came a rapping at the door. The queen released the berry’s head into the saucer beside the bowl. “Who is there?”

“Your Highness,” began the gravelly booming voice of an older man, “it is I, Yudile.”

“Senator, you are daring to try to catch a glimpse of a bathing queen,” Tisne silkily jeered, “shall I hear you out, or send you to the stocks at once?”

Yudile heartily laughed, stroking the length of his braided silver beard, “My word, this generation has gotten soft. In my day the punishment for beholding the naked body of the queen was a trip to the rack.”

Tisne paused to grin, reaching for a towel as she stepped out her bath. “Now then, I assume the cause of this visit was to be more than a history lesson, what brings you?”

“Yes, of course,” began the older man, “there is word from King Tolten.”

The queen stroked the towel over her right shoulder, slowing at her husband’s name, “Oh? Did he see the prisoner?”

“No, Your Highness, though he did meet the young woman who caught the Bandit General and convinced her to transport the prisoner to Uhra.”

Tisne threw the towel to one side to adorn a red silken robe. She seated herself at an ivory vanity, primping her damp brown hair, noting the deep rouge of her cheeks. The racing of her pulse informed her it was not due to the bath’s steam. “One will hardly be sufficient, I would have preferred he requested aid from the Gohtzan army to ferry him to Uhra. After all, this is the demon who murdered…who decimated our navy.”

“We are of a same mind, Your Highness,” assured the senator, “which is why I requested to be the one to deliver the message. On behalf of the Senate, with your royal seal, I would like the Uhran army to meet the party at Paravey Rocks. That is, if the Gohtzan makes it that far.”

“That is a fair distance from our country,” remarked the queen, “Would that not go against the king’s design? We are supposed to appear impartial to serve justice. If the army does walk through the gates with the Bandit General, our neighbours may think us hypocritical, and Gohtza will surely take offense.”

Yudile folded his thick arms over his rotund belly, bothered by the queen’s hesitance. “Your Highness, the closer he gets to Uhra the more likely is his bid for escape!”

Tisne closed her eyes, dourly rubbed her forehead.

“The army would only act as an escort, and will walk behind the Gohtzan,” Yudile pleaded, “this I swear. We cannot under any circumstances allow this fiend to escape justice!”

The queen coolly stared into the mirror, her bronze face flushed pale.


“Very well,” Tisne sighed, dabbing a finger into a dish of moisturiser, one of dozen cosmetics by the mirror. “But if the army violates the terms of their issue, your position on the Senate will be under review. Do you understand?”

Though behind the door, she could sense his deep bow. “You have my gratitude, the papers will be written up at once.”

Tisne stroked the cool cream over the bridge of her nose and around her cheek bones.


“When do we leave?” yawned Haleigh, tugging at the gold band.

“When my assistant gets here,” replied Jien, eyeing the bridge. “I asked him to arrive a bit later than us.”

“So you could enslave me with the girly bracelet,” he casually noted.

Jien nodded. “I didn’t want to frighten the boy.”

“Aww, how touching. Say, is that the kid over there?” Haleigh pointed to a figure darting around the bridge. He appeared lost, or drunk.

“I…think so,” offered Jien, narrowing her eyes to get a better look. “What is he doing I wonder.”

The young man would jump to one side, peer around and move forward a few steps, and then bound to the other side and repeat. When he came within steps of the pair, he was greeted with quizzical stares.

“Madam, sir,” the young man exclaimed. “You must evacuate the area immediately! I can’t tell you why, but this is an order from the Metropolitan Police.”

“How scary!” shrieked Haleigh, clutching his sides in terror.

Jien rolled her eyes at the display. “We’ll be fine, my name is – “

“Madam, failure to comply will result in a fine,” the young man sternly warned, “I don’t want to write one, but I will if I have to. It’s for your own safety.”

“The kid’s right,” said Haleigh, nodding in agreement, “we’d better head back. I’m freezing my nuts off out here.”

“You are Sergeant Tobias Rykiel,” stated Jien.

The young man huffed. “That’s correct. Now please leave the area!”

“I have been waiting for you. I am Jien Austere.” She offered him her hand. Tobias stared at it suspiciously. Jien twisted her lips, and pulled her hand back. “Is there a problem, Sergeant?”

Tobias outstretched his arms, looking around the bridge in defeat. “OK guys, you got me! Ha-ha, very funny!” He turned to Haleigh, and gave his arm a good punch. “I’ll bet you’re a friend of the superintendant. Well you can tell him that I wasn’t fooled for a second! This is just like the last solstice party. Only this time, I won’t be the one hanging off the streetlamp by my breeches.”

Jien blinked. Haleigh quietly looked from his arm to the young man. “He…hit me.”

“I am Chief Inspector Jien Austere, and you are acting most erratically, Sergeant Rykiel,” Jien forced herself to be calm.

“Come now,” he gibed, staring her down with a knowing grin, “you’re far too young. And look at you; you couldn’t take down a kelolon, let alone a terrorist like the Bandit General!”

Jien grimaced.

“Bet she could take you down,” uttered Haleigh.

“And you!” Tobias barked accusingly at Haleigh.

“Me?” Haleigh peered around, yep, it was him.

“You’re way too soft to be the Bandit General,” Tobias declared. “The real one is so muscular he could tear a hole through you with his pinkie finger.”

“No way,” Haleigh gawked, “Damn, I am such a badass.”

The morning was wearing on and Jien was growing ever more impatient to set off. She stormed over to the young sergeant, sharply grabbing his earlobe. Tobias went to pull away, but was only met with more pain.

“I am Jien Austere – your su-per-ior,” she pushed him to face Haleigh, “and that grinning idiot is Haleigh Tanequa, the Bandit General. I know he doesn’t look too frightening, but he really did blow a hole off the western shore of Uhra.”

“I reject that charge,” interjected Haleigh. “I was merely at the right place at the wrong time.”

Jien ignored him, instead pushing Tobias to face her. “Now that we have that straightened out, we have to get a move on. If we leave now we can make it to Saman before nightfall.” She released the young sergeant, who began to edge back slowly. The joke was over.

“He’s…really…HIM?” Tobias quietly gulped; his eyes were now wide as gulf balls. “But, but, but…he’s NOT CHAINED!”

Jien scratched her head, “Yeah, you don’t have to worry about that. He won’t be going anywhere.” She displayed her gold band and pointed to the similar one on Haleigh. While she realised Tobias wouldn’t understand the meaning, knowing Haleigh’s character, it wouldn’t take her long to give a demonstration. “You’ll have to trust me, Sergeant.”

Haleigh cutely winked, sending a shiver down the boy’s spine.

Tobias, a fair distance away now, pointed at Jien, “And you’re the one who caught him?! But you’re so –“

“Yes, I do look unimposing in plain clothes; that’s the point of not wearing the uniform,” she calmly explained.

“I don’t believe thi –“

“And we’re off,” announced Jien, walking toward the gate. Haleigh obediently followed. Tobias glumly watched on debating whether to follow. Evidently, she was serious.

“Hey…wait Chief Inspector!”


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