LOST ODYSSEY 2

Chapter One: What Are You?

The land was barren and dry. Thick yellow dust was its sea, occasionally swept from one patch to the next by an indolent wind.

"By the Gods, I could do with a drink," Haleigh sleepily sighed, rubbing the sweat from his burnt brow. "A bourbon, or a gin, hell some cheap ale would really hit the spot. Damn, I'm hitting a pub first chance I get."

Haleigh had been perched atop a cliff for the last hour or so, hidden behind a pile of boulders. A policeman from Gohtza had been hot on his trail for the last week, and had tracked him to the Kelsah Desert just outside of the border. He'd surprised Haleigh, equipped with a lighter blade and proved to be a worthy foe. It wasn't too surprising, given Gohtza's military tradition, but it was surprising to face someone with his stamina. Haleigh tapped the earth with his blade, anticipating a further attack.

The young man's usually bouncy long raven locks were drenched in cool sweat. He ran his free leather-clad hand through it, shaking out the salty water. Haleigh puffed out, exhausted by the heat. "God damn it, track me or piss off. I swear, Gohtza must be getting desperate to let bums like him to enlist in their two-bit – "

PPPPPWWWWWOOOOOOSSSSHHHHH!

Haleigh was knocked back. One boulder had been knocked clear. That wasn't possible, surely. But there he was. Adorned in a suit of a black heavy puffed material, heavier steel boots that reached below his knees, and finished with black armour around his vitals, the policeman from Gohtza could have been imposing, if it were anyone but the Bandit General Haleigh Tanequa had he picked a fight with. Haleigh wasn't sure if the Gohtzan was smirking, for his face was covered with a steel helmet. But there were more important questions that required an answer; for example, where did he come from, and how the hell had he survived that heat in that armour?!

There was no time for pondering the great questions of life. The Gohtzan's blade was directed at Haleigh. "By the law of Gohtza, you are under arrest," he declared.

"Yeah, yeah, so you keep saying," yawned Haleigh, meeting his blade with his own.

The two resumed combat, clinking swords around the canyon.

"You know…you don't…have…to…do…this…" assured Haleigh, keeping an eye trained on the edge. "You…must…be…awfully…tired…officer…"

The Gohtzan gave no reply, keeping full pace with the Bandit General. As the two neared closer to the edge, Haleigh turned around, pushing his foe from the danger; the fall would have surely killed the Gohtzan.

"Be careful…you…." He gruffly laughed, nodding toward the danger. The Gohtzan replied by rounding on Haleigh, now forcing him closer to the edge of the cliff. "What…the…hell do…you…think…you're – "

A gust of wind blew the Bandit General's footing from under him. The Gohtzan went to grab his hand, but it was too late. Haleigh went over the edge. The fall was long, too long. Chief Inspector Austere, the policeman from Gohtza, couldn't make out what lay below from his immediate vision, but he knew too well the dangers of the Kelsah Desert; he had become prey to ferocious reptiles and fallen for a few too many quicksand traps. If the Bandit General had survived the fall, then the desert would have taken care of the rest. It was a disappointment, the fugitive was supposed to return alive for questioning.

Austere readied for the trek back down the cliff, keeping his light blade close in case another of those ghastly giant lizards decided he'd make a tasty lunch. The Chief Inspector skidded down the steep face of the yellow rock, landing knees first into a dune. Finding his feet, he dusted the sand from his jacket and peered around. The Bandit General was nowhere in sight, but he had definitely fallen to the east of the tower-like cliff.

Cutting down reptiles and swarms of beetles as he trod through the dusty wilderness, Austere's gave remained firmly on the east. His immediate vision was blurred by the heat, and the haze of the desert made it difficult to clearly see the foreground with clarity, but his internal compass knew the correct route.

The haze grew thicker. Could it have been a sandstorm? The ground shuddered. Austere jumped. The ground now shook with fury. Austere fell to his knees, and watched as the yellow sand tore apart. A billion giant eyes burst through the rip. A great wail shook the land once more. Austere reached for the blade that had fallen from his grasp. He promptly turned to face the owner of those eyes and that wail; it was a humungous grey snake. No, more like a worm. It was pudgy, and soft, and made up of five equal, pumping parts. It was at least twenty times the size of any human.

This was just another ordeal. Locating the Bandit General was more critical. Austere held his sword with both hands, and lunged for the creature. He raced behind, leaping to its 'back', plunging his blade into its hide. No pained cry. It hadn't faze the beast. Austere quizzically withdrew the blade, going to face the beast head on. Perhaps a stab to the eyes was necessary, or its heart, wherever that was. How bothersome.

The beast snarled at Austere, spraying globs of mucus at the Chief Inspector. Disgusting. Austere bounded from one spot to another in an attempt to evade the goo, when he was struck down in midair. The mucus was heavy and kept him pinned. "Shit." Letting out another wail, the giant worm turned on its quarry, seizing Austere with its mighty jaws. Austere was gripped in spiky teeth, hurling into the burning atmosphere.

He struggled till his sword hand was free. Muscle torn and blood rushing from his wounds, Austere screamed as he plunged the sword into a cluster of red jelly eyes. Austere was relinquished. He grabbed hold of the lip of the beast, blade facing out, and carved a long streaming wound as he skid down. The beast's cries of agony had slowed to a whimper by the time Austere had landed on solid ground. It fell to the side, whimpering in defeat.

Austere breathed a sigh of relief, rubbing his sore joints. The bleeding had already stopped, and his muscle tissue had mended, as was expected. What did come as a surprise was the figure standing to the opposite direction of the beast. It was definitely the Bandit General. He stared from the beast to Austere, a mix of perplexity and sickening disgust.

Austere couldn't tell how he had survived, but he was grateful all the same.

"How is this possible?" Haleigh demanded of the Chief Inspector.

"You are under arrest." Austere ignored the man, there was no time.

Haleigh clenched his free fist, narrowing his eyes at the fearless Gohtzan. "You're…inhuman! There's no way a normal person could have lasted this long out here…and done that!"

Austere grimaced under his helmet; Tanequa was hardly one to talk. "Come quietly. Or you will join the worm."

"Go to hell, pig!"

Austere charged, leaping over the carcass, meeting Haleigh once more. They continued their duel, their blades clashing with ever more intensity and vigour.

"You're…NOT human!" roared Haleigh, clashing down. "I get it…NOW…you're one of…THEM! AREN'T YOU!"

Austere could only parry against his furious blows. When he had had enough of deflecting, he took a chance to kick his foe's abdomen; the surprise returned the battle to an even duel.

"I am…an…inspector…of Gohtza…now return…peacefully…Haleigh…Tanequa…!"

"Like HELL I – Waaaaaaaaaahhhhggggaaaaaaarrrr!"

The ground swallowed them whole. No, it wasn't the ground, it was a second worm. The two were swallowed by the mate of the first giant worm, who lay dead on the sandy plains.

The land was still. Quiet. Peaceful. A gentle wind blew over the piece of land where the two foes once faced off.

PPPPPPPPPPSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHH!

Deep purple blood sprayed like a fountain from beneath the sand. Two small figures weakly clawed their way through the thick of the blood and sand, collapsing to the warmth of the dusty earth. They gasped, rolling around, glad to have survived in one piece, but horrified by the experience.

Austere was the first to gather himself. His bones quivering from the impact, he sprawled on his hands and knees, staring over at Haleigh, who was on his back, trying to catch his breath. Haleigh barked out a laugh. "Oh my god!" he laughed harder, rubbing his chest, "What…WHO are…YOU?"

Austere grabbed his sword, and shakily rose to his feet. Each step was sheer agony, but he came to tower over the Bandit General. He looked down upon the fugitive, who was still laughing.

"Come on man," he jeered, "let's see your face! Let's see which man almost captured the Bandit General!"

Almost? Oh, he had also taken hold of his sword.

Austere stared at the man in contempt. A mass murderer was in no position to make demands of a Chief Inspector of Gohtza. It was stuffy in that helmet, though.

"If you insist." Austere, kept his gaze level as he undid the clips under his neck, and slid the helmet over his face. Austere breathed in the heavy humidity, coughing as the helmet rolled away.

Haleigh immediately ceased his laughter. His deep blue eyes widened, taking in the delicate pale features of his enemy, who glared in turn with striking aqua eyes. "You're a – "

"I am Chief Inspector Jien Austere of Gohtza Capital's third district. You are under arrest, Haleigh Tanequa."

"- chick." Haleigh shook off the shock, returning her glare. "What are you, immortal?" He scoffed, amused by his suggestion.

Jien Austere closed her eyes in quiet contemplation, before beating him over the head with the hilt of her sword. "Maybe."