Weasel of Ore
Beneath the tall mountains of the East, a town called Ore thrived on the coal and copper mined from the rock underneath. The people of Ore have faced many trials and tribulations; Bandits swooped down in from the mountains or attacked from the grasslands in the west; One time the land was plagued by draught, another time by torrential rain that ruined or took away all of their crops; Then the prosperous mine collapsed, twice, each time killing at least a dozen of hard-working pairs of hands. Such conditions meant that the people of this little mining town had grown in great strength and tenacity. They had no choice.
All except one, who came to be called Weasel.
Weasel’s stature was crooked, his back was oddly bent and, either from the way he was treated by everyone in the past or simply through the lack of luck in his life, his demeanour was most unfavourable. So much so that when the townsfolk laughed him away from every bar and inn, he would inevitably start a row and rile someone into beating him up.
‘Is that what your Mother would like to see you do, now?’ Weasel would say to one of his drunken assailers, knowing full well their mother had died recently.
He was not surprised to receive punishment for his words—in fact to him it was just as well, they spent their days villainizing and verbally degrading him, so much so that escalating these sentiments further never required much effort on his part. Why wouldn’t he use his only chance to jab at those hurting him? It had been years, but the more he studied those around the town the easier it was to do it. Once he was beaten within an inch of his life: bloody nose, cracked ribcage, broken arm and leg, three fingers missing… But he still had that satisfaction of hearing the pathetic squirming of the man whose fists hurt him so.
The primary occupation in the town of Ore was, due to the rich depositories of rocks and minerals that were the town’s namesake, mining. Built deep up in the Orange Mountains, a region of cold and grey stone, but also rivers with glistening clear water and hills upon hills of roaring pine forests. The nature of the region, its quiet wilderness had been the only reason why Weasel hadn’t already packed his bags and gone elsewhere. Once he travelled to a neighbouring city—out on an errand from his late father to purchase new mining equipment—and the absolute state of society sent a shock to the boy. How people could live packed so densely, charging through smog and shit cluttering up the streets every day, and still have the energy to cause a riot in the pubs at night was far beyond his comprehension. No, he did not even have the willingness to pause, to give those people a chance at explaining, to understand their point of view.
After all, to him their point of view was worthless.
There was one person that had caught his interest, however. Not just anyone, but of course a woman—the wavy-haired young beauty, the pride of the entire township of Ore; and he truly could’ve gone on and on about her in his head—Melrana. Her gaze vaguely turning towards his direction was all that it took for his heart to be pierced, forever stricken by the arrow, forever to be bleeding out during the lonely moonlit nights.
He had never foreseen ever leaving the town. The town he shared with her.
Weasel’s father, a well-to do, busy-body blacksmith, had left in his will the ownership of the family smithy to him. Yet since his departure from life the embers of the forge had died into sombre ashes. Perhaps part of the reason the entire town was so dead set against him, was due to his refusal to follow in his father’s footsteps and becoming a blacksmith himself. Though the opportunity to fix something of Melrana’s was an idea that had almost made him give up his spiteful convictions, he nevertheless decided against it.
He remembered the work his father did.
Even when he was a child, Weasel could never forget the image of an old, tired “pleaser of the people” that had been stepped on and trampled under, completely disregarded by the people that had begged for his help in forging tools or fixing horseshoes or pulling out rotten hurting teeth.
That was not for him.
It was bad enough that the population of the town had treated him badly from the beginning, he wasn’t about to sacrifice his own dreams just to be spat on some more. But what exactly were his dreams? Well, the smithy, Weasel managed to convert into a workshop and after years and years of toil, finished his first invention. It was a simple pair of wooden shoes that would allow their wearer to walk on water. Though the prototype had failed and was sunk at the bottom of a lake near the town, Weasel did not give up, instead going back to the “drawing board” that was his book.
The book itself was an almost torn leathery thing binding together very large pieces of parchment that he could sketch on with a piece of charcoal or later, his second invention: an ink that was produced from an acid-metal solution (the idea he had gotten listening to a raving alchemist one night in some bar he could not recall) that when used with a standard scholarly quill, produced invisible writings that could only be seen when the page was hovered over an open flame for a few moments. This way he could write and sketch more ideas for his inventions, and if the book ever got into the wrong hands no one would be able to read it.
The ink invention he really considered selling to some noble of some distant, more prosperous city—he imagined what kind of riches he could afford if he could just sell the invention and keep being the only producer and seller on the market!
And for a few more years he kept inventing things; things that made his life easier. A more efficient plough for his crops or even a little cylindrical tool of brass and glass with which he could see distances never possible with sheer eyes alone. He even dabbled in a bit of alchemy to synthesise a much better fertiliser for his crops. Then, repurposing his father’s old forge, he begun work on his biggest project yet. Though it was not his own, there were schematics in that book of his long before he set his hands on it—and the book’s origins were a mystery. Of course, a mystery beyond one day simply finding it among trash and rubble his father left behind. He knew that something like this has never been made before, for if it had been then an entire profession of scribes reproducing manuscripts of books and great tomes would have been driven out of the country by now.
It was a big thing, but something that could be used to mass produce identical free combinable letter-units in an almost infinite variety of composition! It was a breakthrough! With it he could spell out words on paper, and have those papers copied not by frivolous, mistake-making hand, but by the cold accuracy of a machine! He could make hundreds of copies of letters to all the town’s people he despised and deliver all of them throughout the town! Though he smiled at the thought, he knew there were far more reaching effects that his invention—or his “reproduction” of the invention, could cause…
When the folk, his kind neighbours; angry men drunk on superstition heard the rumours of some of his inventions, about how his crops grew healthy during a bad harvest, or how he was even seen walking on water by some children… The only things they were missing along with them on the night they paid their dear Weasel a visit were the pitchforks.
With no time to take anything of value, Weasel ran away. He could hear his house burning down, yet his mind was at ease, knowing that his most prized possessions were hidden in a vault deep beneath the house, and that would not be opened or even touched by those dirty peasants. His work could be started again, once he’d return to the ashes that remained of his home. His projects were not lost.
He ran first to his stable and escaped the wrath of the town on his horse.
Down the well-trodden road his mare galloped, Weasel’s only regret was not being able to see Melrana for the last time.
And almost falling from his horse down a steep hill he cursed. The chaos of his master’s voice and frantic movements caused the horse to slide down its muddy dirt surface into the deep pine wood. After a moment of respite, when the horse regained its footing beneath the tall trees and Weasel caught his breath, they shook off the green needles of the pines and drove on. Slowly and with care, as the light of the moon could not guide him through the heavy clouds and the tree branches above him. Several or so miles further down and up another hill, he came to a clearing from which he could see almost the entire town, its great hall with its round castle-like tower beneath which was the market—though hidden behind bright orange and red rooftops. Now however, all he could see was the raging fire. The fire consumed not just his house, but there were fires spreading across all the town.
‘Look’, he talked to his horse, as if it could understand him, ‘those idiots burned the entire town.’
He turned away and slid off the saddle of his horse, his mare stood heaving, catching its breath. He was done with the town. He’d catch some rest here in the woods, it was a warm night anyway, and in the morning when the morons were hangover, he’d sneak in and take his book and anything else that had survived the fire.
That was at least the plan. Until he heard the screams of Melrana.
They echoed across the valley. He knew it was her, her soft tone of voice, distorted in horrific screeching of fear. His consciousness could not abide it.
With great haste he jumped on the horse and galloped back towards town. Armed with nothing. He was thinking of protecting the only woman he ever loved. He wasn’t thinking how he’d do it.
He rode into town uncertain of what he’d find, aside from burning buildings. The smog had weighed heavy in the air and made it difficult to gasp for breath. Men and women, some in their night-gowns ran amok in confused chaos. Was all this just the work of drunken peasants? Then he saw them. Black bile across the moonless sky, spilling down from the mountains with ash and smoke beneath their mares’ hooves of shining steel, red in enraged hellish heat.
The town was under attack.
The riders that had come down from the mountains swept across the terrified population with sabres slashing away at the helpless flesh of the women and unarmed men. Those who tried to run back into the security of indoors were picked apart by archers, then trampled on until their still bodies lied on the ground, so close to their doorsteps. Those who had the sense to lock themselves inside were not as fortunate as they thought they were, for they were screaming for their angels to rescue them as they burned inside their own homes. Those who tried to put up a fight with pickaxes and shovels were gutted, their families made to watch, their insides trailed along the town square for all to look upon in horror. The cruelty, the ruthlessness in how they carved flesh off bone so meticulously without any sign of doubt or second thought, even Weasel could not hold in the food he ate yesterday.
It wasn’t just the sight of this terrible thing that set him off. The smell of blood rising with the smoke from the charred remains of buildings choked him.
Then he heard it again. The screaming voice of his angel—his Melrana.
He spurred his horse to ride, struggled to force it to zip through the streets of the town, the streets filled with death and carnage. Melrana’s voice came from near the Market, past the alleys from what was likely her house that he knew the way towards. But he couldn’t take that way; the attackers barred the street, funnelling any attempting to escape from the district back to the market, back to slaughter. But he did not have time to think. One of them saw him. One of them chased him. He drove his horse towards the blockade of barrels and carts and trash, slid off the saddle and climbed the blockade, almost falling off twice due to the instability of the entire thing.
He only heard his horse. A dreadful wrench of an animal being dissected alive. Hooves tossed across the bloodied cobblestones, it cried in pain, cried in fear, unable to comprehend the betrayal of its master abandoning it.
But that did not matter.
From the top of the blockade he could see her house!
There were a couple of them—demons wearing human flesh and armour of shining chainmail. Helmets on their heads hid their faces, obfuscated their eyes. Yet he could still feel the red orbs, twin blights burning from behind the slits of wrought iron. It was as if they had pierced him. Weasel dropped down. One of the demons saw him, ran up to him and struck at him with a steel blade that seemed more an extension of its arm than a weapon to be wielded.
And it shrieked in wrathful disappointment when it did not cut him.
He ran into an alleyway, down an alleyway past houses and flats and a small garden with a little fountain, the waters of which were black like the night sky, but in the orange flicker of the town being set on fire those waters looked more like blood. But he knew what he had to do next. He ran past more houses, turned right, then when he knew he was going the correct way, turned right again. He had made a U turn, making his way back to Melrana’s home, the long way. But now he’d be approaching the house from the back, he could sneak in, find his love, and sneak them out without the demons noticing.
That was his plan.
When he got to her place, jumped the walls only up to his neck in height, slowly opened the back door of the house (and he thanked the angels she left that door open) and with careful silence stepped past the threshold.
The inside was dark, through the windows he could see the backs of the demons. Their gurgled laughter echoed into the tiny room that was the living room—there was a table, some chairs, a stone fireplace, and the bodies of Melrana’s parents. The father with his throat slit and the mother lied half naked in the pool of his blood. Tearing himself away from the scene of the gruesome murders, he went past the kitchen and up the stairs from which he could hear her. The wails and pitiful cries of the woman he loved, the only one he would do anything for. He saw her body thrash about on the silken sheets on her bed, choked by the weight of the black smog-skinned armoured demon. The floorboards creaked beneath Weasel’s feat, yet the noise was not enough to rouse the demon to stop and look over his shoulder. Then Melrana’s head looked up away from what was happening, as if seeking escape from that bedroom, that town, that world. As if looking away let her mind flee miles and miles, far from this place. But she did not find escape, instead her bloodshot eyes locked with Weasel’s.
The demon laughed, kissed her neck and she recoiled. Once she shut her eyes away, Weasel grabbed the sabre strapped to the hip of the demon, and before it could do anything else, it fell down unto the creaking floorboards with a great rattling of armour and a thud. Bleeding the blood of a human. It oozed out of the wound in his back. Weasel took out the blade from the monster’s back, like an ancient King of prophecy once forced free a sword out of a stone.
He stood over two bodies: the beast on the floor and Melrana on the bed. She didn’t move, and her dress was torn to shreds from the waist down, but from her corset rising and falling he could tell she was breathing. Still.
All he could hear was his heart pounding ceaselessly until at long last, he grabbed her shoulder and shook her back into the now, back into consciousness, then by her hand took her away from the room. They sneaked into the backyard while the demons at the front of the house argued and screamed at each other over something. He climbed the wall and sat on the top, helping raise her up to his level. However once both dropped to the ground on the street, the stomps of their feet against the cobblestone reverberated and echoed across the alley. So much so that even the distant cries for help did not disguise the noise. Like rabid dogs sniffing out their pray, the armoured demons stampeded from the corner and screamed a teeth-shattering screech as they drew their weapons at the couple.
Weasel ran, holding onto Melrana, gripping his love’s hand. He would not let go. He wouldn’t even if those monsters caught up to them. He’d fight them off with the sabre he held in his other hand. Melrana’s expressionless yet beautiful face had become unnervingly blank. She’d move as directed, run as fast as told, but her eyes were fixed on nothing. As if her soul had been sucked out of her body and only the thoughtless mind remained. They ran across the tight streets and back alleys, avoiding the light, the fires from the town square. Those flames had made traversing the night much easier, though at the expense of everybody else. Even then, he had to be sure to avoid the light.
They had finally lost their pursuers.
Melrana tripped up, her shoe slipped off, she fell to the cold ground dragging Weasel down with her.
It wouldn’t have mattered, if only the celebrating demons near the open flaming pyres didn’t hear her audible gasp. Weasel hurried on his feet and instead of waiting for her to get back on hers, he grabbed her by the waist and picked her off the ground. Once again, they were pursued, chased by the raving demons. What’s worse was he heard a terrible horn, as if a thousand hopeless souls screamed in writhing agony, that almost caused his legs to give up hope. All those demons would be chasing them now. All those murdering, raping and pillaging monsters in flesh hiding beneath layers of rings upon rings of mail steel and plate and…Weasel had an idea!
A place where him and his love could escape to, his burned down home, his workshop. It looked like it had already been looted, so it’d be a waste of time for those demons to go into it, much more to search it for anything of value. Meanwhile him and her could hide beneath the floorboards and wait it out. Wait out this ruthless attack, in the hopes of the morning and the sun reaching them at last. Hopes that this was just an avalanche passing down the mountain, and that it will soon move on, further descend.
So, they ran. With Weasel holding Melrana by the hand they ran from the town over to the ruins of his home. On their way he lost the sabre; He stabbed an assailant that would have otherwise killed them. Stabbed him right in the neck through the gaps between the plates and the ringmail. But the weapon slipped out of his grasp and he did not dare to tempt fate and return to the dead demon’s body. By then they were already too far. And now they had made it.
There were screams coming from the market, from the town. Women and children crying out. There were still some people alive. But hearing those voices was not enough to freeze him, not anymore. He felt resistance, a pull from the back, Melrana stopped.
The last few feet he had to drag her, until they finally made it across the threshold of his ruined home, into the atrium in ash. The foundations of his house were strong and sturdy, and the second floor still held up, the wooden boards and pillars did not entirely burn, though a few cracks creaked with a coming wind.
Dropping his love to the floor he raised a piece of tattered and smoked cloth, it almost crumbled in his hands, and opened a hatch that stored his hidden valuables, little possessions and inventions including his book. There was enough room for two people to sneak in and hide there. He felt that the monsters were drawing nearer. Time was of the essence but when he turned around to look at Melrana, she just stood there, staring at him, into his eyes piercing his very soul.
And with a rage she looked at him. And it shamed him.
‘You…’ she said, ‘it’s all your fault! Your witchcraft! You devil! Snake!’ She screamed and the footsteps outside drew closer. The demons heard her. They were coming, they were laughing.
Weasel begged her, cried to her for her to calm down. He tried grabbing her, forcing her under the floorboards but she bit him. The demons were almost at the doorstep.
He had no other choice. He left her. His love. His one and only.
He left her screaming and raving in anger.
He hid beneath the floorboards.
The demons came, grabbed her and for hours upon unending hours committed sacrilege against her body. Even when she became stiff and cold, they did not cease.
And Weasel cried in silence, beneath the floorboards.
Something broke inside him. His mind, his soul. It was something that he knew made him one and together with other people, a thing letting him sympathise with his fellow humans, even if he refused to use it before. It was gone now.
Hours upon hours.
And they laughed.
Then they left. And she laid on the floorboards above him, and her blood spilled onto his face, into his eyes and nose. But he did not cough or puke or scream. He was silent.
Then daylight came, and all about the town there was silence.
For days he waited in that hole under the body of Melrana until he was sure it was safe to come out. Shivering in cold bitter air, the winter heralded by patches of snow, there were flakes falling softly from the grey sky. His fear had been dulled by sheer tiredness. He saw that there were others that had climbed out of their safe places; ruins of homes, rubble, hidden beneath the corpses of their friends. Disgustingly tormented. Alive.
Beneath the bloodied mountains of the East, the remaining survivors rebuilt Ore. With the help of money from some of Weasel’s inventions, the men and women raised mighty walls surrounding the town, with towers and a great gatehouse. And using his inventions, they were able to draw forth greater and greater quantities of metals and minerals from the mines, giving them the possibility of digging deeper into the ground, deeper discovering the riches of Orange Mountains. Many who had hated him were either dead or by then forgot the cruelty that they dealt him. But they also forgot the mocking attitude that had played a big part towards his antagonization. Now with the city ready to defend itself against those devils in human form, now that the town became a rich city and enjoyed greater prosperity than ever before, now with Weasel the Elected Mayor of Ore, there were going to be great changes in the world—and Weasel would make sure he was at the spearhead of them all.
Once the printing invention was completed.