The Weasel Queen
Note: This is part of a series of short stories based in the world of Ivanturia. The primary purpose of the stories is to explore the world, so more focus has been given to that than plot.
Jovnik stood at the prow of his ship, watching the ground roll away beneath him. The USS Joriel bumped across the countryside, always drawing nearer to its prey. Legs twisted beneath the vehicle, balancing the craft as it passed over hills and valleys. While out of sight, Jovnik could feel the rumble of the massive treads, flattening all in their path. His commander, Jordan, had designed the ship after ocean-going vessels, but had improved it with the usual flair of a Drotarian master. No other guildsmen of Drotar had created such a fine vehicle.
Another crew member, one out of the nearly one hundred men at Jordan’s disposal, relieved Jovnik of his post. Jovnik strolled down the gently rocking deck, watching two new recruits stumble as the Joriel hit a bump. One of them saluted Jovnik, the other failed to notice him.
“Commander,” the more attentive recruit announced, saving his friend from the coming reprimand. The other man snapped to attention, bringing his hand into a salute as well.
“Commander Jovnik, Admiral Jordan wishes to have a report on conditions, sir,” the second shipman reported.
“At ease,” Jovnik answered, then strode toward the center of the vessel. He entered the map room, where Jordan sat with several of his more senior officers, messages and tactical maps strewn across the large table which dominated the room. Jovnik always felt out of place here.
“Commander Jovnik,” Jordan said in greeting.
“Admiral Jordan,” Jovnik returned, with a slight nod of his head.
“I hear you have continued taking machine watch. As head of the mechanics division, I would expect you to avoid such mundane tasks.”
“You have a beautiful ship, sir. Watching it will never be a mundane task.”
“Enough with the flattery,” Jordan commanded, abrupt as usual. “We approach the League stronghold. Are we ready for engagement.”
“Almost sir. The rear cannons need a looking at, and some of the fighters’ arms are out of commission, but I doubt we’ll need many of those.”
“Fix the arms, Commander. We’ll be facing the weasel abominations.”
Jovnik’s eyes widened, “Ariel’s going to be here?” Then, remembering his manners, he returned to a more formal tone. “I’ll give the ship’s Vorcan defenses another check.”
“Be sure to do that,” Jordan agreed, and then nodded in dismissal. Jovnik quietly left the room as the council returned to its meeting.
Jovnik attached a final piece to a mechanical net trap, which hadn’t been triggering properly. Then he stood up and moved to his final piece of work for the day, a personal project of his. He hefted a large cannon out of its cupboard and pulled out the single piece of ammunition. Unlike the more basic pistols generally used by Drotarians, pistols rendered largely irrelevant for many applications by the various powers of other guilds, this weapon would penetrate even a Vorcan bullet-proof skin. Reaching into the gun, Jovnik pulled out a single piece of ammunition, about the size of his fist. At first glance, it appeared very much like any other projectile. Instead, however, lived a Drotarian marvel. No one from the other guilds could have put it together, even some Drotarians would have trouble working on such a minute scale. Most of Jovnik’s colleagues worked on big projects, like the street cleaners of the city or the Joriel itself.
“But this, will outshine them all,” Jovnik said, exaggerating with pride like that of a parent. Reinserting the bullet, Jovnik stepped outside and shouldered his hand-cannon. He pulled a trigger, and felt the cannon slam into his shoulder. On the other end, the bullet spurted the barrel and sailed away from the moving ship and implanted itself into a tree. It immediately began whirring, as the mechanical timer set off. The main shell fell off the tree, but a thin thread worked itself into the wood. It didn’t get very far, but a softer target would enjoy a tiny saw slicing the unfortunate creature’s vital organs.
Best of all, current Vorcan suits could do nothing to stop it.
The Joriel finally rolled to a stop, facing the line of soldiers prepared to defend the League of Defender’s stronghold. Jovnik saw Vorcan abominations, people flitting between the shapes of animals and humans, and even a few Drotarian weapons. Jordan’s Drotarian streak crew faced enemies from almost every guild. But Jovnik could not see their most dangerous enemy: Ariel.
“Fire!” Jovnik screamed. Before him, his mechanics fired the first volley. Jovnik himself fired a glider designed by one of his more prolific lieutenants, who had made too many weapons to fire himself. As the glider soared, Jovnik took mental notes, watching the slight lean to the left, and marking the exact time the wings broke off and the sharpened payload slammed into the soldiers below. Not bad, more than one in a shot and those could do some damage, Jovnik evaluated.
One of his soldiers screamed. Jovnik turned somewhat lazily to see who had forgot to put on armor to ward off Vorcan insects. Instead his annoyance turned to fear as he came face to face with one of Ariel’s creatures. Before him the weasel-like mammal had somehow slipped past the ship’s defenses and taken down one of the men. Another soldier fired his pistol into the creature’s body. The weasel simply turned and leaped for the man, blood pouring out of its body. It took a chunk out of his arm before three more shots finally drained the creature of enough blood to stop it.
“Incoming!” a scream mingled with the rising mayhem. Jovnik looked up and saw gliding shapes descending on the ship.
“Fire nets!” he commanded. Several gunmen whirled towards the flying Vorcan creatures and launched large nets towards them. Two or three connected, bringing their struggling cargo to the ground with a sickening crunch. The rest dove for the waiting soldiers, apparently dodging their bullets.
“By Toyoi’s wrath, pull back, get them within range of the arms!” Jovnik yelled. he spared a glance for the battle at large, and saw Jordan’s troops engaged with the main force of the league. The weasels seemed to focus on the ship, leaving the League’s soldiers to defend the main fort. Curses on Ariel! Jovnik swore, Curses on that Weasel Queen. As Jovnik’s force pulled away from the prow of the ship, the Weasels chased them, seemingly ignoring bullet wounds. Ariel had most likely removed the poor creature’s pain nerves.
A massive claw erupted from the deck crushing one of the vicious creatures. The weasels scampered about, attempting to dodge the mechanical arms now dotting the previously clear space.
“Fire turrets!” Jovnik ordered as the last of his men pulled free of the weasel force. Bullets darting across the deck sliced through those weasels bringing the vile creatures to the ground. Finally, Jovnik thought, relieved.
“No one hurts my pets!” roared a voice from behind him. Jovnik spun to see the mother of all weasels, bigger than a horse and significantly more vicious. Red eyes devoid of pupils locked onto to Jovnik’s men. Atop the vile creature rode a sole woman: Ariel the Weasel Queen. She wore a Vorcan vest, in reality a living creature, with a gelatinous interior. Bullets simply stopped in the liquid. In her hand she held two rigid “swords,” more Vorcan creations which spat and twisted, slicing through anything Ariel brought them near to. We weren’t supposed to be defending the ship! This was a raid! Jovnik thought, beginning to panic.
“Fire at will!” he ordered. Nearby turrents began spitting bullets at the wave of weasels now climbing over the side of the Joriel. Jovnik fired his last bullet into the head of a weasel, and then tossed his pistol at another. As he ran towards a hatch, he saw one of the fighting arms collapse as several weasels chewed through its connections. Reaching the hatch, Jovnik dived in and grabbed what first came to his hand. Jumping out of the hatch and back into the light, he dashed for his line of men. Only when he reached them did he stop to look at what he held in his hand: his brand new canon. Earlier that morning he had left it in the hatch, just in case he needed it.
Hefting the weapon to his shoulder, Jovnik took aim at the Ariel, watching her decapitate one of the crew members. I have one shot, he thought. He paused his breath and fired. The large projectile arched for the air, flying towards the berserk woman. Then, it dropped, and Jovnik could only watch as his weapon land right in front of Ariel: on her weasel’s neck. No doubt she had made sure no bullet could take out her prize creation, but beneath Jovnik’s new mechanism, the weasel slowed and then collapsed onto the ground. All around the fighting stopped.
“Nooooooooooooo,” Ariel screamed. “Kill them!” Jovnik sprinted towards her, wielding his gun like a club. At that moment, something dropped from the sky, knocking her to the ground. Jordan dropped next to her, two metal shafts breaking his fall. Ariel struggled beneath him, but remained trapped by the net now covering her.
Just as Jovnik came into earshot, Jordan said harshly, “Ariel, call off the weasels, or I’ll have to kill them all.” Jovnik doubted it later, but at the time he could have sworn Ariel simply rolled her eyes. Ariel issued a sharp whistle, and the weasels suddenly stopped, and retreated back towards the side of the ship.
“You’re just sore about the time I drenched you in tomato juice,” Ariel muttered. Jordan ignored her and glanced up at Jovnik. A sad smile pulled at Jordan’s lips.
“She is a little mad,” Jordan explained. “But we have a long history. A shame to have to lock her up. Maybe the guild leaders won’t execute her.” With that he grabbed some pieces of net, and began dragging Ariel towards the ship’s hold.
Jovnik looked towards the League’s stronghold. Jordan’s troops had defeated the League’s, and currently busied themselves gathering weapons and prisoners. Messengers began appearing, passing news of what had happened in the battle. Apparently, the League had planned to take the Joriel itself and had merely left a token force at the stronghold. No less than three separate attacks had plagued the massive ship, though only Jovnik’s group had faced Ariel. In the end, Drotar had won, leaving no insurgents in its wake.