Civil Engineering

By: David Ihnen

CREATEDIn Progress
PART5
RATINGGeneral
SERIESCivil Engineering
UNIVERSEMetamor Keep
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Sertofinus' List

Name Gender Height Animal type
Sam Male 6' Dalmation
Skylos Male 6' Hound
Louie Male 4'6" Orangutan
Dream Female 6'6" Great Ape
Hoss Male 6'6" Horse
Gerty Female 6' Horse
Stan Male 6' Horse
Jed Male 5' Dingo
Job Male 5' Dingo
Jake Male 5'6" Dingo
Jert Male 5' Dingo
Suez Male 5' Cat
Grumpy Female 9' Badger
Sertofinus Male 4' Mouse

* * *

Sam slumped on the log, staring into the fire silently. The whole camp was quiet. Skylos patted Sam's shoulder.

"Hey, we're still alive!" he said, "Its not so bad!"

"The bridge is ruined." growled Sam, "What'm I supposed to tell the Duke now?"

"That Lutins sabotaged it?" suggested Louie, grooming Dream's fur.

"And that's good enough?" grumbled Sam, "He'll wanna to know which group. Why we let it happen!"

"Lutins can be pretty sneaky." sighed Stan, scraping a hoof along the ground.

"I don't think it was them." said Suez, looking up from scouring his cooking pot.

Everybody looked at the feline. Suez held up his paw.

"Think about it. They have never sabotaged our projects before. For all the roads we've paved, and all the bridges and buildings we have built, they have never bothered us. Some call it luck, others call it odd." He shrugged.

"The Lutins respect our work." rumbled Grumpy. It was the first thing she had said since the collapse.

Jert snorted. "Like the lutins have respect for anything."

Grumpy looked over at him slowly. "Have you ever asked them?"

Jert growled, laying his ears back and snapping in irritation. "Sure Grumpy. I'll just walk up and ask. Maybe they'll tell me before they kill me!"

"I believe her." said Gerty quietly, "She did grow up in the north."

Some of the other builders nodded along with her. Jert snorted, and tossed another log on the fire. "Whatever." he sulked.

Sam shook his head. "It doesn't seem right to me either, but its our only lead."

"Halt!" barked Jed, "Who's there?"

The conversation around the fire stopped as Jed challenged a figure in the shadows.

"Itititits just me, um, S-Serick!" spoke a young hound, crawling tentatively into the light. "I l-live in Dr-dr-drake?" he said. He was a canine, with an unusually droopy muzzle, giving him an almost comically sad expression. Wrinkles of skin mounded on his forehead.

"What're you doing out here, son?" asked Sam evenly.

"I...I had to tell you. What I s..saw." he said.

Sam sighed, "We don't have time..." he began.

"Its about l-lutins!" the canine interrupted.

After a short pause Sam spoke again, "We're listening."

"L-last week... I was playing, down by the river." he began, speaking carefully.

Sam nodded. "The river."

The boy looked down and twisted his toe in the dirt. "I..I found this."

He held out his paw, displaying a small sack, evidently of lutin make.

"It d-didn't have anything in it." he said as Sam took and inspected it.

"A lutin pouch. Not very old." he pronounced.

"I was tracking," he said, "you know, sn-sniffing trails. I was, following a r..r..raccoon, and found the lutin tr, trail. P-p-p-pretty new, less than a day. I f-f-followed it and found this near the bridge."

"Hah!" grinned Jert triumphantly.

Skylos shushed the dingo. "Did the tracks go up to the bridge?"

Serick shook his head. "No-nope, they leaned on a big boulder for awhile, then turned around and went away, fast."

Skylos glanced at Jert. "Neat trick to sabotage a bridge without touching it."

Jert snorted again. "He probably just didn't smell that part."

Serick shook his head defiantly. "I know what I smelled and what I didn't. I smelled all around the bridge. They came up, then they went away. No other lutins at all."

"Do you have anything more to tell us, son?" asked Sam, stroking his chin.

The canine shook his head. "N-no. I don't think so."

Sam nodded. "Thank you."

"I... I gotta get home." he said, turning to go. They watched him go in silence.

Suez shook his head after the canine was out of earshot. "Its just really odd, that's all I'm saying. Lutins don't bother us."

The builders fell back into silence, the crackle of the fire the only sound.

Grumpy had assembled before her Sertofinus's backpack, his breeches, torn on the shin, and the one boot. She sat and stared at them. It made no sense that she should feel this way. The mouse was not even a builder. Or was he? He was so small. Like a child. Her own little... She felt tears run down her black and white muzzle as she crouched there. Why was she crying? Her toe claws dug into the dirt beneath her as her feet flexed.

The mouse woke up after a long nap. It was safe in his little cave, but he was hungry. He could smell cool air. And food. He scrambled up the in side of the cave and cautiously poked his nose out. The smells were confusing. All at the same time they said friend and predator. He sniffed some more, trying to figure it out. He was really hungry. He poked his head out and looked around. Warmth was to the left, and welcome darkness to the right. He scrambled down the outside of the boot and darted over to the good darkness. Suddenly, he was captured. Warm fur was all around him, holding him! He panicked, biting at his captor.

"Ouch!" exclaimed Grumpy, her paws clamped around something.

"What, got fleas?" snapped Jert, stirring some dirt with a stick.

"Sertofinus!" she said, opening her paws slightly.

The mouse frowned, crouching. The scent almost reminded him of something. Something good. A flash went through his mind, of warmth and cuddling. Snuggling with other mice? No. Not a mouse. His prison opened a bit, and he darted at the exit, only to find himself caught, unable to get more than his head out. He squeaked in fright, paws scrabbling against the rough pads of the badger's paws.

"Shhh, shh. Its all right." Grumpy whispered as the other keepers gathered around.

"Is it Serto?" asked Suez, peering at the tiny creature.

Flickering light, and more scents assaulted his nose. Images flashed through his brain. Horse. Ape. Dog. Cat. Friends? He squeaked softly, raising his nose and sniffing. A sharp pop came from the fire, and he dove back into the safety of the paws. The paws opened again, a large black nose sniffing. He licked at his sore foot, huddling away from the nose.

A familiar voice spoke. "It is him."

"But it WAS in his boot." objected one of the canines, "His scent could have rubbed off."

The first voice returned. It was deep, growly, but made him feel safe. "I have had the boot since I pulled it from the collapse."

Images flashed through his head again. Working. Pulling. Then loud noise, the stone rolling over him, then just darkness. He was big. He was a keeper. He lived at the keep! He could shift... he was...

"Sertofinus?" it was the growly voice, soft in a whisper. "Its okay. You can..."

Sertofinus! He was Sertofinus! An image flashed in his head, of being big. He closed his eyes and imagined himself that way. He grew rapidly, filling the space of the paws in no time at all, then warm strength surrounded him in a tight hug, a cool nose buried in his shoulderfur. He opened his eyes, blinking in the light. Thick furred arms hugged him around the chest, a deep chortling, sniffing sound made by Grumpy who held him. The other builders cheered, hugging each other in celebration. Sam stepped forward.

"Sertofinus, we were sure we had lost you!" he said. He was elbowed aside by Stan, bearing a bowl of Suez's stew.

"You must be hungry, eat!"

Jed ducked under Stan's arm, offering Sertofinus a wine skin, "Thirsty? Have some mead!"

Sertofinus smiled at the offers, ears blushing as he realized he was naked. They all fell silent as they waited for him to say something.

"C..Could I have some pants?" he asked quietly.

He was wrapped in a blanket, and held warmly by Grumpy as he ate and drank, the toast of the camp late into the night.

"That boy has instinct!" said Louie, "The one thing that could save him, and he does it!"

Sertofinus joined the rest of the keepers in the tent, all but the watch pressed close together after the events of the day.

...

Skylos, Sam, and Sertofinus marched down to the slope to the building site, leaving the depressed camp behind. The fresh light of the day showed that little of their work remained. Sam kicked a shattered timber protruding from the fallen earth.

"Louie saw it was sabotaged." Sam spoke, "three beams mostly sawn through."

Skylos grunted, toeing the top portion of a large boulder, still mostly covered by fill dirt that had not been washed away. "They're all washed away now."

Sam nodded, and walked downstream towards the ford, Sertofinus close behind. "Come on, lets go talk to Master Drake."

They found a group of keepers at the ford, collecting leftover timbers from the construction. A older heavyset fox with grey along his muzzle heaved a thick pole into the wagon, and turned to greet them.

"Skylos, Sam, Sertofinus!" he called, "We thought you were headed back this morning."

Sam shook his head. "You know we wouldn't go without saying goodbye, Master Drake." he responded, joining his companions in helping lift another beam onto the wagon. "Besides, we have to figure out what happened."

"Lutins sabotaged it." Drake stated with a finality in his voice.

"No, we don't think so." responded Skylos, "Serick was sniffing down there, and didn't smell any lutins near the bridge."

Drake shook his head. "That kid."

"What about him?" asked Skylos.

"He's quite the character. Ever since his father died, he bound and determined to prove he's the best sniffer around. Sure, he's good, but he's not that good. I would take anything he says with a grain of salt. Me, I'm just glad to finally have my apprentices back." He leaned his shoulder to the back of the wagon, helping it up the hill. "Lets get this load to town."

The keepers strained to help the horse pull the wagon up the slope. "Don't you want to know who sabotaged it?" asked Sertofinus, pushing against the tailgate of the wagon.

Master Drake shook his head. "As far as I'm concerned, the Lutins sabotaged it and that is that." He leaned harder on the cart as they went up a steeper portion of the slope.

...

Skylos, Sam, and Sertofinus followed the worn ruts of the road that went between Drake and


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