Civil Engineering


By: David Ihnen

CREATEDIn Progress
SERIESCivil Engineering
UNIVERSEMetamor Keep
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This story is Copyright by David Ihnen. Please do not distribute without permission.

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Sertofinus crouched once again on the large rock upstream of the bridge site. He drew carefully in his book, peering down at the remnants of the Drake bridge. The formerly clean lines of stone were broken and tumbled, leaving a mound of rubble that half blocked the canyon. He glanced over at Grumpy, a mound of black and white fur crouching between a couple of boulders a dozen feet away.

"Why would anybody want to knock down the bridge?" he asked.

The giant badger shrugged, her claws scraping through the gravel. "I don't know." she rumbled.

Sertofinus paged back and read back over what he had written earlier. His bare mouse tail wrapped around his thigh as a chill breeze whistled down the canyon.

"Maybe we can figure it out." he said, "there has to be a way."

Grumpy watched him, smiling a bit. She shuffled closer, peering over his shoulder at the book. The markings were unfamilar to her, but she recognized a small picture of a sawn timber beside a representation of the bridge centering.

Sertofinus continued, "Well, we know some things. Louie saw this timber was cut. He pointed a claw at a highlighted line on the drawing. But only a builder is likely to know that cutting that one would make it fall down. The boy smelled some lutins down by the stream.

"He said that they didn't go to the bridge." Grumpy rumbled.

"Well, there's no way to tell now. The water washed everything away." Sertofinus sighed, looking down at the rubble.

"We could ask them." the Badger said.

Sertofinus laughed briefly. "Yeah, maybe they'll tell us before they kill us. Besides, we don't speak Lutin."

"I do." said Grumpy.

Sertofinus tilted his head. "Why would they tell us? Maybe we ask some lutins and others did it."

Grumpy was quiet for a long moment. "We could ask chief Parat. If a lutin sneezes around here, he knows about it. We should bring a gift." she said

Sertofinus's eye caught a sparkle, down on the other side of the bridge. Like the geode that Jert had shown him.

"How about one of the sparkly rocks?" he suggested.

"That is a good idea." Grumpy said slowly, "They like food too."

Sertofinus closed his book and put it in his pack with his ink and pen. "I have some of Serto's trail cakes." he said.

The badger nodded. "It is worth a try."

Sertofinus shivered. "But they'll try to kill us!"

The badger flexed her claws, the sharp scythes grating through the gravel beneath her. "I don't think they will be able."

The mouse nodded reluctantly. "Okay, but only so that we can find out about the bridge."

* * *

Grumpy pulled the mouse close, pausing as they walked through a tight canyon.

"They're watching us." she said quietly, then called out in a gutteral tongue. There was a brief reply. She responded. The only thing the mouse could make out was the name of the chief she had mentioned earlier. There was another reply and Grumpy pulled him along. "Come on." she rumbled briefly.

Sertofinus trotted alongside her as they came into a small valley. It contained a well established lutin encampment, several dozen huts spread out along both banks of a rushing stream. The air was filled with the smell of cooking food and habitation. The narrow path into the valley was blocked by a wall of grim faced warriors three deep, armed with bows, swords and long, sharp spears.

Grumpy called out. "Parat!"

A particularly large lutin wearing leather armour and holding a large scimitar stepped forward in response. Grumpy continued, speaking several sentences in the lutin tongue. Sertofinus leaned up against her as he noticed more warriors behind them.

"They've surrounded us!" he whispered.

"Shh." grunted the badger.

The chief responded in the same language, looking suspicious. Grumpy seemed to retort, and the chief laughed. He held up his hand, and gave an order to the warriors. They stepped back, suspicious gazes not moving from the pair as they followed the chief to his hut. The chief visibly compared the door to his house to the size of Grumpy, then guestured for them to sit down at the fire ring in front of it.

Grumpy spoke to Sertofinus, who crouched nervously, watching the

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