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» IcePets Serials: The Melted Statue

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Megrim
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    24th of Dec '17 @ 12:26 PM


Preface - What Are These?

Writing, like any creative pursuit, involves skills that require stretching and exercise. I try to write non-WIP things on a regular basis, and IcePets stories are as good as any, especially because I can share them and then someone besides me can read them. I also get to torture you with the ups and downs of serialized release. smile_happy.gif These are unofficial and just for fun.

Comments are fine. Entries will have bold headers, and also be gigantic and impossible to miss, so I'm not worried about them getting lost in the thread. Each serial will be its own story and kept on one thread. If you want to be pinged when a new installment is posted, just comment in the thread. Posting schedule is basically "time permitting."

-----

The Melted Statue Vol. 1

The tarp-covered monolith dominated the town square. Allie couldn’t keep her eyes off it while she waited for her coffee. Early morning sun blazed off the white tarp and the snowy rooftops around it, almost blinding even through the window. It was a nice clear morning for her mail route.

“Hurry up!” someone grumbled. “You’ll make us miss the unveiling!”

Allie turned. Karly. Of course. The Crystal Xephyr fidgeted anxiously—and somehow, gorgeously—as she stood in line for the register. The poor baker-barista-cake-decorator-gift-wrapper, Linus, fumbled between the coffee machine, the pastry display, and the bread oven. The Snowdrift Traptur’s movements sent a wave of bakery scents drifting in Allie’s direction.

“Hurry up and decide already,” Karly complained. She wasn’t yelling at Linus, Allie realized, but the Firebreathing Ridix waiting in front of her.

“Your coffee,” Linus called, setting Allie’s steaming travel mug onto the counter. He turned his attention to the customer in front of Karly. “All right, Rinx. What’s the verdict?”

The Ridix in question looked up from the pastries with a scowl. “Do you make it a habit to rush your customers?”

Linus sighed. “Please pick something.”

“Fine,” the Ridix snapped, jabbing a paw at a scone. “Warmed up with butter on it.”

Karly let out an impatient groan.

Allie sidled around the two of them and reached for her coffee. Rinx was always here around the same time—sometimes a bit before her, sometimes a bit after—and he always grumpily inspected every pastry before choosing. She was more than used to it. But leave it to Karly to show up and turn it into a drama. Allie hadn’t seen the Xephyr up and about this early in the morning in… ever, actually.

And because Allie was staring at Karly’s impeccably groomed crystalline fur, her mailbag bumped into something as she picked up her coffee. Several things happened at once.

“Watch it!” Rinx growled. A tiny cinder fell off him and onto the bag. It hit the corner of an envelope, which started to smoke, and then a fiery red line grew along one edge and ate into the paper. Allie jumped and swatted at it, spilling her coffee. Rinx yelped as scalding liquid splashed onto his feet.

“Good heavens!” Karly cried. Not helping.

Linus rushed around the counter and saved them both. He somehow blotted out the fire and then draped the cloth over the spilled coffee in a matter of moments. He wiped the floor, and from his hands and knees asked, “Are you hurt?”

Allie pulled out her singed letters. Two only had minor damage, but another two had lost part of the paper inside the envelopes. “Ah, darn.”

Rinx, meanwhile, clutched one foot. “I’m fine.”

“He wasn’t asking you,” Karly scoffed behind him.

Linus glanced up at Allie. “Do you want me to make another one?”

She shook her head, wiping the drips off her mug with one paw. “No, I better get going. Deal with these damaged letters before I go on my route.”

“And the unveiling!” Karly added. “You can’t miss that.”

And the unveiling,” Allie agreed, trying to sound interested. Already, pets were gathering into a crowd outside.

“Linus, dear,” Karly said, “it’s about to start. Could you please fetch me a toasted bagel quick as you can? I’m sure this scrooge”—she jerked her head toward Rinx—“can wait a moment for his scone.”

Linus looked at him. “Do you mind?”

The Ridix frowned. “Fine, I guess. Whatever you need to do.”

Allie couldn’t get out of there fast enough. She forced a smile and bid everyone a good day before pushing through the door into the frigid morning. The beautifully clear sky belied the sheer cold of the winter air, and Allie hugged her travel mug close to her chest for warmth.

The mayor was already standing beside the tarp and speaking to the crowd. Originally a Pinata Makoat, he’d coloured himself Snowdrift a few years ago to better fit in with the more conservative community. Ice and Snowdrift pets dominated the crowd, with the occasional Crystal here and there. Allie skirted around the edge, as unobtrusive as anyone could possibly be, one quiet Ice Dabu among the rest.

“A lot of hard work, artistry, and tax dollars went into the creation and transport of this statue,” the mayor said. “It’s a symbol of our growth and prosperity. With it, our small town will be the biggest talk this side of Snowslide!”

Two town workers yanked on the tarp. It fell free, and the crowd gasped with awe. The ice sculpture beneath sparkled in the sun, an intricate, icy replica of the Dragon Statue itself.

“It’s just like in Glacia!” someone shouted.

“So beautiful!” said another.

Allie could appreciate that. It was beautiful, and it would attract attention—and business—to their tiny town. But it must have cost hundreds of thousands of IcePoints, and there were still roads cracked by frost heaves and public buildings with missing guard rails and flaking paint. Those things were less attention-grabbing, sure, but fixing them would mean more.

“I can’t believe it!”

Karly’s sudden voice next to her made Allie jump.

“It’s even more fabulous than I imagined,” Karly added. She had her toasted bagel in one hand.

“Yes, fabulous,” Allie mumbled.

“I wonder how they got it through the pass all the way from Glacia. It must have been so delicate to transport. Wouldn’t it have been a shame if something had happened to it along the way!”

“Yes, quite a shame.”

And for a moment, she had to stop and look back at the statue. She couldn’t place the uneasy feeling that crept over her. In her peripheral vision, Rinx came out of the bakery with a paper bag. He frowned at the statue for a hard moment, then turned away.

“You’re right,” she said, mainly to herself. Karly had already moved on, chatting up a Dovu nearby. “It does look delicate, doesn’t it?” She tightened her grip on her mailbag strap, and even after she’d left the statue well behind, the unease didn’t go away.

Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other. Here is the anlage of the thing you fear. This is the zygote. For here "I have lost my land" is changed; a cell is split and from its splitting grows the thing you hate—"We lost our land." The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one. And from this first "we" there grows a still more dangerous thing: "I have a little food" plus "I have none." If from this problem the sum is "We have a little food," the thing is on its way, the movement has direction.


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Megrim
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    26th of Dec '17 @ 12:06 PM


The Melted Statue Vol. 2

The ice replica of the Dragon Statue watched over the town square like a new guardian. All that first day, every time Allie had reason to cross through the downtown block, she’d catch its shape out of the corner of her eye and jump before remembering what it was. Her daily routine had been disrupted by the need to return to the post office—a tiny, two-room building—to deal with the damaged letters. One of them, it turned out, had been intended for the very Firebreathing Ridix who’d damaged it.

She fingered the singed paper. The sender hailed from the Talytil lake region. Odd to imagine someone so miserable and fiery having anything to do with a region known for tranquility and beauty. Relatives, maybe? At any rate, this meant hiking up Bent-Tree Hill to his lonely cottage on the west side of town. She sighed at the thought.

On her way across town, she noticed a new admirer loitering around the statue. Orin, the striking Ice Novyn who ran the fur and beauty parlour, was wrapping himself into various poses while his assistant took photos.

“Turn it at an angle,” Orin said, manipulating the camera in his assistant’s paws. “Get my face from below with the dragon’s head over my shoulder.” His gaze caught on Allie. “Ah, my dearest mistress of the mail! How has your morning been, you gorgeous girl?”

Allie slowed and couldn’t help but grin. Orin swiveled around the statue’s base into a new pose, and the camera flashed again.

“I think you might have some competition for most beautiful dragon in town,” Allie said with a chuckle.

“You’re telling me.” He draped backwards across the statue’s base, throwing a wrist over his forehead like a fainting damsel. Another camera flash. “It’s all anyone can talk about. Between you and me, I think Snowdrift is going to go out of style. Good thing you’re already ahead of the curve, honey—Ice is going to be all the rage.”

He corrected his assistant again, which broke into an argument. Allie left them, still smiling.

The smile faded as she faced Bent-Tree Hill. This time of year, the scraggly old elm looked sad and tired, like the cottages it watched over. As the path wound away from downtown, the homes grew shabbier, the yards less well kept. The pets here got mail as much as anyone else, and it wasn’t that Allie minded the area, but… Rinx. Rinx never got mail, and never visited his neighbours. He lived in the darkest, scruffiest cottage on the lane, and other than their morning coffee routine, they never crossed paths.

Allie rounded a bend halfway up the hill, and to her surprise, found Linus coming the other way. His red eyes seemed puffier and he kept his gaze fixed on the ground in front of him, such that he didn’t notice her presence for several seconds.

“Oh!” he said when he saw her. “Good day.” His voice, which was usually on the timid side, seemed even quieter than usual.

“Linus, I didn’t know you lived over here.”

“I—I don’t. I was visiting a friend.” He glanced back over his shoulder.

She frowned. “Did something happen?”

“Just… a difference of opinion,” he said with a thin smile. “I’ve been away from the shop for too long. I—I should really get going.”

Allie held out a paw. “Hey, listen. I’m sorry about the ruckus I caused earlier.”

“It’s fine, it’s no problem. Forget it.” He waved her away and started onward down the path. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning, coffee’s on me.”

She watched him go. He seemed so… fragile. But what to do about it? She filed the conversation away and determined to check in on him later.

She dropped off a handful of letters along the hill, until she finally reached Rinx’s cottage. His was one of the few homes built of brick rather than ice, and under the bright sun, the windows looked dark. She pulled out his letter and the post office notice regarding its damage, and crossed her fingers that he wouldn’t be home. A quick knock, slip the letter into its box, and scurry back to the path—

The door opened, backlit by a faint yellow-orange glow.

“You again,” Rinx grunted. “Why are you here?”

Allie froze and fumbled a response. “You… have a letter.” She waved her paws vaguely at the mounted mailbox.

His nose wrinkled as if he didn’t believe her. He stuck his paw in the box, pulled out the letter, read the damage notice, and didn’t look up for a long minute. Allie wondered if it would be rude to leave.

“Sorry,” she said to fill the silence. “I would have given it to you earlier if I’d realized.”

“This must be a mistake.” He flipped the envelope over and inspected it. “She doesn’t talk to me anymore.”

“It has your name on it, doesn’t it?”

He scowled at her, then took the envelope between two claws and tore it into pieces. “Go away.” A moment later, the door slammed and he was gone.

Allie blinked at the empty space where he’d been standing. “That was odd.”

“Don’t let him bother you, hon,” said a female voice to her right. Leera, the Cobron ice artisan, repairing a damaged window frame on the house next door, a little downhill. “That’s about the greeting I got when he hired me to build that wall.” She pointed to the low ice-brick wall between the two homes.

“I’m used to him,” Allie said absently. “I run into him most days. It’s just… he doesn’t get mail. Not ever. I didn’t think he had family.”

“Can’t be a coincidence it’s the same day as the statue unveiling. Think he has something to do with the behind-the-scenes?” Leera chiseled a piece of ice into shape, and glanced across at Rinx’s own sagging windows. “Maybe he’s the town’s largest donor.” She laughed.

Allie smiled without feeling. Something in his face when he saw that letter made her not want to joke about it. Who was the “she” from his past who refused to talk to him?

Leera must have sensed Allie’s discomfort. “Nah, but seriously, that’s some darn fine ice carving. Bet it cost a fortune. I missed the mayor’s speech, but I saw the statue later on, passing through. Gorgeous work. I envy the skill it takes to create something like that.”

“Yeah, should help bring more business.” Allie stuck a paw in her mailbag and flipped through what was left. Almost done with the morning route. A few more houses on the west side, and then lunch would make a perfect excuse to drop in on Linus.

The rest of the morning proceeded without incident, but when she stopped at the bakery, she found it closed for the day. She knocked, but it was dark inside, and it seemed Linus was nowhere nearby. On a day like this? The square was lively with statue admirers, and a line ran out the door of the town’s little café. Something had to be really wrong for Linus to be closed during lunch.

Allie attempted to finish her day like usual. It was difficult to ignore the statue looming over town, or the crowds flocking around it, or Orin’s new beauty special that opened in the afternoon—a large sign promising an Ice Statue Spectacular, surrounded by the portraits he’d taken of himself. The closed bakery hunched on the sidewalk like a bruise she couldn’t forget, but as much as she liked Linus, she didn’t know him quite well enough to justify calling on him at home. So she resolved to get up early the next morning to talk to him. If he was still closed… she’d cross that bridge when she came to it.

She woke a solid half hour before sunrise and hurried to get ready. The winter chill was dry and biting, and her breath puffed in front of her face. Normally, Linus would have already been up for hours, baking the morning bread. She slowed as she approached the town square, worried what it might mean if he still wasn’t there.

The warm scent of fresh rolls gave her a rush of relief. Lights on, sign open, the backside of a Traptur moving around behind one of the counters. Allie let go of a sigh she hadn’t realized she was holding.

She welcomed the heat inside the bakery. Linus looked up as she entered, and she stopped short. He looked haggard, like he hadn’t slept, and his face was blotchy from recent tears.

“Oh, Linus!” Allie said. “Please tell me what happened.”

Just then, the door opened behind her. Linus’s face hardened. It was Rinx. Always here at the same time, even though she’d come early today.

“Get out,” Linus said, voice more forceful than she’d ever heard. “Not today.”

Rinx, for once, looked contrite. “I came to apologize—”

“I don’t want you in here!”

“Rinx,” Allie added gently. “I think you should leave.”

The Ridix opened his mouth as if to say more, but glanced between them and seemed to think better of it. He lowered his head and withdrew, without so much as a grumble.

Allie turned back to the counter. “What’s wrong, Linus? I’ve never seen you like this. Is someone sick? Is it news from your family?”

He shook his head. “No. They can all die of plague.”

He buried his head in the pastry cabinet, arranging displays. She chewed her lip.

“Your family lives in Glacia, right?” she asked, more rhetorical than anything. The statue had arrived with a caravan from Glacia. That had to be it.

Muffled shouts came from outside. Sunrise had broken through the morning twilight and started to warm the square with pinks and oranges. Pets hurried about in the fading shadows, pounding on doors, yelling for the mayor or the police. Allie drew closer to the window, and her breath caught. It may have been a trick of the light, but the statue seemed lumpy and misshapen, its details eroded away.

A breathless Trido stuck her head through the door. “Come quick! Someone’s melted the statue during the night!"

Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other. Here is the anlage of the thing you fear. This is the zygote. For here "I have lost my land" is changed; a cell is split and from its splitting grows the thing you hate—"We lost our land." The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one. And from this first "we" there grows a still more dangerous thing: "I have a little food" plus "I have none." If from this problem the sum is "We have a little food," the thing is on its way, the movement has direction.


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Megrim
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    3rd of Jan '18 @ 2:26 PM


The Melted Statue Vol. 3

“It wasn’t me!” Rinx held his paws up defensively as angry pets cornered him against a building. He caught Allie’s eye, and she saw genuine panic in his face. “Allie, tell them. You saw me yesterday—you saw me this morning—it wasn’t me!”

Allie frowned. She wanted to point out that she hadn't been with him during the night, and then it had been too shadowy for her to notice the statue’s damage on her way to the bakery. But what came out was, “I didn’t realize you knew my name.”

A high-pitched shriek echoed from across the square. Orin, the Ice Novyn.
His voice carried clearly. “Oh, good heavens! Oh, gracious! I can’t even speak! What tragedy.”

Allie rolled her eyes. It was a pity, sure, but it wasn’t about to affect her day other than the nuisance of the commotion. If anything, this development made the statue more interesting, in her opinion.

“Look at what you’ve done,” someone hissed at Rinx. Karly, naturally. Still wearing her Night Cap and Dreamworld Socks—she’d probably rolled out of bed and come to see what the shouting was about. Oddly, tears were building in her eyes. “Why do you stay here if you hate us so much?”

Rinx continued to stare imploringly at Allie. Why? Why would he think she’d defend him? They weren’t friends.

“Honest…” Rinx said feebly.

“Step aside,” a strong female voice commanded. Zara, a Red Krittle—the town Sheriff. The small crowd parted for her. “That statue was melted, and in this entire town, you’re the only Firebreathing pet. You’re coming to the station for questioning.”

“It could have been anyone,” Rinx insisted.

“Using what?” Zara said. “A torch? A lighter? Look around you.” She gestured at the half-dozen Ice and Snowdrift pets surrounding him. “Who here even has a fireplace in their home, let alone the means to melt a statue like that?”

He hung his head. Zara escorted him away, and as she did, Allie felt a strange sort of guilt. Why had Rinx looked to her? How could she have helped him?

She felt guilty, she realized, because she believed him. That didn’t make any sense, as Zara had pointed out. But something about that gruff, lonely Ridix felt… honest. He might have been rude, but he wasn’t a criminal. She thought about how he’d come to apologize to Linus that morning. It was a tiny thing—certainly not proof of his innocence—but she had a feeling there was more to him than anyone gave him credit for.

Maybe he knew, somehow, that she’d understand.

She looked around. The rest of the town hated him. Karly sobbed quietly into her paws, muttering that Rinx must have been Evil before he was Firebreathing. Orin was still making a scene about the beauty that had been lost, and in between wails, managed to sob offers to style patrons in honour of the “deceased” statue at a ten percent discount.

Allie sighed. If Rinx wasn’t the culprit, there had to be evidence for who was. Only three shops were open this early: Linus’s bakery, the Early Riser café-restaurant, and Orin’s beauty parlour. Orin wasn’t technically open for business, but he was always there well before sunrise, preparing the parlour and going through whatever grooming rituals kept his fur looking the way it did. It seemed the first witnesses to the statue’s destruction had come from the Early Riser.

She glanced at the sky. She’d left so early this morning, there was enough time to do a little investigating before beginning her route. She already had her travel mug and—

Linus! She’d almost forgotten. He hadn’t come outside with the rest of them.

There was only time to make one stop. She deliberated between the bakery and the restaurant for a long moment. Linus, she decided, could be dealt with later. Now was her only chance to see who was at or near the restaurant. Maybe catch a clue before it disappeared in the morning rush. She gripped her travel mug, offered a silent apology to Linus, and headed to the Early Riser.

Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other. Here is the anlage of the thing you fear. This is the zygote. For here "I have lost my land" is changed; a cell is split and from its splitting grows the thing you hate—"We lost our land." The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one. And from this first "we" there grows a still more dangerous thing: "I have a little food" plus "I have none." If from this problem the sum is "We have a little food," the thing is on its way, the movement has direction.


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skipena



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    5th of Jan '18 @ 5:15 PM


I would like to be pinged! I love mysteries and things like this!


MOTM 02/02/18
THANK YOU


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Megrim
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    9th of Jan '18 @ 9:11 PM


Quick status update - I'm going on a trip for a week starting tomorrow. I meant to get another episode written today, but didn't get around to it! I'll work on the next installment after I get back. Didn't forget, I promise!

(@skipena smile_heart.gif)

Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other. Here is the anlage of the thing you fear. This is the zygote. For here "I have lost my land" is changed; a cell is split and from its splitting grows the thing you hate—"We lost our land." The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one. And from this first "we" there grows a still more dangerous thing: "I have a little food" plus "I have none." If from this problem the sum is "We have a little food," the thing is on its way, the movement has direction.


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