Hot Gossip

For 2022, I’ve been wanting to write more ‘creature features’ and generally improve my short story writing. My partner got me a Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual for my birthday so I came up with the idea of writing a story every week based on a different creature from that – All There in the (Monster) Manual. Hope you enjoy!

This Week’s Inspiration: Half-Dragon

Another day, another supervillain. Red Rok and Frost Maiden race to the scene of a new threat, but there are far more interesting things to talk about than a twenty-foot-tall, fire-breathing lizard man.

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“PATHETIC MONKEYS! YOUR MEAGRE EXCUSE FOR A CIVILISATION WILL BE BURNT TO CINDERS UNLESS YOU KNEEL BEFORE ME!”

“Did you hear about Agony Ant and Sphinx?”

Red Rok gripped Frost Maiden around the upper arms as they soared above brownstone rooftops. Hawklike wings billowed from Rok’s shoulders. For her part, Frost Maiden looked unfazed as they swept over the streets and buildings below.

“Don’t tell me they broke up,” Frost said. “After all those years of will they or won’t they?”

“No, no, of course not!” Rok said.

“I mean, who do they think they are? Sam and Diane?”

“Sam and Diane?”

“From Cheers, Ted Danson?”

“Contemporary reference, brah.”

“FLEE, TINY MONKEYS, FLEE! YOUR MINISCULE LEGS WILL NEVER CARRY YOU FAR ENOUGH TO ESCAPE ME!”

The supervillain threat came into view below. Close to twenty-foot-tall and covered in bright red scales, it was humanoid but definitely not human. The pandimensional intruder stood upright with two legs and two arms, one head, but with the addition of wings, a tail, and a serpentine neck. A humanoid dragon dressed in some kind of black armour. A giant sword hung from one clawed hand.

“Is she pregnant? Sphinx, I mean,” Frost said, as the two of them circled.

“Yes! But that’s not the main thing, he’s a clone! The original came back,” Rok said. “Turns out Agony Ant cloned himself because he felt there wasn’t enough of him to go around, both stopping crime and trying to live a normal life. But something went wrong with the memory transfer and there was an explosion. The original got amnesia while the clone thought he was the original, and that the process didn’t work! And it’s the clone that decided life was too short and hooked up with Sphinx.”

“He thought there needed to be two of him to handle all the crime? What are the rest of us, tourists?”

Red Rok’s wings flared, sailing over the area surrounding the supervillain. A couple of worn out basketball courts sat at the corner of the block behind wirelink fencing. The humanoid dragon had emerged in a seating area surrounded by several cafes, herringbone pavers littered with upturned tables and chairs. Civilians fled in all directions, even running mindlessly into the street.

“You can drop me off here,” Frost said.

“Are you sure?” Rok was still a good four stories off the ground.

“I’ve got to make an entrance.”

“Have you got a thing? I haven’t got a thing to say.”

“I’ll handle it.”

Rok pulled up, making sure there was plenty of open space beneath them for Frost to land, and let go. Frost fell, arms windmilling for a moment before she gathered herself and pointed her hands straight down. Icy blue rays exploded out of her palms. Air solidified and sculpted itself into a narrow slope. Frost landed smoothly on the ice slide and skated her way down, blasting the slope into existence with her powers as she went. Rok arced away overhead. Leaping off at the bottom of the slide, Frost Maiden rolled and landed deftly with incredible athleticism. The ice slide crumbled and fell apart behind her, shattering on the sidewalk.

The humanoid dragon bent over, horned head extended at the end of his snakelike neck, and vomited up a stream of fire. Flame poured into one of the nearby cafes, thankfully abandoned by customers and staff. Its front windows blackened, melted, and imploded. The dragon’s inferno consumed the interior, incinerating the cafe’s front counter, the stools and tables, and exploding the cafe’s cappuccino machine. Frost Maiden shielded her face for a moment before recovering.

“Snake eyes, lizard brain! Time to turn down the heat!” Frost yelled.

The dragon swept around, taloned feet scarring the pavers. Embers floated from the corners of their mouth. Frost Maiden was a tall, slim, Nordic blonde, but she looked very small in the dragon’s sights. Her skintight suit and mask gleamed in shades of pale blue and gave the impression of icicles. Frozen sparkles crackled off both of her hands.

“INSOLENT LITTLE MONKEY! YOU’LL BURN FOR YOUR DEFIANCE!”

Jaws unhinging, the humanoid dragon vomited a river of flame half a city block long. Frost used her powers to create a towering barricade, a wall thirty-foot-wide and twice as tall as she was, made of ice. Steam erupted as the fire hit it. Frost Maiden kept pumping ice into the wall as the side hit by flame melted and ran away in rivers.

“I can beat that, you know!” Frost Maiden raised her voice over the roar of flame and hiss of steam, shouting to Red Rok. “Agony Ant’s whole clone saga!”

Rok circled around behind the towering humanoid dragon. Her reddish brown wings folded behind her. Compared to Frost, Rod was dark and well muscled. Curly hair with an ebony shine spilled out from behind her mask. Rok’s costume was a bright, brilliant red, made of faux leather and light armour. She’d known when she started out as a superhero that she needed a bold costume, something that made a statement, or she was going to end up being called Blackbird or something.

A civilian, a woman about Rok and Frost’s age in her mid-twenties, huddled against one of the cafes. She clutched a pram with a wailing baby inside, her eyes wild with terror. She could have run but she was clearly too afraid of trying to get around the dragon.

“Here.” Rok reached into the pram and scooped out the squalling infant, shoving them into the young mother’s arms. “You’ve got the kid, and I’ve got you.”

“If you’ve got me, then who’s got you?” the woman asked, slightly awestruck.

Rok heaved the woman into her arms with easy, superhuman strength. The woman tucked herself into a protective ball around the baby. Wings billowing behind her, Rok took to the air and looped around the dragon. Gusts of heat rippled off the giant lizard’s flaming breath.

Dropping the civilian off at a safe distance, Rok quickly circled back. Frost was being forced backward. She kept making the ice wall thicker and wider, and the dragon kept spewing fire into it. Water streamed down the gutter in both directions.

“So, what? You said you could beat Agony Ant?” Rok said, continuing their conversation.

“You know Professor Wyrd, right?” Frost replied, shouting.

“The Magician Magnifique, of course I do.”

“Well his wife, Janice, walked in on the Magician sawing his assistant in half, if you know what I mean! Right in the Holiest of Holies.”

“The Chinese kid that follows him everywhere?”

“Racist, he’s Korean! And he’s twenty-six, he just looks super young.”

“Sorry, but also not surprised! What did he say to that?”

“That’s the best part! Wyrd tried to tell her it wasn’t him, it was his Mirror Self from the Rainbow Dimension where heterosexuality is outlawed! Of course, she didn’t buy it. Everyone knows Mirror Selves have those, little, you know, the little beards.”

“Takes a beard to know a beard, I guess.”

The draconic creature relented, swallowing its stream of fire and breathing heavily. Frost immediately relaxed her powers. Her wall, half-melted and varying in layers of thickness, continued to leak into the street. Frost straightened, stretching her fingers.

“Hey, buddy, what do we call you, anyway?” Rok yelled.

“INSOLENT PRIMATE, I AM A SAURIAN! IN MY DIMENSION, WE EVOLVED FROM THE NOBLE FIRE LIZARDS INSTEAD OF DEGRADED LITTLE MONKEYS!”

“Do they have that word-of-the-day toilet paper back in your dimension?” Rok asked. “Because I feel like today’s word was ‘Insolent’.”

“PATHETIC CREATURE!” the Saurian replied. “YOU’LL PAY FOR YOUR-, YOUR, HUBRIS!”

Raising his massive sword, the Saurian stormed toward them. The blade crashed into Frost Maiden’s ice wall, flinging frozen shards. Smashing into the wall with his shoulder, the Saurian busted down the barricade and he loomed over Frost Maiden. Recovered, Frost let loose with icy blasts from both hands. Ice coated the Saurian’s blade, forming a solid layer even as he brought it down on her. At the last second, Frost raised her left arm and a shield of solid ice apparated in the air above her. The sword slammed Frost’s shield, the blow sending her to her knees, and the frozen blade shattered. Pieces rained around Frost Maiden and Red Rok. The Saurian withdrew and looked at the jagged remains sticking from its hilt in shock.

“MY ANCESTRAL SWORD! IT HAS BEEN IN MY FAMILY LINE SINCE YOUR PROGENITORS SLITHERED OUT OF THE PRIMORDIAL MUCK!”

Sensing a chance, Rok took to the air with wings powering. As soon as she’d gained enough height, Rok swooped forward and slammed both boots into the Saurian’s jawline. His head wrenched backward on his serpentine neck. Rok seized the Saurian’s twisty horns and yanked him forward again, driving a knee into his skull.

“INSOLENT!” the Saurian bellowed.

Huge, leathery wings unfolding, the Sauran snatched at the much smaller superhero. In spite of Rok’s best efforts, he got a grip on her leg and whipped her around at one of the nearest buildings. Rok managed to twist, and slammed into the wall with her back instead of her head. She tumbled to the ground, groaning.

“Time to fight fire, with fire!”

Like a blazing meteorite, another super streaked out of the sky. Hot Shot closed in on the Saurian with incredible speed. One of the city’s premier superheroes, Frost rolled her eyes at the sight of Hot Shot but internally she was pleased to see him and even wondered what had taken him so long.

Engulfed in living orange flame, Hot Shot was a young man but little could be seen of his actual features or costumes. Pulling up overhead, he unleashed streams of fire from both hands. The blasts slammed into the side of the Saurian’s head. The giant lizard tumbled sideways, letting out an angry cry. Smoke wafted off the area hit by the blasts but the humanoid dragon recovered quickly.

“YOU DARE? YOU THINK THE FLAMES ARE YOUR ALLY? YOU MERELY ADOPTED THE FLAME, I WAS BORN OF MOLTEN ROCK AND FIRE, MOULDED BY IT!”

“Then let’s turn up the heat, lizard brain!” Hot Shot said.

Frost muttered under her breath. “Way too close to my line.”

Hot Shot unleashed another couple of scorching blasts. The Saurian’s billboard-sized wings unfurled and started to flap. Chairs and tables were knocked over and sent flying into the street by the gusts, embers stirring into the air. The Saurian forgot the other two heroes as he went to pursue this new arrival. His body heaved off the ground. Leaving a tail of fire behind him, Hot Shot took off and led the humanoid dragon into the sky. Meanwhile, Rok recovered and wandered back over to Frost while adjusting her shoulder.

Rok sighed theatrically. “I wish I’d been born in the Rainbow Dimension where heterosexuality is illegal.”

“Bad date last night?” Frost watched Hot Shot and the Saurian exchange streams of flame against the blue sky.

“Multiflex, I finally gave in and gave him a shot. By the time we got to dessert, he couldn’t stop talking about how he could multiply himself as many times as I liked. Like, if we got out of there right away and went back to his place. And I wouldn’t have minded so much except it was getting more and more obvious that he was way, way more into the idea than he was into me. For real, he’s making out like it’d be this big thrill for me to have a room full of him and his duplicates, but he’s the one getting all worked up.”

“Oh, yeah, didn’t you know that’s why he and Lovebug broke up?”

“No, why?”

“I don’t even want to say it.”

“Come on, you can’t set me up like that and then leave me hanging.”

“Let’s just say he was not master of his domain.”

“You are all about these old ass sitcom references today.”

“I’ve been watching a lot on streaming, it’s like a comfort thing. Anyway, Multiflex was a one man bukkake party. I’m talking all of the participants, all of them. Like the myth of Narcissus, except even the Greeks couldn’t come up with something like that.”

“Now who’s racist? Thanks for the warning.”

“You’re welcome.”

“That was sarcastic, I already went on the date. And we split the check even though he had way more cocktails than me.”

Hot Shot and the Saurian orbited one another, exchanging blasts of fire. Whirling streaks filled the air. The Saurian loomed much larger but Hot Shot burned brightly. Both withdrew to a considerable height above the city.

“Should we get up there?” Rok asked.

“I suppose so.”

Coming in from behind Frost, Rok wrapped her arms around her and hugged Frost to her chest. Cold radiated off of Frost’s body. Wings fanning, Rok powered into the air and rocketed after Hot Shot and the Saurian.

The battle sailed through the sky, high above the city skyscrapers. Carrying Frost Maiden, Rok had to work hard to catch up. On the ground, thousands of civilians craned their heads back and watched or attempted to record on their phones. Frost had plenty of faith in Rok’s abilities but she couldn’t help squirming a little as the ground dropped away. Flames exploded from both of the airborne combatants, making them easy to track.

“Speaking of dates, is there a single female villain this guy has come up against and hasn’t slept with?” Frost jerked her head in Hot Shot’s direction.

“If there is, I haven’t heard of them,” Rok said.

“I was talking with Whoarfrost the other day-,”

“You were talking to Whoarfrost?”

“We have a lot in common! We have basically the exact same power set. She and him were always doing the flirting and fighting thing, and they hooked up a few times. Nothing serious but she thought it was at least, you know, their thing. Then she goes and finds out he uses the exact same lines with Herbicyde, and Inkmaster-,”

“She wasn’t looking too hard then, it’s not like it’s a major secret.”

“You know he even used White Phosphorus as an excuse for why he didn’t want anything more serious? Making like they were in some big relationship and he didn’t want to get close to anyone again after her death. Then it turned out that body was really her evil, estranged, twin sister, Red Phosphorus, and White had fallen through that time portal with amnesia. When she got back, it turned out they’d only gone on a few dates and they didn’t even get back together!”

“That is kind of messed up.”

The aerial battle drifted out over the river. Neither the Saurian with his fiery breath or Hot Shot with his hand blasts could make an impact on the other. As Rok and Frost closed in, however, the Saurian changed tactics. Diving suddenly, he swooped on Hot Shot. The Saurian flung his tail around and swatted Hot Shot out of the sky. The superhero spiralled backward, end over end, and began to fall bonelessly from the sky. Clearly unconscious, he plummeted toward the river below.

“Should we do something?” Rok said.

“He’s a big boy, he can take care of himself!” Frost said. “Get me over the lizard!”

The Saurian whipped around after swatting Hot Shot, yellow eyes burning. Spotting Red Rok and Frost Maiden, his lips peeled back from knifelike fangs.

“YOU AGAIN! IS THIS DIMENSION FILLED WITH FOOLS WHO DON’T KNOW WHEN TO GIVE UP?”

The Saurian vomited fire, billowing through the sky toward them. Frost countered with icy blasts from both hands. Rok felt shocking waves of cold radiating from her friend’s body. The two opposing forces battled it out in midair, filling the sky with clouds of popping, snapping steam.

“Higher! Get me around behind him!” Frost said.

“Oh, yes, mistress! Anything you say, mistress!” Rok flew harder, gaining altitude.

The ground below spun dizzyingly. Thankfully, Frost was too fixated on her task to pay attention to how high they were and to the manoeuvres Rok was making. Frost and the Saurian exchanged blasts of hot and cold, filling the air with more steam and some hard currents that Rok’s wings had to fight against.

“Get me behind him! Get me on his back!” Frost said. “Please!”

“You sure?” Rok said, already adjusting to make that possible.

The Saurian pursued them toward the clouds. Suddenly, clutching Frost to her chest, Rok dove. She shot under the Saurian’s taloned feet and then snapped her wings open to sail up behind him. Frost stiffened and bit off a scream. The Saurian looked around in confusion. His broad back and wings were exposed.

“Special delivery, ice cold!” Rok yelled.

With superhuman strength, Rok hauled Frost backward and pitched her across the gap between her and the Saurian. Thousands of feet off the ground, Frost flew through the air and crashed into the humanoid dragon’s back. She latched herself immediately to the base of his wings. Sensing something, the Saurian bucked and tried to throw her off. He stretched over his shoulders with his claws but his arms were too thick to reach her.

“I WILL BURN YOUR CITY TO ASHES FOR THIS INSULT! YOUR WORLD WILL BE REDUCED TO SOOT!”

Still gaining altitude, Rok suddenly dropped as the Saurian turned in her direction. Tucking her wings against her back, she missiled into the Saurian’s chin with her boots raised a second time. The impact slammed through the soles of her feet. Dazed, the big lizard wheeled through the sky. Meanwhile, Frost secured her hold around the thick joints where both wings joined the Saurian’s back.

“Kind of hard to fly with frozen wings!” Frost yelled over the wind.

White frost spread from Frost’s hands onto the Saurian’s wings. Thickening, it explored every nook and crevice between the creature’s scales. His muscles became sluggish and stiff. More  ice fanned out over the wing’s leathery membranes and turned them solid. The Saurian let out a choked cry as his wings became useless and he started to fall backward, out of the sky.

Rok dove, rocketing down to beat the Saurian in the race to the ground. She was ready to grab Frost if Frost let go but the other super kept a hold, riding it out. Rok went on ahead, mapping the falling Saurian’s trajectory. Their battle had drifted right along the edge of the river. Below, tracing the shoreline, was a narrow park. Paths wound through a strip of greenery, neon lawns marked by flowering gardens and trees. The humanoid dragon fell directly toward the park.

Frost Maiden braced against the Saurian’s back, channelling her powers into his wings so he couldn’t break free. The muscles and joints froze solid. Frost felt wind whipping by. The earth hurtled up to greet them. Frost didn’t have the ability to fly, like Rok, or the superhuman durability to survive a landing at this speed. The Saurian roared and thrashed. Timing her moment, Frost let go and leapt free. She arced toward the river. Aiming down, Frost let loose with a couple of ice blasts and created sloping platforms that hung in the air for a moment. She landed on one, slid off, and landed on another, slowing her fall. Finally, she straightened out and dropped like a pin into the river, her feet knifing through the surface and the rest of her swallowed by the dark water.

Rok hurtled down ahead of the falling Saurian. A father and his six or seven-year-old daughter walked along one of the paths crossing the park, oblivious to the incoming danger. Rok’s wings fanned out, pulling her up, and she hurtled across the lawns and gardens. Arms spread, she collected both the father and the girl then yanked them out of harm’s way.

Still crying out in rage, the Saurian hit the ground behind Rok. His impact cratered the path and sent a gust of dirt and grass into the air. Soil billowed and coated everything. The shockwave rippled across the park.

Rok flipped, fell, and did her best to protect the civilians. She took the brunt of the crash with her back and wings. Coming to a rest at the base of one of the park’s trees, Rok let the man and young girl roll free. Both blinked, stunned but unhurt.

“Look, daddy, look!” The little girl pointed. “It’s Black Rok!”

“Red Rok,” Rok corrected, glaring at the child. “Figures.”

The water where Frost had landed rippled and went still. Then, suddenly, a massive, grey-white blob birthed from the river. An iceberg, it rolled and drifted toward the shoreline. Frost rode the iceberg as it turned over. As the iceberg crashed against the shore, she hopped deftly over the barricade and landed on the path looping the edge of the park. Dripping wet, Frost hurried to find Rok as Rok straightened and dusted herself off.

“That sucked, that river is so gross,” Frost complained.

With a bestial roar, a dark, humped shape rose behind the curtain of dust created by the Saurian’s impact. Screaming, civilians cleared the park.The Saurian swiped his way clear of the dust, battered and bleeding thick, yellow blood. Thawing, his wings looked bent and broken.

“YOU-, YOU, INSOLENT, LITTLE, INSOLENT-,”

Something struck the Saurian from behind and glowing green bonds wrapped around his arms and torso like snakes. They squeezed, lifting the Saurian off the ground. Another superhero appeared in the air behind the Saurian, held aloft by a pair of rocket boots. Green glows radiated off their hands. Bone Machine was at least seven foot tall, encased in a blue-grey suit of armour. Pieces of an oversized skeleton were affixed to the outside of the armour, ribs wrapped around its chest, arm and leg bones attached to the limbs. A huge skull framed the top of the helmet.

“I’ll take it from here, ladies,” Bone Machine’s boosted voice came from the armour.

Green lightning exploded from the magical bonds holding the humanoid dragon. The Saurian writhed and snarled, unable to escape. Some of the fleeing civilians stopped and returned, and began to cheer.

“Yeah, Bone Machine!” one man shouted.

“Ladies, huh?” Frost said quietly.

“About time he showed up, dimensional travel, dragons, isn’t that meant to be his department?” Rok said.

“Probably getting into the suit, you know he’s like five-four without it?”

“I hear he has to wear this whole body condom situation and lube up every time he gets in.”

Police sirens wailed, making their way to the park to corral the crowd. The Saurian continued trying to fight even though Bone Machine’s bonds paralysed him. Frost Maiden shook out her wet hair as she and Rok backed off to catch their breath.

“You doing anything after this?” Frost asked. “Want to come back to my place and have a couple of drinks?”

“Stream some of those old ass sitcoms you’ve been watching?” Rok chuckled.

“It’s not just sitcoms, I’ve got some old soap operas lined up as well if you want? General Hospital, Dallas, Passions, they’ve all got about a million episodes. You can find anything you want on streaming or online these days.”

“You’re kidding me? Soapies?” Rok shook her head. “They’re so stupid and unrealistic!”

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Sean: I was working on a superhero novel trilogy a while ago, which unfortunately hasn’t gone very far. As you might imagine though, some elements, especially characters, were borrowed for this short story. Who knows, maybe I’ll get back into it! So much focus has gone into these short stories this year that I’ve had a few longer works on the backburner. I’m intending to ease back a little come the new year and get back into a few novels I’d been working on before 2022.

This story marks the second entry in Dractoberfest! Plenty more fire-breathing fun to be had yet, coming up we’ve got:

October 14th: Dracolich

October 21st: Red Dragon

October 28th: Ancient Gold Dragon

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