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H is for Hippogriffs and Hippobears

by on August 12, 2013

Last time, in the Catrina Chronicles, Susan and her ally Doctor What had just succeeded in retrieving the Enchanted Stick of Uglification from Morgana LeFay, in return for which Princess Ermingard and Katrina had been turned into garden gnomes. From Morgana’s gates, Susan and the doctor had gone to an even darker place….

Doctor What had never been to the gates of Character Hell, but he’d heard and read a good deal about it. He had, after long research and several unfortunate incidents with guinea pigs now deceased, discovered the approximate location of the gates. He had not, however, gotten a recent picture. Thus he was terribly surprised when, once the blurring of the Time Lime’s space-bending ceased, bright sunlight spilled on his face, and a distinct sound of ocean waves rang in his ears. He found himself standing, next to Susan, on a pristine pearly beach.  He turned the other way, facing the land, and saw a tangle of jungle sweeping up to the slopes of a towering volcano. Doctor What wondered uneasily if the volcano were as extinct as it seemed. Despite their reputation in the supervillain community, one could never quite rely on a volcano to stay quiet. “Er, I must have entered the wrong coordinates,” he said, reaching for the Time Lime.

“Oh, no,” Susan said, “this is it. The Gate to Character Hell. What, you were expecting some sort of dark forest with wolves running about? Please. That sort of thing went out with Dante. We want people to get in, genius. It’s just that we don’t want them getting out again.”

She promptly led the way into the verdant greenery of the jungle, with friendly rainbow-colored birds flitting about her head. Doctor What followed anxiously, brushing away the birds and looking askance at every leaf and vine. “So unhygenic,” he muttered as he passed. “If only I had a bulldozer.”

An hour later, they arrived in a small valley that led straight up against the eastern slope of the volcano. In the black rock wall of the mountain was a cave, covered over by a sheet of green vines dotted with sweet-smelling flowers. Susan marched right through, and the doctor trailed behind, wiping his nose and mumbling about allergies.

The cave went on and on, until all trace of the sunlight outside had disappeared. Susan produced a flashlight and kept relentlessly going. Her fingers were beginning to quiver with anticipation. It had been so long since she’d reigned on the throne of Character Hell. Now, at last, she was coming back, baby! Her brown hair nearly stood on end with eagerness.  She’d even dressed the part: a black trench coat, sturdy black boots, a black shirt, and a black (of course) jean jumper with little silver skulls for buttons. This was going to be fun.

Finally, they reached it. The tunnel opened out abruptly into a wide landing of smooth rock. Before her, dimly lit by torches guttering on the walls around them, loomed a massive metal gate carved all over with really nasty looking script. A good deal of it was Latin, but there was also bits from other fictional languages, most of them evil.

Susan got a surprise then. She had expected to be alone, but out of the darkness there lurched suddenly a howling monster. Doctor What yelped in alarm, and clutched at his sweater-vest. Susan rolled her eyes. “You idiot. It’s only a hippogriff. Though why on earth it’s out here instead of inside I bloody well don’t know. No one’s supposed to bother you outside the door. Everything fun starts inside. Honestly, this whole place has gone to crap since I left. ” She didn’t quite catch the irony of complaining about the poor working conditions of Character Hell, and her companion was too occupied with the hippogriff to point it out for her.

“Er, shouldn’t we do something about it?” Doctor What asked, as the snarling monster, half eagle and half horse, snapped angrily at him. It had apparently been highly offended by their presence, and seemed on the verge of attack.

Susan sighed and produced her twin laser blasters. “Might as well. Though I do hate to waste a good monster.”

She was about to fire at the outraged hippogriff when she heard a sudden thud from behind her. Whirling about, Susan gaped. Before her loomed a creature, whose back paws and rear resembled that of a gigantic brown bear. The front of it, however, wasn’t a bear. It was a hippo. A huge, roaring hippo, its powerful teeth gleaming in the light of the torches. “Holy crap,” Susan said, even more unaware of the irony of using any expression starting with “holy” in her current location. “A hippobear!”

Doctor What did some rapid calculations and figured out she couldn’t possibly kill the two monsters before they ate her, and then him.  Then something gigantic and batlike whooshed over his head, nearly knocking him flat. A third creature landed before the gate, in between the first two. Its front half, in the form of a hippo, was easily as large as the hippobear. Its back half, however, wound away in great scary lengths of tail, and huge wings sprouted from it. Fire belched past its teeth. “Okay, this is getting stupid,” Susan said. “A drappo?”

“I think technically it’s a hippogon,” Doctor What pointed out.

“Whatever. I’m done with this.”  Susan stepped defiantly forward. “You twips probably don’t know me, but I am Susan, previous mistress of all Character Hell. I’ve come to give the old job a try again, and I will not be denied! You wanna eat someone? Eat him.” She gestured to Doctor What.

The three monsters turned towards him, and the drappo smiled viciously, its wings fluttering in fierce excitement. “Hey!” the doctor screeched. “This wasn’t part of the plan!”

Susan smiled, and pulled the Ugly Stick of Morgana LeFay from her pocket. “Well, it was part of my plan.

The last thing Doctor What saw before the jaws of the hippobear crunched in on him was Susan stepping dramatically to the gate of Character Hell and thrusting the Ugly Stick into a large keyhole near its center. Sickly green light spilled from it, tracing through the lines of twisty script and illuminating Susan’s face in an eerie glow. Then, slowly, the gate began to rumble open. In the background, a hidden choir began to chant ominously in Latin. But as Doctor What had skipped over Latin in school, and as he was at that moment serving as a hippo-monster’s snack, he missed the drama entirely.

This has been another exciting episode of the Catrina Chronicles. For previous episodes, go here. For my Amazon author page where you can read other adventures of Catrina and her friends, go here. Thanks for reading!

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