More flexible than the average monster but not nearly so elastic as other Jokers, the Cruelhardy is far heavier than it appears and packed with solid muscle, often incapacitating adversaries with a single mighty kick or a series of fast, rapid punches. Far deadlier, however, are the retractable, vibrating needles concealed within the monster's antennal bulbs. These appendages can not only drill their way through the toughest hide or solid bone, but release a jet of highly pressurized gases funneled up from the monsters digestive tract. Injected into a living body, the quick burst of gas can rip through soft tissues or rupture entire organs.
The Cruelhardy is not directly related to common colony-building Jokers, and is actively unwelcome in their territory. Its mating processes, if any, remain unknown, and only a single true pregnancy has been recorded. Of the nearly eighty blind, pea-sized pups observed within the specimen's spawning pouch, only two survived their minute, slow-motion brawl to the death.
A Cruelhardy subsists almost exclusively on a diet of mushrooms supplemented with eggs, but is prone to sudden, violent cravings for sugar and especially honey.
The monster's spots and bulbs shift wildly in coloration with its mood. Pink and red are indicative of curiosity or anticipation. Blues and purples flash for significant boredom or disappointment. Orange and yellow appear during sugar cravings and a mix of colors indicate a state of happiness or excitement. An enraged Cruelhardy goes completely white except for its muzzle bulb, which deepens to pitch black.
The Cruelhardy has no territory to defend or any appetite for meat, but often picks fights with other creatures to sate its own curiosity, testing their strengths, weaknesses and will to survive until one or the other has been neutralized. It emits a frantic, raspy snickering sound under most circumstances, but falls deathly silent when it is actually amused, and finds nothing "funnier" than exploding small creatures with its gas injection.
Though it can move faster by running on all fours, it prefers to stand upright and locomote by an awkward bouncing.
Like many Jokers, Cruelhardy are challenging to predict or keep under control, and even the most amiable specimens exhibit an unfortunate fixation on the "breaking points" of other beings, habitually trying the patience of even those it may consider close friends. They are obviously best suited for duties that can make use of such unflinching hostility, with one individual, "Bingo," enjoying a notorious and lengthy career as a bouncer at Mortasheen's single most exclusive musical venue.
DURABILITY: the Cruelhardy combines the rubbery flexibility of Jokers with raw muscular strength.
BONE DRILLS: the monster's two antennae house organic drilling implements, capable of boring through solid materials.
GAS JET: the monster's drills can squirt a stream of gas pressurized enough to damage soft tissues, especially if injected into the body cavity of an opponent.
Contents copyright Jonathan Wojcik