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A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

Helloooo everybody! So remember that video I talked about with Leon the lobster? He was the lobster that aquarium owner rescued from the grocery store. Well he got a new tank: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPtWC6nS4Gc ;

Hopefully some of you are dedicated to watching the well-being of this lobster as I am. :)

Alright, onto Fool!

“Well, looks like our companions will be dancing together a little earlier than I expected this evening,” Tyris said as Alex and Claygon approached her. “You think your Claygon can handle my Vesuvius?”

Alex shrugged, wearing a mask of indifference as he examined Vesuvius closely. “I’m a man of magic and science and I’d never want to make a hypothesis without evidence.” He smiled openly. “But, I’m sure I’ll get all the evidence I need soon enough.”

Tyris reached out to idly stroke Vesuvius’ volcano-shell. The titanic tortoise gave a low rumble of contentment, sounding like a minor earthquake.

“You’re right, but I have faith in Vesuvius. He’s awesome.” She smiled as the tortoise gave another happy rumble.

Alex glanced at the tortoise’s large eyes. He couldn’t be sure—at least not yet—but he thought he caught the glimmer of intellect in them.

“All the predictions in the world don’t matter in battle,” Tyris continued. “In the end, the only thing that matters for victory is victory itself. And the only ones people want to hear from afterward are the victors.”

“I dunno about that, sometimes we learn more from failure than from victory.”

“Well-”

“Ahem,” the attendant standing by one of the doors cleared his throat. “If the combatants would proceed to the arena.”

“Fair enough,” Alex smiled and stuck his hand out. “May the best wizard-commanded horrible engine of destruction win.”

She shook his hand and laughed as they went to their assigned doorways.

Alex’s smile quickly faded as he walked up the ramp.

“Oh boy,” he muttered to himself.

This was going to be tough.

A quick assessment of Vesuvius’ body language didn’t help him much: he wasn’t a human after all, he was a giant volcano-shelled tortoise. There really wasn’t much that he’d observed about the tortoise that was helpful; he’d been studying the body language of people, and that didn’t really help him when it came to enormous fire reptiles.

‘Maybe I should’ve studied dragons,’ he thought irrationally, climbing the slope up to the arena.

One thing he did get from Vesuvius was the sheer amount of heat coming off the thing. Standing near the tortoise almost felt like he was back in the Cave of the Traveller, feeling that oppressive heat emanating from the goddess statues’ explosive fire-beams.

‘The lava’s not supposed to damage Claygon…probably,’ he thought, wondering exactly what the limit of the magic that stopped blows and attacks from being lethal was. ‘But lava’s thick and will slow him if he gets caught in it, and if it cools then hardens, we’re really in trouble.’

Then there was something else to consider.

The more powerful a creature was, the more difficult it was to make it a familiar, which is why most wizards tended to make familiars out of things like toads, rats, cats and other small, non-magical beasts. But that didn’t mean you could never make more powerful monsters into familiars. A wizard would just have to start when they were young.

Stories of wizards riding ancient dragon familiars tended to be either a fantastical tale or the tale was actually true, but the wizard was also ancient, and had formed their bond with the dragon when it was newly hatched.

Stan Ernesto raised his bear-mammoths from young: the fact that he had multiple bear-mammoth familiars showed a raw talent for the ritual—and a real attachment to his companions—but Alex figured he formed his bond with them before they matured.

Tyris seemed to have a strong bond with Vesuvius…and the tortoise appeared to have intellect beyond that of an average beast. That could mean his species was either naturally intelligent, or…

“He might be her familiar,” Alex muttered as he stepped into the light.

Evening had turned the sunlight a fiery orange—kinda fitting for their battle, Alex thought—and magical lights had been cast above the seats and cage to provide better illumination. Alex felt a little bit of mana from the sky above and noticed there was not a cloud in sight.

Vesuvius being a familiar would mean Alex would have lava, the tortoise’s bulk, and possibly Tyris’ spells to deal with. She was also supposed to specialise in lava, but that could simply mean that she just preferred the spell, not that she didn’t use other spells.

“Guess we’ll find out, won’t we, Claygon?” Alex pat his golem on the side. “Hey, you wouldn't be kind enough to evolve just before the first round begins, would you? Nice and convenient like?”

Claygon, of course, didn’t answer.

“…yeah, I thought not.”

“Welcome, gentlefolk to another exciting bout! We have two newcomers who’ve been burning up the tournament, and I do indeed intend that as a pun!” the announcer shouted with humour in his voice. “They fight with the combat experience of veterans, and the confidence of prior champions! Both of their companions specialise in crushing power, with Tyris Goldtooth’s spell casting flowing through her impressivefamiliar for an excellent dash of versatility!”

The crowd cheered.

“Aaaaah shit,” Alex murmured.

He glanced up to where his friends and family were sitting a way up in the stands, and he didn’t have to be near them to know that they’d be worried about the opponent he was facing. The group looked subdued, not cheering wildly like before: which wasn’t a good sign.

They’d watched all the fights and had seen Tyris and Vesuvius win every one they’d been in, and if that wasn’t enough to worry the-

Wait.

What were those shiny things Thundar and Khalik were handing to Grimloch? Were they betting on the fight? Were they betting against him or on him to win?

“Both of those bastards had better be betting on how many points we’re gonna win, not lose by!” he grumbled as Claygon entered the cage.

Alex glanced over at Vesuvius as the ground shook with every step he took. When he entered the cage, Alex realised that—length-wise—he must reach nearly halfway across the arena.

“Maybe thirty feet long?” he muttered, trying to estimate the tortoise’s length. “By The Traveller!”

“On one side,” the announcer stoked the crowd. “We have Claygon! Victorious in five matches so far, and a favourite for the finals! A four-armed beast weighing in at twenty four hundred pounds! He smashes! He burns! He pins opponents large and small! Can he be stopped? Let’s hear it for the four-armed juggernaut, Claaaaygoooon!”

The crowd cheered. “Claaaaaaygooon! Claaaaaygooooon! Claaaaaygoooon!”

“On the other-” the announcer pointed to the massive tortoise, whose shell towered over even Claygon. “We have Vesuvius, a vulcanchelone—or a volcano tortoise as they’re called in the south—aged fifteen years and still growing-”

“Holy shit,” Alex muttered.

“-though he already weighs in at an estimated fifty thousand pounds-

“Oh shit,” Alex swore again.

“-his powerful club tail could snap an oak tree in half with one swing-”

“He’s got a what!?” Alex tried to keep quiet as his horror rose.

“-and he is by far one of the largest competitors ever to grace the Duel by Proxy! Let’s hear it for the mountainous tower of power! Vesuuuuuviuuuuus!”

“Vesuviuuus! Vesuviuuuus! Vesuviuuuuus!” the crowd screamed.

“What the hell,” Alex said, “After an introduction like that, I sorta wanna start chanting his name myself!”

He looked at the massive tortoise.

He hadn’t been able to find any weaknesses apart from him being slow-moving, but when you took up a quarter of the battleground with bulk alone, you really didn’t need to spend a lot of time worrying about trying to catch your opponent.

And where was that club tail the announcer had mentioned?

Alex shook his head. ‘Come on, it's gotta have weaknesses. There’s flipping it. He’ll probably be able to turn himself back over if Claygon flips him, but he’ll probably take a while. Claygon lifted the bloody dune worm over his head, so he could probably flip this guy even if he won’t be able to carry him. Then there’s exhaustion. He’s a really big beast, which means he needs a lot of energy to move, but Claygon never tires. Also, he’s a familiar, so I’ll have spells to worry about, but that also means Tyris has been using up mana in her other matches. And she’ll need to preserve some for future matches, even if she knows mana regeneration techniques.’

He nodded.

The beginnings of a plan began to form in his mind.

Slam.

Claygon’s fists slammed together.

Boom! Boom! Boom!

Vesuvius pawed the earth like a bull preparing to charge.

“Who will come out on top?” the announcer shouted. He lifted a hand up.

Alex tensed and across the arena, he could see Tyris do the same.

“Begin!” the announcer’s hand fell.

‘Go for the eyes,’ Alex thought. ‘And for the unexpected. She’ll probably think I’ll want to keep away.’

Vooooom.

The fire-gems began to charge as Claygon dug his heels into the ground and rushed toward Vesuvius.

Boom. Boom.

Vesuvius began to stomp his way toward Claygon like a walking castle. A gurgle like a thousand boiling cauldrons about to overflow came from his shell, and the light built up.

Whoooosh.

A spout of bubbling lava erupted from the top of the shell like a fountain of death, arcing toward Claygon with unwelcomed accuracy.

Alex’s golem jumped back, narrowly avoiding the glowing geyser as it splattered over the stones, coating the ground in boiling rock.

Then Vesuvius’ beak parted.

There was a sound like the gusting winds of a storm as the monster inhaled an enormous breath of air, then released it.

An inferno-cloud blasted from its throat.

“Oh shit!” Alex cried as gasps and cheers rose from the crowd.

The explosive cone of flames engulfed Claygon, pushing him back at least half a dozen feet, though he fought to position his heels like he had against Shaleleath.

Gurgle.

Another gout of lava blasted from Vesuvius’ shell as Tyris roared out an incantation. Claygon tried to escape the breath of flame, but the lava on the ground writhed into the air, suddenly transforming into dozens of lava tentacles as thick as a grown man’s trunk.

They wrapped around Claygon, binding him, trying to keep him in place.

‘Break free,’ Alex thought.

Snap!

The tentacles snapped with a slight twist of Claygon’s powerful limbs. Alex watched Tyris swear across the battlefield, then direct the tentacles to grab at Claygon while she chanted another spell.

The golem broke free of the cone of fire, just managing to dodge another lava geyser that immediately sprouted tentacles.

“Shit, so that’s the game,” Alex said.

She was controlling lava with her spells, so each blast from Vesuvius would spread over the field and give her more material to work with.

The fire-gems finished charging.

Whooosh!

Alex aimed the beams for Vesuvius’ eyes.

Boooom!

They blasted against the tortoise’s head, obscuring his vision. The beams couldn’t hurt him since he was likely immune to fire and was too big for them to budge him, but they had the desired effect; stopping him from seeing long enough for an attack. Vesuvius growled and the flame from his throat stopped mid-stream.

Claygon charged the tortoise’s flank.

‘Club tail, club tail,’ Alex thought, watching for it.

Snap.

A massive tail—about half as long as the shell—emerged from his back end. There was an enormous bony club at the end that looked like it could smash a dune worm’s shell like a nutcracker.

Alex watched, thinking of the best direction to head toward when it-

Whooosh.

It swung at Claygon with a speed he hadn’t expected.

Wham!

He gasped, grabbing the cage bars.

The clubbed tail whipped down toward Claygon’s approaching footsteps, smashing directly into his chest. Over two thousand pounds of magically powered clay went flying through the air like a ball thrown by Selina to one of her young friends. The fire-beams sputtered out.

Bang!

And the ground quaked as he fell in a heap.

Whooosh.

Another geyser of molten lava arced out, this time spraying directly onto Claygon, coating the golem as he forced himself to his feet.

Alex began charging the fire-gems again.

Then Tyris spat out another spell.

A blast of icy power materialised above Vesuvius’ head, then shot toward the lava engulfing Claygon.

Bwooosh!

As the cold magic hit the lava, it began cooling rapidly.

“Clever,” Alex grunted.

Voooom.

The fire-gems finished charging.

Claygon blasted the cooling rock around him, shattering it, then scrambled away.

Vesuvius thundered toward Claygon, but he was slow.

Tyris finished casting another spell.

Haste.

The tortoise’s speed instantly doubled, he rushed at Claygon like a runaway meteor.

‘Shit, Claygon, move!’ Alex thought, fighting to keep from shouting. He couldn’t let his opponent hear his instructions and learn his strategies.

Claygon rushed to the giant tortoise’s flank, out of range of-

“What the hell!” Alex shouted.

-the tortoise’s head suddenly shot forward with speed, revealing a neck that elongated.

The beak snapped onto one of Claygon’s arms; Vesuvius lifted the golem off his feet—removing his leverage—then slammed him back to the ground, face down with his arms and legs splayed.

He pressed a giant foot onto Claygon’s back before he could get his arms under his body, keeping him from positioning himself to stand up.

“One…two…pin!” the announcer roared.

“Oof,” Alex winced.

Vesuvius let Claygon go and the crowd went wild.

“Alright, that’s okay,” Alex muttered, we can-

Ding!

He startled looking at the bell.

“Already?!” he cried in surprise.

The crowd roared as the scores went up.

10-6.

10-6.

10-6.

“Oh jeez, that really did not go well,” he groaned. “It makes sense, though. They dominated and got the pin. I have to do better, but all things considered…it could’ve been a lot worse.”

As Claygon returned to his side of the battlefield, Alex reflected on the fight.

He’d gained a lot of data.

And the more a wizard knew about an opponent, the more dangerous they became.

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A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

NGL, I've been wanting to write a volcano tortoise into a story since I played Lost Kingdoms on the Nintendo Gamecube. Glad I got the opportunity. :)

Alright, seeya tomorrow!


Big thanks to all my readers—I appreciate each and every one of you—and a very special thanks to my patrons on my Patreon. There's up to 20 advanced chapters ahead on patreon as thanks for support!

If you want, I'd love it if you boosted me on Top Web Fiction through the following link.

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