Neutral Boredom

“It’s a neutral zone!” A sudden ruckus from the corner drew Grant’s attention. He placed a drink down moments before the sound of chairs scraping across the floor reached his ears. He turned to see a group of three men standing in front of a table. The largest man had his gun drawn and aimed at a still seated woman in a long blue robe; the two men to his side reminded him about the rules in place.

It was an early Tuesday evening and only a handful of patrons were in the bar at the moment. It was a quaint, dim building with tight seating. Dozens of empty tables and chairs waited for the dinner rush. All heads in the bar turned toward the commotion. The tall gunman looked around the bar and took note of the less than a dozen folks; then, he grinned.

“No one here’s gonna miss this cheatin’ witch,” he said and raised his gun. Grant’s first impulse was to interrupt. As the bar owner, it was his job to protect all his patrons. He let the urge wash over him and remained still; he decided to let it happen for two reasons.

Neutral zones aside, Grant hated all magic users. He was always polite and business-like with them as much as he needed to, but no one would ever accuse him of having mage friends. Even in his youth, he considered magic unnatural. A magical accident that took his family away only solidified that hate. Grant couldn’t speak for anyone else in the bar; but, he definitely wouldn’t mourn the loss of another wizard.

The second reason was minor curiosity. The truce upheld in restaurants and bars seemed too good to be true. It didn’t make sense that the situation playing out in Grant’s bar right now didn’t happen everywhere all the time. This was Grant’s chance to see what happened to those who broke the truce and learn why it was so effective.

The bar went quiet. The woman in blue remained seated. A hood covered most of her face, but Grant thought he saw a slight smirk. Suddenly, a loud, empty click filled the room. The tall stranger glanced at his gun, the pulled the trigger again. Another empty click.

“I didn’t cheat; you’re just not good at the game,” the woman said suddenly. She rose from her seat gracefully, like a ghost hovering upward. “And, it’s a neutral zone; no aggressive acts allowed. You can’t hurt me in here,” she smiled under her hood.

“Then we’ll just have to wait until you’re not in here,” the gunman said. He holstered his useless equipment, but he and his two lackeys surrounded the woman and stepped closer to her. She shrugged.

“Okay,” she raised her hand at chest height, then pulled upward with her wrist. A smokey, translucent pane of glass appeared in the air under her hand. She touched its surface and began swiping across it like turning pages in a book. Grant couldn’t see anything  but grey glass; but, he assumed her magic somehow let her see something.

“No magic!” The bully yelled and tried to drive his fist through the pane. His hand went through it as if it weren’t there and he cracked the wooden table; he sent cards and colorful chips flying everywhere.

“This server’s boring,” the woman said. “I’m going to find something more exciting. She touched the slate one last time, then dismissed it with a flick of her wrist. The slate disappeared and a black portal appeared behind her. The two men that were still crowding her stepped back while the largest one rubbed his aching hand. She waved at the bully.

“I’m leaving. If you’re still planning to give me trouble…,” she pulled her hood back to reveal long, pointed-tipped elf ears and short, curly, vibrant blue hair. “…good luck finding me.” She hopped into the portal and it disappeared.

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