"You're joking." He looked at me like I was crazy, which I was used to. Other wizards just don't get me. They don't like that I'm a woman, and they don't like that I refuse to dress up in the stupid robes and pointy hats.
"I'm not joking, I just don't like carrying a staff around. Besides, spheres make good focus objects - better than staves for a lot of purposes." Although I have a shovel I use sometimes, which is pretty much a staff with the added bonus of being functional and inconspicuous.
My second (named Arron, or something - he had only come to me for help the day before) shook his head and sighed, clearly having given up on me. The only other person in the abandoned bowling alley was the official overseeing the duel; he hadn't spoken to me and stood a ways off by the snack bar. I had a sudden mental image of this ancient wizard eating nachos, getting cheese in his beard. He turned and scowled at me as if he could see my thoughts although most likely he was just annoyed at my choice of locations. He probably wanted it to be held somewhere more dignified, but just in case I die I wanted to go out the same place I came into the world. I had even purchased the building a few years back to keep it from getting bulldozed, although the repairs were a bit beyond my means and so it continued to look like the set of a somewhat odd horror movie. The Gutterball Killer. Death Lanes. Hmm.
The doors flew open of their own accord, and my opponent (whose name I couldn't keep straight - started with an 'r' maybe?) stormed in. He wasn't even trying to look like the good guy, wearing black and red robes and sporting a pointed goatee. His chosen weapon, I knew, was fireballs that he would hurl from the end of his staff. That meant my bowling alley would probably burn to the ground if I didn't finish this fast, but it also indicated that as powerful as this tool was supposed to be he didn't have a lot of finesse. Heat is easy, flame is a little harder, coherent fireballs harder still - but in the end it wasn't a particularly tricky move and it was messy as hell. That same amount of power could be used to make a swarm of tiny needles, which would be harder to see and to block, and would kill just as well without causing collateral damage. In other words, when I hear 'fireballs' I translate it as 'thug'. And I can beat a thug.
The official immediate rushed over to my rival (Relish? Radish? Why did I keep thinking his name had something to do with food?) and bowed before leaning in close to whisper and pat him on the back. Nobody playing favorites here, no sir. After a moment they came over to my table and stood around it, and the official spent some time explaining the rules which we were already familiar with. Our focus items - traditionally staves - had been chosen as the weapons, but of course in reality the weapons used would be magical force. Fire, lightning, whatever we wanted to throw around. Since we were both present our seconds would mainly be in charge of disposing of the corpse of the loser.
"Or you could bow out, and let your second fight for you." Rutabaga said. "You are doing this to protect Alwen, but we both know that it can never work. Once I win this duel I will still kill him, so you may as well save some time and your own life by leaving now and letting the duel be between those who have actual scores to settle."
I yawned, which seemed to make him angry for some reason.
Everyone backed away from the table, and R-guy paced over to an open area. I slumped a little in my chair. "Hey, guy, can we just do it over here or something? I don't feel like standing up." This seemed to piss him off too, and I think he was about to yell at me for my insolence or disrespect or whatever but since he was going to kill me anyway and sitting would make it harder for me to dodge fireballs he did his best to turn the sneer into a smile and walked back over.
"As you wish. Where is your staff?"
I opened my bag again and pulled the bowling ball out, setting it on the table. It was black and polished to a mirror reflection, and I carefully wiped off some lint that had clung to it. My second groaned.
"You are using... a bowling ball."
I shrugged. "It's a bowling alley, isn't it?"
He laughed, a genuine guffaw. "This is a joke," he said. "You're not even a wizard, are you?"
By way of answer, I reached out my senses to the ball and caused it to start spinning in place. The polished sphere picked up speed as I watched it, and the low sound of the minute friction on the table filled the otherwise quiet hall. Ragweed nodded, still smiling.
"Well, the girl has some small amount of talent. Fine, let this absurd stunt continue."
"It doesn't have to," I said. "If you swear on your life not to harm... Arwen? It was Arwen, right? I'm bad at names. Whatever, if you promise on your life to not harm my second we can call this thing off and nobody has to die."
I was expecting more laughter, but instead he just looked shocked. Then he held his staff high, and blue flame lit the runes running down it. That was all the signal I needed, so I reached towards the ball once more with my mind and made a slight adjustment. When I was still starting out I would do this trick where I adjusted the direction of the ball using only the energy it already had. It was good for getting a strike every time, or throwing it at someone's head and making sure it hit. After I got better at it I realized that I was doing it wrong, and wasting a lot of potential. I wasn't using finesse. I was being a thug. And so I practiced a lot, and figured out the right way to do the job.
The ball stopped spinning, every last bit of kinetic energy gone in an instant. All that angular momentum had to go somewhere, though, and my opponent’s head was about the right size. He had some defenses up, but was looking to block a focused energy attack rather than divert a transfer of this type and so his head almost made it a full rotation even after needing to overcome the resistance offered - briefly - by his spine. The light on his staff faded as it bounced on the floor, and as everyone stared in silence I packed my ball up and stood.
"We're done here, right? Because I'm starving. You guys can let yourselves out." I looked at my second, who was still fixated on the corpse. Rylos! That was it. Rye-loaf. "Arron? Have that check to me by the first of the month, I've got bills to pay." I headed out and got in my car.