Every day when he got a chance, Douglas memorized as many light spells as he could stuff into his head along with a pair of invisibility spells. Then he would spend as long reading the new books as he could before headaches from using magic and reading in not really optimal light got to him- or when he ran out of light spells, which was often the same thing.
Magic for Mass Combat was interesting… but not useful. There was only one Douglas. However, it told him information he hadn’t known about magic… but that made perfect sense. A number of different wizards could work together to make one powerful spell, each of them using just a part of the words and the image and combining it together. However, there were a number of difficulties that sort of magic encountered. If people were off in the image or timing or even power level of their section of the spell, the entire thing would be weaker… possibly ruined. The spell would generally still happen unless a key part was missing… but that meant that specific people could be targeted to defeat a whole spell. Not that it would be easy to pick out the right one of a hundred or more wizards, especially if the particular combined spell they were casting wasn’t known beforehand. However, a stray arrow or spell might happen to kill one of those particular people, and then the spell couldn’t be cast- unless someone else had separately memorized the key components of the spell, and others had backups of their sections. All in all, it was difficult to do… but extremely deadly if such a spell worked.
The book mentioned another problem- sorcerers couldn’t normally take place in such a large formation. That reminded Douglas that magic didn’t only happen the way wizards did it. Sorcerers had magic in the blood even more strongly than wizards… or perhaps just differently. They innately knew a spell or spells of some sort- and they wouldn’t forget it even after casting it. However, they were still limited in how much magic they could use in a single day. Regardless, sorcerers were one of the methods wizards had used to first learn magic. As sorcerers use magic, they still spoke the words and the runes still appeared in the air around them, so wizards had studied those and tried to make sense of them. Some magical creatures, especially faeries, did something similar, having natural magic.
While the book didn’t give Douglas anything he could immediately use, it did let him think about magic differently. There were always more pieces to put together… and multipart spells were one of them. He wondered if he could do them on his own… and what good that would do. Not much, unless he could somehow get the earlier parts of the spell to wait for the later parts… because normally the spell had to happen all at once. Beyond that, even if there was a war with hundreds of wizards on either side, Douglas doubted he personally could participate. His style of casting wouldn’t easily mesh with the normal methods. It wouldn’t be worth introducing another point of failure for one more person.
Douglas always found himself wishing he could read faster… and to be fair, he could read faster the more he practiced… but there were so many books. It was hard to sift through them all, even if he only read snippets to see if he was interested. Especially down on the lower level of the library… where every book seemed interesting, and he’d barely even moved beyond the bottom of the stairs. That was part of the reason he had to go only on days when he was certain the other wizards wouldn’t be there… but also why he had invisibility spells prepared. He hadn’t had to use them yet… but he jumped at every small noise, especially since it was so quiet down below. Once or twice he thought he heard someone walking past the secret door, but he never had to cast it.
The work at the library didn’t pay amazingly, but it wasn’t really all that hard either. However, after Douglas spent so much time there, he still had to go help Margaret. It wasn’t just for her, but also for him. His living expenses were more than just what the library paid… and even working with Margaret his monetary supplies were dwindling. Paper and ink were expensive, and he needed those for his studies. He couldn’t just memorize everything. Especially not new versions of spells.
Douglas often stayed as late as he could at the library, but he still had to come work with Margaret. Sometimes, he found her asleep in her chair in the middle of stitching an outfit. While he could repair things, he didn’t know how to sew anything new… or at least, he hadn’t done it. He’d watched it often enough to try though. If he messed up… he could buy replacement thread and material… or maybe just tear the whole thing apart and repair the pieces to their former states. He gave it a try and found… that just watching wasn’t good enough. Especially since he hadn’t been watching with the intent to learn. His hands just didn’t listen to him… and not just because his right hand wasn’t so nimble anymore.
The next day Douglas spent less time at the library. Part of that was because of the headaches from using too much magic, part of it was that there was a reasonable chance of being interrupted, part of it was because he really needed a bit more money… but the hardest reason to admit was because he cared about Margaret. He wasn’t sure exactly how much money she was making, but it wasn’t enough and she was falling behind on her work even more. Douglas got her to teach him to do a few things… and with a week of practice for a few hours a day he was almost competent at stitching and cutting cloth. She tried to pay him the full price of everything he completed, but there would be no point in that.
Douglas also thought of other cost saving measures… such as taking some of the scraps of cloth and recombining them. Having them stitched together wasn’t any good, and they did do some patching, but the rest of it could be recombined into what seemed like an entirely new roll of cloth. Repair magic didn’t just work on things that were initially together… though it did take a bit of modification to get it to work well. Otherwise, while he might connect the edges of threads together, it wouldn’t be an even weave- he could have bunches sticking up in one place where the grid alignment of the threads got off. That was actually easier for him than stitching, and if he did it with the more expensive cloth he could maximize the efficiency of his time.