The pile of broken tools was an intimidating sight for Xavier Lynwood, but he knew what needed to be done. Studying magic did not, itself, make money or put food on the table. Books were expensive, and towers were expensive- even wooden towers. Repairing tools that would otherwise have to be reforged was a simple enough task- and the smiths were still needed to sharpen them afterwards, so there were no hard feelings.
Occasionally someone would commission an eternal torch- good for lighting places for the long term, or for reading in libraries. Eternal torches actually contained no flame at all, merely magical light.
At the start of the planting season, Xavier would be busy in the fields, helping with the production of crops. During those times he missed Adeline even more than normal, not just because he could barely keep up with the work himself. If only she hadn’t wanted to try for a second child… but they had done so, and now she was gone, and only Douglas remained.
Xavier shook his head. He couldn’t afford to think about Douglas now. There was work to do. He took the first broken shear, looking it over. It was pretty beat up. There was more than just the breaks, but he didn’t deal with sharpening or other maintenance. He was just able to make it basically functional again. The handle had snapped, leaving one small piece free between the two ends. At least all the material was there… but that also meant two breaks.
He looked over the damage to get a clear picture of it in his mind. Reconnecting metal was relatively simple as far as magic went, but it still required significant concentration to do it right. After determining exactly what he needed to do, Xavier started chanting, magical speech causing the air to shift slightly, the magical runes of light came out of his hand, sticking onto one of the breaks… which then turned into something whole with a clank.
Xavier looked over his work, finding it as close to perfect as he could get. Certainly, as close as anyone was paying for. He then took a look at his personal spellbook, repeating the pattern of runes and sounds to himself until he had it memorized. Then, he did the same with the other break. He gave it a couple testing snips, but it was as good as it was going to get, at least until it was sharpened. It might not be worth salvaging the next time anything happened to it.
After that, he once again memorized the simple spell, moving from tool to tool. By late evening he had about half the pile done, and his mind was frazzled and hollow. He supposed some light reading would be good to take the strain off. Even some different magical study would be fine as long as he didn’t try to memorize anything more.
The library door was open, and Douglas was sitting inside. Xavier stepped carefully around the tower of blocks that was currently being built. If Douglas was just stacking them like a normal child, he would not have worried about knocking it over so much. However, this particular tower was entirely blocks corner to corner. Douglas was moving very slowly and carefully to place the last one on the top. Technically, Douglas wasn’t supposed to be in the library alone… but he was such a careful child, he had yet to cause any damage to any of the books. Xavier still planned to remind him once he wasn’t in such a precarious block placing position.
A breeze came in through the open door, fluttering up the stairs from the front entrance. That and the same front door being closed toppled Douglas’ makeshift tower, as well as sending a paper fluttering from the desk to the floor. Xavier looked at Douglas, shaking his head. While some children might cry at their progress being destroyed, Douglas just started at the bottom again. While it was true that he couldn’t cry loudly like they might, because he had no voice, he could still shed tears. At least, Xavier had no reason to believe that wasn’t true- though he had never seen it. Remembering to feed him while he was very young had been rather troublesome, as the only indication he was hungry was a slight grimace on his face.
Xavier reached down to pick up the paper. It appeared to be a practice paper for writing. It had the entire alphabet written out, one perfect copy of each letter… and many mistakes where the ink soaked into the paper or otherwise ruined the perfect strokes. Then, below all of that, one line of written text. ‘I can read now’ the paper proclaimed. Xavier sighed. He remembered telling Lucy not to just leave things out on the table. He didn’t mind the waste of paper and ink- in fact, practice was a perfectly acceptable use of such things. Without practice, how could anyone truly learn? There was only so much scribbling in the dirt that could be done before one took a real quill in hand and started writing. It was an odd sentence to write though. Why not ‘I can write now’? Lucy had been able to read- and even write- for over a year now. Her handwriting wasn’t perfect but…
Xavier looked at the paper again. Each letter was very precise- ignoring the ones that were basically just ink blots. They were tightly controlled, not at all like the loose but flowing writing of Lucy. Of course, for her age the irregularities in her letters were nothing much- most of the adult townsfolk wouldn’t be any better, if they could write at all. However, this writing was something else. Xavier turned to Douglas, noticing his sleeves stained with ink. “Did you write this, Douglas?”
Douglas started, dropping the second block on top of the first, toppling them both. Then he turned to Xavier, as if just realizing he was not alone in the room. He blinked, looking towards him for a few seconds. Xavier knew Douglas was playing back what had just been said in his head. That was something they all did… something Adeline and now Douglas had been extremely proficient at. Finally, Douglas clapped his hands together in realization, and nodded. That was the only response he had- no look of guilt for using paper without permission, no sense of pride for his accomplishment- merely acknowledgement of the question.
“When did you start learning to read?” The young boy tilted his head, staring off into space. Then he started writing in the air in front of him. Then he stopped his wrist movements and his imaginary quill, instead switching to a single finger and reversing the direction of his text. He traced out the shapes slowly and carefully, each letter taking more than a second to write out, clearly separated by him pulling back his finger as if lifting it from a page.
“L-a-s-t-m-o-n-t-h-I-s-t-a-r-t-e-d-.” Douglas flicked his finger for the period, “T-h-i-s-w-e-e-k-I-f-i-n-i-s-h-e-d-.” Then Douglas shook his hand. After that, he mimed writing and reached out towards the piece of paper.