It was weeks before Douglas actually had any free time in the library, between placing books back on the shelves, resorting books as they were found out of place, and shelving new books. Somehow, even though the shelves seemed full, there was always room for a few more books. Douglas wasn’t sure if that was magic, or just poor estimation of what would fit on the shelves.
The most time consuming thing was finding books that had been placed on the wrong shelves and thus could be anywhere away from their home. He only really was able to pick them out after spending a couple weeks learning the system by heart and learning about some of the various titles. Fortunately, only books that people used got out of place, which left most books in their place. The purveyors of the library, whether apprentices or full wizards, only used a small selection of books most of the time.
After approximately a month of Douglas working at the library during the day and scurrying off to work with Margaret during the evening, Hagen finally let Douglas stay after his work was done for the day. “I know how you look at the books. As long as you treat them well, you can read anything you want.” Before that point, Douglas had only gotten a few glimpses at books as he carried them to and fro. He’d been planning to snatch some time to read while working but Hagen kept careful track of him even when he was just a bit slow.
The first book he started with was Marcellin’s Musings, not because he thought it would be helpful but just because he had to know what it really was. And it was… a bunch of crap. “Remember, there is only one correct incantation for each spell.” On the surface, that made sense. Technically it could be true, if you considered each variation of a spell a different spell entirely. However, Marcellin seemed to think any sort of experimentation or variation was wrong. Douglas looked at some of the sample spells provided in the book and even at first glance he could tell they were extremely inefficient… and old. Marcellin wrote in Vospian, using archaic language at that… though it was probably modern when he first wrote it. However, the spells used magic runes that were just… inefficient for their purpose. Runes were discovered- or rediscovered- as time passed, and Douglas saw that even a simple light spell was much more complicated and wasted mana.
It wasn’t like there was some secret to making the spells work with the old formula- Douglas understood how the runes were supposed to work, and they were perfectly fine… in other situations. It was just that they were inefficient. It was like saying “the fruit of an apple tree” instead of “an apple”. Technically correct, but not usefully more descriptive. Douglas was pretty sure he was a better wizard at eight years old than Marcellin had ever been. It wasn’t even just his stuff being old- other authors of the same time realized that sticking to one incantation just because your father or grandfather used it wasn’t a good choice. The later volumes contained large amounts of rambling text that repeated itself constantly and failed to say anything new. Reading a manual from the same time period, Douglas learned that Marcellin had been a noble scion with too much time and money on his hand, getting his books copied far and wide even though nobody had any use for them.
Douglas brought papers to write formulas for spells that he could use, once he started reading books that actually had useful information. He also took notes on some of the various history or mathematics books he read- not that he needed the notes to remember most of the information, but because he needed to look like he wasn’t studying magic. Douglas could hear people coming and he didn’t use the desks during times when many other people would be around. Hagen came around to check on him, of course. Douglas would mention a few things about whatever non-magic stuff he was reading, but he only had so much chalk so he never got into long conversations. They were slow anyway. Writing with ink was wasteful of paper and even more expensive… and Douglas had to stay up late working with repair magic just to pay for the paper. He couldn’t even imagine how expensive paper must have been in the past before production techniques improved.
Climbing up to the top of the ladders was a pain, even when he had a proper bag to carry books. Because of that, the next spell Douglas developed was a version of mage hand capable of carrying the books up for him. He couldn’t use it with anyone else watching, but with the way the bookshelves twisted and turned… nobody would see him unless he was in the first row. Even so, he avoided using it during the peak period after classes or during assigned library hours.
Though he ‘developed’ it, it was really just a good formula he had found modified for his method of spellcasting without words. Just because Marcellin hadn’t been interested in improving formulas didn’t mean nobody else had been. It had taken some time to find them, but there were so many books with so many well thought out spells. Douglas wished he had time to modify and practice all of them, but honestly he didn’t need so many options to hit people with fire. However, he did consider maybe needing a few spells for self defense. He wasn’t sure what would be good against soldiers in magic resistant armor, but he could need something even against normal people.
Douglas carefully slid a book into the top shelf, his arm raised above him. Technically, he didn’t need to move his arm- only the orientation of his hand changed things, and the movement in space was all mental- but it helped to do it anyway. He wished he could do that for every book, but there were many reasons not to. He didn’t want to risk getting caught by the wrong people, and he also had only a limited amount of spellcasting he could do each day and he needed to reserve some for repairing clothing. He was already not making quite enough money to keep up with his spending on staying at the inn and buying food and paper and ink and occasionally chalk. At least he could keep his clothes maintained himself, so he didn’t have to buy new clothes or shoes. Even so, his monetary supplies were dwindling. The inn was already rather cheap, but maybe he could find somewhere even more economical to stay. Margaret didn’t have any spare room in her little shop and he didn’t want to sleep on the floor… though he was sure she would let him. He wondered how real wizards made money… but he supposed all of the ones he’d seen lately just already had money.