At the bottom of the stairs, Douglas was less impressed by what he saw than the library up above. For one thing, that was because he could see very little. No light naturally came down to the lower level, so Douglas had to use a light spell. He did see that bookshelves stretched off in many directions, but he had to hurry back to the secret door before anyone saw it open. Once he made sure he knew how to open it from the inside, he closed it… then immediately tested the theory. Fortunately, he was right- though it was pretty hard to mistake what was basically a door handle. The door wasn’t secret from both sides, after all… but Douglas didn’t want to have to find himself looking for a way out when he was running out of spells he could use.
Upon returning to the bottom of the stairs, Douglas’ first impression was that everything felt old. Obviously it was old- the Endless Library had been around for a long time- but it never felt old. However, down below it smelled dusty and musty. One reason for that was the magic keeping everything neat and tidy was fading. It certainly wasn’t gone, Douglas still sensed traces of the magic… but it wasn’t as well maintained as the upper level of the library.
Douglas didn’t want to wander too far from the door until he got used to the layout, just in case he couldn’t find his way back. Besides, he hadn’t exactly prepared to spend so long in the dark… and he didn’t have many copies of the light spell memorized. He could make each one last a while, but eventually it would go out. He started by scanning the bookshelves for things that looked interesting… a task made more difficult by the fact that many of the books didn’t have labels on their spines, or if they did they were faded. Histories weren’t that interesting, especially ancient ones, but “History of Non-Human Magical Species” seemed like it could be worth reading. A few books didn’t seem to be in Bryrian or Vospian, but something else… some of them were related to those languages and Douglas might be able to puzzle through them, but some were in other languages entirely. Douglas was going to be disappointed if this were just a section for foreign language books… but that clearly wasn’t entirely the case.
After a few minutes, he settled on starting to read, “Magic for Mass Combat”. He didn’t think it would be necessary at all, but it wasn’t something that really came up in the library above… at least not that he had seen yet. It wasn’t like he could claim to have even read the titles of every book just yet.
As he opened the book, Douglas had assumed it would instruct on how to throw large fireballs, or if fireballs weren’t actually useful then something else to the perceived effect. However, instead of that its opening pages surprised him with their subject matter.
“When fighting a large combat, one must be aware of how magic users operate. A small contingent of a hundred or so wizards can work together to create devastating spells, but when moving up to mid-sized groups of a thousand or more the effects and difficulty increase dramatically.”
Douglas had to re-read the section a few times to make sure he got it right. One hundred wizards… a small number? He wasn’t sure if there were even a hundred wizards in the whole country… or even between Vospia and Bryria combined. There were at most a few dozen studying at the Endless Library… so there probably were more, but the exact number wasn’t known.
The book was in Vospian, which Douglas found to be the case for many older books. The language itself was older… and harder to use. It wasn’t even usefully complicated, instead requiring more work to speak. That was why nobles spoke it, he supposed. They had time to waste on that because they didn’t have to work, and it made them feel superior.
Still… one hundred wizards. Hundreds or thousands of them, really. That was more than Douglas had even considered thinking about at once. Then again, with just the Endless Library it wouldn’t be hard to raise that many wizards. If they stopped charging insane rates, who knew how many wizards there might be… but actually, there was a problem with that. Magic was in the blood- just study wasn’t enough. That annoyed Douglas, because it basically meant everything he’d accomplished so far was only because he was lucky enough to be born to the right people. Regardless of that… there could certainly be more wizards if the Endless Library was open to all learners.
There were many times the number of commoners as there were nobles… and while nobles might have a higher rate of magical bloodlines- not because they were inherently better but because they were picky about who they married and had the time to make those decisions- there should be at least equal magical potential among all the non-nobles. That was what all the books said, though the way they said it indicated a lot about who was writing it. Those of ‘noble blood’ indicated that it would take hundreds of ‘peasants’ to find one with equal magical potential. Those who were less likely to spew junk noted that those with magical lineages tended to keep such magical ability and continue their practices, so there was a smaller chance of finding enough magical potential among those who didn’t already practice magic.
Douglas’ light magic was running out… and though he would have liked to take the book for further study, he put it back on the shelves and returned to the upper level. Fortunately, there weren’t so many people using the library that he would likely run into anyone by accident as he came out. In the future he might prepare an invisibility spell for as he left… but that would be suspicious as well, a secret door opening with no visible method. Then again, at least that might leave him unknown.
Even though he didn’t have the book, he still thought about it, doing calculations on the ideas. He hadn’t even looked at the actual group magic, but to have hundreds or thousands of wizards… well, they must have been more common proportionate to the population. Populations grew and shranks, but currently the populations were near the highest ever recorded. Having a smaller fraction of wizards meant magic was fading. As for why… Douglas had a good idea.
People would always want more wizards… and to guarantee that, they might have both sides with magical bloodlines. However, Douglas’ father and mother had actually been lucky to have two surviving children- it was often the case that the mother or child or both died during the very first birth. If that happened, one magical bloodline was cut off immediately. If the mother didn’t practice magic it increased the chance of successful births, but that would require very specific restrictions on who had children. On the other hand, being told who they would marry was very common among nobles… and being told they couldn’t practice a particular profession was likely also common. Still, over time things had reached where they were today… assuming nothing else had changed, which wasn’t necessarily the case. There were so many ancient books on magic in the Endless Library… someone had to have written each of them. Douglas just didn’t see that many books being written, even over many centuries, without a larger population of wizards.