The arrow led Hagen Reed through the winding shelves of the library, stopping to turn itself at paths instead of leading directly into a wall. It seemed to be a rather well set up spell. Eventually, it brought Hagen to Douglas, who was clutching his head. As Douglas spotted Hagen and the arrow, the arrow disappeared. “I assume that was from you?” Hagen asked.
Douglas nodded, writing an explanation on his slate. “It’s a modified message spell. It’s difficult.”
Hagen Reed smiled, “It seems to work well enough. Now then, if you don’t really need me, I have other things to do.”
Douglas found himself spending a lot of time studying the library. Not in the library, but studying the library itself. The shelves had magic to preserve the books, to protect against fire and warn of it, and a few other utility things. However, buried in among everything else were other protective enchantments that could be activated by someone who knew how- in essence there were extra prepared spells built into the library itself. He learned about these enchantments first by poking around, then because Librarian Reed had him work on maintaining some of them. It wasn’t a secret from him that Douglas could do magic… so as long as he wasn’t working where anyone would see him, it was good practice. There was enough library it was easy to find a few places people would seldom go, and Douglas would be able to notice anyone coming unless they were magically concealed… and possibly even then. His senses for detecting active magic were improving as he used them more- he began to wish his home had possessed some defensive enchantments… but you couldn’t just inscribe them on any material and expect them to last. The shelves in the library were made out of special wood that Douglas was sure would make each shelf cost more than the little tower he grew up in.
Going down to the lower level, the enchantments were much more… combative. Specifically the entrance from the first to second levels was a lot more dangerous than Douglas had first estimated. Fortunately, it only seemed interested in targeting thing that were… non-humans? It was pretty complicated, but that was what Douglas was pretty sure it did. On a related note, it seemed to keep track of opening and closing and people going through… so it was no wonder Librarian Reed knew he had been down there. Apparently it was dangerous down on the lower levels if he went far, and he supposed he hadn’t been told because it was his own job to exercise proper caution. Or there could have been any other number of reasons- maybe Librarian Reed had thought he was a spy for… another group of wizards? He couldn’t imagine who else would care.
Creating a magical shield to protect himself was hard. Well, the basic form was simple- it was just force keeping everything away. However, there were serious issues with it on such a vague level. Was the force always active, using up magical energy and active concentration? It wouldn’t last long that way- and even if he could make it last, it would bump into things. If he kept it a certain distance from him, either it would push against him when he got too close to anything or it would compress and possibly throw everything off. If it was perfectly thin he couldn’t guarantee it wouldn’t break, and if it had thickness it could hamper his movements. If he waited to activate it until he needed it… well, that could take precious time.
Thus a proper defensive spell had to balance duration, effectiveness, concentration, and deployability. It wasn’t impossible to create serviceable versions that would remain idle until something sufficiently threatening happened. This could be activated as a result of certain stimulus- for example something moving quickly towards him- or with mental concentration of his own. Either way, it would drain some power throughout the day to stay in a ready state. On top of that, Douglas had to convert the spell so that he could actually use it, which made it a level harder. It was like balancing blocks entirely on their corners. Douglas actually found it quite fun, but he also knew he had to get it right.
Douglas didn’t know what he would need to protect against, so he went with one of the more cumbersome options. It would activate automatically for anything with sufficient momentum or heat- Douglas wasn’t sure if he would be fighting soldiers or wizards or strange monsters, but those should cover the basics. His version would also activate manually, just in case he needed it. As for how strong it was, Douglas wasn’t quite sure. He didn’t have many opportunities to test it. It was good enough to stop a brick from smashing his hand, at least as hard as he could swing a brick. It could do that at least a few times. As for magic, it was harder to test. Douglas didn’t exactly want to direct spells at himself. However, he did come up with a spell just for breaking it… and it worked. He wasn’t sure if he would need something like that, but his spell would be called a “dispel” or “counterspell” depending on how he used it and developed it. He could quite easily break his spell because he knew exactly how it worked, but he didn’t really have the opportunity to try it on anything else. Librarian Reed politely refused letting Douglas attempt it on his own defenses, though he did point out some common flaws in magical defenses. Douglas assumed Librarian Reed didn’t have any of those, and that he shouldn’t either. One of them that was hard to deal with was defenses overreacting- for example, using full force to repel a tiny pebble. If that was the case, a handful of individual little attacks could exhaust the energy of a defensive spell.
For the moment, Douglas could only maintain a shield spell for a few hours- and that was without it being fully active. However, as with all magic, more practice made everything easier. For the moment, he would just spend only a small amount of time in the lower levels… though even before he did that, he would have to come up with an offensive option to fight… something. He wondered if Librarian Reed would tell him what it was.