Douglas sighed. It was one of the few noises he could make- and it still didn’t sound quite the same. It was just a heavy breath out, without any involvement of the voice at all. He could hear it was different, but he couldn’t make it the same. Having finished carefully reading through the earlier edition of ‘The Basics of Magical Incantations’… he determined it had probably just been an oversight. Almost everywhere else in the book had referenced spoken words, and the few points that didn’t… it was quite implied. So much for that train of thought. Just in case, though, Douglas looked through their library. Ezapius, one of the first known wizards, had been the one to write that book… there were certainly more complex books by him, though Douglas hadn’t bothered reading them because there was no point in trying advanced magic if one couldn’t do magic. Unless such learning was required to do magic at all… and he might yet find nothing.
Lucy found Douglas buried in a pile of books in the library. There was only one desk, so he usually just read on the floor and left it for Lucy or their Father. “Come on Douglas, we’re going to town.”
Douglas turned towards her, and the look on his face made it so he didn’t have to say anything- or sign anything- to see what he meant. “Why do I have to go to town?” or perhaps just “I don’t want to.”
Lucy crossed her arms, “Father says you need to get out of town and t- interact with some others your age.” Douglas pointed to Lucy, “Yes I’m going too. I’ve gone several times before and t-talked to people.”
Douglas got up out of the pile of books. They weren’t stacked except as books normally would be- they were far too valuable to risk damaging, and Douglas understood that. Lucy liked that he only had to be told once to understand things like that. In fact, she’d caused more damage to books than he ever would. She had just been trying to read out a spell from a book and ended up setting it on fire- and it wasn’t even a fire spell. Father had sat her down for a good talk after that, reminding her of her lessons. There were reasons scrolls for spellcasting were written on separate pieces of parchment. The words were inevitably burned away from their source- which included the mind of a caster who had memorized them. Lucy clutched her head at the thought. At least Douglas wouldn’t have to worry about experiencing that… though she doubted that would be of any comfort to him.
Anna looked out of the front door of the bakery, letting the heat and smell of bread leak out. Her older brother Theo was talking with her mother and the wizard. The wizard’s daughter was watching her father bake bread, but Anna had seen that hundreds of times already. Outside the bakery was the wizard’s son. He looked like he was five or six… but perhaps he was seven or eight and just small. Around him were three larger kids. Anna couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, but she was sure it wasn’t nice. Not just because of the looks on her faces, but because she knew the kids. They wouldn’t hesitate to cause problems for anyone… and someone like the wizard’s son who couldn’t talk was an easy target. He was holding up something like a shield it seemed, but Anna could tell things were going to go poorly soon.
She rushed back inside to get her father. It only took her a moment to get him, but by the time they were outside… one of the boys was on the ground bleeding from his nose, and the other two were running away clutching at their stomachs. The wizard’s son was holding two broken pieces of slate, and kicked at the boy on the ground- who rolled out of the way and started running as well.
“… And that is why what you did was wrong and you need to apologize. Do you understand?” Xavier put his hand on Douglas’ shoulder as they sat in the dining room in the tower. Douglas shook his head. Xavier actually paused in shock. Douglas always understood everything after it was explained. “What part don’t you understand?”
Douglas wrote one word at a time on the remnants of slate he had, using the bit of chalk he always carried. “You said that…” Douglas moved onto the next chunk of slate, “It’s not okay to… hit someone that hadn’t hurt you.” Douglas waited for his father to indicate he had read everything, then started erasing. “But they did hurt me. They said mean things… those hurt me. They pushed me… that hurt.” He started on the next set, “Then they lied. They said I couldn’t… do magic… because I couldn’t talk… Then they said I started… the fight and that they… hadn’t done anything. They’re the stupid ones. They can’t even read.”
Xavier sighed. As far as he knew, Douglas had never lied to him. With the account from Anna, he basically knew what the situation was, though they’d missed the start of everything. Now he was going to have to figure out how to explain why Douglas needed to apologize even though he wasn’t the one who had been in the wrong- or at least, not the only one. He was also going to have to explain that not everyone had a good chance to learn to read… nor would they take to it as quickly as Douglas had.
The thing that had hurt Douglas the most wasn’t the older kids saying that he was mute- that was true. They meant it to be hurtful, but it was just the way things were. They called him stupid- which he knew wasn’t true, and yet it still hurt. Short was also true- though he wasn’t sure why that mattered at all. They were older- when he was older he would be taller than he was now. The thing that hurt the most wasn’t even having to apologize- he didn’t have to be sincere about it, he just had to look sincere. When people were lying they had to keep that out of their voice, but Douglas couldn’t even talk. All he had to do was keep his face straight.
No, the thing that hurt most was them saying that he couldn’t do magic. That was the most true thing… but it wasn’t going to stay that way. He just had to figure it out. He first thought of trying to form the runes with his hands. Would that be as good as speaking them? Fortunately, he hadn’t tried that before Lucy burned that book. If he had tried and it had worked… would his hands have burned up? That was a terrifying thought.
Ezapius wasn’t much help. He had so many books but all he said was “Speak words, form an image, insert power,” over and over. However, occasionally… he didn’t mention speaking. Douglas couldn’t help but come back to that. First, he tried making a scroll. He copied the runes just right, but he couldn’t activate it. Whenever his sister did it, each rune burned away as she spoke it, but no matter how he concentrated on the rune it didn’t work. The image was easy. Imagining light wasn’t hard. It was just a glowing ball, like the sun- though it generally hurt less. Douglas frowned. He was almost eight now. Lucy had managed to do real magic, and he couldn’t even do a cantrip. It was so frustrating. He felt that he was just a tiny step away… but he didn’t know what that step was.