Douglas planned to go home and sleep well, just like Librarian Reed said he should. Unfortunately, other people had plans as well. As he walked through the dark streets of Kheles- the road leading away from the academy being lit by only the occasional streetlamp- he noticed he was being followed. It was quiet, so any noise seemed amplified, even the sound of feet. Behind him, Douglas saw three shadows. That would be Zachary, Peter, and Harvey. Douglas couldn’t see their faces, but he could see their builds and heights in the dim light. Every person had a specific shape. It could be hidden with clothes, but the fundamentals were still there. People didn’t fit together in nice stacks- they moved too much, and weren’t rigid- but Douglas still imagined how they would balance. Not that such was important right now. The first thing he did was activate his defensive spell, making sure any visual signs of casting were in front of him.
He was already a few blocks away from the academy… out of sight of the guards. Kheles itself had patrollers but they wouldn’t necessarily be nearby. He couldn’t exactly call out for one anyway. He prepared to send for Librarian Reed- he’d said not to use magic, but this was an emergency. He could bring him right here and… damn, Douglas knew he should have refined the spell more. While it could secretly find Librarian Reed and bring him to where Douglas was now… it couldn’t bring him to where Douglas would be. It merely followed a path known to him- which also meant if he didn’t know how to get to where he wanted the spell to go, it couldn’t get there.
He tried to keep an even pace. As long as they weren’t getting closer, he wanted to come up with a plan before alerting them. He strained his ears to make sure of that while his brain started working at full speed. He couldn’t shout for a patroller, but he could go find one. He hadn’t really needed them before, but he couldn’t help but remember where he had seen them- they were part of the puzzle of the city. A few streets over he might find them… and on a big main road, he definitely could. Then what? He couldn’t exactly explain what he was doing to them- maybe they could read but he might not have time to write before a few rich wizards showed up and got to say whatever they wanted.
In the other direction was the slums. He was glad he didn’t have to live there. While most of it was fine during the day, he’d had to go in once to buy some cheap cloth for Martha. Everything had been fine on the route he took, but if he’d looked like he had more money he wasn’t sure what would have happened. At night in the bad parts… as long as it looked like he had any money he was fairly certain bad things would happen.
His feet started heading that way on their own. His head didn’t necessarily agree with that decision, but it couldn’t come up with anything better either. Fight the three? His armor spell was good enough to stop them for a bit- unless they knew how to dispel it. However, even if they didn’t know any offensive magic they could just hit him with sticks for a while. He had the feeling they would know some offensive magic. Even if they weren’t good at it, it wouldn’t matter much. Meanwhile, he hadn’t figured out a good way to do offensive magic of his own… and didn’t have any memorized as a result. The best he could do was light, if he needed to run away… but of course that would give away that he could do magic. If they found that out… things would go downhill quickly- it didn’t matter if he could drive them off. However, if he could just lose them… his thoughts were interrupted by the sound of chanting behind him. He moved towards the next corner, hoping to get behind it or that his shields would protect him. Unfortunately, the spell was shorter than he thought it would be and it moved fast.
He could feel it hit his shields and stick to them. From the few words he could make out… it was a tracking mark? It certainly felt like that, though he couldn’t exactly look at it with it being on his back. Well, there went his option to lose them in winding back streets. He started winding his way towards the worst area he could think of. As he did so, he felt the magic tracker on him. Even though he couldn’t see it, he could sense the active magic. It was… actually rather simple. He could dispel it- even with a simple dispel made up on the fly right now. He could just drop his shields… but then he would have lost that magic and could redo it without memorizing it again. He wondered if they could feel his shield spell. If so, they didn’t realize what that meant for them. Besides, his wasn’t so blatant and clumsy. He could feel the tracking magic because it was right next to him and he was looking for it… and actually, he could feel a bit of a connection back to whoever cast it. That let him know they were still following, which was good.
So far Douglas hadn’t noticed anyone else around. That meant they either weren’t around or didn’t think him a good mark. While it was the worst section of the city, it wasn’t like there were thugs literally around every corner. That would be an untenable situation. Nobody would go through the area, and that meant muggers wouldn’t wait around night after night for no effect. Douglas’ mind ran through those thoughts to keep him away from the panic of being attacked. While it hadn’t been hidden or at night, the last time he felt he was physically in danger had been… when he lost his family, and the time period immediately after. Douglas’ right hand ached in sympathy, which didn’t help the situation.
Perhaps he was very lucky or good at observation, but Douglas managed to spot someone ahead. They were skulking and looking in his direction. He quickly went over the invisibility spell in his head. He kept that memorized… just because. He’d done it for so long when he was sneaking about the lower levels of the library, why would he stop? He was glad he did, because as he stepped around the corner and faded from view, a large man stepped out.
Douglas could see him as he pressed his own back against the wall. It wouldn’t do to get bumped into. If he did get bumped into… the first and only plan he could think of was light in the face and then run. He needed to keep his armor spell up too.
Douglas was sweating, and he would have been breathing heavily but he had to hold his breath. The thug was right in front of him, looking around behind some barrels that lined the side of they dark alleyway. Maybe it was a bad idea to come here after all. His head started to hurt. Just casting spells did that, but it was also holding two spells at once. If he ran out of magic power and they both dropped… that would be even worse. Douglas took a very slow breath. He needed to breathe or he would just faint and definitely drop everything. Then he heard more footsteps coming, and hoped they were what he thought they were.