Taking all the tools he had available to him, Douglas tried to fit the puzzle pieces together but they just weren’t fitting. Could he…? Well, obviously not. But then…? Douglas internally shook his head. This wouldn’t be a problem if any guards were out doing their jobs. How come they were never around? Once could be a coincidence. Twice was… equally likely to be a coincidence. It wasn’t like there were so many guards that they could be on every street at once. There wasn’t even a commotion yet, so they didn’t know they were needed.
Finally, Douglas realized that the puzzle was impossible. The problem was the number of pieces he was using were insufficient. He was trying to think of a way to avoid the person following him without giving away that he could do magic. The reason for that is the other puzzle of who sent the man was actually rather easy to put together. The people Douglas knew in Kheles were very limited. He could easily discount the shopkeepers who he bought food from and the owner of his apartment from sending someone after him. He paid them just fine and otherwise had no real interactions with them. Margaret didn’t seem the sort to have any enemies- nobody would send a man to beat up or kill the assistant of a tailor.
Unfortunately, that left the worst option. The only ones who would realistically be interested in him were people from the Library, or more likely the academy. Douglas didn’t know if they would send someone to try to kill him, but nothing good would happen. Whatever the case, now they were after him, and they’d found him. He wasn’t sure how though. Cities were big, after all. They couldn’t have found him unless… they followed him from outside the library. Douglas’ thoughts flickered, and the puzzle inside his head shattered. However, moments later it was replaced by another one. Really, he’d been thinking about unimportant things. What was so important about keeping his ability to do magic hidden? There were more important things.
Douglas did his best to look casual as he turned down an alleyway. It was hard to operate his body when his brain was busy with so many thoughts. He pushed them out of his head to replace them with other thoughts… more ordered and magical thoughts. As soon as he was out of sight, his magic took shape. Then he waited, reaching down to his waist.
As the man came around the corner, Douglas didn’t really see him. Sure, he saw the figure, but he didn’t see a face or much of anything else. Instead, he just saw the idea of the man. Briefly, Douglas saw the helmet of a soldier from Scoubar, but that was just his imagination. It also overlapped with thoughts of the villagers in Pendle, who gave away his family. Douglas wasn’t sure which of those the man resembled more, but he didn’t really care. The knife in his hand stabbed out, held in both hands. With all of his weight behind it, it stabbed into the man’s throat.
If he had seen anything at all, the man would have dodged out of the way. However, there was nothing to be seen in the alleyway. Douglas was invisible after all. As he stabbed the knife, it went deep into the man’s throat. However, what happened next surprised Douglas. The man reached up to grab at his throat, and Douglas jumped back. Was this man immortal? A zombie? However, as the man pawed at the knife and staggered back, Douglas realized that people just didn’t die that quickly. Even so, he pulled away in fright. His mind could think one thing, and his body could do another. Then he heard a scream from out in the street. The man had staggered far enough back to be visible… then fallen over onto his back. Blood was pouring out of his neck and onto the street below.
Douglas left the knife and ran down the alleyway. How stupid. He just killed someone like that? A slight sense of guilt momentarily formed, but Douglas’ earlier thoughts pushed it away. Whoever he was, he was up to no good. However, it was still stupid to kill him like that. However, if he’d followed Douglas from the Endless Library, he would have known he spent time at Margaret’s place… so he couldn’t just be let go either. At the very least, though, Douglas should have gone further away from the street. He didn’t have time to think about that though.
He didn’t run particularly fast, but he made his way as quickly as he could back to his apartment. Now that the man was dead, it wouldn’t take too long for the Hunnisetts or whoever else to react to that. They’d find some way to twist the man following him against him, and that meant he couldn’t go back to the library. He couldn’t even stay a day longer, because Librarian Reed knew where he lived and he likely wouldn’t take well to murder. Was it murder? Douglas considered the laws in his head briefly, and decided that it wasn’t murder, but also that nobody else would see it that way. As Douglas approached his door, he almost ran into someone. In fact, in a way he did. An invisible hand reached out in front of him, stopping him in his tracks. Before he could summon up any magic, Librarian Reed appeared. “Douglas, it’s me.”
How had he not sensed it? Sure, Librarian Reed’s magic was rather subtle, but it was still possible to notice it. If only he hadn’t been hurrying so much. Now Librarian Reed was here to take him in for killing a man… no, wait… that couldn’t be the case. He had no way to know. He was also around, invisible, but appeared for Douglas. Douglas made a note to better conceal his traces of invisibility magic, though it could have just been Librarian Reed was particularly perceptive. Douglas took a deep breath, then let his invisibility drop.
“By the fact that you had to return to your own apartment invisible, I imagine you have run into some trouble…” Librarian Reed looked over Douglas. As Douglas scrambled in his bag to bring out his slate, Librarian Reed set something against the wall. “This is your staff. You might need it. Perhaps you already did. What happened?”
Douglas looked into Librarian Reed’s eyes. Over the past years, he’d come to know this man. He was smart and understanding… and Douglas could trust him. He carefully started writing on his tablet. “Someone was following me. I killed him. I think he was sent by-”
“The Hunnisetts,” Librarian Reed interrupted, indicating he had been reading as Douglas was writing. “Or someone connected to them.” Douglas just nodded. Then he frowned. He gestured to Librarian Reed. “Me? I’m here because… I wanted to give you your staff. I can’t keep it in my office anymore. Is it even my office?” He frowned, “I’ve been stripped of my position as Head Librarian for ‘abuse of power’. Librarian Oswald came to tell me himself. I should have killed him on the spot.” Librarian Reed shook his head, “Now I won’t have the chance. Hmph.” Librarian Reed grunted, “He’ll have one heck of a time if he wants to take my office though. I’ll need to pack up a bit more quickly than I’d thought, however. As for you… I’d leave the city as quickly as you can.” Librarian Reed grabbed Douglas’ hand and placed a coin purse in it, “Here, for your work as an apprentice Librarian.”
Douglas looked at the purse. Leave the city? He’d already been planning on that, actually, but he still didn’t know what he was going to do. Where would he go? He couldn’t go home. He could stay somewhere in Vospia but… maybe returning to Bryria would be for the best. Maybe it was actually time to do something… and there was a war happening there. Douglas certainly couldn’t say he wasn’t invested in stopping Scoubar… but he didn’t know how he could help. Did he just go up to the king and say he wanted to join the army? Well, he had a better idea than that. Douglas realized he was still standing in front of Librarian Reed. He bowed his head in thanks. He scratched a few more words onto his slate, “I’m sorry it happened like this.”
Librarian Reed waved his hand, “Bah, Oswald has been gunning for my position for some time. It would have happened sooner or later, and I’d rather it be sooner with a good apprentice than later with a bunch of thugs in my library. Do you have a plan for where you’re heading? I might see you there. I plan to travel for some time.”
Douglas thought for a moment, then nodded. He wrote just one word on his slate. “Irieby.”