Papers and pieces of parchment were piled somewhat haphazardly on the table, and Douglas searched through them to find his final version. Somehow, it hadn’t been left on top. Now, he needed it as quickly as possible. He took out the piece of paper and started to rememorize the spell… but that would take too long. His father and sister were already waiting outside. Though it would be a waste, Douglas just took the whole thing with him.
Outside, they were waiting for him when he got back. “What do you have to show us?” Lucy asked. She reached out for the paper, but Douglas held it back. He held up a finger to tell them to wait a moment, then looked at the paper in his hands. It wasn’t intended to be a scroll, but it effectively was- the only difference between a scroll and other magical writing was whether it was meant to be used.
Normally, he would speak the words written on the paper as he focused on the image in his head, but of course Douglas couldn’t speak. The paper contained both the words and the image intertwined, and Douglas focused on the whole thing, first one piece at a time then all at once, pouring power into the paper. As he did so, the runes pulled away from the paper, leaving behind burning holes, but Douglas didn’t care. He flung the burning paper aside as he created a small ball of light filled with and shaped from magical runes- just visible in the shadows of the nearby trees. He concentrated on keeping it stable for as long as he could… which at his current level was perhaps ten seconds. Then it faded along with the last of Douglas’ power. He collapsed to his knees, exhausted, but smiling. He looked at his sister and father, but couldn’t hear what they were saying. Then they started to blur, and he couldn’t see or even maintain consciousness.
He must have been out for only a few moments, because he was still outside when he came to. Lucy was over him, feeling his forehead. Douglas smiled up at her. “Are you okay?” Her face was full of worry, but Douglas just nodded. Of course he was okay. He just did magic. How could he be anything but? There was the slight issue of not being able to move his arms and legs very well, so he couldn’t write it… but he was better than okay. Since he couldn’t move, he just kept smiling.
“Was that magic?” Xavier said, crouching down next to him. Douglas nodded, which took a lot of energy and made his head hurt. He grimaced for a moment, then nodded more slowly. “I see. Amazing!” Xavier sighed, “Let’s get you inside. You need to rest… then we can talk.”
Once he woke up properly, Douglas went about explaining what he had been doing to his father and sister. Of course, his fully complete version of the light spell had been burned away, but he could reproduce it given a few hours. In fact, after resting the vague feeling of a hole burned in his mind from the magic felt more like a memory of the spell. It wasn’t quite whole, but at least it was something.
Xavier looked down at his sleeping son. It was the end of the day, and he hadn’t gotten any real work done since the morning when Douglas brought him outside… but that was fine. Seeing Douglas happy was rare enough. The last time he’d really smiled was just after he first learned to read. Before that, his smiles had been few and far between. Not that Douglas was a sad child either- in fact, he never cried. That was actually more worrying, because it was normal for a child to cry. Lucy sometimes cried when Douglas got hurt, but Douglas usually had no response beyond grimacing in pain.
It was hard to think about what Douglas had accomplished. By some standards, it wasn’t much. Lucy had cast a light spell two years prior, and she hadn’t exhausted her magic doing so. However, she had been taught directly by Xavier. Douglas had learned to read mostly from Lucy- Xavier had taught her, and with some of her free time she taught Douglas. Then again, Douglas had been around during almost every lesson Xavier had taught. The tower wasn’t that big- and since Douglas didn’t interrupt the lessons, he was allowed to stay nearby. Xavier had thought he just wanted to be around people… but perhaps he was also learning. It was hard to imagine, considering how focused Douglas had been on his little towers- impressive balance aside, most children couldn’t do one thing and listen to something else.
Douglas had spent much of the afternoon explaining his journey to performing magic. Runes were magic- why did it matter if they were spoken aloud? When Douglas wrote that thought down, the only reason Xavier could come up with was just that was the way that it had to be done. After Douglas explained his method for getting around that, Xavier revised his internal answer to it being the only way people could actually do it. Holding an image in your head for a spell wasn’t trivial- speaking one word of magic after another was a difficult process as you wove the power into the spell. Keeping every word and the image of the spell in your head all together was something else entirely- and weaving magic into it all at once was another step too far. Xavier knew it wasn’t possible to just hold a vague image- every rune had to be fairly exact, and that would apply to pronunciation and writing on paper. If the error was enough, the spell simply wouldn’t function, wasting whatever magical power had been put into it up to that point, or scattering randomly if there was too much. Douglas had to be very precise with his runes… but Xavier had seen his writing. There was no real variation between the same letter, and it was logical that it extended to runes as well. Seeing Douglas’ hidden stash also made him realize how all the paper had been used so quickly- about twice as much as he thought would be needed for Lucy and himself. Douglas didn’t cause trouble… so he had been left to himself for most of the day. Apparently, most of that time was dedication to an impossible task that he had managed to completely anyway.