Douglas looked at the staff Librarian Reed had procured for him. It wasn’t much- but that was the whole point. He was supposed to make it into something. Librarian Reed waited for him to finish looking over the staff before continuing his explanation, “Make sure to do all of the carving on this cloth. If you get shavings elsewhere, clean them up. Normally this would be done outside or in a workshop…” Librarian Reed shrugged, “But in this case you’ll have to settle for a corner of my office.”
It was easy to understand why he couldn’t do it outside- carving a magic staff wasn’t something a non-wizard could do. Librarian Reed would likely get in trouble, and Douglas would be in a whole lot more trouble. Douglas could tell Librarian Reed had more power than he looked like- and more than he usually exercised- but that didn’t mean he could do whatever he wanted. Zachary’s uncle was a professor at the academy and had been attempting to make Librarian Reed’s life harder… Douglas had almost lost count of how many people who had been banned from the library now. Except he wasn’t the type who lost count of things. It was nine, unless he had missed hearing about any.
“Ah yes,” Librarian Reed got Douglas’ attention once more, “Before you start on any of that, including the planning, I have a task I need you to do.” Librarian Reed pulled out a book, “The third chapter here talks about tracking spells. I need you to learn a version appropriate for tracking objects as subtly as possible.”
Douglas nodded. He could do that. He’d already learned magic to track down people- though his spell was rather limited in its scope. It could find someone near a specific place and direct them to him- he’d used that with Librarian Reed, and planned to have it just in case he needed it in the future. He couldn’t get away with setting anything else on fire, after all. Tracking an object would likely be different, since he probably wouldn’t be searching for it. He didn’t mind helping with this at all- learning more magic was always good… and he owed whatever he could to Librarian Reed to pay him back. He wasn’t sure how this would help, because Librarian Reed had definitely been using tracking magic on some books already. Did he think Douglas could do it better or did he just not want to do it himself? Either way, since it was supposed to be subtle it would take more work. He left the staff in the office and moved off to a private desk to study.
If Douglas’ intuition was right, he wasn’t going to have to track anything from a long distance. That was an entirely different path than being subtle. First he needed to conceal the magic itself- presumably it was being hidden from wizards, after all. If he was hiding the magic from non-wizards, that was pretty trivial… just don’t make it glow with runes. Of the methods in the book, Douglas considered two types of tracking. Having clarified what he needed from Librarian Reed, he couldn’t do something like his seeking spell for people. That sent an invisible tendril of magic to seek out a person… but he had to already know basically where they were. Otherwise, it wouldn’t find them. Instead, he needed magic to already be on the tracked object. The first option was to place a tracking mark that another spell could find later. This was good for marking a handful of objects for longer term. Douglas still developed that version for placing on some important things he had, just in case.
The second method was to have the entire spell be on the object, and it would be his link to the spell that told him its location. It wouldn’t last as long, but he would have a constant idea of where it was along the way… and if it was removed. He wouldn’t know if a tracking marker was removed until he tried to seek it out, and then he would have no idea where the object was. After he finished his spell with guidance on what was needed from Librarian Reed, he pretty quickly understood the plan.
Librarian Reed looked over the book Douglas had placed his tracking spell on, opening the cover and flipping through the pages. Then he closed it and turned it around, looking at the outside. “Ah, I see…” he traced his finger along the spine, then cast a spell, speaking words of magic that flowed from his finger into the spine of the book. Douglas felt his spell weaken and disappear.
Douglas lowered his head, writing on his slate. “Sorry, I thought it was harder to find…”
Librarian Reed waved his hand, “Don’t worry about it. Inside the spine is quite adequate placement. There is nothing wrong with the construction of your spell, it merely requires more practice to hide the fluctuations of magic. If I hadn’t been looking to find it, I wouldn’t have noticed.”
It was apparently good enough… but somehow that made Douglas frown. Something good enough but with flaws was like a tower of blocks waiting to come crashing down. Hiding from someone who wasn’t looking for you was barely and accomplishment. Douglas was determined to get more practice and make it better.
“I’ve seen looks like that before. While I would always suggest more practice, it takes years to really see significant improvements in fundamentals. Tonight, you are not to do any more magic. I need you fresh for tomorrow morning, where you will memorize as many copies of this spell as you can. Then you will have to stay around, likely into the evening… or perhaps even late at night. For that sake, go home early and make sure to rest your mind, and your body.” Douglas nodded. Even though Margaret needed all the help she could get, one day wouldn’t make too much difference. Besides, he couldn’t refuse to help out Librarian Reed… and Douglas had the feeling it was for his own sake anyway.