Cover of TWO MAGICIANSA casual visitor to Mordecai's workroom, even one who had been there before, would have assumed that all was well: nothing seemed to have been disarranged, jars were securely lidded, the bookshelves presented a solid, undisturbed front. Mordecai's breath hissed in through his teeth (carrying with it a truly remarkable odour, foreign to the room, that spoke of agriculture and other basic human activities) as he noted, with his finely-honed senses both physical and magical, a thousand and one tiny disturbances that spoke of an intruder.

Without even turning his head he could see six experiments that would have to be redone from scratch, four projects on commission that would never now be completed, and--visible to his magical eyes--more than two dozen fiddly little cantrips, apparently without purpose, just cast and left hanging about, unbanished, to clutter the aether and throw all his divinations off the beam.
Well, so the invader was a magician of some sort, almost certainly an untrained amateur. Mordecai's lips drew back from his teeth. That, at least, would make it a little fairer. He slid the knife into his belt and readied a paralysing spell. It would not be enough simply to throw this boorish interloper out on his ear. First, he must be taught a sharp lesson in relative status.

The snoring, and the smell, were coming from beneath the bench by the far window, where something like a bundle of rags had wedged itself between the orrery and his spare athanor. Mordecai noticed that the delicate copper arm that held the outer moon was now bent at right angles, and added a new orrery to the list of charges. True, he had never found a use for the thing, which was why it was under the bench, but it was a nice toy and it was his, and this lumpkin had broken it. Well, he would pay.

The bundle did not move as Mordecai advanced down the aisle between the benches. He wondered irrationally for a moment whether there could be two intruders. This hardly looked, or smelled, like major magical talent. He stretched out one sandalled foot and nudged the rags.

There was a yelp, a confused blur of motion, and six more tiny cantrips spun out into Mordecai's face, causing him to blink and dodge back. When he had recovered, he saw that the bundle of rags had turned into a hunched, filthy and horribly skinny figure in a ragged brown tunic, breeks and ruined brown boots. A huge, wide-brimmed purple hat was pulled down over the thin pointed face, and the grimy hands were spread in a parody of the basic gestural spellcasting posture.

"Tha needs to watch thysen, sneaking up on folk like that." The voice that issued from under the hat was rusty and squeaky by turns, with a peculiar accent.