Imagine yourself in the city of Brysail during the cold, bitter winter of 1195, A.R. Driving winds and frigid temperatures are near-constant, and the streets are slick and icy. Huddling in rags beneath a low bridge are two Aechyed orphans: a seven year old girl named Marka and her infant brother, Cuak. They have little chance of survival in weather like this, and Marka knows it. There is only one option that she can think of, so in the dark of night, she gathers up the baby and leaves him in a basket on the steps of a local orphanage.
In the orphanage, he did not know he had a sister. He did not know his name was Cuak, or that he even had a name. He was the only nonhuman there, and he had little chance of ever being adopted. Once or twice, the matron tried to sell him to a pearl farm, but it had no interest in him. It looked as if he would be living at the orphanage until adulthood.
Miraculously, his fortunes changed in the year 1205, when he was nine years old, nearly ten. A middle-class human family, the de Winters of South Brysail, took a liking to him while visiting the orphanage and brought him home. They named him Seymour, taught him to read and write, and told him he could be whatever he wanted. It was the first time anyone had ever given him encouragement.
In 1211, when Seymour was fifteen, the Blood Plague swept through Brysail, killing nearly half of its population. Seymour fell ill with it, as did his human parents, but only he survived. Orphaned and homeless once more, he remembered the encouragement of his parents and put his talents of logic and observation to use as a private detective. It took a few years, but soon he became known for his skills, and he was able to purchase a small flat and rent a nearby space for his office. His first major case was that of the Hummingbird Pin, and within 18 months of solving it, he had been commissioned by several wealthy individuals all over the Kingdom of the Southlands, including, in 1216, Henry Thomas Mantoux Edmund, the Lord of Carvil. The purpose of this investigation was to clear the name of the lord's mentally ill fraternal twin brother, Simon, who had been convicted of murder and sent to the Waelyngar Institution for the Criminally Insane. During the course of this case, Seymour met Simon's bipolar Sysaran cellmate, Seoc MacInnes, helped him to break out, and took him back to Brysail to be his assistant.
Three years later, as he was undercover, investigating a scandal in the pearl industry, Seymour met an Aechyed slave named Marka, who had a young, half-human son. Speaking to her, he discovered that she was indeed his sister, and that she did not have long to live. Marka gave her brother her unnamed baby boy and begged him to raise the child. He accepted, took his nephew home, and called him Cedric.
Seymour's career lasted until Seoc's death, in the year 1245. Grief-stricken and overwhelmed, Seymour struggled with alcoholism and depression for nearly a decade, during which he was in and out of prison several times. Cedric, who was now grown and married, took in his uncle in an effort to help him, but there was only one thing that would allow Seymour to recover, and that was to resume his detective work. This he did, and by 1255, he was working once more. For the most part, he took jobs that allowed him to travel, for Brysail held too many unhappy memories. Soon he relocated to Waelyngar, and when war broke out between the Kingdom of the Southlands and the Sysaran Empire (1259), he was hired by the kingdom to be a spy. He was sent to Iliathor, then to Inbhir Kirie, and finally to Rionnag, where he was instrumental in the Empire's defeat. When the Sysaran Empire finally surrendered, in 1266, he returned to Brysail, where he was awarded the King's Medal for his service.
He did not, however, believe he deserved the honor. Quite on the contrary, he felt tremendous guilt and personal responsibility for the hundreds of innocents who died at Rionnag. Also, he felt as if he had betrayed the memory of Seoc, who had, in fact, been born in Rionnag. In 1271, after years of wrestling with the decision, he publicly returned the Medal and admitted to being homosexual, which was, at the time, illegal. He was arrested, and on May 31, 1271, at the age of 75, Seymour de Winter was hung in front of an audience. His last words were, according to a witness:
"I die justly, but for the wrong crime."