Note: This story has been loitering in my head for several years now, but I've never gotten it to a place where I'm quite satisfied with it. This is the closest I've come so far.
And, for those of you who have read my other stories from this particular world...well, I hope this isn't too jarring.
Part One-The Sanguine Sea
The Silver Phoenix had seen better days, to be sure. A gloomy, grimy establishment that looked to be on the verge of falling into the Murkintir River, it was a wonder how its landlord kept the tavern in business. Perhaps the doors stayed open on the hope that one day, it would burn to the ground and rise from its ashes as its name suggested.
There weren’t many customers in the tavern on the dark, cloudy autumn night on which this account begins, specifically October 27, 1216, A.R. Thus, there were few who saw the strange trio enter in silence at precisely nine o’ clock.
They were of an unfamiliar sort in these parts, and seemed out of place in the dusty, rotting corpse that was the Silver Phoenix. Well dressed they were, like rich people. And their eyes…there was just something about their eyes. The regular customers, seated at the bar, glared at the newcomers over their tankards of watery ale, brows furrowed with suspicion as the three chose a table in a shadowy corner and sat down.
The youngest of the three, a man—or perhaps he was still a boy—immediately began fidgeting, glancing repeatedly at a pocket watch. He had straight, light brown hair cut evenly just below the jaw and a pale, anxious face. His right eye was blue and his left eye was brown.
“He’s late,” whispered the nervous one.
“He’ll come,” a woman—the only female of the three—assured him, smiling gently and pulling a stray lock of white-blond hair behind her ear.
Both of her eyes were blue, but one was much darker than the other.
The other man, a swarthy fellow on the young end of middle age, winked his left eye (which was golden) at the nervous one, his right (green) eye twinkling. “You worry too much, Henry.”
“I have too much to worry about, Alasdair.”
“As does every mage, lad. Just don’t let it get the better of you.”
The three strange mages sat in silence once more, waiting. The barmaid brought them each a tankard, but none of them touched theirs or even seemed to notice.
At length, the door flew open, letting in a great gust of wind and several dry autumn leaves. A tall, slender figure stood framed in the doorway, pausing there a moment to survey the interior of the tavern, smoothing down his black, wind-spiked hair. Catching sight of the three in the corner, he grinned and started toward them.
The mages stood up as he approached, reaching out their hands in turn to greet him.
“Lord Henry Thomas Edmund of Carvil,” the nervous one introduced himself.
“Pleasure to make your acquaintance, your lordship,” replied the newcomer, briskly shaking the young man’s thin, pale hand with his own large, webbed one. “’Pologies for the delay. Hope it didn’t cause any undue…consternation.”
Lord Henry turned a deep crimson and sat down awkwardly.
The swarthy man was next. “Alasdair MacQuarrie, Alt-Mage of Murkintsen.”
“I am honored, sir. Formerly of the Stepplands?”
“You are sharp, Aechyed. Yes, I was born and raised in Sichtir, but I thought I had trained away my accent,” he responded with a chuckle. “Rels Ah’da soonded lake this!”
The Aechyed’s grin widened. “True. I admit, you had me for a moment, sir. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of your dialect. And this must be your wife?”
“I am, indeed,” the woman confirmed. “I am Mialina.”
“Of Serezlata, I presume?” he inquired, lightly kissing her small hand.
“That is so.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, miledi. I, of course, am Seymour de Winter.”
Introductions complete, they all sat down around the small, square table, chairs scraping on the floor as they were drawn in.
“Now,” Seymour began. “What is it that three powerful mages need with a humble detective like me?”