The Matchmaker of Sembia
II: The Real Tempestra, Part I
By Ed Greenwood
Ask a Sembian if they know of the Glimmerfeather family, and they'll immediately name Tempestra (often with a smile that is part sneer). Press them as to the age, wealth, and noble status of that family before Tempestra, and most upper-crust Sembians will become puzzled and, after some moments of brow-furrowed frowning, will admit that they can't recall.
Didn't the Glimmerfeathers come from Amn, generations back? Or from Tethyr, departing before the unpleasantness that saw the royal family of that land slaughtered? They're very old, very rich bloodlines, however, of that one can be sure, and have the gilded crest (a horned shield, all of gold, with a diagonal bared sword, point to the lower left and hilt to the upper right, with a unicorn's head in the triangle of shield above and a pineapple in the triangle below) to prove it. Tempestra Glimmerfeather's father was Oethorood -- tall fellow, great warrior, with fierce mustaches -- and her mother was "a bit of a dragon, but a lush one in her day" by the name of Gaunthaereena.
All of this looks and sounds wonderful, because Tempestra has designed it to be so. In truth, her real name is Anthea Skrakelar, and she's a launderer from Westgate, the daughter of a now-dead, grotesquely fat launderer named "Mother" Berlea, whose husband abandoned her when Anthea was a barefoot toddler.
Tempestra soon tired of laundering sheets and eventually she fell in with a man: a weapons-merchant who'd lost a lover who looked just like Anthea to an illness a decade before. She accompanied him on a trading voyage to Marsember, where he was promptly knifed in an alley.
Alone in a strange city, Anthea did two things: forged a letter authorizing her to be his agent in selling his Westgate properties so she could take it to a Marsemban buyer and "cut a buckle" (in our world, one might say a "sweet deal") with him to give it to him for a song -- which was still more coin than she'd ever dreamed of having. She quickly hid the money and boldly hid herself on a slave-barge before the Watch officers he sent looking for "the thief who'd stolen all his coins" could find her.
Eventually, the hue and cry died away, and the Marsemban grew tired of waiting for her capture and left for Westgate to resell his new properties before forgers in that city had a chance to resell them several times over. That's when Anthea posed as a harried servant sent to fetch a gown from a very expensive shop. She was promptly thrown out of the place, but got a good look at several of the customers being fitted, and even overheard them talking about the revel they were preparing to attend that night. (The very wealthiest Marsembans, like the Sembians, have gowns created for them and fitted to them in the privacy of their own grand homes. Those one rung down the ladder, who ache for invitations to the feasts and revels, and try to make the biggest fashion splashes at such events, can afford only to visit the most exclusive shops and have garments altered to fit them -- at the last moment, so no one else can copy or upstage the "look" they have chosen.)
Anthea attended the rooftop of that revel, but unlike the other thieves who briefly and unpleasantly shared the rooftop with her before trying and failing to rob the hosts of the affair, she just watched and listened. Wealth and power were on glittering display in that room, and her earning experiences thus far had taught her one thing: appearances could be more important than anything else in turning coin. She had to see what the wealthy and powerful looked and acted like. Even if she looked and acted the same way only for a single night, she'd eat better than she'd ever eaten before. So Anthea looked, and Anthea saw.
She fell over a snoring drunkard in an alley on the way back to the warehouse where she was hiding and borrowed his boots and breeches. The impossibly overlarge gown of an overhanging shop sign provided her with a gown big enough to cover any mannish clothes.
It was time to leave fish-stinking Marsember and see gleaming Suzail. It was time to start becoming noble.
© 2003 Wizards of the Coast, Inc. All rights reserved.