The Matchmaker of Sembia

II: The Real Tempestra, Part II

By Ed Greenwood

Anthea Skrakelar left Marsember on the first coach for Suzail the next morning, looking (and smelling) like the fattest woman in all Cormyr. Every rag she'd salvaged in the noisome alleys of the port was thrust into those old, overlarge breeches and boots, and each rag was wrapped around a single coin so she'd not clink. The tent-sized gown she had found was wrapped around everything, to conceal all, and the few coins she might need to spend on her journey were in her purse, riding in one boot-top.

The smell kept her unmolested on the first night, and she bought evenfeast and then laboriously climbed up onto the roof of the inn to sleep rather than paying for a room, which saved her from the local sneak-thieves who went in the windows below to snatch the slender wallets of some of her fellow coach-passengers.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. Anthea's first stop in Suzail was Thurnock's Cloaks & Gowns on Pendle Street, where she rummaged through old Thurnock's wares and bought clothes just good enough to visit a moneychanger. She left hastily when he let her know that he knew she was much younger and slenderer than she appeared.

She bathed in a stream-culvert at one edge of the Royal Gardens to drive down the smell; a guard peered at her to make sure she couldn't get through the bars and into the Palace grounds, and then let her be. Anthea unconcernedly let the air dry her as she fished all of her coins together into a pile, using the overgown as a sack, and then dressed in her better clothes and went to the moneychanger she'd noticed earlier: Brender Sarrask, in his upper room above Raraedo's Old Gold and Silver Curios Shop on Crownever Lane. When her wealth was converted (at a ruinous fee) into something a lone woman of her size and strength could more easily carry, Anthea took a room in the most rundown "overnight house" she could find: Maerevvo's on Seawind Lane, southwest of the Market. Again she slept on the roof, with her money bundled between two filthy chimneys on the next roof over -- those two easily reachable roofs being the only reason she'd chosen Maerevvo's over Pelumbra's Harborview, two doors down the dirt street.

Before dawn she was up and on the streets again, dining on hot fried eel from a street window near the Mare's Tail tavern on Blackbuck Lane to stop the growls coming from her stomach before she appeared to anyone of import. Since the doors were unlocked fashionably late at Sharaedra's Shimmerfall on Stallion Street (a strike of the Promenade bells after dawn when the rest of the city awakened), she was ready. There she bought the two best gowns she could find, plus fine boots that fit her and a traveling outfit with overcloak, plus a satchel to carry them all in. Considerably lighter of coin (for Sharaedra's was and is among the best gown shops for ladies of discerning taste and plentiful coin in all Suzail), Anthea took a coach-seat with Falconfeather's Fine Conveyances on their next caravan run to Saerloon. She would be traveling in far too large and well-guarded a group of coaches to be worried about anything other than the attentions of fellow passengers until she reached what folk in her home alleys of Westgate called "the Land of Fat Rich Merchants."

As it turned out, one of those fellow passengers was Hansible Orsombar, an aging Sembian investor of great wealth and a roving eye, who among other things purchased the arms and titles of defunct Tethyrian nobility -- and self-proclaimed but suddenly penniless Amnian "nobility" -- for sale to Sembians of rising wealth, pride, and pretensions. One coat of arms caught Anthea's eye, and she made sure that she caught Hansible's.

She used all her charms to keep him interested, and ended up (as she'd hoped) at his Saerloon house (Gryphgarposts, on Asumbrar's Street), when Falconfeather's delivered them safely to its doors. Hansible didn't know it, but his health was soon to suffer a sharp decline . . . just as soon as he'd taught Anthea all she needed to know about deeds and contracts and scribes-for-hire and how justice could be bought in Sembia. And Anthea was a swift learner.

His new "little love lass" accompanied Hansible as he traveled from client to client, from one city of Sembia to another. Even as his love for Anthea deepened, "accidents" began to befall his most loyal and watchful servants.

© 2003 Wizards of the Coast, Inc. All rights reserved.