In all corners of Faerūn where fabulous wealth can be amassed swiftly through mercantile endeavors, a swiftly rising (and often self-styled) "noble" class springs into being. At the present time, three such locales are Waterdeep, Amn, and Sembia -- and just now, the nobles of Sembia seem the most energetic.
These often grasping, usually flamboyant "new money" folk either augment an existing nobility or ape what they imagine to be the customs of a vanished upper class. They then set about changing such customs as nobility always do to try to exclude those rising behind them. Impostors, mountebanks, and folk fallen from wealth but pretending to still possess riches are all common clingers-on to the glittering core of "hot house" noble societies. If the realms hosting these societies have tax or trade advantages for inheritance, "who marries whom" suddenly become matters of importance -- and matchmakers arise.
The Sembia of today is such a society. Established "high family" customs (such as covertly slaying servants who caught more than just the eye of a noble heir, spiriting away or quietly slaying unwanted bastard offspring of such unions, and throwing "private revels" at which young nobles could meet only "suitable matches" from the young of selected noble families) have for years been the tools for attempting to arrange unions for the betterment of rising and established families.
However, several generations of rich Sembian nobility treated thus by their parents have resulted in a younger generation that is wise to, and has begun to fiercely resist, such practices. Add to that the disguises currently available, coupled with personal "spending money" funds ample to purchase such things without parents or kin knowing, and the grip of family elders is shattered.
Enter one attempted solution: the matchmaker, such as briefly flourished in Waterdeep and Amn (where a few matchmakers still can be found today). Usually high-society females, these persons are hired by parents -- often on both sides of a proposed union -- to steer their heirs into a suitable match.
This can include finding suitable mates for noble heirs, showing them to family elders (usually without the mate or the mate's family being aware of the scrutiny), testing them (if requested) for suitability with arranged temptations, and then bringing the heir and the mate together. Sometimes the matchmaker is asked to convince the parents of the chosen mate that the union is desirable, and sometimes the matchmaker is requested to take whatever measures seem necessary (often through hired actors, arranged events, and even drugs) to drive unwilling heirs and mates into each others' arms.
In short, a matchmaker is a person who arranges for noble, wealthy, and socially climbing folk to set up matches for their sons and daughters with the sons and daughters of other noble, wealthy, or socially climbing folk. However, when one speaks of "The Matchmaker of Sembia," only one person is meant: Tempestra Glimmerfeather, whom some have called "the busiest lady in all Ordulin" (the capital of Sembia).
Tempestra is a short, slender woman who is always fashionably but conservatively attired. She has piercing (some use the term "snapping") brown eyes, jet-black waist-length tresses shot through at her left temple with a streak of dazzlingly white hair (both hues coming from dye bottles, several Sembian ladies suggest). Her hair is never seen free-flowing, but it is always styled with braids, combs, and dangle-ornaments, in whatever the current florid Sembian style is in Ordulin. Her scent and makeup (particularly eye-shading) is heavy, her voice tends to be harsh -- even when she's trying to purr alluringly -- and her walk is bowlegged (hence her frequent reliance on a gold-handled cane and liberal use of coins to surround herself with handsome and ardent young men at social functions).
However, Tempestra is the most experienced and accomplished matchmaker to be had in Sembia right now. Her expertise in knowing the truth behind the facades of Sembian families is surpassed only by her shrewdness at judging the characters -- and what will best motivate -- the young (and not-so-young) noble men and women she does her work with . . . or to. She's the best, and she is one of the few Sembians who doesn't need to hire desperately short-of-coin socialites to spread rumors to make her so. Time and again, Tempestra gets the job done.
Moreover, looking at her opens a fascinating window on what is socially a-glitter in Sembia right now . . . so let's take a peek, shall we?