Venkar sighed glumly at his packed bags. For all that he had been posted in Greengold for the last 50 years, he hadn't accumulated much in the way of possessions. Land, some... secrets, plenty... but his possessions fit neatly into two medium chests and one large duffel. Plus the contents of his hollow boot heels. There was a reason he'd had the same pair of boots for half a century. Nothing beat a nice, comfortable pair of magic boots...
It had been ten years since Colwyn Sevenscars had lost Venkar's precious daughter and his second grandchild. So much for keeping Talya safe by moving her out of Greengold. Not many of Venkar's plans went awry, but marrying his daughter off to that shy, unambitious (but likable) boy had failed spectacularly, in retrospect. Venkar's own wife, Alythia, back in Almas, had never approved of Colwyn. But then she had approved of so few of Talya's choices over the years. Separating the two of them played no small part in Venkar's decision to take Talya with him to Greengold when he was posted there as the Andoran ambassador to Kyonin.
Little did he know that Talya would take to the city's underworld like a dryad to its tree... Not only had she picked up his own substantial skills of forgery, disguise and eloquence - her sleight of hand made him look like a ham-fisted stable-boy, and her ability to shave a man with a dagger from 20 paces put his own bladework to shame. It was slavery that got her mixed up with the criminal element of town in the first place. She hated it. The town's prohibition on buying and selling slaves wasn't enough, since slavery was allowed there. She made it her personal mission to free them. Once freed, they needed to get out of town, which made for a very quick jump to smuggling. To Talya, it wasn't law-breaking. It was justice. If the constabulary saw it as theft, that was their problem, and if sometimes the slave-owners put up a fight, well, fights get people hurt. Not her, mind you... other people.
This went on for years, and for the most part Venkar turned a blind eye to it. He wasn't fond of slavery, either. And if sometimes untaxed merchandise also left in her possession, that was just good business sense. Sometimes he greased some palms to look the other way, and sometimes he forged some bills of sale to help cover her tracks, but for the most part he left her alone.
That changed when she crossed Maynard Greygull. This Drow was an old man, even by Elvish standards, but with an iron will, and in peak health. He tolerated neither incompetence or disrespect, and dealt with both harshly. Talya had witnessed him beating one of his servants in the market, and decided to teach him a lesson in humility. By the end of the day she'd taken his money pouch, his jewel-hilted dagger and his footman, Tugg. What she'd underestimated was Maynard's diligence in searching for the thief who'd crossed him.
Within a day Greygull had the city guard all the way to the mayor threatened, cajoled or bribed into helping find his footman. He figured a Halfling with three fingers on his left hand would be the hardest thing to hide. While intense scrutiny from the guards would have been mildly annoying, Greygull's efforts did not end there. It turned out he was a necromancer - and a powerful one, at that. Even hardened criminals loosened their tongues when attacked by their own shadow, or threatened by a parent's undead corpse. Talya's normal connections couldn't be relied upon - not with this level of pressure.
Venkar always had plans, though. His plans had contingency plans, and those plans had backup plans. He decided it was time to get Talya out of town for a while, and it was for just such an emergency that he'd invested in Colwyn Sunskald. A handsome face, a quick wit and a melodious voice were a guaranteed formula to occupy Talya's attention for a week or two. By the end of the day Colwyn and Talya had met (by happenstance, of course) at a tavern on the outskirts of Greengold within minutes of Colwyn having been hired to deliver a shipment of wool bales by ship to Erages... where it so happened that a certain eight-fingered halfling had family.
This is where Venkar's plan had begun to go awry, though. He expected Talya to take this opportunity to smuggle Tugg out in a bale of wool while making moon-eyes at the young human for a few weeks. He got that... and so much more. Weather and a budding romance drew the trip out significantly longer than he'd expected. Two months later Colwyn and Talya returned, very much in love. Maynard Greygull's perseverance had abated not at all, and bodies were starting to pile up. Some killed by Greygull in an effort to gain information, and some killed by Venkar to eliminate those he thought might be able to expose his daughter. Eliminating Maynard Greygull himself would be ideal, but he was too well protected.
By the time Talya returned, Venkar was beginning to panic. Between the death toll of this manhunt and the increased sightings of undead within the city people were getting nervous, and there was talk of needing to put the city on a curfew. With Talya back, and in danger, it was time for drastic action.
Venkar was a master forger. He would put his work up against anyone's - even to the point of multiple times convincing people that they themselves had signed the forged documents he presented them with. He sat down to forge two documents that would change the course of several lives forever.
First, a letter from Alythia to Talya. Pleasantries, news, and an irresistible prod to action buried within it... "Remember, dear, you are too young and too wild to wed; live your life free." Nothing was more sure to put thoughts of marriage in Talya's head than an admonition from her mother that she shouldn't do it.
Second, a paper trail of evidence which pointed to Tugg having been taken up the Glass River to Xer by a merfolk named Ruille. Things weren't going to go well for Ruille, Venkar assumed, but given that he press-ganged the poor off the streets of Greengold, it was an acceptable sacrifice.
As planned, Talya and Corwyn were engaged within days. He gifted them with land north of Detmer and hoped his daughter would be happy for at least a while before she grew bored with domestic life, and her unremarkable husband. As planned, Maynard Greygull was off to Xer, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. (Some dead...some following along as an undead retinue.)
Venkar enjoyed a few years of peace, after that. He was surprised that Talya and Corwyn seemed genuinely happy. Even more surprised when they announced their pregnancy. Completely unsurprised by Alythia's condemnation of the entire affair (from afar). He found that he was looking forward to the idea of being a grandfather, and glad to see his daughter settling down since she seemed genuinely happy.
When the news came of his daughter's abduction he was distraught. He made his way to their small farm north of Detmer as quickly as he could, and grilled Colwyn repeatedly about every detail of the story. What color mask? What decoration? Did it cover the entire face? What color were their hands? What accent did they speak with? Were any names other than Khulos or Tullar ever mentioned? Was there any notable detail in their clothing? Had he searched the midwife's body for clues?
In the end, there wasn't much to go on. But names were something, and he had two of them.
Those names were what had led him to pack his bags. He had finally turned up a lead... . Maynard Greygull had turned up again, in Ustalav. He occupied a large estate, and on the surface seemed to live the life of an eccentric but harmless nobleman. He himself had very little interaction with the outside world. Most of his dealings with the outside world were handled by his exchequer - Tullar Adamat, a follower of Razmir. It was time to learn more...