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male human alchemist 1

After washing out of the middle class, I had worked as a footman for Fannub Permu for a single caravan round-trip just prior to Earthfall. For a brief window, he furloughed his employees and made tentative plans to learn the new trade routes of this bizarre millennium, but then citizens were forbidden from leaving at all, and he had to re-organize a lot more deeply.

Out of all us footmen, Fannub had kept Grura on as a personal bodyguard; they had a much closer relationship, and Grura is a lot better in a fight than I am. I try to buy him a beer a few times a week, and gently ask if he has any job leads. I try to keep the desperation out of my voice, but as my overall circumstances get clearer, it's getting more difficult.

One evening, he finally had something useful! Apparently Guaril had reached out to Fannub to arrange papers for a trading party to enter the city, and this security guard buddy of mine was in the room for the conversation.

People like Fannub, who had led trading caravans prior to Earthfall, are now the paper owners of import/export operations, renting their licenses to foreigners (who are allowed to leave), taking a healthy slice of the profits, paying almost all of that as taxes of various sorts (tarriff, income tax, and a dozen other varieties of tax so innovative humanity has erased them from memory for a few hundred generations) then nominally paying the foreigners for their labor and any properly-annotated business expenses.

The paper owners would be liable for any crimes authorities might pin on the caravan; in practice, paper owners tend to keep order on the government's behalf regarding their caravans, to protect themselves. No one with that kind of license would be willing to trust Guaril with their lives, or even to risk trying to frame their business rivals as the ones he had worked with.

Guaril didn't seem to understand the exact bureaucracy involved, or the degree of risk he was asking Fannub to literally sign on to, but he did seem to know how much extra scrutiny foreign-owned trading enterprises receive at the docks. It seems there was some awkwardness after Fannub tried to end the discussion, and Guaril took it as a negotiating tactic.

So an idea occurred to me: I inherited my father's signet roller; it's from a legitimate (if peniless) family, so the authorities have impressions of it on file. I could forge a few documents stating that I own some real estate (for collateral) and a trading company, and use these to get legitimate entry papers for my employees. It would mean my immediate family could never do business in Thassilon again (quantitatively, only a small reduction in probability). More importantly, it would force me to leave Thassilon permanently before the banks reported any financial irregularities...

I turned to Grura: "What did Guaril say on his way out, if you don't mind my asking?"

"Something like, 'When you come to your senses, I'll be at [redacted]".

So I tracked him down and pitched the idea. He negotiated pretty hard, though; not only will I be trading away my family's reputation, I'll be playing tour guide, and offering hints on how to pass as merchants, in addition to the sort of work I had done for Fannub.

Ersatz financial documents in hand, I was to show up at the docks at dawn, to give my word as an upstanding caravan "owner" that this group is above-board, and to take a duplicate punishment for any wrongdoing they get up to (double, if they aren't brought to justice).