Entry number 11

Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar von Sacher

Gunnar von Sacher

Spoiler: backstory

Spoiler: In the Bag

“Whaddayagot for me, handsome?” Gunnar asked the dvati behind the desk in operations.

Xanathar jobs always paid well enough, even if there were hoops to jump through.

“Oh, hush, everyone knows Xam’s the handsome one,” Xim said from behind a mountain of papers as he deposited them into a bank of filing cabinets.

Xam adjusted his translucent green visor and went through the meticulous stacks of files on his desk.

“I’m afraid there’s not much in our to-do pile vis-a-vis for-hire slavery.” Xam helplessly indicated the so-labeled box with his hand. It lay fallow.

“You’re killing me, boys.” Gunnar said with an easy smile. He seated himself and lit a pipe of devilweed.

“Hey, don’t look at us. You wanna complain, go take it up with the new head of slavery. Guy’s such a dynamo, he’s insisting on most of the X-man’s jobs being done in-house,” Xim said.

“Ass. He’ll burn himself out in a year’s time if he keeps that up,” Gunnar said with a puff.

Xam waved the smoke away with his hand. “We’ve got a pool going on that. I bet he’s Xanathar food in eighteen months. Xim says he’ll make it two years. You want in, it’s a hundred Thayan.”

“How come you guys get two picks?” Gunnar teased. He tossed a sizable leather purse full of gold onto the table, extricated from some dark place.

Xim stuck out his tongue. “Racist,” he teased. “Where do you keep all those goodies? Those pants don’t even have any pockets.”

“Occupational hazard. Hey, you wanna know that, you’ll have to buy me dinner first. Lemme split the difference and gimme 21 months before recruiting’s got to find a new head of slavery,” Gunnar said.

“Bane, don’t get me started on recruiting,” Xim said. “So much paperwork when we’ve got a new head to deal with. We still need a new head for laundering ever since what’s-his-name disappeared.”

Before Gunnar could get the pair started, whatever that would entail, the door to the twins’ office flew open with such force it cracked the frosted glass pane reading “operations” straight down the middle.

“Miss, I told you, you’ve got to have an appointment!” the seneschal from front desk’s voice echoed down the hall alongside frantic footsteps on its marble floor.

“’s what you get when you hire a halfling to keep out the riffraff. Legs’re so short, they couldn’t catch a one-legged digester,” Gunnar said.

“Don’t you start, EEO’s been all up our collective ass. We had to have at least one in operations,” Xim said, ignoring the interloper.

“Well? What’s so important you can’t go through proper channels, girl?” Xam demanded of her.

Gunnar turned his head and gave her the once over, which she didn’t seem to appreciate. A bandanna hung loose around her neck. Her dark hair hung in an elaborate braid well past its edge. A crimson domino mask obscured her eyes, a long tail coming from it alongside her left cheek, like a question mark. Fine, black powder, maybe soot or tea leaves clung to her chin. She’d been in disguise as a man, but wasn’t bothering now. Her breasts were unbound in red leather armor. Custom, not harvested from one of her kills like her other piecemeal accoutrements: a greave here, a pauldron there. She looked ridiculous.

“Do or do you not have Phyristos the maimed in your custody?” she barked, trying to sound tough. She fingered the handle of a whip with her left hand, though the office was far too cramped to swing it.

“Custody? I think she has us mixed up with someone else,” Xim said.

“Bane, not another kid. I’m not saying we do or don’t, but if we did, what’d he be worth to you?” Xam asked.

She clumsily untied a huge bag of Rashemi gold from her belt and hurled it onto the table, knocking over Xam’s inkwell and upsetting his papers. She began to apologize, but caught herself and coughed. Maintaining the tough girl image, no doubt.

“Were you raised in a barn?” Xam got a wand out of a coffee cup from among a dozen or so others and had an unseen servant rack up the coins into precise stacks. “I’m going to assume you don’t have an account with us, miss…”

“Red Mist,” she said with the authority of someone who practiced a nome de guerre in the mirror a hundred times before taking it out for a spin.

“Right,” Xam said and rolled his eyes to Gunnar when she wasn’t looking. “Xim, get out a new account template for Red Mist here.”

“This basically says neither of us will try to pull anything on the other. If you like, I can explain the rest. Can you read?” Xim set the paper down in front of her and scribbled his signature with a quill. “Signed.”

“Witnessed,” Xam said.

Red Mist sat in the chair beside Gunnar and huffed. “What, just because I’m Rashemi, you figure I can’t?”

“Relax, I have to ask. Want everything to be above board and all,” Xim said.

The haste with which she made an X on the document was answer enough.

“Great. Now, delivery is extra, of course. Is there anywhere you’d like him sent? I can contact smuggling.” Xam rifled through his cup of wands. “Or if you prefer to take him yourself, I’ll have slavery gift wrap him for you no charge.”

Xim went through the filing cabinets behind the desk with blinding speed. “Where the hell is our scale?”

Xam sighed in disgust. “That’s right, it’s busted. We’ll have to borrow one from laundering, but they’re all screwed up right now, so who knows how long that’ll take.” He bit his lip and looked hopefully to Gunnar.

Gunnar smirked. “So you don’t have any work for me, but you expect me to do this for free? Come on, that wouldn’t very professional.”

“Fine, what do you want?” Xam asked.

Gunnar scratched his cheek, just above the edge of his silvertongue mask. “Gimme an extra two week spread on the pool.”

“Extortionist bastard. Fine.” Xam set out a few gold bricks from his desk drawer by Red Mist’s payment. The servant had finished lining up five hundred coins.

“That’s not my department,” Gunnar joked.

“Hey, are you guys calling me a cheat?” Red Mist snarled. The twins ignored her.

“No one’s calling anyone anything, kid,” Gunnar said. “They do it any time they work with an outside contractor for the first time. It was in the contract.”

She grunted.

“All right, which, if any, of these piles contains the larger amount of gold?” Xam asked.

Gunnar pointed at the bars. “That one.”

Xam grinned. “Thought so.”

“Is there a problem here?” Red Mist asked.

“Gunnar, be a lamb and lock the door, would you?” Xam asked. Gunnar complied.

Xim set a form in front of his twin. “Transfer of ownership.”

Xam scribbled his signature. “Signed.”

“Witnessed,” said Xim.

“What’s going on here?” Red Mist got out of her chair and clenched a fist.

“Well, my dear, you tried to bamboozle us, and as it clearly explained in the contract, that means you’re forfeit. What’s she worth, Gunnar?” Xam asked. He rolled one of her counterfeit coins across his knuckles.

“Pretty penny, actually. Tell you what: put her on my tab. I can use her for a little side project I’m working on,” Gunnar said.

“Excuse me, no one is using me for anything!” Red Mist pulled a knife out of her belt.

“Oh, come on! This is ridiculous. I’m calling assassination.” Xim grabbed for a wand.

“You don’t want to do this, miss,” Gunnar said. “You’re not the kind of person who knifes accountants in their offices for no reason, are you?”

“No, I— I’m not,” she said, sounding suddenly drunk, her eyes unfocused as she tried to identify whatever face swam across the gleaming, silver surface of Gunnar’s jaw as he drew upon the souls of all the liars, cheats, and charlatans that had ever lived and ever would live.

“Right. You don’t want to cause any trouble. Why don’t you just give me the knife, and we’ll get out of here and get some fresh air?” Gunnar said, his hand empty.

“All— all right. That sounds fine,” she said. Gunnar spun her knife around his wrist and made it disappear.

“Fine, get her out of here. Our idiot secretary’ll give you a receipt on the way,” Xam said with a wave of his hand. “And you’re paying for that door!”

“Take it out of my winnings from the pool,” Gunnar said and took his slave with him.

Spoiler: Mixed Bag
He picked up Red Mist’s receipt on the way out and declined branding. He wouldn’t need her for long. The important thing now was to get her on his ship before she came to her senses.

“Are you going to kill me?” Red Mist asked.

“You’re not too familiar with the concept of slavery, are you?” Gunnar said.

“Not in any professional capacity,” she said with disdain. Explained the mask. No point prying. Not for now, anyway.

“Unusual for a crimson scourge.” Gunnar flagged down a carriage to take them to the port. Ticking clock and all.

“Ah, so you’ve heard of me.” She sounded proud of herself.

“Not so fast. You’re traveling with a whip, and I’ve never seen you at drinks with the rest of Xanathar’s slavery department,” Gunnar said. “Whaddaya want Phyristos for? He burn your face with acid or something?”

Red Mist turned away, almost coyly. “No. There’s a big bounty for him back in Immilmar.”

“Mm. Don’t they usually send you in pairs?” Gunnar asked.

“Usually. I’m flying solo on this one. Was, anyway,” she said and looked down.

“Don’t look so down at the mouth. Tell you what: I’ve got a little side project out your way. You help me find my mark, I’ll tear up your contract and your half of the fee will more than cover Phyristos,” Gunnar said with an outstretched hand.

Red Mist wrinkled her nose as though he’d extended a dead rat to her. “You pay your slaves?” She took his hand.

“Professional courtesy. If it got out I was using outside help to bring in a mark and not offering a fair split, what’s that say about my ability to get the job done?”

The carriage stopped. Gunnar paid the driver and led Red Mist up the gangplank onto his ship.

“Ladies first,” he said and tipped the harbormaster.

“Welcome to The Choice Cut,” Gunnar said with something like pride. “Have you eaten yet? I think the cook’s got some rothe cheese in the galley.”

Red Mist shook her head and looked uneasy on her feet with the pitch of the waves against the ship’s side.

The ship unmoored, pulled up the gangplank, and made its way out to sea. Gunnar’s first mate filled him in on happenings in his absence.

Red Mist finished her charcuterie board and leaned over the edge of the ship. The first mate dispatched a crewman to hover near her with a mop.

Gunnar went to check on her. “You all right? Not gonna be much good to me if we run into trouble. I can have the quartermaster dig up a wand of sea legs if you need it.”

Without turning around, she held the cheese knife to his groin.

“You did something to me. To my mind. Why did I come with you?” she said, drawing blood.

Gunnar swallowed and took a step back.

“If I didn’t need your skills, I’d show you how I usually teach my slaves manners when they pull that kind of thing on me.” Gunnar jammed a bandage down his trousers. “Rest assured, I won’t be able to do it again today, so your thoughts are your own.”

“Why should I trust you?” She turned to face him, her back to the ocean. Gunnar clenched his fist. If he pushed her over, no one would come for her.

“You shouldn’t, really. It’s rule number one in our game,” he said.

“We don’t play the same game. We don’t even play the same sport,” she said with disgust.

Gunnar nodded at the whip on her belt and rested his hand on his own. “We use the same equipment. Let me ask you this: would the prison in Immilmar have paid Phyristos?”

Red Mist rolled her eyes. “Here comes the part where you try to equivocate. Like you’ll turn me. Fine, I’ve got nothing better to do. No, don’t be stupid.”

“All right. Would they ever have let him go?” Gunnar asked.

“Of course not. Not after what he’d done,” she said.

“Fair enough. I assume he did something really bad, like selling magic items,” Gunnar said.

Red Mist spat on the deck with contempt. The mate behind her sighed with resignation and mopped it up.

“Housebreak that one soon, willya, cap’n?” he muttered. Gunner nodded and clapped the man on the shoulder.

“How do you think he got his title? Wouldn’t expect a Thayan to understand,” she said.

“Sure. So you’re selling him into slavery to the state. They’re free to do with him what they will: put him to work in a mine, kill him, or let him rot in a cell. You just don’t let your citizens enjoy the same right,” Gunner said.

“You just don’t understand. If you’re so smart, what do you need me for?” Red Mist asked.

“I need a guide. My quarry’s in Rashemen for the time being, and you know how foreigners, much less Thayan foreigners are looked on there. Even with the right paperwork, it would make finding him harder than it has to,” Gunnar said.

Red Mist scoffed. “Right, like you’d have the right paperwork.”

Gunnar held up a letter of dispensation from the Hathran granting him permission to carry weapons within their borders.

“You’ve been to Rashemen before?” Red Mist asked, sounding almost impressed.

“No,” Gunnar said.

“Then that’s a fake? It looks almost like—“ she reached into her shirt for her own and came up empty handed.

“Here. I don’t need it anymore,” Gunnar said, producing her letter from up his sleeve. She took it and slapped him for his trouble. Even through his silvertongue mask, he felt it.

“Relax. That’s the only merchandise I laid my hands on,” he said.

“Why didn’t I feel anything? When did you—“

“Trade secret, I’m afraid. Anyway, it might be good for you to familiarize yourself with our quarry if you’re going to help me catch him.” Gunnar produced a wanted poster.

“Aartosa the Golden. Herald of—“ Gunnar began to read the poster aloud for Red Mist’s benefit.

“—of the dragon X’launt! I knew I recognized the name of this ship from somewhere!” Red Mist snapped her fingers as something clicked for her.

“So you’ve heard of me,” Gunnar said.

“Not you specifically. Suppose now’s as good a time as any to find out if any of it’s true.” Red Mist stared out at the open ocean. There wasn’t another ship in sight.

“Go for it.” Gunnar took out his pipe and stood downwind of her before lighting it.

“I heard X’launt was trying to transform himself into one of those dragons ascendant. But he couldn’t do it right away. He was so rich, he had money all over Toril. So he had to spend years getting all his exarchs to transfer his holdings someplace, so he could eat all his gold. I heard you snuck onto one of their ships, The Choice Cut, killed everyone onboard, and made off with the treasure yourself. It put him behind schedule and he hasn’t been able to ascend yet. He’s had his exarchs gunning for you ever since,” Red Mist said.

Gunnar smiled. “Interesting how different a story becomes after a few retellings, isn’t it?”

“So what, it’s all talk? You bought yourself a ship and gave it the same name to look tough?” Red Mist rested her hand on the ship’s name over the side, presumably checking how fresh the paint was.

“Not exactly.” Gunnar blew a smoke ring and watched it drift away on the wind. “X’launt did have a lot of wealth to his name, but he wasn’t dumb enough to send out a fleet of ships full of gold. They’d be easy targets, and slow ‘em down, besides. He liquidated his assets into something easier to transport.”

“All right, fine, so diamonds instead of gold.” Red Mist rubbed her eyes as salt spray kicked up over the edge of the ship.

“No. And I didn’t sneak onto this ship. I openly commandeered it with a letter of marque from whatever country it was sailing out from. I forget. Aside from the captain, I didn’t have to spill any blood.” Gunnar said.

“What about the treasure?” Red Mist asked.

“Cap’n. We’re coming up on Immilmar,” the first mate said.

“Good man. Give our papers to the port authority when they board. Everything should be in order. If it’s not, take it outta petty cash.” Gunnar handed him a sheaf of papers and clapped him on the bare shoulder as he turned to depart.

Red Mist saw the web of whip scars across his back and a slaver’s brand at the base of his neck.

“You kept it,” she whispered, horrified.

“I knew you’d get there eventually. X’launt figured if he had to swallow his entire hoard, he might as well convert his money into something he’d enjoy eating first. I forget exactly how many head he had on this ship when I took it, but they were easily worth five thousand Thayan, if they were worth a penny.”

“That’s horrible,” Red Mist said.

“Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather eat a steak than a handful of coins any day,” Gunnar said. “While we’re here, might as well pick up some of those smoked sausages Rashemi sell for the boys.”

“I didn’t mean the dragon. That’s in their nature. I meant you. You don’t even think of them as people, do you?” Red Mist asked, indignant.

“Is that so?” Gunnar snapped his fingers. The man swabbing the deck came over.

“You. What happened the day I claimed command over this ship?” Gunnar asked.

“You told us where we was really bein’ sent, cap’n. That thing’s dinner table. Asked if we’d rather stay here crewin’ this here ship,” he said.

“And do you and the men regret your decision?” Gunnar asked, his eyes on Red Mist.

“No, sir,” he said. Gunnar waved him away.

Gunnar and Red Mist disembarked the ship. After a few more bribes to the necessary individuals, and flashing his papers here and there, they were allowed into town to begin their hunt.

“This is your turf, so I’ll let you take the lead. Aartosa’s Rashemi. What’s the fastest way for him to get arrested around here?” Gunnar asked.

Red Mist walked a few paces in front of him to show her superiority, even though it meant showing him her back. Amateur. He’d given her knife back, so perhaps that explained her confidence.

“If he killed another Rashemi, stole their property. That’s normal property, not people-property,” she scolded. “Or if he did something against the Hathrans, obviously. Everyone’d be on the lookout for him. Why, what’d he do?”

Gunnar wrote the imagined crimes on Aartosa’s wanted poster.

“Oh, all of that, I suppose. Whatever’s unfashionable here. That’ll help us catch him, after all,” Gunnar said.

Red Mist sighed. “If you’re lying, then don’t put that he committed a crime against the Hathrans. If he’d done that, then they’d have killed him themselves.”

Gunnar erased it from Aartosa’s rap sheet. “Got it. Thanks,” he said, doing his best to be amiable. Red Mist didn’t return the courtesy.

“You got any more of those?” she asked. “I mean, not everyone can read around here, but if anyone’s seen him, I can ask people at the lodge to start passing them out.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” Gunnar said, wary to avoid shooting down all her ideas. “But if we did that, then even if they couldn’t read the reward, they’d know he was valuable enough to be hunted. They might undercut us and find him first. Where would you be then?”

Red Mist saw a Hathran silently patrolling the town square. She gave her a nod of respect and allowed her to carry on her duties.

“What’s to stop me from screaming? Letting the Hathran take care of you,” Red Mist hissed.

“I figure if that were an option, you would’ve done it by now. I don’t know why it isn’t. I don’t particularly care.” Gunnar drew his cloak around himself. It looked like snow.

The pair arrived at a nearby snow tiger lodge. Red Mist said a quiet prayer at a statue outside to its spirit guardian. Gunnar stayed quiet, unsure of what to do with his hands.

They got inside out of the cold. Red Mist ordered a bottle of jhuild. Gunnar was fond of the stuff. He tried to keep a small supply in the hold of his ship.

“Has the Golden shone his light around here lately?” Red Mist asked their barmaid. She poured a glass for her and eyed Gunnar with suspicion.

“I’ll have some. I can pay,” he reassured her. She suppressed a giggle and filled his glass.

“He has. Matter of fact, I heard he’s recruiting a band of warriors by Lake Ashane. Off on some grand adventure, no doubt. I hear his master’s up in the great game. Is your friend, ah, familiar?” she asked.

Red Mist held out her hand. “Don’t worry. He’s cool.” The barmaid dropped a few coins into Red Mist’s hand. “Won something in the pool,” she explained once the barmaid left.

“I’ll drink to that.” Gunnar raised his glass and toasted her. He sipped his jhuild and choked, spraying the wine in her face. She laughed even though her mouth had been open.

“No matter how many times I see it, I’ll never get sick of that. Real stuff’s stronger’n that watered down crap you foreigners buy, huh?” she teased.

Gunnar coughed and nodded. “Happens to everyone their first time, I gather.”

“More or less,” she said.

“Is that where you got your nickname?” Gunnar offered her his handkerchief.

She took it and dried off her mask. “None of your business. Anyway, since Aartosa’s operating in the open, I don’t figure he’s actually committed any crime, so he won’t be on the lookout for someone to capture him.”

“Makes sense,” Gunnar said. “What’re you thinking?”

“Take a page from your book,” she said. “We’ll go find him in the open.”

Spoiler: Holding the Bag

If Gunnar didn’t know better, he’d have said the sailor standing next to him on the docks was a man. Red Mist was a dab hand at disguise, he had to give her that. For the time being, he addressed her aloud as Ralmisch.

Gunnar hadn’t bothered to disguise himself beyond some shabby clothes. Since Aartosa didn’t know him, there was no reason for him to recognize his face with a cursory glance.

The two of them were well down the line for recruitment. It couldn’t hurt their cover to make small talk.

“Whaddaya suppose this crew’s for?” Red Mist asked him, affecting a deeper pitch.

“Figure he’s up to his old tricks,” Gunnar said with a wink. X’launt still hadn’t gotten his whole hoard down his gullet.

“Maybe. Could be something new.” She didn’t sound sure.

Soon enough, it was their turn at the table. Aartosa wasn’t there himself, of course, just someone in his employ.

“Let’s have it. What do you do?” he asked Red Mist.

“Hand-to-hand. Anyone gets in the boss’s face, I’ll give him what for,” she said with a clenched fist.

“Uh huh. Go have a crack at our boatswain. You pin him for ten seconds, you’re onboard,” he said without looking up from his clipboard.

Red Mist broke the boatswain’s arm so Gunnar could see white bone from ten paces away. She was onboard without a word about it.

“Next!” the man at the table barked.

“I’m just, well I’m looking for three hots and a cot, sir. I’m not particular. Just put a mop in me ‘ands and I won’t bother you none,” Gunnar stammered, hunching his back to look weak and pathetic.

“Hmph. You’re old for a cabin boy, but you’ll do. On the ship before I change my mind, dog,” the man said and snapped his fingers, indicating where Gunnar was to go with a gesture of his thumb, not looking him in the eye.

There wasn’t long to wait before they shoved off. Gunnar was put to work immediately. He looked busy, but didn’t swab the deck too quickly, so he could take in his surroundings.

Red Mist was chumming around with the officers, laughing and drinking. No sight of the captain yet.

“Hear the weather’s gonna turn bad later,” another man mopping muttered to him. “Don’t fancy taking a trip into the drink.”

“Me neither. I ain’t too worried, though. Never leave home without me bottle of air,” Gunnar said with a smile.

“Hmph. Sure know I’d rest easier if we waited til tomorrow to set sail. Kossuth knows why we have to rush. Captain ain’t even told us what we’re sailin’ to,” the man said. “Damn bucket’s empty.” He sighed.

“Lemme get that for you,” Gunnar said and picked it up. The man nodded in thanks.

Gunnar had affected a limp earlier, so he wouldn’t appear to be a threat, and stayed in character as he ambled across the deck. He steadied himself on his mop as the ship disembarked and quickly got onto the open water.

Gunnar glimpsed the captain loitering outside the wheelhouse. Must’ve come out when he wasn’t looking.

He filled both buckets with water and started cleaning behind Aartosa. The boatswain blew his whistle: all hands on deck. The men stopped their shanty and directed their attention up front.

Gunnar studied his quarry. He shakily set down his mop.

“Oi, hurry up, you codger. Gotta address the men,” Aartosa said without turning around. His hand was still on the pommel of his saber. Not yet.

“Right, sir. Sorry, sir. Just setting me kit down,” Gunnar said.

“Hmph.” Aartosa grunted. Gunnar saw his shadow hold its hands up in a dramatic gesture before beginning his speech.

He never had the chance.

With Aartosa’s hand empty, there wasn’t a thing left on him Gunnar couldn’t steal.

He picked Aartosa clean in the blink of an eye. Everything in his possession now lay in Gunnar’s hidey hole. Aartosa stood before the crew without a stitch on.

Gunnar couldn’t afford to gloat. He clubbed him in the back of the head with a roll of coins clenched in his fist and paralyzed him. He tied him up, a coil of rope never far on a ship, jammed a bottle of air behind his teeth, and made the captain disappear as well.

“Listen up, swine!” Gunnar shouted and threw back his hood. “This man is an errand boy of the monster X’launt! He planned to deliver you to the thing’s stomach. I’m taking him back to Bezantur and claiming the price on his head. What you do with yourselves after that’s of no concern to me. But if you get in my way, there’ll be trouble. Understand?” He pulled Red Mist’s borrowed bandana down from his face and let the silver light of his mask spill out to the sailors before him. They were hirelings. Strangers. They had no reason to side with with Aartosa. Nothing to gain from it. Convincing himself was just as important as convincing them.

“Not so fast!” Red Mist yelled from behind him.

Gunnar turned around and saw a wanted poster with his own face pinned to the mast with a knife.

Murder. Kidnapping. Theft. Piracy. And a hefty reward.

“This man is wanted in Immilmar for crimes against every authority before man and god alike. A thousand gold pieces to the man who helps me capture him!” Red Mist drew her sword. Gunnar couldn’t take it from her now.

There was no way his magic could compete with the greed of man.

Gunnar clicked his heels together and walked on the air up the mast. Red Mist swung up toward him on a rope from the mainsail. Gunnar retrieved his whip and lashed out at her, catching her across the face.

Her mask took the worst of it, though one eye was already swollen shut. It dropped a long, long way to the deck. On her cheek, as he’d surmised, was the brand of a slave, escaped from Thay’s gladiator pits.

“What are you doing?” Gunnar blocked her sword strikes with the leather bracelet around his forearm. “We had a deal!”

“I don’t make deals with things like you! I’m going to get free of you and I’m going to bring you to justice. You’re not the scariest thing I’ve ever fought. You’re not even close!” Red Mist took her blade between her teeth, and crushed the tendons of his wrist in her hand, digging in her nails. He dropped his whip with a spasm of his fingers.

She kneed him in the groin and swung away, circling around the mast. Gunnar gasped as a splinterbolt lodged itself in his chest.

“Careful! He’s worth more alive, stupid!” one of the crewmen shouted to another as he took aim.

“Fire!” shouted the first mate. Wands upon wands of all shapes and sizes flicked out from sleeves and boots and belts and the hems of the mens’ trousers. Gunnar was blinded, wrapped in kelp, and wracked with indescribable pain. His legs dangled beneath him, withered and useless.

Red Mist completed her revolution around the mast and looped the rope around his neck.

Gunnar grabbed at the noose and tried to untie it, but his arms had fused into a single, useless limb.

“Welcome to the club, kid. Knew I’d make a slaver of you after all,” Gunnar choked as the pounding of his blood grew louder in his ears.

“I’m nothing like you.” Red Mist pulled the rope tighter.

“Then kill me,” Gunnar gasped with his final breath.

“No. You don’t deserve it.” Red Mist said.

Spoiler: Out of the Bag

Gunnar wasn’t surprised to awaken the next morning. He was bound in rope, but the rest of his ailments had deserted him. He got uneasily to his feet, the men circled up around him. Behind him, a plank jutted from the ship’s edge over the open ocean.

The side of his head stung fiercely, but he couldn’t reach it to rub at it.

“The men took a vote, and we decided we’d rather not keep you around. Any last words?” Red Mist said. She wore a crimson bicorn. Looked like they had a new captain.

“What about the reward? Or did they just forget about that?” Gunnar said.

Red Mist pulled a necklace from her cleavage. She wasn’t in disguise anymore. No one seemed to care. On it was Gunnar’s severed ear.

“Hathrans’ divination can verify I’ve taken care of you. I can pick up Phyristos and bring him to justice and then these men can be on their way,” Red Mist said.

“Yeah, yeah, that’s what they all say. I’m allowed one last request, right?” Gunnar asked. He stood on the plank in his small clothes. His equipment had been taken. He’d have to pick up Aartosa later. Or Red Mist could deal with him when he reappeared from the secret pocket inside his trousers. Either way.

Red Mist sneered, but the murmuring of the crew made it clear she couldn’t refuse and still hold the high ground with them.

“Fine. What is it?” she asked.

“One last drink. The iron flask in my vest. Don’t even have to untie my hands, just put it in my mouth and I’ll die quietly.” Gunnar hoped none of them had appraised his gear yet.

“You heard the man.” Red Mist snapped her fingers. Already, she had a taste for command. By the time Gunnar had regrouped, he was sure she’d be a fine slaver in her own right.

The man who’d swabbed by Gunnar’s side unscrewed the flask’s cap and put its neck between Gunnar’s teeth.

Gunnar took a deep breath of the magically generated air within. He dove off the plank and the moment the water swallowed him up, used his magic to open space itself and dove inside his bottle of air, the cap closing behind him.


“Where to now, captain?” the first mate asked Red Mist. He dusted off her mask and handed it to her.

She turned it over in her hands and leaned over the edge of the ship. After the last of the bubbles had risen to the water’s surface and popped, she glimpsed her reflection in it.

She tore up Gunnar’s papers saying he owned her and threw them overboard. The mask followed. She didn’t need it anymore. Without it, she felt lighter already.

“Back to Immilmar.” She gestured to the open sky. “Bring me that sunrise.”

Spoiler: stub
NE silverbrow human human paragon 1/incarnate 2/human paragon 3/hoardstealer 7/thayan slaver 5/hoardstealer 10

Spoiler: abilities

str 12
dex 15
con 15 (increases at 12 and 16)
int 16 (increases at 4, 8, and 20 here)
wis 10
cha 8

Spoiler: table

Level Class Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Skills Feats Class Features
1st Human Paragon 1 +0 +0 +0 +2 appraise 4, ea 4, hide 4, ms 4, search 4, sleight of hand 4, tumble 4 Able Learner, Dragon Tail (custom skill list: appraise, dd, ea, hide, intimidate, ms, ol, search, sleight of hand, tumble), Adaptive learning
2nd Incarnate 1 +0 +2 +0 +4 ol 4, search 1 (5) Aura, detect opposition
3rd Incarnate 2 +1 +3 +0 +5 dd 4, search 1 (6) martial study (shadow blade technique) Chakra bind (crown)
4th Human Paragon 2 +2 +3 +0 +6 appraise 3 (7), hide 3 (7), ms 1 (5) Bonus Feat (shape soulmeld: brass mane)
5th Human Paragon 3 +3 +4 +1 +6 appraise 1 (8), hide 1 (8), ms 3 (8), search 2 (8) Ability boost +2 (intelligence)
6th Hoardstealer 1 +3 +4 +3 +6 intimidate 5, sleight of hand 4 (9), tumble 1 (5) master pickpocket Darkvision +30 ft., trapfinding
7th Hoardstealer 2 +4 +4 +4 +6 intimidate 1 (6), use rope 5, tumble 4 (9) Hide from dragons 1/day
8th Hoardstealer 3 +5 +5 +4 +7 appraise 2 (10), balance 5, intimidate 2 (8), tumble 2 (11) Trap sense +2, deep pockets
9th Hoardstealer 4 +6/+1 +5 +5 +7 intimidate 3 (11), sleight of hand 3 (12), tumble 1 (12), umd 4 martial study (shadow jaunt) Treasure dowsing 1/day
10th Hoardstealer 5 +6/+1 +5 +5 +7 bluff 1, sleight of hand 1 (13), umd 9 (13) Darkvision +60 ft.
11th Hoardstealer 6 +7/+2 +6 +6 +8 bluff 7 (8), sleight of hand 1 (14), umd 1 (14), never outnumbered Trap sense +4, hide from dragons 2/day
12th Hoardstealer 7 +8/+3 +6 +6 +8 bluff 5 (13), sleight of hand 1 (15), umd 1 (15) mosquito’s bite martial stance (assassin’s stance) Treasure dowsing 2/day
13th Thayan Slaver 1 +8/+3 +6 +8 +8 forgery 3, intimidate 5 (16), umd 1 (16) Ruthless beating, enervating attack
14th Thayan Slaver 2 +9/+4 +6 +9 +8 forgery 7 (10), intimidate 1 (17), umd 1 (17) Break will
15th Thayan Slaver 3 +10/+5 +7 +9 +9 diplo 2, forgery 5 (15), intimidate 1 (18), umd 1 (18) open lesser chakra (arms)
16th Thayan Slaver 4 +10/+5 +7 +10 +9 diplo 4 (6), forgery 1 (16), intimidate 1 (19), umd 1 (19), social recovery Sneak attack +1d6
17th Thayan Slaver 5 +10/+5 +7 +10 +9 diplo 7 (13), forgery 1 (20), intimidate 1 (20), umd 1 (20) Crippling strike
18th Hoardstealer 8 +11/+6/+1 +7 +11 +9 diplo 4 (17), intimidate 1 (21), sleight of hand 6 (21) open greater chakra (throat) Skill mastery (appraise, bluff, diplo, forgery, intimidate, sleight of hand, tumble, umd)
19th Hoardstealer 9 +11/+6/+1 +8 +11 +10 bluff 9 (22), intimidate 1 (22), sleight of hand 1 (22) Darkvision +90 ft., trap sense +6
20th Hoardstealer 10 +12/+7/+2 +8 +12 +10 bluff 1 (23), diplo 2 (19), intimidate 1 (23), sleight of hand 1 (23), 8 free Treasure dowsing 3/day, hide from dragons 3/day

Spoiler: playtips

Spoiler: lvl 5

Come on, chefs, pick up your axes, tell hoardstealer we’ll pay its taxes.

You’re doing a lot of heavy lifting and mise en place for now. It’s not glamorous, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do a lot of cool stuff while you’re here.

Certain taxes aren’t worth investing in after they’re paid, namely open lock, a skill which does literally nothing. The listed example for disable device is jamming a lock (either in the open or closed position, your choice) so your points are better spent elsewhere to make you a better hoardstealer.

Human paragon’s roll-your-own skill list (provided helpfully in the class features column) lets you pay all hoardstealer’s taxes and have a few goodies of your own for later, including the always-important tumble and the fun and flavorful sleight of hand.

Able learner means all ten of your skills, even the ones you didn’t have room to buy ranks in right now (namely intimidate, which becomes important later) can be bought at-cost from now on.

The dragon tail (soulmeld) is up and running and provides a reliable attack to lash out at enemies with your essentia making it hit harder. You gain access to it through your dragonblood.

You also have the dragon tail feat. This gives you a tail that always exists and can be used in addition to the meld of the same name. You can use it to make secondary natural attacks, which is handy at low levels and stays useful throughout your career.

You’ve already got your crown bind, and incarnate offers all its melds, opening up the normal doors, and providing valuable utility, such as the airstep sandals for flight and the necrocarnum circlet for an endless supply of zombies, very handy at low levels and later as well. As an evil incarnate, you’ve got access to all the necrocarnum melds, greatly boosting your versatility.

Your dragonblood from silverbrow human also gives you access to another exclusive meld, the elder spirit, which bolsters your intimidate checks, along with umd, arcana, and history (plus letting you make them untrained) and giving immunity to frightful presence, sleep, and paralysis. Highly useful since hoardstealer expects you to cross swords with dragons.

You’ve also nabbed access to brass mane through human paragon’s bonus feat. Like elder spirit, this provides a bonus to intimidate, and it’s of a different type, so the two stack.

Martial study is also here to pay taxes, and shadow blade technique provides some more extra damage, which never hurts.

Shape melds, shoot dissolving spittle, fly around, and inflict pain on your enemies.

Spoiler: lvl 10

Congratulations. You’re in hoardstealer. It requiring hide and move silently but not providing them has been discussed. It being a class that is focused on stealing things, but not providing sleight of hand has not.

Fortunately, I have remedied this.

Human paragon provides sleight of hand. It was a class skill earlier, so its cap is raised, and I can buy it at cost thanks to able learner, so that’s what I did. Same with intimidate, which I’m buying to pay more taxes.

Umd is the best skill in the game, and I waited to buy ranks in it until I could do so with it being a class skill since the cap would be higher. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy spells from other spell lists in addition to your own.

As to skills, like all skillful classes, you’re being pulled in a few different directions covering your bases at the low-to mid levels. For this reason, in a fashion similar to open lock, it’s not worth it to sink points into search and dd every level when you can use your wealth by level and your hoardstealer class feature, umd, to cast find traps, summon celestial dead monkey, etc. Consequently, that’s where your points are going.

Master pickpocket lets you take anything from an adjacent opponent as long as it’s not in their hand, and it’s only a -10 to do it as a free action. Strip your enemies of dangerous items. This will make fighting them a lot easier. Your deep pockets ability is already online, so that’s a handy place to stow everyone’s confiscated gear.

Your treasure dowsing is online, which will help you find a good mark to steal from, and also detect counterfeit coins or other valuables. Shadow jaunt enables tactical teleportation.

You can hide from dragons and see in the dark. Combat functions largely the same way, and you’re no longer flat-footed while balancing.

Spoiler: lvl 15

Semi-related to hoardstealer requiring hide and move silently and not providing them as class skills, hoardstealer requires a bunch of ranks in appraise, but provides no useful outlet for them. I cannot let this go unaddressed.

Enter Thayan slaver.

“Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.”

Contrary to the captain’s feelings, by raw, people and other monsters are cargo.

Lords of madness page 101 details the rules as follows:

Cost=(cr, minimum 1)^2 x 100gp

So, even with a lean crop of level 1 human commoners, you’d only need to obtain 50 of them to hit the value of 5,000gp for entry into hoardstealer, which requires a character to locate and recover a treasure hoard from a dragon (or otherwise.) Here, I went with otherwise.

If the assortment of slaves you pick up is more diverse, or you’ve got something cool like a troll or giant, you’ll need even fewer of them. They’ll fit on a small ship easily.

Thayan slaver also grants proficiency with the tower shield, sap, whip, net, and the always-awesome spiked chain, so take advantage of these goodies when the situation arises. It also provides access to its own fantastic spell list, supplementing hoardstealer’s (listed below for ease of reference) and you can use slots or wands without even needing a roll.

Assassin’s stance is up and running, providing access to Thayan slaver. It gives you the ability to deal nonlethal damage with no penalty, and even dole out nonlethal sneak attacks.

Enervating attack provides a very useful tool in your arsenal. Once you’ve picked a target, you can study him prior to stripping him of items and protective gear via master pickpocket as free actions, and then paralyze them with your attack, since they won’t have registered you as an enemy due to your high bonus with sleight of hand checks. They are further boosted thanks to the theft gloves and necrocarnum touch from your incarnate levels, even without taking normal equipment into account.

Once they’re paralyzed, tie them up or manacle them, and into your deep pockets they go. Take them back to your lair post haste, or if you’re more than 10 minutes away from a good dump site, duct tape a bottle of air or similar in their mouth beforehand so they won’t suffocate. Thayan slaver’s spells, such as sequester, will also help.

Your deep pockets have plenty of room, so you can grab plenty of cargo, assuming you’ve got a ship or other hold established in a large urban area where a few missing people won’t be noticed.

Break will lets you whomp the heck out of your enemies’ wisdom, so do that as much as you can. Never outnumbered means you can zap a bunch of people with nonmagical wisdom damage at once, as well. Not too shabby. Once enemies are unconscious from dropping to 0 wisdom: strip ‘em, tie ‘em up, put ‘em in the hole.

“But chef, why the heck do you have all those ranks in forgery?” I hear you asking.

It’s generally known forgery is opposed by forgery and no one takes ranks in forgery. But that’s just not good enough for me.

The only listed modifiers for a mark to resist my forgery attempt are knowing the type of document I’m forging and knowing the handwriting (if applicable)

So at the very worst, they get a +4. And let’s face it, most npcs you’ll be using this against are either not going to have a bonus, or will have a negligible one.

Your ranks, alongside your prodigious intelligence, will help you get your bonus sky high, even without taking normal equipment into account.

But it’s necessary for non-epic checks to have a sample of what you’re forging. This isn’t always easy.

Well, it is for you.

Let’s say there’s a document you anticipate needing to forge. For example, special dispensation to carry weapons in town, a writ from the local noble, papers saying your quarry is an escaped slave (if you’re prowling around in a slave state) or a dangerous criminal and you’re bounty hunting or legally apprehending him (if you’re not) Find someone who would have that and use master pickpocket to relieve them of it.

Forging a 1 page document, such as an ID, warrant for your quarry’s arrest, or letter of credit only takes a minute. Depending on what the document is, you might reverse pickpocket the thing back into your mark’s pocket, or just throw it in the gutter once you’ve got what you need. Not your problem.

You see, hoardstealer doesn’t provide hide or move silently as class skills. Clearly, this means that it doesn’t want you to sneak around in order to obtain valuables. If it did, it would give you those skills. Consequently, it must intend for you to operate in plain sight. So that’s what we do, and why we follow the class’s intended design and do not further invest in hide or move silently. This is also why you don’t need darkstalker.

Your arm chakra’s open now as well, offering you the requisite goodies from your assortment of melds, including the always-useful necrocarnum touch. It boosts your sleight of hand even further (with a profane bonus to boot, so it will stack with the theft gloves) and lets you fire the touch attack off as a ray in addition to in melee.

Steal literally everything that’s not in your enemy’s hand. Punch him in the butt cheek to paralyze him and steal what’s in his hand too. Put him in your pocket. Sell him. Thanks, hoardstealer.

Spoiler: lvl 20

You’re done with hoardstealer and Thayan slaver as well. Crippling strike’s up now, so you can dole out strength damage with your sneak attacks to make your enemies go down easier.

Hoardstealer generously gives you skill mastery with all your favorite skills and then some, including bluff, diplo, forgery, intimidate, sleight of hand, and umd, so you’ll basically never fail them again.

Your throat chakra is open, allowing you to bind all those melds. Of particular note are your brass mane, letting you fatigue all enemies nearby, and your silvertongue mask, offering an at-will suggestion effect. Enjoy these.

You operate largely the same way in and out of combat, but your numbers are larger. The world is yours. Steal it.

Spoiler: spells

Thayan Slaver Spells per Day
Level 0lvl 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th
13th - 0 - - - - - - - -
14th - 1 - - - - - - - -
15th - 1 0 - - - - - - -
16th - 1 1 - - - - - - -
17th - 2 1 0 - - - - - -
18th - 2 1 0 - - - - - -
19th - 2 1 0 - - - - - -
20th - 2 1 0 - - - - - -

Spoiler: Thayan Slaver Spells

1: arcane lock, alarm, burning hands, change self, command, detect thoughts, knock, ray of enfeeblement, true strike.
2: alter self, fear, hold person, invisibility, misdirection, remove paralysis.
3: dominate person, greater command, hold monster, improved invisibility, nondetection.
4: enervation, locate creature, mind fog, sequester, veil.

Spoiler: sources

races of destiny: able learner
races of the dragon: dragon tail, silverbrow human
unapproachable east: thayan slaver
srd: human paragon
tome of battle: martial study, martial stance
city of stormreach: master pickpocket
slavery rules: lords of madness
dragon magic: draconic soulmelds
complete scoundrel: skilltricks