Welcome! This is an AU version of Baldur's Gate told from the viewpoint of a Beregost mage named Anna, who's persuaded by an unusual group of adventurers to help investigate the iron crisis that's plagued the Sword Coast. It does have a strong 'T' rating for occasional graphic violence, language and general adult themes. I've included Elvish translations at the end of chapters but if the meaning seems workable from the context I won't put in a translation.
Please feel free to leave any comments or a review; I always love feedback and it really helps to know what people think!
Credits: All Bioware characters are copyright Bioware et al. Anna and Finn are copyright the author.
Characters inspired by their wonderful Shadows of Amn mods:
Kivan, by Domi at the Gibberlings Three.
Xan, by Kulyok at Pocket Plane Group.
Elvish language references are from The Grey Company.
The poem quote Anna reads in the Nashkel Fair is from William Blake, Jerusalem.
~A Fragment of Substance~
The woman put her pricked finger in her mouth and tasted copper from the wound. Glancing at the offending rosebush a slight smile spread over her face though as she contemplated both her unlady-like oath and her decision to work around the roses without gloves. The lure of fresh earth on her hands was difficult to resist on that fine morning. Nursing her finger she leaned back, and for awhile she felt a part of the birdsong and the warm sun moving in and out between the lazy white clouds. She looked out over the small vegetable and herb gardens in their first flush of varied greens, the young plants reaching skyward. The little plants grew well and already she thought of summer and the chance to walk amongst the rows, filling her basket with good things.
She turned back to her task with the lesson of caution still stinging her fingertip but soon heard the faint tinkle of the doorbell through the cottage's open windows. The woman wasn't overly social but visitors were fairly regular; she made elixirs of both the magical and mundane variety and though a local merchant sold most of what she crafted townsfolk and even the odd adventurer would find their way to her door, looking for something to cure their ills.
Sure enough, Maya's substantial figure appeared at the back door and set businesslike down the slope to the garden.
"Mistress Anna," the woman began, "There's some folk here that's asking after you."
The look on her face gave the impression that she didn't much care for the folk who had the impudence to interrupt her labours.
"Are they looking for potions?" Anna asked, wiping her brow.
"Couldn't say for certain, miss. They look like adventurin' folks, all kitted up in armour as ye please. A sorry-looking lot they are, too. I was of half a mind to leave them on the step but I showed 'em into the sitting room anyway," she puffed. "I'd count the spoons before I let 'em out of my sight."
Anna looked down at her basket to hide her smile. Maya's views on anyone who came from outside Beregost were generally less than charitable, and though the housekeeper was the salt of the earth Anna knew better than to take her opinion at face value.
"Never mind, Maya, I'll see to them now."
She rose up, stretched her back and brushed some stray dirt from the kirtle she wore gardening. Hurrying into the house she washed and glanced in a mirror. She wiped a smudge away from one green eye and a few stray wisps of dark blonde hair were swept back into something resembling order but she didn't bother to do up her long braid. The spring wind pinked her cheeks and she turned from the glass thinking she looked more like a country maid than a mage, though the idea didn't necessarily displease her.
Stepping into the sitting room Anna thought that this time at least Maya managed a fair assessment of her company. A man and woman, of mixed elvish and human blood by their looks stood side by side by the stone fireplace, like odd fire dogs. The fair man noticeably shifted position when Anna entered and looked at the floor. The darker-complexioned woman however regarded Anna with a cool, level look which made her think that had a wolfwere entered the room in her place the woman would not have flinched in the slightest. In a chair a girl with reddish hair and a light spattering of freckles busily rearranged the chess pieces that stood on a table next to her. She looked up at Anna with an innocent expression that made her think perhaps she should count the spoons before they departed, after all.
She felt a twinge of irritation though seeing a tall young man casually examining her precious bookshelf, but when he turned Anna paused on the carpet. She'd been expecting the usual road-weary adventurers and having the unexpectedly handsome man standing there, gazing at her somehow made the heat rise to her cheeks. The wind had ruffled his dark hair and something in his light eyes told of a rather boyish impishness. Anna wasn't the fawning sort but she found herself taken aback by her sudden awareness of the man. Fortunately she was saved from further embarrassment when the half-elven woman spoke.
"Are you the lady of the house?"
Her enquiry was warranted, Anna thought as she stood in her coarse dress and windblown appearance.
"Yes, I am."
"A good morning to you, Mistress Whitehaven," the woman continued in a serious voice. "My companions and I have been told that you could supply us with certain magical items that we could not obtain in town."
As she spoke Anna noticed with surprise the small, unusual gold pins that she and the half-elven man wore. She knew of the Harpers but she hadn't ever expected to find any in her sitting room.
"I see," she said slowly. "Please, sit down and tell me what it is you wish from me."
The half-elven man made a motion to sit but stopped when the woman said, "Thank you, but I shall stand." The tall man however moved casually into a chair and kept looking at Anna.
"May I ask whom I have the pleasure of addressing?" Anna said as Maya entered with spiced cakes and a pitcher of watered wine. She set the tray on the sideboard and departed with a curt glance at her mistress' company.
"I'm Finn," the tall man said, still looking at her.
"My name's Imoen," the girl chirped. "We're from Can—" she broke off when the woman cleared her throat. "Well, we were…" she said quietly.
"Very well. I am Jaheira," the woman said with a sigh, "and this is my husband, Khalid."
"H-hello," the half-elven man stuttered at the floor. It was the first she heard him speak.
"We are looking to purchase enchanted weapons," Jaheira continued. "You know of the current difficulty with iron in this region; normal steel is apt to corrode into nothing. Khalid and I possess magical weapons but my companions are not so fortunate."
"Yeah," Imoen said, reaching for the cake and a goblet of wine. "My sword turned into a pile of dust in my hand. A pile of dung is more like, how can all the iron on the Sword Coast be turning to dust? It doesn't make any sense!"
"It's a definite mystery," said Finn, his attention diverted from Anna and towards the wine.
"The iron crisis is affecting us all," Anna said, "though I'm afraid you've been misinformed. I sell potions and herbs, not weapons. Have you been to the smith in town? He trades some fine quality weaponry that would be of use to you."
"Er, yes, we have been to his smithy. But enchanted weapons cost dearly even without this crisis driving up the demand," Jaheira concluded grimly. "And it is of great importance that my companions have arms they can rely on."
"Doubtless," Anna replied. "But I have no weapons for sale."
She wondered what made the Harpers think she traded in arms, let alone cut-price ones. But then the iron crisis was driving strange tales around, little surprise some might surround a town mage. Taking a sip from her pewter goblet she choked a little at how much Maya had diluted the wine. Knowing the housekeeper Anna needed no more evidence of her dislike for her guests.
"None?" Finn spoke up. He smiled at her and she glanced at the floor. "Like Jaheira said, it's really important. Not just to us. We're looking into the cause of this problem. If we could put a stop to it, it would help this entire region. But we can't do it if we can't rely on our own equipment."
Jaheira made an exasperated sound. "As Finn says. You seem...trustworthy, and I suppose there is little point hiding our mission here." Her tone implied doubt. "We have been commissioned by the Mayor of Nashkel to investigate the trouble at the mine. This crisis has hit the village hard however, and he cannot give us much support until it is resolved. Any help you could provide would be appreciated."
"Y-you've heard the rumours," Khalid said suddenly. "People s-seem to think that Amn is behind all this. Or the Zhentarim, even. Th-there's talk of war. W-we need to stop this, if we can." His eyes shone bright and despite his nervousness he seemed serious as Jaheira.
"Can you help us, please?" said Imoen between mouthfuls of her second cake.
"Please," Finn said.
Anna hesitated, surprised again by their mission and their obvious awareness that she had weapons in the house. Many people did though, why should they come to her? She thought for a moment that the odd group might be clever thieves, weaving an elaborate story to walk away with some valuable prizes. But looking into the Harpers' serious eyes she felt not. Slowly she let out a sigh.
"I said I didn't have any weapons for sale, and that's true. But I do have some that belonged to my father, to his family. I have no real use for them though. I suppose…I suppose I could let you take them, for this cause."
"Hurrah!" Finn exclaimed. "I knew you looked like the helpful type."
"I thank you," said Jaheira. "But we did not come here looking for charity. We will pay you what we can, and if at all possible we will return them to you."
"Yeah," Finn said. "But I have another idea. Why don't you come with us?"
"Come with you?" Anna repeated.
"We could use a mage in our group, and you seem like you have talents," he said, looking like he was trying hard to swallow a grin.
"Hasn't it occurred to you, Finn, that this an extremely dangerous mission?" Jaheira scowled. "We have no idea what may await us in the mines. And there are other problems, as you painfully know. Mage though she may be, this lady may not have any experience or desire to take up adventuring. Besides, you are not unskilled in the arcane art yourself."
"All true. But my magic's gotten rusty since I took up the sword, and you know I don't even have a spellbook. We could use someone in back casting a few spells, and I think our Mistress Whitehaven here looks fit enough to be in our little travelling group."
He gave her a little smile and Jaheira's lip curled but she seemed to soften slightly.
"Very well. If you wish that Mistress Whitehaven accompany us, then I will not object. I do hope you realise how dangerous this will be, however," she said, turning to Anna and fixing her with an iron glare.
Anna suddenly stood. "I beg your pardon, but Mistress Whitehaven has not said she would do anything one way or another. You are presuming a great deal of me," she stammered.
"You're right, I'm sorry," Finn said. "I didn't think. You've probably got a family or something, right?"
"It was not our intention to be rude," Jaheira said quickly, perhaps worried they'd lose the deal. "My companion has the habit of putting action before thought." Finn threw her a look and she glared back. "However...he is correct that a mage would be a help to our mission, if you should decide to join us. But we expect nothing of you, of course."
Anna sighed again. "Perhaps, but you came here with one expectation, at least. Please...follow me."
She led the group upstairs to the room where a locker held some things of her father's. Her mind felt foggy. She showed them the gear automatically and seemed to pay little heed that a group of strangers was admiring her family's heirlooms. Finn chose the fine hand-and-a-half sword, and Imoen took up a long dagger. After some discussion of cost she accepted a bag of gold from Jaheira.
"So," Finn said, fixing the sword to his belt. "Will you join us?"
"I…haven't decided. This is all rather sudden."
"Sorry we couldn't make an appointment," he replied, a bit grimly. "Some of us weren't expecting to be here ourselves."
"I suppose…" Anna faltered.
"Well, we're staying in town tonight, at the Jovial Juggler. If you want to go join us in the morning. Otherwise, maybe we'll see you around. Or not."
Finn made a quick bow and departed down the stairs, leaving Anna feeling flushed again. Jaheira let out a breath.
"He has some weight on his mind," she attempted to explain, though Anna had a feeling she was speaking more to herself. "I feel I must repeat that our mission could be deadly, but the choice is now yours."
She bade Anna a polite farewell, leaving the impression that Jaheira at least had decided what that choice should be.
After the party left Anna wandered into the sitting room, pacing while thinking the matter over. It surprised her that she even considered it. Had life in Beregost really become so slow that she was willing to join a group of strangers on a deadly mission? She noticed with surprise too that the cakes were all gone, but fortunately the silver was all accounted for.
Anna sighed and looked around the much-loved room. Sunlight flowed in from the southern window, making diamond-shaped patterns on the floor and glinting off the gilded titles on the bookcases. She leaned against the mantle and thoughtfully brushed the golden ship-shaped clock with a finger. It struck the half-hour with a fairy chime and for a moment the automaton sailors whirled about on their business.
Her bookish father had a few adventures in his time, she gathered, why should she be different? But she wasn't some impulsive youth to be lured by the romance of 'adventures', she was a grown woman and ought to have more sense. Plenty of adventurers darkened her door and she hadn't run off with any of them. In truth, though, none had asked. And what would Maya say? The idea of being pricked by the housekeeper's stony logic almost disturbed her more than the thought of facing nameless monsters in some unholy dungeon. Though Anna was mistress there was something in the good matron that had a remarkable ability to turn her into a naughty child who'd been into the jam.
Quietly Anna slipped up the stairs to her workroom, hearing the faint sounds of Maya's routine in the kitchen. Despite the low ceilings the room was spacious and light from the large dormer windows she'd put in years ago. Another reason she couldn't go: Tom Wentway. The frosty Beregost merchant wouldn't be pleased that his alchemist decided to take a holiday. Still, trade was slow on account of the troubles, and she'd sent over some stock just the other day…
She glanced at the cauldron hanging in the fireplace and her thoughts turned to the iron crisis. This bizarre plague of metal was having a terrible effect throughout the region. Last year the first rumours began to drift into taverns and over clothes-lines, of iron that crumbled to dust at a touch. At first it was only new steel, the Nashkel Iron Mine the source. Then it started happening in town, to new metal and old. Guards' swords disintegrated, kettles turned to rust overnight, harnesses falling apart. Anna examined some of the contaminated remains to no result except that some of her iron utensils rusted over a few days later. Iron was now nearly precious as gold and bandits had taken to robbing people for the metal. Their attacks and the plague drove trade along the coast to a near standstill.
People were frightened. Some said it was a punishment from the gods, others an Amnish plot to conquer the coast. Lack of trade meant that supplies were running low, and with farmers' plowshares rusting in the ground the threat of famine was creeping into even prosperous little Beregost. Her own tools had held up so far but a nagging fear told her it was only a matter of time. Surely she had some duty to help, if such a thing was possible. But what could that little group do where others had failed? The idea seemed ridiculous. She sighed and gathered up her dark green mage's robe that she'd tossed over the back of a chair. She steeled herself, and crept lightly into the kitchen.
Next morning the rising sun found Anna walking swiftly down the lane to Beregost. Her quarterstaff made a tapping sound as it hit the rocks in the road and she awkwardly shifted her pack from side to side, Jaheira's bag of gold jingling slightly within. No need to keep it if she was accompanying the heirlooms. Looking at the beautiful golden morning she still wondered if this was a fool's errand, but her feet kept moving towards the town. Distractedly she fingered her amulet with her free hand as she did whenever she was thoughtful or nervous. She kissed it and tucked it underneath her robe where she could feel it against her skin. Too soon she came into Beregost, still mostly asleep at the early hour. Anna raised a hand to greet the four armed people on the inn steps. Whatever happened now was up to destiny.