Earthdawn - Who Really Kaers?
Locations within Kaer Ardanyan
Before the Scourge, the Theran Empire ruled over the province of Barsaive. The Therans tamed the wilderness by constructing roads and trade flourished almost everywhere. Not all cities and towns were connected by Theran roads, however, and alternative trade routes emerged where the roads did no reach.
One of these trade routes developed in the foothills of the southern Throal Mountains. It was Throal’s link to the Serpent River, where a Theran road ran from the city of Parlainth to the settlements along the coast of the Aras Sea. Back in those times, dwarven engineers decided to build their own road and a bridge across the Serpent River. Theran governor Kern Fallo disliked the idea; his secret intent was to keep the dwarven kingdom small. Without support and protection from Theran cavalry, the route to Throal remained largely insecure – the caravans were easy prey for ork scorchers and brigans.
On the Fall of Ardan Yan
The trade route forked in the forests between the Coil and Alidar rivers, allowing travelers to reach the settlements in the south. This crossing was the site of a shrine devoted to Rashomon – a place where the questor Ardan Yan blessed travelers with courage and endurance for the rest of their journey. Many people rested here and used the opportunity to trade with the elves of the nearby forests. Over time, as more people settled down in the area, the crossing slowly turned into a permanent village.
Ork scorchers became interested in the site when it became palisaded, watching the settlement carefully. On a clear night, they attacked, razing the place without mercy and slaying the few warriors brave enough to take up the fight. Ardan Yan died along with them. The scorchers took everything they could load upon their massive thundra beasts.
After the ork scorchers had moved on, the elves decided to rebuild the village, Naming it Ardanyan in honor of the fallen questor. Word spread fast and soon other questors came to expand the shrine into a larger temple. Wealthy Throalic merchants funded the construction for their own interests and provided mercenaries to protect the village from further scorcher raids. The elves soon found themselves governing a small town that was growing so fast that bigger walls were needed for defense against scorcher attacks.
On the Construction of Kaer Ardanyan
A few decades before the Scourge, the town council negiated with Theran officials to receive the Rites of Protection and Passage. A settlement of the size of Ardanyan was barely worth the Therans’ attention, so they suggested that the people of Ardanyan join a bigger kaer instead of constructing their own. When the council members insisted on purchasing the Rites, the Therans grudgingly demanded a price so high in goods, gold and slaves that the town would not have been able to afford to build their own kaer if they agreed to the deal.
Negotiations were again taken up when dwarven stonemasons found deposits of precious gold and silver in the nearby foothills. They took this as evidence of a cache of elemental earth buried deeper below the surface. Supporting the masons with Elementalists to dig into the hills faster than usual, enough elemental earth was mined to pay the Therans for the Rites without resorting to slavery. And there was still plenty more True earth to be found.
Rich from their find, Ardanyan’s council hired the famous dwarven architect Ghandoz to plan the construction of the kaer. Four large halls were carved out of the natural caves near the mines. Like an orb-shaped shield, protective runes were dimensioned to incorporate the surrounding rock – providing sufficient space for further excavation during the Scourge without risk of disturbing the kaer’s wards. The Temple of Rashomon was integrated into the central hall where fantastic mosaics and paintings decorated the long hallways. The domes of the halls were painted sky-blue and enhanced with illusion magic to make everyone forget that they were underground.
On Mining with Greed
The mines of Kaer Ardanyan were soon brimming with activity. Once the kaer’s gates had closed, everything of value was stripped from the rocks and processed in anticipation of a new beginning after the Scourge ended. The treasures were enormous – some veins of elemental earth were so rich that generations of miners would be needed to work them. The kaer council decreed that all families would share the treasure in equal parts, as all of them contributed to the common goal of survival – miners or not. A lion’s share would be held back, however, saved to rebuild the town.
But all the riches served no one as long as the kaer was sealed. There was no trade, and gold is impossible to eat. Still, some dwarven miners considered it unfair that their hard-working families would receive the same share as those elves tending the crops and demanded bigger shares for their heris. The kaer council denied their requests on several occasions, and even the Miner’s Guild did not back their requests.
Frustrated, several miners joined forces and developed a plan. Hiring an Illusionist to hide a secretly constructed tunnel, they fooled the Miner’s Guild, the kaer council and the architect Ghandoz at the same time. In a dark cavern at the end of the tunnel, they stored everything that was not reported to the guild and council: chunks of silver and gold, precious gems – even elemental earth.
For decades, their tunnel remained a secret – until the kaer council decided to expand the Temple of Rashomon. Samiel, highest questor and spiritual leader of the kaer, had requested more space to house and train his followers. The tragedy happened a few years later, when tons of rock broke from the ceiling and buried the new temple wing underneath. Almost all of the temple’s questors died and, in shock at what he thought was his own failed planning, Ghandoz almost took his own life.
The architect’s innocence was proved when the hidden riches were found beneath the rubble and the secret tunnel was uncovered. The dwarven miners’ greed had taken the lives of Samiel and his followers. Most of the culprits were caught and imprisoned in the days following the investigations. The kaer council, still consisting of the same elves that founded Ardanyan, decided to penalize the miner’s betrayal with death. The practice of illusionism by dwarves was outlawed and the kaer guard enforced stricter control of the mines.
Samiel’s fate hung like a curse over the temple grounds. Without his guidance, the few remaining followers lost both their hope and their courage. No one was ready to step into Samiel’s shoes and no one dared to rebuild the temple. The temple grounds were Named the Temple of Greed and left abandoned.
On the Separation
When the betrayal was discussed and investigated, the Miner’s Guild finall took a firm stance. While they lamented the destruction of the temple and the elven questor’s death, they began to understand the problem that drove the miners to betray the council. The guild’s official request for bigger shares led to a fight in the council house when a council member slipped a condecending remark about dwarven family business. He and two guild members were banned from Council Hall as a result.
The presence of kaer guards in the mines fuelled unrest among the miners. Being watched so closely, they felt like slaves. Dwarven thick-headedness and elven arrogance had turned Kaer Ardanyan into a powder keg threatening to explode at any time.
In the following years, more and more people sought the neighborhood of their own kin rather than living peacefully and side-by-side. No elf wanted to live next door to a dwarven family possible involved with the Temple of Greed and vice versa. Slowly, Khar Rhuz became the home of all dwarves while the gardens of Shal’Minar eventually housed the complete elven population.
When the architect Ghandoz died of old age, the situation grew desperate. The architect’s reputation and experience had made him a respected negotiator between the elven kaer council and the dwarven Miner’s Guild. His successor, Tahrkusz, was different. He had always sided with the miners, but no one even suspected him of being the architect of the hidden tunnel. Officially backed by the Miner’s Guild, Tahrkusz provoked the council by open rebellion. His expectations were surpassed when the kaer council imprisioned him, closed the mines and disbanded the Miner’s Guild altogether.
The fighting stopped when the population of Okoros decided to seal themselves off and exiled all remaining elves and dwarves living there. For the first time in Ardanyan’s history, one of the halls had closed its gigantic gates leading to Council Hall. The lines were drawn and the kaer community was shattered into pieces when the other halls closed their gates as well.
On the Need for Trade
Supplies grew thin only a few months after the separation. No hall was able to feed their citizens alone – Kaer Ardanyan had not been designed for this. Cautious negotiations were taken up in the only neutral area left: Council Hall. The ambassadors agreed on a compromise: the treasure currently in the vault would be distributed evenly among the families, minus a share for rebuilding the town at the end of the Scourge. Everyone was allowed to increase his treasure by mining as long as he signed up with the Miner’s Guild and paid taxes. Additionally, each hall was allowed to set up its own laws on trading, enabling everyone to master his own wealth.
Council Hall became a marketplace, where designated merchants bartered with what their halls had to offer in exchange for other things needed. The ambassadors regulated and governed the new system of trade. It worked, but an undertone of distrust between the halls remained.
Within two centuries, a new government evolved. Generations of ambassadors had met in Council Hall regularly. They were aware of problems affecting the whole kaer, the only ones able to see the big picture. The ambassadors already helped each other out, sometimes even by passing the laws for the good of everyone. After a long time, they eventually convinced their rulers to officially declare peace and create a new, united council governing the whole kaer. The governors formed the new kaer council, each of them still ruling over his own hall with their own laws and customs.
On How Kaer Ardanyan Works
The dwarven architect Ghandoz designed Kaer Ardanyan, who dimensioned it large enough that there was enough space for coming generations and mining work. The protective wards are shaped like an orb incorporating the surrounding rock, with a tunnel circling the kaer’s equator. This border tunnel also marks ground zero of the kaer – there are levels above and below it. Four large halls were carved out of existing natural caves, which were widened and expanded to have a domed ceiling. The three largest halls – called Khar Rhuz, Shal’Minar and Okoros – were planned as living areas centered around the smallest one, Council Hall, which served administrative purposes only. Today, the kaer is home to about 3,200 Name-givers.
All halls are illuminated by a large light crystal mounted in the center of each dome. During the day, the crystals emanate a yellowish glow reminding of sunlight. The ceilings were painted in a light blue and enhanced with illusion magic to create the image of a clear sky. The crystal light slowly fades on and off twice a day to create the illusion of dusk and dawn. Countless smaller light quartzes set into the domes simulate stars during the night.
The underground levels serve various purposes. The levels directly under the surface are mailny used for storage and cooling food, sometimes even as living quarters. Chamber pots are emptied in the lower halls and come back as fertilizer for the fields. The depest levels contain the death pits, where the bodies of the deceased are disposed. A deep layer of mud covers these pits, which are regularly skimmed for bones.
An underground river was diverted to supply Kaer Ardanyan with water. The river is entering the kaer’s wards near the hall of Okoros and descends deep under the lowest levels, where it exits the wards again. A number of water elementals were bound to ensure the purity of the water and the safety of the kaer. These spirits also divert enough water to feed the lakes inside the halls.
Apart from naturally grown air sponges, several air elementals clean the air and circulate it. As with the water elementals, the spirits work in the background and are mostly invisible. When the library was on fire many years back, the displeased spirits manifested in a great storm to clean out the smoke.
The Separation and the circumstances of living in a closed underground environment had many lasting effects on Kaer Ardanyan’s society. Even if each hall has developed its own laws and customs, everyone works hard to ensure the survival of the kaer. For example, most materials need to be recycled. The death pits in the lowest levels are not only used to get rid of dead bodies – the mud filling the pits is highly acidic and decomposes organic matter in a matter of days. The bones skimmed from the mud are usually returned to the families, who carve tools or jewelry from it. It is not unusualy to use an ancestor’s skull as a mug or sit on a stool made from his bones.
Since water is a common resource, it is frowned upon to swim in the lakes of the kaer. Some people don’t like to drink anything others swam in. Only Lake Vevenna in Shal’Minar is reserved for this activity, but curiously enough, all people seem to ignore what the t’skrang do in Lake Vross.
There was no trade in Ardanyan until the Separation. According to kaer law, only certified merchants are allowed to trade in Council Hall. Not all merchants sell their wares with profit on their hall’s local market – Shal’Minar makes an exception, and barters only for goods of equal value.
Minted coins are seldom used for trading, far more common is the practice of accumulating a certain debt before filing a transfer of money at Council Hall. Coins are used to pay smaller sums, however. Most taverns only accept hard currency as some people tend to forget paying when they’re drunk.
Being a neutral place, Council Hall is not open to everyone. Travelers must check with the kaer guard on their destination and approximate duration of their stay, before passing through Council Hall in a quick fasion. Travelers have to spend at least one night at a local inn when visiting another hall.