Earthdawn West Marches

Kaer Ardanyan

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The dwarven architect Ghandoz designed Kaer Ardanyan, making 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 each widened and expanded to have a domed ceiling. The three largest halls — called Khar Rhûz, 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 Namegivers.

Each hall is illuminated by a large light crystal mounted in the center of its dome. During the day, the crystals emanate a yellowish glow reminiscent of sunlight. The ceilings are painted 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 below the surface are mainly 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 deepest 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 enters 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 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 though 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–but the bones skimmed from the mud are usually returned to the families, who carve tools or jewelry from them. It is not unusual 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 have swum 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 for profit in their hall’s local market; for example, Shal’Minar 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 in with the kaer guard regarding their destination and approximate duration of their stay, before passing through Council Hall in a quick and orderly fashion. Travelers have to spend at least one night at a local inn when visiting another hall.

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