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 not 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, dwarf 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 brigands.
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.
A few decades before the Scourge, the town council negotiated with Theran officials to receive the Rites of Protection and Passage. A settlement 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 be 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 it easier for everyone to forget that they were underground.
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 heirs. 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. They doctored their reports to the guild and council, and in a dark cavern at the end of the tunnel, they stored everything that was not reported: 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 proven 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.
When the betrayal was discussed and investigated, the Miner’s Guild finally 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 uttered a condescending 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 almost 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 neighborhoods of their own kin rather than living peacefully side-by-side. No elf wanted to live next door to a dwarven family possibly involved with the Temple of Greed and vice versa. Slowly, Khar Rhûz 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 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 imprisoned him, closed the mines, and disbanded the Miner’s Guild altogether.
The council’s decision was unacceptable for all dwarves. Mining works went on while the swords of the kaer guard clashed with dwarven warhammers and pick-axes. When Tahrkusz was displayed in Council Hall for his trial, several dwarven warriors took hostages and freed him in a small skirmish, turning Council Hall into a cauldron of openly displayed racial hatred.
The fighting stopped when the people 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.
Supplies grew thin only a few months after the separation. No hall was able to feed its 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 they 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 bypassing 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 its own laws and customs.
A few decades following the new council’s founding, the magicians of Kaer Ardanyan suggested that the time had come to mount an expedition. They frequently performed the ritual written in the Book of Tomorrow, and interpreted the results as an indicator of the Scourge’s end. A call for volunteers went out to the adepts of the kaer. After a few weeks of preparation, the kaer council sent out an exploration party to find a safe way through the wards and traps their forefathers had put into place. The party was led by the Illusionist Leldrin. Leldrin returned days later carrying the remains of his dwarven comrade, Fearghus. He informed the council that the other members of his party had been killed by a Horror lurking just beyond the kaer. A council Nethermancer confirmed Leldrin’s words. The Scourge had not yet ended.
The mood in Kaer Ardanyan slowly dropped to an all-time low. People went missing over the next few years, and each day sprouted new, scary stories. Whispered rumors of a secret cult devoted to the Horror at the gates made their rounds, of cultists sacrificing innocent people to strengthen the Horror. Of all the Namegivers that vanished, the elven population was hit hardest. Apart from the missing, a series of strange diseases killed dozens of elves in the gardens of Shal’Minar. More rumors were raised when people feared that Leldrin had brought a curse back with him. Repeated investigations revealed that there was no truth to these rumors, and they eventually ebbed a year ago, when a shining ray of hope returned to end the dark times.
Once every century, the only two obsidimen of Kaer Ardanyan wake from hibernation. They end their long time dreaming and talk to the people to hear stories of the things that have happened and how the kaer has developed. This time, the obsidimen stayed awake. They didn’t say why, but everyone knew it had something to do with the Scourge. A few weeks later, their awakening was followed by the t’skrang. No one expected their return, and a fisherman of Okoros almost had a stroke when the first reptilian Namegiver appeared on the shore of Lake Vross.
Almost fifty years have passed since the first expedition, and everyone feels that the Scourge must have ended. A great burden rests on the shoulders of the kaer council. They are forced to mount a new expedition by public demand, risking opening the kaer to a Horror waiting outside…