The construction of Kaer Siyar by the citizens of Old Siyar began in the year 1006 of the Throalic calendar (563 of the Theran calendar), as the threat represented by the ever-increasing number of Horrors in Barsaive became too great to ignore. The first step was to obtain the Rites of Protection and Passage, the seminal work on kaer protection drafted by the Therans, and the corresponding Runes of Warding. These defenses were available only from Thera – and the price was steep. While the laborious negotiations between Siyar’s council of elders and a Theran legate dragged on, construction of the kaer proper – a decades-long project – began.
There was concern that the Scourge would come too soon, that the kaer would not be finished in time; as a result, some of Siyar’s citizens fled for refuge in the massive dwarven kaer at Throal or the cities of the Vorst to the south. The majority stayed, however, and they were joined by a large influx of orks from the northeastern plains, who offered their labor to help build the kaer in return the right to take refuge there.
Some deposits of True Earth were discovered during the excavations, and this could pay some of Thera’s price; the t’skrang of Damritsar offered quantities of True Water in exchange for the right to spend the Scourge in Kaer Siyar, and that helped as well. The dwarven historians of the kaer say that these elements, combined with an impassioned plea by one of Siyar’s elders (an experienced Troubadour) to the Theran legate, were enough to pay the Theran’s price. However, some of the orks in Kaer Siyar maintain that some of the town’s citizens – including, they say, a disproportionate number of orks – were sold into slavery to complete the bargain.
However they did it, Kaer Siyar and its defenses were completed in time, and in the year 1045 TH, when the encroaching Horrors were too numerous to ignore, the kaer was populated and sealed. Inside were over 5,000 Name-givers – roughly three-quarters of them dwarves, humans and orks. In the final weeks before the kaer was closed, a contingent of several hundred elves arrived from Wyrm Wood, asking so speak with the town elders about joining the kaer. The meeting between the elves and the elders lasted for nearly two days, and the details remain secret to this day, but the elders announced that the elves would be permitted to stay. Three clans of windlings (about a hundred in total), a few dozen trolls, and a trio of obsidiman caught too far from their Liferock completed the population. The t’skrang of Damritsar, roughly six hundred of them, were the last to enter the kaer, and proceeded almost immediately to their long hibernation. More than a few of the other Name-givers doubtless felt a twinge of jealousy at this; the non-t’skrang would spend the rest of their lives in Kaer Siyar.
Kaer Siyar Today
Since the sealing of the doors, the population of Kaer Siyar has more than doubled. The builders took this into account and built the kaer to allow for population growth, but certain areas (particularly the hall of Okoros) are still noticeably crowded. Orks are now the most populous race in the kaer, numbering almost four thousand. There are over three thousand dwarves and almost as many humans living in the kaer, and the elf population is nearing a thousand as well. The windling population has remained more or less fixed (as, of course, have the t’skrang and obsidiman populations), and the troll population, which was small to begin with, has been reduced to a single elderly and hopeless troll.
Structure of the Kaer
Following the standard Theran design, Kaer Siyar is divided into three great residential halls built around a smaller administrative hall. Not surprisingly, the Name-givers of the kaer preferred to live among their own kind, so each race tends to live in a single hall (though there are exceptions). The windlings dwell in small clusters of houses suspended from the roofs of the domes, and each of the three windling clans has claimed one of the domes as their own. Their duties include tending to the light crystals in the kaer ceilings, a task for which they are obviously better-equipped than any of the other races.
Okoros is home to most of the kaer’s orks and many of the humans as well. The trolls initially lived in Okoros as well, but their numbers dwindled after the kaer was closed and only a single, elderly troll remains. Despite this, Okoros is the most crowded of the kaer’s halls, and new construction (mostly vertical) is constantly required to keep up with the population growth. The t’skrang of Damritsar also technically live in Okoros; they built a small tower beneath the waters of Lake V’ross and have been hibernating there for the last several centuries. However, they do not take up street space, food, or air, and have largely been forgotten by the residents of the hall. Okoros also holds a shrine to the Passion Lochost; though the official shrine to Lochost is in the Council Hall, the orks have made their own here over the course of many generations.
Khar Rhûz is home to virtually all of Kaer Siyar’s dwarves. Not surprisingly, it displays a wide array of dazzling stonework and other fine craftsmanship. It was planned with a great deal of expansion in mind, and is not nearly as crowded as Okoros. In recent years, many of Okoros’ residents have begun publically suggesting that they should be permitted to move some of their population into Khar Rhûz. The matter has been brought up in the kaer council on several occasions, but no decisions have been made yet. Shrines to the Passions Chorollis and Upandal are located here.
Shal’Minar is the primary source of food for Kaer Siyar, and also home to most of the elves living in the kaer. They, and a small number of humans, tend to the fields and groves that cover most of the chamber, as well as the livestock who provide milk, wool, and meat for the kaer’s inhabitants. Shal’Minar feels much more spacious than the other chambers, and many residents of Khar Rhûz and Okoros often visit here to enjoy the sense of space (despite the smells of the livestock). A shrine to the Passion Jaspree is located here as well.
The Council Hall is where council meetings, trade, and significant public events take place. It is primarily a single large, open plaza with buildings arranged around the edges of the hall. These include the council meeting hall proper, the kaer’s library, and shrines to the Passions Astendar, Floranuus, Garlen, Lochost, Mynbruje, and Thystonius. Shrines to the three Mad Passions are located here as well, though they have been sealed up and abandoned ever since the Passions’ madness became apparent. During the day, the square is used as a place of trade; at night, stories, songs, plays, magical displays, and readings from the Book of Tomorrow are performed here.
The Freedom Gate has, of course, not been used in centuries, and is not scheduled to be used again for a century or more. However, the large room in front of it was intended for use in annual celebrations marking the passage of another year towards freedom. These celebrations are still held, though they tend to be subdued, morose affairs attended only by the kaer council and a few curious onlookers. Other than those annual “festivities,” the room is usually silent except for the low, crackling hum of the magical wards and the echoing footsteps of passing patrols. In addition to the large get itself, there is a smaller, airlock-like caisson which will, one day, be used to send a party of scouts outside to see if the Scourge has truly ended.
The Deeps is the general term for the smaller tunnels located around and below the great halls. These are used for storage of food and supplies, as well as for some of the less pleasant requirements of kaer life – disposal of wastes and dead bodies, for example. Some areas have even been claimed as living spaces for those who are tired of the crowding in Okoros. The obsidimen of Kaer Siyar also “live” here, though they are usually immobile and unresponsive for decades at a time. All of these areas are enclosed by a large, almost-spherical set of wards set into the rock of Mount Taneth itself.
Air: The kaer’s Elementalists maintain a number of tiny portals to the Elemental Plane of Air and several bound elemental spirits to ensure that the kaer has a supply of fresh air without risking Horror incursion. The fact that the kaer is completely dependent upon these gives the Elementalists a great deal of political clout, though they have rarely seen fit to use it.
Food: In addition to the fields and livestock of Shal’Minar, the kaer’s lakes are also stocked with edible fish and crustaceans, though these have been dwindling in numbers in recent years and are now a rare delicacy requiring special permission from the kaer council. Edible mushrooms grown in the underhalls also supplement the kaer’s diet.
Water: An underground river passes through the wards, where it is purified by a series of sponge plants and bound water elementals. Some of the water is then diverted to fill the kaer’s lakes (most dramatically in the waterfall over Lake V’ross in Okoros), and the rest is used as a disposal mechanism for those wastes than cannot be recycled in any usable way. Since the lakes are the kaer’s only source of water, bathing directly in them is frowned upon; residents generally bring buckets to the lakes to fill a small cistern in their homes where they store water for bathing, cooking, and other purposes.
Light: Each hall has a large light crystal in the center of its roof, which brightens gradually in the morning, stays lit all day, and fades gradually at night. Khar Rhûz and Shal’minar also have smaller light crystals in their ceilings, lit at night to represent stars; Okoros, however, was finished somewhat more hastily and did not have time for such luxuries. The windlings of Clan Sotive attempted to add these “stars” to Okoros’ dome after the kaer was sealed, but the limited supply of light crystals did not permit them to cover more than a small section of the ceiling.
Governance and Leadership
The Kaer Council is responsible for the kaer’s security, food production, and any decisions affecting the kaer as a whole (including matters of justice of sufficient magnitude). The council consists of one representative per full thousand Name-givers in the kaer; the original 5-man council now numbers eleven. Councillors serve a ten-year term, with half the council seats up for election every five years. The elections are open to all adult Name-givers, and are a simple popular vote; if five seats are up for re-election, the five individuals receiving the most votes are elected to the council. An elected councilor may choose to decline the honor, but once they have accepted it, they are obligated to serve out the remainder of their term. Not surprisingly, the elections are often acrimonious; loud speeches, accusations of moral failure, intimidation, and flat-out vote-buying are not uncommon when council seats are up for election. After each set of elections, the council itself votes to select a Prime Councillor, who sets the agenda, breaks ties, and is generally considered to be first among equals.
Each of the three great halls also has its own governing body; these work similarly to the Kaer Council on a smaller scale, with one representative per hundred Name-givers serving a two-year term. The Hall Council of Khar Rhûz takes its duties very seriously and follows the lead of the Kaer Council in most matters, while the Hall Council of Okoros is much less predictable. As for Shal’minar, the Hall Council there rarely has occasion to meet, as matters in the dome seem to run rather smoothly without it.
Each adult Name-giver is responsible for serving a turn in the kaer’s guard patrols; in practice, this works out as a week of service every few years. Those who are not fit to serve (or simply do not wish to) are responsible for finding someone else to take their place; this has led to the rise of a group of semi-professional kaer guards, who simply stand in for whoever is technically due to take their turn and represent about half the guards at any given time.