Kaer Marter – the Home of Cats
Location and Economy
The Cat School is situated on a narrow strip of no man’s land, on the border between Redania and Temeria. It is surrounded by a lush forest which is full of wild game (as well as some more dangerous creatures) and through which a few well-maintained roads go. The nearest hub of civilization is a small Temerian village known as Golden Fields. Kaer Marter’s ruler, Grand Master Astrid, has established a very stable relationship with the village’s mayor – the commoners supply the school with various foods, while the monster slayers make sure that there is no viable threat nearby, be it a pack of monsters or a group of brigands that may come too close to the settlement. The social interactions between the villagers and witchers are amiable, although it’s clear that the commoners are aware of the Cats’ fearsome reputation and they tread carefully when in their presence.
Kaer Marter lies on a small inland island, situated between two prongs of Pontar river – the main Pontar and an old riverbed, known now as Embla. Situated on the isle’s eastern end, the School of Cat has been erected on a low hill, about a mile from Pontar. It is separated from the rest of the world not only by the prongs of the river, but also by marshes that are difficult to traverse if one does not follow the only available well-maintained road leading to the castle.
Situated just on the border of Redania and Temeria, it seemed like an ideal prize for both kingdoms, but the first Cat Grand Master, Ionn of Pont Vanis, proved to be a shrewd politician and was able to persuade the then monarchs that there was no reason to ‘fight over some small patch of forest’. For decades that status quo was upheld, and dignitaries from both neighbouring lands were often guests within the walls of Kaer Marter. Ionn’s successor, Astrid, also maintained that approach and to this day the school boasts about its true neutrality.
Still, for many years Redania tried to exert a greater influence on the Cat School politics, but to no avail. In the last decade it seemed to lose interest, especially when a peace treaty was signed with its southern neighbour, while its eastern border became an area of a new conflict with Kaedwen. Meanwhile Temeria became fully focused on Kaer Tiele, the witcher school of Wolf that was indisputably situated within its borders.
Of course, Kaer Marter has not always been a witcher training ground. Back in the old days it was a grand elven palace. As a social experiment, the Elder Folk allowed the first Cat witchers to settle down in their home. The monster slayers’ unofficial leader, Ionn of Pont Vanis, quickly used that opportunity to persuade the elves to invite sorcerer Alzur to stay with them as well. Alzur, who was an apprentice of the famed Cosimo Malaspina, used his master’s research to create his own mutants who later on became Cats. Now, with a safe place of their own, Alzur’s witchers could focus on training new adepts. The Aen Seidhe helped with that. They showed the mutants a few secret sword fighting techniques, as well as taught them quite a lot about metallurgy – that’s why even to this day the Cats are famous for using light armour and characteristic swords that remind one of the elven craft.
When the elves retreated to the east as a result of their wars with humans, they decided to leave their palace in the witchers’ care, viewing that as a lesser evil than letting their home be ransacked by their enemy. In that moment Ionn officially took upon himself the mantle of Grand Master and established Kaer Marter. Alzur became the resident mage, although he spent more time in his hometown of Maribor than in the school, truth be told. He would teleport there from time to time, mostly to check upon the latest batch of post-Trial witchers.
In the following decade, Kaer Marter flourished and became one of the two main witcher training grounds on the Continent. Many merchants and noblemen visit the school to hire its residents for a contract, but not everyone gets what they want: Grand Master Astrid vets all proposed business by herself and agrees only to what’s really profitable for the school – be that profit measured in money or influence. There is no chance for charity cases.
Such pragmatism only adds to the Cats rather fearsome reputation. A reputation that is also bolstered by numerous rumours circulating in the North, stating that unlike their Wolf brethren, the residents of Kaer Marter are not above taking up a contract for a human life. Still, no one really knows if it’s true or not. And most Cat witchers, when asked about it, respond with a sly grin only.
The resident mage of Kaer Marter and the man responsible for creation of Cat witchers is dead now, but he still plays a great role in the school’s lore. Apprentice and colleague to the famous Cosimo Malaspina, Alzur followed in his master’s footsteps and focused his scientifical ambition on creating a perfect specimen – be it a monster slayer… or a monster. Unlike Malaspina, the younger mage didn’t stop his experiments on witchers and was responsible for creation of many terrible hybrids. One of those monsters proved to be Alzur’s end – a giant viy broke out of the sorcerer’s control, killed its creator and destroyed half of Maribor. Nowadays Alzur lives only in the older Cats’ memories. According to them the mage was a very charismatic and intelligent man, but one who was mostly absent from Kaer Marter. Some of the masters call him ‘Father Alzur’, but most of them use that moniker ironically and their view him as a creator who abandoned his children in order to pursue a higher calling.