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In Kaiator, the War is ever-present. In Velika, strolling sunlit streets and green, rolling plains, the War can be forgotten; never in Kaiator. There are different kinds of beauty: the classical romantic beauty of Velika, the towering courtly architecture of Allemantheia. Amani say Velika's a stew pot, and Allemantheia a wine glass, but Kaiator is a crucible.
Much like the amani themselves, indomitable strength is Kaiator's beauty: muscular steel frames, defiant, klieg-lit towers, and magmatic flows (tapped to power gargantuan forges) fill a dome that scrapes the heavens. High above, immense statues of the city's goddess and protector, Kaia, glow in the darkness. After millennia magically enslaved by the giants, the aman people value freedom above all, a virtue to fight and die for. Many amani have.
When the humans' patron god cursed them, the amani and deva empires scrabbled over human lands in a war that weakened both. Unfortunately for the amani, the powerful giants decided aman soldiers would be useful. They enslaved the entire race, binding them with an unbreakable Seal of Obedience to ensure their loyalty.
For a thousand years amani fought the giants' battles for them, did their dirty, dangerous work. The giants bred the amani for strength. Why not, with their loyalty guaranteed by a power nothing could overcome?
The Holy Empire of the Giants fell when their appalling hubris offended the gods, who excised it in a single day. But even the gods' wrath did not free the amani. Uncounted thousands burned to ash defending their hated masters. The survivors followed them into exile in the glacial wastes of northern Shara.
As the giants plotted to rebuild their empire, the amani prayed for deliverance. Their own god had long since abandoned them, but Kaia took pity on them and asked Lok to intervene. Lok and his deva artisans could not resist the puzzle of an unbreakable seal. After three years of work, Lok gave the amani the keys of freedom.
The giants quickly discovered what able warriors they'd made—swift, strong, intelligent, and practiced. The amani drove out the giants, tore down all they'd built, and raised a new city to honor their savior: Kaiator.
Kaiator, the rock against which all waves break, embodies the aman oath never to be chained again. The Argon Invasion caught the small, fragmented kingdoms of northern Shara off guard. Abominations and war machines exceeding any power in the north poured out of the ground. The first wave of fighting often outpaced the news it was coming, but soon refugees driven south clogged the woods and fields. A mighty fortress hardened over centuries, Kaiator could have closed its massive iron gates and let the refugees sweep past. Instead they offered a choice: a bunk to anyone who could fight or earn their keep; or clean hydrothermal water, rations, and a clear road south as long as Kaiator could hold it. This generous, fair, and practical approach garnered even more dedicated, tenacious citizens to keep the walls against the argon siege.
Only once did the argons penetrate the city. The goddess Kaia had long held warfare classes for young amani in the city center's open plaza. They could exercise at the heart of the city without disturbing busy soldiers far away at the outer walls. When the argon drill head pierced the flagstones, they reacted with precision. Runners sprinted to the barracks, shouting the news the whole way. As their teacher leapt on the argon soldiers emerging from the drill, students smoothly flanked them.
As workers from nearby foundries arrived, the drill belched a cloud of blue-black greasy gas that gushed along the ground like water, rapidly filling the courtyard. The argons' native atmosphere, concentrated, blistered skin and burned lungs. Workers charged in to defend Kaia until they either fell back with bleeding eyes, or simply fell.
But the students stayed. In the cloud's heart, they blocked the drill's gas vents with their bodies, one lying atop while others jammed in rags or hammered and bent ducts to choke them, to save their city and protect their freedom. Several hundred workers and students died in the plaza. A hundred soldiers died in tunnels under the city, driving away the argons before other drills could surface. Only five students survived.
The story of the Breach was surely a factor in Gallian of Velika's call for united defense against the argons. Today, Kaiator is the head of the Valkyon spear, the biggest city on northern Shara and source of the finest armor and weapons mortals can make. The massive iron gates and armored pegasus flight path shield the region's streaming supply caravans and columns of troops. Soldiers swarm the streets, but there are also artisans and merchants. You may still see young amani sprinting up flights of steps, carrying water for the forges or simply standing in meditation, all to earn the right to learn from Kaia, who still instructs students today.
Kaiator is the last stop for soldiers, both before and often after combat. Heroes killed in battle are cremated in its largest foundry, the Crucible, an honor first bestowed on those who died in the Breach. Each name is inscribed on a bolt or rivet for the city's colossal walls and buttresses. Starting with the Breach, many castanic, popori, human, and even elven names are listed, but only two barakas: Kulmar and Bororu, a married couple working the foundry on the day of the Breach. It is a signal honor for two giant-kin to be so remembered.
Living well in Kaiator is to live as an aman, to fight for your freedom and defend your neighbor as yourself. Amani don't tolerate bullying. You earn power through loyalty and skill or not at all. It's an unforgiving place, but one of camaraderie and opportunity if you prove trustworthy. It's very dangerous to be a thief in Kaiator, though not unheard of. It's not shameful to profit by cunning, but theft is a breach of trust and deeply dishonorable. Any race is welcome, though barakas still draw sidelong looks.
People go to Kaiator to perfect their fighting skills. They go to defend their people. They go to arm themselves. Those who stay do so in the cause of freedom, and because they find dignity, honor, and wealth mean more when you sweat for them together.
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