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In playing Witcher 3, I noticed that basically 4 people or less own and hold a very large castle in the mountains. Seems like a decent area to want to take, but I'm not knowledgeable about the books.

Do the books explain how the Witchers (I think they are wolf-school) acquired Kaer Morhen or why no one tries to take it from them?

  • I think the first chapter of the Witcher 1 game mentioned something about it being secret/hidden. – CodesInChaos Sep 25 '15 at 16:34
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While it is never explained how they acquired the castle, we can speculate:

First of all you have to understand that while there are only 4 witchers living in the Kaern Morhen, there used to be much more of them living and creating new witchers there, until a mob attacked the castle and killed all but a handful of them.

The castle is probably (as most human cities) based on the old Elvish fortress - when humans started gaining power Elves preferred to abandon their dwellings rather than stand and fight, so many castles were simply abandoned. And whoever was a human ruler of this area during that time (Kaer Morhen officially lies in Kaedwen) was probably quite happy to have a band of witchers defending this region.

In present time not many people even know about the ruins of the castle - most paths are hidden and there is no significant - human or otherwise - population living nearby, which means that the fortress has a little strategic importance.

In other words currently witchers are able to keep the place because no one really wants it.

  • based on the old Elvish fortress - doesn't Geralt explicitly state in Shaerawedd that elves did not build fortresses? Besides, characters often remark that Vesemir may be older than the fortress (although this may be a joke) - elves left long before Vesemir was born. – Gallifreyan Nov 12 '16 at 20:09
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    Maybe the word "fortress" is wrong, but it really seems that the base for the castle has been made by elves, humans probably adapted it to make it more secure. Also I really doubt that Vesemir pre-dates the castle, other witchers just joke about his age – Yasskier Nov 13 '16 at 8:45
  • I agree that it is most probable, given elves advanced architecture, that they have laid the foundation of most of cities and stuff, but I don't recall any indication whatsoever that elves built or at least started to build Caer Morhen. The one evidence I can think of is the castle's original name, Caer a'Muirehen - The Fortress Near the Sea. One could argue that humans couldn't probably build anything so grandiose when there was sea near Caer Morhen. – Gallifreyan Nov 13 '16 at 14:11
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In Season of Storms (the last book, written in 2013 by Sapkowski), Geralt works for Mages of Rissberg Castle. He meets the oldest (human) mage alive, Ortolan (this guy created the mandrake potion used by mages to stop aging, ironically he was very old when he found out and is trapped in the body of a senile old man for many centuries).

During the meeting Ortolan says something very interesting to Geralt:

[...] Cosimo Malaspina and is student Alzur, Alzur precisely who created the witchers. They imagined the mutation, whereby the creatures in your likeness have been created. Whereby you are, whereby you travel the world, ungrateful. You should hold them in esteem [...]

Alzur, his masters and their co-workers (mentionned in the book, but not especially named) are very powerful mages and created many creatures with genetic experiments, their ultimate creation are witchers.

With their abilities they earned a lot of money, and you can be almost certain they have enough money for building or purchasing Kaer Morhen for experiments on witchers and then leave them as home/stronghold/more-witcher-factory.

Another important point: experiment notes from Alzur and others are extremely rare. Mages of Rissberg (basically, Alzur and his group built and founded the Rissberg Castle facilities for their successors) have only a few and no details of the experience.

That's why a renegade mage writes the Monstruum books, and launches an assault on Kaer Morhen, partially to destroy the place and kill every witcher (except Vezemir): obtain experiment notes and the secrets of the witchers' abilities for himself.

The people who know where Kaer Morhen is located are very few. Except the witchers, some mages (Triss, Yennefer, maybe high-ranked Rissberg mages, members of mages council), Ciri, and maybe some guests (Jaskier-Dandelion for exemple, but I'm not sure, he just can't keep a secret).

And people are generally afraid of witchers.

They can try to kill one, if the situation is a big mess, but the cost in human lives is very high, witchers are super-humans made for killing creatures an army can't stop. And I don't think attacking a secret-hidden place somewhere in the mountains with an unknown number of witchers is a job you want.

Yes, it's happened once, but the mage who attacked Kaer Morhen pushed the resentment of people towards witchers for years (or decades?) before attacking.

  • Not exactly an answer to the question, but +1 for very good content. Might be more careful in the future, though, as my +1 may be multiple someones -1s... – AcePL Oct 25 '16 at 9:53
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Kaer Morhen is an old keep, which was for many centuries a place where Witchers were "recruited" and trained, with associated with those tasks laboratories and library. In fact, on passage in the book "Blood of Elves" says it was it's function since "time forgotten". It's origin is unknown, except for a fact that it involved some "renegade" mage(s), who worked out and perfected the Mutations and Trials, so it may be possible that it belonged to that mage(s).

It was destroyed by attack of fanatical mob, "inspired" to the violence by propaganda written and distributed by some unknown mage, about 70-80 years before the events in the book.

It's state of ruin is carefully maintained by witchers as a part of the camouflage, allowing them to continue existing. I think it is probable that common knowledge of it's existence was magically removed from ordinary folk's memories as well, which would explain the secrecy shrouding (and/or lack of knowledge of ) it's location. It is a speculation only, as - on the other hand - it's lab and library content is described as of extreme interest to anyone of the magical profession.

Also - schools of witchercraft are training concept, not a "proper" School as most people would think of it. It's more like The Way Of The Wolf, and although Sapkowski uses specific word "school", in Polish it has different meaning in the context of the whole passage ("The Last Wish: The Voice of Reason 4"). Which also states that Kaer Morhen is the one and only source and home of witchers. Or was.

  • Is there a precedence for wiping memories magically on a large scale? – Premier Bromanov Jun 16 '16 at 16:50
  • Schools aren't only in game, there were medallions other then wolf and in Season of Storms there's witcher of other school. – Mithoron Jun 16 '16 at 20:53
  • @Mithoron - correct. Editing answer accordingly. – AcePL Jun 18 '16 at 1:29
  • @PremierBromanov - there is not. However, there are other magical feats which were either large-area- or large-crowd-reaching, so it's entirely possible. Will edit, though, as this is my speculation only. – AcePL Jun 18 '16 at 1:33

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