Originally the home of dwarves, who occupied the northern mountainous area, and humans who occupied the coastal areas and the Silver Desert in the south. There is still a far higher population of dwarves in the north, though many live well-integrated over the remainder of the Gershan territory.
The dwarvish capital, Teos, is in the cave in the upper middle of the SE group of mountains. It's still inhabited - very much so - with a large, stable population. It's more or less self-sufficient. There's an underground lake that provides water, fish and a disgusting soggy weed that's a local speciality. There's also a fair amount of trade with other cities and towns in the area. Teos has a large mining industry, along with the associated metal and stone working, and there are several trading outposts throughout the mountains.
The largest mountain in the range is called the Forbidden Mountain, because no dwarf has ever gone there (or at least, those that have, have stayed very quiet about it.) It has a legend attached to it that if it is ever disturbed by mining, disaster will befall the region. There's a parallel legend that its insides are pure gold, though no one has ever looked.
The two tented encampments in the central S are summer bases for nomads who the rest of the year roam the deserts to the south. They're known simply as 'The Camps' and people know to stay off them except when coming in to trade. The southern cities along the big river (between which there is great political rivalry) send caravans to these bases to trade. The nomads are notably tough. They also have some very strict customs to do with hospitality and relationships with outsiders. All are honour bound to offer hospitality to outsiders for one night if required. Offering hospitality beyond a single night constitutes an offer of friendship. Guests are expected to admire everything they see, but touch nothing unless it's offered to them, and they must stay within their host's tent at night - any nocturnal wanderings will be taken as proof that the guest is a spy. Spies are always executed.
Cimis is a new foundation, at the mouth of the fast-flowing Cimis River. Initially set up by refugees fleeing arrest in Ottah, it is now home to a growing population of humans and dwarves under the leadership of the Despot Karagis. Despite Karagis's absolute rule, he is a thoughtful and outward-looking leader, and is looking to build Cimis into a substantial trading power, independent of the despised River Cities: his Watch do not ask many questions of those who come here to carve out a new future. Life in Cimis is hard and one has to prove one's worth and ability daily, but the rewards are great for those who are sufficiently dedicated to the ideal, or sufficiently reluctant to return to whence they came.
Cimis has no Gershan temple. Instead, Karagis has declared himself the defender of faith in the city.
The Silver Desert Is so called because of the colour of the sand. However, there is also a rumour that it hides an ancient city whose walls are made of silver.
Yet further south lie trackless jungles.
The Lyvan and the River Cities
The Lyvan gets slower and filthier as it runs to the sea: the same (the filthier bit, anyway) is said to be true of the four cities. Going from the sea up, their names are Niu, Shu, Masud and Ottah. Each has strong political leadership and is run more or less autonomously. Ottah has the highest Dwarven population, Niu is a mix of human and elven. Masud and Shu are largely human, but with a strong minority of elves and dwarves.
The four River Cities are very similar in set-up: politicians at the top, mages generally ignored, people thinking they're above such trickery. Lots of people work in the mines or have links with the trading business that comes from the mines. The miners and their families are basically slaves, living in abject poverty, there is also some racism, with humans regarding themselves as better. All the city rulers are human.
All cities have Gershan temples. The bishops have never been known to practise magic and the temples are little more than political and trade centres. In Ottah, the dwarves have their own Gershan church, which the official Ottah bishop thinks is a great joke.
The Emerald Mines
Economically important to the River Cities, but very harsh and dangerous conditions prevail there. The cities compete to get the most and rival miners have been known to kill each other for the day's haul. Naturally, there is a thriving slave trade.
The great monolith, in the gritty northern reaches of the Silver Desert, is almost wholly mysterious. The glyphs which ornament or inform its surface correspond to no tongue known to elf, dwarf or human, and the material of which it is made is unfamiliar - far better resistant to weathering than any substance known to the moderns. More mysterious still, its presence seems to be erratic - some travellers have reported not seeing it at all, despite being in the zone of its supposed location.
The Dead Stones
There is a dwarvish legend of a group of mages who attempted to manipulate the very nature of life itself. Because of this, the life was drawn out of them and they were turned into statues and left as a warning to others. More likely, the stones are an ancient religious site or territorial marker. Their original function is a mystery.
It was under the rulership of the Lorn dynasty that the Gershan empire reached its greatest peak, pinning the Berneans up in their woodland fastnesses and enjoying a prosperity and authority undreamed of before or since. The current imperial dynasty, the Ungrave, retain the trappings of that dignity in Lorn, but their writ runs only over the coastal strip - the River Cities have long since disavowed their fealty. The most notable feature in Lorn is the great chasm in the floor of the throne room of the Red Palace, into which Empress Charis Lorn was dragged screaming by an incautiously-summoned fiend from the nether hells, signalling a rather conclusive end to her dynasty one hundred and twenty years ago - or so the tale has it.
Second city of what remains of the Gershan Empire, Tredl is slowly coming out from under the shadow of Lorn, adjusting better to the new world order. It is here that the Solist philosophy initially came to strength, its founder, Amphion, hailing from a nearby village. Solists now hold all the positions of power in Tredl, including the ducal line, the Fale family. Their high levels of organization and motivation have meant that their embassages and academies can now be found in every part of the civilized lands, except a few places where they're banned: and even in those benighted parts there are secret representations.
Lord Jan Fale personally supports the solist leader, Amphion, and funds the Solist teaching academies. At his order, all Gersham temples and Bernean shrines in the area have been destroyed and replaced with so-called forums of free speech.
In the dark days of the Kan dynasty, and the other short-lived Bernean-originated imperial families who preceded the Lorn dynasty, Bale-Beacon was used for human (and dwarven) sacrifice, to retain the favour of Kaisha. Either the sacrifices were insufficient, or else Kaisha was not greatly pleased by them, because the Gershans regained their lands and threw Bernea back into the sea. Ever since then, though, Bale-Beacon has borne a dark cloud about its summit, and no loyal Gershan will willingly set foot on it or see it without cursing its name (although those of Bernean ancestry cannot see what all the fuss is about: why can't people let bygones be bygones?)
Throughout known history Bale-Beacon has smouldered and occasionally oozed magma, but it has never erupted properly.
The Grey Sea
Is so called because of the foul weather which characterizes it. This and the maelstrom are the reasons why it took a while for the Gershans to cross to the central west area, which was initially disputed territory and saw most of the fighting.
The homeland of elves in the north and humans in the south. When the wars between the empires started, it was Gershan that invaded Bernea, but the Berneans were quick to fight back.
The four Watcher Lords guard against incursions from barbarous elves who live to the far north. Their names are Lord Scale, The Lady of the Winds, Lord Elmar and Master Geon Curr. Historically these Watcher positions have been in the gift of the Temple of Pax Everstill in Cleon, but lately they have tended to descend by appointment, as the priests found their temporal power increasingly hemmed.
The Great Forest
These barbarous elves, known as the Free Riders, also raid southwards into the Great Forest, but the civilised Bernean elves hold them off without too much trouble.
There are tales that the forest is magical.
The city in the forest is the elvish capital, as much as they regard such a thing as necessary: they have settlements throughout the forest. The city is called Kalevi. Other settlements generally take their names from local landmarks: Oak Valley, Brook, Silverhill, Willows are the main ones. Non-elves are not welcome in Kalevi, although humans and dwarves do turn up in the other settlements from time to time.
The towns on the southern margin of the forest are where non-elves usually go to do trade. They are called Penates and Ambar. There's an elvish legend that Penates and Ambar were the first elves to settle Bernea, having arrived on a great ship from a far distant land. Brother and sister, they are the ancestors of all the Bernean elves.
The Lighthouse (Herrik's Watch)
Its original function was to protect elven ships from the particularly rocky headland. During the Bernean/Gershan wars it changed hands several times as both sides used magically enhanced ships to cross the Circle Sea. It also became the home of a mage named Herrik who used it as a base from which to cast weather-related spells. And at some times in its history, the barbarian elves took control of it and deliberately wrecked ships to steal the cargoes. It is currently in the hands of Bernean elves who use it as a lookout post as well as a lighthouse.
It's actually a natural feature, though there are several stories about it, such as it was the birth place of a dragon who tore free of the earth at that point and flew into the Burnt Lands (hence their name.)
The cave (The Delve of Andas)
It has been the home of one mage or another for centuries, and thus has a very strong magical charge around it. The latest mage is called Andas, a famed air elementalist.
Looking northwards from the hills in which it sits, the free city of Kalofane is Bernea's most progressive. Its magistrate leaders are elected by citizen suffrage, for a fixed term of office, a custom enshrined since the city won freedom from Cleon back in the days of the Emperor Var Vilder. All citizens must also serve in the city militia, which is rightly feared for its efficiency, morale and quality of equipment.
The old Bernean capital, still trying fretfully to clutch the rags of its power to itself - the Imperial wealth is still very apparent in Cleon, and visitors cannot fail to be overawed by the splendour of its buildings and gardens, but there is a hollowness at the core. Pretenders of dilute blood squabble over who has the best right to the Jade Throne, ignoring the fact that the throne itself was broken up and scattered by Gershan forces three centuries since. The latest pretender is a young man called Jad-Arden who has gained a measure of popular support. The true force in the city is shared, uneasily at best, between the priests of the Temple of Pax Everstill, chief sanctum of the seven gods (not counting ancient elvish ones in the Great Forest), and the Brown Friars, founded as a mendicant order but now effectively controlling trade on this wealthy stretch of the Bernean coast.
Ruled by the sprightly Countess Grimby, this young city takes advantage of its mastery of the river from Larkwood to dominate the timber trade of Bernea. (The elvish inhabitants of the Great Forest will not allow its trees to be felled.) Although life in Veluta seems easy-going and fancy-free, this city is at daggers drawn with its larger neighbour Squill, and it is only active diplomacy by the neutral cities that has prevented conflict on more than one occasion in recent decades.
A quiet city seated amidst the plains of the Annun, Kessel has a reputation for cultural backwardness and self-satisfaction: young people from the coastal cities come here to seek their fortunes, but generally either settle in to Kessel's quiet ways, or else head off into the interior never to be seen again. It is ruled by Duke Bravon Turkelme, an indolent fellow who would doubtless be under the sway of his courtiers had any of them the wit to exploit his weakness.
The most populous city in what was formerly Bernea, Squill declared itself independent of both empires nigh on a century since, and from those days on has ploughed its own furrow - an apt metaphor, as its wealth lies in the fertile agricultural land which surrounds it, with the gently rolling Mummers, the clear-flowing Ridan, and the peaceable boughs of Kaden's Forest to shade it. But this idyllic setting has not bred tranquillity in Squill's governors, the Council of Ten: their policies towards their neighbours have been uniformly aggressive, and it is only the proverbial laziness and cowardice of the Squill trooper, wishing he were back on his farm, which has prevented them exerting a greater dominance over the western lands.
Sher, under the unwelcome sway of Squill, is a small city built on the fishing trade and valued for its command of the generous Mouth of Annun. The Bailiff of Sher is appointed every five years by the Squill Council, and is charged with enacting their writ: this rule is rather unpopular. It is known that Meridar has cast acquisitive eyes upon Sher, and it may be that the Bailiff will soon be called upon to defend Squill rule - oppressive, but surely not as objectionable as coming under the sway of the despotic Taskmaster.
The current Bailiff is Phila Naal. A hard and unpopular man, he's nevertheless done a lot in the city, establishing an effective militia and setting up trade links with Kessel.
The southernmost Bernean city is nasty. It tends to be a magnet for thieves, murderers and so on. There have been various attempts to clean the place up, so to speak, but none have succeeded and no one tends to go there anymore unless they've got business there. Meridar has no official centralized system of rule, but from time to time a strong figure rises to the top and is able to enforce their will over a decent proportion of their neighbours. At the moment, the de facto ruler of Meridar is called simply The Taskmaster. Outsiders know very little about him except that he made his fortune in the slave trade.
The Burnt Lands
Were destroyed many centuries ago, by forces unknown but much speculated about. Who knows what riches may lie in their wastes? Death is the likeliest boon they grant to greedy travellers.