Six free cities rim The Deepening, each a separate political entity from the nation in which they reside, each ruled by a Magistrate that answers to no one. These city-states control not only the teeming populations within their walls, but they also claim domains out to a radius of approximately a day's ride in any direction, or about 25 miles. Clockwise from the Dragontail Canal, these cities are Cer Halcyon, Cer Vedrys, Cer Gralen, Cer Cules, Cer Breite, and Cer Cannaid. The word "cer" means "city" in the Old Tongue, the language spoken by the original inhabitants of Arelatha over a millennia ago.
Each of the Cers boasts over 50,000 residents within its walls, sometimes packed in rather tightly--Cer Halcyon has nearly 100,000--and are among the largest cities in Arelatha. Certainly they are the oldest, predating the oldest written records known to man. It's as if they've always been there, and a few sages wonder aloud if perhaps they were formed at the time of Creation itself.
The best Arelatha has to offer can be found in the six Cers, from the latest styles of fashion to the rarest of antiquities. Standing armies in the Cers are among the most devout, fiercest, and proudest across the continent. The finest centers of learning, the richest clientele, the grandest citadels, and the largest thieves' guilds are congregated here. And yet, each one differs from the next.
Cer Halcyon, the grandest by far, sits alongside the Dragontail Canal and is the hub of all trade. It is the location of the University of Magical Arts, a large pyramidal building made entirely of glass and steel. It is home to the wealthiest of people, who frequently make use of arcane craft to solve everyday problems.
Cer Vedrys, a solemn city, is the theological center of Arelatha. Not only is every sect of Maker worship located here in abundance, but also the College of Orthodoxy, which trains a majority of cassocks in the faith.
Cer Gralen, the smallest of the six, is nestled in a rocky outcropping that juts southward into The Deepening. It is the breadbasket of the continent, with markets on nearly every corner and storehouses, silos, and granaries consuming over half the city's area.
Cer Cules, war-torn and ragged, is carved out of the disputed territory of the Border Lands. Unlike the other Cers, it is not a major producer of any goods or center for any learning. Rather, it is a massive refuge for the Border Lands people who await the end of conflict and a chance to return in safety to what's left of their homes.
Cer Breite, a glorious city, rests near the Pinehurst Falls and is blessed by both frequent rainbows from the swirling mists and fiery sunsets over The Deepening. As a picturesque city, it has become a center of artistry, containing over 500 statues, 100 parks, and 200 murals spread throughout its streets, as well as a half-dozen museums and twice as many concert halls.
Cer Cannaid, the only free city at or near the water's level--the other five are elevated far above The Deepening on high cliffs or hills--is famous for its shipbuilding first and abundant fishing second. Entire fleets are built here by the finest craftsmen, both military and private vessels, large and small, lavish or simple.
Much more can be said about each of these ancient cities, but that will have to wait for another day. In closing, cartographers have noted that if lines are drawn between Cer Vedrys and Cer Breite, between Cer Gralen and Cer Cannaid, and between Cer Halcyon and Cer Cules, the three come very close to intersecting at a common point near the center of The Deepening. This depends, of course, on how accurate the map is that was drawn. What to make of this is anybody's guess. Certainly, no one is willing to sail to the center of The Deepening to find out.