From the Introduction:
The World of Tennenberg is a wasteland, an expanse of mustard yellow sand and blackened rock. Most of its surface sits in enormous depressions that may have once been seas with scattered plateau islands jutting kilometers above the surrounding desert, obsidian pillars silhouetted against a hazy red sky. Five continents make up roughly a sixth of the worlds surface, they rise from the depressions in as dramatic a fashion as the islands, creating ragged near vertical cliff faces as much as five kilometers high and hundreds long. The only features breaking this endless expanse of sand and stone are two small polar ice caps, and the jumble of bloated psuedo-hives that mottle its surface. A forimidable imperial presence and a population now numbering in the billions has steadily accretted over the 800 years since the world's settlement in order to exploit its seemingly inexaustable mineral wealth. The world is ruled from Hive Koenrich by a Lord Governer appointed for life by a council of the leaders of the Seven major Houses. Bern, Theot, Hilde, Kreva, Valkena, Astreid, and Solut each administrate from their eponymous hives, and are each specialized in their own particular sphere of the world's industry.