The Zannain flows out of the lush Edran Forest, a large and mostly
unexplored jungle to the east. Travelling towards the west and the sea,
the river passes through Rivertown at the forest edge, and skirts the southern edge of the Red
Plains, where it is joined by the River Crimson. From here, it flows slow and wide
through the Mainland to Naressina and the sea.
Leading eastwards form Naressina, the Zannain Road runs along the majestic river, shaded by ancient
trees. Lesser roads and lanes connect the villages of the Mainland to the great
road and to each other, running south as far as the gold mines of the Red Mountains.
The countryside is well traveled, and numerous inns provide food and lodging especially along the river banks. Tollgates provide the local
lords with an additional income from any trade passing through their domain, as well
as with money to maintain the Zannain Road in its excellent state.
Called ‘the orchard of Naressina’, the Mainland is
made up of farm country surrounding the great river on both sides, and dotted
by small villages, noble estates and walled mansions. Most of the food eaten
in the big city is produced here, and here the nobility go on hunting parties,
or to escape from the merciless summer and city intrigues to their fine houses
in the country.
To the south, the Mainland becomes hilly and slopes gently upwards towards
the Red Mountains and the city of Oressa, called the ‘garden city’,
famous for its wine and its ancient university. Oressa has a small port,
trading mostly in dried fish and salt.
To the North and East, the Mainlands slowly give way to wooded hills and meadows,
and the number of villages and inns decreases as the journey nears the grasslands
of the Red Plains. Inns are scarce, and the few villages are likely to be walled
against raids from bandits. The Zannain Road becomes less well maintained, turning
finally in to a broad dirt track with stretches of ancient paving, as the farm
country on either side becomes the grasslands of the Red Plains to the north,
and untamed shrubland to the south.
Legend says that the plains and the river Crimson turned red
with the blood of men fallen in ancient battles. The grasslands that stretch
north from the Zannain as far as the eye can see are red — the colour of
the tough, tall grass that waves and ripples in the wind, causing the wide plains
to look like ‘a sea of blood’. Rocky hills rise here and there from
the sea of red, bearing the walls of strong keeps or, more often, their ruins.
There are no roads across the plains, only the remains of the ancient King’s
Way leading north and north-east to Rienna, the city of kings.
This is bandit country, and traders along the Zannain band together in caravans
for protection. Skilled men at arms can easily find employment as guards or
in one of the garrisons, and many swordsmen and musketeers from the Red Plains
do. Others become mercenaries, who are much in demand throughout Annaen. Skilled mercenaries often find themselves recruited into a nobleman’s armed company, and might rise to prominent positions within a city’s militia. Campfire tales of heroes are told and retold all over the Plains, as travelers in the wild come together underneath the stars to share each other’s company, and perhaps listen to traveling musicians play the famous Firedance.
Traders dare the open wilderness for wool: The grasslands
are home to famously hardy breeds of sheep as well as to the silky haired, blue
maned, long tailed, cunning and fiercely temperamental Riennese Fluffy Goat.
At the end of the journey east along the Zannain, travelers come upon Rivertown, once a settlement by Naressina’s West Trading Company, that has grown into a lively small town. Rivertown lies at the very edge of the Edran Forest, and many of its peope are ‘woodmen’ who follow ancient beliefs in the forest gods. Many woodmen come to Rivertown to trade furs or find work as guides through the vast jungle. The Edran Forest is home to many strange and dangerous beasts, and it said that even worse things, things that are not of this world, make their lair among its ancient trees.
South of Rivertown, small roads lead away to the Edran Marshes and into the Red Mountains, climbing ever higher up to the Edran Pass, beyond which lies the Road of Bones, the caravan route to the empire of Aman. It is a long and dangerous road, but as Rivertown grows, fearless travelers occasionally dare the ancient road in both directions.