The Burnt World of Athas

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Greetings friends.

From my travels across Athas, I am sending you now another clairvoyant missive in the name of the Athasian Survey Project.

It would seem my host Densis of the Bandit State of Spoil was sufficiently impressed by my tests of strength and our shared night of revelry as to invite me along for one of his raids. I bid goodbye to the elven caravan as they headed east, and I joined Densis’ on a foray to the Buried City. He knew of my interest in unusual phenomena, and perhaps he believed my particular talents would help him in discovering something of value from his favourite excavation site.

The journey there was certainly an unkind one. The aptly named Barrier Wastes make for cruel travel. Between the punishing sun, the scouring sandstorms, and the relentless high pitched howl of the wind, it is hardly a journey for the unprepared. Even with Densis’ strongest protections and my own measures, the entire raiding party was worse for wear by the time we reached our destination.

In the image I am sending, I am looking almost due east, standing amongst a few smaller crypts protruding from the sand in the centre of the western ruins. Even though we are less than two days’ travel from the White Mountains, they cannot be seen from where I am standing. The Buried City is certainly buried for a reason– the sand dunes here and in the surrounding areas are fairly large. Despite the extensiveness of the ruins we can see, it would seem the encroaching desert has all but overtaken the city, leaving many more buildings and expansive foundations hidden beneath the shifting sands.

Under the blistering midday sun, some ruins were visible but heavily buried. Were it not for the familiarity of my hosts, I would not have known where to begin with navigating the half-buried walls and hidden openings. Densis had warned me of a powerful presence slumbering under these ruins, within the subterranean halls of this once formidable undercity, and when I approached them I felt exactly what he meant. Something inhuman and monstrous dwells beneath those broken buildings, luring unwary looters into its myriad traps. The other raiders had mentioned how they had lost companions who had been too bold in their forays into the underground caverns.

In the short distance I traveled into the tunnels, I discovered remarkable murals depicting a race unlike any I’d ever seen before in my travels – small, greenish-grey skinned humanoids with unusually large heads and pointed ears much longer than elves. They seemed to be craftsmen and artists, and decorated their bodies in intricate patterned tattoos. Perhaps this was one of the races destroyed during the Cleansing Wars.

I am pleased to say I managed to earn my keep from that day’s haul, but I am certain I was being watched. Without proper guides and sufficient preparation, I can say with some confidence these ruins would be all too easy to get lost within or worse.

And now, I will await your response. Until then, may the moons guide you.

Small pyramid temples
Pyramid Temples by Artist Unknown
(For those who can guess this location’s match on Earth, I offer this unlucky penny with markings of the now extinct race, compliments of the Buried City. Thanks to the efforts of the Green Age scholar rpgaGMjay, I now know these creatures were once called “Goblins”…)

Jack Meyer

Been playing Dungeons & Dragons since 1987. Been playing Dark Sun since it was released. Returned to it in 2020 for its expanded timeline and geography.

Outside of D&D, I’m a professional jeweller, CAD designer, and trade school teacher.