The Burnt World of Athas

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“From a dashing of ancient legend and mythology and just a pinch of native superstition and hearsay, I managed to put together a mission into the heart of Athas’ unknown.

“The mainstream of legends about the Temple of the Sands came from Gulg. It seemed their belief that the temple was a place literally built by the moon, Guthay. I believe this is due to the strange material of which it is made, though I cannot be sure. Either way, the Gulgs believed being forged as such gives the place powers of time and reality, making it a dangerous and forbidden place.

“Also interesting were stories I picked up in Breakshore on my way to search for it. It seems half the soldiers I would buy a drink for remarked on how it was a bastion that appeared for wanderers, and another good portion seemed to think of it as an evil omen. I later found this was a symptom of homelands- Nibenese folk believe the place was cursed by the wandering Gulg headhunters they once found camped there, while Drag seem to follow the Gulg myth, but rather believing it a gift from their god Tectuktitlay- a sign their time has not yet come.

“A trader on the caravan with me seemed to be ignited with interest when I mentioned the place. It took a little soft-talking (and more than a little kank honey), but I got him to talking about just what he thought it was. He spoke of a wondrous temple to the God of the Sands, who supposedly was the great god-king, the priests of Earth worship. His story however influenced by “historical” events I know to be myth, was quite convincing and entertaining and I thought it worth mention.

“When finally in far Tyr, I hunted for weeks on the ideal of locating a map- or even a general point- in the temple’s supposed direction. While many liars and thieves came forward with forged maps, the truth came instead from a member of the city watch. According to him, the temple just can’t be documented like that, because it is wherever, and whenever, it wanted to be.

“He spun a lively tale of chases a slave tribe deep into the wastes in the days of Kalak’s rule, speaking (quite eloquently, for a man of his position) of finding the mysterious sand-swept temple after a long journey, and camping there for the night. While the wonders he betold were great, he also mentioned- quite oddly- that after staying the night his companions and he awoke in a stretch of open desert, no temple in site. And, if his wild claims are true, they slept in that place for all of ten years!

“I regret to report that I myself could not find the temple, nor could I again locate my mysterious informant among the watch. I do believe, however, that it is well worth deploying some of the Order’s best agents to investigate”

From the Journal of Iceyes Watcher ## Temple of the Sands (Site)

Location: Most anywhere. The DM is encouraged to move it by moon cycles, cosmic events (the Messenger’s appearance, for example) or even changes in daylight.

Outward Appearance: The temple always appears out of the desert, literally out of nowhere. Many travelers stumble right into the outside wall before seeing it. The temple is perpetually half-covered in sand, with the sand piling all the way to the roof on one side and descending diagonally until it finally reaches the base, which it does right at the door. The entire temple is constructed of what, on the outside, at least appears to be different-colored sand. The walls are sturdy and hard as stone, however.

From the front (the only side the temple ever seems to be approached by) the temple has a large wall of uncolored sand, standing about 20 ft. long corner-to-corner, and it looks equally wide. A small overhang rests over the steps up to the entrance; an extension of the roof colored solely in scarlet. Four pillars stand vigil, holding the extension up. Each is carved and scribed with designs and runes unlike those anywhere on Athas, usually accentuated with different color sands. The doorframe is without a door, but the inside seems to be kept magically dark from the outside.

Interior: Once inside, it’s quite obvious the temple is more than it seems. First of all, the main entryhall is three hundred feet long and a little less than a hundred feet wide, with an elevated ceiling at fifty feet above the floor! In comparison to its outer looks, the temple is absolutely titanic. PCs entering also feel a very strange sensation, as if something were missing. In the case of mages using spellcraft proficiency or magic to identify the problem, it will seem to them the place is either Hasted, Slowed, Time Stopped or equally affected.

The main room has a sprawling red velvet carpet, starting from the doorway and continuing the middle twenty feet width of the room, all the way up to the altar. The sidewalls are decorated with sigils and symbols of lost meaning, and in many places straight English words are used, but they make no sense. There is no ancient language equivalent of the writing, and nothing can be encoded in the strange lettering (although it might be fun to let your PCs think they found something), but the intricate writings sprawled on the walls are still amazing. Pillars run just beside the carpeting, equally inscribed. One paying close attention may notice each pillar bearing the picture of at least one timepiece (i.e., waterclocks, hourglass, sundials and even clocks). Detection used on them is inevitably muddled by the overall energy of the temple.

The ceiling seems to reflect light extraordinarily well, and just above the altar it has a slightly dome-like impression. Hanging, rather mystically, in this niche is a giant hourglass, or at least the image of one. Upon approaching the altar, PCs will find it’s nothing but an elevated platform of stairs leading up to a small pedestal, on which lies an hourglass sitting sideways on a sundial.

Moving the hourglass will quickly reveal the floating image is a magic (or perhaps, light) trick, simply a projection of the hourglass below. The light rising up in pillar-like fashion from the altar is then a little easier to discern, as well. If the hourglass is removed from the pillar, all the symbols and writings in the room will reveal their true meaning- an enormous instruction manual to the temple itself.

Setting the hourglass upright causing time to flow either slowly backwards or faster forward, depending on the end it is set on. The sand never runs out, and the approximate exchange is one day for every minute it falls.

If the hourglass is kept on it’s side and moved to point like the hands of a clock, the effect is much more profound. For every hour it is directed to point in either direction, it moves a multiple of ten years. If moved one hour, it moves ten years. Two hours is a hundred years, and three is a thousand.

Campaign Use: It is highly recommended you don’t give your PCs a chance to actually use the temple, unless of course you plan on running a “Green Age” or “Future Athas” campaign, or a small amount of time travel is necessary in your story-line. It can also be used to redo recent mistakes, if the PCs need a veritable reset button. Basically though, it is best used as simply a prize- something everyone (SKs, slave tribes, VA and the Order) fight for but no one gets in the end. An adventure hook, all in all.