The Burnt World of Athas

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Concentrate…focus on your breathing…push further downward with each breath…get lost in the breaths themselves…use your mind to reach for your core…and lift!

I evenly parsed out my instructions to Adicios. Both of our eyes were closed, but I did not need to see him to know where he was. I could tell from his breathing rate and from the gentle sound of fabric falling limp that his first efforts at levitation were successful.

With a smile, I said to him: “Now open your eyes.”

I knew what his reaction would be even before he let out a gasp and looked around in wonder.

I had chosen this spot just outside of Summil to train precisely because of the dramatic view over the Jagged Cliffs. It was just close enough to Thamasku to let us hide if we needed to, but not so close as to be dragged into the bustle of that crowded settlement. Like most Rhul-thaun villages, Summil is built along the ledges of two neighboring cliffs connected by a grand and ancient life-shaped bridge. We were standing in the middle of that bridge.

At this point, we were both hovering a good twenty or so feet above the ground, adding some height to our already impressive view.

…it’s incredible.”, Adicios quietly said.

In spite of how quickly he was learning advanced techniques of The Way, I found it endearing just how he reacted to each new experience with such fresh eyes. It was all like an adventure to him.

I could see why the Veiled Alliance went to such lengths to protect him. A powerful preserver and a budding psion. They might finally have found a successor to Nerad…

Nicely done. You’ve now mastered Levitation. Let us discuss your next technique…


Greetings my friends. Now the time has come to cross the Jagged Cliffs at last. And so I will provide an update on my journey and a new clairvoyant missive in the name of the Athasian Survey Project.

Upon concluding our business in Thamasku, we flew north over the modest Rhul-Thaun village of Sunnil. As I passed over this village I recall the time I had lived there among the Rhul-thaun. I must confess I wanted to see the village again out of nostalgia, not least because of the memories which have lately been resurfacing regarding Adicios. Even now it is painful to remember him; I continually replay in my thoughts what I could have done differently, and ponder how I could have better prepared him.

After a time, the land gave out from underneath us, dropping away to reveal unfathomably deep cliffs, extending far below into a narrow river of bluish-gray mist. Turning around, I was able to stare at the full glory of the Jagged Cliffs of Athas for only the second time in my life.

This image you are now seeing is what I saw when I looked back from atop our pterrax, looking west across the sunrise-painted cliffs just west of Sunnil.

Even seeing this in my memory still leaves me awestruck. The Jagged Cliffs seem endless, running as far as the eye can see not only across from left to right but also downwards. The Misty Border lay thousands of feet below us, a terrible unknown realm into which few have been foolish enough to venture into, and from which even fewer have ever returned. The only individuals I had spoken to within the Consortium who had knowledge of the region told unhinged tales of being pursued by the “Horrors of Rajaat”.

I’ve often wondered about the Misty Border’s permanence. Being the product of Rajaat’s personal magical experiments, surely a mere curse wouldn’t have produced an effect as long lasting as this. Either something in the climate itself must have been permanently broken, or the mist itself has an unidentified source at the foot of the Cliffs.

Sadly, in spite of my curiosity, I knew we would have been woefully unprepared for even a cursory fly-through of that region, so any exploration would have to wait for another day. We have a contact in Nirik waiting for us. Until next time, may the moons guide you.

The Jagged Cliffs
Jagged Cliffs by Neujack
(For those who recognise this picture from Earth, I have a copy of something the people of Earth call a CD-ROM, with the word “Myst” written on it. I have no idea what this is…)

* Windriders of the Jagged Cliffs


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