The Burnt World of Athas

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Dear friends, it is a new day, and I bring you another missive in the name of the Athasian Survey Project.

This time I would like to start with an image I saw soon after leaving behind the Jagged Cliffs. As we finally cleared the last of the Misty Border, the endless expanse of the Crimson Savannah opened up beneath us, and we found ourselves passing above the grand delta of the Koschak River.

What a fascinating sight! Coming from the Tablelands, I’m hardly used to seeing a body of running water larger than a small stream, let alone several mighty rivers dividing up along a parched savannah to see it from the air is even more incredible. Sights like this only strengthen my belief that life is doing its best to claw back this world, even through all the hardships and destruction.

I have shared this sight with you so you could share at least a piece of my exhilaration while also passing along to you another example of the living wonders we are still trying to protect in this world. In this view we’re looking out facing northwest across the large endless expanse of the Crimson Savannah, with the Koschak Mountains in the far distance. The Misty Border is just behind us.

I can understand why few would brave this particular area - this delta sits dangerously close to Rajaat’s Curse, the diabolical swamp at the base of the Jagged Cliffs from which the mist of the Misty Border emanates. The few who are hardy enough to have survived the place claim the worst monsters of them all inhabit the places where the delta meets the mist. The creatures that dwell in this place are fearsome and extremely deadly.

Heading due west over the savannah, we reached the village of Nirik just before nightfall. This modest kreen settlement is unusual in that it hosts ample communities of every major subspecies of kreen in this region of the Empire, with the two most common groups being J’ez and To’ksa.

As we approached to land, I swallowed hard. Even with days of anticipation for this moment, I knew it was going to be difficult. The kreen have vastly different ideas about relationships from other races, and how they treat their clutchmates does not always translate cleanly to other species, let alone how they treat outsiders. But I had what I always had – my experience, my knowledge, and my friends. Even though Adicios was many years gone, I believed I could still make use of his connections.

Using my old skills, I drifted into the back of my mind, finding my source, and sent missives ahead of us towards the nearest guard tower: “I am Eshmel, clutchmate of Gossamyr Adicios, adopted of the kiltektet No’qhari’tho. We seek lodging and safe passage through to Ko’scha’ko.”

I received no response, but then again I had expected that.

The moment we landed, however, we were met by a full security clutch, three archers, one psion, and one heavily armed melee warrior. There was a tense stand-off when they saw us, but they were expecting us to make the first mistake, which we did not. I verbally repeated my request to them in my best Thor-Kreen, and their leader requested a mindlink with me. After a mind-to-mind discussion, they lowered their weapons and allowed us through, taking my companion’s pterrax into a wide barn-like structure for hiding.

Even small kreen villages are never quiet, as the kreen do not sleep. Rather, their activities vary depending on the need for sunlight. When we arrived after the sun had set, the locals were busy with the custodial work such as cleaning the streets and repairing the buildings with fresh patches of z’ock’n resin.

After some negotiation, we were allowed some space inside the retaining wall away from the other residences. As my companion and I prepared our sleeping arrangements, I mulled over the fact this would be as far south into the Kreen Empire as I would be going on this trip. Our journey would be taking us north from here, so I would not be seeing the temples of Thaythilor again…


“It feels wrong! This is a mistake!”

The expression on Adicios’ face showed a mix of consternation and pity.

“This is what I have been seeking, Eshmel. The annulus! I finally have a lead after all these years! Would you ask me to give up this much of my life’s work!

“But why would a templar give you such information?”

Adicios’ grin looked gradually more forced. “This information cost me dearly to obtain. If it is a lie, it would surely be a convoluted one.”

“That is because you are a high-value target to the sorcerer-kings. How far would they go to capture you? You’re too important!”

Adicios’ grin disappeared and he looked away. I did too. I knew I had said more than I had intended to with that last statement. I also knew I wasn’t going to change his mind.

“I’ll let you know when I have found it. In the meantime, keep practicing.”

All I could do was watch him as he smiled at me one last time before walking out the doorway. He seemed to disappear into the rippling glare of the evening sun, but perhaps that was simply the tears in my eyes blurring my vision.

Even then I knew I would never see him again.


…Perhaps that is for the best.

Until next time, may the moons guide you.

* The Wanderer’s Chronicle
* Digital Wanderer’s Dark Sun Atlas

Koschak River Delta
Koschak River Delta by Neujack
(To any clever soul who can identify this place, I have a bottle of swamp gas from the lower reaches of the Misty Border. I’ve heard its quite flammable…)


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.