The Burnt World of Athas

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Dear friends, through more than a little discomfort, I bring you a new clairvoyant missive in the name of the Athasian Survey Project.

While the thri-kreen travel far and wide across their seemingly endless Crimson Savannah, there are a few locations they will never go. The Kano Swamp is one of them, and even a brief visit easily demonstrates why.

Here the mighty river pouring down from the Kaschak Mountains splinters off into a flood plain, making a strange habitat in which countless flora and fauna I’ve never seen before thrive. Perhaps the reason why this swamp has remained so unexplored is because nothing about this environment is friendly to outsiders. I’ve heard stories of the horrible and disfiguring chitin rot disease of the thri-kreen.

I asked my companion Odten to allow me to stop and see this swamp up close. In spite of his many warnings and fears, I persisted and eventually the young pterran relented, shaking his head.

Looking down through the occasional gaps in the jungle canopy, we could see most of the ground was covered in murky stagnant water of unknown depth. We found an opening in the canopy and landed upon a large mangrove root protruding out of the water. I was immediately assaulted by the humidity and smell. It felt as if I was breathing a thick, rotten stew. In spite of the disgust, I used my excitement for the place to push my disgust out of my mind: this place was so alive! It seemed like everything was not only thriving, but had a mind of its own! I felt the presence of amphibious predators under the shallow, murky water, and creatures lurking within the branches of the trees. As my feet touched down upon the branch an insidious voice entered into my mind, and the world disappeared…


*A figure stood before me, somehow looking both ancient and ageless. His skin was as perfect as black porcelain. His bald head was decorated with a gold circlet; his clothing was of a style I had only heard about from the historians. Behind him were other dark shapes, hard to focus upon. He was standing inside a black building, all made of perfect, shiny, black crystal. The old man had pricked his finger and was writing upon a black slate in his own blood.

Eventually, he noticed my watching, and stopped writing, and smiled in a way which made me uneasy:

“We know you - you’re the life seeker, at the end of his life. But who you are does not matter so much as what and whom you serve. Their mission is ours, and what they are seeking we will use as well, both now and later.

“You do not know it yet, but you will be very useful to us.” Another figure came up behind him and spoke to him, but I could not hear. “No, he is not ready yet to face the End, but he will find us on his own when he is.”

He then turned back to me, “We will see you soon, Life Seeker…”*


It was then that I slipped.

Perhaps I had not been as stable as I thought I had been on that wet root, or perhaps I had been moving towards that voice without realizing it. Either way, I fell completely into a deep section of the swamp water.

At that point, I do not fully recall what happened next. I recall hearing Odten shouting in panic, and feeling muscular arms pull me from the water. I recall having the water pushed out of me by strong hands, being dragged by his pterrax out to a bare hilltop on the nearby savannah, and treated for poisoning.

I have since been back in Nirik with Odten, while he has done his best to nurse me back to health.

Although I have seen many varied places and exotic climates in my travels, the fact such a dry world is still be able to accommodate such wet, hot, and sticky place continues to astound me, and gives me hope that there may yet be more exotic undiscovered lands still untouched by the Ravager’s destruction.

But I have also learned the hard way that there are some places on this world which are perhaps too toxic for humans to visit without special preparations.

Until next time, may the moons guide you.

Kano Swamp
Kano Swamp by Neujack
(To anyone who can guess the source of this image from Earth, I can share with you the case of Athasian malaria I seem to have developed. I’ve been told it can work wonders for weight loss…)


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.