The Burnt World of Athas

The official Dark Sun website

Dear friends, I present another wondrous image to you today in the name of the Athasian Survey Project.

Once I had recovered from my experiences in the Kano Swamp, my next goal was to explore the source of that revolting but vibrantly alive wetland. I had heard the source of the Koschak River was an incredible if inaccessible sight. Happy to see the end of that cursed swamp, my pterrax riding colleague and I followed the Koschak River up to its headwaters in the Koschak Mountains, where we were greeted with a sight which would surely astonish even the oldest and most jaded elder druid.

Any water vendor in the Tablelands knows what water looks like when it falls from a height. But even after seeing the grand width of this river coursing through the Crimson Savannah, nothing could have prepared me for the sheer scale and grandeur of the Koschak River as it thundered down from the mountains. I feel I am struggling to communicate the grandeur of what I experienced with mere words and images. Taller than a dozen half-giants and wider than the army of Urik in formation, it feels like I’ve completely left Athas as I stare in wonder at the falls.

Odten landed the pterrax as close to the water as he could, and I used my skills in the Way to maneuver myself along the slippery and precarious footing under one side of the waterfall. From there I cautiously reached out to touch it. As I watched the water falling down, I saw something moving through the tremendous sheet of cascading water. Dozens of little fish-like creatures with delicate wings danced in and out of the water – elemental beasts. I’ve seen them before…


“Why did we sneak away again?” I whispered.

“Shhh!” Chala responded curtly.

We were balanced on a wooden roof beam running the length of this section of the Great Covered Market, with hundreds of shoppers circulating among the market stalls and colorful tables underneath us. Even with only quick glances stolen as I climbed, I could see spices, cloth, leather, foodstuffs, and of course water. Clean water. Massive clay jugs of it.

Our recent training in body equilibrium was serving us well. We were able to scramble up into these forbidden heights of the roof swiftly enough to not be noticed by any local templars or guards.

As we neared a crossing eave, Chala slowed down in front of me, crouching like a cat waiting to strike. As she lowered herself, I could see her quarry over her graceful long navy blue hair – a little fire falcon. It seemed to be holding in its talons a small struggling flying creature I didn’t recognise.

The small avian looked at Chala with suspicion. Chala was holding up her hand and concentrating. It was my job to watch over her while she reached out to the animal’s mind. Gently, gradually, Chala produced a small rodent’s body from her belt pouch, and very slowly reached out to place it on the beam between herself and the falcon.

For what seemed like an endless moment, the only sound we could hear was the flopping of the prey in the bird’s talons. Suddenly, the fire falcon snatched up the rodent, dropping its previous prey; the wounded creature fluttered its wings ineffectively as it tumbled down to the market below.

Chala let out a noise as she lunged forward, trying to swing down from the rafter to scoop up the creature with her hand. I could see her hand slipping as she made her catch, but I had already made my move. I reached out from my source with ghostly arms, catching her in the air before she dropped too far and lifting her up to the rafter again.

I moved to her side as she clutched the eave with one hand and held the small fluttering creature to her chest with the other. As I came close enough to her to see, I could see the little insectoid wings, fins, and tail on the curious little gray creature.

“An elemental water beast.” she said with a loving smile on her face. I stared at the delicate little creature, my mouth agape. I could only guess it must have recognised her own heritage, hence why it was so calm next to her.

I worked up the courage to place my arm around her, and we huddled together as this delicate creature nuzzled itself to her. It was incredible that a creature made of pure water like this could survive against all odds on our arid world. And the fact it would trust Chala…


The shouting voice broke our reverie, and set us both scrambling along the beam towards the skylight. We knew we’d have to move fast to avoid being captured by the templars. Or worse, having to face the discipline of the Nexus…


I was shaken out of my reverie by a very strange feeling on my skin.

Lost in my memories, I had apparently stepped into the waterfall itself, and became fully drenched in water. At that point I understood why few Athasians I’ve ever met would have come here - it was freezing! Few warmbloods would ever be able to arrange and manage passage this far into the Thri-Kreen Empire, and no kreen could tolerate this amount of moisture or kind of temperature for long.

Similarly, it is plain to see that these waters have built up enough momentum to make this area truly dangerous to traverse whether by land or water. All the local wildlife seem to show this river respect and stay clear of the waterfall. Were it not for my air transport, I’m not entirely sure how I’d get down.

As breathtaking as this place may be, I know I am not welcome here for long. The wildlife here have their own agenda, and it does not involve humanoids. But I will stay for just a little bit longer, if the elementals will permit me to do so.

We will be heading out just a little bit further tomorrow towards the Avandaellen Plateau. Until then, may the moons guide you.

Koschak Waterfall
Koschak Waterfall by Neujack

To anyone who can guess the source of this image from Earth, I have a sample of water from the waterfall. I just need to take off my shoe…

* The Will and the Way
* City State of Kurn manuscript
* Monstrous Compendium: Terrors of Athas


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.