The Once-Radiant Plane of Sun

With thanks to and help from Lyric, Bell, and Joboo from the WotC Dark Sun forum.

On the world of Athas, the elemental planes exist as a mirror-like reflection of the environment they also create. One such plane is the elemental plane of Sun, composed of dark islands separated by rivers of fire and surrounded by vast voids filled with neon smoke. This is the Scorched Paradise, an elemental plane that reflects the heavens themselves, a corrupted plane of Radiance made of three territories: the Radiance of Sun, the Radiance of Ral, and the Radiance of Guthay.

The Scorched Paradise is ruled by the Court of the Yellow Queen, a fading imperialist dynasty of radiance elementals who have lost all power they once held, and so choose to lose themselves in dreams and memories of yesterday and ancient, meaningless rituals. Their lives, and possessions, are best described as decadent and opulent tinged with the wear and dust of time: the crowns are tarnished, the banners faded, the yellow dresses are stained, the wine is weak, dusty cobwebs coat the high reaches of the halls, and grand speeches and toasts are full of memory.

The Queen’s palace is an expansive, crumbling, ill-maintained fortress that hints of the former glory of the Court, but also indicates its time has long-since passed. Though yellow light streams through the windows of the palace, and through the canopies in the dark, wild forests of twisted black flame that surround it, the light never seems to touch the ground which is thick with shadow, a dim and fading reminder of a past lost to the neon-darkness.

The Court itself dies unnoticed around the aged survivors, who dream and speak of their literal golden age as though yet living it, talking to the tattered silken rags of ashes and time worn statues as though these still live, utterly unaware the servants who tend the fires are long since fled.

The childlike Tribes of the Radiance are the last remnants of the true Radiance elementals, reverted to barbarism, bearing golden skin and hair ablaze with firey light. They camp with their child king in the glowing, wind-blasted desert badlands deep in the heart of the isles, and tell long, strange stories to one another all day. They keep many artifacts of forgotten power, now little more than useless heirlooms from a forgotten time, of which many improbable tales are told: such as times when the deserts of the isles shone with glowing flames, abundant with all forms of riches and sustenance, how the tribes partook in this glorious providence, when the flame rivers were made of radiant, multicolored light, and the void was brilliant and clear.

The new rulers of the plane are secessionists from the Court of the Yellow Queen, who were willing to do anything to survive, to avoid senescence and decay — they are twisted, dwarf-like elementals full of noblese fury and aristocratic savagery. They maintain opulent courts of obsidian and neon peopled by shadows of smoke, built of black, gothic towers surrounded by ravens and crows of smoke and shadow, and darker winged things.

They wear extravagant head-dresses, layers of jewelry and rings, and elegant embroidered robes with endless, rippling trains. These fractious Crimson Barons sit upon massive thrones of glowing red crystal that take up entire walls, carven in detailed bas-relief by master artisans, while each Baron’s court focuses upon truly horrid entertainments of torture, bloodsport, and debasement.

There are also the Tribes of the Moon, Ral and Guthay, with skins of blue or purple and silvered hair or with skins of silver and raven-black hair, who cross the isles as nomads, clashing and fading, dying and rising, inheritors of a forgotten lineage of royalty and sophistication from the days of the Courts of the Moon, also once ruled over by the Yellow Queen. Their airy citadels once reached towards the glittering radiance of the void between the isles, elegant and calm, and there was song within, where notes of music glowed with their own amazing light. But these places are long lost in choking, gangrenous smoke and shimmering, crimson vapors.

Now the Tribes seek the radiance of mortal blood to keep the light of the Moons strong, and sing discordant praises of the Draji who offer it up to them. They raid the Court and Baronies to take what light they can for themselves, each tribe holding troves of pale, flickering silver in hidden creches throughout the isles, guarded by forgotten elemental sorceries and wicked horrors birthed in the ashen days of the Court’s fall.

All across the Scorched Paradise stand crumbling ruins from the age of the Yellow Queen: ruined roads and walls littering paths of magmatic fire, shattered castles soar over smoldering calderas and hang over rifts of crimson radiance, each filled with Courts of Bitter Ashes — elementals whose light has gone out and faded away and who are now dark, soulless things, ghosts and shades of elementals. These are places where none of the Queen’s light now shines, full of ashen, torn memories and littered with radiant bones; haunted by monsters of flame and darkness, like smoke ravens, crows, and darker winged things laired within their black holes or swirling around the jagged walls.

Long forgotten is the cave of Azure Light in which the Flame Eternal is kept by an elemental so ancient all have forgotten his name. In the time of the Yellow Queen, a temple of virgin priestesses once rose high around the cave, but it has fallen now into a monster-haunted ruin. The Flame is the only source of True Light left, for all the rest has been stolen away by the halflings and defilers of Athas with the unholy Black Lens from the vile Pristine Tower.

The monsters of the isles are the Dark Ones, elementals of crimson fire and black obsidian, destructive creatures born from the rivers of flame and the paths of fire which burned away half of paradise an age ago, and mythological elemental beasts haunting the ruins of the lost ages in the wilds beyond the borders of the Yellow Queen’s former dominion: the dragons and chimeras of the isles of the Scorched Paradise who like those places of ancient power where a little bit of blue light might yet trickle out of the walls.

There are other things out there, too, who perhaps aren’t evil per se, and some of them are unique, intelligent beings — seers, prophets and witches. Things one should be afraid to be eaten by, but powerful and wise, holding many answers to the mysteries and forgotten lore of the plane.

copyright (c)2005-2008 Raven Daegmorgan
Athas, Dark Sun, and related properties are owned by Wizards of the Coast