The Burning Rocks
Dust / The Sands
Hearsay: Rumours tell of a large chunk of matter deep in the Sands region of Dust which gives off a glow strong enough to see fifty feet away (even through solid dust). It’s warm (though not hot), and almost indestructible. Word has it some bashers have set up shop there, which sounds like screed to me — the place is a bad omen — for those who venture close to it are rarely seen again!
Description: The Burning Rocks are a jumble of tightly-packed rocks clumped in a roughly spherical formation. They give off a reddish glow which seems to seep through the dust farther than light should be able to. The entire affair is huge, over a mile to the side.
The Rocks themselves are quite warm to the touch (a little warmer than skin), and as bright as a good lantern up close. Their size range from a few feet across to hundreds of yards in diameter. There are narrow spaces between the rocks, but most are narrow enough that a modron couldn’t pass.
Special Conditions: The Rocks are, as the chant implies, very difficult to damage. Nothing short of disintegration even dents them, and even that spell only works at one tenth effectiveness. It is believed that the Rocks represent a very dense sort of matter which takes a very long time for Dust to break apart. The battle between Dust (to destroy) and the Rocks (to remain intact) is also thought to be the source of heat and light.
An interesting result is that Dust’s normal effects (disintegration, choking dust, cobwebs, and dust devils) are not a problem deep among the rocks — they somehow negate the disintegration. The plane’s dust never quite makes it all the way to the centre of the mass, and there isn’t room for a dust devil to form. That, and the plane’s warmth and light make it a relatively comfortable, if cramped, resting area.
The chant’s right that a community exists here, but it’s wrong about its nature. The Rocks have become a long-term resting area for those who need time to recouperate. The community itself is anarchistic, with no group staying more than a month or two. At any time, forty or so people have tents or magical bubbles set up in different places among the Rocks. Many have no contact with the other areas.
These visitors are not the only life in the Rocks. A few strains of heat-absorbing plants (suspected of being native to Ash) have found silty soil to take root in. The wary traveller will avoid contact with them until they have been killed: they are deadly to warm-blooded animals.
The most dangerous trait of the Rocks, however, is that it contains at least three vortices to the Glowing Dunes, the border between Magma and Radiance. The Glowing Dunes cause a disease or curse which even magic cannot cure [Author’s Note: It’s actually radiation poisoning], and lingering near these vortices will inflict the victim with this disease. Why the Glowing Dunes and the Burning Rocks are connected remains a mystery to scholars, but the most accepted theory indicated that the Burning rocks are actually a substance which can be found in the Glowing Dunes (though no one has checked), but that Dust has rendered most of it harmless.
Current Chant: Two groups resting in the Rocks have disappeared, and a third has spread rumours of phosphorescent many-limbed creatures lurking near the Glowing Dunes vortices. It certainly seems that something from the Dunes has found its way into the Rocks.
On a happier note, a few air elementalists have set up wind barriers in a pocket of the Rocks (which keeps out nearly everything native to the plane) and are building a campground for travellers. Word has it that they are even planning to grow food to eat (so travellers will be able to eat something other than the heat-draining plants, which are a hassle to gather).
[Author’s Notes: Interestingly enough, I got the idea from the phrase ‘Burning the Rocks,’ a term used to describe the concept of using matter-to-energy conversion as a power source. The Burning Rocks are essentially neutronium — and since AD&D’s gravity system is not mass-specific, the Rocks aren’t crushing. It does make them heavier than lodestone, tougher than tungsten, and as durable as a wall of force, though.]