Dark Sun: Hidden Oasis
“Between the Ringing Mountains and the Sea of Silt, the traveler finds hermits, thri-kreen packs, nomad tribes, isolated villages, and the Seven Cities known to remain on Athas. One meets people of all races and classes: human nobles and slaves, elf raiders, halfgiant mercenaries, and even the rare halfling wanderer. This region is the great mixing bowl of Athas, in which the different cultures of many peoples are forced to mingle or clash.
—The Wanderer’s Journal
Athas is a desert world, but that doesn’t mean the planet is uniformly covered with sand or barren
wastes. Deserts come in many forms. Some are habit able, some are brutal killing grounds, and some are wastelands that seem empty but are full of hidden life. Knowing the types of deserts one might encounter while traveling across Athas is a vital survival skill one that might mean the difference between a successful journey and a hard death in the wilds.
Sea of Silt
Water has long since ceased to flow on the surface and can only be found in the last sea, some oases, tiny lakes and streams, as well as west of the Ringing Mountains in the Forest Ridge. Not only are the mountains nearly impassable (the name Ringing Mountains refers to the lightheaded feeling one feels from lack of oxygen when traversing them) but the Forest Ridge is the home of halflings, which in the Dark Sun world are small creatures that live in tribes in the forest and do not hesitate to capture and eat intruders to their realm. This makes the prospect of going west across the mountains nearly impossible.
In the place of an ocean, the world of Athas, due to defiling magic, has a sea composed entirely of silt. The silt is dangerous as it is not capable of supporting the weight of humanoid creatures, and the particles themselves are extremely fine and get into the lungs quite easily. A strong wind from the Silt Sea can force people from nearby villages to remain indoors all day, though with a certain amount of water some people often make use of a mask-like object called a silter which is placed over the mouth and nose and kept wet in order to help the user breathe.
The silt actually becomes hard-packed a few metres below the surface, but this is of no help to a human as the level within the first two metres is extremely loose and fine. However, giants often make use of the packed silt roads further below and can be seen wading chest-deep through the silt. Humans have sometimes built crafts that can navigate these silt roads much like giants do, though the going is much slower and both humans and giants still have to deal with the creatures that live in the sea.
Another method of travel is the shipfloaters, psionicists can use a large obsidian orb to focus their power to telekinetically levitate and sail the ship as if it were sailing through water.