Olh, First Rotation, 5099
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Chronicle of Ulak the Drifter

Annotated by Shahrazad Keret

Olh, First Rotation, 5099

The gods may have smiled on me, after all.

This morning I went back to the Imperial Garden to ponder my choices. There were three as far as I could fathom. I could give up on Amvat and seek another world to explore, one that did not pose such a danger to my life and work, leaving that desolate planet for younger explorers. This way, I reasoned, if I hurled myself into peril, I would at least be certain that I would not go in vain, that my destination was truly worth my time and effort.

On the other hand, I could dare follow the footsteps of other great explorers like Marco Polo, Lord Blackwood and Krimel Nomanu1 and venture into the unknown with only the vaguest idea of what waited for me. This option, though tempting, I quickly discarded. What would history say of me if I died in some barren world with no one to even know my tale? If a fruitless suicide was what I wanted, I would fare better on the igneous plains of Hell or the slave pits of Hraman.2 No. If I was to risk life and limb I would do it on my terms: aware of the risks, certain of the reward.

The third option I liked even less: I could leave Midgard altogether, go back to my own realm. True it is that I could finally rest for a while, maybe even use my experiences to help a new generation of Drifters find their own paths, but I could not live with the shame of having surrendered so easily. Midgard is a magnificent realm of opportunity. Here I had experienced adventure that I doubted I could find anywhere else. To let a final taste of its wonder escape me would be shameful.

At last, I decided to search for different world to explore, one that was not as utterly unexplored as Amvat. As I considered which planets I knew to meet this criterion, a most curious thing happened. I was sitting in front of a large statue depicting the Monkey King's imprisonment by Buddha,3 my eyes fixed on the sculpture's exquisite details, when I noticed a bird perched right next to my shoulder.

The bird was large, obnoxiously pink and looked somewhat robust for its species, the Qusialian Viceroy.4 Its four pairs of eyes stared at me intently, and its beaks opened to let out a joyful chirp, before it suddenly twisted on itself and, in mere seconds, changed shape entirely. Where the bird had been moments ago now was a scroll of parchment, sealed with the signet of the Sacred Library of Idhai. It was, undoubtedly, a message for me.

Though tempted to ponder more on the magnificent display of transfigurative magic I had just witnessed, I immediately reached for the scroll. I intuited that this message was of great urgency, and I was not wrong. It was a letter from Chief Librarian Jhutla, which read as follows.

Damik Ulak,

I hope this message finds you in good spirits, for though it has been less than a day since we last met, I could tell from the moment you left the Sacred Library that you were most dissatisfied with what help I could provide you. Rest assured, I believe the news I have for you will make up for yesterday's disappointment.

I have enlisted the help of a man who may prove vital in your quest for information on Amvat. I have no doubt in his abilities, and I am sure that you will find you both have much in common. He is, like you, a glutton for knowledge.

I must, however, warn you that his kind drive a hard bargain. His help does not come cheap, and I fear you may resent his fee. For that reason I must insist that you meet him in person before you accept his assistance. Should you accept his offer, I cannot guarantee your peace of mind and soul.

He and I shall wait for you tomorrow at the Sacred Library. I will take you to the Archives, where you can discuss the terms of your pact without any prying eyes watching you. Be here at daybreak, before the crowds arrive.

Yours,

Jhutla.

I could feel my hearts beating fast as I read the letter. Amvat's arid plains, its savage creatures, its mysterious civilizations… it all laid open before me. My quest has gained momentum. Before I leave this realm, I will set foot on that desolate desert that only the strongest may call home.

At last, an answer has presented itself. Praise the gods who have heard my prayers! My quest might yet be fulfilled! Tomorrow, I will once again visit the Sacred Library, and this time I shall not leave without my prize.

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