Amvat: An Introduction
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Chronicle of Ulak the Drifter

Annotated by Shahrazad Keret

I have visited countless worlds, some savage and uninhabited, others tamed and populated by mighty civilizations. Nonetheless, to this day1 never have I found a world as fascinating as Amvat. Such claim might seem somewhat odd at first. After all, the inhabitants of this plane care little for Amvat.2 For most of them, Amvat is but an insignificant rock within an unending ocean of stars, a speck of dust drifting through an empty area of their universe. There are no important commercial routes passing near it and no empire has ever shown interest in claiming it. Even the Ways leading to Amvat are scarce. Truly, it is a forgotten, isolated world.3

The reason behind this isolation is simple. Amvat lacks any characteristic that could be of interest to anyone but the brave and the mad. It holds no valuable resources, possesses no advanced technology by the standards of the wider Intergalactic Community, and it is not even fit to be a scientific or military outpost. To make matters worse, the civilizations that inhabit Amvat are not advanced enough to be integrated into the Community and are regarded as primitives who must be left to their own means.4

What Amvat lacks in resources, however, it compensates for with sheer hostility. It is too close to the suns it orbits, which causes extreme temperatures on its surface. Even the skin of an Uhb'Seq like myself is vulnerable to suffer painful burns within hours of exposure to the suns' light.5 The asters' absence is not any better. Without them, the land experiences extreme cold, and turns into a frigid deathtrap.

The places in Amvat most protected from the extreme climatological conditions are those located closer to its suuhfja.6 This "habitable" area is an eroded wasteland in which very little plant life grows. It is scoured by violent winds that disperse the dust covering the surface, projecting it towards the skies. Any traveler will inevitably discover that staying clear of this dust is impossible (to this day I have not completely rid my travel garments from it). The temperatures here are not as extreme as in the rest of Amvat, but the heat is still nearly unbearable, while the cold makes it mandatory to seek refuge during the night.

Refuge is indeed what one finds at the shadow of the colossal, twisted obsidian spires that jut through Amvat's broken surface. Amvat's natives call them Daa-Xiek, the spirit-talons. They are considered sacred by the peoples of this planet and worshiped as gifts from the gods. The peoples carve their history, legends and beliefs on the smooth surface of this majestic black monoliths, although only those gifted in magic, the members of the religious caste, and those warriors who have proved their worth are allowed such honor. This eventually results in the peoples transforming the spires into both beautiful works of art and a registry of their passing through the universe.

The worshipping of these spires is not without reason. These monoliths possess magical properties that can be exploited through their carving by the Amvatiaa. The glyphs emit a dim glow, illuminating their immediate vicinity. This glow makes the surrounding area immune to the night's extreme cold, thus preventing the people from freezing to death. Amvat's nomadic tribes will seek a spire and spend the night huddling around it.

Beneath the dust that covers Amvat's eroded surface is the secret of life on this planet: a rocky foundation that hides an immense and intricate net of underground rivers and water depositories. These rivers sometimes protrude through the ground and form watering holes and springs. This allows the area around them to become sufficiently fertile to sustain most of the planet's plant life, thus allowing for the development of agriculture and sedentarism. It is here that one finds the largest settlements on Amvat, including some impressive cities. Because of the near-absence of rain or any other precipitation, these springs and watering holes are sacred for the natives, who call them Naaj-Kioo, the Goddess's Blessing. Any people who find and claim one of these oases can consider themselves spared from most of the planet's wrath.

The Naaj-Kioo are, however, very rare, even in the habitable area. The distances between all the known Blessings are immense and travel between springs exposes one to the planet's brutal climatological conditions, including dust storms capable of ripping flesh from bone.

One also risks falling victim to another living being, for the inhabitants of this world are not exactly welcoming either. Amvat is home to a wide variety of creatures that even Panspermia7 would have trouble handling. Most life on this planet has evolved to survive under extreme conditions, which implies a degree of ruthlessness not commonly seen elsewhere in the Multiverse. The great majority of the native fauna is carnivorous and will attempt to devour any potential prey it meets. The reason why Amvat's fauna has not already (and quite literally) eaten itself into extinction is their incredible metabolism. Organisms here can spend months without eating and have developed hunting strategies that any big game hunter would envy. Of note is that these creatures are not shy of cannibalism and will resort to devouring their own kind when given the opportunity. They will even consume parts of themselves, if only when most desperate.

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