Slavic lands, A.D. 864
On the floor at my feet lies a bundle tied with strips of goat hide. It is a heavy block, hundreds of sheets, all of them covered in rows of precise symbols which I placed there myself. Large sheets they are, for I have preferred to labor over a single page each day in setting down this record. Now I am about to set out from Etil on foot and by camel, by cart and by ship. I’ll take this bundle with me, of course, for I do not expect ever to return to this quiet, arid city on the web of the Volga delta.
Arappi-ben-Azariah, a young metalsmith whose busy shop I have admired and who has become my friend in this hot place, was visiting this morning to bid us farewell, and he spotted my bundle among our belongings. I explained what it contained, and he became enthusiastic and wistful at the same time. He has heard all of the stories that I, Kolyek, have told, during the spell of our brief friendship. He thinks, too, that it is well that others may hear them long after I die. He laments, though, that if I take my pages with me then he will never hear these episodes told again except as he and a few others may sit around and recall them.
I’m left to wonder now whether I have labored in vain. Others will hear only if anyone can decipher my careful script. My friend Simonos will assure this much, of that I’m certain.
Arappi also offered to trim the ragged edges of the stack; such a genius he is with sharp blades. He said that a perfectly shaped bundle will command respect from the camel jockeys during our trip. Now it looks almost like a box made of planed wood.
But it is a bundle of pages and I will tuck this one on the top. May God look with approval on my record of the horrors and the joys that compelled me to spend two years over parchment!