A Riven Journal
Note to stranger in white paper is at the bottom
I linked to Riven a week ago. The smell of the place overwhelmed me moments before I could see anything.
With my sight only partially cleared, I stood motionless, peering ahead through a dim veil which was slowly lifting. There was a violent clang and bars appeared. I remember breathing slowly and very deeply, tasting the familiar Riven air, but not recognizing a thing.
I must have been hit with the dart right away. I thought it was an insect bite at first.
I’m trying to remember it all, but it’s difficult, maybe because of the drug. There was a voice. A man I did not recognize stood before me — Rivenese, though he was wearing D’ni dress. He seemed to be talking to me, but the poison was already taking effect; a shadow crept in and I fell asleep.
Then there were the many voices, but I understood none of them — like hundreds of people whispering. I couldn’t wake up.
No matter . . . the dream did end.
And now, to be here with Eti. It’s been so many years; I didn’t realize how much I missed her: like a piece of me that I had forgotten I’d lost. She’s beautiful, and so full of warmth. But the years have also left her with a wound which was not there when we were children.
I do wish she were more interested; it seems like I’m asking all the questions. It’s awkward; no one asks me where I’ve been, or what I’ve been doing. This hurts, but I understand it; their beliefs are born out of ignorance and oppression. They are a gentle people, but they’ve had their nest destroyed and now they frantically cling to anything that might save them.
But why have they chosen to cling to me?
I’m confused. As a child I always felt out of place here — I never belonged. They misunderstood me, and I couldn’t relate to them. But now, I’m overwhelmed by an intense feeling that I owe everything to them and this place. I thought I would never see them again, and yet, I’m here. I’ve been given this second chance. But a second chance at what? Saving them? Fulfilling their prophecies? Being their savior?
The Moiety — Atrus would want me to chronicle all that I’ve learned. I can at least record some of it . . .
It seems that when Atrus and I trapped Gehn on Riven many years ago, our efforts were witnessed by most of the inhabitants here. Two of the Rivenese even witnessed the confrontation with Gehn at the fissure, where I linked back to Myst, and where Atrus threw himself into the abyss. Of course, they understood little of what they were seeing, but they somehow were able to guess that we had won . . . that Gehn was no god at all, but only a feeble impostor — a false god — and that we had trapped him here on Riven.
I always hoped they would deduce this simple truth. But their further conclusions have astonished me:
— Atrus had stripped Gehn of his power, therefore Atrus must be a true god.
— As a god, he was choosing me, the spiritual misfit from a Rivenese womb, to be his wife.
— I was transcending into deity and would lord over Riven forever.
Thus, the Moiety, as they call themselves, were born: a dissident society — sworn enemies of Gehn.
I did not know of their beliefs regarding Atrus and myself until two days ago. Eti was, for some reason, hesitant to tell me. I can’t figure out why; I know she doesn’t believe these things.
Of course, everyone else assumed that I would be aware of my own god status, so they made no effort to inform me. I only realized it at a recent gathering to which I was invited. I sat at the front of a dimly lit and crowded cave, as they told a mythical story of my own life, acting out the battle between Atrus, myself, and Gehn at the edge of the fissure. The events had been exaggerated into grandiose proportions. It was offensive, but I was unable to stop it; I was unable to break the illusion which is the very foundation of their hope and purpose, and which has given them courage to band together and rebel against Gehn.
Since then I’ve learned of other doctrines and beliefs that have evolved, the most disturbing of which is the conviction that one day I would return to Riven to free them. Some believe that I will overthrow Gehn. Others believe that I will bring them to paradise.
I don’t know how to deal with this. I fight
it myself. I love these people — my only real kindred — but they will not love me as an equal, which hurts me. I would rather be their slave than their master.
Over the years, as Gehn’s power has become greater and greater, the Moiety’s numbers have grown, and they have become more and more adept at hiding themselves. They now live in a complex network of caves that he still has not discovered.
The Moiety, for the most part, have completely severed their relationship with any of the Rivenese that chose against joining them. But I hope they’ve not sacrificed vital limbs in order to remove the cancer. Even Father and Enant are still on the surface in Gehn’s domains, and I long to see them, but a dimness shrouds Eti’s face every time I’ve mentioned them.
Since this break took place they have interfered with the surface in superficial ways, occasionally sabotaging one of Gehn’s constructions, or stealing food from the villagers. They wear strange masks and costumes during their short forays to the island’s surface, and take this regalia very seriously, refusing to be seen by anyone outside the Moiety unless they are properly attired. They get much pleasure out of the fact that those on the surface are frightened by these costumes, calling them evil spirits, or ghosts.
It was during one of these expeditions that they fortuitously rescued me from one of Gehn’s guards when I first appeared on the island. Otherwise, I’m sure I would have been delivered to Gehn immediately.
I’ve no doubt that he’s now searching for me.
Of course, I am now aware that I was fooled; Atrus is not here. I was, at first, devastated by this realization. Now I am thankful; he would be in extreme peril here. Also, there is a quiet, inner voice — an echoing remnant — that wants him far away.
I have just witnessed an Age dying, gasping its last breath.
Today, I ventured to the surface to see what has become of this island. I hoped it would not be as bad as the Moiety had reported. It was worse. They have become slowly accustomed to its steady decay, but I was devastated.
The lips from which the kiss is wrought,
has fallen words; will fall cold breath.
The womb from which the cry released,
has suffered hurt; will suffer death.
To get to the surface, we had to travel through a complex series of doors and passages. Before the last of these doors, they offered me a weapon, which I accepted, and then a mask.
I held the mask in my hands for a while, wondering what sort of terror it might invoke in those members of my family who still live on the surface. But I also knew I must keep my identity hidden from Gehn’s ever-vigilant eye, so I accepted it as well. Then, together, we swam a short expanse and emerged out of the surface of the ocean under a rocky overhang. The harsh sunlight made my eyes sting, but the fresh, rich air was exhilarating after these past weeks in the dank caves.
The two men with me were silent, communicating only with hand signals. The three of us emerged from our hiding place and made our way to the top of the plateau. At the edge of a thick and overgrown area of the forest, they stopped, peered through the foliage for a moment, and then turned to me, as if awaiting my command.
But could not respond. In fact, I found it difficult to move. I was smelling, hearing, and breathing my youth.
This swept over me in a matter of seconds. But in seconds more, all feeling was gone. There was numbness.
We did not stay long on the surface, but it was long enough to see the worst. Riven, which was once one island, has split apart into five distinct pieces, about a half a mile apart. Four of these have been claimed by Gehn as his exclusive domain. Only his ministers and personal militia are ever allowed access to them. From my vantage point at the edge of the forest, I could see three of these islands. They are stripped of their former beauty and are riddled with Gehn’s self-absorbed constructions. The Moiety rarely visit these closely-guarded places.
There is another island which I could not see, as it had evidently crept away to a terrific distance. The Moiety are very unclear as to what exists on this island except for the fact that they know it is where the Great Tree used to exist.
The Forest is located on the island that the surface dwellers and the Moiety still refer to as Riven, but they also still refer to their entire world as Riven. This island is where the village is (which has changed dramatically). It is also the one remaining province of the people, though Gehn’s influence can be seen everywhere.
Of course, I know the reason for the fracturing of the island . . . the Moiety do not. Gehn wrote this place, and it will die, as all of Gehn’s Ages eventually die.
I feel nothing today.
I am nothing.
I live in a cave on a dying world inhabited by people that ——
They are treating me so strangely. They don’t know how to relate to a god. I’m still an outcast here. They whisper amongst themselves, talking of my bravery during my excursion to the surface — how I walked across the island, bold and unafraid.
They don’t know me.
Even Eti is uncomfortable around me. At times there is no awkwardness, and I am only Katran to her. But at other times I am something else. ——
I am afraid — there’s such a gaunt numbness inside me. Today, I do not feel closeness with my people. Neither am I offended by their worship of me. I do not hate Gehn. I don’t feel anything.
I’m not even sure of
At least Nelah is still close.
I am boiling, I am ——
Gehn is making and writing Books!
I wish they had told me sooner.
Atrus should have realized this would happen; of course, Gehn would have written all of the materials necessary to the D’ni craft of making books into this Age, and probably every other Age he ever wrote.
He is attempting to write his way out of here! We did not imprison him, we only delayed him! This Age has become his factory, and the people are his machines — all laboring in his mad pursuit to become a god! To carry on his noble, D’ni cause!
So far, he has not been able to produce a fully functional book.
Atrus has never believed in destiny, but I don’t know what else to call it. It’s too perfect. It’s too much of a coincidence. They hang on my every word, though they do not understand them. I am their hope. And now I have returned . . .
I owe this to them. There is no choice.
It’s been a long time since my last entry . . .
It is hard to recognize, but I have found the Star Fissure. It is located on the island which the Rivenese call “Allapo”, meaning “water pool”, but which is referred to by the Moiety as “Allatwan”, meaning “pool of stars”.
Having once allowed Atrus to escape this Age without leaving an open door behind us, it has since been sealed with a skin of heavy iron. A crude telescope has been mounted over a locked view-port, the combination to which was acquired by the Moiety before my arrival.
In the early days, the Moiety, seeking an escape from Riven, briefly pursued the idea of reopening the fissure. They discovered a small mechanical stop to prevent the scope from hitting the portal window. Ultimately, however, they decided against opening it.
I hate to think what would have happened to them if they had not left it alone. I’ve instructed them to stay away from it. I’m almost certain that, with the decayed state of the islands, opening the fissure now would be disastrous.
I have heard that in the days immediately following Gehn’s confinement on Riven, he attempted to determine the feasibility of navigating the stars beneath the Fissure — for he had seen the Myst Book fall from Atrus’ hands into that very same space. To this end, he would have people — alleged transgressors of the law — thrown into it so that he could observe their fate. The telescope which still stands there is one he had built for these callous experiments.
It is said that they did not die, but what became of them remains a mystery; it appears that the limits of Gehn’s optics prevented him from learning their fate.
The star field beneath the Fissure is not as it seems; it is a gentle space, as hospitable to life as a flowing river. This is how Atrus explained it, after he had fallen into it. But much more than that we’ve never understood, and we were never able to conclude upon its origins, but the visions tell me that it was born out of the will of the Maker, perhaps for some greater purpose that we cannot yet understand.
I still remember Atrus’ words from his journal:
“I realized the moment I fell into the fissure that the book would not be destroyed as I had planned. It continued falling into that starry expanse . . .”
There must be some greater reason behind it.
I neglected to mention it earlier . . .
The unique shape of one of the great daggers which appeared during our escape from Riven — the very dagger that stands vertically at one end of the Allatwan — has been adopted by the Moiety as the symbol of their cause. It is a sacred symbol for them. It is the representation of all of their doctrine, and their representation of me. To deface this symbol is sacrilege.
They have their own mythical explanation regarding its sudden origins; I haven’t told them that I wrote it into this Age, along with all the other daggers.
It’s strange how such a young religion can be so unbending, even to their own god. I have tried to dissuade them of the notion that symbols contain so much power. The enemy uses this paranoia against them; they are fearful of Gehn’s symbol, and are terrorized by his symbolic use of the wahrk.
But they don’t want to hear this from me. Perhaps my attempts have even caused some of the younger members of the Moiety to doubt that I am Catherine.
My rare encounters with those who say they follow Gehn have been discouraging.
I have hoped to have some communication with the surface villagers, but they always flee from me.
But I have heard news of some of the villagers’ beliefs regarding Gehn . . .
Soon after we trapped Gehn on Riven, he claimed that he was responsible for the daggers, placing them around the island as a reminder of their failure. In the village circles it is told that this was a punitive act performed by Gehn to mark the beginning of a period of restitution, at the end of which, if they have proven their devotion to him, they will be delivered unto a new and better existence.
I will continue to try to reach them.
The door is open & Gehn is free!
Gehn has the ability to create working Books. In fact, he had written one Age before I arrived, but has kept this accomplishment so well hidden that only his closest ministers were aware, until now.
I’m not sure, perhaps he has written others.
Other news: a few years ago, before the Moiety were forced into hiding, one of them managed to steal what appeared to be a test book that Gehn had intended to destroy; it had been partially written, but did not work.
They didn’t tell me about it until now because they thought it was useless.
Back then, none of Gehn’s Books worked. But instead of correcting the problem at its source, he blamed it on the “impure” wood of the Riven forest and proceeded to engineer a cumbersome mechanical remedy — a complex series of domes — to heal his Books’ inherent flaws. One of the consequences of this crude solution, however, was that the domes demanded huge amounts of energy, and the related problems delayed his success for quite some time.
At last, however, he finished his work and was finally able to link to an Age. But he kept his success extremely well hidden.
However, for some reason or another (belligerent pride?) he has made modifications to the domes which make it obvious that he’s using the domes to breathe life into his half-dead Books.
Perhaps he means to lure us into using the Books in the domes. He can’t believe that we would blindly swallow this suicidal bait.
But he wouldn’t know that we have one of his Books — the stolen, burnt Book.
There is a possibility of
Have read burnt Book. Age it describes would be unsuitable as new home for the Moiety; must be modified.
I will dream.
Have requested a group to solve combination that will open the domes. Once open, we can power the burnt book. I do not think Gehn will interfere — he will leave the bait.
Have begun writing the Moiety’s Age. Now must acquire second Book from Gehn.
There is tension — a strain blurs my vision — and nightmares.
Nelah and Eti stay close.
Much has happened. Almost everything is prepared.
We have stolen another Book. But I’m concerned; Gehn will miss it.
We have also discovered the combinations for entering the domes, but we have not discovered the method for powering them.
By powering our burnt Book with Gehn’s domes, we will be able to link to this Age. But we will only have access to the domes for a short of time, before we are discovered. Therefore, we can only use the domes once; I must find another way to make the books work.
The gateway images in Gehn’s Books and our burnt book all seem to share the same sickness: if they are not powered, the images are black. It might be possible to clear the vision with only ——
Will write substance into the Moiety Age
All is ready. Now all we can do is wait for word from the Moietior-Esk, who are on the lookout for Gehn to power and use the domes. When he does that, we will have access to one of Gehn’s domes just long enough.
After linking to the Age which I’ve written, I only have to locate the book-window substance and refine or adapt it. Laying this window over the gateway image should heal the books and make them work. This will allow me to use the second stolen Book, and return to Riven with more of the book-windows. We will then no longer have to rely on Gehn’s clumsy domes.
I laugh at these plans — I sound like Atrus.
I’m risking my life, but I feel no fear — only anxiety. Perhaps it is the source of my nightmares: the fissure, like a great wound, is opened; it stains the Riven soil with blood. I hold the Moiety knife. The voices grow so loud.
For their part, the Moiety have complete faith that I will accomplish my task and lead them to a better world; it is the fulfillment of their prophecy. But they are also fearful and tense.
I don’t know what they will think or do if I fail.
It is done! It seems too good to be true. I feel like it’s all still a dream.
We have already evacuated all of the Moiety to this new Age.
It is beautiful and I am pleased. At last, my people will live in safety and comfort. They stand under the bare sky, unafraid, and dazzled by their freedom. They are happy.
They have named it “Tay”.
There’s still much to be done. We are not protected yet. The only way to completely safeguard this place is to destroy the Book which links to here from Riven. But I do not even know how to bring this up to the Moiety; they will be extremely reluctant about destroying their only link to Riven.
I share this hesitation; I would be cutting off my only connection. But for their sake, it must be done.
I am anxious to know if our activities have aroused Gehn’s suspicions; if so, we must act quickly.
Even so, I feel that now we are impregnable.
Tomorrow, I will return to Riven to see Gehn’s reaction for myself.
But tonight, I finally rest.
Note to the Stranger
I write quickly from my prison . . .
Nelah will return your book which the Moiety intercepted upon your arrival. After questioning her, I’ve concluded that it was written by Atrus for a very specific purpose.
Gehn will desire to use it . . . although he may have suspicions.
If you can find my prison, you will still need the combination to release me; Gehn keeps it in his office. Then, I assume, we’re to signal Atrus . . . I think I know how it might be done. But don’t signal him before I am released.
thank you to mystellany for the text