I recently got an itch to revisit the Myst series of games. The serene yet subtly disturbing puzzle-oriented mysteries of Myst and Riven were ground-breaking for their day. I’m a gamer today primarily because of this universe.
It’s been a while since the last post in this series, so definitely time to get back to solving the mysteries of the Fifth Age!
I feel I’m nearly done Riven. Things are quickly coming to a head between me, Gehn, and the Black Moiety.
Come with me as I continue my journey!
Fair warning: if you’ve never played Riven, there are spoilers ahead!
A new world solidifies around me as I pass through the linking book. I find myself standing on the shore of a shallow lake surrounded by towering cliffs. In the middle of the lake stands the most bizarre tree I’ve ever seen.
The thick trunk has a door embedded in its base, while the branches support a grey globe pitted with dozens of windows. Warm light glows from within and a thin stream of smoke drifts lazily from the top. It’s after sunset but a bright moon casts more than enough light to see by; overhead dark clouds that threaten rain are rolling in.
Just like at the village lake on Riven, there is no boat within sight. If I want to get to the tree I’ll have to swim. I wonder what creatures might be in the water and decide I’m not in any hurry to get wet just yet.
I turn around. Behind me is a cave with a large figurine standing in a lit alcove.
A shiver snakes down my spine. The face isn’t human and seems to glare at me with sharp, slitted eyes. The body is pierced all around with Black Moiety daggers, as if in warning to any who would approach the linking book balanced in the figure’s hands: Beware, for a great evil lies ahead. I decide this figure must represent Gehn and step closer to examine it.
I hear a scuff of footfalls in the dirt of the cave behind me and whirl to find two people have entered: one, dressed in red and black like the person who saved me from the cage when I first linked to Riven, and the other, the prisoner who vanished from the cell to lead me here in the first place.
It all happens so fast: the man is babbling urgently at his masked companion while gesturing at me but I don’t understand the words; the other raises a dart gun and I feel an impact on my neck. As the poison seeps into me I see the Black Moiety rebel step forward curiously while shrugging off the man. Then everything goes black.
I’m not dead. Somewhat to my surprise, I wake moments later to find I’m lying limp and useless in a boat. My vision is blurred and it’s hard to focus. The tree looms large overhead and in the gloom I can see the man gesturing to it while talking to someone behind me—presumably the rebel with her dart gun. The man notices I’m awake and gives me a suspicious look before turning away. Then I fall back unconscious.
When I wake again I have no idea how much time has passed. I feel like I’ve slept for days, and though the respite is not altogether unwelcome, once more I find myself imprisoned.
This prison is much more comfortable, comparatively speaking, than the one I found above the wahrk gallows: it has a ledge, rather than the bare floor, to sleep on; a light; and a window overlooking the lake and the linking book cave I arrived in. Rather than cold stone, this prison seems made of a warmer, natural material—and then I remember that I must be inside the tree.
A bowl on a shelf below the light is empty and again I wonder how long I’ve been here. I don’t feel hungry, and though I can’t remember, I feel as if I must have been lucid enough now and then to have eaten whatever food I was brought. Perhaps they dunked me in the lake at some point too. I’m not as dirty as I expect.
The door to my cell is made of wood but solidly locked, though I can see through it to the village beyond.
It’s quite peaceful here and I find myself wishing I was free to walk through the village. I wonder how many Black Moiety live here and whether there could be room for all the Rivenese to join them. The homes here are round just like in the village on Jungle Island and I can see they have tried hard to create a new life. The rest of the Rivenese could leave their fears and Gehn’s terror behind if they came here.
But this is one of Gehn’s Ages, and he tried to burn the linking book. This Age must not be stable, just like the others he has written. The Rivenese and their rebel brethren need a home that won’t threaten to fall apart on them.
In the distance I can see one of the Black Moiety paused thoughtfully on a walkway leading from one home to another. Is that the same person who brought me here? I can’t be sure. I’m tempted to call out to get attention but decide against it. Shouting into the stillness of the village seems like it would be…rude.
I watch a bit longer, wondering what the people who occasionally eclipse the windows are up to, and then wander back into my cell. How do I get out? First obligation of a prisoner is to escape!
I’m contemplating trying to squeeze out the window and climb down the outside of the tree when I hear the door open behind me.
A woman comes cautiously around the corner. She’s dressed in black and red, and though not wearing a mask, I suspect she is the rebel who rescued me when I linked to Riven and then shot me when I linked to this Age.
She speaks. The only word I recognize seems to be Catherine’s name, though this woman pronounces it Katran. While speaking, she unwraps a bundle of bright red cloth and places two books on the shelf next to the bowl. She seems unaware that I can’t understand a word she says, and I don’t interrupt. One thing is certain: she’s anxious for me to read the books. She gestures for me to stay put and then leaves. I hear the door close and lock behind her.
As soon as she’s gone, I pick up the books. One is thick and has a familiar green cover. Opening it quickly, my heart leaps. It’s Atrus’s prison book! Gratefully I close it and slide it into my travel pouch, next to his journal.
The other book is a narrow, leather-bound journal. I perch myself on the shelf and move the bowl aside so I can see better. The handwriting is light and feminine. This is Catherine’s journal! But how did the rebel woman get it?
I read. Catherine suffered the same fate as me when I first arrived in Riven: trapped in the cage at the link-in point, though after that she was darted and fell unconscious. Her journal confirms that the drug the Black Moiety use muddles the mind, as she cannot remember well what happened to her immediately after that.
There’s a note tucked into the journal. It’s for me. I learn the name of the rebel woman is Nelah. Catherine also warns me that her prison requires a combination before it can be opened. The combination is kept in Gehn’s office. Where is his office? I wonder. Surely not the lab I found on Book Assembly Island. Lastly, she implores me not to signal Atrus before she is released.
The rest of Catherine’s journal reads with much pain: the awkward reception she received from her people; her observations of how drastically the Age has changed; the Rivenese belief that Atrus must be a true god; their belief that Catherine had transcended into a deity; the rise of Gehn’s power; her inability to see her father, who still lives in the village on Jungle Island; her rage at finding out Gehn is still trying to write books. She notes that the Moiety shun the Rivenese who have not joined them.
The journal also talks about the fifth Riven island. Catherine says it has drifted so far away from the other four islands that it can’t be seen anymore and that it was once the location of the Great Tree. I wonder if Gehn chopped down this important Rivenese icon to try to make book paper from it.
I almost toss the journal away from me with frustration when I read that the Star Fissure can be found ‘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”.’ Right. Very helpful. But then she notes the fissure was sealed using a ‘skin of heavy iron’ with a crude telescope placed over a viewport, and immediately I know what I’m looking for: the odd contraption I peered into after I was freed from the link-in cage! The journal provides me with the combination I need to unlock the hatch for the viewport as well.
Then I’m horrified to learn that not only has Gehn fed the Rivenese to the wahrk, but he has also thrown people into the Star Fissure simply to see what would happen! Those poor souls disappeared and no one knows their fate.
The journal answers a few other questions too: Catherine is the origin of the large daggers which the Black Moiety have adopted as their sacred symbol; Catherine created the gateway crystal herself, not via a D’Ni schematic as Gehn suspected; the name of the Age I am in now is Tay.
Catherine’s last entry notes that she needed to return to Riven to see if the recent rebel activity had aroused Gehn’s suspicions. I must conclude that it did and that she was captured as a result.
I tuck the journal away and contemplate what to do next. Nelah returns just then, carrying something new in her red bundle.
She lays a linking book on the shelf and places a crystal over its gateway image, all the while chattering away at me and mentioning Catherine’s name. I wish I understood. My gut tells me she’s imploring me to rescue her friend.
Then she’s gone, leaving me to link back to Riven alone.
The stone chamber that hides the Tay linking book is quiet and empty when I rematerialize. Quickly, I make my way up through the passage to the open prison cell and then away from the village.
As I hurry along I take stock of my progress: I know the combination to Gehn’s domes but the books inside need to be powered before I can use them; I have the prison book back; I know where the Star Fissure is located; I know the combination to the hatch below the telescope; I need to get to Gehn’s office to find the combination to free Catherine.
If Gehn’s office isn’t here on Riven, then it must be in the Age the dome books link to. It seems to me that before I can do anything else I need to get the power to the linking books turned on, and for that, the source must be on Temple Island, in the giant golden dome.
The tram car deposits me at the foot of the stairs leading from Gehn’s temple, and I pause before continuing on, puzzled.
The door is closed. When I was last here, I left the temple door open. And since all other doors and things I’ve interacted with have been left alone—save for the lake sub—seeing this one barring my way makes me nervous. I approach cautiously, slowly making my way up the stairs.
As I reach the landing, the door begins to rise up on its own.
It reveals the temple interior and the large wire globe—with the image of a man projected inside it, the same face I saw in the small globe in the schoolhouse. Gehn!
This isn’t a recording though. He’s staring at me, his expression cold and calculating. Then the image fades and I remember he is only feet away, just up the hall! At once I dash to the temple’s interior door and run up the corridor, nearly slipping on the smooth stone floor, until I reach the chamber containing the globe’s projection chair.
I push the door open but…the room is empty. Gehn was here—had to be—but he managed to slip away.
I check the room carefully, looking for a linking book. If he used one, it would still be here, but I find nothing. Since I didn’t meet Gehn in the corridor, he must have gone the other way, across the bridge toward the golden dome. Will I catch up to him there?
I look carefully ahead as I cross the bridge but there’s no sign of him. Of course, Gehn will know all the ins-and-outs of the puzzles of this Age, so I have no doubt they present little in the way of barriers to him. But if the books in the domes have to be powered first before they can be used, does that mean some of my work is already done for me?
I decide to inspect the Star Fissure first. The iron plating rings out dully as I walk over it and it occurs to me that on the other side, apparently just beneath my feet, is a field of stars. This is where Atrus fell all those years ago, jumping in with the linking book to Myst… The book I eventually found, that started me on this journey in the first place.
There are pipes leading to the telescope, similar to the ones I saw on Book Assembly Island, and I notice the telescope seems to be hooked up to a kind of winch that could raise or lower the lens pointed at the closed hatch. There doesn’t seem to be any power to the scope though, so I climb over the railing and continue following the iron plating. It ends at a ledge and I look down into a crevasse.
There doesn’t seem to be anything further here, and no sign of Gehn, so I go back up the stairs to the bridge and consider the gate room. The way inside to the golden dome is still blocked by the gate. I recall that the room rotates a small number of degrees each time I push the large button outside the main door. Doing so blocks off my ability to get inside but I notice the alcoves that appear each time I push the button contain a peephole. Peering through the hole lets me track the position of the opening.
I rotate the room until I can see the opening that was previously in front of the gate is now in front of another passage. How do I get there?
I step back and go down the stairs that take me further away from the link-in cage and the Star Fissure. I’ve been here briefly before, when I noticed the view was similar to the image of Riven that I saw through the crystal viewer on Rime.
The gate here is still chained and padlocked shut. I tug on it experimentally but it doesn’t give.
Then I notice the Moiety dagger stuck in the ground at the gate’s base and bend down to examine it. That’s when I realize I can probably squeeze through the gap between the gate and the ground. Good thing I’m skinny!
On the other side it’s much cooler. A dim light illuminates the cave. I brush myself off, then climb a wooden ladder leaning against the rock. I cross a rickety plank and enter the gate room again, only to find I still haven’t achieved anything because the only other exit is still aligned to the gate-blocked passage to the golden dome.
I return to the main entrance and push the button again until my way into the room isn’t blocked. This time the openings are oriented slightly differently: instead of the gate preventing me from going to the golden dome, it now blocks the way to what looks like an ornately carved, but closed, door.
I peer closely through the gate but see no way to open the door from here.
Monkeying around with the rotation and going back to the cave eventually gives me access to a smaller cave with pipes in it.
The picture above the lever reminds me of the telescope over the Star Fissure. I throw the lever and hear a satisfying hiss. The scope probably now has the power it needs to work.
I return up the narrow passage to find this doorway not only has a button on one side, but also a handle. I use it and hear a metallic scraping. Is the gate lifting out of the way?
I rotate the room again and this time can cross over to the ornate door I saw before. There is no way to open the door from this side, but at least the gate is no longer a problem.
After several more attempts to rotate the room I have it situated again so that I can finally access the bridge to the golden dome. I cross over, looking curiously left and right, and stand for a moment to admire the view of Jungle Island.
Then, at long last, I enter the dome itself.
It isn’t what I expect. A catwalk curves almost all the way around the inside, while below me, pale blue water sloshes quietly. Is this the pool Catherine’s journal spoke of? Ahead I can see a kind of control center with thick pipes coming out of the bottom of it but there seems no way to reach it right now.
Ahead of me on the railing is a diagram. If the central portion represents the dome I’m in now, then the lines must be the pipes leading to the five Riven Islands and, ostensibly, the domes located on each. I find it interesting that there is a dome on the fifth island. Did Gehn put it there before or after making it a prison? If before…why? If Catherine is right and the island is so far away that it can no longer be seen from here, what use was it to Gehn before he captured her? How would he get there anyway, never mind running sufficient pipe across the ocean to reach it?
Then something else occurs to me: if this Age is slowly tearing itself apart, is Catherine’s prison still drifting and if so, how much longer will it be before the pipe intended to supply power to the dome on that island pulls into pieces?
As I hurry away, I also realize I haven’t yet discovered a linking book dome on this island either.
The catwalk leads to an opening in the side of the dome and continues on as a path that curves around the outside of the rock formation the dome is built onto. By following the path I come across a pipe venting steam into the air. The pipe has a picture of a bridge on it and seems to indicate that it can control whether the bridge is raised or lowered. I flip the switch on the pipe to redirect the steam into an adjoining pipe, then look up.
Nearby, above me, is the long bridge leading from Book Assembly Island. A section of the bridge nearest the dome is raised and I realize that is where I tried to get at the dome once before but couldn’t because the bridge wouldn’t drop down.
Before I go back there I decide to finish exploring around the dome. The path takes me around its circumference to a strange vertical track that has a small button on its wall. Ahead of me is a tunnel, which I decide to go into first. It opens up onto a small ledge and another pipe venting steam.
After returning to the strange vertical track, I look up. Above me I can see part of another walkway with a section missing. Is this an elevator? I push the button to see if it will take me up to the walkway but nothing happens.
I seem to be stuck. The path doesn’t lead anywhere else. How did Gehn get off this island so quickly ahead of me if all of this work still needed to be done to get the linking books powered?
Frustrated, I trace my route back through the dome and the gate room, then cross the bridge to the temple and get into the waiting tram car. The fastest way to get to Book Assembly Island is to jump into the lumber cart.
After everything else I’ve seen and done here, this latest trip at breakneck speeds through the ocean now just barely fazes me, and when the cart dumps me into the wood chipper at the other end I don’t even pause before I’m jogging across the shore, climbing the ladder, and making my way along this island’s catwalk to the long bridge.
I pause at the bridge to catch my breath. It’s now that I notice what I missed before: Temple Island’s linking book dome is on a tall outcropping of rock just behind the golden dome. From this distance I can just make out a catwalk that seems to lead to it. Maybe now that this section of the bridge has power I’ll be able to get there.
I cross the bridge and climb the stairs at the other side to the raised section of the bridge. Faintly I can hear the popping and hissing of steam, and am rewarded when I throw the lever and the bridge begins to lower.
I enter the dome again, this time on the opposite side from where I originally entered. Right away there’s a path branching to the left to take me back outside and I notice this is the catwalk that has a section missing. It’s a long way down.
There’s a small button in the wall behind me, similar to the one I found below that didn’t work. I push this one and hear a scraping sound—then turn around in time to see the missing section of the catwalk rise into place.
I probably could have jumped the distance but better safe than sorry. The catwalk curves around…but this one doesn’t seem to lead to the spinning dome. Instead I find myself arriving at the backside of the gate room…and another closed door. This side of the door is smooth, but the color suggests it’s the other side of the ornately carved door I couldn’t open.
I pull on a handle embedded in the rock and the door opens. When I step inside I’m stopped by a peephole alcove, another button, and another handle. I decide to leave the handle alone but push the button. The gate room rotates until I can enter it. The other access isn’t lined up with the bridge to the dome though, so I try again. I end up having to align the exit with the main entrance I first used, then continue rotating the room until I can once more get on the bridge.
A mild sense of déjà vu creeps over me as I walk through the dome again and out onto the lower path. This time when I get to the vertical track the button in the wall seems to be glowing. I push it and feel my stomach jump into my throat as the ground drops away and I’m lowered into a shaft.
Behind me I discover a hidden passage, and as I walk carefully along it, the sound of the spinning dome grows louder. I climb another set of stairs and arrive at the dome viewer.
After a moment I get the dome to flip over and have a look. This one is the same as all the others, and the path does not go anywhere else, so I head back.
I feel like I’ve missed something, and then realize that I turned off the upper catwalk before seeing where it ended. To get back up there I have to retrace my steps through the lower part of the dome, back to the gate room, and then through its rear entrance to the long, curving catwalk. This brings me back to the section with the piece that had been missing. It’s still in place so I can re-enter the dome and turn to the left.
The catwalk dead ends just meters from the section I first used after leaving the gate room.
The distance is too great to jump, but there’s a large wheel here that turns easily and extends the catwalk so that it connects to the other side.
Now I’m standing back at the entrance, facing across the Star Fissure below to the gate room. There’s a lever here, and when I throw it, the bridge rises up along a track. The planks that were flat and smooth while it was horizontal angle themselves automatically to become stairs. I look up and realize there’s another level to the dome that I didn’t notice before.
With the catwalk now forming a complete circle around the interior of the dome, it’s easy to make my way back to the gate room and align the exit so I can climb the newly-formed stairs.
The glare from the dome hurts my eyes as I climb. When I get to the top I find myself in a long corridor between two hemispheres of gold. In the dome’s center, blocking my way forward, is a strange contraption that looks like some kind of press controlled by a simple lever and button panel.
I manipulate the controls, causing the press to descend onto its base, but nothing happens. Manipulating the controls again resets the contraption, so I step forward to take a closer look.
The base of the press is a grid. Faintly I can see shapes outlined on it: the Riven island map. Along the right side are colored beads, and suddenly something more from Survey Island falls into place: the silver grid there, the colored lights in the wahrk room, the eye symbols on the dome viewers.
I settle myself in, ready to solve this puzzle.