A Journey Without An Ending: Part 2 - The Journey Continues

Translation Note: A Nederlands translation of this content is available here.

Disclaimer: This series of articles is written in-character (IC) and are mainly based on known facts or research. Although Max has taken some liberties or "artistic license" in some parts, like in adapting or intertwining the gameplay or the fiction into facts of reality, the article has been fact-checked by others in the GoMe and in most aspects is, to the best of our knowledge, factually accurate.

In Part 1, we learned how John Loftin discovered an entrance to the large cavern known as D'ni and how Elias Zandi and Loftin made their first expeditions down the lava tunnels.  Later, during a more than three-week-long expedition, they were accompanied by Dr. Richard A. Watson as the third member of their group of explorers. On that trip down to the cavern in the summer of 1991, John Loftin lost his life in a tragic accident that left the other two absolutely devastated. Despite this enormous setback and loss of life, Zandi and Watson were still determined to carry on and explore further what their late companion had discovered.

They had also started to work on the writings they had brought with them back to the surface; specifically, attempting to translate what, to their knowledge at the time, was a dead language.  In the latter part of 1991, they were finally able to translate some journals written by a young woman known as  Katran  or Catherine (she had been called both, apparently due to a mispronunciation by her husband).  Elias had also in correspondence with  Rand  and Robyn Miller told them about the group's progress and kept them updated on their findings.  

In early 1992 Dr. Watson, who had a doctorate in history from the University of Utah and had been teaching in history, had recruited some former colleagues for an extremely thorough and lengthy expedition to D'ni. While doing so, it also came clear that Elias Zandi was getting slightly obsessed with everything.  He hoped to try and restore the ancient city to its original glory, and even more surprising, stating he had a direct connection to the place. "We feel the call, for many of us have the blood of D'ni within us, and it calls us home."  As such, he began to use his resources to achieve his goal of complete restoration.

Cyan Inc., at that point, was working on a new single-player adventure game based on what had been discovered.  Dr. Watson was brought in as a consultant and became a part of developing the game. These two projects would walk side by side from then on. Cyan had based the story on notes and writings found in Catherine's journals, and had adapted them to tell her story and that of her husband Atrus and their two sons, Sirrus and Achenar.

During 1993, Dr. Watson brought the Miller brothers down to the cavern for the first time. They, like all others upon first seeing D'ni, were simply overwhelmed by what they saw. It further immersed them, and the works of their company, into the D'ni culture and history.  Their first game, Myst, became a huge success and allowed their company to explore not only more of Catherine's individual story with sequels, but D'ni itself as well.
That same year, Elias' health began to deteriorate. He underwent open-heart surgery and was told by his doctors to slow his activites and lower his stress. The call of D'ni, however, seemed to be too strong for him and he disregarded their wishes.

1994 saw two massive trips with supplies down to the Cavern. The second one was, appropriately enough, named the "Ice Cream Trip" due to the amount of orange safety cones brought down (the very same cones found in various spots in the cavern today). Perhaps due to what had happened to John Loftin, safety was now the group's number one priority during the restoration.

Word of the cavern had apparently spread, and during 1995, small groups of people began to find their way to the volcano in New Mexico and eventually down to D'ni. Many of them were later accepted as volonteers for the restoration project.  Elias must have been pleased, but he did not want the whole world to know about D'ni quite yet.  Even so, those that felt themselves called to the cavern continued to flow in from the desert.

The swiss psychoanalysist Carl Gustav Jung has among his many theories the concept about "archetypes". In short, every one of us possesses some form of collective and shared memories. We subconsiously recognize things like symbols, ancient or archaic images, etc., that derive from the collective unconscious. Maybe the images and symbols from D'ni culture are such inherited collective memories and those of us who did "recognize" them were drawn to the place.

In November of 1995, on another trip down with the Miller brothers, it became clear that Elias and his son Jeff Zandi had very different views on how to proceed with the restoration. Elias restated his wish to restore the city into its former glory, while Jeff wished to leave it alone as a spiritual monument to the D'ni culture. In the end, they could only agree to disagree, and it drove them apart from that time on.

By 1996, the team established a non-profit organization, the D'ni Restoration Foundation, with Dr. Watson as its Chairman. That very same year, Elias passed away as a result of a massive heart attack.  He had left all his fortune to the foundation as a means to finance the restoration. Although he had left no money to his son (and only heir), Jeff still inherited the surface land above the cavern, and as such, the only known direct entrance from the surface to D'ni.

Dr. Watson eventually decided to restructure the foundation. In 1997, along with a group of like-minded experts who would oversee various aspects of restoring the cavern, the D'ni Restoration Council, or DRC, was born, with their head offices located in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

The newly-formed DRC now had an enourmous task; continue to explore and map the cavern and determine the degree of safety of all of the different locations.  Also, they would also begin to catalog, explore, and possibly restore the various Ages found.  It would be their decision what was and was not off-limits, something that would constantly come back to bite them over many years.

An excerpt from the DRC website: "The DRC fully recognizes the importance and responsibility that is associated with the massive task of restoring and rebuilding a civilization nearly 10,000 years old. With great care, great respect, and great effort we approach our goals always keeping the safety of our employees and visitors as the highest priority. There is much for us to learn and throughout our restoration effort we listen to the voices of the past as well as the voices of the present, recognizing that without help, the cavern and Ages of D’ni will see little more than the dust and debris that has covered them for so long now."

The cavern had now been relatively busy since 1993, and the DRC had established themselves there on a permanent basis, working out of a D'ni neighborhood called Kirel and in Ae'gura near Takotah Alley. But it would still take many years before the average explorer would have access to D'ni and all of its cultural heritage.

So, what happened to Cyan [Worlds] Inc. and their Myst franchise? The first game depicted a tale of an as-yet-unidentified stranger (a person who later became a longtime friend of Atrus' family) who had come to Myst Island during a rather trying time to help Atrus and Catherine.  He or she (their gender seems to have been lost over time) needed to use all their wits and look for clues everywhere while also solving several intricate puzzles to open the "places of protection" and investigate other Ages and find out what had happened. Some of  the finer details were changed by Cyan to fit the mechanics of the game, with the company explaining any discrepancies with "artistic license".

After the success of the first game, Cyan began to dig deeper into the mythology of the D'ni. In close cooperation with the DRC, they began to expand their Myst universe.  Using documents and artifacts found in D'ni, and utilizing more of Catherine's writings, they created the game of Riven. According to the writings, Atrus had called upon his new friend to travel to the title Age (also Catherine's native Age). The stranger was to confront and capture his father Gehn, who had ruled over the Rivenese for many years as he had been trapped there by his son. Atrus also requested that he/she would rescue Catherine, who had been tricked into linking to Riven by her sons and was subsequently captured by Gehn's followers.

While the game was in development, Ryan Miller had been using other sources to write a story that broadened the concept further. That story would evolve and, in co-operation with David Wingrove and the two other Miller brothers, it developed into "The Book of Atrus". It told of a young Atrus, who began life on the surface in the cleft with his grandmother Anna (aka Ti'ana); the very same place John Loftin had found under his surveys in New Mexico.*

Wingrove and Rand Miller would later work together on two more novels: the "Book of Ti'ana" and the "Book of D'ni". The former was a sort of prequel set before the Fall of D'ni, describing how Anna, a geologist, made her way down into the cavern and came into contact with the D'ni people, which would have terrible consequences. The latter was set after the events shown in Riven, detailing Atrus' own efforts at trying to restore or resurrect the D'ni after their near-extinction as well as his discovery of the D'ni's true lineage.

In the last installment, we'll take a look at what the DRC has managed to do in the cavern up until present day. We'll also see how the D'ni cavern was finally made accessible for explorers and  have a look at what the future could have to offer to all explorers.  

*There are known dicrepancies between the novels and the actual facts, such as locations. My guess is that the location of the cleft and the D'ni cavern were intentionally mislocated in the Middle East to avoid people seeking either place, at least until the DRC regarded it to be safe enough to visit the cavern.