Have you ever had a friend who you needed to aid in the greatest of perils? A man who was willing to sacrifice all for the larger good -- even his family, if need be?
I had a friend like that at one time. His name was Atrus; and, in order to stop madmen from conquering worlds, he was willing to imprison those who were precious to him above all but one -- his two sons -- so that their reign of terror over other peoples would end. He did not enjoy this duty; he was forced to it, and I am sure he regretted his actions to his dying day. I had the sad honor of assisting him in this task, and then helping to rescue his wife, Catherine, and stop Gehn, his father, from a similar destructive stroke in a whole range of worlds that he had discovered with the peculiar Art of the people known as the D'ni. This and other adventures besides, were my lot during my friendship with this warm, wise, but troubled man.
Imagine my surprise, then, when, in making my daily run through the various Grid-blogs, I learned Gehn may have escaped from his prison and fled to Second Life! If true, the potential danger to the Grid and its Residents was great indeed. My duty and friendship to Atrus and his goals required an investigation to learn the truth of the matter.
Pyter, my informant, had kindly supplied a teleport landmark. I used it as an initial landing, but chose to leave quickly from that location, in case visitors were expected.... Flying about the island, I encountered nobody for some time. Then I spotted a house built on a grand scale indeed. Its architecture was strangely, eerily familiar -- until I realized that it could only have been built by the descendants of the D'ni, with their penchant for spectacular-sized buildings and strange devices at strange points. I quickly shot an image as evidence of my visit, even as I reflected that something else seemed very familiar about what I was seeing....
Scouting around, I found no living soul in sight, and decided to take the risk. I landed on the long pier in front of the house and began exploring, relying on my elven Cloak of the Oracle (purchased in Avilion Mist) to conceal my identity long enough for a getaway if needed. And it looked like it might be needed; for in the archway of the main door was set a familiar glyph, the D'ni character for numeral 5 -- the mark of Gehn.
A check around the courtyard revealed an enormous stone dagger balanced atop a fountain. This was another piece of symbology from the world of Riven, the symbol of the Rebel Moiety that opposed Gehn's tyrannical rule across Riven's five islands. This, combined with Gehn's "crest," posed a pretty puzzle. What did all this mean? Had some old veteran of the Moiety made their way to the Grid, prospered, and set up housekeeping on this island? But then why the mark of Gehn over the door??
Intrigued by the mysteries around me, I began my reconnaissance. This proved both fascinating and frustrating. The main room was laid out with taste and comfort in mind -- except for one old bagged-out chair in the room center. One wall panel was transparent, holding in a large aquarium. A painting of a woman adorned the space over the fireplace. Was this Ti'ana, Gehn's mother? His dead wife? Or some other woman? Or simply a random painting? Still on this floor, the exterior was laid out in a series of pools and spas, excellent for trysts or assignations in several spots. Gehn was not usually in the habit of entertaining guests, though...at least not in this fashion....
Above the ground floor, stairs led to various other levels. The strange machinery was again visible -- as was another massive Moiety dagger. Wandering about, occasionally flying up to a platform when I couldn't locate a stairway, I found no inhabitants for the longest time. A positive thing, of course, if my suspicions were correct. I did notice someone once, and I cast my hood over my head, preparing to teleport out if they showed signs of being a thrall of Gehn -- or, worse, a henchman. (Worst would be the old frog-smoker himself! ) However, before I could do more than tense myself, the figure shimmered out. With a sigh of relief, I settled onto a cushion on the floor to let my nerves relax. Cloak-and-dagger work ain't my forte, I thought as I began breathing again.
Once I had recovered, I resumed my search. I soon found a critical location: the house library. And the first thing I saw was a circular viewer of some kind; its outer edge was inscribed with D'ni numerals. It was almost certain now; the occupant of this place was too familiar with elements of the D'ni culture, and with elements from the past of Gehn and Atrus. Discarding my cloak, which hindered movement at times, I rifled the room and its connecting halls, but with no great success. I didn't even find a "tobacco" pouch -- though the pictures of butterflies all over the walls made me wonder if Gehn had given up smoking frogs.... Other parts of the place were purely beautiful, including a painting on one wall in the hallway that I took a few seconds to admire.
Then, as I was working back toward the library, the sound I was dreading reached my ears: footfalls other than my own on the stone floor! I could not fly away here inside, and I had forgotten about teleportation. Glimpsing a patch of open sky at the end of the corridor I was in, I sprang toward it, and rapidly found myself...in a gift store? One with an interesting selection, as well. No Moiety daggers in miniature, or D'ni snow globe paperweights, but lots of cool vases.... However, there was no time for shopping. I quickly took wing, teleporting out after getting a good hundred metres between me and the ground.
I would propose to the Residents reading this that we need to keep a close watch on this castle. Teams could hang out -- discreetly -- in the courtyard, while other individuals/groups might pose as shoppers in the store, taking occasional flyovers to examine the estate from the air. For those willing to volunteer, here are the coordinates.
(Cross-posted from Around the World with Harper)