The smoke swirled lazily upward toward
and through the ornate brass girders. There it rebounded
hazily off the rough textured ceiling, joining the ever
increasing fog of frog smoke that lightly filled the lab
room. Gehn watched its motion dazedly. Had it always been
like this, he thought in a confused fashion. Had his joys
always been thus? It seemed like there ought to be more
to life than trying to teach sense to ignorant savages,
than seeking his pleasures in a pipe of forgetfulness.
Perhaps it was simply the price being of
such a high heritage. Rulers had a duty to their subjects
to raise them from their rabble state. He was helping as
his family had ever done, reaching out to downtrodden,
showing them the way.
A disconnected thought came to him. If he were among
Earths surface dwellers it would be Christmas tomorrow,
he realized. More foolish traditions of superstitious
primitives, he supposed. Still.... this thought seemed to
haunt him. It is Christmas. The time for the
self-sacrificing saviour to come to the world as a
helpless, merciful child deity and shine redemptive grace
on all who would receive it.
Suddenly he felt angry, even sorry for
himself. Such gifts were not for him! All he ever
loved...valued had been destroyed. What mercy was there
for him? What sacrifice had there EVER been for him? In
any case, his people didnt believe in such nonsense! He
puffed in a long draught...and choked on the acrid brew
in his brass Dni-an hooka. Soon the room was filled with
fresh smoke clouds rolling slowly to the walls, while
Gehn lolled lopsidedly in his chair, barely concious.
Tonight it seemed that the more he sought
to forget, the more memories crowded upon him, insistent
in their demands upon his attention. His vision wavered
into the hanging haze. In its cloudy tendrils he seemed
to see Gemedet, in all its peaceful glory.He sighed in
spite of himself for the green beauty of it, the gracious
house built there.... If only he could write Ages like
that here and now!
Suddenly he seemed to return there.
Vividly he seemed to see its sunshine breaking through
the mist. He breathed deeply of its its crisp air, smelt
the damp old stones drying in a recent rain....
" It is beautiful ...isnt it, son? I
have always thought so. "
He whirled unsteadily and found himself
facing his mother. She reached to steady him, but he
evaded her proffered hand. She sighed at his rejection.
Her shoulders sloping into her gracious Dni robes. But
curious old sense of pleasure he had once taken in
thwarting her seemed to be lacking.Instead he
felt...sorry? It struck him that she looked no older than
he was now. Kind choices had etched her face into a
strange, gentle beauty, even as the years had marked his
habitual expressions into his visage. She had worn
better, definitely, than he was doing. His mind rambled
into wondering about his own choices...and.... for just a
moment he doubted himself, but then he shook it off. She
had contributed to the fall of the Dni! His people and
his future-that-should-have-been! Her foolish weakness
had condemned them all to this! Thinking on the loss
hardened his heart against her.
Again she offered her hand. " Walk
with me, son. I have some things to show you....in
He started to refuse, then thought better
of it. Even if this was only a dream, he would see Dni!
He nodded his acceptance and came to her side, still
ignoring the proffered hand. Her steady gaze went to the
core of him. Deep sorrow and righteousness indignation
met and mixed in equal parts. Her expression wasnt a
surprise, but its burning intensity was. Was it a trick
his mind was playing on him? More shaken than he cared to
admit, he responded, " Indeed. Well then, Lead on.
She led the way, her shape forming no
shadow on the path to the linking cave. Oh yes, he
thought, she would be a ghost. Looking down he realized
he was as well. The rock felt solid under his feet, yet
he made no impression upon anything. Not a blade of grass
moved, no gravel crunched or skittered sideways to mark
his passing. He couldnt even determine where his own
shadow ought to be. For a moment his heart raced..Had he
No, he decided resolutely, it is a pipe dream.
Still...such strange details in a dream....
The link was unusually fast, or so it
seemed to him. His gaze solidified into the humble abode
his clan had once called home.. To his shock, it was
restored! How small it seemed! He had expected Kveer.
How? he sputtered.
We are in the past, my son. You see shadows of what
has been. We are only observers here.
Silently she slipped from the chamber through the door.
After a moments shock, Gehn followed. The doors and walls
parted fluidly around him. Such an odd cool feeling, he
thought, not like a link at all. One the main floor he
paused as he heard a pleasant voice humming. In the
simply decorated chamber, he saw a beautiful woman... his
mother..as she had been once so long ago. Anna was
sewing. As he came nearer he realized she was doing
painstaking embroidery. Her hand slipped as she struggled
against the heavy fabric and the metal needle jammed
deeply into her finger. She cried out in pain but tossed
the robe aside quickly, lest her blood spoil the gift. He
examined it as it lay sprawled on a nearby chair. It was
his guild robe!
A man ran into the room and through him.
Looking up, she reassurred him. I am well.
She tried to smile as she pressured the injured finger
with her other hand, trying to stop the bleeding.
I heard you yell..
Yes, it was the surprise, realizing Aitrus
was not going to be satisfied she allowed him
to see her injury. You see, it is small
But deep, he frowned. I think you may
have to stop sewing for a day or so.
She paled, There isnt time! His ceremony!
It will swell if you dont stop....
She lifted her chin and met his concerned face.
Then it will swell. I will not disappoint him. He
is depending on us.
Aitrus considered her words silently. Gehns acceptance in
these ceremonies would be affected greatly by how well
they were able to match the rich robes ordered by council
families for their own offspring. Tiannas inspired work
was masterful and it was almost done. It could make all
the difference to his future, he knew. But her hand! He
mentally reckoned the time and cost of having another
complete her work in the days remaining and realized his
wife was right. There was no time...even if they could be
sure of the goodwill of the seamstress.
Reluctantly, he nodded his head. Do what you must
and no more. He held her hand and kissed her
gingerly. She nodded her acceptance and reclaimed the
robe. Aitrus stood for a moment watching her guiltily
wishing he had the skill to assist. Every time he
considered the strength of her love for them, he was
Realizing he could do nothing more, Aitrus returned to
his own preparations for the day. He would do what he
could to aid his son, even if it paled in his sight to
Tiannas offering. Then he would have to return to his
efforts to beg the council to return rights to the common
folk. He feared their response if the High Council
continued in their distrust of the intelligence and
inherent value of those they ruled. It could end D'ni.
Aitrus shuddered at the thought...and returned to his
writing. For the sake of his son, he would battle on,
though the cause seemed hopeless at times. The ruling
council continued to anger the citizens of D'ni with
their disregard forlong recognized rights. If this
continued.......Gehn looked over his shoulder at his
Fathers papers, shocked at their content. He stumbled
coming back out of the study. Not knowing what else to
do, he wandered back into the parlour where his Mother
In spite of himself, Gehn winced as his
mother painfully pressed the needle back into the cloth.
She bit her lip rather than cry out as the steel bit into
the bruised flesh.
From the shadows a voice called him, come
Glad to leave his thoughts behind at this moment, he
increased his pace to catch up with the robes now
whisking around the corner toward the main stairs.
Ahead of him, the shade of his mother
slid silently down and out to the city streets.
As he reformed through the door, he felt a sense of
exhiliaration. Ahh!!! for the feel of stone pathways!!
Gehn was truly pleased to see the city as
it once was. The bright orange algea flowed in bright
streaks or fanned out in celestial dance steps inspired
by the passing of the stone boats slipping to and fro.
Lights on every shore called out to one another. Voices
echoed dimly from the semi-dark distance, and engaged in
lively banter on every side as they made their way up the
ancient avenues toward the docks nestled lovingly at the
lakefront. Again he sneered at his mother. She destroyed
them, he thought, and stiffened his back.....
His guide slipped silently aboard a large
barge marked as full of supplies for guild use. She
promptly walked through the crates and boxes until she
faced the forward bow. Hesistantly he did the same. He
decided he would never get used to the way everything and
everyone flowed through him. How was it that everything
could all feel, smell, and sound so real? It must be a
dream.... and yet...
Into endless night the boat sailed on.
The kindly voice of the captain rose in song, an ancient
ballad meant to keep his men in rhythm. The sounds of the
slap of their oars in the quickened tea of the lake acted
For travel/discovery we praise thee
Oh Maker of land and sea
For the wonder of each Age
For the gift of word to page
And daily blessings from thee.....
Gehn was displeased to hear the simple
creed of the Captain. It echoed the faith he had diverted
to his use in Riven. He had thought his own people immune
from such utterings. Ah well, it seemed that even the
greatest of peoples had their... fools.
A young guildsman hitching a ride to the
islands spoke up in a pause. Sir? You dont really
believe all that do you? My mentor says we make our own
destiny...Create our own Ages...
The Captains face grew stormy, his words bitingly
sarcastic, as his eyes locked with those of the young
Writer. And who created us, eeehhh? Do you think we
sprang from the fissure as fully formed Writers? Do you
think we wrote our first home Age?
Sir, thats not too far from a theory I have heard
lectured, the young man began.respectfully,
He thinks that perhaps the first Ages formed out of
the fissure on their own slowly, and then we accessed the
Art to design the rest...
Your teacher is a fool. The Captain shot
back, Think of it. Ages of intricate design forming
THEMSELVES, including writers of the Art... the most
complex of all beings formed by ACCIDENT?
He says it could happen... especially over a long
enough period of time
What has time to do with it? Hmmm? Why would
millenia change the matter? How many things have appeared
on their own in Dni since our arrival?
The young man sputtered a protest, beginning to explain
the mind-numbing scale of the idea, but the Captain cut
him off. It makes no difference. A few milleinia, a
few eons. Why should things change without a Designer
into a design? Then another thought occurred to
him. Tell me MASTER writer, Do you
write.....make... EVERYTHING in the Ages you link to? To
their smallest parts?
The honest young man furrowed his brow, Well no,
not actually. But the small designs are inherent in the
mathmatical descriptions of the larger picture. They must
align, it simply makes sense....
Who said it should? Who designed that sense?
The cosmos, as a reflection of itself. The rules
which bind it together are what we call patterns, and how
we comprehend its makeup..
So..now either you believe this cosmos
has an intelligent identity or else you are still arguing
for intricately made designs without a Maker. So now who
has the crazier faith?
Sir, granting there is a Maker, the Captain
raised a bushy eyebrow at the premise, Who made
That I do not know. But unlike you, I do not
pretend I do know.
The theorist looked back at him steadily. It would
seem we are at an impasse.
Yes, you have your faith.....in the wisdom of
nothingness, and I have mine
The two exchanged glances evenly in complete silence.
Finally the Captains face eased back into its
customary good humor. Well... you have but entered
your twenties after all. In time you will learn wisdom.
No one can see the marvels of Ages unmoved.
The young guildsman considered for a moment and chose to
politely accept the senior's goodwill. It would do no
good to antagonize the elderly explorer further, as he
had clearly made his mind up. Actually, he had made a few
good points. Perhaps a few experiments should be
tried.... to...clarify...some positions in his mind...
Darnay left the boat frowning to himself. His mind was
already planning a long expedition after truth, and
wondering if his guild would allow it. It would be
important to frame his questions carefully. He couldnt
very well say he was going looking for his Maker.....
Gehn stepped off the boat frowning as well. The two
arguments turning over and over in his smoke-hazed mind.
Ah that was it. The crudeness of the extract had
interfered with his processes. An answer was sure to come
to him later.
He quickened his step as he realized his
mother was headed toward the Writers guild. If there was
anything to this vision, there was much useful
information to be found inside.
Gehns long stride soon covered the space
between him and the guild. A pity I could not do this in
the ruins, he thought morphing through the boards. It
would have made searching so much easier! He flew on
ahead to the advanced bookroom and headed straight for
the Ages in progress. He touched the nearest and
attempted to open it, but found he could not. Cursing
under his breath, he tried the next. His mother came in
and stood by him until he gave up his futile battle to
force these tomes to yield their secrets. Finally he
settled on reading the few pages that were open.
Tianna sighed. Even now all he sought was his own way.
Had he learned nothing today? She had always thought that
if she had some way to show him the truth, his decisions
would be different. This was his last chance. Didnt he
Gehn took quick notes on the books
measurements, construction and content. When he was done
he turned to find his mother blocking the door. We
do not have long, my son, she choked off his angry
retort and I still have someone you should see.
She flowed ahead with Gehn as her awkward wake through
ornate stone hallways and through open Dnian passages
until at last they stood outside a small cell room in the
another Guildhouse. A soft muffled, sobbing could just
barely be heard. Two young Dnians passed them in the
hallway with an ugly sneer on their faces. Sounds
like the weak halfling one commented to the other
in tones loud enough to be heard inside.
The Inkmakers guild is for Dnians of high
lineage. How COULD they induct this ahrotah... he
silenced himself as an older guildsman rapidly joined
them, indignation plain upon his face.
Perhaps the question is how could we allow such
rude young striplings to remain in the guild? The
two youngsters bowed deeply, apologizing as they did so
and begged his leave. Soon two sets of shoes scuttled
away from the permission so curtly given, vainly hoping
their teacher would forget their identities if the time
to review their faces was shortened.
Sehleder sighed. It wouldnt do to leave young Gehn with
only these words before the great day. He would have no
further lectures with his charge until after examinations
finished and the confirmation rites were held. His face
burned in fury as he considered the competitive cruelty
of the youths. He had had trouble like that himself once.
He knocked and announced his impending entrance, then
paused to allow young Gehn to collect himself before
entering. He permitted himself a small smile as Gehn
swept into a sharp, deep bow before him. Always the
professional little guildsman, he thought. A pity his
handwriting was not as nice as his room!
But what to say now? He longed to hug the lonely little
boy, but feared his affection might be misinterpreted. He
decided to remain business-like I came to tell you
that your examinations are proceeding well, young one. I
am sure you will be a credit to our guild.
Gehn was awestruck at the compliment. I will try,
Nahvah. The child wondered what he could do to be a
credit and suddenly remembered the interest he knew his
Father and this teacher shared. My ink will make
many Ages, you will like them! They will all have
Sehleder chuckled and gave a nodding bow. I
am sure I would enjoy that, as long as they were
stable! He turned to go, but Gehn wasnt quite done.
Yes, young one?
Am I a Dni? really?
Sehleder looked blank for a minute, then replied.
You look like a Dni to me. You are dressed like a
D'ni. And you can write, so you must be a Dni. He
smiled warmly at the brightening youngster. There should
be time for a fuller discussion later. He thought highly
of Tianna, but right now there wasnt time to go into all
this. I will see you at the ceremonies, young
Young Gehn bowed as his master departed, wondering if his
teacher had forgotten his human heritage. If Nahvah HAD
forgotten, he wouldnt remind him thats all. He would be
so Dni-an they would all forget! Gehn hauled out his
childs journal and wrote down his new notes on what
was Dni-an and what was not. Dni-ans can write,
ahrotahns cannot appeared in his childish scrawl.
He was suddenly puzzled. Didnt his mother...write?
Perhaps she was some kind of odd Dni?! or partly one?
Well, he would definitely write...MANY books! As to these
others, they had better be nice to him when he had worlds
of his own! They would have to bow to him when they
visited. He giggled as he thought his class bullies being
forced down by his guards before him for not showing
Beside his mother, old Gehn stood
awestruck. He understood perfectly now what Sehleder was
saying, how he had misunderstood him. If only I had
realized this sooner, he thought to himself. His
face was thoughtful for a moment. Then he became concious
of his mothers presence. Where shall we go
Annas heart rose at the sounds in his voice. Was
she getting through after all? But her time was done. In
sorrow she replied. We are done here, my son.
Gehn felt the old anger rise. She was abandoning him
again, was she?
I told you before, my time here is short.
But... Gehn started to argue, but paused at the
catch in her voice. Another one may come.
As he looked the ancient stones became hazier, less
distinct. He reached out to touch the wall and felt a
piece curl in his hand. He opened his grip curiously and
a whisp of smoke escaped into the haze shrouding the
laboratory. He turned to face Anna, but she was also
gone. Even the smoke that had held her form was
Gehn stumbled back to his chair. So it
was only a dream after all. Perhaps he should thank the
ytrams for the Christmas present of an evening in Dni. He
giggled at the thought as the fumes began to clog his
senses once more. Odd thing was, he seemed to still smell
Dni. He sniffed his sleeve, but the smoke soon masked the
scent and Gehn fell back, deciding it was all his
What was it she had said about another?
He looked curiously into the fog, wondering what else
would take shape in it. After some minutes of gazing into
the mist swimming before his eyes, his head began to slip
back upon his chair.....
Gentle fingers softly massaged his scalp.
His eyes opened widely, Keta?! Could it be? You
have come back?!
Only for this short while, Husband. Where is this
Gehn moaned as he realized this was the other visitation
The young woman looked at the littered lab with concern.
Her eyes took in the gun on his shelf . Are you in
He chuckled dryly. Not at the present. I keep
these about to prevent that.
This looks like a prison?!
No, not unless you believe I have imprisoned
Her vibrant eyes held his in the darkening shadows
But who would hurt you? Why?
Gehn thought about explaining the moiety. Then thought
better of it. She wouldnt understand. She couldnt.
To her mind, all conflicts were one discussion away from
ending. She would take the blame upon herself if need
be.....anything to restore peace to those she loved. Keta
was mercy and grace personified. His eyes teared as he
tried to look upon her. He longed to take her into his
arms again, but he knew in his heart it wasnt possible.
Somehow Keta was a less substantial shade than his
mother. It is hard to explain. Oh, how I have
missed you, Dear Wife! Why did you leave me alone
She nodded. I did not wish to go, but .. I was so
weak..... Your Mother tried so hard to save me. Her
voice choked back tears... I am so sorry I failed
you, dearest. As I passed all I could think was that at
least I was able to leave the gift of your son, to bear
Gehn was speechless. He choked on several replies,
discarding them all as unworthy. The gift of his son. The
words rang in his ears. He couldnt tell her now he had
turned his back upon..... He considered telling her what
Atrus had done since, but choked it back too. It would
only hurt her more.... and what if she agreed with his
sons choice. She couldnt, could she? He couldnt bear it!
At last he replied with a simple soft Thank
She smiled softly. I am glad I was allowed to come
see you. I have always wanted you to know that I still
love you.... Her form began to dissolve as Tiannas
NO!!! Please stay with me!!!! Gehns roar
shook the very glass, but it was too late. Keta had faded
into the clouds hanging about him.
He looked into the haze that had stolen his darling so
soon and threw the hooka to the walls. Frog extract
splattered in small spurts from the sturdy little baniff
over his face, his work journal, everything.
His cry brought his guards who found him distraught and
rapidly pacing the length of the lab as a wounded lion.
The Rivenese guards shifted uncertainly from foot to
foot. Finally he turned his wild gaze upon them and
roared, What do you want?????!!!!
The Captain choked a reply past his adams
apple. We heard you call, Lord. Is anything
Gehn spat back bitterly. It is Christmas! What
could be wrong?
kris.. mass... Lord?
A sudden wave of dizzyness came over Gehn and he rambled
a general reply. When the helpless saviour is to
come... Suddenly he realized how that would sound
to these people. But only to Dni.............. like
myself. Could be dangerous for you to interfere.
Gehn staggered backward and into a guard unable to get
out of the way. The others affected not to see, but the
luckless one threw himself at Gehns feet in hopes
of saving his life. For several seconds Gehn didnt even
notice. At last he looked down at the supplicant.
eeehhh? He nudged him with his foot. You have
a request? Speak up!
The shaking Cho thought wildly for something to ask..but
all he could think of was what Oonrai Gehn had just
said...a helpless saviour..to return.... Katran? Atrus?
May I look for the saviour, Lord?
Gehn was upset enought to send Cho walking to Jerusalem,
and almost said so. But then he had a thought. If anyone
WERE to come, perhaps it was as well if the cage were
watched... they would have to arrive there. As the Age
decayed, a return became ever more likely.....
Very well.. It is your special duty from now on to
guard the cage and bring anyone who appears there to
me..and especially any books they might be carrying. You
can start immediately, he looked around, As
soon as you clean up this mess.
Cho looked at the gooey mess and paled. Then began his
task while his fellow guards smirked at him as they
followed Gehn. The room was making him dizzy already. Not
entirely a bad feeling.... Cho looked at a particularly
large puddle of the stuff and wondered idly what it
Gehn strolled out the door toward his
Mag-lev accompanied by hundreds of memories.. Atrus...
Catherine... every step and sight brought back the
conflict to him. She had betrayed him, worse she had
turned his son completely against him.... Not that there
hadnt been trouble already. He made a bad mistakes in not
rescuing Salar, or allowing his son to visit Anna. He
could see that now. That was where the worst rifts had
begun. Atrus' weakness for emotional attachments were
always a problem but he could have worked the situation
better than he did. He had made so many mistakes. So many
things should have been different. He should be seeing
his childrens children play at his feet. Instead... a red
gerbil ran across his foot startling him into a yell. The
round bundle of red fur dove into the nearest rock
crevice before Gehn could move. He recovered his dignity
and looked at his guards carefully neutral faces.
Satisfied he entered his car and left.
As he entered the first turn, they
exploded in laughter. On a signal from their Captain,
they turned to tease the dizzy Cho before heading to
their next duties. What a merry day this was turning out
At Survey island, Gehn more ran than
walked to the viewers. His mind reviewing his life,
wincing at so many of his choices with himself. He had
nearly killed his own son. Oh God, if I had
succeeded..... a sudden rumble shook the land... He
steadied himself against the chair and smiled
cynically.... then perhaps I would not be imprisoned
It was a dire bargain either way, he realized, for Atrus
represented the future of his race. Yet Atrus had never
understood the importance of saving Dni. Perhaps
his methods were not the best, but how else could he have
He considered his alternatives. If I changed now, they
would kill me! No, only fear kept the locals in
line....fear of his Art and the wharks. A sudden
remembrance of Keta tugged at his heart. She could have
found a way...
Gehn gazed moodily into the deep sapphire waters. A
sudden flash of sunshine rendered shapes in the currents
and he seemed to see Catherine before him. Another
visitation? For several minutes her dazzling green eyes
stared back at Gehn from the deep. Then face and form of
her fair frame blurred out into the baleful glance of the
huge predatory whale beyond the glass. Gehn focused on it
disbelievingly for a minute then dismissed the vision.
He turned the chair sharply around and
headed back down the dias.
Suddenly he knew it was Christmas.
Certainly no presents would coming, he said to himself.
Gehn stomped down the last steps in a temper, which
caused him to trip at the last step. His notebook fell
out of his pocket and skittered open on the walkway. As
he picked it up he noticed his own notes on the
kormahns.. His hands shook as he held some of the answers
he had sought for 29 long years. If they were real, that
He considered what he should write.
Perhaps another Riven? It was what he promised the
people. A large tree in a lake would be an excellent
start. Then too, being able to isolate his new castle
would be wise.... perhaps he should write an Age just for
himself as well. That would be safest.
A stunning thought came to him.
Anna had sent him Christmas.