First, a little background:When we came to the cavern in 2006, we were not the first. There had been one attempt at a Restoration of D’ni before. The D’ni Restoration Council, or DRC, had originally consisted of 5 scholars: Richard Watson, Ikuro Kodama, Michael Engberg, Victor Laxman, and Marie Sutherland. Their first attempt at restoring the cavern had ended in failure, due mainly to a lack of funds, but also to unforeseen events.The most important of these events was the arrival of Yeesha, the daughter of Atrus. Her mystical abilities to affect and alter the Ages wreaked havoc among the order-loving DRC, with whom she disagreed on many fundamental ideas.
The Journey she sent explorers on to free the enslaved Bahro resulted in explorer being pitted against explorer, and even many of the DRC’s employees–important people like Douglas Sharper and Phil Henderson–were converted to Yeesha’s cause.
The result of all this disunity was that the First Restoration failed and the DRC returned to the surface in defeat–all except their leader, Dr. Watson, who remained behind and, disillusioned and disappointed, embarked on his own spiritual journey. The last evidence of his activity was a journal he left in the shaft leading to D’ni from the surface. You can still read it in the place now called Descent.
Our story truly begins during a time when there was no “official” activity in the cavern. I say, “official,” because many continued to hear Yeesha’s Call and arrived surreptitiously to take her Journey on their own, each to free one of the Bahro from slavery.
Eventually, those who were still coming to the cavern found each other, and the four remaining members of the DRC returned as well. They had no money, so for a while there was no Restoration. Explorers contented themselves with visiting areas already opened, and with speculating on unresolved mysteries. The most popular questions revolved around the whereabouts of Yeesha and Dr. Watson, who both seemed to have vanished.
We come now to the important day: December 19, 2006.
It was the day of the Great Scream.
You see, our story begins with a scream. A scream so loud and so powerful that it was heard in every Age, heard all over the cavern, heard everywhere there were ears to hear it.
It was, of course, the scream of a Bahro.
When that happened, every explorer with a Relto Book was immediately linked to their home Relto. The Scream also linked to the cavern several others without Reltos from the surface.
We found to dismay that all of our Books had disappeared off our shelves. And when we sought the Books out again, the Ages were as if they had never been touched by us. The Journey, in effect, had been “reset” and even our Yeesha Shirts were gone.
Also, the Scream caused severe structural impact to D’ni. Worried that the cavern might have become unstable, the DRC quickly quarantined off the dangerous areas, restricting us to only a small part of Ae’Gura and the Neighborhoods.
To this day, no one knows what caused the Scream, or what its purpose was.
Shortly after the Scream, the DRC announced that they had obtained new sources of funding and would work to restore the damage done. They also intended to expand. It was a new Restoration. New explorers who had never seen D’ni began to flock to our banner. For a while, it was a time of nervous anticipation.
Over time, explorers began to grow impatient with the slow rate that the cavern was being restored. Some blamed Cate Alexander, the woman in charge of the DRC’s new funding. Because she controlled the money, she had a position of power over the DRC that many explorers and even some DRC employees resented. Others blamed the DRC themselves–especially Michael Engberg, who was advocating a cautious approach. But for the most part, explorers fell to bickering amongst themselves out of boredom.
The chief topic of our arguments during those days was the Bahro. You see, the computer game company Cyan Worlds had just released the final Myst game, and in it, the Bahro were depicted as being freed from their slavery. Many of us believed that the Journey was now symbolic only, that the Bahro were free. But if so, we were at a loss to explain why we never saw any.
And there were some who took the Journey Pillars back, in protest to Yeesha, who seemed to have abandoned us.
You must understand, we knew so little of what was really going on. Try to picture the cavern as we saw it then. No Jalak, no Minkata. No Garden Ages, no Pods. No Custom Marker Missions, even.
Just Ae’Gura, the Neighborhoods, and the Journey Ages.
I’m afraid that our boredom lead to petty disputes.
If you want an example of how divided we’d become, just look at old Internet posts about what would later be known as the “Liaison Fiasco”. The DRC asked explorers to appoint 5 special delegates to act as go-betweens. The resulting jealousy, indecisiveness, and cries of elitism lead to the first-ever Liaison group resigning in dismay, never to be replaced.
We were too divided and selfish to even appoint go-betweens.
Yeesha, or perhaps the Bahro, must have known of our disunity, because of what happened next.
The DRC hoped to allay explorer discontent by releasing something totally new. They gave us the Age of Eder Delin, which had never been available to the general public. But something happened that the DRC did not anticipate.
You might know about the Cloths and the Door in Delin. And in knowing about their existence, you know more than the DRC did when they released Delin–because until the day the Books were placed in the Neighborhoods, the Cloths and the Door were not there.
The DRC had no explanation for their existence, but it’s no secret that the Cloths look very similar to Yeesha’s Journey Cloths.
I suppose she, or perhaps some benevolent Bahro, was watching us with disapproval.
You see, this puzzle, unlike any that came before, required teamwork and unity to be solved. To get that Door open, explorers had to set aside their differences and work together. Undoubtedly it was a lesson for us about the importance of unity. We would need to stand together and stop fighting if we were to survive the coming threat.
And there certainly was a threat. Nick White was the one who first told us about it.
Nick was an employee of the DRC, but unlike his bosses, he was extremely open and forthcoming with the explorers. As a result, he was very popular among all of us. Nick used to pop in and visit us in our Neighborhoods, and on one of these visits he told us about the DRC’s plans for future Age releases. By that time, we had Eder Tsogahl as well, and the same mysterious Cloths had appeared there, too.
Nick told us that all was not right in the next Age that the DRC would release. That Age, called Negilahn, had once been home to a vast and varied kingdom of wildlife. The D’ni had constructed observation pods there to study these creatures, and it was one of these pods that would be released to the public.
But something had happened in Negilahn. To the animals, specifically.
Nick told us that their population had suddenly and dramatically decreased. No one in the DRC knew why. Was it a predator? A disease? A person?
Something had been killing them off.
But the DRC did not heed this threat. They released Negilahn anyway, and as Nick had told us, there was very little to see in the way of animals.
Oh, there’s an occasional Urwin, and sometimes a tiny, two-tailed monkey makes an appearance. But by and large, it’s all plants.
And as before, explorers argued. Argued over what was killing the animals. It was a predator. No, it was a disease. No, it was a Bahro. And on and on.
Sometimes it takes a while for a lesson to sink in.
In spite of explorer fears and words of caution from Engberg and others, Cate Alexander was pushing for the fast release of new Ages and areas. So it was only two weeks before the next Age was released–another Pod, this one called Dereno.
The creatures of Dereno were far more populous than those of Negilahn. And they still are.
Michael Engberg’s daughter visited the cavern back then. Her name was Willow, but we all called her Wheely. She was just a teenager. The day after Dereno came out, Wheely showed up in the cavern. We’d seen her plenty of times before–she was very popular among the explorers, who took her in as a kind of pseudo family member.
That day she wanted to see the Pods, which she’d never visited. So we took her to Negilahn, and then to Dereno. She liked Negilahn best…
Talking about Wheely is…difficult.
The decline of the Negilahn animal population had become a serious concern for the DRC, and it was decided that a small expedition would venture outside the Pod to try to solve this mystery.
The expedition consisted of only three people. One was the popular and charismatic Nick White. The second was Douglas Sharper, who had recently returned to D’ni from the surface.
Sharper had worked for the DRC before, during the First Restoration, but his cannonball personality and affinity for Yeesha had gotten him into trouble with the DRC, and he had not been restored to his former position as head of the Teledahn division. He was a skilled hunter and wilderness explorer, so the DRC asked him to head the expedition.
The third member of the party was one of our own, an explorer who went by the name of Rils. He had become well-known by founding a small society for the study of the Pod animals.
I don’t need to tell you how jealous we all were of Rils, accompanying the others outside the Negilahn Pod. As it turned out, we needn’t have been.
They hadn’t been gone long when they came across a violently massacred carcass. The sight and stench were so foul that all three hurriedly linked back. Both Nick and Rils were deeply affected. Nick was quite sick afterwards and Rils was traumatized.
Sharper, who had more experience with this sort of thing, told us he was absolutely positive that what was killing the creatures was a predator, and that it was a new predator, introduced very recently into the environment. Moreover, he stated he was positive that the creature was extremely dangerous, and that it had wantonly slaughtered even the huge, frightening predators native to Negilahn.
Worst of all, it didn’t even eat what it killed. It was killing, apparently, for the joy of it.
Needless to say, the news of a demented killer running around the Age frightened many of us. And the DRC had some angry words with Sharper over his willingness to share his information with the public.
In spite of the danger, the DRC went ahead with the planned release of two more Pods. I say, “in spite of the danger,” because we soon learned that the Pods were not separate Ages as we’d believed, but were all part of the same Age, which explorers have named Reziksehv, or “The Pod Age” in D’ni. That meant that when we visited a Pod–any Pod–we were in danger of being noticed by the predator.
And so the first six months of the Second Restoration ended ominously and with great anxiety.
Despite the lessons of Eder Delin and Eder Tsogahl, explorers were still divided and bickered constantly over the Bahro and other things.
Added to the tension was the knowledge that some sort of dangerous beast was prowling around the newest Age, and that the DRC seemed heedless of the danger.
Worst of all, where were those we would have looked to for guidance?
Where was Dr. Watson, whose advice and wisdom had guided the last Restoration?
Where was Yeesha, whose teachings had established the great Journey?
Why had they left us all alone?
Something had to happen to break the tension in the cavern and unite us.
Originally written by Carl Palmner, edited by Malfhok