Central to the story of the D'ni people is their ability to forge pathways to new worlds, called Ages, by writing books that describe those worlds in a specialized language of symbols called Garohevtee, "great words." (BoA 50-51; FMTR 97)
This intriguing concept has been the subject of ongoing interest and discussion among explorers. Before Uru, most of our official information came from the three Myst novels, and from the letters of Richard A. Watson, Cyan employee, D'ni historian, and chairman of the D'ni Restoration Council (DRC).
Since we explorers have begun to find our own way to D'ni and the Ages beyond, and particularly since we have met Yeesha, daughter of Atrus, we have discovered new aspects of Writing, The Art, and Linking that were apparently previously unknown not only to the DRC and Dr. Watson, but to the D'ni themselves.
The first part of this page contains general descriptions of Linking and The Art of Writing gleaned from our old sources, along with quotes from Dr. Watson's letters, so fans can see for themselves what he has written on these subjects.
The second part of the page contains the links to Dr. Watson's letters and posts.
The third part of the page will contain information gleaned from our explorations in Uru and our contact with Yeesha.
Part One: Descriptions and Information
The D'ni Art of Writing Ages was taught in the major Guilds. Any talented Guildsman could Write, but the Guild of Writers specialized in teaching and practicing this Art. Not only were the symbols, the letters or characters of the Garohevtee, distinctly different from the ordinary common writing of everyday life, but the Books and the Ink used for The Art were also special. The Guild of Books and the Guild of Ink Makers specialized in making these precious materials. As far as we know, the pen was not unique. Any pen of good quality could be used for the Art.
First the Writer writes a Descriptive Book, forging the link to the Age which the Book describes. After the Guild of Maintainers approves the Age, the Writer links to the new Age using the Descriptive Book. He takes with him his D'ni linking book, which is his way home, and a blank linking book.
While in the new Age he finds a nice place which would be convenient to link to, and he uses the blank linking book, which he brought with him, to write a new linking book that will bring him back to the place he's writing it in. Then, he takes his newly written linking book back to D'ni with him when he uses the D'ni Linking book to return to D'ni. Back in D'ni he can now use either the original Descriptive Book of the new Age or the new Linking Book he wrote while in that Age to get back to the new Age.
A Descriptive Book is the first link to a new Age. A Descriptive Book takes you TO an Age. A linking book RETURNS you to the Age in which you wrote it.
A linking book is written in the spot to which you want to return. You can't write a linking book to go somewhere you've never been before, only to return to somewhere you've already been. There can only be one Descriptive Book for an Age, but there can be virtually unlimited numbers of linking books for that Age. There is usually only one Writer for the Descriptive Book, but anyone can write a linking book while in an Age and use it to return to that spot.
A Book always takes you to the same place. We don't know how the linking place is selected for the Descriptive Books, but a linking book allows you to return to any place you choose to write the book in, so you can use linking books to make links that will return to convenient places within the Age.
All the linking books are connected somehow to the Descriptive Book to that Age. If the Descriptive Book of an Age is destroyed, the linking books associated with that Descriptive Book will no longer return you to that Age. When a Descriptive Book is destroyed, the Age itself isn't destroyed, only the link to it is. Unless, of course, someone tampers with the Writing within the Book.
Changing what is written in the Descriptive Book can cause instability and destruction within an Age, or the changes to the Writing can so alter the description, that the Book links to a different Age altogether. This is one of the reasons the D'ni imposed restraints on how Ages were Written, and did not allow the Writing to be changed once it had been approved by the Maintainers.
You do not have to have seen or have any information from the Age's Descriptive Book to write a linking book to that Age. You only have to write the book while you are in that Age. Linking books are smaller, much less complex and easier to write than Descriptive Books. If a linking book is destroyed, only that one book is lost. The Age itself and the other linking books aren't affected. It was the D'ni custom to keep the Descriptive Book safely stored away, and to use the less precious linking books for travel to the Ages.
What comes with you when you link? RAWA says, as quoted below in his letters, that the rule of thumb is to take a step. If you carry something with you when you take your step, it will usually come with you when you link. The exception is the Linking or Descriptive Book you are traveling through. That always stays behind. So, if you're wearing a hat, or carrying a knapsack, those things will come with you when you link. If you have a linking or Descriptive Book in the knapsack, it will come with you, too, as long as it's not the Book you're using to link to the Age.
Private Ages were usually only owned by the upper classes. The Common Library was established so that the working men and women of D'ni, who could not Write Ages themselves and who did not own any private Ages, could visit other worlds through the Books kept there for them. (BoA 114) In addition to private and common Ages, there were also Guild Ages. These were Ages that were owned by the Guilds and used for Guild purposes. Examples of these would be the granary worlds of Er'Duna and Er'Jerah owned by the Caterers Guild (BoT 41), and the Age of Gadar, owned by the Legislator's Guild where they built the Great Library of Legislation. (BoT 167-8)
Both Prison Ages (or Prison Books) and Trap Books are mentioned in the games of Myst and Riven, and in the novels. There is a difference in the descriptions of these two different Books as follows.
A Prison Book refers to the Linking Book or Descriptive Book which transports a person to a real age where he is trapped, because of not having a linking book there to transport him out again. A Prison Age is a real age like any other. It could be large or small, pleasant or unpleasant. The trapped person lives out his life normally in a Prison Age. It's only called a Prison Age, because the occupant can't leave it, not because it differs from a regular Age.
If the Book used to imprison a person is a Trap Book, then the person becomes trapped within the link itself. He is suspended between two Ages, existing in neither Age. In other words, he ceases to exist anywhere. It's not quite the same thing as being killed, because if the linking process was completed, he'd link back into existence again.
This is a quote from Atrus' Riven Journal about the Trap Book used in the game to trap the villain.
"The procedure is actually quite simple: by altering key lines of text but slightly, a normal Linking Book's connection can be partially severed, such that anyone who attempts to use the Book will be permanently trapped in the dark void of the Link - that is, unless someone else then uses the Book, at which point that person would become trapped, and the first person displaced back into the world."
On June 21, 2000, Richard Watson stunned the Riven Lyst by telling us that there is really no such thing in D'ni history as a Trap Book. He told us that Cyan created the concept of Trap Books for game play reasons and that Trap Books are not part of the D'ni historical canon. Here is Richard Watson's letter to the Lyst. Because it is such a long letter, and because what he reveals is so important, I've put the whole letter on it's own page.
RAWA's Assorted ramblings letter
Part Two: Answers from RAWA
As many of you know, the acronym "RAWA" is Richard A. Watson's nom de cyber. Mr. Watson is an employee of Cyan and one of the world's leading D'ni historians. The following are many of the explanations he's given to fans about Linking and The Art of Writing.
I've divided the letters by the year they were written and put them on separate pages. You'll find links to all the pages at the bottom of each page of letters.
Part Three: Things we learn in Uru
One of the most dramatic new discoveries found in Uru is the Relto Linking Book, left for explorers at the Cleft by Yeesha. This is truly a munificent gift! Relto is our own personal Age, our home away from home, and a valuable, often lifesaving, tool in our explorations.
This Book defies some of the important limitations of D'ni Descriptive and Linking Books. Firstly, this Book comes with us when we link. Secondly, we can link with this Book back to Relto from within the Age of Relto itself. Thirdly, the Age of Relto can be visibly modified with special pages which we have found in various places throughout D'ni and the Ages. Members of the DRC were flabbergasted when they learned of these unique properties.
Among the alterations we have seen produced by these special pages are a wooden dock off the edge of the island, a new roof on the hut, and the addition of a waterfall to the Age! The page pictured here on the right is found in the Age of Eder Kemo. It adds decorations to the outer walls of the hut, and a rug to the interior!
In listening to the recorded messages left for us by Yeesha, we discover that she has learned the Art of Writing far beyond anything the D'ni Masters of the Art comprehended. She says she can create things and change things within the Ages, which these special pages seem to prove.
It seems even possible to control the weather in this manner. Yeesha demonstrated how she could make it rain at the Cleft, and gave us a page for our Relto books which will make it rain there. The effects of these pages may be turned on and off by manipulating the pages.
For purposes of study, I have made transcriptions of the messages left for us by Yeesha. An index of transcripts can be found here.
Another extremely interesting discovery are the Linking Stones, often called the Bahro Linking Stones. These are flat slabs of rock with some kind of woven material on them which depicts a picture of a place the way the linking panel in a Descriptive or Linking Book does. When one touches this piece of cloth, one is linked to the place depicted.
We have no idea what the woven material is made from, how it is made, nor even who makes it, if the Bahro do not. Our information about the Bahro is extremely scanty at this time. There seems to be at least an outer similarity between the material on the Linking Stones and the material of which the Journey cloths are made, as well as the special shirt which represents our Journey, given to us by Yeesha.
Many explorers are studying these things in D'ni and the Ages, and we are confident that our knowledge will slowly grow.
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