Part 17: Entry 17 - Gehn and Catherine
Id delayed long enough. I put my hand on the Linking Panel and traveled through.
The link was different. Scratchier, somehow. Maybe it was an effect of Gehns flawed books.
I arrived in a cage.
Well, you cant blame the man for being cautious.
There were five pedestals around me, each with the block representations of the islands of Riven. Gehns civilized transportation, I presume.
They were non-functional, though. Presumably Gehn powered them somehow, but until they were turned on I was stuck here at his convenience.
I took a look around at the desks, the devices, and the windows to the alien landscape outside. At the time, I couldnt make heads or tails of it, and all of it was rather conspicuously out of reach.
Which left a button on one side of the cage. I was stuck, but this likely was meant to summon Gehn to speak with his visitor.
I pressed it. No alarms, just a mild click.
Soundtrack Gehn Speaks
But less than a minute later, I saw Gehn come walking up to the door.
He walked up, clearly uncertain. We stared at each other for a moment, me in a cage, and him in dark goggles. What would his first words be?
I apologize for the cage.
Well at least he was polite.
He paced over to a table took off his equipment. His goggles, his gloves, and the strange device with a handle he always carried with him.
I'm afraid this situation has often required of me a more primitive code of conduct than I might otherwise have chosen.
I am Gehn. I assume you've heard of me. Yes. Well, I suspect you have acquired some false information of who I am now.
Not that my son would have lied to you about me, no, not Atrus, it's just that, well, I'm sure he believes me to still be the depraved father I once was.
Yes. I even tried to kill him once. God, if I had accomplished that who knows what I would have become. A great father indeed, who tries to murder his own son.
I hadnt said a word so far. I wasnt sure what to say. He seemed genuinely remorseful.
Thankfully, he trapped me on Age Five, a prison of my own creation. No books, no precious inks, no ages to link to; nothing but my own foolish ambitions. That was thirty years ago.
Thirty years, thirty lifetimes, what does it matter? No sentence could be too harsh for the man I was.
Gehn paused to lean in close to the bars.
But, I have changed.
To be sure, the deeds of my past can never be completely atoned for, but my mission was an honorable one.
Gehn paused to take a long pull from his pipe. The dying croaks of reduced frogs echoed in the distance.
I'm sorry, this is all a bit awkward, I... It's been a long time since I've attempted to persuade anyone of my intentions. Most of the people here have already made their minds up about me, one way or another.
I thought to myself, So have I, I think.
I myself do not trust the words of most men, so I don't expect you to believe me. In the end though you may discover that I do have more than mere words to offer.
I remember raising an eyebrow. Was I being bribed?
Atrus's choice of punishment has been hard on the people of Riven. Many have suffered because of it. The island has been steadily decaying for years, but according to my most recent measurements, it appears that the Fifth Age has entered its final days.
Unless the villagers can be relocated soon, the island will collapse entirely and everyone will perish.
No he was explaining that he may be the only chance the Rivenese people have of surviving.
It has taken me a long time to do it, but it appears that finally I'll be able to make some substantial amends to my past transgressions, especially in...
I'm afraid I've had some trouble with Catherine, and the Moiety. In any society, there will always be a small percentage of the population with rebellious tendencies. Before Catherine appeared, the Moiety, as they call themselves, had been relatively harmless.
I mean, the natives here are a fairly violent people by nature, but I'd almost come to accept their presence. It seemed inevitable under the circumstances.
I frowned, but Id never really had a chance to interact with the Rivenese people. Besides the dart in the neck, I mean.
Upon Catherine's return, however, their violence intensified considerably. It seems she's become some sort of religious savior to them. And as far as I can tell, she's come to believe this herself, so I've had no alternative.
I had to separate her from her people.
I tried not to betray the fact that she was still in contact with the Moiety. Fortunately Gehn continued.
I must admit though that my concerns were not entirely for her safety alone. The actions of Catherine and the Moiety have put my own life at risk, on numerous occasions; consequently the lives of all the people here.
Therefore I must ask you to refrain from any attempt to free her.
Although I'm sure Atrus desires it. Indeed, he must desire it with all his heart. But he is completely unaware of her recent state.
Something about those words seemed deeply personal. I found myself wondering about Atrus mother.
Gehn, in his thought and meandering conversation, wandered to another part of the room.
Which brings me to the point of all this. The Linking Book you brought with you; youre very fortunate to have recovered it.
He reached forward, hand outstretched.
If I may?
It wasnt forceful. And this was, after all, the endpoint of the plan, but I wasnt sure what would happen next. Would this work?
I gave him the book.
He spent some time looking through the book. He flipped through the pages. He scanned the lines. Everything depended on Atrus ability to hide its nature.
For just a moment, Gehns hand hovered over the linking panel.
But something, his caution and paranoia probably, stopped him. He approached me in the cage.
Perhaps it would be best if you went through first.
What would happen if I placed my hand on the panel? Would my face fill up the panel like Sirrus and Achenars? The ruse would be obvious and I would be trapped. Would Gehn even follow after me? What if he did, would we both be trapped forever? What was even in there, could we even survive in a book for long?
Gehn clearly saw my hesitation, but I think he misinterpreted it.
You may need some time to decide. That is reasonable.
He took the book and walked away. I breathed a sigh of relief, and immediately felt guilty about it.
Until then, as a token of my good intentions, I will allow you free access to my Linking Books, crude though they may be, and to the rest of the Fifth Age.
He pressed a button on the spherical machine, and the lights around the books hummed to life.
He was clearly disappointed as he began to gather his equipment, even a bit curt.
Please understand, there is nothing I want more than a chance to resolve matters between Atrus and myself; especially in light of what has become of Catherine. But unless you are willing to demonstrate to me that your intentions are honorable, I cannot risk it.
The sanctuary I've been writing for the islanders is nearly complete. After all these years, it would be a shame if I were unable to finish it.
He made for the door, but stopped and addressed one last thing to me.
The work I am doing is quite demanding. Please don't signal me unless you've decided to use the book. The switch will reset itself once you link from here.
And then he walked out the door into his 233rd Age.
Leaving me behind in his foyer, trying to process everything Id heard.
Thirty years spent, all to recreate the Art. What if it was all to give the Rivenese a place to live? I dont know everything about what transpired, but Atrus condemned the people here too. Maybe there could be a reconciliation.
I wasnt sure, but there was someone I could talk to. A linking book to the tree stump island was here for me.
The linking panel didnt show much but the spinning dome I would arrive at. I placed my hand on the panel and linked through.
After another scratchy link, I was standing inside a dome again.
I hit the button, and the mechanism opened up and let me out.
Behind me was the tree stump. It seemed larger in person. It must have been awe inspiring while it was whole.
A building perched on top of the stump. Catherines prison?
I looked around to see where I was, but there was nothing but the horizon and the ocean. Somehow this island had been propelled miles away from the rest of Riven.
I followed the walkway around, to where an entrance had been carved into the dead wood.
Inside was an elevator with a small device at the end. The three buttons at the bottom sounded three noises, *tink*, *rattle*, and *ding*. The handle on top didnt do anything.
A combination lock based on noises, I think.
I stepped back and noticed a larger handle above. I pulled it with a little trepidation.
The elevator rose smoothly to another room. A room I recognized. This was the mysterious room I saw in the viewer.
Soundtrack Catherines Theme
This was Catherines prison.
She walked through the balcony door, speaking something in Rivenese, but stopped dead when she saw me.
You made it! But howd you get past Gehn?
He must really believe Ive gone mad.
Her eyes darted to something above my head. The viewer, no doubt. She was picking her words carefully.
I know what he's doing. He's watching you. He's waiting for you to make a mistake. He's hoping you'll lead him back to D'ni! You can't let Gehn...
I wasnt sure. Was he watching? Had he darted back to his observation room when he saw I left? Was a lackey assigned to keep an eye on Catherines movements?
Atrus sent you to save me. But if Gehn gets back to D'ni, he'll kill him.
She leaned in close and began to whisper. A foil for the cameras, but I wasnt sure they even picked up sound.
I think I know how to signal Atrus, but it's going to take both of us. You'll have to trap Gehn before you can get the combination. Be careful.
She backed off, suddenly cold. Shes good at the Art but I suddenly doubted her acting.
Go then. If you won't help me then I have nothing more to say.
She stormed off, making a show for our audience. Maybe it would be convincing.
But with nothing else to say, I pulled the handle and descended.
I was feeling more lost than ever now. Gehn had been much different in person than Id expected. Though I wasnt sure what Id expected in the first place. He hadnt threatened me, though I was stuck in a cage. Perhaps he could be reasonable with Atrus? I hadnt noticed any weapons on him. Other than whatever he was carrying at his side, that long handled device he took with him while exploring.
He said Catherine had become drunk on the worship of the natives. It was possible, Catherine said she had been on the receiving end of it. She seemed fine when I met her. Scattered, perhaps, but not overtly mad.
I wish I had a way to tell. For all the time Ive spent here, I dont know these people. I dont know if Gehn is truly repentant. I dont know if Catherine is right. And I dont know how I can save Riven or its people.
Damnit Atrus, I wish we could have swapped places.