The Let's Play Archive


by M.c.P

Part 25: Lore: Atrus


We’ve covered the background and the history of Myst well enough. Now, let’s turn to its movers and shakers, beginning with the man who got us stuck on Riven in the first place. This is entirely a summation of the novel The Book of Atrus, which I honestly recommend.

Atrus grew up in a small burrow built into the side of a defunct volcano somewhere in the Chihuahuan desert. Turns out there’s quite a few out there, so good on you Myst writers. He lived, alone, with his grandmother Anna, and for some time that was all he knew.

Anna and Atrus survived with careful ingenuity and the cultivation of a small farm, supplemented by a trader that would occasionally pass nearby. Anna would trade various strange artifacts and devices for the goods and seeds they needed, but she never let Atrus interact with anyone, for fear of slavers.

In the meantime, Anna taught Atrus D’ni writing and instilled a sense of exploration, creativity, and wonder in the young boy. An early incident solidified his devotion to careful observation and his reserved nature.


On one of Atrus’ birthdays, Anna returned from the trader with a gift, a rare creature. A kitten with bright orange fur. Atrus named him Flame and became his caretaker, a welcome friend in the desert.

A few years later, Atrus had taken to studying some of the plants that grew around the volcano, seeking out something that might be helpful to eat or as medicine. He had chanced upon some bright red flowers, and was growing some in his personal garden, which Flame loved to play in. Eager to see their taste, he tried a leaf. He was nearly immediately sent into convulsions, and forced himself to be violently ill to save himself. The plant was toxic, extremely so.

Regretfully, he discovered this too late. Flame had already taken a bite of the plants, and was found dead in the garden.


Atrus was fourteen when Gehn returned. He had left an infant Atrus with Anna and then left more than a decade ago. Now he was back to teach Atrus the Art. He promised to return Atrus in three months, and Atrus, excited to see the D’ni Anna had told him about, agreed.

The Cleft and the volcano it was built on were, in fact, the end point of an aborted effort by the D’ni to make a highway to the Surface. It still lead through a maze of caves and passageways, only traversable thanks to a map in Gehn’s possession. After days of hiking underground, Gehn and Atrus arrived at D’ni, and Atrus began his education in the Art.

Gehn, however, broke his promise to bring Atrus back. They remained in the ruins of D’ni and its Ages for years.

Atrus eventually became very aware of Gehn’s single-minded madness, how all his inhabited Ages (Numbered clinically in order of creation) were oppressed and bent as simulacrums of D’ni culture with Gehn as their God-King. Atrus became aware that he was being groomed as an inheritor, a God-Prince, which made him deeply uncomfortable. The destruction of Gehn’s 37th Age, and the loss of the people there, was the final straw. Atrus stole Gehn’s map and attempted to escape back to the Cleft.

Unfortunately, he was caught. Gehn dragged him back to D’ni and locked him in an old mansion named K’veer. Atrus was left there with water and food to survive… and Riven’s descriptive book, a linking book back, and the means to edit.

Atrus rightfully suspected a trap, and first tried to escape from his prison. All this did was cause a cave in, truly trapping him inside. Out of options, Atrus entered Riven, expecting an elaborate trap from his father.

Instead he fell in the lake and nearly drowned.

A group of Rivenese people saved him, one of them a woman named Katran. Atrus, being a nosy imperialist, mispronounces it as Catherine, and the name sticks. He spends some time in convalescence (drinking untreated Riven water makes you pretty sick), but the Rivenese people kept his presence hidden from Gehn and his lackeys.

Catherine revealed that Gehn’s efforts to teach the art to others had finally born fruit, and that she was capable of writing Ages. This put her in a position of trust, granting her access to parts of D’ni and his Linking books on Riven. However, her talent made her a prize, and Gehn decided to marry her. She pleaded with Atrus for help, and they, in their limited capacity, made a plan to evacuate the people of Riven and trap Gehn there. Catherine would steal the linking books from Gehn’s protected areas in Riven. In the meantime, Atrus would edit Riven so that it would be saved from imminent collapse. Catherine also managed to write an Age, the Age of Myst, to serve as their base of operations.

Things went well, but at the last moment Atrus was betrayed by some of the Rivenese people and captured by Gehn. Gehn, not one to waste a spectacle, made his wedding a combination wedding/execution. But Catherine had been successful on her end, and had a secret ally as well.

Anna, Atrus’ Grandmother and Gehn’s mother, knew Gehn would not keep his promise. She had followed them into D’ni, and had lived hidden among the ruins, observing Atrus and Gehn, and waiting for a chance to intervene. Anna found Catherine stealing books, and they made an alliance. Anna wrote the Age of Myst, and at this last moment Anna and Catherine worked together to make the edits needed to rescue Atrus and Catherine both.

In the middle of the ceremony, a huge, metal dagger plummeted from the sky, tearing a hole in the ground on impact. The seas roiled and lightning filled the air, but in the fissure itself Atrus looked down to see a field of stars. In the confusion, Catherine broke from Gehn’s side and joined Atrus. Atrus was quite thoroughly confused at this point, but he trusted Catherine. They leapt into the star fissure, met not with the sucking vacuum of space but a beautiful, comfortable void. They placed their hands on the linking panel, and the last Atrus saw of that book was it tumbling away into the stars.

Atrus and Catherine stayed on Myst, writing Ages and raising a family. Anna, regretfully, died in an accident after a decade on Myst, leaving Atrus and Catherine to raise their two sons on their own. Gehn, and the people left behind on Riven, weighed heavily on their minds. But the chance of them failing and leaving a key for Gehn to escape prevented them from taking action.

So they lived, and wrote, and tried to learn and rediscover what they could about the Art, until their sons betrayed them in search of wealth and power. Catherine was led back to Riven, and Atrus was trapped in K’veer once more, where he discovered his edits to Riven had finally failed, forcing him to return to the book and do what he can to prevent the Ages' destruction.

Unfortunately for Sirrus and Achenar, Atrus had created traps for the thieves he suspected were in his library, suspecting but not willing to believe the culprits were his own two sons. The two brothers were trapped in turn, and for a little while, Myst was an empty Age

But it was at this moment that a gormless dork finds a magic book somewhere and gets himself inserted into this family drama, first rescuing Atrus from K’veer, and then being sent to Riven to rescue Catherine and trap Gehn.

The results of which, we are in the middle of in this LP.