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Historian's Journal, Exile backstory

Location: Myst III: Exile Strategy Guide

Evidence culled from Atrus' personal journals and other contemporary records attest to the Master's desire to teach sons Sirrus and Achenar the D'ni craft of writing Ages ("The Art"). However, knowing how poorly his own father Gehn had taught him -- and taking a cue from his grandmother, Anna, who continually asked him to "tell [me] what you see" -- Atrus believed the first steps in the boys' education should be observational. So, he designed a course of study that would encourage his sons to closely observe, in action, the most fundamental principles shared by all stable Ages. (Ed. note: Ironically, neither son learned to write.) To this end, Atrus authored what he termed his Lesson Age.


Carefully crafted to provide an experiential demonstration of Age-building concepts, the Lesson Age provides a classic example of the "cluster design" philosophy favored by Atrus and certain other D'ni Masters of the ancient art. In standard fashion, Atrus first created a hub world, J'nanin, often referred to as "the Lesson Age." This island Age functions as a kind of primer and as a central link to four separate Element Ages (three uninhabited), each of which embodies one important principle.

All three of the uninhabited Element Ages -- Voltaic (Energy), Amateria (Dynamic Force), and Edanna (Nature) -- were crafted to be studied, understood, and "solved" in order to unlock the book to the Fourth Age, Narayan, a living civilization based on a delicate symbiosis of elements. Indeed, Narayan (according to the Master's design notes) was conceived as a culmination of all learning, teaching Atrus' fourth and central principle: Balance of various systems can enable a civilization to thrive.

Atrus devised the following process for his students: Learn the three primary principles of Age-building through a course of direct observation and interaction with the first three Ages. At the end of the studies on each Age, uncover a symbol that upon discovery has no obvious inherent meaning. Students return to the J'nanin hub world with each symbol and enter it into a mechanism; each symbol triggers a hologram recording from Atrus explaining in detail the lessons realized from the observation of each Age. (Ed. Note: Unfortunately, archivists have been unable to restore these lesson recordings, which were recorded over and thus erased by Saavedro. More on this below.)

When students enter the third symbol (apparently, the order of entry is unimportant), the mechanism holding the Narayani book unlocks. This book provides access to the curiously sealed linking chamber in the Age of Balance, where a final test is administered: Students must use an array of Narayan tapestries to translate the three Age symbols and discover that each symbol summarizes a basic concept of Age-writing. In the particular case of Sirrus and Achenar, it is assumed by scholars who've studied the record that the boys would recognize these concepts because, according to journal evidence and records of personal correspondence, Atrus had been discussing them with his sons for years.

Atrus formally recorded these first three concepts in his Journal of Releeshan:

*Energy powers future motion
*Nature encourages mutual dependence
*Dynamic forces spur change

Atrus expected that through deductive reasoning his sons would realize that the important fourth concept was not yet represented: "Balanced systems stimulate civilization." Presumably, they would then create it themselves, using Narayani tapestries to disable the crystal-generated ice shield sealing the linking chamber. Upon gaining access to Narayan, Sirrus and Achenar could enter and meet a specially appointed tutor, Saavedro, to guide them through the experience of the final concept.

The last step of Atrus' course required students to live on Narayan and see how its civlization was the living embodiment of the Balance concept. In his own journal, Saavedro writes how Atrus spoke of this final step in his sons' education: "Narayan is the sum of what they must learn."


Narayan is a water world. Civilization indeed flourished in this Age, in accordance with the well-crafted descriptive book authored during one of Atrus' most prolific periods of Age-building. Yet human existence in this Age is based on a precarious, carefully managed symbiotic relationship between two life forms.

The first, a large algae-like plant that the Narayanis call "lattice," grows in abundance around underwater geothermal vents, where the heated water produces copious mineral sediment. Well-nourished lattice roots are thick, nearly impenetrable, and can extend great lengths -- some nearly a mile long -- with numerous tendrils and branches forming a weblike latticework from the central stalk or stem.

The second life form, huge airborne spore sacs known as "puffer spores," abound in the Narayan atmosphere. These spores periodically migrate to the underwater geothermal vents to replenish themselves with the hot carbon gases emitted there. After this migration, a reinflated spore typically floats up to the ocean surface and reenters the atmosphere. There, its respiration (a simple molecular gas exchange) slowly releases oxygen to replenish the Narayan atmosphere.

Narayani civilization (as scripted by Master Atrus) is entirely founded upon its ability to capture puffer spores drifting from the geothermal vents, use them to support growing lattice so that the roots grow upward, and thereby form "Lattice Trees," the foundation on which Narayani cities exist. To create stable lattice-based structures, Narayanis must hand-weave the roots into netlike enclosures around the airborne spores.

As one might expect, these lattice-root structures constantly must be maintained. Narayani guide manuals of the time point out that "if the lattice is not trimmed constantly, the root-net eventually with smother the spores. But if the roots are over-trimmed, the spores may break free, destroying the delicate balance between the two." Over time, this maintenance process developed into ritualistic traditions. Indeed, it has been estimated that, according to the dictates of survival, as much as 80 percent of waking hours on Narayan was devoted to highly structured activities that tend to the Age's ecosystem.

Thus it can be said that Narayani civlization is quite tradition-bound, built upon a fairly rigorous discipline in the form of ceremonies that, by necessity, serve the purpose of maintaining the Age's lattice-root infrastructure.


Recently recovered journal evidence has documented Atrus' first visit to Narayan, where he met and befriended Saavedro, a young scholar and teacher highly regarded in that Age. Atrus asked Saavedro to be guardian and guide for his sons -- in particular, to teach them Narayan's unique culture based on symbiotic balance.

Here is an excerpt from Saavedro's personal journal describing not only the lattice-weave and spore-capture processes, but also the nature of the relationship between the two men:

"This Atrus stayed with us for months. I taught him how to trim the delicate lattice roots. How to splice old and new growths together so the walls of our houses will grow strong. I tell him the traditions of the Weave. How, by using the spores to support the growing branches, we keep the Lattice Tree alive. He wants to learn everything I know. He wants Narayan to survive.

I take him to the rift, to where the sea flows through the gaps in the world. Steam flows up from the waterfall. The puffer spores are ready to take flight. We stand in the shadows of dusk and watch the spores begin to rise. He says they look like pearls against the sky. Then he points to one of the spores. It's smaller than the rest. Small enough to fit the niche we'd woven into the branches that morning. Its skin is milky white. With just the faintest touch of pink.

That one, Atrus said. That should support your new daughter's room perfectly, I think. I remember I nodded. Then I raised my pipe and played. Atrus stood beside me, holding his breath as my song drew the hollow spore in close. As soon as it was near he threw the net and dragged it in.

This is what I remember.

This is why I said he could send me his sons."

However, later records indicate that Sirrus and Achenar, despite passing the Lesson Age course with alacrity, did not respond well to their stay in Narayan. Saavedro himself wrote that although they resembled their father in physical ways, "they are different somehow, too. They're more impatient. And they are angry not to be treated like men." Interview transcripts of the period refer to their obvious boredom and, according to one eyewitness claim, "thinly veiled insolence." Surviving hologram recordings even speak of "two very greedy little boys." Yet, according to contemporary accounts, Atrus suspected none of this upon his return to escort the boys home.

Unfortunately for Narayani society, Sirrus and Achenar returned as young men approximately five years later. This visit occurred just prior to their well-documented Myst Island period, during which they conspired to plunder and subjugate Ages tored in the Myst library to seek power and wealth. In essence, Narayan became the template for later crimes, including the subsequent rebellion agianst their father's authority. They considered the delicate Age "easy pickings" (as they would admit to Saavedro later in J'nanin), ripe for the disruption that could cover their larcenous activities.


It was the very fragility of the balance between man and nature that Sirrus and Achenar chose to exploit upon their return to Narayan. Narayani society had already begun to experience small fissures of inter-generational strain. In general, Narayani Elders -- who understood the underlying significance of ceremonial traditions, having survived minor disasters due to faulty Lattice Tree maintenance -- demanded strict adherence to the "Way of the Tree." But factions of younger Narayanis had begun to call into question the time-consuming rigor of these ceremonies

Sirrus and Achenar, according to all accounts, were clever enough to recognize and exploit this burgeoining rift. For example, they tempted some of the more radical Narayani youth factions with claims of access to other Ages -- alternative worlds, ready for emigration, where life was less rigorous. To manipulate those with no desire to leave Narayan, the brothers claimed to have their father's power (a lie), promising to fix Narayan's "fragility" by writing changes into the world. But this they would do only if all inhabitants concurred with such a course of action -- knowing, of course, the Elders would never allow it

In this manner, Sirrus and Achenar played Narayani society against itself. In the course of doing so, the brothers systematically undermined the authority of their own father, Atrus. Some contemporary documents report speeches railing against "the Creator" with such claims as this, attributed to Sirrus: "He wrote this Age, forcing you into an existence of insufferable toil...just to teach us lessons! Is that fair to you?"

With time, small insurrections (fomented by such talk) led to larger-scale riots and, eventually, an outbreak of civil war. The clash disrupted maintenance duties; within days, latticework structures began to degrade. As Saavedro writes in his journal:

"The Lattice Roots were black from too much overgrowth. Puffer Spores floated uup in the hot steam and burst. No one was there to guide the spores to the branches. No one was waiting to perform the ritual Weaves. The fighting had torn my people apart."


Saavedro, it appears, was caught in the middle of the conflict in several ways. As the "good ambassador" between Atrus and Narayan, he had helped introduce Sirrus and Achenar to his society. Also, though not yet an Elder, he certainly hoped to earn that distinction. Yet Saavedro was more of a freethinker than many of the Elders (one document refers to him as a "dreamer-teacher"), so he was not an isolationsist nor strictly tradition-bound. In fact, he may have found the brother's claims credible at first. Story murals of the time depict him (often with his family) standing apart from the conflict -- distressed, perhaps, but seemingly neutral, or even hopeful.

Meanwhile, Sirrus and Achenar stepped up their role as agitators, sowing discontent among the young, and encouraging civil unrest and violent resistance. But the brothers appear to have miscalculated how badly the chaos and disruption could endanger Narayan's physical existence: Lattice Tree failures decimated several villages. After a particularly nasty riot nearly led to their arrest by Elder loyalists, Sirrus and Achenar left Narayan for good.

Saavedro, apparently stunned by this sudden abandonment, found their linking book and followed them to J'nanin, hoping to convince them to carry out their promises and save Narayan. But the brothers captured Saavedro. According to his own account, they beat him severely, tied him to one of the reflection poles in J'nanin, built a bonfire in front of him, and linked back to Myst over the fire, thus burning the linking book as the last brother disappeared. (Saavedro has described the agony of watching helplessly as his only chance of escape burns up in his face.)

Thus, Saavedro was trapped on J'nanin.


Being an educator and scholar himself, Saavedro soon grasped the nature of J'nanin. He spent several desparate months taking Atrus' Lesson course, learning the Age-building principles and solving the puzzles to unlock the Narayan book, all the while fearing that his family and people were dying.

When at last Saavedro linked to Narayan, he of course arrived inside the sealed linking chamber. Unlike Sirrus and Achenar, however, he was unable to decipher the final code that dissipates the outer ice shield. (Ed. Note: Sirrus and Achenar, having been raised by Atrus, knew the fourth, missing concept because their father constantly spoke of all four concepts during trips to other Ages.)

Upon arrival, Saavedro feared the worst. The ice shield's translucence gave but a distorted view of his world. Torn Lattice Tree fragments, adrift in the atmosphere, suggested total devastation. In despair, Saavedro returned to J'nanin and fell into what his journal describes as "the fog:" twenty tragic years of madness, punctuated by brief bouts of clarity and underlined by an ever-growing hatred for Atrus and his rapacious sons.


During these two decades, the well-known events of Myst and Riven occurred. After the plunder and destruction of the Myst library by Sirrus and Achenar and their subsequent imprisonment, and following the cataclysmic final events on Riven, Atrus and his wife Catherine sought to revitalize D'ni civilization which had been decimated 75 years previously by a biological attack. The two spent many years earching the D'ni cavern and lost Ages, looking for those who might have survived the plague by virtue of escape and resettlement.

Atrus and Catherine eventually made contact with more than 1,800 D'ni survivors, many of whom joined their efforts to rebuild. But in the process Atrus came to realize that too much tragic history lay buried in the great city's ruins. He writes:

"It should stand forever in ruins, as both a symbol of our past mistakes and a memorial to all who lost their lives when D'ni fell. If we rebuild the city walls today, are we not giving approval to the very illness that destroyed our civilization in the first place?"

And thus Atrus chose to write an entirely new world, named Releeshan, for his D'ni people. Preparing for this task, he revisited many of his other Ages, looking for inspiration, reviewing concepts that had proved successful in the past. Again, according to a journal entry dated 93.10.28, just as he prepared to write this new Age, Catherine handed him "one of my oldest Age books." To this he adds:

"Seeing the name 'J'nanin' emblazoned on the Book cover, I could only shake my head. The one Age I never got around to revisiting was the one that might have helped me the most! I think, after I have finished this work, I should take one final trip -- if only to help restore an old fool's memories!"

As soon as Atrus finished Releeshan, he and Catherine built a new home for themselves, which they called Tomahna. And, as presaged in the journal entry, Atrus eventually did go to J'nanin. Subsequent records verify that he stayed only a short while, as memories of his sons and failures were too painful. Unbeknownst to Atrus, however, a witness lay in the high grass near the link arrival.

And when Atrus linked away, he left a Tomahna linking book behind -- an escape route for Saavedro after more than twenty years of exile.


By all accounts, Saavedro first linked into Tomahna with the express purpose of killing Atrus and his family. But Atrus and Catherine were gone, so he spent many hours poring over Atrus' journals, hoping to learn where Atrus, Catherine, and most importantly, the two sons were. (Ed. note: By this time, both Sirrus and Achenar had been banished to prison books in the Myst library.) In the course of this initial exploration, Saavedro made two significant discoveries.

First, he found Atrus' linking book to J'nanin tucked away in a study bookshelf. This gave him a route back to the Age of his exile. Second, he learned of Atrus' efforts to restore D'ni civilization. Misreading the Journal of Releeshan text, Saavedro mistakenly assumed Atrus had the godlike ability to rewrite Ages, restore lost worlds, and repair disasters. This error probably saved Atrus' life, as Saavedro subsequently changed his focus from bloody revenge to a "kidnapping" plot. His new plan: Steal the Releeshan descriptive book and hold it hostage in return for Atrus' restoration of Narayan civlization.

Back in J'nanin, Saavedro spent many months tampering with the lesson devices, altering the course and inserting hologram and imager messages (wiping out Atrus' own recordings) to reveal the story of his home world and the havoc wreaked there by Atrus' sons. He also painted three murals, one in each Age, depicting the events that transpired on Narayan. Finally, he scattered various pages of his journal around the Ages, knowing Atrus would eventually find them, too.

Then he set his plan in motion.

Little did Saavedro realize that not Atrus, but instead Atrus' most capable ally, would assume the challenge of tracking down the exile, reclaim Releeshan, unlock the secrets of the past, and (as before in Myst and Riven) set to right old wrongs.

Categories: Journals, Out Of Cavern