Riven is the primary setting featured in Riven: The Sequel to Myst. It is an Age: a world or parallel dimension accessible through a unique linking book. It serves as a prison for Gehn, the Age's original author and father of Atrus. Due to Gehn's incompetence, Riven has slowly been disintegrating since its inception, a situation made worse by Gehn's ruthless exploitation of the Age's resources and inhabitants since he became stranded there.
Once a single landmass, Riven consists of five rocky islands separated by a vast ocean, all of which are connected by varied means of transportation that can be discovered throughout the course of the game.
Also known as Dome Island. This is the area where the player arrives after linking to Riven at the beginning of the game. The Linking site is inside a small building constructed with a pressure-sensitive floor. When an individual links to Riven, they appear in this chamber and trigger a set of iron bars that trap them inside the building, after which they would theoretically be taken into custody by Gehn's guards. However, this trap is disabled after the player arrives on Riven due to the actions of the Moiety.
Just outside Ghen's cage lie several iron plates covering the Star Fissure, a large star-filled chasm and the cause of Riven's splintering. The telescope here points straight down toward a covered portal embedded in the plates, hinting at the reality-defying nature of this unusual phenomenon. A set of nearby stone steps leads up to the entrance of an ornate circular chamber called the "Gateroom" that can rotate with the press of a button. The Gateroom itself contains several stained-glass pinhole scenes depicting Gehn ruling as a god over Riven; rotating the chamber provides access between five different passages, two of which are barred with iron grates. Another set of steps leads down from the Gateroom's main entrance and towards a locked wooden gate. Past the gate, players can reach one of the rotating chamber's hidden entrances, which allows access to the entrance of the island's great golden dome.
A pair of circular catwalks follow the circumference of the dome's interior. The lower catwalk leads down towards a second exit, while the upper catwalk connects two additional exits, as well the controls for an extendable segment that can be used to bridge the two catwalks later in the game. The dome itself serves as the control hub for an elaborate power system used by Gehn to activate his linking books, with one book located on each of Riven's five islands and protected by a smaller metal dome. The system's primary controls are accessed by elevating the bridge leading back to Temple Island's rotating chamber, and then circling back around to reach the great dome's upper level; this is only possible once the dome's two interior catwalks have been connected. A series of steam pipes can be found through the great dome's lowest exit, along with two valves than can be turned on or off.
Another bridge stretching from the Gateroom's primary entrance connects to the rear entrance of this island's eponymous temple. After crossing the bridge, a narrow passage links with a small side room containing a spherical cage-like transmitter for one of Gehn's holographic imaging devices. A heavy stone door further down the passage opens into the temple's primary chamber, where the holographic images are projected into a second matching cage. Substantial offerings of fruit and flowers have been placed before the twin wahrk idols flanking the cage. Opening the temple's main entrance leads outside, where the first of Riven's Maglev rail stations can be used to reach Jungle Island.
Also known as Village Island. The largest of Riven's five islands, it is also the location of Riven's only remaining human settlement. Gehn has ordered access to the remaining four islands to be restricted, only allowing his chosen inner circle to travel between islands via the Maglev rail system. There appears to be no available farmland for crops or livestock on the island, likely forcing its inhabitants to scavenge or hunt for food. The location of the Rivenese village at one end of the island's lagoon would make fishing the most viable source of food, although at least one or more man-eating wahrks are also known to dwell in the waters. Gehn employs these creatures as a means of executing any criminals or dissenters, and he has built a towering "wahrk gallows" near the village as a constant reminder of his absolute authority.
The fear inspired by the wahrk appears to be universal among Rivenese, and Gehn further uses this to his advantage by constructing wahrk effigies in restricted areas, such as the wahrk idol located in the heart of this island's jungle area. This wooden idol is actually the front gate of an elevator leading to a Maglev station.
Also known as Book Assembly Island or Crater Island.
Also known as Spike Island or Map Island. The outer rim of this L-shaped island is adorned with numerous wahrk tusks, likely to inspire awe or fear in the superstitious Rivenese natives.
The smallest of the five main islands, this area was once dominated by a single enormous tree which has since been cut down for its lumber, leaving only a flattened stump in its place. Since the breakup of the mainland, this island has drifted much further than the other fragments and can no longer be viewed from any of the other four islands. As a result, Prison Island can only be reached by way of Ghen's dome-powered linking books that each connect to his 233rd Age. Gehn apparently saw fit to construct a small dwelling on this island, eventually re-purposing it as a prison once Catherine had been captured. Aside from the prison itself, there is little to explore here.
Riven was written by Gehn, the father of Atrus and one of the last known practitioners of the ancient D'ni Art of writing Ages. Gehn holds little regard for his own eminently-flawed Ages, most of which begin to degrade soon after creation due to Gehn's poor grasp of the Art and the subtle nuances of the D'ni descriptive language. Gehn's Ages are the results of his attempts to expand his own limited knowledge of the Art through experimentation. By copying and re-arranging fragments of pre-existing D'ni texts, Gehn is able to create new Ages without understanding the fundamental forces that govern them, after which he observes the results. This process leads to the inevitable collapse of all of Gehn's Ages.
While initially stable, Gehn's "Fifth Age" of Riven soon fell victim to the same degradation present in his other experimental Ages. After gathering his necessary observational data, he abandoned Riven's descriptive book to its fate on a shelf inside the lost D'ni city district of K'veer. Fourteen years passed before Riven's cover was opened again by Atrus, whom Gehn had brought to the D'ni city in an effort to indoctrinate his son in the ways of their once-great civilization. After several years spent together, Atrus eventually recognized his father's cruelty toward his own flawed Ages and their human inhabitants, as well as Gehn's delusions of restoring D'ni to its former glory at any cost. Their moral conflict eventually led to Atrus' imprisonment at Gehn's hands inside K'veer, where Atrus discovered and linked to Gehn's discarded Age of Riven for the first time.
During his time in Riven, Atrus encountered a Rivenese woman named Katran and the two soon fell in love. Katran, or "Catherine" as Atrus calls her, had also been educated in the Art by Gehn as a child. She also tells Atrus that Gehn intended to take her as his second wife once she came of age. With Atrus' help, Catherine devised a plan to trap Gehn in Riven by destroying every last linking book in the Fifth Age, save for one which would allow Atrus and herself to escape to their freshly-penned Age of Myst. After a dramatic confrontation with Gehn next to the newly-formed rift in Riven's reality known as the Star Fissure, Catherine and Atrus linked to Myst. Their single remaining linking book to Myst plummeted into the fissure, effectively marooning Gehn in Riven and leading directly into the events of the original game.
In the thirty-three years that followed Gehn's imprisonment, Gehn expanded his manipulative reign as a false god over the people of Riven. He claimed that all of Riven was doomed unless the native Rivenese could sufficiently prove their devotion to him, after which Gehn would deliver the long-suffering people into a new and better world. Gehn imposed the old D'ni Guild system onto Riven, stratifying their society and elevating his chosen minions above the rest of the populace. In reality, Gehn's posturing was simply an effort to free himself from the confines of Riven and resume his impossible quest to restore D'ni, likely at the expense of additional Ages. Amidst Gehn's stranglehold over the people of Riven, a subculture of dissidents calling themselves the "Moiety" began to form in the shadowy corners of their doomed world.
The Star Fissure would eventually splinter Riven's main island into five fragments, wreaking havoc on both the ecology of Riven and its human population in the process. The Fissure itself was possibly a by-product of Catherine's written changes to the Riven descriptive book prior to her escape with Atrus. Gehn eventually ordered the chasm sealed with iron plates, installing a crude telescope over a porthole at the fissure's widest point. He tested the possibility of navigating the Fissure's star field himself by tossing several living people into it and observing them through his telescope, confirming that there was breathable air inside. However, Gehn was unable to determine these individuals' fates once they disappeared from his view and ultimately abandoned the Star Fissure as a potential means of escape from Riven.
Fortunately for himself, Gehn had the foresight to write all of the raw materials necessary to construct books into Riven. He directed his Bookmaking Guild to strip Riven's forests for lumber, leaving only a tiny section of growth near the last remaining Rivenese village. Although their efforts produced countless blank books, Gehn struggled for nearly thirty years to craft a single functional linking book, consistently blaming the "impure" Rivenese materials he was forced to use as opposed to his own incompetence.
Ironically, it was the Star Fissure that would become Gehn's greatest hope when he eventually discovered that it could be used as a source of kinetic energy. Gehn quickly ordered his Survey Guild to begin construction on a system of "fire-marbles" in order to harness the Fissure's free energy. The power generated by the fire-marbles was initially used to drive some of the complex machinery Gehn had designed based on old D'ni technology. Most of these devices were utilized by Gehn himself to impose his rule in various ways, or to provide conveniences such as the fast transport afforded by his inter-island Maglev rail system. However, after many more years of experimentation with D'ni bookmaking, Gehn realized that the fire-marbles could be modified to breathe life into his flawed linking books.
At last, after incinerating hundreds of failed books in his laboratory furnace, Gehn succeeded in writing and linking to his "233rd Age", a barren but seemingly-stable and habitable world. After surveying his new surroundings, he began making plans to relocate himself and possibly the remaining populace of Riven to the 233rd Age. Five smaller domes were constructed across Riven's scattered islands to serve as Linking sites for Gehn's books, each protected by a combination lock. Each of the five books in Riven linked to Gehn's new laboratory in the 233rd Age, providing an even more efficient and covert means of transport across Riven for Gehn.
Roughly six months before the events of Myst, Catherine suddenly reappeared on Riven as the result of a scheme concocted by her two sons, Sirrus and Achenar. Thanks to the Moiety's intervention, she was able to evade immediate capture by Gehn's men and was quickly recruited into the Moiety's fledgling rebellion. At a Moiety gathering she learned that the rebels not only reject Gehn as a false god but also worship her as a "true" deity, a belief that Catherine was unable to dissuade the superstitious Moiety from holding. She eventually came to accept her place as the Moiety's de facto leader and began participating in their increasingly-brazen guerrilla strikes against Gehn and his lackeys.
After the fortuitous discovery of one of Gehn's discarded books, Catherine was able to re-write the Age it described to serve as a new base of operations for the Moiety, as well as inserting a unique crystalline substance into the Age capable of correcting the flaws of Gehn's linking books. She led a small team to infiltrate one of Gehn's fire-marble domes, using his power system to establish the initial Link to the Moiety's new world that they had named "Tay". Securing the crystals allowed Catherine to create a fully-functional linking book without the need for an external power source, and the remaining Moiety in Riven quickly resettled to Tay en masse. Despite Catherine's urging, however, the Moiety were reluctant to destroy their Riven linking book and permanently seal themselves away from Gehn and the Rivenese who remained with him. Eager to gauge Gehn's reaction to their recent activities, Catherine returned to Riven once more; unfortunately, this time Gehn's men were ready for her.
Catherine's capture and interrogation yielded little benefit to Gehn as she stubbornly refused to answer most of his questions, save for those few she responded to in her native Rivenese language. Despite her lack of cooperation, Gehn was able to surmise that Catherine had returned to Riven unintentionally and without a linking book back to D'ni, concluding that Atrus would eventually attempt a rescue. He had already decapitated the Moiety rebellion by capturing Catherine, and so he decided to simply wait for Atrus' inevitable arrival with another linking book in tow.
The Stranger's Arrival
Gehn's patience ostensibly bore fruit upon the sudden arrival of the Stranger, a mysterious friend of Atrus who had stumbled upon the lost Myst linking book on Earth after its passage through the Star Fissure. After freeing Atrus from captivity in K'veer at the hands of his own sons, the Stranger was recruited by Atrus to Link to Riven in his stead. Atrus himself was preoccupied with repairing the damage to Riven's descriptive book, but he also couldn't risk bringing a working linking book to Riven before Gehn had been neutralized. His plan involved arming the Stranger with a "trap book" which appeared to link to K'veer but actually functioned as a one-man prison, thus providing the perfect bait to ensnare Gehn.
Upon the Stranger's arrival, he narrowly avoids capture by one of Gehn's guards due to the Moiety's efforts, but the trap book is confiscated by one of the rebels in the process. Despite Gehn's imposed lockdown of Riven's five islands, the Stranger gradually comes to understand and utilize the Age's various mechanical devices, eventually gaining access to a secret chamber inside the village prison containing a linking book to Tay. He is captured by the Moiety living in Tay; they in turn pass along this news to the imprisoned Catherine, who quickly realizes Atrus' intentions. She instructs the Moiety to return the trap book and release the Stranger so that they can complete Atrus' mission.
Once back in Riven, the Stranger unravels the secret of Gehn's domes, restoring their power and using one of them to Link to the 233rd Age. Gehn had anticipated unwelcome visitors and built a cage around the linking site, where he converses with the imprisoned Stranger in an attempt to convince them of his repentance. After his speech, Gehn takes the trap book and briefly peruses its pages before asking the Stranger to link to K'veer first as an act of goodwill. The Stranger complies and is trapped inside the black void of the book until Gehn's face appears again through the linking panel's window, prior to linking himself. This traps Gehn instead and frees the Stranger, who in turn releases Catherine from captivity on Riven's Prison Island. She hurriedly explains that the Star Fissure must be reopened to signal Atrus so that he can travel to Riven with a real linking book.
The act of unsealing the Fissure proves to be the tipping point for Riven's stability, and the Age immediately begins to violently collapse. Atrus links to Riven soon afterward, reuniting with his wife after she had led Riven's remaining populace to safety in Tay. The couple express their gratitude and link back to K'veer, allowing their linking book to once more fall into the Star Fissure. The Stranger also falls into the Fissure, reassured that it will provide safe passage back to their point of origin on Earth.
It is unknown what ultimately became of the Age of Riven after the Stranger's departure; Atrus only describes it as "closed", suggesting that Riven is either no longer safe to Link into, or that the Age has disappeared from existence entirely.