I stood at the edge of the great Allatwan, my mouth gagged with an odd slick cloth, and my hands tightly bound behind my back. One of Gehn's loyal gaurds stood behind me, gripping my neck tight, Gehn's strange projectile weapon nudged against the small of my back.
I had been expectng the whark. They all expect the whark. At first, I had been so greatly jubilant about my new fate, but, as I gazed downwards, into the deep, dark, star specked chasm, I felt quite differently.
The distance scared me. For a moment, as my stomach swam, I felt glad I had been gagged. I closed my eyes, before so, seeing Gehn readying at his large bronze telescope. I knew it was about to come, and in those last few moments, I can distinctly remember wishing greatly that it had been the whark. The whark would be quick. I knew that. This... this was... tremblingly unknown to me.
The seconds seemed to slow infinitely. I bit the gag in my mouth, knowing the moment was coming. I heard Gehn order to the gaurd in the language they called "Dunn'e".
And I was falling, the walls of the Allatwan rushing past me. And as I fell, the air rushed past my ears, and my then long hair flew behind me.
The sensation was jarring, staring into the starry abyss, no horizon to relate to. Both body and mind expected the stars to change, to move towards me. But they stayed distant. As I flew, my vision swam, and my body swayed around, back towards the chasm.
It appeared as a solitary rip on an inky cloud of darkness, and this cloud, it seemed, did gain distance, comfortingly.
As I gazed at the Allatwan, I was unnerved by quite a sudden wave of dizzyness came over me. As quickly as it came, this dizzy unease was replaced by heavy weariness.
As the wieght of my eyelids became too much to handle, I felt the breath in my throat catch and hold. As my breath was taken, I fell into an icy stupor.
My eyes opened, and the brightness seared my vision. I felt that I was lying on sandy ground before I saw where I was.
A white hot desert stretched in all directions, sparse bits of withered shrubbery scattered about. The air smelled strange... somehow thinner, and clearer.
It was a moment before I noticed that at least a year's worth of beard had grown in my slumber. Needless to say I was perplexed, and it was a moment still until I remembered my view of the Allatwan,, and my intended execution.
As I lay there, the sun still burning my eyes, I could only scrape one strong thought. Where am I?
The landlocked horizon was unnerving, as I striggled with the bindings on my wrists. Where was the sea? Where was the shore here?
Eventually, after what may have been several hours of struggling, I loosened the ropes enough, to where I could pull the knots apart, and free my hands. As I stretched my arms, I noticed that they felt weak and sore, the muscles receded noticably. Relieving myself of the gag, I noticed painfully that my jaw was similarly sore, hurting when I bit down again.
I stood and looked around. The horizon was flat, the only blemishes being the rare tree, sprouting from the dry soil. As I looked, I noticed a dark shape a few hundred meters away, lying, dark against the bright sand.
I began walking towards the object, and as the distance waned, I could see it's shape, and could tell that it was a thick book. Coming to a standstill as I reached the book, I bent down to pick it up. Only as I held it up, and covered m eyes from the sun, could I see the symbols embossed on it's cover. They looked to be letters, but, not in a language that I understood back then.
I opened the book cautiously, and saw that each page was printed with characters as well, and these I recognized to be the "Dunn'e" language that Gehn and his followers spoke.
Flipping past these pages, I reached the last page.
I gasped to see a moving rectangualr box appear, the world behind it seeming so very real.
I was shocked. I shut the book in my hands, forcefully, and stood for a moment. This was Gehn's work or Atrus'. This was the work of gods, and I was not worthy.
They had said that Atrus had taken Gehn's power when he escaped Riven...
After a long moment, I threw the book on the ground, beginning to walk away.
This desert was so vast, the island it was on must be ten times the size of the old Riven! as I walked, I began to realize my own hunger, and thirst. The air was scorching, and if I hadn't had anything to drink since Riven, I must logically be near death by now, by the length of my beard. But why wasn't I?
I had still been wearing my ellaborate costume when they threw me into the Allatwan, and I still wore it now, over my normal cave robes. My mask and goggles had long since been confiscated by Gehn, to reveal my identity. My small canteen hung from my belt, and still had a meager supply of water.
As I moved across the dry desert floor, I saw again the moving image on the book, and shivered, despite the heat. I was deeply impressed by such magic. I didn't know to think if my hands had been cursed or blessed by touching the miraculous book.
As I thought of it, I removed my cumbersome costume, as the air was blistering, and the extra layer was beginning to feel heavier than I had known it above the Allatwan.
What was this world below the Allatwan? I had been able to deduce so far that I had fallen on to this world, but from where? Looking up, I couldn't find the Allatwan in the sky, not even at night.
After a few hours of walking, I began to feel heavier than I had at home. This may have been in my head, or an effect of my then dire thirst, but I was quite convicted that it was a real difference in the ground's pull on my body.
That first night, I was absolutely dejected. The sun was setting as I still walked, my cave robes coated in sweat. As the stars came out, I knew I needed sleep.
I put down my canteen in the direction I was headed, so as to not forget my heading when I awoke.
I lay down on the sand and I cried. The desert landscape had not changed all day. I began to wonder if this was the miserable world after death that Gehn taught the yough children of.
In my despair, I fell asleep. In my dreams, I saw the book's page beneath my face again.
An image of an island flickered there. Suddenly, the face of Gehn flared with the page. A moment later, the page caught fire in my grasp, and I awoke.
I drank from my canteen,nearly emptying it. The sun was at the horizon, it's beams casting shadows on the shallow hills of the desert.
And once again, I began walking.
Halfway through that day, my mouth literally hurt with thirst. I had long since been tempted to empty my canteen to it's final drops. I silently wished for it to simply rain, as it had at home, on Riven.
But rain, as if in mock to my anguish, did not come.
In the dwindling twilight hours of that day, I was finding my self nearly falling over with the compound effect of thirst and hunger.
As I fell to my knees, I put my head in my arms and sit silently, thinking. The landscape had not changed, once again. This place frustrated and infuriated me so. I yelled at the sky. Maybe Gehn would hear me with his "telescope" device, I thought.
As I looked up again, I noticed the sands beginning to kick up in a strong gust. Within moments, the ground only a few feet before me was obscured in a thunderous raging cloud of sand. I covered my face with my hands, and mentally screamed to get my mask and goggles back.
I crouched at the ground, covering my face and waited for this 'sand-storm' to end.
I sat for more than half an hour, sand constantly pounding at my left side, worming it's way between my fingers to my tightly shut eyes.
As the storm died away, I dared a peek, convinced that I was only imagining it's end.
The air was still, but now, it had gathered into a thin mist of dust, still hanging in the air. I found that my body had a tick grainy coating of sand, as well.
As I stood up, and stretched, I noticed that the sun was setting, casting orange rays through the receding clouds of dust.
Rubbing my eyes, I notced in the distance a speck against the horizon.
Immediately, I knew it was not a tree. It was rectangular, and had the distinct shape of a man made structure.
For a moment, I believed that I was tricking myself. I wanted it to be real, but I think, that after so much misery, I was simply not ready to accept that something truly good had happened to me.
And even if my suspicions were correct, and people were in this structure, what kind of people would live in this 'world below the Allatwan'?
Despite my unease, it was an easy decision to move towards the shape. As I the distance decresed, and the clouds of dust receded further, I could see the outline more clearly.
It was a sort of vehicle, of a sort I had not seen before. Thankfully, as the time passed, I was also able to tell that it was stopped. As I got closer, I was able to make out the shape of a sort of awning, slightly diagonal sides.
As I walked, I was delighted to see a human shape emerge from the vehicle, pause, and go to the side opposite of me. After a few moments, he came back to my side. I tried to alert him, to no success.
As I found myself only a few yards, I found that all people here were inside the vehicle. It was a curious vehile, so I looked to the front to see what could be propelling it.
A pair of monstrous animals awaited me. They were odd, tall, furry creatures, with ugly, oblong heads, and sharp hooves, four legs each. They were taller then myself, and I was quite astonished to see such monsters. then I remembered that the man I had seen hadn't happened to be scared to go near them, so I realized that they may not have been as bloodthirsty as a whark.
As I backed carefully away from the creatures, I could here from within the vehicle a group of people talking, in a language I did not understand. I thought for a moment it may be the "Dunn'e" language, but I soon realized that this tongue sounded quite different.
I knocked my hand against the wide wooden door at the vehicles side, sunbaked paint flaking away at my touch.
From the noise inside, I could tell they were very surprised that anyone was outside, in this deserted wasteland.
The door opened, and before me stood a haggard looking man, a confused and impatient look on his face. His dress was strange, and looked closer to Gehn's gaurd's robes than my own people's white cave robes. He wore a worn cloth shirt, covered by a vest that looked to be a type of animal hide. (Perhaps of the creatures I had seen?) A cracked leather hat adorned his head, slightly crooked on his bald head.
As I examined his dress, he seemed just as interested in my cave robes. But before I could speak, he said something in their strange language, which I, of course, couldn't hope to decipher.
"Halo. Mi stap insait Riven. Mi stap lus. Mi nidim wara planti." I spoke, trying to sound out the syllables carefully, but, even as I spoke, I could tell that the man didn't understand. In fact, he actually looked profoundly confused, by everything that I was.
Again, he spoke, seeming to want me to clarify.
Resigned to motions to convey to words, I held up my empty canteen and shook it, trying to indiacte that I needed water.
Thankfully, he seemed to understand, yet still seemed very perplexed. He then held out his hand, to take the canteen. I graciously handed it to him.
After a minute or so, he came back,stoppering the canteen once again. He said another word in his language.
After a moment, he bagan to move back inside his vehicle.
Panicking, I nearly shouted, "Wetim!".
He came back, and said something else, before he pointed around at the desert, and nodded at me, signifying a question.
I shook my head, trying hopefully to tell him I was lost here.
"Senisem?" I said, hopefully, having no clue how to convey that I need transport. To where I didn't know.
For a moment the man hesitated, but then motioned me inside.
Several men sat at low benches inside the vehicle. They were similarly garbed to the man whom I had met first. The air in here was hot and humid, but the shade from the white hot sun was relieving nonetheless. The ceiling was only slightly higher than their heads, and yet it was mostly covered with hooks, food items and sacks of strong smelling herbs hanging from them.
As I looked around the caravan, I saw that a low table sat between the benches, on which the men had strewn many patterned squares. For a moment, I thought it was a business transaction of sorts, but as they moved, and waited, it became clear that they were playing a game, of what kind I did not know.
They seemed so engrossed in their game that for a moment, they ignored the newcomer in their caravan. But, once they noticed, they looked quite wary. For a moment, I was scared of their plans for me, and considered leaving. But, as I glanced back out of the door, which the first man was closing, I immediately decided against it.
As I stood there, taking several sips of clean water from my newly filled canteen, I saw the first man adress the otehrs, who, after a moment, I came to understand, were his subordinates.
The first man he adressed, he bagan strongly with the word "Fillip". which I took to be this mans name. He seemed to be ordering Fillip to do something, of what I couldn't tell.
Next, he adressed the other three in the caravan. Now, he seemed to be generally explaining his own plan, in stead of giving specific orders, gesturing subtly to me as he spoke.
One of the men groaned and looked slightly annoyed, but the leader seemed not to hear him.
The leader walked outside, back to the four legged creatures. After a a minute or so, the caravan jolted into movement, to where, I didn't know.
The journey in the caravan was long and silent, interspersed with some small confused conversations. In between these, the men of the caravan would sit play with their cards in the heat.
But, every once in a while, one would get up the courage to try and attempt conversation with me.
At one point, a stout, rotund man had tried to get across by connecting his motions to words. I wasn't entirely enthusiastic, but I did my best to communicate.
First, he gestured to himself and said "Marten". This was pretty simple for me to understand. His name was surely Marten.
I pointed to my self and said, slowly and clearly, "Kala' Kina".
He then looked about for a moment, looking for something else to define for me. Making a wide gesture with his arms, he said "Kerravan".
I copied his gesture, and said, "Senka' Lap". He seemed to understand, and repeated my words, albeit, with a strange dialect.
This went on for more than half an hour, and as at that point, Marten attempted to teach me a very different word.
He gestured to his own mouth, and said several of the words I had learned. He then said "Inglysh", trying very hard to convey his meaning. For a moment, I thought that he meant speech in general, and began to tell him that 'Inglysh' meant "Tok". But, then I stopped myself, realizing that he meant the exact language that he was teaching me.
I nodded in understanding, and said to him, "Rivenese", gesturing to my own mouth in a similar way.
He seemed intrigued, and thought for a moment. He then tried to teach me my first sentence in Inglysh.
"Marten frum Amaerika," he said slowly. "Kala' Kina frum..."
I thought for a moment, and then understood. "Kala' Kina frum Riven."
The man stayed silence for a moment, looking confused. "Riven?"
I thought for a moment, then pointed up.
Later on, the caravan was silent once again, as the animals trundled forward through the desert. I knew that eventually they were leading me to a village of some kind, yet what I would do once there was a blur.
I had long since come to the conclusion that I was never going back to Riven. It had been a one way journey, and now I had only to take a foothold in this strange new world, alien, myself, to all others.
As the soft light of dusk once again settled outside the high, small windows, I heard the leader give a small order, from outside. The caravan stopped, the animals having obviously been commanded to do so. Curious, I stood, and looked out of one of the windows.
A village did lay ahead of the caravan, shrouded in the thin wisps of sand and dust that seemed to eternally cradle this desert. The village was not large, given what space was available, but I was stll surprised by it's scale. The availability of water must have been somewhat meager, and I had barely seen a few animals in my trek across the desert.
The buildings were stout and squared, arranged in lines around a central road. I could see people busying themselves with the general upkeep and work, harvesting beets from small, dry gardens, gathering water from a short, red brick well.
As I looked out the window, the leader walked into the caravan from the single door, gesturing to me even as he did so. I retreated from the window and walked with him outside.
As soon as the man had gestured me into the village, he said something quickly, and returned to directly to the front of his caravan, shouting orders at the animals. Before I had known it, the caravan was already far into the haze of the desert beyond.
For a moment, I was affronted, to be left so suddenly. But, I remembered that it had been a kindness for them to simply lead me to the village, which, as I turned around, looked much smaller than I had seen it from within the caravan.
The town itself looked quite simply like a small collection a homes, a few open front stores dotting the road beyond. As I walked wearily into the village, the townspeople, as I expected, looked quite perturbd by my choice of dress. Somewhat embarrased, I moved to the side of the road, where a heavily walked path lay, paved carelessly with old bricks, arranged haphazardly in a random pattern, edges of some of the rocks jutting above the ground.
Passing by the homes, I moved towards the few shops, already spotting the end of the road where the village ended. The shops themselves were small and seemed to sell only what they grew or slaughtered independently.
Moving past the open front meat caravans, butchers hawking their wares to the waery looking townspeople, I made my way towards a larger public building, the only one I could see with a second story. Most of these shops had signs. of course I couldn't read them, but it was interesting nonetheless to examine the characters.
The building toward which I moved, In could see now, was lined with shelves. As I walked inside, I could se that the items sold here didn't appear to have been made in the village. I hazarded a guess that this was the only shop whose wares were imported.
A tall, reedy, balding mad stood behind a counter, eying me as I looked over the shop's goods. He, like everyone, seemed intrigued by my cave robes. for a moment, I moved away from him, continuing to look through the store. Suddenly, he said something in Inglysh, looking as if eager to make any small sale.
I walked over to the man cautiously. From my hours in the caravan, I had ended up learning a mangled collection of Inglysh words, lacking any form of grammar.
As I contemplated what I would say, I realized that i had a decision to make. I could either hang onto a childish hope of returning to Riven, or I could attempt to place myself comfortably in this new world that Filip had called "tha oerld" and "Irth". On the spot, I sadly made up my mind.
"Me Kala' Kina," I stuttered, trying my best to seem confident in my Inglysh. "Need me work... home." I gave the man an eager and desperate look, quite annoyed by the difficulty of the situation.
"Oue wunt a jahb?" Though I knew only half these words, the man did seem to understand in a way. For a moment I hesitated though, before speaking.
TWO YEARS LATER
I stood at the porch of what I had, over the course of the last two years, accepted to be my home. The sun stood at a distant ridge of mountains, it's rays beginning to creep above the peaks.
It was a sight of which, two years prior, I would have been quite astonished at. But, as all things eventually do, this horizon of stone and sand had become second nature. Almost. I still retained a distinct connection to my homeland, with it's glistening shores, and cliffs of sunbaked stone. As much as I longed to, the idea that I would not once again see this land had waned in its effect on me. The shores and caves had become only a faded memory. For this I was sad, yes, and certainly nostalgic, but most of all, it was not the aspects of Riven that I missed, it was my people.
As much as I had grown to enjoy the company of the townspeople, I knew they still looked at me as something alien. Something not so real as themselves. I knew it was not their fault that they did this. I myself was almost as confounded by my past as they were.
Over the years, I had learned to speak English, and even write some words, well enough to get by. I worked a steady job at the general store, also helping with any other work that needed doing around the town. I slept in the small apartment above the general store, which had belonged to the shopkeeper, Patrick's son, before he had left for the East. It wasn't a particularly bad place to live. The bed was larger and more luxurious than the hammock I had grown used to in the Rivenese caves, for which I was verbally grateful to the shopkeeper.
As I stood on the porch, my eyes panned over the horizon, as they usually did, before I started my working day. Eventually, my line of sight drifted to the group of distant mountains that I recognized, for in that direction was the book of magics with it's moving page.
I still, very often thought of the book, though I knew it was useless to do so. What would I do with that book? As I now understood, the writing in it was certainly not English, so I would not be able to read it.
But some part of me wanted to go back to that spot and stare into that page of moving pictures, and see all that it could show me.
I sighed, and glanced again at the sun. It was certainly time to begin the day's work. No time to waste thinking about that damned book.
It was two weeks later that the shopkeeper's son came back to the town to visit. Had that not broken the monotony, I now believe I would have been tempted enough to retrieve the magical book. Now that I know the full truth about that book, I am sorely glad that I didn't.
It was around sundown, the town exhaling a communal sigh as it ended it's day. I had just finished closing up shop, same as the day before, and the countless days previous. Once again, I found myself on the porch, glancing about the horizon, the last glimmers of the sun glinting as a dim reflection off of the westward bits of cloud.
I find it important to point out that it had not rained since I came here. Clouds simply were not plentiful enough, and I had barely seen an overcast sky in two years. Latching onto a faint memory, a deep, faint part of me had the shimmering thought, that this place's goddess of rain must have perished in some magnificent battle in the sky. This part of me, I realized, smiling at it's innocence, had not been at the forefront of my consiousness since my childhood, when Gehn had come to Riven and proclaimed his own godhood, killing our feeble Rivenese gods with a single blow.
As I stood on the porch, my gaze once again drifted over to the distant mountains that I knew marked the direction of the mystic book. But something was odd, shifting, in the everpresent veil of dust. For a moment I thought that the minute darkening was only the clouds moving past each other, but after a few seconds, it became clear that a horse was galloping toward the town.
A horse and rider appearing from the distant, almost uninhabitable desert is not entirely amazing, but it certainly was rare. What gave me pause was that the horse was appearing from this direction. As far as I could tell, no one had come or gone in that direction since my arrival here.
As the horse and rider approached from the dust, I could make out more details. For one, the rider was male, average height, somewhat ambiguous looking, yet with an air of enigmatic geniousity that I find hard to describe to this day. His dress was not entirely odd, but not normal for desert travel. He wore a dress shirt (ragged and dusty from his trek, of course), having a business man's coat with small tails slung over one of the horse's saddlebags. He wore a stout top hat, the left side looking a tad crumpled, albiet adding to his air of bewildered calculation. Growing nearer, I could see that his glasses were small lensed and crooked, one lens even having a small crack in the corner. I pitied the man somewhat for this, because from what I knew of business, he would probably have to wait until he was back East before this could be repaired.
As he rode up, he steered the horse toward the shop, his eyes catching mine in an odd, investigatory way.
After clumsily getting off of his horse, this stranger began walking towards me. Knowing my way around this world's customs, I held out my hand, saying "Welcome. You are the owner's son, are you not? My name is Kala. Kala Kina."
"Yes. Nice to me meet you. Are you new to this town since I last visited?"
"Yes. I would explain, but you would probably like to meet with your father. I believe he is inside."
"Thank you, Kala. I've just come from an archeological expedition near a dormant volcano to the North-West. My team remain there now but I thought I should come to my hometown for a few weeks. We should talk later, but yes, I should be meeting with my father."
It was a moment before I realized that he had not given his own name, and it was a moment more before I realized how odd it was that I had not known already. I was about to ask him, but he had already gone inside. Having nothing else to do, and now quite curious, I decide to follow.
Walking up the stairs behind him, I set myself down in the small sitting room. The owner was milling around in the adjascent room. Having apparently heard us enter, he came out to see, and caught eyes with his son. I thought for sure that I would learn the man's name in the coming conversation. However, I was sorely dissapointed.
"Ah, my son!" the owner exclaimed, giving the man a firm hug and sitting him down on the opposite set of chairs.
"Hello father. It's so good to see a familiar face."
"So, what have you been up to? I see you've met the town's newest resident, Kala." He gestured to me. "Your letters tell me only so much, my boy. What have you been doing that's brought you so close to home?"
"Me and a group of six other men have been working at an archeological dig site up at the dormant volcano."
"Ah, the one that's
haunted by that odd old woman?"
"Not anymore. We came across a few things on our way out to the main calderra, but whoever had lived there was long gone."
"Ah. I see. I suppose that's better. She wasn't exactly a nuisance, but she certainly kept people away frm those parts."
"The dig was going well, so I knew I had to ride out here and stay a few weeks in my home town."
"I'm glad you did at that. I'll get you something to eat. You must be thirsty as well."
"Ah, thanks. I am."
When the owner had left the room, I was now curious enough o ask a question that had been burning on the tip of my tongue.
"On your way from the volcano, in the North-West, did you happen to come across a book?"
The man seemed dumbfounded, his eyes wide with bewildered shock. "Why yes... actually. How.... how is it that you know that?"