There was a call. Not quite a voice, not really as much as a whisper. And yet you were drawn to this place so long ago. Your first impression was that the desert is arid and lifeless. But the call became more insistent as you got closer. You found your way through Tomanha, explored the Cleft and entered the great Cavern below where the deep city was just beginning to breathe with new life. You made friends and shared the wonders of that great lost city. You could not conceive of a time when you did not have this journey before you -- and then as quickly as it had come, it was gone. You did not want to go, but the decision was not yours to make.
In early April 2008 the cavern was closed on the orders of those officials who are in charge of its restoration. Perhaps it really needs "maintenance," as the DRC had claimed. It could have been for safety reasons. Certainly there are inherent instabilities in the geology of any giant subterranean structure. And there were other dangers -- warring bahro as well as the usual risks of alien animal and plant-life. Money had always been an issue. Funding such a venture took enormous amounts of investment, and no one could go public with claims -- either for glory or tax benefit.
In all the time you have been exploring, you have wondered about how this alien discovery has been viewed by those on the surface, the people who have never ventured into the Cavern. If the D'ni city were known to all would there be a public news feeding frenzy. And there are legal concerns. You have heard rumors that the DRC was skirting the legal edge according to U.S. laws governing the recovery and restoration of artifacts. Should such a dispute end up in court, the entire project might be turned over to the State or worse yet, the Federal Government. You shudder to think of what would happen if it was decided to restrict the area in the name of "national security." Should that ever happen the wonders of the D'ni would be known only to military and CIA personnel with the highest clearance.
No one has stated the precise reason for the closure -- something about "maintenance." That could be it, but then again maybe there is more to it. Whatever the reason, all the explorers were evacuated, made to hand over all linking books in their possession, including their Relto books.
You return to where you began -- the Cleft, the wound in the earth with the shattered Riven viewer and the white bones of a wark protrude from the sand. Other than Zandi's trailer, the place is completely abandoned You feel confused and never more alone than at this moment. No one has said how long the cavern will be closed -- days, weeks, months, years -- should you stay or should you go? Every explorer who has passed this way since April 11th has probably contemplated the same question. It seems that most have chosen to go, but for the moment you do not know what to do.
You build a fire in the pit and set up a tent. You are not sure what you are waiting for. Then you hear her again -- her words, her warnings, her wishes. "Seek the journey" she had said. "Think of it as a quest -- no, a request." You thought that was what you had been doing over the last several months, but perhaps there is more. When the dawn comes you crawl out of your sleeping bag and look out over the desert. Her voice is still in your mind as you put on the shirt she gave you. After a quick breakfast, you pack up.