The Cleft first appears as a jagged crack in the ground, 80 feet long by about 15 feet wide, in the lower slopes of an ancient volcano. Although some sources seem to imply that it is located in the deserts of the Middle East1, it actually lies in the scrublands of New Mexico, USA. Rediscovered in the 1980's by John "Fighting Branch" Loftin, he bought the surrounding property (including the volcano) and left it to his friend Elias Zandi when he died.
There is much more to the Cleft than first meets the eye. A rope ladder will lead the visitor into its shaded depths, originally the home of a woman named Anna and her son. Anna grew up in the desert with her father, a noted field geologist2. After his death she discovered a series of passages leading to the underground city of D’ni, where she married Guild Master Aitrus and bore their only son Gehn3. Gehn was a child when The Fall came, and Anna returned to the surface to raise him. She carved a home into the fissure of the volcano and crafted a life for them among the solitude of the desert. Anna also raised Gehn’s son Atrus in the Cleft, and finally left for Myst Island after his marriage to Catherine of Riven4. Yeesha, daughter of Atrus and Catherine, later moved back to the Cleft for a period. It has remained uninhabited since the passing of that family.
Anna used her years and incredible talent to carve a unique home from the barren rock. Storerooms, living quarters, a kitchen and laboratory are all hollowed into the sides of the Cleft. Rocky ledges along the walls serve as paths and stairs to the various levels of the residence, which are also connected by a series of rope bridges spanning the width of the gap.
The shaded floor of the fissure, some 30 feet below the surface, is completely covered in gardens except for a small pool in the lowest corner. Of special note are the unique blue flowers surrounding the pool. Anna planted them on the grave of Gehn's wife, and over the years they have spread to cover almost the entire floor of the Cleft.
Anna was also a gifted artist, and covered every surface of the dwelling with drawings and carvings. Although its last inhabitant died some 200 years ago, the remarkable state in which it is preserved serves as a testimony to the care and skill used in its construction.
Guarding the entrance to D’ni, the Cleft has taken on a symbolic aura as a place of beginnings. As the original home of Atrus, it served as the beginning of renewal, the start of the path to restoring the people and the Art from which they descended. Yeesha also saw it as a place of spiritual beginnings, where lessons of humility are learned in preparation for giving your life in the service of others. To this day certain people feel a “call” to make a pilgrimage to the site, to start a journey which will change them forever.
- See The Book of Ti’ana and The Book of Atrus. It is unknown whether the geographical inconsistencies are due to a gross misunderstanding of the original text, artistic license by the author, deliberate doctoring of the texts by the DRC to protect its actual location, or other factors (i.e. The Art) by which the Cleft was actually moved.
- Their home was called The Lodge, and was located several miles from the volcano in the surrounding hills. The Cleft was originally used by Anna and her father for shelter on their infrequent trips to the closest city.
- As related in The Book of Ti’ana.
- See The Book of Atrus for details.