Many explorers have asked the question over the years, “What is the Path of the Shell?” Many people say it’s a journey. Some say through the puzzle in the Watcher’s Sanctuary, some say through Er’cana and Ahnonay to K’veer and Myst, some say to realization of the Grower. However, to me, it has a much more simple definition, which I will work up to explaining. But first, we must look both the phrase itself, and its past.
Behind the Words
Looking at the phrase word for word, there is much vagueness about it. The word “path” has been interpreted in two ways in the past, often together. There is a literal “path of travel,” meaning a direct or indirect route from one or more places to a final destination, and there is a “path of enlightenment” meaning the education about the and realization of supposed “truths.”
The word “shell” is a lot harder to understand. A translation of the term had been used in D’ni writings, and most likely referred to literal shells found in D’ni Ages. Thus it would be imperative to know what the D’ni symbolized with shells, although at this time no concrete references to shells other than those referring to the Path of the Shell exist. It was, however, described several years ago by Yeesha as representing “the beginning tying to the end,” and so one could assume that this was what the D’ni representation of it was, although it is far from certain.
The earliest known references to the Path of the Shell (and what led to all other actions regarding it) can be found in the Words of the Watcher. It is only mentioned three times (although the words “path” and “shell” are mentioned several other times) within the course of the five books, and even in context it cannot be even remotely understood (as many things are in regard to supposed prophesies). The three mentions of it are as follows:
“Darkness makes the righteous humble and the evil bold. Darkness comes at the end of time. Take the path upward, or those above will travel downward. Seek the path of the shell. The meeting of worlds is destruction and blessing. The kingdom of D’ni is not made of rock and stone, but heart and mind.”
“Take time to know the faces of stone. Take time to understand the path of the shell. What will crush you? The weight of ordinances and laws. What will lift you? The wings of a heart for the Maker.”
“Do not put out the least for they will save you. The gathered will tell of the path of the shell. The bound will know of the path of the stone. Words are many, but action is what is desired. The gathered will find rest when the light comes. The circle is broken; the metal is melted in the fire. Strangely the cloth does not burn. The cloth of many; it remains in the fire and produces new life. Though the circle is gone it has brought triumph.”
Looking at it in present time yields no results to speak of, and so perhaps looking at it from the past would do more good. As you should already be aware of, several hundred years ago, before the fall of D’ni, Guildmaster Kadish built a puzzle which he called “The Path of the Shell.” The puzzle was part of his grander scheme to convince the D’ni that he was the Grower (other works exist on this subject and so I won’t get into much detail here). He used specifics mentioned in the Words of the Watcher to support his claim, one of those being the Path of the Shell. It is unknown why Kadish would have used as vague a thing as the Path of the Shell, although perhaps it was because of its vagueness that he decided to use it. It could have also been that the D’ni had a deeper understanding of what it meant, unlike present-day explorers, though the second is doubtful as no man during the time of D’ni could understand its message besides Kadish himself.
Kadish’s interpretation of the Path of the Shell was a literal path to the Great Tree, which could only be traversed once one fully understood the messages in the Words of the Watcher (thus we see path come into play in both ways here). It was physically a spiral path, and so perhaps that was a reference to the “shell.” Not only that, but the shell-like symbol underneath the light switch in the room was used later by Yeesha when referring to the Path of the Shell. Though we can reasonably interpret that Kadish used designs of physical shells when constructing the path, it does not give hint to what shells represented to the D’ni.
Note: There is also a spiral, shell-like path in the interior of the Great Tree itself, however, it is unknown when it was put in. It may have possibly been there since the tree was built thousands of years ago, it could have been added by Kadish to be simply another shell reference, or quite possibly it could have been included by Yeesha, as it serves as one of the final puzzles in her interpretation of the Path of the Shell.
Yeesha, like Kadish, believed herself to be the Grower. In fact, her methods of convincing people that she was the Grower was nearly identical to the method used by Kadish. Kadish created his interpretation of the Path of the Shell, and convinced people that he could travel through time, and ultimately bring light to the cavern of D’ni. Yeesha likewise created her own interpretation of the Path of the Shell, and convinced people that she could not only travel through time and bring light to the cavern, but that she could also link at will. There is, however, one major difference between the two, in the fact that Yeesha tried to not only convince others that she was the Grower, but convince them that Kadish was not.
Yeesha’s interpretation of the Path of the Shell is much more complex than Kadish’s. She was able to maneuver around the edges of Kadish’s boundaries and set up a path for others to follow in her footsteps, so that they could see the deception that he put his followers through. She then proceeded, throughout the journey, to show off her own ability to do what Kadish could not. However, it is still to this day unknown whether it was actually the powers of the Grower in Yeesha, the powers of the Bahro being exploited by Yeesha, or simply a more complex deception.
Her version of the Path of the Shell ended in sort of a “full circle,” with the person going on the journey ending up in Myst and K’veer. This was considered “full circle” and was very important to many people as the first D’ni experience that they had was the Cyan game “Myst,” with its own interpretation of Myst and K’veer. That game is in fact what made many people interested in the modern-day restoration and called them down into the cavern.
The Ages used by Kadish to convince people that he was the Grower, along with both Myst and K’veer, can be accessed today in the cavern. However, unlike in 2004, the Ages are no longer tied to Yeesha’s interpretation of the Path of the Shell. They are linked only by adventure through and discovery of Kadish’s deceptions, they no longer include Yeesha’s proclamations of herself as the Grower. Whether or not she believes this, or whether or not others believe this is irrelevant. The Ages still exist in partially the same manner that they were presented by Yeesha, only they are no longer an interpretation of the Path of the Shell. In fact, Kadish’s interpretation of the Path of the Shell, which was a central point in Yeesha’s larger journey, is no longer even accessible.
The Ages of Er’cana, Ahnonay (and the Ahnonay Cathedral), Myst, as well as the D’ni area of K’veer have lost much of their relationship to Yeesha. In fact, Yeesha’s interpretation of the Path of the Shell no longer even exists, and will probably never come again. However, Er’cana and Ahnonay still deal with Kadish’s belief of himself as the Grower, which is where his interpretation of the Path of the Shell came into play, and which is why the stone ring halves gained from journeying through those ages still bear the image of the shell. Likewise, the journey still ends with the “full circle,” ending the explorer at both K’veer and Myst. It is because of these two things that many explores still (although the journey has been stripped of virtually all of the reasons why it had been originally called this) refer to this journey as the Path of the Shell.
Note: As the cavern is set to close on April 4, 2008, it is unknown what will become of these Ages in the future. Should the restoration ever re-surface as it has before, explorers may find that once again the symbolism of and meaning behind these Ages have changed slightly once again. One cannot predict the future, but it would not be unlikely to assume that Ahnonay (and the Ahnonay Cathedral), Er’cana, K’veer, and Myst will forever have their fates tied to the Path of the Shell, just as the Watcher’s Sanctuary’s fate has always been.
Yeesha and Kadish were both unsuccessful. They became so focused on having the power of the Grower that they did not see that the whole purpose of the Grower is to act as the apex of a pyramid of action, allowing other prophesies to take shape and bring a better future to D’ni. They both worked backwards, trying to go up the pyramid and bring prophesies to life to prove that they were the Grower.
Looking beyond the shallow reasons behind their causes, however, one can find deep meaning. In both interpretations, waiting plays a vital part. The waiting of the six hundred and twenty-five prorahntee to complete the path acts as a symbol, a symbol used by both Kadish and Yeesha but one in which the meaning of it passed right by them. One cannot force prophesies to pass. However, both of their interpretations of the Path of the Shell seem to point at the same definition that they were each aware of. This definition, although it was understood by them, was not applied by them. However, through their work, it is now known to many people.
The Path of the Shell is the journey to understanding the importance of waiting.
Keeping this definition in mind, re-read the Words of the Watcher. Perhaps you will see some things in a new light.