In celebration of the release of THE MIDNIGHT CIRCUS by Jane Yolen, Tachyon presents glimpses from the book that “will haunt you in the very best way.” (Sarah Beth Durst, author of Race the Sands)
Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple
Seven years of bad luck. That’s what I think as I drag the piece of broken mirror over my forearm. Just to the right of a long blue vein, tracing the thin scars that came before.
There’s no pain. That’s all on the inside. It won’t come no matter how much I bleed. No pain. But for a moment . . .
For a moment.
Until Mr. L calls me again. “Hey, you, Little Red, come here.”
Calls me. Not any of the other girls. Maybe it’s because he likes my stubby red hair. Likes to twist his stubby old-man fingers in it. And I can’t tell him no.
“You want to go back home?” he asks. “Back to your grandmother’s? Back to the old sewing lady?” He’s read my file. He knows what I will say.
“No. Even you are better than that.” Then I don’t say anything else. I just go away for a bit in my mind and leave him my body.
The forest is dark but I know the way. I have been here before. There is a path soon, pebbly and worn. But my fingers and toes are like needles and pins. If I stay here, stray here too long, will I become one of them forever?
It’s morning now, and I’m back, looking for something sharp. Orderlies have cleaned up the mirror; I think Mr. L found the piece I had hidden under the mattress. It doesn’t matter—I can always find something. Paper clips stolen from the office, plastic silverware cracked just right, even a ragged fingernail can break the skin if you have the courage.
Alby faces the wall and traces imaginary coastlines on the white cement. She is dark and elfin, her hair shorn brutally close to her scalp except for one long tress that hangs behind her left ear. “Why do you wind him up like that?”
“Wind up who?” My voice is rough with disuse. Is it the next morning? Or have days passed? “And how?”
“Mr. L. The things you say to him . . .” Shuddering, Alby looks more wet terrier than girl. “If you’d just walk the line, I’m sure he’d leave you alone.”
Having no memory of speaking to Mr. L at all, I just shrug. “Walk the line. Walk the path. What’s the difference?”
“Yeah, play the game, let them think you’re getting better.” Alby straightens up, picturing home, I figure. She’s got one to go back to. Wooden fence. Two-car garage. Mom and dad and a bowl full of breakfast cereal. No grandma making lemonade on a cold Sunday evening. No needles. No pins.
It’s my turn to shudder. “I don’t want to get better. They might send me home.”
Alby stares at me. She has no answer to that. I turn to the bed. Start picking at the mattress, wondering if there are springs inside these old things. Alby faces the wall, her finger already winding a new path through the cracks. We all pass the time in our own way.
In celebration of the release of THE MIDNIGHT CIRCUS by Jane Yolen, Tachyon presents glimpses from the book that “sings with magic, darkness, and wonder–perfect for anyone who has ever loved a fairy tale.” (Meagan Spooner, author of the Starbound Trilogy)
You could say it all began in 1827 (though my part of it didn’t start until 1963) because that was the year Tsar Nicholas I decided to draft Jews into the army. Before that, of course, only Russian peasants and undesirables had to face the awful twenty-five-year service.
But it was more than just service to the state the Jewish boys were called to do. For them, being in the army meant either starvation—for they would not eat non-kosher food—or conversion. No wonder their parents said kaddish for them when they were taken.
After Tsar Nicholas’ edict, the army drafted sons of tax evaders and sons of Jews without passports. They picked up runaways and dissidents and cleaned the jails of Jews. Worst of all, they forced the kahal, the Jewish Community Council, to fill a quota of thirty boys for every one thousand Jews on the rolls—and those rolls contained the names of a lot of dead Jews as well as living. The Russian census takers were not very careful with their figures. It was the slaughter of the innocents all over again, and no messiah in sight.
The richest members of the community and the kahal got their own sons off, of course. Bribes were rampant, as were forgeries. Boys were reported on the census as much younger than they were, or they were given up for adoption to Jewish families without sons of their own, since single sons were never taken. And once in a while, a truly desperate mother would encourage her sons to mutilate themselves, for the army—like kosher butchers—did not accept damaged stock.
In my grandfather’s village was a family known popularly as Eight-Toes because that is how many each of the five sons had. They’d cut off their little toes to escape the draft.
So many boys were trying in so many ways to avoid conscription that a new and awful profession arose amongst the Jews—the khaper.He was a kidnapper, a bounty hunter, a Jew against Jews.
My Aunt Vera used to sing an old song, but I didn’t know what it meant until almost too late:
I had already washed and said the blessing
When the snatcher walked right in.
“Where are you going?” he asks me.
“To buy wheat, to buy corn.”
“Oh no,” he says, “you are on your way,
Trying to escape . . .”
One of my uncles remarked once that the family had come over to escape the khapers in the 1850s, and I thought he said ‘the coppers.’” For years I was sure the Yolens were but one step ahead of the police. Given my Uncle Louis’ reputation as a bootlegger, why should anyone have wondered at my mistake? But I learned about the khaper—thereal one—the year I was sixteen. And I understood, for the first time, why my family had left Ykaterinoslav without bothering to pack or say goodbye.
Rick Klaw blog beauty in ruins, black forest basilisks, blog tour, books & tea, dianthaa dabbles, excerpt, interview, pei reads, queer sci fi, r. b. lemberg, review, the artsy reader, the book deviant, the clipped nightingale, the four profound weaves, utopia state of mind, way too f 0
In celebration of the books release, R. B. Lemberg and their astounding THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES participated in a blog tour that featured interviews, excerpts, book reviews, giveaways, and more.
August 28th – Black Forest Basilisks celebrated the book’s release with the insightful essay “The Impact of R.B. Lemberg’s Birdverse: A Second Look at ‘The Four Profound Weaves’”.
While I’ve already waxed poetic previously on this novella’s merits in a full review back in March, a small reprise is called for as we near its release date. The prediction I made back then still holds true; I don’t think I’ve stopped recommending this book any time it’s even slightly relevant to someone’s interests.— Black Forest Basilisk
August 29th – Way Too Fantasy shared an interview with Lemberg.
It’s rare to see elderly protagonists in high fantasy– they’re usually side characters. nen-sasaïr was a side character in the preceding story “Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds.” What made you decide to feature 60-year-old Uiziya and nen-sasaïr?— Way Too Fantasy
I think this was always their story, I just could not approach them directly before I told the first two parts of the story. It gave me the scaffolding I needed to approach what I see the heart of the story, which is about how our beloved cultures and loved ones may constrict us, may keep us prisoner even as they love us, or at least say they love us. The perspective of older people is very important to me. We have so many stories about younger people, that it almost feels like the process of self-discovery and embracing one’s identity is exclusively the business of youth. Don’t get me wrong, one’s teens and twenties are a prime time for self-discovery, and there is a very good reason why so many stories focus on this age group. YA is very important, and especially wonderful right now. Still, though, I feel that for people who have been oppressed, closeted, abused, denied their identity for any reason, it is important to know that it is never too late to move into your full triumphant self. But it is not the same process later in life. We need these stories. I need these stories, as a person coming from a deeply anti-LGBTQIA+ cultural context. Fiction should reflect our stories, and I feel passionately about both trans and queer rep, neuratypical rep, and rep of people of all ages. My characters run the gamut of ages. I hope to write more about protagonists who are older, as well as about middle-aged trans protagonists (and younger ones, of course!)
August 31st – The Clipped Nightingale shared an excerpt.
Everybody seemed to have gone to the trading tents, and so I made my way there as well. I was hoping to see my grandchildren, always too busy those days to spend time with me. It was true that I did not want to be trading, but if someone was trading, Aviya for sure would be there.
The trading tents were open to the air, supported with carved poles to which the lightweight cloths of the roof attached festive woven ribbons. People milled under these awnings, mostly women—Surun’ weavers of all ages, each with a carpet or carpets for sale; and a few of their beloved snakes. The crowd parted as I entered, and in that moment my fears came true.
Three men stood in the middle of the trading tent. They had the gold rods of trade, and gold coins sewn onto the trim of their red felt hats. The men’s eyes shone; their dark beards were groomed and oiled, and adorned with the tiniest bells that shook and jingled as they bent over the wares. I sensed powerful magic from all three of them. Their magic – multiple short deepnames – shone in their minds, each deepname like a flaring, spiky star. I was powerful myself, but the strangers’ power was that of capturing, of imprisonment, of destruction, held tightly at bay. The vision made me recoil. These men—and it was always men—belonged to the Ruler of Iyar. The Collector.
I had been living here for three months with my grandchildren, among our friends the snake-Surun’. Almost three months after my transformation, my ceremony of change. I thought I had finally broken free from Iyar. But now Iyar came here.
September 1st – Phoebe’s Randoms
In this breathtaking debut set in R. B. Lemberg‘s beloved Birdverse, THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES hearkens to Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, and offers a timeless chronicle of claiming one’s identity ina hostile world.— Phoebe’s Rainbow
September 2nd – Queer Sci Fi celebrated with an excerpt.
I sat alone in my old goatskin tent. Waiting, like I had for the last forty years, for Aunt Benesret to come back. Waiting to inherit her loom and her craft, the mastery of the Four Profound Weaves. I wasn’t sure how long I’d been sitting like this, and it was dark in the tent; I no longer knew day from night.
When the faded red woven tapestry at the entrance shifted aside, I drew my breath sharply, waiting for my aunt’s thin, almost skeletal hand—but it was not Benesret. Of course not. Instead, one of my grand-nieces stepped in, plump and full of life, bedecked in embroideries and circlets hammered with snakes. Her eyes shone like stars in the gloom.
“Aunt Uiziya, don’t sit here alone. Aunt Uiziya, you should come to the trading tent. Aunt Uiziya, bring some of these weaves—” The girl’s bejeweled hand motioned at the weavings that hung, heavy and lifeless, around my tent. “You might sell something, and if not, just show your craft, yes?” And just like a flutter of wind, she was gone.
September 2nd – Utopia State of Mind
I adored THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES so much that I read the novella in one sitting! That’s right! If you’re a fan of queer fantasy, inventive magic, and novellas, then definitely check this out!— Utopia State of Mind
September 3rd – Beauty in Ruins shared an interview with Lemberg by Tachyon’s Rick Klaw.
You’ve lived in a wide variety of fascinating locales. How did those locales color the Birdverse?— Beauty in Ruins
I am tempted to say that all of them affect Birdverse in some way, but that’s not quite true. I have not written anything resembling Vorkuta (in circumpolar Russia) in Birdverse, although it is influencing my space opera WIP now. Birdverse comes from my imagination, but some of it is definitely colored by how it feels to exist in some of these places – the feel of the desert at dawn, the smell of a quince, the feel of carved bone and cast brass, and very old music that can be heard when everything else is quiet.
September 4th – MI Book Reviews
The ending and the themes throughout the book are pretty perfect….5 out of 5 stars. I would recommend this book.— MI Book Review
September 5th – The Book Deviant
Everything about the story was as magical as I was expecting, and it had me turning the pages to find where they went or what they did next.”— Book Deviant
September 6th – The Artsy Reader
I highly recommend this inventive, queer Middle-Eastern fairytale that offers a unique take on magic and has an excellent world-building.— Artsy Reader
September 7th – Books & Tea
The prose is striking: delicate and measured, yet somehow pulsing with pain underneath, as we learn more about the main character’s past and how they try to heal both themselves and others from trauma.— Books & Tea
September 8th – Pei Reads
The story is much more slow-paced than I’m used to, but it works so well with this story and allows the lyrical writing style to truly shine. The finale is grand and splendid and absolutely breathtakingly. beautiful.— Pei Reads
September 10 – Dianthaa Dabbles celebrated with an excerpt.
Everybody seemed to be in the trading tents, but I dragged my feet—and not just because of the pain from sitting still for so long. The encampment felt empty. The carpet of sand on my shoulder whispered into my ear of the wide-open spaces where I wanted and dreaded to go. It was thin, almost weightless, as if it wanted to fly away from my shoulder. I tried to imagine what I would do next, after I traded the carpet away. Sell my tent and my weavings and move to some other encampment, where nobody knew me and nobody gossiped? Walk out into the desert without any water, and wait for the goddess Bird to come for my soul? Go look for that thing that I dreaded? Go back to my tent and sit once again?
I stepped closer and closer, my resolve liquefying like sweat, when I saw my old acquaintance, the nameless man. He was all but running away from the tents, his lighter brown face a grimace of anger-pain-anger I’d come to recognize in him.
Seeing me, he stopped, and averted his gaze.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
A thin green snake slithered in the dusk between us, as if drawing a boundary I should not cross. I stepped right over it.
In celebration of the release of Marie Brennan’s DRIFTWOOD, Tachyon presents glimpses from the book that “celebrates the death-defying power of love and everlasting memory.” (Karen Lord, author of Redemption in Indigo)
The previews included:
Finished reading Kameron Hurley's "Meet Me In The Future: Stories"https://t.co/Ik3YMM4eNE— Paul Semel (@paulsemel) August 8, 2020
As inventive and unique as her best novels.#books #reading #ShortStory #ShortStories #SciFi #SciFiBooks #ScienceFiction #ScienceFictionBooks @KameronHurley @TachyonPub pic.twitter.com/HHlA9NIMPQ
This excerpt featuring Kameron Hurley from Becca Anderson’s The Book of Awesome Women Writers ran on the book’s site.
KAMERON HURLEY a resistance movement historian writes future fiction.
Kameron Hurley is a science fiction and fantasy author as well as essayist who uses her writing to explore the future of war and resistance to oppression. Her fiction includes vivid female characters such as her 2018 book APOCALYPSE NYX’s bounty hunter Nyx, who must navigate a dystopian world and deal with challenges like giant bugs and contaminated deserts as she works to survive. Her short fiction was first published in 1998, and she has been writing novels since 2010. She is the author of The Light Brigade (2019) and The Stars are Legion (2017) as well as two trilogies, the Worldbreaker Saga and the award-winning God’s War trilogy.
She was born in the Pacific Northwest and earned a bachelor’s degree in historical studies at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, going on to receive a master’s degree in the history of South African resistance movements from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in Durban, South Africa. Her nonfiction has been published in journals including The Atlantic, The Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, and Writers Digest, and she writes columns about writing and the publishing industry for Locus Magazine. In 2014, her essay “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative” (2013) won a Hugo Award; that same year, she also won the Hugo for Best Fan Writer. Hurley is also the author of the award-winning essay collection The Geek Feminist Revolution (2017 Locus and BSFA winner, nonfiction); she is an active blogger who posts reflections on topics including how not to burn out living in a “gig economy” and resisting nihilism. Amusingly, she refers to the sphere of her thought and writing as “the Hurleyverse.” She lives in Ohio, where she is cultivating an urban homestead.
For LOCUS, Hurley contributes the essay “Of Men and Monsters.”
While the world undergoes another cycle of necessary upheaval, it has become increasingly certain that I am likely to be spending the next couple of summers just as I have been spending this one: within the same few blocks of my house, gardening, doing dishes, writing books, tearing my hair out over finances, being careful and critical of the news, and trying to be kind to myself in an effort to prolong my own life.
Because living in a slow apocalypse can get to you, with the knowledge that nothing is certain except uncertainty as the world is remade. For all my restlessness, though, I have hope. America’s anger, our community’s anger, gives me hope.
We aren’t dead yet. Not quite yet.
In celebration of the release of Marie Brennan’s DRIFTWOOD, Tachyon presents glimpses from the book that “celebrates the death-defying power of love and everlasting memory.” (Karen Lord, author of Redemption in Indigo)
“He’s not dead!” The words burst out of a small kid: Dreceyl, older than he looks but still not very old. He stamps his foot and then runs down to the stage. “How can people think Last is dead? He’s survived everything.”
A clamor fills the amphitheater, which until that point has been more or less respectfully silent. If there’s one thing capable of thriving in Driftwood, it’s rumors, and in the days since word went around that Last was gone, this one has grown a hundred heads.
He went into the Crush. He traveled to the Edge and leapt off into the Mist. He committed suicide with a weapon that before its world’s apocalypse had been used to kill a god. He ate or drank something that turned out to be poison to his kind. The final artifact of his world was caught for ages in the depths of the Crush, but now it’s finally vanished, and it took Last with it.
The whole thing was never true in the first place. The stories about Last were just that: stories. He was never immortal; at best there was just a long series of men who looked enough like the stories to pass. And now he’s gone, just like everything else in Driftwood.
What began as a silent memorial and then became a tribute starts shredding into chaos. Dreceyl shoves Kuondae, who to him is just a disrespectful stranger. She hisses at him and raises a hand, but Ioi stops her from striking, which brings the Oneui in; Ioi may be only one-quarter of their blood, but Kuondae’s provocation has temporarily erased that gap. In the stands above, people begin to shout competing theories, points and counterpoints, few of them backed by solid facts. The dark-skinned woman with the gold wound into her hair watches silently, leaning against the crumbling sandstone wall with her jaw set hard. The man in the robe sets his pen down and waits.
In celebration of the release of Marie Brennan’s DRIFTWOOD, Tachyon presents glimpses from the book that is “An exciting delve into a conglomerate land filled with magic and mystery.” (Kirkus)
Into the Wind
The tenements presented a blank face to the border: an unbroken expanse of wall, windowless, gapless, resolutely blind to the place that used to be Oneua. Only at the edges of the tenements could one pass through, entering the quiet and sunlit strip of weeds that separated the buildings from the world their inhabitants had once called home.
Eyo stood in the weeds, an arm’s length from the border. The howling sands formed a wall in front of her, close enough to touch. They clouded the light of Oneua’s suns, until she could barely make out the nearest structure, the smooth lines of its walls eroded and broken by the incessant rasp of the sands. And yet where she stood, with her feet on the soil of Gevsilon, the air was quiet and still and damp. The line between the two was as sharp as if it had been sliced with a razor.
“I wouldn’t recommend it, kid.”
The voice was a stranger’s, speaking the local trade pidgin. Eyo knew he was addressing her, but kept her gaze fixed on the boundary before her, and the maelstrom of sand beyond. She didn’t care what some stranger thought.
People came here sometimes. Not the Oneui—not usually—but their neighbors in Gevsilon, or other residents of Driftwood looking for that rare thing, a quiet place to sit and be alone. The winds looked like their shrieking should drown out even thought, but their sound didn’t cross the border, any more than the sand did. As long as you didn’t look at the sandstorm, this place was peaceful.
But apparently the stranger didn’t want to be quiet and alone. In her peripheral vision she saw movement, someone coming to stand at her side, not too close. Someone as tall as an Oneui adult, and that was unusual in Driftwood.
“You wouldn’t be the first of your people to try,” he said. “You’re one of the Oneui, right? You must have heard the stories.”
Oh, she had. It started as a dry, stinging wind, after their world parched to dust. Then it built into a sandstorm, one that raged for days without pause, just as their prophecies had foretold. Eyo’s grandparents and the others of their town had refused to believe it was the end of the world; in their desperation, they gathered up their water and food and tied themselves together to prevent anyone from getting lost, and they went in search of a place safe from the sand.
They stumbled into Gevsilon. And that was how they found out their world had ended.
But not entirely. This remnant of it survived. And Gevsilon, their inward neighbor, had gone through an apocalypse of its own: a plague that rendered all their people sterile. There weren’t many of the Nigevi left anymore, which meant there was enough room for the Oneui to resettle. Just a stone’s throw from the remnants of their own world, and everything they’d left behind.
Of course some of them tried to go back. The first few returned coughing and blind, defeated by the ever-worsening storm. The next few stumbled out bloody, their clothing shredded and their flesh torn raw.
The last few didn’t return at all.
“Why do you lot keep trying?” the stranger asked. “You know by now that it won’t end well. Is this just how your people have taken to committing suicide?”
Some worlds did that, Eyo knew. Their people couldn’t handle the realization that it was over, that Driftwood was their present and their future, until the last scraps of their world shrank and faded away. They killed themselves singly or en masse, making a ritual of it, a show of obedience to or protest against the implacable forces that sent them here.
She meant to go on ignoring the stranger. It wasn’t any of his business why she was here, staring at the lethal swirls of the sandstorm. But when she turned to go, she saw him properly: a tall man, slender and strong, his hair and eyes and fingernails pure black, but his skin tinged lightly with blue.
In Driftwood, people came in all sizes and colors and number of limbs and presence or lack of horns and tails. Eyo didn’t claim to know them all. But she’d heard of only one person fitting this man’s description.
“You’re Last,” she said. Sudden excitement made her tense.
His eyes tightened in apprehension, and he retreated a careful step. “I am.”
“You can help me,” Eyo said.
He retreated again, glancing over his shoulder, toward the faceless wall of the Oneui tenements, and the nearest opening past them. “I don’t think so, kid. Sorry. I—”
She stepped forward, matching him. She didn’t have her full growth yet, but she was quick and good at running; she would chase him if he fled. “You’re a guide, aren’t you? Someone who knows things, knows where to find things.”
He stopped. “I—yes. I am.”
One of the best in Driftwood, or so people said. He knew the patchwork of realities that made up this area, because he’d been around for longer than any of them. The stories claimed he was called Last because he was the last of his own world—a world that had been gone longer than anyone could remember.
Clarity dawned. “Oh. You thought I was going to ask you to go into the sandstorm?”
He gave the howling storm a sideways glance. “You wouldn’t be the first.”
Because the stories also said he couldn’t die. Eyo scowled. “Someone asked you? Who? Tell me their name. I don’t care what the storm is like; the idea of sending an outsider in there, asking them to bring back the—”
She cut herself off, but not before Last’s eyebrows rose. “Bring back? You lost something in the storm?”
“It isn’t lost,” Eyo snapped. “We know exactly where it is.”
Now she saw clarity dawn for him. “That’s why your people keep going in,” he said thoughtfully, gaze drifting sideways again. “Look, whatever it is—it may not even be there anymore. This is Driftwood; things crumble and fade away, even without apocalyptic sandstorms to scour them into dust.”
Conviction stiffened Eyo’s crest, her scalp feathers rising in a proud line. “Not this. Everything else will fall apart and die, but not—” She swallowed and shook her head. “When we are gone, this will remain.”
His shrug said he didn’t agree, but he also didn’t care enough to argue anymore. “So if you don’t want to send me into that, what do you want me for?”
Eyo smoothed her crest with one hand, as flat to her skull as she could make it. If he knew her people, he would recognize that as a gesture of humility and supplication. “I want you to help me find a way to survive the sand.”
In celebration of the release of Marie Brennan’s DRIFTWOOD, Tachyon presents glimpses from the book that is “haunting, timeless, and timely.” (Max Gladstone)
No one know how it starts, because no one is there to see.
The amphitheater has been abandoned for ages, and for good reason. Any living creature that remains within its truncated bowl when that world’s sun rises dies . . . or disappears and is never seen again, which amounts to the same thing. As a result, it is that rarest of commodities within the Shreds: a piece of uninhabited dry land.
Not unused, though. The timeworn sandstone benches are solid enough, if not precisely comfortable, and now that someone has knocked down the creepy, insectile statues that used to stand in watch—or possibly in threat—at the top of the stands, the amphitheater is a nice enough place for all kinds of uses, from performances to markets to punishment for the remaining one-bloods of Skyless. They permit others to use the space as they please, but personally consider its open-air nature to be the next worst thing to hell.
Only at night, though. Throughout the day, and for a generous margin before sunrise and after sunset, the amphitheater tends to be deserted. With the differences in cycles between worlds, nobody quite wants to risk guessing wrong about what time it is—nor do they want to experiment and find out just how long the dangerous period is. And since these days only one tunnel leads from Skyless onto the amphitheater floor, and the people of Soggeny and Up-End don’t make a habit of climbing the amphitheater’s walls, there’s not a lot of traffic in or out.
Which means that as near as anyone can tell, the wreath of flowers simply appears, laid there by some unknown hand, their unfading sapphire petals shining with a faint light of their own in the darkness.
It could be for some other purpose. But the sapphire flowers with their ruby stamens come from Aic, growing like hair from the heads of the few remaining Ta-Aici, and the news—the rumor; the joke; the lie—went around Aic just a little while before. So somebody, it seems, has made an assumption.
More than one somebody. The next night, which is supposed to be a market night, the wreath has company: a tiny stone pyramid, three candles, a shoe, a blunted knife, six torn pieces of fabric. The meaning of the things left there varies, and sometimes they don’t have any beyond the personal, but the ripped cloth is clear.
In the Shreds of Driftwood, that is a sign of mourning.
After that, everybody sees the pile grow. The market goes on as it should, but other people come, too: Drifters and one-bloods alike, from farther Shreds like Pool, from the nearer parts of the Ring, even an Edger or two who happens to be close by. Some come to lay their own tokens on the floor of the amphitheater. Others come just to watch the spectacle, to murmur questions and doubts at each other.
Is it true? The whole thing is a joke. I don’t believe it anyway. Never have. This is Driftwood; we all know how it works. How can anybody be sure?
Febrenew is there before the second night ends. He keeps the latest iteration of a long series of bars called Spit in the Crush’s Eye—or rather, kept. It most recently conducted its business in an improbable cavern, carved out of solid rock beneath a stretch of viscous mud that sucks in anyone who sets foot on it. The entrances lay through the safer terrain of Nidroef and Whitewall, burrowed underground and propped up with enormous rib bones pillaged from some creature that didn’t need them anymore.
But probability has caught up with that cavern, flooding it with mud, and flooding Febrenew out. He hasn’t yet found a new home for the bar, and while the amphitheater certainly isn’t a candidate, it will do as a temporary source of profit. With so many people gathering, some of them are bound to want food and drink.
Answers, too—but unlike some of his predecessors, Febrenew is scrupulous about his gossip. When a woman asks him if he knows anything, he tells her the truth, which is that he knows no more than anyone else. But it doesn’t stop her from loitering nearby, then making periodic arcs through the amphitheater, questioning other onlookers. She’s a one-blood, her skin as dark as rich soil, hair coiled against her scalp in intricate gold-threaded knots. The sort of style people only bother with when there’s still meaning behind it. An exile from her own world, maybe; there are enough of them around.
And even Febrenew doesn’t know everyone. The Drifter community is too complicated for that, held together by its differences as much as anything else. He doesn’t know that woman, or the silent old man who takes up station at the top of the benches and sits there eating seeds, or the small, lizard-like creature that conveys through mime that it will conjure water to wash cups for him in exchange for some beer.
Nor does he know the man who approaches the growing mound of trinkets not long after the sun sets on the third night, bearing an ancient mask in his hands.