DRIFTWOOD by Marie Brennan preview: “Driftwood”
In celebration of the release of Marie Brennan’s DRIFTWOOD, Tachyon presents glimpses from the book that Publishers Weekly declares “Fantasy fans will be thrilled.”
In the days before their world shattered, crumbled, and finally fetched up against that cluster of old realities known as Driftwood, they were called the Valraisangenek.
One of their scholars once spent a week lecturing me on that name alone, before I was allowed to learn anything else. Valraisangenek: echoing their once-proud world of Valrassuith, “The Perfect Circle”—itself based on the ancient root word of velar, “totality”—and their race’s legendary founder Saneig, “Chosen of San,” chosen of the Supreme Goddess, from whom they were all descended (genkoi). A name full of meaning, for those who know how to read it. But most people think the name of the Valraisangenek is too long and difficult to be worth remembering, especially when there are so few of them left. These days, everyone just calls them the Greens.
After all, that name has the advantage of being so obvious anybody could remember it—or at least attach it to the appropriate target on sight. Somebody walks in with hair like sea foam, eyes like emeralds, and skin like moss? You’re looking at a Green. Slap on whatever the word is for “green” in your language, and you’re set to go. Or “blue/green,” if your people don’t distinguish those two colors, or “red/green” if your race is color-blind, although in that latter case you might run a risk of confusing a Green with a Kakt. But the red-skinned Kakts are numerous enough, and well-known enough, not to mention horned enough, that if you’re not smart enough to tell them apart from the Greens, you won’t last long in Driftwood anyway.
The Kakts’ world is so newly Drifted that on three sides it still borders on nothing but Mist. The calendarists I know figure within a year it’ll share a boundary with Egnuren—a Kakt year, that is; nearly two Egnuren years—but I don’t recommend telling the Kakts that. Most of them still deny the Driftwood thing. They’re new; they’re proud. They don’t want to admit that their world is gone, and they’re all that’s left of it.
The Greens know better. Hard to deny the death of your world when it’s shrunk down to a small ghetto whose name hardly anybody bothers to remember. There are theories on how to slow the decay, of course, and back in the day the Greens tried them all. Stay home and pretend Driftwood isn’t there. Speak only your own language. Breed only with your own kind. And pray, pray, pray to your gods, as if Driftwood is some kind of test they’re putting you through, or a bad dream you can wake up from.
None of it helps. I should know.
But no one listens when I tell them.