The Islanders – the inhabitants of the Slaisal Islands in The Water Road trilogy, not the hockey team – are an odd bunch.* In a world that’s defined by where you were born and lines between such places are brightly drawn, the Islanders go a different way.
Physically, as well as culturally, they have a lot in common with other Altrerians, particularly those in the Triumvirate. They aren’t, for example all stand offish the way the Azkiri are. But they don’t really want any part in the political stuff, much less the military expeditions. Folks in the Triumvirate view the Islanders as essentially hiding behind the protection they provide – it’s not like the Neldathi are going to sail up to the Slaisals anytime soon. The Islanders just see it as somebody else’s problem.
The irony is that the Islanders deal with the Neldathi more than the Triumvirate does. They trade with them and built four cities along the Neldathi coast (along with one on the northern coast, on the edge of Azkiri territory). Yet, they don’t have any particular affinity for the blues – they just do business with them. In a world with a lot of walls between cultures, the Islanders don’t pay attention to any of them.
Which is where Naath comes in. Born on Amreh, one of the many Slaisal Islands, he decided at an early age to go to sea. It was either that or be a fisherman and he never had any particular love for sharp hooks and the smell of fish guts. It would be wrong to say he wanted to see the world, but that’s precisely what he ended up doing. The pull of home at the end of a long voyage was strong, but at the end of the day, Naath belonged on the deck of a ship plowing through the ocean.
At the time The Water Road begins he had risen to be second in command of a trade ship called Gentle Giant – yes, it’s a prog referrence!
It’s the final part of paying his dues that’s going to lead to him having a ship of his own, maybe more than one. That’s the plan, anyway. At least until he rows onto the shore of bay in Dost territory and meets Antrey Ranbren.
Then his future, especially at sea, becomes much less certain.
* Maybe the hockey team is, too, for all I know. I’m not much of a hockey fan.