The island was very heavily forested with a single mountain, and it had no natural shore where boats could land, only one entrance which could be found by a singular current of water in a certain direction to an underground cave. All other currents would lead to drowning.
The island's forest was filled with ruins and it was evident to Cutter that the forest had risen from the heart of a massive dead city which had been filled with huge buildings.
Drift Avalii was inhabited by a group of Tiste Andii in order to protect the Throne of Shadow located on the island from the Tiste Edur. Among the Andii who set up residence on the island were a few with familial ties to Anomander Rake, including his brother Andarist, and a few of his grandchildren.
When the Edur learned of the existence and whereabouts of the Throne of Shadow, they launched an attack on the island in an attempt to reclaim it. During the conflict, many of the Andii were killed, leaving a small contingent to defend the Throne. Luckily, the small force of Andii was bolstered by a group of Malazan soldiers stranded on the island after a naval battle with the Edur, the newly-made assassin Cutter, and the once-possessed Apsalar. Cotillion, concerned that the Throne might fall into the hands of the Edur, also aided in its defence. As a result of a last ditch effort by the Edur to claim the Throne, Andarist was killed, as were all the remaining Edur. The mysterious Traveller vowed to help protect the throne for a time, taking Andarist's sword, Vengeance, in order to aid him in the task.