Dungeons & Dragons’ most beloved drow, Drizzt Do’Urden, is back in R.A. Salvatore’s latest novel. Glacier’s Edge is the second book in the Way of the Drow series, and it picks up where Starlight Enclave left off in 2021. In it, fan-favorite characters Catti-brie, Jarlaxle, Artemis Entreri, and Zaknafein come across a society of drow unlike any previously discovered in the Forgotten Realms. Polygon is proud to present this exclusive excerpt.
They entered a wide lane of taverns and brothels, some free-standing construction, others carved into stalagmites, and still others no more than walls of fabric hardly shielding the movements within.
Dininae knew this place from the days when he had been called Dinin, at that time the Secondboy of House Do’Urden. He had come here often to play, to gamble, to fight – anything to break the monotony of his existence as the lowest noble of Matron Malice’s court. The Braeryn seemed quieter now to him, and quite a bit. At first, he figured that due to recent events— the march to the surface, the brewing troubles, and the war with the demon hordes that had been fought here in Menzoberranzan only a few years below—but as he and Voselly continued their walk, he realized that no, that wasn’t it at all.
The shelves were stocked, racks of dirty glasses piled at the end of every bar.
Which meant this wasn’t a sign of decline. No, this day, this moment, the avenue was strangely empty.
He did see a few patrons and potential customers, some leaning on the bars, some standing with the prostitutes as if striking a bargain, a couple pitching bones in a small alley between two stalagmites that comprised a single tavern. But they were all so unnatural at it he didn’t think them typical denizens of the Stenchstreets. He looked for insignia, and noted from the subtle revelations of their armor and weapons that these were not the downtrodden of Menzoberranzan, no.
Yet he saw no house markings, no emblems or crests.
And that made it worse.
“Are you at the ready?” he whispered to his companion.
“Of course. You see it, too?”
“I count six.”
“At least eight.”
“Ah yes, my favorite number, or so I was told from the moment of my birth,” Dininae replied.
“Take heart, we’ve friends about,” Voselly told him. “We need only hold our ground for a short while.”
“Unless they also have friends nearby.”
Voselly stopped and half-turned, smirking down at him. She was about to say something, Dininae was about to shout something, when she suddenly spun about, bringing her trident sweeping across, angled downward with great force, driving aside a sword stabbing for her back. Her attacker overbalanced and fell forward just enough for Voselly to roll her shoulders and launch a devastating right cross that crunched into her attacker’s face and snapped his head back viciously.
He was fully unconscious before he hit the ground.
Dininae had watched every movement, the sweep and the beautiful way Voselly had dropped her left shoulder back, essentially “throwing” the right hand with her left shoulder, resulting in such a long and truly devastating punch.
He silently reminded himself never to anger this woman, but that was all the time he had to consider anything other than the fight, which now came at him fast in the form of a pair of young men, or more pointedly, in a closing barrage of four waving and stabbing swords.
So quick was his draw that Dininae’s swords seemed to simply appear in his hands, just as Zaknafein had taught him, drawing and stabbing in a singular movement. His opponent to the right turned and slapped a sword across to deflect, but the other one had not anticipated the sudden attack and caught Dininae’s left-hand blade right at the tip of his breastplate, where it slid up and jabbed into his throat.
Dininae would have finished him, would have nearly decapitated him, except that the other attacker was already countering with a backhand sweep with his blocking blade, forcing Dininae to fall back and turn fast to bring his left-hand blade slashing across to intercept.
He had one out of the fight temporarily at least, stumbling and gagging and falling off to the side, but another enemy leaped into the void and pressed forward fiercely, forcing Dininae back on his heels, his two swords working furiously to keep the four stabbing blades at bay.
Work for the rhythm, he told himself silently.
Work for the rhythm, fall into the flow of the battle, discover the tendencies of your opponents. So Dininae did, and he was quite pleased with himself as he held his ground, anticipating each attack and deflecting, parrying, riposting, even, or avoiding with a simple twist. After all of those years as a drider, he was still living up to Zaknafein’s training, and living up to the compliments Voselly had just put upon him.
His shock broke him from that rhythm and that confidence when he sensed something coming hard for his head from behind.
Reflexively, he just folded his legs under him and dropped to his knees, tucking his chin, as well, and bracing himself.
But the missile – which was actually another enemy drow warrior – went over him, falling over the two attackers, who tried hard not to stab their poor flailing comrade in the collision.
With but a quick appreciative glance back at a laughing Voselly, Dininae sprang up and forward. He stabbed the thrown drow first, right in the kidney, and as that man crumbled in pain, Dininae blew past him, over him, seizing the initiative and driving back the two attackers. He deftly employed an inside-out series of thrusts with his left-hand stabs, moving his hand in close and to his right hip and launching the attacks from there to force the stumbling, off-balance drow to move out wider.
A final thrust sent the drow skipping back three strides, and Dininae turned fully on the drow to the right, blades rolling now as if to simply overpower the fellow.
Except, no, for Dininae broke almost immediately to go back out fast to the left, where that drow was charging, obviously believing that Dininae fully involved with the other. The attacker came in with an offensive stance, one blade high, the other too far forward.
Dininae got past the tip of that blade easily, and got his left arm up high, blade horizontal to steal the chop of the drow’s raised sword.
These were not houseless rogues. They wore fine armor.
But Dininae wielded Baenre swords, and with the momentum of both fighters bringing them fast together, that fine breastplate barely slowed the thrust of Dininae’s right-hand blade.
The drow stopped fast, contorting weirdly.
Dininae stepped back, dropping his left shoulder to send his free sword cutting out hard behind him to stay the rush of the remaining fighter, while his right foot went up to the impaled drow’s chest and pushed off hard, sending Dininae out and into a roll and throwing the mortally-wounded attacker stumbling back and toppling over the first warrior Dininae had dispatched.
A flicker to the right had Dininae snapping his sword up, and just in time to deflect a handcrossbow quarrel.
He looked all about, seeing drow flooding into the street, and at first thinking an army had come against him and Voselly.
But no, most of these were Blaspheme warriors, the fellow former driders, he realized. He looked to a smiling Voselly.
“They’ve been shadowing us?” he asked.
“I told you we had friends,” she replied.
“You didn’t say they were shadowing us.”
The warrior shrugged. “Perhaps I wanted to confirm that which was told to me, and which I hoped to be true.”
“That I can fight?”
“Yes, and perhaps you will soon find trust in me to tell me the truth about Dininae. You are no commoner. You are not self-taught in the arts martial. You attended the Academy and were trained by a weapon master.”
She quieted as another large drow woman walked up, another of the Blaspheme force who had spent millennia in the Abyss with Lolth and her fellow torturers.
“What do you know, Aleandra?” Voselly asked.
“Your ambushers are fleeing.”
“Let them go.”
She nodded. “Yes, I gave the order already. But there is one other, a priestess of House Hunzrin. She wishes to retrieve these enemies who have fallen, to tend them that they will not die.”
“Why does she care? Are these murderers of House Hunzrin?”
“She did not say, but my guess is House Melarn, of course.”
“So House Hunzrin is trying to play a mediation role here and avoid a war,” Voselly reasoned. She looked around at the five fallen ambushers, where only one, skewered by Dininae, looked to be in mortal danger.
“Have her come and heal that one,” Voselly decided. “And do with him as she will. The others come with us back to House Baenre. I would not overstep my authority here. Let the Matron Mother Quenthel Baenre decide their fate.”
Aleandra rushed away and began barking orders, while Voselly led Dininae back the way they had come.
“It was my kill,” he said to her as they moved off. “You did not think the disposition of the fallen warrior should be my choice?”
“No,” she answered simply. “I was once weapon master of the First House of Menzoberranzan. You are but a commoner, so you say. Why would I care what you wanted?”
Dininae stopped and let her move a few steps ahead of him, and stood there with hands on hips until she turned back.
“You mean to play the same games that decided our mutual fates in times past?” he asked.
“Your words have consequences. When I can trust you, I will respect you.”
“Because I am a noble, you believe?”
“Because you will no longer be lying to me. Do not misunderstand me, warrior. I am as fearful as you regarding our disposition in this struggle, and regarding our future, if we even have one. We are the Blaspheme, so they have decided. We are Matron Mother Baenre’s shock soldiers, her fodder. She will throw us against her enemies, no doubt, and will shed no tears when we are torn apart.”
“Or Lolth will reveal her joke and revert us to a state of abomination,” Dininae replied, admitting his deepest fear.
“It has crossed my mind. And that is why I intend to bring the Blaspheme tightly together beneath my command. Here or back in the Abyss, we stand together or we face torment – and actual death only if we are fortunate. But I like people who tell me the truth, Dininae.”
She practically spat his sobriquet.
He didn’t want to cross Voselly. He really didn’t want to cross Matron Mother Baenre. And most of all, he didn’t want to become a pawn in the grand scheming of the Demon Queen of Spiders.
But in the end, he was a Do’Urden, Elderboy Dinin Do’Urden, and in this most confusing and dangerous time, he simply couldn’t discern how that truth would play.