Archmage by R. A. Salvatore


  Follow Drizzt and his companions on all of their adventures (in chronological order)

  The Dark Elf Trilogy

  Homeland (1)

  Exile (2)

  Sojourn (3)

  The Icewind Dale Trilogy

  The Crystal Shard (4)

  Streams of Silver (5)

  The Halfling’s Gem (6)

  Legacy of the Drow

  The Legacy (7)

  Starless Night (8)

  Siege of Darkness (9)

  Passage to Dawn (10)

  Paths of Darkness

  The Silent Blade (11)

  The Spine of the World (12)

  Sea of Swords (13)

  The Sellswords

  Servant of the Shard (14)

  Promise of the Witch-King (15)

  Road of the Patriarch (16)

  The Hunter’s Blades

  The Thousand Orcs (17)

  The Lone Drow (18)

  The Two Swords (19)


  The Orc King (20)

  The Pirate King (21)

  The Ghost King (22)

  The Neverwinter® Saga

  Gauntlgrym (23)

  Neverwinter (24)

  Charon’s Claw (25)

  The Last Threshold (26)

  The Sundering

  The Companions (Book 1 of The Sundering) (27)

  The Companions Codex

  Night of the Hunter (28)

  Rise of the King (29)

  Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf (30)


  Homecoming, Book I

  ©2015 Wizards of the Coast LLC.

  This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or unauthorized use of the material or artwork contained herein is prohibited without the express written permission of Wizards of the Coast LLC.

  Published by Wizards of the Coast LLC. Manufactured by: Hasbro SA, Rue Emile-Boéchat 31, 2800 Delémont, CH. Represented by Hasbro Europe, 2 Roundwood Ave, Stockley Park, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB11 1AZ, UK.

  FORGOTTEN REALMS, WIZARDS OF THE COAST, D&D, their respective logos, the dragon ampersand, and The Legend of Drizzt are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast LLC, in the U.S.A. and other countries.

  All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All Wizards of the Coast characters, character names, and the distinctive likenesses thereof are property of Wizards of the Coast LLC.

  Cover art by: Aleksi Briclot

  ISBN: 978-0-7869-6575-5

  ISBN: 978-0-7869-6585-4 (ebook)

  620B2371000001 EN

  Cataloging-in-Publication data is on file with the Library of Congress

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  Title Page



  Part 1: The Quality of Vengeance

  Chapter 1: Of Orcs and Dwarves

  Chapter 2: Walking the Nether Planes

  Chapter 3: Unusual Ascension

  Chapter 4: The Physical Manifestation of Chaos

  Chapter 5: Bang Shields, Clap Flagons, and Sing Songs of War

  Chapter 6: Chaos

  Chapter 7: The Hidden Smiles

  Part 2: Seeking Destiny

  Chapter 8: A Seat of Reverence

  Chapter 9: Thinning the Faerzress

  Chapter 10: Kith and Kin

  Chapter 11: Writhing Snakes

  Chapter 12: Revelations of an Ancient God

  Chapter 13: The Sigh of Two Matrons

  Chapter 14: To the Call of a Wicked Sword

  Part 3: The First King’s Death

  Chapter 15: A One-Handed Catastrophe

  Chapter 16: Vortex

  Chapter 17: The Lonely Cadence

  Chapter 18: Comragh Na Uamh

  Chapter 19: Comragh Na Fo Aster

  Chapter 20: Comragh Na Tochlahd

  Chapter 21: Delzoun

  Chapter 22: The Gray Fog of Death

  Chapter 23: Goading Catastrophe

  Chapter 24: The Prince



  THE HULKING DEMON SNORTED FIRE WITH EVERY GREAT BREATH, clawed hands twitching, eager to grab at the great flaming whip set in a loop on his hip. This was Balor, the mightiest of his kind, massive and powerful, with great leathery wings, a whip of fire, a sword of lightning, and a keen understanding of battle. The demons that took his name and form were known as the generals of the Abyss, used by the demon lords to guide their armies in the never-ending wars that scarred the smoky and dismal plane.

  Balor was itchy now, wanting his weapons but not daring to reach for them. The creature in front of him, half spider, half beautiful drow, had not come here to request his service as a general.

  Far from it, it seemed.

  “You wish to strike out at me?” the Spider Queen remarked, her eight arachnid legs clattering on the stones as she moved around the beast. Behind her lay a wake of lesser demons—shredded manes, balguras pummeled into piles of mush, shadow demons robbed of their life energy that lay there as smoking clouds of insentient darkness.

  “Why have you come to me, Lolth?” Balor asked. “Why have you destroyed my minions? I am not at war, with you or any, and am not now in service to any.”

  The Spider Queen twisted her drow torso to regard the carnage she had inflicted. “Perhaps I was bored,” she answered casually. “No matter.”

  Balor issued a little growl, but kept his composure. He knew that it—that all of this—was something more, something more dangerous. Lolth had been in the company of the balor Errtu extensively of late, and Errtu was Balor’s greatest rival.

  “You have not answered my question,” Lolth remarked. “Do you wish to strike out at me?”

  Balor couldn’t deny the eager twitching of his clawed hands. He had served all of the demon lords over the centuries, of course, but Lolth was his least favorite. She was something more than the other Abyssal lords, a goddess relying on the prayers and fealty of some puny mortal race on the Prime Material Plane, beings Balor would use as … food. Her eyes, spider or drow—or whatever other form she chose to take—were not focused here in the Abyss, but were ever elsewhere. Like her ambitions.

  “Do it,” Lolth teased.

  Another growl escaped Balor’s lips, and how he wanted to comply.

  “Ah, but you cannot,” Lolth went on. “Because I can unmake you with a word, or make of you something else, something less.”

  Balor’s nostrils flared, fires coming forth. She was not bluffing, of course. She was a demon queen and on this plane, the Abyss, her power over creatures such as Balor was absolute. On another plane of existence, perhaps Balor would strike out at her—and how delicious that would be!—but in the Abyss, he could not.

  “I will not unmake you,” Lolth promised. “I will not obliterate you. I am curious, beast of fire. Long have I wondered about the sting of your whip. How sharp the flames? They can melt the skin from a manes, but how would they fare against the hide of a goddess? I do not fear your fire, Balor.”

  The demon did not make a move.

  “I will not unmake you,” Lolth stated flatly. “You are the favored of Baphomet and Kostchtchie, and as much as I might enjoy the spectacle of mighty Balor reduced to inglorious irrelevance, you are not worth the bother to which such an act would give rise.”

  The words spun in Balor’s thoughts. Baphomet
had indeed used him, and recently, to command his legions, and Kostchtchie, the Prince of Wrath, had always called upon Balor first and foremost. But what was this about? Why would Lolth even be here, in Balor’s castle?

  “I played no role in the failure of Tiamat’s rise,” the demon told her, wondering if that might be the reason for her visit. There were rumors that Lolth was trying to help the minions of the great catastrophe, Tiamat, in resurrecting her castle and body in the Prime Material Plane, a tremendous effort by the dragons of that plane that had, so said the rumors, spectacularly failed. “I would be glad to be rid of the witch.”

  “I have made no accusation,” Lolth said slyly.

  “Then why?” a frustrated Balor roared, fire flying like spittle from his great maw. “Why are you here, Demon Queen of Spiders? Why do you taunt me?”

  “When has Balor considered a challenge to be a taunt?”

  “A challenge? Or a goading—a prelude to an excuse!”

  “Strike me!”


  “Then I shall unmake you!” Lolth’s eyes flared with sinister promise.

  Before he could even consider the movement, Balor had his sword in hand, lightning spraying from its tip, and his whip in his other hand, the length of it becoming a living flame.

  Lolth reared up, her four front legs coming off the stone to wave in the air, her arms up high, her face a mask of ferocity, mouth opening impossibly wide in a great hiss.

  Balor raised his whip arm, the fiery line rolling up high above his shoulder. It felt as if he had dunked that arm under water. Something grabbed at it and slowed it.

  A new smell joined in the sulfuric haze of the Abyss, a sharp, burning hiss, and Balor did not have to turn to know that a great conflagration blazed behind him. With a defiant roar, the beast yanked his arm free and sent his whip cracking out in front of him, snapping out at Lolth.

  Her legs blocked, the fiery instrument scored her hide with an angry tear and blister. But the Spider Queen’s cry was more of joy than pain, or, more likely, it was both.

  On she came, lightning flashing from every drow fingertip, four spider legs kicking out to batter at Balor.

  And more, the demon realized. The air around him filled with floating webs, Lolth’s webbing, and every filament, it seemed, carried a spider, ravenous and biting.

  The whip cracked again. Balor thrust forth his sword, the blade extending with a great blast of lightning, one that had Lolth backstepping from the sheer weight of it.

  But on she came again, bolt after sharp bolt lashing out from her fingertips, stabbing at Balor. Her eyes flared with fire and she vomited acid and poison, spraying it all over Balor.

  His whip arm went back again. This time, the webbing grabbed at it more fully, like a smoking wall moving at Lolth’s command, rolling forward to enwrap him. He opened wide his wings, trying to burst free, but he couldn’t. The wall closed nearly around him, and millions of spiders leaped upon him, biting at his flesh.

  He thrust forth his sword and felt it bite into Lolth’s flesh, but she screamed again as if in ecstasy. And when Balor went to retract the blade, he could not.

  He glanced down to see the Spider Queen holding the blade in her grasping hand.

  Holding the blade!

  In desperation, he threw forth another blast of lightning through the blade, perhaps the greatest he had ever evoked, and he saw it enter Lolth’s hand, saw it fly from the blade to the gaping wound the blade had gashed. And Lolth took it, accepted it fully into her great frame, and from her free hand came a shock of lightning that seemed her own and Balor’s combined, slamming into Balor and driving him back.

  He wrenched free his sword, and now he did hear pain in Lolth’s cry as her hand came with the sword. But any joy that realization might garner proved short-lived as he felt the pillow-like softness behind him. The wall of webbing grabbed at him. His thrashing only brought it closer around him.

  Hatefully, Balor looked at Lolth, at her smile, even though she was holding up her arm, spraying blood, ending in a torn and fingerless stump.

  She vomited onto him again, her poisonous spittle covering him, burning at him. She bade her webbing to complete its roll around Balor. Her million spiders eagerly released their filaments, redoubling their efforts to bite at him.

  Balor’s whip flashed out and connected with nothing, the swing smothered by the too-thick blanket of webbing and spiders.

  All sense of balance left him. He could not move, could feel nothing but the poison of Lolth and the tiny bites of her unrelenting minions.

  And he knew of the most insidious part of that poison. In her venom Lolth carried confusion, an unrelenting dizziness that defeated any attempt at magical defense or escape as surely as a globe of invulnerability.

  Balor was caught, fully enwrapped, hanging upside down, displayed like a trophy.

  And still Lolth’s spiders bit at him, and they would, he heard her promise, for a decade.

  MATRON MOTHER QUENTHEL Baenre’s red eyes flared, belying her otherwise outwardly calm demeanor. Gromph marveled at her control, given the image he had just presented to her in the scrying bowl. Her great achievement on the surface in the Silver Marches, the Darkening, was no more. The sun was shining across the Silver Marches and the orcs were running for their holes in the mountains.

  “Bregan D’aerthe’s spies indicate that Drizzt Do’Urden facilitated the dissolution of Tsabrak’s dweomer,” Gromph remarked, just to twist the blade a little bit. Gromph knew very well what had happened to the magical Darkening, for he had been there when the spell had been defeated. For he, using an unwitting Drizzt as the conduit, had been the one to dissolve the magic. “Drizzt’s human wife, another Chosen of Mielikki by all accounts, looked on with tears of joy. Lady Lolth has lost the battle for the Weave, and now, too, she has been bested in the Silver Marches.”

  “Beware your tongue, brother,” Matron Mother Baenre warned in a very deadly tone. Her eyes narrowed, accentuating their sharp edges to give her angular features a harsh attitude.

  “True, and well advised, Matron Mother,” Gromph said, and he gave a polite bow. “I should have said that Lady Lolth’s proxies were defeated by those of Mielikki. The failure is—”

  “Not ours,” the matron mother interrupted sharply. “We left. We had accomplished all that we had set out to accomplish. Our time there was done, our gains left to the idiot orcs, whom we knew would lose them in short order. That is not our concern, and never was.”

  “Surely it is Matron Mother Zeerith’s concern, and the concern of her fledgling city,” said the archmage. “Tsabrak Xorlarrin’s channeling of Lady Lolth’s power was bested by a heretic rogue who is not even skilled in the Art. And her family and city has suffered greatly in this campaign. By my count, near to a hundred and twenty dark elves were killed in the Silver Marches War, and more than four out of five of those were drow of Q’Xorlarrin.”

  “She will request our help, of course,” Matron Mother Baenre said, as if that was a good thing.

  But Gromph wasn’t letting Quenthel off the hook that easily. “Your own position is compromised.”

  The matron mother sat up straight at that, her red eyes flaring dangerously yet again.

  “Lady Lolth will not blame you,” Gromph was quick to explain. “But the other matron mothers … you have tightened your noose around their necks. Tos’un Armgo is dead, his iblith daughter missing. Matron Mother Mez’Barris has lost her one fingerhold to the Eighth House of Menzoberranzan, and so she will view the reconstituted House Do’Urden with great suspicion and dismay.”

  “I will allow her to appoint another noble of Barrison Del’Armgo to serve in the hierarchy of House Do’Urden.”

  “She will refuse.”

  The matron mother clearly wanted to argue the point, and just as clearly had no valid argument with which to do so.

  “House Hunzrin hates House Xorlarrin,” Gromph reminded. “And more important, hates the concept of Q’Xorlarrin, a ci
ty that threatens their trade dominance. And House Melarn hates … well, everything. If those fanatical Melarni priestesses come to believe that Tsabrak Xorlarrin’s failure and House Xorlarrin’s losses indicate the displeasure of Lady Lolth, they will surely join in with House Hunzrin to …” He let his voice trail off and heaved a great sigh. “Well, will they perhaps, shall we say, conclude the experiment of a sister city so near the surface in no uncertain terms?”

  His coyness didn’t seem to impress his sister, but he didn’t want it to. He just wanted to anger Quenthel, to stick verbal pins into her, to force her hand.

  To force a mistake.

  “Do you think I am unaware of these threats, Archmage?” the matron mother said coolly, back in complete control. “Or do you believe me incapable of properly seeing to them? Your lack of confidence is both touching and insulting. Perhaps you would be wise to consider that dueling truth.”

  Gromph bowed again and bid farewell. He had almost reached the room’s exit when he glanced back over his shoulder and said, “And do not forget the loss of a dragon. Or that Tiamat’s disciples were defeated in their quest to return their dragon mother to the Prime Material Plane.”

  Matron Mother Baenre twitched, despite her resolve. The chromatic dragons—reds, blues, whites, greens, and blacks—had plotted to horde such a treasure that they would bring their goddess Tiamat and her grand castle back to the Prime Material Plane, to unleash unspeakable devastation across the lands.

  But they had failed, and in the attempt, Matron Mother Baenre’s own actions had brought about the downfall of a white dragon, Aurbangras, son of the great Arauthator—who had been chased back to his mountain home.

  Lady Lolth had apparently approved of the chromatic dragons and their plans for Tiamat. Through the matron mother, she had called for the enlistment of the white dragons, and had insisted that Arauthator and his son be given huge amounts of treasure in return for their services.

  And now that, too, had failed.

  Gromph nodded and did well to hide his satisfaction at Quenthel’s clear discomfort. He left her chamber then, but did not depart House Baenre, for there was another matter needing his full and urgent attention.

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