Hero 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 (27)

  (Book 1 of The Sundering)

  The Companions Codex

  Night of the Hunter (28)

  Rise of the King (29)

  Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf (30)


  Archmage (31)

  Maestro (32)

  Hero (33)


  Homecoming, Book III

  ©2016 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, Neverwinter, 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: 978-0-7869-6596-0

  ISBN: 978-0-7869-6605-9 (ebook)

  620B6777000001 EN

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

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  Title Page



  Part 1: As You Will

  Chapter 1: Foul Winds and Fronting Seas

  Chapter 2: Bloodstone Lands

  Chapter 3: Homecoming?

  Chapter 4: Morada Topolino

  Chapter 5: Sava Pieces

  Chapter 6: The Magnificent Heretic

  Chapter 7: A Pirate’s Life

  Chapter 8: Kimmuriel’s Sigh

  Part 2: The Bloodstone Lands

  Chapter 9: The Client

  Chapter 10: Queen Infecund VII

  Chapter 11: The Road to Helgabal

  Chapter 12: Tactical Surrender

  Chapter 13: Damaran Friends

  Chapter 14: Damava’s Fiend

  Chapter 15: Creation

  Chapter 16: Fire and Water

  Chapter 17: A New Outlook

  Chapter 18: Broken Bone, Broken Mind

  Part 3: The Unlikeliest Hero

  Chapter 19: When He Met His Match

  Chapter 20: The Undisciplined

  Chapter 21: Revealed

  Chapter 22: Swallowing a Demon

  Chapter 23: The Riddle

  Chapter 24: The Heretic

  Chapter 25: Overmatched

  Chapter 26: Courage

  Chapter 27: God and Life

  Chapter 28: The Snow Is Deep, the Woods Silent



  MOSTLY HUMAN BANDITS, TO BE HONEST,” REGIS TOLD WULFGAR. The two were relaxing in the back of a wagon as it rolled southeast from Daggerford down the Trade Way that late spring day of the Year of the Nether Mountain Scrolls, or 1486 by Dalereckoning. “You would expect more monsters to prowl the area, what with the land being so sparse of true settlements, but the trouble was mostly the making of humans.” The halfling ended with a sigh.

  Beside him, Wulfgar nodded and glanced out over his arm, which was thrown up and around the wooden rail of the wagon, at the rolling hills to the north of the road. Somewhere up there, his friends were on the march at the head of a vast dwarven army, likely heading east to the Sword Coast before they began their southern turn to the ancient dwarven homeland of Gauntlgrym.

  Wulfgar knew Bruenor would get the place back. With Drizzt and Catti-brie at his side, the determined dwarf would not be denied. Surely they would encounter great dangers, and just as surely they would find their way through, even without him.

  That thought hung with him, for what surprised Wulfgar most in thinking about the coming trials his friends would face was his own lack of guilt in not being there beside them.

  There was so much more of the world that he wanted to see!

  He hadn’t returned to life again simply to replay the events of his first existence. And in that spirit, he had come south from Mithral Hall to Silverymoon, and then to Waterdeep where they had spent the cold winter, with Regis and the strange monk Afafrenfere. They rode along the Trade Way bound for the port city of Suzail on the westernmost expanse of the Sea of Fallen Stars, where they would sign on with a ship to Aglarond, to the city of Delthuntle, where Regis’s beloved Donnola Topolino headed the formidable rogue’s house of the same name.

  “Plenty o’ monsters about, don’t ye doubt,” the grizzled old driver called back. “Were it just human folk, I’d’ve not paid ye so well for yer guarding!”

  “Paid?” Wulfgar quietly echoed with a laugh, for their pay was a ride, nothing more.

  “Yes, but I find human bandits the most troubling along the road, don’t you?” Regis answered the man. “At least between Daggerford and the Boareskyr Bridge.”

  The driver looked back, his face twisted in cynical skepticism. He was sorely in need of a shave, Wulfgar noted, with gray stubble sticking straight out of the many warts on his face. Wulfgar got the impression that the man hadn’t cut the scraggly beard that length, or that he hadn’t cut any of his hair in a long, long while. But still, the longest hairs on his wide, round face were those sticking down from his huge nostrils.

  “Bah! Are ye the herald o’ the Trade Way now?” the driver said to the well-coifed and rather foppish looking halfling. For indeed, Regis was the height of fashion, with his grand blue beret; black, stiff-collared traveling cloak; fine clothes; and the brilliant cage of the fine rapier showing in front of his left hip.

  “I rode with the Ponies,” Regis responded, no small amount of pride in his voice.

  Wulfgar almost expected his diminutive friend to twirl his mustache.

  “The Poni
es?” the driver replied, and there was no missing the change in the timbre of the man’s voice, which dropped low as he turned a bit farther around to study Regis. Had he scrutinized Regis more carefully back in Daggerford, the man would probably have guessed that truth about the cultured halfling before it was announced. With his neatly trimmed goatee, his long and curly brown locks, and splendid garments, it was obvious that Regis was an adventurer of some importance and accomplishment. And the three-bladed dagger on his right hip, the fabulous rapier on his left, and the hand crossbow slung across his chest just under the folds of his fancy cloak were worn in a way that bespoke experience and not mere ornamentation.

  Wulfgar carefully watched the driver, then turned back to Regis as the two locked their measuring stares.

  “Yes, the Grinning Ponies,” Regis said. “Perhaps you have heard of them.”

  The driver swung back around—quite rudely, Wulfgar thought. “Aye, they’re about,” he said without looking back again. “A lot more in their tales than in truth, but them little ones’re about.” And under his breath so that Wulfgar could barely hear, the driver added, “Causing more trouble than they be fixing, to be sure.”

  Wulfgar arched an eyebrow as he glanced at Regis, who motioned for him to hold silent.

  “Aye,” Regis replied to the driver. “They called themselves grinning, but I always secretly put the word ‘giggling’ first in the title. The Giggling Ponies! Fancy enough riders, but not much for the fight. ’Twas why I left them. They so dearly wanted to be counted as heroes, but never earning the title, and oh, how gleefully did they cut down men whenever they found the easy kill!”

  The driver grumbled something inaudible.

  Regis tossed a wink at Wulfgar. “Men not deserving the blade,” the halfling went on, dramatically. “Men just wanting to make a bit o’ bread for their families, was all.”

  Wulfgar scrunched up his face at the curious words, for never before had Regis spoken of the Grinning Ponies with anything less than grand praise. But the big man stared even more curiously at the accent his halfling friend had suddenly affected, one more common to the peasants of the region and one he had never heard from Regis before.

  “Bandit,” Regis silently mouthed to Wulfgar, subtly pointing to the driver, their current employer.

  “Aye, them lords and ladies steal, but it’s all legal, and just the sword for a man takin’ what he’s needing just to fill his own belly and them o’ his family,” said the driver.

  “Taking by the sword, and so the sword returns,” Wulfgar said.

  “Bah!” the driver snorted. “Well, by the sword and by the hammer if them bandits come for men then what? Ye just remember who’s payin’ ye!”

  Neither of the companions thought that the driver had said any of that with conviction or with any fear at all that they might soon be accosted.

  The halfling and the barbarian exchanged knowing nods. They had been hired by a bandit who was taking them, no doubt, into a hornet’s nest of thieves. And likely soon, they each realized. They were moving out well beyond the patrolled lands around Daggerford.

  Wulfgar pointed to the trail in their wake, and Regis nodded.

  “How long are we for the road this day?” the halfling asked.

  “To the sunset. I’m lookin’ for the Boareskyr Bridge in a tenday, no more, and that’s twenty-and-five or more miles a day.”

  Regis looked at Wulfgar and shook his head, confident that they weren’t getting anywhere near the Boareskyr Bridge with this particular driver leading them.

  “Then we’ll be long into the night with our watches, and so I’ll find me some sleep now,” Regis announced. He began shuffling boxes about and from his magical pouch produced a heavy blanket.

  “Aye, road’s clear enough,” said the driver, without even glancing back. “Ye both might be taking a good afternoon nap.”

  “Afafrenfere?” Regis mouthed.

  Wulfgar shrugged. The monk had remained behind in Daggerford, following a lead regarding a missing companion named Effron, but had promised to catch up with them on the road. They could use him now. That one could fight well, and a battle was likely very near.

  At the same time Wulfgar slid a bag of apples under the blanket, which was suspended between two crates, Regis slipped off the back of the wagon, disappearing into the tall grass so quickly that Wulfgar couldn’t even follow the halfling’s movements beyond the first few hunched steps.

  A few moments later, Wulfgar gave a great, feigned yawn, and rested back, conveniently obscuring most of the halfling’s bedroll from the driver.

  “Aye, but you scream loudly at any sign of trouble,” he said to the driver. “My little friend here is known for his great snoring.”

  “The littlest ones always are!” the man said with a laugh, and soon after, tellingly, he began to whistle.

  And Wulfgar began to snore.

  The barbarian knew that Regis’s guess was correct very soon after, when the wagon slowed and lurched a bit as it went off the side of the trail. Wulfgar opened his eyes just enough to see that they were moving into a copse of trees.

  He heard the footsteps of approaching men, heard the driver suddenly scrambling down from his bench.

  Up popped Wulfgar to find himself surrounded by a trio of bandits centered by a man with a fine-looking sword. A woman stood to his right, holding a sturdy spear, and to his left was a second man with an axe so heavy Wulfgar was amazed the flabby-armed, round-bellied fellow could hold it up and remain standing. The driver was just off to the side of the cart, huddled on the ground. An archer stared down at Wulfgar from above, and he noted a second, bow drawn, behind a wall of planks covered in leaves and set between two oaks.

  “Here now, big fellow,” said the swordsman, a tall, slender man with long, curly blond locks. “No need to be getting excited here. You’re caught, as you know, and so there’s no need for us to spill your blood all over the ground.”

  “Might be fun, though,” said the woman standing beside him, and she leveled her spear Wulfgar’s way.

  “Caught?” Wulfgar asked, as if he had no idea what any of this could mean. He turned his head to the right, glancing over the side of the wagon. “Driver?”

  The man whimpered.

  “You just keep yourself curled and face down, or you’ll feel the bite of my blade!” the swordsman, apparently the leader, ordered.

  Wulfgar knew better.

  “Your pouch,” the swordsman demanded, holding out his free hand.

  “You would take my last copper?” Wulfgar asked.

  “Aye, and that pretty hammer, too,” said the axe-wielder, as dirty a human as Wulfgar had ever seen. He wasn’t as tall as the swordsman, though quite a bit heavier, and as he motioned for Aegis-fang with his bulky axe, Wulfgar was struck by the clumsiness of the movement. Of the three in front of him, only the swordsman seemed to handle his weapon with any aplomb.

  And the archer above him, he noted, was leaning so heavily and so forward against a branch that he’d never be able to properly adjust his shot quickly to either side.

  Wulfgar reached to his belt, broke the tie on his small pouch, and tossed it to the swordsman.

  “And the warhammer,” the swordsman demanded.

  Wulfgar looked at Aegis-fang. “My father made this for me,” he answered.

  The man with the axe giggled and spat.

  “Then perhaps he will make you another,” said the swordsman. “We are not murderers, after all.”

  “Unless we have to be,” said the woman, and she rolled her spear over in her fingers.

  Wulfgar put on an expression of regret and looked down at Aegis-fang yet again.

  “Now!” the swordsman yelled, trying to startle him, trying to get him to hand it over before he could even consider anything else. And so Wulfgar complied, tossing Aegis-fang to the ground at the man’s feet.

  The ruffian with the axe was fast to it, and he dropped his own weapon happily as he picked up the magnificently b
alanced Aegis-fang.

  “Good choice,” said the swordsman.

  Wulfgar shrugged.

  “Aye, but we have to kill him anyway, eh?” said the woman.

  “Nay, just tie him and leave him,” the swordsman replied.

  The ruffian with Aegis-fang had moved off a step to the side, near to the driver, to put his new weapon through some practice swings. Wulfgar noted that the driver kept peeking up at the bandit, apparently trying to get his attention. He whispered something along the lines of “… his little friend.”

  “And your fine hat, please,” the swordsman asked politely.

  Wulfgar turned to his left, where Regis’s splendid blue beret lay at the top of the blanket suspended between the crates.

  “It’s not my hat.”

  “Then whose …?” the swordsman started to ask, but the man with Aegis-fang cried out, “Eh, take care! He’s got a little rat friend hidin’ under there!”

  The spear-wielder’s eyes widened with alarm and she reflexively thrust forward the spear.

  “No!” the swordsman cried, but too late.

  An arrow dropped harmlessly to the ground beside her, and as Wulfgar dodged the thrust and grasped the spear just blow the tip, he managed to glance up into the tree to see the archer fully slumped over the branch, one arm and one leg on either side.

  Silently thanking Regis, Wulfgar grabbed the spear shaft with his second hand and shoved it back at the woman, driving it past her right side. Then, with frightening strength, he casually flicked it—and her—into the air. She tumbled into the swordsman and knocked him aside.

  Wulfgar rolled into a back somersault, his hands planting and pushing off to throw him up to his feet, and over the right side of the wagon he went, landing next to the huddled driver, who looked up.

  Wulfgar kicked him in the face, sending him sprawling in the dirt.

  But on came the bandit wielding Aegis-fang.

  “What have you done?” the swordsman cried as he extracted himself from his female companion. Both turned to help their friend, but a voice from behind stopped them before they took their first steps.

  “Nothing wise.”

  The two leaped about, trying to bring their weapons to a defensive posture. Regis sent in his rapier, prodding the woman in her leading hand, going right through her palm as she tried to swing her spear across her chest. She yelped, lost her grip with that hand, and fell back defensively, her spear angled to the ground.

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