The Legacy by R. A. Salvatore

  The Legacy

  ( The Legacy of the Drow - 1 )

  Robert Salvatore

  Robert Salvatore

  The Legacy

  (The Legacy of the Drow - 01)


  The rogue Dinin made his way carefully through the dark avenues of Menzoberranzan, the city of drow. A renegade, with no family to call his own for nearly twenty years, the seasoned fighter knew well the perils of the city, and knew how to avoid them. He passed an abandoned compound along the two mile-long cavern's western wall and could not help but pause and stare. Twin stalagmite mounds supported a blasted fence around the whole of the place, and two sets of broken doors, one on the ground and one beyond a balcony twenty feet up the wall, hung open awkwardly on twisted and scorched hinges. How many times had Dinin levitated up to that balcony, entering the private quarters of the nobles of his house, House Do'Urden?

  House Do'Urden. It was forbidden even to speak the name in the drow city. Once, Dinin's family had been the eighth-ranked among the sixty or so drow families in Menzoberranzan; his mother had sat on the ruling council; and he, Dinin, had been a Master at Melee-Magthere, the School of Fighters, at the famed drow Academy.

  Standing before the compound, it seemed to Dinin as if the place were a thousand years removed from that time of glory. His family was no more, his house lay in ruins, and Dinin had been forced to take up with Bregan D'aerthe, an infamous mercenary band, simply to survive.

  "Once," the rogue drow mouthed quietly. He shook his slender shoulders and pulled his concealing piwafwi cloak around him, remembering how vulnerable a houseless drow could be. A quick glance toward the center of the cavern, toward the pillar that was Narbondel, showed him that the hour was late. At the break of each day, the Arch-mage of Menzoberranzan went out to Narbondel and infused the pillar with a magical, lingering heat that would work its way up, then back down. To sensitive drow eyes, which could look into the infrared spectrum, the level of heat in the pillar acted as a gigantic glowing clock.

  Now Narbondel was almost cool; another day neared its end.

  Dinin had to go more than halfway across the city, to a secret cave within the Clawrift, a great chasm running out from Menzoberranzan's northwestern wall. There Jarlaxle, the leader of Bregan D'aerthe, waited in one of his many hideouts.

  The drow fighter cut across the center of the city, passed right by Narbondel, and beside more than a hundred hollowed stalagmites, comprising a dozen separate family compounds, their fabulous sculptures and gargoyles glowing in multicolored faerie fire. Drow soldiers, walking posts along house walls or along the bridges connecting

  multitudes of leering stalactites, paused and regarded the lone stranger carefully, hand crossbows or poisoned javelins held ready until Dinin was far beyond them.

  That was the way in Menzoberranzan: always alert, always distrustful.

  Dinin gave one careful look around when he reached the edge of the Clawrift, then slipped over the side and used his innate powers of levitation to slowly descend into the chasm. More than a hundred feet down, he again looked into the bolts of readied hand crossbows, but these were withdrawn as soon as the mercenary guardsmen recognized Dinin as one of their own.

  Jarlaxle has been waiting for you, one of the guards signaled in the intricate silent hand code of the dark elves.

  Dinin didn't bother to respond. He owed commoner soldiers no explanations. He pushed past the guardsmen rudely, making his way down a short tunnel that soon branched into a virtual maze of corridors and rooms. Several turns later, the dark elf stopped before a shimmering door, thin and almost translucent. He put his hand against its surface, letting his body heat make an impression that heat-sensing eyes on the other side would understand as a knock.

  "At last," he heard a moment later, in Jarlaxle's voice. "Do come in, Dinin, my Khal'abbil. You have kept me waiting far too long."

  Dinin paused a moment to get a bearing on the unpredictable mercenary's inflections and words. Jarlaxle had called him Khal'abbil, "my trusted friend," his nickname for Dinin since the raid that had destroyed House Do'Urden (a raid in which Jarlaxle had played a prominent role), and there was no obvious sarcasm in the mercenary's tone. There seemed to be nothing wrong at all. But, why, then, had Jarlaxle recalled him from his critical scouting mission to House Vandree, the Seventeenth House of Menzoberranzan? Dinin wondered. It had taken Dinin nearly a year to gain the trust of the imperiled Vandree house guard, a position, no doubt, that would be severely jeopardized by his unexplained absence from the house compound.

  There was only one way to find out, the rogue soldier decided. He held his breath and forced his way into the opaque barrier. It seemed as if he were passing through a wall of thick water, though he did not get wet, and, after several long steps across the flowing extraplanar border of two planes of existence, he forced his way through the seemingly inch-thick magical door and entered Jarlaxle's small room.

  The room was alight in a comfortable red glow, allowing Dinin to shift his eyes from the infrared to the normal light spectrum. He blinked as the transformation completed, then blinked again, as always, when he looked at Jarlaxle.

  The mercenary leader sat behind a stone desk in an exotic cushioned chair, supported by a single stem with a swivel so that it could rock back at a considerable angle. Comfortably perched, as always, Jarlaxle had the chair leaning way back, his slender hands clasped behind his clean-shaven head (so unusual for a drow!).

  Just for amusement, it seemed, Jarlaxle lifted one foot onto the table, his high black boot hitting the stone with a resounding thump, then lifted the other, striking the stone just as hard, but this boot making not a whisper.

  The mercenary wore his ruby-red eye patch over his right eye this day, Dinin noted.

  To the side of the desk stood a trembling little humanoid creature, barely half Dinin's five-and-a-half-foot height, including the small white horns protruding from the top of its sloping brow.

  "One of House Oblodra's kobolds," Jarlaxle explained casually. "It seems the pitiful thing found its way in, but cannot so easily find its way back out."

  The reasoning seemed sound to Dinin. House Oblodra, the Third House of Menzoberranzan, occupied a tight compound at the end of the Clawrift and was rumored to keep thousands of kobolds for torturous pleasure, or to serve as house fodder in the event of a war.

  "Do you wish to leave?" Jarlaxle asked the creature in a guttural, simplistic language.

  The kobold nodded eagerly, stupidly.

  Jarlaxle indicated the opaque door, and the creature darted for it. It had not the strength to penetrate the barrier, though, and it bounced back, nearly landing on Dinin's feet. Before it even bothered to get up, the kobold foolishly sneered in contempt at the mercenary leader.

  Jarlaxle's hand flicked several times, too quickly for Dinin to count. The drow fighter reflexively tensed, but knew better than to move, knew that Jarlaxle's aim was always perfect.

  When he looked down at the kobold, he saw five daggers sticking from its lifeless body, a perfect star formation on the scaly creature's little chest.

  Jarlaxle only shrugged at Dinin's confused stare. "I could not allow the beast to return to Oblodra," he reasoned, "not after it learned of our compound so near theirs."

  Dinin shared Jarlaxle's laugh. He started to retrieve the daggers, but Jarlaxle reminded him that there was no need.

  "They will return of their own accord," the mercenary explained, pulling at the edge of his bloused sleeve to reveal the magical sheath enveloping his wrist. "Do sit," he bade his friend, indicating an unremarkable stool at the side of the desk. "We have much to discuss."

  "Why did you recall me?" Dinin asked bluntly as he took his place beside the desk. "I had infiltrated Vandree fully."

p; "Ah, my Khal'abbil," Jarlaxle replied. "Always to the point. That is a quality I do so admire in you."

  "Uln'hyrr," Dinin retorted, the drow word for "liar."

  Vierna. Malice, Vierna's mother and Matron of House Do'Urden, had ultimately been undone by her failure to recapture and kill the traitorous Drizzt.

  Vierna did calm down, then she began a fit of mocking laughter that went on for many minutes.

  "You see why I summoned you?" Jarlaxle remarked to Dinin, taking no heed of the priestess.

  "You wish me to kill her before she can become a problem?" Dinin replied equally casually.

  Vierna's laughter halted; her wild-eyed gaze fell over her impertinent brother. «Wishyal» she cried, and a wave of magical energy hurled Dinin from his seat, sent him crashing into the stone wall.

  "Kneel!" Vierna commanded, and Dinin, when he regained his composure, fell to his knees, all the while looking blankly at Jarlaxle.

  The mercenary, too, could not hide his surprise. This last command was a simple spell, certainly not one that should have worked so easily on a seasoned fighter of Dinin's stature.

  "I am in Lloth's favor," Vierna, standing tall and straight, explained to both of them. "If you oppose me, then you are not, and with the power of Lloth's blessings for my spells and curses against you, you will find no defense."

  "The last we heard of Drizzt placed him on the surface," Jarlaxle said to Vierna, to deflect her rising anger. "By all reports, he remains there still."

  Vierna nodded, grinning weirdly all the while, her pearly white teeth contrasting dramatically with her shining ebony skin. "He does," she agreed, "but Lloth has shown me the way to him, the way to glory."

  Again, Jarlaxle and Dinin exchanged confused glances. By all their estimates, Vierna's claims-and Vierna herself-sounded insane.

  Part 1 The Inspiring Fear

  Nearly three decades have passed since I left my home-land, a small measure of time by the reckoning of a drow elf, but a period that seems a lifetime to me. All I desired, or believed that I desired, when I walked out of Menzoberranzan's dark cavern, was a true home, a place of friendship and peace where I might hang my scimitars above the mantle of a warm hearth and share stories with trusted companions.

  I have found all that now, beside Bruenor in the hallowed halls of his youth. Weprosper. We have peace. I wear my weapons only on my five-day journeys between Mithril Hall and Silvery-moon.

  Was I wrong?

  I do not doubt, nor do I ever lament, my decision to leave the vile world of Menzoberranzan, but I am beginning to believe now, in the (endless) quiet and peace, that my desires at that critical time were founded in the inevitable longing of inexperience. I had never known that calm existence I so badly wanted.

  I cannot deny that my life is better, a thousand times better, than anything I ever knew in the Underdark. And yet, I cannot remember the last time I felt the anxiety, the inspiring fear, of impending battle, the tingling that can come only when an enemy isnear or a challenge must be met.

  Oh, I do remember the specific instance-just a year ago, when Wulfgar, Guenhwyvar, and I worked the lower tunnels in the cleansing of Mithril Hall-but that feeling, that tingle of fear, has long since faded from memory.

  Are we then creatures of action? Do we say that we desire those accepted cliches ofcomfort when, in fact, it is the challenge and the adventure that truly give us life?

  I must admit, to myself at least, that I do not know.

  There is one point that I cannot dispute, though, one truth that will inevitably help me resolve these questions and which places me in a fortunate position, for now, beside Bruenor and his kin, beside Wulfgar and Catti-brie and Guenhwyvar, dear Guenhwyvar, my destiny is my own to choose.

  I am safer now than ever before in my sixty years of life. The prospects have never looked better for the future, for continued peace and continued security. And yet, I feel mortal. For the first time, I look to what has passed rather than to what is still to come. There is no other way to explain it. I feel that I am dying, that those stories I so desired to share with friends will soon grow stale, with nothing to replace them.

  But, I remind myself again, the choice is mine to make.

  — Drizzt Do'Urden

  Chapter 1 Spring Dawning

  Drizzt Do'Urden walked slowly along a trail in the jutting southernmost spur of the Spine of the World Mountains, the sky brightening around him. Far away to the south, across the plain to the Evermoors, he noticed the glow of the last lights of some distant city, Nesme probably, going down, replaced by the growing dawn. When Drizzt turned another bend in the mountain trail, he saw the small town of Settlestone, far below. The barbarians, Wulfgar's kin from faraway Icewind Dale, were just beginning their morning routines, trying to put the ruins back in order.

  Drizzt watched the figures, tiny from this distance, bustle about, and he remembered a time not so long ago when Wulfgar and his proud people roamed the frozen tundra of a land far to the north and west, on the other side of the great mountain range, a thousand miles away.

  Spring, the trading season, was fast approaching, and the hardy men and women of Settlestone, working as dealers for the dwarves of Mithril Hall, would soon know more wealth and comfort than they ever would have believed possible in their previous day-by-day existence. They had come to Wulfgar's call, fought valiantly beside the dwarves in the ancient halls, and would soon reap the rewards of their labor, leaving behind their desperate nomadic ways as they had left behind the endless, merciless wind of Icewind Dale.

  "How far we have all come," Drizzt remarked to the chill emptiness of the morning air, and he chuckled at the double-meaning of his words, considering that he had just returned from Silverymoon, a magnificent city far to the east, a place where the

  beleaguered drow ranger never before dared to believe that he would find acceptance. Indeed, when he had accompanied Bruenor and the others in their search for Mithril Hall, barely two years before, Drizzt had been turned away from Silverymoon's decorated gates.

  "Ye've done a hundred miles in a week alone," came an unexpected answer.

  Drizzt instinctively dropped his slender black hands to the hilts of his scimitars, but his mind caught up to his reflexes and he relaxed immediately, recognizing the melodic voice with more than a little of a Dwarvish accent. A moment later, Catti-brie, the adopted human daughter of Bruenor Battlehammer, came skipping around a rocky outcropping, her thick auburn mane dancing in the mountain wind and her deep blue eyes glittering like wet jewels in the fresh morning light.

  Drizzt could not hide his smile at the joyous spring in the young girl's steps, a vitality that the often vicious battles she had faced over the last few years could not diminish.

  Nor could Drizzt deny the wave of warmth that rushed over him whenever he saw Catti-brie, the young woman who knew him better than any. Catti-brie had understood Drizzt and accepted him for his heart, and not the color of his skin, since their first meeting in a rocky, wind-swept vale more than a decade before, when she was but half her present age.

  The dark elf waited a moment longer, expecting to see Wulfgar, soon to be Catti-brie's husband, follow her around the bluff.

  "You have come out a fair distance without an escort," Drizzt remarked when the barbarian did not appear.

  Catti-brie crossed her arms over her chest and leaned on one foot, tapping impatiently with the other. "And ye're beginning to sound more like me father than me friend," she replied. "I see no escort walking the trails beside Drizzt Do'Urden."

  "Well spoken," the drow ranger admitted, his tone respectful and not the least bit sarcastic. The young woman's scolding had pointedly reminded Drizzt that Catti-brie could take care of herself. She carried with her a short sword of dwarven make and wore fine armor under her furred cloak, as fine as the suit of chain mail that Bruenor had given to Drizzt! Taulmaril the Heartseeker, the magical bow of Anariel, rested easily over Catti-brie's shoulder. Drizzt had never seen a mightier weapon. And, e
ven beyond the powerful tools she carried, Catti-brie had been raised among the sturdy dwarves, by Bruenor himself, as tough as the mountain stone.

  "Is it often that ye watch the rising sun?" Catti-brie asked, noticing Drizzt s east-facing stance.

  Drizzt found a flat rock to sit upon and bade Catti-brie to join him. "I have watched the dawn since my first days on the surface," he explained, throwing his thick forest-green cloak back over his shoulders. "Though back then, it surely stung my eyes, a reminder of where I came from, I suppose. Now, though, to my relief, I find that I can tolerate the brightness."

  "And well that is," Catti-brie replied. She locked the draw's marvelous eyes with her intense gaze, forced him to look at her, at the same innocent smile he had seen those many years before on a windswept slope in Icewind Dale.

  The smile of his first female friend.

  "'Tis sure that ye belong under the sunlight, Drizzt Do'Urden," Catti-brie continued, "as much as any person of any race, by me own measure."

  Drizzt looked back to the dawn and did not answer. Catti-brie went silent, too, and they sat together for a long while, watching the awakening world.

  "I came out to see ye," Catti-brie said suddenly. Drizzt regarded her curiously, not understanding.

  "Now, I mean," the young woman explained. "We'd word that ye'd returned to Settlestone, and that ye'd be coming back to Mithril Hall in a few days. I've been out here every day since."

  Drizzt's expression did not change. "You wish to talk with me privately?" he asked, to prompt a reply.

  Catti-brie's deliberate nod as she turned back to the eastern horizon revealed to Drizzt that something was wrong.

  "I'll not forgive ye if ye miss the wedding," Catti-brie said softly. She bit down on her bottom lip as she finished, Drizzt noted, and sniffled, though she tried hard to make it seem like the beginnings of a cold.

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