Homeland: Dungeons & Dragons

Book 1 of The Dark Elf Trilogy

About the Book

Discover the origin story of one of Dungeons & Dragons’ greatest heroes, drow ranger Drizzt Do’Urden, in the thrilling first adventure in The Dark Elf Trilogy.

As the third son of Mother Malice and weaponmaster Zaknafein, Drizzt Do’Urden must be sacrificed to Lolth, the evil Spider Queen, per the tradition of their matriarchal drow society. But the unexpected death of his older brother spares young Drizzt—though he is still at the mercy of his abusive sisters.

As Drizzt grows older and proves himself to be a formidable warrior at Melee-Magthere Academy, he realizes that his idea of good and evil does not match that of his fellow drow, who show only cruelty to the other creatures of the Underdark. Can Drizzt stay true to himself in a such an unforgiving, unprincipled world?
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Homeland: Dungeons & Dragons



To a surface dweller, he might have passed undetected only a foot away. The padded footfalls of his lizard mount were too light to be heard, and the pliable and perfectly crafted mesh armor that both rider and mount wore bent and creased with their movements as well as if the suits had grown over their skin.

Dinin’s lizard trotted along in an easy but swift gait, floating over the broken floor, up the walls, and even across the long tunnel’s ceiling. Subterranean lizards, with their sticky and soft three-toed feet, were preferred mounts for just this ability to scale stone as easily as a spider. Crossing hard ground left no damning tracks in the lighted surface world, but nearly all of the creatures of the Underdark possessed infravision, the ability to see in the infrared spectrum. Footfalls left heat residue that could easily be tracked if they followed a predictable course along a corridor’s floor.

Dinin clamped tight to his saddle as the lizard plodded along a stretch of the ceiling, then sprang out in a twisting descent to a point farther along the wall. Dinin did not want to be tracked.

He had no light to guide him, but he needed none. He was a dark elf, a drow, an ebon-­skinned cousin of those sylvan folk who danced under the stars on the world’s surface. To Dinin’s superior eyes, which translated subtle variations of heat into vivid and colorful images, the Underdark was far from a lightless place. Colors all across the spectrum swirled before him in the stone of the walls and the floor, heated by some distant fissure or hot stream. The heat of living things was the most distinctive, letting the dark elf view his enemies in details as intricate as any surface-dweller would find in brilliant daylight.

Normally Dinin would not have left the city alone; the world of the Underdark was too dangerous for solo treks, even for a drow elf. This day was different, though. Dinin had to be certain that no unfriendly drow eyes marked his passage.

A soft blue magical glow beyond a sculpted archway told the drow that he neared the city’s entrance, and he slowed the lizard’s pace accordingly. Few used this narrow tunnel, which opened into Tier Breche, the northern section of Menzoberranzan devoted to the Academy, and none but the mistresses and masters, the instructors of the Academy, could pass through here without attracting suspicion.

Dinin was always nervous when he came to this point. Of the hundred tunnels that opened off the main cavern of Menzoberranzan, this one was the best guarded. Beyond the archway, twin statues of gigantic spiders sat in quiet defense. If an enemy crossed through, the spiders would animate and attack, and alarms would be sounded throughout the Academy.

Dinin dismounted, leaving his lizard clinging comfortably to a wall at his chest level. He reached under the collar of his piwafwi, his magical, shielding cloak, and took out his neck-­purse. From this Dinin produced the insignia of House Do’Urden, a spider wielding various weapons in each of its eight legs and emblazoned with the letters “DN,” for Daermon N’a’shezbaernon, the ancient and formal name of House Do’Urden.

“You will await my return,” Dinin whispered to the lizard as he waved the insignia before it. As with all the drow houses, the insignia of House Do’Urden held several magical dweomers, one of which gave family members absolute control over the house pets. The lizard would obey unfailingly, holding its position as though it were rooted to the stone, even if a scurry rat, its favorite morsel, napped a few feet from its maw.

Dinin took a deep breath and gingerly stepped to the archway. He could see the spiders leering down at him from their fifteen-­foot height. He was a drow of the city, not an enemy, and could pass through any other tunnel unconcerned, but the Academy was an unpredictable place; Dinin had heard that the spiders often refused entry—­viciously—­even to uninvited drow.

He could not be delayed by fears and possibilities, Dinin reminded himself. His business was of the utmost importance to his family’s battle plans. Looking straight ahead, away from the towering spiders, he strode between them and onto the floor of Tier Breche.

He moved to the side and paused, first to be certain that no one lurked nearby, and to admire the sweeping view of Menzoberranzan. No one, drow or otherwise, had ever looked out from this spot without a sense of wonder at the drow city. Tier Breche was the highest point on the floor of the two-­mile cavern, affording a panoramic view to the rest of Menzoberranzan. The cubby of the Academy was narrow, holding only the three structures that comprised the drow school: Arach-Tinilith, the spider-­shaped school of Lolth; Sorcere, the gracefully curving, many-­spired tower of wizardry; and Melee-­Magthere, the somewhat plain pyramidal structure where male fighters learned their trade.

Beyond Tier Breche, through the ornate stalagmite columns that marked the entrance to the Academy, the cavern dropped away quickly and spread wide, going far beyond Dinin’s line of vision to either side and farther back than his keen eyes could possibly see. The colors of Menzoberranzan were threefold to the sensitive eyes of the drow. Heat patterns from various fissures and hot springs swirled about the entire cavern. Purple and red, bright yellow and subtle blue, crossed and merged, climbed the walls and stalagmite mounds, or ran off singularly in cutting lines against the backdrop of dim gray stone. More confined than these generalized and natural gradations of color in the infrared spectrum were the regions of intense magic, like the spiders Dinin had walked between, virtually glowing with energy. Finally there were the actual lights of the city, faerie fire and highlighted sculptures on the houses. The drow were proud of the beauty of their designs, and especially ornate columns or perfectly crafted gargoyles were almost always limned in permanent magical lights.

Even from this distance Dinin could make out House Baenre, First House of Menzoberranzan. It encompassed twenty stalagmite pillars and half again that number of gigantic stalactites. House Baenre had existed for five thousand years, since the founding of Menzoberranzan, and in that time the work to perfect the house’s art had never ceased. Practically every inch of the immense structure glowed in faerie fire, blue at the outlying towers and brilliant purple at the huge central dome.

The sharp light of candles, foreign to the Underdark, glared through some of the windows of the distant houses. Only clerics or wizards would light the fires, Dinin knew, as necessary pains in their world of scrolls and parchments.

This was Menzoberranzan, the city of drow. Twenty thousand dark elves lived there, twenty thousand soldiers in the army of evil.

A wicked smile spread across Dinin’s thin lips when he thought of some of those soldiers who would fall this night.

Dinin studied Narbondel, the huge central pillar that served as the timeclock of Menzoberranzan. Narbondel was the only way the drow had to mark the passage of time in a world that otherwise knew no days and no seasons. At the end of each day, the city’s appointed Archmage cast his magical fires into the base of the stone pillar. There the spell lingered throughout the cycle—­a full day on the surface—­and gradually spread its warmth up the structure of Narbondel until the whole of it glowed red in the infrared spectrum. The pillar was fully dark now, cooled since the dweomer’s fires had expired. The wizard was even now at the base, Dinin reasoned, ready to begin the cycle anew.

It was midnight, the appointed hour.

Dinin moved away from the spiders and the tunnel exit and crept along the side of Tier Breche, seeking the “shadows” of heat patterns in the wall, which would effectively hide the distinct outline of his own body temperature. He came at last to Sorcere, the school of wizardry, and slipped into the narrow alley between the tower’s curving base and Tier Breche’s outer wall.

“Student or master?” came the expected whisper.

“Only a master may walk out-­of-­house in Tier Breche in the black death of Narbondel,” Dinin responded.

A heavily robed figure moved around the arc of the structure to stand before Dinin. The stranger remained in the customary posture of a master of the drow Academy, his arms out before him and bent at the elbows, his hands tight together, one on top of the other in front of his chest.

That pose was the only thing about this one that seemed normal to Dinin. “Greetings, Faceless One,” he signaled in the silent hand code of the drow, a language as detailed as the spoken word. The quiver of Dinin’s hands belied his calm face, though, for the sight of this wizard put him as far on the edge of his nerves as he had ever been.

“Secondboy Do’Urden,” the wizard replied in the gestured code. “Have you my payment?”

“You will be compensated,” Dinin signaled pointedly, regaining his composure in the first swelling bubbles of his temper. “Do you dare to doubt the promise of Malice Do’Urden, Matron Mother of Daermon N’a’shezbaernon, Tenth House of Menzoberranzan?”

The Legend of Drizzt Series

The Legacy: Dungeons & Dragons
Starless Night: Dungeons & Dragons
Siege of Darkness: Dungeons & Dragons
Passage to Dawn: Dungeons & Dragons
The Crystal Shard: Dungeons & Dragons
Streams of Silver: Dungeons & Dragons
The Halfling's Gem: Dungeons & Dragons
Homeland: Dungeons & Dragons
Exile: Dungeons & Dragons
Sojourn: Dungeons & Dragons
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About the Author

R.A. Salvatore
R. A. Salvatore is a fantasy author best known for The DemonWars Saga, his Forgotten Realms novels, and Vector Prime, the first novel in the Star Wars: The New Jedi Order series. He has sold more than fifteen million copies of his books in the United States alone, and more than twenty of his titles have been New York Times bestsellers. R. A. Salvatore lives with his wife, Diane, in his native state of Massachusetts. More by R.A. Salvatore
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