|“||With the last of his trusted companions having fallen, Drizzt is alone—and free—for the first time in almost a hundred years. Guilt mingles with relief, leaving Drizzt uniquely vulnerable to the persuasions of his newest companion—Dahlia, a darkly alluring elf and the only other member of their party to survive the cataclysm at Mount Hotenow. But traveling with Dahlia is challenging in more ways than one. As the two companions seek revenge on the one responsible for leveling Neverwinter—and nearly Luskan as well—Drizzt finds his usual moral certainty swept away by her unconventional views. Forced to see the dark deeds that the common man may be driven to by circumstance, Drizzt begins to find himself on the wrong side of the law in an effort to protect those the law has failed. Making new enemies, as his old enemies acquire deadly allies, Drizzt and Dahlia quickly find themselves embroiled in battle—a state he's coming to enjoy a little too much.||”|
In 1463 DR, the drow ranger Drizzt Do'Urden and the elf warrior Dahlia Sin'felle were in the wilderness of northwestern Faerûn after an adventure in the ancient dwarven homeland of Gauntlgrym. Dahlia explained to Drizzt that although the Dread Ring, a necromantic area of devastation, in Neverwinter Wood had been diminished as a result of their actions in Gauntlgrym, the Thayan sorceress Sylora Salm would make it her priority to complete the enchanted region by any means necessary. Therefore, the two friends planned to eventually journey to Neverwinter Wood and stop Sylora. Drizzt and Dahlia decided that they would first travel to the port city of Luskan to learn what they could. The pair traveled swiftly toward Luskan with the assistance of Drizzt’s magical unicorn, Andahar. Unlike Drizzt’s other magical companion, the panther Guenhwyvar, Andahar could be summoned at any time and could remain on the Prime Material Plane for as long as the drow needed him. But also unlike the panther, Andahar could be wounded, if not outright slain, and any injuries that he sustained would take as long to heal as those of a mortal creature. Since Andahar had more vulnerabilities than Guenhwyvar, Drizzt was much more cautious in his use of the unicorn.
The two companions soon encountered a merchant caravan that was being pursued by a group of bandits, and Drizzt immediately rushed to help, but Dahlia questioned his motives. While Drizzt instinctively assumed that the caravan was operated by honest merchants, Dahlia, who had an understanding of the world that was different and greater than the drow even though she was much younger, did not automatically come to that conclusion. Drizzt spoke with the merchants, who told him that they were representatives of the High Captains of Luskan, the corrupt rulers of the city. Drizzt had ill feelings toward the High Captains because nearly one hundred years earlier they had played a significant role in the death of the drow’s longtime friend, Deudermont, the captain of the Sea Sprite. While Drizzt quickly moved to engage the brigands, Dahlia mocked his idealistic belief that everything in the world was always simply right or wrong. After defeating the first few bandits, the couple learned that the brigands were starving farmers who had been driven off of their lands by the High Captains’ policies, and they intended to rob the caravan in order to feed themselves and their families. Drizzt and Dahlia shared a meal with the bandits, and the drow ranger began to question his ethics in the dark and chaotic times that had engulfed northwest Faerûn.
Meanwhile, Sylora stood with Jestry Rallevin, an Ashmadai zealot and the sorceress’s new lieutenant, in front of the significantly weakened Dread Ring. The lich Szass Tam, the supreme ruler of Thay, appeared in the Dread Ring and informed Sylora that he was displeased with her efforts and was prepared to destroy her for her failure. Before Szass Tam could kill Sylora and Jestry, the insane lich Valindra Shadowmantle arrived at the Dread Ring. Although deranged, Valindra had moments of clarity and cunning, which she used to convince Szass Tam to spare the pair’s lives. As a result, Szass Tam gave Sylora a magical wand that allowed her to channel the powers of the Dread Ring, and he commanded the sorceress to destroy the city of Neverwinter and use the carnage to complete the Dread Ring. Unbeknownst to her allies, Valindra was in possession of the disembodied spirit of the vampire Korvin Dor'crae, and she used his ghost as her own personal spy. When Valindra sensed an unusual entity on the southern outskirts of Neverwinter and decided to investigate, Sylora ordered a group of Ashmadai to accompany the lich on her mission. Sylora sent Jestry with the band to attend and watch over Valindra, and she tempted the Ashmadai warrior with the promise of making him her lover.
When he learned that Sylora’s plans had been thwarted in Gauntlgrym, the Shadovar tiefling Herzgo Alegni, the commander of the Netherese forces in Neverwinter Wood, reprimanded Barrabus the Gray, his chief assassin, for failing to carry out his orders to kill the Thayan sorceress. Barrabus explained that Sylora was too well guarded and suggested that if his magical dagger, an emerald-studded weapon that could steal an individual’s life force, was returned to him, he might be able to accomplish the task. Alegni ignored Barrabus’s request and sent the assassin to discover if the Ashmadai were preparing to assault Neverwinter. Although Barrabus had an intense hatred for Alegni, he was forced to serve the Netherese lord because his life force was tied to the tiefling’s magical sword, Charon’s Claw.
When Drizzt and Dahlia reached the outskirts of Luskan, they decided to take a detour to the farmlands so that the drow could learn of their condition. The two companions discovered that the farmlands were mostly abandoned, but they eventually found a decrepit farmhouse that was occupied by a woman named Meg and her five children. Drizzt was going to help the impoverished family by giving them money, but Dhalia stopped him from doing so because she knew that the charity would only bring unwanted attention onto the farmers. The couple left the farmhouse with more of Drizzt’s moral values being questioned.
Meanwhile, Sylora used the power of the wand that she had been given to magically construct a fortress, which she named Ashenglade, in Neverwinter Wood. When the stronghold was completed, Sylora prepared to continue her campaign against Neverwinter and the Netherese. Once Valindra and the group of Ashmadai reached their destination, the lich met the entity that she had been seeking, a mysterious woman named Arunika, who was actually a succubus and a representative of the Abolethic Sovereignty. Arunika informed Valindra that the Sovereignty would be willing to ally with the Thayans in their war against the Netherese, and she also promised that the aboleths would help the lich with her insanity. Around that time, Barrabus arrived in Neverwinter on behalf of the Shadovar and offered to help the people of the city defend themselves when the Ashamadai zealots attacked. The citizens of Neverwinter were at first skeptical, but Barrabus reminded them that the Netherese had protected the city before the primordial cataclysm in 1451 DR and that he himself had lived through the destruction by seeking cover underneath the settlement’s prominent bridge.
After their visit to the farmlands, Drizzt and Dahlia entered Luskan, but the elf woman chose not to magically disguise herself until after they passed through the city gates. Consequently, Dahlia was recognized as the individual who had killed the High Captain of Ship Renthor, one of the five factions of Luskan, over a decade earlier. Drizzt and Dahlia made their way to the apartment of their drow companion Jarlaxle Baenre in order to see if he and the dwarf warrior Athrogate had survived the adventure in Gauntlgrym. The pair could find no sign of their missing comrades and were soon attacked by pirates and thugs who served Ship Renthor, which sought revenge on Dahlia. Although Drizzt and Dahlia fought valiantly against the large number of enemies, defeat seemed a possibility until the arrival of a force from Ship Kurth, one of Luskan’s other factions, led by the skilled assassin Beniago. Drizzt noticed that Beniago seemed to possess the jewel-encrusted dagger of his old nemesis, the assassin Artemis Entreri, but he concluded that his mind was deceiving him and it had to be a different weapon.
Sylora continued to gather her Ashmadai and ashen zombie forces at Ashenglade when Hadencourt, a malebranche (also known as a war devil) in the service of Szass arrived at the newly constructed fortress. Sylora assigned Hadencourt the task of journeying north and destroying Dahlia before the elf warrior could interfere with the sorceress’s plans. Sylora then assembled a small contingent of her forces to attack Neverwinter. While Valindra led Sylora’s minions in assaulting the city, Sylora and Jestry visited Arunika, who promised them the assistance of the Abolethic Sovereignty. During the attack on Neverwinter, Barrabus fought alongside the city’s citizens and inflicted many casualties on the enemy force. At a predetermined time, Alegni led his Shadovar soldiers into the battle and easily defeated the horde of Ashmadai and zombies. However, instead of Alegni being regarded as the hero of Neverwinter, the people of the city cheered for Barrabus, who suggested that the prominent bridge be renamed after him. Following the victory over the Thayan forces, the Netherese began to reestablish their presence and power in Neverwinter.
After they were rescued, Drizzt and Dahlia were taken to the stronghold of Ship Kurth and offered an alliance with the faction, which they were forced to conditionally accept. Once the two returned to Jarlaxle’s apartment, the conversation they had ended with them becoming lovers. While Drizzt was asleep, Dahlia secretly left the apartment to steal a valuable diamond from the jeweler of Ship Kurth. However, when Dahlia infiltrated the jeweler’s shop, she was confronted by Beniago, who had been awaiting her arrival. Dahlia soon found herself in a desperate battle against Beniago, who wielded a magical life-stealing dagger, in a room that was rigged with floor traps that she did not know. Although defeat was inevitable after Dahlia was injured and poisoned by one of the traps, she continued to fight the assassin. Dahlia was saved by Drizzt, who forced Beniago to flee the jeweler’s shop, and the couple immediately made their escape from Luskan. When Dahlia then fell unconscious because of the poison, Drizzt took her to the farmhouse that the two had previously visited and begged Meg for help. The farmer woman told Drizzt that she would notify the local herb man, but that they would need a dose of the poison to create an antidote. Drizzt returned to Luskan and traded the antidote from Beniago for the promise that the drow warrior would support him in the future once the assassin had taken the title of High Captain of Ship Kurth. Drizzt returned to the farmhouse in time to save Dahlia, who had been very close to death.
Once Dahlia’s health was restored, she and Drizzt journeyed south toward Neverwinter Wood and encountered Hadencourt, who disguised himself and posed as a friend. Hadencourt soon revealed himself and attacked the two companions, and he summoned several legion devils and spined devils from the Nine Hells to assist him. Drizzt and Dahlia killed a few of the malebranche’s minions, but they were eventually forced to flee. The couple hoped that they had escaped from the devils, but the spirit of Dor'crae tracked them down and informed Hadencourt where they were. When battle was once again joined, Drizzt and Dahlia managed to kill the lesser devils serving Hadencourt, and the malebranche himself was impaled against a tree by Andahar, who had been summoned by the dark elf. As Hadencourt was dying, he promised to get revenge on Drizzt, who tauntingly told the war devil that he should join forces with Errtu, a balor who wanted vengeance on the drow ranger.
In Neverwinter Wood, Alegni was visited by his master, Draygo Quick, a Netherese warlock and lord. Draygo demanded that Alegni complete his conquest of the region and defeat the forces of Thay, and he also commanded his young apprentice, a misshapen tiefling warlock named Effron, to assist Alegni. Although Alegni and Effron openly despised each other, they had no choice but to work together. Meanwhile, Sylora and Valindra met with the Sovereignty ambassador in an underground cavern near Neverwinter. The aboleth helped with Valindra’s mental state, and an alliance of convenience was formed between the Thayans and the Sovereignty. Jestry was later brought to the aboleth ambassador and magically transformed with enchanted umber hulk skin. The process was lethal, it would kill Jestry within a year, but he was transformed into a mindless, feral slave whose sole purpose was to serve as Sylora’s champion against Dahlia.
Also at that time, Alegni was visited in Neverwinter by Arunika, who was called the Forest Sentinel by the citizens of the city. Alegni was not able to discern Arunika’s true nature, and he formed an alliance with the disguised succubus, who was manipulating both the Shadovar and the Thayans. Alegni later used Charon’s Claw to inflict severe pain on Barrabus as a punishment for the assassin having the bridge in Neverwinter renamed after himself. Barrabus detested being a slave to Charon’s Claw and Alegni, but he could not die even if he tried to kill himself because the magical sword would either stop him or return him to life. Barrabus had no hope for freedom except to kill Alegni or destroy Charon’s Claw, which he could not do as long as the Netherese warlord wielded the blade. Shortly afterward, the Thayans used a small force of umber hulks that served the Abolethic Sovereignty for a subterranean assault on Neverwinter. Barrabus’s attacks were largely ineffectual against the umber hulks, but Alegni slew two of the monstrous creatures single-handed, winning him the admiration of the city’s people. The umber hulks’ assault was ultimately repulsed, but the beasts had already killed many of the citizens of Neverwinter.
As Drizzt and Dahlia continued their journey toward Neverwinter Wood, the drow began to share his past and recount stories of his old companions. The couple was soon attacked by a group of Shadovar, and Dahlia exhibited a brutality that Drizzt had never seen in her before and did not understand. Dahlia’s actions reminded Drizzt that there was much that he did not know about her. Meanwhile, Barrabus and Effron were assigned to work together and hunt down Ashmadai in Neverwinter Wood. When the pair encountered a small band of Ashmadai led by Jestry, Barrabus took the majority of the risk and engaged Sylora’s champion while Effron used his magic to easily kill the other zealots. Barrabus was a more skilled fighter than Jestry, but the Thayan’s new armor proved to be more formidable than even the assassin’s own enchanted weapons, and he was forced to flee. After the battle, Alegni learned that Dahlia was making her way to Neverwinter Wood in the company of Drizzt. Effron then revealed to Alegni that he knew Dahlia’s real name: Dahlia Syn'dalay of the Snakebrook clan. This information enraged Alegni because he now knew that Dahlia was actually a young elf whom he had raped and impregnated years earlier, and who had thrown their child from a cliff soon after it was born. Hoping to use the situation to his advantage, Barrabus volunteered to journey out alone to kill Dahlia and Drizzt.
Barrabus knew of Drizzt’s prowess and believed that if he could get the drow warrior to fight Alegni, he could bring about the tiefling’s death. Barrabus devised a plan to capture Dahlia alive and force Drizzt to battle Alegni, but when the assassin ambushed the elf woman, he was immediately subdued by Drizzt. The drow ranger looked at Barrabus and was stunned to recognize the face of Entreri, whom he had thought long dead. Drizzt did not believe that Barrabus was actually Entreri, but he was soon convinced when the assassin revealed intimate knowledge about the dark elf that only he would have known. Drizzt proposed a truce among the three, suggesting that they work together to kill Sylora, but he and Dahlia were not certain that they could trust Entreri. The assassin then told Drizzt that he had grown bored with him long ago and no longer held a vendetta. To Dahlia, Entreri explained that his mission to assassinate or capture her was nothing personal, and that killing Sylora would achieve both of their goals. As a final act of trust, Entreri unexpectedly attacked Drizzt and held a knife to the drow’s throat, but then drew back the weapon without harming him, showing that the assassin had no intention of harming the ranger. Both Drizzt and Entreri were surprised at how pleased that they were to see each other alive, although it was for different reasons.
Once Drizzt, Dahlia, and Entreri journeyed to Ashenglade, they engaged the Ashmadai and zombie guards who served Sylora. The three formidable companions were assisted by Guenhwyvar and killed a large number of the sorceress’s minions as they fought their way through the fortress. After the trio reached Sylora’s tower at the center of Ashenglade, Drizzt used his magical bow Taulmaril to battle the sorceress from afar while Dahlia engaged Jestry in single combat. Even though Dahlia was a proficient warrior, she realized that she could not achieve victory over Jestry, but the mummified zealot was eventually defeated when Entreri joined the fight. Valindra still suffered from some mental instability and spent the majority of the battle watching from afar. After Dahlia and Entreri attacked Sylora directly, the sorceress recognized her imminent doom and used a magical cloak to flee the fortress, but Drizzt and his comrades pursued her to the edge of the Dread Ring. In her desperation, Sylora attempted to use more of the Dread Ring’s energy, but she realized that she had taken too much of the necromantic area’s power. Sylora quickly succumbed to the combined attacks of Drizzt, Dahlia, and Guenhwyvar.
In the aftermath of the battle, Entreri told Drizzt and Dahlia that he had to return to Neverwinter, as he was compelled to serve Alegni. After Dahlia learned that Alegni, her most hated foe, was the leader of the Shadovar in Neverwinter, she declared that she would have worked with Sylora had she known. Entreri was thrilled to discover this information and hoped to use Dahlia’s hatred of Alegni to coax the elf warrior and Drizzt into aiding him in acquiring his freedom from the Netherese lord. Dahlia had considered that her business in the region was finished because Sylora was dead, but once she learned about Alegni, she vowed to kill the tiefling.
Sylora’s life was preserved by the power of the Dread Ring, but before she could do anything, Jestry returned as an undead creature under the control of Valindra and brutally killed the sorceress on the lich’s orders. Meanwhile, Effron and Alegni contemplated Dahlia and shared a hatred of the elf woman even greater than their enmity for each other.
- Barrabus the Gray/Artemis Entreri, human shade
- Effron the Twisted, tiefling warlock
- Herzgo Alegni, tiefling leader of the Shadovar
- Jestry Rallevin, servant to Sylora Salm
- Sylora Salm, leader of the Ashmadai
- Valindra Shadowmantle, lich
- Andahar, unicorn
- Brother Anthus, a monk
- Arunika, succubus
- Ben the Brewer, an herbalist outside Luskan
- Beniago, assassin and second of Ship Kurth
- Boofie McLaddin, guard in Luskan
- Draygo Quick, Netherese lord
- Furey, historian of Ship Kurth
- Jelvus Grinch, guard in Neverwinter
- Klutarch, advisor to Ship Kurth
- Korvin Dor'crae, vampire
- High Captain Kurth
- Hadencourt, a malebranche
- Hartouchen Rethnor, a High Captain
- Meg, a farmer's wife
- Sovereignty Ambassador, an aboleth
- Stuyles, a farmer-turned-bandit
- Szass Tam, lich leader of Thay
- Therfus Handydoer, wizard and second of Ship Rethnor
- Argyle, Effron's mentor
- Borlann the Crow, former High Captain of Ship Rethnor
- Cadderly Bonaduce
The title of the novel was originally Neverwinter Wood.