Timeless

Centuries ago, in the city of Menzoberranzan, the City of Spiders, the city of drow, nestled deep in the unmerciful Underdark of Toril, a young weapon master earned a reputation far above his station or that of his poor house.

The greater nobles watched him, and one powerful Matron—Malice—decided to take him as her own. She connived with rival houses to secure her prize, but it was ultimately the roguish Jarlaxle who caught him. Thus sparked the birth of two key moments in Menzoberranzan: the coupling of a noble and weapon master that would produce Drizzt Do’Urden… and the friendship between Zaknafein and Jarlaxle.

Author R. A. Salvatore reveals the Underdark anew through the eyes of of this unlikely pair—offering a fresh take on the intrigue and opportunities to be found in the shadows, and providing a fascinating prelude to the journeys that have shaped the modern-day Forgotten Realms. There, a Zaknafein and Drizzt are joined together in a series of trials that parallel those of centuries long past, even though their paths no longer seem to be aligned. How will a father, so long constrained by the vicious and conservative world of the drow, be able to reconcile his ingrained prejudices with the world and companions of his enlightened son?

R. A. Salvatore returns with one of fantasy’s most beloved and enduring icons, the dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden, in an all-new trilogy full of swordplay, danger, and imaginative thrills. Timeless publishes September 4th with Harper Voyager.

 

 

Prologue

(Present time, The Year of Dwarvenkind Reborn, Dalereckoning 1488)

“My Lady Zhindia,” the summoned demon said, leaving a trail of bubbling sludge as she slid from the summoning pentagram of House Melarn, the Eighth House of the drow city of Menzoberranzan. The handmaiden Eskavidne was in her natural form now, a misshapen lump of sludge that looked somewhat like a half-burned candle, but with waving tendrils sticking out like leafless branches dancing in a gale. Every word the grotesque creature spoke bubbled with muddy plopping sounds.

So battered by recent events, Matron Zhindia Melarn could not hide her surprise and trepidation as a second handmaiden appeared within the summoning circle, this one in the form of a beautiful drow woman, scantily-dressed and grinning wickedly. They were always grinning wickedly, Zhindia knew. That was part of the reason she liked these yochlol demons.

“Yiccardaria?” Zhindia asked. “Why are you here?”

“You summoned,” the demon-in-drow disguise replied.

“I summoned Eskavidne,” Matron Zhindia insisted. “Why would you…”

“You have no doubt heard of Yiccardaria’s…misadventure,” Eskavidne answered for her sister yochlol. These were two of the Handmaidens of Lolth, the Demon Queen of Spiders, the goddess of the drow.

Zhindia nodded tentatively – she had heard some rumors of Yiccardaria being defeated on the surface world.

But if that was true, then how was she here? And why had two answered her summons for just one, Zhindia had to wonder–and worry. Particularly in light of her own misadventures, Matron Zhindia and her house had to be wary of…everything. They had lost standing, and Zhindia had become a bit of a mockery, something that simmered within the prideful woman’s entire body, leading her to fits of rage-filled trembling. She knew that she was holding onto a very slippery ledge here. The matrons of the highest-ranked eight houses—and only eight–sat on Menzoberranzan’s Ruling Council, and now, because of her own disastrous miscalculations and failure against the sinister working of the matron Mother of the city, her house had been demoted to the least of those ruling eight, with other ambitious houses right behind and looking for ways they might usurp her in this time of Melarni vulnerability. For all the matrons of Menzoberranzan’s dozens of houses, the goal was singular: to sit on the Ruling Council.

It was a position Matron Zhindia did not intend to relinquish.

And now there was not one, but two powerful demons standing before her in her summoning chambers, one of them unbidden, and she had to wonder if she would have a choice in maintaining her position.

“Pray tell, what have you heard, Matron Zhindia?” Yiccardaria asked.

As Yiccardaria spoke, Eskavidne waved her tentacles, black light of demonic magic flashing, and changed into drow form, sending Abyssal mud flying about the chamber.

Zhindia spun away, thinking she had been attacked, but then wiped the dots of mud from her face and regarded the mischievous yochlol, standing quite naked and unabashed with a hand on one hip.

“What is this about?” Zhindia dared demand.

“What have you heard of my sister’s troubles?” Eskavidne asked again.

“Yes, I am saddened that you did not summon me directly,” Yiccardaria said, moving to stand beside the other and draping her hand on Eskavidne’s wonderfully-delicate shoulder.

“I had heard that you were defeated and so banished to the Abyss for a century,” Zhindia replied.

Yiccardaria sighed, just a hint of that gurgling mud in her exhale.

Eskavidne giggled. “Defeated,” she said. “Pummeled. Pounded into a pile of excrement by the fists of a mere human.”

Yiccardaria sighed again and slapped her sister demon on the shoulder.

“No mere human,” Yiccardaria insisted. “A monk, the celebrated Grandmaster of Flowers of the Monastery of the Yellow Rose in a land called Damarra. Mere human? This man, Kane, has transcended the mortal coil that marked him once as human. He is now…”

“Oh, you know all about him…now,” Eskavidne teased.

“Because I intend to pay him back, with great care and patience.”

“This does not concern me,” Matron Zhindia declared, taking back control of the situation. She reminded herself repeatedly that the key to dealing with demons, even the very handmaidens of her goddess, was to maintain confidence. “Why are you here?”

“Does not concern you?” Yiccardaria replied with a huff. “The circumstances of Drizzt Do’Urden do not concern you?”

The flash in Matron Zhindia’s eyes betrayed her calm visage at the mere mention of the heretic drow, the same one who had led the attack on her house that had killed her daughter. Zhindia, too, had almost fallen to the blades of Drizzt, only to have been humbled, slapped and thrown about by one of Drizzt’s allies.

And this very same Yiccardaria had been there, in her room, when she had been humiliated. Watched…and did nothing.

“Why are you here?” Zhindia asked for the third time, her stare hateful and fixed on Yiccardaria as she recalled that terrible day.

“Because you summoned me,” Eskavidne explained. “The barrier between the Underdark and the Abyss has thinned, and so our Spider Queen determined that my sister could subvert the century of banishment, but only by first accompanying another handmaiden to this place.”

“In summoning Eskavidne, you freed me,” Yiccardaria added, and she bowed gracefully. “And thus, I am in your debt.”

“As you were in my debt when you allowed that abomination to beat me in my own chambers?” Zhindia said impulsively, before she could think better of it. She was referring, after all, to Yvonnel, a drow woman whom many believed to be the avatar of Lolth herself on the world of Toril.

“You are versed well enough in the ways of Lolth to understand my place in that moment,” was all that Yiccardaria bothered to reply. “I was merely observing, as the goddess wished, and protecting…you.”

“You stood by Yvonnel,” Zhindia insisted.

“I tempered her.”

“She…”

“Is none of your concern,” Eskavidne interjected, ending the argument.

Matron Zhindia licked her suddenly-dry lips. Who was this creature, Yvonnel Baenre, after all? She knew Yvonnel was the daughter of Gromph Baenre, the former Archmage of the Menzoberranzan, and a worthless fool named Minolin Fey, and there had been great fanfare and wild rumors that Lolth herself had gone to the pregnant Minolin and blessed the child.

Yet Zhindia didn’t believe a word of it, though she could not deny the unusualness of Yvonnel Baenre. Named after the greatest Matron Mother Menzoberranzan had ever known, this child – and she was just a child, barely more than a toddler – had somehow become a full adult woman, and with undeniable sophistication and magical powers.

Certainly, Zhindia’s curiosity had been piqued, no more so than her hatred for Yvonnel, but she didn’t dare press the issue at that time.

“I summoned you to speak with you about my daughter,” Zhindia told Eskavidne.

*****

“You are certain of this?” Matron Mother Quenthel Baenre asked for the third time.

Her brother Gromph didn’t bother to answer this time, and instead just huffed indignantly.

“Zaknafein Do’Urden, the father of Drizzt, has been stolen from the grave and returned to life,” Quenthel said, her gaze down, for she was speaking more to herself than to her brother, the former Archmage of Menzoberranzan. “If it was Lolth who freed Zaknafein Do’urden from death, then why? And if not Lolth, then who?” She looked up at Gromph and asked, “The false goddess Mielikki?”

Gromph could barely contain his chuckle at the way his sister had felt the need to include the word “false.” Mielikki was no less a deity than Lolth, of course, but these little bits of servile delusion always amused Gromph, who considered himself above all the squabbling about which god was bigger than which god.

“I have found no indication either way,” he replied finally. “Though of course, I really didn’t look very hard. In the end, it seems such a minor thing.”

“Yet you feltthe need to come to my throne room and inform me,” Quenthel replied, her lips turned into a snarl.

“You asked me about the goings-on on the surface. That is a going-on. Fourth in a list of four, you will note, behind the construction of the Hosttower, the empowered teleportation gates of the dwarven cities, and the progress of the halfling village and its connection to the dwarf fortress of Gauntlgrym. I would not have placed the news of Zaknafein’s return last if I thought it of great importance.”

“Yet of the four, that news is the one most important to Lolth,” the Matron Mother scolded. “That is the one offering us clues as to Lolth’s will, likely, and of what she will expect of us in this matter.”

Gromph shrugged as if it hardly mattered…because to him, it did not. On the surface, he was witnessing a god-like creation in the rebirth of the Hosttower of the Arcane, but it didn’t involve the Demon Queen of Spiders or any other deity. Using the fire primordial trapped in the pit of Gauntlgrym, Gromph and others were growing a living tower, a magical hollow stone tree of enormous dimensions and supernatural beauty which resonated with the eldritch powers of the beast that was as old as, and in many ways as formidable as, any god.

He would lead the research and study at that Hosttower of the Arcane, expanding his mind and his power. Once he had believed that being the Archmage of Menzoberranzan would be the pinnacle of his achievements, but now he had discovered greater horizons.

What did he care, really, for a mere swordsman named Zaknafein Do’Urden?

“It is good that Tsabrak Xorlarrin is Archmage of Menzoberranzan,” Quenthel was saying as all that went through his mind.

Apparently to sting him.

But Gromph silently agreed with that assessment. The less time he spent here, the better for him. In truth, he wouldn’t come here at all, except that he knew if he didn’t studiously report to Matron Mother Quenthel, she’d likely cause trouble for him and his growing Hosttower.

The grand doors of the Baenre throne room swung open then, and from the far side of the long and narrow chamber entered three drow women, all fabulously attired in garb revealing their high stations within the city.

“Well?” an impatient Quenthel demanded as the trio approached.

The middle of the group, who appeared very much like a taller version of the Matron Mother, snorted and shook her head. “Nothing,” she said. “There is no explanation for the return of Zaknafein Do’Urden to be spoken by the handmaidens or any other demon we have contacted. It simply is, with no hint of why that might be.”

Matron Mother Quenthel’s arched eyebrow showed the perceptive Gromph that she had not missed the slight in this woman’s–their sister Sos’Umptu’s–chortle, or the failure to properly address her by her title. Gromph thought it so very typical of the ever-arrogant Sos’Umptu never to show fealty to anyone who was not Lolth. He hated her the most of all his siblings.

“Or of who did it?” the Matron Mother asked.

“Or that,” Sos’Umptu replied. “The only emotion behind the answers I could garner from the many demons I interrogated was that of indifference. Even from the handmaidens, which means the yochlol were either instructed to not care, or in truth, they simply don’t.”

“So the resurrection of Zaknafein was not Lolth’s doing,” Quenthel mused.

“That is not what she said,” Gromph felt obliged, and quite pleased, to correct.

The Matron Mother snapped a threatening glare over him, but twitched and backed off her stern gaze as she more fully digested Sos’Umptu’s exact wording – and the implications of Gromph’s accurate response.

“The Spider Queen ever gives us puzzles to solve,” Quenthel said.

“Or perhaps it truly does not matter, Matron Mother,” said Matron Zeerith, the oldest of the trio, who sat on a comfortable pillow atop a magical floating disc. She fashioned a half bow while still sitting when Quenthel regarded her.

“We’ve other matters requiring our more immediate attention,” Zeerith explained. “The name of Drizzt will soon enough be forgotten, or will be appropriately sullied by those of us who have witnessed him siding with dwarves and elves against his own people. He is no hero to Menzoberranzan, despite the best efforts of that strange young creature you named Yvonnel.”

Quenthel fashioned a resigned look from Gromph to the third of the trio, Minolin Fey, as Zeerith finished. These were the parents of Yvonnel, though Quenthel (and most others, Gromph knew) couldn’t understand why a dullard like Minolin Fey had been granted so special a child. Gromph could only nod to his powerful sister in reply, for in truth, he couldn’t understand it, either. Minolin had been a plaything to him, nothing more. The idea that a being as extraordinary as Yvonnel had come from that play had him as flabbergasted as anyone else, though of course, he just used it as proof of his own superiority.

“Drizzt was a conduit to great power, that of the hive mind of the illithids, nothing more,” Matron Mother Quenthel finished, and in a tone that told all that she wanted the last word on this particularly troublesome subject. “A pity it did not consume him along with the other heretic, who stood beside him and channeled the illithid power.”

Gromph nodded, but wasn’t privately agreeing with the assessment. Zeerith Xorlarrin was known as a great friend to the males of Menzoberranzan, as she, and her house, were the most liberal of all with regard to the station of the drow men. But even she did not fully appreciate the power of the idea of Drizzt, or that his name was being whispered in the taverns of the Stenchstreets and along the outer walls of the houses, where drow males paced in servitude to the female hierarchy.

Or maybe she did know and understand, Gromph thought then, when Zeerith flashed him a little smirk, and perhaps her claims of Drizzt being soon enough forgotten were just for show to Quenthel and particularly to Sos’Umptu, that zealot Lolthian nightmare of a sister.

“To those other and more important matters, then,” said old Zeerith. “House Do’Urden will be formally renamed to House Xorlarrin at the next Council?”

“It will, Matron Zeerith Xorlarrin,” Matron Mother Quenthel agreed. “It is your house now, soldiered by your family, and so it should openly bear your name, a name that strikes fear in the hearts of our common enemies. And will you stay in the west wall, or go back to your former compound?”

“Both, if it pleases you.”

“Take the old compound as your home,” Quenthel decided, surprising all in attendance. “Keep House Do’Urden as yours for now, but it will make a fine reward to a house I choose to elevate.”

“And regarding elevation…” said Zeerith.

“Matron Byrtyn Fey will not challenge your ascent to a higher seat on the Ruling Council,” Minolin Fey interrupted, speaking for her mother.

That drew a scowl from Zeerith – Gromph didn’t miss that it was one mired in incredulity and disrespect. Minolin had spoken as if there was a choice in the option. If House Fey-Branche did refuse, wholly removing the nobles of that house would prove no big task for House Xorlarrin.

“And so I will lead the Fifth House of Menzoberranzan, where before we of Xorlarrin were third in line,” Zeerith said.

Before you stupidly tried to conquer Gauntlgrym and begin your own city, Gromph thought, but wasn’t quite arrogant enough to say aloud.

“You will ascend, I am sure,” said the Matron Mother. “But for now, I need the stability and the alliance of the two houses above you.”

“Yes, you have the strength and alliance of five of the top six ruling houses,” said Zeerith. “But I beg you to take care, for many others have turned to Matron Mez’Barris of the Second House.”

“The city is split,” the Matron Mother agreed.

“And ripe for civil war,” said Zeerith.

“It will not be,” Sos’Umptu interjected. “The many demons remain, and serve Lolth above all else. House Baenre remains strongly in the favor of Lolth.”

“There will be no unity,” warned Zeerith.

“I am possessed of the memories of the greatest Matron Mother Baenre, Yvonnel the Eternal,” Quenthel reminded coolly, and it was no act, Gromph noted. His sister was in control here, and feeling quite confident in her decisions.

“I remember the founding of this city,” Quenthel went on. “Keenly so. Never has there been unity, nor will there ever be. And yes, we need to be careful in our plotting here, but so too does Matron Mez’Barris. More so, I say, because those houses immediately behind her are not insignificant.”

“Including my own,” said Zeerith, and Quenthel nodded and smiled, and it seemed to Gromph almost an invitation for Zeerith to go to war.

Almost.

“Then you have heard of the call for the restoration of House Oblodra?” Zeerith remarked, somewhat offhandedly, but she had clearly saved the biggest revelation for last, and this one did make Quenthel squirm. “After the salvation of the hive mind against Demogorgon, could you not anticipate such a thing?” Zeerith asked, obviously savoring every word.

“The great Matron Mother Yvonnel Baenre–my mother, your ally–dropped House Oblodra into the Clawrift by the power of Lolth,” said Gromph, who most certainly didn’t want House Oblodra restored. He was learning the Oblodran magic from the one known surviving member of that house, and he rather liked the advantage of having a skill so rare among his kin. “Or have you forgotten?”

“Surely, I have not!” Zeerith exclaimed. “But there are many who either have forgotten, or never knew, or who hardly care now in this time of uncertainty and danger. For all of their heresy, House Oblodra was possessed of a strange magical power that served Menzoberranzan well in the fight with Demogorgon. It is undeniable.”

“I have heard the whispers,” Quenthel said, and in such a commanding tone that even Gromph bit back his forthcoming retort to Zeerith. “And they are denied. The illithid hive aided us in our struggle against Demogorgon, indeed, but there will be no invitation for remnants of House Oblodra to return to a place of power in Menzoberranzan.”

Matron Zeerith turned her wary eye upon Gromph, and he understood her suspicions here. He had been with the illithids in their action against Demogorgon. He had felt, indeed, had helped channel and add to, the power of that psionic enchantment. So had Jarlaxle’s powerful psionic lieutenant, Kimmuriel Oblodra of the aforementioned, now-destroyed Menzoberranzan house. Gromph was allied with House Baenre, of course, and so was Jarlaxle, effectively giving Matron Mother Quenthel the most prominent and powerful access to the strange magic of the mind called psionics in all of Menzoberranzan.

Quenthel wasn’t about to surrender that advantage. Zeerith understood that, Gromph could see, and despite his affinity for Zeerith, the champion of mere males, he couldn’t help but be pleasantly surprised that his sister was handling this one so well.

That was the moment when Gromph realized that he was still tied to his homeland, to Menzoberranzan, and most importantly and intimately, to House Baenre. For all his protestations and complaints and near heretical histrionics, deep in his heart, Gromph remained the Elderboy of House Baenre.

It had not occurred to him in the recent years, not until this very moment, that he cared that House Baenre remained the First House of Menzoberranzan.

“Pray go, Matron Zeerith,” Matron Mother Quenthel said suddenly and unexpectedly. “Let us each plot the best ways to move House Xorlarrin back to its rightful place without invoking war or losing the alliance of the Third or Fourth House.”

“And of this resurrected champion, since the topic has come up?” Zeerith asked rather sharply.

“Nothing,” said Quenthel. “Lady Lolth has not demanded that we catch Zaknafein, and so we will give him no more attention than a minor noble in a destroyed house deserves. And the same for his son, this heretic, Drizzt. When we were done with him here in the battle with Demogorgon, Yvonnel decided to let him go, so we, too, will let him go. She is gone, too, and likely near to him. If she decides to kill him in the end, so be it. If not, he is nothing to us. He was a spear, and that spear is hurled and made its kill.”

Matron Zeerith sat there imperiously for a few heartbeats, not blinking, not letting her gaze stray at all from Matron Mother Quenthel. She was clearly, Gromph thought, sizing up the unexpectedly formidable Matron Mother that Quenthel had become.

“I think you have chosen well, Matron Mother,” Zeerith said with another half bow. “Your course cannot anger the Spider Queen. If you change your mind, or do not, and need anything from House Xorlarrin, know that we will be ready to heed that call.”

“I would expect no less. Nor would Lady Lolth.”

Zeerith bowed again and sent her magical disc into motion, gliding for the exit.

Gromph suppressed his desire to clap for his sister, and tried to hide as well his happiness that Matron Mother Baenre had chosen not to go to war for the sake of Drizzt or Zaknafein. Gromph didn’t want a messy conflict between Gauntlgrym and Menzoberranzan. Not then. Not when the Hosttower was growing grand and enchanting and there was so much for him to explore in the ways of magic and psionics!

*****

Across the city, Matron Zhindia Melarn stewed in helpless rage.

“There is nothing,” explained Eskavidne. “Your daughter is forever removed. There is no soul to resurrect.”

The matron winced. She had recovered most of her priestesses, but not her only daughter, the heir to the Melarni throne. For Yahzin Melarn had been killed by the same weapon that had taken Jerlys Horlbar, Zhindia’s mother: a cruel and vicious dagger wielded by the human friend of Drizzt Do’Urden.

And Eskavidne merely confirmed what was already known: A person killed by the blade of Artemis Entreri had no soul left to resurrect.

“You are glad to hear this, no doubt,” Zhindia said to the priestess she had called to her side, the First Priestess of House Melarn, Kyrnill. The accusation hung there, for Kyrnill had once been the Matron of House Kenafin, agreeing to serve Zhindia upon the merger of their houses (but only, both knew, because she hadn’t expected Zhindia to survive for long).

“Why would you think such a thing, Matron?” Kyrnill said.

“Play no ignorance with me,” Zhindia retorted.

Kyrnill looked to the two yochlols, who laughed and nodded.

“Very well,” Kyrnill said. “You intended to elevate Yahzin above me, that she would soon become First Priestess and so succeed you to the throne of House Melarn.”

“And did this trouble you?” Eskavidne asked Kyrnill.

The former matron laughed. “No. In the end, the choice wouldn’t have been mine, or Matron Zhindia’s. As Lolth wills, so we follow.”

“That was a wise answer,” said the ever-burning Zhindia.

“Matron, I have served you well,” Kyrnill replied. “When our houses merged, of course I wished to become the Matron Melarn. But Lolth chose otherwise, and so I accept my place.”

“It is a place that brings great favor from the Spider Queen,” Eskavidne assured her. “For both of you.”

“Such great favor that we were overrun by the heretic and his ribald friends,” Zhindia groused. “Such great favor that I am childless again, and after all the effort I put into grooming Yahzin as a proper Melarni Matron.”

“Everything for a reason,” Eskavidne said.

“A curious comment for a handmaiden of the Lady of Chaos,” Zhindia observed.

“Chaos is the reason,” the handmaiden replied immediately. “And now your house is weakened and you have lost ground, while Matron Mother Baenre tightens her grip on the city.”

“Matron Zeerith Xorlarrin,” Zhindia spat. Of all the many drow she loathed, Zeerith Xorlarrin was at the top of the list. And now House Xorlarrin had returned, or soon would, replacing House Do’Urden, against whom Zhindia had waged war, and lost.

“Are you ready to surrender?” Eskavidne asked, words that struck like lightning bolts against the two powerful priestesses standing before her, both of whom looked at her with abject shock.

“In this dark hour for House Melarn, are you ready to abandon that which brought you greatness?” Eskavidne went on. “You are the purest of Lolth’s followers upon Toril. Does that no longer matter to you?”
“What are you saying?” Kyrnill asked.

“What are you offering?” Matron Zhindia properly rephrased the question.

“Some information has come to us,” Yiccardaraia explained. “The father of Drizzt has been stolen from his eternal rest and restored to his son’s side. He who was once raised in the slavery of Zin-carla has somehow found great reward. Many claim that it is an affront to Lolth, and that blessed will be she who rectifies this abominable heresy.”

Zhindia and Kyrnill exchanged intrigued glances.

“Many claim?” Zhindia asked.

“It is not our place to say more,” replied Yiccardaria. “The mysteries of the world are how the Spider Queen determines her most loyal and valuable followers.”

“Lady Lolth requires intelligence, not mere obedience,” Eskavidne added. “Some might look at this happening as a clear sign that they must intervene, but others will perhaps accept that this is not a pressing matter.”

“Does the Matron Mother know of this?” Zhindia asked.

“Of course,” said Yiccardaria. “As she knows that Lolth herself confronted the heretic Drizzt on the surface world, and that Lolth did not destroy him.”

“Why?” the deep surprise resonated in Zhindia’s almost frantic question.

Both handmaidens giggled.

“Fine. Then who returned to Drizzt his father?”

“Mysteries,” cooed Yiccardaria.

“A web of them,” Eskavidne added.

Kynill moved as if to speak, but Zhindia, deep in thought, waved her hand to silence the fool.
“A web, yes,” the Matron of House Melarn said. “Blessed are we because Lolth has given to us this great web of intrigue, that we might unravel the divine mysteries and bring to her great pleasure.” Her smile widened and she nodded.

“The web of Drizzt, the heretic, who brings chaos, glorious chaos, simply by being,” she said. “And when that chaos subsided, Matron Mother Quenthel took a strand of that web and weaved a war in the Silver Marches, and sent House Xorlarrin to conquer the ancient ruin of Gauntlgrym.”

Zhindia looked to the yochlols, but they remained impassive, letting the Matron unwind the story herself. “Those failures threatened the order of Menzoberranzan,” she reasoned. “Thus did Matron Mother Quenthel take a strand of that second web and weave a third.”

“By filling the streets of Menzoberranzan with demons,” Kyrnill said, and Zhindia nodded eagerly. “More glorious chaos, yes, but which led to the Matron Mother tightening her grasp on the city.”

“And brought the great Demogorgon to the gates of Menzoberranzan,” Yiccardaria reminded.

“And thus did Yvonnel take a strand of Matron Mother Quenthel’s web and weave yet another,” said Zhindia, her eyes glowing with excitement. “To use Drizzt the heretic and the illithids – the illithids! – to strike down Demogorgon, which greatly pleased Lolth, his greatest rival, of course. Oh, but the Spider Queen must have enjoyed the spectacle of her people turning the great Demogorgon into a pile of quivering sludge.”

“Perhaps that is why she allowed Drizzt to live,” Yiccardaria remarked.

“Is this her word?”

The handmaiden giggled again. “Were it her word, I’d have not qualified my statement.”

“Was it a hint, then?” asked Kyrnill.

“No,” Zhindia answewred, and with resolve. “What joy would that have brought to Lolth? This heretic is not worth the breath of her single word to snuff out his life. No, she has given us a web, one with strands to pull, if only we are wise enough to see how.”

“That is always her way, Matron Zhindia,” said Yiccardaria.

“That is her beauty,” added Eskavidne.

“So, to be clear, the Spider Queen has issued no edict regarding the heretic Drizzt or his resurrected father?” Zhindia asked. “She offers no guidance on this?”

“What good is a web that is easy to navigate?” Yiccardaria purred.

Zhindia’s chest rose with exultation and anticipation. As far as she could undertand it, two handmaidens of Lady Loth, the closest and most trusted advisors of the Spider Queen, the voice of Lolth to her devout priestesses, had just given their permission to strike back at the very rogue drow who had so stabbed at the power of House Melarn and had left Zhindia childless.

Zhindia would find this new web of intrigue, and a strand to pull.

And then she’d weave one of her own.

Excerpted from Timeless, copyright © 2018 by R.A. Salvatore

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