This article was first broadcast in Episode Two Hundred and Twenty Seven on 19th October 2022.
Note: This article was adapted from an episode script, and so there may be parts that don’t flow well when read, because they were initially designed for broadcast.
Drizzt Do’Urden is one of the most famous fictional characters to come out of D&D. Some people say he is the 100% most famous character, Stranger Things notwithstanding. He’s the rebel drow that forsook his heritage, made his way on the surface, and established a long-running legacy with his swords, panther, and companions.
There is debate about some things, but a lot of people consider him to be the main reason the Forgotten Realms rose to as much prominence as it did. Some say he is also the reason Rangers, drow playable races, and animal companions are always the focus of a lot of fan attention in whatever edition of D&D happens to be in print.
However, as with many popular figures, he definitely has his detractors and critics. We’re going to spend some time reviewing his history, the state he’s in currently as a fictional character, and where things might be going.
We’ll start off with his creator, R.A. Salvatore. In the mid 80s, “Bob,” as he is sometimes called by fans, was an undiscovered author who was working on his first novel, which he finished in 1987. As budding authors did in the 80s, he had finished the manuscript and was sending it out to publishers blind. Since his novel was fantasy, one of the places he sent it was TSR.
TSR in 1987 was in flux. Gary Gygax had left the company two years prior and the messy nature of the split meant it was uncertain if TSR was legally allowed to publish more material for Greyhawk. The only other setting TSR had going fully at the time was Dragonlance, but Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman, the arbiters of the setting, were starting to feel unappreciated by TSR by then and the relationship was already heading south. TSR was gearing up to release 2nd edition within the next couple of years, so they needed a setting they had full control over which could generate interest like Dragonlance, and the only other settings running at the time were ones based on Conan and the unnamed oriental adventures locales.
Enter Ed Greenwood and the Forgotten Realms. With a new fantasy setting firmly based on the core of D&D, TSR thought they had a winner. They decided to bank on the same strategy that had worked for Dragonlance; tie-in novels. Greenwood was already working on several stories featuring this guy called Ellminster, but TSR figured more was better. They saw Salvatore’s manuscript and basically said, “Hey your novel is great! Burn that, here’s notes on the Forgotten Realms, tell us a story.”
Salvatore, being a semi-starving author, didn’t even blink and had his first Forgotten Realms novel, the Crystal Shard, penned by early the next year. According to Salvatore, the creation of Drizzt was actually an accident.
“Mary Kirchoff, then managing editor of TSR’s book department…called him. She was on her way to a marketing meeting concerning the book, and informed him that they could not use one of the characters. He asked for time to think, but she was already late for the meeting. Off the top of his head, Salvatore said he had a Dark Elf. Kirchoff was skeptical, but Salvatore convinced her it would be fine because he was just a sidekick. She asked his name, and he replied Drizzt Do’Urden. She asked if he could spell it, and he said “not a chance”
The Crystal Shard was published shortly thereafter. The main character of the book was theoretically supposed to be Bruenor Battlehammer, the dwarf king, but the fans latched on to Drizzt. With first edition being the only one published, all the players and fans were firmly set on the idea that drow were evil. The motivations and story behind this a-typical drow became a lot more interesting than another clan-obsessed dwarf, human barbarian from snowy lands, halfling fighter, or even the female wizard.
After the first three books with Drizzt (the Icewind Dale trilogy), the character’s popularity had skyrocketed, so Salvatore was asked to write a trilogy focusing on the drow’s story. The Dark Elf trilogy telling Drizzt’s origin story was then published from 1990 to 1991.
After the publication of the last book in that trilogy, Salvatore’s next announced Forgotten Realms books were focused on completely different stories and new characters. When asked, Salvatore was quoted as saying “After six books, I think we’re probably done with Drizzt.
Even though they’d commissioned Salvatore to write five Forgotten Realms books that told other stories, the outcry from the fans after Salvatore’s next book had nothing to do with Drizzt was enough to convince them to commission more. The sequel quartet, “Legacy of the Drow” was released from 1992 through 1996, even though Salvatore was still writing his other quintet of books.
After the last book in that group was published, TSR did not ask Salvatore for any more novels and contracted a totally different author to write new Drizzt stories. Rumors abound about the reason. Some think Salvatore was getting tired of writing Drizzt novels. Others think TSR wanted to introduce a new voice for the character. Still others believe TSR, in serious financial trouble by that point, just couldn’t afford Salvatore anymore.
However, before the course of the drow’s history could be changed, Wizards of the Coast bought TSR. Their marketing people looked at TSR’s publication plan and said, “I’m sorry, you’re selling truckloads of novels featuring your most successful character ever and you decide the best thing to do is fire the author?”
Wizards of the Coast published Salvatore’s next Drizzt trilogy beginning in 1998.
Since then, almost all of Salvatore’s writing in the Forgotten Realms has focused on Drizzt or characters immediately adjacent to him. He’s published a book an average of every 8 months or so up to the present day.
Despite his popularity within D&D, Drizzt has not often shown up in the actual game. Drizzt’s only book credit is a 2nd edition adventure called “The Accursed Tower” published in 1999. He was given stats in 3rd and 4th editions, but usually as a throwaway feature article in Dragon magazine or somewhere similar. Chris Perkins played a version of Drizzt for a 5th edition game in 2016, but admitted the character sheet was not official and the level and abilities did not reflect Drizzt’s abilities as described in fiction.
We’re going to change our usual formula a bit and start with the character’s history before reviewing his abilities. The reason is that Drizzt’s abilities and gear have changed quite a bit over the course of his story.
Drizzt was born roughly 195 years prior to the Forgotten Realms’ “current day.” His parents lived in the Underdark drow city of Menzoberranzan, where his mother was the head of house Do’Urden named Malice and his father was the weapons’ master, Zaknafein.
Because of the rigidly matriarchal structure of drow culture in Menzoberranzan, Drizzt was mostly ignored by his mother and sisters and he got almost all of his nurturing from his father, who secretly was a little more empathetic and merciful than the average drow. He petitioned for Drizzt to be trained as a warrior rather than a wizard because of Drizzt’s preternatural reflexes.
Drizzt enrolled in the Warrior academy where one of his trainers, a friend of his father’s, gifted him an idol that summoned the mystical panther Guenhwyvar. It only took a year before he was outfighting every student in the school. He was nominated for early graduation. But this was a Lolth themed graduation: the ceremony included him ‘having relations’ with his sister Vierna. He refused and would have been put to death except that his mother intervened, though warned him he was on notice.
Assigned to regular patrols now, Drizzt started on his rebellious path when his group was assigned to raid an elf village. Drizzt stayed on the outskirts and didn’t actually participate in the raid, but on the sweep through he found a small elf child whose parents were killed. Rather than finishing off the child, he hid her. His father confronted him angrily, but Zaknafein was actually angry because he thought Drizzt had killed the child. Drizzt explained his deception and his father promised to cover for his son.
The deception by Drizzt and his father caused house Do’Urden to fall out of favor with Lolth. Malice ordered that Drizzt be sacrificed to appease the spider goddess, but his father helped Drizzt slip out of the city and instead took his place as a sacrifice.
Malice is informed that Drizzt has to die for the Do’Urden house to regain favor. She sends out hunting parties. She also hires members of Breagan D’arthe, a mercenary group led by exiled drow Jarlaxle. They fail to find Drizzt. Desperate, Malice uses her connection to Lolth to reanimate Zaknafein’s body, essentially turning him into the undead drow version of the Terminator. Zaknafein hunts Drizzt down in the Underdark, but a blip in magic allows Zaknafein’s original personality to briefly reassert dominance.
Zaknafein maintains control long enough to fling his body into a pool of acid. Lolth decides that was Malice’s last chance. She tells the other drow houses in Menzoberranzan that house Do’Urden is anathema and should be purged. The other houses descend and the only survivors are Drizzt’s sister Vierna and their brother Dinin, both of whom are taken in by a former rival house.
Drizzt, meanwhile, makes his way to the surface. He’s literally never been there other than the one raid, so the first group of creatures he encounters and befriends…are gnolls. However, he spends a very short amount of time listening to them plan a raid on a human settlement before figuring out “hey…these guys are jerks.” He then kills them all.
He tries to head into the settlement but is immediately met with fear or hostility, so he flees into the woods. Lacking any other purpose, he tries to help a family on the outskirts in secret.
Unfortunately the evil fae that was directing the gnolls wants revenge. At the same time, a greedy bounty hunter named Roddy McGristle convinces the people in town that the drow they saw needs to be hunted down and killed. They offer him a bounty if he does. His hunting dogs find Drizzt, but Drizzt is forced to kill one in self-defense, and also wounds McGristle. While that’s happening, the evil fae shapeshifts into a drow and very obviously and blatantly kills the family Drizzt had been helping.
The town calls in a priest of Mystara, who comes with some elf hunters, to deal with the issue. Her investigation reveals Drizzt is innocent, but he’s already gone, and McGristle doesn’t care whether Drizzt is guilty or not anymore. One of the elves in the party feels for Drizzt’s plight and breaks off to search for and warn him.
Drizzt, meanwhile, has fled from the town and runs into the older ranger Montolio DeBruchee. DeBruchee takes pity on Drizzt and teaches Drizzt about survival on the surface, skills as a ranger, and also about recognizing and revering the tenets of Mielikki, god of the forests.
Unfortunately the evil fae has hooked up with McGristle and both of them send a band of orcs after Drizzt. Despite the help and warning of the elf, the orcs hunt down and kill him and Montolio, leaving Drizzt on his own again.
Drizzt’s next hiding spot is with a group of monks, but he senses his hunters are closing in again and leaves. When they miss Drizzt again, McGristle gets fed up with his fae partner and bashes him to death in a bag.
Drizzt makes it to Icewind Dale. They aren’t big fans of him either, but when he doesn’t immediately start trying to kill or kidnap people they at least hear him out. They don’t want him anywhere in the city, but tell him to head for the borders of land claimed by dwarf clan Battlehammer.
Drizzt heads up there and runs into a nice young woman named Cattie-brie, adopted daughter of the king Bruenor. Bruenor is…not thrilled. However, when McGristle shows up and figures out Drizzt is talking to Cattie-brie on the regular, he holds her hostage. Drizzt manages to rescue Cattie and knock McGristle out. Bruenor banishes the bounty hunter and decides Drizzt is at least okay.
Fast forward a few years and Drizzt is a trusted helper to King Bruenor. Working with the halfling fighter Regis, the two of them scout out a pending invasion by northern barbarians. Forewarned, the clan gears up for battle along with defenders from Icewind Dale. The barbarians are turned back without much trouble, except for a brief thing where Bruenor has to remind the Icewind people that Drizzt is on their side. They also wind up with a captive; Wulfgar.
Meanwhile, a wizard named Akar Kessel finds a magic crystal called Crenshinibon, which has powers of mind control over living and undead creatures.
Jump ahead five years and Wulfgar is integrated into the clan, though technically still in servitude to Bruenor. Drizzt has been training him to fight. As a test of skills, they both hunt down a white dragon named Ingeloakastimizilian, more commonly called Icingdeath. They defeat the dragon, and in his horde Drizzt finds a cold-imbued scimitar, which he names after the defeated dragon.
Akar, in the meantime, has increased his power and summoned the demon Errtu to assist in his plans for domination. With mind-controlled minions and the demon, Akar attacks the clan. Drizzt challenges Errtu to a duel while the clan fights off everyone else. Drizzt is victorious and the magic of Icingdeath banishes Errtu for 100 years.
Robbed of his demon ally, Akar flees up a snowy mountain, pursued by Drizzt. He then makes the genius decision to use fire magic, and dies in the resulting avalanche.
In the aftermath of the battle and the difficulty defending the clan territory, Bruenor says they need to find a stronghold called Mithral Hall. He takes Drizzt and Regis tags along, which seems odd to both of the others since the halfling isn’t a fan of caves.
It turns out Regis wants to be scarce because he stole a magic gem from a foreign leader named Pasha Pook. Pook, wanting the gem back, sends his prime assassin, one Artemis Entreri. Entreri tracks Regis to the clan, but after Regis left. He interrogates Cattie-brie, who can’t hold out and tells him where Regis, Bruenor, and Drizzt went. He takes her along as a captive.
Meanwhile, the three adventurers arrive at the elf settlement of Silverymoon and make the acquaintance of its leader, Lady Alustriel, who is fascinated by Drizzt. With help from her, the three find Mithral Hall. Unfortunately that’s also when and where Entreri catches up with them. Cattie-brie escapes from Entreri but he gets into a duel with Drizzt, where Drizzt is surprised to find himself evenly matched. Neither of them gain the upper hand, and their fight is only stopped when they fall into a ravine and get trapped.
The two briefly put aside their differences in the name of getting out alive, and run into some angry duergar in the process. The rest of the companions also find these duergar, and a shadow dragon besides. Losing the fight, Bruenor collapses a tunnel to crush their enemies and allow everyone else to escape. They assume he’s dead, but he actually just fell into deeper tunnels under Mithral hall and manages to fight his way out and back to them. In the ensuing confusion, however, Entreri grabs Regis.
Bruenor, Drizzt, and Cattie-brie head back to Silverymoon where Lady Alustriel heals Bruenor and tells them how to follow Entreri. She also advises they go past the home of a human wizarding family, the Harpells. They hand out some toys to the group, including an enchanted scimitar when Drizzt mentions his troubles fighting Entreri. The scimitar is called Twinkle…Really?
Pasha Pook’s hometown is across a lot of water. At the recommendation of their friends, the three book passage with one Captain Deudermont on his ship, the Sea Sprite. They find Pasha Pook, free Regis, and other than a brief delay where they’re banished to the plane of Tartarus and Drizzt has to rescue Cattie-brie from demons, everything works out fine.
During the course of the chase after Regis, Drizzt realizes he’s getting a little sweet on Cattie-brie, but given that he’s going to live for multiple centuries and she’s got 80, 90 years at best, he decides to bury those feelings.
He spends a lot of the next few years in Silverymoon talking with Lady Alustriel about his drow heritage and other topics. He also apparently lived in her house for a time, but there’s no official word on how “intense” their “discussions” got.
In the meantime, the Battlehammer clan has moved into Mithral Hall, and Drizzt returns there for the wedding of Wulfgar and…Cattie-brie. Drizzt is actually fine with this, so he’s a bit confused when he arrives and Wulfgar basically tries to kill him. To keep tensions low before the wedding, Bruenor asks Drizzt to check out a scouting party that’s disappeared. Regis volunteers to go along. That confuses Drizzt until they find that the scouting party were obviously killed by drow, and Regis reveals himself to be Artemis Entreri in disguise. He surprises and captures Drizzt.
See, what no one knew until then was that back in Menzoberranzen, Drizzt’s older sister Vierna is taking after her mother and assumes if she can capture and sacrifice her wayward brother, she’ll be back in Lolths’ favor. Because he’s the only other drow that knows about the surface, Vierna goes to Jarlaxle for help. He is the one who hired Entreri for her, though only after she proved her commitment to the plan by turning her only other living brother into a drider.
Back at Mithral hall, Drizzt’s friends figure out that Entreri as Regis had put some mojo on them to ensure Drizzt was sent into the wilderness. They race off to rescue him and manage to free him from Entreri…just as Vierna, Jarlaxle, and all their friends show up to take custody. A huge fight in an Underdark tunnel ensues, and Vierna ups the ante by summoning a demon from Lolth’s domain. Drizzt manages to kill his sister, but that doesn’t slow the demon down at all. The party escapes, but only after Wulfgar collapses a tunnel on himself and the demon.
After regrouping briefly at Mithral Hall, Drizzt believes the drow in Menzoberranzen will not give up the idea that killing him will get them in good with Lolth, so he decides to go down there alone. He only tells Regis where he’s going and makes him promise not to tell anyone else.
Distraught at her fiancee’s death and the sudden disappearance of Drizzt, Cattie-brie asks around. After rigorously interrogating Regis for about two minutes, he spills the beans about where Drizzt went.
Cattie-brie swings by Silverymoon and tells Lady Alustriel that Drizzt is doing something stupid, could she please come help. The Lady agrees to help Cattie-brie get to the Underdark.
Drizzt and Cattie-brie both make it to Menzoberranzan eventually. Drizzt is able to briefly disguise himself as a member of the premier house in the city, but he’s eventually found out and captured. Cattie-brie, on the other hand, is captured by Jarlaxle almost immediately.
In Jarlaxle’s prison areas, Cattie finds…Artemis Entreri. Jarlaxle was apparently annoyed at him for not capturing Drizzt. Between the two of them, they escape and take some magical goodies, then go interrupt a ceremony where Drizzt was going to be sacrificed to Lolth.
Drizzt then proceeds to fight and defeat the drow house’s weaponmaster and take his magical bracers. Cattie-brie settles for taking the evil sentient sword the drow had been using. That definitely doesn’t cause any problems down the line for anyone.
Shortly after their escape, magic goes haywire due to someone messing with the fundamental definition of it and a lot of gods dying.
Side note: this was called the Time of Troubles and was TSR’s in-lore explanation for the changes that occurred in the game when second edition was released. The lore explanations came out a few years after the rules released, however.
A lot of Menzoberranzan runs on magic, so when the magic blips it causes a catastrophic mess. At the same time, the blip renders Cattie-brie vulnerable to the influence of that sentient sword she took, so Drizzt has to carefully defend himself and not kill her until he can take the dangerous toy away. That confrontation forces the two of them to discuss how Drizzt and Cattie feel about each other. The conversation finishes with Drizzt unwaveringly and totally in…the friendzone.
The drow are convinced the whole mess happened because of Drizzt and start prepping to attack him and his friends. The matron mother of the leading house is going to lead the attack personally, sure that when she defeats Drizzt, Lolth will grant her unimaginable power. Lolth smiles and nods and appoints a demonic advisor to help the woman out. That advisor…is the demon Errtu.
The drow mount their attack but the dwarves and some allies hold out until the drow are completely thrown off because they forgot sun was a thing. With their offensive falling apart, the matron mother goes to Errtu for help. Errtu, however, kills the drow woman because that was what Lolth wanted him to do all along; the priestess had been getting too ambitious. As a reward, Lolth gifts Errtu with a soul she says is the key to his revenge on Drizzt.
Six years later, Drizzt and Cattie-brie, still very much friends, have left Mithral Hall and joined Captain Deudermont on the Sea Sprite where they hunt pirates. Errtu disguises himself as the captain to try to trick them into visiting a mysterious island: Caerwich. They discover the demon’s duplicity but decide to grab some old friends and go to the island anyway because “something must be going on.”
They’re right. Errtu gathered a bunch of people to attack Drizzt, because he’s also convinced a patsy to retrieve Crenshinibon, the crystal shard of mind control (digging it out is presumably what took six years). Shortly after arrival, Regis manages to sneak through the battle and trap the crystal shard in an enchanted box. With all the forces meant to kill Drizzt and friends suddenly going “what are we doing here?” it’s a relatively simple matter for Drizzt to banish Errtu again and free the soul he was gifted. That soul turns out to be Wulfgar.
See, when the tunnel collapsed on him, the demon he was fighting gave him a big hug and teleported both of them to the Abyss. He’s been hanging out with Lolth and Errtu ever since so he’s in great shape.
Drizzt and the companions, less Bruenor because he’s running his kingdom, spend time trying to figure out how to destroy the mind control shard, while Wulfgar tries to cope with the trauma of his experiences in the Abyss. His recovery is sabotaged when the hammer given to him by Bruenor is stolen.
The one who stole it is an elf named Le’Lorinel, who works with a vicious band of pirates and is known for fighting with two scimitars. Drizzt suspects he’s being called out a little bit, so they hunt the elf down. When they confront Le’Lorinel, he reveals he’s actually a she. The elf woman is Ellifain, the elf child Drizzt refused to kill in his first raid. She blames him for killing her parents and attacks him. She is no match for Drizzt but he is wracked with guilt and refuses to kill her. That leads to a stumbling, awkward fight as Drizzt tries to explain the reality of the situation to her. They both end up mortally wounded and despite Drizzt’s protests, his friends save him and allow Ellifain to die.
A year or so later, Drizzt and the companions are all back in Mithral Hall when an orc named Obould, head of the Many-arrows tribe, gets it into his head that the orcs should make something of themselves. He gathers a large horde and attacks a settlement called the Shallows, because “let’s go kill things” is a campaign slogan most orcs can get behind.
Drizzt separates himself from the rest of the companions to go over the settlement wall and sew confusion among the orcs. That puts him in a position to see when the tower that all his friends are in, and Bruenor is fighting on top of, collapses. With all of his friends dead after the battle Drizzt goes full Predator on the orcs. He hides in the woods and mountains stalking them and indiscriminately murdering every group of orcs he comes across. He also foregoes his usual scimitars and uses the sentient murder-sword Cattie-brie took from the drow, which just does wonders for his mood.
Meanwhile, his companions are not dead (the dwarf on the tower was only borrowing Bruenor’s helmet) and are trying to convince a bunch of neutral dwarven clans to maybe help stop the orc horde. At the same time an orc shaman blesses Obould and declares he’s a god.
During Drizzt’s travels, he meets up with two pegasus-riding elves who were at the battle. They say they are in the area looking for information…about Ellifain.
Rather than deal with that mountain of awkward, Drizzt hunts down Obould. He fights him directly twice. He loses once when the sentient sword gets stuck in Obould’s armor and he can’t recover. His second duel is interrupted because one of his elf companions gets killed and the other gets dismounted, with Obould capturing her pegasus.
Obould’s blessing as a god is actually making him less eager for endless war, but the dwarves have to be convinced to stop as well, so they attack Mithral Hall. Drizzt and his remaining elf companion use the opportunity to free the captured pegasus and go join the fight. At Mithral Hall Drizzt discovers everyone’s alive, and Obould and Bruenor’s forces fight to a standstill. The two leaders agree to a cease-fire and establish the borders of a new orc country.
Cattie and Drizzt, overcome after finding out neither of them are dead as the other thought, decide the friendzone is stupid and get married.
A short time after, Bruenor gets it into his head that he needs to find his clan’s ancestral home of Gauntlegrym. Drizzt goes with him to help. Cattie, on the other hand, needs to help Wulfgar, who’s adoptive daughter was kidnapped.
Meanwhile in orc country, it’s revealed a gnome wizard is backing the shamans who originally encouraged Obould. They’re annoyed with Obould’s new pacifistic streak. They find and kill the elf with the pegasus Drizzt had worked with during the war. One of her friends finds Drizzt and Bruenor as they’re searching and asks for help in capturing a drow advisor to Obould, who incidentally now has the sentient sword Drizzt lost.
The drow in question kind of gets lost in the shuffle when the orc shaman faction attacks Silverymoon. Cattie-brie and Lady Alustriel are there (Wulfgar had gone home after they found his daughter). Obould’s orcs also show up to defend Silverymoon against the other orcs. Drizzt and Bruenor fight their way to where Obould is in dire straits. Bruenor decides to help the orc leader. Drizzt approves, and then goes and hunts down all the evil orc shamans and terminates them. The cease-fire from before the war is upgraded to a treaty establishing the orc country. Lady Alustriel also agrees to power-level Cattie-brie as a wizard.
Everything seems hunky-dory, but then as it did with so many things, the Spellplague hit and messed everything up.
The massive flux in magical energy awakens sentience in Crenshinibon, the crystal shard of mind control. The shard reanimates a dead illithid. Both of them wander off and find a very stupid red dragon. All three merge together and become an undead dracolich monstrosity known as the Ghost King. Because of reasons we won’t get into here, the creature really wants Jarlaxle dead.
Meanwhile, Cattie’s power-leveling as a wizard means she had become powerful enough to be totally curb-stomped by the Spellplague. Her spirit ends up trapped between the Shadowfell and the Feywild, while her body is still on Toril. Regis tries to use his magic gem to fix her…and ends up having his soul ripped out of his body and trapped in the Shadowfell, killing him. Bruenor and Drizzt are at a loss until Jarlaxle shows up. He wants their help against the Ghost King, and recommends they all go see an uber-cleric named Cadderly at a place called Spirit Soaring for that problem and the issue with Cattie-brie.
They arrive…and find Spirit Soaring under attack by the ghost king and a massive army of undead. Now ordinarily undead attacking a cleric monastery would be stupidly one-sided, but with magic all out of whack and several gods MIA because of the spellplague, the clerics can’t muster up their usual amount of mojo.
Deciding to get to the heart of the matter, Drizzt and the others attack the Ghost King directly. They kill him…whereupon he reforms in the Shadowfell, pretty much instantly heals back to full HP, and comes right back to Spirit Soaring.
Cadderly tells them their only chance is intercepting the Ghost King in the Shadowfell. Their only link to the Shadowfell is Cattie-brie. Cadderly can use her body’s connection to her spirit to get there, but Cattie won’t survive the process. Drizzt gives the go-ahead and Cadderly successfully stops the Ghost king.
Because of his service to her over the years, the goddess Meilikki grants Drizzt and Cattie-brie one last night together before taking her spirit and Regis’s. She puts them in a paradise pocket dimension named Iruladoon.
Salvatore’s stories start jumping around a lot at this point.
First, he jumps ahead 24 years. Drizzt and Bruenor are basically going through the motions. Bruenor is still desperate to find Gauntlegrym, while Drizzt is hung up on Cattie-brie’s death. He’s been spending a lot of time with the elves of Silverymoon (again, no word one way or the other on how Lady Alustriel is involved there) and in addition to Guenhwyvar, he’s now able to summon a unicorn. However, the unicorn is a lot lower CR than the panther so he doesn’t use it that much.
He goes to visit Bruenor and Bruenor decides to finally get off his ass. He fakes his own death, scaring the hell out of his loyals steward Pwent, and he and Drizzt set off.
They continue their search for 45 years and get nowhere.
Enter Dhalia Sin’felle. She is an elf shacked up with a vampire and working for the Red Wizards of Thay. Her boss, Sylora, wants her to establish a dread ring near Neverwinter. A dread ring is essentially a magical factory that churns out undead. Dhalia agrees, kills her vampire lover (because that’s how she ended her last 25 relationships), and sets off.
Drizzt and Bruenor go back to the dwarves because everyone else they had been traveling with is either too old or too dead to go on.
Dhalia arrives in Luskan looking for info. Consulting with a lich, the lich tells her she needs to find Gauntlegrym, but she’ll need a dwarf to get in. She calls up Jarlaxle, who is a major figure in Luskan by then. At the same time, a tiefling named Herzgo is in charge of a mercenary group known as the Shadovar. They have a connection to the Shadowfell, and Herzgo really hates red wizards. He hears about Dhalia being in the area and sends his premier assassin, Barrabus, after her to get info.
Drizzt’s party and Dhalia’s all find and infiltrate Gauntlegrym, and fight. Sylora, Dahlia’s boss, also shows up, with the vampire she thought she’d killed, because she didn’t trust Dhalia. The evil side hypnotizes Pwent, who had joined Drizzt and Bruenor’s party, and gets him to reactivate the Forge of Gauntlegrym. The forge in question is powered by a fire primordial. The safeguards the dwarves had to keep the fire primordial under control are not there anymore. This causes what geologists call a “volcanic eruption.” Most of it lands on part of Neverwinter. Sylora considers the whole endeavor a mess and demands fealty from Dahlia on pain of death. Dahlia agrees and promises to finish the dread ring.
11 years pass. The people around Neverwinter and other settlements are in an ongoing war with the Thay and their local proxies. Herzgo and his Shadovar are keeping an eye on things, resulting in Dhalia and Barrabus the assassin fighting a few times. Dahlia has finished the dread ring, boosting the power of the Thay forces, and now they want to try to harness the power of the primordial in Gauntlegrym.
The ghost dwarves who were in Gauntlegrym project themselves into Mithral Hall and tell Bruenor “Hey…Red Wizards yo!” Two other dwarf kings fake their own deaths to join them on the quest for Gauntlegrym.
Jarlaxle and Dahlia meet because neither wants Sylora to have the power of the primordial. They find and agree to help Drizzt and Bruenor gain control of Gauntlegrym. Barrabus is able to spy on all this, but has a bit of a traumatic meltdown when he sees Drizzt.
The party makes its way into Gauntlegrym, where the unchecked primordial has invited a whole bunch of salamanders and a good amount of red dragons for a barbecue. The group fights its way past all that and Bruenor is able to sit on the throne of Gauntlegrym, granting him mystical power and clueing him in on how to contain the primordial, which basically involves a Zelda-like puzzle of “activate these magic doohickeys scattered around”. Drizzt and company work on that while the dwarves try to hold back the fire creatures.
And because there weren’t enough people at this party, Sylora shows up with a pit fiend. The pit fiend is taken out by Barrabus, of all people, and Bruenor manages to use his last breath to seal the primordial in the forge. Sylora retreats. Dahlia wants to go after her, and Drizzt, who probably hasn’t gotten any for almost a century and has no living friends left, decides to follow her.
Sylora gets some new mojo from the other red wizards and is ordered to take over Neverwinter. Meanwhile Herzgo and his Shadovar move in and offer protection for the city. Dahlia and Drizzt are wandering around looking for Sylora, all the while arguing about morality, with Dhalia trying to convince Drizzt that “gray” is a thing in the real world. After going back and forth on the subject for weeks, they ultimately come to the conclusion that they should have sex.
Sylora continues to attack Neverwinter, with Barrabus, then Herzgo leading a successful defense. She also sends a devil to hunt down Dahlia. Thinking he can one-up his opposite number, Herzgo sends Barrabus after Dahlia and Drizzt.
Barrabus shows up and Drizzt recognizes him instantly; he’s Artemis Entreri. Now, Entreri is human, so he should have been dead a long time ago. They table that discussion when Entreri tells them about Sylora and the attacks on Neverwinter. He also knows where she is.
The three of them together represent possibly the greatest physical combatants on Faerun at the time so they absolutely mow through Sylora’s forces. Sylora tries to regroup, but ends up being killed by one of her lieutenants.
That problem solved, Entreri tells Drizzt and Dahlia that Herzgo has an enchanted sword bound to his soul that keeps him from dying. That sends Dahlia into a rage because she has a history with Herzgo, namely the first 20-30 years of her life where he held her prisoner and forced her to sire his child. She killed the kid but is still a bit bitter. The three of them set off to do something about it.
They hunt down Herzgo and he flees into the shadowfell. Drizzt sends Guenhwyvar after him, but both of them are trapped by a warlock stuck in the Shadowfell named Draygo Quick. Still, Herzgo dropped the sword, so they decide to take it to the forge in Gauntelgrym to destroy it. An agent of Draygo meets with them and offers to return the panther for the sword, but Drizzt tells them to piss off.
In Gauntelgrym they find…drow. Drow everywhere. Also, Draygo leveraged his captivity of Herzgo to get the Shadovar to work for him, and they want the sword. Fights ensue. They get some unexpected help from a dwarf cleric named Ambergris. She nominally worked for the Shadowvar, but when she saw they had no reverence for Gauntelgrym and that Drizzt worked for Bruenor, she decided to switch sides with her lover Afafrenfere.
Drizzt manages to get to the forge and tap into some of the primordial’s power to summon Herzgo from the Shadowfell. Disoriented, Dahlia kills him. That’s when one of the Shadovar starts screaming and crying; the Shadovar is a tiefling named Effron…and Dahlia thought she’d killed him a long long time ago. Right as he was born, in fact, because he’s her child.
With a moment of peace, Drizzt faces Entreri and they reminisce about their lives and their mutual respect. Drizzt then drops the sword keeping him alive into the forge. The sword melts, the enchantment is lifted, and Entreri…is perfectly fine.
After the awkward pause, Drizzt and company flee. Effron wants revenge on Dahlia for killing his dad, while the commander of the drow forces, named Tiago, goes back to that old refrain that him killing Drizzt will make him the greatest drow ever and Lolth will love him.
Drizzt, meanwhile, somehow gets Guenhwyvar back, but the panther isn’t recovering from wounds when unsummoned. Also, Effron finally catches up to them, but he’s alone and when he tries to get violent it’s immediately obvious everyone there is a better fighter than him. He calms down and explains that Guenhwyvar is linked to the Shadowfell rather than the Astral sea like she’s supposed to be.
They all take a trip to the Shadowfell to fix that. They are promptly captured by Draygo Quick, with Ambergris the only one to escape.
Ambergris goes to Jarlaxle for help. Adventures ensue for a year, but they are all freed from the Shadowfell. Drizzt, during his year of captivity, did a lot of introspection and wants to find Iruladoon and Cattie-brie’s spirit. The group returns to Icewind Dale and begins searching. They are actually partially successful, but they don’t realize it and fall asleep at the edge of the demiplane where it intersected with the material plane. They wake up after 18 years have passed.
Most people consider this a chance at a fresh start, but Drizzt pulls Dahlia aside and says he can’t stay with her because he’s realized he never stopped loving Cattie-brie. Dahlia, devastated, attacks Drizzt, hoping he will kill her. He refuses to do so and when she forces the matter, he allows her to mortally wound him. The rest of their friends pull her away as Drizzt runs off. Dying, he sees the faces of all his old companions.
The reason he sees all his friends is not because he’s crossing over to the other side.
It’s because the goddess Meilikki allowed them to help Drizzt. However, the only way she could do it was by reincarnating them…the old fashioned way. Each of them was born as new people, but around puberty their old identities reasserted themselves and they had the knowledge of where Drizzt would be after his fight with Dahlia. All four of them (Bruenor, Wulfgar, Regis, and Cattie-brie) make the reunion and heal Drizzt.
As a “first adventure back”, all of them decide to head to Gauntlegrym and help Bruenor’s old stewart Pwent, who was unfortunately turned into a vampire after the first mess with the volcano. They arrive but can’t do much to help him. However, he tells them about new rumblings in Menzoberranzan.
It seems a new matron mother, Quenthel, is on the “let’s kill Drizzt and get Lolth’s favor” train. She volunteers Jarlaxle to help her, and gets Lolth to bring in Errtu as a subject matter expert on Drizzt. At Jarlaxle’s recommendation, the drow attack a town called Port Llast, which is where Drizzt’s new/old companions had gone after his “death”. Everyone is captured except Effron.
Effron goes to Jarlaxle. Jarlaxle manages to convince Quenthel to release Ambergris and her lover into his custody, but it’s a no-go on Dahlia. Entreri escapes on his own. Quenthel contacts the clan of Many-Arrows.
After the death of the original Obould, his descendants weren’t as level-headed. They basically just needed a tiny push to revert to form, and the drow gave it to them. The orcs are hunting for Drizzt.
Entreri tells Drizzt about his friends’ capture. They head for the forge in Gauntlegrym, where the drow are based. That’s when Dahlia shows up. She is mind controlled by Lolth’s magic and immediately starts fighting Cattie-brie. Drizzt, out of self-preservation, stays out of it. Okay, actually he’s off in a different part of Gauntlegrym rescuing Ambergris. Cattie beats Dahlia and the drow retreat. Drizzt and company want to go find a cure for Pwent. Entreri stays to hunt drow because he got sweet on Dahlia over the years and wants revenge.
Meanwhile, the drow successfully cast a spell that turns off the sun over the Silver Marches. They then sally forth with their Orc allies and new friends the frost giants and a few white dragons. Tiago is the leading general.
Jarlaxle hears that Drizzt got the old band back together and gathers some people to help, since he’s not really feeling it with Quenthel anymore. Everyone associated with Drizzt who isn’t mind-controlled or dead holes up in Mithral Hall. Tiago and his forces lay siege to it and several other dwarf kingdoms over the winter.
Jarlaxle uses his wily ways to get word to Silverymoon and the elves about the drow magic while Drizzt mounts an offensive. Riding one of the copper dragons that Jarlaxle convinced to help Drizzt’s case, he engages Tiago in the air. The fight is inconclusive, because the sun comes back on and the drow and their forces have to retreat.
After the news about the defeat hits Menzoberranzan, Quenthel decides that Lolth still doesn’t love them enough, and what Menzoberranzan needs is more demons. This policy is not one of her more popular ones. Meanwhile Bruenor wants to go reclaim Gauntlegrym, because “obsession” is not just from Calvin Klein. Everyone’s on board except Wulfgar and Regis, who actually built lives with their new identities and kind of want to go back to them.
The dwarves have a tough go of it in Gauntlegrym because of how many demons the drow now have with them. Fortunately for them, Drizzt shows up and Jarlaxle uses some tricks of his to give him a massive psionic power up. That allows him to lead the dwarves to victory, and Cattie-brie uses her magic to seal the route between Menzoberranzan and Gauntlegrym.
The reason Jarlaxle helped Drizzt is because he and Entreri have figured out Dahlia is still alive and being held by the drow. Also, she has been brainwashed by Quenthel and installed as the matron mother of a new house Do’Urden (because, again, she thinks that will get her in good with Lolth).
However, the reason Jarlaxle has the info is because of a new power in Menzoberranzan; Yvonnel. She is the result of some really messed up magic and rituals that gave her the power and knowledge of her mother instantly upon birth (quiet, Dune fans). She then repeatedly cast a spell with the side effect of aging her one year, meaning she grew to be a woman in the space of a few days. She wants to lure Drizzt to Menzoberranzan because they have a…slight problem.
See, the most powerful male wizard in Menzoberranzan wanted to tap into the portal Quenthel used to bring all the demons to the city. He did it wrong. The result was that he summoned Demogorgon. Right into the middle of the city. Demogorgon moved on, but is still in the area.
Anyway, her ruse worked and Drizzt, Entreri, and Jarlaxle head for Menzoberranzan. Yvonnel has been scrying them and just as Drizzt gets to the Underdark, she hits him with a spell. The spell draws on the Underdark radiation, the faerzress and grows more powerful. The spell tries to convince Drizzt that everything he’s experienced since his near death has been a hallucination, and his friends aren’t actually the people he thinks they are. She then arranges for them to be captured, along with Dahlia, almost as soon as they get to the city. Yvonnel tosses Drizzt into an arena where he’s forced to fight Triago, the shamed general from the campaign. Drizzt wins, and Yvonnel says the contest was a test. She then asks Drizzt to be Lolth’s champion against Demogorgon. He agrees only to stop the demon lord. With Yvonnel channeling her power through him, coming indirectly from Lolth, he is able to defeat and banish the demon lord.
Yvonnel offers to free his friends if he becomes king of the drow, but he refuses. She offers to let all of his friends go except one that he will have to choose as a sacrifice, but he calls her bluff. She lets them all go.
However, she’s still playing around. She’s become a bit infatuated with Drizzt by this point, and wanted him to be king so she could have him for herself. She lets him go believing the spell she cast will continue to fester and he’ll eventually kill his friends out of mad paranoia. She also puts an extra zing on the spell as he’s leaving so when he sees Cattie-brie, he’ll firmly believe she is a demon impersonating her.
They all return to Gauntlegrym and deprogram Dahlia through magic, whereupon Drizzt turns and attacks Cattie-brie. He doesn’t kill her, however, because of his perpetual hang-up on killing people with faces of women he loves.
Through Jarlaxle, they contact a renegade drow wizard named Gromph to help with Drizzt’s condition. Gromph is stumped and says they need to take him to the Monastery of the Yellow rose.
When they get to the monastery, they find the Grand Master monk Kane…and Yvonnel.
Apparently, she’s become bored with all the politics and scheming in Menzoberranzan and finds Drizzt much more fascinating. She reverses the curse on Drizzt, trying out this “right thing to do” idea. Then they get distracted because they need to help Wuflgar, who has somehow gotten involved with a mess that involves the actual queen of succubi, Malconthet.
The whole crew heads over to deal with that. Most of the work is actually done by Yvonnel, who first distracts Malconthet with an illusion of the demon lord Grazz’t so they can free Wulfgar from her magical prison, then literally summons Lolth to step in. Lolth tells the succubus queen to beat it, then talks to Drizzt.
She offers him the resurrection of his father if he pledges himself to her. Drizzt tells her to get bent. She laughs at him, and then leaves.
Returning home, Drizzt declares he wants to start training with Kane to learn the skills of a monk and be an even better fighter. Also, Cattie-brie is pregnant.
Drizzt spends several months training with Kane while Cattie-brie is pregnant. Yvonnel is still around the whole time, hitting on Drizzt like it’s a contact sport. Then she drops a bombshell on them; Drizzt’s father is back.
No one is sure why or how Zaknafein was resurrected but the initial reunion is not as smooth as anyone would like. Zaknafein was very tolerant and merciful for a drow, but that’s sort of like saying someone is a nice guy for a member of the Taliban. His attitudes about the surface and other races are less than tolerant, and he almost loses his mind at the news that Drizzt is going to have a child…with a human. This leads to Drizzt and his father coming to blows quite a few times as well as endless arguments. Zaknafein eventually leaves to go hang out with Jarlaxle, who was his buddy from way back when.
Unfortunately they run afoul of the drow led by Quenthel, who is about to start her ultimate push for drow supremacy and the favor of Lolth. Word of the invasion is trickling up through various means. Ambergris is killed while gathering information about it, and eventually Jarlaxle and Zaknafein find themselves in a tough spot, cornered by a bunch of demons.
Drizzt rushes in to save the day, but even he can’t hold off the swarming tide of demons. Jarlaxle and Zaknafein escape, but Drizzt falls. This causes shockwaves among his friends, and his father is devastated. At that point Yvonnel reveals she was the one to resurrect Zaknafein, as she thought it was something Drizzt wanted since Lolth offered it to him. Kane and Cattie-brie are suspiciously quiet.
Meanwhile Quenthel’s invasion marches forward, with Jarlaxle and Zaknafein at the head of the opposition forces. The ratio of drow to demons in Quenthel’s army is skewed heavily toward demons at this point, and most of the drow are actually driders, converted at Quenthel’s order to bring glory to Lolth (and because driders are much harder to kill in a fight).
At the height of the conflict, Cattie-brie goes into labor, and she and Kane reveal their secret. Drizzt did not die; he used his monk training to ascend his body to a higher form of existence. Cattie-brie is also about to have the opportunity to tap into him due to how magic interacts with pregnancy.
The practical result of all of that is that as Cattie is giving birth, she reaches out to Drizzt and asks him to return to the material plane. He agrees so he can be there for their daughter, and he and Kane switch places. The resulting exchange of energy functions almost like a wish spell. Cattie uses it to banish most of Quenthel’s demons (the physical ones, not whatever’s going on in her psyche), and convert all of the driders in the army back into regular drow. That effectively halts the invasion, as drow society now has a lot of questions.
You might be thinking “Is that it? Are you done now?” Well, we are, with the history, but Salvatore isn’t.
There are already two books published and at least one more on the way, with stories focusing on Drizzt training his daughter. But by the end of the story where we stopped it, you have the sort of ultimate form of Drizzt:
He’s a drow that’s almost 200 years old, wielding the magic scimitars Twinkle and Icingdeath, with enchanted bracers of speed on his arms. In addition to his ranger training and expertise, he is also trained as a monk. He has a magic onyx figure he can use to summon Guenhwyvar, and is also able to summon a unicorn. He’s married to Cattie-brie and they have a daughter, Briennelle Zaharina.
Now, as you might have gathered from the argument earlier, Drizzt has turned into a somewhat controversial figure.
Fans of the drow hold him up as the best character in the Forgotten Realms. He’s touted as an exemplar of overcoming your heritage and standing up to oppression because of his background. He’s also the prototypical D&D Ranger, dual wielding and working with an animal companion, and he can stalk and kill enemies with amazing efficiency. He’s also grown as a character, from his basic beginnings and fish-out-of water status into a caring lover, a thoughtful arbiter of good and evil, and a champion of the downtrodden. And he’s done all that without verging into “lawful stupid” territory or backsliding even in the face of adversity. He’s unfailingly loyal to his friends and isn’t afraid to call people out, up to and including his father. And he’s got a lot of tragic hero built in, given how much loss he’s faced and worked through. The fact that he’s an unstoppable badass in combat is just a bonus on top of everything else.
Then there’s the other position.
A lot of those so-called hardships are because his methods of interpersonal problem solving are straight out of a CW superhero show. Is there a large crisis threatening my friends? Go at it alone. Am I being manipulated by very evil people? I’ll allow it for the greater good. Is there a misunderstanding between me and someone with a tragic story? I’d better let them kill me to show I empathize. Am I brooding and depressed about something? Was it something I had no control over and couldn’t possibly change? The answers to both questions are always the same.
Also, some people find his moralizing about tolerance and always doing the right thing really suspect. He’ll almost literally throw himself on his sword because the murder-y elf pirate woman is a child he let live once when she was a kid, ignoring the fact that “murder-y pirate” is not hyperbole. On the other hand, he killed literally hundreds of orcs that were part of an army fighting for their independence and recognition as a race, simply because they were orcs and he was mad that his friends died. And he agonized over that for all of…oh wait. He didn’t.
And oh my goodness with the women. Apparently the guy walks into a room and all the straight women are on their backs for him half a second later. Remember; a reincarnated drow matron mother devoted to Lolth quit her entire culture, home, and religion just because she, effectively, followed Drizzt’s magical TikTok.
That last point is often brought up when people claim Drizzt is, in fact, the ultimate Mary Sue. For those who aren’t familiar, a Mary Sue character is defined as “an author-insert character used for wish-fulfillment and/or an idealized character who is talented at everything and has no meaningful flaws but may have a tragic backstory.”
Drizzt is never really in a situation where he fails at any major effort or task. When necessary, he also seems capable of any type of fighting, hunting, or magic that’s required of him. Unfortunately R.A. Salvatore hasn’t done great at arguing against that. He has said many times that he is not Drizzt. However, there are just as many times where he’s talked about things like Menzoberranzan’s matriarchal culture and drow’s family was based on his own experience with four older sisters; the fight scenes are drawn from his experiences working as a bouncer in his youth, and Drizzt’s discussions of morality with Dhalia and his father come from Salvatore’s own introspection over real life issues of race and equality.
The other tinfoil hat theory about Drizzt and Salvatore is that the author is sick of writing him. If you remember, after his second trilogy, Salvatore said they were done with Drizzt after 6 books. Some people believe that is literally true. Starting with the “Paths of Darkness” trilogy, many fans noticed Drizzt seemed to be less and less of a focus in the books, with secondary characters taking center stage more often and for longer segments of the books. Drizzt became a Superman-like figure who arrives in the nick of time to save the day. The ultimate example of this, people argue, is the “Generations” trilogy where his father is resurrected. Drizzt content makes up maybe a quarter of the first book, most of it spent arguing with his father, and then he is all but absent from the second and third entries.
However, whatever feelings readers or Salvatore have about Drizzt, he has a lot of devoted fans, and that means Wizards of the Coast is happy to have him around. As mentioned, Salvatore has already published two more books continuing the story we laid out here, and at least two more have been announced. That’s not even counting the video games, animated programs, and other entertainment he’s been attached to. So like him or not, Drizzt is probably going to be around for quite a while yet.