R.A. Salvatore's
Dark Elf Trilogy
Thanks to Michael Dufresne for submitting this intro.
cover Introduction By Ed Greenwood

Ah, the drow. Slender fingers closing around a fine crystal goblet, enclosing glowing wine in digits as inky as the darkness all around...cruel lips and deadly swift minds, not to be trifled with...

Longtime gamers remember well the little surprise at the end of the Giants modules, the link that made them only the first part of what was to become the first epic adventure published for the ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game. These adventures brought intrepid adventurers face to face (and blade to blade) for the first time with the sinister, deadly drow.

The obsidian-skinned, lithe, beautiful, and ruthless dark elves were among Gary Gygax's most fascinating creations. Almost every player or Dungeon Master who played in or pored over the "D" modules wanted more: more about the strange world of the Underdark, with its fungi and weird radiations and pack lizard caravans. Everywhere were the drow, darts from the hand crossbows winging before them, javelins from their atlatals following in short order, and whip-wielding, cruel priestesses hissing out orders in the velvet darkness.

The Vault of the Drow was our first subterranean city, and gamers were frankly fascinated by its warring merchant clans and drow Houses. We knew true and deadly villains when we faced them--and behind them all, the sinister Spider Goddess, Lolth (or, if you prefer, Lloth), with her web-like domain and its gates to other planes or worlds, her yochlol. Deadly and yet beckoning.

One who answered their soft, sinister call was Bob Salvatore. More than any other writer, he brought the drow to life on the printed page, giving us the heroism of Zaknafein Do'Urden and his famous son Drizzt. If one sets aside the spider goddesses, Drizzt is clearly the best-known and most influential dark elf not only among surface-dwelling folk in the FORGOTTEN REALMS world--but in all of fantasy gaming. Just as the adventures that introduced the drow were classics, Drizzt is a classic character, noble and deadly, tortured and yet triumphant--who may well outlive us all.

It has been my proud task to bring gamers rules and descriptions of the dark elves on more than one occasion--but it is Bob who gave us Menzoberranzan with all its decadence, savage intrigues, and dark splendor in his great novel Homeland. It is Bob who showed us one dark elf rising up from that grim city to greater, brighter things. From such sagas readers find bright inspiration, and it is my pleasure to introduce the classic works between these covers once more. As I sit back, the shade of Elminster nodding approvingly in the shadows behind my shoulder, I envy those who will meet Drizzt for the first time here: the excitements lie ahead for such fortunate folk. For my part, I am right glad that Bob brought Drizzt into my world, into the Realms we all now share, and I say again, as one old friend to another: Talespinner, I salute you!


They wanted Drizzt.

The readers of the Icewind Dale Trilogy wanted Drizzt; the folks at TSR wanted Drizzt; and--well, let's be honest about it--I wanted him too. I wanted to find out where he came from and why he acted in such a manner during the three Icewind Dale stories: half-crazy, mostly lighthearted, but with a dark side to him. I know that sounds strange; we're talking about a fictional character here, and one whom I created, so wouldn't his background be of minimal importance, perhaps completely irrelevant? Couldn't I make him whatever I desired?

In a word, no.

That's the thing about fictional characters: they have a way of becoming real-- and not just real to the people reading about them, but suprisingly multidimensional to the author as well. I come to love, hate, admire, or despise the characters I create in my books. For that to happen, each must act consistently within the framework of his or her experiences, whether those events appear in the books or not.

So when my editor at TSR called me in late 1989 or early 1990, a short time before the publication of The Halfling's Gem, and proposed that I do another trilogy, this one detailing the background of Drizzt Do'Urden, I was hardly surprised. The Icewind Dale books had been quite successful. I knew from the many letters I had received from the many people with whom I spoke with at books signings that Drizzt, for some reason, stood above the other characters.

At that time I averaged about ten letters from readers a week, and at least eight of the ten remarked that Drizzt was their favorite. Repeatedly they asked how he got to where he was and became who he was. The folks at TSR, of course, had been hearing the same questions.

So they asked for a prequel trilogy, and because I have three kids to support, and because I was planning to quit my day job that same year (which I did in June 1990), and most of all because I, too, truly wanted to unravel the mystery behind this character, I gladly agreed.

I knew where Drizzt was conceived, of course: in my office, at my day job. And I knew when he came into being: July 1987, right after my proposal to write The Crystal Shard had been accepted, and right before I actually started writing the book.

It was one of the strangest episodes of my writing career. At the time I began writing the asked-for proposal, the FORGOTTEN REALMS setting was nothing more than a prototype and a single novel, the excellent Darkwalker on Moonshae by Doug Niles. When TSR asked me to write a Realms book they sent me all that they had, which amounted to...Darkwalker on Moonshae. Thus I came to believe that the Moonshae Isles were the FORGOTTEN REALMS setting.

Well, the Moonshaes aren't that large a place. Any epic story taking place in that region at that time would have to at least mention the storyline and characters of Doug's fine book. I was thrilled at the prospect of working with Doug Niles, but I didn't want to steal his characters. I cam up with a compromise that involved Daryth from Doug's book to introduce the hero of my book: Wulfgar, son of Beornegar, of the barbarian tribes of Icewind Dale.

When I later discovered the actual size and scope of the Realms and was told that TSR did not want to share characters (as they did with the DRAGONLANCE saga), I was truly relieved, and that was the end of it--for a time.

Then the proposal got accepted, and when Mary Kirchoff, then senior editor in TSR's book department, told me I'd be writing the second FORGOTTEN REALMS novel, she reminded me that now we had to set the book thousands of miles from Doug's stomping ground, I needed a new sidekick for Wulfgar. I assured her that I'd get right on it and come up with something the following week.

"No, Bob," she responded, words I seem to hear too often from editors. "You don't understand. I'm going into a meeting right not to sell this proposal. I need a sidekick."

"Now?" I, in my never-before-in-the-world-of-publishing naivete, responded.

"Right now," she answered, rather smugly.

And then it happened. I don't know how. I don't know why. I merely said, "A drow."

There came a pause, followed by, in a slightly hesitant tone, "A dark elf?"

"Yeah," I said, growing more confident as the character began to take more definite shape in my mind. "A drow ranger."

The pause was longer this time. Then, in barely a whisper, the tremor of having to go tell this one to the mucky-mucks evident in her tone, she said, "What's his name?"

"Drizzt Do'Urden, of D'aermon N'achezbaeron, Ninth House of Menzoberranzan."

"Oh." Another pause. "Can you spell that?"

"Not a chance."

"A drow ranger?"


"Drizzit?" she asked.

"Drizzt," I corrected, for the first of 7.3 million times.

"Okay," the beleaguered editor agreed, probably thinking she could change my mind later.

But she didn't, of course. This is a testament to Mary Kirchoff: she let the creative person she hired do the creative thing and waited to see the result before taking out the hatchet (which never appeared).

Thus was Drizzt born. Did I ever run him in a game? Nope. Is there anyone I based him on? Nope. He just happened, unexpectedly and with very little forethought. He was suppose to be a sidekick, after all; a curiosity piece with a slightly different twist. You know: like Robin to Batman, or Kato to the Green Hornet.

It didn't work out that way. In the first chapter of The Crystal Shard Drizzt ran across the tundra and got ambushed by a yeti. By page three, I knew.

Drizzt was the star of it all.

So now I was ready to sit down and write the prequel, to tell the story of this drow ranger, of how he came to be the character we met in the Icewind Dale Trilogy. I wanted to do something different, something more intense and more personal. Since I love describing action, particularly battle scenes, I didn't want to write the books from a first-person perspective. I came up with the essays that Drizzt writes to preview every section of the books, and I think I've received more mail on those essays than on everything else I've ever written, combined.

As Drizzt's prequel began to take shape a few inconsistencies appeared. This was to be expected. How he acquired the panther, even his age, as described in the Icewind Dale Trilogy, didn't seen appropriate to his previous existence. I decided the Dark Elf Trilogy should not be hemmed in by that which came before, so if you look closely, you'll see that some minor details have changed in subsequent printings of The Crystal Shard.

I suppose that's appropriate since this story--soon to be eleven books, four short stories, and still counting--seems to have a life of its own. It's a growing and shifting thing and doesn't move in directions I ever anticipated. I thought it was dead, and lo and behold, it's breathing again, as strong as ever. I'll nip and tuck, because in the end, I want the whole work to be consistent and believable within the context of the fantasy genre.

The simple truth is that I wrote this story for one reason: I wanted to tell it. I wanted people to enjoy it.

I hope you do.

--R. A.Salvatore