This Tense Excerpt From R.A. Salvatore's Relentless Features a Soul-Killing Dagger and a Chasm of Fire

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The dark elf rises.
The dark elf rises.
Image: HarperCollins

R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden fantasy trilogy comes to an end this summer, and io9 has hosted excerpts from the first two books (Timeless and Boundless). We’re thrilled to once again reveal the cover and an excerpt from his final book in the series, Relentless.


Here’s a summary of Relentless:

Displaced in time and unexpectedly reunited with his son Drizzt Do’Urden, Zaknafein has overcome the prejudices ingrained in him as a drow warrior to help his son battle the ambitious Spider Queen and stem the tide of darkness that has been unleashed upon the Forgotten Realms. Though Zaknafein has endured the most difficult battles, survival has come at a terrible cost, and the fight is far from over.

Facing demons and driders, Zaknafein carries the entire weight of Menzoberranzan surrounding Gauntlgym on his shoulders once more. But the chances of survival for him and his old friend and mercenary Jarlaxle look bleak. Trapped in a desperate and seemingly hopeless situation, the legendary warriors must reach deep inside themselves to face the impossible.

While the burdens Zaknafein bears are more than enough for one of Menzoberrazan’s greatest warriors, fate holds further challenges. When circumstances take an unexpected turn, Zaknafein discovers he must not only conquer the darkness but learn to accept the uncontrollable: life itself.

And here’s the full cover, followed by the excerpt—which was selected by Salvatore himself!

Image for article titled This Tense Excerpt From R.A. Salvatore's Relentless Features a Soul-Killing Dagger and a Chasm of Fire

Artemis Entreri stood at the edge of the chasm that held the primordial of fire, his jeweled dagger laying loosely atop his open and up-facing palm. He stared at the weapon, hatred in his eyes, but only because that dagger was a reflection on him. He understood that now. He realized now, after his stint in the cocoon of conscience, that his worst crimes were those when he had put this evil weapon to use.


Entreri had killed many foes, both in battle and in secret. He had lived as a hired assassin. Always had he justified his work by telling himself that he had never killed anyone who hadn’t deserved it – the world was a brutal place, after all. He still believed that to some extent, except for this particular weapon. He hadn’t just killed people with this weapon, he had obliterated their souls and stolen whatever afterlife might have awaited them.

How many of his victims had deserved that?

He couldn’t justify it, not ever.

He stood there staring, contemplating, and the biggest question twisting his thoughts in that dark moment was whether he should simply toss the weapon to its destruction or jump in beside it.


A fall, a flash of intense pain, and it would be over.

The man winced. Nay, it was not a fear of death that kept him on that ledge, but the fear now of what awaited him when he crossed that final river.


Perhaps that was the true torture of Sharon, he considered. She had shown him what awaited him, making him fear death more than he hated life.

“Damn it all,” the broken man whispered, his words disappearing under the continual hiss of the dripping water falling to the heat below. “Damn that I was ever born.”


“Once I might have agreed with you,” came an unexpected response, and the assassin spun about to see Catti-brie and Yvonnel walking up behind him.

“There was an Artemis Entreri I thought worthless,” Catti-brie continued. “That is not the man standing before me now.”


“We have already had this discussion,” Yvonnel reminded the man. “You have been given a great gift.”

“A gift,” Entreri echoed with a snort.

“A message, then, and, clearly, a powerful one,” the drow restated, staring at his open hand and the dagger. “You wish to destroy that weapon?”


“Perhaps I’ll drop it in and it will eat the primordial,” Entreri mused.

“Not hardly,” said Yvonnel.

“If you wish, I’ll bring it down for you,” Catti-brie offered. She paused and smiled. “Didn’t you try to do the same with the sword you still carry?” It was a rhetorical question, of course, for Entreri had indeed thrown Charon’s Claw into the chasm, only to have it retrieved by this very same Catti-brie.


Entreri laughed at the reminder. “It would seem that I have been long cursed with evil weapons.”

“Weapons are merely tools,” Yvonnel said. “The intent is in the heart of the wielder, not the blade.”


“One could argue that the dirk Regis carries is equally vile,” Catti-brie reminded. “Or the sword I once carried.”

“The sword that nearly drove you insane, if I recall,” Entreri said dryly.

“Because I was not nearly experienced enough and skilled enough to control the base instincts it teased,” Catti-brie said. “Such is not the case now, as with you and your sword.”


“Is death at the hands of simple iron any less death than that with your dagger?” Yvonnel asked.

“Yes, that is the point,” said Entreri.

Yvonnel looked at him doubtfully.

“The dagger eats the souls of its victims, so they say,” Catti-brie explained.

“And gives to me their physical health,” Entreri added.

“Yes, yes,” Yvonnel said. “This is why Zhindia Melarn was so outraged at the loss of her daughter to your dagger. I remember now. The girl could not be resurrected because of the manner of her death.”


“Because the magic of this dagger obliterated her soul,” Entreri said, and he thought then of simply letting it fall into the pit.

“That cannot be,” Yvonnel replied, giving him pause. He looked at her curiously.

“One cannot ‘obliterate’ a soul,” Yvonnel explained. “Such energy is eternal, beyond the gods, even, and surely beyond the power of a simple dagger.”


“You just said that Zhindia was outraged because…”

“Because her daughter could not be brought back from the afterlife,” said Yvonnel.


“Because she had no afterlife,” Entreri reasoned.

Catti-brie looked to Yvonnel, who was shaking her head.

“If the souls are not destroyed, then is it possible that they have instead, been absorbed and trapped in the dagger?” Catti-brie said. “Is it a phylactery of sorts?”


“That is possible,” said Yvonnel, who looked from Catti-brie to Entreri. “Or perhaps they reside in another person now.”

“In me?”

“You just said that the dagger grants you your victim’s physical health. Perhaps there is more to it.”


Entreri blanched at the thought, and then thought once more that he should accompany the dagger to the fiery maw of the primordial!

“If that is true, either case, then they can be exorcised,” Catti-brie put in. “Set free.”


“Then I should throw the damned thing into the pit,” said Entreri, but Catti-brie was shaking her head.

“I know a better way.” She smiled and nodded, clearly considering a course.

“Do you intend to share?” Entreri asked after a few moments.

“Patience,” Catti-brie said. “Make no final decisions until I have considered our course, I beg. For now, though, I have something else I must see to.” She stepped up past Entreri, pulling him back from the ledge and replacing him on the lip of the chasm.


“I still do not agree,” Yvonnel said. “There must be a safer choice.”

“Maybe, but what time do we have?” Catti-brie replied.

“Then give to me your ring and let me do this.”

Catti-brie shook her head. “You said you would help me. I welcome your enchantments.”


“Do what?” Entreri asked, but they didn’t seem to be listening.

“You risk your child,” Yvonnel said.

“How much do we risk if I do not do this?”

“You don’t even know if the primordial will hear you. nor can you predict its response if it does! It is a creature of long-past millennia. Its way in the world is not ours, is not known to us, more foreign even than the beings we name as gods. Please, child, my experience is vast in such matters. Lend me your ring that I might go and speak with the creature.”


Catti-brie seemed to be considering it, even put the thumb and finger of her other hand upon the ring, as if to pull it off.

“It knows me,” she said at length, speaking as much to herself as to her companions, bolstering herself, obviously, for this task ahead.


“It cares nothing for you or any of us,” Yvonnel countered. “We cannot even know what brings it pleasure, what dreams or desires…”

“It knows me, and I know it,” Catti-brie said with finality, holding up her hand to ward the woman, who was leaning toward her, back. “I’ve been down there before in communion with the creature.”


Yvonnel considered the words, then finally surrendered with a nod. She held up a finger, bidding Catti-brie to pause, then cast a powerful dweomer over Catti-brie, one that the pregnant woman had to accept and allow to take hold upon her. Then Yvonnel began casting more mundane enchantments, throwing wards against heat and flame over Catti-brie, creating magical enhancements upon the woman to bolster her in the face of such a beast as awaited her in the pit.

“Promise me that when this is done, that when we have won the day, you will grant me that ring that I, too, might experience a communion with this most magnificent creature.”


“It’s a damned volcano!” Entreri reminded, but the two women just replied with smiles.

On a sudden thought, Catti-brie took out the onyx figurine of Guenhwyvar and held it out toward Yvonnel. She pulled it back, though, and couldn’t help but shake her head at her instinct. She intended to protect the panther by handing the figurine off, while still going down into the chasm with her child in her womb?


Catti-brie laughed aloud at the seeming absurdity and shook her head, and for a moment, the woman was unsure of…everything!

What was this madness? Why wasn’t she just forcing her friends to teleport to safety, or at least, taking her unborn child to safety, instead of trying to parlay with a god-like being that was more a volcano than anything sentient to which she could relate?


After another moment, though, she sorted it all out. She was doing this because it was what she and her friends, particularly her husband, has always done. She wouldn’t shy in the face of danger, even in the face of danger to her child. No, because the cost was too high. They had to win here, for all the goodly folk of the region, including the child in her womb.

They had to win.

They all needed her to be a part of that.

Catti-brie started to extend her arm once more, but then changed her mind and instead called Guenhwyvar to her side. The grey mist formed into the great panther, and Catti-brie bent low and whispered instructions into the panther’s ear.


Guen leaped away, darting out of the room.

Catti-brie tossed the figurine to Artemis Entreri, not Yvonnel. “If I don’t return, give it to Zaknafein,” she instructed.


The stunned man looked at her.

“Yes,” she said. “I trust you in this. “Do not betray that trust, and do not insult us all in this moment of need by worrying about yourself above others.”


That brought a scowl from Entreri, but one that only lasted a moment, replaced by a helpless laugh and a nod.

“Drizzt believed in you,” Catti-brie told him.

Catti-brie cast her own warding spell, then, and stepped off the cliff.

Excerpt from R.A. Salvatore’s Relentless reprinted by permission. Copyright HarperCollins.


R.A. Salvatore’s Relentless is out July 28, 2020; you can pre-order a copy here.

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