Last June, we shared an excerpt from Timeless, the first in author R.A. Salvatore’s new trilogy featuring the ever-popular character he created decades ago, dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden. The second book, Boundless, is due later this year—and io9’s got another exclusive excerpt, as well as the cover reveal.
Here’s a synopsis of Boundless, followed by the full cover and the breathless excerpt:
Split between time and two worlds, Zaknafein had always been conflicted. That inner turmoil was magnified by his inferior position as a male dark elf in the matriarchal drow society. Only his status as one of the greatest warriors — as well as his friendship with the mercenary Jarlaxle—kept him sane. When he finally perished, he was content knowing he left behind a legacy as substantial as his son Drizzt.
Except…someone isn’t ready for Zaknafein to be dead. And now he’s back, hundreds of years later, in a world he doesn’t recognise. His son’s companions are not the prideful—and bigoted—males the drow warrior was accustomed to in his previous life. Drizzt’s circle includes dwarves, elves, and, perhaps worst of all, a human wife.
Struggling to navigate this transformed new world, Zaknafein realises that some things have not changed: the threat of demons and the machinations of a drow matron no longer content with her family’s position in the ranks of Houses. Though he has been displaced in time, Zaknafein is still a warrior. And no matter what prejudices he must overcome, he knows he will do his duty and fight by Drizzt’s side to stem the tide of darkness that threatens the Realms.
The Year of Dwarvenkind Reborn
He could hear the labored breathing of his poor pony, but Regis didn’t dare slow. For the shadows within the shadows were not far away, black, misshapen things, lumbering and twisted by evil and unrelenting anger.
Demons. Everywhere in the forest, demons.
The halfling weaved about the trees, urging poor Rumblebelly on. He came down around a stone, the trail bending to the south, and into a clearing. He winced, noting the sheen of sweat on his pinto’s brown and white coat.
At least now he could stop, but only briefly, and only because Showithal Terdidy, one of the leaders of the Grinning Ponies, rode onto the small clearing from the other direction.
“Where is Doregardo?” Regis asked, pulling up alongside his friend.
Showithal nodded back the way he had come. “The wood’s thick with the fiends,” he said. “We’ll not get through.”
“And they’re all heading in the same direction,” Regis added.
Showithal nodded. “Doregardo is convinced that these monsters are guided by a greater purpose, and that they know of Bleeding Vines,” he explained. “The beasts are moving in a wide arc, by all reports coming up and down the line, and will strike the town all at once.”
“Then you’ve got to get there before them,” Regis ordered. “All of you, turn about and ride as if the lives of all in Bleeding Vines depend upon your speed, for surely that is the truth.”
“The farms…the villages…”
Regis shook his head. “You cannot get to them, and even if any of you did, you’d only be leading demons to new victims. The farmers will hear the monsters. They have lived in the wilds for all their lives. They will shelter and hide. You must get to Bleeding Vines. All of you.”
“All of us, Spider Parrafin,” Showithal corrected.
Again, Regis shook his head. “Waterdeep must be told,” Regis explained. It was terribly hard for him to speak those words. He wanted nothing more than to turn about and gallop all the way back to Bleeding Vines, then ride the tram beside his beloved Donnola and his dear Rumblebelly all the way to the safety of Gauntlgrym. But he could not. Not now.
Not in this life.
In his previous life, Regis had been the tag-along, too often making victory more difficult for his beloved Companions of the Hall than helping them to achieve their goals – at least, that’s the way he viewed it. In those long-ago years, Regis had been the least of the heroes. This time, this rebirth, Regis had determined to change that course. He would be no burden. He would live as a hero worthy of the friendship of Drizzt, Bruenor, Catti-brie, and Wulfgar.
Now his path was clear before him. He had to get to Waterdeep, the great City of Splendors, the Crown of the North, the most influential and powerful city in all of Faerun. The Lords of Waterdeep could turn back the demon tide, and Regis had to get to them.
“If you’re on to Waterdeep, then you’re not riding alone,” Showithal insisted, moving his own pony up beside Rumblebelly.
“Go tell the Grinning Ponies to return to Bleeding Vines,” Regis ordered. “That mission, too, is critical.”
A commotion in the trees to the side turned the two.
“Go!” Regis ordered, and he slapped the flank of Showithal’s pony, sending the mount leaping away, then quick-turned Rumblebelly and galloped off into the darkness in the other direction.
Heavy footsteps followed him as he wove again through the trees, and buzzing loomed overhead, above the canopy.
“I know, my friend,” he whispered into poor Rumblebelly’s ear. “Give me this run and you’ll find a rest.”
Regis didn’t believe it. He knew Rumblebelly would give him all that he asked for, but understood, too, that he would likely run his beautiful blue-eyed pony quite literally to its death.
But he had no choice.
They were all about him. They were above, and, he found out to his great dismay, they were below him, for the ground to the side erupted suddenly, huge pincers snipping tree roots with ease, and the massive demon clawing up from the earth. A hulking, four-armed glabrezu emerged with long, loping strides, easily pacing Rumblebelly.
Behind Regis, a vulture-like fiend leaped and half-flew, half-ran, in close pursuit.
Rumblebelly’s breathing came in ragged gasps, and Regis knew that he could no longer outrun this pursuit.
Still, he said, “No,” in denial, and he put his head lower, coaxing his poor mount ahead more swiftly, recklessly even, and hoped that he would not crash into a tree.
No halfling had ever ridden a pony better than Doregardo, Showithal Terdidy fervently believed, and his dear friend was proving it to him yet again.
Doregardo effortlessly took his black stallion through the tangle of trees, hardly slowing for the obstacles and brambles, anticipating each turn far ahead and leaning in, urging his pony ever forward, obviously confident that the animal would obey. That the mount had full confidence in him was just as obvious.
A host of demons pursued Doregardo, including several he had cleverly and brilliantly pulled from their pursuit of Showithal. They would not catch Doregardo, Showithal believed.
No one could catch the great Doregardo of the Grinning Ponies.
He paced his mount down a slope into another copse of trees, the demons scrambling close behind. Despite his confidence, Showithal held his breath, and indeed grimaced when he saw those trees shaking violently and heard the growls and roars and shrieks of the fiends.
But Doregardo came galloping out the side, he and his mount showing not a mark as far as the distant Showithal could see, and there was not immediate pursuit – indeed, the battle in the copse continued.
Showithal Terdidy managed a smile despite the desperate situation. Doregardo had turned the demons back on each other, a tangling mess of clawing, biting chaotic frenzy.
When the two rejoined in a small clearing a short time later, it was clear that Doregardo had bought them both some time.
“Our companions have all turned back for Bleeding Vines,” Doregardo told his second-in-command. “We’ve lost none, but that will not hold true for long.”
“Too many of the beasts,” Showithal agreed.
As if on cue, the brush behind them began to shake violently and a pair of misshapen demons burst onto the clearing. The halfling pair were already away, though, Doregardo letting Showithal lead in a straightaway run for the distant halfling settlement, while he, Doregardo, went back into his forest dance.
But more shadows loomed about their flanks, and a loud buzzing sound followed them overhead, and for all their efforts and all of Doregardo’s brilliant manoeuvring, when the pair rejoined once more on a wide road further along, they knew that they were in deep trouble. They came together again soon after in another small clearing, now understanding the depth of their predicament.
“Others will make it,” Doregardo said somberly to his friend.
“We’ll make it!” Showithal insisted.
Doregardo nodded, but clearly was not convinced. Nor was Showithal, for now the moving shadows were ahead of them, left and right in the trees.
“Right, then,” Doregardo remarked. “Full charge, you. Head down and gallop for all your pony’s life. I’ll keep our ugly fiend friends busy. My love to Spider and Lady Donnola, aye?”
He kicked his pony and started away, but barely got moving, for Showithal grabbed his reins, holding him and the pony back.
Doregardo looked at him curiously.
“You’ll break me clear, only for me to be caught further along,” Showithal explained. “And you know it. Only Doregardo can get to Bleeding Vines, and only alone.”
“Others will get there,” Doregardo insisted.
“Perhaps, but is that a chance you are willing to take? How many will be slaughtered if they are not forewarned?”
“Warn them, then, and I will join you!”
“No,” Showithal said softly. “You go, all speed.
“I’ll grant you a head start.”
The two halflings, friends for all their lives, comrades-in-arms for decades, shared a long look, one of friendship and brotherly love.
And of acceptance.
“Go,” Showithal said.
Still Doregardo shook his head.
“You will make a waste of my valor,” said Showithal.
Doregardo started to respond, but there was really nothing he could say. He didn’t believe that either of them would get out of the forest alive, but if one had a chance, given a head start here, it would, of course, be him. “Pray Regis…Spider, makes Waterdeep,” he said.
“Pray Doregardo makes Bleeding Vines,” Showithal replied. “And pray he gets Lady Donnola and all the others down to the safety of King Bruenor’s mighty gates.”
“I will see you there, then, my friend,” Doregardo said. “In Gauntlgrym, where the demon horde will falter.”
Showithal nodded, but couldn’t find the strength to audibly respond. He yanked back on the reins, then slapped Doregardo’s black pony on the rump as it moved past him.
Doregardo charged away and Showithal Terdidy drew his sword.
It seemed a meager weapon indeed, measured against the hulking forms scrambling about the shadows.
So be it.
Excerpt from R.A. Salvatore’s Boundless reprinted by permission. Copyright Harper Voyager.
R.A. Salvatore’s Boundless is out September 10.