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Drizzt has been ordered by his mother, Matron Malice Do'urden, to enter the warrior's portion of the Menzoberranzan Academy, Melee-Magthere. He spends the next nine years under the tutelage of the Masters in fighting skill and drow philosophy. He also spends a year under the study of a wizard apprentice who is his sworn enemy, and under the clerics of Lolth who threaten to steal his soul.
Behind the scenes, his enemies gather against him, and he has done nothing to earn their hatred other than being born who and what he is. Alton Devir, lone survivor of a house destroyed by House Do'urden, and Masoj Hun'ett, who hates Drizzts just for being born a naturally skilled warrior, work under the direction of Matron Sina'fey Hun'ett to bring about his downfall. They all believe the road to revenge against and protection from House Do'urden.
Meanwhile, Drizzt's father Zaknafein grows more concerned each day that his son's soul and character are being destroyed by the darkness of the Academy and Menzoberranzan.