Dove Falconhand arrives in Malobar to investigate recent murder of the Thistledown family. Though she has arrived too late to prevent the family's murder, she is determined to track down the perpetrator. Joining Dove are her three most trusted traveling companions, Gabriel, a human warrior, Kellindil, an elven archer, and Fret, a dwarven sage. Having already been informed of the rumors of a dark elf, Dove and her group begin investigating the family farmstead. Pieces do not add up, such as a shattered lock, something beyond the ability of even the strongest elf. The inconsistencies are explained away by the arrival of Roddy McGristle, who blames such thing on the drow's "big black panther." Though Dove believes that Roddy did indeed see and tangle with a drow, she is mistrustful of his motives. He blames the killing of a beloved dog and his facial scarring on the drow, and is obviously looking for some kind of vengeance. Mayor Delmo tells Dove that they will take McGristle with them because "he's a seasoned hunter and knows this area better than any." Dove is troubled by the news, but does not argue. Some of Dove's doubts do disappear after Gabriel discovers a shattered scimitar inside the Thistledown home, coated in human blood. Questions still remain, after Kellindil points out two sets of identical elven footprints, made a day apart. But one set is deeper, indicating too massive a weight for an elf's steps. Further, Fret points out a ceiling beam snapped nearly in half, a feat too great for either a drow or a panther.
Dove and her fellow investigators come upon the body of Ulgulu in the canyon, making note of the claw marks all over the creatures body. Kellindil then reports that there is another beast, a red one, and two goblins up above, both killed by scimitar. When Dove asks, "Why would the dark elf kill the barghest?" Fret immediately deduces the correct answer. "Don't you see? Somehow the barghest acquired one of the scimitars, then, in the shape of the drow, murdered the farmers." In a rage, Roddy McGristle will hear nothing of the theory, challenging the dwarf to call him a liar. Finding further drow footprints leading away from the canyon, Dove and her crew move onward, her doubts remaining still.
Drizzt ran ahead of them, moving day and night, not daring to stop until exhausted. He used every trick he knew to evade them, running through streams and swimming lakes, doubling back on his own tracks, even jumping from tree to tree. Nevertheless, Dove and her crew was too skilled to be evaded, and stayed unerringly on his trail. Dove's own group pushed themselves to exhaustion, not daring to let a drow be loose on the surface world, even if they had their doubts about his guilt. None of them, except for McGristle had ever actually seen a drow, and the last reported sighting of one on the surface had been ten years before. Unknown to the trackers, Drizzt had been a part of that group, saving the life of a small elfin girl while his patrol group massacred the rest of the settlement. Based solely on the reputation of the drow race, they were obligated to track him down and learn his intentions.
One night, while encamped, Kellindil notices they are being watched, and shoots his arrow into the brush, hitting Guenhwyvar in the flank. She runs back to Drizzt, who pulls the arrow from her side. "So now we know their intentions," Drizzt tells her. "How far will you hunt me? We shall see."
Behind him in the next day's light, Dove is still tracking the dark elf. He was very good, but he made just enough mistakes that they could find clues as to his direction. If his woodcraft had been better, he might have been able to elude them entirely, but being a creature most suited to living underground where foilage was not an issue in tracking, he was at a clear disadvantage. If not for his speed, agiliy, and intelligence, they might have caught him nearly immediately. Drizzt himself gave them the largest advantage by refusing to put greater distance between himself and his pursuers. Each night he would work his way back to a position where he could watch their camp, the arise early enough to get a good head start. In his heart, Drizzt's true wish was to walk out of the shadows, explain everything to them, and ask to be a part of their world. Fear and experience, however, held him back from such a move.
It was on one of these nights that he was finally discovered. Kellindil had been patroling the perimeter of the camp, and came up on Drizzt. "At last we have met, my dark cousin,"
the light elf told him. At first, Drizzt was glad he had been discovered. He dreamed of sharing his trials and experiences with his light skinned cousin, and professing his hatred of his own race. "My name is—"
he began, but was cut off as Kellindil drew a sword, proclaiming, "I don't care what you call yourself!"
Kellindil only cared that Drizzt was a drow, and therefore immediately assumed him an evil creature. Drizzt refused to even draw his sword, even when Kellindil swiped at his head. He easily dodged the swing, and used his innate drow ability to created a glow of darkness, placing it around the light elf's head. Kellindil quickly jumped out of the globe, but not before Drizzt could have easily drawn a scimitar and taken his head. When he was clear of the darkness, Drizzt was gone, leaving Kellindil alone with his doubts. "He could have killed me. Why didn't he?"
While tracking Drizzt through a narrow canyon, Dove and her men are ambushed by a clan of stone giants, some of the least intelligent, but powerful types of giants. They throw huge boulders down on their heads, even striking Gabriel in the chest, and knocking him out of the battle. While Dove is caring for Gabriel, Fret spies Drizzt throw himself into the fray with his panther at his side. Between the two of them, they distract the giants long enough for the trackers below to take cover and assume a more beneficial stance from which to fight back. Drizzt jumps from shoulder to shoulder on the giants, slashing at their jugulars and eyes, taking the throwers above out of the battle in rapid succession. Having done what he could, Drizzt fled the battle before those he had helped also turned their weapons against him.
When Roddy McGristle announces that they need to hurry before the drow gets away, Dove announces, "We shall pursue the dark elf no longer. He was never our enemy." When Roddy explodes in exasperated anger against her pronouncement, Dove calmly explains that Gabriel is wounded, Kellindil is nearly out of arrows, and their supplies are nearly gone. Even if she still believed the drow to be a murderer, they would no longer be able to keep on the move without rest and restocking, something impossible in the Northern wilds. Furthermore, Dove states here belief that it was Drizzt who avenged the Thistledowns and slew the barghests. Dove and her men turn to leave, Roddy calling them cowards to their backs as they leave him alone in the bloody canyon.
Drizzt stayed on the move. It was soon apparent he was no longer being pursued, but he knew it would not be safe for him to stay in one place. In addition, the season was quickly changing from warm summer to cold winter, especially since he had been constantly moving north. The cold, unknown in the Underdark, was sapping his strength and causing him more difficulty than anything else he had yet encountered. He kept journeying until he came to a mountain pass with a river full of fish and rocky protection against the cold northern wind. He settled down, exposed in the open air, believing the cold could not possibly last long. He was sadly mistaken, having no concept of the turning of the seasons. As night fell, so too did the temperature, and Drizzt desperately worked at trying to start a fire using rock and steel. After many unsuccessful attempts, he was finally able to get a flame going, and Kellindil, who was still silently tracking him, was pleased to see that the drow would survive. Kellindil now decided he would stand watch over this strange drow that had shown him and his friends mercy and compassion when they would not. Unknown to them both, other sets of eyes watched the drow. Drizzt eventually meets Montolio Debrouchee, the ranger, and accepts his invitation to live in his grove. In his short life, Drizzt had seen dwelling places more fantastic than this, but none more welcoming. Drizzt hoped that he had finally found a place to call home, but worried that something would find him and destroy it, despite the assurances of Montolio.
A week later, Kellindil is informed by a cousin of Drizzt's arrival in Montolio's grove. He is shocked at first to learn of the budding relationship between the drow and the ranger, but is now satisfied of Drizzt's friendly intentions. If Montlio trusted the drow, then he need no longer worry about the goodness of the dark elf's heart.