Malice Do'urden is the Matron of House Do'urden, a noble house struggling its way up the ladder of the Menzoberranzan's power structure. Lolth's statutes decree that one house may attack another, but the destruction must take place within a single night, and the rival house must be utterly destroyed. As long as the first condition is met, no other houses may interfere in the war. The second condition must be met, for if any member of the besieged family lives to the next morning, they may demand retribution from the city's Ruling Council. So, bargains must be made.
House Do'urden makes such a bargain with one of the city's most skilled wizards, the Faceless One. Dinin Do'urden, secondboy of House Do'urden confirms the payment of his family's matron, Malice Do'urden, in exchange for the death of one Alton DeVir, a low level wizard living outside his House in The Academy school of Sorcere. Gaining this confirmation, Dinin returns home to the throne room of his mother who is pregnant yet again.
Matron Malice finalizes her plans against House DeVir with her husbands and children, all the while she is experiencing the pains of her impending delivery. Her child will be born this night, a third son who will not live to see the morning. A third-born son of a great House is traditionally given to Lolth in blood sacrifice, and so he will be killed as soon as he has been given a name.
House Do'urden launches its attack on DeVir, pressing every advantage it possesses, both physically in terms of warriors, and psychically in terms of prayers to Lolth. The battle is a virtual stalemate until Lolth grants the prayers of Do'urden over those of DeVir, allowing the psychic defenses of the rival house to fall. In the middle of the carnage can be found Zaknafein, Weapons Master and First Husband of House Do'urden. Zak is the finest swordsman in Menzoberranzan, possibly the best that has ever lived in all of Faerun. He cuts a swath through the DeVir warriors and enters the chapel of House DeVir and slays Matron Ginafae and all her daughters.
Back in the Do'urden chapel, Malice is in the throes of birth pangs, and she delivers her third son, naming him Drizzt. In the hallways of House DeVir, the newborn babe's older brothers complete the slaughter of the DeVir family. When the fighting has subsided, Dinin catches his older brother Nalfein Do'urden
by surprise and stabs him in the back through the heart, taking the position of elderboy in the House. Maya Do'urden
, youngest sister of House Do'urden, senses the death, and stays the hand of her sister Briza Do'urden
just as she is about to strike the sacrificial blow. They deem the spider goddess appeased by the death of Nalfein, and Malice spares the baby. For the first time, they notice Drizzt was born with purple eyes, an extreme rarity among his usually red-eyed species. At age sixteen, Drizzt stands before his mother and is proclaimed to be "secondboy" of House Do'urden. Malice warns him, "Dishonor me, and I will put needles into your purple eyes."
As with all drow matrons, Malice is not joking in the least. He meets Zaknafein as an equal for the first time, and being both his father and House Weapons Master, he tests the boy's skill and agility. Malice believes because of his intelligence and digital dexterity he should enter the school for wizards, Sorcere. Zak does not agree, and challenges Drizzt to juggle coins with two hands, something he easily accomplishes. Not convinced, Malice prods Zak to push the lad further, so he throws ten coins through the air, telling Drizzt, "Catch them all or you will land in Sorcere, the school of magic. That is not where you belong!"
Again, the feat is no difficult thing for the drow youth. Matron Malice comes to call at Drizzt's quarters when he turns nineteen to inspect his progress in warrior's training. Zaknafein challenges him immediately, drawing first blood as they seek to impress the matron. At first it seems that Drizzt gains the upper hand, but Zak easily turns his sword thrust against him and bloodies him a second time. Malice, however, is pleased that he even held his own against the weapons master, and proclaims him ready for Melee-Magthere. Malice and her House gather with the members of the other noble Houses to bear witness to the punishment of a failed attack. House Teken'duis attacked House Freth and failed, leaving three noble children alive to make accusation. Matron Baenre brings all of the power that is hers to command, both magical and political, and brings down House Teken'duis. Every last member of the family and all the servants are put to death and the house torn apart and burned to the ground. Drizzt is appalled by what passes for drow justice, and his eyes are opened a little more to what his people are truly like.
Drizzt's revulsion at the punishment does not go unnoticed by his mother and sisters. They deem his heart too soft for their designs, and believe he must be made to take the life of another drow. Covering a servant goblin in the glamour of a drow warrior. They approach Drizzt with a ruse, his sister Maya claiming right of challenge against her little brother. The goblin poses as her champion, and attacks Drizzt. The sparring match lasts mere seconds, Drizzt disarming the false drow with his initial strike. As the goblin lays on the floor at the mercy of his blade, his mother and sisters insist he finish off the challenger. Following the command of his mother, he sends his blade home, but looks away as he does so. Before she leaves, Malice says, "You are a drow warrior now. You have earned it."
In Malice's throne room, Zaknafein protests Drizzt's being sent to the Academy, saying the instructors there will ruin him. Secretly, he knows they will further attempt to indoctrinate the boy into the philosophy of the drow, making him a cold-blooded murderer. Zak begs for two more years to mold him into the finest swordsman in all of Menzoberranzan, for his skills already surpass those of half of the Academy's student body. Malice insists that he must attend, because there is more to being a drow warrior than weapons mastery. Zak insists that Drizzt will only be taught treachery and deceit, tools which Malice believes will do the young one well and make him strong. Zak is warned to further keep his blasphemy to himself and not to interfere further in the life of their son, otherwise she will offer up Zak's heart as a sacrifice to the Spider Queen.
Years later, when Drizzt insults a priestess of Lolth at his graduation ceremony, his sister Vierna takes him to a chasm. In the chasm are Drider, mindless creatures, drow from the waist up, spider from the waist down. They are created as a punishment for males who disobey, the power granted by Lolth changing a rebellious male into one of those evil creatures. Vierna knocks Drizzt down into the chasm, leaving him as food for the driders.
Miraculously, Drizzt awakens in a bed a while later, his mother standing over him. She has saved him for her own designs, and will no longer tolerate his "blasphemy" of Lolth any longer. What Vierna meant as mercy, leaving him to die as a meal for the driders, will not be done to him again. If Malice hears him ever disparage the Spider Goddess again, she will take him back to that place, not to kill him, but to turn him into a drider himself. Drizzt returns to Melee-Magthere, and graduates with the highest honors in his class. He returns home and acts like the subservient secondboy they expect him to be, but Zaknafein, hiding in the shadows, hears his son and believes that he has truly been turned to Lolth's side.
Malice gathers he entire household together and proclaims to them the truth to the rumors of war against them. They still do not know who it could be, for none of the the houses below them could possibly contest their power, and even very few of those above them could either. Matron Malice welcomes the coming battle, telling her house to prepare for any and every attack, and when that attack comes, they would rise victorious. Once triumphant, Malice would take her place among the eight matrons on the Ruling Council as matron of the eighth house of Menzoberranzan.
Back in Menzoberranzan, two separate matrons are having problems of their own. Malice communes with a yolchol to learn the whims of Lolth, and discovers that there is indeed a plot against her house. When she asks for the name of the house that conspires against them, the yolchol says that Lolth will not answer a question to which the answer is already known. Leaving Malice in a concussive flash, the yolchol has now caused confusion and anger in Malice. Who knows the answer. Across the city, Sinafey is punishing Masoj for his failure to kill Drizzt. The ten days Lolth allowed are nearly gone, and so Masoj begs for another chance. The matron agrees, but he is forced to take the somewhat inept Alton DeVir along with him. Malice gathers he household, and puts the males under the whip trying to get an answer to their riddle. As Dinin is being lashed, Drizzt recalls the treacherous attack of Masoj during the battle with the earth elemental, and informs Malice of the deed. Now they know for certain the identity of House that plots against them, House Hun'ett. Malice calls upon the yolchol again to learn the standing of Hun'ett with Lolth. This time the yolchol is belligerent, saying that the deed of wiping out the gnomes does not offset the Spider Queen's displeasure. When Malice asks why Lolth is displeased with her house, she is again told there will not be a reply to a question whose answer is already know. Malice is left angry and confused once again. She and her daughters set out to discover who in their family has betrayed Lolth, but they already have a chief suspect in mind. In the gymnasium, Zak and Drizzt have their agreed upon workout session. Zak begins to mock Drizzt and attacks him mercilessly. This is no workout session, and his plan to kill Zak has now been turned back on him. He finds himself struggling to defend against his former mentor. Zak draws first blood, and calls him murderer after referencing the elven child he had "killed" on the surface. Finally, Drizzt has had enough and his outrage allows him to regain his footing and gain the upper hand on Zak. Drizzt throws the accusations back in Zak's face, to which Zaknafein declares he must kill if he is to be allowed to remain alive by Malice. When Zak presses the attack again, Drizzt quells it by stating did not kill the child, but faked it for the benefit of Dinin. Drizzt tells Zak, "I killed no elves that day. The only ones I desired to kill were my own companions."
Unknown to the two warriors, Matron Malice is looking over their shoulder through a scrying pool, and hears the entire conversation. In tears, Zak reveals to him that he is Drizzt's father, and is thankful that his soul remains intact. He warns Drizzt that he will one day have to kill drow just as his father had, but Drizzt vows he will never kill another drow. Either way, they both believe they are no longer alone in the horrible place they are forced to call home. Malice orders her entire household to stay within the walls of the home, an order which Drizzt promptly disobeys. Masoj puts his second chance plan into motion, calling on Guenhwyvar and setting her to track down and kill Drizzt. Guenhwyvar tries to resist the order, but the magic of the figurine compels her to obey, no matter her own wishes. Out in the wild of the Underdark, Drizzt is so wrapped up in his own thoughts and concerns that he is caught unawares by a cave fisher. The beast lashes Drizzt around the neck with its proboscis and begins to draw him up when Guenhwyvar appears out of the shadows and rescues him. The two of them take the monster down together, but then Guen immediately turns on him. Drizzt realizes that she has been sent to kill and prompts her to fight the unwanted urge to obey. Soon, Guen breaks the programming, and her lifelong friendship is assured. Drizzt get Guen to lead him to Masoj.
Malice summons Zak and tells him of her knowledge of their conversation, and that she plans to have Drizzt killed for sparing the elf. Zak tells her she would not dare to do it since they are about to go to war with Hun'ett, but Malice says that appeasing the Spider Queen is of higher importance. Zak literally gets down on his hands and knees and begs Malice to take him instead. She accepts, but warns him not to disrupt the ceremony that will mark his own death, otherwise she will kill him and have Drizzt tortured and killed as well. Zak responds, "I have offered myself, Malice. Have your fun while you may. In the end, Zaknafein will be at peace—Matron Malice will ever be at war!"
Zak is tied down the spider-shaped sacrificial altar and Malice dons her ceremonial spider-embroidered garb. Ask Malice raises the knife to strike a killing blow, Zak is calm and at peace. His final words are "Beat them all my son. Do more than survive, as I have survived. Live! Be true to the callings of your heart!"
Malice plunges the knife home.
Drizzt returns to House Do'urden and searches for Zak. He is met in Zak's chambers by his mother and siblings. When he asks after Zaknafein, Malice lies and says he is away on House business, and chastises him for disobeying her command to stay within the household. Malice then notices his wounds, and he informs his family of the death of Masoj Hun'ett and the Faceless One. He also reveals the true identity of the Faceless One as Alton DeVir, and the connections all become clear to the Do'urdens. As Malice begins to praise Drizzt for slaying two enemy wizards and giving them an edge in the coming House war, Drizzt asks for Zaknafein once more. Malice's answer gives him the clue that he has been killed, and Malice confirms the deed, telling him that Lolth demanded repayment for sparing the elven child. She tells Drizzt of the agreement Zak made, sacrificing himself not only to let Drizzt live, but that Drizzt would now be weapons master of the House. Drizzt refuses, and yells, "A true god damn you all! And damn the Spider Queen as well!" He throws a flash bomb on the ground and escapes the House while they are all blinded.
In tears, Drizzt leaves Menzoberranzan behind, taking Guen, her figurine, and his memories of his father with him.
Back in Menzoberranzan, the war between House Do'urden and House Hun'ett is about to come to a head. After years of behind the scenes maneuvering, neither House in favor with Lolth over the other, Hun'ett finally chooses open warfare. Sinafey has hired Jarlaxle Baenre
and his band of mercenaries Bregan D'aerthe. Jarlaxle, as he usually does, has been playing both ends of the conflict for his own benefit, and so comes to see Malice and report his band's progress. Malice has also hired Bregan D'aerthe, using it as an indirect weapon against her enemies, a way to cause damage and trouble without being implicated in the plots. Jarlaxle reports that Dipree, one of the Hun'ett nobles, has been assassinated by his men. The first strike in what is about to be a very short battle has been struck. Before Jarlaxle can exit the Do'urden household, the walls shake and they come under Hun'ett's direct attack. Malice's forces are outnumbered, and so she commissions Jarlaxle once again. When he balks, saying, "Bregan D'aerthe is a secretive group. We do not engage in open warfare,"
Malice easily changes his mind by shouting, "I will pay whatever you desire. Name your price."
With a sly smile—most likely because this was how he planned things all along—Jarlaxle walks out to the Do'urden balcony and looks down on the battle. He pulls a small tin-whistle from inside his hat (which has a pocket dimension inside it) and blows a shrill note. Down below, fully half or more of the "Hun'ett" soldiers respond, and turn on their fellows, giving the advantage of numbers instantly to House Do'urden. Routed, the Hun'ett army turns and flees back to the safety of its home walls. Jarlaxle slyly looks to Dinin and says, "It's a dark day to be a Do'urden, and even worse to be a Hun'ett. But it's an excellent time for mercenaries don't you think?"
Malice travels the next morning to answer a summons to Matron Baenre, expecting to witness Sinafey's execution. Instead, she walks in to find Sinafey sitting at her council seat. Matron Baenre appears in the middle of their confrontation and explains what has happened. House Hun'ett has been entirely destroyed, save for Sinafey herself. Malice is being forced to take Sinafey on as her eldest daughter, "Shi'nayne," returning from Ched Nasad. When Malice protests, Matron Baenre replies, "Many years ago, Lolth made it clear her desires that you sit upon the ruling council, Malice. And now, with Hun'ett gone and Do'urden the eighth house of Menzoberranzan, is shall be so. But understand your dilemma: you have lost more than half of your troops, and it is well known that you still do not have the favor of the Spider Queen. How long do you think it will be until some lower house moves against you."
By taking in Sinafey, House Do'urden gains fifty soldiers of Hun'ett that survived. Sinafey goes home with Malice, her new "mother." Now that Hun'ett is out of the way, Malice turns her attention back to her wayward son. Briza and Dinin are sent out into the tunnels of the Underdark with a contingent of Do'urden soldiers to search for Drizzt. They are magically tracking him somehow, but Drizzt discovers them on his trail and deduces that it is his House Do'urden emblem that is allowing their trace on him. Drizzt ties his emblem to Guen and sends her in the opposite direction, allowing him to sneak up behind Dinin, knock him out and draw a sword on Briza. She tells him that the war with Hun'ett is over, and lies to say that he can come home and take up the mantle of weapons master of the House. Drizzt refuses and tells them to never seek him out again. This prompts Briza to draw her snake-headed whip on Drizzt, which he quickly cuts to shreds. She then draws her mace to strike, and Drizzt easily ends the battle, cleaving two fingers from her hand. With the advantage, he holds his blade to her neck, and she prods him to strike her dead. To his horror, he nearly does, but relents and levitates away from her and joins Guen in the shadows. "I would have done it,"
he tells Guen. "Despite my vow never to spill drow blood again, I would have killed her. What have I become?"
Back in Menzoberranzan, Malice castigates Briza and Dinin for their failure to capture their renegade brother. When Maya boasts that she could capture him, Dinin scoffs in fear. "Since he left Menzoberranzan,"
he answers, "Drizzt's skills have increased ten-fold."
When asked if Jarlaxle and Bregan D'aerthe would undertake tracking down the boy, but Malice says that they have already refused "not for any price."
Malice reveals another way, and leads her family to the chapel, and calls on a yolchol. In order to right the wrongs caused by her son, Malice asks for zin-carla. Zin-carla is the highest honor Lolth pays to her followers, the animation of the dead under the control of a Matron Mother. Great sacrifice must be made, so Malice chooses to give her patron, Rizzen
, to the slaughter. Malice and her daughters gather around the sacrificial altar, and Shi'nayne—acting as eldest daugher—holds the ceremonial dagger. Malice takes the dagger, holds it over Rizzen, then suddenly thrusts it into Shi'nayne's heart, and the last Hun'ett passes away as a sacrifice to Lolth. The yolchol is pleased, and grants the power of zin-carla. After much meditation and prayer, the soul of Zaknafein is ripped from the afterlife, and placed into his reanimated corpse, but all free will is gone. As a test of her power over him, Malice orders her undead husband to kill Rizzen, an act which he does without hesitation, flinging a dagger into the unfortunate patron's forehead. Out in the Underdark's caverns, Zak is beginning to place more and more strain on Matron Malice. Unable to find his quarry, he seeks to lash out against anything and everything that moves. Malice must keep a constant mental leash on him, keeping him from killing a group of gnomes and therefore giving himself up further to the Svirfnebli. His bloodlust was rising, and he needed to find Drizzt soon, or Malice would loose all control. Keeping control on a zin-carla zombie was taxing, even for the most skilled and powerful priestess of Lolth, and the longer the zin-carla was necessary until it came to fruition, the greater the stress. Even Matron Baenre admits that only one zin-carla had lasted longer, one she herself had undertaken, and that one did not end well.
Across the wilds of the Underdark, on the other side of Blingenstone, Zaknafein has found Drizzt's encampment, and is in a rage over his continued failure to find his prey. It takes all of Malice's strength of will to reign him in and send him back on his way. Malice, though growing slightly weaker each day, warns her daughters to test her rule. Malice vows that she will remain strong, and that she will one day soon hold Drizzt heart in her hand, "No matter what the cost, we will triumph."
Back in Menzoberranzan, Matron Baenre consults with Jarlaxle on the health of Malice Do'urden. The zin-carla has lasted very long, the second longest ever, and the spirit-wraith of Zaknafein grows stronger each day. Jarlaxle also reports that Zaknafein has follwed Drizzt past Blingenstone, and into the "unpopulated" caverns of the west. "Unpopulated?" Baenre scoffs. "Hardly. There are things living in those tunnels, Jarlaxle. Dangerous things." Unknown to them both, Baenre's illithid councilor is eavesdropping on their conversation, and he is highly interested in what they have to say.
Matron Malice is called before Baenre, and encouraged to not lose heart. The price of an extended zin-carla was high, but the death of her son would put Malice strongly back into the favor of Lolth, and give her further blessings as well, "glory and power beyond imagining."
Baenre warns Malice, that if she falters, then the spirit-wraith will as well, being an extension of the matron's will. Malice is also worried that another house will attack while Malice is weakened and out of favor. Baenre assures he that she herself will see to House Do'urden's protection. Drizzt leads his three friends as fast as he can back toward the hated drow city. In time, they came back to the familiar sight of the acid sea, home of the dreaded bird-men. Realistically, they should go around the dangerous cavern, but Drizzt was concerned that every spare moment would count, and every second lost would hasten Clacker being lost to the monster inside. When they enter the cavern, they find it completely empty, no sign of the bird-men remains. They wonder if they cleared them out the last time they passed through, or is someone else had. Clacker reaches the end of the cavern and exits, letting out a blood-curdling scream. Clacker comes back into the cavern with a gaping chest wound and falls over dead. He finally reverts back to his original form, finding the peace in death that his life had cheated from him.
From the shadows springs Zaknafein, his blades flying. "You're not my father,"
Drizzt yells. Another voice comes through Zak's mouth, "No. I am... your mother."
Malice presses the attack, slashing Drizzt across the cheek, a move which makes Drizzt finally give in to the Hunter. Even with the added advantage of fighting purely on skill and instinct, Zak fought his son to a standstill. This makes Drizzt think that Zak is still inside the undead body somewhere, so he lowers his scimitars and refuses to fight. Malice takes the advantage, and moves Zak for a killing blow, but the old weapons-master pulls his blades just short of his son's neck. Malice screams at him over their connection, and Zak is able to strike back and momentarily overcome the control. Zak, the real Zak is now back in control, but he warns Drizzt back. Drizzt thinks they can be together again, but Zak explains that he is still dead, and would rather return to death than cause harm to his son. He tells Drizzt how proud he is of him for not only his fighting skill, but even more so for his courage to do what he had never done and leave Menzoberranzan.
As Zak begins to loose control of himself again, he proclaims his pride for his son one last time. "I do this for us,"
he yells, and casts himself from the earthen bridge and into the acid sea below. Malice screams and blacks out from the mental backlash, and Briza strikes her with her snake-headed whip and claims the throne of House Do'urden. As she does so, Dinin runs into the room and tells them they are under attack. Incredulous, Maya bellows, "Who would dare? House Baenre protects us!"
To which Dinin replies, "No, Maya, House Baenre attacks us." Because of the failure of Malice, Baenre has come to oversee the fall of a House from its pedestal, having earned the severe disfavor of their goddess.
In short order, the Do'urden daughters are killed in the battle. In the Do'urden throne room, Briza is slain by Jarlaxle, who comes to offer Dinin a place among Bregan D'aerthe. And so passes Matron Malice and House Do'urden of Menzoberranzan.