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Literature / Paths of Darkness

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Cover of Sea of Swords
Paths of Darkness is the fourth entry in R.A. Salvatore's long-running The Legend of Drizzt series. If follows the adventures of the renegade drow Drizzt Do'Urden and his friends. It is preceeded by the Legacy of the Drow Series and followed by The Hunter's Blades Trilogy.

The books in the series are:

  • The Silent Blade (1998)
  • The Spine of the World (1999)
  • Sea of Swords (2001)

Originally there was a fourth book in this series called Servant of the Shard, that followed Drizzt's nemesis Artemis Entreri and his adventures with Jarlaxle after The Silent Blade. However, it got two sequels in the mid-2000s and so is now part of the spin-off series The Sellswords.

The Silent Blade starts off with Drizzt planning to get rid of the crystal shard Crenshinibon. To accomplish this, he takes his friends Catti-brie, Wulfgar, Bruenor and Regis from the northern wastes of Icewind Dale far south to the Snowflake Mountains, where the priest Cadderly Bonaduce, a Chosen of his god Denier, lives next to a mountain that houses an ancient red dragon. Drizzt knows that the crystal shard can only be destroyed by the breath of such a beast. But Crenshinibon is a sentinent artifact and does its best to keep the companions from reaching their destination.

The Spine of the World follows Wulfgar instead of Drizzt, after he split from the group in The Silent Blade. Wulfgar wanders the northern Sword Coast to sort out his feelings and trauma from having been a prisoner of the Balor Errtu for seven years. He eventually arrives in the port city Luskan, where his muscular build and fighting prowess lead to him getting a job as a bouncer for a tavern.

The last book in the series, Sea of Swords introduces the elf Le'lorinel, who spends every waking hour training to be able to fight and kill Drizzt Do'Urden. He seems to have a deep-running grudge against the drow renegade, claiming that Drizzt is not the hero everyone thinks him to be, but a traitor and murderer.

This series provides examples of the following tropes:

  • A Day in the Limelight: The Spine of the World doesn't follow Drizzt, but Wulfgar as he wanders along the northern Sword Coast in search for a place to stay. It details his adventures as a bouncer in Luskan and his relationship with Delly Curtie.
  • Antagonist in Mourning: Entreri has his chance to duel Drizzt to find out which of them is the better fighter, but he only 'wins', because Kimmuriel casts a psionic shell around him that lets him punch a hole into Drizzt's chest. Immediately afterward he falls to his knees besides his opponent and laments that he didn't mean it to end like that. At the end of The Silent Blade we are told that he is sulking hin his room not knowing, that Jarlaxle secretly saved Drizzt.
  • Artifact Title: The Spine of the World is still counted as part of the Legend of Drizz't series, despite the elf not appearing in the story directly at all, only pontificating extra-narrativly during a few story breaks.
  • The Atoner: Wulfgar hits rock bottom during The Spine of the World, and begins climbing out. At the end of the book he risks the Prisoner's Carnival to apologize to Arumn Gardpeck, Delly Curtie, and Josi Puddles for doing wrong by them, and then he heads for Waterdeep so he can try to make amends with Duedermont and his crew as well.
  • Child by Rape:
    • One of Errtu's ways of torturing Wulfgar was to have him be raped by a succubus and then kill the resulting half-demon child in front of him.
    • Meralda claims that her pregnancy is a result of Wulfgar raping her in order to hide her affair with Jaka Sculi. Wulfgar eventually plays along for Meralda's sake.
  • Dislikes the New Guy: Psionicist Kimmuriel acts condescending to new-ish Bregan D'earthe recruit and lieutenant Rai-guy, because of his disdain for the arcane arts. Actually, the two of them hit it off really well, but pretend to hate each other to fool their boss, Jarlaxle.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Very averted: one of the ways Errtu tortured Wulfgar was to have succubi rape him. He'd then kill any resulting children in front of him.
  • Duel to the Death: Entreri has Jarlaxle set up one, so he can settle his score with Drizzt once and for all by eliminating all outside influences that up to this point always ended their one-on-one fights without a clear victor. Jarlaxle uses Crenshinibon to set up a crystal tower in wich Entreri and Drizzt can fight without either Drizzt's friends or anything else to interfere. Unfortunately, it is an Involuntary Battle to the Death from Drizzt's point of view, but he is goaded into fighting anyway.
  • Fake-Out Opening: Sea of Swords begins with a stylistically-described fight between an elf with two scimitars and a bald elf, who stabs the first elf in the stomach with a throwing dagger. It's supposed to sound like a fight between Drizz't and Jarlaxle, but it's actually Le'lorinel and a trainer she hired to fight like Drizz't.
  • Friendly Enemy: Jarlaxle is the ruthless leader of a drow mercenary band, who manipulates the companions into not delivering the Artifact of Doom Crenshinibon to the priest that knows how to destroy it and ropes Drizzt into having to fight Entreri in a duel, but he is perfectly affable about it and even rescues Drizzt from certain death (that he was more or less responsible for) and doesn't mean any of the companions any real harm.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Drizzt tries one while both of them are bleeding out from Le'lorinel's last Ring of Spell Storing use. The companions can only save one of the two, so he tells them to save Le'lorinel, whom he recognized as the elven child he rescued on his surface raid in Homeland. Naturally, his friends will hear nothing of it and save him, damning Le'lorinel to bleed out.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Robillard is a gruff and abrasive sort who never liked Wolfgar in the first place and never fully believed that he didn't attempt to kill Captain Deudermont, but he still agrees to help Wolfgar find the rest of the Companions of the Hall and the secret pirate base they're all seeking out.
  • Lie to the Beholder: Drow wizard Rai-guy magically dons the guise of Cadderly Bonaduce to dupe Drizzt and his friends into not visiting the real one. Luckily, Rai-guy is a multiclass wizard/cleric, so his disguise doesn't fall apart when the companions ask him to heal the injured Regis.
  • Locked Out of the Fight: The Companions of the Hall get a convenient window into the crystal tower that Drizzt's and Entreri's Duel to the Death takes place in. This means they get to see the awesome duel, but it also means they can only stand by and watch Entreri punch a fist-sized hole in their friends's chest.
  • Mutual Kill: What Le'lorinel is going for when he uses the last charge in her magic ring to mirror the wounds on her body to Drizzt. His next attack alone almost does the deed, when Drizzt lands ablow to her side with his scimitar, only to then bear the wound himself.
  • Nay-Theist: Deudermont's ship wizard Robillard claims to be an atheist, but that's mostly because he's disgusted by how even good-aligned churches squabble pointlessly with each other.
  • Papa Wolf: When Wulfgar hits Catti-brie because of a trauma-induced flashback Bruenor has to be held back by his friends so that he doesn't bash his head in. A rather strange example, too, since Wulfgar is also an adopted child of his.
  • Past Experience Nightmare: Wulfgar keeps it together most of the time, but he mentions that he sleeps uneasy since he has been the prisoner of Errtu, always thinking that every good moment he experiences is just a dream and that his nightmares are the real thing.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Le'Lorinel wants to fight and kill Drizzt badly. Badly enough in fact, that he willingly allies himself with a group of dangerous pirates and ogres, and will employ a spell from a magic ring that will mirror all her wounds on Drizzt's body when he realizes he can't win. All the while, he is absolutely blind to the fact that Drizzt is not responsible for the death of his family, but rescued him as a child.
  • Save the Villain: While both Drizz't and Le'lorinel are laying dying from their duel, Drizz't tries to get Cattie-brie to feed her healing potion to Le'Lorinel. Breunor rebuffs this request immediately, and later even Cattie-Brie admits she only hesitated because she was so surprised by the request.
  • Secret Test of Character: When forced to duel Entreri by Jarlaxle in order to settle the Assassin's doubts and clear his head, Drizz't at first refuses, wanting to see if Entreri was actually interested in a sincere test of skill or if he just wanted to kill him. When Entreri refused to kill Drizz't while unarmed, Drizz't was satisfied and allowed the duel to proceed.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Le'Lorinel is actually a female elf, dressing up as a male. She mostly uses this disguise in order to deflect attention from the fact that she is in fact Ellifain, the young elf child that Drizzt rescued in The Dark Elf Trilogy.
  • Taking You with Me: Le'Lorinel has a magic ring with a spell embedded in it for this exact purpose, so any wounds they receive are also taken by the inflictor. It is eventually used on Drizzt in an attempt to kill them both, because he cannot best him in battle. It almost works, too; only the arrival of Drizzt's friends keeps both of them from bleeding out, instead causing Drizzt to be saved while Le'lorinel bleeds out because the companions only had one healing potion.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Morik the Rogue spends an awful lot of time enabling Wulfgar's alcoholism and encouraging him to commit crimes. Ever loyal, Wulfgar remains friends with him even after he forsakes alcohol and forces Morik into some altruistic endeavors.
  • Trauma Button: Wulfgar comes out of Hell with an absolutely massive case of what we would call post-traumatic stress disorder, as one might expect from being continuously tortured and repeatedly raped for several years. So instead of simply reintegrating into the Companions of the Hall like nothing happened, he lashes out against his friends and splits from the group.
  • With Catlike Tread: After their duel is ended Entreri, beaten but not dead, jumps yelling at Drizzt's back. This is a special example, as he didn't yell out of a Too Dumb to Live moment, but he genuinely wanted to warn Drizzt to make him deal the killing blow while defending from the attack.