The story begins shortly after the events occurring in Gauntlgrym. Drizzt and Dahlia are in the wilderness of the north planning on returning to Neverwinter. Dahlia explains to Drizzt that although the Dread Ring has been broken Sylora Salm will make it her priority to reestablish it by any means necessary. Deciding that their best course of action is to head to Luskan in order to regroup and learn what they may the two head towards the town aided by Drizzt's magical unicorn Andahar. It is revealed that the unicorn although magical in nature can be killed. It can also stay in the Realms for as long as needed with no time limit restraints. However, because it has more vulnerabilities than his other magical familiar, Guenhwyvar, Drizzt is much more cautious in his use of the Andahar.
The pair soon encounter a caravan being chased by bandits. Drizzt immediately rushes to help. Dahlia however questions his motives. Drizzt assumes that the caravan is goodly in nature and Dahlia perhaps more world wise though much younger than Drizzt does not jump to the same conclusion. Drizzt speaks with the merchants who tell him that they are representatives of the High Captains of Luskan. Nearly 100 years ago the High Captains played a major role in the death of Drizzt's long time friend Captain Deudermont. Drizzt rushes off to engage the bandits while Dahlia needles him about how the world is not always black and white/ right or wrong (this is a major theme of the book as Dahlia continually questions Drizzt's morals). After defeating the first few bandits it is learned that they are starving farmers driven off of their lands by the High Capatins policies. They intended to rob the caravan in order to feed themselves and their families. Drizzt and Dahlia share a meal with the bandits and Drizzt begins to question his ethics in this dark time throughout the North.
Sylora Salm stands with her new lieutenant and Ashmadai zealot Jestry Rallevin in front of the greatly weakened Dread Ring. Sulkir Szass Tam appears in the Ring and lets Sylora know that he is displeased with her efforts and is prepared to destroy her for her failure. Before he can act the insane lich Valindra Shadowmantle arrives. Although insane she has moments of clarity and cunning which she uses to convince Szass Tam to spare their lives. As a result, Szass gives Sylora a wand that lets her channel the powers of the Dread Ring and commands her to conquer Neverwinter and complete the Dread Ring once again. Sylora sends Jestry to attend Valindra and to keep an eye on her, tempting him with the promise of making him her lover. Meanwhile, Herzgo Alegni commands for Barrabus the Grey to be brought before him and explain why his orders to kill Sylora were not carried out. Barrabus explains that she was too well guarded and suggests that if he were given his dagger back (a gem encrusted life stealing dagger) that he might be able to accomplish the job.
Drizzt and Dahlia reach the outskirts of Luskan. They take a detour to the farmlands so that Drizzt may learn of their condition. He finds a farmhouse occupied by a woman and her five children after her husband has left. He tries to give them money which Dhalia stops him from doing. They leave the farm with more of Drizzt's moral values being questioned. Sylora uses the power of the wand she acquired to raise a fortress in which to direct her campaign. Valindra reveals that she still possesses the soul of the vampire Korvin Dor'crae. She also seeks out a woman named Arunika who promises to help her with her insanity. Barrabus arrives in Neverwinter on behalf of the Shadovar and offers to help the town defend itself. At first skeptical Barrabus reminds them that the Shadovar used to protect the town before the primordial cataclysm and that he himself lived through it by hiding under the town bridge.
Drizzt and Dahlia enter Luskan and shortly after Dahlia uses a magic item to alter her appearance. She did so after entering the town because she did not mind (wanted) some of the High Captains to know she was there. The two make their way to Jarlaxle's apartment to see if they can find word of him or Athrogate. They are presumed dead but Drizzt believes in Jarlaxle's ability to survive any situation. They are soon attacked by Ship Renthor seeking revenge against Dahlia for killing their High Captain. Things go badly for the two until they are rescued by Beniago of Ship Kurth. Drizzt notices Beniago has a jewel encrusted dagger that he swears he has seen before, but shakes it off and concludes that his mind is playing tricks on him.
Sylora continues to gather her forces when Hadencourt a malebranche devil in the service of Szass arrives. Sylora assigns him the task of heading north and destroying Dahlia. Valindra gathers her forces in preparation of attacking Neverwinter. Before the attack Jestry and Sylora go to visit Valindra's friend Arunika who promises them her help. It is also revealed that she is a succubus. The attack on Neverwinter occurs and Barrabus takes to the field and begins to turn the battle. At the predetermined time Herzgo leads the Shadovar forces in and defeats the Ashmadai forces. But instead of Herzgo being held as the hero the townfolk cheer for Barrabus, who suggest the name of the bridge be renamed for him "The Walk of Barrabus". The Shadovar begin to reestablish their power in Neverwinter.
Drizzt and Dahlia are offered alliance with Ship Kurth which they conditionally accept. Returning to Jaraxle's apartment Dahlia continues to questions Drizzt's morals. The conversation ends with the two of them becoming lovers and going to bed. Dahlia sneaks off and goes to rob Ship Kurth of some of their jewels. This is a setup and Dahlia soon finds herself in a fight against Beniago against his magic dagger (of life stealing) and in a room full of traps she doesn't know. She is injured and poisoned by one of these traps and is saved by Drizzt. She claims she had everything in hand but did not. They make their escape out of Luskan but Dahlia soon succumbs to the poison. Drizzt takes her to the farmhouse the two visited earlier and begs the woman for help. She says she will call the local herb man but that they need a dose of the poison in order to make an antidote. Drizzt returns to Luskan and trades the antidote from Beniago for the promise to support him in future once he has taken the title of High Captain of Ship Kurth. Drizzt returns in time and is able to save Dahlia.