City of grandeur and cruelty, home of deadly swordsmen and diabolical necromancers, the brightest jewel of the vast subterranean world called the Underdark, and proudest achievement of the sinister race known as the drow, Menzoberranzan is a place with a mystery at its heart, a secret flaw that threatens to destroy it.When the power that sustains the city is cut off at its source, enemies flood in from the darkness all around. And what greater enemy could a drow imagine than another drow?
The city of Menzoberranzan is being subject to the Silence of Lolth: priestesses no longer have access to their clerical magic. Many drow males have apparently discovered this fact and run off. After an accident that kills several of his students, Pharaun Mizzrym, a master of Sorcere, is assigned by the Archmage of Menzoberranzan to track down those renegades to "redeem" himself. He convinces his friend Ryld Argith, a master of Melee-Magthere who is bored of his position, to help him in this endeavour.
Meanwhile, Gromph Baenre has decided to assassinate his sister, the matron mistress of Arach-Tinilith, Quenthel Baenre. He sends several demon servants to complete the job, thwarted each time by Quenthel's skill in avoiding death. Quenthel discovers and frustrates a coup instigated by lower priestesses, slaying all of the rebels.
Additionally, Faeryl Zauvirr, ambassador of Ched Nasad to Menzoberranzan, has been betrayed by her retainers to Matron Mother Triel Baenre, who, fearing the dissemination of the priestesses' problem, forbids Faeryl from venturing out into the Underdark to determine why no more caravans have traveled from Ched Nasad. Faeryl decides to disobey these orders and attempts to leave the city, but is captured by Valas Hune of Bregan D'aerthe and turned over to Triel. Triel then allows her draegloth son Jeggred to torture her.
Pharaun and Ryld spend time disguised as orcs in the poor district of Braeryn. They dodge an assassination attempt by Pharaun's sister Greyanna Mizzrym and discover that the undercreatures (mainly slaves and former slaves) have been secretly meeting with the renegade drow males. The two attack an Academy patrol to get the attention of the renegades and manage to secure themselves a meeting with them. They are approached by Houndaer Tuin'Tarl, seemingly the leader of the group, and are asked to join the renegades.
Upon arriving at the renegade's fortress, Pharaun and Ryld meet the illithilich Syrzan, who uses his psionic abilities to reveal the true intentions of the two Masters. It is revealed that Syrzan is planning an uprising of the undercreatures against the drow, with the intention of killing as many females as possible in order to take over the city themselves. Ryld and Pharaun are imprisoned, but manage to escape their cell in short order. The two search the hall for an exit, battling renegades along the, and eventually Pharaun decides his best hope for escape is to leave Ryld, who was injured earlier, behind. Upon doing so, he manages to make his way to the exit and escape.
Ryld fights his way to an empty room and enters a trance. He is later discovered by Houndaer and a couple other renegades, but in his heightened state he manages to defeat them with ease.
Pharaun, meanwhile, heads to Arach-Tinilith and informs Quenthel of the slave revolt. Together, they marshal the forces of the Academy and descend on the slaves. They battle their way through the city, gathering more and more troops as they go along, and eventually meet up with Triel and the forces of House Baenre. Together, they wipe out the last of the slaves, and Gromph summons a rainstorm to put out the fires caused by the undercreatures.
Pharaun, seeking further glory, gathers a group of warriors to help him take the fight to Syrzan before he can escape. At the fortress, they meet up with Ryld, who has slaughtered many of the renegades, and manage to defeat Syrzan and the remaining renegades.
After all is said and done, Gromph approaches Triel and warns her that now that the priestesses' secret is out, chaos will soon follow. He advises her to send Quenthel and Pharaun away because of the threats they pose, and she agrees to send them to Ched Nasad to investigate their sudden silence and determine if they know anything about the Silence of Lolth. They also decide to send along Ryld, Faeryl, and Valas Hune.
All five are summoned before the council and informed of their mission. Quenthel, Valas, and Pharaun all seem eager to go, as does Faeryl until Triel reveals she intends to send Jeggred along as well. Meanwhile, Waerva Baenre, the one who fed Triel false information about Faeryl, attempts to flee the city and is killed by kobolds.
- Pharaun Mizzrym, Menzoberranyr mage
- Ryld Argith, Menzoberranyr warrior and companion of Pharaun
- Quenthel Baenre, matron mistress of Arach-Tinilith
- Faeryl Zauvirr, ambassador of Ched Nasad to Menzoberranzan
- Gromph Baenre, Archmage of Menzoberranzan
- Greyanna Mizzrym, sister to Pharaun
- Jeggred Baenre, draegloth son of Triel Baenre
- Syrzan, alhoon leader of male drow outcasts
- Triel Baenre, matron mother of House Baenre
- Drisinil Barrison Del'Armgo, priestess instigating a coup against Quenthel Baenre
- Houndaer Tuin'Tarl, a ringleader of male drow outcasts
- Valas Hune, scout of Bregan D'aerthe
- Waerva Baenre, priestess of House Baenre
- Zeerith Q'Xorlarrin, matron mother of House Xorlarrin