The Zhentarim seeks to become omnipresent and inescapable, more wealthy and powerful, and most importantly, untouchable. The public face of the organization appears much more benign, offering the best mercenaries money can buy. When a merchant needs an escort for his caravan, when a noble needs bodyguards to protect her holdings, or when a city needs trained soldiers to defend its honor, the Zhentarim provides the best-trained fighting men and women money can buy. However, the cost of doing business with the Black Network can be high.
The Black Network wants to make it necessary—and preferable, even—to deal with its members. It wants to secure, over time, an iron-fisted monopoly. Members must be the best—the cheapest, the fastest, and the most secure—at providing services and goods both legal and illicit, willing to lose coin if it means destroying a competitor, and securing profits from everyone they deal with, except when to do so would work against the Black Network's ultimate goal: to make everyone dependent on it.
A member of the Zhentarim thinks of himself or herself as a member of a very large family and relies on the Black Network for resources and security. However, members are granted enough autonomy to pursue their own interests and gain some measure of personal power or influence.
- The Zhentarim is your family. You watch out for it, and it watches out for you.
- You are the master of your own destiny. Never be less than what you deserve to be.
- Everything—and everyone—has a price.
To amass wealth, power, and influence.
- Dread Lord
The Zhentarim were a mercenary company who, over their 200 years of existence, experienced several leaps and bounds in terms of successes, but also several major defeats. As of 1479 DR they were a shadow of their former glory, but still an organization of great power and influence.
Post-Bane Emergence Edit
The Zhentarim followed a strict linear hierarchy with Fzoul Chembryl at the head of the organization. He had several subordinates that reported directly to him. Each of those "Lords" had many underlings that handled reports and requests. The Zhentarim did not typically skip ranks in the hierarchy. The only exception to this rule was Manshoon who had permission to use any of the resources of the Zhents as he saw fit. Here is a short list of major figures at this time.
- Fzoul Chembryl - High Lord of the Zhentarim
- Scyllua Darkhope - Castellan of Zhentil Keep
- Lord Kandar Milinal - Lord of the Citadel of the Raven
- Manshoon - Autonomous
- Selfaril Uoumdolphin - High Blade of Mulmaster
- Buorstag Hlammythyl - Bron of Voonlar
- Darik Berkstan - Leader of the "protectorate of Yulash
- Zerana Hellesk - Military leader of Teshwave
- Teldorn Darkhope - Lord of Mintar
- The Pereghost - Commander of Darkhold
- Dhamir Ercals - Coleader of Darkhold
- Kara Chermosk - Leader of the Tethyamar Fortress
- Verblen - Slave Lord of Zhentil Keep
- Angus Materi - Captain of the Outriders of Darkhold
- Captain Cvaal Daoran - Leader of the Brothers of the Black Fist
- Mara Kalaliv - Leads the Order of the Iron Gauntlet
- Xulla - Caravan Lord of the Zhentarim
Founded in 1261 DR in Zhentil Keep by Manshoon, the Zhentarim were originally created for Manshoon's ambitions for expansion. Fzoul Chembryl joined in 1263 DR and was able to dispose of the high ranking priests and convert low ranking priests to the cause of Bane. In the organization's first thirty years, they were able to assemble mages dubbed the Black Cloaks. Manshoon would offset the possible threat of Fzoul by concocting a plan with the beholder Xantriph. The two would have the Banite priests swear fealty to Manshoon and confess to their sins. Xantriph's lair, found in what used to be Teshendale, became a base for Zhentilar patrols. It was around this time that the Zhentarim would finally begin to live up to their original purpose.
Manshoon's first order of business would be capturing the Citadel of the Raven, which lost him the chance to get the city of Phlan. The citadel would end up garnering much wealth for Manshoon and bring him to economic superiority. Manshoon would follow this up by having the Zhentarim contribute to the army that attacked Mulmaster. In order to enter the Western Heartlands, Manshoon would seize the fortress of Darkhold from a lich queen.
Their successes with the Citadel of the Raven and Darkhold would be followed up by attacks on Teshendale and Hillsfar, giving them the entire Tesh Valley and Voonlar. They would then place their own rulers in Daggerdale and Shadowdale, allowing Manshoon to consolidate his rule all over Zhent lands in 1337 DR by declaring himself the High Lord of Zhentil Keep. Their actions caused their neighbors to grow wary of them.
In the months following, Jyordhan, puppet ruler of Shadowdale would be assassinated by Khelben Arunsun, Xantriph killed by the Knights of Myth Drannor and Malyk, puppet ruler of Daggerdale was overthrown by Randal Morn. Manshoon would end up betraying his allies in the Citadel of the Raven and take it over by sheer force and place Kandar Milinal charge. This would eventually lead to the Zhent city of Yûlash erupting in civil war.
Despite their setbacks, the Zhentarim were able to set up a secret base in Scardale due to the embattled Cormyrian and Sembian nations. However, it was in vain as all influence in Shadowdale would be expunged by the Knights of Myth Drannor. The Zhentarim would go through even further troubles until the coincidental Time of Troubles would have it that the avatar of Bane would order Manshoon's apprentice Sememmon to attack Shadowdale. The attack would fail and Bane would be killed, throwing religious aspects into chaos.Cyric would then make his influence in the Zhentarim felt by converting many Banites. Cyric would control the center of the Zhentarim power, but Manshoon would relocate the Banites to the Citadel of the Raven and Darkhold. Cyric was eventually undermined by a divine conspiracy involving Fzoul. The larger, northern half of Zhentil Keep was left in ruins as a result. 1500 Zhentilar and Zhentarim, many of whom were high-ranking officers fled the city, as well as all of the orc troops. Fzoul and Lord Orgauth would then defeat Manshoon and Sememmon, killing Manshoon in 1370 DR.
Manshoon would live on through clone bodies. Of these, one would return to the Zhentarim, conceding all leadership to Fzoul and only working as an agent. When Bane was resurrected in 1372 DR, Fzoul would become an expansionist, but would be threatened by the reemergance of Myth Drannor. His paranoia would lead him to attack Myth Drannor and Shadowdale, which he temporarily controlled. A Zhent named Karne would then attempt to take over the Onyx Tower, but the plan would ultimately fail. Fzoul would then engage in a hopeless alliance with the Phaerimm, which would enrage the Shadovar. The Netherese would destroy Zhentil Keep and the Citadel of the Raven, killing both Fzoul and the Manshoon clone, leaving only Darkhold left.
The Zhentarim would then again be taken over by the forces of Cyric who would engage in battle with the forces of Bane. In 1420 DR, an evil mage named Rezlus would take over the Banites and attempt to conquer Daggerdale. He would fail and the Banites would fall, leaving only the forces of Cyric. By 1434 DR, the final Manshoon clone would raise an army of undead and take refugee in the citadel of Stormwatch, from there he would retake the Zhentarim, with Darkhold and Stormwatch as their only bases. The Zhentarim would be reduced to nothing more than mercenaries hoping to re-achieve their former glory by taking any contract as long as it had good pay.
During the Cult of the Dragon plot, The Tyranny of Dragon, the Zhentarim was one of the many factions who rose up to oppose Tiamat's attempt at freedom.
Notable Members Edit
- Fzoul Chembryl (former)
- Sememmon (former)
- Scyllua Darkhope (deceased)
- Lord Orgauth (deceased)
- The Pereghost
- Teldorn Darkhope
- Verblen (likely deceased)
- Jamna Gleamsilver (Ally during the events of Tyranny of Dragons)
- Rezlus (Enemy in Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale)
- Karne (Enemy in Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and join-able NPC in Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II)
Areas of Activity Edit
The Zhentarim built the Black Road across Anauroch to allow trade with The North, including Waterdeep. By 1479 DR the road was no longer in use.
Zhentarim agents infiltrated Daggerdale in 1316 DR before wresting control of Dagger Falls out of the rightful government's hands in 1336 and ruling the city for 33 years.
In 1339 DR, the Zhentarim managed to assassinate the lord of Shadowdale and replace him with one of their agents who ruled over the Dale for 6 years.
In a joint venture with Cormyr, Sembia and the other Dalelands states, the Zhentarim sponsored a peacekeeping force in Scardale after Lashan Aumersair attempted to conquer the area. Support for the troops was withdrawn soon after they arrived in 1357 DR though they remained in the Dale for at least another decade.
In 1374 DR, Nightal 15, under the cover of darkness, an army of Zhentarim, lead by Scyllua Darkhope, invaded Shadowdale with the assistance from the Church of Shar and House Dhuurniv. It was only a few months before the citizens of Shadowdale, led by Azalar Falconhand, overthrew the occupiers.
Darkhold and the Far Hills Edit
Conquered in 1312 DR by the Zhentarim.
Delimbiyr Vale Edit
The town of Llorkh and the village of Orlbar marked the end of the Black Road route and the gateway for Zhent trade in The North
Zhentil Keep was the main base of operation for the Zhentarim, it was located on the western tip of the Moonsea.
Voonlar : Allied itself with and was quickly dominated by Zhentil Keep (and thus later the Zhentarim) in 1221 DR.
Citadel of the Raven : Straddling the Dragonspine Mountains this chain of interconnected fortresses was intended to stop any possible invasions from either The Ride or Thar.  The Zhentarim stole it from the other Moonsea powers in 1355 DR before making it their new headquarters in 1370 DR.
Yûlash : The Zhentarim took Yûlash in a long and bloody civil war where they pitted their forces against Hillsfar.
Mulmaster : Traditionally an enemy of the Zhentarim, Mulmaster became an ally after the High Blade was secretly replaced by his twin brother in 1368 DR.
Phlan : One of Zhentil Keep's oldest foes, Phlan was finally conquered in 1380 DR.
It was believed the organization sent some of its older members to the frontier nations of The North, such as the Silver Marches, to act under the guise of families who bought up land to live a peaceful life as homesteaders until needed by their Zhentarim Lords.
Through Karne, the Zhentarim were a shadow organization that existed in Baldur's Gate and its surrounding areas. They were going to attempt to take it over through the Onyx Tower. It is likely they no longer exist in Baldur's Gate due to Karne probably dying of old age.
Conquered by the Zhentarim through Karne and his Lizardfolk servant, Sleyvas.