Forgotten Realms: Dragon Queen Tiamat
The Zhentarim are a mercenary company that, over their 200 years of existence, has 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.
Hierarchy and Post Bane Re-emergence:
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 offset the possible threat of Fzoul by concocting a plan with the beholder Xantriph. The two would’ve had 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 finally began to live up to their original purpose.
Manshoon’s first order of business was capturing the Citadel of the Raven, which lost him the chance to get the city of Phlan. The citadel garnered much wealth for Manshoon and brought him to economic superiority. Manshoon followed this up by having the Zhentarim contribute to the army that attacked Mulmaster. In order to enter the Western Heartlands, Manshoon seized the fortress of Darkhold from a lich queen.
Their successes with the Citadel of the Raven and Darkhold were followed up by attacks on Teshendale and Hillsfar, giving them the entire Tesh Valley and Voonlar. They then placed 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 was assassinated by Khelben Arunsun, Xantriph killed by the Knights of Myth Drannor and Malyk, puppet ruler of Daggerdale was overthrown by Randal Morn. Manshoon ended up betraying his allies in the Citadel of the Raven and took over by sheer force, placing Kandar Milinal in charge. This eventually led 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, this was in vain, as all influence in Shadowdale was expunged by the Knights of Myth Drannor. The Zhentarim went through even further troubles until the coincidental Time of Troubles resulted in the avatar of Bane ordering Manshoon’s apprentice Sememmon to attack Shadowdale. The attack failed and Bane was killed, throwing religious aspects into chaos. Cyric then made his influence in the Zhentarim felt by converting many Banites. Cyric controlled the center of the Zhentarim power, but Manshoon relocated 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 then defeated Manshoon and Sememmon, killing Manshoon in 1370 DR.
Manshoon lived on through clone bodies. Of these, one returned to the Zhentarim, conceding all leadership to Fzoul and only working as an agent. When Bane was resurrected in 1372 DR, Fzoul became an expansionist, but was threatened by the reemergance of Myth Drannor. His paranoia led him to attack Myth Drannor and Shadowdale, which he temporarily controlled. A Zhent named Karne attempted to take over the Onyx Tower, but the plan ultimately failed. Fzoul then engaged in a hopeless alliance with the Phaerimm, which enraged the Shadovar. The Netherese destroyed Zhentil Keep and the Citadel of the Raven, killing both Fzoul and the Manshoon clone, leaving only Darkhold left.
The Zhentarim were then again taken over by the forces of Cyric who engaged in battle with the forces of Bane. In 1420 DR, an evil mage named Rezlus took over the Banites and attempted to conquer Daggerdale. He failed, and the Banites fell, leaving only the forces of Cyric. By 1434 DR, the final Manshoon clone raised an army of undead and took refuge in the citadel of Stormwatch, from which he tried to retake the Zhentarim, with Darkhold and Stormwatch as their only bases. The Zhentarim were at this point reduced to nothing more than mercenaries hoping to re-achieve their former glory by taking any contract as long as it had good pay.
Currently, the Zhentarim are one of many factions rising up to oppose Tiamat’s attempt at freedom.