Out of all of the factions of Faerún, the Zhentarim (alternatively known as the Black Network) has the most “complicated” history. They go back centuries where they began in Zhentil Keep, organized by an individual named Manshoon. Originally they were a smaller extension of his forces, but over the course of time, became a terrible and evil threat to the people of Faerún, backed by priests of Bane.
Over the years, they assaulted many areas, priests of Bane and Cyric came and went, their emblem changed many times, and they occupied a good number of establishments from the Moonsea to the Sword Coast.
They were fought back and re-emerged time and time again until after centuries they were finally reduced to a shadow of their former glory; nothing more than a small group of mercenaries. Interestingly enough, although they supposedly work together nowadays, the Harpers of old had a large hand in their defeat and still keep a very close eye on this group.
It wasn’t until recent years that the Zhentarim once again became a major power in Faerún – or at least, a more overt major power. Their goals are still somewhat unscrupulous: to gain wealth, influence, power, and dominate Faerún, which has caused great concern among the other factions and nations. However, they (so far) seem to be keeping themselves in check compared to their older, somehow more ruthless ways.
There’s no secret to it: the Zhents operate as a large gang, or as they prefer to call it, a “family” with select individuals as the heads. Members in the group as encouraged to be ambitious, opportunistic, connected, and wealthy. This can cause some in-fighting as ambitions clash with each other, but for the most part, the family is close-knit. Fear and subversion are put forth as excelelnt means to accomplish their goals and they often have their enemies convinced of their subtle deadliness.
One recent event very much sheds light on the extend that they will go to threaten and dominate. Recently, in Mulmaster, Zhentarim agents were seen [REDACTED] in the [REDACTED] under the cover of [REDACTED]. A scary thought to many who witnessed the event.
Nonetheless, despite their nature, they have offered invaluable assistance during the many recent crisis – especially the Tiamat disaster, where they were an overt player in the battle at her temple. Many would describe the Zhentarim as “evil snakes,” but they certainly believe it would be foolish to let the world come to ruin if they can help prevent it.
It is not confirmed as to who currently rules the Zhentarim, but many believe that [REDACTED] is heading up the operation. Quite a surprising name to see attached to this faction after [REDACTED] all these years.
For many, Zhentil Keep serves as a grim reminder of this faction’s past, but hopefully not of its future. Still, a word of advice: if you see a flying snake nearby, you should turn and walk the other way. It should not become your business.