The Zhentarim (pronounced: /zˈhɛntɑːrɪmz-HENT-ah-rim[3]) 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.[citation needed]



An early Zhentarim symbol.

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 had the Banite priests swear fealty to Manshoon and confess to their sins. Xantriph's lair, 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.[citation needed]

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 economic superiority. Manshoon then had the Zhentarim contribute to the army that attacked Mulmaster. In order to enter the Western Heartlands, Manshoon seized the fortress of Darkhold from the Lich-Queen Varalla.[citation needed]

Their successes with the Citadel of the Raven and Darkhold were followed 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 over all Zhent lands in 1337 DR by declaring himself the High Lord of Zhentil Keep. Their actions caused their neighbors to grow wary of them.[citation needed]

In the months following, however, Jyordhan, puppet ruler of Shadowdale, was assassinated by Khelben Arunsun, Xantriph was killed by the Knights of Myth Drannor and Malyk, the puppet ruler of Daggerdale, was overthrown by Randal Morn. Manshoon betrayed his allies in the Citadel of the Raven, taking it over by sheer force, and placed Kandar Milinal in charge. This eventually led to civil war in the Zhent city of Yûlash.[citation needed]

Despite setbacks, the Zhentarim were able to set up a secret base in Scardale while the nations of Cormyr and Sembia were busy fighting. It was in vain, however, as all influence in Shadowdale was expunged by the Knights of Myth Drannor. The Zhentarim went through more troubles until the coincidental Time of Troubles in 1358 DR when the avatar of Bane ordered Manshoon's apprentice Sememmon to attack Shadowdale. The attack failed and Bane was killed, throwing its religious aspects into chaos.[citation needed]Cyric converted many Zhentarim Banites and controlled the center of Zhentarim power, but Manshoon relocated the remaining Banites to the Citadel of the Raven and Darkhold. Cyric was eventually undermined by a divine conspiracy involving High Lord Fzoul. The larger northern half of Zhentil Keep was left in ruins as a result. Some 1,500 Zhentilar and Zhentarim, many of whom were high-ranking officers, and all the orc troops fled the city.[4] Fzoul and Lord Orgauth defeated Manshoon and Sememmon, killing Manshoon in 1370 DR.[citation needed]

Manshoon lived on through clone bodies. Of these, one returned to the Zhentarim, conceded all leadership to Fzoul, and worked as an agent. When Bane was resurrected in 1372 DR, Fzoul became an expansionist, but was threatened by the reemergence of Myth Drannor. His paranoia lead 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 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.[citation needed]

The Zhentarim was 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 with only the forces of Cyric remaining. By 1434 DR, the final Manshoon clone raised an army of undead and took refuge in the citadel of Stormwatch. From there, he retook the Zhentarim, with Darkhold and Stormwatch as their only bases. The Zhentarim were reduced to nothing more than mercenaries hoping to re-achieve their former glory and take any contract as long as it had good pay.[citation needed]

During the Cult of the Dragon plot circa 1489 DR, the Zhentarim was one of the many factions that rose up to oppose Tiamat's attempt at freedom.[5]


Post Bane Re-emergenceEdit

After 1372 DR, 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:[1]

Notable MembersEdit

Areas of ActivityEdit

The MoonseaEdit

Zhentil Keep was the main base of operation for the Zhentarim.[6]

Voonlar allied itself with and was quickly dominated by Zhentil Keep (and thus later the Zhentarim) in 1221 DR.[citation needed]

The Citadel of the Raven was a chain of interconnected fortresses straddling the Dragonspine Mountains. It was intended to stop any possible invasions from either The Ride or Thar.[7] The Zhentarim stole it from the other Moonsea powers in 1355 DR before making it their new headquarters in 1370 DR.[citation needed]

The Zhentarim took Yûlash in a long and bloody civil war, where they pitted their forces against Hillsfar.[citation needed]

Traditionally an enemy of the Zhentarim, Mulmaster became an ally after the High Blade was secretly replaced by his twin brother in 1368 DR.[citation needed]

One of Zhentil Keep's oldest foes, Phlan was finally conquered in 1380 DR.[citation needed]


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.[8]

The DalelandsEdit

Zhentarim agents infiltrated Daggerdale in 1316 DR before wresting control of Dagger Falls out of the rightful government's hands in 1336 DR and ruling the city for 33 years.[citation needed]

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 six years.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

In 1374 DR, on Nightal 15, under the cover of darkness, an army of Zhentarim, led by Scyllua Darkhope, invaded Shadowdale with assistance from the Church of Shar and House Dhuurniv.[9] It was only a few months before the citizens of Shadowdale, led by Azalar Falconhand, overthrew the occupiers.[citation needed]

Western HeartlandsEdit

Darkhold and the Far Hills were conquered in 1312 DR by the Zhentarim.[10]

Savage FrontierEdit

In the Delimbiyr Vale, 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.[citation needed]

The NorthEdit

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.[citation needed]

The Sword CoastEdit

Through Karne, the Zhentarim were a shadow organization that existed in Baldur's Gate and its surrounding areas. The Marsh of Chelimber was conquered by the Zhentarim through Karne and his lizardfolk servant, Sleyvas.[11]

Terminology Edit

A person from Zhentil Keep. Not all Zhents were members of the Zhentarim.[citation needed]
A defunct term for the military of Zhentil Keep to distinguish them from members of the Zhentarim.[citation needed]
This could refer to either the organization itself or members of the organization (it could be singular or plural).[citation needed]
A grammatically incorrect term that would bring derision on the user, even in lands unfriendly to Zhents.[citation needed]


Further ReadingEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Sean K. Reynolds, Jason Carl (November 2001). Lords of Darkness. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 96. ISBN 0-7869-1989-2.
  2. Sean K. Reynolds, Jason Carl (November 2001). Lords of Darkness. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 97–98. ISBN 0-7869-1989-2.
  3. Jeff Grubb, Ed Greenwood and Karen S. Martin (1987). Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (Cyclopedia of the Realms). (TSR, Inc), p. 92. ISBN 0-8803-8472-7.
  4. Warning: book within boxed set not specified for Ruins of Zhentil Keep
  5. Wizards of the Coast (2014). Heroes Isteval. What is D&D?. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2014-12-09.
  6. Thomas M. Reid, Sean K. Reynolds, Darrin Drader, Wil Upchurch (June 2006). Mysteries of the Moonsea. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 123. ISBN 0-7869-3915-X.
  7. Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 36. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  8. Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, Robert J. Schwalb (September 2008). Forgotten Realms Player's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 100. ISBN 978-0-7869-4929-8.
  9. Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 158. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  10. Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 35. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  11. Snowblind Studios (2001). Chris Avellone, Ezra Dreisbach, Ryan Geithman. Baldur's Gate: Dark AllianceInterplay.