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Zhentil Keep (also called Thargate Keep[1]) was once the most powerful city in the Moonsea region as well as the main base of operation for the Zhentarim.[6] Along with the Citadel of the Raven, Zhentil Keep was destroyed by the Shadovar in 1383 DR after it was discovered that the Zhentarim had forged an alliance with the phaerimm. [7]

HistoryEdit

Early HistoryEdit

Zhentil Keep began as a small trading camp located on the north side of the Moonsea around 640 DR.[8]

In 747 DR, a Chancelgauntian ship owner named Orlephar Flostren, began hiring workers and mercenaries to construct fortifications and patrol the surrounding areas. By the next spring, a group of 12 Sembian merchants purchased the hold and began a major project of expansion. It was during this period that a large keep was raised in the northwestern quarter. [9]

Following its completion, a merchant by the name of Elephstron quickly moved into the keep, titling himself "Lord of the Keep." In response to the objections of the other Sembian merchants, Elephstron proposed each be named a "Lord of the City," with the ability to collect taxes, enact laws, and establish militias for carrying out orders on their behalf. The eleven merchants agreed and the hold experienced a period of rapid growth as an increasing number of merchants moved in to buy and rent land.[9]

Despite the measures taken by the Lords, monster attacks on caravans and nearby trade routes became more common and infighting between the merchants was growing increasingly dangerous. With the stability of the hold at stake, Elephstron sought out a wizard to aid him in combating these threats. In 751 DR, Elphestron met a wizard by the name of Zhentar in the city of Westgate.[2] Zhentar accepted Elephstron's request on the condition that the twelve Lords create a formal governing council and give him a seat with equal status in this new council. The twelve lords agreed to his terms and Zhentar relocated to the Hold as a Lord of the City.[9]

Shortly after Zhentar's arrival, six of the twelve lords suddenly died. The replacement lords, five wizards and a rich merchant-priest named Brest, all seemed to know Zhentar.[9] It wasn't until around a year later when the implications of Zhentar's takeover began to materialize. In the Year of Strife, 753 DR, a temple, named The Dark Shrine, was raised and consecrated to Bane with Lord Brest as its High Priest.[9][2] With tensions rising, Lord Elephstron confronted Lord Zhentar. In the ensuing conflict, Elephstron slew Zhentar, but not before Zhentar shot off one last spell, sending both off the walls of the hold to their deaths.[10] To avoid further conflict, Lord Hamastarin brokered a deal with the ten remaining lords which gave Elephstron's seat to his son Jhoaz and Zhentar's seat to another wizard, preserving the balance of the Council. Additionally, the mage-lords, in concert with priests of Bane, crafted a story blaming the death of the Lords on a wizard assassin sent by rival southern merchants. The story painted Zhentar as a hero of the city and the hold was renamed "Zhentil Keep" in his honor.[10][11]

In the following years, Zhentil Keep experienced a period of major expansion with the Council of Lords pouring money into the city, setting their sights on forging Zhentil Keep into the dominant center of trade in the Moonsea.[12] The first project undertaken was the construction of a heavily fortified bridge across the River Lis, linking the city with the southern trade routes. A massive log boom was then constructed to control access to the channel. With the channel and bridge secure, a new section of the city was constructed on the southern shore of the river where a large tower and gate were raised. The entire northern section was then expanded outwards.[12] By 775 DR the encampment completed the construction of a great black wall[13].

The expansions brought a new wave of merchants into the city, many drawn to the lack of any restrictions on what goods could be sold. The lack of rules, however, made doing business in the city dangerous and the hiring of wizards for protection became commonplace. To maintain control of the city's magic trade, the mage-lords enacted policies restricting the practice of magic to wizards associated with their inner circle.[12]

In the year 882 DR, a cabal of liches, previous mage-lords who had retreated underground to pursue the necromantic arts, began returning to the city surface at night, terrorizing the citizens. This period, known as the Night Plague, culminated with the city passing an edict forcing all mercenaries and sell-swords into the Zhentilar army. The army, together with Zhent-mages and priests of Bane, drove the liches back into their underground crypts which were then magically sealed to prevent them from wandering the city.[14][15]

To better manage the Zhentilar expansion, the military was separated into two groups. The first group remained focused on standard military operations while a second group, named the Naug-orls (or Devil Worms), became a secret police force consisting primarily of assassins, spies, thieves, and thugs.[16]

In 902 DR, in response to skirmishes with Phlanite raiders near the city's borders, the navies of Zhentil Keep seize control of Thorn Island and Stojanow Gate. The city of Melvaunt comes Phlan's defense, sending the the three cities into conflict. The hostilities eventually end in 906 DR due to the founding of Shadowdale. This prompts the three cities to sign the Treaty of the Ride and enter into an alliance known as the Triple Alliance.[17][18]

The next 100 years saw numerous attempts by Zhentil Keep to bring Moonsea under it's sway using a combination of military and economic pressure. The Zhentilar were frequently used to support and expand the dominance of Zhent merchants who were able to significantly expand their regional market-share and begin forging new caravan routes to distant lands. One of the largest military expeditions during the period was the occupation of Yûlash, which ended with Yûlash granting Zhentil Keep exclusive trading rights. The period also saw the beginning of a long and protracted war between Zhentil Keep and the city of Mulmaster over naval supremacy of the Moonsea.[18]

In the year 1018 DR Zhentil Keep was targeted by a number of dragons during a Realms-wide dragon assault known as the Rage of the Dragons. Though the dragons were eventually turned away, the keep was destroyed and several lords who had taken shelter inside of it were killed.[19] Despite the setback, the following two centuries sees Zhentil Keep continue to expand it's influence in the region.[20]

13th Century Edit

In 1221 DR, the city of Voonlar falls to Zhentil hands, extending it's reach into the Dalelands.[20]

In the year 1258 DR First Lord of Zhentil Keep Harlshoon, as per custom, sent his two sons Manshoon and Asmuth along with Chess, son of Lord Calkontor, out on a mission to prove themselves as princes of Zhentil Keep. Three months after the princes had left the city, Lord Calkontor poisones Lord Harlshroon. Harlshroon, realizing the treachery, throws a chair at Lord Calkontor. Caught off guard, Calkontor was helpless to stop Harlshroon as he followed through and pushed him out of the tower window to his death. Lord Harlshoon succumbed to the poison soon after. With both of the lords' heirs out of the city, Zhentil Keep soon found itself in the midst of a political coup as the mage Theilon Greencloak and the Banite priest Ulsan Baneservant took the open council seats for themselves.[18]

It was at an inn in the Dalelands where the three princes first learned of their fathers' deaths and the usurping of their seats by Theilon and Ulsan. Manshoon and Chess vowed to take their positions on the council by force if need be. Following an encounter with the Harpers which left Asmuth blinded and Manshoon without his right hand, Manshoon and Chess killed Asmuth, pushing him off a narrow bridge.[21]

In 1259 DR things began to play in the two princes favor when Lord Greencloak is killed leading an otherwise successful attack against a brotherhood of Tharran mages called The Masked Wizards of Ankhalus.[21][19]

The two princes return to Zhentil Keep in 1260 DR and immediately upon entering the city, the two found themselves the targets of assassination attempts by agents of Ulsan Baneservant. Initially appearing to defect to Lord Baneservent, Chess was able to lead Ulsan into a trap where with the aid of Fzoul Chembryl, a disgruntled subordinate of Lord Baneservant and childhood friend of Manshoon. The three were able to cut through Lord Baneservant's assassins and kill him. Having secured their seats, the now Lord Chess and Lord Manshoon sponsor Fzoul's rise through the ranks of Bane's priesthood.[21][19]

The ascent of Manshoon and Chess to Zhentil Keep's Council of Lords in 1260 marked the beginning of a new era in Zhentil Keep's history. Within a year, Manshoon, with the help of Fzoul Chembryl, founded the secret organization known as the Black Network, or the Zhentarim. Composed of spies, Zhent wizards, and Banite priests loyal to Fzoul, the Zhentarim allowed Manshoon to extend his influence and intelligence gathering. In 1263 DR Fzoul Chembryl broke with the Black Lord's Altar, the orthodox Banite chuch run by the High Imperceptor of Bane in Mulmaster, renaming The Dark Shrine in Zhentil Keep to The Black Altar, declaring it the new head of the Banite church and bringing in a large portion of Zhentil Keep's Banite priests into the ranks of the Zhentarim.[19] [21] [22]

Soon after, Zhentarim spies began bringing word of a floating rock over the area of Teshendale. In 1265 DR, during his investigation of the rock, Manshoon made contact with a beholder living in the rock named Xantriph and negotiated an alliance with him. Manshoon spread word through the area that the floating rock was the Temple in the Sky, a floating link to the gods. Manshoon encouraged all Banites to go to the floating shrine and speak with Bane. Soon, entire regiments of the Zhentilar along with members of the Zhentarim were being stationed in the temple and Banites from all around went the the temple to receive instruction and give confessions to Bane. In reality, the voice belonged to Xantriph, who relayed many of the plots and confessions back to Manshoon and encouraged members to perform actions to further the cause of the Zhentarim.[21][19]

In 1276 DR, during a meeting with representatives of the other Moonsea cities, Zhentil Keep proposes a joint campaign to occupy and rebuild the Citadel of the Raven into a garrison containing personnel from each Moonsea city.  As a token of good faith, Zhentil Keep releases Yûlash as an independant city, withdrawing all Zhent occupation forces. Hillsfar, Melvaunt, Mulmaster, Phlan, Sulasspryn, Thentia, Voonlar, and Yûlash agree to the idea and after several campaigns against the orcs and ogres occupying the area, the Citadel was secured and refortified.[23] 

14th CenturyEdit

When Bane fell during the Time of Troubles, Zhentil Keep was claimed by followers of Cyric. He controlled the keep and its citizens until 1368 DR, when he fell and Zhentil Keep was subsequently assaulted by white dragons and frost giants the following year. This siege left a large portion of the city, north of the river Tesh in ruins.[24]

15th Century Edit

Post Spellplague Edit

In response to the Zhentarim alliance with the Phaerimm, the Shadovar moved against Zhentil Keep in 1383 DR, razing it along with the Citadel of the Raven.[25]

Following the destruction, the city's former northerly districts became home to pirates and bandits. Ships belonging to the Black Moon Brotherhood were known to dock in the northern ports to sell captive slaves and recruit sailors. Across the river Tesh , the southern districts became a ruin shadowed by an unnatural dimness and inhabited by undead. The area was beset by several factions controlled by intelligent undead and at least one necromancer.[26] It is likely that one or more of the former mage-lord liches were released from their subterranean prison following the destruction of the city, as the spells that bound them to the crypts were to last only as long as the Zhentilar lords remained in control of the city.[14]

As of 1489 DR the Zhentarim continued to state interest in restoring the city of their namesake. By 1491 DR, the Zhentarim had retaken the Keep, however, refugees and their descendants attempting to return to the city were turned away by the Zhentarim and those who stayed and survived the dangers of the previous century.[27][28]


Zhentil Keep - Franz Vohwinkel

Zhentil Keep, as seen from the River Tesh

PoliticsEdit

Political StructureEdit

Zhentil Keep was initially controlled by the Council of Lords which consisted of 12 seats, with the head seat belonging to the First Lord. Over time the council grew to 17 seats, with the head set belonging to the Watchlord of the Council and around 40 to 45 lesser seats consisting of a sort of "parliament" of minor lords who managed the more mundane day-to-day issues of the city's administration.[29]

Following the destruction of all but the foreign quarter in 1368 DR, Zhentil Keep was run by the only lords to survive, Lord Fzoul Chembryl, Lord Manshoon, Lord Orgauth, Lord Payr'adar, and Lord Halaster[30] (although one lord, Lord Orgauth was actually a pit fiend who began impersonating Lord Orgauth after his death in 1368 DR).[31] Of the five, Lord Orgauth was ultimately the one to take the reigns as High Lord of the Keep since Manshoon was busy heading the Zhentarim in the Citadel of the Raven, Fzoul focused most of his attention on church duties, and Lord Payr'adar and Lord Halaster were effectively puppet lords to begin with.[30]

In 1370 DR Fzoul Chembryl killed Manshoon and then purged the city of all Manshoon's supporters including Lord Payr'adar and Lord Halaster.[17] A few years later, Lord Orgauth was killed by his underling Scyllua Darkhope. [32] Fzoul, being the only lord left, declared himself "Tyrant" and took complete control of the city. Following the return of Bane, Fzoul ran the city along with the Black Network as a theocracy in service to Bane until its complete destruction by the Shadovar.[33][7]

AdministrationEdit

As of 1374 DR, there existed a gate fee when entering or leaving the city, imposed by Fzoul Chembryl. A writ permitting an individual free passage within the city for the period of one tenday could be bought, upon entering, for five gold pieces. The valid writ was required on exiting the city, else a fee of 100 gold pieces was imposed. This measure was intended to prevent most citizens from migrating away from the city, since this fee is beyond the reach of most citizens.[24]

Notable LocationsEdit

Temple of Bane
Once serving as a grand palace of Lord Orgauth and before that as home to a Thayan ambassador, this temple dedicated to the Black Lord is home to some of the high-ranking members of the Zhentarim.[34]
Tower of the Art
This tower is the home to a local wizard's guild that is led by Thagdal.[35]
Zhentarim barracks
This building, constructed not long before 1374 DR, contains the command leadership of the Zhentarim, with only a small portion of the group's standing army. It also possesses a large armory to equip the cavalry and 500 infantry housed there, along with a brig of prison cells to hold traitors and those who break their military oath.[35]
The Tower High
The High Hall
The Roaring Dragon

ReligionEdit

The church of Bane is considered, for all intents and purposes, the state faith of Zhentil Keep. Worship of a select few other deities is tolerated within the city's walls, as evidenced by their scattered temples.[36] Among these shrines and churches are those dedicated to Tymora, Loviatar and Tempus.[35] Any followers of Cyric are officially unwelcome, with a tendency to disappear under mysterious circumstancees if they by some chance make it within the keep.[36]

TemplesEdit

The Black Altar
The Dark Shrine
The Circle of Darkness
The High House of the Hunt and The Lodge of the Great Hunt
The Tower of Pain Exalted and The Palace of Sweet Pain
The Jagged Rocks
The Holy Hall of Good Fortune
Battlehall

Notable ZhentsEdit

DefenseEdit

Siege MachinesEdit

Several ballistae are found on the towers and ramparts.[43]

Magical WardsEdit

  • In 1368 DR the western gate of the city was protected by petrification spell effect that could effect up to three creatures touching the gate.[43]

Zhent TerminologyEdit

Zhent
Any person or an item associated with Zhentil Keep or the Black Network.
Zhentilar
A member of the Zhentil Keep military.
The Black Network
Refers collectively to the ruling priests and mages along with the merchants, soldiers, and agents under them. This is the general term for the underground organization formed by Manshoon[44]
Zhentarim
Technically only refers to the ruling wizards, sorcerers, and priests of the Black Network, although it is often misused to refer to the Black Network as a whole.[44]
Zhentish
A grammatically incorrect term that will bring derision on the user, even in lands unfriendly to Zhents.[citation needed]
Zhentarian
An archaic term mainly referring to artifacts.[45]

AppendixEdit

GalleryEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 7. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 101. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 21. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  4. Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 152. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 162. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  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. 7.0 7.1 Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 282. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
  8. Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 93. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 8. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 9. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  11. Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 109. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 10. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  13. Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), pp. 10,28. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 11. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  15. Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 12. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  16. Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 12. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 109. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 13. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 28. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Greenwood,Ed. [25 izards.com/dnd/article.asp?x=fr/fx20010403a Elminster Speaks (Part #1) - Voonlar]. Retrieved on 8 April 2010.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 14. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  22. Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 15. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  23. Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 16. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Thomas M. Reid, Sean K. Reynolds, Darrin Drader, Wil Upchurch (June 2006). Mysteries of the Moonsea. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 124. ISBN 0-7869-3915-X.
  25. Brian R. James (April 2009). Post-Spellplague Timeline. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2011-07-30.
  26. Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 151. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
  27. Kim Mohan ed. (2015). Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 12. ISBN 978-0786965809.
  28. Greg Marks (2016-04-28). D&D Adventurers League: State of Mulmaster Article (DDEX2) (PDF). Elemental Evil p. 1-7. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-12-05.
  29. Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 61. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 82. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  31. Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 109. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  32. Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 164. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  33. Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 162. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  34. Thomas M. Reid, Sean K. Reynolds, Darrin Drader, Wil Upchurch (June 2006). Mysteries of the Moonsea. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 129. ISBN 0-7869-3915-X.
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 Thomas M. Reid, Sean K. Reynolds, Darrin Drader, Wil Upchurch (June 2006). Mysteries of the Moonsea. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 128. ISBN 0-7869-3915-X.
  36. 36.0 36.1 Thomas M. Reid, Sean K. Reynolds, Darrin Drader, Wil Upchurch (June 2006). Mysteries of the Moonsea. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 126. ISBN 0-7869-3915-X.
  37. Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), pp. 289–291. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  38. Richard Baker, Eric L. Boyd, Thomas M. Reid (July 2007). Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 122–123. ISBN 07-8694-039-5.
  39. James Lowder (August 1993). Prince of Lies. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 1-56076-626-3.
  40. James Lowder (August 1993). Prince of Lies. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 1-56076-626-3.
  41. James Lowder (August 1993). Prince of Lies. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 1-56076-626-3.
  42. James Lowder (August 1993). Prince of Lies. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 1-56076-626-3.
  43. 43.0 43.1 James Lowder (August 1993). Prince of Lies. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 1-56076-626-3.
  44. 44.0 44.1 Richard Baker, Eric L. Boyd, Thomas M. Reid (July 2007). Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 6. ISBN 07-8694-039-5.
  45. Jeff Grubb and Ed Greenwood (1990). Forgotten Realms Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 73. ISBN 0-8803-8828-5.

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