Forgotten Realms Tyranny of Dragons 5E Campaign
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 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
-Bourstag 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 Blackcloaks. 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.