On the Origins of the Zhentarim
On the Origins of the Zhentarim describes the beginnings of the Zhentarim, also known as the Black Network.
Where to find
[An excerpt from the ongoing Metatext: Rebound by Iosefa Elgin, a scholar excommunicated from the Church of Deneir for her heretical efforts to reconstruct the Metatext, her god's annal of lost and hidden knowledge.]
But perhaps greater still than their monopoly as the continent's largest private army, the true achievement of the modern Zhentarim is in the sanitised image they present to the world. Viewed by most as an efficient - if unscrupulous - mercenary organisation, few would guess at the Black Network's dark origin: as a cult dedicated to the dark god Bane, once bent towards bringing all peoples to heel beneath his creed of tyranny and domination.
Many among their ranks scoff when confronted with this fact, citing overblown conspiracies and reassuring me that the only gods to whom the Zhentarim give worship today are the twin deities profit and power.
This is not to say the organisation has entirely shed its dark side, however - alongside the clenched fist of their military, another hand works from the shadows to ensure that the Network prospers even in peacetime. For just as vital as the movement of troops is the movement of goods, legal or otherwise, and there is no border or market that is ever truly closed to one bearing the seal of the Black Network.