|"Membership in the Zhentarim is like a key to a thousand doors, each one a gateway to fulfilling a personal desire. Most people shy away from this kind of freedom. They like their restraints, laws, and swaddling—it gives them the illusion of security.
The Black Network provides what I need to explore realms and dimensions that would tear apart minds accustomed to limits. Only in such places can I find magic powerful enough to defeat beings that know no such thing as time, fear, or mercy. You might not like the Zhentarim’s methods, but when a demon crawls out of the Abyss and comes for your family, you’ll be glad that I have gone to the darkest of realms to find the answer to your problem.”
|— Ianna Asterion|
The Zhentarim, or Black Network, is an organization of well-trained mercenaries, savvy rogues, and crafty warlocks who seek to expand their influence and power throughout Faerûn. Agents of the Zhentarim feel that if they play by the rules, nothing gets done. Ultimately, they want to make the rules — and, in some cases, they already do. They walk a fine line when it comes to the letter of the law and don’t shy away from the occasional shady deal or illicit activity to get what they want.
To the Zhentarim, wealth is power. The Zhentarim seeks to become omnipresent and inescapable, more wealthy and powerful, and most importantly, untouchable. The public face of the organization appears much more benign, offering the best mercenaries money can buy. Its agents know that nothing else inspires such confidence and dispels doubt so well. In an instant, wealth speaks louder than a thousand bards. Zhentarim agents routinely carry the finest weapons and armor, with no expense spared. When a merchant needs an escort for a caravan, when a noble family requires bodyguards to protect its holdings, or when a city is desperate for trained soldiers to defend its walls, the Zhentarim provides the best warriors money can buy. However, the cost of doing business with the Black Network can be high.
The organization encourages individual ambition and rewards innovators who take matters into their own hands. Results are all that matter. Those who come into the Black Network with nothing can become major players within the organization through their own moxie and hard work.
The Black Network wants to make it necessary—and preferable, even—to deal with its members. It wants to secure, over time, an iron-fisted monopoly. Members must be the best—the cheapest, the fastest, and the most secure—at providing services and goods both legal and illicit, willing to lose coin if it means destroying a competitor, and securing profits from everyone they deal with, except when to do so would work against the Black Network's ultimate goal: to make everyone dependent on it.
A member of the Zhentarim thinks of himself or herself as a member of a very large family and relies on the Black Network for resources and security. However, members are granted enough autonomy to pursue their own interests and gain some measure of personal power or influence.
► The Zhentarim is your family. You watch out for it, and it watches out for you.
► You are the master of your own destiny. Never be less than what you deserve to be.
► Everything—and everyone—has a price.
► Amass wealth.
► Look for opportunities to grow in power.
► Gain influence over important people and organizations.
► Dominate Faerûn.
To amass wealth, power, and influence.
Rank One — Fang
Rank Two — Wolf
Rank Three — Viper
Rank Four — Ardragon
Rank Five — Dread Lord
Welcome to the Zhentarim
Greetings. You're one of us now — one of the Zhentarim. Welcome to our family, where you belong. We are the purveyors of your fondest wishes and darkest dreams.
You don't even know how grand your life is about to be. Gone are the days of waiting for your turn; from now on, it's always your turn. Gone, too, are the days of wanting what you can't have. If you can see it, you can have it. It's yours. There is only rule, and it's a simple one: Zhentarim first. Follow that rule and and yours will be a life of favor and fortune.
The world is full of sheep, and our role is not to shepherd, but to shear. Those who'd call themselves shepherds are liars and charlatans, and cowards besides. Of course, this not a world of only sheep and shepherds; there are wolves too. Wolves that would feast on our sheep, denying us our claim to wool and meat — and anything else we might desire. If those wolves try to keep us from our rightful bounty, we'll defend what is ours, so that all others might look upon the Zhentarim and see the price of their folly.
So go out, my brethren, and do what you will. Pluck whatever fruit you desire from any orchard, and drink deeply the wine of power; you'll find your glass is now bottomless. There is nothing, any longer, that can be denied to you. No longer have cause to fear anyone nor want for anything — just so long as you remember that it is the Zhentarim that granted you these things.