The Black NetworkEdit
The Black Network of the Zhentarim is a group of mages, priests and warriors devoted to the task of dominating trade and therefore power, throughout Faerûn. To that end they work to achieve the downfall of an ever-increasing list of opponents, including the Dalelands, the Harpers, rival Moonsea cities and anyone else who resists their influence. That which cannot be infiltrated and controlled must be cowed into obedience or destroyed.
Conquest is also high on the Zhentarim agenda,usually using the forces of Zhentil Keep. They also make use of non-human tribes and mercenaries,usually promised to be paid with the spoils of pillage after the battle. The chief intent in battle is to punish enemies or weaken rivals, and is usually implemented after failure to take over the community from within.
Means of accomplishment
The Black Network, loyal to Bane, activities include a number of legal and illegal actions. Trade is a major component of the Zhentarim's income and they are not limited morally to mere transport of ores from the Moonsea's area and finished good from Waterdeep and the North. The Zhentarim also do excellent business in poisons, illicit drugs, weapons and slaves. Assassination, theft, blackmail, kidnapping and torture are all acceptable methods to advance Zhentarim goals. They have no compunction about hiding behind aliases or setting up rivals against each other, but usually wish to let their opponents know who is responsible for their downfall.
The Zhentarim was founded sometime around 1360 DR by the evil wizard Manshoon. Originally called the Black Cloaks, this cabal of mages, merchants, beholders and faithful of evil deities (most notable Bane) grew from his influence. Eventually the Zhentarim allied with the cleric of Bane, Fzoul Chembryl, which strengthened the organization exponentially.
Despite recent turbulent events, such as the death and re-ascension of Bane, the Zhentarim has greatly increased it's area of influence far beyond the region of the Moonsea.