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Darkhold, originally called the Keep of the Far Hills, was the western stronghold of the Zhentarim, located near the Sunset Mountains in the Western Heartlands.[1]

DescriptionEdit

The Darkhold was situated on the side of the mountain known as the Grey Watcher or alternately, the Grey Watcher of the Morning. The fortress itself was made of a black stone that had been fused together by some unknown means and was not native to the region. This led some to believe it was formed by elementals summoned by a Netheril sorcerer.[2]

The Darkhold was huge and could house over a thousand men, but it was believed to have been originally built for and occupied by giants. Tunnels and rooms were bored into the side of the mountain to serve as escape routes and storage chambers, and perhaps some secret tunnels were the home of the ancient sorcerer-turned-lich who originally had the castle built.[1][2]

HistoryEdit

Giants were thought to be the original inhabitants of the castle. There is some debate whether or not these giants were slaves to Netheril mages, but regardless, when the Netheril empire fell, the giants continued to occupy Darkhold. The Giant-Emperors raided the surrounded lands including the Tunlands and the halfling lands of Sunset Vale. They did so until they fell to in-fighting among themselves. It was thought that two rival giant-princes vied for the throne and slew their father, all of the other giant occupants, and eventually each other. Rumors persisted that the princes haunted the castle, whispering conspiracies into any current occupants' ears and setting them against each other.[1]

Darkhold remained empty until Othlong Blackhelm, also known as the "Robber Lord", made the keep his home. Angarn Surfyst slew Othlong via treachery and used the keep as a base for his brigands. Known only to history via his self-proclaimed title, the Wolf Knight was a follower of Angarn until he slew him and took his place.[1]

Sarunn Thoon, who was best described in the ballad The Witch of the Far Cold Hill, was originally a captive of the Wolf Knight until she slew him in his bedchamber and took over the helm of the brigands. Mind flayers killed Sarunn and held the brigands in service until they died, but the white dragon Cryomantipelica crushed the mind flayers and laired there until killed by Harristor Thunderswing. Harristor did not occupy the castle and it fell to a roaming beholder and a leucrotta at various times.[1]

Brigands once again took over the castle at some point after that, but they were slain by an adventuring company called the Wildmen of the North and Brundar Tigerbane renamed the keep "Wild Hold" and refortified it. Brundar and his followers later fell in battle.[1]

Over the next 200 years, the keep was held by a succession of petty rulers known by a variety of names, including the Lord Knight of the Far Hills and the Duke of Sunset Vale. The Keep of the Far Hills eventually became Darkhold when it was conquered and settled by the lich-queen Varalla.[1]

In 1312 DR, the Zhentarim invaded Darkhold. The combined effort of Manshoon and Fzoul Chembryl destroyed Varalla, gaining a base from which to expand their organization westward.[1]

Darkhold was ruled by the wizard Sememmon until 1372 DR, when he and his consort Ashemmi vanished in response to the consolidation of Zhentarim power in the east by rival Fzoul Chembryl.[citation needed]

In 1372 DR, Darkhold was led by the Pereghost, who commanded its 800 warriors, and Dhamir Ercals, who led the resident clerics of Cyric. Though both leaders were servants of Cyric and were preparing for the inevitable holy war against the Banites, the hatred between them was such that more time was spent on assassination plots than their Zhentarim duties.[3]

Following a series of disasters for the Zhentarim that left both Zhentil Keep and the Citadel of the Ravens destroyed, Darkhold emerged as the only major stronghold of the Black Network still standing. As of 1489 DR, it was the primary headquarters of the reformed Zhentarim. The Pereghost (or a new ruler wearing his armor) was publicly acknowledged as the sole master of Darkhold, though the Beholder Manxam also appeared to be a member of the stronghold's senior leadership. In addition to the fluctuating ranks of Zhentarim agents using the castle as a base of operations, Darkhold maintained two war units (one of heavy infantry and one of archers) and an aerie of trained wyverns.[4]

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