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]

Description[edit | edit source]

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]

History[edit | edit source]

Early History[edit | edit source]

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]

Zhentarim Occupation[edit | edit source]

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]

The title "Master of Darkhold" was bestowed upon the one-time apprentice of Manshoon's and member of the Inner Ring of Power, Sememmon. He and his elven apprentice, Ashemmi ran the stronghold. The de facto leader of the troops was the supposed fallen paladin, the Pereghost, and the Chaplain of Bane, Kurth Dracomore, was the spiritual leader.[3]

During this time period, other leaders of Darkhold included:

Other full or part-time residents of Darkhold included:

  • Ilthond, Kadorr, Sashen, and Yarkul were all apprentices under Ashemmi's tutelage.[7]
  • Iltur, Mairhe, and Sahbonn, also know as "The Three", were Manshoon's personal assassin's who sometimes worked out of Darkhold.[8]
  • Asbarode and her band of rogues, Kolvar, Bauble, Sem, and Slim also sometimes operated out of Darkhold.[9]
  • Guin Terabuck was a halfling business man who ran his castle-building scheme out of Darkhold. He was watched and protected by a pair of ogre mages known as "Guin's Minders".[10]
  • While not technically residents, Sememmon struck a deal with a pair of wyverns that lived in the mountains near the keep. They served as scouts during peacetime and helped to defend Darkhold should it come under attack.

In 1372 DR, Sememmon and his consort Ashemmi vanished in response to the consolidation of Zhentarim power in the east by rival Fzoul Chembryl.[11] Darkhold's leadership was taken over 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.[12]

Following a series of disasters for the Zhentarim that left both Zhentil Keep and the Citadel of the Raven 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.[13]

Appendix[edit | edit source]

Appearances[edit | edit source]

Card Games
Spellfire: Master the Magic

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Ed Greenwood (1994). Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast. (TSR, Inc), pp. 177–179. ISBN 1-5607-6940-1.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Jeff Grubb, Ed Greenwood and Karen S. Martin (1987). Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (Cyclopedia of the Realms). (TSR, Inc), p. 37. ISBN 0-8803-8472-7.
  3. Jeff Grubb, David "Zeb" Cook, Bruce Nesmith (1990). Castles (Darkhold). (TSR, Inc), pp. 4–8. ISBN 0-8803-8883-8.
  4. Jeff Grubb, David "Zeb" Cook, Bruce Nesmith (1990). Castles (Darkhold). (TSR, Inc), pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-8803-8883-8.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Jeff Grubb, David "Zeb" Cook, Bruce Nesmith (1990). Castles (Darkhold). (TSR, Inc), p. 13. ISBN 0-8803-8883-8.
  6. Jeff Grubb, David "Zeb" Cook, Bruce Nesmith (1990). Castles (Darkhold). (TSR, Inc), p. 14. ISBN 0-8803-8883-8.
  7. Jeff Grubb, David "Zeb" Cook, Bruce Nesmith (1990). Castles (Darkhold). (TSR, Inc), pp. 8–10. ISBN 0-8803-8883-8.
  8. Jeff Grubb, David "Zeb" Cook, Bruce Nesmith (1990). Castles (Darkhold). (TSR, Inc), pp. 10–11. ISBN 0-8803-8883-8.
  9. Jeff Grubb, David "Zeb" Cook, Bruce Nesmith (1990). Castles (Darkhold). (TSR, Inc), pp. 11–12. ISBN 0-8803-8883-8.
  10. Jeff Grubb, David "Zeb" Cook, Bruce Nesmith (1990). Castles (Darkhold). (TSR, Inc), pp. 14–15. ISBN 0-8803-8883-8.
  11. George Krashos (July 2007). “Volo's Guide: Renegades of Darkhold”. In Erik Mona ed. Dragon #357 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), p. 73.
  12. Jason Carl, Sean K. Reynolds (October 2001). Lords of Darkness. Edited by Michele Carter. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 97. ISBN 07-8691-989-2.
  13. Kim Mohan ed. (2015). Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 78–79. ISBN 978-0786965809.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

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