The Fall of Zhentil Keep was a siege laid upon Zhentil Keep by monstrous armies summoned by Cyric. The siege, which started on Nightal 28 of 1368 DR and lasted until Kythorn 13, 1369 DR, was a defining event in the History of the Zhentarim.
The attack was part of Cyric's plan to consolidate and increase his divine powers since the rules of divinity had been changed by Ao in the wake of the Time of Troubles. He summoned a monstrous army of humanoids and mighty frost creatures from the north and instructed them to lay siege to Zhentil Keep. He hoped that the sight of such an army approaching would galvanize his worshipers faith in him as they prayed for salvation and then he would appear in person, banish the army and receive the adulation of the keep's inhabitants. This, in turn, would give him the divine power to quell a rebellion that was brewing in the City of Strife in Hades. To start it all off, he planned that his high priest Xeno Mirrormane would publicly read from the Cyrinishad, a book enchanted to turn any who read or heard the words into a devout worshiper of Cyric.
However, another book, called The True Life of Cyric, had been written and the Cyrinishad was replaced with it, read by Fzoul Chembryl who only reluctantly worshiped Cyric. It told the Keep's citizens of Cyric's plans. All the while, a revolt was incited in the City of Strife. Paralyzed by the loss of worshipers and divine power, Cyric was unable to stop the rebellion, or the army that had just arrived at Zhentil Keep at his behest.
Following the burning of the temple of Cyric, the monstrous army arrived, dealing devastating damage in their first attacks. The orc Zhentilar troops deserted, fleeing south and blowing up the Tesh Bridge and the Force Bridge, completely cutting off the southern part of the city from the north. Seeing their dwindling prospects in the upcoming attack, 1,500 humans, mostly Zhentilar officers, also deserted.
In Hammer of 1369 DR, an unusually strong cold front brought record snow and freezing winds from the north, giving the frost creatures that thrived in these conditions a considerable advantage. The harbors froze over, preventing ships from bringing in supplies. Faced with the lack of supply ships, the Zhents were forced to slaughter their horses. The resulting stew became popular as a delicacy.
That same month, a request for reinforcements was sent to the Citadel of the Raven. The messenger found one relief force that had already been sent completely wiped out. The next that the citadel sent suffered almost the same fate by the time they managed to get to their comrades.
The following month, The Citadel of the Raven informed Zhentil Keep that they would send no more reinforcements or supply caravans. At that point, starvation was a more significant cause of death than combat. Later in Alturiak, the Night of Crystal and Iron, one of the siege's decisive conflicts, occurred.
During Ches, a force of frost giants and gnolls tried to cross the frozen river Tesh in order to attack the southern part of the city. An unexplained column of fire melted the ice beneath their feet, killing around 1,000 monsters in total. At this point, the white dragons grew tired of battle and returned home to hunt and mate. As the month progressed, the remaining harbor ice thawed and the first supply ship since the previous year successfully docked in the harbor.
During Tarsakh, as the weather warmed up, the frost giant forces of the monstrous army were recalled home by their frost elemental master, Zzutam. At the same time, Mulmaster-sponsored pirates attacked many ships bound for Zhentil Keep. Piracy in the Moonsea region reached record levels, but shipping continued to increase as the ice melted away. Seizing this opportunity, the city calls out for engineers to rebuild the Force Bridge in order to reconnect the two parts of the city. A small contingent of gondsmen arrived, but most who heard the call refused to take it up.
In Mirtul, the remaining humanoid attackers began to retreat from the field. In order to speed up their flight from Zhent territory, numerous counter-offensives were launched, scoring significant victories for the Zhentilar. Within the city, as the winter ice began to thaw, the formerly frozen corpses began to animate as undead, plaguing the weary survivors at night.
Despite the vast devastation caused by the siege, the destruction of the Force Bridge at the beginning of the conflict allowed for the southern section of the city to remain mostly unaffected, helping the survivors to rebuild.
The pit fiend Abarax, who had been trapped by lord Orgauth's summoning circle, escaped his confinement after a white dragon attack. He then found the corpse of Lord Orgauth and assumed his identity by polymorphing himself. Posing as one of the survivors of the initial attack, "Orgauth" rallied followers among the surviving troops and later emerged as Zhentil Keep's unopposed new leader.
The siege took a severe death toll of 42,000 people, almost half of the city's population.
- Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 30. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
- Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), pp. 103–105. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
- Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 26. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
- Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), pp. 23–24. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
- Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 27. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
- Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 149. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), pp. 82–84. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
- Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 21. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
- Steven E. Schend, Sean K. Reynolds and Eric L. Boyd (June 2000). Cloak & Dagger. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 9. ISBN 0-7869-1627-3.
- Kevin Melka and John Terra (April 1995). Ruins of Zhentil Keep (Campaign Book). (TSR, Inc), p. 25. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.