A Very Good Boy
You wander far.
At some point, as you cross the Anauroch Desert, the year changes to 1350 DR. Halfway through the century, and certainly the end of a momentous decade for Faerun. So much has happened: the departure of the elves from Cormanthor; the Rise of the Witch-King Zhengyi in Damara and Vaasa; the end of the Age of Humanity itself! But these things are far from your mind as you toil across the dry, wasted landscape of Netheril; heading east, sometimes northeast, as the wind takes you, but then again not heading anywhere really, just walking. You have seen so much already, and for a while, you have the feeling that shadows are on your tail, so you keep walking, trudging on until the weight of those shadows begins to lift.
As you cross the Anauroch, several days at a time pass when you see not a soul. You embrace the solitude and spend that time talking aloud to yourself about everything you have encountered, and everything you have learned so far in your life. Many realizations crystallize during your crossing of the Anauroch... but soon enough, you begin to crave the company of another being. Any friendly humanoid really. As your supplies run out, your solitude becomes a threat to your survival.
On the third day after your waterskin runs dry, you see a dot - no, several small dots on the horizon traveling towards you, oscillating like specters across the dry, hot distance. Your spirit lifts. You are saved from dying of thirst by a traveling caravan consisting of several friendly half-orc families, who are running from shadows of their own, it seems. They tell a tale of persecution in the lands you are about to enter. They speak of tyrants, powerful despots, and secret networks (the word Zhentarim is mentioned several times, usually in conjunction with the name Manshoon) which makes you weight for a moment the option of turning south and avoiding what lies ahead. That thought enters your mind for but a breath, following which you chide yourself for your cowardice.
No, ever since you set out on this journey, you were resolved to simply keep walking in the direction you had chosen, and now your resolve is firmer than ever. Whatever crosses your path, you will deal with it as you always have; with keen instinct and prodigious skill in combat.
You say goodbye to the caravan and continue. Slowly, civilization - or at least the remnants of it - begin to emerge from the shifting sands. Ruins of Netherese spires and the Plain of the Standing Stones bear witness to the great civilizations that once prospered here when great cities hovered above the desert floor. The great floating city of Thultanthar, now lost somewhere in the Shadow Plane, was the greatest of these.
You walk on and wonder to yourself if this desert has an ending, when slowly the landscape begins to change, endless sands giving way to grassy hills the color of wheat. Then suddenly, as if springing from the landscape itself, a great, emerald forest rises before you, stretching far north. You enter the Border Forest, continuing east, and after two day’s peaceful travel through its green depths you emerge, seeing before you a river winding its way through a pristine landscape towards a huge inland body of water. A locked sea - the Moonsea, to be precise. You’d always known it was here, but nothing had prepared you for its grandeur.
You walk following the River Tesh, and traffic on the road picks up. You see numerous farms dotting the landscape, and on the faces of these simple folk, you read the lines of worry, of hardship and oppression, in stark contrast to the beauty of the land you travel through. After three days you reach a town called Teshwave where you spend a night and replenish your supplies, and can’t help noticing that these people, despite the beauty and grandeur of this inland realm, look harassed, exhausted. Ill-treated. Over ale, you listen in on whispered conversations. You hear names spoken in bitter tones - Manshoon, Fzoul, Semmemon.
An old merchant enjoys your company so much that he buys you several drinks and gives you a thorough run-down on the geography of the area. Later on, in your room, you go over his description in your head several times and cement the local geography in place.
The next day dawns grey and gloomy and you depart Teshwave, making your way towards the next city, the name of which you learned the night before: Zhentil Keep. It takes you three more days to reach Zhentil Keep, and as you approach you see ruins dotting the landscape, dimly lit in the evening light. It appears this was once the scene of a major conflict; you even notice what appears to be the scorching of dragonfire: long, dark grey streaks running the length of ruined buildings and roadways. Then, suddenly, the granite walls of Zhentil Keep rise before you, banners flying and guards manning her battlements. Right from your first sight of Zhentil Keep, you see that it is not really a beautiful city but rather built to withstand battle. It has a grim, imposing look to it.
Dusk slowly turns to evening as you descend from the north down the long slope towards the fortified town. Just before dipping below the horizon, the sun emerges from between a gap in the clouds, spreading a warm golden light over the landscape. The broad river Tesh, like a vein of gold running through stone, winds its way towards the Moonsea some fifteen miles to the east. You sense, strongly, that something awaits you within those tall, weathered walls, some quest or task. For better or worse, you stride up to the guards who man the gates, eyeing you warily.