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Tyrant of Zhentil Keep

Dice System
D&D 5e
Other
Here

GinkyGotBack

A Very Good Boy
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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.

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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.

@dae mec
 

GinkyGotBack

A Very Good Boy
1588191679964.png

Four staunch-looking warriors guard the entrance to the city of Zhentil Keep. "Welcome to Zhentil Keep," the lead one says gruffly. "State your business."​
 

dae mec

Birds are cool. 🐦
Only a year has passed since her fateful encounter with the Death Knight, but it feels like much longer. Only a year since Sylrila swore herself to vengeance in the name of Tyr, since she gazed into the distance and felt something calling her beyond the country of her birth. So she left, coins heavy on her hip, leaves still tucked in her pack. Sylrila is more sure of herself in some ways—and less in others. She feels that she's supposed to be here. Yet she isn't sure why.

All that, however, isn't something she can say to the guards.

"Well met," Sylrila says simply. "I'm a traveler from beyond the Anauroch. I've come to replenish my supplies and see the famed keep." She's more intimidating now, with well-used plate armor and confidence that isn't quite as hollow. But Tyr's symbol dangles from her neck and is painted on her armor. Sylrila is clearly still a woman of faith.
 

GinkyGotBack

A Very Good Boy
"Hngh," he grunts, surveying you from head to toe, seemingly unimpressed with your knight's armor. "Well, mind your step, traveler. Obey Manshoon's edicts, stay out of trouble and you'll be just fine."

You nod to the guards and walk past them, through the city gates. The street you are on leads directly into the heart of the city, and not far off you can see a market square, where merchants are packing up their tents as trade ends for the day. A quick look around reveals a city that’s not exactly dirty, but definitely in need of a spruce-up. Buildings are thick wood structures or older stone edifices, damaged in places by what looks like the scars of battle. Cobble is poorly maintained and there are potholes here and there. The overall impression is of a once proud city that's taken a few knocks. The citizens look like they've taken a beating too; slumping around, not exactly full of the joy of life. Like many others you've seen in this expansive valley they look browbeaten, harrassed, and at the end of their tether.

On both sides of the street, you see businesses shutting up shop and owners heading home. The only establishment still open is a tavern to your right, a sign hung above the door stating its name as The Scoundrel's Tankard. Just your sort of place, you hope.

Further down the street, you see a man standing on a crate, with a large crowd gathered around him. He appears to be delivering some kind of sermon, although it is hard to make out what he is saying over the noise of carts clattering past you.

You feel a tiny drop of rain on the back of your hand, and look up to see low, grey clouds threatening a downpour.
 

dae mec

Birds are cool. 🐦
What's beaten down this city? The thought lingers as she eyes the remnants of conflict. That's a question to ask, possibly at The Scoundrel's Tankard. She's about to do just that when she notices the crowd. Interesting.

Sylrila gazes back longingly at the tavern, but she knows it's not going anywhere. Whatever's drawing a crowd in a browbeaten city is something to take notice of. It could simply be a cleric preaching about the local favored god, which is still useful information. She decides to first listen to the speech before heading back to the tavern: with the rain approaching, it's likely that the crowd will disperse soon anyway. Ignoring the way her stomach complains at the thought of fresh, hot food, Sylrila walks to the crowd.
 

GinkyGotBack

A Very Good Boy
You walk over to the crowd gathered around the man, who appears to be a priest of some sort. His words gradually become audible. The priest sees you arrive and gives you a slight smile. "For the benefit of those who have just arrived, I shall repeat the fell news, delivered to Lord Manshoon this morning, and relayed by His Grace to the Priests of the Temple of Bane. The tidings are thus: Galauntar Hawkhelm is murdered! By an orc assassin! And an orc horde descends on the Citadel of the Raven, marching unchecked across the Ride! Tens of thousands!"

"Lies!" a voice cries out. You turn to see a female orc glaring at the priest. "These are lies, propagated by the Black Network! Zhentarim spies killed Hawkhelm, not our people!"

"Silence, wench!" the priest bellows. "Of course you would say such things! Killed by the Zhentarim indeed!" From seemingly out of nowhere, two guards, dressed in the same livery as the gate sentries, appear and grab the orc female under her arms, and begin dragging her away kicking and screaming. The rest of the crowd grows restless.

"That's enough of that!" one guard says gruffly, dealing her a vicious blow with his gauntletted hand. The female orc's head slumps forward; the blow has rendered her unconscious. The priest addresses the crowd again. "See! It is bred into them, this violence, this hatred. A night in the dungeons will be her reward for treasonous talk like that!"
 

dae mec

Birds are cool. 🐦
Sylrila squeezes her fist on reflex, forcibly unclenching it and letting her hang by her side. She knows nothing about this city, about any of those phrases or organizations. Who got murdered? And by who? She does know, however, that the rhetoric about orcs is dangerous, and that the guard's reaction is disproportionate. Sylrila thinks about the traveling half-orcs and what they've told her. Dangerous indeed.

The dungeons. Manshoon. Zhentarim. As much as she wants to pull her sword and charge, she knows that's not the smart move. Getting herself killed now will save no one. Yet, keeping her mouth shut and just watching makes her throat burn. I will stop this, she swears quietly. I will at least try. It's not the best of promises, but it's something.

She turns around, disgusted with this speech (and herself), and heads back in the direction of the tavern. She has questions, and she wants to get some answers.
 

GinkyGotBack

A Very Good Boy
You make your way across the street to The Scoundrel's Tankard. Pushing your way through the door, you are immediately met with a wall of noise. The place is packed. There is a reek of ale and sweat, and you shoulder your way towards the bar, raising a few grunts of protest.

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Around the tavern, you see a few different things that might interest you. To the right end of the tavern you can see what appears to be a dice game going on at a table (18). There's the bar of course, where a halfling can be seen pouring drinks for customers (54). Over on the east wall are various posters that look interesting (189), or if none of that grabs your attention and you just want to be alone, you could take a seat at that empty table over there (205).
 

dae mec

Birds are cool. 🐦
Sylrila first walks over to the poster, a stormy mood hanging over her. Perhaps she'll see the terms she heard from that horrid preacher again. After that, she'll get herself a drink. A strong one, before asking the bartender about current situation... and if there was a place she could stay the night. Normally, the low-level chatter would be comforting, but it doesn't blunt her restless irritation in the slightest.
 

GinkyGotBack

A Very Good Boy
There are numerous posters on the wall, advertising all sorts of things, but two, in particular, catch your eye. The first reads:

ORC AMNESTY
All orcs will report to have compulsory identification papers issued, the third day of the first tenday of Kythorn, at the Grand Temple of Bane. This is to distinguish those who are legitimate citizens of Zhentil Keep from those who may be spies acting for Ghauust, the four-armed Orcish Warlord currently marching on the Citadel of the Raven.

And the second reads:

SPECTRAL TERROR IN THE SOUTH CITY!
All residents within the south city are advised to be indoors after dusk. A terrible specter has been sighted amongst the ruins at night and has already killed three people, and kidnapped four more. It is described as having an upper half covered in armor, and an ethereal, green vapor trail as its lower half. Those who have seen the Armored Specter have uniformly reported that it wears a large helmet sporting long black horns. The Zhentilar Captain of the Guard is offering a reward of 300 gold pieces to the brave soul who can find the armored specter amongst the ruins of the South City, kill it, and deliver its black-horned helmet to the Zhentilar Barracks. Several Zhentilar have already tried and failed. No questions asked.

There is also an advertisement from the tavern itself, announcing that the champion of the pit downstairs, Kromm Daggerfist, will be taking on all challengers today.

Suddenly, as you are reading, you feel a strong shove in your back! "Oi! Get out of the way!" someone shouts as they push past you. There is a massive crash, and you turn to see a chair splintering into pieces over the head of an orc. "Get out, savage!" the attacker, a human, shouts. Another thug, the one who pushed past you, joins the fray, and the orc, who appeared to have just been sitting there minding his own business, is on the ground, having the living daylights beat out of him.
 
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dae mec

Birds are cool. 🐦
She scowls, even as she notes this Grand Temple of Bane and the Orcish Warlord used as justification for this all. Wonderful. Perhaps she'd have to go see what that temple is. The third day of the first tenday... how far was that from now? Sylrila wasn't sure about the local calendar system. She looks to the second poster.

A spectral terror, ah? Well, that sounds interesting. And familiar. She doesn't really need the coin, but finishing off an undead abomination and rescuing some folk is an obvious good. (Fistfighting? Not so much.)

At the surprise attack from the two assholes beating up the poor orc, Sylrila has had enough. It's one thing to keep her mouth shut and stay out of local politics until she understands what's going on. It's another thing to let two randos commit an act of senseless violence. (Maybe it's the same thing. But Sylrila's had enough either way.)

"Hey!" she shouts, reaching out to pull the closest thug away. "What are you two doing?"
 
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GinkyGotBack

A Very Good Boy
As one of the thugs feels someone grabbing onto his arm, he turns suddenly and swings wildly at you with his fist. Though you were able to easily dodge his attack, shifting to the side before his punch could connect, you've got a feeling it's only the first of many blows. "Oi! What are you, some kind of orc sympathizer? Well, maybe you can better sympathize when we've beaten you bloody too!" The thug in the back stops kicking the orc as he notices a more serious fight brewing. While one grabs a chair, the other grabs an empty glass bottle and both begin to shuffle towards you with their makeshift weapons.
 

GinkyGotBack

A Very Good Boy
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Sick of the slaw crawl he was making towards you, the man raises his chair above his head and tries to swing it down on you, but you're far too quick for him and sidestep the piece of furniture with ease.
 

dae mec

Birds are cool. 🐦
Sylrilla shakes her head and grabs the chair. She shouldn't enjoy it as much as she should, but she has to admit that this'll be a little cathartic. The man tries to yank the chair back from her, but it doesn't move. She stares him down. Without breaking eye contact, she shoves him backwards, knocking him prone. She smashes the chair downwards, not actually trying to hurt him (... much), but definitely trying to intimidate him.

"What you did was very wrong, attacking an innocent man minding his own business," Sylrila says, smiling brightly. "But I'm not going to try and convince you. Let me explain it to you in a different way." Her face contorts into a snarl, "You caught me in a bad mood at a bad time. If you don't bug off right now, I will throw you out myself and smite you, so help me Tyr."

Feeling that the fear of gods has been sufficiently put into him, Sylrila turns to the other thug and makes her inexorable approach. "Is it your turn now?" she calls out.
 

GinkyGotBack

A Very Good Boy
The man on the ground swallows as he slowly stands himself up. The other thug holding the bottle tries to rush forward, but his friend stops him, holding out his arm in front of him. "She's not worth it, Davis. Come on, let's find someplace that doesn't stink like orc shit."

As the two brutes leave the tavern, there is a tumultuous round of applause. They seem to be clapping more over how you managed to thrash them, not so much about why you did it. You move over to the orc who is struggling to get to his feet. After the applause is over, the fight is quickly forgotten by the other patrons. "Thank you," he mutters, clambering up into a chair with your assistance. "I don't know how I can repay you, friend. I have no money..."
 

dae mec

Birds are cool. 🐦
Sylrilla touches his hand, letting divine healing flow through and mend his wounds. "There'so need for payment," she says, pulling up a (not) broken chair to the table beside him. "I'm Sylrila," and habit almost makes her add Grensville, but she instead says, "from past the Anauroch Desert. I'm a stranger to this keep, and there's much I don't know. Would you instead share a drink with me?" Sylrila smiles. "I have bundles of clueless questions. The first being your name, and the second being about..." she waves a hand at the broken chair, "that situation."
 

GinkyGotBack

A Very Good Boy
The orc looks amazed to see his wounds healed with nothing but a simple touch. "My name's Ghud, and I would love to share a drink with a kind person like yourself." You both stare at each other in silence, sitting down in your chairs until Ghud clears his throat and moves his eyes back and forth from you to the bar. Oh, right, there doesn't look to be any barmaids in this tavern. Whoops.

After you return from the bar with your drinks, the orc guzzles it back and slams the flagon on the table, wiping his mouth. "Those people kicking me around were just a bunch of orc-hating idiots. You run into them every now and then in this place." Ghud finishes off the rest of his drink and nods to you in appreciation. Though he looks somewhat old, he seems to have aged fairly well and he's kept in good shape. "Honestly, I might've been able to take them, but I don't want to start any trouble around here. If the guard got word that an orc had beaten two men bloody in a tavern, they wouldn't care much what the reason was. That's just how things are around here."
 

dae mec

Birds are cool. 🐦
Sylrila sips her drink at a more sedate pace. "I'm sorry," she says, frowning. "That's an awful situation to be stuck in. How long have things been like this?" Her eyes flicker to the posters, and she lowers her voice. "I've only been here for less than day, but I've heard names like Ghauust, Manshoon, and Zhentarim mentioned in less-than-polite conversation. What are they, and what does it mean?"
 

GinkyGotBack

A Very Good Boy
"Oh, they're the leaders of this place I imagine. I haven't been here too long myself. Just came here looking for work. Now I can't leave, or the guard will think I'm some kind of spy, sending out info to that horde I've been hearing about. I'm sorry friend, I guess I'm just not much help, am I?"
 

dae mec

Birds are cool. 🐦
"No worries at all. And I'm sure that with the whole need to register, things are going to get more complicated," she muses. "Do you know when the third day of the first tenday of Kythorn is? That's the deadline, isn't it?" Sylrila hesitates. "Are you managing in the city, or do you need help getting out here? Oh, and do you know if this tavern has rooms? " She grins, a little sheepish. "Sorry, that's a lot of questions at once."
 

GinkyGotBack

A Very Good Boy
Ghud makes a chewing motion with his mouth, looking like he was trying to think. "Well, the third day of the first tenday... I suppose that's a fancy way of saying it's the thirteenth. It should be three days from now. I can imagine those guardsmen will want to get us sorted right quick." His face softens he nods diminutively. "Yes, I suppose I've been doing alright. I work at a butcher's shop in town. It makes me a fair deal of money. As for lodgings, I'd ask the bartender. I stay in the Pigeonholes along with everyone else who can't find someplace to stay. They're little individual holes cut into the side of this big, huge wall in the city. Anyone can hop in and take one, but they lack privacy and security is all."
 

dae mec

Birds are cool. 🐦
"I'm glad to hear that you're doing well," says Sylrila, and she fetches them both another drink. The Pigeonholes sound like something she'd want to see, but not a place she'd want to stay in. And just three days... she has a feeling that wouldn't go over well. "D'you know anyone who might know more about those names or what's going on in the city?" She starts on the second drink.
 

GinkyGotBack

A Very Good Boy
Ghud scratches at his cheek thoughtfully. "Well, anyone who isn't an orc or half-orc, I suppose. The guards might know better than most, or maybe you could catch one of those street priests and get them to explain it to you."
 

dae mec

Birds are cool. 🐦
"I'll do that." She smiles. "Thank you for sharing a drink with me, Ghud. If you ever need anything..." Sylrila trails off meaningfully.
 

GinkyGotBack

A Very Good Boy
Ghud shakes his head. "No, thank you, you've done enough for me already. Do me any more favors and I'll be in your debt until the day I die!" The orc laughs and slaps the table with his hand. "Once I get my papers, I'm sure people like those two from earlier will lay off on me a bit. I'll be one step closer to being a real citizen."
 

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