Blackguard Krandar Milinal raised his goblet to the five Regional High Commanding Officers and assembled Zhentarim and offered a toast.
“Clear mind, clear heart, clear focus.” It was a common mantra for those who use hate and tyranny to further their life’s work.
The stiff brew’s aroma was thick and warm, a summertime ale if there was any Krandar thought. The setting sun bathed the east wall in an afternoon light that washed the room in reds and crimson tones. Sounds of troop formations and early evening drills filtered all the way up to the central command spire atop of Hawkehelm Castle.
Within the spire, the others repeated the six words the Blackguard said with reverence before simultaneously drinking deeply of the ale.
Several cushioned high-backed chairs sat at regular intervals around a long polished table where maps of different types were unrolled and weighted down with pewter weights molded into chess pieces. Hand written notes and lines crisscrossed the maps as candle light danced a wavering waltz to and fro across the table.
Seated at the table along with Lord Krandar was the Lore Warden Flamulder Thuldoum who had with him several scroll cases and the Strifelord Brouse Tremlor; then at regular intervals Zhent Commanders Guthbert Golthammer, the brutish old veteran from the Tesh Valley; Orgauth Verurni, a summoner with black hair, black eyes, and a black heart; Ulgrym Hud, the strict and swift commander of Zhent forces in Zhentil Keep, Sememmon, the tall mysterious foreigner and arcanist; and Yorel Conandus, Zhent swashbuckler- sorcerer from Melvaunt and youngest of the High Commanders. Also present were the Black Network Magisteers Elazarin Nanther and Istaleus along with Beaumont and Rutledge who each stood as ceremonial wizard and warrior respectively over the High Command Summit.
“Thank you all for coming so early this year,” Lord Krandar said after his goblet was emptied. “The Ministry is highly motivated and moves with an urgency we are not used to under the old banner of Lord Bane.”
From Krandar’s left Mulder rose from his seat to circle the long table placing scroll cases of various styles upon key locations on the maps that covered much of the table being careful not to disturb anything while Strifelord Tremlor signaled Rutledge to reveal several small crates that were carefully arranged on a banquet, each branded with a circular sigil.
“These are the Ministry’s appeals brought forth to the Black Network by the Percept’s own Chaplain.” Krandar explained as the Zhentarim officers pursued the Ministry documents. “and deposit to the commander of each charge.” Krandar finished indicating the unveiled crates.
“Ambitious plans.” The venerable Guthbert said as he made his selection after long moments looking at each appeal.
Krandar only silently nodded taking another sip of ale.
“I believe I still have all my maps of Daggerdale. I will put them to good use once again!” Guthbert said enthusiastically as a knowing smile forming on the man’s bearded face.
Sememmon, always difficult to read, “I appreciate the Ministry’s meaning behind bringing us these items.” The arcanist was more interested in the magical objects in the crates- the Ministry’s ‘deposit’ to the Zhentarim. Each Ministry appeal it seemed came with a magical wonder that ostensibly would aid the commander in their mission.
“It certainly implies power when the Ministry can depart with treasures such as these.” Sememmon said marveling at what he believed could be unique artifacts. Sememmon made his selection solely based on the treasure associated with it.
Across the table Orgauth was no novice as to how this formality was performed and as next in seniority he was anxious to make his selection. But his excitement turned sour during the next several minutes as he weighed and evaluated each remaining appeal.
“I would rather have gold.” The old Zhentarim veteran said as he passed the scrolls along. He would later think of his daughter Luersa whom he lost during the godsfall.
Ulgrym, born and raised in Zhentil Keep took up a scroll and asked, “What in Acheron is theVigilante of Zhentil Keep?”
At this question the Strifelord spoke up, “You may wish to speak to Caval Daoran Hawkehelm’s Reeve regarding the Vigilante but suffice to say,” the Strifelord continued, “the Vigilante is a menace to the stability of the Ministry in Zhentil Keep.”
Yorel, High Commander of Brumstone whose sorcerous blood bordered on madness, looked to the remaining Ministry appeal and found a city map and census of Mulmaster.
“Gentlemen, Vremya nabora. Let the Time of Recruiting begin.”