The Zhentarim were always meant to be a group that sought power and influence, by whatever means necessary. Even when fallen and defeated, the Zhentarim were a force to be reckoned with. As he stands over the altar, his hand on the vial, bloody and dying, Manshoon remembers the Zhentarim’s founding. He remembers gaining legitimacy through fear. He remembers seizing the fortress of Darkhold from the giants who built it. He remembers watching the life leave his own eyes countless times as he killed himself, and himself, and himself again – over and over and over – until he was sure that the only Manshoons left were the loyal ones. But more than anything, he remembers the promise he made to himself at the very beginning, the promise that would now kill him – the promise to live forever.
Not everyone in his organization would agree with his methods, especially not at this very moment, but none would dare oppose him. If the Zhentarim could bring nightmares to the realm of Faerun, Manshoon was the boogeyman.
Cassandra Shineheart could not let him go. Ever since Manshoon almost killed her, she couldn’t stop thinking about him. For some reason, his raw power was attractive to her, awakening something inside her that she never knew was there, and she doubted she could tell her sister. But more than anything, it was his voice. His deep, driving, boom echoed in her mind and drove her obsession. For weeks she hunted him down, listened for whispers of Zhentarim activity. Finally, she tried a scrying ritual, one that would pinpoint his location. She told herself that all she wanted was to just see him again, hear his voice. This lie would endanger them all. The scrying ritual was a success, and she saw him, in the shadows of a great forest on the edge of a clearing where ruins of an ancient fortress stood. And it felt for a moment like he was looking back at her. Then, without warning, a wave of pure magical energy hit her and she saw what he saw – large stone doors beneath a mountain, a fluorescent potion, and a skull, with the flicker of light behind dead eye sockets. She told Topher they had a new client northeast of Baldur’s Gate, just off the Serpent’s Tail Stream, near the Hill of Lost Souls. He was wary, but what location these days didn’t have an ominous sounding name? She was also one of his bosses, so the Shineheart Circus packed up and headed east.
Heading south from the ruins once known as Rathgar, the Traveling Nameless did not know what they might encounter, only that when they arrived at the Hill of Lost Souls, danger would be waiting for them.
As they approached the Hill of Lost Souls, the Nameless came across a bonfire where the Shineheart Circus had set up camp. After a shaky meeting and the reveal of Cassandra’s motive to see Manshoon, the newly combined party found a hidden riddle door that revealed itself when the moon was at its highest.
Upon entering, the ten adventurers faced a logic problem with an answer that divided the group in half, mixing the members and forcing new companions to work together along two separate paths. Taking the path of the Jester, one group faced a hungry stone face that spouted potions and punished those who attempted to take its gemstone eyes, as well as a button in the palm of a dragon statue that threatened to kill the heroes unless they continually reset a countdown clock. Meanwhile, those who followed the path of the King faced another riddle, as well as a hidden door mechanism where a dead body hung above a basin filled with the corpse’s blood.
After reuniting in a joint antechamber, the group entered the main temple to find scores of dead Zhentarim, a dead gold dragon, and a dying Manshoon, who seemed confident he would return after drinking the Elixir of Defilation. Our heroes went on to battle forty undead Zhentarim, a Dracolich, and, upon returning as a lich, Manshoon himself. Cassandra told him in front of everyone that she wasn’t interested in him; it was super embarrassing. He lashed out at her, but her friends, old and new, put a stop to his threat of Endless Night before it could begin.
In defeating Manshoon, the Shinehearts and Nameless forged a new alliance that will be sure to stand the test of time and future dangers.