Volos' Guide

Renegades of Darkhold

By George Krashos (Dragon #357)

"Well met again, gentlefolk! Volothamp Geddarm, at thy service once more!

"Yes 'tis I, the notorious Volo, this time with some wise warning about two deadly and capable wizards who for many long years were behind much of the fell work of the Zhentarim across the Heartlands of Faerûn.

"An enigmatic couple, these two, who kept to the shadows when needful and struck boldly and ruthlessly when force would be most effective, lovers who have both tasted and been the worst of evil, bat have now moved on. Two to watch - and more than that: two we should all have been watching more closely years ago!

"Save what is written here, and both read and heed these words well, for if ever you should meet with either of these two, it will be too late to read and learn. You must know the worst now. Or else."


Born Malathar Wingstarl in the Year of the Full Flagon (1234 DR) in the Sembian city of Huddagh, Sememmon enjoyed a life of privilege. The Wingstarls were a well-regarded family of merchants and builders who still ply their trade in and around the Inner Sea. The family made its money and reputation by building the finest temples in the Dalelands and around the Moonsea in the 13th century of Dalereckoning.

Malathar's father thought to harness his son's intellectual talents by sending him to study with the priesthood of Waukeen in Ordulin. While Malathar discovered no deep-seated faith for the Merchant's Friend, his keen intelligence and excellent memory soon saw him assisting with the family's business affairs. While there, Malathar met Gelvar Thordrunn, a dealer in curios and esoterica of the magical kind, who encouraged the youth's interest in magic and took him on as an apprentice. While Malathar learned much under the wizard's tutelage, Gelvar went missing after a shipwreck some two winters later.

His studies interrupted, Malathar was asked to do business for his family in Zhentil Keep. At that time, there was great upheaval in Zhentil Keep with the slaying of Lords Harlshoon and Calkontor by Ulsan Bane servant. During this period, a desperate Manshoon called upon the Toroth noble family to safeguard him while he sought to avenge his father's death.

Coincidentally, it was with this noble family that the Wingstarls sought to do business. Within days of Malathar's arrival in the city, he was dragging Manshoon's unconscious body from the smoking ruin of a Toroth villa destroyed by wizard-assassins. Considering the wizard indebted to him, Malathar requested that Manshoon tutor him in the Art and accept his service. Seeing potential in the opportunistic student, the dark-minded wizard agreed.

Years later, with Manshoon's ascension to Zhentil Keep's Council of Lords, Malathar faked his death to distance his family from Manshoon's enemies and his growing political rivalries. He took the name of Sememmon after one of his grandfather's manservants, now long dead. With the secret formation of the Zhentarim in 1261 DR, Sememmon became one of a number of magelings directly under the supervision of Manshoon, all eagerly vying for his favor. In 1266 DR he betrayed his fellow apprentice and chief rival Alvagaerus Firlthond and became "first among equals" in Manshoon's service. He also began to vie in earnest with Fzoul Chembryl for power in the Zhentarim hierarchy, sparking an animosity that continues to this day.

Sememmon spent the next several decades as Manshoon's chief apprentice and agent, routinely being tasked with the most hazardous and sensitive Zhentarim missions. After the conquest of Darkhold in 1312 DR, Sememmon was entrusted with this key command and elevated to the Inner Circle of the Zhentarim alongside Manshoon and Fzoul Chembryl.

In 1346 DR, Sememmon met a new Zhentarim recruit, a human wizard named Ashemmi. It took even the canny Sememmon several winters to deduce that Ashemmi was a female elf using her wizardry to appear as a human male, but he chose not to confront her, admiring her daring and attempted subterfuge. Attracted to Ashemmi physically, he did not foresee that she would unveil her true identity and honestly declare her love for him in 1355 DR. Their passion for each other was swiftly kindled but soon imperiled when Ashemmi revealed that she was also a Harper agent with orders to infiltrate the Zhentarim. While shocked and disturbed by this revelation, Sememmon realized that he loved her and could not betray her.

Fearing discovery, Sememmon worked to cover Ashemmi's tracks and began to divert funds and magics into personal boltholes and safe-houses under his original name in a number of towns and hamlets across the North and Sword Coast. He knew he played a dangerous game with Manshoon and the Zhentarim and prepared for its inevitable conclusion.

In the Year of the Prince (1357 DR), the Zhentarim discovered Harper spies within their ranks and Manshoon uncovered Sememmon and Ashemmi's treachery. In the ensuing confrontation, Sememmon died at Manshoon's hands while trying to defend Ashemmi. Returned to life as a clone, he discovered Ashemmi's emotions locked away by Manshoon's magic. Feigning desperate obsequiousness, he convinced Manshoon and Fzoul that he was once again a ruthless and willing participant in Zhentarim schemes. In reality, however, Sememmon sought only to escape the Black Network.

Despite being magically estranged from Ashemmi, Sememmon found his love for her had not diminished. As the years passed, they gradually reconnected, worked to tear down the walls of Manshoon's magic, and became lovers once again. During this time, Sememmon looked constantly for his opportunity to escape the shadow of Manshoon. The Manshoon Wars - wherein Manshoon's numerous clones activated at once and vied for legitimacy - and the rise of Fzoul prompted Sememmon to make his escape, and he was surprised to find that Ashemmi would not be parted from him. They fled Darkhold soon after Midwinter of the Year of Wild Magic (1372 DR) and escaped with the unexpected aid of Moonstar agents sent by the prescient Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun. Grasping the lifeline thrown to them by the Blackstaff, Sememmon and Ashemmi became his secret cohorts and began undertaking missions on his behalf.

Over the next two winters, Sememmon and Ashemmi undertook several daring and successful missions for the Moonstars. Their deeds and loyalty saw them both participate in the events of the Feast of the Moon in the Year of the Lightning Storms (1374 DR) where Khelben sacrificed his life to restore a city of lost Miyeritar.

Despite the sanctuary and companionship offered by Khelben's agents, Sememmon refuses to rest. He knows that the flesh of his body exists only due to the magecraft of Manshoon and fears that his former master has a hitherto unrevealed way of finding or taking control of him. Given this danger, Semmemon has elected to travel the hidden paths and trails of Faerûn, ever with Ashemmi by his side.


Ruthless and implacable, Sememmon enjoys countering the efforts and activities of his enemies - especially the Zhentarim - through unwitting dupes or idealistic heroes. He often approaches groups of adventurers in disguise, requesting they undertake tasks to divert his foes from his own activities and brewing counterattacks. Despite his cold attitude, he is steadfast and true to his word. He never abandons those in his indirect employ unless his own or Ashemmi's safety is compromised.

Sememmon - CR19

Male Chondathan wizard 19
LN Medium humanoid (human)
Init +6; Senses Listen +9, Spot +9
Languages Abyssal, Chondathan, Common, Draconic, Elven

AC 25, touch 12, flat-footed 23
hp 54 (19 HD); regeneration from ring
Immune poison
Fort +10, Ref +12, Will +20

Spd 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee dagger of venom +9/+4 (1d4/19-20 plus poison)
Base Attack +9; Grp +8
Combat Gear blast globes, wand of fireball (10th; 25 charges)
Spells Prepared (CL 19th; +11 ranged touch)
9th - meteor swarm (DC 28), power word kill, time stop, wish
8th - polar ray (+11 ranged touch), power word stun, quickened shout (DC 27), mind blank
7th - delayed blast fireball (DC 26), energy immunity power word blind, prismatic spray (DC 26), spell turning
6th - chain lightning (DC 25), disintegrate (DC 24), greater dispel magic, mislead (DC 24), probe thoughts
5th - cone of cold (DC 24), dominate person (DC 24), lesser ironguard, quickened expeditious retreat, teleport (DC 23), wall of force
4th - charm monster (DC 23), ice storm, lesser globe of invulnerability, maximized magic missile, stoneskin, thunderlance
3rd - dragonskin, fly, heroism, lightning bolt (DC 22), nondetection, slow (DC 21)
2nd - combust, darkness, flaming sphere (DC 21), fox's cunning, invisibility, scorching ray
1st - charm person (DC 20), disguise self, magic missile, shield, true strike, unseen servant
0 - acid splash, detect magic, message, read magic

Abilities Str 9, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 26, Wis 18, Cha 18
SQ enhanced wisdom and charisma
Feats Combat Casting, Craft Wondrous Item, Improved Initiative, Leadership (23), Quicken Spell, Scribe Scroll, Silver Palm, Spell Focus (enchantment), Spell Focus (evocation), Spell Penetration, Spellcasting Prodigy, Sudden Maximize
Skills Appraise +12 (+14 for alchemical items), Bluff +14, Concentration +21 (+25 when casting defensively), Craft (alchemy) +10, Diplomacy +15, Gather Information +12, Intimidate +12, Knowledge (arcana) +20, Knowledge (local) +12, Knowledge (nobility & royalty) +12, Knowledge (religion) +10, Listen +9, Ride +4, Search +12, Sense Motive +14, Spellcraft +29, Spot +9
Possessions combat gear plus dagger of venom, 3 mwk cold iron daggers, bracers of armor +8, ring of protection +5, ring of regeneration, hood of intellect +6, periapt of proof against poison, vest of resistance +4, war wizard cloak
Spellbook Sememmon has access to all spells of 1st through 5th level, and many of the spells of 6th through 9th level, including all enchantment spells
Enhanced Wisdom and Charisma: Sememmon has improved both his Wisdom and Charisma scores through the use of wish spells and now has a +4 inherent bonus to these attributes.


Ashemmi has been described as both a gold elf and a moon elf and is in fact a child of both. She was born Shemmithil Maraphiir to her moon elf father, Rhyem Maraphiir and her gold elf mother, Chelryn Sarynnryllar in Silverymoon during the Year of the Dark Masks (1171 DR). Her parents traveled from the environs of Silverymoon to live among the wood elves of the Neverwinter Woods shortly after she was born and were taken in by elves of the Ilbaereth clan. Ashemmi led a sheltered life for much of her first 80 winters until her older brother Malphys discovered her talent for the Art. Malphys had apprenticed with Khelben Arunsun and taught his younger sister the rudiments of magic. This nurturing of Ashemmi's magical talent awakened in her a yearning for adventure.

In the Year of Bright Dreams (1261 DR), Ashemmi stole away from her home and traveled to Neverwinter, where she fell in with a band of adventurers known as the Bright Banner Brandished. This band survived five perilous seasons of adventuring before falling afoul of the necromancer Orvanath. Trapped in a series of underground crypts in the wilds north of Mirabar, the company was overwhelmed by wraiths under Orvanath's control. Ashemmi survived only by using a scroll of teleport to escape after her comrades had all been slain. It was an experience that tempered her lust for adventure and also saw her swear vengeance against Orvanath, now a lich and member of the Arcane Brotherhood in Luskan.

Ashemmi spent several decades wandering the North, operating as an arcane tutor and mage-for-hire in Silverymoon. It was at this time that she first came to the attention of Khelben Arunsun, who had the moon-elf bard and Harper, Elthaor, come to her for tutelage in the Year of the Singing Skull (1297 DR). The pair fell in love and Ashemmi was recruited to the Harpers and sent with Elthaor to the Dalelands. There they did the bidding of the Master Harper Halithurn Emmercastle of Daerlun (one of the guises of a roving Elminster) and they traveled greatly around the lands of the Inner Sea. In 1339 DR, Elthaor was slain by drow slavers outside Calaunt and a grief-stricken Ashemmi was ordered to Waterdeep by Khelben.

On her arrival, Ashemmi was asked by Khelben to become a deep-cover agent for the Harpers in Darkhold. Uncaring for her personal safety due to the death of Elthaor, Ashemmi accepted and joined the Zhentarim in 1344 DR. It is likely Manshoon knew of her deception from the very start, at least in terms of her race and gender, but it amused him to allow Ashemmi her place in the Zhentarim. After a few years at Darkhold, Ashemmi found herself falling in love with the wizard Sememmon. His quiet strength reminded her of Elthaor, and she soon discovered that much of the ruthlessness and stolid coldness he exhibited was designed to maintain a facade of strength and control. After her unmasking and the death of Sememmon, Ashemmi submitted to Manshoon's spells in order to bring back her love as a clone.

Manshoon's magic caused Ashemmi to struggle with her feelings and thoughts. Her memories had not been erased and she clearly remembered her previous thoughts and emotions, but found them swamped by a tide of hate, bitterness, and recrimination. Following her estrangement from Sememmon, she seduced Dag Zoreth in late 1359 DR to fill the void in her soul. Their union conceived a child, who was spirited away by Dag Zoreth at Ashemmi's request, for the birth had opened her eyes to the shame and indignity she had endured at the hands of the Zhentarim. She vowed she would have her revenge on the Black Network and put out feelers to Khelben Arunsun through unwitting intermediaries seeking sanctuary.

After her escape with Sememmon and time serving the Moonstars, Ashemmi's participation in Khelben's Cleansing Ritual shattered Manshoon's bindings and she was restored to her former self Since that joyful day, Ashemmi has reaffirmed her love for Sememmon, who has also turned his back on the blackness that once dwelt in his soul. She has made contact with her daughter Cara, who now resides in Waterdeep and although she has many regrets, she knows that she has been given the opportunity to make amends for her past evil deeds.


Ashemmi has an incredible resentment toward the Zhentarim and Manshoon in particular, and she does anything in her power to disrupt their activities and enterprises. She is known to hire adventurers on a regular basis to raid Zhentarim-backed caravans in the Delimbiyr Vale and has broadened her focus to oppose the activities of the Church of Cyric in recent times as well.

Ashemmi - CR13

Female moon elf wizard 13
CG Medium humanoid (elf)
Init +7; Senses low-light vision; Listen +3, Spot +3
Languages Common, Elven, llluskan, Orc

AC 23, touch 13, flat-footed 20
hp 50 (13 HD)
Immune sleep
Fort +9, Ref +9, Will +11; +2 against enchantments

Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee mwk cold iron dagger +6/+1 (1d4/19-20) Ranged mwk cold iron dagger +9 (1d4/19-20)
Base Attack +6; Grp +6
Combat Gear wand of magic missile (5th level; 30 charges), wand of invisibility (3rd level; 8 charges), wand of lightning bolt (10th level; 15 charges), wand of sound lance (10th level; 22 charges)
Spells Prepared (CL 13th; +9 ranged touch):
7th - spell turning
6th - chain lightning (DC 21), greater dispel magic
5th - baleful polymorph (DC 20), duelward, extended greater invisibility, teleport
4th - confusion (DC 19), force missiles, stoneskin, vortex of teeth, wall of fire
3rd - acid breath (DC 18), dispel magic, fly, hold person (DC 18), rainbow blast (DC 18)
2nd - blur, distracting ray, mirror image, protection from arrows, scorching ray
1st - disguise self, distract (DC 16), mage armor, magic missile, ray of enfeeblement, shield
0 - detect magic, message, ray of frost, read magic

Abilities: Str 10, Dex 17, Con 12, Int 20, Wis 12, Cha 18
SQ: elf traits, enhanced charisma
Feats: Combat Casting, Craft Wand, Extend Spell, Great Fortitude, Improved Counterspell, Improved Initiative, Mind Over Body, Scribe Scroll
Skills: Bluff +9, Concentration +17 (+21 when casting defensively), Diplomacy +12, Gather Information +9, Intimidate +9, Knowledge (arcana) +10, Knowledge (local) +6, Knowledge (nobility & royalty) +6, Knowledge (religion) +6, Listen +3, Move Silently +5, Ride +4, Search +6, Sense Motive +5, Spellcraft +22, Spot +3
Possessions: combat gear plus 3 mwk cold iron daggers, bracers of armor +6, ring of protection +3, boots of elvenkind, brooch of shielding, cloak of resistance +2, diadem of intellect +2, ring of greater counterspells (lightning bolt)
Spellbook: Ashemmi has access to all spells of 1st through 5th level and a wide range of the spells of 6th through 7th level.
Enhanced Charisma: Ashemmi has improved her Charisma score through the use of scrolls of wish and now has a +3 inherent bonus to this attribute.

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