The New Settlers
In the long history of the settled lands of the North, few civilized humans have dared to establish permanent dwellings outside walled cities and towns such as Silverymoon and Everlund. That has begun to change in the first few years of peace brought by the creation of the Silver Marches. Immigrants from all over Faerûn have moved into the north lands drawn by the new alliance that promises to stand strong against the orcs.
To the surprise of the citizens of the Silver Marches, the new immigrants include retired Zhent soldiers and their families. They've been cashed out of active service with the Zhent forces, been provided with enough gold to buy seed, a plow, and possibly even some land, and asked to move somewhere far away from the Moonsea. Most of the Zhent retirees can't wait to move as far away from Zhentil Keep as possible, since few of them wish to risk being called back to active service. Or at least that's the story they tell the citizens of the Silver Marches.
The Zhent retirees group together in newly established stockade communities of between one hundred and three hundred souls. They know that the cities in the Silver Marches alliance it view them with suspicion. Even so, they have brought their families and their dreams of a better life and ask only to be allowed to contribute to the area's growth and peace. The new communities have chosen simple name's such as Newfort, Hilltop, and Winter Edge, names calculated to sound friendly instead of threatening. As a group, they refer to themselves as the Free Towns. As of 1372 DR, the Free Towns' total population numbers around four thousand.
Roughly one third of the newcomers are evil in alignment, some 10% are good, and the rest (more than 50%) are neutral. The degree of Zhentarim involvement in the newcomers' lives remains to be seen. Few of the retirees care passionately for the Zhent cause, but covert agents, religious 'obligations,' old feuds, and untrustworthy leaders could embroil them in conflicts with the other inhabitants of the Silver Marches and with each other.