The City of Splendors is certainly the greatest of the Sword Coast cities and perhaps the greatest cities on the face of the world. It’s home to as many as two million people, though an accurate census is all but impossible since so many come and go, visiting the open city to trade and otherwise seek fame and fortune. Waterdeep is a stable and generally peaceful city, where the rule of law is enforced by a huge and well-equipped watch further backed up by some of the most powerful personalities in the Realms.
The journey to Waterdeep is a quick one. One moment you are all standing in the Teleportation Circle in the Neverwinter Halls of Justice, and the next you are standing in the Circle within the Palace of Waterdeep.
You are greeted by Rulathon, Captain of the City Guard. He conducts himself in a professional manner. He is accompanied by four guardsmen. Despite the situation, all five men salute Lord Neverember, and he returns the salute.
“Well met, Rulathon.” says Dagult in a firm but friendly voice. “I am here to answer the summons of the Lords of Waterdeep.”
“Dirty business, that.” says one of the four guardsmen. The Captain turns to cast a hard stare at the lose-lipped soldier and then returns his attention to Dagult. He produces a set of iron manacles from his belt, and lifts them towards Neverember tentatively. He does say anything. The meaning is plain.
“My apologies, sir.” The Captain appears genuinely apologetic. “But it’s the Law, and my sworn duty.”
“I understand.” He allows the Captain to put on the manacles, and then turns a glance to all of you. It’s clear that Dagult is disheartened by this summons to court for High Treason of all things. He says nothing. The look in his eyes says enough. He’s beginning to wonder if he has failed his people.
The Captain turns to look at all of you. “Normally, you would not be permitted to enter the Courtroom. However, we understand that some of you wish to bear witness to the Magistrates. Therefore, you are all permitted to enter. Remember to conduct yourself appropriately within the presence of the Black Robes.”
Dagult enters Courtroom led by the Captain and two of the guardsmen. The chamber looks more like a church than a courtroom. Hanging lamps illuminate the space with bright, white magical light. The guards lead him down to a podium that sat at the between of a series of pews on the left and right. In front of the podium was a large desk in the shape of a V. He is well acquainted with this room, being the place that he would usually sit to observe the case brought before the Magistrates. Now instead of sitting at the head of the V now he was standing in the place of countless criminals that have broken the laws of Waterdeep. The entire situation was ludicrous.
Next, you are led into the courtroom and instructed by a guard to sit in the pews at the front on the left hand side facing the huge V-shaped desk. As each of you settle in, somewhat amazed that you have not be relieved of any of your weapons, you see that more guards filter in slowly. The Captain remains at the back of the room near the door, and eight guardsmen stand along the walls on each side.
In time, the double doors behind the V-shaped desk open and a man walks through to sit at the head of the desk directly facing Neverember. The man is tall, muscular and handsome with slightly greying hair. He is called Piergeiron the Paladinson, and served as the Open Lord of Waterdeep before Dagult. He says nothing, simply settling in at the head chair and folding his hands within his lap.
Shortly afterwards, the doors open again. Slowly, quietly, the Black Robes enter the room and take their seats at the desk. In a normal proceeding only three or four of the mysterious judges would conduct the Court. However, today with the summoning of Open Lord Dagult Neverember, all twenty-six Magistrates are present. They all wear the vestments of the Magisters, dark black robes with hoods that hide their true identity. These Magisters are able to pass sentence without witnesses or evidence. However, in this case, they have decided to allow testimony.
The room is quiet for what seems like forever. It is an uncomfortable silence. Finally though, Piergeiron stands up and addresses the entire courtoom. When he speaks, his rate and tone are slow which is normal for him. When he served as Open Lord he was often called “thickskull” by those who disliked him.
“Dagult Neverember, heir of Nasher Alagondar, Unmasked and Open Lord of Waterdeep, Lord Protector of Neverwinter, and Regent of the Civilized Territories of the Sword Coast, you are summoned here today to face the severe accusation of High Treason.”
Piergeiron pauses for a moment, perhaps to allow the statement to sink in. Dagult remains stoic, standing at the podium with his hands in front of him. After a few moments of tense silence, the man continues his speech.
“The charges against you, sir, are many. First of all, you have failed to protect the lands that you have sworn to protect. The armies of the enemy have swept throughout the Sword Coast, laying waste to villages and pillaging their resources. Your recklessness in providing proper defenses for these villages has led to the wholesale slaughter of your people. Secondly, you have failed to protect the tradeways of the Sword Coast. Both land and sea have been subject to pirates and raiders to the point that goods and services cannot flow normally. Merchants are being blackmailed and taxed by bandits on the tradeways that you have sworn to protect. Next, you are charged with the torture and mistreatment of prisoners and patients within the confines of Helm’s Hold, the institution you supported to deal with those inflicted with the Spellplauge. Also, you are charged with improper and greedy taxation of the nobles of Waterdeep and Neverwinter. You are also charged with consorting with and aiding Enemies of the State, namely the three outlaws named Drizzt Do’Urden, Jaraxle Baenre, and Artemis Entreri. And lastly, you are charged with the murder of the grand hero, the Old Sage Elminster.”
At the mention of being charged with Elminster’s murder, Dagult reacts as if he has been punch full on in the stomach. He doubles over slightly, and his face pales.
“Murder, sir,” continues Piergeiron. “Because you sentenced him to be housed within Helm’s Hold after he was inflicted with the Spellplague. Murder because you knew that he was not in his right mind when he requested assistance to enter the Dread Ring to travel to the Nine Hells. Murder because you stole from us the greatest hero of the Realms.”
Dagult looks he’s going to collapse. He leans heavily on the podium. He obviously cannot believe the charges being quoted to him.
“And finally, you are charged with abandoning the field during the recent siege of Neverwinter. You left the field in a deliberate act of treason and cowardice to hide in a safehouse with women and children until the battle was over.”
The courtroom falls silent again until Piergeiron finally finishes his opening statements. “The Magisters will hear testimony today from several individuals who have experienced or witnesses your acts of High Treason. For their own protection, they are sequestered in another room until they are called to speak. You are to be stripped of titles, lands, property, and holdings. Your punishment will be public execution. Although it is clear that you are guilty as charged, Dagult Neverember, you may call witnesses to speak on your behalf.”
Neverember seems to attempt to response, but his voice failed him. Trembling somewhat, he forced himself to stand up straight. His face was still pale, and he seemed for the first time to be at a loss for words.
“Well,” said Piergeiron. “Will anyone speak in defense of the accused?”
At that point, Brûne stood up, and walked to the podium. He placed a hand on Neverember’s shoulder. When he spoke, his words rang with confidence.
“I will speak and bear witness to some of the charges. I am Brune Beyland LeBoef, scout.” Brune volunteers and stands up glistening in his shiny armor and peacebonded weapons. “Wise Magistrates, please hear me. Are you safe? Do you have strong walls protecting you? Against barbarians, pirates, orcs? I would say these walls look pretty strong. We are protected against threats that we knew about thanks to the lords of waterdeep.”
“These walls did not come cheap. They were paid for over the years and has served us well…against the threats we expect. They were not created to protect against herds of cats, krakens, a herd of Tarasques, packs of dolphins, families of whales, Lavamen from elemental plane of fire, volcanos, or fleets of flying ships? Why? Because it would be a gigantic waste of money. Can you imagine what sort of protections would cost to protect the city from lavamen? Every crack would have to be reinforced, every wall, every cobblestone would have to be enchanted to resist fire and earth magics. There really isn’t that much money available. Can you imagine the size of the wall would have to be to prevent a Tarasque from entering the city, how about a herd of Tarasques working in concert? The taxes in order to provide for such a venture would be disastrous for nobles.”
“All that money would be used and lost when the monsters coming to the gates to never be seen again. Noble Magistrates, The money and durable goods lost from the raiding is not lost nor spent. It can be discovered and recovered. It is being hoarded and brought to a central location. The Nobles of the region can be rich again. Can you imagine how big that treasure trove is?”
“I was in Phlan at Skolis Keep. The lighthouse there had gone dark, which is unusual because it is a holy magic. We brought back the light. There were many towns being pillaged and razed to the ground. They were usually heralded by a dark prophet who would babble gibberish and talk about the eyes of Tiamat. We found the city that made a pact with Tiamat and we broke the pact. That group won’t pillage anymore. I know you might say that there are still other threats, like the Cragmaw goblins and the Many Arrow Orcs, Red Wizards of Thay, Drow, etcetera. This isn’t just raiding, we are at war. I have seen these various factions meet and plan for war against us. This isn’t just the safety of travel and flow of goods at stake, it is our lives.”
“I was there at Moonsea and found the ghost ships which were rumored. They were destroying trade, one was pilliaging towns and burning them to the ground. One of the ships had an artifact unholy to Tiamat that would burn the mind of one survivor so all he could see was her. The other ghost ship was inhabited by lost souls who had sold their soul to Tiamat and would not die when they were slain. We had to use holy magic and artifacts so they could leave this plane. That threat was also ended.”
“I was waylayed by highwaymen and Cragmaw goblins on the road protecting trade goods being protected by Lord Nevember’s men. We protected the goods. His men can protect shipments, he just needs more men. For that he needs money. His taxation is not greedy, it is to protect our lives.”
“I was there at Neverwinter durring the seige. This is the first time I have seen or heard of a vampire riding a dracolich cooridnating with a score of dragons, orcs, drow, trolls, undead and fiends. Have you ever heard of an encounter of more than two dragons and the people who engaged them survived to talk about it? How does one prepare for that? Is Waterdeep prepared for such an attack? Getting dragons to work together is like herding cats. No one expected such a thing. So, no one asks people to pay for such defenses. Such attack would destroy a city…. except it didn’t because Lord Nevember was there.”
“It was Lord Nevember’s forces that defended the walls, it was Lord Nevember’s allies who came to aid the city saving it from utter destruction. It was Lord Nevember who was challenged in personal combat by a fiendish dragon humanoid and he didn’t surrender. He was fatally wounded and he still did not surrender. When it became known amongst the troops that Lord Nevember was present and making a stand, the troops rallied and the dragons and other forces retreated. Lord Nevember saved Neverwinter. Could any of you done better against such forces?”
“I have seen the prophet of Helm’s Hold and seen the fiendish taint of her. She was not in her right mind. Helm’s Hold was infiltrated by drow and shapechanging vampires in league with Asmodeus who revealed that Asmodeus was in league with Tiamat. When I inspected Helm’s Hold it seemed that order and kindness was restored due to Lord Nevember’s victory and discovery of the prophet’s crime.”
“If there never were any problems we would be safe. There are problems, big problems and work is being done to solve them. Some have been solved. If we didn’t have the Lord Protector’s leadership those problems wouldn’t be worked on. Instead of holding a trial you would be running from these lands with what Tiamat has in store. Hell is the source of our troubles. It would take a brave hero of the lands to go there and see what he could do to prevent these problems. Oh, that is right, someone did. Elminster. He might not be lost though. Tiamat is going to open a portal to Faeyrune and he might be able to return through that. If she is not prevented, Hell will come to Faerûn and then no one will be safe.”
“I request that the noble Magisters consider the challenges to the realm to accomplish what they consider treason in these charges. Ask yourself who could do these things and stand against Tiamat, Asmodeous, and Loth? Ask if they are a god? Ask if they would trade their fate with Lord Nevember’s because that is what you are asking them to do.”
“Thank you for hearing me. I hope to find the location of the treasure hoard Tiamat has stolen from the Realms. I’ll let Dagult know when I do.”
Brune sits and lets others talk.
And others did talk. Many arrived in court that day to bear witness for Lord Neverember. After Brûne had his say, a Highwayman and Ranger known as Artus Cimber arrived to speak for Alusair Obarskyr, the Steel Regent of Cormyr. Artus went on to make several complimentary remarks about Neverember, and stated that The Steel Princess stands with Neverember. When the man had finished with what he had to say, he departed. Although none mentioned it, few missed the fact that he clearly wore a Harper pin on his cloak. After Artus came Storm Silverhand and Amarune Whitewave. Storm gave Dagult a small kiss on his cheek, and then concisely but sternly addressed the Magisters and Piergeiron. She made it clear that as Elminster’s pupil, that Neverember should not be held responsible for Elmisnster’s actions – and certainly not charged with murder. Amarune followed up Storm’s austere remarks by simply stating, “Simply put, Black Robes, Dagult did not murder my Great-Great Grandfather. If you choose to execute this man you will answer to the Seven Sisters and the Keepers of the Weave.” Also, a man named Mirt arrived to speak in defense of Dagult. “I am a fat, wheezing old rogue, and retired adventurer.” said Mirt. “But I was once a General, and I know a thing or two about the character of a good leader.” Mirt clapped Dagult on the back. “This man is not without his faults or shortcomings. Who here could hope to claim that they are perfect? But he is not a Traitor. I’d bet every shiny gold coin I own on that, my friends.” With a wink, Mirt departed the courtroom as well.
The witnesses for Neverember went on including the Lady Haventree from the Harpers, Ontharr Frume from the Order of the Gauntlet, Delaan Winterhound from the Emerald Enclave, and nearly every member of the Lord’s Alliance Council. And just as the was ready to call for a short break, something altogether surprising happened, interrupting Piergeiron’s words.
“We have heard many testimonies today from the accused’s friends. However, only the man named Brûne was actually present when many of the alleged acts of Treason were committed by Lord Neverember. We will break for a -“
The shadows in the well lit room suddenly stirred. A pool of darkness shifted and drifted, coming to rest beside the podium where Lord Neverember continued to stand. That dark pool of shadow rose to take the form of a man. He was not very tall but he was compact with wiry muscles. He was possessed of angular features, striking high cheekbones, and prominent sideburns. His raven black hair was thick and full, but his eyes were gray and lifeless, portraying the emptiness of his life and his soul. He was Artemis Entrei.
Piergeiro nearly choked on his words, and shouted “Artemis Entrei!” He pointed. “Seize him!”
None of the guards moved to follow the words, including the Captain. Neverember smiled slightly. A little color returned to his face.
Artemis gestured widely, and smiled. “My dear esteemed Magisters, I am here only for a moment. I come here to inform you that this man,” and he gestured to Lord Neverember. “Is nothing less than a hero.” He smirked, and winked to Piergeiro. “But Drizzt, Jaraxle, and I know how Waterdeep likes to hunt their heroes these days!”
“Seize him now!” shouted Piergeiro, and this time some of the guards shifted, half-heartedly starting to move forward towards the rogue who had been branded a terrorist and traitor himself.
Artemis grinned broadly. “I fought on the walls of Neverwinter. I fought those STINKING dragons! And I watched Dagult fall to the blade of that STINKING half-dragon. He was gravely wounded protecting the people whom he loves, the people of Neverwinter.”
As two of the guardsmen reached out to grab his hands, he executed an evasive backflip, and added: “If anyone, my dear Enforcers of the Law, should be brought up on charges of Treason then it should be General Sabine, who not only makes pacts with the Cult of Asmodeus – and nightly beds its master – but also ordered Neverember to be removed from the field of battle, transferred to the safehouse in the first place!”
With that, Artemis leaped into the air and melted away into shadows. As quickly as he came, he was gone.
The break was very short. During the break, Tharivol requested a company of soldiers and any other party members that wish to go along, to teleport back to Neverwinter and escort General Sabine to the council for questioning. The Captain of the Guard, having just been lectured and tongue-lashed by Piergeiron the Paladinson, was not in the best of humor. He explained simply, “I would do this for you, Tharivol, but the General is already here and awaiting her opportunity to have her own say in the scheme of things.”
When the trial started again, Lord Neverember returned to stand at the podium. He seemed somewhat back to his normal self. He stood tall, and seemed refreshed. Maybe the shock of the accusations were settling in and he was able to better cope with the situation.
Piergeiron the Paladinson looked around at the rest of the Eight who were seated in the Courtroom. He looked from one to the other, simply nodding to Brûne. He stood finally, and put his hands on his hips. “And what of the supposedly legendary heroes of Neverwinter? Only one of the Eight have the courage to speak for the accused?”
His jet-black eyes looked to each one of them expectantly, assuming at least one of them would have something to add to the discussion. His eyes scanned to Tharivol, Fo, Vrae’ree, past Brûne, to Dieter, Abadon, and Abernacky. None of them said a word, but instead remained quiet.
“Very well,” said Piergeiron. “I suppose your silence is your testimony.”
He sat back down, and gestured to a podium to his left, away from Neverember. “The witnesses against the accused will now speak. We will begin with Genderal Sabine.”
The doors behind the Magisters and Piergeiron opened, and Sabine entered. She sauntered to the stand where she would give her testimony. She was an extremely beautiful, tall, dark skinned woman. Everyone knew that she was in line to succeed Lord Neverember as Lord Protector of Neverwinter. She carried herself with the self assured grace of someone who is totally in command of everything around her.
Her testimony against Neverember was simply and eloquent. She stated that Dagult is a man who is unfit for leadership. She explained that he has not taken an active role in ruling Neverwinter, and instead has delegated his athuority to officials and represenatives within the city. She criticises him on his lack of hard leadership, even to the point of hiring her and her Mintarn mercenary soldiers to act as part of the police force in the city. Worst of all, she accuses him of failing to fulfill his duties as Lord Protector of Neverwinter and Open Lord of Waterdeep. “He is a man divided,” she explained. “He should return to his dealings in this fine city fo Waterdepp, and leave Neverwinter in the hands of someone competent to lead.”
Sabine’s testimony was followed by that of Mayor Soman Galt. Galt made it clear that Neverember treats him like a stooge and delegates most of the official workings of the government to him. He described him as being aloof, unobservant, and more interested in collecting taxes than caring for the people of the city. He also accuses Neverember of being a traitor for harboring Enemies of the Crown, namely Drizzt Do’Urden, Artemis Entrei, and Jarlaxle.
“You saw it today!” Soman stood up, gesturing with a pointed finger at Dagult. “He’s been hiding those terrorists in the city ever since their recklessness led to the eruption of Mount Hotenow! The resultant earthquake and combination of smoke and lava destroyed much of Neverwinter, killing thousands!”
This caused Neverember to lose his cool. He shouted back at Soman thoughtlessly. “You know that’s not true, you little rat! Those men are heroes, not criminals!”
The outburst caused Piergeiron to call for order. Lord Neverember was ordered to remain silent or be removed from the courtroom.
The Mayor made the argument that Lord Neverember has done some great things within the city, but it is time for him to return to Waterdeep and leave Neverwinter in the hands of a more proper leader. “Waterdeep sent Dagult to us when we needed aid against Thay and the Shadovar. But that war … err… conflict has ended. He has chosen not to claim the throne. Instead he has brought an army of mercenaries from Mintarn and turned the city into a police state under the leadership of Sabine. I represent the voice of Neverwinter, being their Mayor, and I say that Neverember should go. We desire to be ruled by a true noble of Neverwinter blood. Annex the city to the Greycloaks, and allow a true leader to emerge.”
The most damning testimony came from a surprising source: Llomnauvel Oloadhin, a well known mage of Neverwinter. He made it clear that he was there to speak on behalf of the arcane Brotherhood. He stated simply that Neverember’s presence in the city is a simple propaganda movement by the Lords of Waterdeep to annex Neverwinter and sieze control of the Sword Coast. Due to being a delegator, Neverember cares little for the day to day happenings in the city, but rather seeks to keep the city just above water so that it cannot stand on its own and must rely on Waterdeep for aid. He leaves the regular activities relating to defense and security for General Sabine to take care of without leadership or proper oversight. Politics are handled be the Mayor, Soman Galt, who does the best that he can but is constantly undermined by Neverember. He simply says that Neverember should be removed from his role of Lord Protector. He states that the Arcane Brotherhood suggests that the Moon Elf Overwizrd, Valindra Shadowmantle, be placed as protector of the city.
At that, Neverember shouted angrily again. “Overwizard!” He scoffed. “Lich of Thay, more like it!”
At that outburst, Lord Neverember is escorted by the Guard out of the courtroom. After he is gone, Piergeiron stands and looks around the room. “Very well, since there are no more witnesses for or against the accussed, we shall call his matter to a close.”
At that point, Vrae’ree finally stood up to have his say. Brûne nodded to him with a smile. And although Piergeiron seemed somewhat annoyed, he nods to the Dark Elf to speak.
“Magisters, I am Vrae’Ree Everhurden, acolyte of Alric Halfhand, formerly a well-renowned hero of Baldur’s Gate who was residing in Greenest until that village was razed by minions of Tiamat. I am honored to be able to stand here today to defend the one true hero of Faerûn. Lord Neverember, above all others I have ever known, is willing to sacrifice everything to protect and save his people and the realm. Brune speaks the truth when he recounts the heroics of Neverember during these trying time. And while Artemis Entrei’s testimony may fall on deaf ears due to his current status in Waterdeep, I assure you his words ring truest of all. I was at the safe house that night. I witnessed with my own eyes a mortally wounded leader who found the strength to shield a young boy from the venom of a Dragonborn, taking the foul scourge upon himself to save an innocent life. This was not the act of a cowardly man hiding from the fray. Who among you, beaten and near death, would risk yourself like that?”
“Now, it is true, I am not privy to the truths of some of the other charges against Lord Neverember, but I do know one thing: The charge of Elminster’s murder is a farce! Once again, who here truly believes anyone, including Lord Neverember, would be able to force Eliminster to not do something he had already set his mind to act upon? Elminster’s wits may have been troubled, but there was no way to stop him short of killing him outright. Lord Neverember’s choice the best that could be made by anyone and decided by his wisdom, assessment of the situation, and intimate knowledge of Elminster, himself.”
“Magistrates of Waterdeep, As I am sure you have all well noticed, I am a Drow. I was raised in the underdark where society is based upon violence, murder, cunning, and the philosophy that only the strong survive. This way of life never appealed to me, so I escaped to the surface world where tales promised I would find a realm of peaceful cooperation between races where love, honor, and truth were cherished above all things. I look back now and am embarrassed at how naive I was. While researching the history of Lord Nevereber’s rule, I have found nothing but conspiracy after conspiracy by other powerful individuals and organizations, some clandestine and some overt, to thwart Lord Neverember’s attempts to create a realm like the ones in the tales I secretly read as a child. What I see now is the surface world is no different than the Underdark. This court is being used by the minions of Tiamat to spread discord and chaos in the Realm. It is part of a well orchestrated attack to destroy us from within while their armies hammer at us from without. I implore you – I beg of you – DO NOT let me be proven right. Do not allow the servants of evil to tarnish the reputation of this good man. Stand for Righteousness. Stand for Truth. Stand with Lord Neverember! Exonerate Lord Neverember of all of these bogus charges, and allow our best hope for victory and peace to concentrate fully on ridding Faerûn of those who are the true enemy.”
And as Vrae’ree finshed his speech, and returned to his seat, Piergeiron called the court to order again and explained that the Magisters would consider all of the testimony and return within an hour with a decision. The black robed magistrates slowly filtered out of the courtroom, followed by Piergeiron himself.
END ACT TWO