Open Lords of the Wailing Years and Beyond

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The following is the writing of Ed Greenwood from his Twitter. In December 2019, he answered a query of mine about the Open Lords between Piergeiron and Dagult in a spectacular fashion. I have taken the contents of those Twitter threads (available here, here, here, and here) and spliced them together into this content. Though I've done some base editing, this writing is all (c) Ed Greenwood 2019.

Piergeiron the Paladinson (1314 DR – 1379 DR)

Piergeiron ‘the Paladinson’ became Open Lord of Waterdeep in 1314 DR, and died in office in 1379 DR (of age and ill health, after several assassination attempts at the hands of those increasingly impatient to replace him with their various stooges; one of those attempts claimed the life of his loyal bodyguard, Madeiron Sunderstone, late in 1378 DR).

Audreithra Teltorna (1379 DR – 1385 DR)

Piergeiron was succeeded (a month after his death, by majority vote of the Masked Lords, after many candidates had been proposed by various Lords, but rejected by others) by (a compromise candidate, initially seen within the Lords and across the city as a caretaker, but who won respect while in office) the respected-in-trade Waterdhavian merchant (parchment and paper-maker and bookbinder) Audreithra Teltorna, who was not a Masked Lord. She held the Lordship until the Spellplague hit in 1385 DR. In its tumult, agents of the Xanathar (of the time) succeeded in assassinating Teltorna, intending to install their puppet among the Masked Lords as her replacement.

However, they overplayed their hand, and their candidate, the shipwright Andramas Rujyntral, was rejected by the Lords. A flurry of assassinations among the Lords followed as the Xanathar’s agents took their revenge and sought to eliminate rival candidates within the Lords and Rujyntral’s most steadfast opponents, but this goaded various Lords to hire adventurers to assassinate both Rujyntral and any of the Xanathar’s agents they could identify and hunt down.

They succeeded so well that the Xanathar not only lost Rujyntral, it suffered the loss of so many loyal human agents that it decided to retreat into the shadows, rebuilding its network with slow care and keeping well away from the Masked Lords (a policy that remained in force until a new Xanathar succeeded to the title).

Phulundaera Vantur (1385 DR – 1389 DR)

The Masked Lords endured a little more than three months without an Open Lord at the helm, until the ravages of the Spellplague demanded that their appointed spokesperson (Acting Voice Of the Lords) Watchlord Phulundaera Vantur (a seasoned veteran who’d risen through the ranks; her much-scarred body incorporated magically-bonded limbs and organs from fallen comrades) be adopted as the new Open Lord.

Phulundaera was street-wise and gruff and no-nonsense, and the guilds and just plain citizens of the streets loved her, because she stood for equality of treatment under city law and policy, for the high and the low. This same quality made her detested by the nobles and ‘wannabe nobles’ nouveau riche, and they tried to arrange many accidents for her. As she was already old and ailing, one such assassination attempt finally succeeded, in 1389 DR.

Hauthshaw Assumbar (1389 DR – 1390 DR)

The nobles and the wealthy then spent money and called in favors in ‘the Golden Deluge,’ and succeeded in buying enough votes to put their own candidate into the Open Lordship’s chair: a wastrel young noble son named Hauthshaw Assumbar, who had little useful education, even less strength of will (no principles, and a tendency to obey whoever had yelled at him loudest, most recently), and beliefs only in the superiority of the nobility and of Waterdeep and of hot buttered snail, to all else.

He was intended to be the pawn of the noble houses, but a guildmaster (Hartran Ilandrouth of the Coopers’ Guild) shrewdly sent his daughter, Shalantha, to seduce and cozen Assumbar, giving him Ilandrouth’s directions, which were not just promoting guild interests, but were in the main shrewd good governance—but infuriated the nobles, who had coin enough to pay for many assassination attempts. They succeeded in poisoning Shalantha fatally and Assumbar enough to frighten him in fleeing the city in disguise, late in 1390 DR, aboard a ship to Mintarn with adventurers.

He eventually made it to the Moonshaes, but there was recognized and assassinated by someone who thought his death would plunge Waterdeep into confusion and weaken it. His head was sold to a factor (trade agent) of the Deepwinter noble house of Waterdeep, who sent it back to Waterdeep to prove Assumbar’s demise.

Athlynxthlas Ultrumpet (1391 DR – 1440 DR)

The chest containing Assumbar’s head was opened by the Masked Lords meeting in council in the Palace in 1391 DR, but proved little more than an unpleasant anticlimax, as the winter of early 1391 DR had been full of fractious debates to replace Assumbar, with everyone assuming he’d been murdered (Shalantha’s body had been found purple and bloated with poison).

As before, the Masked Lords, with many personal interests at stake and many interests across the city seeking to influence them, found it difficult to choose an Open Lord, until one among them, Athlynxthlas Ultrumpet, put himself forward with the promise that he’d simply be the mouthpiece of the Lords, deferring all decisions to them, even the traditional magisterial (judging criminals) rulings.

The weary Lords agreed to this, and the wily Ultrumpet began his subtle reign. During the long tenture of Athlynxthlas Ultrumpet, he had Open Lords named to ‘shadow’ him and so learn on the job, so they could be trained (and vetted by the Masked Lords) as successors. Most of them—there were more than a dozen, and on two brief occasions, two at once—were mediocre, and those who grew too popular or seemed too competent Ultrumpet covertly framed for crimes, or arranged for fatal fatal ‘accidents’ to befall them.

Caladorn Cassalanter was one of these Open Lords, announced in 1398 DR by Ultrumpet and serving until 1406 DR, when he resigned his Open Lordship to be at his mother’s side and support her, upon the death of one of his older brothers (shortly after the death of his father; Caladorn’s other brother had died some years earlier). For most of 1399 DR Caladorn was the only public face of the Lords, as Ultrumpet was in seclusion recovering from an attempt to kill him by means of a ’rotting disease’ from Mhair, introduced into his food by unknown hands (belonging to agents of the Xanathar, UItrumpet believed).

Three other of these ‘tryout’ Open Lords named by Ultrumpet survived their tenure in the Open Lordship, two resigning openly because they could see they were about to be framed, and a third simply fleeing the city covertly for a new life in Tethyr, under a new name (so to Waterdeep, he simply disappeared). As Ultrumpet became (rightfully) more paranoid, he took to sending his ‘right hand’ Open Lords to stand in for him at public appearances, so they’d be the target, and not him. Caladorn Cassalanter became the respected backbone of his family, and died in ripe old age, never losing his taste for fun or his interest in naval matters.

Under the guise of meeting with Lords to learn their will so he could humbly carry it out, he developed the habit of meeting with small groups of Lords—meetings that filled most of the days of his forty-odd year reign. Ultrumpet took the Open Lord’s throne in the early summer of 1391 DR, and was assassinated in 1440 DR.

The last year of his rule he spent surrounded by his personally-hired bodyguards, shut up in the inner room of the Palace, as by then all of the Masked Lords had realized how subtly he’d been steering them (some of them had realized this as long as thirty years earlier, but been unable to do much about it). Under Ultrumpet, the nobles and guilds lost power, all citizens saw cleaner and safer streets, everyone paid more taxes but these were raised so slowly and quietly that there was little unrest—and more and more real daily power was sapped from the Masked Lords and gathered to the Open Lordship. Ultrumpet’s slayers were hired by a cabal of nobles, but they merely succeeded where more than two dozen earlier assassination attempts mounted by various covert groups of Masked Lords had failed.

Ilmyndra Lhethrus (1440 DR – 1456 DR)

Fearful of an attempt to wrest power by the nobles, the Masked Lords turned to the general populace to suggest candidates, causing the expected utter chaos of hundreds of candidates being put forward. However, the Lords plucked a timorous meal-server, a shy young Waterdeep-born woman named Ilmyndra Lhethrus whose quiet but attentive service to several Lords’ family members had been appreciated, from among all the tumult of promoted candidates, and installed her, hoping for self-effacing innocence and obedience (a pawn who’d get no sly ideas of her own). They were right, and although Lhethrus hated the role and sickened under the attention and demands, she served well for sixteen years, resigning in 1456 on her deathbed of ‘dragonback fever.’

Fandral Daerakus (1456 DR – 1457 DR)

Not wanting a return of the tumult or any candidate of the guilds or nobles in the Open Lord’s chair, the Masked Lords quickly chose one of their own, the moneylender Fandral Daerakus. Many Lords suspected he’d be unable to resist the temptation to dip into city coffers to enrich himself or expand his moneylending business using city funds, and kept close watch over him, employing hired mages and mundane spies—and they were right.

Daerakus attempted to cover up his misdeeds by proposing that the city openly lend money to enrich its coffers, under the Open Lord’s direction, but that cut no harbor ice with the Masked Lords, who expelled him for life from the city, not just from the Open Lordship, late in 1457 DR. (He soon fell in with several unscrupulous traders of Amn who tried to use his inside knowledge of Waterdhavian courtiers and dealings to advance their own enterprises, but they worked through the wrong guilds, and didn’t get far.)

Malthavyn Thunstone (1457 DR – 1462 DR)

The Masked Lords swiftly replaced Daerakus with another of their own, the aging and conservative Malthavyn Thunstone, a stolid, honest, unimaginative stickler-for-details whom no one was enthused about but no one was enraged by. Under his steady hand the city flourished, and he lasted until the doddering wits that afflict some in old age led him to resign in 1462 DR.

Hamaera “Hammerbrow” Nalaver (1462 DR – 1466 DR)

Thunstone was quickly replaced by another citizen-not-of-the-Lords, Hamaera ‘Hammerbrow’ Nalaver, an independent (non-guild-member) designer of cloaks, gowns, and winterwraps of fierce temper, drive, and swift wits. Her rages were many but short-lived, and she held no grudges; she might be laughing with someone at supper that she’d shrieked at and thrown things at, nigh highsun. Some loved her, and some hated her, but none were bored by her, and she lasted four years, until dying in what almost everyone believes (and the Watchful Order was called in to investigate, and also believed) was a genuine accident—run over by a heavy-laden wagon in Dock Ward late in 1466 DR, after losing her footing in fish-slop and sliding under its wheels.

Dathjet Deepwinter (1466 DR – 1471 DR)

The nobles had been biding their time under her mercurial Open Lordship, and were ready with a candidate of their own and a covert behind-the-scenes vote-buying push to back him, which quickly succeeded, in large part because their candidate, Dathjet Deepwinter, was an amiable, principled, unambitious, acceptable-to-all young nobleman—who came from a small and not particularly wealthy or encumbered (by obligations, debts, or alliances) noble house. Dathjet made mistakes but tried to do what was best for the entire city, and explained his reasonings in open Council, which endeared him to many even when they thought his decisions were wrong. However, he grew dissatisfied with what he saw as his increasing blunders, and resigned early in 1471 DR, surprising most of the city.

Hulkane Spaudelar (1471 DR – 1473 DR)

The Lords hastily voted one of their own into the Open Lord’s chair, a wily schemer by the name of Hulkane Spaudelar. Nasal-voiced, long-nosed, and prissy, Spaudelar was widely mocked for his pet phrases and habit of waving his hands wildly in distaste, but although he had to best foes and win arguments, he never did it for personal gain, living simply and avoiding all opportunities to gain influence or benefit. Various criminal elements of the city misread him as being ripe for subversion, and when he exposed some of their attempts to meet with him and cozen him, they assassinated him to cut short the damage he could do—so he was gone by mid-1473 DR.

Elchantra Gauntan (1473 DR – 1477 DR)

This time, it was the turn of the guilds to try to control who sat in the Open Lord’s chair, decrying the past results of the Masked Lords voting one of their own into it or the nobles installing a candidate of their liking. Of course, the guilds couldn’t agree on a candidate, and in the end put forward six rivals. The Masked Lords liked none of them and instead plucked another independent commoner from the streets, Elchantra Gauntan, a singer, dancer, and sometime model whose good looks and good fortunes were in her past. Wry, street-wise, and good-natured, she ruled well but her health declined under the pressure, and she froze to death one bitterly cold winter night in 1477 DR after falling asleep in her coach on the way back to the Palace, when equally weary staff overlooked her when seeing to the horses, and left her in it overnight.

The Chaos (1477 DR – 1479 DR)

What followed was known as “the Chaos,” a succession of a dozen Open Lords (a few guild candidates, but most of them from the ranks of the Masked Lords) being voted in and proclaimed, then assassinated after days or months, in which the city was in uproar and lawlessness rose in the streets and alleys.

Dagult Neverember (1479 DR – 1489 DR)

Into this tumult stepped the charismatic and scheming Dagult Neverember, who held the Open Lordship for a decade, from 1479 DR until he was ousted in 1489 DR.

Laeral Silverhand (1489 DR – Present)

Laeral Silverhand was proclaimed Open Lord in 1489, and is still Open Lord (the current year in the Realms depends on just where things stand in your Realms campaign, but published FR adventures and novels have brought us past 1492 DR).