The Godswar, ending at 0SG
Brewing for millennia as dark strove against light, and races strove against each other, their immortal patrons interfered further and further in mortal affairs. In the vacuum left by the sudden disappearance of the Zin'Charu empire, the scattered human settlements bickered over the fertile plains that were left behind. While years, decades, and even centuries passed, an age of darkness swept across the lowlands and no single clan managed to rise as the dominant power. But while the clans squabbled among themselves, vast empires arose among the Saakrune Isles and the arid southlands, and then cast their gaze upon the vulnerable lowlands.
From the south, over the mountains, came an alliance of the most powerful Tsarven kingdoms, united if in nothing else than their desire to broaden their borders. From the east, across the seas, came the Kinnesarudan armies, too long hemmed in by the Saakrune's fickle graces. To the north, the Aesatri settled into their strongholds, prepared to defend what was already theirs. In their forests and mountain strongholds, the elven and dwarven kingdoms did the same. And as the very material of the universe shook beneath the feet of the gods, the sages tell that a power above all others foresaw the destruction of the world at their hands, and cast the immortals down to settle their grievances among the mortals who served them. And so began the greatest war the realm has ever seen.
None upon the lowlands could hold back the armies as they marched, laying claim to hamlet, river and forest as they went, with the now-mortal gods as their commanders. The few clans and demihuman kingdoms that attempted a meagre opposition were wiped decisively from the face of the realm along with their once-divine patrons, and the rest fell to their knees before the two mighty forces. Rumors spread through the common folk like wildfire and raced ahead of the armies, telling of a relic hidden deep within the stretch of woods known to the elves as Vandor'ivae, the forest of lights. It was said to be the font from which the vanished Zin'Charu drew their unrivalled arcane might, able to grant unopposed victory to whichever force held it. It was called the Gate of Shadows.
The two armies finally met beneath the eaves of the ancient trees, and the battle was joined. Holy fire leapt forth against legions of darkness, as blades darted from the shadows to strike down the preservers of peace and hope. Traps were lain and sprung, while alliances shifted rapidly as mortals and gods alike were left dead upon the forest floor. Others gave up their last breaths to grant what was left of their divinity to their divine allies, in the hope that their cause would not be forgotten. The most malevolent once-immortals subsumed the weakest of their kind, in the hope of empowering themselves to survive another day. When the last survivors of those titanic clashes parted, only a fraction remained of the endless sea of combatants that had gone before, and so much of the forest was reduced to barren wastes.
Finally, with the war seeming at a standstill, dusk fell and the world seemed to hold its breath. All eyes lifted to a hilltop at the midpoint between the armies, as a contingent of black-armored soldiers parted to reveal a raven-haired beauty in their midst. Her stunning features were warped into a smile of utter malice as she raised her arms skyward, and before her appeared a gate so black that it seemed to drink in what little light remained of the day. With a cry of victory and all of her foes within her grasp, the mortal Shar let loose a bolt of pure darkness to shatter open the artifact so long devised by her servants among the Zin'Charu, and unleash eternal night upon the realm.
Accounts are mixed as to the next few seconds of time. Most commonly claimed is that in the split second, a brilliant flash of azure revealed the form of a dark haired woman with radiant skin, arms spread to prevent the opening of the gate. The resulting destruction is said to have been caused by the death of Mystra as she sacrificed herself to thwart Shar's schemes. Other tales claim that Shar succeeded in shattering the gate, but that the artifact was never truly completed by the Zin'Charu, and instead merely exploded. Yet more claim that a band of scouts came upon the Gate by sheer accident, triggering it to break and unleash a swathe of devastation.
Whatever the case, the ShadowGate did not unleash eternal night across the realm. Instead, the resulting explosion wiped out nearly everything in a massive radius, including the Gate itself. The northern half of the Vandor'ivae was reduced to barren desert, and a portion of the easternmost continent was ripped asunder to form the island known as Laerad. Even now, the Gods Plains and Swamp of the Dead bear the scars of those divine battles. Those few gods that remained found themselves restored of a measure of their former divinity, and quickly backed away from direct conflicts upon seeing first-hand the cost of unleashing their might directly.
Ever fearful of further strikes by their fellows, they turned their attention to rallying the remnants of their mortal forces, and withdrew from the lowlands. In time, the world healed and much of the truth of what came before was obscured or forgotten. As the mortal races have prospered in the time since, so too have the gods and their ambitions, but the memory still remains of what happens when these divinities overstep their bounds…