Path of the Polestars
Throughout the present period, civilization struggles against the savage forces of chaos, and life attempts to persevere against the agents of death and strife, sometimes in places where even the gods themselves have not been exempt from destruction. The last one hundred fifty years have comprised one of the most cataclysmic periods in Faerûn’s history. On no fewer than three occasions, Toril has been shaken to its core by forces that have repeatedly rewritten the laws of reality.
In 1358 DR, the gods were cast out of their otherworldly domain and made to wander the land incarnated as mortals. In seeking to recover their divinity, they warred among themselves. Magic became unpredictable, and the prayers of the faithful went unanswered. Some of the gods-turned-mortal were slain, while a handful of mortals ascended to godhood, assuming the responsibilities of the dead deities.
In 1374 DR, the Empire of Netheril rose again when the floating city of Thultanthar, commonly known as Shade, returned from a nearly two-thousand-year-long excursion in the Shadowfell, to hover above the Anauroch desert. The shadow-touched nobles of the city almost immediately began hunting for ancient Netherese ruins and artifacts and preparing for a restoration of their once-great empire.
In 1385 DR, the ascended deity Cyric, aided by Shar, murdered Mystra, the goddess of magic, in her domain of Dweomerheart. This act ripped asunder the fabric of magic in the world, unleashing its raw power in a catastrophe called the Spellplague. Thousands of practitioners of the Art were driven mad or killed, while the face of Faerûn was reshaped by waves and veils of mystic blue fire. Entire nations were displaced or exchanged with realms from other worlds, and parts of the earth were torn free to float in the air.
A century after the Spellplague, the lands and peoples of Faerûn had become accustomed to the state of things just in time for everything to change again.
The first indication of new turmoil came in 1482 DR, when Bhaal, the long-dead god of murder, was reborn in Baldur’s Gate amid chaos and bloodshed, leaving two of the city’s dukes and many of its citizens dead. The return of Bhaal and his apparent reclamation of the domain of murder from Cyric led some scholars and sages to believe that the rules by which all deities must abide were in flux.
In 1484 DR, strange calamities began to occur throughout Faerûn. An earthquake struck Iriaebor. A plague of locusts afflicted Amn. Droughts gripped the southern lands as the sea steadily receded in places. Amid this tumult, conflict broke out in many regions of the continent. The orcs of Many-Arrows warred against the dwarfholds of the North and their allies. Sembia invaded the Dalelands, and Cormyr raised an army to come to the aid of the Dalesfolk. Netheril brought forces to Cormyr’s border, and Cormyr was drawn into a war on both fronts.
Throughout this period, tales began to spread of individuals who had been touched by the gods and granted strange powers. Some of these so-called Chosen were at the root of the conficts that grip the land. Some seemed driven by divine purpose, while others claimed to be mystified as to why they would be singled out. In 1485 DR, in Icewind Dale, the Chosen of Auril fomented war with Ten-Towns and was defeated. In Anauroch, seeing that Netherese forces were spread thin, the long-subjugated Bedine people rebelled. Having defeated or besieged the dwarfholds of the North, orcs march on Silverymoon. In Cormyr and Sembia, the Netherese and the Cormyreans traded ground, while the Dalelands became a war zone. As if to offset the drought in the south, in autumn, the Great Rain began to fall around the Sea of Fallen Stars and continued unceasingly.
While the waters rose to the east in early 1486 DR, the tide turned against the orcs in the North, and by the end of the year their armies were broken and scattered. Also during that year, the elves of Myth Drannor came to the aid of the Dalelands and helped push back Sembian forces. On the Sword Coast, the Hosttower of the Arcane rose again in Luskan, a long with the Arcane Brotherhood. In Waterdeep and Neverwinter, efforts were made to clear those cities of century-old rubble and neglect. Cormyr repulsed the last of the Sembian and Netherese forces from the nation, reclaiming its territory, and recalled its forces, turning inward to address issues of rebuilding.
Late in 1486 DR, the Great Rain finally abated, but this event didn’t signify an end to the chaos. The Sea of Fallen Stars had grown, submerging great swaths of land beneath its waves.
Early in 1487 DR, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions abounded for months, as if the whole world was convulsing. Rumors spread of chasms caused by the Spellplague suddenly vanishing, and stories circulated of known destinations being farther away from one another, as if the world had quietly added miles of wilderness to the distance between them. Word began to spread of places and peoples not heard from since the Spellplague. It became apparent that some of the effects of that terrible time had been reversed. During the year, ships claiming to be from Evermeet, Lantan, and Nimbral—nations thought vanished or destroyed—sailed into ports on the Sword Coast and in the Shining South. Tales spread of the legendary skyships of Halruaa being spotted in southern skies. No longer engaged in Cormyr, Netheril attacked Myth Drannor by floating the City of Shade over it. In a struggle for control of Myth Drannor’s mythal and the Weave itself, the flying capital of Netheril was brought crashing down on Myth Drannor, resulting in the cataclysmic destruction of both.
As the year drew to a close, there were nights when the heavens seemed to hang motionless. Throughout much of Faerûn, the winter lasted longer than any on record. The solstices and equinoxes had somehow drifted. Later seasons followed suit, with each starting and ending later than expected. Prayers to the gods for knowledge and mercy seemed to go unacknowledged, apart from the presence of their Chosen.
Although the orcs were defeated in the North, the League of Silver Marches was disbanded in 1488 DR, as former allies blamed one another for failures in the war. Sembia divided into separate city-states only nominally allied with one another. While a handful of settlements survived, the Netherese Empire was no more. The remainder of the Netherese forces battled with the Bedine over control of the Memory Spire, thought to be a tomb of the phaerimm, Netheril’s ancient enemies. The battle awakened what turned out to be a hive of the creatures, and they used the life- and magic-draining power of the spire against the lands below.
By 1489 DR, many of the wars that began during the Second Sundering had ground to a close. Other conflicts arose, and mighty threats still imperiled the world, but the deities ceased interfering with the world through their Chosen. The gods were no longer silent but quiet, and in many places new priesthoods arose to interpret the gods’ now subtle signs.
The world today seems a place filled with new lands and opportunities, where those who dare can leave their mark. Students of history and those elves and dwarves who recall the past (that short-lived humans see as distant) perceive a world much like it was over a century ago. For most folk, wild tales of people empowered by the gods, and of far-off lands returned to the world, are the subjects of fireside chatter. Daily concerns and the dangers and opportunities just beyond their doors take precedence, and plenty of both remain throughout Faerûn.