(600PS – 500PS)
An enormous coalition of nations considering themselves under the banner of ‘good’ deities in the north had been making efforts spanning decades to secretly form pacts with one another, known as the Lights of Piety. Their goal was to form a single unified force with which to threaten any neighbouring or nearby nations predominant in the worship of ‘evil’ deities into abandoning their ways in favour of practices deemed more just. Announcing their intentions in 601PS, they gave any and all nearby nations one year to comply with their demands or suffer invasion.
Rather than do so, however, the targeted nations attempted to form their own coalition in secret to raise a matching force of their own; this failed for a number of reasons. First, the nature of politics in nations which associate with and glorify evil is one which does not readily encourage co-operation; many noble figures would only agree to the coalition if they themselves could serve as its overall leader, which led to duplicity and infighting which hampered any attempt to strategically arm themselves as a unified force. Second, a small number of the weaker target nations readily betrayed the attempt at military unification to the Lights of Piety in the hopes of being spared in the event of an outbreak of violence (which, over time, appeared to be inevitable). Third, the difference in ideologies between the two sides meant that those fighting for the Lights of Piety had what they believed to be a moral impetus to fight, whereas those allied to the target nations served only self-interest (even if that self-interest was in the form of their gods’ favour). Fourth, many target nations believed resistance impossible, either because of the overwhelming military might the Lights of Piety had mustered, or because they theorised that whilst a ‘good’ deity would likely intervene and assist on behalf of their worshippers, an ‘evil’ deity was just as likely to let their followers die for their own amusement than help them.
In 600PS, the Lights of Piety struck as they had warned, and embarked on vicious military campaigns between 600PS and 541PS which saw host to the bloodiest battles in recorded history. It is anticipated that as many as one in three adult inhabitants of the north were killed, at an estimate of over seven million deaths. Occupations, resistances, and attempts to reform rattled on for another thirty-six years, and as methods of subjugation increased in their brutality (in addition to post-war famine and plague), the death toll continued to ascend. Finally, in 505PS, a strange cataclysmic event brought the Scourge to an end; however, rather than a violent catastrophe, this was a cataclysm of a more subtle yet far more devastating nature.
The five years between 505PS and 500PS have varying names depending on the cultural interpretation of what happened. Some refer to it as the Abandonment or Divine Interregnum. Most, however, will know it by its common title, the Years of Silence. In short, the gods ceased to communicate with mortal beings. Priests and pontiffs no longer received visions or prophecies from their gods, and quickly the abilities of clerics, paladins and other divinely-inspired sources of power began to fade until they vanished completely. It is notable that it was the ‘good’ deities whose presence ceased to be felt on the mortal plane first, followed swiftly by the ‘neutral’ deities (the ‘evil’ deities’ power had been considered waned for years and as a result of the Scourge bore few practitioners only in secret, and as such was immeasurable at the time, but contemporary evidence does not suggest a diversion from this pattern).
An ecclesiastical crisis engulfed the echelons of power as nobility and clergy alike scrambled for answers, desperate to interpret this event. An immediate worry was that the fears of small long-standing groups amongst the Lights of Piety was that the Scourge had simply gone too far – that the carnage had horrified the gods, who sought to demonstrate their shame for mortalkind by separating themselves from them in admonition. At last, in 501PS, it was decided that the Scourge should be brought to an end, and the Lights of Piety dissolved. Within a year, the gods were heard once more, and divine magic slowly returned to the mortal plane.
The effects, however, were permanent. Many nations aligned to ‘evil’ gods were damaged far beyond sustainable independence, and had grown to rely far too much on their oppressors. When the invading nations left after decades of war and occupation, many citizens simply went back with them, leaving cities abandoned or barely occupied by skeleton forces.