Approximately 25 years ago, Mystra was beset by the allied forces of Cyric, Shar and Lolth. Interestingly, the short-lived alliance was designed not to defeat Mystra, but to weaken her – or more specifically, to limit access to the Weave. The brief conflict left Mystra wounded and, as of yet, unable to heal herself. This has brought dire consequences to the world.
Within her Shadow Weave, Shar created a spell of immense power and bound it to an amulet. The spell is known as ‘The Veil’ and once activated, gradually reduces the memory of whatever the victim cares for the most, but doesn’t erase it entirely. Shar intended The Veil to be a curse, torturing the victim with a state of near-remembering, partial amnesia, leaving behind the feelings of loss and sadness, but no real memory of what was actually lost. The spell cannot be reversed, dispelled or healed. It is permanent.
The cost is very high for the caster – for it can only cast by a divine entity, with the requirement of relinquishing a portfolio of the creator’s choice. When Shar created the amulet, she relinquished her portfolio of Caverns, and access to that Domain along with it. This portfolio was immediately taken by Lolth in exchange for her later co-operation.
Pleased with the possibility of Shar’s new spell, Cyric sought out Mystra, and found her on a rare excursion to the Onyx Caverns on the Elemental Plane of Earth. He confronted her there, but his threat was only a distraction. Lolth had woven a web of invisibility over Shar through which Mystra could not see. As Mystra focused on Cyric and prepared to defend herself, Shar crept from deeper within the Onyx Caverns where she had hidden, slipped the amulet over Mystra’s head, and The Veil was drawn across the Weave.
Mystra immediately knew something had gone terribly wrong, and fled to the Ethereal Plane and escaped. Shar, Lloth and Cyric, ended their brief alliance without destroying each other, and have gone their separate ways, waiting for The Veil to take effect on the Forgotten Realms.
The Veil’s effect on Mystra was to gradually caused her to forget about the Weave. The effects are dire for all mortal creatures, for the Weave is their conduit to magic. Without access to the Weave, mortal creatures cannot use magic, Priests cannot maintain their churches. Worship diminishes, thus reducing the relative power of the Gods in the cosmos. Wizards and warlocks have trouble releasing spells they have learned. Bard’s songs dont have the same effect. The Veil’s impact on the world is immense and terrible.
Luckily Shar was not 100% successful, for Mystra is strong in the ways of magic, and not completely vulnerable to the Shadow Weave. Mystra hasn’t completely forgotten the Weave and mortals can still access it in a limited way. She remembers more than Shar intended, but still has trouble helping others use the Weave. The result is that spells have a casting time much longer than previously known, and many are now rituals. Only through the repeated practice of a spell can the caster learn to pierce The Veil and access the Weave. This is a process that can take years to master for one individual spell, and is known as Attunement. With Attunement comes the normal casting time for spells. Some say that over time, those who have gained Attunement with certain spells can more directly access The Weave to cast those spells, giving those spells even greater power.
There are short-cuts to Attunement, mainly though Blood Rituals. Only practised by the most evil magical orders, a young practitioner can sacrifice a loved one, and through the pain and guilt of that loss, learn to pierce The Veil. Some magical orders practice self-mutilation, sacrificing a body part – a hand or a foot – to gain Attunement for a single spell. Some have even given their eyesight to live eternally in the dark, and achieve Attunement. Unfortunately for the lovers of peace and order, all followers of Shar, Lolth and Cyric are able to pierce The Veil when they commit to following those gods and gain Attunement for all their spells immediately – not that those followers would have a problem with any of the short-cuts.
Even Attuned spell casters find they are more easily disrupted when trying to use Magic. The presence of Iron on the caster’s person is very disruptive. Shar’s affinity for darkness has made casting any spells in the light of the sun particularly challenging as well.
The impact is significant across the world. Followers of Cyric, Shar and Lolth are able to wield magic much more easily than most others, as are the disciples of those gods ready to accept the high cost of Attunement. This has played out in many battles – small and large. Overall, this is a dark and chaotic time. Political alliances are wearing thin under increased pressure from evil forces across the world. Followers of good deities and good alignments are weakened by their inability to gain Attunement as easily as their evil foes. It is only through strength of will and grim determination that any good will withstand the coming tide.