The Divine War was a war fought in the waning days (87-89 YD) of the Empire of Ascalon, with the Empire (aided by a Gyran faction called the Black Cloak, and the Livingstone faction in Insuia) on one side, its rebellious territories Insuia and Thelalia (aided by the Free City of Gyro) on another, and the Kingdom of Sandathalon playing both sides to its gain. However, if more fanciful tales are to be believed, the Divine War was actually a conflict between the gods Themselves, with Pamant and Helix backing Thelalia, Insuia, and Gyro, Migalo backing Ascalon, and Lucia supporting Sandathalon.
Whatever the truth, the Divine War is considered by historians to be the end of the Imperial Era in the history of Ascalon, and the beginning of the modern period, permanently shaking up the power structure of the continent of Ascalon:
- The Empire, having lost most of its credibility as the center of trade and military might in the West, never recovered. Even the cities of insular Ascalon declared independence uncontested in the decades after the Divine War, and by the time the Confederacy was founded, the Emperor's throne was all but ceremonial.
- The Free City of Gyro, which had long flown in the skies above Ashbay, was struck from the heavens in an Ozymandian attack, and it landed near and became an island in the archipelago of Black Mithril, which it annexed from the Empire.
- Insuia won independence but was crippled by its heavy casualties, the sacking of several of its cities and its arable land, and several deaths in its royal family. It was eventually annexed by Thelalia-Gyro.
- Thelalia, after losing most of its army and ruling class in an ill-fated invasion of New Ascalon, a bloody revolution, and a period of turmoil, was ultimately annexed by Gyro, and turned into a capitalist puppet state.
- Sandathalon, ruined by the cost of their ill-fated occupation of Insuia, Gyro's vicious retaliation, and the mysterious death of their King Ramses (and, according to legend, forsaken by their divine ally), imploded and was ultimately partitioned by Ferros, Bradamante, and New Ascalon.
To prevent future conflicts, Gyro and the Empire founded the League of Legends as an arbitrating body; it would later become the upper house of the Confederate government. Most importantly, however, Gyro finally opened up to the world, causing rapid advances in technology not just in Ascalon but as far away as Mochizuki and Farglance. This caused a noticeable jump in the standard of living, as well as giving Gyro significant soft power over the continent of Ascalon, though as the rest of the continent caught up to their level of technology, this faded.
According to both Insuian and Imperial accounts, the war was instigated by Ramses, who sought to clear the way for Lucia's domination (but more likely simply sought power for himself): by orchestrating an "assassination attempt" on King Thorde II of Insuia, and then framing the Empire, while manipulating several Imperial and Gyran commanders into war fever (and in fact, convincing both sides they'd be "home by winter"), he effectively made war inevitable. This is not likely the truth; both factions had multiple chances to resort to diplomacy, but instead resorted to violence at the explosive Battle of Ashbay, which was the first time in history Gyran airship and Warforged technology were used in battle, along with Ascaloni binding magics, which were used to conjure an aerial force of hundreds of vrocks.
Ashbay was a tactical victory for the rebels, but a propaganda and strategic defeat. Gyro was forced to temporarily withdraw from the war as they grappled with civil strife instigated by terrorists known as the Black Cloaks. The Insuian army suffered setbacks in several of the battles that followed:
- At Livingstone Creek, they put down the internal rebels who had attempted to assassinate Thorde, but at the price of heavy casualties.
- Harsard Bridge, which saw Thelalia and New Ascalon's entry into the war and led to the burning of New Spanos, was nonetheless a catastrophe for the rebels because the bridge collapsed in the fighting, causing hundreds of their troops to drown, include Prince Kailen's cousin Alexei.
- Virtuoso, the Empire's retaliation for the sack of New Spanos, led to the collapse of the Thelalian government under the tyrannical Queen Ishtar and a period of civil war in Thelalia.
- The Empire broke through the Southern Marches at the Emerald Road after a misguided attempt by the Gyran forces to bait the Ascaloni forces into an ambush by sending a musician to the front lines to lure them in. According to one account, Prince Kailen of Insuia was so enraged by the death of his cousin at Harsard that he and his wife Naivara Amistacia personally lead an assault on the Ascaloni flank, which hopelessly outnumbered them; the prince and princess barely survived the encounter. Either way, they ultimately ceded the entire Southern Marches to the Empire.
It's not clear how the rebels were ultimately able to decisively prevail at the Thelalian Estuaries. Most accounts attribute this to some kind of divine intervention, whether through a month-long blizzard or through a goddess -- and it always is a goddess -- manifesting in physical form and slaying the demonic forces of Migalo himself. More plausible is that Gyran technology, finally freed up by the defeat of the Black Cloaks, simply outmatched the Ascaloni magics. Either way, Thorde was killed in battle, leading to Kailen being crowned King on the field.
No sooner had Insuia declared victory, however, did Sandathalon turn on them, seizing Kailen, occupying the Consumes Riverlands, and destroying the mechanisms that kept Gyro airborne, causing it to descend from the skies. Even so, they were outmatched by the Gyran military, who were able to recapture their ally and unleash their new Stealth Train to decimate the Ozymandian forces at the battle of Asbury. General Frederick Guardian Gyro, the legendary Warforged dragon that lead the Gyran military, ordered the Gyran army to execute worshipers of Lucia en masse after the battle, likely as retaliation against the fall of Gyro. Though this command was withdrawn minutes later, it was too late; the order spread and perhaps thousands of devotees were killed. To this day, worshipers of Lucia vilify Frederick and burn him in effigy in ceremonies.
Actually considered in popular memory is the supposedly clash of gods that occurred at the end of the war. It is widely believed that Lucia slew Helix, and accounts vary over whether she was able to defeat Migalo and Pamant as well, or if she was in turn struck down by demigods, or angels, or some other preternatural form, chosen by Helix, or Migalo, or perhaps even Pamant; the version of the myth told varies from denomination to denomination.