Shar, the Mistress of the Night, is the goddess of darkness and the caverns of Faerûn. Counterpart to her twin Selûne (a being of light and creation), Shar (a power of darkness and destruction) presides over caverns, darkness, dungeons, forgetfulness, loss, night, secrets, and the Underdark. Among her array of twisted powers is the ability to see everything that happens in the dark.
Since her earliest battles with Selûne (which continue to this day), Shar has gained dominion over pain hidden but not forgotten, carefully nurtured bitterness, and quiet revenge for old slights. Deeply twisted, the Lady of Loss favors secrets, underhanded dealings, and subterfuge. She uses her mortal worshipers as pawns in a perverse game against everything that has been, is, and will be. Patron of the Shadow Weave, a corrupting magical force based upon nothingness and mad secrets, the Mistress of the Night bolsters her impressive power with temptation and guile.
Shar is worshiped by blinded, nocturnal, or subterranean-dwelling humans and allied beings and by those who hate the light, such as goblinkin and their allies. All who favor the dark or who do their business by night (such as cutthroats and thieves) curry her favor, as do many whose deranged world views might be interpreted as insanity. The insane seem to have a natural affinity for Shar's teachings, which may be why so many of Selûne's clerics seek out the mad and attempt to cure or imprison them. Shar is venerated by those who are bitter or are grieving over a loss and wish to find peace (especially through vengeance) and by individuals who want to forget.
Shar's love of secrecy serves her clergy well, and most residents of Faerun know very little about her mysterious cult. All regard her as a dark and vengeful deity, but many seek out her servants in times of grief or bereavement. There is a pervasive belief that her clergy aids those who have been wronged or who have suffered a great loss. Instead of offering release from the pangs of grief, though, Shar's clerics reinforce supplicants' regrets and feelings of betrayal, turning their focus to bitterness and revenge. Good clerics (particularly those of Mystra, Lathander, and of course, Selûne) warn of the dangers of seeking such solace, but desperation often gets in the way of better judgment, and the ranks of Shar's clergy swell with each passing year. Shar's clerics often multiclass as rogues.
The church is made up of independent cells that have strong, authoritarian rulers. Few adherents know the real names of others in the local cult, and almost no one knows the name of the leader of the larger regional organization. In areas where Shar's cult is strong, wars of assassination against Selunites are common. This keeps the church fairly small, since many Sharrans die in these attacks or are put to death by local magistrates shortly afterward.
Shar's clergy revel in secrets. In civilized lands, they frequently establish exclusive social clubs or false cults to further corrupt the foundations of mannered society. Cultists work to overthrow governments, promote vengeance, organize cabals, and foment unrest through calumny and sedition. Sharrans believe that all that matters is the freedom to live by one's own dictates; the state exists to limit freedoms and is hence an inherently immoral institution that should be crushed. To them everything deserves to perish, and their duty in life is to encourage the process of destruction.
VestmentsThe colors purple and black are used extensively in Shar's church and among her followers. Most Sharran clergy dress in black cloaks or soft, silent dark garb with purple trim, piping, or accessories during rituals. High ceremonial dress of those of rank or taking a special role in a ritual is a long-sleeved robe of deep purple over black tights or a black velvet chemise. A black skullcap covers the entire head, except on woman with jet-black hair. Such hair is seen as a symbol of the Dark Lady's pleasure and is left to flow long and unfettered. Less commonly encountered versions of Shar's symbol are of a glistering purple eye outlined in black with a black pupil or a cowled hunting cloak of unadorned black stretched out flat.
Sharran clergy wear clothes in the fashion of the land they are in while pursuing day-to-day life. They are fond of jewelry fashioned from obsidian, black onyx, amethyst, and purple jade, but they are not required to wear it. When entering a situation where they might encounter hostilities they wear armor and take appropriate protective measures.
TemplesTemples of Shar vary in description but usually double as a place of business or residence. Most feature at least one room bathed in deeper darkness, which is used in religious ceremonies and ritual killings.
RitualsClerics of Shar pray for their spells at night. Because most of her followers keep their devotion a secret, the religion has but one fixed holiday. During the Festival of the Moon, Sharrans celebrate the Rising of the Dark, when the directors of local cults outline the dark plots of the coming year over the quivering body of a live sacrifice. Once a tenday, followers must engage in an act of wickedness, ideally after a nocturnal dancing and feasting ritual known as a Nightfall.
OrdersThe church of Shar sponsors no fighting or knightly orders. Crusaders who serve the faith are attached to particular Sharran cells and temples, not the faith in general. Many thieves' guilds have connections to Sharran cells, and such affiliated groups use each other for their particular plots mercilessly.
Clergy of the faith who have killed one of the clergy of Selûne are rumored to gain access to an honorary order or secret society known as the Dark Justiciars.
The Dark Moon is an elite order of sorcerer-monks, employ the power of the Shadow Weave to further the Dark Goddess's agenda.
Reveal secrets only to fellow members of the faithful. Never follow hope or turn to promises of success. Quench the light of the moon (agents and items of Selûne) whenever you find it, and hide from it when you cannot prevail. The dark is a time to act, not wait. It is forbidden to strive to better your lot in life or to plan ahead except when directly overseen by the faithful of the Dark Deity. Consorting with the faithful of good deities is a sin except in business dealings or to corrupt them from their beliefs. Obey ranking clergy unless it would result in your own death.
Religious art depicts Shar as a beautiful human woman with long, raven-black hair dressed in swirling dark garb. In this guise, her haunting purple eyes have coal black pupils that reflect the primeval void.
The creation of the Shadow Weave made Shar the eternal enemy of the goddess of magic, Mystra. This resulted in the brewing of a terrible war between these two powerful deities. By her very nature, however, Shar was opposed to powers of light, the unsecretive Shaundakul, and her own sister, Selûne. Her only frequent ally was Talona.
Shar's ceaseless battles against her bright sister (Selûne) have caused the creation and destruction of several deities throughout history. Though Selûne strikes openly and forcefully against her twin at every opportunity, Shar prefers subversion, using her mortal worshipers to attack Selûne's clergy and those things Selûne holds dear, rather than at the deity herself. Still, she occasionally moves directly against minor enemies.
Those who believed in the Dark Moon heresy believed that Shar and Selûne were two faces of the same goddess.
During the Time of Troubles, Shar killed Ibrandul, a lesser deity of caverns, dungeons, and the Underdark, as an act of pure opportunism. She continues to grant spells to clerics in the name of Ibrandul, reveling in the deceit of the entire affair. Shar may attempt to consume Mask as well, for she nurses a cold anger for his dominion over shadow. Shar's love of dark spaces bring her into frequent conflict with deities of light and fire, and her desire to dominate the concept of revenge sets her against the ancient, dwindling power of Hoar. Her only frequent ally is Talona, who may eventually serve Shar in return for the Dark Goddess’s aid in murdering her hated enemy Loviatar.
MythologySisters of Light and Darkness
This was the birth of the world and the heavens. After Lord Ao created Realmspace, there was a period of timeless nothingness, a misty realm of shadows before light and dark were separate entities. Within this dim chaos stalked 13 lords of shadow, the shadevari - whether they came from elsewhere or are children of the shadow itself, none can say.
Eventually this primordial essence coalesced into twin beautiful goddesses who were yin and yang to each other: they were so close they thought of themselves as one being. The Two-Faced Goddess created the heavenly bodies of the crystal sphere and together infused them with life to form the Earthmother, Chauntea (Although Chauntea has since contracted her essence to encompass only Abei-Toril, in the beginning she embodied all matter in Realmspace). This new universe was lit by the face of the silver-haired goddess, who called herself Selûne, and darkened by the welcoming tresses of the raven-haired goddess, Shar, but not heat or fire existed within it.
Chauntea begged for warmth so that she could nurture life and living creatures upon the planes that were her body and limbs, and the two Sisters-Who-Were-One became divided, as for the first time they were of two minds. Silvery Selûne contested with her dark sister over whether or not to bring further life to the worlds. During this great conflagration, the gods of war, disease, murder and death, among others, were created from residues of the deific battle. At one point during the battle, Selûne seized the advantage and reached across time and space to a land of eternal fire. Fighting the pain of the blaze, which burned her sorely, she broke off a fregment of that ever-living flame and ignited one of the heaveenly bodies so that it burned in the sky and warmed Chauntea.
Incensed, Shar redoubled her attack on her injured twin and began to snuff out all light and heat throughout the crystal sphere. Again Selûne gave of herself and tore the divine essence of magic from her body, flinging it desperately at her sister in defense of life in the sphere and nearly killing herself of the spiritual injury it caused her. A just-born being of raw magic tore through Shar, bonding to some of her divine magical energy and ripping it free of her, and reforming behind her as the goddess of magic, known now as Mystra, but then as Mystryl. Though Mystryl was composed of both light and dark magic, she favored her first mother Selûne initially, allowing the silver goddess to win an uneasy truce with her more powerful, dark twin. Consumed by bitterness at her defeat, Shar vowed eternal revenge.
The twin goddesses contested for eons as life struggled into existence on Toril and the other planes under Chauntea's watchful gaze. Shar remained powerful, but bitterly alone, while Selûne waxed and waned in power, often drawing strength from her allied daughters and sons and like-minded immigrant deities. Over time, Shar grew strong again, aided by the shadevari who preferred night to blinding light and who stalked the Realms seeking to meld light and dark into shadowy chaos once again. Shar's plot to reform the world after her own desires was undone when Azuth, the High One, formerly the greatest of all mortal spellcasters and now consort to Mystra (incarnate successor to Mystryl), found a way to imprison the shadevari in a pocket-sized crystal sphere located beyond the edges of the world by creating the illusion of a realm of shadows. The Lords of Shadow were drawn to investigate, and before they discovered the trick, Azuth imprisoned the shadevari with the Shadowstar, a key of shadows forged by Gond. The High Lord then hurled the key into the endless reaches of the cosmos allowing life to flourish on in Chauntea's loving hands.