It is the Year of Furtive Shadows, and everyone can smell the changes in the wind. Everyone, from the lowest scully boy up to the regents, knew, deep down, that something must happen soon. Spreading among the lowest of the low, the failed cut-throats and the tramps, the rejects and the addicts, a new religion is forming. It is one not of hope and salvation, but of self-denial and revenge.
The leader of this religion, this cult, known to history only as Beggar, was a darkly charismatic man. He convinced many of the dispossessed to take up his new way and follow him. He taught them of the wrongs that had been done to them to bring them to where they are, and he taught them how to use their newfound hatred to change things.
A first there were only little stirrings, people stoning guards to death, the occasional raid of some petty noble’s home. And, for the rest of the Year of Furtive Shadows, this was all that happened. Soon Beggar disappeared from the sights of the lords, disappeared into the shadows as quickly as he came, and, soon after that, the attacks stopped. The lords, ready to quell a peasant uprising, decided that the danger had passed. They went off to their winter homes down on the plains, away from the winter winds and the howls of the banshee.
And the winter ended, as they always do. The ice melted, and the scholars named the dead year the Year of Furtive Shadows, for what had so mysteriously appeared and gone away. And until the first Ebb* the lords heard nothing more. But, just as he’d appeared in the last year, Beggar returned. This time he had with him a banner. A banner the color of fresh blood.
He was in Haradas at this time, a rich city by all accounts. But within the first few days of his preaching the city was in flames. Before he had preached of individual revenge for what one man had done to a friend, now he preached that all the followed him were friends and brothers, and what was done to one of them was done to all. He preached that the individuals that struck them didn’t matter, they were created by their family and friends, and so not only must they suffer but their creators must also.
And among his followers, who had believed him dead by the hands of the nobles and thieves, the message spread like a cancerous wildfire. They armed themselves with knives and clubs, with broken bottles, and with the broken bones of their fallen brothers. They walked under banners the color of fresh blood, and soon, from every rooftop flew banners and rags the color of dried blood.
And out of Haradas they marched, headed for the heart of the kingdom. And the news of Haradas’s fall spread among his followers in other cities, and the kingdom itself burned. Beggar led them through the countryside, and they took what they needed and offered the rest up as a burnt offering to their god-incarnate.
Beggar lead them up to the steps of the Royal Palace itself, and the King ran from the shadow that spread itself before him. However, in the final battle of his war, Beggar was felled. With victory in sight a rain of crossbow bolts pierced him in 9 different places. He died slowly on the field of battle, there was little his under-trained healers could do for him, being unable to staunch the flow of the blood from his most grievous wounds.
And as he breathed his last there came from the heavens a torrential rain, a rain of the bitterest kind. From the heavens came the tears of a million dead, those who’d lived and died following Beggar. The spirits themselves cried for him, and for 9 moons the land was fallow in grieving, even the hardiest lichen refused to grow on the grounds of the city.
And the king hung Beggar above the main gate, arms wide as if in greeting, across the top bar. And to this day it is called Beggar’s Gate, though now many assume that it is in reference to the large amount of beggars that seek alms there. Where Beggar fell there is a statue to an unimportant noble, Sir Bendal of the Southern Marches, who held off a warband of orcs for 5 days with the help of 5 crossbowmen and a local.
*Ebb: This world has an unusually large moon that causes tides roughly the size of hurricane storm surges. The Ebb is when the tide is at it’s lowest, halfway through their 83 day month, with a ‘leap’ month of 82 day every 5 months. A year is 372 days, and there are 4.492 months a year.