Led by Letholdus Stirling, a group of human slaves working in the mines of Arza Vist rebelled against their Exekian masters after one of the overseers was injured by a dislodged iron ore. The slaves realized they could make weapons out of the iron to be used against the Exekians. The resulting revolt became known as the "March to the Forge".
The March sparked several similar rebellions throughout the Empire. The Exekians were slow to react to the threat, believing it could be easily crushed. Slave revolts were more common at the end of eras, as the Exekians would be collectively weaker due to kluuda. Since the era had barely begun, they felt certain of their strength and power.
This proved a fatal mistake, as the rebels quickly grew out of control, attracting runaway slaves by the thousands. Under Letholdus' command, they were shaped into an effective army. A series of strikes on various Exekian settlements culminated in the Tearing of the Web, a siege of the capital of the Empire. The Emperor, Taranis, was killed and most of the city's inhabitants were slaughtered, including the infamous attack on the House of Life.
With the Empire in shambles, most of the Exekian survivors fled to the Shadowlands. Letholdus proceeded to set himself up as a warlord and married Camilla to secure his legacy. He would become the progenitor of the royal Stirling family.