Akatha Matani, like many scions of high clan families, was sent to live with unexalted layperson relatives. The duties of her priestess mother, to say nothing of her divine father, were too important, she would be told, to be interrupted with childcare. While that notion stung, she still loved her adopted family and the soreness faded somewhat with time. Still, when she was old enough, she was allowed to visit her parents at her father’s temple-manse. She almost wishes she never received the privilege.
Matani’s father was an odd being. Few elementals are especially venerated in the Spirit Court of the Crimson-Tailed Banner, but Industrious Viper of Bursting Bellows’s metaphysical composition made him stand out from other spirits of his rank. He took the form of a large snake composed of hot pressurized steam, seeming somehow to embody elements of air, fire, and water simultaneously, and his temple-manse was a mechanical First Age wonder. These miracles alone would have a drawn a minor cult and worship but Immaculate Viper also drew veneration and followers by teaching a unique Terrestrial martial art, the Winding Pipes Style.
Gorged on the prayers and offering of his followers, Industrious Viper grew fat, privileged, and demanding. He could be cruel, especially to his priestess, Matani’s mother, as the Akatha youth learned when first visiting the temple. Still, Matani made sure to visit as often as possible in order to be closer to her mother. She also trained hard in the sword arts, not uncommon for an Akatha youth’s training, as she never wanted to be defenseless as her mother was in service to her father. And she did well, particularly as she was taller and stronger than other girls her age. Matani wanted to fight back and maybe even protect others who were being preyed upon. Even if she couldn’t protect her mother, as raising a hand against a god would be heresy for someone of her clan and jati, Matani trained as if that was her goal. Perhaps that was a mistake.
Matani doesn’t remember much of the last day of her former life. She was coming unscheduled to the temple to tell her mother something important. Entering the sanctum, she saw Industrious Viper coiled tightly around her mother, her face choked purple, her clothes torn, and skin burned raw by steam. She remembers feeling a burst of hot rage, then cold determination. Remembers a ritual sword and the feeling of her hands burning as steam made the the metal glow red. An empty temple, a ruined blade, and her mother limp on the floor.
She came to in a cell with artifact manacles clamped to her wrists. A Clan Burano interrogator asking her how could she commit such a heinous act. Patricide. Deicide. Premeditated obviously, given the artifact ring she wore would prevent Immaculate Viper from reforming. True death. He didn’t think a Akatha could even imagine committing such a crime. Nor did Matani till now, realizing her grandmother must have given her the ring for a reason.
He would not tell her about her mother and, while understanding of her rage over her father’s cruelty, did not forgive her transgression. Neither did the court and the only reason she was spared execution was her new Exaltation. She was now a peer of the gods by Prasadi law, not a lesser mortal subject, so instead of death she was sentenced to exile.
Still in manacles, she was placed on a ship to be taken across the perilous Dreaming Sea. There, an older man from the South came to her with an offer. He spoke kindly but with a firm tone, saying she could have second chance if she came with him. If she let his people train her. They specialized in second chances for youth like her. It would be hard and it would be dangerous. She might even die. But she could have something like her old life back. Perhaps she could even find out what happened to her mother.
Matani didn’t take long to accept.