The Born-Dead Sons of the Atsvstati (ɑːtsˈvɪzɑːtˈiː)

Those who carry fire under heaven's wall are a clan only of fathers. They call themselves the Atsvstati, and I find them disturbing no matter what ancient rights and promises they were granted by the Empresses of Old.
  One might think them hardly unique, the Rujahmolji mother no sons after all, and yet they live among us amicably, and I find them a people rich in hospitality and care.
  But the Atsvstati are different. In the way that children are born into their mother's clan, one should think a clan without women should have died out but one generation after the embodiment. They could breed with other clans, leave signs of themselves in their children, and that would be the end of them.
  Except here we stand, countless generations later and they still walk the icy crags of the Twilight Band. How, well, it is common to those versed in the arts of culture that they leave their home and seek wives among the other clans. Mostly they favor the sable clans. The Scáthan, the Schurra, and less so my own clan, Humanity.
  When they find a partner they explain the ways of their clan to her. When she grows pregnant and bears their children - always she will bear a pair of twins. The one who falls from the womb first will be born healthy and normal enough - though with stronger signs from their father than normal. The second on the other hand, always a boy, will without fail be born Hollow - living in flesh but with his soul hanging from his mouth. This born-dead son is also of his mother's clan; though never a true-twin of his sibling. His father will take his hollowed living corpse and his soul back to his clan and that son will never return. Rarely too does the father, and they to the credit of their honor are open about this fact. They never speak of how or why, but it follows that they have some Art by which this dead child is made into an Atsvstati.
  This alone is aberrant. Such art is not for Secondborn to wield. But what truly disturbs me is their secrecy. Why will they not speak, even under torture, of how this is done? Why does this re-born son never return to meet his mother and twin?
  To bear a hollow is no easy thing nor is bearing a son you will never meet by a father who's likly to never return to you. So why then can they find mothers for their sons?
  In short, they are a people with many gifts to give. The jewels and charms they bring for courting are only razor’s edge. Giving is of the Dragon and none are more of Her essence than the Atsvstati. Carrying the child of an Atsvstati changes the mother, and from then on she is blessed with pristine health and long life. It is not uncommon for such a "Fire-Wife" to live well past her 100th malspan, and the riches the Atsvstati offers her means she and her remaining child will generally live a blessed life in luxury.
  Greater gifts yet are passed to the living child. They are of their mother's clan, but with strong vestiges of their father. The rainbow-oil eyes, snow-fair skin, and long fair hair are only the least of these. These children age slowly and live lives so long as to be beyond health. I have spoken to three born to human mothers, all past their 200th malspan and all with the look of one barely past their 30th. I have searched and delved and found no account of one being taken by age - only violence or rare and vicious illness.
  These are beyond the vestiges fathers leave in their offspring and make one wonder what the Etoi who danced the Atsvstati from the Corpse had been thinking when he laid them to rest and await their souls. The Atsvatati do little more then name him Katsístaʼuʼúwáʼ - and hold his teachings as sacred and not for the eyes of outsiders.
  I can not help but wonder if this Etoi was sane, or even if he was real. The Atsvstati are so different, is it so beyond reason to wonder if they are not Seconborn at all?
  I do not know for sure, but the Empresses and her Dynasts have long and strange bonds binding them and the Torch-Fire Bearers; and tolerate little in the way of prying into their ways. So for now my curiosity will need to remain idle.


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