The only child of semi-nomadic metalworkers, Neraia’s early childhood was one of movement and tumult. The late-blooming child often found her desires rubbing against her responsibilities. Happy with only a book for company, the constantly social, unfailingly moral environment of her youth was taxing. The life was hard and lean in many ways, but she had as good a childhood as any amongst the caravans did. She happily took up the arts of her family at a young age, learning weapon and armor forging from her father and housewares and jewelry from her mother. Her father was seemingly thrilled to have an heir to his art, despite it not being a son; he often bragged that as a toddler, Neraia had singed her ears from standing to close to the forge.
Her family’s nomadic roots brought her into contact with many cultures, typified by her adopted uncle, a nomadic elven bard. He came to visit whenever he could, bringing Neraia scraps from his journeys, new books, and musical lessons. Neraia, enamored by her uncle’s skill at the lute, learned musical theory at his side by firelight, and as soon as she was large enough to hold a lute, she endeavored to learn the instrument, much to her father’s chagrin. When she showed interest in the small magical abilities he wielded, the books he brought changed from tales to magical theory.
Smith by morning, musician by evening, and reading by low lamplight at night, Neraia wore herself thin quickly. In her thirteenth year, she collapsed from exhaustion at the forge, earning disdain from her father in the process. Upset that he had ignored the prospects of her value, he set Neraia to a new task: preparing her dowry.
“It was folly, pure and simple. My father could only see tradition; the idea of his daughter taking his forge must have terrified him, but dishonoring his family’s name was anathema, disgrace. So he got rid of me in the only honorable way possible.”
Neraia’s father secured her betrothal to the sickly second son of the Damiani merchant family, a nouveau riche household that had recently bought its nobility from a defunct family. Despite her father’s protests, the Damiani refused to accept Neraia until she reached her menarche. Neraia, unhappy with her station, had thought to run away, but on the discovery of her plans, her father placed her on house arrest.
“I had never seen such a fury in him before than moment—not when innkeepers refused us, not when gadze children stole our food, not when a town guard struck my mother with a gauntlet. If Uncle had not been staying with us that night, he would have killed me. The luck of it still terrifies me.”
In the time before her wedding, Neraia’s extended maternal family saw to her preparations. Her mother personally pierced her nose and ears, threading them with jewelry of her own creation. She oversaw Neraia creating housewares for her soon-to-be family. She learned much at their laps as they meticulously twisted her hair into the thin locks of a married woman: the rearing of children, the running of a household, and the honeyed wiles of the bedroom. Neraia was appalled, but she resolved to endure for her father’s honor.
Finally, in her fifteenth year, Neraia reached menarche. The Damiani accepted her as daughter-in-law, and the wedding commenced at the summer solstice.
“It was a poor match, but my father must have been desperate to be rid of me, to rid himself of the burden of my sex. He painted it in such beautiful colors. ‘You will be gadze, escape this life. You won’t have to work yourself to death.’ He never mentioned that I would have to give up my pride.
“My husband was all too enamored with his ‘exotic’ bride to care. He was obsessed to claim me as his own, and by my trough, he did just that.”
Neraia’s days with the Damiani were largely unhappy. As the wife of the second son, she held little sway in the decisions of her life, acting as little more than a gloried house servant. She felt idle learning the etiquette of nobility, aching to take up her books and hammer again, and the passions of her all-too-eager husband consumed her nights. It was hardly any surprise at all when she found herself with child only a few months after her marriage.
Being with child was a new challenge for Neraia, especially with the other duties of maintaining her home. With some relief, she found her husband turning to housemaids or to the night to sate his desires, giving her a welcome respite that allowed her to return to her studies. However, her peace was not to last; she miscarried and would miscarry again two years later.
“That man burned white hot. There were scant few restful nights in our marriage bed. But two bad wombs later, for all his exertion, he had nothing to show for it. Maybe he had always known his time would be short.”
In her nineteenth year, Neraia’s husband grew ill and died before year’s end. Now, a childless widow, Neraia faced return to her birth household. However, her father would not have her; in the time since her marriage, her father sired another daughter and abandoned both mother and new sister to find a wife to give him a son. With few other options, Neraia petitioned to stay with the Damiani, offering her dowry to earn her keep. They agreed, all too eager to relieve Neraia of her handiwork.
Financially stable and social untethered, Neraia found herself returning to her passions: the forge, music, and her studies. She earned her place in a church forgeworks, donating the majority of her creations to the church to pay for her material costs and the use of their forge. The Damiani family largely overlooked her frequent church visits as a show of piety in her widowhood.
In her twenty-second year, her elven uncle re-entered her life, contacting her through a series of letters. Feeling that she was wasting her potential as an educated woman, he arranged for her training as an elementalist initiate. She split her time between the church forge and her initiate’s training, paying for her training with pieces sold through merchant channels. Because of the secrecy of her training, progress went very slowly, but three years later, at the age of twenty-five, she finally became an elementalist adept. Her master gave his glowing recommendations to maestros, specialists of individual elements, and with his word, she had the approval to walk the wheel, learning from them each in turn. Neraia saw her opportunity and began to assemble her nest egg, a cache of crafted work that would buy her freedom. With the help of her uncle, she began gathering supplies and arranging the caravans for her travel.
However, the Damiani tracked the merchant channels back to the church forgeworks, discovering the money that Neraia had been saving. Her father-in-law threatened suit against her for the money that she could have been using to fill the Damiani coffers, and Neraia felt trapped. She turned to the church for legal sanctuary, and they happily provided it, given how much she had contributed to their prosperity. Thanks to the intercession of the church, an ecclesiastical court saw the case, and their ruling protected the original contract of Neraia's marriage, requiring that only her dowry belonged to the Damiani.
With her freedom secured, Neraia left the country of her birth and took to the caravans, traveling the world to hone her art. She instructed her uncle to use some of the cache she had left behind to help her mother and sister survive, sending letters to him along her journey. She trained under seven maestros in total over the course of nearly two decades, winding her way across the world by land and sea. Along the way, she endeared herself with smiths wherever she could, sharing her knowledge and her work to learn at their anvils. She learned much from the Earth maestro, Berengar Rothbarth, a smith himself who also taught her of metals and enchanting them.
In her thirty-eighth year, while finishing her studies under Berengar, she received a letter from her uncle; her mother was dead. Mourning a world away, she sent back correspondence and continued onward to Andraste Ó Ciardha, the Wood Maestra. Upon their meeting, the elven woman looked at Neraia with surprise. She lifted the hair from Neraia’s ears and shook her head; Neraia was half-elven, hidden from her by her mother and “uncle.” In a letter from her “uncle,” he detailed the affair and the cover-up, surgery as a babe to round her ears to a more human shape. Her father had known for her entire life. Neraia was shocked, but between her grief and the tasks before her, she did not allow herself time to parse her emotions, instead throwing herself whole-heartedly at learning the Wooden path and of her heretofore unknown heritage.
After leaving Andraste, Neraia made the journey to the Akashic maestra, Dionisia Caelestis, to complete the circle of her training. Five years later, at the age of forty-five, Neraia became a maestra in her own right, able to wield both elemental circles with mastery and access the Akashic record. As proof of her accomplishment, Dionisia gifted two items of power: the obsidian casting dagger Hrodheid and the ring Jocosa, a union of the six elements in stone form. She then directed Neraia to the ailing land of Lustra, seeing in the record of the hardship they faced and the need for Neraia to help aid it. Armed with her knowledge, Neraia began the year’s journey, making a stop along the way to reconcile with her family by marriage, her sister, and her ‘uncle.’
Neraia arrived in Lustra at the height of the tumult. Without a king and ruled by coin and the sword, she found many families destitute in the wake of the chaos. After buying some abandoned property, Neraia found a contractor willing to work for her, and with their agreement, she set to work designing and building her home and forge. Pulling artisans from amongst Lustra’s working class, she used the savings from her journey to inject circulating currency into the market. The economic conditions around her began steadily improving. Her merchant marriage gave her the acumen and connections to start trade routes for metals and woods. A tenuous stability began to spread around her, but Neraia knew that Lustra would need a more permanent solution to its problems. As Princess Heart rose to prominence, Neraia saw her answer; a unifying leader would help to centralize and expand the trade markets for all of Lustra, and the diplomatic improvements would cement its borders. Neraia knew that the people she had personally touched would follow Princess Heart if she herself pledged her service, so pledge her service she did.
Now just shy of fifty, Neraia felt content. For the first time in her life, she had purpose of her own design, and with the space to create and work, she began turning to her inner life, truly honing her craft. It was at this point that she met Nikara Ereatha on a rare night drinking, and the two, with time, became good friends. Inspired by Nikara’s story, she set to work on creating something that would test her abilities as a smith and maestra: creating a magical prosthetic.