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Sins of the father

It was truly pretty speech, the man he had been would not have hesitated to answer the call but the creature he was now could not be bothered. "No." he barely registered the shock and dismay on the Queen's face before he turned his back on her to look upon the image on his cell wall.
"Please Astaad, we need you. There truly is no other person to lead a successful charge but you. Reconsider, we run out of time every passing minute." Her plea made, the woman currently considered Queen of the known world turned to leave barely keeping tears of frustration at bay.
Remaining as he was, Astaad continued his observation of the image upon his wall ignoring the fact that his cell door had been left a jar behind the little Queen. She did not know enough of him to understand that though she may offer it he was not the least bit tempted by the promise of freedom. His incarceration was his own doing, having walked into this cell over half a millennia ago and simply never left, he was not a man to be tempted by the illusion of freedom. He was, as far as he was concerned, the most free of man, he chose to stay in his dank and rotten cell, he chose the shackles  that adorned his wrists  and ankles. Every second spent in this rotten hell hole was not enforced by anyone but himself.

His past returned as it always did when he was awake to haunt him, a searing pain laced with crippling guilt as he  gazed upon  the image he'd etched with his finger nails and eventually his bones into the wall. His lovely Zuzana and little Anna were no longer, the brilliant yet fleeting flames of their existence extinguished by his very hand in a fit of madness. Their screams and pleas haunted his every waking moment mingled with the cries of devastation from the entire city that had fallen beneath his rage. After the horror of that night, many who had known the truth of his actions had blamed the sorceress Nelia who had poisoned his blood and brought about that madness. They were wrong, it had been his hands that had wrapped around their delicate throats until not a sparkle of life remained within their eyes. Forgiveness was a luxury he would not afford himself even when the world in it's entirety was and continues to be willing to overlook his involvement in that horrid day's events years past.

His senses still acute despite his incarceration he heard before he saw Her, the sound of metal dragging along stone. Although nothing and no one could kill him for he was one of the First Man, and though he cared not to defend his life,  eons worth of battles and training had him  taking a defensive stance as he watched the cell door. It swung slowly inwards to reveal a slight figure in a hood of absolute yellow that concealed her entire being. The color so out of  place in the gloom of the dungeons the figure almost looked iridescent. The cell door swung closed behind the unknown being, the latch loud as for the first time in nearly half a millennia the door locked.
"Who are you?" he asked, his voice sounding more malevolent than he was capable of feeling now if ever.
A hand so slight it looked like it belong to a child reached up to pull the hood back. As it fell to reveal her face he was struck first by her eyes. Big with irises made of grey storms and long fanned out lashes, there was a luminescent quality to them making her look on the verge of tears yet none escaped her lids. They were set in a face of skin so flawlessly bronze it seemed to shimmer. Underscored by a small delicate nose sitting above lush big lips, her entire face hugged by soft black curls, some falling forward to hide her forehead, she was preciously beautiful.
She refrained from answering his question and settled instead for asking one of her own as she stood swaying lightly as if caught in a breeze. "Did you know you are the only of the First Men still yet to attempt to conquer the known world?" her voice was odd, like a child's yet with a none too subtle undertone that screamed she was far from the youth she looked. She sounded ancient.
"Who are you?" he asked again ignoring her question. Her lips tilted upwards briefly.
"I am Hope" she rolled her eyes a little, the action seeming out of place against his suspicions of her age, "or atleast I was. I know not what I'm to be. The world changes therefore I must as well." the last was said with such a wealth of sadness, had his heart not broken beyond repair all those years ago it would weep now.
"You are Her." It was not a question for although very few believed Her to be nothing but a legend, all among the First Men knew her to truly exist.
"I met you once, in your previous form. You tried to keep me for yourself." a smile played across her features followed by a slight shake of her head.
"I do not remember the encounter but it seems you came out of it unscathed so all is well." she sighed, swaying a little more than when she had arrived.
"You are in the throws of change." once again he did not ask but simply stated what he saw clearly to be fact.
She turned her gaze away from him to look upon the wall that bore the likeness of his beloved and his daughter. She walked towards him and stood right in front of him not taking her eyes away from the image. a delicate sigh, "He lives."
The words that shattered every part of Astaad's being were uttered without any visible change in her features to warn him of their gravity. Feeling as if he'd lost all ability to breathe he wheezed out "Impossible..."
There was no need for Astaad to ask who 'he' was. "My beloved took her last breath beneath my strength before she birthed him, and that was half a millennia ago." hands shaking he fought the urge to brand the being before him a liar and kill them for their audacity. Yet he could not, for everyone who knew about Her knew she never lied.
"He is his father's son." Never had Astaad been a man to crumble beneath emotion. Even when he had come to his senses and witnessed his sins, he had journeyed on foot to the Queen's stronghold, closed himself in a cell and never left. Yet now, before this ancient being, his knees gave out and he crashed to the earth as disbelief, relief, guilt and most of all hope threatened to overwhelm him.
"He leads the charge against the Queen." Astaad's heart seemed to cease to beat, there was a silence so grave in his entire being it was as if the earth herself had taken pause at what was said. He had heard from he Queen and all those who had come to make their pleas before him of the monster that terrorized the known world. Before he could assimilate this information she carried on.
"My time is nigh, it is sad but it is truth." another delicate sigh. "He must be stopped. None knows but I of his origins. It is unfortunate but none can stop him but you. With him comes the death of hope and a lot more." Simple words that although undermined the gravity of the situation at hand held truth undeniable.
"I do not know what I will become" she said finally looking down at his kneeling form, "but I know being Hope I have truly enjoyed. It has been a fulfilling existence." she bent down to touch his tear stained face. "I must show you."
In a quick move he had not anticipated she placed her lips upon his. His eyes closed of their own accord and before his eyes lids he saw all she had seen. She had come into being at a time when the world was recovering from the great wars, the Queen having taken the throne. She had watched as people had rebuilt and under peaceful rule learnt to flourish. mothers bore their sons and daughters unfearing that they would one day be made soldiers and slaves, fathers left for hunts unafraid that they would not return to their families. The image shifted to show a man sitting on a moving metal throne, women naked with whip marks across their backs chained by his feet, and a piece of flesh, uncooked and bloody at his mouth.  Even as she broke the kiss he saw the distinctly human skin that clung to the bloody flesh the man, who was his spitting image with his beloved's green eyes, ate.
"You must stop him." she said as she pulled from beneath her iridescent robe a sword he knew better than the back of his hand. Without further words she sank it into her own flesh impaling her tiny body upon it. He screamed as she fell back onto the floor blood tainting the bright yellow of her robe in the front as a red puddle began to grow beneath her body.
"Take it" she whispered to him, death on her lips. He moved forward to hold her form across his lap ignoring the blood. "Take it" she said once again, small hand gesturing to the broad sword inside her. Tears flowing freely he wretched the broad sword out of her lacking gentleness as a man of his nature is bound to. Watching the blade he noticed the shimmer of light from hilt to tip as her blood took to the sword staining the metal forever red.
"Now you will be the bringer of hope." her eyes closed on smiling features before her body took flame and turned to ash in his arms. He felt no heat or pain from the flame. As he sat sword at his side looking down to where she had been only a moment ago, he was startled as from her ashes a glorious, tall, female of the darkest skin and blue luminescent eyes rose, covered in ash. She stood before him completely naked, covered in soot, "I am Death." she said.
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