A war is calling The tides are turned Empires rise
Your first memory is of the lullaby.
It wasn't a soft thing, not really; there was nothing kind or conciliatory about the melody that your mother used to hum at twilight, but it was hers, her song, her life, her truth, and that was all that mattered to her. She used to sing you to sleep, would tuck you under a threadbare blanket, brush the backs of her fingers over your forehead, and then start to sing about the life that you belonged to, about the life that she deserved. You know now that it was all a guise, that she really just wanted to sing the song for herself and in the safety of your home at bedtime was the only safe time to share the notes.
The sound of his screams, she used to whisper in the darkness of your little bedroom, humming a melody beneath every word. That's my lullaby.
It doesn't occur to you until years later that other kids might not hear the same songs, but it's all you'll know.
Your story, if you're being honest with yourself, starts long before you're born, and there's a kind of poetic injustice in that fact that makes you think there's no other way your life could possibly have gone, no other life that you could have lived.
Always in the shadows.
Always caught in the echoes of a man lost long before his time.
It all begins with a young girl falling in love with a young boy, as all good stories do, and it ends with the birth of a boy named Nico, but it's the in-between that defines your entire life. She had never been a kind woman, your mother, had never been the kind of girl that liked lullabies. No one expected it from her, the daughter of a merchant in district twelve, with her fair blue eyes and even fairer hair, but she was born with something cruel in her heart, something even crueler in her soul, and in a cruel world, any softness that she might have been born with was burned out with the coal the miners scraped from the earth each day.
No, your mother was born of iron, with blood in her mouth and claws at the ready.
She was born ready for the fight.
You've never heard the story of how your parents met exactly, but you've heard whispers of it throughout your life. The story about a merchant's daughter with a pension for cruelty, the one who used to sneer at the other kids and push down the one's who refused to stand up to her. At first, you couldn't reconcile it, couldn't figure out how a girl like that would end up living in a tiny three room home in the poorest neighborhood in the already poor Seam. She was beautiful even back then, with the eyes of the entire district on her no matter how cruel she was to the world. You couldn't figure out how she would put down her own people, how she could be so cruel to the people who surround you today and create your home, but one day you learned that it didn't matter where a person came from, didn't matter who they were, if she could make them feel small then she would.
You don't understand how people loved her so, don't understand how she inspired loyalty or kindness in her own friends, will never know what it is to taste a mother's love and be able to repay it in kind with a son's, but your father understood, and you suppose for that you should be grateful.
He was drawn to her in the way that all terrible things are drawn to their equals. An angry child raised in an angry world, with soot caked under his nails before he'd ever even stepped foot into the mines and learned the fate that he was due, your father was made from the same kind of iron. There was nothing in this world that could make him bend his knee, nothing in this world but your mother, and when he stood before her he stared up at her from his place on his knees and whispered her a world that she had only ever been able to see in her dreams. But even men born with iron in their veins are not invincible, and all it took was a Peacekeeper slipping a jagged blade between his ribs for him to crumble to the ground, iron leaking out all over cold earth.
This, you finally learn at six years old, is what you were born for; blood and iron.
For a vengeance so cold there's no room left for warmth in your heart.
He dies when you're still less than a year old and it does something to your mother that you will never be able figure out how to put into words, turns her cruel and unkind in a way that she hadn't been even before the world took from her the one person who had been able to set her world on fire other than herself. She had moved out of her parents house in the merchants neighborhood a year before, a week after she found out she was pregnant and a month before she would be married to the man whose iron you now carry between your shoulders. You still live there today, in that tiny house he built for the two of them, and that's where you grow from boy into man in the span of only a few short years.
The day when you avenge him, she says at the end of her song each night, pressing soft lips to your olive skin, that will be the greatest day of my life.
And so this is the man you become, no matter how many people tell you that it's safer to leave it all in the past, that it would be easier for you to just forget about the man that you have never met. Your school teachers all know exactly who your mother is, know about the cruelty in her blood and how it must run equally as strong through yours--they pray to every god they can think of that you will be able to fight it even though she never tried, even though she has whispered in your ear every night about the greatness of vengeance and how sweet it will taste when you show the world that you are stronger than them all.
You start training when you're seven, two years after you learn that your fate on this earth will be to take the life of the man who dared to slip a knife between your father's ribs just because he had the audacity to get angry when the man tried to put his hands on his wife. You commit his name to memory, make it your prayer at night before going to sleep. When you wake every morning, it's with the dawn, and for every pang of hunger that rattles through your bones you push yourself to run just that much further, running through the streets in the hours that no one cares about the rules, the ones between twilight and sunrise where the world has stopped spinning and no on breathes. You convince vendors in the market to let you help with lugging their goods back and forth, working for free to build the muscle beneath your skin in the only ways that you know how.
You think you're finally ready to kill your maker, the man who set you on this path so many years ago, when you're fifteen.
Two days after you've decided how you're going to do it he gets transferred to another district, leaving behind the woman he was screwing on orders from above. Someone starts a rumor that he ends up in Four, but then you hear another that he got sent to the Capitol, and you realize that everything you have been raised to do has come crashing to the ground with a single command from those in power.
This is when you realize the world is bigger than you are, and that even though careers might not exist in Twelve, that might just be what you're destined for.
This nation took your father from you, but he blessed you with iron before he went, and you vow to never forget it.