LEONOR EADE: DISTRICT NINE VICTOR OF THE 19TH HUNGER GAMES

"And our most recent Victor, the lovely Leonor Eade all the way from District Nine!" the ridiculously cheesy voice of Octavius Cairns echoes around me as I saunter out from backstage. The only seat available onstage, unfortunately, is the one directly beside the interviewer. Of course, I have to be closer to him because I've dealt with him the least so far.

Then again, I've had to go through his mindless interrogations most recently, shouldn't that mean someone else could take this spot? Apparently not. "And here they all are, folks, the last five Victors of the Hunger Games!" The crowd bursts into cheers. I glance over at the other victors sitting on the interview stage- all together, we're the winners of the past five Games. They all stare back at me, four hollow pairs of eyes, grin at me with four forced smiles. I take my seat quickly and turn to face Octavius, eager to get this over with.

"Well, well, well," he begins, giving us a wolfish smirk, "It's been a while since I've seen some of you fine folks! Jehan, Jacks, how are you doing?" He stands up and walks past the first three chairs, straight to the two men at the end of the row. Jehan Brocade from One stands up and shakes his hand heartily; Jacks Martin of Five gets hauled to his feet by Octavius's grasp.

"I'm doing well, Octavius, how about you?" Jehan replies coolly; Jacks only manages a quiet 'I'm fine', which obviously isn't true. We watched kids die, some of us have been watching kids die for years now.

Octavius moves on to Newt Hillen, who is even more awkward than Jacks but at least he'll talk to you. He's talked to me once, trying to offer help after I'd won. But when you have Avia Brooke as a fellow mentor, Newt doesn't seem like such a big help. He's nice enough but totally broken. "Newt, it's been almost a year since we saw you last, how are things going?"

"I'm just living, Caesar, day by day."

"I heard you published your first book recently?" Newt nods in reply, smiling weakly. Octavius almost bounces up and down in excitement, making me roll me eyes and lean back in my chair huffily. It's just a dumb kids' book, what's the big deal? "Care to share any details?"

Newt flounders for a response at first, but he manages to stutter out, "It…it…it's about Neon." I have to pause for a second before I remember who that even is- his district partner during the Games.

I can't help but let an image of my district partner, a guy called Amir who thought he was the funniest person in Panem, flash through my mind. We weren't allies- I couldn't stand the boy. But he died twenty feet away from me in the bloodbath, speared through the neck and gurgling in pain. Yeah, that's something that gives me nightmares.

Octavius, still grinning at Newt like the poor guy is a piece of meat or something, waits for a few seconds before stepping back to Inez Carmen. What, was he expecting to get more information out of that kid? With two extremely awkward Victors in a row, Jacks and then Newt, Octavius should have learned by now that answers require questions.

"Why hello, Miss Carmen," he lifts her hand to his lips in what he thinks is a smooth greeting but hello, it's just creepy. She obviously thinks so too, as her smile distorts into a grimace for half a second.

Maybe I would like Inez more if she didn't let them control her so completely. She never stands up for herself in the Capitol, but behind closed doors she's a good person. And she survived the Games, that says a lot. But when she talks to Octavius, she's nothing more than a cardboard cutout, a total pawn.

"And how are you doing, almost a full two years from your own reaping?"

She hesitates at the question, fishing for the sort of answer that can be acceptably televised. "I'm doing as well as I can be expected to, Octavius. And you?"

Wow, look at her go, turning the conversation back to the interviewer. "I'm fine, dear. But we want to hear about you! This past year you mentored two tributes, your first pair, would you tell us about them?" The crowd hollers at that; they want information from the Capitol darling herself. It makes me queasy- when she won the Games nobody really liked her. She wasn't special to them like the boy from Two or the girl from Four. But now they all adore her. Ugh, so fickle.

"Ah…um… it was hard. Watching them go in there, and I had just turned nineteen. I was only a year older than the boy I was mentoring. And… and he…"

Yeah, I remember him. Killed by the Pack in the middle of the Games, almost made the Top Eight.

Inez continues, pulling herself together and brushing at her eyes for a moment before moving on. "The girl, as well, Neva Vallejos… I used to know her. She is- was- three years younger than me but we were in the same school for a while. Isadora knew her older brother."

I saw Neva die in the bloodbath.

Octavius puts his hand over his heart like he's actually sad but his emotions pick right back up when he comes over to me. My stomach churns at his wolfish grin. "Well, well, well, our newest Victor! Miss Eade, how are you faring a year after victory?"

I snort. "Same as I was at the Victory Tour, you interviewed me then, right?"

My reply sends the audience into raucous laughter. Octavius even chuckles before continuing. "Oh, Leonor, you're so amusing."

"Yeah, and you're so dry, can we move on? I'm not much of an interview person." More laughter. Not my intent but it's not like I get a choice in anything anymore.

"Certainly, Leonor, we've only got a certain amount of time allotted for this program and I've wasted too much already greeting you lovely people!" He finally takes his seat next to me and settles back into sedentary comfort.

Maybe we should put him in the Hunger Games and see what happens. Yeah, I'd like that.

"First, we have to catch up with all of you. How have you been? What's happened in your lives? You're front page news, all of you, but sometimes we just need a refresher." His own lame jokes elicit a few giggles from the crowd. "Who's got news to share with us? We've heard about Newt's book already, what's next?"

Jehan raises his hand; for a second I think the twenty-two year old has forgotten that he's no longer in school, but when I see a gleam on his fourth finger I get the point. So does the audience- they go wild in the largest fangirling session I've seen in my whole life. Octavius can't contain his childish glee either, he bounces in his seat like a five-year-old who needs to go to the bathroom.

"Yes, your engagement!" Just the word brings on another round of screams. "It's not every day that a Victor gets engaged, now is it? How's Atticus doing?"

Jehan can hardly answer through his laughter. "He's doing well, Octavius, we're both doing well!" That's surprising. I mean, if you've killed however many people and can still manage relationships, that's great, but good luck. Atticus just got engaged to a murderer.

The interviewer makes a motion to one of the media people and a paparazzi photo appears on the screen behind us of Jehan and Atticus walking through the Capitol. The Capitol screams again, giving Jehan and Octavius enough time to recover completely before the interview moves on. I catch Octavius shooting sideways glances towards Newt… oh no, I know exactly what's coming.

"Some people have gained things this past year… but others have lost. Newt, you have a very poignant story about the most recent Games. Why don't we hear some stories from those few weeks to set us up for the annual event- reminder, folks, the reapings are tomorrow!"

Newt goes a few shades paler than his already pasty complexion, which I find sort of impressive. But even I can't put in the effort to be cynical right now as he begins to speak. "Danny and Laya… I lost them both." He's already choking up, tearing the Capitol's emotions to shreds as he goes. "Two of my closest friends, and they both went into the Games… it's still surreal, how could both of them die?"

The pair from District Three- a sweet girl and her argumentative friend. Danny and Laya. I don't remember how Laya died… but Danny… wounded, he stumbled across me deep in the bowels of our arena- a huge pyramid. I was already fleeing the mutations that had been sent out after the tributes- the mummified remains of those already dead. Amir had come after me, moaning. They couldn't have been real, since they didn't show signs of wounds, but still… they cried out for help.

I bumped into Danny and all I remember is the fear, the adrenaline fueling my system. And I remember shoving him to the ground and leaving him behind.

And I remember his cannon firing.

Maybe that's why I avoid talking to Newt. It doesn't matter, he's friends with Mags from Four and I have Avia and Inez.

Another cheer from the Capitol snaps me back to reality. Everyone I can see aside from my fellow Victors is doubled over in their seats, cackling. Octavius finishes saying something to Jacks and then turns triumphantly to me.

"Come on, Leo dear, you have to agree that was funny! I'm not so dry as you think I am, hah!"

I sigh. "You're funny, Octavius."

"I do pride myself on my wit!"

"Nah, idiot, you're funny because you think we're celebrities. It's the day before the Reapings, why are we talking about the past when we could be getting scared about the future?"

Octavius, more than a little hurt, checks his watch. "We've only got a little while left, so I suppose we can discuss that."

Wait, he took me seriously? I just don't want to talk anymore!

Jacks leans forward cautiously and people shush each other to hear him speak. I roll my eyes. Ohh, how special! He's actually going to speak! Such a milestone! "The arena, Octavius, do we know anything about that yet?"

The interviewer wiggles his purple-caterpillar eyebrows at us nauseatingly. "Indeed we do, Mr. Martin!"

The stage goes so quiet that Octavius's mouth breathing gets picked up on the microphones. "Come on, aren't you going to share?" I tease, breaking the silence, but I'm almost breathless on the inside. I want to bring a tribute home, not fail like the rest of them!

"So hasty, Miss Eade! Head Gamemaker Scelestiber has promised us the most gruesome Games yet, and- as I got the inside scoop- we're going to see a weapon that has never been experimented with in the arena before!"

"What does that mean, some new type of mutt?" Inez might have spoken for all five of us, desperate for spoilers that may help our tributes.

"Oh, something much more sinister than that… something much more powerful and hard to escape." He's toying with us like cats do with mice. But I can take information from this. I'll tell my tribute that they need to be on especially careful watch and never let their guard down. There's something out there that has been made to attack and destroy… but if there is going to be a Victor, there will be a way around it.

"What of the arena? Its design?" Newt's interested in the mechanics of it all, no surprise there.

"I've heard rumors that we'll be getting some fresh air this time around," he lets drop. I suck in my breath- outdoor arena! Perfect! "And…" he glances at his watch, "and that's all the time we have today! Tune in tomorrow to see the selection of our tributes for the Twentieth Annual Hunger Games!"

"And may the odds be ever in their favor," I mutter under my breath as the cameras shut off one by one and the Capitol anthem blasts through the speakers.

I'm not fooling myself. The odds are never in anyone's favor except the Capitol's. Anyone who believes otherwise is either lying through their teeth or completely stupid.

But as Victors we can cheat. I can cheat the Capitol like I've cheated death. Neither like to be beaten.

Someday they'll both come calling at my door, but until then I will be a Victor in more ways than one.


GUESS WHO'S BACK!

I've returned to write ONE MORE SYOT, and I've skipped the 19th in favor of the 20th because of certain events of the 19th that were described in my previous stories. So here we are, for the 20th Hunger Games, and 24 tributes waiting to be chosen!

Note: You do not have to read the 17th or the 18th Games to understand this story; there will be references made but it'll be fine. :) Of course, nothing is stopping you from going back and reading those!

Also, there is a link to a VICTOR'S BLOG for the ChaosVerse on my profile. If you look at it, feel free to answer these questions in your reviews!

What did you think of the Victor's blog? Do you have any favorites from there, or from this chapter? Are there any that you would particularly like to see during this story?

Rules for submission and the form for tributes are on my profile. Here's how things will go:

I will have OPEN SUBMISSIONS. There are absolutely NO RESERVATIONS. I will be having two, possibly three rounds of acceptance. The first round will happen by the end of this week- January 26th, up to a third of the spots will be closed. The second round will happen the week after that, February 2nd, and hopefully all tributes will be in my then. If I need more, I will extend submissions for a third round of acceptance.

It is in your best interests to get tributes in as soon as possible, although this is in no way first-come first-serve. I will only accept the best, and I know what a good character looks like.

There will be an up-to-date list of submissions on my profile to let you know how many I have received.

After all spots are closed, I will message you to let you know if you are accepted or declined, and my reasoning behind the decision. A prologue part two will be published with the complete tribute list, along with a BLOG for visual aid. At that time I will announce my structure for Reaping and Capitol chapters. Unlike my previous stories I will not be having 12 reaping chapters!

Submissions are at this time OPEN. Let the Games begin!