Epilogue and Obituaries. I promised, although even this isn't as prompt as I wanted it to be. :/
Romany had forced the Capitol to let her mother come on the Victory Tour with her. Bronwyn Argent stands at the back of the stage as Romany gives yet another speech to a district. Even with the comforting presence of her mother, Romany can barely remember where she is, and she has to glance up behind her at the Justice Building to remember. District Two. Right. Griffin and Ita. Griffin especially.
She shoots a nervous glance at the podium where the fallen tributes' families stood, focusing on the family of three left behind by her ally. The young boy standing with his parents' hands on his shoulders has tears in his eyes. Romany is startled by their similarity to Griffin's eyes. In fact, aside from darker hair and slightly more chub, the boy very nearly mirrors Griffin.
Romany stumbles over the words in her speech. "The- the um, um, bravery of, um, Ita… ah… Brecchia and," she pauses to collect herself, "and the courage of Griffin Ainsworth. I watched both of them die, although I did not directly have a hand in their deaths…"
Two scenes play through her head in the blink of an eye- first, the memory of Ita retching up her liquefied innards, and the second of Griffin's body crumpling to the ground behind Sintra Astolle. Tears well up, pricking her eyes, and suddenly the words on the card in her hand blur.
Romany improvs a prompt ending to her speech and pivots around as fast as she can to hide her face. She marches into the Justice Building, trying to keep a painfully straight face, and as the officials mill about in a moment of uncertainty, her mother jumps up and follows her inside.
"Sweetheart, what's wrong? You look like someone tried to assassinate you from the crowd."
"I saw both of them die, Mom. Ita was my ally and she defended me against Viera and Sintra when they thought I was useless. Griffin stayed with me until the very end, and the only reason I'm alive is because Sintra attacked him before she came after me. They protected me. They were the closest I had to friends in there!" Her voice climbs in pitch and volume until her voice breaks, shrieking, on the last word.
"Look at me, Romany," Bronwyn snaps, cupping her daughter's face with both hands. "You were returned to me by a miracle. It is horrible that you have the memories you do, and you will never forget them, but when you remember them you must also remember that you are alive and you have duties."
A thousand awful ideas flood Romany's head all at once. "Mom, I'm going to have to mentor next year. They're going to make me watch more kids die, every year, and I'm going to have to work with Jacks on it and he's no help at all and how does HE deal with it and what if I can't cope because I'm already falling apart and I can't stop talking why can't I stop talking mom I'm so scared please-"
"Romany." The stern tone catches the nineteen-year-old girl off guard and she collapses into Bronwyn's arms, sobbing. The older woman strokes Romany's hair gently and hugs her, rocking her slowly back and forth. "Are you listening to me?"
Romany nods into her mother's shoulder. The door to the Justice Building opens as the Mayor, two Peacekeepers, and Jacks Martin enter the lobby. Jacks sees Romany and her mother embracing and ushers the others out, giving an understanding nod to Bronwyn on the way.
"I adopted you because I was lonely and missed my own lost child. For years after, I was afraid that I would not be able to love you except as a replacement for another. And then, as you grew, I realized how wrong I was. I loved you, Romany Argent, more than I could ever love myself. And I loved you precisely because you were you. And I was afraid the Games would tear you away from me forever, and leave me in a place where I could never love again. But you returned, by a miracle, and it is by another miracle that you are still a caring person."
"Mom, I killed three people."
"And I forgive you for that, Romany. You are the light of my life and you are still here. I know a little bit of the pain those families we've seen are still feeling, and it scares me to death. But Romany, you must take what life gives you. If Sintra had not attacked Griffin, you would have died. If you had managed to save Griffin from Sintra, you might have had to kill your friend. You could not have saved Ita from the plague- remember how the Capitol doctors even had a rough time administering a successful treatment to you?"
"Do you really forgive me?"
"I do, daughter."
"Will they ever forgive me?"
"Some will, because they know that your return means that at least one family can be happy again. Some won't, because they grieve for their own child. You cannot let that bother you. You could not have known their reactions and you cannot control them."
Bronwyn squeezes Romany even closer, effectively demonstrating her affection and pushing the air from Romany's lungs at the same time. "Romany, the only question here is if you can forgive yourself."
"I… I don't know yet."
"I want you to be sure of one thing."
"No matter what, I will always love you."
Bronwyn hugs her broken daughter tightly until the officials reenter the room, claiming it is time for the social meeting with the high ranking elite of District Two.
24: Nairi Grey of District Ten- katsparkle, I accepted Nairi because she was a breath of fresh air. She was calmer and more naïve than many of the tributes, with a backstory that really played into her mindset. However, she didn't end up meshing well with the other tributes and without connections, she fell apart. I had no place for her to go, and thus she was the first to fall. Thank you for your submission.
23: Kilim Moquette of District Eight- Meg, Kilim was not a joy to write, and he was not well liked, but he too played a unique part. A true Little, and nearly antagonistic with his attitude, he would not have found development in the Arena. I couldn't find a space for him, and so he perished early on. Thank you for your submission.
22: Korry Falders of District Ten- SkinofInk, Korry was a lot of fun. Dangerous, perhaps self-destructive, but a lot of fun nonetheless. He had a good alliance, and perhaps great potential. However, he was simply not serious enough for the Games. He would have given it his best shot, but he would have fallen apart. It was safer for him to take an early out, and so he died. Thank you for your submission.
21: Oiyana Vir of District Twelve- NothingIsReal, Oiyana was one of the last tributes I accepted. At the stage of submissions, I was really looking for tributes who would work well with others, and Oiyana really stood out there. That was one of his big personality traits. I was eager to write him, but his chapter came right as my personal life took a toll and when I returned, I couldn't get a grip on him. He held his alliance together, but with no inspiration and no true purpose, I knew he would die an early death. Thank you for your submission.
20: Ardith Renville of District Eleven- Looking through my PMs the other day, I found a 50 message long conversation between Snail and me that was mainly me asking for Ardith's form. Oh Snail, there were some communication issues back then, hah. Ardith was a sweet girl, but realism tempted me. Too pure for this world, Ardith never would have survived the Games. In fact, she didn't even make it through the first ten minutes. Nonetheless, thanks for your submission.
19: Tycho Brunell of District Five- Lupus, I am sorry for bloodbathing both of the tributes you gave me over the years. I think Tycho would have made it further if I had had the chance to write his Reaping and Capitol sections. Alas, I did not, and a very neutral form did not stand out when I was making up the summary list of placements. Thank you for your submission, and I am sorry I did not have the chance to do anything with it.
18: Odrey Hume of District Three- Elim, Odrey was another latecomer to my original list of tributes, but I knew his storyline as soon as I accepted him. He was not strong, but he was the glue of his alliance. He made friends with Arcas and then brought him to meet Aelie, connecting the two. I always wanted him to die so I could explore their alliance dynamic. You know, I had his reaping written. It didn't make the summary cut because of its length, but he was cute. I'm sorry you never got to see that. Thank you for the submission.
17: Thierry Levesque of District One- Immy, we both knew Thierry was a jerk. However, he was a strong, smart jerk. I don't think anyone really expected him to die this early (although they may have wanted him to, hah). That's precisely why I killed him off. I didn't know where to go from the end of the bloodbath, but the Careers needed some stirring of the alliance pot. Thierry was the only one I didn't know how to develop, and it made sense for him to antagonize the girls, so off he went. Thank you for your submission.
16: Arcas Kodo of District Nine- Bobo, Arcas was never a survivor. From his run-in with Calisto, to fainting at the sight of Careers, it was pretty obvious he wasn't Games material. I am glad he was a part of my story, though. He was not a bad kid, not bad at all, and brought younger experiences to the table. But his weaknesses sent him off. However, he did get the honor of unleashing the plague! Thanks for the submission.
15: Aelie Forslund of District Three- Julia, you've long since moved on to AO3, but Aelie was a joy. I wrote half her Reaping before I dropped off the face of the virtual earth all summer, and she was fun. It's almost certain that she would have made Top Eight if I had had the chance to go on with her. If you were still on FFN, I would send people to you to learn how to make tributes. Thanks, girl.
14: Kendal Baize of District Eight- Fin, Kendal was fiery. It was a hard choice to kill her off so early, because I wanted to explore her psyche and development a lot more. However, with the Games moving so slowly, something needed to happen and we both know Kendal was willing to make things happen. I made sure she took down her own killer, though. She wasn't going to let herself slip away. Thank you for the submission.
13: Tiernan Costello of District Four- Megan, in giving me such an awful guy, you gave me my favorite anecdote from this summary- King Asshole. Tiernan was utterly mad. There was no way I was letting him get much further than this. Gotta love that war cry, though. Thank you for the submission.
12: Braelin Spalding of District Seven- Olive, Braelin was such a good character I knew I wanted to keep her around and let her monologue for a bit. I loved writing her, loved the voice she was going to develop. She never got a chance to show it off, but I loved everything about her. Maybe she was too nice, too shy, too weak to go far, but she was going to be really great with this alliance. I'm sorry I didn't get to show her off. Thank you.
11: Ita Brecchia of District Two- Manda Louise, Ita was the hardest decision for me to make. Choosing her as my D2 female meant edging out another extremely good but radically different tribute. I'm still a little bit torn over that decision, but I did love Ita. I loved her to death, literally. I didn't know where to develop her emotionally, since she was a very stoic character, but I needed to do something with the plague. Ita was a catalyst for the entire story. After her death, everything changed. Thank you for your submission.
10: Geneva Torres of District Nine- thgfan9, Geneva was a real gem. She was far more prickly than any other girl in the Games, and I would have had a lot of fun with that in the Capitol. I had a lot to still reveal about her, and I think without the proper context, it will all go to the tribute grave with her. Still, she was lots of fun to write and her voice came naturally to me. Thank you for the submission.
9: Calisto Milas of District Six- Grace, Calisto was one of my personal pets although I knew he wasn't going to win. He didn't believe in himself enough. But his cynicism and snark were quite refreshing to write, and I think he might have been a crowd favorite by the time he died. But I needed another victim of the plague, and being a loner, he was susceptible to sudden death. I'm so glad I had the chance to write for him. Thank you for the submission.
8: Terran Provost of District Eleven- Corey, I loved Terran even if he wasn't very popular. At one point he was even my Victor. I had so much planned for him, so much development. I'm such a nerd, he was going to be SYMBOLIC. He legitimately was going to change the most out of any tribute in these Games. I was going to BREAK him, and it was going to be great. I regret dropping this story so many months ago, because I had plans, and a lot of them were for Terran. Thank you for your submission.
7: Trista Minniver of District Six- Lexis, you created Inez, so it was pretty obvious to both of us that Trista wasn't going to pull out ahead. However, I considered letting her win on occasion- she was probably the tribute I felt most comfortable writing, I related to her on a very deep level, and she was just really adorable and I didn't want her to die? But adorableness is usually a sign that they will not survive a fight to the death. Unfortunately. When she befriended Maxim, it sealed her fate. I couldn't separate them, even in my mind. They were a package deal- ally together, survive together, die together. Too cute to go on, really. I loved her, but I suppose it was in vain. Thank you for your submission. I won't forget her soon.
6: Maxim Harth of District Seven- Amy, Maxim was a personal favorite of mine. He was in the finale for several iterations of this list, but then I realized he wasn't going to be strong enough to cut it. Certainly not without Trista (and that went both ways; they needed to die together). He was a fantastic character, but I couldn't quite bring myself to really make him suffer. Maybe if I had the courage to break the two of them, one might have won. But here they are, together in the Top Eight. Thank you so very much for Maxim.
5: Viera Kinley of District Five- Jake, Viera was the only tribute that I have had in the Top Five from the very beginning. In the first several versions of the placement list, she was Victor, but I didn't think she would have the right spirit for Victorship. I knew I wanted to drive her down instead. So, as we saw in the summary, I twisted her into madness, and I know I would have had a lot of fun doing it. But she was going to go far. I loved writing her, and she was truly strong. Thank you.
4: Sorrel Keating of District Twelve- Mack, Sorrel was nearly Victor for ages. All of August and September 2014, she was frontrunner. And then looking at her, trying to write a Reaping but not having the motivation, her personality wasn't right for the story. She had a lot of development planned, a lot of foot-on-the-threshold-of-insanity. She was a beautiful, complex, fantastic tribute, but my heart wasn't in it. I really wish I had written her. I wish I had forced myself to keep going, but nah, that didn't happen. But I still loved her, and knew she had it in her to get far. But if she had won, I think that would have detracted from her hidden sensitivity and undermined the development I wanted to give her. Thank you so much for Sorrel. She still remains, for me, an inspirational character.
3: Griffin Ainsworth of District Two- Jess, Griffin was beautiful. More backstory-dependent than many of the tributes, but it meshed so well with his personality that nothing felt gimmicky or lacking. He was whole. And he had drive. Not in an arrogant or desperate way, but he was doubtful and focused all at once. He was authentic, and that always speaks to me. I had a lot of development planned for him too, a path of self discovery. He was going to break hearts. He truly deserved to make it to the Finale, and problably deserved, as a character, to go home. I am a cruel and fickle writer. Thank you for giving him to me.
2: Sintra Astolle of District One- Teddy, Sintra was an obvious choice for Victor. Even though I didn't get to write her POVs, it was obvious that she was complex, detailed, complete, and a bit of a change from the typical Teddy girl. I loved every part of her, and tried to put as much of her as possible into the summary. I think she was too obvious though, and being Victor wouldn't have been good for her. Her character reached summit during the Games, and watching her outside the Games again would have been like watching a beautiful bird wilt inside a cage. Thank you for her, and I hope you appreciate the fact that she killed six people, hah.
1: Romany Argent of District Five- Saige. Oh, Saige. I miss you a lot, and I don't know if you'll ever see this, but Romany was something else. On an entirely different level. I remember the day I got her, there were 18 unread forms in my PM inbox and she was number 13. I read her form with my eyes glazed over and she still jumped out at me. She was so layered, so nuanced, and just waiting for her potential to be realized. She was in my finale at the beginning and at the end (although there was a period in the middle where she was 6th), and she was always in my heart. Another tribute I wish I had written, and regret leaving her to a simple paragraph to explain. It's too late now. I could never try and write an entire story like this again. I think I made the right choice in Victor, though. Romany would have had just the right balance of natural strength and growth of character to be the perfect victor for me. Plus, if she's good enough to be a Career, she's good enough to go home. Thank you so much, Saigey dear. Romany did it.
So yeah, um, that's it. TAFD is officially 'complete'. The end to Chaos's SYOT career. Bit anticlimactic, really. I'll miss writing these monsters, although I know I don't have the motivation to do another. It's been fun. You all have been great submitters and readers for me. My dear vultures :)
Don't think I'm leaving for real, though! Nah, you'll never be entirely rid of me. I have a project in the works (don't even ask if it's another SYOT because that is not happening. I just said that) that you should be seeing soon, and I'm too invested in other fandoms to stop writing fanfiction entirely. And plus, while there are people writing great SYOTs, I'll be around to submit tributes here and there. :) I'm like that headache that never really goes away, or that little rumbly sound in your car engine that worries you but the mechanics totally ignore! Or, more positively, I'm like the sun. It may be cloudy, but I'll still be here somewhere :)
If you want, tell me what you thought!
and, Chaos, signing off-
Happy writing- and reading- to you all!