Seven Devils by Florence + The Machine.
Seven Devils Part One.
I don't want your money, I don't want your crown. See I've come to burn your kingdom down.
Demons Within - The 140th Hunger Games.
Pippin Halland, District Eight Victor.
I swallow thickly, feeling the pressure build behind my eyes. Everything inside of me is screaming to run and hide, to never return to this place and just stick to the mere comfort I have left. Yet, I step through the doorway into the dimly-lit room.
Darek looks up from his papers with a smile. "Pip."
Butterflies burst in my chest. "Darek," I answer quietly, scanning the room. "No Chiffon?"
"Sweeping the area for bugs," he smiles, patting the seat next to him. Without question, I take it, feeling the sickness subside for a brief moment until I look at the papers, and it only multiplies in my stomach. "Oh. Oh, Pip, are you sure you still want to do this?"
I nod slowly. No, I'm not sure. "Yeah."
I couldn't say no, not when Darek was full of ideas and hope, a fire in his eyes that I hadn't seen in a while. Then Chiffon joined, and backing out seemed like the hardest thing in the world to accomplish. Chiffon soon returns. "Clear," she smiles. "Evening, Pippie."
"Evening." I grace the older lady gently, placing my hands together in my lap as she walks by. For them, I'll try. For the boy who saved me, and the woman who protected me.
We fall into a small discussion over plans. I keep zoning out, desperation playing tricks on my mind, until the mere mention of her name sends a shiver down my spine.
"She's getting elderly," Chiffon says. "I can't see her holding up much longer."
"I heard reptiles tend to live for hundreds of years, Chiff," Darek scowls, bitterness being brought up as I remember the time Darek stumbled upon the letter Esmeralda Snow had wrote to me, commanding my presence at her gala. "But if we wait for her death, then it could be ages away. Too many more will die."
"We don't even have the numbers yet."
"We can work for them. I have a few secured already." Darek only challenges, fire radiating from his every fibre. It's warm. Times like these that I like Darek for everything else, not just the comfort and safety he provides me.
Chiffon sighs. "Who? We have to be careful around Districts One and Two. Even Four, with that harlot Odyessa."
"District Five," Darek states proudly. When Chiffon narrows her eyes, Darek looks away. "...Ellery..."
It's Darek's turn to sigh now. "I said Ellery. As in Ellery Haynes."
Ellery is trouble. Well, not so much trouble as in people often avoid her. My run-in with her was less than pleasant, especially when she pointed out that physically, I've matured, but mentally, I'm a scared boy whose fear is clear. She nailed it. Despite being thirty-five, I still feel like the trapped fourteen-year-old who tried to kill himself, only to have someone burn, mark and clean his skin over and over until he answered questions.
"Oh great. Her." Chiffon grimaces. "At least she's obnoxious enough to not back down. We need fighters, I suppose. Anyone else?"
"Arjan, the boy that won last year," Darek nods. "It wasn't hard. His anger is pretty well-known. With him means an ally in District Three as well."
"And we still have Nicolet working undercover, right?"
Darek nods. "And Spruce and Maple are keen to join in, considering the experiences they've had over the years. So congratulations on that one, Chiffon." he smiles.
Over the last year or so, Darek and Chiffon have been sneakily talking to other Victors, sowing the seeds of rebellion. This time, though, they want someone from each district. As many allies as possible to overrule the President. If every district says no, what can she do?
I swallow thickly; she can do everything though. She won't let anyone walk over her, even at her age.
Darek jots down the final names to the list. Turns out that, when you look at it, our rebellion gathering is small. Only one or two Victors here and there, and not even every district. But Darek reckons it's better that way. There's some truth in that, though. Too many is too obvious. Small numbers means privacy and surprise.
I scan over the list myself:
Arjan Kozart, District Three.
Ellery Haynes, District Five.
Zeke Wallace, District Five.
Spruce Groven, District Seven.
Maple Palmer, District Seven.
Nicolet Aryth, District Nine.
Topher Starling, District Nine.
Gypsy Morquin, District Eleven.
"I'm still working on Serena Pierce." Darek adds.
"I'll coin Lorcan if he's ever fully with it," Chiffon joins. Lorcan's mental breakdown two years ago was an ugly one. Everyone knew that depression was taking him. But no-one knew just how deep it did. When I heard, I cried. Not because I knew Lorcan, but because I could feel it happening to me too. I could feel my own stomach eating himself day in, day out. "What about you, Pip?"
My eyes widen. "Oh... um, I haven't been able to reach Saskia yet..."
Chiffon frowns. "Did Crispin not let you?"
"He said she couldn't cope with it all at the moment," I smile sadly, but half-grateful. I was in her shoes once, unable to cope. But the weight on her shoulder is far greater. "Something about too many people looking too similar."
He basically implied that she couldn't face seeing murderers. With her first year of mentoring going down the drain - both District Twelve tributes dying seconds after the other - she'll no doubt say no to the idea.
"We need to think of Careers..." Darek ponders, running his pen over the table. The city noise below fills the silence, car horns and music blaring from every suite and apartment around us. "What about Amity?"
"Risqué," Chiffon frowns. "Could be a yes, could be a no. As far as District Two is concerned, it's not worth it."
Darek pauses. "But... but we need someone from everywhere. It won't work otherwise."
"I understand that, Darek, I really do. But Careers? In my time, the fragile Careers tend to kill themselves or shun the world," she frowns. "You saw what happened to Diamond from One. And that mentally unstable Lennox burned himself. And sweet, sweet Annie."
Darek slams his fist against the table angrily. "We have to work through this! If the President can see a unity between districts properly this time, not just District Two messing around, then we can change things! Pippin," I hum, stomach swirling. "I need you to push harder with Saskia."
That's what they said last time, and look what happened... the Victors were executed without question. I shrink into my seat, violent thoughts on gunshots and blood... no, no!
I feel sick. "...sorry..."
Darek's concerned eyes don't leave mine though. "Are you okay?"
No, I'm never going to be okay. Just when I feel safe and not afraid, they take me away again under new orders. Doesn't Darek realise this? Any whisper of a rebellion, and they haul me to the Capitol for a new bout of torture. It's as if they know District Eight will be behind the next one. "...m'fine..." I stand, head spinning and sweat trickling down my spine. "I... I need fresh air..."
I burst out of the room and up the stairs, feet and knees scraping against the concrete in my desperation. I need air. I need... oxygen... freedom... the walls, they're closing in on me...
The door swings open and I run for the edge of the building, feeling the wind lash against my raw cheeks and stinging eyes. My feet pause at the cliff of the building, though, glued in place.
It'd be so easy. To jump, to escape the future that's been chosen for me. Darek isn't using me, I know that, but it's like I feel like I owe him this. It's like I can't say no. He mentored me. Saved me as a child before that. Doesn't he deserve my help in his crazy, hair-brained scheme?
My foot slips off the edge, shoe squeaking as my body tumbles forwards.
But then a hand grabs my shirt and as quick as I'm ready to accept death, I'm quick to throw myself against the floor and avoid Darek's no doubt hurtful eyes.
"Pippin! What are you thinking?"
I want to scream "That it'd be easier!" but it comes out as a choked sob instead. He pulls me against his side, allowing me to pour my emotions into his shirt.
I'll never tell him. One day, I'll succeed, and Darek won't be able to stop me.
There's a knock on the door that makes Darek rise quickly, fear evident in his face. He gently peels the door back to reveal Nicolet Aryth from District Nine, whose face is less than pleased.
"Is there a reason why I was asked to search the hallway, Darek?"
"Tracking devices or cameras," Darek mentions with a brief smile. "You know, Esmeralda-esque things. At least you listened this time and didn't ignore me."
She smirks, before falling down onto the couch opposite me ungraciously. Darek and her are reasonable friends. With a year apart in victory, it's no wonder that they're more accustomed to each other than most Victors are. "And is there a reason why we're all the way out in here, in the Capitol?"
"Least suspected. Rebel in their own city? That's garbage." he nods proudly.
No-one tracks Victors in the Capitol. We come and go here as we please. I only come here when I'm forced. People like Nicolet have reasons, one being Mr X.
After small talk is done, Nicolet hands over some notes to Darek. "What's this?"
"Information on the arena," she answers dryly. "You requested them."
"I did." I speak up.
They both look at me like I'm stupid. But truth is, I want to be more useful. Nicolet has the advantage every year with her information. She can plan and prepare. I smile awkwardly. "You." Nicolet deadpans.
"Me," I shrug. "Sorry. I just... I thought it'd be a good idea as a trust thing. Like, show Amity or Aphrodite or someone the information to gain their trust, then they might join the rebellion more freely."
But I'm thinking of Saskia. This will be her second chance. I can actually help someone, rather than be helped. I can make Saskia feel at ease with outside information. That, and if I can make friends, she might join the rebellion that Darek has so carefully constructed and planned with his heart.
Darek's lips break out into a grin. "You're a genius, Pip."
Even Nicolet smirks briefly. "You're really something else."
The words push away the bad thoughts for a moment, reminding me of simpler times. I'm not just useless. I can be something. And for Darek, I'll be anything I can be.
This is the seventh instalment to the EsmeraldaVerse. If you are unfamiliar as to why we are at this stage, please look on my profile at the EsmeraldaVerse prologue to understand. If you want, there's a blog for the EsmeraldaVerse Victors called Collection of the Damned.
All deaths will be based on realism, story arcs and whether or not the submitter is reading the story. Obviously, reviews let me know this, and if said submitter chooses to not review, I have no idea if they're reading the story, and therefore, am more inclined to keep other tributes over said submitter's tribute. Each decision is painstakingly hard but must be done. Everyone knew the odds when they created a character. I would hope you stick around, but if not, I understand.
Okay, so this is the set-up to the end, if that makes sense.
The submission is deadline is 7th MARCH of which it'll be closed and it'll be too late for you to send anyone in. The day after, I will post the second part of this prologue with a list, and start to reply to people for confirmation/declination. Please remember to not take this personally.
All spots are open. No-one is certain.
You can send in more than one character if you wish, but only one will be accepted.
The form is on my profile. And speaking of profile, I will be placing a list on there as to how many submissions I have for each gender. Underneath the form will be a set of rules. You're advised to read these rules before creating - any character who breaks the rules is instantly declined.
This goes without saying I guess, but there's always that one person... PM only. Seriously.
Oh, and a review on this chapter wouldn't go amiss. ;)