Many millions of thanks to the incomparable Court81981 for her encouragement, her corrections and her friendship. And to EverlarkPearl (Mellarksloaves), Pookieh and alatarielgildaen for prereading, for their encouragement and for just being perfect human beings. And to the beautiful and talented Ro Nordmann for making my lovely banner and for being a great friend. Thank you so much!
I do not own the Hunger Games...
More notes to follow...
Everything is dark as the boy begins to sink, his watery grave pulling him further from the light above. His chest hurts from holding his breath, and even though he thrashes about, the vine that has wrapped itself around his ankle several times refuses to let him go.
He thinks about having to miss the lamb stew with dried plums that the cook will prepare for his family tonight. He thinks about how foolish he was to run away from his guards, and he wonders what will become of them. And lastly he thinks about his poor father, and how he will no longer have any sons—his two older brothers died when a plague ripped through the countryside.
His vision has blurred, and he is not sure the darkness around him is from the murky depths that surround him or his failing eyesight. He knows he can't hold on much longer as a gasp escapes him, and his life begins to recede in bubbles to the surface above.
The boy accepts his fate: he is going to die.
He closes his eyes for the last time and wraps his arms around his chest. He pretends to be in his mother's embrace as he begins to fade away. The hand of death comes for him quickly, but it hurts when it grasps his legs and then his wrist. He wants to wrench himself away, but his strength has left him. He feels like he is floating now and wonders if he is headed to Heaven. He relaxes in his captor's hold, allowing it to take him wherever God wills. The blackness finally overtakes him.
He comes to a short time later choking on air as he begins heaving water from his stomach and lungs. His whole body hurts, and the midday sun beats against his damp skin but does nothing to soothe his chattering teeth or shivering muscles. His heaves eventually turn dry, and he reaches up to rub his stinging eyes. He scans the area around him. He is not in Heaven like he thought, but instead he lies in the red dirt around the pond he had fallen into. But how did he get free?
Suddenly the boy hears someone gasp for air at his side. He turns quickly to find another boy sputtering back to life as well. The boy appears to be about his age, but instead of having cocoa-colored skin like him, this boy's skin is the color of fresh milk. This boy also doesn't have the kinky brown curls that he has; instead his fine blond hair is plastered to his head and face. And when this boy looks up at him, he nearly jumps when it isn't brown eyes like his own gazing back at him, but instead two perfect cerulean jewels. He has never seen eyes such a brilliant blue in his entire life and he can't help but stare as the other boy regards him curiously, still taking large gulps of oxygen.
"Are you alright?" he asks the boy, his own voice still winded.
"Yes," the blond croaks out. "You?" He nods in response. The blond throws himself backwards so he lies flat on the ground, and he stares up at the lightly clouded sky, the rapid rising and falling of his chest starting to slow. The boy crawls over to him until the blond's blue eyes meet his brown ones.
"I'm Cinna," he introduces himself.
"Peeta," the blue-eyed boy responds. Cinna smiles. "How did you end up in the pond?" Peeta asks.
Cinna looks down, and he bites his bottom lip in embarrassment. "I...I moved closer so I could see the tadpoles near the edge of the pond, but I lost my balance and fell in. I can't swim, so I began to panic, and my leg became tangled in a water weed." Peeta listens to his story attentively and nods in understanding when he is finished. Cinna takes a deep breath.
"It was lucky for me that someone happened by that knew how to swim."
"Oh, I don't know how to swim." Peeta interjects, sitting up.
"What?" Cinna turns to him in confusion. Peeta shrugs and starts pulling at the bright green blades of grass from the ground around him. "Not at all?"
"Nope, not a lick," Peeta responds.
"But...um...then what would possess you to jump in the pond?" Peeta looks to him as if the answer is so obvious.
"It was the right thing to do," he tells Cinna, looking him square in the eye.
"But you could have died." Cinna can feel panic bubble up in the back of his throat as guilt begins to fill him. His clumsiness could have been the cause of not one but two deaths today.
"But I didn't," Peeta responds confidently.
"And if you had gotten into trouble while down there? Or if you couldn't get me loose?" Cinna asks, desperately trying to understand Peeta's foolish act of bravery.
"I couldn't afford to think like that."
"Then what were you thinking?"
"That I would figure it out as I went." He cracks a smile. Cinna can't help but shake his head at the boy, no older than twelve, who was so cavalier with his own life for the sake of saving another's.
He is about to thank him for his selfless deed, to promise him a reward as soon as he returns home, to offer him the hand of one of his female cousins when Peeta becomes old enough to wed, but a voice in the distance breaks his train of thought.
"Cinna!" He hears his personal guard yell in a frantic voice, and suddenly his father's disappointed face flashes into his head. His father will be cross with him if he finds out that he almost got himself killed, and his guard will be punished. Dread begins to accumulate in his gut as the sound of his name grows closer.
"I...I must go." He jumps to his feet, but his legs waver, and he almost falls to his knees. Peeta is there to steady him.
"Are you sure you are okay to walk…? I can go get whoever is calling you…"
"No!" Cinna cries out louder than he meant to. Peeta looks unsettled. "I am fine," Cinna says more calmly and offers Peeta a small smile. He reaches down to his belt and unhooks the small velvet pouch filled with coins that appears to have been unharmed by the pond. He pushes it towards Peeta.
"I...I don't need that." Peeta's hands fly up in front of him.
"Please, Peeta. Please take it. You saved my life...Please!" he begs. Peeta looks at the coin purse for a long moment before finally relenting and grabbing it, palming it into his hand. Cinna sighs in relief.
"Thank you, Peeta, for saving my life. I will never forget what you did for me."
"Cinna!" He hears the frantic cries again so before Peeta can respond, he turns and flees towards the voice. He doesn't think to turn around again until Peeta is out of his sight.
After reuniting with his personal guard and producing a white lie about how his clothes became wet from wading in the shallow parts of the pond, he is placed back in the ornate carriage that brought him for this ride through the countryside—the one that he escaped from earlier in the day. A large fluffy blanket is wrapped around his still shivering body right before the carriage take off back towards his home.
Cinna's stomach twists with guilt and shame over his cowardly actions. The boy—Peeta— deserved to be praised and recognized for his great deed, not shushed and thrown aside with a bit of coin. Cinna vows in that moment to make amends for his cowardice.
And so Cinna grows; he becomes stronger and braver and indeed learns how to swim. He returns as often as he can to the pond that almost took his life in hopes that Peeta will be there, but he never is.
Soon Cinna becomes a man, a servant of his people, the heir to the throne of Panem, but he never forgets about the young boy with blond hair and blue eyes, and each night since, as part of his evening prayers, he includes the boy who would be a man like him now. He prays for his safety, his good fortune, and above all, a way to repay this life debt that hangs heavily over his shoulders.
As time ticks by, Cinna grows weary of his every mounting responsibilities and the overbearing restrictions put in place to keep him safe. He spends most of his days confined to the castle or a guarded carriage reminiscing about his lost youth, about the freedom he once possessed but like with Peeta —who he is starting to lose faith in ever finding again —he feels as though those carefree days are far, far behind him. But little does know the fates work in mysterious ways, and at this moment were beginning to shift the odds in his favor.
Thank you so much for reading!
This story is loosely based off the movie "A Knight's Tale" which stars Heath Ledger, Paul Bettany and Alan Tudyk...and if you haven't seen it you are missing out! It is my most favorite movie in the world!
Also this is just the prologue, and the rest of the story will be from Peeta (and possibly Katniss') POV.
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