Chapter Twenty Two: Winner, Winner

Despite it being in the early hours of the morning, the majority of Panem were glued to their TV screens. Those in One, Four, and Eight watched in anticipation. Which one of them would get the honour of welcoming back a Victor? Would One keep their crown? Would Four snatch a Victory after their continued dry spell? Would those in Eight be able to eat somewhat comfortably with the rations that would be doled out with Alexander's return? The entire country seemed to be tense, drinking up every camera shot in the arena and waiting, waiting, waiting...

Briar stepped over the headless body of Constantine McKnight, newfound confidence swelling up within her as she realised that she really was better than her brother. She didn't stop to loot her fallen opponent, there was no point, because she'd be Victor soon, in a hovercraft on her way back to the Capitol where there would be no need for sleeping bags, medkits, or packets of dried fruit. Her first act once she was patched up would be to devour any food that wasn't in a packet, anything besides the pitiful rations they'd been surviving on whilst away from the cornucopia. She made her way back to the cornucopia, greeting Alexander with a smile. The other boy stiffened, watching her closely. The stakes were high now, and he didn't know who he could trust.

"Relax," Briar told him, shaking her head. "We're not fighting yet."

"Your side." Alexander pointed to the red stain on her shirt, wet with fresh blood. She hadn't even noticed, though she knew it was probably due to the adrenaline that was coursing through her. "You shouldn't have run after him."

"I'll be fine." She waved him off. After all, she was still on a high, and it wasn't about to abate anytime soon. She just had to hang on a little longer and she'd be sweet.

The two of them didn't move from their positions, didn't drop their weapons that they gripped onto. It was only a matter of time until they were up against their next opponent, and there was no way that they would let themselves be caught off guard.

"You two!" The cry was accompanied by a bitter laugh, a shadowy figure emerging from the left. "I should have known better than to hope that cannon shot was one of yours."

"What a shame you won't get to hear mine," Briar retorts. "You're next."

It's no surprise to anyone watching that the two girls were the first to fight, circling each other with their swords held defensively. Almost nobody is paying attention to Alexander hovering in the background, obscured partly by the horn of the cornucopia. Especially not when Darya made the first strike, jabbing her sword towards Briar who easily dodged the attack.

Briar's sword clashed against Darya's again and again, as if it was only a training match in the gymnasium where they're not allowed to hurt each other. For a moment both of them pause, backing away slightly as they try and calculate another move. One that will put an end to the constant back and forth.

It was Briar who prevailed; a quick step forward and a well-aimed attack towards Darya's abdomen left the other girl with a gash that wouldn't be easy to shake off. But as Darya fell to her knees hands and knees, then face down, Briar cried out in agony, joining her opponent in the mud and there was a collective gasp when the camera panned to the handle of a throwing knife jutting out of her chest.

But neither of the girls weredead yet, and Briar moved first, rolling onto her front, careful not to knock the knife as she dragged herself forward in the mud to get closer to Darya. The Four girl, rolling onto her back with the last of her strength let out a quiet cackle, her eyes staring up at the cloudy sky.

"Fuck you," she rasped. "If you're going to kill me, just do it."

And so Briar did. She staggered to her feet, plunging her sword into Darya's throat. And then she fell again, face first this time, crying out as the knife was driven further into her chest when she hit the ground.

His job done, Alexander emerged from the cornucopia with a spear in his grasp. The hit to Briar had been an accident; a well-meaning throw aiming for Darya, of the nearest weapon he could find that wouldn't put him in her arms' length, that missed its mark when she fell to her knees. But his second attack was calculated. He raised his sword, and Briar was out of her suffering seconds later.

"Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the Victor of the 100th Hunger Games: District Eight's male tribute, Alexander Northcraft!"


3rd place: Darya Nelson, D4F. Killed by Briar, D1F.

Darya was an interesting character, to say the least. At first, she was the typical Career I feel like and whilst that was fun to write, I really enjoyed exploring the more caring side to her that made her less of a stereotype. But even with that caring side, she was a Career through and through, as evidenced by her actions in the last chapter, and I always knew that she would be a driving force in the Career Pack, but not Victor. Whilst he was fun to write in the arena, I really struggled to find things to do with her afterward. She was definitely one of the more memorable characters in this story, and I really want to thank you, Cee, for sending her in since she was genuinely a brilliant, brilliant tribute.

2nd place: Briar Caswell, D1F. Killed by Alexander, D8M.

Okay, so I've just realised that the top two are both Para tributes, so ! But also that wasn't intentional before anyone comes at me. I'm gonna be honest, in the initial drafting of these Hunger Games, Briar was actually one of the first Careers to go, but as I wrote her I realised just how great of a tribute she truly was and her back and forth with Darya was really fun to write. I've said before that it was really hard to do all I wanted to do in this fic with the limited amount of tribute time before the arena, and one of the things was to give Briar the spotlight she deserved. So, I'm sorry about that Para, but I do hope you enjoyed her. And that her placement makes up for it.

1st place: Alexander Northcraft, D8M.

PARAAAAA! Do you know how hard this was to keep a secret? I almost let it slip so many times in the server when you would talk about your victors. When I first received Alexander, I wasn't quite sure about him. But, similar to Briar, he really grew on me, even if he wasn't the most likeable tribute in any sense. His involvement with the Career Pack, with Wesley, with Noa... all of it was just so fun to write, and even if he was a little overshadowed by characters like Noa and Darya, he was so entangled within the story and the tributes that I knew he had so much potential after the arena, and I'm really looking forward to exploring him in A Tide of Scarlet (a quick self-plug here, but submissions are extending for another week, so if you haven't submitted yet, please do!). I know you're going to be just as excited about this as I am, and I look forward to screaming about it with you in the discord server. Thank you for a truly amazing tribute.

Holy shit. I... did it? I finished an, albeit short, SYOT? I'm... wow. Honestly, I wasn't even sure that this would get past the first prologue, let alone finished. I just want to take a moment to thank you all for believing in me and for sticking by this story. I can't wait to get into the meat of ATOS, and I hope that I'll see you all there.

As I've said, subs for ATOS are extending by another week because I'm busier than I anticipated this week. So... if you haven't already, get those subs in!

See you there!