Victor of the 100th Quarter Quell Ashby McKnight's POV
Some things never leave your thoughts. No matter how hard you try to push them away, no matter what vices you try to drown them in, they persist in the deepest pits of your mind. Ashby knew this. She wasn't a stupid girl; she knew why a majority of the Victors that stayed in the Capitol spent their days at the bars and reaped the benefits of the discounts their fame gave them at the liquor stores. They still were back to the bottle only a few days later, as soon as the horrors returned.
Yet, she found herself sitting in her luxurious apartment, staring at the wall - painted a clean and crisp off-white color - wishing that she had the burn of something strong enough to keep her memories away for long enough to get back to sleep. Despite their immense wealth and seemingly unending resources, they had nothing to restrain the nightmares that ravaged her every night.
In some sense, this night was no different from most of her nights since returning home from her Victory Tour. She was awake, covered in sweat, her heart beating in her chest so loudly that it was a miracle it didn't burst right out of her chest. What was different, however, was the flashing lights that had graced her vision as soon as her eyes had shot open, just outside her window. Crawling to the edge of her bed, she peered through the thick night fog to try and see what was going on. There were many peacekeeper vehicles - in a vintage black and white that Ashby remembered seeing pictures of in museums - and what appeared to be an ambulance. Oddly enough, the vehicles were silent, with only the spinning beams of blues and reds in a lazy circle like a carnival ride betraying their presence. Ashby felt her lips turn downwards into a soft frown, the cogs in her head already starting to turn. What could be happening out there? Were they trying to hide something by keeping the sound to a minimum?
The blonde turned quickly to the voice at the door, the hairs on the back of her neck raising without a second thought. Her body was always ready for fight or flight - even though it was almost two years since she had stepped foot in the arena. The hairs settled quickly, though, as she recognized the face of her older brother, his lips in a hard, worried line. She forced an apologetic smile, "I'm sorry, Elken… Did I wake you up?"
It would be far from the first time. Her nightmares oftentimes ended in her screaming. Her brother never seemed to mind, always coming from his own room in their shared apartment to keep her company while she calmed herself down. For a while, the complaints from the other Victors in their building made Ashby afraid that she would be sent back home to District 10. It felt odd to call it that. Home. It wasn't home anymore. It would never feel like home again.
"No, you didn't. The lights did." Elken made his way next to her to stare out the window as well. For a moment, he was silent, and Ashby took in his chiseled features, highlighted by the artificial glow through the window. Red. Then blue. Then red again. Had he always looked so tired? It felt like it wasn't that long ago that the two were running in the fields of grass, hiding behind cattle and laughing into the clean air of District 10. "I wonder what's going on."
"Who knows. Hopefully there's a body bag or two."
Elken's eyes flashed, a minuscule and almost unnoticeable crack of lightning in the soft brown of his irises. "That's unnecessary."
Ashby gave a small shrug. "It's just the Gamemaker building. Not anybody worth worrying about in there anyway."
"There are plenty of innocent people in there. All of the staff for the games live in that building. It's not fair to label them all as evil."
Ashby turned her head away, embarrassed. Her brother always had a way of having sympathy for everyone, even people that she would argue didn't deserve it. Although she vehemently disagreed, she knew she wouldn't get anywhere arguing with him about it. It was an obvious fact; Nobody living in that building was innocent. They all had the blood of tributes on their hands. "I wonder if there was a problem with the Muttations…" She mused, "The lab is in there, isn't it? In the basement?"
"It is." He answered. "Maybe that's it."
Ashby backed away from the window to give her brother more room to look. His bulk took up most of the window. How he managed to get all of the muscle as they grew up, despite her being able to lift the same hay bales as he did, always baffled her. Here he was, a mountainous figure of lean muscle, and she was small and thin, like a frail little flower. Perhaps it was in her favor. It made her seem like less of a threat in her games, after all. The other tributes had barely seen her coming.
"Are you ready to mentor this year?" Elken's question was nonchalant. Much more nonchalant than it had the right to be. A shiver ran up her spine.
"Oh, definitely. I look forward to preparing the lambs for the slaughter." Her sarcasm clearly didn't rest well with her brother, who just let out a sigh. A sigh thick with a melancholy that swirled around her heart like smoke from the nostrils of a dragon. Her brother used to be so full of life. Sure, he wasn't ever loud or boisterous, but you could feel the happiness just by being around him for a few minutes. It was the little things. The glimmer in his eye, the twitch in the corner of his mouth that seemed to always hint at a smile. But the past few years had hardened his joy into something darker. Something that dripped with pessimism and sadness. Being a Victor was perhaps the worst fate of the Hunger Games. Some days she wondered if it would've been a blessing in disguise to die in the arena instead of spending her days seeing the never ending cycle of death that she witnessed. Stop that. Ashby scolded herself. People died so you could be here. Be grateful.
"They might have a chance. You can't give up on them before they've even been Reaped." Elken said softly. Ashby wanted to argue with him; District 10 didn't bring home Victors. District 10 brought home bodies. Their Victor pool was small. Only two of the houses in the Victor's Village back in their district had any occupants. Outside of the Career districts, winning the games was an anomaly.
"I didn't give up on them. I'm just not going to get my hopes up."
"I know you're scared. But don't worry." He turned slightly to rest a large hand on her shoulder, "I'm here for you."
She couldn't help but crack a smile, "Don't play that game, you got me into this mess."
His face fell. Ashby cursed internally, before throwing a punch to his gut. Her tiny fist merely ricocheted off of his bulky stomach, but the action was enough for his smile to return, if not more faint than before.
"I'm just fucking with you, Elken."
"I know you are. But still."
She pulled herself back into her bed. He probably blamed himself for her Reaping. The Quarter Quell twist was a harsh one - the big one hundred had to be something colossal. Ashby remembered her mother openly weeping in the living room, the smiling face of Grandioselle as she announced the extra stipulation to the games. 'The Reapings will consist of blood relations to our current victors!'
It had been a kick to the gut for the McKnight family. None of the other Victors even had blood relations eligible for the female pool, with a whopping two boys that would be in the bowl for the males. Her mother and father would have their only two children both sent to the Games. They were lucky enough to have one kid make it through - two would've been a miracle.
As if it weren't abhorrent enough to take one child from a family… But to take two? Ashby pulled the comforter up closer to her, trying not to think about it. The velvety softness of the sheets kissed her skin, feeling cool against the heat still radiating from her body. Ashby hadn't been back home since her victory tour. Her hands stained with the ghostly scarlet of the blood of innocent children, she stood in front of what used to be her peers to try and say something of value. She had known at that moment that she could never go back to normal life in District 10 like her brother had.
"I love you." She murmured to her brother, not sure of what else to say. He was still glued to the window. He missed home. She could tell. After his games, he had lived in the Victor's Village, happy to be back with his family. Ashby couldn't do that. She couldn't look any of her neighbors in the eye anymore, and had chosen to live in the Capitol. Elken could've gone back home, ut he chose to stay at the Capitol with her instead. Some Victors were like her - choosing to stay in the extravagant apartment building in the center of the Capitol instead of the Victor Villages in their own districts. Even if it would break their parents' hearts, Elken never would leave her behind. She knew that much. Even when the world was turned upside down, she knew that at least they had each other.
And that's more than most Victors would ever have.
Head Gamemaker Magdelenne Kurozuki's POV
Magdelenne brushed the soft, honey colored hair of her doll in long, deliberate strokes. Her lips, painted a soft baby pink, pushed into a pout as the brush snagged on a curl. She wiggled the brush, trying to be delicate with the motion to avoid yanking any of the golden strands from the head of her favorite porcelain doll. A loud knock sounded at the door, causing her to jerk the tiny hairbrush, pulling a small chunk of the yellow hair out with it.
A scowl darkened her features. Who could possibly be visiting her at this time? It was nearly midnight. She stood, heading over to the door and heaving it open to rest her hands on her hips, her annoyance clear in the flick of her cotton candy colored hair. "It's very late."
The man at the door offered a shameless smile, "My apologies. It's urgent"
Magdelenne ushered the man into the room, closing the door softly behind him. She took the blonde doll from her loveseat and set it on the glass table beside it. He was lucky that he was such an important man - only the president himself could visit her in the wee hours of the night and not get a door shut in their face. She smiled at him, revealing her sharpened canines among the rest of her pearly white teeth. He seated himself on the couch - barely able to fit around all of the stuffed animals and pastel colored throw pillows.
When he finally managed to find a spot, pushing Harold the bear gingerly to the side, he spoke. His voice was solemn. "I truly regret being the bearer of this news to you... You may want to sit down."
Maggie plopped herself into her favorite armchair, scooping up the kitten plushie that had been sitting before her. His name was Whiskers. She pulled her legs up into a criss-cross, setting the plushie in her lap. She and Whiskers waited expectantly for his bad news, but he seemed deep in thought, so she broke the silence herself. "Mister President, would you like some juice? You seem upset."
"No, no. I'm fine." He dismissed the offer with a wave of his hand, "I'm unsure of how else to word this, so I'm just going to be blunt with you." He pressed his fingers into his temples, rubbing small circles into the skin. He took a big breath, as if he were going to blow out a bunch of candles on a big birthday cake, Maggie thought to herself, before speaking once more, "Grandioselle is dead."
Maggie raised a brow, "Oh?"
"Yes. She was shot dead tonight. I don't want you to worry about your own safety - we've got the entire Gamemaker building on a lockdown. I just thought that you should be the first to know, especially with the Reapings happening so soon."
How dreadful, Magdelenne thought to herself. Grandioselle's apartment was fully carpeted in a very expensive virgin white shag. It was something she bragged about constantly, as if the cleanliness of her floor somehow negated the impurity of her personal life. Maggie wondered what part of her home the Gamemaker had been shot in - which carpet had the fibers stained cherry red. Grandioselle would've had a fit, knowing that something soiled her precious carpet. Maggie almost giggled at the thought, instead cocking her head to the side, her pink hair falling in a curtain with the movement, "Does that mean I'm the Head Gamemaker now?"
Abbot was speechless for a moment, "Well, yes, you've been the Apprentice Gamemaker for long enough to make you the obvious choice, but… Did you hear what I said?"
"Yes I did! It's so exciting!" Magedelenne pressed a hand to her lips to stifle a giggle, "I get to run the Hunger Games!"
Excitement bubbled through her veins, a sugary sweet energy lighting up her eyes. From the moment she could have a collective thought, she had known that she wanted to help create the Hunger Games. Watching the tributes every year, fighting to the top like savage animals, was easily her favorite pastime. Even when the games weren't happening, she'd watch reruns of her favorite tributes, enraptured by each of them like they were pieces being moved in in an intricate game of chess. It made her knees weak. And now it was all hers. Her little game to play.
"You're taking this very well." Abbot said slowly, his soft green eyes staying on the Gamemaker. She had practically taken over planning the Games already; Grandioselle had been spotty to say the least. She would rarely show up to the meetings with their small staff, and poor Maggie had been keeping the boat afloat for this year's game practically single handedly. The arena, the mutts, the themes and twists were all from the mind of little Magdelenne Kurozuki, with Grandioselle just signing off on the ideas.
"Well, there's really not much I could do about her death." Maggie said with a shrug, "So I'm looking at the bright side!"
Why cry about the death of her mentor? Everyone dies. It wasn't something she necessarily expected - after all, Grandioselle was less than a decade older than herself, considering Maggie was still at the ripe age of twenty six. But Grandioselle was vain. Unappreciative. Selfish. Maggie didn't like her one bit. Plus, it was enough of a headache to constantly look the other way when she chose to indulge in her less… attractive vices.
The president shook his head. She wasn't sure entirely why. Perhaps he doubted her ability. He wouldn't for long. Not when her games proved to have the highest ratings that Panem had ever seen. She knew what she was doing. "That's all I needed to tell you. After all, the Games must go on as scheduled."
"Of course!" She smiled brightly, closing her eyes and tilting her head to the side.
"Will the arena be ready for the Reapings next week?" Abbot kept his gaze on her, fixing the collar of his suit. Even in his late forties, he was quite a looker. Magdelenne wasn't particularly interested - she had more in life to accomplish than to be some little housewife. She nodded at his question. "Good, good…" He murmured, "You will be in charge of the training scores this year, but I'm sure you know what to do."
"Oh yes, I've accompanied Grandioselle before. She talks a lot during the training. Oh! I mean, she used to, you know, before she was dead." Maggie replied with a laugh. Her hand stroked the stuffed animal in her lap absentmindedly. She could practically hear the little kitty purr. Whiskers knew that Maggie would do a good job. "I can't wait to see who I get to play with this year. All my little dollies…"
That's what the tributes were. Like little dolls in her dollhouse. So many different shapes and sizes and colors. All hers to play with. Their fates were in her small, delicate hands.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Abbot stand hesitantly, careful to not knock over any of the toys littering the couch. "Well, then. I suppose I'll let you get to bed. Blessed night, Magdelenne."
She rose as well, following him to the door. "Goodnight Mister President." She cooed, blowing him a kiss, "And happy Hunger Games."
A/N: Welcome one and all to my very first SYOT story! I do have a few notes on submitting on my profile along with the application to submit, so please make sure you read through those before creating your character because they world is a little bit different than your average Panem. This story will also feature a Capitol subplot that will be incredibly important to the story overall, so if you're not into that then this might not be the story for you. Submissions will be open until the end of June, and I will accept reservations for up to three days. I will not accept applications via reviews, only by PM or personal message on Discord.
Speaking of Discord, if you plan on submitting, I highly recommend joining us at the Hunger Games SYOT server, bc I am fairly active there and can answer questions more quickly. Also, it's a fun and easy way for me to keep in contact with everyone! Just remove the spaces, and I hope to see you there! discord. gg /Fw5faD
What do you think of the characters introduced so far?