"The body, sluggish, aged, cold—the embers left from earlier fires,
The light in the eye grown dim, shall duly flame again" - Walt Whitman
There is a spark that starts every revolution. The tinder has been building up, stemming from the anger and hurt of those that have been wronged. But the spark? That's all they need. It provides hope eternal, something that cannot find a home in Panem. There is no room for true hope, no room for a spark because from that spark there is a fire that cannot be controlled.
And this fire had to be controlled.
The 74th Hunger Games had the potential to be like no other. After all, two kids from Twelve showed up with a real, fighting chance. The girl scored an eleven. She looked nearly regal in her chariot costume as she burned, a symbol for the masses. The boy beside her would follow her without question, able to use his words to sway the audience when the girl could not. Together, they were too powerful. And Panem hates when the powerless feel strong.
And so the spark was stamped out.
The Games opened with a bang, the boy finding a home amongst the Careers after his interview in which he declared his love for the girl. The rest of the Careers appeared to trust him, except the pair from Two. The girlfriend, they said, was too much of a threat. This could be a trap.
So when they found her five days into the Games, the Twelve boy with them, they were gleeful at the chance to kill two birds with one stone.
Cato, the fool, started climbing up the tree to reach her. Glimmer, the helpful but inexperienced star, grabbed the bow and arrows they'd gotten from the Cornucopia. Alana, the girl from Four, just paced in front of the tree. Clove, the smartest of them all, grabbed the boy and leered up at the girl.
I think I've got something to bring you down, she called, tracing the boy's cheek with a knife with all the care of a lover. So join us, Twelve. We're all waiting for you.
They didn't have to worry about the time it took her to get down. By morning, they swore that the boy would be dead unless she came down to face them. The boy, always a sweetheart and too kind for his own good, simply looked at them with big, pleading eyes. He didn't know that Careers were trained to have no mercy, that this was only a formality to keep him alive this long. If it was another year, he would've been tortured until they got what they wanted. But in the end he was only the bait, only the lover, never the star of the show. Poor Peeta Mellark, always in the background.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
By morning, three dead. Glimmer, Alana, and the boy. As soon as Clove caught on to the tracker jacker nest dropping, she slit the boy's throat. All's fair in love and war, she whispered in his ear before sprinting after Cato, stings already making her body ache.
The girl was barely allowed to mourn, instead being forced to run to escape her own trap. Everything was falling apart too soon, much too soon. Sparks are only good as long as they're whole. If they fracture, the whole system will crumble.
And fracture she would.
A girl. The girl. A child, really. The one that reminded this girl of her sister, of everything she still had back at home. Her own bright spot in these now dark games. Her savior.
And yet thinking of her wouldn't fix everything, would it?
It happened too quickly. A heist gone wrong, so terribly wrong. The girl could barely make it out of there, her ears ringing, unable to hear out of one ear at all. But then… the whistle. The screams. She heard all of it.
And again she was too late.
Now it was the child who screamed, who cried for both of them. Marvel, a powerful foe who had died because of one wrong move, leaving her with only the ghosts of her past. The mockingjays, which were once a comfort, now mimicked her noises and reminded her of where she was. Rue… and Peeta… and more. The girl couldn't help but cry for everything else. The bread, her father, Prim, this pin that had seemed to spark an entire revolution that still held its breath, waiting on her.
Stand up, girl. Don't you know? You're all they have left in this dark, dreary world.
There was another girl out there, one crafty and sly and hiding, biding her time. Foxface, or so they called her. No one knew her real name, so was it even that important?
She'd gone unnoticed almost the entire Games, fading into the shadows as the rest of the tributes fought around her. A sneaky little fox lying in wait, waiting for her chance to strike. Her name was unknown by most of her competitors, the unrelenting underdog too clever for her own good. But she'd make them remember… by the time she was done with these Games, everyone would know who she was. They would all know her name, she'd make sure of it. She was ready to step out of the shadows to make this game hers.
So at the beginning of the feast, Foxface ran. She snatched her bag and took off, unsure of what it even contained. She wouldn't be caught up in whatever the other tributes got up to, blinded by their own bloodlust and need for revenge. Foxface had no room for that in her heart, only a desire to get home and- and-
Only one cannon went off at the feast as Clove knelt above Twelve, her smile cruel and taunting as she told her that she'd been the one to finish off Lover Boy, that she'd sent Marvel out that day, the day the little girl had died. She was too caught up in the horrible things she crooned to notice someone come up behind her, ending her before she could finish off the girl. And all Twelve could do was stare at the man who showed her mercy, who let her go without a fight.
For her, Twelve. For the girl, the little one. For Prim and for Rue. Was she the real source of this? Her connection to Rue, built upon the resemblance between her and Prim. Yes, she could never forget where she came from.
Maybe she'd never know. But all Twelve could do was run, a bag slung over her shoulder. A few of her wounds had begun to get infected, the sponsors drying up as her tears flowed endlessly. No one wanted to sponsor someone they didn't think could make it through the Games, even if she'd gone in burning brighter than anyone they'd ever seen.
And then, silence. Four tributes left, scattered across the arena. Twelve figured they were supposed to get together, but she was focused on her own healing. The plants around her weren't as helpful as she'd hoped, turning brown as hours passed. She could sense that she was supposed to move towards the center, back to where it all began, but she didn't want to turn into a mere sheep being herded to where she might meet her end.
Little did she know that the end was closing in. Foxface had caught on as well, a sly grin on her face and a secret weapon in her hand. She couldn't help but feel on top of the world, knowing she could win it all with just one right move.
Just one. That's all it would take.
Until she showed up.
Bow and arrow in hand, Twelve stared at Foxface, drawing the arrow back without a second of hesitation. Foxface was lucky to be alive as the arrow sliced through her shirt, her adrenaline dulling the pain even as she felt blood begin to slide down her arm. She always thought it was funny that this was called The Hunger Games, Foxface mused as she took her opening to leap at Twelve. It didn't feel much like a game at all.
No, it wasn't a game as the two girls fought in the dirt, one forged from fire itself and the other finally coming out of the shadows. All one had to do was make the right move, and so she did.
Isn't it funny how one small movement can silence an entire revolution?
Even the mockingjays were quiet as Foxface plunged the knife into the girl's side. She didn't know it yet, but there was nothing that would save her from that knife. Nothing would save her from a knife coated in poison. Because of course that's what you give a girl who stays in the shadows. Poison, a dirty trick but powerful if used properly. Foxface could barely feel the arrow that the girl had embedded into her shoulder, this one victory opening up a world of possibilities for her.
This late in the Games, there truly was nothing that could save the girl on fire.
The arena darkened all too soon as Foxface left Twelve alone, her eyes turned towards the sky. Though it was dark, the stars were brighter than ever, and the girl on fire burned as bright as the stars one last time before fading out forever.
Foxface silently moved to the center of the arena as a cannon sounded off, her gaze briefly raising to look at the sky above before shaking her head in disgust. Even the stars were fake, too dim for her liking.
The cornucopia was already the host of a bloody brawl, the two other remaining competitors clashing as if they barely even knew there was a third tribute still standing. Did they even care? Foxface figured they didn't, though she certainly didn't mind waiting them out a bit more. She gripped one of her knives in her hands, a sly grin lifting her lips as she thought of a plan perhaps too foolish to work, though she might as well try.
She had never been the best at throwing knives in training, though her supposed aim didn't matter now as she threw her knife at the duo, letting out a terrified squeak as it hit the cornucopia and bounced off. Thresh barely managed a glance, Cato shooting her a feral grin as he swiped up the knife, using it to stab at Thresh when he got too close.
Foxface edged around the open area, making her way to Cato's exposed back. She figured he wasn't too focused on her yet. No one had been focused on the little fox, but maybe that's what made her the most dangerous of them all.
In the end, all she needed was one more swing of her knife. As soon as Thresh caught on to what she was doing, he let his attacks get a little messier, let Cato believe he was getting the upper hand. He suffered more than a few cuts for that, though it was worth it as Foxface sank her blade into his shoulder, Thresh taking the opening to slice his chest open.
And then there were two.
She immediately shot back out of his reach, knowing he was winded from the fight. Her hand was steady as she threw a second knife, this one more sure as it sailed directly into Thresh's thigh, his movements too slow to avoid it entirely. Too slow from blood loss? From a lack of energy? Was the poison on the knife she'd given to Cato enough to sap his strength even more?
All things considered, he didn't seem to want to die. So Foxface had to finish him off herself, dancing just out of reach before striking out with her knives, wearing him down bit by bit. She took more than a few blows herself, but in the end there's nothing that can outrun death. Not when it has already come to call.
And so Rowan Myrick raised her face to the sky, hearing her own name ring through the arena as a single tear streaked down her face, feeling almost like the blood still coating her hands.
And in Panem, the districts knew that whatever hope the mockingjay carried with her was gone for now.
But that's the thing about hope, isn't it? It always finds a way to come back, the ember that refuses to go out.
ZARIA EMERSON, 34
PRESIDENT OF PANEM
"No, Mrs. Duvont, there's no issue." Zaria pinched the bridge of her nose in agitation, her fingers tapping the edge of her desk. "Yes, I've already looked over the documents you sent me. Everything seems good to go."
On the other side of the desk, Head Gamemaker Leon Kimura gave her a boyish grin as he sat down. He placed several papers on her desk, making Zaria raise an eyebrow as she recognized arena plans and rough sketches of mutts for the 123rd Games and beyond.
Gritting her teeth, Zaria rolled her eyes and silently hoped that the conversation would be over soon. Even though the Duvont family was one of her primary sponsors when she rose to power a few years ago, they still had the tendency to grate on her nerves. Their new pet project was revamping the academy in District One again, which meant Zaria had to continuously read over their reports before allowing them to go through with their plans. Was One privileged? Sure, Zaria wouldn't pretend otherwise, but she couldn't let them do whatever they wanted or else there would be anarchy.
Just like Maddox always said, there needed to be a healthy dose of fear in Panem. But Zaria tried not to rule with an iron fist. She found that the tighter the grip was, the more could slip through it.
But that's why she was stuck on the phone with Blanche Duvont discussing the new… measures the academy wanted to take to deal with the random rebel factions that had been popping up lately. No matter how much time passed, she never could figure out how to get rid of those weeds for good.
"I think it sounds like a great plan," she said smoothly, absentmindedly running her fingers along the edge of her desk. "With nineteen current Victors, that's only one less than District Two. Make sure you wrap up any loose ends and this new tactic may provide you the edge you've needed for years."
Her grin widened as Leon spread out the sketches in front of her, Blanche finally chirping a goodbye before Zaria hung up.
"Talkative as always, huh?" Leon smirked as he sat up straight in his chair. Even though he still wasn't quite on the same level as the president,, his position was still highly respected and they tended to be more friends than simply business partners.
Taking one of the papers into her hands, Zaria pored over the mutt design, paying special attention to the notes that Leon had scrawled along the edges of the paper. "She never does know when to quit," Zaria muttered. "It's a good thing her daughter is better at keeping out of the way than she is."
Leon nodded thoughtfully and leaned back in the chair. "Estelle Duvont, 119th Games, two kills," he rattled off. "I remember I almost caught her with the electric eels I made, that's the year I spent on mutts."
Even though Zaria spent most of the Games that year clawing her way into the president's office, she still remembered Estelle Duvont and the way she had gotten trapped on an island in the middle of her arena, surrounded by electric eels. It was her impressive showing as she fended them off that made her popularity rise as the tributes around her fell. She truly did make her family proud, though she'd gone rather dormant as of late.
"Are these your sketches, then?" Zaria asked, wanting to get back on track. "I know you're Head Gamemaker now, but you can't expect to do everything yourself. You do have a whole team." She raised her head to look him in the eye, holding back a grin as he flushed.
Clearing his throat, Leon gestured to the sketches still in front of him. "These are actually from when I was just starting out. I've been collecting them since I knew I wouldn't be able to use my own designs for the first year, so here they are for you-"
"Can your team pull these off?" Zaria tugged a sheet of paper away from the rest so she could view the whole image before turning it around so he could see. "I know your mutt designs can be shocking, but I really want to see your range this year. I think these have a lot of potential."
Leon nodded quickly, his eyes lighting up as he saw the design. "That's one of my personal favorites, ma'am. I've been working on the technology for it, and I'll have prototypes ready soon."
As he reached for the sketch again, there was a knock at the door. The pair shared a look before Zaria called, "Who is it?"
"President Emerson, it's Ariadne," the voice said, a bit quieter than Zaria remembered it being.
Zaria frowned as Leon calmly gathered his papers into a pile. It wouldn't be a fun year if one of the victors knew about some of the possible twists after all. That was part of what made the game interesting, the unknown mysteries that loomed over everyone that participated. Even the mentors could do nothing but give their tribute general advice, as they couldn't anticipate what all was in store.
Maybe omnipotence was the key to power.
"What's she here for?" Leon whispered, glancing at the door.
Zaria shrugged slightly, as she wasn't sure herself. Ariadne was known to travel a lot around the districts, often making appearances in the Capitol. She was easily one of the most well-loved Victors of the past few years, but that still didn't explain what the hell she was doing at Zaria's office.
"Come in," she replied tersely, briefly cursing herself for letting her irritation show.
The door opened to reveal a petite girl with perfectly curled red hair, her makeup done up as if she was some sort of doll. In a way she was, Zaria thought to herself. She'd likely come to talk about one of her sponsorships, since all Victors were supposed to have ties to the Capitol in some way to thank the citizens for endorsing them during their journeys to victory.
Her eyes widened minimally as she looked between the two occupants of the room, likely sensing that she was interrupting something important. Then again, Zaria had let her interrupt for a reason.
"What are you here for?" Zaria wasn't one to let others waste her time, the phone call with Blanche still weighing on her mind.
To her surprise, Ariadne seemed to pause just inside the doorway, her brow furrowing. "President Emerson, I'm not sure what you mean." She held up a letter and waved it in the air. "I got this from you-"
"Actually, that's from me," a voice said as someone plucked the letter out of Ariadne's hand. "Sorry to use your seal, Madame President, but I sent this out with some of your other important documents."
Zaria smiled and felt herself relax as Maddox Henbane stepped inside her office, his charming smile able to put anyone at ease. He was her own personal secretary, the one that had most helped her get this position in the first place.
"What did you need from Ariadne?" Leon blurted out, making Zaria give him a look.
Maddox stopped and looked at Leon before glancing at Ariadne and smiling. "All of the Victors' opportunities go through me first, since I wouldn't want to overwhelm her. It's mostly busy work, just a new opportunity for Ariadne that I wanted to talk to her about."
"I'm sure she'd be happy to accept," Zaria cut in, suddenly wishing for them all to get out of her office. "Leon, go take those papers down to Isolde in the mutt creation lab. Ariadne, please go wait outside Maddox's office. Maddox, I'd like to speak to you for a moment."
She couldn't help but notice the way Ariadne's curious green eyes lingered on the papers Leon was holding as he held the door open for her, though she knew he always kept a fake design on top so no one could steal his real ideas. It might come off as paranoid, but Zaria understood completely. In the Capitol, there were only a few people you could ever truly trust, and the one person she trusted the most was the only one left in the room with her.
Maddox had a certain ease to his movements as he settled into the chair Leon had just vacated. He flashed her another grin before asking, "What did you want me to stay behind for, Zaria?"
Even though the two of them were alone in the room, Zaria couldn't help but feel like the walls had eyes and ears. It was odd, being President of Panem. She was the most respected and safe person in the country and yet sometimes she felt like she had enemies all around.
I just want to feel like I truly have nothing to fear.
"How's Thea doing after the tragedy?" she asked softly, thinking about the most recent Victor. "I know she has all the support she could want in Ten, but I can't have her break this early."
Nodding slowly, Maddox rubbed his jaw with a hand. "They still have no word on what happened to her sister, but she seems to be doing better. Scared out of her mind for sure, I'm not sure who could be brave enough to kill in the Victors' Village like that."
He sighed, both of them taking a moment as Zaria remembered when she first found out something had happened to Thea's family. It certainly was bold, and Zaria was determined to one day get to the bottom of what happened. If even her office seemed to have eyes and ears everywhere, there was no doubt that Thea's home did as well. Someone had to know something, so she'd figure out how to get to the bottom of it.
"Put Bastian on the case," Zaria said, knowing the most recent victor from Four was one of the least suspicious people in Panem, having won his Games thanks in part to his uncanny ability to lay low. "He already adventures around the districts with Estelle; send them to Ten before the party in Four. Maybe he'll figure something out."
Maddox gave her a short nod before standing up. "Of course, Zaria. I'll get it done."
Watching him walk out of her office, Zaria took a deep breath as she felt the walls press in closer. There was always something going on in Panem, but it was her duty to figure it out. She was supposed to take care of this country, to defend it from rebels and anything that might try to tear it apart.
Yes, Zaria would leave no stone unturned as she got to the bottom of what was happening in her country. Her ambition is what got her this far and she'd never let anything drag her down.
So... hey everyone!
This is the first prologue for Our Dreams Which Haunt, a now-open SYOT covering the 123rd Hunger Games! It covers some of my canon, specifically the events of the 74th Hunger Games, and then we met Zaria Emerson, the president of my verse. I don't have too much to say here, but I do have a few thank yous for those that were particularly involved in the process of this chapter.
Linds, thank you so much for helping drag me back into this community. I really can't thank you enough and I'm so happy that I'm able to drag you on this journey with me. Thanks for helping me out with the planning and editing of a few things and, of course, for working on my blog with me! It's going to look so amazing and I'm so grateful I was able to meet you.
Goldie and Phobie, my other little editor helpers, thanks for being the best siblings one could ask for! I'm also ridiculously grateful for having the two of you in my life now and I can't wait to cause chaos in the future.
Maggie, I couldn't forget saying thank you to you. It's been SO much fun getting to know you and now we're having syots opening at almost the same time! I know it's going to be a wild ride but I'm glad I have you by my side.
Everyone else in the Den, thanks to you I've been sucked back in and now I'm also stuck on this ugly blue website once more! Thanks for that, you're a bunch of real ones.
I'll be throwing the link to the google doc that has my form in my profile, so go check that out if you're interested! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, subs open today and go through the 15th of January. I really can't wait to get my hands on those forms so we can get this show started! I have three prologues planned, so expect one in the next couple of weeks and the third when I drop the list. We'll be looking at one of our Victors next time, specifically Estelle Duvont, and then Leon will bring the final prologue. Thanks for everything guys, it's gonna be a fun ride.
See y'all later!