Thanks to all who reviewed the last chapter, here is chapter 12!
Determined not to let my fear and panic show, I compose myself and answer Emery with a question of my own. "Where's Selena?"
"Your fellow District tribute?"
"Right, the pretty one. Well Corran, there was nothing in this little clearing besides your pack here. So I just set my snare by it, and waited to see what I'd catch. Or rather, who I'd catch," Emery explains with a sort of dry humor.
Now Emery might be lying, but my instinct is saying that he is telling the truth. He really does not know where Selena is. Which means that she must have left of her own accord.
I am given no time to ponder this question as Emery seems to lose his momentary agreeable disposition. "Enough about that. My question still stands. Why should I let you live?"
"You would have to be very stupid to kill me," I tell him. As Emery's eyes narrow, I elaborate, "Think about it. Think of the team we could make. Me, you, and Selena against the three remaining Elites. It would be a fair fight to end all."
Emery considers my proposal for a moment. "Only one problem with your grand idea. This fabled 'Selena' is nowhere in sight. And you have no clue where she's gone. So I think I like my chances better alone. Goodbye, Corran."
"Wait!" I exclaim. For the situation has changed. "I do know where she is."
Emery laughs rather derisively. "You're lying," he sneers. "You're only trying to save your own skin. The girl is probably miles away from here by now. She's probably useless. But enlighten me, where do you think has she gone?"
And then I hear it. "I'm right behind you, jackass."
One flick of Selena's spiked whip disarms Emery, sending his sword spinning away to the ground. A second flick cuts the rope that had kept me dangling in mid-air. A third slices open Emery's right side, causing him to cry out in pain and fall to his knees, incapitated and weaponless. After I pick myself off the ground, I point my two knives at Emery.
"Well," I say. "It looks like the tides have turned."
I turn to Selena. "Where did you go?"
"To look for more food," she replies. "No luck. We'll have to move on to find something to eat."
Picking up on my mood, Selena continues with a smile, "Don't worry Corran, I didn't abandon you. And I won't. Of course, unless you give me a good reason to."
"I'll try my best not to do so," I jest.
Selena jerks her thumb at Emery, who is still crouched on the ground in tremendous pain. "So what do we do with him?"
"Please," Emery interjects. He looks at me first, then Selena with an expression of utmost desperation. "I can help you." He focuses on me, his wild eyes finding my green ones. "It can be like you said. We can be a team of three and fight the Elites. Weren't those your exact words?"
"That was before you tried to kill me," I retort. "Besides, if you got disarmed and overpowered that easily, I'm not even sure if I want you on my side anymore."
"It's not that. I'm just no good with weapons. Hand-to-hand, I can take anyone. Please, you have to believe me!"
"But wasn't your training score a…two?" I counter.
"It was my strategy, to appear weak. Many others did the same thing, didn't they?"
I look to Selena, who is poised with her whip to put a life-ending gash in Emery's head. She shrugs nonchalantly. "Up to you."
Up to me? It's up to me whether a person lives or dies? What sort of monstrous creation exactly are these Hunger Games?
And as I gaze upon Emery's cringing form, I realize that I can't do it. I can't consciously condemn someone to death in cold blood.
At least you can't now, a small voice in my head tells me. You had no problem before, with the girl from District 3.
But that was to save Selena, another voice argues. That was for the greater good.
Was it? Was it really?
I shake myself back to the here and now. I weigh the two possible options open to me. And I decide.
"No," I say. Stowing my knives away, I hold out my hand to Emery to help him stand. "He can stay with us. I only hope he's the close-quarters combat expert he claims to be."
Emery takes my offered hand and eases himself up gently. "I am. You'll see for yourself soon enough."
I glance at Selena. She seems to be fine with my decision to let Emery join our alliance. Good to know. I wouldn't want her harboring any resentment towards me.
Selena checks the horizon. "It's getting dark. We should find a good place to stay for the night."
"Um…" Emery begins. "Not to sound like a wimp here, but my side really hurts. Those spikes on that whip of yours are really sharp, you know. Can we bandage my wound first?"
Selena snorts. I imagine because Emery is now reduced to asking for our permission to carry out simple tasks. Quite a reversal from five minutes ago.
"Sure," I consent. "But we don't have any first-aid supplies. Do you?"
Emery raises his head to the sky and speaks in a clear voice, "Medical supplies."
A silver parachute comes immediately floating down form the sky to rest at Emery's feet.
Right. He has sponsors. Something I would know nothing about.
Emery rips open the basket enclosed in the parachute to find alcohol swabs, a set of bandages, and gauze pads. After Emery takes care of the mundane business of wiping clean his cut, swabbing it, and stowing the remainder of the fresh medical utilities in his pack, Selena and I gather up the rest of our things as well.
Emery points to his sword, which is still lying on the ground, now caked in dirt. "One of you can have that. As you can see, I'm no good with it."
Selena inclines her head, in my direction. "Knock yourself out."
"Don't mind if I do," I reply.
I walk to where the sword was thrown, and pick it up in my hand, feeling its full weight. It's quite a fine sword, one clearly fashioned by an elite Capitol smith. The hilt balance is one that I am accustomed to, and the blade length is just right.
Automatically, I feel my spirits being to rise. Sure, I am decently skilled with knives. But with a sword, I am absolutely lethal. Now, for perhaps the first time, I feel that I have a real chance of winning these games.
"Where did you get this sword anyway?" I ask of Emery.
"At the Cornucopia," he answers readily. "That was the thing closest to my starting spot, so I just grabbed it and ran. I thought that perhaps I could bluff my way through encounters with other tributes. Obviously, I was mistaken."
"Obviously," Selena half-mocks.
Emery accepts this comment of hers without any visible ill-will. He knows now that any resistance would be futile. Instead, he says, "So, who's the leader here?"
Selena laughs, causing her blond hair to shake in the fading sunlight. "Certainly not you," she says.
"There is no leader," I say. "We're all in this together."
"Good answer," Emery replies. "So, shall we get moving?"
And without further banter or conversation, we begin our search for a suitable resting place.
Before long, we come to a seemingly anonymous cave. This cave is located on the edges of a rather muddy stream, and appears to be able to hold the three of us comfortably. The cave is a bit secluded from the forest and therefore possible sources of food, but all in all, it's not a bad option.
But as we draw nearer to the cave, I begin to hear the sound of muffled voices, and even laughter. Coming from inside the very cave we had planned to make our refuge.
I hold out my arm to keep Selena and Emery from advancing any further. "Do you hear that?"
They both nod. Emery adds, "Who would be so stupid or arrogant to laugh out loud when people could possibly be right outside their cave?"
I exchange a look with Selena. She says grimly, "It can only be the Elites."
"But the last I saw, their base was at the Cornucopia, in the middle of District 13!" I exclaim. "Why would they be all the way out here in the forest?"
"Who cares?" interrupts Emery. "Let's take them right now! We have the element of surprise; we can kill all three of them before they even realize what's going on!"
"Now hold on a minute," I interject. "Let's not foolishly rush into anything rash. Let's be patient. See what develops."
Selena bobs her head in agreement. "I think we should do what Corran says. Charging in there is a sure-fire way to get killed."
So the three of us take up positions in the forest next to each other, keeping the cave entrance in sight, and settle in for a long stakeout. But as it turns out, we are not kept waiting for long.
After about ten minutes of dutiful vigilance, I see Decius and Arrista exiting the cave. They are both equipped with night-vision goggles, and armed to the teeth: Arrista with her bow, and Decius with a sword similar to mine. Just seeing them again, particularly Arrista, fills me with a hot rage that cuts me to my core. I want to make them pay for what they have done. I want revenge.
Selena picks up on my tension and anxiety, for she takes my right hand in her left. "Soon," she whispers.
Arrista turns back briefly to address the remaining Elite, the boy from District 4. "Stay here, Deri. Guard our supplies. Make sure nobody steals them. If they do, and they for some reason do not kill you, be assured that I will personally find you and do the job myself."
Deri of District 4 nods, and jabs the spear he is holding into the ground. "I won't let you down."
With a curt nod of farewell, Decius and Arrista stride off into the woods, to begin their hunt for the remaining tributes. If only they knew…
After five minutes have gone by, I alert my companions. "This is it. Let's take out the guard, steal their supplies, and then get the hell away from here."
"Finally…" Emery whispers.
As we move to stand up, Emery catches my arm. "One second. I have a request. Just disarm him. I want to show you how well I fight with my fists."
"Agreed," says Selena. "He's all yours."
And with that, Selena is the first one to step away from our hiding place. Brandishing her whip, she begins to charge at the guard standing at the mouth of the cave.
Deri the Elite, to his credit, is not taken by surprise. He stabs at Selena with his spear, which Selena deftly dodges. But Deri does not get a second attempt to use his spear.
Because I am already there, sending the spear flying with a swift undercut of my sword.
Deri immediately tries to retrieve his one and only weapon, but his quickly stopped by the third member of our group. Emery.
Emery comes flying into Deri, tackling him to the ground. As soon as they stop rolling, I can clearly see for myself that the fight is all but over. Emery is simply too dominant.
He straddles Deri, raining blows on his ribcage and upper torso. I can hear the distinctive sound of ribs breaking as Emery continues to beat Deri mercilessly. He does not land any punches to the face, however, but this is only common sense: jawbones more likely to break fingers than the other way around.
After about two minutes of a brutal display of force by Emery, he turns to me and says, "Sword please."
I hand him the sword, and he flips it around, in order to use the flat of the blade. He hits the flat upon Deri's head, knocking him into a sound unconscious. Leaving Deri a battered, bloody, mess upon the ground, Emery stands up and hands the sword back to me nonchalantly, as if nothing extraordinary had just happened.
"Told you I wasn't lying," he says with a grin of self-pride.
"But I was," comes another voice.
This one belongs to Selena Mellark.
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