(Sato Detrixen, Female, District 6)
I wake up to some sort of flower tickling my nose. Soft shafts of sunlight are bathing my nest in a warm pool of light. Blinking and yawning, I stretch upright to spy a whole cluster of the purple blossoms dangling over my head. Not sure what kind they are. That's funny, since I almost always know these things. Maybe scabosias? Cornflowers?
Guess it doesn't really matter much. I'm just glad they're here to brighten up my morning, is all!
A wide grin reflecting my spirits, I pluck a few of the blooms, slip them in my hair, and make my way through the underbrush to go wake up Laurel.
Oh, didn't you know? Surprise! She survived the bloodbath after all, just like I thought she would. Guess I was just a little too fast in running away, but it's not like I abandoned her or anything. No, she just made her merry way around that big starting building, taking care not to run into anyone else, until we finally bumped into each other last night. Neither of us had managed to pick up any supplies, but we're doing all right. Nobody's come across us yet, we've found a nice little clearing with plenty of edible plants, and, of course, we have each other.
That's probably the most important thing. Back home, I was always with company, whether my sister, little step-brother, or friends. I don't even want to imagine what it'd be like to be completely alone, without someone chattering in my ear—well, in this case, someone whose ears I can chatter into. Think I'd go crazy!
Laurel wakes up right when I call her. You wouldn't think she'd take kindly to being jerked out of dreamland, seeing as she did a lot more running around than I did yesterday, but she seems pretty chipper.
"Morning, sleepyhead!" I say brightly, sticking another flower into the end of her braid. "Have a nice sleep?"
Without waiting for a response, I plow on: "I'll go get us some breakfast; you muss up our nests so it doesn't look like anyone's been sleeping there. Come get me if you see anyone. 'Kay?"
She nods in reply and gets right to it. I meander over to the surrounding bushes and start plucking off every ripe berry in sight.
A few minutes pass before I hear a sharp rustling to my left. Squinting, I can just make out the shape of a rabbit a few trees over. My stomach squirms at the thought of killing it, but I suppose if I set up some traps, it won't really be my fault, will it? After all, if I don't see it, it's easier to pretend it didn't happen. It'd just be like rabbits grow on trees or something. Ha! Imagine that!
Some sturdy vines serve as excellent nooses. I bushwhack a little further into the woods, setting them up a suitable distance away, then return to the glade with my berry cache. Laurel's apparently finished her job and is standing where I left her, awaiting my next instruction.
"I've set up some traps," I announce. "Why don't we gather some firewood in case they catch something?"
The area around our clearing is littered with fallen twigs and bits of birch bark. Perfect. I carry an armful back to our beds, only to find that Laurel hasn't done a very good job of disguising them. Oh, well. As I kneel down to do it myself, something out-of-place catches my eye. A splotch of purple, lying on the leaves where Laurel slept.
I lean closer. It's the flower I gave her.
"Silly thing!" I trill, spinning around and returning it to its proper place. "Don't drop it again, okay?"
She nods, smiling apologetically. I shake my head and get back to work.
Funny, isn't it, how people can overlook the most beautiful things in life? Just because we're in a difficult situation doesn't mean we have to be miserable about it. It's still possible to be optimistic and sensible about survival at the same time. The way I see it, they go hand-in-hand. Let yourself be overcome by all the horrible, horrible things happening around you—like the bloodbath and last night's death toll and I don't know what else—and you don't have a chance of making it through. Keep your head up, focus on the positive, and you just might.
Take those flowers, for example. I don't think I saw them at all when I went to bed last night. Too dark and depressing to catch a glimpse of them at all. But in the light of a brand new day, they're everywhere!
I scatter a few more over Laurel's hair just to prove my point.
(Typhon Undine, Male, District 4)
"What a clever plan," jeers Christine airily. "Let the grunting troll lead the pack; leave the one with actual brains to stand guard. I don't know how you think this up; it simply boggles the mind."
"I just didn't want you to overexert yourself," Clovis mutters in a low and deadly voice. "You'll need your beauty rest after your two kills yesterday."
The Two scoffs. "Save your pity. I'm going and that's final."
Robin rolls her eyes. Jendra lingers off to the side, looking nervous and confused. I just lean back against the Cornucopia and sigh. Our two 'leaders' have been at it all morning, arguing over who has to guard the supplies while the rest of us search for tributes. It's obvious that Clovis is itching to get something done after last night's shut-eye. He wasn't too happy with it, but the rest of us managed to overrule him. Now, though, he's not at all willing to back down, both in this and in his assertion that Christine should be the one to stay behind.
"Guys," I put in for the fourth or fifth time, "pretty wild theory here, but what if one of us stays behind and you both go on the hunt?"
Predictably, this ignites rage on both their faces. Christine protests that she's not about to work alongside an "unrepentant murderer," while all of Clovis' anger is channelled into a single, mutinous glare.
I raise my hands in mock surrender. "Sorry, sorry. I'm just saying, teamwork might work better than tearing out each other's throats." Then, because I can't resist a little dark humor, "At this point in the Games, of course."
For a split second, I think it's worked. Then they're back at it quicker than a pair of sharks following a blood trail.
It's not that I'm particularly eager to go hunting. Yesterday had more than enough violence for a lifetime, thank you very much. I'm just not a fan of quarrels, particularly in a group that's already such a time bomb. Not to mention that everyone, sponsors and other tributes included—and there's some pretty fierce competition among the latter—can see exactly how much we suck at working together. You want to bite each other's heads off; wait until the pack splits up. Until then, can't we at least attempt to get along?
Refusing to allow this to get the better of me, I've just about tuned them out when there's a scuffling beside me. Unnoticed by either of the two adversaries, Robin has cleared aside some supplies and planted herself firmly in the mouth of the Cornucopia.
"All done?" she snaps quietly but firmly, drawing our leaders' attention. "Because I think I'll be staying, if you'd like to leave any time soon."
She places her crossbow on the ground as if to reassert herself.
Hmm. Not sure what to make of this. What with the argument about the girl from 4—it feels weird to still call Embreli by name now that she's, well, you know—last afternoon, you'd think that she would be trying to get herself in Clovis' good books. Opting out of another hunt seems pretty sketchy for someone who was apparently ready to kill back at the bloodbath. But Robin's a hard one to figure out. She could have anything up her sleeve.
The One seems to think this as well, finally disentangling himself from his squabble with Christine to fix his district partner with an appraising glare. "I don't think so."
"Why not?" She fiddles with her bracelet a little, but otherwise keeps her composure. "You don't have any reason to distrust me."
"I'm not sure I have any reason not to, after what happened yesterday," Clovis retorts.
Robin pauses a moment, seeming to weigh her options. It's impossible to tell whether she's intimidated or not.
"If you really think I wouldn't have killed that girl," she says again, "why take me out hunting? The way you seem to see things, I'd probably just chicken out and mess everything up again."
"Who's to say you won't run off with our supplies the second we turn our backs? I want to keep you where I can see you."
He turns to the rest of the group, seizing each of us with his hawk-like gaze. It pauses on me, darts to Jendra; then flicks back and forth. I grimace a little bit. Yeesh! This guy doesn't even have to try to be creepy.
"Typhon," he says eventually. "You stand guard. Anyone other than us gets inside this circle and either they're dead or you'll be. Everyone else—" he spits this out distastefully, probably because it includes Christine—"get your weapons and let's go. We're wasting time."
"No telling whose fault that is," I mutter, jokingly enough that Clovis only half-looks like he wants to kill me. Well, he probably does anyway. But that's beside the point.
Christine launches back into her element the instant her rival's more occupied with choosing a good knife than directing the group. Despite her self-righteousness—which wouldn't get on my nerves so much if it was, you know, warranted—she's got much more of a leader's touch than grouchy Clovis. They could always be faking it, but the other two Careers don't seem to object so much to her lofty evaluation of their skills and assignment of roles. Good thing, too. Any more tension and this group would crack like an egg.
Finally having settled on a blade, Clovis rejoins the others and sets off at the head of the pack. Christine sets a brisk pace which he hastens to outdo, the other two trail along after them, and it's not long before they pass through one of the arches and fade into dots on the gravel expanse.
(Zeetra Creal, Female, District 11)
Emptying the last of today's breakfast onto the ground, I struggle back to my feet and wait for the world to stop spinning. I should have known not to eat so much—it was just some donated nuts and whatever berries I could scrounge—but I wanted to keep up my strength for the baby. It seemed like a good idea at the moment... but with my morning sickness, and the injury in my calf, it wasn't the best—
I lurch forwards again, but this time there's only water left to spew all over the ground. Urghh...
Soft footsteps from behind me. I tense automatically, but it's only Time, emerging from one of the ramshackle houses. He blushes awkwardly when he notices I've been vomiting and turns to leave, but I motion for him to stay. I can't stand being alone, even when my only company is a relative stranger and not the husband I miss so much.
"Ah, thanks. I guess," he mumbles. "Feeling any better? I found some old bedsheets a few doors down. If you're up to it, I could change your bandages."
"In a while," I reply blearily, looking away from the mess in front of me. "Just give me a moment to—"
I try to force out a sound, but my throat won't work. Several figures have appeared on the horizon, and there aren't two or three but four of them, and they're headed this way—!
Abandoning all reason but instinct, I tear off down the street.
I haven't made it five meters before my ally grabs me from behind and clamps a hand over my mouth. I can't scream; I can't punch; I can hardly kick because my leg is blazing in pain; there's nothing I can do, and they're going to get here any moment, and whatever Time will do won't be enough, and maybe he won't try to help anyway, maybe he'll throw me at the Careers and run... I'll just have to beg, then, and maybe they'll take pity on me and my baby...
"Zeetra. Zeetra!" Time's voice, low and urgent in my ear. "Stop struggling! Just listen to me—"
"B-but—you don't understand—" He surely wants to fight rather than flee; he doesn't have something living inside him, something that needs protection at all costs.
"Zeetra." This time he's calmer and somehow far more commanding. "Do you trust me?"
"What?" Do I trust him? I've only known him for a few days. He's another tribute, so he'll be looking to kill me at one point or the other—but, then again, he was willing to ally with me when he would surely be better off on his own, and aside from looking menacing he's never done anything to make me doubt him so far...
"I said, do you trust me?"
"Good." He heaves me to my feet, drags a metal bedstead out of a nearby hovel, and props it upright against the wall. "Then step on. They won't get us up here."
It's now or never. Hoping against hope that I'm making the right choice, I let him guide me onto the roof.