Author: Amata le Fay
Word Count: 2, 189
Summary: There was nothing special about that fateful Reaping Day—or so everyone had thought. Welcome to the Games. Welcome home. AU to An Unsung Song.
Notes: This is a companion fic to Lavender Flame's SYOT An Unsung Song, written as part of her one-shot contest. More details can be found at beforethemusicdieslegacy(dot)webs(dot)com/apps/blog/show/10722273-a-slightly-different-opportunity. I would advise reading An Unsung Song first, because this probably won't make sense if you haven't.
The cameras circled over the arena, blanketed in darkness, before they zoomed in to focus on each of the surviving tributes one last time. The six Careers, deadly determined and focused, preparing for a night of hunting. Kizzy Ericssen, the surprisingly resourceful Six girl, rolling her eyes as she warily settled down, book tucked under her arm. The four members of the Alliance of the Mockingjays, chatting quietly. Kindhearted Lina from Twelve watching over the insane girl from Nine, Cala. Kildaire, the mute girl from Seven, and Kyler, the swordsman from Eight, sitting in silence with a large book between them on the blanket. Fourteen tributes left. Ten competitors eliminated—not just from the arena, but from the world. Night two of the 405th Hunger Games.
Slowly, one of the tributes—the Gamemakers were purposely hiding its identity to build suspense—slipped out of the shadows, whispering under her breath. A shimmering ghost image moved alongside her. All of the viewers knew by now that it was just video editing and tracker-induced hallucinations, but the tribute seemed to be conversing with it as if it were real. The whispers grew loud enough to be picked up by the cameras—a frantic repetition of "fourteen, fourteen, fourteen." A shrieking laugh pierced the air. A flame flickered to life in its hand and just as quickly dove into the underbrush. The blaze caught onto the trees and flared, awaking Lina just in time for the Twelve girl to glimpse her ally's figure before having to sprint for her life.
Caladium Velius was burning down the arena.
With nothing but her bare hands.
All the televisions in Panem switched to split screen, one camera following Lina and the other Cala, who was now appearing to shoot fireballs out of her fingertips. She was gazing at her "ghost" expectantly, grinning and nodding seemingly in response to something it had said. Another laugh shook the air, but it took everyone a moment to realize that it was not coming from the tribute, but from the "ghost" beside her.
Lina ran at unprecedented speeds, dodging flames and trees with grace and agility that had been ignored during her training session. There was a reason she deserved the nickname "Small Flier," and she was going to put that reason into use. Her life depended upon it. She forged forward, blazing a trail of overturned leaves in her wake, before reaching the edge of the forest. She glanced over her shoulder, saw the fire spreading faster, and began sprinting again. The cameras were trained on her face, so it came as a shock to all when, a few minutes later, her feet were several yards off of the ground.
Another laugh from the ghost.
Samantha, the Career on watch, woke her allies and alerted them all to the situation across the arena. For a moment, the six warriors stood in shock, and then Ionia turned and ran toward the waterfall cliff, gesturing for the others to do the same. In the dark, it was hard to notice, but the cameras did catch on to the fact that the Four girl's eyes were glowing with a faint silvery light.
Kizzy awoke with a start. Her eyes panned over the scene, and then she snatched up her things and darted forward—not quite with Lina's speed, but close. She too ran towards the waterfall, only halting once in her journey when a dead mockingjay, choked by the smoke, fell at her feet.
"Fourteen!" Cala called, and the ghost laughed again. The insane girl was standing in the middle of the blaze, but was seemingly unscathed.
Callia Marshan and Newcomb Birambau stood back to back, breathing heavily as they tried to comprehend exactly what was happening. "Run!" shouted Namitha Gol, and they did as they were told. The Ten girl herself grabbed the still-drowsy Link by the arm and whispered frantically into his ear. He perked up, nodding every couple of seconds, and then turned his face to the darkened sky and screamed, "Fourteen!"
Cala heard the cry and laughed, responding, "Fourteen! Fourteen!" like this was a child's game.
Link's call traveled across the arena to the jungle, where it woke Kildaire and Kyler. They glanced at each other for only a moment before running through the salt rain, watching as the fire spread faster and brighter than any fire should, killing everything in its path. They were headed towards the waterfall.
The waterfall. The waterfall. Everyone was headed toward the waterfall. The viewers were just as confused as the Gamemakers, who were just as confused as President Paylor herself. But all of the tributes seemed to immediately know what was going on and what they were supposed to do, even in the midst of their panic.
"Fourteen!" Cala said again. "Though their tears may fall, when you hear them call, another song will rise-"
"Another song will rise!" sang Link. His voice carried across the arena in a way that Cala's couldn't. Soon, a faint echo came from the waterfall area: "Another song will ri-ise!" On the edge of the jungle, Kyler murmured the song under his breath; Kildaire watched him and bit her lip, silent as always.
"Cala," muttered the ghost, tilting his head a little. "You've done well."
Cala nodded eagerly. "I did, I did." Another burst of flame shot out from her fingers, arcing across the sky like a meteor before crashing against the sand of the beach area. "I did it, Kane."
"Yes, you did." Kane paused for a moment. "Cala, I think you know as well as I do that your work here is finished."
The girl paused for a moment, her mouth dropping open slightly. "No." She stomped her foot against the ground. "No! No, I won't go, Kane!" The circle of fire around her flared up five feet. "You can't make me!"
"Watch me," said the voice inside of her head, a voice which was real and speaking to everyone in the arena now. Almost immediately, Cala's body began shaking. She screamed again—"Kane! Kanton! You're not the same person after all!"—and then fell to the ground, limp. Her body was quickly consumed by her own fire.
The Gamemakers had long since cut off the live feed to Panem and abandoned their stations, yet a cannon still fired.
Lina dropped her head. "Cala," she murmured, mourning the loss of her strange but powerful ally. Poor Cala didn't deserve this. None of them deserved this. And yet it was the only thing to be done.
The small girl glanced down at the arena. She could see that the Careers had already made it to the ledge by the waterfall and were waiting for everyone else. Namitha had summoned some stray horses, who had also fled the fire, for her alliance to ride. Kyler and Kildaire were slowly but surely making it to the cliff, the same place where Lina herself was headed.
It had been a struggle to get Chenille to climb, but the Careers stood at the top of the cliff and waited. Fabian surveyed the skies, squinting to see clearly in the orange glow of the firelight. "I can't see anything," he said.
"It'll be here soon," assured Ionia, rubbing her temples as she waited for another sign.
Marco snorted. "You sure about that?" On the outside he scoffed and rolled his eyes, but on the inside he knew that this was their only hope. He had to get back to Fade. Fabian had to get back to Devena and Shade. Chenille had her mother and her sister, Samantha had her grandfather, Arsin had his girlfriend, Ionia had her father. This way, everyone could see the ones they loved again. This way, they all could win.
There was no one left that Kizzy loved. Her whole family had died from that epidemic, and she had refused to attach herself to anyone else after that. She could manage very well on her own, thank you. Independence and strength had always gone together in her mind, and having both was a point of pride for her.
So no, she wasn't "finally coming around" to accept them as her family, she was hitching along for the ride and planning to dump them as soon as she got the chance. Survival, after all, was what she did best.
Lina touched down onto the top of the ledge a few feet away from the Careers. The two parties stood together in silence—not ignoring each other, but not being friendly either, and certainly not being hostile. Were anyone in Panem still watching the Games, they would have been quite perplexed by this. It wasn't normal behavior for tributes. Then again, nothing about the situation was normal.
Next came the Alliance of the Mockingjays on horseback, then Kizzy, and then Kyler and Kildaire. By this time, the fire had spread to nearly all of the arena, excepting the waterfall and the meadow surrounding it. Another song flooded into Ionia's mind, a song older than most she knew, a song that had all but died in the hundreds of years it hadn't been sung: "Deep in the meadow, under the willow, a bed of grass, a soft green pillow..." It was a song that had come from the heart of Panem, not of Fourteen.
Together the fourteen tributes—or Fourteen tributes, depending on what point of view one takes up—waited as a large hovercraft with an unknown seal descended through the forcefield of the arena and a silver rope ladder dropped down. High above, Capitol hovercrafts were frantically shooting at it, but the ship deflected them easily, seemingly unscathed. The tributes climbed in and then the hovercraft shot into the sky faster than any Capitol vehicle, heading to the East, to the ocean.
"Welcome back," said Kane Velius—Kane now, always Kane, never Kanton. "Welcome home, my friends. You were wonderful. Long live the Nation of Feowertyne—that is to say, District Fourteen." He shuddered at the old name that tied him to the horrid Capitol. "Newcomb, Callia—the pilots need your assistance, I believe."
The two electricity-controlling teenagers nodded at him and then walked off. Newcomb glanced back and caught the eye of Ionia, who shook her head slightly. If their greeter noticed this exchange of silent information, he didn't comment on it.
"So!" Velius leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. "Let's put down those silly Capitol weapons and get some rest, shall we? You certainly deserve it."
Ionia's eyes flashed with silver light. She turned her head instinctively to the right and bit her lip as Kildaire Kalitlin stepped forward.
"You killed Cala." She struggled a bit with the words, her voice out of practice for so long. "You purposely killed your sister, and Namitha's cousin, and Edalene." She stared at the frozen Velius, whose eyes were wide in shock and—was that fear? "You're not just plotting to bring down the Capitol, but all of Panem—which, incidentally, happens to be our home. Our real home. No matter what you Fourteen people say."
Her voice was stronger now, strong and sharp and cold, and it sent chills down everyone's spines. This was why Kildaire had refused to speak for so long. This was the voice that had killed Charity Reed when she had tried to betray her allies. This was the voice that she had been forced to turn against all traitors to Fourteen—and this was the weapon that was now being used against its master, Velius. This was the voice that brought death.
Velius's body began shaking, and he fell to the floor just like his poor sister had.
There was silence for a moment. Then Arsin stepped forward and turned to address the rest of the group. "I guess I'm captaining this vessel now." The corner of his mouth cracked into a forced smile. "Link, find Newcomb and Callia and tell them to turn the ship around. We're going to District Four—there's an island with a cove that we'll be able to hide out in. Ionia will know where it is. Take Kyler with you, so he can incapacitate whatever crew remains loyal to Velius." Link, Ionia, and Kyler ran off in the direction where Newcomb and Callia had gone. Arsin continued, "Samantha and Lina, find out what's going on in the Capitol: if the broadcast is still on, who's chasing us, et cetera. Kildaire and Kizzy, you have the books, right? Take them and get rid of them. They probably have tracking or communication devices inside of them, and the Capitol doesn't need them anyway. They already know that Fourteen's coming."
Kizzy took the book from under her arm and stared at the front cover. "Well, at least we don't have to follow anybody else's orders anymore," she chuckled.
"Unlike the rest of Panem," murmured Chenille. Fabian grabbed the girl's hand and they both smiled, knowing that they could never abandon each other. Ever.
There was nothing special about that fateful Reaping Day—or so Panem had thought.
Panem had been blind. But so had District Fourteen.
In the end, the tributes themselves were the only ones who could decide their own fates.