A/N: During the 50th Hunger Games, the Victory of Haymitch Abernathy was a large upset. He'd inadvertently fought against the Capitol and used it's own mechanisms against itself. No public action could be taken against the boy responsible, but no one planned to let this lesson go unlearned. The next Hunger Games, the 51st, is one that no one ever speaks of - or wishes to remember.
This is the story of a girl from District 2 who had no purpose other than to be a sacrifice and serve as a reminder that absolutely no one escapes the eye of the Capitol and the odds are never in your favor, no matter how old you are or what District you hail from.
Unfortunately, nothing goes according to design.
Chapter 1: Living to Death
"Well, I suppose we all live in a slaughterhouse - at least my death will be a little less mundane."
The Reaping was always the busiest day in District 2.
It was a flurry of motion, everywhere the small girl looked. People rushing to get their children ready for the Reaping. She looked down at her own clothes and shrugged, supposing she was about as good as she was going to get anyway, and didn't even bother heading back to her home. It's not like she had any nicer clothes and her red hair would forever be a mess. Instead, she meandered around, watching the crying faces of mothers and the stony ones of fathers. Listening to the cries of first time participants and the resigned sighs of those who would be making their last appearance in the Reaping this year.
That will be me next year, the little girl thought to herself mildly as she watched another girl roughly her age hugging at her mothers legs and resisting as an older brother tried to pull her along without injuring her. The mother obviously didn't want to let her go, and her face was red with tears and contorted in agony, but with great effort, she was able to pry the little girl's hands from around her. With a mighty yank, the brother had managed to get her several feet away and she padded after him, still sniffling loudly and wailing as her mother turned her face away so she didn't have to watch her children walk to a raffle that could possibly hold the prize of death.
Parents weren't allowed to come to the Reapings anymore - not after one mother had flipped out two years ago and killed two peacekeepers before someone stopped her. No one had been there to volunteer for her little boy.
She didn't know why, but the young girl followed after the sobbing child and her brother, curious. She was going to attend the Reaping anyway, but this little girl's reluctance was almost palpable, and she wanted to see what it would drive her to if she were to be selected. A somewhat grim stance, she supposed, but they were all destined to go through the same deadly game if their name came up - what did it matter who saw you when it happened?
She put two people between her and the brother and sister so as not to be noticed - something she'd always been good at - and waited for the Reaping to start. The girl was crying still, and the boy looked hardened. He must have been seventeen or so, so he'd been through this before.
Finally, a man whom the girl had never seen before stepped forward. She cocked her head to the side in silent question. He wasn't the escort for District 2. Where was Grizick? Where was Mayor Alloy? Others murmured things that mirrored her thoughts, but she had no reason to voice her thoughts, so she kept to her silence and waited.
"Welcome, District 2," he said, his voice sonorous and somewhat enchanting, "I am Zoros Blase, the new escort for this, your lovely district."
The young girl was sated, her question answered, and she sat back for the show.
Zoros Blase was tall with dark hair and a smooth complexion. He wasn't dyed any odd colors like Grizick always had been and he a bit of stubble that looked almost like he could be from a District instead of the shining Capitol where it was elaborate facial hair or clean shaving. He explained Mayor Alloy's absence - his wife was giving birth - and then about Grizick being moved to District 5 as escort. The girl was pretty sure that was a demotion and briefly wondered what he'd done to deserve that before tuning back in.
He then went on to explain the history of the Hunger Games and the Dark Times and basically a bunch of stupid stuff that she'd been hearing since she could remember and could recite all by heart if asked to. But then he turned the tables. "And because of last year's Quarter Quell, where double the tributes were required, we will be accepting no volunteers this year. May the odds be ever in your favor."
To the girl, he sounded somewhat sarcastic as he recited the classic line for the escorts, like he knew the odds were never in there favor; and perhaps he did, but that changed nothing. He had never been through the Reaping, his children had never been put through the Reaping - he knew nothing.
He also did something else a bit different, and rather than selecting from the girl's names first, he went to the large glass bowl that contained boys names. His hand dug around in the hundreds of paper scraps for a time, finally coming up with one, still sealed. The poor soul whose name was written on that slip would either die or be forced to kill others. It wasn't too late for them yet; Zoros could still drop it back in the bowl and ruffle around for another names.
The odds weren't in their favor.
Zoros grasped the paper and walked back to the microphone before tearing the little slip open. His voice has lost much of it's charm, she realizes, when he calls out, "Aiden Hendry."
The girl notices the brother who'd been dragging his sister stiffen and his face go completely blank. The sister starts crying harder and tries to latch onto her brother, to keep him from going, but a peacekeeper intervenes, keeping her back and he starts his walk back to the stage, knowing with a certain agonizing certainty that no one's going to be able to save him from this. Zoros shakes hands with him and he reciprocates woodenly.
The young girl is suddenly not so eager to see his sister's reaction - to have a brother and sister on the same stage, fighting the same foes in the same arena where ultimately one of them will have to die. Even this young girl who has become so depraved in her eleven years of life doesn't want to live to see that.
It appears, in that sense, the odds are in her favor.
When Zoros goes over to pick from the selection of girls and takes his sweet little time digging around in the plethora of girls' names from all around her district, another Hendry doesn't come out. In fact, the name that does come out doesn't even include a surname, which appears to actually throw Zoros for a moment. "Our female tribute is... Lyria."
Lyria. Her name seemed to echo around the square in a silent question of who would step forward. Had anyone ever heard the name before? Which of those children would be walking to an almost certain death?
Suddenly, movement catches someone's eye as a few children move out of the way of another and the entire square falls silent in anticipation. A boot-clad foot is the first thing anyone on the edges of the Reaping can see of the female child. A black stocking with pale white skin gleaming from where it had torn open in places. The hem of a light blue dress was next, followed by the rest of the child. Bright red hair shone with the sun's rays, a black ribbon keeping the red mass of curls in place at the back of her head. Intelligent aquamarine eyes peer up at Zoros as she starts making her way to the stage, oddly complacent for someone in her position.
No one rushes out after her, no one begins crying, no one says anything. She makes it to the stage without aide of the peacekeepers and shakes hands with Zoros brightly, as if she has just won some grand prize rather than a one way pass to certain death.
Lyria's is the only smile in all of District 2. Even Zoros' smile has dropped at the sight of her young eager face. He's thinking it; the entire district is thinking it.
It has to be some sort of sick joke.
As if of one mind, the entire square erupts at once, the sound nearly deafening. The neat lines of children are disrupted as almost all adults in attendance swarm to the center of the square, all shouting things along the same line. Even the peacekeepers are at a loss for what to do. "She's not old enough! She can't be a tribute!" some voice finally rang out loud enough above the crowd. It was easy enough to see that this girl wasn't old enough, but many in the district had been keeping a very close eye on her for the last couple years. She was the only person who was completely and truly without a single family member in the whole 2nd District, making her a somewhat unique case among a privileged and career District 2.
Zoros took a bit of charge at the declaration and pulled the mic from its stand. "Excuse me, miss," he said, almost as if this was a casual conversation, "how old are you, exactly."
In a sweet voice, the red-head answers, "Ten. I turn eleven on the same day the Hunger Games start.
She was too young. Two fulls years too young to be even submitted into the drawing, let alone have her name drawn. It was madness. Peacekeepers quickly moved in, but for a district that was heavily made up of careers and future peacekeepers, it was a tough job. It was odd how serene she seemed about it all. Even Aiden Hendry seemed to have forgotten about his own predicament and was now staring at the little girl in disbelief.
Zoros was at a loss, which read clear on his face.
Some were able to figure it out, though most of the 2nd District was too outraged at the thought of the Capitol breaking its own rules - a ten year old, somehow selected for this deadly game when she shouldn't even have a possibility for being chosen.
The Capitol was breaking its own rules to show that they were not to be tampered with. By sending a ten year old into the arena, to her almost certain slaughter, they broke the rule that gave parents the most complete peace of mind they could have until their child reached the age of twelve - that their child had every chance to live another year.
This rule about no one being able to take the place of another as tribute had nothing to do with the Quarter Quell from the year before - this was a set up. And this girl - this one, lowly, lonely child with no one to speak for her - was selected because they thought no one would care if she lived or died.
The worst part of all was they were right - no one truly cared about this one child. It was the principal, not the child herself. If she'd been twelve, no one would have cared at all unless she proved to be a particularly interesting fighter.
Lyria herself was aware of all of this, and yet, the child raised a hand and waved at the crowd. "Happy Hunger Games!"
~Sacrificed With Love~
The young girl sat in her room of the Capitol building with no one to visit her. The seat she had chosen in the room was too high for her and her boots swung back and forth idly, waiting to be picked up and taken away from the 2nd District to a place where she would be showered with attention and luxury for a time. It would be a nice time to die, she thought with a little grim smile, when she finally had something she'd always wanted; someone to watch out for her.
Lyria had known from the second her name was drawn that no one would come visit her and that none of this had been a happy mistake and she'd be able to return to her normal life after the issue was resolved. Like it or not, she'd somehow become entangled in the Capitol's web and there was no getting out of it - not alive anyway. And Lyria very much liked being alive. It presented so many more options than the alternative, though it seemed she had little choice now. She would die, and soon, but first, she was going to embrace every opportunity being a tribute presented.
The doorknob turned and Lyria prepared to be whisked onto that train, far from her life here. Zoros Blase came through the door, but rather than beckoning her to come with him, he seated himself in the seat across from her. Lyria smiled, but cocked her head to the side in clear question.
Zoros had no idea what to make of her. She was so... young. But she seemed so smart. Her eyes alone spoke volumes that her age could not account for.
"Hi, Mr. Blase," the child greeted him brightly, hands folded in her lap as if she'd been brought up in a high class home. "It was nice of you to come visit before we leave. What can I do for you?"
Zoros was surprised. From what he gathered, this girl had lost her parents at the tender age of four, but had never gone to the orphanage. She'd been assigned a home, given a meager allowance by the district that was barely enough to purchase the most spoiled and rotten of foods, but somehow, she'd prospered. She went to school every day, was never sick and had even managed to find herself a job as something akin to a secretary/maid for one of the more wealthy families in the district. Not that they knew her apart from anyone else who worked for them. It was shocking how such a resourceful and bright child had gone completely unnoticed all this time, only to be recognized now.
Zoros shook his head at her and looked at her with his piercing brown eyes. "No, little one. I think the question is what I can do for you." She blinked at him, as if she had no idea what he could possibly talking about, her smile never wavering. Lying or acting - either way, she was talented at it.
"I don't need anything," she said simply. "And I have no goodbyes. Can I go see the train now? I hear it's really nice!"
Zoros was again shocked. She was so... upbeat. But he knew she spoke the truth - he'd watched that door for a good half-hour, extending the normal time for good-byes with permission from the President himself. No one had even moved toward it. So he felt no reason to keep her waiting here for people who would never come. He offered a small smile and a hand to the girl and said, "Sure."
Lyria grinned brightly again, sliding off the seat of the chair and taking his offered hand. He'd come to pick up the boy in a moment - right now, she was the primary concern, and he was still saying goodbye to his family.
Two peacekeepers followed after them and Lyria craned her neck more than once to look back at them distrustfully. Zoros could only make blind guesses on why she would be angry with them, of all people. It wasn't the peacekeepers who were forcing this fate on her. He gently assisted her onto the train and escorted her to the dining compartment. Her blue-green eyes went wide enough to fit the entire ocean in one iris and her smile was gorgeous.
She immediately began exploring the compartment, running to the biggest, cushiest chair in the room and pouncing on it. She shifted in the seat and sank into the cushion with childish giggles. Zoros watched as she darted back and forth, looking at absolutely everything there was to see.
He found himself quite fascinated with her. 10, highly intelligent, but still a child and a charming one at that.
Zoros picked up one of the reflective plates from the serving carts on the far wall and began to put small portions of different foods on it for her. When he'd finished, he turned towards her and said, "For you, Lyria." He walked over to where she had currently situated herself and placed the plate in her lap. Her mouth made an 'o' shape at she gazed at all the foods and her magnificent eyes sparked with joy at the sight, and then took the fork he'd left on the plate for her and dug into one of the little piles at random, making a delighted sound as she chewed. "I'll be back in a moment," he assured her before exiting the train and heading back to the Justice Building where the boy waited.
He was alone by the time Zoros returned and he had faint tear stains running down his cheeks, but it was clear he was trying not to make a scene of it. It would make him look like a horrible person if he started feeling sorry for himself after what happened to the female tribute for their District.
"She's waiting for us on the train," Zoros said gently, knowing they'd both been dealt a rotten hand in this life. It was hard to tell which was worse - being stripped of nothing and sent off to die like an animal, or being stripped of everything and forced to fight for ones life like a savage. It was a bit of a toss up, really.
The male tribute, Aiden, nodded and followed Zoros. The escort felt little need to coddle the sixteen year old boy, but he did feel sorry for him.
The both found Lyria snuggled into the big cushy chair she'd been so fond of earlier, eating some kind of plain cracker with a sauce on it. She grinned at Zoros, though the expression changed slightly at the sight of Aiden. She looked quizzical, pouty and a bit down-trodden all at once, if that were even possible. Finally she said, "Food's really good," and returned to her food without so much as another look at the older boy.
Zoros showed Aiden where the food carts were before departing, going to let the driver know that they were ready to go and round up both their mentors. Aiden didn't really take anything from the buffet - a sandwich and some juice - and just found himself sitting in a chair across from the little girl.
Lyria noticed that Aiden looked really tired. Perhaps the days events had taken all the energy from him. Or perhaps the strong exterior had all been a pretend for his younger sister, and now that she was no where in sight, he'd let it drop. She also noticed that he was staring at her, intently, as if she were some sort of project. She swiped at her face to make sure nothing was on it. There wasn't; she was clean. So then what was he looking at so intently? Finally, he asked, "Are you okay?"
Lyria was caught a bit off guard, but the smile automatically found her face without so much as a pause. "Yeah, I'm great. Best food I've ever had."
Looking at her, Aiden could believe it. She was really skinny, but not in a sickly way. He examined her some more as she ate another cracker. She was younger than his sister, his sister who had been wailing hysterically this morning at the mere thought of being picked. And here this girl was, soundly selected and seemingly care free. He couldn't comprehend it. "Why are you so okay with this?"
Lyria looks up again, the smile still fully on her soft pink lips, though now it appears a bit forced and he knows he's found one of the chinks in her armor; she's not okay with this and she's lying to the world to convince them she is. Why? "Well, I suppose we all live in a slaughterhouse - at least my death will be a little less mundane." The way she says it is full of inflection, and yet, somehow it still sounds clinical. It was a formulated response - equal parts charm and morbid humor.
Aiden has no time to respond to her before the door opens and the mentors and Zoros return, but he studies her closer than ever.
~Sacrificed With Love~
President Snow watches her Reaping several times, confounded by the turn of events. She was alone in the world, not a single person to care for her, and now she had been selected for the Hunger Games. How had she managed to make it up to that stage not only without crying or throwing a tempter tantrum, but managing to smile and wish everyone a Happy Hunger Games?
He hadn't meant her to be quite such an accommodating child; he'd expected the bitterness of one abandoned and a grim outlook. If she continued to be so utterly charming... she could create more of a problem for Panem rather than the solution he'd hoped for.
The last victor - the one who was the cause of all this - had already been dealt with in a somewhat discreet manner. As President, he was supposed to favor the victors, not punish them. But that boy, Haymitch, had become a problem and he'd had to be punished for it. Now, he had to teach the rest of Panem the same lesson before they became a problem too. Hence the girl. If she was killed in the games - and surely she would be - Panem would fear for even their youngest children and would fall at the feet of the Capitol to protect them.
But if this girl - this Lyria - managed to make her way into the hearts of the people of the Capitol and all of Panem besides before she died in the games...
President Snow had to make sure she died fast. He couldn't let the people care for her. She must die, forgotten in name and all else but what she represents to the people.
A message from the Capitol that will not be ignored.
A/N: Hey guys. I was reading through the second Hunger Games book, Catching Fire, and I got to the part where they watch Haymitch compete in the Quarter Quell when I was struck with this idea. Haymitch had said they were angry with him for making them look stupid, but they never just take it out on the instigator, do they?
So I decided to write a story about their counter to Haymitch's act of defiance - another spark to the flame, as it is.
Let me know what you think - whether I should continue or not - and press the little button. Any criticism is welcome and I hope you will continue to read if I continue to write.
Happy Hunger Games and may the odds be ever in you favor~