Prim had never been overly fond of the forest. She was more than familiar with the various plants that could be used for salves and ointments, the trades of an apothecary. Her mother had been teaching her those things for years. But to actually be there in the woods, surrounded by gargantuan trees with gnarled roots and leaves that concealed any number of wild creatures….no, that wasn't quite her thing.
She was too clumsy. The string of a bow felt awkward and painful between her fingers. And should she ever get an arrow pointed in the right direction, she'd never be able to kill something. Her heart was too soft to take a life.
She knew that, and Gale knew that.
Yet when she'd volunteered to go with him on his next outing for food, to take Katniss' place, he'd agreed nonetheless, and now here they were, tromping through the underbrush at the crack of dawn with only a sliver of orange sunlight peering over the canopy veiled horizon.
The leather hunting boots were far too big for her, the game bag felt heavy over her shoulder, and the bow was an unfamiliar appendage slung over the other. It was a strange experience, being completely out of one's element. It was terrifying and uncomfortable.
Why was she here again? She'd asked herself that a dozen times in the last twenty minutes. There was no way she'd be helpful in terms of hunting. In fact it was all but sure that her presence would just slow Gale, the real hunter here, down. So far only tywo of the two dozen snares he had set up had yielded anything at all, and those two had been recently born rabbits. Not enough meat on them to feed even Gale's youngest siblings.
Without her, he could get something bigger. Creep quietly through the woods, and do his job properly.
Yet she'd come anyway.
Last night's dream was burning, figuratively and nearly literally, into her mind. The images of her sister on fire, sprinting bare as the day she was born across the fabric of existence, Peeta kneeling before her drenched in blood, and the horrible, monstrous face carved from nothingness taunting the green eyed man in chains. Each and every one of these things was still vivid in her mind's eye.
Normally, such vastly strange ideas coming to her would imply that she'd eaten some bad meat, or that fever was ravaging her mind as she lay dying on the floor beside her mother's patients. But she was lucid. Her temperature was normal, and in terms of health she felt absolutely perfect.
That, and what the old man had told her in the streets of the seam.
Come to the forest, and her questions would be answered. That was what he'd said.
Questions were all she really had at the moment. What the dream meant for Katniss, above all.
Because in all the swirling nonsense that had made up the dream, Prim got the overwhelming feeling that whatever they entailed, Katniss was involved. Katniss, and to a lesser extent, Peeta.
Now she had to find out why.
So far all she'd proven herself good for was ruining everything. Inadvertently dooming her protector and sister to the Capitol's wrath in the arena, and proving useless in her absence.
"You doing alright back there, Prim?" Gale called from about twenty paces in front of her as he moved a low hanging branch aside so they could pass, the high-summer pine needles brushing against the fabric of his jacket as he did so.
"Bag too heavy for you?"
Too heavy for her? All she was carrying was the rabbits, less than three pounds of meat, and a set of skinning tools sewn into the inside of the bag.
"I'm good," she called back, perfectly disguising the pinprick of annoyance from her voice. "Many more snares to go?"
"About six," he answered, tree branch snapping back into place as they snapped past the pine tree that crested the top of a small moss covered rise to their left. "They're pretty spread out though. 'Bout three miles left to go before the last one. Need a rest yet?"
She shook her head and he nodded.
Gale's pale gaze brought a twang of sadness to Prim's heart. He wasn't fully there with her. In body, he was here in the woods, in mind, he was off with Katniss in the capitol. Her absence was taking his toll on both of them, and it seemed even someone as strong as Gale, who was known in town for near-open disdain for the tyranny of the capitol, was crumbling inside with the absence of his hunting partner.
Ten minutes passed in complete silence, only broken by breaking of twigs underfoot and the sounds of Mockingjays singing to each other between the trees.
"The interviews are tonight, aren't they?" Gale asked idly, not looking back. His strides were confident and sure footed. "The ones with Flickerman, I mean."
"Yeah," Prim conceded. "They are."
She, Gale, and the whole district had been waiting with bated breath for those. The interviews would be the first public appearance of the tributes since the opening ceremony. How had being in the clutches of evil affected the two of them? And, if it had effected them, how much of that would show on their faces?
No doubt Peeta would play the charismatic stallion, deftly using his own words to play off Flickermans. That was a good approach to win the crowd. Katniss on the other hand would probably just sit in silence, face impassive and cold as iron. A brave refusal to bow before the horrors before her, but not much help in terms of sponsorship and viewer appeal. The things that really mattered.
"She'll be fine, Gale," she assured in a soothing voice usually only reserved for Lady.
He turned sharply, wearing a clearly false smile.
"I know she will be. None of that capitol shit's gonna bring Catnip down… It's just that."
Honestly, what happened next Prim should have seen coming. In fact, she kind of did see it coming. As he spoke a large, looming shadow had grown out of the dark of the woods. It was large, yet swift at the same time, with a pair of enormous horns that twisted as they grew upward from the beast's head.
A scream caught in her throat, and she stumbled backwards believing fully that the next thing she'd seen would be enormous jaws eviscerating Gale in a shower of blood and shredded clothing. She expected to watch him die.
Instead of teeth or claws, it was a wooden cudgel that struck Gale, lightly on his left temple.
He collapsed in a heap on the forest floor, limbs tangling with his bag and his bow as he fell. The beast stepped over his victim, scratching the batch of it's head in an almost bashful fashion.
"Sorry about that," said the monster, tossing it's cudgel aside. "Didn't mean to scare you. Or hurt this fella." He nudged Gale with a foot, which, Prim could see, was actually a cloven hoof. "He should be okay. I have no meat to my swing, at most he'll just have a bruise." He paused at her positively terrified look.
The creature before her was what could only be described as a monstrous goat man. His upper torso was that of a bare chested man, if a little matted by dirt and moss growth. Beneath the chest however, it's legs were covered in fur just as curled as the hair atop it's head. Hair, that, was almost completely unnoticeable between the pair of enormous horns that curled backwards as they grew to their nearly three foot zenith. It's feet were hooves, and it's chin was plumed with a curled beard.
"Never seen a satyr before, have you?" the goat man asked the terrified girl. His lips curled upward in amusement. "Most people haven't these days. Sorry I scared you, Prim. Name's Grover, Grover Underwood," he offered her a seemingly human hand.
Prim hesitated. If she had any common sense whatsoever she'd roll over, clamber to her feet, and flee as fast as humanly possible. Any other option was liable to get her devoured by this subhuman monstrosity. Yet, as she looked upward, she couldn't help but meet this 'Grover's' eyes.
His eyes were kind. Sincere.
Giving an internal shrug of her shoulders, Prim, took the offered hand and let Grover help her to stand. If she ran he'd no doubt catch her and devour her anyway. May as well take the courtesy now, even if it was false.
"How..how do you know my name?" she asked the first of a thousand questions in a timid, shaking voice that made her terror more than clear. Again Grover smiled.
"A mutual friend told me," he picked at a bit of leaf clinging to one of his horns. "He told you to come here about your dreams, didn't he?"
A mutual friend…
Prim's brows shot straight up her forehead. For a moment she forgot the strangeness of who she was speaking to, and her entire form perked up with excitement.
"The old man I met in the seam?" she asked, trying and failing to sound calm and level in demeanor. The satyr, as he called himself, paused for a moment before laughing high and melodiously, a sharp note that seemed to breath with the forest and slide off the leaves like freshly fallen dew drops. A shiver dribbled down Prim's spine. The cries of far off animals echoed in her ears, merlins and crows and hogs and the calls of deer.
"Old man? Is that what he appeared to you as? Weird. Usually he shows up as a merman or a dog or…something like that. Then again, not many mermen around here, and a talking dog would've probably just freaked you out. Kinda like I just did," he scratched the back of his neck again, a little awkwardly.
"What are you?" she asked, the second of a thousand question. Next would probably be why he'd seen fit to knock Gale out cold with a wooden stick. She'd get there eventually.
"A satyr," Grover replied. "A spirit of the wild. Sort of, it's a little more complicated than that but that's the gist of it." He glanced around at their surroundings, the trees and the shrubs and the quiet voices of nature that echoed silently. "There aren't many wild places left….this place is one of few…." He turned back to the girl, shaking himself back into focus. "We need to get going. Our friend'll be waiting for us."
"Why did you attack Gale?" another question. The trembling of her hands still went strong, clutching at the fabric of her clothes in tiny lunging movements. Clutching for anything solid and real, that didn't defy all perceptions of reality and understanding.
"Sorry about that," he said again. "I don't think I hurt him, he's a sturdy looking guy. It's just we have some important to talk with you about, and having a mortal around would just make things even more complicated than they already are." He pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes and shaking his head. "Gods know things have never been simple since Perc' came into the picture, but still."
It was a strange use of the word he'd employed, using it as a noun. Having worked with the sick and the dying for years, Prim knew full well the meaning of mortality. It applied to everything that lived. All things had to die. Her father's demise had proven that many years ago. But never had she heard someone refered to as a mortal.
Grover nodded. His hoofs shifted uneasily on the forest floor.
"Right, you won't have heard that term before. No worries though, Percy will explain everything when we get there. That's our friends name by the way, Percy Jackson. A proven maniac, and the single best friend I've ever had. I never did have good judgment. I could've just hung out with the Demeter girls, but no, I had to pick the one involved with everything heroic and apocalyptic….not sure if that says something bad about him, or my lack of people skills," his head was shaking as he said this, but he was grinning.
"Come one," he offered her his hand again. "We need to get going. You still want answers, right? I know what you must be feeling now, confusing, fear. That's all common for this kind of thing. Dreams are never good for half-bloods, especially someone with your burgeoning talent. But Percy and I can you help you with this, if you'll let us. You're friend will be fine here for a while. Don't worry. So, are you in?"
Prim pondered the offered hand.
For some reason she found she trusted this 'satyr'. That didn't really make any sense of course. He was a stranged horned creature who had bludgeoned her older brother figure and now claimed to have seemingly mystical solutions to her strange dreams. And Grover said he was the one who lacked common sense.
After one more moment, she took his hand, and they were off.
Grover lead her through the woods in a series of winding, curving paths that didn't seem to have any correlation with the few pathways that Katniss and Gale had beaten into the terrain over the years, or with anything at all really. It seemed random and chaotic, twisting in one direction before doubling back and going in the opposite direction.
However, after nearly twenty minutes of silent walking they come upon a clearing that formed a rough circle of stones jutting out from the ground at strange angles, and ancient trees that grew in great bunches. Poppies and other wildflowers sprinkled the ground in colorful intervals, cutting swathes through the bottle green grass. From above, the place would look like a beautiful painting etched into the face of the world.
On one of the larger rocks sat a man in an orange t-shirt and blue pants. A mane of unruly black hair spilled down his back, and he twiddled his thumbs in an almost contented matter.
"That you Percy?!" Grover called as they grew closer, the man's features growing clearer with each step.
The man looked up from his thumbs, and Prim gasped.
A pair of shimmering sea-green orbs stared back at her. The same eyes as the old man who'd given her the strange coin that now sat in her bag.
The man called Percy grinned, leaping to his feet and throwing his arms out in a wildly enthusiastic gesture.
"G-man!" he cried. "Good to see you man. Horns still growing, I see. Still sure about keeping those? They'd look awesome if you cut 'em Hellboy style."
Grover rolled his eyes, enveloping the man in a brotherly embrace.
"Not gonna happen Perc'. Juniper happens to like my horns. It's an attraction that goes over most humans heads."
The two broke apart, and Percy turned to Prim, smiling kindly.
"You're the old man from before, aren't you?" she asked breathlessly, voice barely above a whisper. Her heart beat jumped a thousand fold, fear grew in her chest despite herself. Why was she sudddenyl so afraid of a man who'd shown her nothing but kindness? Was it his ability to seemingly take any form he wished? Or was it the strange, otherworldly glow that surrounded his form and framed his silhouette against the sun?
"That's me," he replied. Lowering himself to one knee, he met her eye to eye. "Nice to meet you properly, Prim. I'm Percy Jackson."
He offered his hand, but she didn't shake it. Handshakes didn't mean much to people of this time period, Percy supposed. Still, old habits were hard to kill. Even after eight centuries of being dead.
"What are you?" it was the second time she'd asked that question in the last hour. Not a habit she'd expected to develop.
Percy took a breath, eyes flickering downward in a moment of consideration.
"I'm a god…" he paused. "A long time ago, I was a normal man," Grover snorted. "Okay, a sort of normal man. I used to be a demi-god, a half god. But now I'm different." He continued speaking, knowing full well that the words 'god' and 'demi-god' would mean literally nothing to her. Dear gods, this would be difficult. Explaining how being a half blood worked had been hard enough back at camp, where the kids would have at least a cursory knowledge of Greek mythology. This girl knew none of that, and probably didn't even know what the word 'mythology' meant.
"Gods" he went on. "Are the embodiment of ideas and concepts. God of weather, god of fire, god of war, all of those exist. And throughout time, the gods have made a habit of taking human lovers, and as a result demigods, half-bloods, half mortals half gods are born. A long time ago I was a demigod. The son of Poseidon, the ocean god. Back then, when Panem was stil called North America, we were trained to fight monsters… Your parents were trained like that too, though to a lesser extent."
"My…my parents?" she asked, voice catching. The god of heroes nodded.
"You're parents are both half-bloods Prim. Your mother is the daughter of Persephone, the goddess of springtime. Your father was the son of Apollo, the god of the sun, medicine, music, archery, and prophecy." He paused again. This was a lot to take in, he of all people should know that. "You and your sister are what are called mixed-bloods. Demigods with two god grandparents, instead of a single god parent. This is where your knack for medicine come from, Prim. Where your sisters skill with a bow and her singing voice come from….you had some dreams about your sister, didn't you? Vivid ones, scary ones?"
"She was on fire, and…and she was running. Then Peeta Mellark was there, and so were you, in chains…it didn't make any sense." Percy chuckled. Chains, now that didn't sound pleasant.
"Demigod dreams usually don't. To half-bloods, dreams come as warnings. As signs of the future and of our fears and our hopes. But for you Prim, it's different. You have a power given to a select few. The last person to have it was a mortal, one of my closest friends. Rachel. Like her, you have the power of prophecy. What you dreamed was the future Prim, what's going to happen to the world. A war is coming, Prim, a war that will bring down the capitol, that will save the world. And your sister is going to be at the center of it all."
If the fear lining her face was intense before, now there was nothing but fear.
"A war?" she asked. "But the game's-"
"She's going to win the games, Prim," Percy assured her. Determination was dripping from his tone. "I've made sure of that. She's going to come out of this alive. What matters most isn't the games, it's what happens after."
"You have a part to play as well Prim," Grover said from off to the side. "You can help Katniss. What you saw was an incomplete vision. The potential for sight is there, but you need something else to see the future properly. That's why we brought you here, to make this offer."
"In the demigod community there's always been an oracle," Percy explained, his hands had found their way to the girls shoulders, giving periodic comforting squeezes. Being a father had taught him a few things about calming a distressed child. "Someone who holds the spirit of the Oracle of Delphi. Rachel was the last oracle, and now, the world needs a new one. That's you Prim, can you-"
She nodded in almost frantic agreement.
"Yes," she said. Anything that would help her sister, anything that could save her from that black chaotic, laughing face in her dreams, she would do. But Percy held up a hand stopping her.
"The power of foresight comes at a cost Prim. Costs that you have to hear before you accept. The oracle must remain a virgin to keep her power….you know what that means, don't you?"
Prim nodded solemnly. She'd helped deliver babies before. She'd always wanted a family, something her sister and her had differed in. But now that meant nothing. The casual mention of her sister winning the indomitable games was nothing. She believed that already, crazy as it was. All that mattered now was the future. And how she could help to shape it.
"It means I can never have children," she said, her own words piercing her like a knife, rendering useless the womb she would now never use. "I'll do it," she said. "If it helps Katniss, I'll do it."
Percy smile saddened.
"This is a very brave thing you're doing, Prim. Thank you."
From the pocket of his blue pants he pulled a large gold amulet etched with a sunburst a bow. Deep within it's metalwork, it glowed with an ethereal green light.
"Your grandfather sent this for you," he told her. "The spirit of the oracle, just for you. You'll meet him in person one day, I promise, but for, just take a deep breath, and let the change come.
The amulets chain slipped around her throat.
Green light exploded from her eyes, immense energy surging through every pore of her being. She shook where she stood, convulsing almost violently as the oracles spirit merged with her own. Her eyes became green beacons that made the sun above seem dull in comparison.
Prim collapsed, and the prophetic images came in a raging torrent.
Peeta kneeling before Katniss covered in blood, offering her a strange jar.
Katniss and Peeta on a bed befitting only the capitol, their naked formed so thoroughly intertwined that it was unclear where one started and the other began.
Katniss alone in a white room, staring at her bulging stomach.
Percy, drenched in golden blood, doing battle with a cloud of eternal, swirling nothingness, his sword swinging in vain.
Gale's face split in two, one half his normal olive face with ashen seam eyes, the other a blonde pale skinned boy with a scar beneath a blue eye.
A spiky haired girl with a bow struggling with Gale, their gazes boring into one another like mining drills into the side of a mountain.
And the last image was this. Katniss, form engulfed in flames as she contemplated the blue green orb that was the world shimmering in the palm of her hand.
Well guys, it's been over a year. And I'm sorry. I know there isn't really any excuse, expect that I sort of lost interest in both fandoms. But I was rereading some of the reviews, and decided to get back to it. You can expect updates regularly now. I promise.
Again, I am so very sorry for keeping anyone who liked this story waiting.
This chapter was fairly short, but I wanted to keep it to a self contained scene. So the next chapter will be long, with multiple scenes. See you then.