SORRY! My apologies, all! I've been in Australia for the last three months or so, which is why I haven't written another chapter in aaages. I'm getting a better understanding of what I want to include in this story whenever I read about which parts you guys liked, so let me know! Again, sorry for lack of Katniss/Peeta, but I'm getting there, promise ;) Review! -Deli.
The light and heat from the crackling fire wafted it's way towards my face, slightly warming my cold, red cheeks. I look out towards the nearby lake, the soft, early evening moonlight reflecting off of the black ripples. I can hear the sounds of crickets and the odd bird squawk fill the night air, cutting through the otherwise silence of the forest.
I turn back to the campfire, looking over the orange flames at my acquaintances.
There sat Cato and Marvel, speaking in hushed mutterings, occasionally making gestures with their hands. It almost looked as if they were arguing about something, but from the sketches Cato was drawing in the dirt with a stick, I could tell that they were merely discussing battle strategies. My face turned away in disdain as their faces lit up in excitement as they discovered some new brutal tactic.
Clove was lounging against a wooden log in silence, twirling her precious knives around her small fingers, focused on something in the ground. Then, so quickly you would have missed it if you blinked, she flung a knife, and I heard the impact from where I was sitting. Peering around, I saw the body of a dead lizard, said knife lodged in it's back.
Glimmer appeared to be dozing, while Emmett sat a little to my right, seemingly lost in thought.
We all remained in these positions for a while, before I eventually stood up and made my way over to the mountain of supplies in the middle of the clearing where we had set up camp. I picked out a box from the masses, and opened it to find two packets of crackers. I ate one packet at once, fueling my hungry stomach before returning to the Careers, dropping the other packet into Emmett's lap. He smiled gratefully up at me.
After our unsuccessful escape from the Cornucopia earlier that day, he seemed to have resigned himself to the fact that we were trapped. Gone were the hopeful, teasing glints in his eyes that he had worn in the trees before we were caught. They had been replaced with worn out, sad looks, as if he knew there was no hope for either of them now.
This had led to a hushed argument in my tent earlier on, while the other Careers were busy getting fire wood. Unlike him, I refused to believe that I needed to resort to being a real Career in order to stay alive, which seems to be what Emmett believed.
"Are you saying you're just going to go off and try to mercilessly murder everyone too? Do you want to just be some kind of Cato clone? Because I don't", I had said to him frustratedly, partly just because of my own sadness that we were stuck with them.
Emmett sighed, and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"No, I'm not saying I want to be like them, Katniss, but you must see my point in all of this. I'm just trying to be realistic, and I honestly believe that the reality of this situation is that unless we play this game like everyone else, we're only going to get ourselves killed in the next couple days."
"But you'd be killing children-" I started to argue before Emmett cut in.
"Don't think for a second, that any of the other tributes would hesitate in killing you, despite if you had any morals against harming them. It's what we were brought up to believe, and I'm just trying to do what's best for the both of us. And if that means hurting a few people in order to ensure the Careers don't assassinate us for betraying them, then so be it."
I sighed in resignation, remaining quiet. I refused to go along with his idea, but causing arguments with my only friend in this place wasn't at the top my list of priorities right now.
"Come on, they'll be back with the wood soon, and we were supposed to be sharpening the weapons." I said finally.
And that was that.
Now, as we all sit around the fire in the dark clearing, I can't shake the crushing feeling of hopelessness that overwhelms my entire being.
"Look, who bloody cares about what District Three are doing? We should be focusing on Eleven, they're clearly a much bigger threat."
Somewhere in the last hour, Clove had joined in Cato and Marvel's tactic and strategy argument, and was now contributing her thoughts on who they should slaughter first.
"Cato, Three might be useful to us. Their district is focused on electronics, God knows that could be useful once the supplies run out and we need to set traps. Use that over-inflated head of yours and at least attempt to think with the few brain cells you've got", Clove snarled back in retort. Cato only grew angrier.
"Listen up, my brain cells are just fine. And I'll have you know that I-", Cato began in a huff before being cut off.
"Wait!" Marvel muttered, standing up and looking in the distance.
Cato looked even more furious at Marvel's interruption to his tirade.
Didn't your mother ever teach you to show some respect when other people are talking?" Cato snapped. Marvel just rolled his eyes.
"No, seriously. Look, there, through the trees." Marvel continued, pointing towards the deep forest in the distance. Everyone, including me, stood up to try and see.
And there, just like he'd said, was a thin, faint trail of smoke poking it's way through the canopy of trees, wafting it's way up into the night sky, its dark grey colour barely visible.
"Well, well. Don't you just love it when tributes are too stupid to hide themselves properly?" Clove smirked, crossing her arms and twirling her knives again suggestively. Cato had a similar reaction, who grinned smugly, and almost ran to get his sword in anticipation. He returned to the group with a bloodthirsty look in his eye.
"Gather your weapons, troops. We've got ourselves our first post-Cornucopia killing" he commented, and began to lead the way to the first, while Glimmer gathered the bow and arrow in her arms, and strutted after him.
The post-Cornucopia kills were always the ones sponsors payed the most attention to. Anyone could murder a bunch of people if you put them all in the same field, but it took a little more skill to be able to hunt them down through the whole expanse of the arena. Granted, this wasn't really a proper hunt, since the poor tribute in question had made themselves visible through the most thoughtless of means, making them easy to find, but still. I knew Cato would see this as a triumph all the same.
Emmett and I hesitated, standing still as the other Careers made their way to the edge of the clearing. We glanced at each other in mutual understanding. There wasn't any way of getting out of this.
Grudgingly, I selected a backpack filled with some food, and pulled a dagger from the pile of weapons by the lake. A knife would have to do until I managed to get the bow and arrow from Glimmer.
Emmett squeezed my shoulder in silent support, as we made our way to the others, mentally preparing ourselves for what we may have to witness tonight.
The woods were cold and quiet, the only noises being the crunching of leaves beneath our boots as we trudged our way through the dirt and branches. The light wind rustled our jackets, and caused my long braid to move from my shoulder to down my back, where it had been pushed.
Cato and Clove led the way eagerly through the trees, while I took up the rear, every now and then cautiously peering through the trunks, as if suspecting a spear to come flying at me at any moment. It was unnerving, really, at how exposed I felt right then, almost as if I was being watched from every angle. It was then that I realised that of course I was being watched. I was on television, after all, and people all over Panem are mostly likely seeing my face on screen right that very moment. Yes, it was very, very unnerving.
It was ten minutes later or so, when I was making my way through a particularly large patch of trees, and I sensed movement directly above me.
I froze, standing stock still while the others continued forwards, not noticing me at the back. I was silent in fear, so as I could not utter a sound while the others rounded a corner and their footsteps disappeared. Slowly, I gathered the courage to look up, my hand going to grasp my knife tightly in preparation, not knowing what to expect.
At first I couldn't see a thing, the tall trunk of the tree winding it's way just so that many of the branches were hidden from my line of vision. However, it was then that the moonlight caught the frozen face of a boy.
I stood still, petrified, waiting for something to happen, perhaps for him to attack, but he never did. He seemed as shocked as I was, and so we both just stared at each other warily, him down at me from the tree, and me up at him from my place on the ground.
My mind started whirring into Career-mode, thinking about how he was at the advantage of having the upper ground, but it was just as easy for me to climb that tree in a matter of seconds, getting to him before he could harm me. I had a freshly sharpened knife, not to mention a pretty good fist, and I could take him down if I wanted to.
Just as I scanned the branches for the easiest way up, I took another look at his face before stopping short, all thoughts of destroying this tribute gone. For it was then that I noticed the blond hair. The blond hair that stood out against the darkness, just as it had that night on the rooftop...
It was Twelve.
It was in this moment that he seemed to have recognised me as well, as his blue eyes widened a bit, half out of relief, the other half out of fear, for he knew that I was a Career. A Career that could kill him easily if I so wished.
But I didn't so wish. Not at all, actually. I came into this sick competition knowing there would probably be times that I would have to take a life, but killing this boy, this boy who had shared my views on this horrific excuse for a television show, just wasn't right. From the way it looked, as he hadn't made any move to try and kill me just yet, he didn't want to fight either.
So, the careful staring ensued, just to be sure the other wouldn't try anything.
I observed him a little while longer, noticing how pale and frail he looked already, despite it only being the first day in the arena. I remembered all the supplies back at the lake at the Career's disposal, and felt sorry for Twelve, alone in a tree, with most likely nothing to eat.
I went to reach for the rucksack on my back, before noticing him tense and flinch back against the tree, expecting an attack. I looked him in the eyes, silently telling him I meant no harm, and continued to open the bag, my eyes never leaving his. As I brought out a few packets of crackers, some dried beef and an apple, I saw him brighten considerably, gazing at the food in longing.
Bringing my arm back, I tossed the food up one by one, with him expertly catching each item and looking back at me in a mixture of confusion, gratitude, and respect.
I shrugged the backpack back on, nodded once at him, and turned to go find the other Careers, a ghost of a smile flitting across my face.