A/N: So...This story came to me and wouldn't go away. It was so persistent...I had to write it down. It is an AU (no Games), it takes place in the past and the village's name is District twelve, otherwise it's not like the book District twelve. When I had the idea for this story it reminded me of a fairytale. It isn't written like one (no 'Once upon the time', not really a story for children), though, don't worry.
I am aware I have another story (and I haven't forgotten about it), but I have kind of a writer's block right now and this will hopefully help me to get over it.
(Full) Summary: She goes there every night. It's quiet, always, except for the rustling of the leaves in the wind and her quiet breath. But not today. Becuase today, when Katniss enters the forest, there's a cry. A cry for help. And help is what the boy with the blond curls needs more than anything else of.
Genre: Romance, Drama
POV: Third POV, Katniss
Warnings: Possible violence in later chapters. That's what I rated this thing T for, but not much to be cautious.
There will be spelling and grammar errors and I apologize for them. The reason is simply that English is not my mother tongue.
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters of the Hunger Games.
One last light is switched off, one last candle blown out. The whole village is left to the black darkness of the night. The frontdoor of the hut at the very edge of the same village opens without making a sound, having been oiled recently. A dark figure, about five feet tall, steps out and shuts the door just as quietly, making sure the other residents won't startle out of their sleep and notice her absence.
The girl turns her head to the left and the right, her gray eyes flashing in the silver light of the moon, before she takes off into a direction away from her home. She's heading to the dark forest, with no fear in her eyes, not like one would expect it from a young girl.
But she isn't like other girls. As she passes the dirty road and the small amount of water that has been accumulating next to the sidewalk ever since the young girl can remember, she thinks of tonight's doldrums, wondering if this night will be more profitable than the ones last month; in April there had been too much wind and her prey had been able to smell her from a mile away. They'd had to go without meat for a month. And they'd already been only skin and bones before. The winter had been the toughest Katniss could remember.
But with the change of weather she is confident it's going to get better. They're not going to have to starve for yet another month. Because there's something special about her. She's a huntress. She can take out even roes with a bow and an arrow. She's a survivor. She's been keeping her family alive since she was eleven. And seen as she's now sixteen, that is quite an accomplishment.
But all she can do is sigh now. Sigh and blink a lone tear away, one of those left, one of the persistent kind, one that won't go away. A drop of water she wouldn't show anybody. Has it actually been so long since she last heard the voice of her father? Or heard him snoring while she was laying next to his sleeping form after a nightmare? His laugh, which came from the bottom of his heart, a laugh incomparable to any other she's ever heard, where is it now?
She knows it. He's up in heaven, that is, if heaven exists. After everything that has happened to her family and her village, Katniss isn't too sure about it. But she's hoping, and wherever her father is now, it must be a better place, a place just like him. Beautiful, bright, full of blooming flowers, greening trees, and a sparkling, clear blue lake right in the middle. Katniss often imagines him sitting there, his feet dangling in the water, singing to the birds. And then smiling when they mimic his voice, listening to the sound of nature.
At least that's how his daughter remembers him when she thinks of him in his happy times. And it's such a peaceful picture, even in disturbing times when she wishes nothing more than to vanish in a deep hole and hide from the cruel world she's forced to live in, that she doesn't want to lose it. That's what he deserves. Nothing less.
Soon Katniss reaches the far end of the meadow, which separates the village from the forest and with that the people from freedom, because no one, not even the otherwise fearless huntress, dares to cross it in daylight, afraid of the guards. Guards who are sent by the ruler of the small village Katniss is living in. Their swayer is called the 'witch' by the people who live in the Seam, where the huntress belongs. She got this nickname after she took over, after her husband mysteriously died because of some illness. At least that is what was declared by said woman. Secretly Katniss believes the good man who once was their monarch was poisoned by his power-hungry wife, now widow. And she also believes she isn't the only one. Why else would the mighty woman's nickname be 'witch'?
Not that anyone would dare saying it out loud. No, they use it in whispers, at dawn when the sun barely reaches the horizon and in the evening, when the great orange ball has already set. And not where everyone can see them, either. Only in an old, supposed to be empty, warehouse where some trader built the black market, and which is known as the Hob.
The frown Katniss always wears only deepens when she thinks of the way things used to be. Before the good Lord was murdered, while he was still being in power. Poverty, starvation and hunger weren't uncommon problems, but they weren't as distinctive as they are now. In almost every house Katniss sees when she walks through the Seam with her sister are children with hollow, sunken cheeks and countable ribs. Either looking out of the window with their hopeless, dull eyes, or scraping in the mud, trying to find something edible to fill their empty stomachs.
When she was young, of course, an entirely different image would be captured by anyone passing the town square. Katniss would see the other children playing on the streets, carefree smiles on their faces and shining eyes. They were thin, maybe thinner than they should be, but they were happy, their stomachs were filled and their parents could afford to give them more. Katniss used to be like them. True, she would follow her father into the woods more often than playing with the other kids, but she wore the same expression, her heart didn't feel heavy but light and when she didn't have to carry the weight of her family's lives on her shoulders. She didn't have to suffer the fate of a much older person. And most importantly, she wasn't so lonely, so horribly, incredibly lonely.
The guards came with the first rays of the sun hitting the pavement, which is worn out at a rate where it can't be called one anymore. Her father never took her to the forest at night, so Katniss had been snuggled up in her covers that very morning. She always wonders what would have happened if she'd been there. She knows most likely she would've been killed, too, but there's a faint voice, the voice of guilt that has been tearing at her heart every day since the darkest dawn the human race could remember, and this voice whispers to her in her sleep, telling her how maybe, maybe she could have helped him, distracted the guards. Or maybe they would have gone home earlier and they wouldn't have been found, their hunting wouldn't have been discovered.
Katniss still suffers because of her thoughts about not having been there, even if she wouldn't tell anyone. She wouldn't put this weight onto her already fragile, small sister, a girl who'd already suffered too much in her young life. No, Katniss would do anything to make it easier for her, would do anything to keep the happy smile on Prim's face. Not carefree; the little girl isn't stupid, she knows what is happening, she knows where her sister goes every night, but that doesn't prevent her from being the kind, bright girl she is.
Now there would be, no, should be her mother, but Katniss knows it'd be useless. Her mother can't help herself, let alone anyone else. Including her daughters. And one of them just can't forgive her. She left them after her husband died, forced them to take care of themselves at the ages of eleven and seven. Katniss can't find a way to be OK with that, and she's given up on trying a long time ago. She only knows this woman is her mother, had once been the girl her father fell in love with, and is part of her family. So naturally, Katniss is feeding her, too.
As soon as Katniss is hidden behind the trees, hidden from the view of the people and the earth, she lets out a long breath. In the cold air the late hour causes it comes out as a white ball, and it looks like a miniature cloud. As a kid Katniss loved them. She would always try to form sheep and her young mind, which had much more fantasy and still possessed the power of imagination, unlike her old self, could let everything look like a sheep. She'd been so cheerful and playful back then; sometimes even Katniss finds it hard to believe what she's become.
She arrives at the vacant tree trunk where her father always hid his weapons. Katniss has taken over his old habit. She thinks she remembers her father telling her this is a place even her ancestors, such as greatgreatgreatgrandfathers used. Hunting is something her family has always done, and that is one of the few things Katniss can honestly say she's proud of. Hunting and Prim; the last and only things Katniss still receives joy from.
Her feet still for a moment. She breathes in, long and deep, wanting to take in the fresh air and the familiar smell of wood and fir needles. They make her feel home and at ease. Make her feel free, even if only for the time she's out here. With every piece of forest air that fills her lungs her frown eases, until it is fully replaced by a smile. A small smile, barely an upturning of her lip's corners, but Katniss is like that. There are no grins, smirks or full hearted laughs. There is only what she has now, when she's relaxed and completely in her element.
But then her muscles flex immediately as she senses a slight change in her surroundings. It's her hunter's instinct. Her body reacts before her mind does. Her eyes narrow to slits, and she scans every tree and every bush for any signs of an intruder. Judging by the noise it made it must be something big, like a deer or a wild boar. A spark of determination and the delight of spotting such a lucrative catch glints in the huntress' eyes.
In the blink of an eye one of her arrows has made it from her quiver to her bow and she's pulling the string, directing her weapon at the course the noise is coming from.
And just as fast she lets it fly. But not because the creatue she wants to make enough money for a month with comes into her view. Becuase it wasn't an animal causing the sound that alarmed her. Because if it had been an animal it wouldn't have been able to command a language now. It wouldn't be forming words. And it wouldn't be calling for help.
I know, I know, it's short. But, as you can see above, this is only the prologue. The actual chapters will be 3,000-5,000 words, never shorter than 3,000.
Well, that is if you think I should continue. Do you?