Recently it's come to light that some people are upset that the games are moving too "slowly". I need to say a few things about that. Each games cannot have a fast kill rate all at first. Fast kill rate means a fast game, it means that authors get no chance to write anything other than two chapters and never have a chance to progress. Not all games are fast. Games can last from mere days to near a month it's said before in canon.

I can only post as fast as my authors get their stuff in. Sometimes it's on time, sometimes it's late because things happen or people get lazy OR busy. Sometimes medical emergencies come up and sometimes people have to quit and we have to figure what do with their character quickly before we can even go on.

The health of myself, my staff, and my "tributes" matters more than this story.

It has also been told numerously that this story would be long and drawn out because it's not the story of one, but 24. We got to know Katniss in 3 books, but we only get to know these characters in one brief story which is usually a max of 20,000 words unless you're an Armani.

There is a POINT to this particular story being long and bloody without a lot of death so far. Not all games will be like this, and I'm almost positive next games will be faster paced. This is a Quell, it is punishment. If you love us and believe in us, as I hope you do, then you'll know what we have planned is spectacular something that has been tediously worked on for MONTHS to get it right.

So things will proceed according to plan, those who are unwilling to wait for the events that are literally a mere chapter away from being revealed and bound to make things so very interesting are not being forced to stay. Those of you who are impatient and even ungracious there's the door; our tributes have to stay here, but you most certainly don't.

Remember Gamemaker Phoenix knows all, and she's watching you carefully.


Maeve Morghal of District 3

Day 4

By Falconflight


The rain doesn't fall like real rain; it falls in regular intervals, repeating over and over again like a ticking clock. I haven't been able to talk to Diode since Launch Day. The repetition makes it too hard to clear my mind; all I can concentrate on is the sound of the rain hitting the ground. Plip plop. Plip plop. Tick tock. Tick tock.

The light in the Arena is fading, indicating the coming of night. There's no sunset, though; the gray clouds blot out the sun. Maybe the Arena hasn't even been programmed to have a sun; the Gamemakers may have seen it as too hopeful of symbol.

I sigh, trying to block out the sound of the rain, and recline into the wall of the trench. The trench is soaked and muddy, but at this point, personal hygiene is very low on my list of concerns. I am, however, worried about not infecting my leg. Several cuts and scratches decorate my left leg, and though none of them are too big or deep, infection will be the death of me. I don't plan on dying.

The other issue of the trench is the lack of protection. The further away from the Cornucopia I got, the less barbed wire surrounded the trenches. Perhaps the Gamemakers want to give tributes a larger chance to kill other tributes, or they have some sort of surprise for the tributes who didn't want to risk finding a way underneath the barbed wire. I am, however confident that I have at least another day before the Gamemakers launch another big trap.

Even the wounds brought on by the mutts and the lack of protection do not rank number one on my list of priorities, though. Right now, I need to clear my head and try to contact Diode. People have already started dying, as indicated by the brown smudges through their names, and I need my next assignment. The rain isn't making this easy.

"Ignore it," I whisper quietly to myself. "The rain isn't there."

"Don't think about the color purple."

The fact that I'm not dead yet indicates that the person who has managed to sneak up on me is not a Career. I silently curse my stupidity and the rain for obscuring the tribute's footsteps. I turn as nonchalantly as possible to face a boy with stormy gray eyes.

"What are you thinking about now?" Lucian Drake asks.

What is he doing here? I wonder. Why would he come and find me? And what kind of game is he playing by asking a question like that? "The color purple," I answer slowly.

"You're not going to clear your mind by doing that," Lucian warns before extending his hand. "Lucian Drake."

I examine his hand cautiously. "Handshakes seem a bit formal given our situation. What do you want?"

Lucian doesn't answer at first. "I've been looking for people to be in an alliance with me," he explains at last. "Since the mutt attack forced us all together, I decided that it was time to start searching."

"You want me to be in an alliance with you," I state plainly.

"To put it simply, yes. It's a bit more complicated than that. This alliance isn't going to be built on trust or common goals; it is simply going to exist," Lucian explains.

I have to admit it sounds strangely fascinating. "Intriguing."

"Isn't it?" Lucian has a look on his face that I can't quite place. A smirk is breaking through the businessman-like face he is presenting. "I'll elaborate more later; I don't want to waste my speech on an audience of one."

"Who else do you want to waste your speech on?" I ask.

There is a spark of humor in Lucian's eyes. "I'll tell you, but I need your word that you won't run off on me. After I explain, you can leave, but you need to help me find the others first."

Whatever humor was in Lucian's steel-colored eyes is gone now, replaced with an intensity that says he'll kill me if I say no. I wait for Diode to say what I should do, but all I hear is the rain. I have to make this decision alone, without Death to guide me. I feel insecure and afraid without the knowledge of my master there. What if I make a bad choice that leads to my death?

I'm not going to die, I tell myself. I'm not going to die. Death said I won't, and he's not wrong. What would he want me to do, though?

"You have my word," I rely carefully, "if I have yours."

"Why would I go to all the trouble to find you just to run away again?" Lucian asks, raising an eyebrow.

He makes a valid point. "Very well. You have my word. Who am I looking for?"

"Erik Fiske and Atalanta Zimmerman," Lucian answers. "I saw Erik going to the west, and Atalanta went north." He points out each direction as he speaks. "I think you can handle Erik; I'll go after Atalanta. Don't tell Erik who is starting the alliance, and don't give out too many specific details about the nature of it. That would ruin my speech."

I nod. "We wouldn't want that."

"No one likes a joke when they already know the punch line," Lucian agrees. "If you don't find Erik, come back before sunrise." Lucian stands up, and I stand up as well. "This is the start of something great." With that, Lucian climbs out of the trench, and he is gone.

I don't hear the sound of the rain as I climb out of the trench and turn in the direction Lucian had indicated. Maybe it's because this is the first time where there's no action, but I have something to concentrate on. I have a mission other than surviving, and I can focus. No plip plop plip plop. Just silence as I think about what I'm doing.

"Hey. What are you doing?" I hear Diode's voice in my head again for the first time in four days. It's familiar, and I feel strangely reassured knowing that Death is with me once more.

"I made an alliance while you were gone," I inform him. "I'm looking for some of the other members right now."

"With who?" Diode asks curiously.

"Lucian Drake," I answer. "And possibly Atalanta Zimmerman and Erik Fiske."

"Interesting."

Diode is silent for a long period of time as I keep trekking through the muddy terrain. My boots stick to the ground for half a second, making a squish noise as I tug them free and set them down again. I wonder if life could ever grow from the beige slosh that the rain has reduced the earth to. I doubt it; there is never life in the Arena.

Diode's voice returns again. "Death approves of this decision; it will help you win."

"Good," I murmur. "Any predictions for me?"

Diode pauses again. "No. Death is silent. He is, however, curious as to what you think of the Games so far."

I contemplate this. "It's absolutely wonderful," I confess quietly, though I know there is no one to hear me except for Diode. "I've never felt so close to my master. He's practically here next to me. I can see the death everywhere; it feels absolutely exhilarating to be in a place so thick with it."

I stop in the middle of the thick sludgy battlefield and inhale deeply. I can practically smell the death. It reeks like bitter rotting flesh; it smells amazing. I can feel the presence of Death everywhere, like the sour odor of spoiled milk dispersing throughout the room or the nagging feeling that someone else is in the room with you. Watching you.

I whirl around, brandishing my fists to fight off the other tribute. I see a boy much taller than me; the skin on his hands looks like dried mud, which indicates that he's from an outlying district. His face is obscured by a brown sacking which he is wearing for some reason. He almost looks like a scarecrow.

"Erik?" I ask cautiously.

Erik's head snaps in my direction; he doesn't know where I am, or didn't a minute ago. Shoot. He has a scythe strapped to his back; the curved blade of the weapon glints dully in the dying light. I take a few steps back; he could easily hurt me; this could be the end of me.

"It won't," Diode assures me. "He's not going to hurt you."

With this pleasant thought in mind, I carefully repeat, "Erik?"

His head snaps to the side again as if he's contemplating whether or not I'm actually there. He fumbles with the bag on his head and rips it off. His hazel eyes narrow as he analyses me. "What."

"I am Maeve Morghal, Death's Messenger," I announce with as much authority in my voice as possible. "I am here to propose an alliance to you."

"With just you?" Erik asks. His voice is deep and gruff.

"No. With me and two other people," I answer.

"Are you going to tell me who they are?" he presses.

"I've been instructed not to tell you," I say apologetically.

"Then why should I trust you?" Erik demands. He makes a fair point.

"You can't," I admit. "This alliance isn't going to be built on trust, though."

Erik raises an eyebrow. "What will it be built on?"

I shrug. "I don't know; we'll have to go back to find out."

I can practically see the gears turning in Erik's head. "Can I leave the alliance if I don't like the idea?"

"Of course." But Lucian will probably kill you.

"Let's get going, then." Erik gives me a 'lead the way' look and nods his head ever so slightly.

The rain hasn't washed away my foot prints, so I retrace my steps back to the trench. Lucian and Atalanta haven't arrived yet, so I jump down into the trench, the sound muffled by the sludgy earth. Erik lands with a dull thud next to me, and through my peripheral vision, I see him looking around.

"Where are the others?" he demands.

"They're not here yet," I answer calmly. "They'll be here soon. We should set up camp while we wait."

"We don't have much to set up with," Erik comments.

"Then we'll just wait." I don't want to go back to waiting again; waiting means listening to the rain again and hearing the endless pattern. I have nothing to do to distract myself, though, and the more I try to clear my head so I can talk to Diode again, the more I can hear the rain.

I try not to acknowledge it, to focus on anything but the noise, but suddenly I hear it and it's the only thing I can think about. The repetition is driving me insane, driving away any focus in my mind. I force myself to sit down next to Erik, who has taken his scythe out in case anyone comes upon the trench. He doesn't seem to notice my face contorting as I attempt to notice something- anything but the pattern.

My attention turns, or attempts to, to Erik. He has put the sacking over his face again, which ruins the purpose of trying to protect us with the scythe. There is something peculiar about his jacket that I notice. Instead of saying Fiske, 11 on the center, it says Blackwater, 8. I contemplate asking him why he has Damien's jacket, but as I puzzle over the mystery, I finally have clarity in my head, and I hear Diode's voice again.

"Death does have a message for you, it turns out," Diode announces.

I glance at Erik, but he doesn't seem to be paying any attention to me, and if he is, he's being discrete about it. I can't tell if he's looking at me thanks to the bag, but if I stay quiet, he won't notice anyway.

"What is it?" I whisper quietly.

"Alaric," Diode answers. "He will die a very gruesome death."

"Very specific," I mutter.

"I don't have any more details for you," Diode apologizes.

Without a writing utensil, I can't write down the prediction, but I make a mental note of it and write it in the mud with a finger. Studies say people remember stuff better if they write it down, so since I'm going to have to remember it, I might as well write it once for precautionary purposes.

"Thank you," I murmur. There is a silence, so I quickly invent a random question to avoid concentrating on the rain again. "Do you know why there aren't many deaths? The Games seem to be going unusually slow compared to previous ones."

"Are we interrupting something?"

This is the second time Lucian has managed to sneak up on me, and it is getting a bit irritating. I should really try to be more alert, but I had to concentrate on talking to Diode and, technically, Death. Everything else is secondary. I look up at him; Atalanta is at his side with her arms folded, and I note a pair of daggers in her belt. I can't tell if he's mocking me or not.

Erik also hears the voice of the newcomers, and he rips the bag off of his head. Upon seeing Lucian, something of a smirk forms on his face. "Decided to take me up on my offer then?" he asks. "The Careers aren't dead yet."

"An excellent observation, Erik," Lucian agrees. "I'm working on that; I've even been saving my first kill for them."

"You haven't killed anyone yet?" Atalanta asks. She seems surprised, and I am as well. The shaking at the Reapings had given me the impression that he is much less composed than he pretends to be and would become the first monster of the Quarter Quell.

"No, I am giving Canicus that honor," Lucian answers. "So, I suppose you're all wondering why I've gathered you here. After all, there is little that Death's Messenger, an outlying Career, a Scarecrow, and myself have in common. However, I have selected all of you to join me in an alliance that is sure to be remembered and feared by all."

It is obvious that Lucian has already talked to Atalanta and Erik, and although they are listening, they are not doing so very intently. This is new information to me, however, so when Lucian sits down and beckons Atalanta to do the same, I am all ears.

"In the Old World, there were four riders," Lucian begins. "These riders were Conquest, War, Famine and Death. They had the task of spreading their aspect and bring about the apocalypse. They must have succeeded, given where we are today."

"Bedtime stories are great and all," Atalanta interjects, "but can you get to the explaining part?"

"I am explaining," Lucian assures her. "What do you call all the talking I was doing?"

"Exposition," Atalanta answers sharply. "Unnecessary exposition."

"I'll try to keep it simple so I don't bore our less intellectual allies," Lucian promises, which causes Atalanta to scowl, but she doesn't respond. Lucian turns his attention back to Erik and I. "During my time in the Arena, I've been thinking about these riders and how they eventually brought about so many horrible things, and I was also thinking 'what if I created an alliance based around these four riders and their aspects?' A counter to the Career alliance in a way, but not solely focused on destroying the Careers."

"So what will we be focused on?" Atalanta demands.

"That's the beauty of this alliance. We won't have a specific goal," Lucian explains. "All four of us have very different goals, as well as different histories and personalities. We have next to nothing in common, which would give the illusion that we are not compatible for an alliance. We are, however, compatible. We each have goals that could be more easily accomplished in an alliance, and some of us have other reasons to benefit from being in a group. These common benefits are what will bind our alliance. Not trust, not common interests, or the need to kill off only the Careers. The simple desire to be in an alliance will be what keeps us together."

"Sounds potentially promising," Atalanta comments. "I'm in."

"I'm in," Erik echoes.

All eyes turn on me. Atalanta is right; it does sound promising. I had become so deeply invested in what Lucian had been saying, though, that Diode's voice has disappeared, leaving me alone to make yet another decision. Two of the people in the alliance are armed and can easily make me their first target. I won't survive much longer on my own anyway, and Diode had said earlier that this alliance will help me win.

"I'm in." There is finality in those words, a sense of passing the point of no return. I don't mind, though. Death is also a point of no return, and everyone must pass it at some time.

"Excellent." Lucian smiles a wolf-like grin, as if he's imagining all the things we'll do as allies. "It's getting a bit late, and I'm afraid horsemen need their sleep."

"Are you going to call us that now?" Atalanta asks, raising an eyebrow.

"Yes, Conquest," Lucian answers.

"We get nicknames too?" Atalanta fakes excitement at this revelation.

"Of course. Why would I draw inspiration from a story about four horsemen and not use it at all? You are the white horse of conquest." He gestures to himself. "I am the red horse of war. Erik," he points to said tribute, "is the black horse of famine, and Maeve," he stares at me with his dark and piercing gray eyes, "is the pale horse of death."

"How fitting," I comment.

"Indeed," Lucian agrees. "Would you like to take the first watch, Death?"

I don't mind taking the position because I do want to see if I can contact Diode again. However, I won't do much as a guard without a weapon. "Perhaps someone who is armed should take the first watch."

Atalanta pulls a dagger from her belt and hands the hilt to me. "You better give this back, thr –" She almost calls me three; I can see the number of my district forming on the tip of her tongue. "Death."

"I will," I assure her. I take the dagger and turn it around a bit. I'm not very familiar with weapons, but my theory is that as long as I end up stabbing someone, it doesn't matter how clean or well I do it. Death is Death, no matter how it happens. "Who should I wake up for the second watch?"

"I'll do it," Erik volunteers.

"Which means twe- War and I will do it tomorrow night?" Atalanta questions.

"If we survive that long," Lucian answers. "But let's not spoil our dreams with that. Goodnight."

"Goodnight," Erik echoes. He falls asleep nearly seconds afterwards.

Atalanta ignores Lucian's hospitality and falls asleep against the other wall of the trench. Lucian, however, does not fall asleep. His eyes are closed, but I know he's awake. I wait for him to fall asleep like the others, but he doesn't. He remains lightly dozing as the night goes on.

Finally, I can't help but comment. "If you were going to stay awake, you should have taken the first watch."

Lucian's eyes open; they glow like silver in the dark. "Probably, although I didn't mean to stay awake. I had been planning on falling asleep."

"And now you're not planning on it?" I ask.

"You're talking to me, thus ruining my plans," Lucian informs me.

"Would you like me to shut up?" I offer.

"No, I think I'll be able to rest more easily after an actual conversation," he explains. He shifts into a more casual and comfortable position. "So, are you actually Death's Messenger?"

I don't hesitate for a second. "Yes."

"Death and I are very good friends, you know," he says. "He's probably one of my only friends."

"Are you mocking me?" I demand, bristling slightly.

"No," he assures me. "It's the truth; I've known Death for a very long time. I was first attracted to the beauty of death, and you of all people should know how lovely it is."

It is strange to have a conversation with a person who doesn't think I'm crazy for saying I'm Death's Messenger and actually agrees with me and my perspective on death. "There's nothing more magnificent," I agree quietly, still a bit overwhelmed by the idea of someone not questioning my sanity.

"What first attracted you to the idea of death?" Lucian asks. His tone is casual and mildly curious, not something you find often in the Arena.

I don't usually talk about how I became Death's Messenger, but that's mostly because no one ever cared to ask. "When I was ten, my sister, Esther, and I were home alone. Something in our house overheated, and a fire started. Esther died, and I was knocked unconscious for a week."

"I'm sorry." Lucian's voice lacks real sympathy, as if he's not actually sorry but saying it just because it is the traditional response.

"Don't be. We weren't close," I assure him. "Anyway, when I finally woke up again, we went to Esther's funeral, and I heard her voice in my head. She told me that our neighbor was going to die, and a few weeks later, he did. I heard his voice too afterwards." I pause, thinking about my story. "Looking back on it, I think it was my near-death experience that awakened my abilities." I pause again. "It's exhilarating to be so close to death."

Before Lucian can answer, we hear the Panem Anthem blasting across the Arena, loud enough to break through the rain. There is a single face in the sky. That of Alaric. His canon must have gone off when it was raining harder because I don't remember it going off. Either way, another person has died and I must mark off their name.

"Finally, someone who understands," Lucian says after the seal is shown for a second time. He pauses before announcing, "I think I can go to sleep now. We'll talk again tomorrow. Goodnight, Death." Lucian reclines into the wall again and closes his eyes. I'm not sure if he goes to sleep or not.

The phrase he used at the end of our conversation sticks with me as I continue my watch duty. It seems a bit redundant to me. People say goodnight at the end of the conversation; it is a closure of sorts. Death is also a closure, though, a closure to life. Saying 'Goodnight, Death' is like ending twice, and that's like dying twice. No one dies twice.


LIST OF THE DEAD

Fatalities (In Order):

1. Alexis Spurling, District 7 female: Decapitated by bomb shrapnel.

2. Edrick Quillheart, District 6 male: Killed in torpedo explosion.

3. Bianca Neve, District 11 female: Killed by Lucian Drake.

4. Con Rossencourte, District 4 male: Killed by Admire Blanchard.

5. Bastian Estatika, District 5 male: Killed by Jet Matthews.

6. Juniper Harris, District 9 female: Killed by Jonas Emerson.

7. Galla Cinder, District 12 female: Killed by ferret mutts.

8. Alaric Pakalin, District 9: Unknown

LIST OF THE NOT DEAD

District 1:

Canicus Macaulay

Admire Blanchard

District 2:

Jet Matthews

Sade Artois

District 3:

Brennadon Rydik

Maeve Morghal

District 4:

Roulla Saney

District 5:

Atalanta Zimmerman

District 6:

Londyn Aureole

District 7:

Jonas Emerson

District 8:

Damian Blackwater

Anya Powers

District 10:

Sean Armani

Pipper Young

District 11:

Eric Fiske

District 12:

Lucian Drake