My first fanfic. I was inspired by Robin Hood. It's based very loosely on the tale. I'm by no means an expert on the original, just wanted have fun. If that's fine with you guys, then happy reading.
Many thanks to my fabulous beta reader, Dustwriter!
Disclaimer: I do not own THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy. It belongs to Suzanne Collins. I merely want to spend more time with her characters.
He stood amongst the crowd and watched the girl beneath the tent of his hood. She kept fumbling with the ring on her right hand—a plump emerald blossoming from a gold band, superfluous and cold as a monarch's throne. Its value was enough to feed the entire village. Everyone here knew it, and everyone within the boundaries of Panem's kingdom was hungry.
Except King Snow. And his court. And his guards.
And that girl.
His Majesty and company gathered on the castle's terrace to announce her engagement to Snow's youngest son, Seneca. The mass of peasants who'd been corralled into the courtyard to hear the news pretended to react with joy, though they were too tired and embittered and tattered and starving to listen to the king hail a wedding feast they wouldn't be invited to. Still, they did their best to cheer.
The girl's radiance and the fiery orange color of her velvet gown helped with that, for it boasted everyone's mood to look upon something so fair. Lady Katniss Everdeen came from a city called The Seam, a place that no one had ever heard of. She wasn't royalty, but she did have a titled father. That and the fit of her dress must have been enough to send the prince into an eager tailspin.
Seneca kept looking at her like a famished beast, gaze narrowed and slinking over her from head to slippered feet. It was pathetic, Peeta thought.
The girl's expression reflected indifference toward her surroundings, a tightness of mind and heart that matched the tight threads of her side braid. A vain girl. A spoiled girl. A girl that, despite all this, caused an inexplicable riot within him.
Peeta shook off the unwelcome reaction and adjusted the quiver hidden beneath his cloak, securing it closer to him. The girl groped that ring as if she feared it would disappear. She was right, because it would. Very soon.
He adjusted his hood and smirked.
I hated this ring. I hated this dress. I hated this castle.
The jewel was heavy as a shackle on my finger. The gown clung to my arms and shoulders, the bodice cut far too low, the whole design created to parade me around as nothing more than a well-bred mare. The palace loomed around me like a spectacular prison. My fiance wouldn't stop tossing me wolfish looks. My nose wrinkled from the overabundant muskiness of whatever he bathed himself in, which wafted like a mating call across the courtyard and clashed with the reek of unwashed bodies surrounding the terrace.
I never knew depression had a weight to it. I longed to be home, in the warm embrace of my bedsheets, the comfort of my father's earthy voice, the everything of my sister, Prim. But that wasn't to be my fate. Our city by the Seam River needed me to secure an alliance with this farce of a benevolent ruler. It was no secret how King Snow treated his people, yet he'd agreed to keep The Seam fed and protected from invasion, upon my marriage to his son. Panem had nothing to gain from our lands or my family, as my father possessed no wealth beyond his title. The only thing of value was me, my future, my vows. Seneca wanted me that much.
It wasn't a great sacrifice for the king. Seneca was his third son, and therefore the prince could be less picky for his choice of wife. Unlike Marvel, the firstborn, who'd married a princess named Clove. I'd forgotten who the second son, Cato, had wed. Some blond maiden with a ridiculous name.
I wanted to vomit all over Seneca's polished boots. I had to bear the weight of this hideous ring and pretend I was fine wearing such finery in front of a group of starving faces. I had to pretend this was right and just and the natural way of things.
Several times my fingers sought out the ring, comparing it to the corded bracelet around my wrist. The bracelet had no value apart from its meaning. Everyone back home wore one. To pass your Seam bracelet onto someone else was the greatest sign of respect and loyalty. Usually people traded bracelets with the person they would marry, but there was no way I was going to offer it to Seneca. It represented my devotion in a way nothing else would, much more than my engagement ring.
Temptation got the better of me as I imagined tossing the emerald bauble into the throng. I went so far as to scan the audience, searching for a possible recipient.
That's when my gaze collided with the bluest eyes I'd ever seen. A dark hood shrouded the rest of his face, but those irises flashed in my direction, sending my pulse into an inexplicable frenzy. How I was able to see them from this distance baffled me.
He wasn't tall, but from the drape of his cloak hinted at a solid frame and confident posture that I envied. I looked away, instantly regretting the loss of him.
I glanced back. He was gone.
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