Author's note:

The first and very most important thing I have to say is: Thank you HogwartsDreamer113 for suggesting I write more about Alder. You are the reason this story exists! :D

Also, thank you to everyone who followed, favorited, or reviewed my other fanfictions.

One last thank you: I often go on and on for hours about the Hunger Games. I can say truthfully that it drives some of my family members crazy. Thank you to anyone who puts up with it, and thanks even more if you listen :)

I don't talk very often, though people tell me I'm a great listener. –Alder Zane

Chapter 1

The introduction, the anthem, the speech; They all lead up to this moment. This is the moment when a name is called at the reaping for the 6th annual Hunger Games.

"Alder Zane!" It's me. It can't be me. Not when I only have eight slips of paper in the reaping ball. I'm going to the Hunger Games. I am going to die.

"Alder, wake up," says a voice, bringing me back to reality. My older sister, Betony, stands over me.

"Of all the days to sleep in, you choose today?" she says. I shrug. "C'mon. We sent Cedar out to get some bread. He'll be back soon." I nod and start to get up. I knew as soon as I saw Betony, who's never still home at this hour, that today is a special occasion. A holiday, almost. Today is Reaping Day.

After I get dressed, I come into the kitchen to see Betony, Graham, and Laurel, three of my four older siblings, sitting at the table with my parents. Usually, it's just Laurel, Cedar and I in the morning, since the rest of my family works in the mines. Just as I join them, Cedar bursts through the door holding three loaves of bread.

"Got it," he says, smiling.

"Wow," says Graham, "What'd that cost you?"

"I traded it for part of a wild turkey," answers Cedar, "Brought the rest back here." He holds up a bag. Cedar is the only one of us brave enough to hunt in the forest, on the other side of District 12's electric fence.

We make a meal of it, the bread and the turkey.

"It's nice to have a break from the mines," says Father.

"Course, it'll be nicer once we don't have to worry about the reaping," Betony points out. Everyone else immediately agrees.

"One more year," says Cedar, smiling. He turned 18 a couple months ago.

"Two more years," says Laurel with a sigh, "Four more, for Alder." She isn't being rude. She spoke for me simply because she knew I wouldn't speak for myself. I don't talk very often, though people tell me I'm a great listener.

"Well, we better get going," says Betony, "It's starting early this year."

"Who told you that?" asks Graham.

"Horace did," says Betony.

"Never listen to Horace," says Cedar.

"She can't help it," says Laurel with a smile, "She's in love!" Graham and Cedar laugh.

"Shut up," says Betony, rising from the table, "You won't be laughing when you're late for the reaping!" She spins on her heel and walks out the door, to what will most likely be a very empty square. I stand up and set my plate down beside the sink. Mother stops me before I can leave the room.

"Where are you going, Alder?" she asks.

"He's going to Linden's, like he does every Reaping Day," says Graham. I nod.

"All right, then," says Mother.

"Bring us back some candy?" asks Laurel. In response, I turn my empty pockets inside out.

"Aw, you're no fun," she tells me. I shrug. I know it's a joke, because we almost never have enough extra money to buy the hard candy they sell at the general store.

It's pretty cold outside today, with a few early-autumn leaves brightening up the dreary grey houses of the Seam. The front door catches on the doorframe, so I have to force it shut again with my foot. I stick my hands inside the pockets of my jacket and start my walk to the general store.

I turn to one of the other houses when I hear a door slam shut, and I see Rowan coming down the steps to meet me. We look quite similar, with the same black hair and grey eyes as almost everyone in the Seam.

"Hey, Alder!" he calls. I stop and wait for him to catch up.

"What's new?" he asks. I shake my head and shrug. "Nothing, huh?" I nod. We keep walking, and Rowan fills me in on how his little sister woke up screaming last night from a nightmare where she was picked in the reaping.

"And she's just nine!" he exclaims, "She's got three years left before she has to worry about anything. Plus, they'll get rid of these Games once people realize how horrible they are."

"What if they don't?" I ask quietly. Rowan stops.

"What?" he asks. I shrug.

"What if they don't get rid of them?" I say. Rowan pauses.

"Well, they can't jut let it go on like this," he says, "It's won't be forever." I shrug again and we keep walking.

Soon enough, we reach the general store. A little bell rings as we open the door, and our friend rushes out from the back room with a stack of boxes in her arms.

"Sorry, we're closed toda—Oh, hi!" says Linden when she sees us.

"Hi, Linden," says Rowan brightly, "Happy Reaping Day."

"What's so happy about it?" asks Linden, setting the boxes down on the counter. She starts to pin back a stray piece of blond hair that has come loose from her ponytail.

"I don't know," he says, "It's a holiday, I guess."

"Well, for some more than others," says Linden forlornly. The tributes last year had been in our class at school. They both died on the first day.

The three of us talk for a while, in the empty store. Then, the old clock on the wall strikes two. Ding! Di—pop—creeeeaaakk. Linden hits it once with her fist. —Ding! the clock finishes. We all laugh, because none of us will admit how afraid we really are.

Rowan, Linden and I walk together to the center of town. On the way, I see Betony and a dark-haired boy who I assume is Horace sitting under a tree together. When she notices me watching, her eyes widen. I can tell immediately what she's thinking. Please don't tell Laurel! I pretend to zip my lips closed, and she starts to smile again.

By the time we reach the square, the Capitol representative is climbing the temporary stage's four steps. We race frantically towards the 15-year-old section, and manage to make it just in time.

"Welcome!" says the escort, a woman with silver skin and poodle-style hair known as Vega Starbridge, "Welcome to the reaping of the 6th annual Hunger Games!" The audience applauds halfheartedly. The mayor takes the microphone and starts the dreary annual reading of the Treaty of Treason, followed by a brief summary of Panem's history.

"…And as a reminder to the districts that history must never be repeated, the Hunger Games began," finishes the mayor. He hands the microphone back over to Vega.

"Now, please rise for Panem's national anthem," she says. We all stand as the anthem begins to play. On the gigantic screen set up behind the temporary stage, pictures from past Games play in a gruesome slideshow. When the song finishes, we sit back down and Vega starts talking again.

"It's finally time to pick the tributes!" she says, "As always, ladies first!" She crosses the stage and sticks her hand into the girls' reaping ball. She pulls out a slip and comes back to the microphone. You could hear a pin drop in the square, it's so quiet.

"Violet Henson!" she says. Next to me, Linden breathes a sigh of relief. A girl starts to walk towards the stage from the 14-year-old section. My heart sinks when I realize I recognize her. She lives in the Seam, close to Rowan and I. She also goes to school with me, though we're not in the same year. Linden recognizes her, too.

"Oh, not Violet," she says, "She was always so sweet."

"Well, we can't talk about her like she's dead," says Rowan, "Maybe she can win. I mean—" Linden shoots him a look, and he falls silent.

"And now, the boys!" exclaims Vega, walking over to the other reaping ball. She picks a slip of paper from the very top of the pile and takes it out, breaking the seal with her long nails. She walks back to the microphone, studying it, as if trying to figure out how to pronounce the name.

It can't be me. It can't be me.

The entire population of District 12 holds their breath as Vega takes her time.

"Alder Zane!" I don't register the name is mine until she calls it again.

"Alder? Alder Zane? Are you there?" she asks. I am Alder Zane. It's my name. A strangled sound escapes my throat. She called my name! All the kids around me have cleared a path to the stage, so I take it. I climb the stairs and stand next to Violet. I try not to meet anyone's eyes, fearing I'll break down if I do.

"Introducing, the District 12 tributes of the 6th annual Hunger Games, Violet Henson and Alder Zane! Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor!"