Author's Notes: Hi! Thank you for reading my first fan fiction. I hope you enjoy!
Alternate Title: The Ordinary Girl and the Prince with Awakening Responsibilities
Her head almost thudded into her wooden desk for the fourth time dozing off had she not felt the urge to sneeze and tried to squash it.
Ah, triple History with Mrs. Ault right after lunch break. Tuesdays could not be more soporific.
Katniss looked to her left and saw Madge sleepily rubbing her eyes as they tried to listen to Caroline Brenby recite her homework about the second Peloponnesian War.
She scratched her head, huffed out a breath, and saw Madge snicker at her. She rolled her eyes.
She looked out the window into the expansive grassy field where students were practicing their sports and enjoying the sunshine. It glinted invitingly on the lake at the far edge and she could make out some students running on the ivory bridge atop.
The slight hum of a distant lawnmower, like a lullaby, only helped to make the afternoon more conducive to napping.
Not to worry, she thought. She'll be out there in a few hours. Until then, she can always doodle on her notebook or dream about the targets she would shoot at practice later.
Mrs. Ault called for a short break and Katniss stood up to stretch her spindly arms and tight muscles. Madge passed by and tickled the exposed flesh at her side and Katniss slapped her on the back with a notebook as retaliation.
Katniss opened the window a bit more and inhaled. The air smelled like freshly cut grass with a hint of diesel from the lawnmower.
She'll miss this school, she thought. In a few months, they'd all be off to different colleges and universities, scattered like fireflies in the early evening. The admissions tests were over and it was now that period of waiting and praying and spending the remaining weekends with friends over popcorn and ice cream and gossips until the sun came out again.
She was just about to return to her seat when Sapphire, the school's most notorious gossiper, blocked her way and pulled her to the side and grinned mischievously.
"Stanislaus is gonna ask you out." She breathed out the words excitedly in one huff and continued, despite Katniss's blank look.
"I heard from Avy that Leela told Simmy that her brother, who goes to Spence with Stanislaus, was checking out your profile online during Calculus."
She beamed at Katniss and added a clap for effect, as though her morsel of useless, unverified narration of the other school's population was a favor to Katniss. This, she thought, was the disadvantage of having an all-girls' school right across the all-boys' school.
Who the hell is Stanislaus? She thought. Katniss stared at Sapphire before letting out a shaky laugh, thanked her, and went back to her seat.
Oh boy, it's this part of high school she won't miss.
At home, she told Madge she'd call her back as her arms were currently covered in dishes and soapsuds. Aunt Effie made her cover for Prim, again, because her younger sister was studying for her Statistics test tomorrow and Katniss was just going to watch TV anyway. She won't be surprised though if she went up now and found Prim at her dresser, trying on her make-up while only deigning to glance at her books.
"Sweetie!" her Aunt Effie trilled from the doorway to the kitchen.
"I'll just be going out but you don't have to wait for me ok?" Her heels clacked on the floor as she walked towards Katniss. Aunt Effie gave her a quick peck on the cheek and Katniss smiled back.
"Don't worry, Prim will be pruning the garden for a week." She winked and was walking back out.
"Have fun!" Katniss called out.
When the dishes were done and her arms smelled of detergent, Katniss drank a glass of chocolate milk before going up the stairs. She paused at the sole picture on the wall that featured her, Prim, and their mom. She always glanced at this photo whenever she went up or down because it was one of the few photos where her mother's smile reached her eyes in the months after her father passed. Her mother joined her father not long after.
When she got to her room, what she imagined earlier was not far from what she saw. Prim was there, complete with rouged lips and thickened eyebrows, except she was also drooling over her book while lying on Katniss's bed, make-up strewn all over.
She nudged Prim gently and stroked her hair while she tried to wake her up.
"Wake up Primrose, you need to wash that gunk off your face."
Prim just mumbled, said "5 minutes", then went back to snoring.
Katniss can't help the small smile that found its way to her as she took the book from under Prim and replaced it with a pillow. She headed to the bathroom to wash up after clearing her bed of all the scattered make-up. When she got back, Prim was sleepily trying to sit up, forehead creasing as she opened her eyes wider, and was reaching for her book.
"No it's ok, you can go back to sleep and I'll wake you early tomorrow to study. How's that?"
Prim yawned, nodded once, and plopped back to her fluffy pillow, snoring immediately.
She didn't make her sister go to her own room tonight, unlike other nights where small things escalated to shrill fights, mostly over used make-up or borrowed clothes or ruined shoes, and Aunt Effie would appear in the doorway, hands on hips with bulging eyes, as she mediated between the two.
She went to bed beside Prim. Just as she was about to sleep, she remembered that she forgot to call Madge back to ask who that Stanislaus was.
He was at the moment when his dream merged with the sounds of his life outside. He can still pull back the images and dream some more, but the smell of honeydew flowers and the faint chirps of the morning birds crept into his consciousness. Suddenly, he could not remember what he was dreaming about.
Someone was moving about in his room. The curtains were drawn and the bright light casted a glow over his eyelids.
"Your Highness, good morrow," His Privy Gentleman greeted him but he was too groggy to note if he bowed his head, as they ought to.
"Apologies for the early awakening but his Majesty, your father, is requesting your presence before your brother the Grand Duke departs."
The gentleman placed a towel and a bowl of perfumed water beside his bed.
"What hour is it?" He sat up, voice still gravelly from sleep, and blinked his eyes open.
"The seventh hour of the sun, Prince Peeta."
He nodded, rubbed his eyes, and replied "Please send my acquiescence to his Majesty. I shall be there in no more than half an hour."
"As you wish my Prince."
The door closed and he reached for the towel, preferring to do this ritual by himself. He dipped it in the bowl with his eyes barely open. Bringing the damp towel to his face, the intrusive peppery mint smell jolted his senses awake and he nearly dropped the wet thing.
He got out of bed in an annoyed huff and walked to the window to drink in the sun and clear the sleepy fog in his head before proceeding to the cavernous water room to get cleaned and dressed.
Stepping out into the hall, the guards and chamber men stood in attention as he walked past in his clipped, purposeful gait. His Privy Gentleman was waiting for him at the end of the hall, announcing that the breaking of the fast will be at the Solarium, at the Grand Duke's request.
His brother and father were already talking by the window when he entered. They turned back and he bowed deep before meeting their eyes. His father gestured to the small round table outside the glass doors. The talk today will be heavy and unpleasant, as it was the first anniversary of his eldest brother's passing.
As he took his seat, he inhaled the cold, crisp air. His gaze turned to the field covered with reddening trees in the distance, while his father and brother argued about the Kingdom's economic policy in the background. The perpetual autumn of their land afforded their flora with poetic hues. From afar, he can see the faint red moon blending into the bright morning sky. It was another reminder of his brother's death, for the moon first took the color of blood that fateful night.
But there was something else beside the moon today; a blurry scarlet streak that was absent yesterday. He squinted his eyes to look closer and in doing so remembered a verse from an old song sung to him by his governess, about a legend and its three signs. This legend rose into consciousness during the dark Dynasty of the Warring Kings and was handed down through generations. The blood moon was one of the signs and he realized with oncoming dread that the legend's second sign was upon them now. What was once a story regaled to young children before greetings of good night was now shaping into a chilling existence before their eyes, a herald of unthinkable things to come.
With uncharacteristic awe, and with a slight, unplaceable anticipation, he whispered to his father that the legend's blood comet has arrived.
Katniss pursed her lips and slowed her breath as she tuned out everything but herself and the target before her. She released the arrow and it quivered when it hit its target. Not quite at the center as she hoped but near enough.
It was a late Friday afternoon and she preferred target practice out in the field with her teammates to going to the mall with her classmates. She was about to release another bow when a twig broke behind her, startling her, and sending the arrow a foot to the right of its target and into a stone statue. Madge appeared beside her, bag slung over one shoulder, and ready to leave.
"Don't do that again!" Katniss exclaimed.
Madge just snickered. "Are you coming or not?"
She turned back in a grump, picking up another arrow.
"I told you, I'm not going today. I'm getting rusty and I have to practice if I ever want to get a scholarship for college."
"Oh you'll be fine! You're the best in our year. Actually, I just remembered you're the only one in the team in our year, but that's ok! Your shoulder is healing well and you should be back in tiptop archery shape soon!"
Katniss gave Madge a pointed look.
"Oh wait, you're just avoiding someone aren't you?" Madge realized and covered her giggles with a hand.
Katniss got the bow and arrow and mock-aimed at Madge while chasing her. They were laughing hard and running for some time when her coach yelled at her to stop.
"Seriously Katniss, it won't be so bad to go out with him." Madge said while trying to catch her breath under a tree.
"But I'm not even attracted to him so why bother?" Katniss quipped, returning to her shooting practice.
"That's not just the point of dating! You need to meet people Katniss, and we're all leaving for college soon. How many people outside school do you know apart from your family and the people from your favorite coffee shop and the grocery?"
When Katniss didn't answer her and just let out a huff of annoyance at another missed target, Madge turned to leave.
"I'll drop by your place later!" Katniss called out. Madge waved and rolled her eyes.
She didn't know what the big deal was over dating. She didn't like the guy so she wasn't going out with him, especially not after the way he asked. It was the talk of the whole school last week and Sapphire was still regaling it to anyone who would bother to listen.
This Stanislaus had the nerve to appear outside school in his fancy car, with the words "Will you go out with me Katniss Everdeen" hung like shiny garlands by the doors. All the students who were leaving saw it, as well as the teachers, the drivers, and some of the parents fetching their daughters.
She nearly died of embarrassment when she walked out the wooden double doors and the students cheered and whooped for her. She didn't know what to do so she ran back, Madge in tow, and called Aunt Effie to pick her up at the back gate.
She fetched another arrow, her cheeks and ears heating up again when she remembered what happened.
That pompous, presumptuous boy! She thought as she nocked the arrow back again and aimed. She was just thinking of his face when she released the arrow and it landed right at the center.
Hmm, not bad, she thought.
There was a mad scramble at the table as soon as he uttered the words, followed by unbelieving expressions and spilled glasses. His father and brother broke off their argument and stared at the direction of the two signs. His father immediately called off his brother's trip and dismissed them both, breakfast forgotten.
Before he left, his father's grave voice called him.
"Peeta, I shall speak with you before the twelfth hour of the sun." He turned his head and saw that his father's eyes never left the two signs as he spoke.
"Yes father." He bowed then went out the door.
The palace was buzzing at the turn of events. He was not the only one to have noticed the second sign. By now, he's sure that the whole nation would have seen it, its significance being debated by the scholars, mages, and priests.
The place where he was heading was the last place for peacefulness now that the second sign has appeared. But still, it was the place he intended to go to before even going to breakfast.
The palace's Hall of Reverence was usually tranquil. Its massive pillars, glass ceilings, and large windows lent to the dignified air that hushed those who first saw it into silence. Now he had to weave through the throng of people who were fervently lighting candles and puncturing the solemn air with their murmured prayers to departed ancestors. He reached the side entrance to their family's private chambers a bit breathless.
Inside, Peeta stopped in front of an ornately carved vault on the floor where his brother's ashes rest. He laid a candle and was about to kneel when the door creaked.
He turned towards the noise and saw the old priestess on duty for the morning.
"Apologies for the disturbance my Prince," she quickly bowed when she realized who was inside.
"None at all, Priestess. Please have a seat." He gestured to the pews between them. The wizened priestess did not look well today. Perhaps her years were catching up.
The priestess smiled her thanks at Peeta and spoke. "Your father was quite in shock when I spoke with him earlier. I will assume that the presence of the blood comet is another reason you were drawn here my prince. I've hardly seen you for a year."
"Because the memories have been too painful," he whispered as looked away from her piercing gaze.
After a pause, the priestess asked, "Have you ever visited the Enclave my Prince?"
Peeta furrowed his brows. "I'm afraid not, the impressions given to me were that only the King or the Grand Duke can go to the Enclave, after their coronation."
The priestess cackled and smiled "That was only to prevent young princes running around and getting lost beneath this Hall. Imagine the trouble we'd all be in if a toddler prince indeed were stuck below." She got up and motioned for Peeta to follow her through an old and creaky door.
The deeper they went, the colder it got, and the groan of the door's hinges still bounced on the stone walls. Peeta was glad for his coat but offered it to the tiny, bony priestess instead. She waved him off and told him she was used to the air. Looking around, the Enclave would have indeed been a terrific play place for any young boy. He imagined being lost in any of its winding side halls, fighting imaginary beasts with his wooden sword.
But they walked straight and up ahead he can make out a faint golden light. At the end was a shrine of sorts: a stone tablet encased in glass and cracked at the sides with carved figures and words. The priestess led him to the back of the tablet where another figure was carved. It was a bird, with majestic wings spread out just before flight.
"Do you know the Legend of the Mockingjay my Prince?"
There! That was the legend he was thinking of when he first saw the blood comet.
"I believe my governess may have used it as a bedtime story once or twice." He smiled at the thought.
"What do you remember of it?"
"Not a lot, just that the Mockingjay was a bird of legend in the Dynasty of the Warring Kings almost three thousand years ago. Its coming is heralded by 3 signs and the Mockingjay brings peace to the land."
The priestess corrected him gently.
"Not the whole land Prince Peeta, just ours, the Twelfth Kingdom. It is also prophesized in the legend that the Mockingjay is from another realm and comes to us during auspicious times. The avian figure is merely a symbol our ancestors affixed to the legend. But I suppose the centuries have dulled our faith and relegated such concerns to mere stories that amuse children before they sail to their dreams at night," the priestess's voice trailed to a whisper.
When the priestess spoke again, he heard the strain of her years and the burden of her duties.
"My prince, the reason I brought you here is because you were the first from your anointed family to recognize the second sign. I doubt your father would have taken it seriously, like he did with the blood moon, and your brother would not have been bothered to look around. This stone tablet serves as a reminder of our culture and history to the incoming monarchs when they are crowned. But you, my prince, have never laid eyes on it before yet you did not cast aside the significance of the signs.
"Mistake it not, Prince Peeta: we will be in a time of war. Perhaps not yet but soon. Comets always signal the imminence of war. And it is in the best interest of our Kingdom to have its anointed family remember the wisdom of our history."
And her message brought more chill to his body than the dank air.
The unexpected meeting with the priestess made him late for his own meeting with the King. But a messenger came by his room to tell him that instead, the King wishes to move their appointment to the late afternoon 3 days from now.
Yet he was still late come that day. Training with the Guard left him drained and he woke up late from a nap. He bowed and apologized profusely as soon as he entered the door to his father's study.
His father was at the fireplace, staring at the crackling fire, and beckoned him to come.
"How was your day, my boy?"
Peeta chuckled. His father had not asked him that since he was seven and would come running to the throne room and launch himself into his father's embrace.
"As fine as any. Some of our vassals are still a nuisance but I channel my frustrations through my sword at the training grounds."
"Could it be Lord Cartwright you were referring to?"
Peeta was careful to not roll his eyes but his father's bemused expression was making it difficult.
"All in a day's work my boy, all in a day's work. You will soon learn more." His father clapped him on the shoulder and smiled sadly.
Then his father exhaled, traced his jaw with his left hand as he always did when matters bothered him, and Peeta knew that with the gestures went the convivial air.
"Now that your brother Aldran is the Grand Duke and the prescribed mourning period for Matthis has elapsed, you shall take over most of Aldran's former responsibilities."
Peeta looked more closely at his father, one side of his face illuminated by the fire. There were graying hairs on his temple and he could make out deeper creases by his father's eyes. The years were catching up to him too, as well as the pressure of governing their land and dealing with the nation's bureaucracy. His coat hung a bit loosely from his loss of weight over Matthis's death.
"Aldran leaves soon for the Capitol to take his seat in the Council. As the Twelfth Kingdom's remaining prince, it is now your duty to oversee the duchies, govern them as you see fit under my guidance, work with the elected officials and nobles, and see to it that our people prosper."
"Yes your Majesty," Peeta accepted his new responsibilities solemnly.
Then the King slowly moved to the lounge chairs by his table and motioned for Peeta to sit. The King's hands were clasped together.
"I have withheld some truth from you my boy. It was necessary at the time but the recent events have moved my better judgment."
"Did the signs have anything to do with the swaying of your resolve?"
"Perhaps. As King, it is wise to heed the counsel of others and I have been advised to educate you more tonight, despite my reservations. What do you know of our nation and its government Peeta?"
He cocked his head to the side. It was an odd question for his father to ask, but he replied with what he knew.
"That our nation was formed three thousand years ago, after the Dynasty of the Warring Kings ended and our King Petrarch brought what remained of the warring kingdoms together to sign the Treaty of Unification. Together, they built a new nation called Panem. The kingdoms still governed their own affairs but a Council was set up to oversee the interests of the nation, with the Council members coming from the monarchs of the respective kingdoms. I have not forgotten your lessons." Peeta smiled but the King's face remained grave as he asked another question.
"What do you know of the current Council Chancellor?"
"Chancellor Coriolanus Snow hails from the Second Kingdom and has led the council for many years—
"Too many, in fact." His father quietly interjected and perplexed Peeta.
"But he was repeatedly voted on by the Council for his exceptional leadership. You yourself instructed Matthis to vote for him last year."
Before facing Peeta, his father inhaled and closed his eyes. Peeta saw the struggle that made his father's shoulders tense.
"I'm afraid, my son, that I will now burden you with the intricacies of politics within our Kingdom and beyond our borders. Forgive me. It is a father's distress to watch his sons be embroiled in such matters, especially since I had other hopes for you, being far in line to the throne."
The King lowered his voice as he spoke more, as though they were in danger of being overheard.
"The Twelfth Kingdom voted for the retention of the Chancellor because we cannot afford him to know what we have planned with the other kingdoms. Other kings are also restless at his brazen grip on power yet the people seem to approve of his political direction. Though the man is not without his merits, Peeta. I do not wish for you to paint the wrong picture. Chancellor Snow indeed strengthened our nation but the price we paid for it is the corruption of our systems."
The King stood up and paced the room as he gathered his thoughts before speaking again.
"Do you remember what I told you? That our power is to be wielded for the benefit of the people we derive our duties from. Under Chancellor Snow, there has been an added element to these duties in the form of monetary tributes. This nation does not move forward if the required weight of gold has not been met and stored in the vaults of those in office. Bickering ministers and monarchs are not new; our history is filled with their squabbles. But Chancellor Snow brought a more crafty system with his ascent to power."
Peeta was silenced by his father's revelation. He and his brothers used tell people that, apart from their father, they would want to be like the Chancellor when they grew up: strong, astute, and undaunted. Had he been naïve all this time? Cooped up and sheltered in his vast palace and unaware of the political entanglements outside. No system was perfect, he knew, but realizing just how much of the nation's political dealings were foreign to him churned his stomach in a painful way. The depths he had to scale looked unfathomable. No books or tutors could have taught him what he was learning tonight.
The silence stretched on and it was his father that broke it with an even heavier voice laced with pain.
"Gold and poison, rather, move the nation forward."
The air hung heavy. He realized with dread that there were some things he still did not want to hear.
"Peeta, your brother Matthis did not die from an accident. Many of my informers and confidants believe, as do myself, that he was poisoned. I had his body burned and his ashes brought back to not let any suspicion arise."
Peeta listened with sickening rapt though his veins felt cold and his father's words wrapped around his throat.
"When I rushed to the Capitol upon hearing of his death, I had my doubts. But they were erased when I saw your brother's blue lips and the veins straining purple against his skin in death."
"Are you saying that the Chancellor is behind Matthis's death?"
"I am saying that we have been warned. Some ministry men close to the Chancellor did not favor your brother. We have always been one of the more vocal members of the Council and known to oppose the Chancellor at critical times. That certainly did not help the cup your brother drank from."
Peeta felt a dull hurt when his father stopped. The image of the nation changed before his mind and not being included in critical matters angered him and it joined the humiliation he felt over his naivety. The fire in the room was now too hot and the sweat made the clothes on his back stick.
His father excused himself to go to bed early, breaking the prolonged silence, but before he retired, he turned to Peeta with eyes bereft of apology yet filled with calm steadiness and said,
"You have always been curious, my boy. This is simply to remind you to keep your eyes open."
When she got back home after passing by Madge's place to get the gift they were making for Prim's birthday, Aunt Effie was waiting for her in the living room.
"I'm home." She called out.
"Oh there you are. Gone out with prince charming yet?" Aunt Effie loved to draw out the wicked fun in teasing her. Katniss replied with a stony expression but her aunt was unperturbed.
"Hang on, I got something for you dear." Aunt Effie opened the drawer of the table beside the sofa and pulled out a tiny black box.
"I found it while I was cleaning."
Katniss opened the small velvet box and picked up a golden locket with an ornate bird poised to fly etched in the front. It looked vintage.
"It's beautiful, thank you Aunt Effie."
"It was your mother's. We bought it in a flea market the summer before she met your father. I thought of giving it to Prim for her birthday but this should be your early graduation present."
Katniss looked up and smirked "Won't this jinx my chances?"
"Oh not at all, but it might help with young Stanislaus's fortune with you."
At the mention of his name, she turned on her heels and went up the stairs as Aunt Effie called out "Your mom said that was her love life's lucky charm!"
"Ugh!" she shouted as she entered her room and shut the door to block out her Aunt's laughter.
She sat on the bed and opened her locket, the delicate chain slipping between her fingers. She was hoping for a photo of her mother and father but it was hollow save for an inscription.
Katniss asked her Aunt Effie about it the next day but she just laughed it off and called the inscription a "funky poem."
She opened it again the following night, after helping Prim with her homework, and recited the words in the locket written in a cadence unfamiliar to her.
Upon the last syllable, the locket glowed red and burned through her palm. She tried to scream as she smelled her burning flesh but her mouth was petrified and she can only watch as the searing, glowing heat from her hand spread through her arm, then her torso, down her legs, then back up her chest and neck. And just before it engulfed her face, before she passed out from the pain, she was blinded by a burst of white light.
Dinner the following night with Aldran and his father was awkward. He presumed Aldran knew of what happened to Matthis already. They were dining beneath the sky again, just like the breakfast they had when they saw the blood comet.
After dinner, they said their goodbyes and proceeded to their affairs. Peeta went back to his room to write his thoughts. He sketched a bit of Matthis too, his laughing, murdered brother that he missed terribly. The clock on his study, made by Matthis himself for Peeta's thirteenth birthday, told him it was time to retire for bed.
Just as he was about to set down his paper and charcoal, screams erupted from the grounds. Peeta went out the doors to the balcony to see the sky scarlet. Panic made it hard to breathe and think but he recalled the Legend of the Mockingjay more fully. His mind offered no other explanation. There in the night sky, together with the blood moon and the blood comet, all too soon, was the third sign of the legend's prophesy: the bloody aurora was moving in ominous waves across the kingdom.
He ran out of his room. His feet knew where to go as he passed by the pillars of the Hall of Reverence and into his family chamber. Running down the cold steps of the Enclave, he dashed to the Mockingjay Tablet. He rubbed his eyes to see if what he was seeing was a trick. Some of the inscriptions of the tablet were illuminated. He moved closer to read them. It was difficult to understand because the language was from a different time and his tongue was not used to its rhythm. Mesmerized, he recited the inscription aloud a second time.
Then a blinding white light burst from the tablet and Prince Peeta fell to the ground.
Why hello there! Thank you for reading till the end, I am truly grateful for that. Since this is my first fan fiction, I would appreciate it terribly if you let me know what you think I have already outlined the whole story and have even written the ending (but not all chapters in between yet) so rest assured I will update regularly and finish this.
This fic is an AU. Katniss lives in our world and Peeta's in another, wonderful realm of monarchs, legends, and prophecies coming true. My love for history will be evident in the chapters to come.
Did you notice the titles of some of the characters? They're not mine. I merely lifted them from history and TV (you can take a guess which one belongs to where).
And before I forget, here goes the disclaimer: The Hunger Games characters are not mine. I am only borrowing them for the benefit of my readers and my amusement. The rights belong to Suzanne Collins and her publisher.