Author's Note: Hey, everybody, here I am with the chapter in Obsidian's point of view that I promised! But first... you know, I haven't done a disclaimer in a while. Now, I don't normally do this but... Hey, Sid! Do a disclaimer for me!
Obsidian: Uh, okay. So, Lily does not own the Hunger Games. And neither do I. But she does own Vale, which I don't, obviously, because owning people is totally not cool, and she owns some shiny stuff, and... can I go now?
Yes. ...Okay, everybody, enjoy! :)
"Kind people have a way of working their way inside me and rooting there." –Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games
The moment that the innocent face of the little boy from District Twelve appeared in the sky, Obsidian Citrine's stomach gave a lurch so powerful that he thought he was going to throw up, preferably all over Amber Sheen.
He didn't even know much about the boy, but what he did know flitted through his mind now: the kid was only twelve years old, and just barely that. His name was Kit: "not Kitty, not Kitty Kitty, not 'here, Kitty Kitty'—just Kit, please." He was sarcastic, and Obsidian found him pretty funny. He was close to "sparkle girl"—Vale. And he had a crush on Vale's little sister.
And now, he was dead. Another candle with too short a wick, snuffed out by the Games.
Thirteen tributes fallen now. Obsidian himself had taken out four of them. Dornick, the burly boy from District Eight, who had been skilled with throwing knives; he had dealt Obsidian a sound blow to the arm before he had died, and it still stung a bit, even though Nerissa had bandaged it up so well. Carilee, the girl from Ten with the puffy hair, whose pleas for life still echoed in his ears sometimes when it got too quiet. Rye, just thirteen, from Nine—small and scared, cut down so easily after he'd frozen like a scared rabbit near the Cornucopia. And little Mac from District Three: twelve and as tiny as poor Kit had been. Of his kills, Mac had to be the one that Obsidian regretted the most.
Regrets like these scared him. It wasn't supposed to be in a Career's nature to feel so much compassion; it was a weakness, they would say, that should have been beaten out of him during his long, laborious years of training. He hadn't been raised to have second guesses. He was supposed to be a District One tribute, the best of the best, powerful and efficient and utterly ruthless.
Just like Amber, who sat beside him at the fire, too close to him for his comfort. "Looks like that little runt got what was coming to him," she said with a scoff. She flipped her platinum blonde hair—which looked far too perfect after they'd been so long in the arena—and smirked. "In my opinion, he survived a lot longer than he should have as it is."
"Right," grunted Achilles. Obsidian couldn't see the boy's eyes beneath his mop of dark curls, but he could imagine that they were glinting savagely, like Amber's were.
"But don't you think it's terrible?" he asked. "He turned twelve on the day of the reaping! If he'd been born just a day later, he would still be alive…."
Amber laughed. "Don't think like that, silly. He was born then, and he is dead. And that's a good thing."
That same sick feeling returned with a vengeance, twice as potent as before. A good thing? How could she say something as horrible as that, without showing even so much as a faint glimmer of sadness?
"Just six more wimps left to go," said Brigid, Achilles's district partner. She was grinning, revealing pointed yellow teeth that reminded Obsidian of fangs. Fangs like a wildcat's.
Like the catlike, scaly creature who had ambushed him and Nerissa when they were on their way back to rejoin the rest of the Career pack. Every time he closed his eyes, he could still see its eyes, sickly green, like bottomless pits of hatred. He could hear Nerissa's scream as its jaws clamped around her leg. Obsidian had tried to fight it off, but the moment after it dealt Nerissa that fatal wound, it had disappeared again into the dense clumps of trees, leaving the small District Four girl lying on the ground, wailing that she wanted her mother while she bled to death.
He missed little 'Rissa. She had been the most decent one in the pack.
Amber slid up to him, so close that their knees touched, and sneered. "So, who next? I say we go after that other little scaredy-cat from Twelve. And maybe, after we're done with her, I can borrow that pretty little necklace of hers."
"She sure won't need it anymore!" said Achilles with a hoot of laughter.
"Goodness, don't explain the joke…. So, what do you say, Obsidian?" Amber asked. Her tawny eyes gleamed ruthlessly in the flickering light of the fire.
Obsidian didn't say anything. He didn't trust that, if he spoke, the others would like the words that came out of his mouth.
They couldn't be targeting her already. There were still plenty of other, more dangerous tributes left in the Games. Like Chas from District Ten, a berserker armed with a club. And Fen, the girl from Five, was nearly as good with a bow as Amber was (although it was a bad idea to tell that to Amber). Then there was Lexus, District Six, who was skilled with the blowgun that she had found at the Cornucopia.
But compared to people like these, Vale Whitaker wasn't much of a threat. She was—and he didn't mean too much offense by this—positively terrible. Some of his allies thought that she had been faking it, but he knew better: she was genuinely that awful. He remembered that, the first time he had taken much notice of her, she had managed to bind her fingers together at the knot-tying station in the Training Center. And from there, she hadn't really improved. It took some epic failing skills to score a two in evaluations.
Anyway, there was something amusing about a painfully shy girl who would get angry enough to yell at him—a brawny boy who was a head taller than her and much more dangerous—in front of both of their entourages. Something that could only be described as winning about someone who would break down in tears onstage as she uttered a final, earnest goodbye to her family back home. And something perplexing about the same "cowardly" girl who would make a mad dash through the Cornucopia in the midst of the bloodbath, just to save her doomed district partner.
Obsidian had been trained never to do anything so stupid. He could remember what so many had told him: "In the arena, your life comes first and foremost. If you have a choice between saving your best friend's life and your own, leave the poor sucker to get eaten by mutts. Self-preservation is the most important thing."
Which is why he didn't understand that particular action on Vale Whitaker's part—why he kept puzzling over it, over her, in his mind: it had been an irrational thing to do. But it was uncharacteristically brave, and Obsidian had been brought up to admire bravery. So, because of that, he might have gone a bit out of his way to interfere with Dornick killing her during the bloodbath (although he'd had that one marked as a threat, anyway, before that). He might have even received that nasty nick on his arm from Dornick when he had turned around momentarily to ensure that Vale and the little boy had gotten away to safety.
It wasn't supposed to be in his nature to feel so much compassion.
Amber was peering at him dubiously from very close range. "Well, Obsidian?" she said. "What do you think? We should go after that girl next, shouldn't we?"
He inched away from her. "We still have bigger problems—like the boy from Ten with the club. Maybe we should deal with him…."
Amber stuck out her full lower lip in a pout and crossed her arms. "Killjoy."
"Hey," said Brigid with another savage grin, "Maybe he'll take that wussy girl out for us, whack her upside the skull with that big club a couple times, bash her brains right out—save us some trouble."
"Right," Achilles snickered.
Across the fire, Ford's sea green eyes met Obsidian's gaze. Ford was from District Four like Nerissa, and perhaps, Obsidian hoped, their region's relative distance from the Capitol had imparted some sort of good in him. Obsidian noticed that he wasn't speaking out, either—to side with or against the others. Ford gave him a slight nod, nearly imperceptible, and looked away into the dancing orange flames.
"I hope he doesn't," Amber was saying. "That would leave less fun for us. I wonder how many arrows I could get in her before she dies. Any bets?"
"Six," said Achilles.
"No way! Have you seen how scrawny she is? More like two," Brigid scoffed.
All three of them looked to Ford, who hesitated for a moment. His eyes flickered briefly in the direction of Obsidian's face, then quickly away.
"I say… ten," he said finally, his diffident expression hardening into a cruel scowl. "I'd say one, because Amber's a great shot, but I know she wouldn't go for the heart right away. She'd want to make the wimp suffer."
Amber gave Ford a pleased smile, lashes fluttering, and got up to sit next to him. From there, she looked to Obsidian and pried, "And what's your bet? How many arrows do you think I could get in that puny District Twelve girl before she keeled over?"
Everyone was staring at him, their cold, heartless eyes catching the warm light of the fire and redirecting it into something altogether menacing. Obsidian found himself shuddering, even with his sword by his side.
"Well?" said Brigid.
"Zero," he muttered.
"What? None at all?" Achilles said, bewildered.
Amber smirked. "Oh, I get what you mean, Obsidian. You think she'd die of fright before I even got a chance to shoot."
No, he thought, I mean that all your arrows and your lofty neck would be snapped in half before you even got a chance to nock the first one, you smug little witch.
He recoiled from his own thought. What was that about? Goodness knows, he didn't exactly make a secret of his lack of fondness for Amber Sheen—she was an arrogant, sadistic, overly flirtatious jerk—but to think of killing her while she was planning to attack one of their common enemies…?
It was Obsidian's own fault, paying such close attention to his competitors. He had watched them for too long and started to notice redeeming, appealing qualities in them. A bashful flush of the cheeks, an affectionate smile in the direction of the little boy…
Vale Whitaker was a threat, he realized. Because she was pure and kind and innocent, something that never cropped up in the arena, something that never should, and something that he had never thought could survive and even flourish for this long. She was a good person—she sparkled—and therefore, she was infinitely dangerous.
Dangerous, because good people endeared themselves to Obsidian, deliberately or not. They worked their way into his heart, even if he hardly knew them—even if it was just a stranger on the street who gave him a tiny smile when he was having a difficult day.
Even if they seemed to fear and hate him, for some reason, he couldn't help but develop a sort of illicit, internal amity toward them. Toward her, and even poor Kit. They were good people, the kind he would have wanted as friends, if it hadn't been for the Games.
He looked out at these people around the fire, the ones that he called his allies. He knew that, if worse came to worst, they wouldn't risk their lives to save him. And to be honest, he wouldn't put his own life in jeopardy to rescue them, either. Nerissa had been the only decent being in the batch; the rest were scarcely even human. He could hardly even stand to be in their presence.
He remembered the night when he had come across Vale and Kit, slumbering in their leaf-coated sleeping bag in the trench, with circlets of laurels on their heads; why he had found himself unwilling and unable to kill them. The girl had had one skinny, protective arm draped around the little boy as they slept, and she had worn a near-angelic expression of innocence, same as always. There had been a tiny smile fixed on the little boy's peaceful face, buried in the fabric of her too-large jacket.
Neither of them slept with one eye open, the way Obsidian did, fearing that their companions would slip a knife between their ribs in their sleep. There had been complete, open trust between those two. Not like the way things were here.
Obsidian stood up from the fire. "I'm going to bed," he said simply, and he made his way away from the warmth and the so-called "companionship," over to his solitary sleeping bag. He burrowed inside, stowing his sword beside him in its sheath, and lay there in the deepening darkness, staring up at the sky where the little boy's picture had been minutes before.
Something had changed. Not around him—things had always been this way, if only he had been paying more attention all along. So something must have changed inside him. Inside his mind or inside his heart.
Growing up and hearing stories of Hunger Games past, they had seemed like so much fun, adventures with fantastic, unimaginable riches and eternal fame as the victor's reward. A dream come true for a small, idealistic boy with a "bright" future as a Career tribute lying ahead of him.
But this… This was not the dream he'd had in mind. This was a nightmare. A nightmare that would leave him to wake up, breathing hard, covered in cold sweat—only to find that he hadn't woken up from the madness at all.
"Assure me it's okay to use my heart and not my eyes to navigate the darkness…. Show me what it's for; make me understand it. I've been crawling in the dark, looking for the answer. Is there something more than what I've been handed? I've been crawling in the dark, looking for the answer. So when and how will I know? How much further do I have to go?" –Hoobastank, "Crawling in the Dark"
Author's Note: Okay, so Sid's currently not so smiley. But do we blame him? I think a better title for this chapter would've been "All of the Careers Are Jerks (Except Siddy)." XD
Anyway, next chapter, we'll revisit Vale. Maybe she's cheered up? Probably not. But we can hope.