Chapter One

"What are they waiting for?" Peeta's voice grabs my attention. We are sitting a ledge near the shore of the lake. Peeta is watching the sunset with awe and contempt, and I think he's wondering whether the sunset looks the same as it did in District Twelve.

I turn to him. "They're probably thinking of how to finish this." I give him a real kiss because fear threatens to flood my mind. I can't help wondering what will happen if Cato shows up. Someone will die, I'm so positive of the thought that I feel sick. Someone will die.

A sudden snap behind us has us lurching to our feet. Cato bursts out of the bracken, his face a mask of terror. Peeta draws his knife, but he doesn't move.

Cato looks at us with one glance, his eyes flare with recognition. I wait for him to launch himself into attack, like I've seen. But Cato has nothing in his hands.

I pull out an arrow and shoot at his side. It falls off with a barely audible clink. "He's got on some kind of body armor!"

Cato stops for a split second, not pausing to acknowledge my realization, and whirls around. I hear a stampede of sound and an awful, threatening howling.

Cato flees into the woods on the other direction, towards Cornucopia. Peeta looks at me with confusion, and then the realization dawns on his face.

Where Cato had fled from, there is a wide gap in the bushes. I look into the gap and see huge mutant dogs streaking toward us. Running after Cato, I have no desire other than to save myself.

We run fast, sprinting a few yards from death.

I look behind me to make sure Peeta is following me. He is on my heels as we sprint after Cato. We burst through the large clearing where we were released into the arena. Cato is leaning on the golden horn, his face drawn in.

He looks up at us and bares his sword. I blink. There had been nothing in his hands. Did he come to the Cornucopia and drop his sword off, intending to come and find us, but fortunately get chased back? It didn't make sense.

Still, I sprint a bit away from him, on the other side of the horn, and launch myself at the top. Peeta looks up, hardly a yard from me, when the mutts burst in after us.

I stifle a scream and yank on Peeta's hand, which has somehow found its way into mine. I pull him up while he holds his knife in his other hand. Cato is suddenly by him, and I see compassion on his face as he helps me lift Peeta.

I look down at the mutts and suddenly have trouble holding on. One mutt has horrifyingly human-like green eyes and a coast so yellow, it can only be described as blonde. Looking at their collars, I see numbers. The blonde's says 1. I scream and start to slide over. Peeta pulls me up and shakes me.

"What is it, Katniss?" His voice is suddenly loud.

"It's her! Glimmer and all the other tributes!" I say. The mutts begin to howl as if to confirm my guess. Peeta looks down at the mutts and his face turns a light shade of green.

"Do you think they used their real eyes?" Peeta asks. Their eyes are the least of my concerns. I look for more tributes in the mutant dogs. I see Foxface in one mutt with dark red fur, her sly smile wasn't lost after all. A tiny dog, the smallest, has dark brown fur and darker eyes. Her jaw is twisted up in hatred. Rue...

Cato looks at us with a dazed expression, his eyes conflicted. After a few short seconds, it seems as if his eyes darken. His jaw sets, but I look back at the mutts, still horrified.

"Now it ends." Cato's voice draws my eyes away from the mutts scratching at the horn. I look over with wide eyes. I pull out my bow quickly, and grab an arrow from the holder strapped on my pack. I realized that in our flight from the mutts, our packs have been left at the lake shore.

Cato grabs Peeta in a headlock with his sword still in his hand. I aim the arrow at Cato's heart, my jaw locked with tension.

"You shoot me, he falls." Cato's face turns into a mask of bitter triumph. Cato and I have reached a stalemate. If I shoot Cato, he'll fall down dead with Peeta still in his arms, down to the mutts. If I don't, Peeta will die of lack of air. Peeta's eyes are widening and his face tries to turn blue. I suck in a breath and put down my bow, my eyes still locked on Cato's face.

Cato smiles and moves his arms. Cato's movement caused a lack of pressure and Peeta sucks in a little bit of air, the action unnoticed by Cato.

Knock him down! I think. Then without hesitating, I fling myself at Cato, prying his arms off of Peeta. He screams a curse as we fall off of the horn. The mutts fall on us in seconds after we hit the ground. I scream as I feel a ripping from the leg of my pants. Cato wrenches away from me, still clutching his sword. I punch him in the face as the sword manages to come down by my shoulder, across my chest. The sword also cuts at the mutt biting at my arm.

The mutts bite and claw at us, and eventually we stop fighting each other and try to escape the mutts.

Cato will last longer than me. I think of his body armor. The thought makes me fight harder with the mutts. At first, I tried to stand up and lore them away from the Cornucopia, but one of the bigger mutts, possibly Thresh's, pulls me back down before I can make a distance between them.

I scream as I feel a searing pain in my side. I sling a fist toward one of the five mutts ripping at me. It backs away with a whine and goes toward Cato, whose armor seems to be gone because soon he is screaming with me.

"Katniss!" Peeta's voice cuts through the sound of growling and snapping. From the sound of his voice, he's been shouting my name for a while. Another pain in my leg has me on my feet. I try to run from the edge of Cornucopia, looking around wildly. Something trips me and as I go down, I see Peeta's face. He shouts one word at me, but I can barely hear him. Prim. . .

Teeth dig into both my legs and I feel myself being dragged on my back to Cato. I scream in pain and struggle with the mutts dragging me, wishing I had a knife to cut at their throats.

I look at the darkening sky and make out a few stars before a mutt climbs on top of me to cover my eyes.