The Lady Of The Lake
So here we are...the penultimate chapter of the Lady of the Lake. That's not to say that I won't write more of Sky and Cato...they will be back in other stories and also in a continuation of The Lady of the Lake. We all want to know how things turn out right? So there will be a sequel.
There are no review responses at the end of this chapter simply because writing this chapter, the second last one, was brutally difficult for me. I knew what I wanted to happen, but writing it...conveying Sky's helplessness, her feeling of being adrift...that made conveying things hard. After that I couldn't face replying to all of you...I'm sorry.
I hope you enjoy this...the second last chapter.
The flight to the Capitol is tense, silence heavy over the cockpit of the aircraft as Lyrra hunches over her console, seemingly absorbed, and Sefir flies, knuckles white and face haunted.
I give him an hour and then I gently rest my hand on the join of his neck and shoulder, fingers gently rubbing at the tense tendon there, "You alright?" I ask quietly.
He shakes his head, mouth tightly compressed.
"This isn't how it was supposed to go down."
"Does it ever go the way we plan it to?" I slide into the co-pilots chair beside him, watching the tense tick in his jaw, "Sefir, you have to let it go…or you'll snap…"
He glances at me, face bleak, "I can handle death," he said, voice rough, "I was a mentor for years. I was the last Victor District 5 had, so I'm no stranger to seeing people die." He let out a low shaky sigh, "It's just…"
"It's different," I say quietly and he glances at me, "It is. Annie was…Annie…" my throat closes and I have to cough roughly to continue speaking, "Annie had suffered so much...Cashmere too…in different ways, but they'd both suffered, and been kept from the men they loved. And they'd just found some happiness…and now…"
"Now they're dead." Sefir says bleakly, "They deserved so much more."
"They died so that one day, people can love someone like Cashmere or Finnick…and not have the Capitol keep them apart." I smile weakly, "We just have to make sure it's not in vain."
"How do I tell Fells?" Sefir's voice is a whisper and I close my eyes, "How do I tell Gloss…how do I tell him that I let his sister die?"
"How do I tell Finnick?" I reply, stomach churning icily in my belly, "There's no good way Sefir."
We sit in silence for a while and then Sefir speaks again, "You killed him."
I know instantly what he's speaking about but I shy away from the memory of it.
I know that eventually I will have to face up to the fact I'd killed that District 13 invader but right now my mind feels brittle, cracked, like one good blow will shatter it and I'll be lost…I can't face it right now.
After the battle I will cry for Annie, for Cashmere, for myself…but right now…right now I can't feel anything or I will break.
Sefir, watching me, seems to understand, because he doesn't push the issue. He just reaches over and takes my hand in his.
I remember running through the Quell Arena, Sefir at my side. I remember him taking my hand and staying by my side even as my world crumbled around me. I remember him making me feel a little bit safer.
I squeeze his hand, and he glances at me again.
"You won't lose Gloss," I reassure him, and then smile softly, "And you won't lose me."
"I know," he smiles back, "I'm not going to let anyone hurt either of you. After all..your boys would kill me…"
We see the smoke long before we see the Capitol and not long after Lyrra starts getting communication once more.
Voices come over the comm, Haymitch's worried voice, the voices of Rebels announcing their advancement through the Capitol, and then finally the voices of Victors with their Districts, Rilka, Sigrin, Ria, Johanna, Lyme and Enobaria. Each of them is a relief, but also agonising.
Because no one has heard from Katniss, or those with her.
"We can't let them know we're here," Lyrra says quietly, flicking a few switches, until Haymitch's voice returns, "Coin has to think you two are dead or else she'll start scrambling."
"But we have to help…"
"We will," Sefir murmurs darkly and suddenly the aircraft goes into a tight dive, as blasts ricochet around us, Rebel and Capitol alike, "Fuck, neither of them know we're friendly…"
"Get us out of here!" I shout at him and yell as we go into a spin, missing the gunfire aimed at us, "Sefir!"
"I know!" he shouts back and Lyrra screams as the earth rushes up to meet us. At the last moment he yanks us up and we skim over the rooftop, weaving in between huge Capitol buildings.
"Capitol fighters closing in." I warn him, my gaze firmly on the sensor sweep readings, "Behind us."
"Not for long."
Sefir flies like a madman, and I'm suddenly glad we were left one of the small craft. If we'd been in a large one, we'd have crashed or been blown up before now.
One by one Sefir leads the Capitol aircraft to fiery ends, all of them crashing while he, cunning and nimble in the air, ducks and weaves.
"We can't outrun them forever!" I loose the last of the aircrafts blinding smoke into the air as Sefir whisks us around a corner, "Do you have a plan?"
Suddenly we were soaring up, vertically, and the craft I hadn't even notice ahead of us, crashed into the one behind.
"Katniss is alive." Lyrra flicks some more switches as I turn to face her, Sefir's driving beginning to make me feel a little ill, "Haymitch got a comm from her."
"Thank god…" I breathe a little easier, "What about those with her?"
"I don't know…she was under heavy fire…"
"At the palace…the Capitol captured Gale…a pod trapped him."
I swear as Sefir banks right again, heading, predictably towards the palace.
"She said casualties…didn't name names."
Pain stabs into my chest and for a moment I can't breathe. All I can remember is the sight of Katniss dead, of Sefir, of Fells, of Peeta, Finnick and Cato. If I had to lose them a second time.
"Got it…" Lyrra's fingers fly across the holoscreen, "Got her signal."
We nearly make it.
I come to, to the smell of smoke, and the sound of Sefir's breaths rasping in his chest as he runs, jostling me up and down.
Gunfire rattles all around us, noises fading in and out, my vision blurring as we run through a war zone. I can feel Sefir's heart pounding against my arm, and out of the corner of my eyes I see red hair as Lyrra races beside us.
"Sky. Sky!" I blink and suddenly things are quieter, though there are still flashes of light around us, and I realise that I lost consciousness once more, though for how long I know not. Sefir is crouched before me and his worried hazel green eyes flick over my face, as do Lyrra's, "She has a concussion I think…"
"She hit her head hard," Lyrra's soft hand brushes over my head as I struggle to stop the world spinning around me, "We're in the middle of a battle Sefir, she doesn't belong here. Especially not like this."
"Neither of you do." He moves away and then comes back, face worried and pinched, "Sky, love…can you stand? We have to keep moving."
"Yes…" I breathe, and move to stand, only for the world to lurch around me and for Lyrra to grab at my arms.
"She's gone white as a sheet."
"I'm fine…" I ruthlessly force myself to stand, to stand where I am, and the world swims around me, but I stand, and then I move.
"We have to get to Katniss," Sefir says softly, voice hoarse, "She will be Coin's next target."
"Perhaps," Lyrra allows, "Or she will destroy Katniss without killing her."
"How?" Sefir shakes his head, "How would she do that?"
"What can take someone like Katniss apart?" Lyrra says quietly, "Someone like you. Like Sky. Like Peeta."
"Loss." I say quietly, thinking of those days in the Capitol bed after the Quell, where I'd believed I lost everything that I loved. Only Teesa, the babe in my belly had kept me even tentatively connected, "Take away the people you cannot live without."
"Gale," Says Sefir.
"Peeta," Lyrra whispers.
"Prim." I reply, remembering the images of Katniss, pale and determined as she volunteered in place of the younger sister she adored, "Prim."
We look at one another and then I flick on my comm, setting it to Haymitch.
"Sky!" Haymitch's voice sounded shocked through the comm, "Are you here already? We hadn't sent the…"
"There's no time to explain it all." I say, and look up at Lyrra mouthing something at me, "Haymitch you can't tell anyone that I'm here, or that you've heard from me, or that I'm alive at all."
"What? Why on earth…?"
"Haymitch…trust me when I tell you this story cannot be told now." Sefir looks around us worriedly, "Where is Prim, Primrose Everdeen."
"Katniss' sister?" he sounded bemused but then I hear soft sounds like he's searching he in the databanks, "She's…with the front line medics…"
Front line. They'd put a thirteen year old girl on the front lines, and by the sounds of it this smells just as wrong to Haymitch as it does to us.
"Is anyone we trust with her?" I ask as I wrestle with my stomach wanting to expel its contents.
"Fells." Is the immediate low answer, "And Peeta. Sweetheart what is going on?"
"We're fighting a war on two sides…" We really have to move now, "Remember…no one…"
"I know!" he scoffs at me, "God the irony.."
And it is ironic. For months I'd been furious my loved ones had pretended to be dead. And here I was doing the same. But I, like they, had no choice."
We end communications and hurry off, Sefir holding my arm in one hand, a serious looking automatic gun in the other. Lyrra shocks me by scooping up a long weapon from a dead Peacekeeper's hand, a sniper rifle, and I blink at her.
A pistol is pushed into my own nerveless fingers and I hold it, not out of any real intent, but simply because having it is a comfort.
We race out into a long hall, and instantly I see Peacekeepers, hauling prisoners.
"Gale," Lyrra breathes and my eyes snap to her.
"You can see him?"
She nods and I let out a shaky breath, "Is he unhurt?"
"Bloody and bruised but alive. Lyme and two of your other female Victors are there too."
I look to Sefir and his face is tense, angry, "We can't leave them."
He scans his eyes around and I sit down behind a column, the world still swirling woozily. It makes me feel ill, truly ill, and for a moment I miss the movement of Lyrra, until suddenly a soft sound comes from nearby and a thud follows. I glance around the pillar as a peacekeeper slumps, and then back at Lyrra who is already sighting down her gun again. Two more shots and then the remaining peacekeepers seem to realise. But by then of course it is too late…Sefir has ended their lives and I stare at Lyrra, whose face is tense.
"Kill or be killed," she said softly, and for a moment I hear Teesa, her twin from long ago, "Come."
Gale looks at me as we make our way into the palace grounds, Sefir in the lead with Rilka and Sigrin, the female victors from 9 and 10 beside him. His grey eyes are unreadable as I look back at him, and then his mouth tightens, "Something is wrong."
"Everything's wrong." I tell him softly.
And then the bombs fall.
I look around to see them falling into the great enclosures of hiding Capitol citizens, innocent bystanders. Its carnage, flesh and blood everywhere and my knees hit the ground, finally losing the battle with my stomach as, the little food eaten that day splattered across smooth Capitol marble.
The screams of the dying are almost lost as medical teams swoop in, aircraft landing, and doctors and medics rushing out. But even as my head spins, Gale's hand grabs my arm and he yanks me upright to look at fevered grey eyes.
"It's a trap." He shouts, and I blink at him, stupid, idiotic and he shakes me, making the world reel, "The bombs!" he howls, "District 13 drops the bombs and then when the medical teams rush in… the rest…"
It takes me three painful heartbeats to realise.
And then I'm twisting out of his grasp, running headlong for the three blond heads I knew I'd see.
"Fells!" I scream into my comm, and he looks around in shock, "It's a trap!"
I point at Prim as I stumble, swerving like a drunken sot, and Fells…blessed, brilliant Fells understands. He lunges for Prim even as someone hits me, pushing me down into dirt. My head lifts in time to see Fells, grabbing Peeta and Prim and shoving them behind a column, pushing them to the ground, covering them with his own body.
And then the world goes white.
I come to to the smell of antiseptic, to the moans of the dying.
I come to to the sight of Sefir's tearstained face above mine.
It feels like unreality, like I am floating separate from the realms of real life, like a dream or like a world shrouded in numbing mist.
My world is fragmented, small memories.
I remember very little.
But they let me see the bodies.
Rilka, dark hair singed, fierce little face strangely blank in death.
Sigrin, pale and face slashed open by flying shrapnel, her body in two gruesome parts.
Septim, Lucan's twin, Cato's older brother, who dies as I sit beside him, clutching his hand. Septim who died because of me. He was the one who tackled me to the ground, seeing me running towards danger. He'd brought me to the ground, and saved me.
But I could not save him. I sit with him as he chokes on his last breaths, his burned body shuddering from the effort it gives to try and remain living. But his blue eyes never leave mine.
"I'm sorry…" I whisper.
"Don't….be…." he breathes back. Slowly his lips curl upwards and as his chest falls, never to rise again, the smile on his lips remains, "Sister…"
But that is not the end, though I feel like I've been gutted ten times over.
They let me see Fells.
He's impaled by a chunk of the bomb that killed him and for a moment all I can see is another man I'd loved, lying impaled on a green field, the grass slowly being stained red by his hearts blood. But then it fades and all I can see is Fells, pale, lifeless and still, his blond hair smoothed from Sefir's fingers as he weeps by his bed.
I do not cry.
I cannot cry for Cashmere's beloved, the man who became her husband, who loved her for years, remained faithful and steadfast despite all the Capitol could throw at them. I cannot cry for the loyal lover who stayed by her side even through Snow's misuse of her, the father of Jasper and Pearl now orphans, the friend who never faltered. I cannot cry for the sweet healer who saved my life and brought me back from the brink of insanity.
I cannot cry because I cannot allow myself to.
He saved Peeta and Prim, who were rescued by Katniss and her group.
He did what we all swore we'd give our lives to.
And it's not yet over. I can't fall apart yet.
Because it's not over.
I look in the mirror and look at the brutal red slashes that rake over my left cheek.
"We can smooth it over?" A soft Capitol nurse says, her eyes wide with an awe I do not deserve and her words are a kindness I cannot stand.
I look at myself and I see a woman, not the girl I once was.
"No." I say, and my voice is raspy from suppressed use, "Leave it."
Coins face when I slam the doors open to the council room is something I treasure forever.
As I do Cato lets out a desperate sound, lunging to his feet and surging towards me, only halted by my raised hand.
"Not yet." I say, my cold eyes on Coin before quickly glancing around, and I see Gloss half risen from his seat, eyes fixed on Sefir beside me.
The Victors that remain are here, and the number is pitifully small.
One Victor from District 1 remains, Gloss who hasn't looked away from the burly man from 5.
From District 2 also, only Cato is here, and I grieve for the practical Lyme, the fierce Enobaria, Deccia's friend.
Beetee represents District 3, looking old and tired, but he manages a weak smile as my eyes slide over him.
My heart stops as my gaze meets sea green.
Finnick stares back at me, his eyes bloodshot and I think a part of me warms to see him alive, even as another part is chilled by the despair on those amazing eyes. We are the only two that remain from District 4.
Ria and Sefir stand for District 5, the man moving over to cover her hand with his, his eyes never leaving Gloss'.
No one remains from District 6.
Johanna stands alone for 7, looking impassive, even as her arm is in a huge sling.
Only Cecelia remains from 8 and she is not here Haymitch informs me quietly, remaining at home with her family, rebuilding her decimated District.
I think of District 9 and 10, seeing no Fells, no Enrid, no Rilka, no Sigrin. They all died in the Capitol, and my heart aches for quiet, focused Enrid.
From 11 only Chaff remains, and he nurses a drink in his remaining hand.
Out of us all District 12 has the greatest number of surviving Victors, with a pale limping Peeta, a thin Katniss and a withdrawn Haymitch standing beside them.
It is just us Victors.
"Ms Du'Grey." She looks pale as I fix my eyes on her, "What a relief…"
"Be silent." Everyone looks around, eyes widening at my cold tone, the hatred on my face, "Or if you have to speak tell everyone what you did to District 13."
"Don't. Lie." Sefir grits out prowling forward a pace.
I hold up my hand to him and he stills as I glare at her once more, "Tell me Coin, why a meeting of only Victors?"
She relaxes a tad as I leave the line of questioning about District 13's massacre, "I wanted to talk to you all, before President Snow is exectuted….about one last Hunger Games."
My blood chills in my veins and I hear Cato hiss softly behind me.
"A Hunger Games?" Sefir growls at her, "What Hunger Games?"
"One… using the children of the Capitol, our oppressors. As the remaining Victors and the ones to have suffered at their hands I thought it only appropriate for you to decide."
Meaning she thought we would be bitter enough to say yes, so passing blame for such a brutal act onto us, I think dryly.
"No." I say, and my voice is steady, final, "The Hunger Games were a brutal, cruel punishment. We fought against the regime…not against the men and women of the Capitol itself. To murder innocent children…for no reason other than petty, foolish, wasteful vengeance…no, I will not stand for that."
"It is not just your decision…" Coin begins, but Peeta interrupts her.
"She's right," he glances at the others, who nod, even bitter Johanna, albeit reluctantly, "Killing will serve us nothing."
"Now…" Cato steps forward, his hand resting protectively on my waist, "What were you saying about District 13 love?"
In the end there is a double execution. Two arrows from Katniss' bow. And both Coin and Snow are dead.
NEXT CHAPTER: A TIME JUMP (The Finale)