Entering Day Two of the arena! XD And I'm late again, ugh. School's started. Yippee.


When Sawyer steps down from the Cornucopia, my eyes snap open and my fingers tighten around the cold hilt of my sword. She can't kill me now, I wasn't ever truly asleep. I haven't had more than a half hour of rest at a time. I'm a leader, and my underlings will not- they will NOT- catch me off guard. I'm always in control- my father taught me that skill years ago.

My eyelids are drooping already. I jump to my feet, arranging my face in a snarl, and internally smirk at Sawyer's startled expression. I could kill her. Right now, as she's hesitating. I could spill her lovely crimson blood…

No. She's a strong ally. She'll be useful when we fight. Today we will fight. Yesterday was boring- that big jungle island, it was boring. There was too much space to cover as a group and even split up we didn't catch any frightened little tools. Desire found someone's footprints, but she was incapable of bringing us a catch. I was disappointed in her- she looks perfect, with her light skin, blonde curls, and blue-gray eyes. She could have done better, I'm sure of it. Maybe she's playing the part of the cat, letting the mouse think it has run free. Ooh, that would be smart.

I smack the flat of my blade on the black metal of the Cornucopia. "Everyone up!" I bawl, "Early hunting today! There will be kills- there will be death in the name of our Pack!" Sawyer's already up, and I have to hide a huge yawn from her. Desire scrambles up out of her sleeping bag in fear, smoothing down her hair with her hands and blinking furiously. Damien, the useless pig, groans from his place on the ground and pulls the fabric over his head.

I sidle over to him before kicking him sharply in the side. "Get up!" I growl, "Get up this instant or I will slit your throat right here and right now!" His eyes snap open in terror and he rolls away from me. Of course, I'll slit his throat soon anyway- say, if he doesn't get a kill before tonight. I won't have any worthless outer district untrained tools in my Pack.

Ainsley is standing up by the time I move back to Desire and Sawyer. He's much better than Damien, much more successful. Still lesser than me, but useful. And powerful. I have to say, I'd prefer Andras.

And killing a district partner would be the sweetest irony in the whole Games… the red blood coating Andras's face, his glazed-over eyes… I can just imagine it.

"What curtain will we be going through today, Melody?" Ainsley mutters, standing right behind Desire. I flick my eyes around the room before pointing at the curtain directly across from the mouth of the Cornucopia. "Sounds like a plan."

"We'll be hunting as a full pack today, and we are going to stay out, no breaks, until we've killed at least one tribute. If the kill is early in the day, we'll break for lunch and then continue until we've gotten another kill."

"Whatever." Sawyer's still snappy. Oh, I'd hate to kill off one of the best killers in the Games so early… it could be nice to have the finale with her. In fact, it would be glorious. A true battle, with the ruby blood flying everywhere and the screams echoing through the dome!

"Please tell me we get breakfast before going hunting," Damien says, finally arriving at the conversation with his ugly stupid eyes still bleary with sleep.

"Of course we do, idiot! I should relieve you of yours for that moronic question, but since you'll be hunting today you need sustenance."

"Are we leaving a guard?" Desire asks quickly, "I'd be… I'd be happy to stay behind. I have a feeling that someone will come through this area today. I could definitely make sure they don't get away with any of our supplies!"

I smile. "Yes, Desire, you can guard today." Good. I can keep my worst enemies under my thumb during the hunt, and the loyal girl can stay behind. I see her share a look with her district partner, that Ainsley. I'm sure he's jealous of her strategy- he wishes he could think as far ahead as she can. I'm certain of it.

I go and choose food for the morning- canned peaches, peanut butter, and a box of saltines, that's good. Five bottles of water- each of us can only take a few swallows during this meal, though. The rest will be to wet our throats while hunting. I regret the fact that we cannot drink blood- that would be much more satisfying.

Bringing the food to my soldiers, I pass it to Desire to divide amongst the others and take a seat in the mouth of the Cornucopia. "Sit!" I bark. Three of them plop down right away, while Sawyer lowers herself reluctantly. She's not satisfied with me as leader anymore. Oh well, her death will be lovely no matter what place she takes. I can hope she's not got Ainsley and Damien on her side as well- I doubt it, they're too cowed by my presence to mutiny. Perhaps I can arrange an accident for the girl so I don't have to risk anything- but I can still paint myself bloody when she dies.

I take my share of breakfast from Desire and shove a slimy slice of peach into my mouth. "Are we ready to head out as soon as we eat?"

"Just gotta grab the weapons, Lilith," Damien mumbles.

"Good. We'll have to hurry. Eat faster!"

"We're all going to end up with indigestion. Slower eating is better for your gut. It keeps you steady for longer." Once again Sawyer's glaring at me.

"Yeah, well, we're going to have to hunt for longer today, so I don't care what you feel like. Just eat something and get going already!" I'm shoveling peanut butter crackers down my throat.

"Whatever," she mutters, wolfing down her own food.

Maybe she can be trained after all?


"Aedan, what time is it?"

"I don't know, I gave up keeping track of that when… you know… she…" My ally sighs and rolls over on his side, turning away from me.

"Yeah, I get it. And it's too dark in here to figure out night and day, it's just always… cavey and dark." I try and pull my knees even closer to my chest, making myself as small as possible. "We could leave. You know they'll try and flush us out soon- it's the second full day of the arena. There have only been nine deaths. They'll want several today, and several tomorrow before giving us a break."

"They took Noalee, everyone loved Noa. They'll leave us alone. They want to break us now," Aedan says darkly, "They'll find some other poor kid to torment." He sits back up and faces me. The lighting's so bad I can hardly see his face, but I can tell his eyes are full of brokenness. "Why would they come back to us so soon?"

"Why not us? Besides, I miss light."

Aedan manages a grin. "Hey, Shi, don't worry. We'll get back to the light. We're already lighter than so many of the other- have you seen Ainsley Jett? That guy can't understand a single pun!" There's the Aedan I remember, the boy who came up and willingly spoke to me. It's not the exact same, he's more melancholy, but he's Aedan again. I laugh long and loud. "Oh, come on Shi, that was a horrible joke!" I can imagine the fair-haired, freckled boy flushing red.

"Ah well, you tried!" He rolls his eyes at me.

"Shiloh, you don't know the first thing about comedy."

And that would be because everyone preferred teasing me to talking with me, I think to myself, but luckily I'm still adept at hiding my feelings. "Sure, whatever." Aedan pushes me lightly, but I'm not expecting it and I topple over. "Whoa!"

"Shiloh, you'd better work on that balance before the Capitol wants us to fight again!" We laugh until we grasp the enormity of Aedan's statement- our chuckles falter and fade pretty much immediately after that. We can't just wait around until the rest of them all die, and we won't be able to survive together. We've lost one member of the alliance, and the Capitol will be eager to see which of us goes next.

In fact, I think that the next time we're made to fight, either Aedan or I will die. Biting my lip, I turn my gaze to the ground and try not to focus on that anymore.

"Shiloh? Shi, you okay?" Well I'm certainly not going to mention that to my ally.

"Yeah… fine, I guess. Just sad. It's getting harder and harder to focus, Aedan, and not want to tear myself down for every single thing wrong that happens." I suppose it's true, but it's a lie all the same. I'm good at hiding things and lying.

"That doesn't sound okay to me."

"Well I'm just as okay as you are."

"Which means you're not okay at all." Aedan sniffs and wipes his nose with the back of his hand. "Do you know what I feel like right now?" I shrug and shake my head. "I wanted Noa in our alliance. I wanted to be friends with her. I reached out. And now she's dead. Because we didn't help her. Because she went out alone, for us, and then got hurt. And I just wanted people that I could help, that I could talk to and maybe we could pull through together, you know?"

"I'm still here. You're still a good guy, Aedan. You're the friendliest person I've met. Ever. And Noa joined us because she wanted to, not because you bullied her in or anything. And I'm still here because hey, no one's been as nice to me as you have."

I feel like he doesn't even hear me. "Shiloh, she's dead because she wanted to get those supplies, for all of us, and we never even tried to jump out there and keep her safe! It's my fault she's dead now. I can't deal with that. I can't!" He's standing up now, making wild gestures and getting louder and louder.

"Aedan, you're scaring me," I whisper, edging away from him.

I think I manage to snap him back into the scenario at hand. "Oh, Shi, I'm sorry. It's just, I've never dealt with anger like this before… I've always been able to put up with things and not let them get to me."

The scars on my forearms and wrists tingle. "Lucky you," I mutter, "You get to feel like you're worth something."

"Hah! I don't feel like that right now! I let a friend die. I feel worthless! I'd prefer death to life right now!" Aedan hollers at me, tears welling up in his eyes. It's like a punch to the gut. I feel worthless. I'd prefer death to life right now. It repeats over and over in my mind- I've said that before, those exact words. I told myself that when I held my father's pocketknife over my wrist for the first time, when I goaded myself into self harm.

And it feels like you're the worst thing in the world. I've been there, I know exactly what Aedan feels. I won't stand for it. No one needs to hurt that much. I won't let someone fall into that same despair right in front of me. I stand up and pull up the sleeves of my jumpsuit, shocking myself with my own audacity.

"Aedan, do you see these scars? You know how I got them? By feeling the same way you're feeling right now. It sucks, dude. Don't. Don't tell yourself that. It only-" I choke up, "It only gets worse."

We fall into a hug, sinking to our knees. That's it- that had better be the end of it. If we're still here, we can be all right.

But I'm still trembling.


Everyone's armed, so we start heading towards the door. Melody- this is all ridiculous, I'm not calling her Lilith anymore- leads, but I follow so closely on her heels we're basically side by side. Desire's stayed behind- it's obvious how nervous and reluctant she is.

The boys are following me, not Melody. I'm sure of it. After I made sure they were on my side, it just got obvious how much all of us are willing to mutiny. I know the importance of a good story, though- let the suspense build up. Let the Capitol wait on the edge of their seats. When the moment's right, we'll strike, garnering even more support for our alliance.

I've still got to worry about that District One pair. Ainsley is a powerful guy- dangerous to fight. Desire isn't as much of a physical threat, but I'm afraid they're getting too close. District partners though they are, an alliance within my pack is too unpredictable. If they make a move after Melody dies, then what? Me and Damien against Ainsley and Desire? That's too well matched for me to be comfortable. And who knows whose side Damien would actually be on?

I shake off the worry. Melody isn't even dead yet, nothing of the sort will happen. We push past the red curtain and find ourselves facing a small wooden door. Adjusting my grip on the spear as I wait for the others to catch up with Melody and me, I prepare to burst into another section of the arena.

Melody motions for us to rush the door; I lead the charge into… wherever… we… are. Everything's made of rainbows, sunshine, flowers- although there is an awful lot of the color blue. There are no tributes or mutts in sight, but I keep seeing things move out of the corner of my eye. But whenever I turn my head, all I see are brightly colored houses and the road paved with yellow bricks. The frustration makes me curl my lip in a snarl.

"What now?" Damien wonders aloud. Melody holds up her hand, telling him to shut up and let her think.

There's not a lot of thinking to be done before something moves right in front of us.

"What are they? Sky dwarves?" Ainsley balks. He could be right- little people, wrinkly and old and smiley and… dressed in all blue. Whoa. Blue overload.

"Welcome to the land of the Munchkins!" one of the little old people chirps at us.

"The who?" I'm confused, but I keep my spear at the ready. These little guys won't be friendly.

"Munchkins," Damien seems oddly at ease, "They're people from a book I read once- pretty friendly if I'm remembering correctly."

"This is the arena, any friendliness got wiped out of them!" I hiss back.

"Why welcome us?" Melody spits at them, "When there are fights to be had?"

"Shut up!" I snap at her. She doesn't pay attention, there's too much fire in her eyes. She doesn't know what to do with the muttations, she just knows attack and defend. And since they're not attacking- she will. I leap forward to stop her, but it's too late. Two Munchkins fall dead to the ground before I get ahold of Melody's arm.

"The Wicked Witch! The Witch!" the remaining Munchkins scream. The what? I'm shocked to see more of the child-sized people pouring from flowery hedges, houses, and just materializing onto the yellow brick road.

"Fall back!" I yell, pushing Damien and Ainsley towards the door. Melody isn't listening, she's advancing on the Munchkin hordes, ready for a battle. Ainsley makes a move towards her, but I shove him back. "Leave her, you're too loyal to that psycho already."

The great clash of Munchkin and Evil Human Thing from District Two is a spray of blood and a sharp, piercing scream. Melody's. It's not the same cry that 'Lilith' uttered during the bloodbath, it's a plea for help- the scream of a little seventeen-year-old girl.

Melody's overwhelmed by the little blue people in an instant, and I can see a flash of blonde hair, a glimpse of the cream jumpsuit, a rivulet of crimson blood.

Ooh, this is quite nice. Standing by and watching my rival get killed. One bloodcurdling scream and the frenzy quiets. A cannon fires, loud and ringing in my ears. When my senses clear up I'm aware of exactly one thing. The Munchkins are looking right at me now.

Oh crap, they're coming back. "The Wicked Witch is dead once more," announces a little old wizened lady. There's blood dripping from her teeth and fingernails- as I observe her up close I can see they're more like fangs and talons.

The rest of the Munchkins pick up the chant. "The Wicked Witch is dead once more! The Wicked Witch is dead once more!" They close in around us. "The other witches must die as well! Death to the Big People!"

"Um, we didn't know her," I point to the mangled carcass lying on the yellow bricks. The Munchkin army growls in unison. "Guys, run!" We haul butt out the door and back to the Cornucopia dome. Even through the red curtain we can hear them howling for blood and banging on the door. Guess they can't leave their mini-arena. Good.

Panting, I lean over and rest with my hands on my knees. Desire's running over to us, fear showing clearly on her face. "What happened? Whose cannon was that?"

"Melody. Evil dwarves or something," I gasp out in a ragged voice, "We are not hunting again until I can get us reorganized!" The boys manage a nod, but they're freaking out just as much, or as more as me.

Well, the Pack is back. And I've got full leadership, and no mutineers, once again.


It's easier to disappear when you're among trees, it really is. That's the only thing that saved me from being discovered- by the Careers, no less! I was just sitting at the treeline trying to stay out of the sun when Desire Blanchard rounded the corner. I only had a few seconds to disappear and I managed it.

I'm a little overexcited about my escape- I was terrified at the time, but that was like a day ago. Now, it just makes me giddy. I, thirteen-year-old Knox Blake from the lowly District Nine, escaped the Careers! It's the little things now, I have to focus on the happy details, otherwise any hope I still have will disappear as easily as I did among the trees.

I reach over and pick up a fruit from my heap of supplies. That's really the only thing I have to do here- eat, sleep, hike, and swim. It's almost paradise. I mean, I'm sure there's something the Capitol has hidden here- there's plenty of island that I haven't yet explored. But at the beach's edge everything is calm.

Someone else died a little while ago. That makes a total of ten deaths- fourteen still alive on the second full day, that's not too bad really. I'm sure that'll change soon. Maybe even in the next few hours. Maybe there's a fight happening right now.

I'm aware of footsteps suddenly approaching in the sand. I've got ample time to dash into the forest, but I'm curious. The Careers aren't so quiet, and I can't hear more than one set of feet shuffling through the sand. A loner? Who else is even a loner right now? Maybe an alliance split. It could be someone who was alone when the Games started. Who would that even be?

I see a shadow and press myself against a thick tree trunk. I can see the person, but they can't look into the shadows of the trees and spot me.

It's a girl, dark curly hair, average height. Coppery skin. District Ten, I think. Then she turns her face to the jungle, confirming my ideas. Yeah, it is. It's Inez Carmen. I liked her. I think she would be a good older sister or something.

And to think I had a fleeting thought of killing the person about to round the corner. I couldn't do that, I never could. Inez looks frazzled, like she just walked through a windstorm. There are rips in her jumpsuit and a gash across her cheek. I bite my lip. She looks like she just wants some comfort… but who knows, she could have been fighting. I think of the cannon. She could be fresh from her first kil, what do I know? I know nothing for sure, but Inez Carmen doesn't look like a killer. She looks afraid.

I cough. "What? Who's there?" she cries out, whirling around to face the trees. I stay hidden behind the trunk.

"Promise you won't hurt me if I come out?" I ask timidly. From my hiding spot I can still see her face and the warm smile that spreads across it.

"I promise." With that I step out from behind the tree back into the sunlight. Inez waves shyly at me- I return the gesture with a little more enthusiasm.

"No offense, but you don't look too good."

She smiles wearily. "I just got kicked out from my hiding place. I barely made it past a murderous horde of tiny people, and then I had to sneak through the Cornucopia dome. The Careers were there, they almost saw me."

"And you made it past them? Wow."

She makes a face. 'It wasn't that big of a deal, they lost one of their number in their fight with the tiny people. The girl from Two, the crazy one."

I nod. "I'm glad she's dead."

"Don't say that," Inez reprimands me sharply, frowning.

"It's true. She was pure evil. I'm glad she's gone. She can't hurt anyone anymore." Inez sighs, letting the matter drop. "But your hideout? What do you mean by that?"

"On the first day the little people- they call themselves Munchkins- they accepted me into their community. I got to stay there as long as I helped them with housekeeping and stuff. But after the Career incident, they chased me out. They said I was a menace and I couldn't be trusted anymore."

I lick my lips nervously. "Sounds more like the other way around." Inez throws her head back and laughs, the happiest sound I've heard in a while. Suddenly, the words come unbidden from my mouth. "Can you stay with me? Please?"

She gives me a strange look. "Allies? When I've known you for all of five minutes? No way, but sorry. You seem all right." I blush and look away from her. "But hey, tell you what. Can I stay here, in this section of the arena with you? I don't think I want to try to find another place. Not after I already went through the dome once. We can have a pact not to kill each other."

"I'd like that."

"Good. Remind me of your name again?" I tell her that my name is Knox. "All right, Knox, I'll see you around. Got any tips for me?"

"The golden-red fruit is safe to eat," I mention. Inez nods before retreating further into the jungle.

It's only when she's gone that I'm aware of a faint sound, almost like drums, far in the distance. A thrumming in the air, that's all it is. A beat beneath the sand. There are faint words, carried on the wind. I can't even hear them in the trees, it's just in the open air on the beach.

Kill the Beast. Kill the Beast. Slit its throat.

The jungle already seems darker, foreboding. It's good to know I have a friend here, but then again there are new dangers.

Kill the Beast.


I sit down on a barrel next to Marlee, who's struggling to tie a knot in a short length of rope. At least the girl's managed to sit up properly without getting too lightheaded.

"Yeah, what do you want?" she snaps.

"Can you fight?"

"Hand me something." I offer her my singlestick which she accepts, wrapping her left hand around it and then gingerly adding her right as well. "I think I can manage as long as I don't get hit in the hand? The pain is starting to dull to a constant throb. The pressure from the bandage helps a lot, and I'm just getting used to it now."

"The other guys are starting to think you're useless. We need to go on some sort of raid today, and you need to participate if you want to remain a part of this alliance."

"And if I don't participate?" she asks sharply, "What are you gonna do? Let Phi kill me?"

"If you are not an asset to this alliance I will kill you myself," I retort. It shuts her up and lets me talk again. "Be ready for anything. They're not trustworthy, either of them are likely to attack you at any time."

"And what does that mean? That you're going to be loyal? Hmph, sure. That's the truth."

I scoff at her. "I'm not loyal, I'm a leader. You follow me, and I'll try and protect you as long as you do what I say."

"You're real charming, you know that?"

Phi and Kalen are restless. They want to be out cutting down the competition. Me too, every death takes me one step closer to home and right now there's no place I'd rather be. And I can't deny that killing gives me a certain thrill that I sort of enjoy.

"No one thinks I'm charming. Shut up and stop telling lies, Marlee." I grin at her, though, nullifying my harsh words.

"Not even your boyfriend?"

"No, I'm not charming even to Grant. He just likes me. I get angry about things. Apparently it's hot." I shrug it off.

"Well I can see where that's coming from," she teases. This time I actually do glare at her, and she rolls her eyes. I'll need to start making good on my threats if I want to keep my intimidation factor.

I step away from the barrel, glancing around for Phi and Kalen. Their heads are bent together over a table in the café. Scheming, I bet. I heard snatches of their conversation from yesterday. Phi's murder of a Peacekeeper. Kalen's self-sufficient life as a thief. Powerful fighters, both of them, very useful as allies, but what's that old cliché? Keep your friends close and your enemies closer? It's true for me.

I stride up to their table and bring my hand down on the little wooden top. Phi sits back slowly and stares right at me, Kalen cringes and leaps to his feet. "Ready to hunt, boys?"

"You don't even know," cries Kalen, rushing back to the barricade to arm himself, "At last we're going to do something!"

"We were getting ready to mutiny," Phi pushes his chair back slowly, still keeping eye contact with me, "But for now I think you've bought me back. Good move, Pretty Boy." I nod curtly as he too retreats to the wall of furniture. They were plotting. I've got them back on my side, but I see the cycle of crap I'm caught in. If one of these guys doesn't die soon, I'll have to keep catering to their every whim to keep my own throat uncut. In essence, they have control over me unless something drastic happens. I can't just cut one of them down, that would spoil the whole alliance.

But I know they're not strong enough to fight the Career pack by themselves.

"All right, with four people ready to fight, I think we're ready to make a raid on the Careers. Tonight, in a few hours. They won't be expecting it then, and we don't want to try for an attack in the early afternoon because that's prime hunting time. They might not even be in the dome area if we charge right now."

Kalen's already anxious to go, I can tell. He keeps shifting his weight from foot to foot. "Kalen, you either need to go to the bathroom or you're just overeager. Settle down or go take a leak." He turns bright red and stops abruptly. Marlee and Phi snigger at him.

"Everyone has their weapons, correct?" They nod. Marlee has my singlestick- not good but she's feisty, working with me or Phi she can stand a chance. Phi has his long knife and Kalen has a short curved sword. I've got my quarterstaff, and if we need to we can surely grab the Careers' extras.

"They're still overconfident, you know. They saw this group form and they still don't take any threats seriously. We can surprise them, they won't be expecting anything at all. We are strong- you are strong."

Phi nods assertively. Yes, he knows his strength. After all, he's killed before.

I smirk. "Just try to kill someone, won't you?"

"Got it, Pretty Boy," Marlee calls.

"Spar a bit, loosen up," I announce through clenched teeth, "I'll call you together in the café in two hours, then we'll have a good fight."

Phi and Kalen go off to do who knows what, I go over to Marlee again. "Stand up."


"Stand up. You've been sitting for a day and a half." The girl shakily rises, her knees are trembling and she's straining to stay steady. "Good enough. You had better be in fighting shape, two hours. Otherwise, you're dead as soon as we get out into the dome."

Her eyes flash. "What happened to allies protect allies?"

"We're a fighting alliance, not one of those 'stick together til the very end' friendship groups. And it's obvious none of us actually care for each other. In fact, the only person I care about is probably drinking some sort of liquor right now." Pity. Marlee could have made a good friend, a fellow rebel back in Two. Never mind that, they'll all be dead in a few days.

Lilith 'Melody' Lark, District Two

JGrayzz, Melody was a real wacko and tons of fun to play with. But she was more bark than bite, and nobody (tribute, reader, etc) thought of her as the real antagonist. I'm sorry.

Yes! Any of you who predicted 'evil munchkins', you are correct! XD

Some questions:

In the upcoming fight, do you think anyone will die? Who?

And, of course, tell me what you thought!