Alright, guys! I'm girlreadsalot and I adopted this story to from Grammar Hammer 13. I own a few of the characters and some others, like Coralie Alderly and Ryan Mellark, were given to me to help me with this story. I have decided to change the rules a little, because twenty four tributes is a lot. Each child in every district is required to take a test. And the highest score will be the one to enter the games!
The sun rose over the mountains of District Ten a blurring palate of pinks, oranges, reds, and the indigo streaked through it like paint left on an artist's paint palette. The air was so cold Bandit Lee Highland could see her breath puffing out of her mouth like the smokestack on the freight train that rolled through District Ten once a year.
She shuddered and zipped her brown leather jacket up a little farther. That was what she hated about the mornings; they were bitter cold, followed by the abrupt and sudden heat of the day.
Her gruella colored Quarter Horse, Casanova snorted from beneath her. The cold didn't affect him nearly as much as it did her; he had a fur coat to keep him warm.
"I know, Buddy." She said reaching down and stroking his steel colored coat. "You have an easy day today. It's reaping day." Then it's back to work. She thought.
The work never ended on High Bar farm. It sounded just like the name; her father set the bar high.
Every morning before the sun was shining Bandit Lee, her two older brothers Louis and Flynt, and her younger sister, Dale were dressed and in the barn. They were on their horses and out in the fields before the sun came up.
Today, they were sorting the calves from their mothers so they could be branded and ready to be sold on the market when they matured.
Casanova's ears flicked forward and Bandit felt his body tense. Then she heard the yelling.
She clucked her tongue to get Casanova to break into a canter.
The gelding broke into a canter, staying sure-footed as he navigated the rocky slope. He loped off the bluff and into the field, which had a fire in the center and the sun for a light source.
Her older brother, Flynt (he was only a year older than her, but a year younger than Louis) was wrestling with a Lowline Angus calf. "Hold him, Louis!" Flynt grunted as he struggled to tie three of the calf's legs together, so it wouldn't get up.
"With this brandin' iron in my hand?" Louis demanded, "I don't want to become property of the High Bar Ranch!"
"Louis just do it!" Dale shouted, her black horse, Gambler looked like a shadow in the low light.
Before Bandit could step in to help, Flynt toppled over backwards and the balking calf started to trot toward the herd.
Bandit knew Dale wouldn't be able to hold back the rest of the herd and keep the calf from being lost at the same time, so she pushed Casanova faster and built a loop in her rope. She managed to catch the calf before it crossed into the herd. She dallied her rope and trotted the calf toward her brothers.
"Are you alright?" She asked Flynt, her eyes full of concern.
Flynt pushed his overly long brown hair out of his face; blood ran in thick rivulets down his face from a cut above his brow. He wiped the blood out of his light blue eyes, "Yeah." He said. He flanked the calf and tied three of its legs together so it couldn't get back up.
"Come do your job." Flynt snapped at his older brother, blood once again dripping down his face, soaking the collar of his shirt.
Louis's golden hair glinted in the sun, which was now in the clear morning sky. His green eyes flickered to his younger brother as he swung the branding iron as he walked. "Ma's going to be mad that you stained your shirt."
Flynt gave gritted his teeth and pinned the calf's neck down, so it wouldn't thrash again. He didn't reply though, he was one of the quieter members of the family.
After the calf was successfully branded Louis took Bandit's rope off its neck and let her coil it back up. "Where were you, Bandit Lee?" He asked her.
"I was helping Missy foal, if you need to know." She said pinning her older brother with a look before dismounting her horse and walking over to Flynt.
Bandit wasn't exactly a spitfire, like her younger sister. She stood up for what she believed in and didn't let anybody push her around. Other than that she didn't really have much to say.
"Let me see your face." She told Flynt.
Flynt eyed her hands warily, "did you wash up? You're not touching this unless you did."
This seemed to satisfy him because he pushed his shoulder-length light brown hair out of his face and let her look at it. When Bandit poked it he sucked air through his teeth.
"You're going to need to get sewed up." She told him quietly.
"I figured as much." He said.
She went to her saddle and pulled out her bundle, and then she took out a ratty t-shirt and ripped off the sleeve. "Press this on your forehead and get home so mom can patch you up."
Flynt did as he was told and walked over to his bay mare and climbed on, then briskly trotted up the path Bandit just came from.
"Are we going to try to finish up with this herd before the reaping?" She asked Louis.
He gave her an "are you kidding me?" look. "You saw how that just went. We need at least four people to get it done." He turned to Dale and waved his hand to let her know to let the herd go.
"Where is dad?" Bandit asked.
"He went to the livestock auction. He's going to try to bring home a bull or two."
"The ridin' kind."
Bandit's face twisted into a mask of confusion. "For what? They aren't very good for breeding…or eating for that matter. They're too tough."
"For the rodeo that's filmed for the Capitol. We're one of the livestock contractors."
Right, the District Ten rodeo, it was one of the Capitol's favorite sources of entertainment—next to the Hunger Games—that is.
"Did ya'll forget it's Reapin' day?" Dale demanded, fixing the two of them with icy green eyes.
"No." Bandit muttered.
"I'm glad I'm eighteen." Louis said mounting his sorrel and white paint gelding.
"Aren't you lucky?" Dale snapped. She then, turned Gambler and trotted up the path, her chin-length brown hair bobbing with every step.
"She's in a bad mood."
Bandit nodded as she followed her oldest brother up the path toward the barn.
"Bandit Lee sit down and have some breakfast." Lynette Highland demanded from where she was crouched, stitching up Flynt's face.
"Yes ma'am." She said. Bandit sat down and put some homemade strawberry jam on a biscuit. She was glad that her family was one of the wealthier families in District Ten; they could afford luxuries others couldn't.
Dale came stomping down the stairs in her light green sundress and cowboy boots…spurs and all. Her green eyes flashed, "I am not wearin' this stupid thing!"
Lynette's blue eyes flicked to her daughter's. "Why? You look beautiful!"
Dale set her jaw stubbornly, a look that signaled for the rest of the family to shelter themselves
"Dale Cashmere Highland!" Bandit's mom shouted bringing a wooden spoon down onto the table mere centimeters from Louis's fingers, who rocked his chair backwards so fast he would have tipped over if Bandit hadn't reached out and grabbed it.
"There are people all over Panem who don't have anything nearly as beautiful not to mention expensive. You be grateful for what your father paid for and you wear it, and if I hear one more peep out of you, you won't be touching a single colt or filly until after the next roundup." She narrowed her blue eyes at her daughter. "Do you understand?"
Dale narrowed her eyes right back, calculating the time until the next livestock roundup. She crossed her arms across her petite frame and looked at the floor. She mumbled, "Don't call me Cashmere."
Cashmere was Dale's middle name; she wasn't very fond of it. But, her mother, originating from District One absolutely loved the name.
"Bandit, Flynt, go get dressed."
"Yes ma'am." They mumbled in unison before pushing in their chairs and running upstairs to their bedrooms.
Bandit walked with Flynt and Dale to the town square in the summer heat. She felt absolutely naked in the light yellow and dark brown paisley halter sundress. She was a girl used to wearing jeans and t-shirts, playing in the dirt, and being on the back of a horse.
It was strange to her how her straight blonde hair felt so smooth and soft as it fell to the small of her back, her eyelashes felt heavy with mascara and her lips slimy with lip gloss.
She and Dale split off from Flynt after a heartfelt hug and stood in line to get their blood drawn. The prick on her finger was nothing compared to injuries she'd gotten in the past so she let them take her blood so she could move on. But, she couldn't help but notice the nasty look Dale gave the woman who pricked her with the pin.
Bandit elbowed Dale.
"What?" The short girl demanded glaring up at her much taller sister.
"That woman was just doing her job, don't be so mean. I know mom and dad raised you better than that."
"Whatever." Dale muttered before ducking into the line to stand with her age group, which was fourteen.
Bandit shook her blonde head and moved to stand with her age group also. She was waiting for the District Ten escort, Kimi Landon to start her familiar spiel when she felt unease. She looked to her right to see the angry freckled face and brown eyes of Davey-Jo Westmire glaring up at her.
"Oh, hi Davey-Jo." Bandit said.
"Hi Bandit Lee." She sneered. Davey-Jo hadn't forgiven Bandit for winning the All Around Junior Cowgirl buckle at the rodeo last year. "May the odds be ever in your favor."
"You too." She replied narrowing her blue eyes back.
Kimi Landon appeared on stage, her black hair pulled back in a messy, yet professional bun. She must have been sweating to death in her fancy suit, yet she looked as young and as calm as ever.
"Hello everybody," she said into the microphone. Her sweet and gentle voice reverberated through the speakers. "Welcome to the eightieth annual Hunger Games." She smiled sweetly. "Before the reaping starts we have a video from the Capitol."
Bandit stared at the video from the Capitol, although she'd seen it a hundred times. Anything to keep herself from looking at Davey-Jo.
After the video stopped playing Kimi said, "now for the Reapings. The female tribute for District Ten is," She dug her hand into the bowl and pulled out a white paper slip. She meticulously unfolded it in her tan hands and then read the name, "Bandit Lee Highland."
Bandit felt the world look at her, she wasn't exactly one of the most discreet people in District Ten. She swallowed the bile that rose in her throat, and then walked toward the stage, her head held high. She was scared to death, but her father's voice rang in her ears, over and over. "When things seem like they're at their worst don't panic, you'll only make it worse. Keep your head and everything will work out fine".
Keep your head. She kept chanting to herself as she mounted the stage steps. Keep your head.
Kimi met her gaze, there was a certain sadness held in those kind brown eyes, like she felt sympathy for Bandit, but wouldn't show it. Great.