A/N: Thanks to coaster317, richards25, dreamzspark and Burningbright4ever for reviewing the last chapter!

Thanks to Chop n thunder for giving me the victor for this Games, I appreciate the help.

I hope you enjoy the chapter :)

"Now watch me rise up and leave all the ashes you made out of me

When you said that we were wrong, life goes on, just look at how long I've agreed."

- Danny McNamara, 2004.

The 29th Annual Hunger Games

Dax Kennedy (18), District 5 Male

Embrace - Ashes (2004)

I can completely understand why the arena has grown to have such a reputation.

It is completely relentless.

There is nowhere to hide.

Try to hide, and the Gamemakers will hunt you down.

There is no escape, there is only the arena.

This grim reality is all-encompassing, especially as I walk on what will be my final journey in the Games.

I'm just glad that it is all about to end. Seventeen days have passed since I first set foot in the arena. And they have been the hardest seventeen days of my life.

I had scored high in training; an eight, the highest of the tributes from the non-Career districts, joint fourth-highest of all. I was offered a place in the Career alliance, and I turned it down. Alliances only lead to trouble. A fleeting trust, and then either death or someone else's death on your conscience. There always could be a third option, but the end of last year's Games highlighted that that would not be a desirable way to go, either.

And so, for the last seventeen days, I have walked the arena alone. I haven't even had to kill yet. I've been incredibly lucky, after finding a long, curved knife in the backpack that I found thirty yards out from the cornucopia on the first day. I really couldn't have been any luckier. My family run the butcher's shop back at home in District 5, so I have used more than my fair share of these knives during my eighteen years. Yet I haven't had to use one in the last two weeks.

I'm convinced the Gamemakers have given me an easy time on purpose. The Careers are so powerful, they want to give another district a victor. District 5 hasn't won since my mentor, Jared Parker. And I wasn't even alive when he left the arena.

I kept myself to myself amidst this flat jungle arena, which seems to be split in two by a wide, deep river that flows the whole length of our environment. I only needed to look up at the sky each night to see how easy a time I was having. Fourteen tributes left at the end of day one. Then twelve. Eleven. Ten on day five. Then eight. Seven on day nine. Then six. Five.

And finally, down to three today.

Then the fires came.

The whole of the eastern end of the arena was a wall of flames, starting less than a hundred metres from my camp for the previous night. I had run blindly, as panic had taken over me. But I knew that I moved quicker than the fire, and soon I had slowed to a jog, my knife drawn, on the look for other tributes escaping the fire.

Then I found someone.

I knew that it was the girl from District 2, as she was the only female left in the arena the previous evening. But the charred figure lying in front of me was barely recognisable as anyone. Clothes and flesh had burnt away, leaving just the bone visible from the legs down. It took me a couple of moments to regain my composure after seeing the corpse, which still haunts my thoughts, and take into account what it meant.

She had been running towards me. So the fire had to be in front of me, too.

This revelation was met by fresh smoke blowing towards me from in front of me, and I looked up to see the flames forty or fifty yards from my position. There was only one way to go; towards the river.

Oh, how I had sprinted as the fire engulfed the forest all around me, desperately trying to reach the cooler climate by the river's edge and the cooling waters of the river itself.

It took me five minutes to reach the banks of the river, but my troubles were not over. The fire had reached the river's edge along with me, and the heat was still stifling along the banks. In front of me lay forest untouched by the flames, separated from me by forty yards of dirty, muddy water.

In retrospect, I should have questioned several things before diving into the river. I should have questioned the currents, and whether I would have been able to cope with them. I should have questioned what lay in wait for me in the river, and whether I would have been likely to fight whatever there was off. I should have taken into account the fact that, being from a landlocked district, I can't swim. But I didn't and I jumped blindly into the river.

It was a miracle that I made it to the other side. I was barely managing to keep my head above water, and I'm convinced I took a couple of lungfuls of the stuff along the way. I had no control, no sense of direction. I was lucky that nothing was lying in wait in the water, but I guess that the Gamemakers had thought that I had already suffered enough, which was true. The currents were strong, and miraculously I eventually ended up, worn out and spluttering, being washed up on the safe banks of the river.

I took me a couple of minutes to come back to my senses from such a lucky escape. Now I walk upstream along the banks of the river, checking the jungle on my right for the boy from One, the only other tribute left alive in the arena. I know nothing about him, except for his appearance and his training score of ten. I can guess that he will be well-fed and well-armed; I can almost guarantee that he is a favourite among the sponsors.

But now there is nothing I can do but wait for our eventual encounter, as no doubt the Gamemakers will force him towards me, anyway.

There is nothing to do except stare across the river to the ashes of the forest that I had, for two weeks, called home.

It took four more hours for the Games to end. When, after the Gamemakers saw the the two tributes were still not likely to meet, the fires started to burn on the previously safe side of the island. The boy from District 1 was dehydrated, severely burned on his right arm, and due to this injury, he was also weaponless by the time the two tributes finally met, leaving Dax with an easy kill to claim victory in the 29th Annual Hunger Games.

A/N: If you enjoyed the chapter, please review! Constructive criticism is welcomed :)

P.S. I know that a lot of you are offering me plenty of tributes/victors, for use in this story, but I'm finding it hard to fit any of them in. I'm trying to keep this story in canon with my other stories 'Second Time Unlucky', which have already made references to at least thirty or forty victors, which now can't be replaced. As they come from various districts, I'm finding myself filling in the years between their Games with Careers, as, in the words of the original books, the tributes of Districts 1, 2 and 4 "win the Games almost every year."

And so, from now on, I can say that I won't be using any tributes that are given to me as victors, and nor will I be open to suggestions as to who will win the next Games, because I already have it all planned out.

I can already tell you that sixteen-year-old Fernando James will win the 36th Games for District 10, and that Auriel Hope will win the 58th Games for District 4.

But for all my preparations when it comes to tributes, the same can't be said for arenas.

I am in DESPERATE need of arena ideas, as I'm about out (excluding a couple of special ones that I'm saving for special Games). If you've got any ideas, please, please send them to me!

Anyway, sorry the author's note was so long, I just had to get my point across.

I'll be updating again tomorrow, with my oneshot for the 30th Annual Hunger Games :)