There is blood on the leaves when I enter the clearing.
His body lies on the grass.
He is wearing only his under garments and I reason that his clothes must have been rich and fine for them to have gone to the trouble of stripping him. But I shake my head as I realise no, he would have been made to strip before his assailants stabbed him; they would not have wanted to ruin the clothing with the blood.
And there is so much blood.
He was not killed at this spot. The blood has left a trail smeared onto the leaves as he stumbled here and I wonder if he was looking for help.
Gazing down on him, I marvel at his hair, like spun gold in the sunlight, except for the red that stains the tips where it has been coloured with his blood. I have never seen such hair, save that once in the images at the church in the capitol. The blessed saints all adorned with hair of gold that had cast its yellow light on the flagstones where the sun caught the stained glass.
If he had been a woman and his golden hair longer they would probably have taken that, too. But with a shiver I decide that again I am wrong, they would have taken her. A maiden with such fair looks as his would be a novelty that would earn them a pretty penny in the unlawful markets of the south.
For a moment I cannot rid myself of the image of him stumbling through the over growth calling out her name, keeping moving not to look for help but to search for her. Following behind in the chase but never quite able to catch up.
His eye is swollen shut and his nose is broken, a trickle of blood has already dried on his upper lip, and there is blood on the grass. His life has drained into the soil. One hand, his arm bent out at an angle, still rests atop his wound, coated in his blood.
I drop to my knees beside him, overcome with such sorrow at the sight of his broken body, and a lone tear falls from my eye. An angel has been slaughtered in the clearing, my favourite place of beauty. The place I choose to retreat when the world outside the forest becomes too much has been forever tainted with his death.
I reach out a hand to this deity; I imagine his white skin to feel like marble, smooth and cold beneath my fingers, yet it is still warm, just.
And then his lashes flutter, and his lips part, and with whispering breath he pleads.
It seems impossible that he can still be alive when his blood is spread so wide.
I want to offer him comfort but I don't know how. What words can I say to make his last moments ones of peace? And so I forego words and instead gently stroke his cheek. The furrow of his brow relaxes, and encouraged by his newfound serenity I place a kiss to his lips. He lets out a sigh that I feel warm against my skin.
But then the moment of tranquility is broken as I hear the crunch of footsteps on the fallen twigs and I spin, my hand on my knife, ready to defend us both from the returning marauders.
Two figures stand there taking in the sight of me, my hands covered in blood, clutching my knife as I kneel over the bleeding body.
"Dear God, what have you done?!"
Just a little teaser. It was going to be longer but I think there maybe some changes made to the second half of this first chapter.
Let me know what you think? Worth continuing with or totally pants and I should just give up now?
Oh – and Peeta in my mind looks a lot like the front cover of the spring/summer '13 issue of British GQ Style (Charlie Hunnam).