Summary: Peeta is intrigued by the girl who moves into the abandoned house down the street, but she holds a secret, a secret that Peeta will stop at nothing to unveil.
A/N: HUGE thanks to Court81981 for beta reading this! You are the best!
1926, Southern Louisiana
The pneumonia hits her sister like a hurricane, ravaging her thin body into a mess of coughing, fever, and pain. Everyone knew that the disease was spreading like wildfire throughout the area, but Katniss never thought it would wind its insidious way into her own household, to her precious little sister.
Her mother is a healer. The locals in their small village come to her with all of their aches and ailments, but pneumonia is different. Pneumonia often requires antibiotics that are much too expensive for even her mother to have on her person, and the nearest real doctor is at least fifty miles away. She treats Primrose the best that she can, keeping her well hydrated and rested, but Katniss knows it will never be enough.
She hunts, sometime spending the entire morning and afternoon deep within the wilderness. Everything she catches, less a small amount of meat for her family, she sells to the other villagers. This is how Katniss saves her money to buy the costly antibiotics for her dying sister. She manages to scrounge up quite a sum and plans to walk the entire fifty miles if it means saving her sister. However, when her mother helps her count out all of her hard-earned money, it is still not nearly enough to afford the antibiotics that Prim so desperately needs to survive.
Katniss spends the night tossing and turning, tears streaming down her face. She cannot just let her sister die; she has to find another way.
She is trading for some new clothing in town one day when she hears about the Voodoo Queens living in the woods. Intrigued, she eavesdrops on the conversation that two ladies are having a few feet away from her.
"Yes, and I hear that they have everything from beauty potions to cures for illnesses no one has even heard of around here!"
And that's all it takes for Katniss to scoop up her money and head out into the woods. The coins clink together in the woven bag at her waist as she flies through the forest. She had listened long enough to hear an approximate location of the Voodoo Queens' house and heads in that direction.
The soft melody of the songbirds blurs in her mind as she races past tree after tree. Low-hanging branches and undergrowth threaten to trip her up, but her determination keeps her sharp and alert. Nothing will stop her from her goal. Her shins burn as her legs pump faster and faster, pure adrenaline racing through her veins when she catches a glimpse of a large hut in the distance.
Although somewhat crude, the hut looks stable enough, even with the green moss creeping up the side of it. Katniss comes to a halt in front of the door, panting as she attempts to catch her breath.
Before she even has the chance to knock, the door swings open to reveal a set of almost identical women staring back at her. They are both tall, with mocha colored skin and dark hair woven with twigs and leaves. They seem to possess a strange aura around them, and it chills Katniss to the bone.
"Hello, umm…my sister has pneumonia and I heard you might be able to give me something for it." She shuffles her hands in front of her nervously as she glances up at the women.
The two ladies look at each other for a moment and nod. The slightly taller one comes forth and speaks, "Do you have payment or trade?" Her accent is strong, and it takes Katniss a moment before she understands what the woman has asked of her.
"Oh, yes. Here!" She thrusts her woven pouch into the lady's hands, eager to get on with the transaction.
The woman accepts the pouch and pours it out into her companion's hands. They carefully count each coin, whispering to themselves as they proceed. Finally, the lady who spoke to her gathers the coins back up and tosses them back into the pouch.
"It's not enough."
Katniss' heart shatters at those words. She has worked so hard to gather up even that amount, and Prim's health continues to decline every day. She cannot give up yet, and since she is not above begging, she tries that very tactic next.
When the lady tries to hand back the pouch of coins, Katniss shoves them back. "Please! Please, you must help my sister! She's dying!"
The two women eye each other and whisper in a language unfamiliar to Katniss. She wipes furiously at the tears that have formed in her eyes, but this is her last hope. They have to help her. They have to save her sister.
"We will take the coins and the pouch in exchange for the charm and tonic to cure your sister."
The pouch was a birthday gift from her now-deceased father, and she desperately wants to keep it so she almost refuses. The words are on her tongue to tell them no, but then she remembers how sick Prim was the last time Katniss saw her a few hours ago. She recalls how her sister's golden hair looked dull and lifeless, and she was a pale as a ghost, sweating with fever. Suddenly, the pouch doesn't matter so much anymore; her sister's life is what matters.
The women take their payment and produce a pinkish white charm set on a leather cord and a vial full of liquid.
The slightly taller one speaks. "Have her swallow all of the liquid at once and wear the charm until she is better."
Katniss is not sure what to say to these strange Voodoo Queens, so she just nods her thanks and exits the hut.
She races back home, eager to help her dying sister to recover.
Prim dies two days later. Initially, the tonic and charm seemed to be working. The color returned to her face and the fever broke. She was even able to eat some solid food for the first time in at least a week. Now, not two full days later, she is gone.
Katniss is in shock, but her disbelief does not stop the tears from flowing freely from her eyes staining her cheeks with their watery trails. Her baby sister is dead. After all that she went through to save her, she died all the same.
After the initial shock has worn off a bit, and her tears have faded somewhat, she suddenly fills with rage. White hot anger courses through her body as she thinks of the false hope that the Voodoo Queens sold her. They lied to her! They let her sister die!
She says nothing to her family and friends, just takes off into the forest where she knows she will find those responsible for what happened to her sister. She isn't even thinking rationally any more. All thoughts—save for those of revenge—have exited her mind as she sprints through the trees.
Katniss pounds on the door of the hut. The loud knocks echo in the woods, but no one answers her summon.
Her rage mounts as she whips open the door of the hut and stomps inside. The occupants are not around to hear her curses or feel the brunt of her angry fists, so Katniss decides to find her woven pouch and if she just so happens to tear apart the hut in the process, so be it.
Vials of liquid line crude wooden shelves along the left wall. Katniss sweeps her hand across the shelves, breaking every single bottle in the process when they shatter all over the floor.
Next, she rifles through the odds and ends that are stacked precariously on the floor. She topples over the entire pile, still searching for her beloved pouch.
Katniss is so engrossed in quest that she does not hear the women come home until it is too late.
A pair of thin—but strong— arms lift her up. She fights back, clawing and kicking at her attacker, but her opponent is much too strong.
The woman who does not currently have a hold of her begins yelling. "What do you think you are doing? First, you come here without the proper payment, and then you return to tear apart our home? Don't you know who we are and what we are capable of?"
Katniss continues her attempt to fight off the first woman, but her grip is like iron. "You killed my sister! Your stupid tonic and charm didn't work!"
The woman in front of her shakes her head. "She must have been too far gone."
Katniss doesn't care for her excuses, so she spits angrily in the woman's face.
The Voodoo Queen's mocha complexion reddens in anger as she wipes at her face. "You insignificant little twit! That's it! You've tried my patience long enough!"
The two women forcefully drag Katniss out of the hut and deeper into the woods. Panic fills her mind and seizes her body as she considers the consequences of her actions.
They take her to a wide pool settled within the ground. The taller woman sprinkles some sort of powder into the pool and begins to chant. The dark, murky water transforms before Katniss' eyes, brightening into a deep magenta, swirling with silver flecks.
"What are you going to do to me?"
The women don't answer her; they simply lift her scrawny body and dump her into the pool. They hold her down, their hands clamping over her wrists and head as they keep her submerged in the water.
This is it, she is going to drown. She thrashes around desperately, but they are too strong. Katniss' lungs begin to burn as they strive for oxygen that she cannot give them. White spots appear in her vision, and she knows that she will not be able to stand much more of this.
She blacks out.
When Katniss awakens, she is sitting up in the pool on a ledge carved into its base. The water is dark and murky again, but her skin still glistens with silver flecks. She thinks that she is lucky that she somehow survived the Voodoo Queens' torture, but then, as her body becomes all the way aware of itself, she knows that something is different.
She feels odd and a bit light-headed. Katniss doesn't know what was in that water, but as the odd feeling intensifies, she knows that somehow she has changed.
A/N: Hey everyone, I just wanted to post this prologue so I could get some feedback on what you think so far. I will be finishing up my other fics as I work on this one as well. Please send me a review and let me know what you think!