Cantaré: Song of the Dying
[On a roll. Goodbyes and train rides are next. The two District 10 tributes will probably get smaller parts since I couldn't resist writing Aspen's part in this section.]
Normal warnings for this fandom apply.
The dark, chipped knife sliced through the air and landed in the far tree with a solid thunk. The trunk was littered with an array of narrow, pale track marks from the continuous abuse it had suffered over the years.
Rebekah flexed her stiff fingers and reached for another spare knife, holding onto the tip of the blade with just enough pressure to ensure it wouldn't fall to the ground. These random dinner knives were hardly fit for throwing, but it wasn't like she could find well balanced knives easily. No one realistically sold them and she didn't exactly have the money for it, either.
Lifting her arm and hand, she waited a moment to focus on her intended target and with a light flick of the wrist, sent the knife flying.
The blade whorled, tracing out an arch as it flew through the air and landed with another solid thump against the tree trunk, close enough to the other knife to be satisfactory. A wide smile crossed her lips as she jogged over to retrieve them.
"So this is where you were!" a familiar voice called out from behind the sloping hill that led down to the woods where she often practiced. Rebekah looked over her shoulder at the figure darkened by the sun above. "Should've known when you didn't show up to the game!"
"Just wanted to get some nerves out is all," she called back with a smile, waving at her friend Micah as he came trotting down the hill to greet her. He seemed a bit out of breath, his hair damp and plastered to his face with sweat from the soccer came he had been playing with their friends.
It was something like a tradition among them - to let off their anxiety and fears for a short time by playing soccer or football before the reaping.
Rebekah slipped the knives into her pocket as she joined her friend. It wasn't yet time for the reaping, so after the game they all split up and went home to take a bath and prepare their best clothes. "Where's Monika?" she asked.
Mischa shrugged, shoving his hands into his pockets as they made their way onto the road. It was empty at a time like this, everyone inside getting ready for the reaping. "Still at your place, I guess. She wasn't at the game either."
That was strange. Her twin sister had introduced her to their little circle of friends, so she naturally spent the most time with them even now. However, she had her moments of flightiness, when she wasn't predictable and went and did things on her own without anyone knowing what she was doing.
Rebekah waved goodbye at Mischa as they parted ways, hurrying on home.
She found her sister inside preparing lunch with a concentrated frown on her face, looking nice and cleaned up except for the stray hairs that poked out of her head. Rebekah smiled and came up behind her, spooking her by laying her hands over Monika's shoulders.
"Rebekah!" she gasped, dropping the butter knife in her hand.
"Trying your hand at lunch?" Rebekah reached forward and stole a thin slice of the rare ham their family bought when it was the reaping. They weren't the poorest, but pork was always a bit expensive and they usually ate chicken instead.
Monika frowned. "Go and get cleaned up."
She and Monika walked to the reaping with their friends and little brother Ashton in tow, the older kids trying to comfort and reassure their younger siblings. Ashton and his friends were only twelve and this was their first reapings - he hadn't even eaten lunch he was so nervous.
"Sh, don't worry," Rebekah soothed him. "You aren't gonna take out any tessera, okay? You'll be fine."
It didn't do much to help him. He tried to hold back his tears to act tough, but Rebekah and Monika saw straight through him. Their first reaping had seen them clutching each other fearfully, unwilling to let go until the next day when they were sure that they had made it through and that it wasn't a dream.
Even now they stood close to each other surrounded by their friends, holding their breath as they waited for the verdict. Except this year they had one more thing to worry about - Ashton. They had to leave him in the back with his friends, but all of the twelve year olds were an emotional wreck.
Sometimes a twelve year old was reaped. It didn't happen often, but happen it did. Everyone knew that.
Rebekah had been so preoccupied worrying about her brother - worrying about him worrying - that she almost missed hearing her name called.
It had taken Monika's soft, painfully keening cry to startle her from her stupor and realize that she had not been lucky.
Rebekah McCall. That was her name, alright. She faced her sister, barely even feeling the tears welling up as she stumbled away before the peacekeepers came around to get her.
When all of Aspen's siblings gathered to go grocery shopping for the week, people always parted way to the children of the Redwood family not because they had earned any overwhelming respect from the townspeople, but because of the sheer number of them. It was hard not to scurry out of the way when over a dozen kids of varying ages came charging into town to buy their wares.
If their weekly shopping trips were amazing enough, then the times when the entire family was called out were even more impressive. They were a tight cluster, all rambunctious and most of all, loud even though their parents tried to shush them and tell them to be respectful and for once in their lives be quiet.
It was the reaping that saw the Redwood family gathered together all at once, the parents surrounded by a cluster of little ones and their older siblings and at least one child per age range in the reaping itself. Afterwards they would raid the grocery stores all around town for a celebratory dinner, which could take up to two frustrating hours given all the wandering children they carried around with them.
Aspen's family really was a bit too big - if they weren't his family he wouldn't know how he could remember all of their names. There was never a quiet moment in his house, even when the Hunger Games were airing on television. Even if the older siblings were quiet and respectful for once, the little ones who were still too young to understand what was happening were not.
In fact, he and Brenlin (one of his sisters - it was probably easier to remember her as the seventeen year old) were rounding them up right now. Their mother was busy with the youngest, thirteen month old Gifle, but that still left seven other kids to find around their massive farm in time for the reaping.
They'd been running around, darting between cows and under fences, up and down the barn and burrowing in the loft, and they'd only managed to find Stint by accident in the past half hour.
There were traces of their siblings everywhere, but they were all incredibly good at hide-and-seek. The only reason why they had found Stint was because she had jumped and landed on Aspen when they were searching the barn. Brenlin had the little girl by the hand now, firmly keeping her hold on her as they reached the edges of the barn and the start of the fields.
"I think you taught them how to hide way too well," he groaned as he hopped the fence in one smooth, well practiced motion.
His sister scoffed. "As if you don't do the same. Lucky Jinten caught you or I'd be doing this alone."
"I swear I saw Hollis in the field before…" Aspen speculated as he scanned the horizon. "I guess Red's out there with him. Do I really have to do this?"
Brenlin fixed him with a murderous glare. "Yes. Yes, you do. You go look for those two and make sure you bring them back - don't go off playing around, you here? I'll take Stint back and try to find Barrie and Osbree. They should be around the house."
"Yeah, yeah," Aspen saluted her lazily, trotting off into the field to go find his brothers. He had to dodge cow manure along the way, but he wasn't that pressed for time. They knew better than anyone to allow lots of time to prepare for the reaping.
There really were too many of them, he thought. Soon enough they'd start to overpopulate the cows. He loved his insane, quirky family of course, but sometimes it was a little hard to be anyone but another Redwood sibling here. Even among the family there were those he was close to and those he really didn't know too well.
No wonder people stared when they were in town. He didn't mind it so much, although people always identified him by his height, as he easily towered over most of his siblings. It was an easy identifier. As of a few years ago another set of twins had been born so it wasn't like you could even say "the twins" and have others know who you were talking about.
And each and every last one of his siblings were high maintenance, including himself. They got into trouble so often that their parents probably didn't know - nor did they want to know - the half of it.
He was halfway to the end of the field when he smelled a distinctly rancid smell.
"RED!" he shouted, looking about for his younger brother, cursing all the while. How many times did they have to tell him to start fires only when he was around a source of water?
At least the cows behaved.
To tell the truth, people probably wondered and even speculated about why not a single one of the Redwood's children had ever been reaped. It seemed incredibly unfair for a family with only a single young child to have their son or daughter ripped away from them when the Redwoods had so many kids of all different ages.
They never did need tesserae given the flourishing family business, but that didn't stop others from being reaped either. Some couldn't understand how anyone would want to have that many kids - Aspen kind of had to agree.
He'd heard all of this and more over the years when he and his siblings went to town. It was true, most of it at least, and it wasn't like he could deny it. His two older brothers were no longer eligible for the reaping, but four of them were. Next year two of the twins would turn twelve. That left the youngest free from the reaping for a few years.
Cotton, at eighteen, would be done after this year. He doubted that his brother was even worried about being selected. Aspen himself still had a few years to go at fifteen years, but he couldn't say that he was terribly worried either. Sure, he had a few nerves, but everyone did.
At first he'd only heard "Redwood", completely bypassing his own name, and thought that a ton of people were probably sighing, finally.
That hurt to think about. He'd wondered who it was, a terrible ache in his chest already, until his friends turned to him with looks of despair, of horror.
"Aspen, hurry, before they drag you up there," hissed one of his friends.
"Me?" he mouthed without sound.
Yes, him. For once in his life he was able to stand before people without his siblings in his shadow. But he didn't want it to be this way.
Terribly sorry if these two aren't up to par. I'm getting a bit antsy to write the next part. However, not sure when that will be since I'll be moving soon and things will get a bit hectic. On another note, if you liked the District 3 characters I made (for whatever reason), feel free to check out my other story The Stars. It's just a series of oneshots (although it does have an underlying plot), so it will be updated more frequently.
Rebekah McCall belongs to Miss Amelia Young and Aspen Redwood belongs to Kelland (you should really write your own story with him, he's an excellent character! I couldn't do him justice here.)