Here is my first go at HG fanfiction. Any feedback is greatly appreciated. The story is all planned out into 8 chapters, so should hopefully update weekly.
Based on the story of 1001 Nights, or The Arabian Nights. After many betrayals from the women around him, Prince Peeta goes mad and decides to punish all women. So he marries a new bride every night, and has her executed in the morning. It is Katniss's father's job to find the wives for the Prince. However, soon female tributes run out, until Katniss steps forward and volunteers in order to save her father's life. Can she use her talent for storytelling to change his mind, spare her life, and bring back her childhood love to her?
Disclaimer: - I own nothing here. Characters based on work of Suzanne collins
"Katniss, will you tell me a story?"
At Prim's request, Katniss climbed into her younger sister's bed. It had once started out as a way to scare off the toughest of nightmares, and only when their father was away, but it soon become a regular ritual for both of them, helping them to both escape the nightmares that came to them at night. Dreams of their mother's death – of nearly starving years ago. Katniss found that she had a gift for weaving a good yarn for her sister; tales of princes and princesses, of thieves and treasures, genies and lamps. She found herself dreaming up stories in the day, just so that she was ready with something to share with Prim come the night time. Living in the seam, and having only one parent left, meant that Katniss had to adopt the motherly role while their father worked long hours for the palace. Katniss did whatever she could to make his life easier.
As Katniss drew her arm around her sister, she pursed her lips in thought. "Let's see...have I told you the story of the Prince and his future wedding?"
"Katniss – that's not a story. That's really happening. Tell me a real fairy tale."
"I know it's happening... it is the talk of the town after all. Besides, I wasn't going to tell you about the wedding. I was going to tell you about the time I met the Prince." Prim's eyes widened at her admission. Katniss had thought that perhaps it wasn't the best idea to link the evening's story to the very reason their father was yet again absent from the house, but she had been so busy herself that day gathering their dinner, that she had not had a moment to think of a story. And truth be told, Prince Peeta's wedding had been the only other thing on her mind that day.
"OK...tell me. How did you meet him? Was he handsome? Did you speak to him? What happened!?"
"Well...it doesn't start well, but it has the best ending of all stories. It was shortly after mother died. Things were bad for us, as you remember. Father had not yet got the job at the palace, and slowly our money ran out." Katniss began to feel that this could be a very bad idea, after looking at Prim and seeing the glassy eyes reflected back at her. But she knew that Prim would like the ending. It was something Katniss had hung onto all these years after all.
"So, one day, I remember we had not had a proper dinner in nearly a week. You were very hungry, and father was trying his best to hunt for food; but it was winter and there was very little wildlife around in the woods. So I walked to town, trying to sell some of our baby things. But it began to rain."
Katniss could feel herself being transported back in time as she told her sister the story. How the rain felt like icicles as it landed on her skin, how she desperately tried to trade what little she had for some remnants of food, but getting nothing but resigned faces and shut doors. Eventually, she found herself under an apple tree behind the bakery of the palace. She had collapsed in exhaustion, was ready to give everything up and wait for death to claim her. At that point, she had sensed movement a little in front of her; had looked up, and found herself staring in the bluest eyes she had ever seen; bluer than the ocean, bluer than the sky on a warm summer's day. She did not know who he was straightaway; the youngest Prince had not yet made any public appearances. But as she stared at his curly mop of blonde hair, she thought she recognised his lopsided smile from somewhere. Later she would realise it was the same smile as that of the King himself.
She realise that he held out to her a freshly baked loaf of bread, and anger had surged in her at that moment.
"I don't need your charity!" She had practically yelled at him. But the look in his eyes wasn't one of pity, but curiosity. He seemed taken aback by her words, but had not turned away and fled as she thought he would. Instead, he blushed, looked to the ground, and then shyly stammered.
"No – no...it's not...that is,...I was hoping you would try it for me, and let me know what you think. The cook has been t-teaching me to make bread, and this is the first batch I have made completely by myself. I understand if you don't want to try it, but it would be a favour to me if you would."
Katniss had felt dubious at his words, but all the same, her stomach was too empty to dwell on the truth of what he had told her, and besides, he seemed so earnest and shy that she decided to take him at his word.
"Thank you then...I will try your bread."
He silently handed it to her. She tore off a piece, placed it greedily in her mouth, and could not help the moan that escaped her lips. It was the lightest and most delicious bread she had ever tasted.
"Do...do you like it?"
"It's good...it's – it's really good. Thank you." His face lit up at her words, and she could not help the smile that began to twitch on her face as he beamed at her.
"I did not mean to disturb you, b-but I heard you singing, and... I thought it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard." She looked at him then, wondering at first what he was talking about. Then suddenly it dawned on her. Her thoughts had been miles away under the tree – so much in her own world, that she must have been singing to herself. She used to do it a lot as a small child. Being eleven, she clearly had not completely shaken the habit. So she blushed at his compliment, but remained silent, and stared wide mouthed and red faced at her blue eyed acquaintance.
"Would you perhaps consider a trade?" His words brought her out of her thoughts, but she wondered what on earth he would want to trade with her for. He looked well fed and well groomed, and not in the need for anything. So she told him as much –
- "Wait, Katniss, were you rude to Prince Peeta?" Prim interrupted, almost in shock.
"Wha – no, I – wait, just...wait. Let me carry on will you Prim? Geez." She always got annoyed when Prim interrupted, but the frustration never lasted for long. It took her a moment to remember where she had left off.
"So, I asked what he wanted to trade. And he said he would give me another loaf of bread to hear one more song from me."
"And you did it? You actually sang?"
"Yes Prim. At the time, it did not hurt to sing as much as it does now." Truthfully, it did hurt, even then. It had hurt ever since they had lost their mother. She used to be the one to sing them goodnight. Their father was a beautiful singer, so much so that the birds would stop to listen, but the day their mother died, so did the music in their house. It was too painful to them all.
But Katniss had agreed to the trade. Beside the desperate need for food, there was something in that boy's eyes that Katniss could not help but respond to. Something she understood. A feeling she herself had had for a long time. It was akin to loneliness...to experiencing feelings no child could be ready for...for seeing things no child should see. So she sang to him; she sang an old valley song her father had taught her years ago. The Prince watched in awe, and when she finished, he did not move for a long time. Finally, he blinked and opened his mouth to speak, his words coming out in a whisper.
"You sing like an angel. I think the birds in the apple tree stopped to hear you." Katniss just blushed and mumbled her thanks. Suddenly, a cold voice was screeching "Peeta! Get back here this instant and away from that seam trash!" The boy seemed flustered; he handed her another loaf of bread, thanked her for her time, and began to walk briskly away. After a few steps, she noticed him stop and stoop down in front of him. He came quickly back to her, and held out his hand again. "A pretty flower for a pretty new friend." He had said. As her eyes focused on what he was holding to her, she could not help the small smile that graced her face. He had picked a dandelion. A weed. The boy clearly had little understanding of the value of certain plants over others. He had simply seen a pretty yellow flower, and picked it to give to her. Katniss always treasured it for that reason. As she took it from him, their hands touched briefly, and the Prince's face blushed beet red. He bowed politely to her, said that he hoped to see her again, and stumbled off into the kitchen of the palace where a sternfaced woman was waiting. Katniss recognised her immediately. She was the Queen.
"Wow...so you saw the Queen too?! Was she beautiful?"
"She would have been, if she did not frown so much. And I did not like the way she treated the Prince. I saw him a few days later, with a bruise on his cheek. I am sure it was she that gave it to him. I have always thought it was because of that day, when he chose to talk to a girl from the seam.
"Anyway, on the way home, I realised something about that dandelion. It made me realise it was spring. The first dandelion of spring. Soon, there would be wildlife aplenty in the woods. Father would be able to hunt for us again, and we would be OK. The Prince, in giving me that flower, had given me hope." Katniss looked down at her hands as she spoke her last words softly. "He will be forever in my heart for that."
And he always had been. She had noticed him as the years went by, as his public appearances increased. She knew he would not remember their encounter, but she kept track of him all the same.
And now, it was the night before his wedding to Princess Glimmer. A beautiful and accomplished young woman from a neighbouring district. Their father was somewhere in the palace, making final preparations for it. He would come home tomorrow and tell his daughters all about the ceremony; the beautiful decorations, the Princess's luscious dress; every detail. Katniss was happy for her childhood friend, but had a sinking sense of loss and foreboding that stuck with her. She could not quite fathom why.
Prim's eyes were drooping; clearly the end to the story had worked as Katniss had hoped it would. Snuggling up next to her, Katniss reached for the light switch and kissed Prim on the forehead before settling down to her own dreams. Of a mop of blond hair, cerulean blue eyes, and a yellow flower that she pressed in her favourite book of fairy tales under her bed.
But all was not happy at the palace. The wedding had arrived; all had gone to plan. Every guest had doted on the well matched couple. Prince Peeta himself had thought he could not be happier. Glimmer had seemed the epitome of everything Peeta had thought his future bride, and a future Queen, would be. At least, up until that point, she had been. Looking back, Peeta would realise he was half blinded by her beauty, half by her seductive guiles, and the rest from the pressures of soon becoming King.
But truths would not be stopped from revealing themselves to the Prince, and the world as he knew it would be hijacked.
It was shortly after the wedding feast. His bride had already retired to the bridal chamber to prepare for their wedding night. Just as Peeta was about to leave his guests to join her, his brother Rye had burst into the hall, with two of the palace guards in tow. At Rye's enquiry of Glimmer's whereabouts, Peeta insisted he explain himself.
And the truth had come out then. Of Rye's own treacherous marriage to Clove. Her infidelity, to a guard at the palace of Snow of the banished District 13. Long standing enemies of Panem. How Rye learnt not only of his own wife's infidelity, but of a plot to murder the future King. To infiltrate the Palace by the choice of a bride for Peeta. One Glimmer of District One.
A woman who secretly frequented the bedchamber of Cato, son of Snow himself. The very same Snow who the Prince's mother had murdered their father in order to run away and marry. There were whispers that this plan had come from her lips too.
Peeta said nothing to his brother. He acknowledged no-one as he strode to the room his bride was waiting for him in. The guests jumped in unison as the bedchamber door swung heavily shut behind Peeta with a loud crack. For several minutes, the only sounds registered in the palace seemed to be the clock tick-tocking on top of the fireplace. Then suddenly, a deep roar rumbled and seeped through the wooden panelling of the same door their Prince had shut minutes before, followed shortly after by a loud scream.
Then nothing. To anyone who was asked afterwards, it had felt like an eternity, but in reality was mere moments after they heard the scream. Peeta opened the door, stepped back into the room, with a face of stone. Where once warm blue eyes held hope, they now held ice. In a voice not one man recognised as coming from the Prince before, he coldly demanded that Glimmer and Clove be executed at sunrise. Rye had tried to reason with Peeta, for to Rye he had always been the forgiving one in the family. The kindest. He almost could not believe he had heard the order that had come from his younger brother's mouth.
Until Peeta set his icy stare on him. Then Rye understood. He understood as all others in that hall understood at that moment.
The young Prince Peeta, the boy under the apple tree, who gave a girl from the seam everlasting hope, was gone.
Mere days after the execution, Peeta sent for his royal advisor Everdeen. When the man approached the Prince, he was shocked to see how much he had changed. He noticed Peeta shook violently, muttered to himself. When Peeta looked at him, Everdeen could not help but jolt at the eyes staring back at him. His pupils were impossibly dilated, despite the bright midday sun flooding the room. There was only a thin trace of blue surrounding them.
"Everdeen...I want you to find me a bride." The Prince had said. Upon asking for clarification at the shocking request, the Prince explained his reasons. "The surrounding districts all expect me to have a wife. But you and I both know women are all mutts. The worst of Satan's creations. They can never be trusted. They are filth out to ruin us men. So I have come up with a beautiful solution to solve both problems. At sundown, I will marry a virgin bride. She will spend the night in the bridal chamber with me. But at sunrise, you will make preparations for the reaper. At sunrise, she will take her last breath. She will be executed. I will retire every night a married man as my people expect of me... but no woman will again have the chance to plot against her King. No woman will have the upper hand over me again. No more dammit! No more!"
Everdeen tried to digest what he was being told. Attempting to calm the Prince, to dissuade him from this genocide path, he tried to reason with him. Not every woman is evil, he had tried to state. Perhaps if the Prince allowed him to choose a bride carefully, he would pick someone purer of heart for him. But the Prince roared at Everdeen, and cut him off.
"You will do as I tell you! You will go to the districts, you will choose a virgin bride every day, and send her on the train to me here, in the Capitol. Every morning at sunrise, that woman will be put to death, and you send me another. If you fail Everdeen, it will be your head on the block. You have a week to line up the first of my brides. Go!"
Everdeen simply bowed, and retreated from the Prince's chamber immediately. He had hoped that the Prince was simply still in shock over his late wife. The young gentle Prince of Panem would not do this bloodiest of acts, surely? Forcing himself not to think of an alternative, for his daughters needed him not to fail, Everdeen began at the closest district, the district Glimmer originated from. District 1. He lined up all the names of potential brides, had them checked for their purity, and set up a reaping bowl outside the town hall to select names to send to the Capitol every day. One by one, he watched them say their goodbyes to those they loved, not realising the fate they were heading to in the Capitol. He hoped secretly that the Prince would forget his plans, would have a change of heart.
So, it was only when he saw for himself, the wooden boxes returning day after day, the grieving families receiving them, that he realised. Prince Peeta was lost forever. And he had blood on his hands.
Word had spread across the Districts of the Prince's scheme. Of the girls sent off to the Capitol, only to return in boxes. Memorials had been set up in tribute of their bravery. Soon, they themselves were to be referred to as tributes, as everyone began setting up their memorial the moment they were reaped from the bowl.
Everdeen soon ran out of potential tributes in District 1. So he travelled outwards, to District 2, where he found four more. Then outwards again, to three, four, five. Only a handful between them all. There was an increase in girls visiting the slagheaps, desperately ridding themselves of their purity to keep their names from the reaping bowl. Where once they would be shamed, now there was nothing but understanding. Marriages had spiked in the two weeks that he had been travelling through the districts, until eventually he reached the district he had been dreading. District twelve.
Everdeen had glanced at the banns after arriving at the station, for the town hall was next door. He recognised so many names. The youngest was a twelve year old called Posy; his neighbour Hawthorne's daughter. He did not know whether to feel relieved or apprehensive when he did not see either of his daughter's names in the list of upcoming nuptials.
Returning home, Prim excitedly spoke to him of all the weddings the town had recently seen, and all the babies she hoped to help deliver in the coming months. Delly Cartwright had wed Thom the butcher's son. Gale had married Madge Undersee, the mayors daughter. He knew that no matter what the rest of the town had heard, his youngest daughter's glee showed that she had escaped the rumours, had escaped the horrific reality to the situation. Katniss merely stared at her father's hunched frame as he stared at his untouched dinner at the kitchen table. He knew that Katniss must know. She would be the reason Prim was in the dark, had managed to protect her childlike innocence, and suffered herself for it. He also knew that if he did not send a bride soon, the Prince would settle for his head instead.
When Prim had retired to bed finally, Katniss asked her father if the rumours she had heard were true. He could not lie to his daughter, so he sighed and put his head in his hands.
"Why would you agree to something like that? Surely it can't be true?" So he told her, how he witnessed the coffins return, how the Prince was no longer recognisable as the loving and forgiving Prince that Panem once knew. How there were no more options available in any of the districts.
"So...if you fail to send any more. Wh- what happens then.?" At the question, he gives his eldest eye contact for the first time. He expected to see hatred in her eyes. Instead he saw the same strength he always drew from his daughter. So he was honest with her.
Katniss contemplated in silence. Her father felt there was no other option available to them; she could see his thoughts as clearly as if they were her own. He would say his final goodbyes to them, give them as much as he could, would ask the Hawthornes to take them in. And then he would return to the Capitol, to his fate. Unlike Katniss, he could not see any other option.
But she could.
So the next day, when the reaping bowl stood untouched, and her father stepped up to the podium to speak to the town, to wish them goodbye, her voice cut him off before he began to exhale.
All eyes turned to her. The sea of people parted in front of her, leaving a clear path between her and her father on the stage. Her father, who was staring at her in horror. But she would not let his look deter her.
She cleared her throat, and boldly repeated. "I volunteer as tribute."