A/N: Once again, I'm sorry for the long update. I hope to start updating once every week and a half, but I hope you all will bear with me through the tremendous amounts of homework I have! I would like to thank:
Kongyroo1- just PM me what you want to send and I can tell you what it will cost
For reviewing. The sponsor points are as follows:
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I hope you all enjoy the chapter!
Chapter Thirteen: Prey
"Love will find a way through paths where wolves fear to prey."
Autumn Lindell POV (District Seven)
Last night there were two faces in the sky: Gilt and the girl from District Ten. Another Career is dead, but that won't matter if we can't find food and water. I think back to the Cornucopia and mentally kick myself. There was a huge backpack right by the axes. Why didn't I pick it up?
Vida is limping beside me, holding a stick as a crutch, and has part of my sleeve wrapped around her ankle. She notices me looking at her, and wipes the look of pain from her face. I frown at her.
"Really Autumn, I'm fine. All I really want now is water."
"We have to be close. The trees in this oasis need at least some water to survive.
Vida nods, and continues limping on. From behind, I am able to get a clearer view of her ankle, and I grimace. Infection is obviously prominent, and we need to get to water to clean it up.
A few minutes later I freeze, and Vida stops as well.
"Do you hear that?" I ask, and Vida nods.
The unmistakable gurgle of water flowing over rocks is sounding from very nearby. Vida and I turn to each other, ecstatic.
I start running there, the canteen from the District Eight girl clutched in my hands. I can hear Vida close behind me, but her ankle is obviously giving her pain, and I stop when I hear her shriek. Looking back I see her lying on the ground, pale face, and passed out from the pain in her ankle.
I look over my shoulder and can see a small stream running off into a lake, but I know Vida will be in serious trouble if she doesn't wake up soon. I slap her face lightly. "Come on Vida… wake up," I murmur under my breath, but Vida doesn't stir.
Finally, I hoist her up over my shoulder and stagger the hundred feet or so until we reach the water. I lie her down as gently as I can, leaning her up against a boulder, and I walk over to the lake. After filling the bottle, I walk back over to Vida and gently ease off her shoe. She moans softly, flickering open her eyes and wincing at the pain.
"I'm so sorry, but I have to unwrap you ankle and talk a look at it. Here," I hand her a fallen branch from one of the trees. "If you need to, just bite this because we can't make much noise."
She nods, and braces herself for the pain. As gently as I can, I untie the knot of the makeshift bandage, and unwrap her ankle. Her muffled cries of pain slowly fade as she passes out once again. With the bandage off, I can see how awful her injury really is. The skin is bright red, tight, and swollen. A small, dark blue bruise is over the bone, and the bone looks larger than usual. I used to think it was only sprained, but now I suspect it might be broken.
This is really bad. A broken bone in the Hunger Games pretty much guarantees death. I bring the strip of cloth over to the lake and wash it clean of all the dust, sand, and dirt. Squeezing all of the water off of it, I bring the now damp bandage over and carefully wash her foot as well, being careful not to press too hard on the bone.
After washing the cloth one more time, I wrap the ankle back up and wait for her to wake up. After a couple of minutes I start to worry, but there's nothing I can do, so I continue pacing and drinking the water. I don't really panic until I hear the canon blast.
"No, no, no, no, Vida wake up. Wake up!" I start slapping her face and even touching her ankle to see if the pain would wake her up like last time. It doesn't. I start to cry and I gather all our supplies so I can move on. This isn't fair. Nobody should have to die of a broken ankle, especially not my best friend. If I had known how heartbroken I would be when some of the tributes died, I would never have volunteered!
After I get a few yards away from her I stop, and turn around slowly. I'm far enough away—shouldn't they have sent a hovercraft by now? Hopeful, I drop all the supplies and race back to where she lies slumped against the rock. Grabbing her wrist, I wait hopefully.
There! It's faint, but she does have a pulse. Tears that I can't control run down my face in relief, and I walk back over to gather the supplies. However, she might still be alive, but she still hasn't woken up. I pour some water on her forehead and wait a little while longer, but nothing happens.
"That's not going to work. If you keep doing that, she'll never wake up."
I whirl around, snatching up an axe from the ground. "Who's there? Who said that?"
A different voice comes from behind me and I turn again. "We'll only reveal ourselves if you promise not to hurt us. We can help your friend."
I think for only a moment before lowering my axe. "As long as you really can help Vida, I won't hurt you. I'll do anything to save her!"
With a fair amount of rustling, Copper and Apollo emerge from the trees on either side of me. Copper is carrying an armful of leafy green plants with white flowers. I remember passing those on our way to the river, but they didn't look edible. Copper takes a rock from the ground and smashes the flowers and leaves together into a pulp.
Taking the mixture, she slowly and evenly applies it to Vida's ankle. "What's that?" I ask, and Copper hardly looks up before answering.
"It's salicin. It grows at the bases of the trunks of some of these trees. It won't heal her, but it's a painkiller. Unless you have any sponsors, we really can't do much for her. We need real bandages, and medicine made in the Capitol."
Copper comes forward with a pale white flower, and crushes that as well. "This is milk thistle," he explains as he works. "Once we wash off the salicin, I can apply this to help bring down the swelling."
Several minutes later Vida's ankle is treated, cleaned, and wrapped up in part of Apollo's sleeve. Copper looks at me. I'm sure I look like a mess, with dirt and tears on my face and my hair frizzy and wild from running from the Bloodbath.
"I think we should stay until she wakes up. You know, just to be sure she's okay."
I shoot them a grateful smile. "Thanks so much. I have no idea what I would have done without her."
We sit in silence for a while before I remember the cannon shot that I though was Vida's. "A few moments before you came into our camp, did you hear that canon blast? Do you know whose it was?"
Apollo and Copper shake their head. "Sorry," Apollo says. "We were already basically here by the time we heard the blast."
I nod. "You guys are pretty good with plants and medicine. Where did you lean all that?"
They share a smile and I assume plant identification is something of an inside joke between the two of them. Copper speaks first. "We were having a competition at training and he asked me to be his ally at the plant identification station. I guess it was just a special place for us, so we kept going back and learning more."
I give into my girl impulses, and squeal. "You two are too cute! This is adorable."
Copper and Apollo smile, and Apollo talks to me, but still faces Copper. "I'm just glad I found someone to help me through the Games."
Rustling sounds from behind me, and I turn just to see Vida slowly open her eyes. She reaches down and gently brushes her ankle, which looks a lot less swollen, but she still gasps and bites her lip in pain. "What happened? Why are Apollo and Copper here?"
"They saved your life. You passed out from pain and I couldn't wake you up, but they brought a bunch of plants that reduced the pain and swelling."
She laughs shakily. "If it used to hurt more it's no wonder that I passed out. Thank you two so much for helping me. So are we allies or what?"
I'm startled, and look at Apollo and Copper who look just as surprised as I do. Vida laughs. "Oh, come on! Did you guys really sit here talking the whole time I was unconscious and not talk about being allies?"
Apollo shakes his head slowly. "I guess not. Do you guys want to talk about it? We're in the final thirteen and it might be nice to have two more friends to face everyone else."
I look back at Vida, and then to them again. "If you two are okay with it, I think it would be nice to be allies."
Copper speaks next. "I guess it is kind of stupid that we didn't talk about it. I think it would be a great idea."
A lot of the tension dissipates, and I pull out our supplies. "If we're going to be allies, I guess we should show each other our supplies. We have rope, one canteen, three axes, and a knife. Vida's amazing with the rope, I'm good with axes, and she's good with the knife."
Apollo pulls the dark green backpack off his shoulder and unzips it. "We have more rope, a water bottle we can fill in a few minutes, iodine tablets, a red blanket, and half a bag of berries. We ate the rest yesterday when we were hiking across the desert to get here."
From looking at our supplies one thing is obvious—we need food. Even though we are in the oasis, we haven't seen any sigh of animal life, and Copper and Apollo can only do so much with edible plants. I just really hope we have sponsors.
Apollo Brunel POV (District Six)
I sit up on watch, holding with hands with Copper as she sleeps soundly next to me. Autumn and Vida's red blanket is wrapped around me, but I still shiver in the cold, desert night. I keep a knife next to me, but I know that if we were actually attacked I wouldn't be able to use it. Training with Copper has taught me that.
The water gurgles into the pool, and I find myself almost nodding off in the relaxing moments. Pinching my arm, I open my eyes even wider and stare into the pitch dark night. Luckily, the moon seems to reflect off the surface of the lake, shining hundreds of tiny lights into the surrounding areas.
Suddenly, I realize: the river is behind me. I'm no longer tired, and I squeeze Copper's hand so tightly that she wakes up.
She starts to groggily as what's wrong, but I smack my hand over her mouth and she falls silent, fear in her eyes as she realized the hundreds of eyes staring back at us from the desert. We stand up slowly and wake Autumn and Vida, stifling any sounds they might try to make.
"Okay," I whisper, pulling us all into a huddle. "We can't outrun them. I think they're jackals, and I'm sure the Capital has engineered them to be faster than usual. I think our best bet is to head to a palm tree and try to climb it. Hopefully the jackals will get bored after a while, and leave.
We all nod, and I point to the nearest tree. "On my mark. Ready… yet… now!"
As soon as we move the jackals react. I hear them behind us, and my arms ache with the weight of Vida. Autumn and Copper have already reached the tree, and Autumn has started to climb it, but Copper waits at the bottom for me, fear etched in every line of her face.
Vida seems to be getting heavier the farther I run, and I can hear the jackals growing closer and closer. Copper starts to run back, but I shout, "No!" and she hesitates before starting to climb the tree.
One of the jackals leaps for my legs, and I shift Vida over to one arm and stab the jackal with my knife. I can hear its death cry, but one of its claws gorges the back of my leg, sending a torrent of warm blood cascading down into my shoe.
Vida starts pounding on my back. "You're not going to make it with me! Put me down! Put me down!"
I keep running. I'm only a few feet away from the tree when my injured leg starts to give. I can hear Copper and Autumn screaming from the top of the tree, and my vision starts to close. Vida's right—we both can't make it.
"I'm so sorry!" I cry, and punch her head as hard as I can. She goes limp in my arms and I drop her, reaching the tree just as the jackals reach Vida's unconscious body. As fast as I can with my leg, I scale the tree until I'm just below Autumn, who is sobbing for Vida.
I had hoped my punch was hard enough, but as soon as the jackal's teeth came in contact with her skin, Vida woke up. Staying up in that tree was torture. It took several more minutes before Vida's screams finally subdued, and her cannon sounded.
The jackals dissipated, and I climbed up to where Copper and Autumn huddled. Copper grabbed my hand, but Autumn clung to the trunk, sobbing as the hovercraft came and took Vida's body away.
"I'm so sorry," I whisper, but I'm not even sure if she hears me. "I had to do it. There was no other way. You saw how close they were!" My voice grows louder as I crave her forgiveness more and more. "I'm so sorry," I whisper once more before I break down into tears as well.
The anthem interrupts me, flashing Vida's face, and then the mystery cannon, who turns out to be the District Eleven boy.
We spend the rest of the night huddled in the tree, crying quietly as the sun rises. Finally, as the light from the sun spreads out over the desert horizon, Autumn slides down from the tree, with Copper and me right behind her.
"I'm sorry," she says quietly as she begins to pack her bag. "But I can't stay here, in the oasis, or with you. I know you had to do it, and I forgive you, but her ghost will always be here. Good luck you two. I hope you two die together so you will never have to experience this pain."
With that, Autumn slowly walks off into the desert, and Copper and I are left alone, with blood on my hands and staining the sandy ground.
Alma Coin POV (District Six/ Thirteen)
It's been weird having to call Juliet and Ian by their District Thirteen names—Sans and Sarah Malik. Everyone here has accepted us, but they still sometimes almost slip up, and call me Sierra. I think they are disappointed they never got to have their wedding, but they are well-suited as a married couple.
They've focused more on accepting the existence of District Thirteen and making friends, while I've tried to advance my Career a bit more. Right now I'm sitting in the waiting area to speak with Terra Erwin, the president of District Thirteen, about getting my pilot's badge.
The secretary looks up from her computer, and gestures me into her office. "Miss Erwin can see you now."
I nod thank you, and quietly enter the office. It's rather large, but the lighting is too sharp for me. I hate how District Thirteen is underground. Growing up in District Six has caused me to get very used to sunlight, and the feeling of wind in my hair as I fly through the air in helicopters with no doors.
Terra looks up from her desk, and smiles at me. "Hello, Alma! It's so good to finally meet you! Schroedter has told me all about you!"
I must have looked confused, because Terra elaborates. "Schroedter was the pilot who flew you here. He was training an intern, Boggs, who graduated into a full-fledged pilot today."
"Good for him! That's what I wanted to talk to you about. I spoke to several people about getting my pilot's badge, but they told me I had to go through the training period. I was thinking that, since I'm from District Six, I could skip that period. After all, I did grow up flying planes and helicopters."
Terra frowns sympathetically. "I'm afraid not. You see, flying a hovercraft is very different from an aircraft. Depending on how you do, I can see if I might be able to shorten your training period."
I'm frustrated. I lived my whole life being the best at piloting, and now this entire district seems to think they are better than me. Still, I force myself to keep my cool, and I smile at Terra. "That would be wonderful, thank you. Who would I be training under?"
"I think it would be best if you trained under Boggs. He is close to your age, and fresh out of the training period, so he will know what it's like."
"Thank you so much. When do I start?"
"How about tomorrow?"
She slides a schedule across the table, and I think about how wasteful it is to use paper for scheduling. Still, I take it, and smile at her. "I can't wait!"
A/N: Hope you all enjoyed the chappy. I'm thinking about having another story going, about how Sierra, Ian, and Juliet fit in at District Thirteen, and how sweet, fun-loving Sierra turned into Coin. Do you think I should write it?
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