Disclaimer: I do not own The Hunger Games.
Note: Thank you to everyone who had some very kind words to say about Mags. She will (almost certainly) be the only canon character appearing, due to the others being little babies or not having been born at this point. I loved her in the books and just couldn't resist including her.
Thank you to seventhquill907 and x FallingAshes x for Harakuise and Brie, respectively. (For anyone who is wondering, Harakuise is pronounced "Hair-accuse.")
District Five Reaping
Against a Destroyer
Mentor, District Five
The rain was miserable, but it was still better than last year's reaping. Last year, the sun had been shining brightly as two children had been condemned to death. This was better. More fitting.
Tania sat, shivering, next to the mayor, who had offered to let her share his umbrella. But the rain helped. It made it harder for the crowd to tell that she was crying. That all she wanted was to crawl back into her bed. To get through this as quickly as possible.
Which made her feel horrible – wishing that it was over. Because the Games being over and done with meant twenty-three more deaths. Twenty-three more broken families. And there was no end. Every year was simply a prelude to the next. There was no getting the Games over with. Not until she had someone to take her place.
Tania tucked her knees to her chest, waiting. The mayor's speech was shorter than usual. Maybe he wanted this over with as badly as she did. Ringell Mathers, District Five's escort, scurried up to the bowls, which were covered to keep the rain off. He lifted the lid, reached in, and chose a paper. He unfolded it carefully, trying to shield it from the rain. He cleared his throat and announced, "Erika Fl—"
Tania's head snapped up. District Five had never had a volunteer. The voice had come from the seventeen-year-old section, where the children backed quickly out of the way as a girl hurried to the stage, racing desperately, as if afraid that someone might get there before her.
But, of course, no one did. No one tried.
The girl, wet and shivering, smiled a little, relieved, as she reached the stage. Her light blue dress and wavy brown hair were soaked, but her eyes were bright. But not eager. Tania couldn't help but stare. She wasn't particularly tall or strong – not like most volunteers. She wasn't excited. Wasn't enjoying this. Why had she volunteered?
"And what's your name?" Ringell asked, trying to contain his own surprise.
"Aubrei Fallyn," the girl replied, visibly trying to remain calm. Fallyn. The name sounded familiar, as if she'd heard it recently, but Tania couldn't place it.
Ringell smiled, happy for this change of pace, and moved on to the next bowl. "Harakuise Swallot!"
Tania shivered. This name she knew. Everyone in the district had probably heard the name. Heard whispers. Swallot. A name all the rebels in the district had come to fear – even after the rebellion. Especially then.
But where was he?
Tania scanned the crowd. The boys in the fourteen-year-old section were looking around, wondering the same thing. Surely he wasn't hiding. But where else could he be?
Peacekeepers gathered in the section and checked it thoroughly, then spread out in the crowd and, at last, into the streets. Five minutes passed. Ten. The mayor and Ringell tried their best to entertain the crowd. The mayor gave a little speech about – of all things – the weather. Ringell told a few jokes.
No one laughed.
At last, the Peacekeepers returned with the boy. But, Tania noticed, not dragging him. Not forcing him. There was no sign of a struggle. The boy was unharmed.
Not that he looked fabulous – he was short, rail-thin and deathly pale. His green eyes were bloodshot and had a hollow look, but not from tears; he looked as if he hadn't slept in days, and the rain was probably the first water that had touched his dark hair in just as long.
But there was an odd calmness on the boy's face as he took the stage, as if this were all completely commonplace. Ringell came up to him, grinning. "Well, hello, young man. You must be Harakuise. And where have you been hiding?"
The boy shrugged. "I wasn't hiding. I forgot."
Forgot? Forgot about the reaping? Forgot about the Games? Tania stared as the two children shook hands. This certainly wasn't going to be like other years.
But, then again, all but one of the other years had ended with the death of both of District Five's tributes. So maybe different was good.
District Five Male
They hadn't let him bring the knife.
The Peacekeepers had found him in his basement. They'd come in armed, expecting a fight. Harakuise had rather enjoyed the look of shock on their faces when he admitted that he'd completely forgotten about the reaping. He'd then cleaned his knife, which was covered in blood and fur, and had meant to bring it as his token.
Of course, they wouldn't let him. So he had quickly grabbed his father's old watch, instead, as a reminder. A reminder of why he had to come back.
His father had been his first thought, when they had told him. Someone had to finish his father's work: cleansing the district of what little remained of the rebels. He and his men had only just returned from a mission the night before. The sight of the cringing rebels' blood had made Harakuise hungry for more, so, on the way home, he'd found an old alley cat.
He wondered if it would feel the same to kill a person. Oh, he'd ordered deaths, but never actually carried out the deed himself. Only animals. Only practice.
No one came to say goodbye. His men feared him, but they didn't love him. They worked only for their pay – which was considerable – not for the sake of their goal. There was no one among them whom he could trust to finish his task. Which was why it had to be him. He had to return.
He had to finish what his father had started.
District Five Female
Prepare for the worst.
That was what her mother had always said. And when she said 'the worst,' she meant the absolute worst. She meant the Hunger Games. So she had made sure that Brie and Jai were as prepared as they could be. Just in case. A little knife throwing, a little practice with their father's old sword. Not as much as some of the others, certainly. But enough, she had hoped, to be of some use.
Just in case.
But Brie was out of practice. Since her mother had died, there simply hadn't been any time to worry about that sort of what-if. Her father was always sick, and she had to juggle a part-time job along with school just to help the family scrape by. But it wasn't enough.
She hadn't been prepared.
And now this – what was once the worst-case scenario – was her only hope. Her only chance to save Jai, after the Peacekeepers had caught him smuggling some food home for their father. They wouldn't kill him. Not if she was in the Games. Not if they could make him watch his sister die before they took his life.
But if she won, they would let him go. They would have to. They wouldn't kill a victor's thirteen-year-old brother. The audience would never allow that. If she won, he would be safe.
Brie squeezed her little brother's toy soldier tightly in both hands. It was only a chance, but it was the only one she had. She couldn't lose him. She couldn't. She had to fight. She had to survive. She had to win.
Because if she died, so would he.
"War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend."