The Hunger Games [Character Submission Open]
Greetings, forum users, and may the odds be ever in your favor!
Some of you may recognize me. I have had a fan fiction that has been on and off for several years, The Hunger Games: The First Quarter Quell. Here I am again, and I will be starting that fanfiction anew, so if you didn't want to read through a long set of completed chapters to get to the current vote, this is for you! First of all, if you input a character for the last story and would like it to remain in the new version, please just tell me and it will be done. Otherwise, feel free to make a character of your own right here! (Remember, there are two tributes from each District, one male and one female)
So this fan fiction is set fifty years before the events of the novels, at the 25th Annual Hunger Games. So just like the 75th Annual Hunger Games in the novels, this one has a twist! And that twist is every district must choose their tributes for themselves instead of being reaped as usual.
If you haven't read the novels, don't worry, this shouldn't spoil anything, so hop right in!
BOOK 1: THE PAWNS (Ongoing)
Click here to read an organized version
BOOK 2: THE HAND (Coming Soon)
BOOK 3: THE TRIALS (Coming Soon)
BOOK 4: THE FOREST (Coming Soon)
BOOK 5: THE ARCH (Coming Soon)
POV characters in bold.
Placeholder characters in italics. If you would like to submit a character, submit it in place of these.
- District 1: Stygian, Skeeter
- District 2: Axel, Alex
- District 3: Xavier, Azalea
- District 4: Marten, (Delmara)
- District 5: (James), (Brites)
- District 6: (Remus), (Jenessa)
- District 7: Jack, Aura
- District 8: Nicholas, Angela
- District 9: Willem, Penn
- District 10: Zackary, Hex
- District 11: Saul, Peara
- District 12: (Devis), (Tassel)
The man on the projection spoke with such a forceful splitting tone, Aura's head could have burst. It was as if he was trying to hammer the words into the crowds' skulls with volume alone. They need not hear these words again. Twenty-four get shipped off to die every year, and the Capitol regarded it as a joke. Aura already knew the announcement by heart.
"And without further ado, I announce the Twenty-Fifth Annual Hunger Games!"
The young man did not waver in his gaze upon the sea. He touched the small white rose in his breast pocket. "What does it mean to you, Gamemaker?" His tone was wistful.
"What does what mean, sir?"
"The concept of hope?" He took the rose and dropped it from the balcony to land in the fountain below. "To me, and to any quality citizen of the Capitol, it is nothing more than a word. But like any word... If it is used incorrectly, in harmony with its brothers and sisters, it can mean your death. So choose carefully."
"It is a truly special occasion. For this year's Games marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of your salvation."
"No, you are not a fighter," her father spoke to her. "You are many things, honey. Many wonderful things, but you are not a fighter. If you try to be a hero, you're going to fail."
"I'm coming back, Dad!" Penn shot back with a defiance that shook the table. "And when I do, this family won't ever have to worry again. No one in this District will."
"And yesterday, President Coriolanus Snow decreed that, in celebration of this magnificent event that unites our nation, a special rule will be placed upon the Games, to quell the ambitions of those who might disagree with our methods."
For an instant, Saul lost his footing. He'd never fallen from the trees before, not when they were his home... Nothing on the ground was truly his, but the orchard... At least, within the branches he could be away from the world below. It was the only place in the whole world he could forget everything.
And then Saul found the last branch. He didn't have to climb farther to see what had become of his orchard. The space that once bore fruit for an entire District was now inhabited by stumps and scorched earth. Those trees had been the only thing Saul could call his own, and now they were gone.
"This year, we will demonstrate that you are still free to choose for yourselves, and that all citizens, regardless of District, are still children of Panem."
"Aura, you can't leave!" Corvin exclaimed, slamming the door to wall in his sister. Aura flinched. The top hinge was the only thread left. After she left for the Games, there would be nothing to protect her brothers except for that door. "If you leave, we'll have to go back with Uncle Crispin. The last time-"
"While I'm still breathing, you won't be anywhere near Crispin," she told her brother. "I'm coming back, you know. And if I don't...take Barker and run... And don't look back. Don't ever look back. Because the moment you do, they'll know where you are. Relax... In a few months, this family will have another victor."
"For this year, there will be no Reaping. You shall choose amongst yourselves which tributes shall represent you. YOU decide for your District."
"You are nothing. It's time you got that through your skull, fish boy." Ronn scowl burned fire-bright. Marten's knuckles were white, and his fingernails bit into his palm. "You're going in that arena, and the moment the timer hits zero, if you're lucky, you'll make a minute." He waited a moment and then scoffed. "You and your bloody inmate fath-"
Marten Lewis was a monster, and his father's son. At that moment he could no longer deny it. He grabbed the boy by the scruff of his neck and shoved him underneath the current in a swift motion. He held him there until he began to gasp for breath. "YOU'RE NOTHING! YOU'RE NOTHING! YOU'RE NOTHING!"
"And so, this year, we speak to not only tributes, but to every child of Panem. Heed our words."
"I respectfully disagree, sir." Theo shook his head, careful to ease the quaking. "If hope is anything, it's glue. It doesn't reduce civilization to dust... It raises it higher."
President Snow spun around with the barest hint of malevolence in his piercing blue eyes. "Well..." He chuckled lightly after a few seconds of shared silence. "I suppose we shall agree to disagree..."
"May the odds be ever in your favor."
THE HUNGER GAMES
BOOK 1: THE PAWNS
I'm very curious about this story and looking forward to it! Never read the novels even with people telling me to do so for the longest time... here's hoping your story will be the spark that makes me finally read the novels xD That said, I did some research and plan to submit the male tribute of district 7 shortly after posting this, if that's alright. If there are any errors with my character, please feel free to make the changes you see fit
Everything went through. I look forward to writing about Jack!
This looks like an interesting story. I saw on the write your own story section that you are writing another hunger games story. Is this just a different version of that story? Also, it might be easier for people to find this if you add this thread to the write your own story tag. I have an idea for a character that I might submit soon.
Yes, this will be an alternate version of that story. I'm starting it over because there weren't that many readers anymore, so I'm hoping I can generate more of a following this time around.
I never finished that story, so it will be finished in this version.
Will you be submitting the character soon? Sorry, i didn't realize replies work weird now.
Yes, probably tomorrow.
Hi there, I will be submitting a female from district 8. Looking forward for the story.
I just got your submission. Welcome to the story!
If any questions related to her, feel free to ask.
So guys, I might post the first part tomorrow, depending on how many readers we get. When I post my parts, I always tag certain people, so the part shows up in their inbox. If you'd like me to do that, just tell me.
Chapter 1: The Events of Tomorrow
Every street in this wonderful city shone like polished marble. Every tree bore the golden leaves of a better life. All their faces were jolly and smiling, but it was a bold-faced lie. He knew those faces were actually masks hiding their fear. The leaves were cheap plastic knock-offs of the authentic. Under those paints that coated the Capitol was the agony of the citizens who were too afraid to say something.
The tea tasted faintly of olives and the color of early autumn. It was a difficult savor to describe, but Theo had grown accustomed to it in his forty years of life. In the Capitol, drink flowed like water. You could almost pluck a meal off any tree on the street. Theo despised it.
Theoram Warrik was a simple man, or that's how he appeared. He didn't fall into the chasm of debt that those unnatural body modifications provided. He never wore extravagant makeup like the majority of his peers. He was born with a hard limp in his left leg and a weak eye that he hid behind a thick glass. To the average Capitol citizen, Theo wasn't even of note, and he liked it that way. He didn't much enjoy the petty small talk of Capitol folk, not about sports, nor the latest fashion or technology. Theo only cared about the Games.
The day it all started was in January. Theo had taken his seat that brisk morning, outside a small coffee shop he had grown very close to. It was the only one in the world that served his favorite brand of tea; they called it "Winkleberry Brew." It was the name of the restaurant and a genetically modified fruit that they served as sweetener in their teas and coffees. Theo adamantly opposed things that defied nature, but he couldn't say it didn't take the edge off a bad day.
It was a lovely shop. Several lamps hung blue on the wall, glowing a radiant blue. The tables spaced out neatly on the patio were made of aluminum wire and were painted black and white, the colors of the nation of Panem in which they lived. There was a likely rumor that before the war, there were hundreds of nations with completely separate governments, all coexisting with one another. Now, with most of the planet ravaged by nuclear waste and disease, there was only one: Panem, and its twelve Districts.
He watched as the men and women around him gallivanted through the streets of their beloved city, bees busy at their mindless work. It pained Theo to know that he was one of them.
"Theo," the familiar voice rang from behind him. With a glance up from his tea, he saw it was the man he had spent the better part of his life with. Though they had been raised on vastly different paths, Roman Walsh was Theo's best friend. They had met at Winkleberry every week for as long as he could remember. "Theo, you got the job."
Theo spun around in his seat to see the man beaming back at him and Theo almost dropped his tea. Roman stood at just under four feet; Theo didn't need to stand to meet him at eye level. "You're joking…"
Roman took his seat on the iron wire chair across from his friend. "How many years have you known me? Enough to know that I never joke."
Roman had confirmed Theo's every hope. He had passed the exam and was finally, after all these years, a seat on the panel of Gamemakers. He would sit among haughty judges and celebrities and help forge the arena. He had worked his entire life to become a Gamemaker for the Hunger Games, and fallen short every time. Theo could feel his fingers shaking, but perhaps that was the cold.
Most pursued the position for selfish power, or for the pay, or sometimes even for the thrill of it. Theo needed it because he had seen the suffering of those outside the great marble walls surrounding the Capitol. He was going to end it, and he was more than determined to. Ever since the Dark Days drew to a close in his adolescence and President Snow instated the Hunger Games, Theo knew he would be the one to put them to an end.
Roman Walsh was a man of peculiar taste. It was part of what had drawn them together. Most Capitol folk enjoyed their vibrant face paints and exotic clothing. Roman preferred drab ones. Most listened to violent music until their ears bled, but Roman's was always old romantic styles and jazz. There were those who couldn't even recognize those things anymore.
His brown hair was awfully shaggy this morning, yet still well kempt, and hung well below his ears. His goatee was neatly trimmed and formed a perfect ring from under his nose to beneath his chin. But his most striking feature was his height. In a world with genetic modifications for sale over the counter, it was strange to find a man of his stature anymore. With enough plastic surgery, one could virtually decide their physical appearance, yet Roman remained a dwarf. He enjoyed it, he said, most likely for the same reason Theo enjoyed his monocle. It separated them from the others. They were unique.
"How does it feel to be a Gamemaker?" Roman asked, running a hand through his slicked-back hair.
"That's funny," Theo chuckled lightly. "You've been the Head of Gamemaking Department for three years, and you're asking me how it feels?"
"Yes, well, I thought I would spare you. You've been mumbling about this under your breath since we were classmates. We're on equal ground once again. It's just like the old days." He smiled. "Right, Theo? Just like before the Games!"
"Before the Games was worse. We were never on equal ground." Theo shook his head and took another warming sip. "Your father was Secretary of Defense. You got where you are because of him."
"Bah!" Roman laughed, a wide grin from ear to ear. "I achieved my position because of my wonderful imagination! Tell me you've seen one of my arenas that failed to please an audience. I'd tell you to check again. And besides, if I rose to power based on higher men, how the hell did you do it?" Theo glowered his way, but after a moment's hostile silence, the corner of his mouth upturned and became a smile. Both men laughed all their breath into the hazy winter air.
"It's good on equal ground, old friend," Theo said. Their friendship was odd in the Capitol. Both were highly intelligent (by their own standards), and they shared countless arguments that might lead an outsider to believe they were enemies. In reality, there was no one in Panem that Theo trusted more.
Roman waved a hand toward the tea sitting beneath Theo's chin. When he offered the cup, Roman took a long sip and asked, "Do you remember last year's Games?"
"Yes. A desert ecosystem. What about it?"
"Well, as the time draws near to decide on this year's arena, I've discovered I've run out of ideas."
"You don't run out of ideas," Theo said, disbelieving. "You're Roman Walsh, Head Gamemaker of Panem. You used to line your notebooks with ideas for arenas during university, and I know you couldn't burn through all of them in a hundred lifetimes. It would be like if President Snow himself ever stood for reelection."
All of this conversation about the Games rang sour in Theo's ears. They were discussing where and how to throw twenty-four children in a pit to die. He only had to continue reminding himself of his goal. If he fell from this new position, there would be no other way. Ironic, he thought, that I have to act in a terrible way in order to do something right.
"Careful how you speak of Coriolanus." Roman shook his head and stared down into the steaming drink below him. "He doesn't take kindly to foul words."
"You're on a first-name basis with the President?" Theo raised an eyebrow.
"Well," he sighed, "he's on a first name basis with me. Just between you and me, for someone with as large a vocabulary as he has, I'd be surprised if 'respect' could be found in it."
Out of the corner of his eye, Theo spotted a pair of younger citizens walking past: two women with eyelashes as long as wings, flailing in the breeze. One heard a bite of the conversation and angrily trotted away. This was what Theo detested about the Capitol. Everyone had a cold heart, never having sentiment for anyone but themselves.
Theo breathed, watching the mist evaporate into the wind. "I suggest we discuss such things in a more secluded area."
"Ah! Secluded area! Speaking of which, I was pondering what this year's biome will be, and I can't help but think that the vast openness of the desert doesn't provide much opportunity for stealth. The tributes could see each other from a mile away."
"Yes… Most of the tributes died within the first night."
"And, with my wonderful imagination, I had the idea that I would let you decide for this year, Gamemaker Warrik."
Me? "Are you sure?" The words hit him like a ton of bricks in the chest, and he was already having heart problems. He was only hoping to sit on the panel. He would have never dreamed to have such a large role in the shaping of the arena. This is my chance…
"I'm clear as day," Roman replied. "You're just starting, and I believe you're aware of the concept of beginner's luck? Just don't pick a desert."
What should Theo suggest?
I believe a jungle setting would probably be a good biome for stealth for the contestants to use.
A jungle would be good for stealth. I think the abandoned city would be good too, since there's so many buildings around to hide behind.
Hm, a jungle arena does sound pretty sweet... Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and pick jungle.
I chose an abandoned city. A whole city should provide plenty of stealth. Especially since I imagine it'd be deadly silent. I'm not a Hunger Games fan (yet) so there's a lot I'm not familiar with but I'm still interested to see where this goes!
I gotta say that I really like Theoram and Roman already, they seem like a great pair! Especially Theoram, I feel like he has the potential to become one of my favorite characters in the story. A Gamemaker who wants to end the Games... at least the tributes will have someone inside to look out for them, even if only a little. Now, all of the settings seem really interesting to me, but I had to go with the jungle setting. I feel like it can offer a lot of different approaches and strategies for the tributes, and no doubt that will make it more interesting for the citizens of Panem as well as sponsors.
Didn't you pick a jungle last time? Haha
Oh, don't worry, you shouldn't have to know much about the novel series to get into this.
Thanks for the feedback! I hope you like the rest of the POV characters too.
71% of readers chose to [B. Suggest a jungle setting.]
"A jungle might make a good setting," Theo suggested, scratching the bristles on his chin. "If you want stealth, nothing provides a better blanket of cover than a tropical rainforest. You couldn't even see the sky."
Roman nodded. "A jungle, you say? Well, it's a bit overused, but I love the way you're thinking. Something just as suspenseful to the audience as it is eerie to the tribute…"
Roman was an encouraging man, easy to talk to. Theo wished he could be that way, but it seemed he was cursed to solemnity. Roman was only two years older than him, and Theo found amusement in the fact that he looked up to such a short man.
"So, a jungle it will be?"
"A jungle it would be. If it were last year… Or if it were next year." He took another short sip of the Winkleberry Brew, before it lost its steam to the January chill. "What makes this year different, Theo?"
He hadn't a clue. "I don't know. What is it?"
"This year is the Twenty-Fifth Annual Hunger Games, and to celebrate the roundness of that number, President Snow has told me personally that this year's Games are going to be something extraordinary—the best who's like no one has ever seen."
"And how will we accomplish that?"
Roman chuckled. "By adding the secret ingredient to the arena—our own little tang… Congrats, Theo. You are now effectively one of six people in all of Panem who know about this." He leaned in closer and whispered, "Five, if you don't want to get us both arrested."
"They would arrest us for my knowing the Games are going to be special this year?" Theo raised an eyebrow. "You're the Head of Gamemaking Department. They can't do that to you."
He sighed and watched the sunrise, the magenta and the gentle blue. "You would be surprised how many things are kept secret in the Capitol. I think that's how Snow gets his kicks—by keeping things from people. It's a very hard thing to work my mind around, being a completely honest man."
They laughed. There were many things that Roman was, but honest was not one of them. It was part of how he rose so high on the corporate ladder. "So… It won't be a jungle? Why did you even ask me?"
Roman contemplated on that for a moment, then reached into his pocket and pulled out a small silver coin, a Panem dollar, completely similar to any other. In his breast pocket he found a sewing needle. He held both items above the table, the coin just above the needle in perfect alignment. "Tell me, Theo, which way will the coin fall when it hits the pin?"
"When I drop this dollar, will it fall to my left or to my right?" He paused for a moment, showing clear delight in Theo's confusion. "Or perhaps it will fall towards you… or even towards me. Which way?"
"Um… to the left."
Roman let the coin fall, and laughed as he saw Theo's utter bewilderment. The coin had landed perfectly in the center, letting it sit on the head of the pin as if it were the flat surface of a table. It remained there until Roman let go and let both objects fall into his hand. "That was unexpected, was it not?"
"When you are forging the arena—when you call yourself Gamemaker—you have to think of things in a different light. You have to look at something, know that the tributes would think about it one way, and then pull the rug from under them."
"The coin was a magnet and a gyroscope. I bought it in a joke shop, but it proves my point," he continued, "which is this… Be unexpected, Theo. The audience loves it."
"It's interesting advice," Theo told him, honestly. "Although, if I'm not wrong, the world likes things the normal way, without change. It's why they look down on people like us."
"Ah, but do they look down on us?" Roman retorted. "Last time I checked, we were Gamemakers, and they weren't."
That's true… "By God, Roman, I've never understood your optimism."
He smiled and changed the subject. "What has been your favorite arena to date? Which one struck you the hardest?"
Theo racked his memory for a second, but the answer was clear to him. "The one a couple years back with the aired-out marine trench. That one was great since one wrong move could lead to fall to death."
"Precisely!" He clapped his hands with his forefingers pointed upward.
"That wasn't your arena, though. That was the work of Gamemaker Castes."
"And it won him awards, didn't it? It won him awards before he won himself an early grave." Leodon Castes had been Head Gamemaker before Roman, a very popular one by audience opinion. That was all until President Snow himself instructed him to kill off a particularly reckless tribute from District Eight who was rising too high. When Castes objected, saying it unethical, singling out a single tribute, Snow had him executed. Privately, to be sure, but the rumors were as much truth as a man could need.
"The trench was the best to date, though," continued Roman. "It had little ocean huts jutting out the side of the cliff sides and jellyfish mutts that floated through the chasm. But the best part… The best part was that no one knew what the hell they were doing. Who's ever been in an underwater trench before?"
"I see what you're saying."
"Oh, this arena will be a jungle of sorts… But that would be a light way of putting it." He looked down into the cooling tea and took the last sip from it, appreciating one more bit of wooden flavor. "This year will be so much more than that. This year will be grand."
"So what will it be?" Theo asked his friend.
Roman peered back up and refused him an answer. He had confidence, that much was clear. It was a notion Theo often strived for, yet many times fell just short of. It was one that Roman nailed every time. He stood from his chair and dusted off the underside of his pants, making them as tidy as possible. "Unexpected, my friend… Unexpected. Just like the fact that I must leave now. Sorry we haven't had much time this week, but I've been called to a council meeting."
Theo finally accepted it was not his place to know the arena yet, even though he had provided the basic template. "So, I'll meet you here at this same time next week then?"
He shook his head and slowly edged away from the patio of Winkleberry Brew. "I would very much like that to be the case, but no. You won't see me for a long time. I am going on a trip to scope out territory for this new arena. So, goodbye, and… May the odds be ever in your favor."
Theo smiled and waved as Roman turned to leave. After he rounded the corner and passed out of sight, Theo decided it was time to make his leave. There wasn't much use in taking the part of the lonely old man at the tea shop. He stood and reached for his mahogany cane, yet didn't find it in time and lost his balance. His hand landed on the table and the teacup that had rested on it toppled to the ground and shattered into fragments. An employee named Marigold from the coffee shop was swiftly present to collect the pieces of broken ceramic.
"Did you have a stumble, sir?" she asked, condescendingly. "Would you like me to help you?"
"No, I've got it," Theo replied, placing his wooden cane beneath the weight of his body. He refused Marigold's offered hand and began slowly down the street in the direction of his rooftop apartment. It was a relieving feeling, to sit down. He almost forgot it was his struggle to move anywhere, and an even more difficult one to evade people's glares of disdain. Perhaps they didn't look down on Roman for being a dwarf, but that was the extent of his abnormality. Theo's leg and eye always seemed to make him a target.
He wondered if it would ever be any different. Maybe there would come a day when he could walk upright and pass amongst the Capitol residents freely without scrutiny, but it was not today; and it wasn't tomorrow. Though, Theo knew tomorrow would be different in a way. Only it would be different for other reasons…
THE HUNGER GAMES
Chapter 2: The Family Legacy
"Are you, Are you
Coming to the tree
Where they strung up a man they said murdered three?
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.
"Are you, Are you
Coming to the tree
Where the dead man called out for his love to flee?
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.
"Are you, Are you
Coming to the tree
Where I told you to run, so we'd both be free?
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.
"Are you, Are you
Coming to the tree?
Wear a necklace of rope, side by side with me.
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree."
Aura set her guitar down by the oaken chair. She was done with the final verse of the song. It was among her favorites, and one that her two younger brothers asked for many nights before bed. She would gladly accept the request. She often wondered why they wanted so badly to hear such a morbid song, but Corvin and Barker were still to young to listen for anything more than melody. She wished she could be so naïve.
Her story was a hard one. She was born into a life of luxury, at least in comparison to the rest of the families in District Seven. All her life, she had expectations of grandeur forced on her, by her mother and father, until birthing her youngest brother proved too much for Mom. She received much scorn from her peers for being a snotty brat, but in truth, she was the farthest from that. Although, she didn't force herself into the idea of being innocent and sweet either. The only thing she could say with precise certainty about herself was that she was, in fact, Aura Cantarella.
"Are you coming to the tree? Where they strung up a man… They said murdered three…" started Barker, the five-year-old. That wasn't exactly how the song went, but with something about the way the boy's mop of golden-brown hair bounced up and down jovially when he said it, Aura couldn't help but forgive him.
"That's not how the song goes," Corvin scold him. He had the same shade of hair, but was three years older. "She just sang it. Don't you remember?"
"Corvin, lay off him," she said. "Want to see something else cool, guys?"
"Yeah," they chimed in unison.
Aura fingered through the leather pack she'd purchased from the Lumberyard that afternoon, and retrieved an entire loaf of bread. The boys' faces lit up instantly; it was banana bread. It was their favorite, just like anyone else with the last name Cantarella. "Where did you get this, sis?" Corvin asked, struggling to hold his excitement.
"Bought it in the Lumberyard earlier today," Aura smiled. It was a lie, but she wasn't going to reveal to them what they need not know.
"Can we eat it now?" Barker asked enthusiastically.
Aura laughed. "Banana bread? At ten in the evening? No, you can have it in the morning for breakfast. Speaking of which, I think this is late enough for the two of you," she stood up from her chair and took them lovingly by the collars to the twin bedroom at the end of the hall.
"Can you sing us one more song?" Barker asked, pointing at Aura's old, rusty guitar. "Sometimes I get nightmares."
She squatted down to meet her baby brother face to face. "Now, listen, buddy—there's a reason I only sing you one a night. What do you think causes the nightmares?"
"The monsters in my room…" he replied shakily.
She shook her head and pounded her hand against the wall, proving how sturdy it was. "There aren't any monsters in your room. All the monsters are out there, behind the walls."
But at that moment, the front door slid open with a creak and her father, Rowan Cantarella, strode into the home looking as drunk as he did every other night. He clumsily withdrew one of the chairs from the kitchen table and plunged into it, almost shattering his bottle of whiskey on the way down.
"Int here, you're safe," Aura continued, trying to ignore Dad for a moment. "Now, go in. Turn the lights out. Go to sleep. You'll be fine."
Barker turned around and obeyed, but his brother lagged behind. "But what about—"
"I'll deal with this. Just go to bed. Get some rest, and close the door," Aura commanded him. He let out a brief sigh, and retreated to the boys' room behind him.
"Deal with this?" Dad quoted, setting the bottle of smelly alcohol down. "God, Aura, I'm your father, not some solicitor trash…"
"What are you doing?" Aura glared angrily at him, standing firmly beside the hallway. He didn't answer. "Dad, what are you doing here?"
"This is my home, girl," he sneered. "I get every right to sit down in this chair. In fact, I got more right than you. I won this house, not you. I'm the reason we aren't out on the street right this very moment, fending for ourselves."
"Don't pull that 'I'm a victor' charade with me again. I don't want to hear it," she steamed. "You stay out and do God knows what on most nights, and on the others, you limp back home so piss drunk you can't even see straight and sell me the same story about how you do all of it for the family. I want you to walk straight into your sons' room and tell them exactly what you told me."
He looked up with his yellowed eyes, enraged. "I am your father, Aura, and I deserve your respect. And both of us know I can hold my liquor."
She stormed into a seat across from her father, angrily eyeing the bottle of whiskey. I should just take it away, she thought, but that will just escalate things further. "Oh, you deserve something, but it definitely isn't respect."
"What's gotten into you today, girl? Why won't you get off my back?" he asked roughly, running a hand over his patchy gray beard.
A tear fell from Aura's eye. She didn't mean for it to, but there it was. "Carla's mom was taken today."
His eyes became wider than they had already been. "Carla? Honey… What happened?"
"They made her an avox, Dad…" She cried, turning away from him. They had taken out the woman's tongue so she could no longer speak out against the Capitol, and shipped her off to be a slave somewhere. Something like that made it hard not to cry.
"Well, I guess it's good I didn't take you out for training today," Dad said, and then belched loudly. "You're welcome."
"Why do you have to be like this?" she asked in distress, strands of disarrayed brunette hair hanging down in her face. "Why do you take me out training day after day? Is it fun to watch me throw knives at stumps until my arms feel like they're being put through a wood chipper? Is it fun to make me kill and cook rabbits all day? We don't even eat them…"
His eyes simpered with rage, but he held himself under control. "I do this for us, Aura, and to uphold our legacy. I won the Games. Your Uncle Crispin won the Games too. If your name is Cantarella, winning the Games is your destiny. Winning is in your blood."
"Just like it was in Ava's blood, Dad?"
His voice was shot dead with shock. After regaining relative composure, he replied, "Ava was a mistake. I didn't train her hard enough. I plan to fix that with you."
"Dad!" Why won't he listen? "Ava didn't just die in the Games, she killed herself! Her winning blood is still all over that boulder on that mountain. How can you tell me she was a mistake? The mistake was training her at all… Filling her mind with hopes of fulfilling a destiny that wasn't hers."
Dad's face was purpling. "Aura! Just shut up and listen to what I have to say." Aura crossed her arms reluctantly and sat back in her creaking seat. "I know I told you that you would volunteer on your eighteenth year, but I was just thinking today, what does that really accomplish? Volunteer this year. You're seventeen. They might judge you fairer if you're younger."
"You're not serious…" Aura gasped. "You're going to make me volunteer next week? You told me I had until I was eighteen!"
"Well, I changed my mind," he shook his head. "I was fifteen when I won my Games. You have an entire two year advantage on me. And look at Crispin! He was the only twelve-year-old ever to win."
Aura rested her head in her palms and on the table in front of her. She couldn't believe this. It had always been Dad's plan to have his children volunteer, but this was taking it too far. "Dad, Crispin is insane. You can't be in the same room with him for more than a couple minutes without him starting to talk about knives and killing things. Remember what happened to Corvin the last time you had him over?"
"Crispin is not the issue. You are," he said. "You're going to volunteer next week."
"You are. The moment they call someone else's name, you're going to shout at the top of your lungs and claim the place as your own. This is your destiny."
"No. It's not."
"Honey, why are you protesting so hard against bringing your family honor?" He looked down at the table in frustration, at the place where his fists had made a crack the last time he'd gotten angry. His eyes found the loaf of banana bread she had placed there. The gears in his drunken mind turned faster than Aura would have thought. "Aura, where did you get that?"
"I… applied for rations earlier today," she admitted. She wanted to think of a lie to tell him, but then again, the thought of how furious he would be was enough incentive to tell him the truth. He looked confused, but he knew exactly what had happened. She had put her name into the Reaping more times for extra provisions provided by the Peacekeepers. But with the man pushing her to volunteer so relentlessly for the past few years, she couldn't help but want to be chosen by the Reaping, just to smite him.
"You… what?" he spoke through his teeth.
"I went and applied for ration at the Justice Building this morning."
Their eye contact didn't waver as the man spoke. "I see. And how many times did you put in your name?"
"One hundred and thirty," she lied. She had actually put her name in only thirty times, but she was so angry with her father that she couldn't resist making him angrier.
"Aura, you do understand that if you are chosen by the Reaping, all of this effort will become worthless, right? Someone will volunteer. Or if they don't, you'll appear innocent. People can't name you a hero if you didn't ask to be one…"
"I understand," she stated plainly.
"You put your name into the Reaping a hundred and thirty times… for a loaf of damn BREAD?" He stood up and threw his whisky bottle against the wall, tearing the lilac wallpaper. "That's gotta be a tenth of the entire bowl! What gives you the RIGHT to—"
"What gives you the right to gamble with my life?" Aura shot back quietly, remaining calmly in her seat. Her fury was now manifesting itself in deep resentments rather than outright anger. Her father slumped back in his seat. She saw his crazed eyes glance past her and find Barker standing just outside his door, fearful as a child could be.
"Dad?" he whimpered.
"Go back to bed, Barker," Aura and her father declared at the same time. Once the boy had closed the door behind him, her father lowered his voice.
"Fine, hon, you win. You don't have to volunteer. But two victors in the family is not going to cut it. No, we need three." He sighed, glancing back to the boys' room. "I guess I'll have to train one of them."
"Don't you dare," Aura spat, pointing a shaky finger. "Those boys are too sweet to be ruined by a world like this. You're not going to take that away from them."
"No. You are."
Should Aura agree to volunteer?
Well, Rowan is definitely an asshole, no other way to go about it xD. Since Aura will be chosen as tribute one way or the other, I feel like she should agree to volunteer here if only to keep her brothers safe. Speaking of Aura, I really like her already! She might even be my favorite character so far, I mean, it might not seem like much since there aren't that many characters introduced yet, but this first part got me invested in her PoV already. Good thing that my character is also a tribute from District 7, it means that he'll eventually appear in the storyline that I'm liking the most so far and that's always nice.
Nice to hear you like her! What did you think of the back half of Chapter 1?
75% of readers chose to [A. Agree to volunteer.]
He stood up in guarded silence and slid toward the door. As he placed his hand on the doorknob, Aura stood up, cursing herself all the while.
"Wait, Dad!" Aura called out just as he let in the chilly night. He paused and turned, waiting expectantly. Aura closed her eyes and sucked in her gut. "I volunteer as tribute…"
Dad smiled wide enough to show off his gold tooth and slammed the door shut. "There you go! The words aren't that hard to say. Just pray you say them fast enough next week."
"Is that a threat?" Aura frowned.
"I don't threaten my children, Aura," he said, leaning against the old wall with the hole through it.
"Right…" she pressed her fingers to her temple to rub the stress away "You prematurely discipline them… Dad, you've been in the arena. Tell me what was so glorious about it that you want to get back so badly."
"The winnings, Aura," he replied easily, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "The winnings are how this family survives. We're running low on rations from Crispin's win. The settlement is a lot, but it can't easily support a family of five."
The winnings aren't worth it," Aura told him, lifting her head. "If we have to, we should sell this house and live out on the street if it means not going into the arena."
"Well, that's not going to happen." He stepped over to inspect the wall where the wall paper had torn and began picking out shards of glass. He cut himself twice.
"You used to be a good man," Aura said. "What happened?"
"I'm not a bad man, honey," he sighed, exasperated. "You know why I do the things I do. I do them to support this family. With what happened to Ava… and your mother… It sometimes gets pretty hard to do just that, but know everything I do is in your interests."
"Is that why you're carting me off to die?" she shot at him, hoping to wound.
"Aura, listen to me!" he shouted, spit flying brown from his mouth. He slammed his fist into the wall and made another hole. "You're making this really difficult. I'm not sending you to die. I'm sending you to win."
Aura stood up from the table, gaining a slight height advantage. "You and I both know there's no realistic chance that will happen."
"Not with that attitude," he said, shaking his finger. "No, we're going to train nonstop starting tomorrow. Get some rest, because we're going to be up at the crack of dawn." Aura danced around the table and brushed past her father's shoulder hard, not answering him. "Hey, I'm talking to you!" Aura put her hand on the brass doorknob and gave it an aggressive twist. She gave one last glance at her father before she left. "Where are you going?"
Tears began to leak steadily from her eyes. "I hate you…" she whispered. She caught a glimpse of his face just before she slammed the door on it. It wasn't one of anger or confusion, but genuine hurt. It might have been the first she'd ever seen on him since Ava died. She found she didn't care.
She strutted out into the evening, accompanied by a windy spring chill and her thoughts. She had forgotten her coat, but she wasn't going back for it now. The Victor's Village was quiet this time of night, even from Crispin's house down the way. His raucous parties wouldn't have started yet. Generally, the ones who lived here were able to sleep at night, having authentic beds to lie on instead of cots and straw. The rest of District Seven didn't have the luxury.
The full moon shone brightly over Aura's home. Sometimes she would gaze upon it and become envious. It was so far away from the world she called home. It didn't have to deal with the pressure that it meant to live in Panem. It didn't have to deal with the Hunger Games.
End of Chapter 2
Chapter 3: The Dark Canopy
The branches of this forest were rough and firm, and Saul called each one his own. The fifty-acre expanse of the apple orchard was his workplace and his home. He spent countless liberating hours amidst its treetops, longing to grab onto one more branch or pick one more delicious fruit. The moment he climbed down and his feet touched the black, grainy earth of District Eleven, he had descended back into hell.
He grasped onto another branch and swung gracefully to the next tree in the row. There was a little area within the canopy ahead where two trees' branches became entwined so tightly they created an almost solid ground. It made a perfect resting spot on an exhausting day like this one. With four walls, a ceiling and a floor, it was almost as if these couple of trees were a room. It was a place Saul could get away from everything.
Saul had almost outgrown the shabby orphanage named St. Rhodes'. At eighteen, everything had been stolen from him—everything but his sister and his own life. His parents had been gone so long he found it harder and harder to recollect their faces, and Peara had never even known them. His mother died to bring Peara into the world when the doctors wouldn't help, and his father left soon after, out of grief or fear, he would never know. But what memories hadn't fled were ones that brought peace in the chaos of Eleven. His father had been a good man before everything happened—a man Saul strived to become.
He gazed towards the twilit sky and took note of the dusty haze along the horizon. Why did I not see that on the way to the orchard? It was frequently foggy in District Eleven. Saul found it kept him sharp, having to peer through the distance and search for shapes behind it. But today, the fog made it hard to breathe. Saul slowed his pace and breathed deeply, so as not to trigger his asthma again.
District Eleven was not a place one could exist without a backup plan. It was cold, brutal, and every time your tongue slipped, you could be forever branded a title. That was if the upper class citizens were feeling considerably generous. Its main export to the Capitol was agriculture, and anyone worth anything here was tough as nails. It was a massive privilege for Saul just to have a place to escape to at all. He would have brought his sister along with him, if only she could climb as well as he. Peara could barely lift even her own weight, let alone traverse the orchard canopy.
Saul had very dark skin, just as most did in Eleven. Here, you were hard pressed to find a person that wasn't black, but those paler few were the lowest class, and were spat upon by men who thought themselves higher, treated like garbage. They called them Albars. Saul's kid sister, Peara, was one of these, yet she couldn't even find help with the white folks. She wasn't one of them. She was born to two black parents, but was born with silver hair, pink eyes and milky-white skin. People called her a freak and worse. When Saul defended her (and he did with every fiber of his being) he was always caught in the crossfire of their hatred. He didn't mind too much, just as long as Peara was spared. Whenever he felt lonely, he could retreat to the treetops. It somehow made him feel more whole. He was invincible while he was up here.
Peara was home today—or what could pass for a home for the two of them. St. Rhodes', much like the rest of the District, was torn apart by gangs and other unpleasant groups. Saul fought every day as hard as he could to shield his sister from it, but she had grown too old for that. She turned twelve earlier that month, and Saul decided once she was old enough to get shipped off to that godforsaken arena, she was old enough to handle herself. And for once in his life, he could finally journey out to his orchard in some peace.
As Saul passed another tree on the path to his destination, a landmark along the trial and in his life. Closer to the ground, carved into the stumps were his initials and the initials of a young girl, woven inside each other. Her name was Beth. They had spent many hours at this tree when they were young. When they were foolish, they discussed plans of marriage. It was part of the reason these woods became such a home to Saul. He could say whatever he wanted and only the orchard would hear.
Countless days and nights he would spend with this girl. On the days he wasn't with her, he sat atop the trees, chewing on juicy apples and wondering what the next day would hold for him. Now, Saul had a different mindset. He was no longer the optimist he had been, but a realist. He spent far more time looking longingly at the past than anxiously at the future. This place was where Saul first fell in love.
He moved on, hopping from branch to branch, passing various flora and fauna below. It was a very serene way to live, up here, the leaves of the apple trees dancing all around him and the sun just barely kissing the ground below. Although, today, the sun shone far less brightly because the farther and farther he travelled south, the darker it got. He wasn't quite sure why.
There was one more tree he passed on his way to the grove. It wasn't like the others. It was a nice oak with a bent trunk near the bottom, making a nice seating area. Its bark was peeling off the trunk. Its branches, however, were very dense and were an absolute mess to climb through. Saul found it best to avoid this one when he climbed to his grove. But the tree… Countless days had been spent here as well. After they started dating, Beth and Saul came out to this tree almost every day and drank moonshine by the moonlight. It was their thing, and this tree was the place where Saul had first tasted alcohol.
He continued on his wayward journey, vaulting over branch by crooked branch. Saul was very adept at climbing the trees, and he had been ever since he'd taken an apprenticeship to Thurgood Munrow, the owner of the orchard. He'd spent most waking hours within these branches, plucking out bad apples before the trees were harvested. He had the job ever since. It was why the woods were his home.
The next tree that he had marked was actually two trees three feet apart, where the orchard ended and the forest began. They were so close together Saul considered them one. Beth had once pointed out that the trees were so close on one of their walks past the orchard, and suggested that maybe one day the two would be just as close as the trees were. Saul said they already were. That was the tree where Saul had his first kiss.
As Saul drew farther and farther into the orchard, the light became darker and darker, and it became harder to see five feet in front of his face. It's only four in the afternoon, surely it can't be getting dark yet? He didn't know where all the fog was coming from, but it smelled awful. He began to cough and reached into his pocket. He brought out his inhaler, and pressed it against his mouth, drawing a deep breath from within the plastic chamber. Saul hated the little device. It reminded him that he couldn't spend very long alone before he had to use something from Eleven. Nevertheless, he had asthma, and if he didn't have his inhaler with him, he could succumb to an attack out here, and no one would ever find him.
The next tree was a giant one. It was one of the largest in the forest, a towering birch. Its leaves covered even the canopy itself. It used to be one of his favorites to climb, before. But, one day, when Beth and Saul came through this path, a man jumped from the bushes below and stabbed him in the shoulder, and proceeded to try and take the girl. Saul beat the man within an inch of his life. Later, after they had fled, Saul found out he had bled to death in that forest. That was the tree where Saul first killed a man.
He took great care in avoiding that tree now, even navigating through a prickly pine tree to take a detour. This orchard was a forest of memories, and the ones previously had been good ones. Saul wished the grove had ended up in another direction, so he wouldn't have to dwell every time he ventured there, but there was no way he could find a better spot for relaxation than his grove. The dark mist became thicker and Saul finally realized that it was smoke. His pace quickened.
The next tree was a small one, a baby apple tree that found its way out into the forest. Its top branch didn't even reach the canopy. It had been even smaller when Beth broke up with him. "You're a monster, Saul," she had told him. "I can't be around you anymore. I love you, but you're dangerous." It was the tree where his heart had first been broken.
Saul felt a wave of emotion. He wasn't one to cry over loss, and he hadn't cried once since he was an infant. It wasn't because he was tough, he was actually more sensitive than most, but others' ways led them to tears, and his way led him to silence.
Saul had searched for Beth for months upon months following the day after she had left him. No matter where he searched in town—at her house, through the market, even on the outskirts near the fence—he hadn't found her. So much time passed, and Saul had grown used to the idea that he would never find the girl again. She had left him and was never coming back. And then, after a year of searching, he stumbled upon her, hanging from a lone walnut tree in a sea of oak.
Even now, the horror took him by the throat. He had been on his way to his grove, wanting nothing more than to escape an exhausting day, when he spotted her. She was swinging by the neck from the highest branch of the great walnut tree. This… this was the tree where he first felt true loneliness. That day was only two months ago.
With a heavy heart, Saul proceeded to the route. After several minutes, the fence passed beneath him. It was meant to keep people from leaving District Eleven, but it had never stopped Saul before. The forest had extended past the fence and the grove was well behind it. Saul stepped past, knowing if he were caught out here, he would surely be arrested. He knew what they did to people who tried to leave the District. Mr. Munrow had a slave once: one of those men without tongues, the avoxes.
Saul climbed further into the forest. Oak slowly bent to pine, and eventually, that was all there was left. The lumberjacks who chopped these kinds of trees down didn't care to look outside the walls, and that was how Saul liked it. It was untouched. He coughed a minute through the haze of smoke and realized it was becoming difficult to breathe normally—and not just because of his asthma.
For an instant, Saul lost his footing. He'd never fallen from the trees before, not when they were his home… Nothing on the ground was truly his, but the orchard… At least, within the branches he could be away from the world below. It was the only place in the whole world he could forget everything.
And then Saul found the last branch. He didn't have to climb farther to see what had become of his orchard. The space that once bore fruit for an entire District was now inhabited by stumps and scorched earth. Those trees had been the only thing Saul could call his own, and now they were gone.
The scorch marks ran over the ground like horrid scars. Everything throughout the entire valley was grey and withered and rotten. All the trees had either fallen timber or turned to dust. He couldn't help but think how many thousands of animals the fire decimated. Seeing it felt as though it took a part of Saul away. It made a deep pain rise in his chest, far worse than any caused by his asthma. The grove was nowhere to be found. It had burned up in the flames. His home was dead.
He shouted at the top of his lungs and the sound echoed over itself a few times. The hill he stood upon had an advantage on the rest of the valley, and Saul used to look down at it with joy. It felt like his. This forest was his child. Besides his sister, it was the only thing that mattered in his life.
He squinted and made out a miniscule light through the smoke spreading over the land. The fire was still lit! It was climbing the mountainside on the other end of the valley inch by inch like a slug. He knew he had to stop it. But how could he? No one would take the time to come all the way out past the fence to extinguish the fire. It would keep burning and burning until there was nothing left of the forest and the valley.
He would make his way back to the orchard and to his master, and warn him. He wouldn't really be the only one within District Eleven truly affected, since it could spread to the orchard, but he couldn't bring himself to do something without a moment of hesitation. He was behind the fence… They would arrest him, lock him up, or worse…
Should Saul stay quiet about the fire?
I can't imagine being able to keep quiet about this in good conscience. Damn the consequences!
67% of readers chose to [A. Tell Mr. Munrow.]
Saul couldn't see this place go up in flames. He had a hard time even maintaining his gaze on the fire on the far side of the valley with all the smoke in the air. And so, without another thought, he turned and sprinted through the branches. He had to get back before it spread to the orchard.
He passed tree after tree, not even stopping to recollect the few trees he had spent so much time with. They had been his spiritual journey through so many years of his life, having to pass through it to reach his place of peace. And though they told a story, they taught him the one principle Saul liked to carry over his life, the one that his father had spoken before he set off to the market for the last time: "Trust no one."
Saul used to be the trusting kind, but that started to slowly decline when he was seven and his father left, only a year after Peara was born. He had told the young boy that he would never leave, and yet he did. He knew he couldn't count on other people, and it was this notion that caused him to want to be, as best he could, the type of person you could actually count on—mostly for Peara. Without him, she would truly have no one.
Tree after tree, he blazed past them. He'd spent so much time here that he knew where each branch was, exactly where he could put each foot. For him, they might as well have been solid ground. He could find footing anywhere. And as he approached the edge of the forest, the cabin came into view. It was a rickety, moldy old shop where Mr. Munrow sold his apples, and where he lived. He'd asked, time and time again, if Peara and himself could be allowed to stay there, but he'd refused. There was barely enough space for his own purposes.
Saul hopped out of the tree and onto the ground, rolling with the fall like he had always done. The shop was as pathetic as ever, with a panel peeling off the wall like paper. It could barely even be qualified as shelter, but it did the job regardless. He approached its door and flung it open, not caring about the top hinge as it cascaded from its socket. When he was on the other side, found Mr. Munrow.
He stood there behind the counter with a scowl on his face as he did every day. His slowly graying beard stretched all throughout his chin but didn't quite reach his scalp. His dark freckles were many, as he was nearing the end of life expectancy in Eleven. But Saul didn't expect him to die any time soon. The man was tough.
"What are you doing here, boy?" Munrow spat disdainfully. He took a bite of porridge from a wooden bowl on the counter. "You got off work an hour ago."
Saul breathed a sigh of relief, taking out his inhaler and taking a huge whiff of it. He usually didn't run that far that fast. "There's… a fire… sir."
"A fire?" he asked, raising his eyebrow. "In our orchard?"
"No," Saul continued. "It's just beyond the fence, but it could easily spread if we let it. It's going to get to us, sir!"
"Ah." The man didn't look too surprised. He only pointed to the wooden seat in front of him—the one that had its leg nailed back on more times than he could count. "Have a seat, son."
Saul followed his wrinkled finger to the rickety wooden hair next to the wall. "We don't have long before it burns up the whole forest!"
"That forest is outside the wall," he replied. "It poses no threat to us and our orchard."
"But it does, sir." Saul shook his head furiously. "The fire's slowly climbing over the hill, and soon it will hit the District."
"No, I don't think it will," he said, taking the final bite from his porridge.
"How do you know?"
"Because I'm the man who hired the archer to shoot the bloody burning arrow into those woods."
Saul clutched the edge of his seat. "Why would you do something like that?"
Those trees out there take nutrients from the soil—nutrients which the orchard needs to thrive. You're enough of a gardener to understand that."
Mr. Munrow reached over the counter and grabbed a bottle of vodka. With a flick of the wrist, he put two glasses on the table and filled them both. He gestured one towards Saul, and he accepted it hesitantly. "I'm only eighteen, sir…"
"Don't matter," he replied. Saul took a sip. The alcohol kicked him back in his seat. When the glass came down, he continued. "You're man enough to go to prison, you're man enough to drink."
"Prison?" Saul's eyes went wide. "Why would I go to prison?"
"I'd like to ask you how you were so sure of the fire reaching the District." He put the bottle of vodka back on the shelf. "Any man on this side of the fence wouldn't even be able to spot the flames. The smoke perhaps, but… surely not the direction of the spread…" Saul heard a loud crash, and the door flew open past the loose hinge and onto the floor. Three Peacekeepers, the federal guards of the District dressed all in white armor, burst into the room carrying tasers and guns. "I've suspected you were breaking the law for a long time, Saul. I just needed a confession before I could call them."
"But… why, sir?" he asked, as two of the men took him by the arms. He attempted to wrestle away, but it was no use. He wasn't strong enough. "What have I ever done to you?"
"It's not what you've done to me, but what you've done to yourself." Munrow took his bowl of porridge and set it down beside the sink. He turned and watched as Saul was hastily dragged from the doorway screaming. "Goodbye, Saul. I'll see you on the other side."
End of Chapter 3
Chapter 4: Blood in the Water
Marten Lewis cast the iron-tipped spear into the midst of the creek with the brutish strength of an ox. When he was sure the bladed end had found its mark, he pulled it from the water and peered at the wound. It was straight through the skull, leaving the muscle full intact. Smiling, he placed the perfect catch in his satchel. This is what life is supposed to feel like. I never want to step on dry land again. A day when Marten caught no fish was no day at all.
"Nice catch, small fry," came the voice of his older sister, Willy, echoing over the creek. She wiped her dirty bangs from her high-boned face and breathed a short sigh. On the tip of her own spear was a fish of better size and quality. She laughed. "Mine's better, but hey, your fish was farther away."
Willy was three years older than him, and was a giant compared to other girls in the District. She stood just above six feet tall and could bench a horse if she tried hard enough. Marten was no different. His family was not renowned for being particularly handsome, but they were tough as bricks. As long as he could remember, no one had ever compared to his strength who wasn't a member of the Lewis family tree. Everyone knew them as "those giant fishermen down in Amber Creek."
"Yup," he replied simply. Marten wasn't anything of a talker. He'd always figured actions spoke far louder than words, and so he acted now, casting his spear into the water again. He enjoyed the silence. It was rather peaceful, and in District Four, peace was a rare commodity. Four was loud, raucous, annoying and everything down to the children playing in the mud smelled of fish. Of course, what could he expect from a District where half the men ride the ocean all year?
Willy, however, was radically the opposite. Any time she wasn't talking, she was knee-deep in the creek with a spear. She was cheerful where Marten was solemn, orderly where Marten was untidy. If the two weren't always the tallest and bulkiest in the room with the same Lewis streak of dirty blond hair, no one would be able to see the relation.
The girl threw her spear into the river once again and only barely missed a giant trout. Almost instantly, it swam to the north and out of view. "I think we'll call it a day, man," she said. She tossed her wicker satchel to the riverbank and tiptoed her way to the shore. Marten did the same. As he sat down in the coarse gravel of the beach, he peered up into the maroon sky, lit with a blistering sun just above the horizon. He knew that somewhere just on the other side of it, the world dropped off completely—on the other side of the ocean… Not even President Snow knew what resided past the Great Sea.
"So, I'm thinking tomorrow… we bring an extra spear… and we bring Jill along." Willy smirked, referring to their cousin who had turned ten years old three days ago. "She's been wanting to come out here with us for months. I say it's time we let her." She glanced to her brother and her elation turned to concern. She could tell Marten wasn't in the best place today. "What's wrong, kid? You usually love sitting out here at sunset." After a brief moment of silence, she knew the answer. "You heard?"
Marten hung his head in concentration. Earlier that day, he had received the terrible call from hospital and from his Aunt Myra. Their grandfather passed away yesterday from his battle with lung cancer. He wasn't normally one to brood, yet today, this had a strange effect on him. It was the first time in his life anyone really important to him had died… and he couldn't shed a single tear. It angered him.
"Grandad wouldn't want us to brood over his death," Willy said, fatigued. "He wasn't that kind of person. He was the kind of person who took his fishing spear in one hand and his life in the other." She twisted her toes in the mud. "He was…"
"…the best fisher District Four has ever known," he finished. Marten knew she was right. If he'd been good with words, he would have been the one to say it.
"That's true." She sat down in the water, the cloth of her shirt sticking to her body in the flowing creek. She watched the sunset, or what she could see of it through the trees. "Mom is heartbroken… Did you see her this morning?"
Marten nodded. When he'd passed through their house and out the door, the only thing he'd managed to catch a glimpse of her at the table, head held limply in her hands. He'd only seen that one other time: when their father was sent to prison.
"She's too hard on herself sometimes. She sees situations and blows them up like hot air balloons. I'm not gonna lie. I'm pretty shaken up about this too… So I can't imagine what it's doing to her."
Marten sat in the creek beside her. The water was warm in May, but still the creek was freezing. He didn't mind though; the Lewises had thick skin. He picked a tiny blue-stained pebble from the bottom and chucked it across the river, skipping it four times before it fell into the water halfway to the far bank. The woods were dense and treacherous over there, and it seemed like the moment he stepped in, he'd never be able to find his way out again. He'd never built up the courage to check.
"You know… You're the heir to the company now, little bro," she said, knocking him hard on the arm. It left a red mark on the skin of his shoulder. She spread her arms grandly through the air in a gesture. "Lewis n' Son's Sport and Bait!" she proclaimed for the fish to hear. "I guess the son is the Lewis now, huh? Gotta find a new son."
Marten scoffed, and let a bit of air out his nose. He didn't feel like laughing. "But, Willy, Dad's gonna take over the business when he gets out."
"Dad's not coming home for a long time," she replied, honestly. "We'll be lucky if he even gets out before we're in our thirties… That would be for good behavior, and let's be honest… That's not Dad."
Marten sighed. She was right. Zak Lewis was a good man, and Marten stood by most of his decisions—questionable though they were. But there were times when someone would mouth off to him, or in any other way, prove themselves a threat, and Dad would become vicious and bloodthirsty. Marten remembered times when he was younger he felt genuinely afraid of the man. It wasn't until much later he realized the only reason his father had gone to prison was because the stitcher told him that Marten was a sorry excuse for a son…
The moment the life left from Grandad, Marten became the sole heir to Lewis n' Son's. It had become a tradition to pass it off to the eldest son in the generation. He loved fishing as a hobby, but he had come to dread the day he would take on the business. He only ever came to this creek to relax and spend time with Willy. He was never meant for Capitol trade. He wasn't built like that.
"I wonder what it will be like with a picture of you on the logo instead of him. I bet you'll look even more lame." Marten frowned. "Sorry. Ain't the best time, I suppose."
"Do you want to run the company, sis? If you want the job, it's yours."
"I don't want the company. The world is screwed up as it is without my help."
Marten chuckled and nodded, the she threw her head back in laughter. When the creek quieted down again, she planted the spear in the gravel below the water. She sighed. "The world is a bunch of dead people looking to find life in the wrong place."
They sat in the moment together until the sun began to float gently below the tree line. Willy was the first to stand, and Marten followed at distance. She picked up their spears and jokingly threw them into the deep of the creek. "Better go grab those. I'll meet you at home."
Marten rolled his eyes and slipped out of his sandals to wade back in. Twenty feet in, his legs were soaked up to the thigh and he plucked the spears from the wet muddy riverbed.
When he turned, his sister had fled. In her place were three boys, all slightly older than him, yet not nearly as tall. He recognized the one in the middle as the carpenter's son, Ronn. He had a tuft of blond hair on his head only barely lighter than Marten's own, and his ugly smirk didn't help. The two other boys, one short with dirty brown hair and no shirt, and the other tall with round glasses and overalls, remained behind while the carpenter's son stepped out into the creek to meet him.
"Hello, fish boy," Ronn spoke acidly as the water passed above his knees. He surveyed the scene and settled his eyes on the thread satchel at his side. In a swift motion, he ripped it away, breaking the shoulder strap and peeked inside to find the foot-and-a-half trout. "Is that all you caught? Pity… My family was looking forward to buying from you."
"You still can," Marten replied lightly. The two boys on shore sniggered and advanced. "I'd trade it for a wooden napkin holder, maybe?"
Ronn shook his head and held the fish in the air. "This fish ain't worth nothing." He dropped it back into the river and it floated away, belly up in the current. There was a jolt of anger, but Marten suppressed it quickly.
"Well… it's not now," Marten said. Ronn raised an eyebrow. "Bet it would have been tasty. It was a nice, young trout. The young ones are usually—"
Ronn interrupted him with a hard down on Marten's exposed toe, making him wince in pain. "I don't… care…" He shook his head as Marten regained composure and calamity. "How long is it going to take for you Lewises to get it? We own you. We always have. We always will."
Marten was confused.
"Did your grandfather not tell you?" Ronn scowled, seeing the hurt in Marten's eyes. "Typical. The guy was a git… transferring his debts to his grandson and not even telling him about them. Get this through your thick skull, fish boy. Your family has been taking loans from us since you were still in the crib, and paying back… until three years ago. We're still waiting for that money."
Marten's eyes grew wide. He didn't even know Grandad took loans from anyone, much less forgot to pay them back. "How much?"
"About enough to move to the Capitol."
"I don’t… If your family has enough money to do that, why are you still here?"
Ronn couldn't speak for a moment, searching for a resentful enough comeback. He peered at the creek, which flowed just below his knees for a moment before speaking. It's funny… You see—" he stopped himself to drive a hate-fueled fist into Marten's gut, doubling him over. In the moment of shock, he lifted his leg high into the air and brought it down on the back of Marten's neck, sprawling him face-first in the creek. "You don't wanna pay it, get up and fight me for it." He raised his fists.
"I'm not going to fight you…" Marten replied, trying to compose himself. There was the anger again… No, I'm not going to fight him.
Ronn sent another foot into his right shoulder, knocking him onto a sharp patch of gravel. As his head submerged, his curly blond hair fell wet over his eyes. "You got two options here, Lewis: fight me or be a pushover like your grandfather."
The burst of fury was larger this time, more volatile. Marten quelled it back down to a simmer. "No," he said, choking on water and fighting his way onto his feet.
The carpenter's son's face contorted with rage. He landed a punch full in Marten's cheek bone, and he was sure it was broken. When Marten turned back to the water to recover, a drop of his own blood fell from his face and drift off in the flow. The rage was pulsing hot now. The next drop of blood will be his…
"Why are you doing this?" Marten asked, feeling his bloody cheek.
Ronn bent down to the man on all fours in the creek and began to whisper into his ear. "You are nothing. It's time you got that through your skull, fish boy." Ronn's scowl burned fire-bright. Marten's knuckles were white, and his fingernails bit into his palm. "You're going in that arena, and the moment the timer hits zero, if you're lucky, you'll make a minute." He waited a moment and then scoffed. "You and your bloody inmate father."
Should Marten fight back?
Should I slow down guys? It seems like people haven't been able to keep up with the daily rate I've been putting these chapters out.
Man... so many shitty people! XD
I barely had five minutes to feel bad for Saul before Martin got the shit end of the stick.
It is nice how fast new parts come out but I'd recommend slowing down just a bit when it comes to closing the voting. I'm sure a couple people have missed the chance to vote. I myself missed one.
Ah, first of all, I am so happy that this story is back, with so many new readers on top. I think at this very moment, I am the only one of the old readers still around, fingers crossed more will find their way back. You know me, I'll always root for my Aura, but just seeing her, Theo, Marten and Saul back is great! Not Penn though, I don't think I'll be happy to see her back even if she hasn't been around yet I'm not sure my Penn rants will be as epic as they used to be anytime soon, after all I kinda know what will happen and the shock factor is gone for the time being. But be assured, I won't like her, I won't like her one bit
At the same time, because of the fact that I already know what is going to happen, I love reading the comments here, seeing how the others see the characters while knowing what I know about some of them. I have the feeling this is going to be fun
Now, when it comes to the speed of the parts, I agree with Agent, slowing down a little bit might be a good idea. I might miss some parts but that isn't too bad, after all I doubt you will do some major changes to the story in Book 1, even if some things might be different, such as some of the tributes not existing here, being replaced by newly submitted ones. I already see Aura won't have Samwell around this time, I am actually not against this as I always knew she could do better in terms of how useful her district partner will be. And I guess that won't remain the only change, but I think most of these changes will happen in Book 2. Still, back to the topic, I can live with missing some parts for now, but for an entirely new reader, it might be a bit overwhelming to have 2-3 long parts to read when gone for a day or two. Maybe release one part every 2 days or stuff like that, could be better for everyone to remain up to date.
Oh gosh don't tell me your Penn rants are gonna be like Luke in Silicon!
I still haven't recovered from that ordeal.
Yeah, I see your point. I think I'll maybe put two days between each part, and three days until the next one to give guys to catch up to where we're at.
Lol Liquid maybe you could copy your Penn rants from the other thread?
And true, it is kind of convenient that most of the changes regarding the tributes will happen in the second book. There are still some characters that I hadn't introduced yet over there. Rest assured guys! Your characters will all play a part in the story, however some of them may be in a long time, since there will only be five POV characters.
Anyway, yeah I think I'll be changing up the speed with which I put out parts. I'll give three days until the next one to give people some time to catch up.
Oh no, Penn and Luke are two different things entirely, be assured of that I'll also try to make it not as uncomfortable as the whole Luke situation. With Luke, it was personal. Penn, well, I don't want to spoil too much, so I can't yet tell you just why she is that horrible, but let me tell you, I have more than just one reason to hate her and not a single one to like her, not even a tiny bit. She probably won't appear that way at first, you might even like her initially. It was the same for me and I can't go into detail what has so permanently soured my opinion on her, because I don't want to spoil it for you. To give you a tiny teaser without going into any details at all, she is perhaps the single most selfish person in all Panem (which includes the spoiled sociopaths living in the Capitol), she is callous and without a shred of empathy, she doesn't reflect even the tiniest bit about her own fault on the terrible events happening around her (and she is literally always the only one at fault) she is infuriatingly stupid and by the time she even starts to realize that she might have done some bad, she has already gone beyond redemption. She is a borderline sociopath without the capability to feel anything for people that are not useful for her. I think those are enough reasons to absolutely loathe her.
I mean, you know my reason for hating Luke in Silicon was extremely personal, if it wouldn't have involved one of my characters my opinion on him would have been likely different and not entirely unlike yours. Well, my opinion on Penn is objective and I have put a lot of thought into it. When I hate a character, it is mostly due to it being personal, like with Luke. Penn however hasn't even met Aura yet (and I truly hope they won't ever have any sort of meaningful interaction with each other) and as such, I consider her not subjectively, but objectively gone beyond even the smallest shred of redemption. And there's several books yet to come, in which she can literally only get worse.
Aaaah, yes, this was a good training session, I feel like I'm back in shape for hating on Penn
That being said, I just realized that my main reason for hating Penn with such an intensity is something happening towards the end of her storyline in this book and at least in the original story, the event that led to her becoming horrible beyond redemption has actually been up as a choice. A seemingly innocent choice that turned her into the worst character in the entire story (including President Snow, who is pretty much the bad guy in the Hunger Games universe) and now I am a bit curious if my opinion might change if this'll actually never happen. If it remains up for a choice, there might be a chance to basically rewrite my opinion on her. I mean, I probably won't ever like her, but there's a difference between disliking her and the way I am so utterly done with her right now. We'll see. If that happens, if we prevent her from doing this unspeakably awful thing, you might never understand why I hate her so much. If it won't be up for a choice this time, you will probably at least come to see the full reason and let me assure you, it is a good reason.
Oh god lol. We have a Penn rant before Penn's even made her entrance.
You know, I might actually end up doing that Some of these rants were works of art and they deserve to be posted again. At the same time, I have just reread some parts from the original story, especially the event that truly made me loathe her. You know which one I mean, the one towards the end of her storyline, where she showed off her oh so brilliant skills. There I realized, that event was apparently entirely a result of us screwing up one particular choice. Funny to realize this, my hatred for Penn is the result of a choice I myself have picked. If this remains a choice in the story, I'll pick the other option and campaign hard for it to win, to see how this'll change the events of the storyline. Most importantly, I am curious how this will change my view on Penn. I was so done with her in the original story that I doubt anything she could have ever done short of saving every single tribute in the games and bringing them and their families to District 13 before taking her own life in a suicide attack on President Snow could have redeemed her in the slightest.
But this chain of thoughts made me realize that this is not just me rereading the old parts of the story, this is basically reading an alternative version of the story, with new characters and the chance to make up for past mistakes. I don't know if I'm up to ever accepting a version of Penn that is not the evil queen bitch of awfulness, but truth be told, if we choose differently this time and if it truly makes a difference, then there would actually be no reason to hate this new version of Penn, at least not to the degree the original deserved my hatred. Since I am largely happy with the choices we picked for Aura, Saul, Marten and Theo, this could be a super drastic change. Imagine me not having a reason to hate Penn, I bet it'll be confusing
Oh my god! Two for one special!
Lol, yeah. The thing is, after a while, after this story passes where the old one ended, technically the old story will be an alternate version of this one. Feels kind of weird. I think it'll work out though.