The Hunger Games - Fanfiction.

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This might be a really confusing fanfic. It's one of my first, and it's got quite a complex plot; let's just say it's basically NOTHING like Fable, it's just got the characters, okay? :)
And yes, I am aware that in this story, Logan is younger than the princess. And yes, this is after Fable 3, WAY after, but yes, Logan and Arianne and Sparrow are still alive. *clapclap* :) And yes, Logan's nice. And YEEESSS... the characters in this are not royal. They're normal people, but the Fable 3 Characters. I did say this was confusing. Bear with me? ;) And if you're wondering what the "choosing" is, you'll see soon ;) PLLLEEAAAASSSEEE don't fill the forum with your feedback, as I will be posting the other chapters here, so I don't want them to get lost in the comments! If you would like to give a simple message of feedback, answer the poll, and if you have any constructive critisicm, comments or feedback you desperately want to share with me, please message me :) Story by JKJessie.
When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, but finding nothing but the rough canvas cover of the mattress. Logan must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother, who we all call Sparrow. Of course he did. This is the day of the choosing.

I prop myself up on one elbow. There's enough light in the bedroom to see them. My little brother, Logan, curled up on his side. In sleep, my mother looks younger, still worn but not so beaten-down. She was very beautiful once, too. Or so they tell me.

Sitting at Logan's knees, guarding him, is his dog. A black and white Border Collie, Logan named him Rayne, insisting that his muddy coat reminded him of a dirty rain-puddle. Rayne hates me. Or at least distrusts me. Even though it was years ago, I think he still remembers how I tried to drown him in a bucket when Logan brought him home. Scrawny puppy, belly swollen with worms, crawling with fleas. The last thing I needed was another mouth to feed. But Logan begged so hard, cried even, I had to let him stay. It turned out OK. Sparrow got rid of the vermin and he's a born treasure-hunter. Even finds the occasional dig-spot. At least he's stopped growling at me.

I swing my legs off the bed and slide into my mercenary boots. Supple leather that has moulded to my feet. I pull on my practical trousers, a shirt, tuck my long dark braid up into a hat, and grab my forage bag. On the table, under a wooden bowl to shield it from hungry dogs (Rayne stole our last loaf of bread), sits a perfect little goat's cheese wrapped in basil leaves. Logan's gift to me on choosing day. I put the cheese carefully in my pocket as I slip outside.

Our part of Bowerstone is usually crawling with people. Men and women with hunched shoulders, trying to keep from starving. But today the black cinder streets are empty. Shutters on the squat grey houses are closed. The Choosing isn't until two. May as well sleep in. If you can.

Our house is almost at the end of the street. I only need to walk a few miles to reach the meadow. Seperating the meadow from Silverpines Woods, in fact enclosing all of Bowerstone, is a high chain-link fence topped with barbed-wire loops. In theory, it's supposed to be electrified twenty-four hours a day with Will magic as a deterrent to the predators that live in the woods - packs of Balverines, lone mercenaries, Hollow Men - that used to threaten our streets. But since we're lucky to get two or three hours of electricity in the evenings, it's usually safe to touch. Even so, I always take a moment to listen carefully for the steady hum that means the fence is live. Right now, it's silent as a stone. Concealed by a clump of bushes, I use Force Push to create a small hole in the fence, flatten out on my stomach, and slide through.

As soon as I'm in the trees, I retrieve a rifle and sword from a hollow log. Electrified or not, the fence has been successful at keeping the creatures out of Bowerstone. Inside Silverpines they roam freely, and there are added concerns like Hobbes and wolves, and no real paths to follow. But there's also food if you know where to find it. My father knew and he taught me some ways before he died.

Even though Silverpines is dangerous, more people would risk it if they had weapons. But most are not bold enough to venture out with just a knife. My sword is a rarity, crafted by my father along with a few others that I keep well hidden in the woods, like the rifle slung over my back. My father could have made good Gold selling them, but if the officials found out he would have been publicly executed for inciting a rebellion. Most of the Guards turn a blind eye to the few of us who hunt because they're as hungry for fresh meat as anyone is. In fact, they're among our best customers. But the idea that someone might be arming Bowerstone would never have been allowed.

In the autumn, a few brave souls sneak into the woods to harvest apples. But always in sight of the meadow. Always close enough to run back to the safety of Bowerstone if trouble arises.

"Bowerstone. Where you can starve to death in safety," I mutter. Then I glance quickly over my shoulder. Even here, even in the middle of nowhere, you worry someone might overhear you.

When I was younger, I scared Sparrow to death, the things I would blurt out about Bowerstone, about the people who rule Albion. Eventually I understood that this would only lead us to more trouble. So I learned to hold my tongue and to turn my features into an indifferent mask so that no one could ever read my thoughts. Do my work quietly in school. Make only polite small talk in Bowerstone Market. Discuss little more than trades there, where I make most of my money. Even at home, when I am less pleasant, I avoid discussing tricky topics. Like the Choosing, or food shortages, or The Hunger Games. Logan may begin to repeat my words, and then where would we be?

In the woods waits the only person with whom I can be myself. Elliot. I can feel the muscles in my face relaxing, my pace quickening as I climb the hills to our place, a rock ledge overlooking a valley. A thicket of berry bushes protects it from unwanted eyes. The sight of him waiting there brings on a smile. Elliot says I never smile except in the woods.

"Hey, Ari," says Elliot. My real name is Arianna, but when I first told him, I had barely whispered it, so all he heard was "Ari". It soon became his official nickname for me.

"Look what I caught." Elliot holds up a loaf of bread with a knife stuck in it, and I laugh. It's real bakery bread, not the flat, dense loaves we make from our grain rations. I take it in my hands, pull out the knife, and hold the puncture in the crust to my nose, inhaling the fragrance that makes my mouth water. Fine bread like this is for special occasions.

"Mm, still warm," I say. He must have been at the bakery at the crack of dawn to trade for it. "What did it cost you?"

"Just a squirrel. Think the old man was feeling sentimental this morning," says Elliot. "Even wished me luck."

"Well, we all feel a little closer today, don't we?" I say, not even bothering to roll my eyes. "Logan left us some cheese." I pull it out.

His expression brightens at the treat. "Thank you, Logan. We'll have a real feast." Suddenly he falls into an Auroran accent as he mimics Kalin, the maniacally upbeat woman who arrives once a year to read out the names at the Choosing. "I almost forgot! Happy Hunger Games!" He plucks a few blackberries from the bushes around us. "And may the odds-" he tosses a berry in a high arc towards me.

I catch it in my mouth and break the delicate skin with my teeth. "-be EVER in your favour!" I finish with equal verve. We have to joke about it because the alternative is to be scared out of your wits. Besides, the Auroran accent is so affected, almost anything sounds funny in it.

I watch as Elliot pulls out his knife again and slices the bread. He could be my brother. Straight brown hair, olive skin; we even have the same brown eyes. But we're not related, at least not closely. Most of the families resemble one another this way.

That's why Sparrow and Logan, with their dark hair and blue eyes, always look out of place. They are. Sparrow's grandparents were part of the small merchant class that caters to officials, Guards and the occasional customer. They ran a stall in the nicer part of Bowerstone.

Elliot spreads the bread slices with the soft goat's cheese, carefully placing a basil leaf on each while I strip the bushes of their berries. We settle back in a nook in the rocks. From this place, we are invisible, but have a clear view of the valley, which is teeming with summer life, greens to gather, roots to dig, fish iridescent in the sunlight. The day is glorious, with a blue sky and soft breeze. The food's wonderful, with the cheese seeping into the warm bread and the berries bursting in our mouths. Everything would be perfect if this really was a holiday, if all the day off meant was roaming the mountains with Elliot, hunting for tonight's supper. But instead we have to be standing in Bowerstone Market at two o'clock waiting for the names to be called out.

"We could do it, you know," Elliot says quietly.

"What?" I ask.

"Leave Bowerstone. Run off. Live in Silverpines. You and I, we could make it," says Elliot.

I don't know how to respond. The idea is so preposterous.

"If we didn't have so many kids," he adds quickly.

They're not our kids, of course. But they might as well be. Elliot's two little brothers and a sister. Logan. And you might as well throw in our mothers, too, because how would they live without us? Who would fill those mouths that are always asking for more? With both of us hunting daily, there are still nights when game has to be swapped for lard or shoelaces or wool, still nights when we go to bed with our stomachs growling.

"I never want to have kids," I say.

"I might. If I didn't live here," says Elliot.

"But you do," I say, irritated.

"Forget it," he snaps back.

The conversation feels all wrong. Leave? How could I leave Logan, who is the only person in the world I'm certain I love? And Elliot is devoted to his family. We can't leave, so why bother talking about it? And even if we did... even if we did... where did this stuff about having kids come from? There's never been anything romantic between Elliot and me, even though we were "childhood sweethearts".

Besides, if he wants kids, Elliot won't have any trouble finding a wife. He's good-looking, he's strong enough to handle the work in the mines, and he can hunt. You can tell by the way the girls whisper about him when he walks by in school that they want him. It makes me jealous, but not in the way people think. Good hunting partners are hard to find.

"What do you want to do?" I ask. We can hunt, fish or gather.

"Let's fish at the lake. We can leave our poles and gather in the woods. Get something nice for tonight," he says.

Tonight. After the Choosing, everyone is supposed to celebrate. And a lot of people do, out of relief that their children have been spared for another year. But at least two families will pull their shutters, lock their doors, and try to figure out how they will survive the painful weeks to come.

We do well. The predators ignore us when easier, tastier prey abounds. By late morning, we have a dozen fish, a bag of greens and, best of all, a large quantity of strawberries. I found the patch a few years ago, but Elliot had the idea to string mesh nets around it to keep out the animals.

On the way home, we swing by Bowerstone Market. We easily trade six of the fish for good bread, two more for salt. Sae, the old woman who sells bowls of hot soup from a large kettle, takes half the greens off our hands in exchange for a couple of chunks of paraffin. We might do a tad better elsewhere, but we make an effort to keep on good terms with Sae. She's the only one who can be consistently counted on to buy wolf. We don't hunt them deliberately, but if you're attacked and you take out a wolf, well, meat is meat.

"Once it's in the soup, I'll call it beef," Sae says with a wink. No one in Bowerstone would turn up their nose at a good leg of wolf, but the Guards to come to Bowerstone Market can afford to be a little choosier.

When we finish our business at the market, we go to the back entrance to the castle to sell half the strawberries, knowing the King has a particular fondness for them and can afford our price. The Princess, Maya, opens the door. Being the Princess, you'd expect her to be a bit of a snob, but she's all right. She just keeps to herself. Like me. Since neither of us really has a group of friend, we seem to end up together a lot at Bowerstone Academy. Eating lunch, sitting next to each other at assemblies, partnering for sports activities. We rarely talk, which suits us both just fine.

Today her drab school outfit has been replaced by an expensive blue and white dress, and her brown hair is done up with a blue ribbon. Choosing clothes.

"Beautiful dress," Elliot says.

Maya shoots him a look, trying to see if it's a genuine compliment or if he's just being ironic. It IS a beautiful dress, but she would never be wearing it ordinarily. She presses her lips together and then smiles. "Well, if I end up in the Hunger Games, I want to look nice, don't I?"

Now it's Elliot's turn to be confused. Does she mean it? Or is she messing with him? I'm guessing the second.

"You won't be in the Hunger Games," says Elliot coolly. "What can you have, five entries? I had six when I was just twelve years old."

"That's not her fault," I say.

"No, it's no one's fault. Just the way it is," says Elliot.

Maya's face has become closed off. She puts the money for the berries in my hand. "Good luck, Arianne."

"You, too," I say, and the door closes.

We walk towards Bowerstone in silence. I don't like that Elliot took a dig at Maya, but he's right, of course. The Choosing system is unfair, with the poor getting the worst of it. You become eligible for the Choosing the day you turn twelve. That year, your name is entered once. At thirteen, twice. And so on and so on until you reach the age of eighteen, the final year of eligibility, when your name goes into the pool seven times. That's true for every citizen in Bowerstone.

But here's the catch. Say you are poor and starving, as we were. You can opt to add your name more time in exchange for tesserae. Each tessera is worth a meagre year's supply of grain and oil for one person. You may do this for each of your family members as well. So, at the age of twelve, I had my name entered four times. Once because I had to, and three time for tesserae for grain and oil for myself, Logan and Sparrow. In fact, every year I have needed to do this. And the entries are cumulative. So now, at the age of sixteen, my name will be in the reaping twenty times. Elliot, who is eighteen and has been either helping or single-handedly feeding a family of five for seven years, will have his name in forty-two times.

You can see why someone like Maya, who has never been at risk of needing a tessera, can set him off. The chance of her name being drawn is very slim compared to those of us who live in Bowerstone. Not impossible, but slim. But even though the rules are clear, it's hard not to resent those who don't have to sign up for tessera.

Elliot knows his anger at Maya is misdirected. On other days, deep in the woods, I've listened to him rant about how the tesserae are just another tool to cause misery in Bowerstone. A way to plant hatred between the starving civilians of Bowerstone and those who can generally count on supper; and thereby ensure we will never trust one another.

"It's to their advantage to have us divided amongst ourselves," he might say if there were no ears to hear but mine. If it wasn't Choosing Day.

As we walk, I glance over at Elliot's face, still furious underneath his stony expression. His rages seem pointless to me, although I never say so. It's not that I don't agree with him. I do. But what good is yelling about it in the middle of the wood? It doesn't change anything. It doesn't make things fair. It doesn't fill our stomachs. In fact, it scares off the nearby game. I let him yell, though. Better he does it in the woods than in Bowerstone.

Elliot and I divide our spoils, leaving two fish, a couple of loaves of good bread, greens a few handfuls of strawberries, salt, paraffin and a bit of money for each of us.

"See you at Bowerstone Market," I say.

"Wear something pretty," he says flatly.

At home, I find Sparrow and Logan are ready to go. Sparrow wears a fine dress from her wealthy days. Logan is in his first Choosing outfit, an armoured shirt and purple leggings. It's a bit big on him, but Sparrow has made it stay with pins. Even so, he's having trouble keeping the shirt tucked in at the back.

A tub of warm water waits for me. I scrub of the dirt from the woods and even wash my hair. To my surprise, Sparrow has laid out one of her own lovely dresses for me. A soft blue thing with matching shoes.

"Are you sure?" I ask. I'm trying to get past rejecting offers of help from her. For a while, I was so angry, I wouldn't allow her to do anything for me. And this is something special. Her clothes from her past are very precious to her.

"Of course. Let's put your hair up, too," she says. I let her towel-dry it and braid it up onto my head. I can hardly recognize myself in the cracked mirror that leans against the wall.

"You look pretty," twelve-year-old Logan pipes up.

"And nothing like myself," I say. I hug him, because I know these next few hours will be terrible for him. His first Choosing. He's about as safe as you can get since he's only entered once. I wouldn't let him take out any tesserae. But he's worried about me. That the unthinkable might happen.

I protect Logan in every way I can, but I'm powerless against The Choosing. The anguish I always feel when he's in pain wells up in my chest and threatens to register on my face. I notice his shirt has pulled out of his leggings in the back again and force myself to stay calm.

"Tuck your tail in, little duck," I say, smoothing the shirt back in place.

Logan laughs and gives me a small "Quack".

"Quack yourself," I say with a light laugh. The kind only Logan can draw out of me. "Come on, let's eat," I say and give him another quick hug.

The fish and greens are already cooking in a stew, but that will be for supper. We decide to save the strawberries and bakery bread for this evening's meal, to make it special, we say. Instead we drink milk and eat the rough bread made from the tessera grain, although no one has much appetite anyway.

At one o'clock, we head for Bowerstone Market. Attendance is mandatory unless you are on death's door. This evening, Guards will come around and check to see if this is the case. If not, you'll be imprisoned.

It's too bad, really, that they hold the Choosing in Bowerstone Market - one of the few places in Bowerstone that can be pleasant. The square's surrounded by stalls, and on public market days, especially if there's good weather, it has a holiday feel to it. But today, despite the bright banners hanging on the buildings, there's an air of grimness.

People file in silently and sign in. The Choosing is a good opportunity for them to keep tabs on the population as well. Twelve- to eighteen-year-olds are herded into roped areas marked off by ages, the oldest in the front, the young ones, like Logan, towards the back. Family members line up around the perimeter, holding tightly to one another's hands. But there are others, too, who have no one they love at stake, or who no longer care, who slip among the crowd taking bets on the two kids whose names will be drawn. Odds are given on their ages, if they will break down and weep, if they'll be strong in the Games or not. Most refuse dealing with the racketeers but carefully, carefully. These same people tend to be informers, and who hasn't broken the law? I could be shot on a daily basis for hunting, but the appetites of those in charge protect me. Not everyone can claim the same.

Anyway, Elliot and I agree that if we have to choose between dying of hunger and a bullet in the head, the bullet would be much quicker.

The space gets tighter, more claustrophobic, as people arrive. Bowerstone Market's quite large, but not enough to hold Bowerstone's large population. Latecomers are directed to the adjacent streets, where they can watch the event from a distance.

I find myself standing in a clump of sixteens. We all exchange terse nods, then focus our attention on the temperory stage that is set up in front of the pub. It holds three chairs, a podium and a large glass ball. I stare at the paper slips in the ball. Twenty of them have Arianna Everdeen written on them in careful handwriting.

Two of the three chairs fill with the King, who's a tall, balding man, and Kalin, fresh from Aurora. They murmur to each other and then look with concern at the empty seat.

Just as the town clock strikes two, the King steps up to the podium and begins to read. It's the same story every year. He tells of the history of Albion.

The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. Each of the twelve districts in Albion must provide two youths called tributes, to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins.

Taking the kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch - this is their way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy. How little chance we could stand of surviving a rebellion. Whatever words they use. the real message is clear.

"Look how we take your children and sacrifice them and there's nothing you can do. If you lift a finger, we will destroy you. Just as we did in Brightwall."

To make it humiliating as well as torturous, they require us to treat the Hunger Games as a festivity, a sporting event pitting every district against the others. The last tribute alive recieves a life of ease back home, and their district will be showered with prizes, largely consisting of food. All year, they will show the winning district gifts of grain and oil and even delicacies like sugar while the rest of us battle starvation.

"It is both a time for repentance and a time for thanks," intones the King. Then he reads the list of past Bowerstone victors. In seventy-four years, we have had exactly two. Only one is still alive. Reaver, an industrialist who never seems to age, who at this moment appears hollering something unintelligable, staggers on to the stage, and falls into the third chair. He's drunk. Very. The crowd responds with it's token applause, but he's confused and tried to give Kalin a big hug, which she barely manages to fend off.

The King looks distressed. Since all of this is being televised, right now Bowerstone is the laughing stock of Albion, and he knows it. He quickly tries to pull the attention back to the Choosing by introducing Kalin.

Serious as ever, Kalin makes her way to the podium and gives her signature, "Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be EVER in your favour!" She goes on a bit about what an honour it is to be here, although everyone knows she's dreading condemning another two youths to a near-death match.

Throught the crowd, I spot Elliot looking back at me with a ghost of a smile. As Choosings go, this one at least has a slight entertainment factor. But suddenly I am thinking of Elliot and his forty-two names in that big glass ball and how the odds are not in his favour. Not compared to a lot of the boys. And maybe he's thinking the same thing about me because his face darkens and he turns away. "But there are still thousands of slips," I wish I could whisper to him.

It's time for the drawing. Kalin crosses reluctantly and slowly over to the glass ball. She reaches in, digs her hand deep into the ball, and pulls out a slip of paper. The crowd draws in a collective breath and then you can hear a pin drop, and I'm feeling nauseous and so desperately hoping that it's not me, that it's not me, that it's not me.

Kalin crosses back to the podium, smooths the slip of paper, and reads out the name in a clear, sad, serious voice. And it's not me.

It's Logan.


One time, when I was hiding in a tree, waiting motionless for game to wander by, I dozed off and fell three metres to the ground, landing on my back. It was as if the impact had knocked every wisp of air from my lungs, and I lay there struggling to inhale, to exhale, to do anything.

That's how I feel now, trying to remember how to breathe, unable to speak, totally stunned as the name bounces around the inside of my skull. Someone is gripping my arm and I think perhaps I started to fall and they caught me.

There must have been some mistake. This can't be happening. Logan was one slip of paper in thousands! His chances of being chosen were so remote that I'd not even bothered to worry about him. Hadn't I done everything? Taken the tesserae, refused to let him do the same? One slip. One slip in thousands. The odds had been entirely in his favour. But it hadn't mattered.

Somewhere far away, I can hear the crowd murmering unhappily, as they always do when a twelve-year-old gets chosen, because no one thinks this is fair. And then I see him, the blood drained from his face, hands clenched in fists at his sides, walking with stiff, small steps up towards the stage, passing me, and I see the back of his shirt has become untucked and hangs out over his leggings. It's this detail, the untucked shirt forming a duck's tail, that brings me back to myself.

"Logan!" The strangled cry comes out of my throat and my muscles begin to move again. "Logan!" I don't need to shove through the crowd. The other kids make way immediately, allowing me a straight path to the stage. I reach him just as he is about to mount the steps. With one sweep of my arm, I push him behind me.

"I volunteer!" I gasp. "I volunteer as tribute!"

There's some confusion on the stage. Bowerstone hasn't had a volunteer in decades and the protocol has become rusty. The rule is that once a tribute's name has been pulled from the ball, another eligible person can step forward to take his or her place. In some districts, in which winning the Choosing is such a great honour, people are eager to risk their lives, and the volunteering is complicated. But in Bowerstone, where the word 'tribute' is pretty much synonymous with the word 'corpse', volunteers are all but extinct.

"Yes," Kalin says gently, concerned but understanding. "But I believe there's the small matter of introducing the Choosing winner and then asking for volunteers, and if one does come forth then we..." she trails off, unsure herself.

"What does it matter?" says the King. He's looking at me with a pained expression on his face. He doesn't know me really, but there's a faint recognition there. I am the girl who brings the strawberries. The girl his daughter might have spoken of on occasion. The girl who five years ago stood huddled with her mother and brother, as he presented her, the oldest child, with a medal of valour. A medal for her father, dead. Does he remember that? "What does it matter?" he repeats, gruffly. "Let her come forward."

Logan is shouting behind me. He doesn't look like Logan anymore; there's something hard in his eyes, something I've never seen before. People are trying to restrain him, but he's batting them away like flies and sprinting towards me. "No, Arianne! You can't go! No!"

"Logan, don't!" I call harshly, because this is upsetting me and I don't want to cry. When they televise the replay of the Choosing tonight, everyone will make note of my tears, and I'll be marked as an easy target. A weakling. I will give no one that satisfaction. "Stop!"

I see someone lunging at him as he shoves past him, and Logan crashes to the ground, but his eyes never leave mine. When I turn around again, I see Elliot has lifted Logan off the ground and Logan's still shouting, and the hardness and determination in his eyes has only grown stronger. "Go, Ari!" Elliot calls, in a voice he's fighting to keep steady, and then he drags Logan off towards Sparrow. I steel myself and climb the steps.

"Well," sighs Kalin. "That's the... spirit of the Games." She doesn't look like she's happy; in fact, she looks saddened as she stares at me. "What's your name?"

I swallow hard. "Arianna Everdeen," I say.

"I'd bet that was your brother. Let's give a big round of applause to our newest tribute!" calls Kalin.

To the everlasting credit of the people of Bowerstone, not one person claps. Not even the ones holding betting slips, the ones who are usually beyond caring. Possibly because they know me from Bowerstone Market, or knew my father, or have encountered Logan, whom no one can help loving. So instead of acknowledging applause, I stand there unmoving while they take part in the boldest form of dissent they can manage. Silence. Which says we do not agree. We do not condone. All of this is wrong.

Then something unexpected happens. At least, I don't expect it because I don't think of Bowerstone as a place that cares about me. But a shift has occurred since I stepped up to take Logan's place, and now it seems I have become someone precious. At first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and holds it out to me. It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means goodbye to someone you love.

Now I am truly in danger of crying, but fortunately Reaver chooses this moment to come staggering across the stage to congratulate me. "Look at her. Look at this one!" he hollers, throwing an arm around my shoulders. He's surprisingly strong for such a wreck. "I like her! Lots of..." He can't think of the word for a while. "Spunk!" he says triumphantly. "More than you!" He releases me and starts for the front of the stage. "More than you!" he shouts, pointing directly into a camera.

Is he addressing the audience or is he so drunk he might actually be taunting Aurora? I'll never know because just as he's opening his mouth to continue, Reaver plummets off the stage and knocks himself unconscious.

He's disgusting, but I'm grateful. With every camera gleefully trained on him, I have just enough time to release the small, choked sound in my throat and compose myself. I put my hands behind my back and stare into the distance. I can see the hills I climbed this morning with Elliot. For a moment, I think of something... the idea of us leaving the district... making our way in Silverpines... but I know I was right about not running off. Because who else would have volunteered for Logan?

Reaver is whisked away on a stretcher, and Kalin is trying to get the ball rolling again. "What a... different day!" she says slowly. "But it's time to choose our next tribute!" She crosses over to the ball once again and grabs the first slip she encounters. She zips back to the podium, and I don't even have time to wish for Elliot's safety when she's reading the name. "Ben Finn."

Ben Finn!

Oh, no, I think. Not him. Because I recognize this name, although I have never spoken directly to its owner. Ben Finn.

No, the odds are not in my favour today.

I watch him as he makes his way towards the stage. Medium height, stocky build, ashy blond hair that falls in front of his eyes. The shock of the moment is registering on his face, you can see his struggle to remain emotionless, but his blue eyes show the alarm I've seen so often in prey. Yet he climbs steadily on to the stage and takes his place.

Kalin asks for volunteers, but no one steps forward.

The King begins to read the long, dull Treaty of Treason as he does every year at this point - it's required - but I'm not listening to a word.

Why him? I think. Then I try to convince myself it doesn't matter. Ben Finn and I are not friends. Not even neighbours. We don't speak. Our only real interaction happened years ago. He's probably forgotten it. But I haven't and I know I never will...

It was during the worst time. My father had been killed in a mine accident three months earlier in the bitterest January anyone could remember. The numbness of his loss had passed, and the pain would hit me out of nowhere, doubling me over, racking my body with sobs. Where are you? I would cry out in my mind. Where have you gone? Of course, there was never any answer.

The district had given us a small amount of money as compensation for his death, enough to cover one month of grieving, after which time Sparrow would be expected to get a job. Only she didn't. She didn't do anything but sit propped up in a chair, or more often, huddled under the blankets on her bed, eyes fixed on some point in the distance. Once in a while, she'd stir, get up as if moved by some urgent purpose, only to then collapse back into stillness. No amount of pleading from Logan seemed to affect her.

I was terrified. I suppose now that Sparrow was locked in some dark world of sadness, but at the time, all I knew was that I had lost not only a father, but a mother as well. At eleven years old, with Logan just seven, I took over as head of the family. There was no choice. I bought our food at the market and cooked it as best I could and tried to keep Logan and myself looking presentable. Because if it had been known that Sparrow could no longer care for us, Bowerstone would have taken us away from her and placed us in the orphanage in Bowerstone Industrial. I'd grown up seeing those orphans at school. The sadness, the marks of angry hands on their faces, the hopelessness that curled their shoulders forward. I could never let that happen to Logan. Logan who cried when I cried before he even knew the reason, who brushed and plaited Sparrow's hair before we left for school, who still polished my father's shaving mirror each night because he'd hated the layer of coal dust that settled on everything. The orphanage would crush him like a bug. So I kept our predicament a secret.

But the money ran out and we were slowly starving to death. There's no other way to put it. I kept telling myself if I could only hold out until May, just the eighth of May, I would turn twelve and be able to sign up for the tesserae and get that precious grain and oil to feed us. Only there were still several weeks to go. We could well be dead by then.

Starvation's not an uncommon fate in Bowerstone. Who hasn't seen the victims? Older people who can't work. Children from a family with too many to feed. Those injured in the mines. Straggling through the streets. And one day, you come upon them sitting motionless against a wall or lying in the meadow, you hear the wails from the house, and the Guards are called in to retrieve the body. Starvation is never the cause of death officially. It's always the flu, or exposure, or pneumonia. But that fools no one.

On the afternoon of my encounter with Ben Finn, the rain was falling in relentless icy sheets. I had been in town, trying to trade some threadbare old baby clothes of Logan's in the market, but there were no takers. The rain had soaked through my father's hunting jacket, leaving me chilled to the bone. For three days, we'd had nothing but boiled water with some old dried mint leaves I'd found in the back of a cupboard. By the time the market closed, I was shaking so hard I dropped my bundle of baby clothes in a muddy puddle. I didn't pick it up for fear I would keel over and be unable to regain my feet. Besides, no one wanted those clothes.

I couldn't go home. Because at home was Sparrow with her dead eyes and my little brother, with his hollow cheeks and cracked lips. I couldn't walk into that room with the smoky fire from the damp branches I had scavenged at the edge of the woods after the coal had run out, my hands empty of any hope.

I found myself stumbling along a muddy lane behind the shops that serve the wealthiest townspeople. The merchants live above their businesses, so I was essentially in their back gardens. I remember the outlines of garden beds not yet planted for the spring, a goat or two in a pen, one sodden dog tied to a post, hunched defeated in the muck.

All forms of stealing are forbidden in Bowerstone. But it crossed my mind that there might be something in the rubbish bins, and those were fair game. Perhaps a bone at the butcher's or rotted vegetables at the grocer's, something no one but my family was desperate enough to eat. Unfortunately, the bins had just been emptied.

When I passed the baker's, the smell of fresh bread was so overwhelming I felt dizzy. The ovens were in the back, and a golden glow spilled out of the open kitchen door. I stood mesmerized by the heat and the luscious scent until the rain interfered, running its icy fingers down my back, forcing me back to life. I lifted the lid to the baker's rubbish bin and found it spotlessly, heartlessly bare.

Suddenly a voice was screaming at me and I looked up to see the baker's wife, telling me to move on and did I want her to call the Guards and how sick she was of having brats pawing through her rubbish. The words were ugly and I had no defence. As I carefully replaced the lid and backed away, I noticed him, a boy with blond hair peering out from behind his mother's back. I'd seen him at school. He was in my year, but I didn't know his name. He stuck with the town kids, so how would I? His mother went back into the bakery, grumbling, but he must have been watching me as I made my way behind the pen that held their pig and leaned against the far side of the old apple tree. The realization that I'd have nothing to take home had finally sunk in. My knees buckled and I slid down the tree trunk to its roots. It was too much. I was too sick and weak and tired, oh, so tired. Let them call the Guards and take us to the orphanage, I thought. Or better yet, let me die right here in the rain.

There was a clatter in the bakery and I heard the woman screaming again and the sound of a blow, and I vaguely wondered what was going on. Feet sloshed towards me through the mud and I thought; It's her. She's coming to drive me away with a stick. But it wasn't her. It was the boy. In his arms, he carried two long loaves of bread that must have fallen into the fire because the crusts were scorched black.

His mother was yelling, "Feed it to the pig, you stupid creature! Why not? No one decent will buy burned bread!"

He began to tear off chunks from the burned parts and toss them into the trough, and the front bakery bell rung and the mother disappeared to help a customer.

The boy never even glanced my way, but I was watching him. Because of the bread, because of the red mark that stood out on his cheekbone. What had she hit him with? My parents never hit us. I couldn't even imagine it. The boy took one look back at the bakery as if checking that the coast was clear, then, his attention back on the pig, he threw a loaf of bread in my direction. The second quickly followed, and he sloshed back to the bakery, closing the kitchen door tightly behind him.

I stared at the loaves in disbelief. They were fine, perfect really, except for the burned areas. Did he mean for me to have them? He must have. Because there they were at my feet. Before anyone could witness what had happened I shoved the loaves up under my shirt, wrapped the hunting jacket tightly around me, and walked swiftly away. The heat of the bread burned into my skin, but I clutched it tighter, clinging to life.

By the time I reached home, the loaves had cooled somewhat, but the insides were still warm. When I dropped them on the table, Logan's hands reached to tear off a chunk, but I forced him to sit, forced Sparrow to join us at the table, and poured warm tea. I scraped off the black stuff and sliced the bread. We ate an entire loaf, slice by slice. It was good hearty bread, filled with raisins and nuts.

I put my clothes to dry at the fire, crawled into bed and fell into a dreamless sleep. It didn't occur to me until the next morning that the boy might have burned the bread on purpose. Might have dropped the loaves into the flames, and then delivered them to me. But I dismissed this. It must have been an accident. Why would he have done it? He didn't even know me. Still, just throwing me the bread was an enormous kindness that would have surely resulted in a beating if discovered. I couldn't explain his actions.

We ate slices of bread for breakfast and headed to school. It was as if the spring had come overnight. Warm sweet air. Fluffy clouds. At school, I passed the boy in the hall; his cheek had swelled up and his eye had blackened. He was with his friends and didn't acknowledge me in any way. But as I collected Logan and started home that afternoon, I found him staring at me from across the school yard. Our eyes met for only a second, then he turned his head away. I dropped my gaze, embarrassed, and that's when I saw it. The first dandelion of the year. A bell went off in my head. I thought of the hours spent in the woods with my father and I knew how we were going to survive.

To this day, I can never shake the connection between this boy, Ben Finn, and the bread that gave me hope, and the dandelion that reminded me that I was not doomed. And more than once, I have turned in the school hallway and caught his eyes trained on me, only to quickly flit away. I feel like I owe him something, and I hate owing people. Maybe if I had thanked him at some point, I'd be feeling less conflicted now. I thought about it a couple of times, but the opportunity never seemed to present itself. And now it never will. Because we're going to be thrown into an arena to fight to the death. Exactly how am I supposed to work a thank-you in there? Somehow it just won't seem sincere if I'm trying to slit his throat.

The King finishes the dreary Treaty of Treason and motions for Ben and me to shake hands. His are as solid and warm as those loaves of bread. Ben looks me right in the eyes and gives me hand was I think is meant to be a reassuring squeeze. Maybe it's just a nervous spasm.

We turn back to face the crowd as the anthem of Albion plays.

Oh well, I think. There will be twenty-four of us. Odds are someone else will kill him before I do.

Of course, the odds have not been very dependable as of late.


Illogical Process of Elimination
I've always loved fusions and AU's.

Tis rare to find quality fan fics outside of archives, and I am grateful that you decided to post this here. I wouldn't have seen it otherwise. <3


Thanks Tyloric, means a lot! :) I will probably get the next chapter uploaded sometime tomorrow, because the problem with me is I don't know when to end the chapter, so it tends to go on a bit!


Sorry for the lack of updating here, I've been having a lot of problems with my computer, I'll try to get Chpt. 3 uploaded by Friday if my computer's nice to me;)


The moment the anthem ends, we are taken into custody. I don't mean we're handcuffed or anything, but a group of Guards marches us through the front door of the Justice Building. Maybe tributes have tried to escape in the past. I've never seen that happen, though.

Once inside, I'm conducted to a room and left alone. It's the richest place I've ever been in, with thick, deep carpets and a velvet couch and chairs. I know velvet because Sparrow has a dress with a collar made of the stuff. When I sit on the couch, I can't help running my fingers over the fabric repeatedly. It helps to calm me as I try to prepare for the next hour. The time allotted for the tributes to say goodbye to their loved ones. I cannot afford to get upset, to leave this room with puffy eyes and a red nose. Crying is not an option. There will be more cameras at the docks.

My brother and Sparrow come first. I reach out to Logan and he envelopes me in one of what I call his "balverine hugs". Sparrow sits beside me and wraps her arm around us. For a few minutes, we say nothing. Then I start telling them all the things they must remember to do, now that I will not be there to do them for them.

Logan is not to take any tesserae. They can get by if they're careful, on selling Logan's goat's milk and cheese and the small apothecary business Sparrow now runs for the people in Bowerstone. Elliot will get her the herbs she doesn't grow herself, but she must be very careful to describe them because he's not as familiar with them as I am. He'll also bring them game - he and I made a pact about this a year or so ago - and will probably not ask for compensation, but they should thank him with some kind of trade, like milk or medicine.

I don't bother suggesting Logan learns to hunt. I tried to teach him a couple of times and it was disastrous. The woods terrified him, and whenever I shot something, he'd get teary and talk about how we might be able to heal it if we got it home soon enough. But he does well with his goat, so I concentrate on that.

When I am done with instructions about fuel, and trading, and staying in school, I turn to Sparrow and grip her arm, hard. "Listen to me. Are you listening to me?" She nods, alarmed by my intensity. She must know what's coming. "You can't leave again," I say.

Sparrow's eyes find the floor. "I know. I won't. I couldn't help what--"

"Well, you need to help it this time. You can't clock out and leave Logan on his own. There's no me now to keep you both alive. It doesn't matter what happens. Whatever you see on the screen. You need to swear to me that you'll fight through it!" My voice has risen to a yell. In it is all the anger, all the fear I felt at her abandonment.

She pulls her arm from my grasp, moved to anger herself now. "I was sick. I could have treated myself if I'd had the medicine I have now."

That part about her being sick may be true. I've seen her bring back people suffering from immobilizing sadness since. Perhaps it is an illness, but it's one we can't afford.

"Then take it. And take care of him!" I say.

"I'll be okay, Arianne," says Logan, clasping my hand. "But you need to take care, too. You're so quick and brave. Perhaps you can win."

I can't win. Logan must know that in his heart. The competition will be far beyond my abilities. Tributes from wealthier districts, where winning is a huge honour, who've been trained their whole lives for this. Males who are two to three times my size. Females who know twenty different ways to kill you with a sword. Oh, there'll be people like me, too. People to weed out before the proper fun begins.

"Perhaps," I say, because I can hardly tell Sparrow to carry on if I've already given up myself. Besides, it isn't in my nature to go down without a fight, even when things seem insurmountable. "Then we'd be as rich as Reaver."

"I don't care if we're rich. I just want you to come home. You will try, won't you? Really, really try?" asks Logan.

"Really, really try. I promise," I say. And I know, because of Logan, I'll have to.

And then the Guard is at the door, signalling our time is up, and we're all hugging one another so hard it hurts and all I'm saying is, "I love you. I love you both." And they're saying it back and then the Guard orders them out and the door closes. I bury my head in one of the velvet pillows as if this can block the whole thing out.

Someone else enters the room, and when I look up, I'm surprised to see it's the baker, Ben Finn's father. I can't believe he's come to visit me. After all, I'll be trying to kill his son soon. But we do know each other a bit, and he knows Logan even better. When he sells his goat's cheeses at Bowerstone Market, he puts two of them aside for him and he gives him a generous amount of bread in return. We always wait to trade with him when his witch of a wife isn't around because he's so much nicer. I feel certain he would never have hit his son the way she did over the burned bread. But why has he come to see me?

The baker sits awkwardly on the edge of one of the plush chairs. He's a big, broad-shouldered man with burn scars from years at the ovens. He must have just said goodbye to his son.

He pulls a white paper package from his jacket pocket and holds it out to me. I open it and find cookies. These are a luxury we can never afford.

"Thank you," I say. The baker's not a very talkative man in the best of times, and today he has no words at all. "I had some of your bread this morning. My friend Elliot gave you a squirrel for it." He nods, as if remembering the squirrel. "Not your best trade," I say. He shrugs as if it couldn't possibly matter.

Then I can't think of anything else to say, so we sit in silence until a Guard summons him. He rises and coughs to clear his throat. "I'll keep an eye on the little boy. Make sure he's eating."

I feel some of the pressure in my chest lighten at his words. People deal with me, but they are genuinely fond of Logan. Perhaps there will be enough fondness to keep him alive. My next guest is also unexpected. Maya walks straight to me. She is not weepy or evasive. Instead there's an urgency about her tone that surprises me. "They let you wear one thing from your district in the arena. One thing to remind you of home. Will you wear this?" She holds out the circular gold pin that was on her dress earlier. I hadn't paid much attention to hit, but now I see it's a small bird in flight.

"Your pin?" I say. Wearing a token from my district is about the last thing on my mind.

"Here, I'll put it on your dress, all right?" Maya doesn't wait for an answer, she just leans in and fixes the bird to my dress. "Swear to me you'll wear it into the arena, Arianne?" she asks. "Swear to me?"

"Yes," I say. Cookies. A pin. I'm getting all kinds of gifts today. Maya gives me one more. A kiss on the cheek. Then she's gone and I'm left thinking that maybe Maya really has been my friend all along.

Finally, Elliot is here, and maybe there is nothing romantic between us, but when he opens his arms I don't hesitate to go into them. His body is familiar to me - the way it moves, the smell of wood smoke, even the sound of his heart beating I know from quiet moments on a hunt - but this is the first time I really feel it, lean and hard-muscled against my own.

"Listen," he says. "Getting a sword should be pretty easy, but you've got to get your hands on a pistol. That's your best chance."

"They don't always have pistols," I say, thinking of the year there were only horrible spiked maces that the tributes had to bludgeon one another to death with.

"Then make one," says Elliot. "Even a weak pistol is better than no pistol at all."

I have tried copying my father's pistols, with poor results. It's not that easy. Even he had to scrap his own work sometimes.

"I don't even know if there'll be materal," I say. Another year, they tossed everybody into a landscape of nothing but boulders and sand and scruffy bushes. I particularly hated that year. Many contestants were bitten by venomous snakes or went insane from thirst.

"There's almost always some wood," Elliot says. "Since that year half of them died from cold. Not much entertainment in that."

It's true. We spent one Hunger Games watching the players freeze to death at night. You could hardly see them because they were just huddled in balls and had no wood for fires or torches or anything. It was considered very anticlimactic in Aurora, all the quiet, bloodless deaths. Since then, there's usually been wood to make fires.

"Yes, there's usually some," I say.

"Arianne, it's just hunting. You're the best hunter I know," says Elliot.

"It's not just hunting. They're armed. They think," I say.

"So do you. And you've had more practice. Real practice," he says. "You know how to kill."

"Not people," I say.

"How different can it be, really?" says Elliot, grimly.

The awful thing is that if I can forget they're people, it will be no different at all.

The Guards are back to soon and Elliot asks for more time, but they're taking him away and I start to panic. "Don't let them starve!" I cry out, clinging to his hand.

"I won't! You know I won't! Arianne, remember I--" he says, and they yank us apart and slam the door and I'll never know what it was he wanted me to remember.

It's a short ride to the docks. I've never been in a carriage before. In Bowerstone, we travel on foot.

I've been right not to cry. The docks are swarming with reporters with their insectlike cameras trained directly on my face. But I've had a lot of practice at wiping my face clean of emotions and I do this now. I catch a glimpse of myself on the television screen on the wall that's airing my arrival live and feel gratified that I appear almost bored.

Ben Finn, on the other hand, has obviously been crying, and interestingly enough, does not seem to be trying to cover it up. I immediately wonder if this will be his strategy in the Games. To appear weak and frightened, to reassure the other tributes that he is no competition at all, and then come out fighting. This worked very well for a girl, Theresa, from Clockwork Island a few years back. She seemed like such a snivelling, cowardly fool that no one bothered about her until there were only a handful of contestants left. It turned out she could kill viciously with some sort of Will-but-not-Will. Pretty clever, the way she played it. But this seems an odd strategy for Ben Finn because he's a baker's son. All those years of having enough to eat and hauling bread trays around have made him broad-shouldered and strong. It will take an awful lot of weeping to convince anyone to overlook him.

We have to stand for a few minutes in the entrance of the ship while the cameras gobble up our images then we're allowed inside and the bridge collapses mercifully behind us. The ship begins to move at once.

The speed initially takes my breath away. Of course, I've never been on a ship, as travel between our districts is forbidden except for officially sanctioned duties. For us, that's mainly transporting coal. But this is no ordinary cargo ship. It's one of the high-speed Auroran models that average 250 miles per hour. Our journey to Aurora will take less than a day.

In school, they tell us Aurora was built in a place once called the Rockies. Bowerstone was in a region known as Appalachia. Even hundreds of years ago, they mined coal here. Which is why our miners have to dig so deep.

Somehow it all comes back to coal at school. Besides basic reading and maths, most of our instruction is coal-related. Except for the weekly lecture on the history of Albion. It's mostly a lot of blather about what we owe Aurora. I know there must be more than they're telling us, an actual account of what happened during the rebellion. But I don't spend much time thinking about it. Whatever the truth is, I don't see how it will help me get food on the table.

The tribute ship is fancier than even the room in the Pub. We are each given our own chambers that have a bedroom, a dressing area and a private bathroom with hot and cold running water. We don't have hot water at home, unless we boil it.

There are drawers filled with fine clothes, and Kalin tells me to do anything I wish, wear anything I wish, everything is at my disposal. Just be ready for supper in an hour. I peel off Sparrow's blue dress and take a hot shower. I've never had a shower before. It's like being in summer rain, only warmer. I dress in a light turquoise blouse and trousers.

At the last minute, I remember Maya's little gold pin. For the first time, I get a good look at it. It's as if someone fashioned a small golden bird and then attached a ring around it. The bird is connected to the ring only by its wing tips. I suddenly recognize it. A mockingjay.

They're funny birds and something of a slap in the face to Aurora. During the rebellion, Aurora bred a series of genetically altered animals as weapons. The common term for them was muttations, or sometimes mutts for short. One was a special bird called a jabberjay that had the ability to memorize and repeat whole human conversations. They were homing birds, exclusively male, that were released into regions where Aurora's enemies were known to be hiding. After the birds gathered words, they'd fly back to centres to be recorded. It took people a while to realize what was going on in the districts, how private conversations were being transmitted. Then, of course, the rebels fed Aurora endless lies, and the joke was on it. So the centres were shut down and the birds were abandoned to die off in the wild.

Only they didn't die off. Instead, the jabberjays mated with female mockingbirds, creating a whole new species that could replicate both bird whistles and human melodies. They had lost the ability to enunciate words but could still mimic a range of human vocal sounds, from a child's high-pitched warble to a man's deep tones. And they could recreate songs. Not just a few notes, but whole songs with multiple verses, if you had the patience to sing them and if they liked your voice.

My father was particularly fond of mockingjays. When we went hunting, he would whistle or sing complicated songs to them, and, after a polite pause, they'd always sing back. Not everyone is treated with such respect. But whenever my father sang, all the birds in the area would fall silent and listen. His voice was that beautiful, high and clear and so filled with life it made you want to laugh and cry at the same time. I could never bring myself to continue the practice after he was gone. Still, there's something comforting about the little bird. It's like having a piece of my father with me, protecting me. I fasten the pin on to my shirt, and with the light turquoise fabric as a background, I can almost imagine the mockingjay flying through the trees.

Kalin comes to collect me for supper. I follow her through the narrow, rocking corridor into a dining room with polished panelled walls. There's a table where all the dishes are highly breakable. Ben Finn sits waiting for us, the chair next to him empty.

"Where's Reaver?" asks Kalin.

"Last time I saw him, he said he was going to take a nap," says Ben.

"Well, it's been an exhausting day," says Kalin. I think she's relieved by Kalin's absence, and who can blame her?

The supper comes in courses. A thick carrot soup, green salad lamb chops and mashed potatoes, cheese and fruit, a chocolate cake. Throughout the meal, Kalin keeps reminding us to save space because there's more to come. But I'm stuffing myself because I've never had food like this, so good and so much, and because probably the best thing I can do between now and the Games is put on a few pounds.

"At least you two have decent manners," says Kalin, as we're finishing the main course. "The pair last year ate everything with their hands like a couple of savages. It completely upset my digestion."

The pair last year were two kids who'd never, not one day of their lives, had enough to eat. And when they did have food, table manners were surely the last things on their minds. Ben's a baker's son. Sparrow taught Logan and me to eat properly, so yes, I can handle a fork and knife. But I hate Kalin's remark so much I make a point of eating the rest of my meal with my fingers. Then I wipe my hands on the tablecloth. This makes her purse her lips tightly together.

Now that the meal's over, I'm fighting to keep the food down. I can see Ben's looking a bit green, too. Neither of our stomachs is used to such rich fare. But if I can hold down Sae's concoction of mice meat, pig entrails, and tree bark - a winter speciality - I'm determined to hang onto this.

We go to another compartment to watch the recap of the Choosings across Albion. They try to stagger them throughout the day so a person could conceivably watch the whole thing live, but only people in Aurora could really do that, since none of them have to attend Choosings themselves.

One by one, we see the other Choosings, the names called, the volunteers stepping forward or, more often, not. We examine the faces of the people who will be our competition. A few stand out in my mind. A monstrous male who lunges forward to volunteer from Millfields. A girl who looks a little like Goldilocks with curly blonde hair from Mourningwood. A boy with a crippled foot from Driftwood. And, most hauntingly, a slender female from Brightwall. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that, she's very like Logan in demeanor. Only when she mounts the stage and they ask for volunteers, all you can hear is the wind whistling through the decrepit buildings around her. There's no one willing to take her place.

Last of all, they show Bowerstone. Logan being called, me running forward to volunteer. You can't miss the desperation in my voice as I shove Logan behind me, as if I'm afraid no one will hear and they'll take Logan away. But, of course, they do hear. I see Elliot pulling him off me and watch myself mount the stage.

The commentators are not sure what to say about the crowd's refusal to applaud. The silent salute. One says that Bowerstone has always been a bit backward but the local customs can be charming. As if on cue, Reaver falls off the stage, and they groan comically. Ben's name is drawn, and he quietly takes his place. We shake hands. They cut to the anthem again, and they programme ends.

Kalin is disgruntled about the state of Reaver. "Your mentor has a lot to learn about presentation. A lot about televised behaviour."

Ben unexpectedly laughs. "He was drunk," says Ben. "He's drunk every year."

"Every day," I add. I can't help smirking a little. Kalin makes it sound like Reaver just has somewhat rough manners that could be corrected with a few tips from her.

"Yes," says Kalin. "How odd you two find it amusing. You know your mentor is your lifeline to the world in these Games. The one who advises you, lines up your sponsors, and dictates the presentation of any gifts. Reaver can well be the difference between your life and your death!"

Just then, Reaver staggers into the compartment. "I miss supper?" he says in a slurred voice. Then he falls over.

"So laugh away!" says Kalin. She hops around Reaver and flees the room.


The Token Schizo
Legendary Hero
I watched the movie, people hyped it up, was good, but little overrated.. Now im reading the book, just started, but seems pretty good and the movie did its justice by sticking by the book pretty well.. so far..