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The Lady of the Lake

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For a moment I'm blinded by bright light, and I lift my hand up to shade my eyes.

Then it clears and I get my first look at our Arena.

"Holy shit," Sefir whispers from the pedestal to my left.

We are facing the Cornucopia, all of us spread out in a circle around it, evenly spaced, all wearing the same uniform. There is grass between us all and the cornucopia, flat ground covered in thick, lush grass. It's only a short run to it, and of course, as always the supplies are arrayed at the mouth.

But it's beyond the Cornucopia that catches my eye. Catches all our eyes.

We are on a green island, elevated on a hill with the flat plateau with the Cornucopia and our pedestals on it at the peak. Trees stretch down the steep slopes to chasms which split the Arena in half, but curve around the Island we are on. This is the centre of the Arena, and the rest of it…well…its fire and ice. In one half to the left of me are frozen wastes as far as the eye can see, rugged cliffs and spears of ice, with snowy air blowing all around. It looks freezing cold, and desolate.

Then I glance to the right.

Fire. Of course.

Lava gathers in pools, flowing like a mimicry of water over land that is cracked and burning. Ash floats through the air, covering everything it touches. Fire spews at random intervals bright against the dim air of the area. Surprisingly the air here on the island is clear, they must have something in place to filter the air between the three segments.

There are six bridges across the stomach dropping chasms, three to the ice side, three to the fire side. They are old and wooden, and don't look overly safe. Especially since if one breaks you plummet to almost certain death down into the darkness. There is no way to get back up…even if you survived the fall.

Everyone is gazing around, shocked at the intricacy of our surroundings, although, perhaps that is naïve of us. This is the Capitol, and this is a Quarter Quell.

Only the best for us.

It's then that I notice the countdown, bright numbers flashing, counting down from 20 seconds to 0.

15 seconds.

What if someone breaks ranks? Runs for the supplies at the Cornucopia? Attacks everyone with a weapon?

10 seconds.

What if the rebellion doesn't come for us?

5 seconds.

Where is Cato? He must be on the other side of the Cornucopia.

1 second

The horn blares out across the Arena and then fades away. But none of the Victors move, all eyeing one another, until Johanna hops off her pedestal and trots towards the Cornucopia.

"Fuck I hope they have some good grub this year. I'm hungry."

It's enough to break the tension, as Sefir, to my left, starts snickering, jumping down with a thump. Chaff is on my other side and he is rolling his eyes at the fierce little woman from 7.

"You're in the Hunger Games and you're thinking about food?" Enobaria's voice floats from Chaff's other side and then she too leaps down, following Johanna, "Damn I knew your priorities were flawless."

"Come on m'lady." Sefir moves in front of me and his large hands curl around my waist, lifting me down, "Let me be your Champion."

"More like chariot." Is Katniss' observation as she jumps lightly down as well, "You are a beast of burden after all."

"You hear that Sky?" Fells calls, "You're a burden."

"That is not what I said," Katniss scowls at him, "You Victors are impossible."

"Impossibly charming you mean." And then Finnick's there, sea green eyes gleaming. "Hello treasure. Ready for adventure?"

"You're all mad." I inform him as Gloss calls dibs on a box of protein bars, "Completely mad."

"And yet you love us," Sefir kisses the top of my head, putting me down, "Oops, hubby is glaring."

Next moment, sure enough, Cato is there, his hands running over my arms, a touch possessively, before tugging me into the curve of his arms, "He needs to stop manhandling you."

"You do it all the time." I remind him.

"That's me. It's different. You're mine."

"She's not a bone Cato." Katniss informs him, strolling past towards the cornucopia, "You can't bury her in your garden for safekeeping."

"Shut up Katniss." He shoots back, but there is a glimmer of amusement around his mouth. It seems the two of them have finally gotten past the last games, put it behind them.

There are tridents there against the metal of the horn and Finnick and I wander over to them.

"Awesome!" he carols, flourishing one of them, "Behold! I am a god of the oceans, bow before my might and- OOF!"

Cheers resound throughout the plateau as I smack the staff of my trident into his stomach.

"Stop being a drama queen."

Johanna grins as she steps over the sprawled body of the winded young man and wraps her arms around me.

"I've never felt closer to you, than I do at this moment."

"Traitors…." Finnick wheezes to his feet and then oofs again as Enrid passes him a crate, "Fuck that's heavy."

"Sort it out over here Finnick," Sweet Ria calms it all down, waving Finnick over, "I'll give you a hand."


The next few hours are a happy blur of sorting supplies into backpacks, just in case we have to leave the plateau. Chaff warns us quietly that the GameMakers will punish us soon for our refusal to play by the rules and that we should keep an eye open, and be ready. It's good advice, and everyone agrees, so supplies are sorted out between us.

Everyone has weapons, and even weapon polish. There is a crate of the stuff and Sefir makes sure every single person has enough of it. Everyone has ranged and close combat weaponry as well as survival gear and food.

Of course it's after nightfall when we settle down around a small fire to have dinner that everything goes to hell in a handbasket.

I'm snuggled up against Cato's chest, leaning back against him, his lips against my hair, when I first hear the soft hissing sounds. Instantly I'm alert, the rustling that followed the hiss sounded rather like something or many somethings moving.

Its dark now, the only light from our small fire, the stars visable and the distant light from the lava and pale glow from the ice, but the sounds are louder now. Everyone can hear them, and the conversation has quieted down, heads turning left and right cautiously, as fingers reach for weapons.

Mine just touch my trident when a huge reptilian monster leaps out of the forest, barrelling into our camp.

Chaos erupts as the creature showers dirt onto the fire, plunging everything into darkness. Screams, shouts, and the sounds of snarling and hissing fill the air as I scramble for my trident and my loaded backpack.

I snag the strap and grab my weapon, raising it just as another of the monsters lunges out of the shadows at me.

I shriek and lash out with my trident, and the monster roars at me. Talons slash down my arm but I shove forward, impaling the beast, and causing it to flop limply against the tines of my weapon.

Kicking it off I whirl around, but it's a maelstrom of movement, shadows, hissing, shouting, too much, too much. The plan was to run and then meet up again later if we had to be separated. So I turn and barrel down the hill, clutching my backpack and trident, racing through the trees.

I remember the drop and so when I break from the trees I keep running around the edge, hunting for a bridge. I find it, just as two other people burst from the foliage and almost crash into me. The three of us teeter on the narrow path and strong hands grab me, shoving me towards safety.

But we do not fall, and for a moment we pause, panting, staring at one another.

"You alright?" Blight asks, twitching nervously as another shout echoes from the forest behind us, "Unhurt?"

"Just some scratches. You?"

"Ol 'Blighty has some nasty gashes down his back," Gloss replies, and then nudges us towards the bridge, "Come on, come on, lets go…this island isn't safe."

"It's an Arena," Blight points out mildly, "Nowhere is safe."

"Well aren't you master positivity. Move it!"

Blight goes, and I follow, with Gloss bringing up the rear. We reach the other side and there it is, ice stretching for as far as the eye can see.

"I've never seen anything like this before…" I whisper as we walk, our feet crunching in the strange terrain.

"Me neither." Blight admits quietly, and Gloss hmphs softly behind us. We don't know how far is safe, or how far until danger again, but Gloss leads us into the frozen reaches, heading for an outcropping a good ways away.

By the time we reach it, the temperature has dropped a little more, and Blight is shivering. It seems that Gloss knew his stuff however, some reading or some kind of training perhaps. Either way, there is a shallow but sheltered cave there under the outcropping, and we settle in to make a camp.

"Fire?" I ask Gloss quietly, "I know it's risky but we need to be able to see Blight's back. And keep him warm. I think he's going into shock."

Reluctantly Gloss nods and I set about setting a small blaze, and tugging out the limited medical supplies. Carefully I tend to the nasty wounds, cleaning them with cold ice and bandaging him up before sending him to sleep in the back of the shelter.

"You should get some rest too." Gloss says gruffly, reaching out to gently stroke my hair, "We got a nasty shock, which isn't good in your condition."

"You sure?" I look longingly towards my bedroll, "I should tend to my arm first."

"Here…" he tugs me over and gently, but firmly begins tending to it, just like I'd tended to Blight. It's the exact steps and I quirk an eyebrow at him, "I learn better by observing and replicating." He admits gruffly, "Shut up."

"I didn't say anything." I smile softly, "You're good at it though."

"Thanks…"

We sit in silence until Gloss finishes bandaging my arm and then he pushes me towards my bed.

"Sleep. I'll keep an eye out."

"Thank you…" I murmur it and curl up, falling asleep almost the instant my head touches the waterproof material.


I don't sleep for long.

Before I know it the anthem of Panem is blaring from the heavens, startling both me and Blight from our slumbers. Blearily I move forward and peer out at the holograph on the sky above reading.

The Fallen.

"No cannons went off." Gloss reminds me, sitting by the entrance, his spear resting on his lap, the polish sitting beside him and gleaming on the metal of the weapon, "So no one…"

His voice fades away as Ria's sweet face appears in the sky, with District 5 under her name.

"No…" I whisper, but then her face melts from view to be replaced by absent minded Woof from District 8, then finally Chaff, District 11.

The anthem fades into silence and then and only then do three canons blast, firing a deliberate 1, 2, 3.

We sit in silence, staring at the sky for long moments and then Gloss ushers me back to my bedroll, tucking me in. "Go back to sleep Sky."

He crunches back outside but sleep does not return for a long time.

Ria is gone, sweet Ria, who teased Sefir, who smiled that soft smile, who looked after us all, who mothered us, she is gone. And poor old Woof, always a bit lost in his own head. And Chaff, who'd only had one hand, but fought harder than anyone I knew.

Haymitch must be devastated.

The thoughts haunt me, until finally I fall back to sleep.


The next morning dawns bright and cold, as the three of us sombrely eat a small breakfast.

"So," Blight looks at Gloss, and then at me, "What's the plan?"

"Go looking for the others," Gloss mutters, putting another piece of dried meat in his mouth and pulling a face, "Safety in numbers."

"So back to the cornucopia?" Blight glances towards the green island, shrouded as it is from view by icy fog, "They'll go there right?"

"No," Gloss shakes his head, "Too exposed. We proved that last night. Easy to get surrounded and then picked off."

"But-"

"He's right," I say quietly and Blight subsides, "It's too exposed. We'll look around for the others nearby. If we don't find anyone until tomorrow then we'll make our way to the cornucopia."

It's a good compromise and both men nod, Blight getting to his feet to head back to the back of the cave, packing up his gear.

"I don't like him," Gloss mutters quietly, so I can only just hear him, "He's going to be a liability if it comes down to a fight. And the Hunger Games is all about fighting."

"So am I, by that logic," I remind him, standing, "Remember?"

"Yeah but…you think for yourself. He's a follower…how did he even win his games?"

"You'd have to ask him," I move away and Gloss kicks snow over the fire, dousing it.

Once we're packed up, we move out, trooping across the thick snowy ground, under the sun, white reflecting all around us.

It's tough going, and surprisingly I do better than the two men. I'm lighter than them, so my weight sends my sinking only a little way into the snow. And it's like walking in sand anyway, something I'm very familiar with.

Blight flails about and Gloss slogs through single-mindedly as I scout ahead, until all three of us suddenly hear something yowl.

A moment later, there is a blood curdling scream and suddenly the air is full of shouting, screaming and the loud yowling.

We break into a run, staggering through the snow as fast as we can. Gloss and Blight charge around an outcropping, while I clamber up it, and take in the sight below.

It's the two Victors from District 6, the morphling addicts, and Peeta.

There is blood across the snow, and the three Victors are backed up against a snowy wall by three, massive white cats, with black eyes full of malice. They hiss as Gloss charges with a roar, but they don't turn fast enough. He hits the one nearest to him and takes the beast to the ground, the two of them rolling in a flurry of white snapping teeth, fur, and blond hair, blood splattering across the snow, hissing hotly.

I scoop up a rock and lob it at one of the remaining ones, calling out, "Hey kitty, kitty, kitty."

The beast turns away from the three Victors and slinks towards me on my rock, growling low in its feline throat. I hiss back at it and instantly the creature's ears go back and it hisses again.

Blight is doing something with one of the remaining ones, and I see Gloss, emerge from under the limp body of his cat. He goes to help Blight, seeing that I am unharmed for the moment. The fourth cat faces off against Peeta and his companions, but I don't have time to watch.

With a yowl, my cat comes lunging up the rock, and its talons catch my ankle. I scream as I'm yanked down, my back smacking against the stones as I come tumbling.

"Sky!"

Jaws close about my body and I scream again when suddenly Peeta is there, and Gloss too. Gloss roars and drives his spear into the beast's neck while Peeta stabs at it with his own shortsword.

The cat collapses, dying even as it holds me in its jaws, and the fourth cat howls in fury. Mates, I think blearily, and then suddenly the feline is there, rearing at Peeta, claws unsheathed.

It happens too fast to see, but one moment Peeta is there, about to get torn apart, and the next moment the two morphling addicts from District 6 are between him and the mutt, one attacking the cat with nails and teeth, the other, shielding him with their body.

It's a pathetic effort, and two slashes later they are laid out, bleeding. But it gives Gloss an opening.

He slays the final cat, as Blight staggers over, the morphlings having helped him with his own kill.

Silence falls.

"Sky," Gloss kneels beside me, tugging me out from the beast's maw, "You okay? How's the little one?" and his hand rubs my belly lightly, "All good in there?"

"Nothing that time and bandages won't fix." I wince as he picks me up, bringing me over to Peeta and the others, "Sunshine! Are you okay…?"

Peeta has some nasty scratches down his cheek and his side, but otherwise he seems fine, just shocked. But his companions, the pair from District 6…they are not.

Blood pumps onto the snow and we all look at one another helplessly. "They're dying," I say unhappily, "Gloss…?"

"Yeah," his voice is solemn, "They are."

"We should…" Peeta bites his lip, "We should do it. Make it quick."

"I don't think it's going to matter much in a few moments…" I say, emotions clawing up into my throat as I watch the man and woman slowly bleeding out in front of me, their haunted eyes fixed on Peeta lovingly, trustingly.

"No, he's right." Gloss retrieves his dagger from his bag, slick with polish and takes a deep breath, "I'll do it."

"I should…" Peeta whispers but subsides when Gloss shakes his head.

"It's better this way, just…comfort them."

He bends over the male, as Peeta strokes his head, murmuring soft words, soothing words. The man smiles innocently, trustingly up at Peeta, and I have to look away as Gloss' blade slides in.

He falls still and then a few moments later the woman does too, silent and pale as Gloss pulls the knife gently from her body.

"We should move on." Gloss scoops me up in his arms after shoving his blade back into his back, "We'll clean up away from here. Too much blood, alert more of those predators."

Slowly, we limp away from the bodies of the Snowcats and the two Victors from District 6.


"Peeta?" I ask, later as he's tending my wounds, "They never told me their names."

"Theo." He replies gruffly, "And Adria."

"They loved you." I touch his hair gently and he leans into the touch, "I'm sorry."

"Me too…" he huffs a shaky breath, "They just wanted to paint, Sky…"

"I know…I know…" I whisper back, and hold him as the tears come.