"It's no one's fault. I'm too young, and you're insane."
Naomi Callahan, District Seven Female
Not a single drop lands on me.
The fountain combusted into a column of hellish fire, flinging debris and flesh in every direction, but I remain untouched. Clean. Prepared for what's to come. I almost take it as a sign – favoritism, perhaps. The Gamemakers are surely a fan of mine. It's not exactly something I'm proud of.
But as my eyes snap to Krynne's stifled whimpers, I finally see that she's clean as well. Only her own blood, dry and browned, stains her clothing. Xander and Leon are the same.
I purse my lips. I guess they like all of us. Or they hate all of us. I laugh bitterly, garnering a quivering glance from Krynne. The latter seems more likely. Whatever silent tension loomed over us is seemingly broken as Krynne's sobs strengthen.
Movement from my right catches my attention. I have enough time to buckle down to avoid Xander's claymore beheading me cleanly. Instead, the tip of the blade rips tendrils of matted hair from the top of my head.
His next strike comes barreling down, and I manage to parry this one. The impact of his strength nearly knocks the tomahawk out of my hand. All too quickly this battle becomes an uphill one.
So I stop it. Xander moves to strike again, but his element of surprise is gone. He fights hard and quick, pushing the momentum until there's nothing left to push. I just need to stop him. Just for a second, I need to get a chance to breathe.
The swing scrapes my skin, but the pain is dulled by the adrenaline coursing through my veins. As he finishes his blow, I lash out with my legs and piston a knee into his chest. The impact sends him reeling backwards, just for a moment.
But a moment is all I need.
As Xander recollects himself, I backpedal instead of charging him. He eyes me warily, but makes no move to charge me again. Not yet.
"Hello to you, too," I call from a safe distance. The distant clank of wood tells me other two are going at it. I don't chance a look in their direction. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. "At least give a girl a little time to prepare before you try to kill her."
He bares his teeth. "I'll make sure to remember that for the next tribute." By now, he's got the wind back in him. I, on the other hand, feel the adrenaline lessen with the absence of weapons clashing and flesh ripping. The tear on my arm becomes all too real. Xander reads it easily. "Does someone need a bandage?"
I force a smile onto my face. "Don't patronize me. That's my card."
Xander remains stoic and guarded. "Fine. Patronizing is all you. I guess killing is mine." He twirls his sword and edges closer, not charging fully like before, but toying with me slowly. All tricks I've used in the past.
So when he lashes out, he only manages to pierce the tip of my tomahawk. The recoil shakes him a bit, but the wiry grin he wears tells me he expects it. "Figured the final four wouldn't be as easy as before."
I don't waste a single ounce of breath anymore; I need every bit I can get now. There's no avoiding this. Based on the millisecond of a frazzled expression in Xander's eyes, he hadn't expected that. Too bad for him.
My tomahawk cuts through the air and strikes his claymore directly. I make no attempt of hitting him; it would be pointless no matter how I spun it. With direct contact on the claymore, the blade slips out of his hands and clatters on the arena floor.
Xander's face flashes with horror, but he wastes no time in action. Before his sword has touched the ground, his head collides with my chest. The blow alone knocks the wind out of me, and once we slam into the ground, it's all I can do to remain conscious.
My grip immediately loosens on my tomahawk, and I make no attempt to recollect it. Not now. I doubt I could even lift it from here, let alone land a hit from this angle. Instead, I focus my remaining strength on shoving Xander off, but to no avail. He's got a good sixty or seventy pounds over me, mostly of muscle. He pins my waist down with his feet, digging them into skin. His knees slam into my hands, rendering them useless as well.
His breath wavers in front of me. "You had a good run," he mutters coarsely, leaning in closer as he says so. "But some people are meant to die in the arena. You're one of them, Seven."
My breath hitches as his hands find the soft flesh of my throat. Any coherent thoughts begin to fog up, but I force myself to think. Try to find a way out. My fingers wiggle still, as his knees pin the palm of my hands to the ground, not the tips of my hand. Xander continues to lean in as the corners of my eyes begin to blur. The weight of a spare, wooden shiv on my belt shifts as Xander scuttles to the right, ever so slightly.
It comes to me then. Calling the last reserves of my strength, I lift my torso just enough to lean closer to Xander. My teeth clamp around his nose, but he refuses to loosen his grip on me. He pulls his upper body back, accompanied with a string of curses, but as he does so, I dig my fingernails into the skin of his kneecaps, and his resolve weakens.
The second his hands loosen, I fling myself forward, smashing my head into his. Stars dot my vision, but I don't dare spend one second on it. One second is my only chance now.
As my eyes refocus, I stumble to where my tomahawk lay and feel the cool metal touch the reddened skin of my hands. Xander nurses his profusely bleeding nose from a good distance, and the option to flee presents itself to me.
But how much longer do I have to run?
Before I can even think straight, I find myself barreling at him. Xander becomes aware of my sprinting start within a handful of seconds and straightens himself to fight off the incoming onslaught.
But a handful of seconds is far too long.
With every ounce of strength left in me, I hurl the tomahawk into the air and watch as it arcs towards Xander. The axe impales his chest through and through. For a moment, he stands there, seemingly unaware of the gaping line of torn skin and muscle in his chest. Then, he collapses. First onto his knees, then onto his hands and knees.
A cannon booms before Xander's eyes fully dim. Not his. As he collapses, the blade pierces him further, and finally, his cannon booms.
Instinctively, I reach for my tomahawk only to realize it's buried in Xander. With pursed lips, I arm myself with Xander's sword, flung onto the ground beside him. I turn to my opponent, and a grim smile paints my face.
"Now, what are the chances of this happening?"
Leon McLeod, District Ten Male
Xander lunges forward, and I prepare myself for the impact only to realize he's lunged in the other direction. The girl from Seven narrowly avoids losing her head and continues to weakly parry his strikes. She'll be dead in a minute.
And if she's gone, who will be next on Xander's kill list? A petite girl who's trembling so hard her knife slips in her hands? No, I'm next. He's after me as soon as the girl from Seven hits the ground, dead. And that's only going to take so long.
Might as well make good use of the time provided to me.
I turn my attention to Krynne, who flinches at my eyes. "Please leave me alone," she breathes shakily, holding up her wooden knife in warning.
The last thing I want to do is hurt a crying girl, but what I want isn't important. It's what I need.
And now, I need her dead. "I'm sorry that you're here. I'm sorry that any of us are here. But I need to go home."
Something dark flashes on her face, and she laughs bitterly. "Don't we all? Doesn't everyone just want to leave? What makes you any more deserving than me?" She turns to Xander and Naomi, now pausing in their fight. "Or them? And the dead! Does killing people make you any better than them?"
I grit my teeth. "I've done what I need to do to win."
"And what's that? Kill someone?" She scoffs through her tears. "Haven't we all?" The weakness that once spread her face has now mixed with a glint of something between remorse and anger.
"We have," I agree readily. "But what I've done… it's not something I'll ever live down. Whatever you've done is forgivable. Everything is forgotten in the Games, except for the people you live with. I can't live with what I've done."
"You think I can?" she screams, pointing her knife accusingly at me. "You think I can blink without seeing his face?" I hesitate, and she pounces on that. "You don't know me. You don't know what I've done. Don't try to."
"I'm sorry," I whisper quietly, hardly audible to me, let alone Krynne.
But she seems to get the message. "No, I'm sorry."
Krynne leaps at me with a glare that cuts straight through me. My pitchfork sloppily blocks her knife from finding any skin, but I can't do anything to stop her heel digging into my foot. I double over in pain, only to have her knee dig into my nose.
Blood flows steadily through my nose, and I'm reduced to batting Krynne with the pitchfork to give me enough time to recollect myself. One of my blind strikes elicits a yelp from her, and I take that as my cue to try to staunch the blood flow.
Across from me, Krynne is doing the same with a ragged cut on her arm. It's far from lethal, but she still winces from the pain. Hurriedly, I cut a patch of fabric from my uniform and staunch the blood from my nose as best as I can.
I can only do so much. A thin stream of blood continues to drip onto me, but I don't exactly have the time to perfect it. Krynne wipes her hands of her own blood and grasps her knife in her hands. No longer does she tremble; she's vengeful and driven.
At least she'll die with a purpose.
As she charges me again, I'm able to parry her strike with more strength this time. Her thin knife only grazes my pitchfork before I follow the strike and use her momentum to my advantage. The back of the shaft smashes against the side of her face with a resounding thud.
It's my turn to swing at her even though she's down. The first strikes her chest, and the second slams into her chin. By the time I'm reeling my foot back for a third, Krynne manages to scamper off and get back on her feet.
But her knife remains at my feet.
We both stare at the blade in apprehension. For a moment, we both stand with similar expressions of horror and dread. No one looks forward to this. Death, or killing – the perpetrator and the victim all feel the same pain.
Nothing differs from the dead and the living. Not in here.
In a split second, Krynne turns to flee, and in that same second, I pull my arm back and fling the pitchfork as hard and fast as I can possibly muster. The sound of the rippling air resonates in my ears as my blade cuts through the air. The pitchfork flies straight towards her chest.
And she flattens herself out, just as it whistles where her heart just was.
Immediately, I grapple her knife in my hand and move to throw it, too. The knife arcs through the air, and this time, there's no time for her to avoid it. The knife strikes her solidly in the shoulder.
At first, I feel proud. A morbid pride that refuses to diminish.
The pitchfork – my pitchfork – plunges through my chest, and everything becomes numb.
Krynne recollects her knife and returns to me with a conflicted expression on her face.
The world fades before she reaches me.
Krynne Harper, District Five Female
Two cannons bring me that much closer to going home. Two cannons fired in rapid succession leave me just close enough to taste it. These two cannons are enough to put aside everything else I feel for this moment.
Two cannons leave me with one opponent left. One last hurdle to jump before I'm back home.
Naomi weighs the claymore in her hands with a grim smile. "Now, what are the odds of this happening?"
Weakly, I remove the knife from my shoulder and do my best to keep my face expressionless from the pain. The wooden handle has been spilled with the blood of three different people: Adrian, Leon, and now myself.
She must be next.
"The odds haven't exactly been in my favor," I mutter, grimacing as I apply pressure to my shoulder wound in a vain attempt to stop the bleeding. It'll only be so long before the blood loss takes its affect. I don't have much time left to do what I must.
"Likewise," she says lowly. "But the odds have never bothered me. Because that's all they are, in the end – numbers. Fickle numbers that never really get it right. They sure didn't get the two of us right." She smiles wearily, wiping a bead of sweat off her forehead. "Since the odds aren't reliable, I've always taken things into my own hands."
I instinctively backpedal as Naomi raises her newfound claymore, twice the size of my knife. "And I'm going to, one last time," she growls.
There's enough time for me to duck before Naomi lunges full-force. The whoosh of the blade above me gives me chills, but I fight off the bile building in my throat. The claymore – clearly too heavy even for her – wobbles as her swing finishes.
But she pays it no mind. Naomi strikes again, grazing the exposed skin of my calf before striking me with her shoulder. The hit takes the wind out of me, but I force myself to roll out of harm's way. Her claymore splices the ground where my head just was.
She raises her sword to strike again, but I make my move first. With the lightness of the knife in my corner, I lash out and push back a gag as I feel the blade squelch in her chest. Naomi's eyes dilate, but she's far from done.
The blow weakens the strength in her arms, nevertheless she can still strike a good punch. Her fist strikes me squarely in the cheek and I'm sent reeling, tumbling onto the ground once again.
This time, Naomi doesn't charge.
Instead, Naomi tends to her own wounds, wheezing as she grimaces at the hole in her chest. It's too low to have hit anything truly important, but it's taking its toll on her. Her injury far surpasses mine.
And suddenly, I have another weapon in my arsenal. Time.
I backtrack far enough to catch my breath. "You should probably stop bleeding. It's not good for your health," I call out, watching as Naomi shoots a lethal glare. All too soon, Naomi's eyes flicker in doubt before she grabs her claymore once again.
"I'm not here to play games, Five," she mutters dangerously, and it requires an effort to suppress the shiver that her words bring me. Yet despite her bravado, I can see the effect of time on her. Her lip tremors ever so slightly. Her footsteps are more like stumbles.
Every second counts.
"Well, that's unfortunate considering this is," I pause, raising my arms towards the arena, "the Hunger Games. Not playing isn't really an option, huh."
But truly, Naomi is done. Her speed accelerates until she's running at me with her claymore poised to strike. I remain still until the next moment and leap to the side, to which Naomi curses colorfully. "Stop running and fight me!" she barks.
And now it's my turn to remain silent. Naomi may be bleeding out faster than I am, but I've been bleeding longer. Whatever energy I have is precious. Naomi wastes no time in charging again, and I'm unprepared this time.
The tip of the blade nicks my left arm. I wince, swatting the blade away from me before she can do any more damage. Naomi strikes again, and I prepare a parry this time.
She expects it.
Her swing falls very short of my person, but it makes full contact with my knife. The wooden shiv splits cleanly in half at the impact, and I'm left unarmed. Naomi doesn't stop there; soon, her foot lodges into my shin, and while I'm doubled over, her elbow collides with my skull.
Naomi slams her heel into my foot before I get the chance to scramble off again. "You did good, Five," she says tiredly. "You put a good fight, but it was never enough."
Tears dot my eyes as she leans closer, but I don't let the fear get to me. Focus. My hands frantically search the nearby floor for something – anything – that can be used as a weapon. "It was never meant to be enough. These Games are mine, Krynne. I'm sorry for getting your hopes up."
It's only now do I find it. A rock lodged from the fountain explosion locks into my hand, just so Naomi can't see it. "Some people are meant to win the Games. You aren't one," she murmurs.
And right then, she strikes out. I do the same. Summoning every source of strength left in me, I howl as I strike out, and I howl as the claymore pierces the skin of my thigh. At the last second, I shuffle just enough to avoid her claymore piercing straight through my heart. One second saves me from my death.
But nothing saves Naomi from the rock embedded in her skull.
The final cannon echoes through the arena.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the Victor of the Thirtieth Hunger Games, Krynne Harper – the tribute from District Five!"
I wait for the grief and anguish to kick in, but as the trumpets blare and the screams of fans ring through the arena, I feel nothing but relief. Not even the pain can overcome the warm relief that builds in my chest.
I'm not proud. I'm not pleased. I'm not happy with what I've done.
But I'm alive.
4th: Leon McLeod, slain by Krynne Harper.
3rd: Xander Lutz, slain by Naomi Callahan.
2nd: Naomi Callahan, slain by Krynne Harper.
1st: Krynne Harper. Victor.
Jacob, Leon was something else. I'll let you in on a little secret: he originally placed seventeenth or so in the bloodbath. At first, I didn't see anything special in him. I thought he was normal and almost dull, but I found something else to him. His strive. Leon was a sweet kid that turned into something else in the arena, and I loved him for that. Thank you for him.
Aspy, Xander is the only one of these four to place in the finale from the beginning. He won several of the first plans I had. Xander was real and abrasive, but he had a soft side, too. He was layered and truly had a good head and a real heart to him, as well. Ultimately, he just didn't progress as much as the others in this finale did, but to me, he'll always be a favorite.
Fin, Naomi snuck up on me. It was a gradual thing. She wasn't hateful or vengeful by nature, but she was willing to do what it took. And that's what it took for her to live: betrayal, vengeance, and a cold heart. Of course, the pendants accentuated this, and eventually, she became something she never intended to be. She was never proud of what she did, but she did it. I'll miss her dearly. Thank you for her.
And Chaos, Krynne was... originally, she placed far back, just after the bloodbath. She sure wasn't victor material at that point in time. But I thought to myself for a bit - what is 'victor' material? It's not being strong or smart or big or small. It's about being lucky and making the right calls. And Krynne could do that. She was never once bitter or cruel, but she knew what needed to happen. She sure didn't change as much as Naomi or Leon did, but being a victor isn't about changing. It's about winning, and she has that down a tee. Thank you for her!
Before y'all scamper off, there will be one more chapter with Krynne back in the Capitol and at home and the like. After that, we'll be done. Whoa. Done with Light Up The Sky. Admittedly, this finale has changed a lot. Its participants have included the four here, Keighly, Porter, Adrian, Memrie, Chandler, and Sullivan, but this is what we end up with. Krynne and Co. have been my finale for about five or so chapters, and Krynne has been the Victor for ... maybe two. Nevertheless, I'm really pleased with her, and I hope you are, too.
Are you pleased with the Victor?
Favorite overall tribute?
Who would you have had as Victor, out of any of the twenty-four?
Leave your thoughts below! See you soon!