Once again I'm here with another victor and not a chapter of stars xD Sorry! I'm very close to posting a new chapter in that story but once again, this just kind of happened. I hope you like it! Without further wait the Victor of the Second Hunger Games!
"Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul."
"It is hot as balls today." I say as I swing the pickaxe into the ground, shattering pieces off the giant rock. Tristan and Bryson both laugh. "Seriously, does Mr Galloway need this trench to be done before the one guy arrives?" Setting the pickaxe down I grab some of the rubble and heave it over my head to the pair of younger guys.
"Damn this shit is heavy." Tristan struggles to life what I hand him into the wheelbarrow.
"Don't be such a girl. Picking up your sister last night was harder than picking up these rocks." I tell him. Bryson starts cackling and falls to the ground laughing. I let myself enjoy the moment and laugh a little too. There's not enough of it in District Ten the past few months.
"Leave my sister out of it Stavros!" Tristan blushes but chuckles to himself, recognizing a pure hearted jab when they come his way.
"Hey! You kids! Pick up the pace!" Our current 'shift manager' barks at us. I don't know his name, but he's a giant prick.
"We're on it!" Tristan yells back. Bryson quickly recovers from his laughing fit and goes back to hauling the rocks.
"But seriously guys why is everyone is such a shitty mood about this?" I ask.
"It's kind of a big deal I guess. Jeremiah Grey is making his way to every to every district to talk about the Hunger Games and winning and shit like that. The district has to look pretty for him." Tristan tells me.
"It's only been 6 months, can't they let us mourn and forget the whole thing?" I swing again more shards fly everywhere, a few strike my shins but I ignore the pain. Watching all the kids die, it was disgusting. We didn't even have anyone to root for after the top ten.
"Either way. We're getting paid big bucks to finish this trench, and I really need the money."
"While I never met either of your tributes when I rewatched the Hunger Games I saw their resourcefulness and drive to survive. It is these qualities that everyone can glean from District Ten. Their sacrifices don't have to be in vain when the lessons they left behind will be forever glorified in the histories as tributes in the Hunger Games. So it is with a honest disposition that I tell you all that while your district could not achieve victory, you should not despair when each year presents two more of you with the opportunity of eternal glory and the bountiful generosity of the Capital." Jeremiah Grey stands in front of the entire district preaching his bullshit propaganda. I stay a healthy distance away from the self righteous prick with Tristan and Bryson. I don't want to hear a word he says and I don't want to see his face.
Everyone acts like he's some type of hero because we're told to, because he's special and shit like that. He murdered innocent people. Fine, sure he didn't kill either one of our tributes but still, how are the people from District Two or Four going to receive this silver spoon panzy. I would stone him the second he steps off the train.
"Hey man, you alright? You look pissed." Bryson asks quietly. I realize I've been clenching my jaw and have fists balled at my side. I release a breath I didn't know I was holding and let my shoulders fall. There's no point in getting worked up over some pretty boy from District One. Or with the Hunger Games at all. After all, in 6 months once I'm done with the reaping I'll turn 19 and won't be eligible.
"So in closing, it is with a heavy heart that I must leave District Ten. You've all shown me such compassion and what survival is truly about. These lessons I shall carry with me so long as I remain a victor of the Hunger Games. And, as always, may the odds be ever in your favor."
The odds? He may be a victor, but he's not very smart. No one does math in District Ten.
"Our female tribute is Ivy Tash!" Bryson gasps next to me, Ivy is his younger sister. She's only 15. Not a baby by anyone's standards but still not exactly the age you want to be if you're being dragged off to a fight to the death.
"Maybe someone will volunteer?" Tristan says clearly out of obligation not conviction. She reaches the stages with dignity holding her head up high despite the tears on her cheeks. If she's anything like Bryson I know she'll be hellish competition.
"And for the boys, we will be having a Daniel Stavros." My heart stops. Immediately Bryson grabs my wrist. We make eye contact for a few seconds he looks more through me as opposed to at me. For the first time since I met the kid I've know since childhood, he starts crying. I pry my wrist from his iron grip and make my way to the stage. I clench my teeth until they hurt to avoid saying anything stupid.
"Shake hands now. It's only good sportsmanship." I grab Ivy's delicate hand and hold it in the air, a sign of camaraderie. I want to make a clear statement that my loyalty is to my district, no matter what The Capitol wants from me.
Tristan and my parents are my first visitors. They hug me and tell me how much they love me. Or I guess Tristan didn't say he loved me, but he's one of my best friends that sort of thing is just understood between two guys.
"Please come home my precious son. I don't know how we could survive without you." Mom sobs into the crux of my neck. I rub her back surprised that I have to comfort her when she's not the one going into a fight to the death, Oh well. She's my mom and I was taught to respect and love her. Naturally I pull her closer.
"Son, you know we love you. Just, please come back. I know it's a lot to ask but, promise you'll do whatever it takes." He understand the gravity of the situation. He's been in the shoes I now have to wear, just different circumstances. "I know it's not going to be easy. But it's better them than you."
I wait another 5 minutes, uncertain if I'll get anymore visitors. To my pleasure and surprise Bryson walks in.
"Bryson." I hug him before he has the chance to yell at me.
"Hey Daniel." He pats my back and pushes me away premature. "Look, can you promise me one thing." I nod at him vigorously. "If she's going to go, make sure it's as painless as possible. We watched people suffer last year. Please don't let that be her." I stare at him stunned. I was expecting him to command that I throw myself on the blade to save her. That her life was more valuable than mine.
"I promise." And a man never breaks a promise.
The train zips from the station quickly. The blurs whiz by us faster than I knew possible. But in the train Ivy stares at me with baby blues eyes, the eyes I recognize not as her's but as her brother's.
"We should team up." She says sternly. No doubt or question in her voice, no room for me to dissent. "I know I'm young but that doesn't mean I can't fight and it doesn't mean that I'm dead weight. I know you want to win, but we both stand a better chance if we team up."
"Well you're not wrong." Is all I can manage to reply. "You're not wrong."
"Good, that makes us allies." She sits down and nibbles on some bread.
This is for you Bryson.
"No. Stop. Have you ever started a fire in your life?" She punches me on the shoulder gently, an all too familiar gesture I'm used to from her brother. "Use the flint more like this." She hits a knife on a rock and sparks fly until some hay ignites. She looks on expectantly like I'm supposed to cheer for her all because she started a fire all by herself.
"I'm going to go hit something." I stand up and leave her to her devices. A quick glance around the training room reveals that the pair from District One are sparring with swords and the pair from District Two are throwing spears together. I want to be surprised that these four already seem dangerous, but given how Districts One, Two, and Thirteen practically ran the rebellion it makes sense that they would have some sort of military background and training.
The same people who were trying to protect us and win the war are now the ones trying to kill me, go figure.
I reach a station with a pick axe and I swing it hard into the chest of a foam dummy. It's almost a relief when rocks don't go flying everywhere.
Someone must have been impressed with me. I end up scoring a 9, just for swinging at a few dummies and trying to look strong. But I'm not the biggest surprise, Ivy who's half my weight and a foot shorter than me scores an 8. A few 10s from assorted people and one 11 from the boy from District Twelve.
When I ask her how she got an 8 she just grins at me and says that everyone needs to have a secret or two. The more and more I get to know this spitfire, the luckier I feel that she's my ally, but the worse I feel for hoping she dies.
"Tell me about District Ten." Lucan implores me like he cares.
"I don't know? Lots of cows and cow shit I guess." He laughs like what I said was actually funny.
"Please go on, what do you do for fun?" He asks with a grin.
"Mostly work. I don't think many people would call District Ten fun. Although sometimes me and my buddies throw cow pies at each other."
"What's a cow pie?" I laugh, who the hell doesn't know what a cow pie is?
"When a cow shits and it gets hard enough to throw like a disc." My interview abruptly ends and I'm quickly ushered off the stage. Apparently no one is interested in what life is really like in the Districts. Remind me why we have these stupid interviews?
"Are you nervous?" The hovercraft lifts off. Luckily, Ivy got seated right next to me where only we can hear our conversation.
"Not at all, I've got the best ally in the game." I say more honestly that I ever would have guessed.
"Same here." She leans back into her seat and we spend the flight in silence. Even though I only allied with her because I know that's what Bryson wanted I'm glad she's by my side. Between the two of us District Ten has a winner. I know it.
My platform goes up and up. I'm surprised when sunlight beams down and hits me, last year was almost exclusively rain. The t-shirt and shorts uniform with neatly woven 10's everywhere suggest that hopefully this year will be sunny, or at least not constant downpouring.
Once I'm done moving the theme of the arena is obvious. "It's a maze of maize." I say to myself, half impressed and half embarrassed for whoever designed this place. The corn is short enough for all of us to see each other and gets progressively shorter the closer you get to the cornucopia, but if I turned and ran then it only gets higher and higher.
Ivy is only a few spaces away and we grin at each other. We agreed we would need supplies, better safe than sorry. Although, I don't think food will be a problem.
When the clock hits zero only a handful react. But, Ivy and I do. Unlike last year it seems people understand the importance of these first few seconds. I hate myself for not being faster as the boy from Two reaches the horn first and strings a bow and arrow. He immediately knocks it and shoots the girl next to me through the neck. A few more people get there and immediately clash weapons. Even Ivy gets there before I do and has to dip between two people swings swords at each other.
When I finally reach the cornucopia the boy from Five stands in my way. I tackle him and throw him over my shoulder. He lands behind me and I keep running uninterested in his ultimate fate. I quickly grab a pitchfork, the first thing I see that I'm familiar with. Then I grab a backpack. Two. And a white box with a cross on it!
"We have to get out of here!" Ivy yells at me. A girl charges her but Ivy jumps backwards to dodge the girls sword and responds by knifing her in the stomach. The girl, from Seven it seems, grabs the knife sticking from her stomach wound and collapses. Dead.
"Come on!" I grab her by the arm a little too tightly and start dragging her away from the cornucopia. She snaps back to reality long enough to grab another knife and we escape unharmed.
We run until Ivy can't continue any longer. At the same moment 13 cannons go off.
That night when the sky is illuminated by the faces of the dead I'm pleased to see the girls from One and Two are already dead. So is the boy from Five, the one I tackled. Did I break his neck on accident? Or did someone else catch up to him after I knocked him over? Yet when the girl from Seven appears Ivy starts weeping. I should comfort her, but this is not place for weakness. She has to learn that one her own.
Not surprisingly the 8 foot corn stalks make for great cover and for a steady source of food. They also make so much noise that a deaf man could find us without trying.
"I'm going to hit the hay." I go to leave.
"Don't you mean hit the corn?" I give her an exasperated chuckle and leave. The last three days have really helped her get back to her old self. She was so sullen that first day I didn't know how to treat her. But my fierce buddy is back.
I walk for another 30 yards until I'm a safe distance away from our camp. I relieve myself quickly and kick some dirt over the puddle. Then I hear a shrill scream that could only belong to a young girl.
I spring into action and zip up my fly. Corn hits me in the face every step but I don't slow down until I burst into the opening. The girl from Three is slowly lowering her knife into Ivy's heart. Ivy has a firm grasp on the blade, no doubt destroying her hands, but is managing to keep her from getting a clean stick.
"Get off her you fucking bitch!" My skin boils. Without thinking I grab my pitchfork and run over to them. I kick the girl off of Ivy and jam the pitchfork into her chest. She starts coughing so I stab her again. And again. And again. And again. It goes in so smoothly and I'm so mad at her for touching my friend. I yell and jam the thing one more time into her chest. I fall backwards exhausted by the outburst of energy. Below me is no longer a tribute, or a girl, or human, but just a mangled pile of meat.
Completely unidentifiable and bloodied. Her family back home must be mortified.
It was self defense. She attacked first and I responded. It's her fault, not mine.
No matter what I tell myself that night when her face is in the sky she visits me in my nightmares.
"How are your hands today?" It's been four days since she was attacked and her hands are looking worse and worse each time we wake up. Last night she shivered the entire time no matter how many logs stoked the fire. She seems to think that the wound simply hasn't healed yet. But I can tell from the shiny red skin that she's got a mad infection, beyond anything the med kit I grabbed day one could help at this point. I just don't have the heart to tell her.
"They feel the same. But I feel way worse. I don't think I drank enough water last night." I hand her a canteen and she chugs the whole thing.
"We'll just have to drink more water I suppose." She nods at me.
"How do you seem so normal?" She asks out of the blue.
"After killing that girl. You don't seem messed up about it at all." You can't see my nightmares Ivy don't pretend like I'm doing perfect. I ignore the voice in my head.
"It's something my father taught me. He's an apothecary. Which means he makes medicines and poisons and things like that you know?" She nods. "He once told me that he had to slip poison into someone's drink to aid in the war effort. And he did."
"Shit. That's intense."
"Let me finish. When he told me about it he told me: 'Son, I don't regret killing that man for one simple reason. My family is more important than his.' And at the end of the day, my life is more important than hers to me." We sit in silence and spend the day, not navigating the maze and trying to map it in our minds but resting.
The day almost goes by without any action. A voice speaks to us all. "Congrats Final Eight! We're all very pleased with you so far. But it's been a little boring lately, and some of you need certain thing desperately. There will be a feast tomorrow at sunrise at the cornucopia. See you there, and may the odds be ever in your favor."
"I bet it's something for your hands! That would make them better! We should go." I stand up to start moving but she grabs my hand.
"No. I don't want to fight anymore tributes. If this is how I'm going to die, then so be it."
I clench my teeth until they hurt and give her a one word reply. "Ok." I sit back down, knowing that I have a promise to keep.
The sunsets a little earlier than normal and Ivy dozes off almost immediately after it dips below the horizon. The sleeping syrup from the med kit worked a little too perfect. At dinner she couldn't stop raving about how sweet the corn mush was, if she only knew. Would she be mad? Depressed? Relieved? Or like me, conflicted.
She shivers despite the heat and her back is visibly sweaty. I know the infection is going to kill her. I know she's in pain and I know with her refusal to let me help her at the feast her death is a sure thing.
So why doesn't that make it any easier?
Her body looks so tiny when she sleeps. Like a baby calf sleeping in a different pen than its mother for the first time. But just like a sick calf, there's a job to do and it's too late to back out now.
"I'm so sorry Ivy."
I hate myself for noticing the pitchfork goes in and out just as easily as the first girl.
Another face joins my nightmares.
Within an hour of being awoken 4 cannons go off. The feast was a success for some body. That night when the faces appear in the sky I look away when I know that Ivy's baby blue eyes will be staring back at me. I find some peace though, the boy from District Twelve must've died at the feast. Which means I have no idea who my last competitors are. I pack my things up neatly and sleep holding my pitchfork.
Though I can't explain why that night it's not Ivy and the girl from Three I see when I close my eyes. But I see Tristan and Bryson being killed by the boy from Twelve.
The morning greets me with a new surprise, the maze has turned into a straight path and the typical corn stalks have been replaced by corn with leaves that clearly have razor edges. I get the message and start walking forward. I chug all my water and actually feel refreshed when I reach an opening.
A boy and girl join me from different paths. The girl is from Twelve and the boy from Six. He looks far more beaten up than any of us.
"It's Odica." She says flatly.
"Yoren." He says pained.
"Daniel." I say for some reason.
"I like to know the names of my victims." Odica pulls a pair of knives from her belt and rushes and Yoren. He blocks with a pickaxe and tries to swing back in retaliation. She's too quick though and darts around him making a stab into his calf. He falls to one knee and swings again, weaker. The look in her eyes is that of an animal eating it's prey. A quick stab and her blade is buried in his neck and he falls to the ground.
Yoren, from District Six is dead.
She turns to me with feral eyes. She approaches me slowly, cautiously. "How'd you make it this far? I know you haven't been doing much killing. My district partner Tork did a bunch of it. We were buddies, until I stopped needing him at the feast. You boys always have been dumb." She grins a little wide. She thinks I'm just another kill on her list she's wrong.
I don't gratify her with a response. Instead I jump forward and try to stab her face. She ducks and rushes under my pitchfork. She swings a knife out and it rakes across the knuckles on my left hand. I drop the pitchfork and back away from her, wounded.
She gets visibly relaxed as she approaches me. I trip on the ground and start crawling backwards until I reach Yoren's body.
"Such a pity. I thought you'd be a good fight." My hand starts fumbling on the ground.
Where is it? Yes!
"I'm the last fight you'll ever have." She smiles at me and I smile back. "Bye." My right arm swings around with a firm grasp on the pick axe Yoren dropped. It goes straight into her head. She dies before her body hits the ground.
Watching the replay makes one thing clear. I'm the hero of the story. Odica and Tork killed almost everyone after the bloodbath. At her death Odica has 4 kills and when he died Tork had 6 kills, including every tribute who scored a 10. I'm grateful for my 9 all of a sudden. I can't help but wonder:
What did Ivy do to get her 8? She said she had secrets.
"You promised." Bryson sits across the bar in tears. He takes another shot of something and continues to cry. "You fucking promised you shit head!" I give the bartender a thumbs up so he knows that Bryson is on my victor's tab. "You promise you wouldn't ever hurt her! That you would make sure she comes home! You son of a bitch!" More sobs. Heat in my chest makes me want to scream at him that I promise she wouldn't suffer. I never said I'd die for pulls me away.
"No one blames you man. You did what you had to do, it was just a little dark is all. We all thought you'd get her meds from the feast. You didn't even try."
"I was going to! She asked me not to! You saw that!" I shout loud enough for everyone in the bar to notice.
"I don't know what I saw, but it wasn't my best friend in their that's for fucking sure!" He chest bumps me back a few feet. And maybe it's the tequila talking but I scream back at him.
"You know what fuck you man! I never knew I was capable of all this, I was just an average kid. Some nights I'm terrified of myself, but I'd rather be terrified than dead."
That night for the first time since I came back no one joins me in my dreams. Maybe it's the alcohol. Maybe it's my dad's herbal tea finally starting to work. And maybe, just maybe, Ivy is forgiving me from beyond the grave.
For years I only found happiness in the bottom of a bottle. God I could chug away with the best of them by the time I was 20. No matter what people thought about what I did in the games it didn't matter. My reputation as a generous drunk overpowered whatever they saw on the big screen, after all why watch a man kill three little girls when you can watch him kill himself one shot at a time?
It wasn't until a very special young woman was reaped that I finally got my act together. Bringing her back was the moment everything started to make sense again. Maybe she helped me forgive myself for what I did. Or maybe finally saving a girl from District Ten made up for the girl I couldn't save from District Ten. Funny, even if you don't believe in karma and that shit it makes a lot of sense in the long run.
There you have the story of Daniel Stavros. My plan is to keep integrating old victors into the new stories and when they have successful mentorships and things like that so you'll see Daniel and Jeremiah in the future.
Also thanks for the positive feedback from the first story I got a few messages saying that they liked it and that means a lot to me, let's me know that I'm not the only one enjoying my hard work.
See you guys again with another victor soon!