Good day to everyone!
I am very sorry for the delay with the update but work has kept me very busy over the past few days.
This is (sadly) the last chapter of The Six Swans story and I wanted to thank everyone who made the journey with me.
Seeing that I had favorites, and followers and reviews really kept me going during the writing process.
Disclaimer: Seriously? Again? Yes, my name is - and I don't live in District 12 or 13 and I don't own the Hunger Games.
Please read, enjoy, and if you want to put a huge smile on my face, favorite and review the story!
Just then, a strange wind passed over the courtyard and it darkened even more. In the silence, they could hear the faint sounds of a mournful tune.
Six swans entered into the line of sight, it was they who were singing, singing a swan song before death.
As they circled around, all eyes were on them and not on Annie, to whom the flames were growing closer.
The Dowager Queen and Heavensbee called for a guard to stand in front of them to protect them from the dark forces Annie was summoning.
Or rather, all but two pairs of eyes were on the birds as Peeta was removing the barricade in front of Finnick's door.
Once he got Finnick out, he handed him his trident he had grabbed from the stables as Finnick ran down towards the courtyard, only saving Meri from whatever trouble she was in on his mind.
While everyone looked at the birds as they circled, Annie waited until they were low enough and tossed the shirts.
She was struggling to breath through the smoke, her eyes and throat burned and her feet were getting very hot as the flames crept closer, spurred on by the pitch.
Annie did her best to toss a shirt where she saw a swan.
Everyone but Heavensbee and the Queen watched in wonder (they watched in fear and angry bitterness) as the first shirt hit Haymitch and he flew with great speed to the ground, where he transformed back into a man. He had grown in the six years he was a swan, and now at 23, his shoulders were broader and he stood taller but he still had his same cocky smile and the same unruly light brown hair and intelligent flashing in his grey eyes as he scanned the courtyard.
The next shirt hit Gale who flew gracefully but deadly like a bird of prey to the ground.
He at age 21 was a handsome man with his piercing grey eyes that first flashed with happiness and now flashed with danger.
Beetee received the next nettle shirt. He dropped slowly to the ground in a circles of shrinking circles. At age 19, he stood with quiet gravitas that showed his intelligence as he scanned the courtyard to understand the situation.
Boggs followed Beetee and dropped to the ground efficiently as he changed from swan to man. He stood with a general's stance despite his age of 17 and looked ready to go to war for Annie.
Cinna was hit by the next shirt Annie tossed in the air. He stood with all the grace he had possessed as a swan, but now as a man of 17, it suited him very well. His love for his family was evident in his quick twirling around to see where they all were.
Last of all, Annie prayed as she felt the flames start to lick her feet and her labored breath as the smoke worsened that her aim was true since she could no longer see for the tears in her eyes.
She tossed the last shirt, which hit Rory. He started to change in midair but landed himself just in time. His grey eyes shone with love and pride for his sister. At 15, he was a bit gangly but some of the grace from when he was a swan had started to enter into his bearing.
One woman in the courtyard held her hand to mouth as tears rolled down her face. She couldn't believe her eyes and her heart filled with joy it hadn't known for six years.
While the crowd murmured at the miracle they had just witnessed, Peeta and Finnick burst into the courtyard and Finnick charged straight towards Annie.
He ran straight into the flames and climbed the pile of burning wood to to cut her free with his trident.
Her brothers used their nettle shirts to beat out the flames.
Finnick cut Annie free and cradled her close to him bridal style as he jumped off the stake's platform. He hit the ground running and got her far away from the smoke while Rue and Prim brought her ladle of water from the stables.
As soon as the brothers' nettle shirts touched the fire, it turned into a mist of salt water, tears to be more precise.
In a matter of minutes, the flames were out.
Finnick kissed Annie before saying. "I'm so sorry, my love, I know you didn't kill our child. I-"
Annie smiled. "I love you." Her eyes laughed at the shocked look on his face before Finnick kissed her deeply once more out of joy and relief at the miracle of her in his arms once more and at the beautiful sound of her voice.
"My love, my darling, what was that?" He asked between kisses, not daring to believe what he had heard.
Annie repeated, "I love you, Finnick. I've wanted to say that for so long and now at last I can." She smiled shyly.
She made to get out his arms and after another kiss, he reluctantly let her.
Her brothers then gathered her a group hug and Annie laughed out loud for the first time in six years at all of their cries of "Annie, Annie, you did it... we missed you...you did it sweet girl...I knew I could bet on you... oh Annie".
"My children" the woman cried out, it was Annie's mother! She had followed Snow to this kingdom and saw Annie.
Out of fear of Snow, she kept quiet but wanted to observe the event and wished she could free Annie but was too timid after her years of marriage.
"I thought you were dead, he told me you were dead, and I cried for years." She said and they rushed to hug her, full of forgiveness on this day of happiness.
Finnick marveled at the sound even as he wondered why she could now speak and laugh. He was grateful too to know her real name at last.
Peeta spoke up so all gathered could hear, "My queen," as he bowed. "I am so glad to see that you are alright and so happy that you can now speak aloud to us. What brought this miracle about?" For he saw a chance now based on the confused looks on everyone who had gathered, to finally and for once to at last clear the air and restore Annie's reputation so that she'd never be in danger of being put to death again. He swayed the mob away from calling Annie a witch for her actions and caused them to view it as a miracle instead.
Annie nodded and Finnick went to stand behind her as she moved to the center of the courtyard to tell her tale at last.
With Finnick's warmth behind her and his hand on her shoulder and her brothers circled around them, Annie began to speak and everyone assembled listened closely.
"King Snow cursed my brothers. He intended to turn them into mutts but the curse didn't work properly. Instead he turned them into swans for all but one day a year where they could resume human form. In order to become fully human, I had to sew them six shirts out of nettles, to suffer the pain they would have inflicted and lose the blood they would have taken had they been true mutts. I was forbidden to speak or write during the time of the curse, for six years, a year for a shirt, a year for a brother since their call was now deadly unless they themselves were dying as they almost did tonight."
Finnick pulled closer as she continued. "If I spoke, it would be a dagger through my brother's heart so I remained silent for six years and made the shirts till today, the last day of the six years where I was able to save them."
Her brothers' cheered and the crowd joined her.
"But where is our son?" Annie asked Finnick, eyes full of worry.
"Here, your majesty." Katniss' voice rang throughout the courtyard as she entered carrying Tristan.
She gave him over to his mother and bowed.
"I saw the Ruby hand him over to King Snow at the gate, before dawn this morning. I followed him and he told me that he made a deal with Queen Coin, he could have the baby to turn into a mutt and she'd have an excuse to kill you."
Gasps filled the courtyard once more and glares were directed at Heavensbee and the Queen on the balcony.
"I was able to save him as I was forced to defend myself and Tristan, King Snow was killed by nettles when he chased me."
Finnick smiled at his boy and at Katniss.
Then, his demeanor changed to that of the Finnick who won their battles, to how he had been when Annie was tied to the stake.
"Aunt, Heavensbee, come down at once!" His voice thundered like the sea god he so resembled.
They did as he demanded and Ruby followed, carrying their wine goblets.
At a look from the Queen, she turned and added a drop of a black liquid.
"Not only have you tried to kill my beloved and the queen of our kingdom but you tried away our son, the heir to the throne. You lied to everyone to stay in power, calling my wife, the queen, a witch when it's you who wove a spell of deceit! You two have manipulated and plotted ways to stay in power but now you will no longer endanger and threaten our kingdom anymore. "
"Annie," he said in a much softer tone and Annie loved how her name sounded on his lips. "I know they are too dangerous to keep jailed here and I don't want anyone else to have to suffer at their hands."
Annie knew Finnick was reluctant to get more blood on his hands but also knew it was too dangerous to let these two live.
She looked at the former Queen who raised her glass in one last mockery and took a sip. Heavensbee followed suit while Ruby smiled.
Within one minute, they each began seizing as they fell to ground and then stopped.
"They're dead." Peeta called out as he examined them.
"It's nightlock." Katniss explained. "It must have been in the wine."
"I bet the Queen was intending to kill Heavensbee so no one else would know of her deal with Snow and I bet he did the same thing to her."
So now, only Ruby remained of the trio that had tried for frame Annie for murder and execute her.
"She should be banished from the kingdom." Annie stated. "For while she was a part of it, she was not the leader and we can only hope that in a different environment, she will start anew and reform her ways."
"As you wish, Queen Annie." Finnick gestured and guards dragged Ruby out from the courtyard.
Finnick and Annie and Tristan made their way to balcony to address those gathered.
On their way up, Finnick kissed Annie and whispered, "I love you, and I will never let doubts overwhelm me again."
Annie smiled softly at him and their son. "All that I ask is that you be the father he deserves and treat with all of the love and kindness you have since we first met."
As she leaned in for a kiss, "Oh and call me Annie."
Finnick winked and she laughed before turning to face the people.
Finnick held out his arm for silence. "It is my hope and prayer for our future kingdom and my son, that we can all learn the true meaning of courage and sacrifice and love from our Queen Annie's example."
Cheers filled the courtyard and Rue and Prim hugged each other while crying.
The brothers all cheered and clapped for their favorite sister and that they were human for good.
Joy filled the kingdom once more.
Over the next few days, the siblings reunited and caught up with their mother who was overjoyed at seeing them alive after all these years.
She apologized for bringing Snow into their lives and explained about how her hypnosis had weakened when Snow came to visit Annie's kingdom and finally broken on the time which coincided with the time of King Snow's death.
Many happy tears were shed and she came to visit Annie every year.
Haymitch and the rest of her brothers elected to stay in their old kingdom.
They helped it slowly recover day by day from King Snow's reign of power and terror.
Haymitch took over the kingdom with the goal to keep it alive despite the threats it might face or the horrors it suffered in the past.
Gale was general of their troops and his strategies won them many battles against those who preferred Snow in power or who refused to negotiate.
Beetee was able to devise formulas to help others who were mutts recover.
Boggs was second in command and he kept the soldiers loyal to the kingdom and like brothers to each other.
Cinna continued to design amor to protect his brothers. He also branched out into art and made several wonderful pieces to expand their kingdom's culture.
Rory remained with Annie and courted Prim.
Rue reunited with someone from her hometown when Annie and Finnick expanded trade and she and Thresh began courting as well.
Katniss and Peeta got married within a year of the curse being broken and remained happily married for many years. They continued to work at the castle, with Katniss in the garden and as an unofficial advisor to Annie but Peeta soon evolved to the position of chief advisor to the King with his way of words and his understanding of how people thought and behaved.
Annie and Finnick remained fair, generous, benevolent rulers whose love for each other never faded.
Their son, Tristan, was their pride and joy. He had his mother's sweet heart and his father's charm and bravery.
He made them proud with how his loyalty to his family, kingdom, and to doing what was right even it it took sacrifices.
The beloved tale of their queen's actions spread and everyone in the kingdom told it to their children and to anyone passed through for many years to come.
She continued to inspire others to follow in her footsteps, including her husband and son. Their family heralded in the golden age of courage, sacrifice and love.
I hope if you haven't done so yet, that you will favorite the story if you like how it wraps up.