Prologue Part I.
Something wicked this way comes.
And as I set to face it, I'm unsure, should I embrace it, should I run?
Cornelia Pfeifer, 25
District Twelve Victor of the Fifth Hunger Games
"Custer expects your presence in House Four."
I nod to my brother without lifting my eyes from my television screen, hoping he'll take initiative to shoo himself out. Quite on the contrary, he lingers about my doorway and beseeches me with those famed icy blue Pfeifer eyes, piercing through any semblance of relaxation I might have been enjoying.
"Do you need something, brother?"
"I was wondering if you wanted to watch the Capitol announcement for the Quell with me." Roman lifts a thick eyebrow. "I know how important the Games are to this lineage and how excited you've been. I thought it might be nice to whip up a cheese plate or something for the viewing, just the two of us."
I snort. "Don't want to invite dear mom and dad, huh?"
Roman locks eyes with me for a brief instant. "You're funny."
Funny could be one word for it. Roman and I never were to fully fit in with the family, at least not the parents we were given. My ancestors were some of the very few Capitol loyalists from Twelve, fighting tooth and nail to retain a notion of district independence and governmental protection. Though district independence after the virus soon turned to a district merge as the only possibility, at least we're still under the watchful eye of the Capitol, just as they always wanted.
Though my ancestors might've been strong in their ties to current Panem and a world dictated by the likes of President Costello and the districts' Peacekeeper armies, my parents were outspoken and brash against their hatred for the Games' continuation after the pandemic. Said we'd been through enough, that they didn't need to watch their poor, innocent children have to wriggle free of certain death once again.
I still wonder how they reacted when they watched me win my Games. I wouldn't know. Haven't spoken to them since the Reaping.
It's better that way.
"Sorry, dear brother," I drawl, finally coming to my feet off my plush bed. "That's exactly what Custer's ringing me for. We had intentions to watch the Quell announcement together at his house."
Once more I expect Roman to nod with understanding and flitter off somewhere, but he only lingers in the doorframe as I slide on a thin jacket. His eyes idle upon me, never leaving. Sometimes I do regret allowing him to live with me in the Capitol-sanctioned Victor's Village. Perhaps I should've exercised some more selfish tendencies. "Yes?" I bark, rather disagreeably.
"You'd not like one more?"
I groan, pushing past him and soaring down the stairs. "A victor's connection is a private thing," I spit over my shoulder as he trails behind me. "Sacred, unshakable, and most importantly, intimate!"
"But Cornelia, I-"
Finally at the front door, I whip around to glare at my inferior sibling. "This is an A and B conversation," I breathe out. He moves to protest again; I gesture to the hallways beyond, moving to shut the door behind me. "Now go C yourself back to your room."
Custer greets me as I arrive at his mansion, but I shove past him without so much as an embrace. "Tough love today, huh?" he mutters at me.
I kick off my shoes, allowing myself to sink into the cushions of his couch. He, too, lays eyes on me from across the room, though I don't mind his gaze as much as I do Roman's. "Familial drama strikes again," I drawl. "Consider yourself lucky for having nobody left. Being surrounded with your own blood is as much a curse as having corpses for parents."
Custer relaxes his body into the sofa behind me, trailing a finger across my splayed shin. "He makes for a good messenger."
"Even carrier pigeons know when to leave a scenario," I reply lazily.
"Heard the newest headline?" Custer asks with a hint of mirth, arms crossed.
I lift a brow. "Regarding us? At this point I thought I'd heard them all, but by all means, go on. Taint my skewed vision of the media even more."
"Custer and Cornelia: Family or Fucking?"
"Mindless reporters," I murmur. "Think I heard that headline two years ago. They've gotten lazy in their ripe age."
Custer and I exchange a brief glance, a smirk, and he relaxes himself further into my body. "It'll take them ages to figure out at this point," he snarks. "Might as well keep them guessing. It's better for everyone that way, isn't it?" His eyes flit to the painting on his mantle, one of the few pieces of decoration in his mansion.
It's of he and I, hand in hand at my victory interview when I won seven years ago. Custer, prideful mentor of just eighteen, is adorned in a luxurious gold suit, teeth bared to the cameras. I am next to him in a similar dress, eyes blazing at the audience that stood roaring before me; in my expression, a feeling of true worth and deservingness that I'd never felt before.
Custer breathed new life into me. I owe him the world.
Not one to get mushy or too deep into thought, I begin snapping my fingers at the Avox that stands motionlessly by Custer's television. "Well? Is she going to turn it on or what? At this rate we'll be late and everyone will know before us."
"How embarrassing," Custer mutters, digging his nails into my thigh.
The screen comes to life with a video of the Capitol, floods of their citizens bustling around the streets and murmuring in anticipation of the Quell announcement. President Costello is already on his stand, running his mouth about unimportant history and the lessons that we as districts must learn from them. He repeats himself too much. Frankly, it's yawn-worthy. Yet for once I sit tight, lips zipped as I sit silently for the upcoming announcement. The Games are serious business for my district and I've never been afraid to impart my wisdom, however skewed and notorious, on a batch of willing, thirsty volunteers every year. I just don't know how we'll fare with an uncertain twist.
Next to me, Custer notices how I stiffen up at the sight of the president and tightens his grip on my knee. "Are you nervous, Cornelia?"
I yank my leg away. "Wishing we'd gone down to the Capitol to celebrate with all its citizens, actually," I lie swiftly. "Looks like a real celebration."
"They're hosting something similar at the Town Square, you know." He frowns. "We could've gone. Imagine all the hype, the bloodthirst – it's just your cup of tea. You can't say that there's ever been a district who laps up the Games as much as the renovated Twelve. Imagine how excited everyone will be!"
"Until Costello announces that we're Reaping only infants or eighty-year-olds," I say back snappishly. "Stop trying to cheer me, I'm already off put. Now listen."
"And it was stated," President Costello plows on, waving his hands to the writhing tangle of audience below him, "that to honor the six remaining districts, rather than instate a Quarter Quell every twenty-five years, the renovated Panem would instate a Quell every six years."
"Oh God," Custer murmurs, obviously sickened by the president's all-too-formal words.
"On the eve of the twelfth new Reaping and thus the second Quell, I present the following twist to you, Panem." A small Avox from the president's side presents a singular golden envelope.
"On the twelfth anniversary of the Hunger Games, Panem offers a nod to the very first Quarter Quell from times before the virus. Each district will have the opportunity to cast their votes for three children of Reaping age to represent them in the upcoming Hunger Games. The three children from each district with the most votes will be announced during the Reaping and sent directly to the Capitol."
A/N: Brutus by Buttress.
Hi. It's me. Back with another SYOT.
Did we think I'd make it this far? I literally definitely did not. But the way I'm looking at it, my online classes are done next week, I have roughly only 3-4 chapters of The Salvaged Six left, and I'm making this more of a longer deadline… so here we have it, the first Sixverse Quell!
Deadline will be June 30, 2020. Might close it earlier if I'm ahead of schedule. Details are up on my profile. If you're new here and you're like… tf is she doing with six districts… why three from each… feel free to check out my first chapter for the Salvaged Six which has all the worldbuilding you ever could want! I'm also down to answer questions.
Love to see y'all in my inbox over the next few weeks submitting. Love to see you ask questions. Love to see you drop a review. Anyway...
This is wild. Hi. This will probably be my last actual SYOT on this site but… we'll see!