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HG: Golden Mean, Chapter Seven - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
HG: Golden Mean, Chapter Seven
Haymitch has answered a cryptic summons to Ed Mellark's store, where he's taken down to the basement. Hiding in the root cellar is Thresh's sister, Winnow, who he met in Eleven.



Chapter Seven
When I saw Winnow in Eleven, she was wearing starched formal waiter's clothes, and her hair had been forcibly subdued into a bun and imprisoned in a net. Now, she's wearing jeans and a tee shirt that look slept in, and her hair is pushed back an inch or so from her face by a twisted red bandanna, behind which it explodes into an exuberant, three-inch high nimbus around her head.

She looks more comfortable, except that she's shivering in the cold of the basement. I doubt it occurred to Ed, since it's about an average inside temperature for Twelve in the winter. Cinna notices it and, without comment, takes off his coat, then peels off the fine sweater he's wearing, leaving him in just an undershirt. He puts his coat back on and hands her the sweater.

She takes it warily and puts it on, then starts petting it. "What is this?"

"Cashmere," he says.

"It's soft." She gives him a mistrustful look, then glances at me for approval of him.

I introduce them and assure her that he's with us. "What are you doing here?" I ask.

She reaches into a satchel that's resting on her hip and draws out a letter. "That's from Chaff," she says. "Don't know if it's still true."

I frown and take the letter. A rough mockingjay is drawn on it.

Haymitch - can't risk the usual means here. I had to have a courier, and it was time to send Winnow away. She blew up a silo. I tossed some of her things into the rubble, so hopefully, they think she's dead, which she will be if they get their hands on her. In case they don't, I'm hiding her grandmother. The McKissacks will be questioned, but I doubt anyone knows that they've had very much to do with her since the Games.

Beetee shipped me information with a new television. Three is actually in. He is surprised. He is coordinating with Finnick - don't ask me how. I can bring Eleven at the same time. The problem is Eight. I am sending Winnow there first. They're ready to blow right now. I hope Winnow can get to Cecilia in time for her to calm them down. If they go it alone, the Capitol will destroy them. I don't know how much control Cecilia has over it, though.

We can't afford to put the Capitol on alert until everything is in place. If you can find a way to get Winnow on to Four, send word to Finnick that that we might have some wildfire troubles. And if he can find a nice ship for Winnow to hide out on until we're ready to move, that would be a plus. If she gets to you before Cinna goes, tell him he needs to get Plutarch to think about getting our friends here before the Games. I just don't know if we can hold it back that long.

Chaff


I hand it to Cinna and look at Winnow. "Which part isn't true?"

"I didn't read it, did I?" she asks. "But I'm guessing it doesn't say that Eight blew its stack last night."

"What?" Ed Mellark says. "Are you saying they're rebelling? Already?"

"No. They're having fireworks. And picnics. And hardware sales." She frowns. "What game did you think you were playing?"

"I didn't know we were at the endgame already."

"We're not supposed to be," I say. "What happened in Eight, Winnow?"

"I told you."

"Go back to the beginning."

She gives us an impatient shake of her head, then says, "I got there around five in the afternoon," she says. "Chaff hid me in a flax shipment. I was supposed to look for Cecilia at the school. Chaff said her kids were supposed to be in a concert. Only there wasn't any concert. It got cancelled for mandatory viewing - Caesar Flickerman?"

"Yeah," I say. "I noticed there were a lot of people watching outside. They cut away fast."

"Do you want it from the beginning or not?"

"Keep going."

"Right. So I couldn't find Cecilia. I don't exactly look like I fit in around District Eight, so I borrowed a blanket from the train and threw it over my head, like I was homeless and just wandering around. No one noticed. They were too busy with other things. There was a big crowd out in the square. I figured Cecilia might be there, so I went in. I must have been there through the whole interview. I'm glad Katniss and Peeta are engaged! I think Thresh would be, too, if he couldn't be here himself." She smiles eagerly, seeming quite genuinely delighted at this development. Ed frowns, and I wonder what he's been hearing from Peeta over the last few months.

"I'll pass along your good wishes," I lie. "What happened?"

"I noticed that a lot of the people out there were pretty young. Not kids, but our age." She nods to Ed. "There were some factory workers, too. Not old. I didn't see any old people or little kids, which seemed a little weird. Usually there are a lot at the public viewings, at least in Eleven. They play games. Then when Peeta proposed, it was like a dance everyone had been practicing. People up front started cheering and holding up signs and things to block the cameras, then everyone else rushed the communication towers. They took the Peacekeepers by surprise. They took the communications and the justice building, and the train station. They even took the freight train. They said I could ride right up in a train car if I wanted, but I figured I'd better look like a shipment when I got here. A boy named Jakob put me in the box, with lots of pillows. It was much better than the ride out from Eleven."

"A real vacation," I say.

"Don't you understand? They won! District Eight threw off the Capitol!"

I grind my teeth. "District Eight is going to be overrun within the week. Why do you think the Capitol makes it so hard for us to talk to each other? They can subdue any district on its own. And they'll subdue Eight. Count on it. There are going to be a lot of dead people there."

"They can fight!"

"Maybe, but they'll lose," Cinna says.

She turns on him furiously. "And what does a Capitol dressmaker care? You just worried they won't be able to send you all that pretty fabric anymore?" She indicates the cashmere sweater. "It's not like your kids are going to get thrown in the arena to die."

Cinna remains calm, but I know him well enough to see the anger under it. "I don't have any family. And if you think the Games are Snow's only crime, then you don't know half as much as you think you do. "

"People in the Capitol don't know what it's like in the districts."

"And people in the districts don't know what it's like in the Capitol." He puts down Chaff's letter. "We're not enemies, Miss Robinson."

"Fine." She looks at me, frustrated, and shakes her head. "This is good news! Why don't you see that?"

"If it was as simple as throwing a riot and getting a handful of Peacekeepers out, we'd have overthrown them a long time ago. Do you think there haven't been uprisings before? The problem isn't getting people mad enough to fight. We're always mad enough to fight. The problem is that if we don't all do it at the same time, the Capitol will be able to send its entire strength on whoever's misbehaving. We've seen it before. That's why we've been trying to coordinate."

"You're just like Chaff. You talk a good game, but you don't want to do anything. Katniss did something. She held up a handful of berries and everything changed!"

Ed shakes his head. "And if she doesn't watch her step, she's going to get herself and my kid brother killed."

I look up, surprised. "Who told you that?"

"You think I haven't been able to see what's going on? Marriage proposals at sixteen? Come on, Haymitch. I'm not a sop."

"Keep it in here," I say.

"Not stupid, either."

"What is wrong with you all?" Winnow demands. "Are we having a war or a tea party?"

"We're trying to win a war," Cinna says. His anger seems to be gone, and he's using the same gentle voice he uses with Katniss. "And if we blow our strategy, everyone loses. Do you understand that?"

Winnow responds to the change in his voice. I suspect Cinna could convince a lot of scared young girls of just about anything. I'm glad he's on our side. She sighs. "I guess. I just want to do something. I want to stand up to them. Like she did. I feel like I'm falling short."

"It's not a competition," Cinna says. "We're all working together." He tilts his head and examines her. "I can get you onto the train tomorrow. We'll have to sneak you on board with the wardrobe, but you're about the same size as my partner, Portia. If she lends you some of her clothes and wigs, maybe you can switch places with her here and there so you don't have to hide the whole time."

Winnow recoils at the thought of wearing Capitol clothes, and I don't know if they'll go through with it - once she's on the train, I probably won't know anything. In the meantime, Cinna takes her back to the cars, so she's not seen sneaking in tomorrow during the Harvest Festival. I stay to talk to Ed.

"How did you get into this?" I ask him.

"I told you. I had Dad's shipping list."

"But how did you get it?"

He sits down and starts doodling absently on a work table, tapping his pencil now and then. "I guess you know Dad thinks it's his fault that Peeta got Reaped."

"Yeah. He said something like that to me." In fact, he thinks it's as much my fault as his, and told me as much.

"After he saw Peeta's leg, he was really upset. He came over here, and I gave him a drink. I probably shouldn't have. He doesn't drink much anymore."

I know that, too, and I know why - Mirrem told him she'd take the boys and leave if he came home drunk again - but I don't share it with Ed. "So he got drunk," I say.

"Yeah. And he told me about it. How you used to pass messages on the paper liners under the cakes. He said he wasn't doing it anymore. I said I wanted to. It took some doing. And some blackmail. But he gave me his contacts."

"Why are you doing it?"

"Same reason Winnow is," he says. "They broke my baby brother. They left him in a pile of mud for days, then made Katniss gamble with his life. Then they tried to get her to murder him because they thought it would be great entertainment to watch two kids who love each other fight to the death. They're rabid and they need to be put down."

"That's succinct." I sit down. "I didn't think you and Peeta were close."

"We're not. We're better now, but... I guess it's too late to fix everything. But he's still my kid brother. I should have volunteered for him." He smiles faintly. "I guess Winnow's not the only one who thinks she's falling short next to Katniss. Delly says everyone does on that."

I don't say anything.

"You want to know the stupidest thing?" he asks out of nowhere.

"What?"

"My dad's tearing himself apart because he thinks it's his fault. But it isn't. Delly told me that Peeta'd been taking on tesserae. That's why the odds weren't as much in his favor as they should have been."

"He'd been... why?"

"Some scheme of Madge Undersee's to get food for old people and the Community Home. And to make the odds even out a little bit. She and Peeta, Delly, a few others." He sighs. "I feel pretty inadequate on that, too. It never even occurred to me."

"That's because it's insane," I say. "Don't risk your life if you don't have to."

"Who gets to say when we have to, though?"

There's no answer for that. I say goodnight to him, then go up and say goodnight to the pleasant, smiling Delly Cartwright upstairs. I try to imagine her risking the arena just to give grain and oil to strangers. She wouldn't last ten minutes.

I walk home. It has been a long day, and my body still aches from the poison Snow fed me and from the shots Valentine gave me to clean it up. I could buy a car, but I've never seen the sense. District Twelve is small enough to walk in, and the only times I can't walk properly, I really don't have any business driving, either. Now I wish I had one. It's not just the aches in my body. It's the gnawing fear that we're losing control of the uprising.

I don't care about control all that much, and only an idiot would put me in charge of anything. But Winnow, the kids in Eight, even Ed Mellark to some extent - they're chomping at the bit to get into a fight, and they don't know what they're getting into.

That's why Plutarch wants a single rallying point. A coherent one. A flag for everyone to stand under. I think he'd have taken anyone who was willing to be a symbol. If Thresh had won, I'm sure Plutarch would have found a way to make his mercy toward Katniss into a symbol of the rebellion. He's glad he got Katniss, since she succeeded in her defiance, but anyone would do. That's why he's so far been able to work with nothing but a pin. I have a feeling that if we do get Katniss to cooperate, he'll regret it. It's not as easy to put words in her mouth as it is to put them in the mockingjay's, and if he hands her a script, she'll garble it.

Which is exactly what makes her the right person. We don't need Plutarch's soaring political rhetoric. We need a mute handful of berries, a song to a dying girl, a desperate act of self-sacrifice for a loved one. If all we do is run on rage, we're sunk before we start.

I make it home before midnight and find a bottle of white liquor with a ribbon on it. It's probably from Ripper (she's given me presents before), but after last night, I decide not to take any chances. I hold my nose so I'm not tempted by the smell, and pour it down the drain. Day after tomorrow, I'll replace my supplies. For now, I chew up another of Valentine's pills to keep the shakes away.

I don't want to sleep (the idea of yesterday's nightmare is still pretty fresh), so I pull up a floorboard and pick one of my forbidden books at random. This one is about a kid on a raft helping a runaway slave. He's on the run from his drunken father. Good for him. He should run as far and as fast as he can.

I finally fall asleep as the sky is turning gray outside my window. It's bright and sunny by the time someone pulls my knife out of my hand and shakes me awake.

"Your phone doesn't work," Peeta says.

"That's because I tore it out of the wall."

"Effie's going to fix it."

"Great. Just what I need. Why are you here?"

He shrugs. "Portia called me and asked me to come get you. We're late."

"Why are you running late?"

"I was awake until this morning. Couldn't sleep."

"Alone?"

He nods, but doesn't elaborate. He doesn't need to. "Come on. You better get dressed."

I hide my books back under their floorboard, go upstairs and get dressed, then Peeta and I walk out to the green, where the convoy has set up. We're all supposed to look "natural" for this folksy harvest festival. Katniss is having her hair carefully curled and brushed out when we get there, and Cinna has her in expensive jeans and a voluminous white sweater. Her make-up is very carefully applied to look like she has none on. Octavia has moved on to style Ruth Everdeen, who seems a bit mistrustful of it. There is a young woman styling Prim who I at first take for Winnow--the size and the puff of black hair suggest it--and I am about to call Cinna out on this foolishness when she turns around, and I see that her features are totally different and she seems a little bit older.

I recognize her. "Portia?"

She grins and waves. "Madge Undersee dared me to style myself up Twelve-wise today. Do I pass?"

I inspect her. She is wearing jeans and a flannel shirt over a tee shirt, and comfortable-looking flat-heeled boots. The bandanna around her hair gives away that this isn't a district dare though. It's the one Winnow was wearing last night. I look around the green and spot a girl in a Capitol wig and a short dress and heels getting the wardrobe in order on a rack outside the large truck. Portia wiggles her eyebrows.

"Well, I like it," Peeta says. "You should stick with it."

"I would, honey--really, I haven't been this comfortable in years--but I'd never get a job in the Capitol again." She inspects him. "You need to get to Sergius. Your eyes look like you haven't slept in a week. You're supposed to be happy!" She pinches his cheeks and gives him a warning look.

He goes to his preps to be made natural looking.

"Don't I need to have my skin greased up?" I ask.

She inspects me. "You look like you had alcohol poisoning yesterday. It works for you. Get Flavius to lend you some cologne and you'll be fine. I'm having fun with Prim now."

Prim smiles. "They don't style me much."

"And look at this hair!" Portia crows. "We'll have every girl in the Capitol screaming for a long blond wig tomorrow."

I wander over to Cinna, who is packing up his sewing supplies. "Never knew how many people you have working for you," I say.

"It's hard to keep track of. Portia says she thinks they just check for the hair and call it good."

"They don't get a count?"

"On a train? They'll count us when we get to the tunnel to the Capitol."

Which, he does not have to point out, will be long after they've dropped Winnow off in Four, or at least near it.

I guess I should have known that Cinna was not going to put a human being in a crate if he could find a way around it.

We make our way to the Harvest Festival at around three o'clock. It's already crowded. The Capitol has provided us with a Carnival, something no one here has seen before, along with a feast. Katniss and Peeta are put at a table in a huge tent that overlooks the festivities. I see Katniss scanning the crowd. I'm guessing she's looking for her "cousin." She may have some explaining to do after accepting a marriage proposal on national television. He doesn't seem to be here. I see his mother--a woman I remember as Hazelle Purdy--taking his siblings around to different rides.

Reporters swarm around, many asking why we have our harvest festival in the middle of the winter. I have no idea. I'd say it was put here to coincide with the victory tour, but I'm pretty sure it pre-dates the Dark Days. The best I can do is shrug.

For a forced festivity, it actually goes along pretty well. People in Twelve like their parties, and always have. We're all on the big screen for mandatory viewing. I dance with Portia, who seems to be enjoying her flat-heeled day. At the end of it, Katniss and Peeta do one of their camera kisses, but they don't linger long. The audience must be getting bored. When it's over, everyone packs up, the screen comes down, and we return to life in District Twelve. I see the convoy to the train station, then head off to find Ripper and start re-stocking my bar. Valentine has given me a supply of detox pills, but I plan to save them for my next trip to the Capitol. At the moment, the plan is to get as drunk as I can as quickly as I can. There's really not much else to do.

I succeed in blotting out most of the next day, though it's haunted by waking nightmares about kids trying to run the rebellion on their own and getting themselves killed. At one point, Peeta comes in and gives me soup and bread, and tells me I should try to sober up before I kill myself. I'm fairly sure I throw up on him, but I don't remember whether or not he stays and cleans it up. I see his light on in the middle of the night while I'm stumbling around, and accidentally end up in his kitchen. He patiently feeds me coffee and lends me clean clothes. I tell him he shouldn't blow things up, because that won't end well for anyone. He promises not to.

By Saturday night, I've gotten back to equilibrium, and am functioning as much as I ever do. I cut down until there's only enough to keep off the shakes. It doesn't help with the nausea. I try Ruth Everdeen on Sunday, after I see Katniss slip out, but she says she's not going to waste good medicine on self-inflicted miseries.

"Suffer through it," she says irritably. "If you want to stop drinking, I have some herbs that will help you through it, but if you don't want to stop drinking, you're on your own."

"Thanks a lot," I mutter.

"And as long as you're here, you're getting a piece of my mind about Katniss. Six different people told me she and Peeta were sleeping together on the train."

"They're engaged."

"They're sixteen. The whole thing is crazy."

"You were practically engaged at sixteen."

"And look what a mess I made of things!" She makes an impatient gesture with her hand. "They aren't old enough to make a decision like this."

I leave. Prim slips me some bland crackers to help with the nausea. I nibble on them as I head into town. If Ruth won't help me, I'm willing to bet that some old party at the Hob has an old folk cure I haven't tried yet.

I don't end up finding a cure. Greasy Sae tries to get me to drink something that looks like tar, which I don't think I could get close to without vomiting. She says that's the point. I think I have better things to do. A girl named Verbena Larson, who usually frequents Cray's back steps, tries to earn a few coins from me. I try to just give them to her, but she says she's not a beggar and moves on to her next target. I look around and notice that none of the usual Peacekeepers are in.

"Cray was here this morning," Ripper says. "Two bottles of my best. And Darius came by an hour ago. Got a message to go to the Justice Building."

I think about this, and guess that the Peacekeepers are probably getting put through drills. It happened when Three had a riot a few years ago. They're probably going to end up putting on one of their little marching shows to remind us that they have a job here.

After I leave, I go over to Ed Mellark's shop and buy a drill. I don't really need one, but if he's going to be a contact, I should probably establish myself as a customer. He asks if the convoy got out all right. I tell him everyone seems to have been on board safely. He invites me to dinner with his family. I decline. It might be fun to see Dannel again, in a less fraught situation than last time, but if I can avoid Mirrem, I do so at all costs. I ask after the impending arrival of his niece. He says Sarey is about ready to start doing calisthenics to induce labor. I smile dutifully (I know absolutely nothing about women and babies), then head out, meaning to cut through the square and go up to Murphy's pub. I'm blocked by a crowd that's gathering around the shops.

I don't really wonder what the attraction is. I've had enough dog and pony shows in the last year to keep me for the rest of my life. I start to go around.

That's when I hear the whip.

I'd know the sound anywhere. They never tried it on me--you don't attack victors, especially in their own districts--but they managed to get a whole lot of people I knew. People who tended to say the wrong things to the wrong people. It was always pinned on some real charge, but everyone knew the truth.

I start running along the edge of the crowd, looking for a way in. My headache and nausea crystallize into a sharp blade going all the way through me. I don't know who it is.

Then I hear someone shriek, "No!" The whip comes down again, and there's a female scream. As I push through the crowd, I hear, "Stop it! You'll kill him!"

I know the voice.

It's Katniss.
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Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 7th, 2013 07:34 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad you've decided to continue this as a full length piece, as more of your writing is always good.

One slight continuity error though, didn't Haymitch see Winnow dancing in the live feed of District 11 during the proposal?

Then again, maybe it was just someone who looked like her...

-Maraudercat
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 7th, 2013 07:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Oops, I'll fix that in the previous mention! I totally forgot!
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 7th, 2013 04:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yay! Today is shaping up to be a good day for me. No work, found my favorite yogurt at the grocery store, and a new chapter. I'm just really enjoying seeing Catching Fire from Haymitch's pov. And I'm getting nervous/ excited about seeing Snow's next big announcement in your story. And in my new tradition of giving odd compliments, I wanted to say that I think you've done an excellent job with Haymitch's alcoholism, the reasons he drinks, the withdrawals, ect. Anyway great job! Can't wait to read more.
Robin
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 7th, 2013 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! He doesn't seem to be falling-down drunk all the time in the books, so he must have some level of control, but given Katniss's description of his withdrawal and the fact that he immediately tries to get rubbing alcohol when the Hob burns (very real, I'm guessing SC knows some hardcore boozers), he must be pretty far gone on the physical addiction of it.
shortysc22 From: shortysc22 Date: January 8th, 2013 12:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh no I know what's coming next and I'm curious to see how Haymitch will play this out. I'm loving the story through his perspective and am glad to see that Peeta's brother is doing something, however small.

I love the twists you've added and how your stories are all part of the same universe, with Peeta taking out tesserae.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 8th, 2013 01:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, now is about when we have lines implying something about Haymitch and Mrs. Everdeen's past and some other "new Head," so I need to come up with something.... heheheheh.
6 comments or Leave a comment