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Challenges 5 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Challenges 5
Enobaria's happy ending for Anon

-------
Every few years, someone starts people talking about naming the districts. Eventually, it'll catch on. Everyone here in District Fourteen, on an island five hundred miles south of District Eleven, agrees that we should be "Hell." The temperature ranges from cloyingly warm to steam-baked. It's so humid that sometimes it's like breathing water. No matter how fast we build, the jungle starts to take over within a few weeks. There are giant lizards and hungry crocodiles, rats that weigh twenty pounds each, enough bats to give a Gamemaker nightmares, and hungry sharks in the sea. Insects and spiders large enough to operate agricultural equipment wander around with impunity. Hurricanes routinely knock us down. Planting and harvesting the sugarcane crop is back-breaking, miserable work.

We all agree that we had to be crazy to come down here, and that we're crazier not to leave.

No one has ever left, at least not for good. When there's an injury, they get on a hovercraft back to the mainland, get cured, then promptly return to Hell.

When the sun sinks below the horizon and the day finally cools enough to be comfortable, we all head for the beach together. There's not really a lot of time apart. The power here is iffy, despite constant tweaking from our District Five transplant, Lark Dorty, at the plant. That means that air conditioning is only an occasional treat, and we all live in houses made mostly of screened walls that let whatever breeze goes by come in. The two hundred fifty-odd settlers of District Fourteen all know a lot about each other. Instead of being annoying, it's kind of a comfort. It's strange out beyond the fence we finally managed to build, and it's good to have familiar faces around.

The kids play ball in the sand. An older boy breaks out a guitar, and there's singing around a campfire. I think of us as we'd look from space -- a little spark in the unbroken blackness of the sea... well, really, I doubt anyone could see us from space. I'm not sure anyone could see us from a hovercraft. It's more like a single match lit in a giant cave.

I tie a hammock up and lounge around with the other cane workers. My muscles are as sore as they ever were in the arena (well, except my jaw muscles, which hurt on and off for weeks; I guess I dislocated it a little bit), and I'm so tired I'm practically seeing double.

"Hey, Eno," Harrow Thule says, flopping down in the sand by my hammock. He is the mayor of District Fourteen, though you wouldn't know it by how much he sweats in the fields along with the rest of us. He came here from District Eleven -- he was the one who convinced President Paylor to let us be our own district, instead of just an adjunct of Eleven or Four (the two main settler groups).

"Hey," I say, swinging a little and watching the stars above me move.

"Hard working day, eh?"

"Yeah. Hard-working." I let myself rock more, feel sleep starting to come.

"You're not what I expected, when I saw your name on the list."

I turn my head slightly, and open my eyes, which have drifted shut. "Did you think I was going to bite the cane down?"

He laughs. "Something like that. Yes, maybe."

"Sorry to disappoint."

"Oh, no. Not at all. That wouldn't have been very efficient. I was afraid I would have to tell you to work like everyone else. But you work harder than everyone else, don't you?"

"I don't know about that."

"Oh, I know."

I turn my head again and look at the sky. "I like to work," I say. "It's better, working. It makes me too tired to dream."

"You dream," he says. "I live next to you and the screens are open. You dream."

I don't bother putting up an argument. There's no point. "All right," I say. "But I sleep anyway."

"Alone?"

"You know I'm alone." I look at him again. "Are you propositioning me, Harrow?"

He laughs. "My wife would have something to say about that. I just worry."

"That I'm not doing my part to populate the district?"

"That you're lonely."

"I'm not," I say. "Do you hear Kildare over there, singing?"

"Yeah."

"Me, too. I like him. He's a good kid. And I don't have to figure out how to kill him. That's a big plus. And Darsy Grimm? She tells jokes in the fields all day. I don't have to kill her, either. And Bracken Wilde -- he's read a bunch of the same books I have. Again, no need to kill him. And none of them want to kill me. It's uncharted territory."

"You have friends. You were at the Mellark wedding -- I saw pictures of you dancing there."

"The other victors are my family. My only family since I lost my brother. Not my friends. They don't like me all that much." I shrug. "It's all right. It's mutual. But if I were in trouble, they'd all come running. And I'd go running to them. See? Not lonely."

"But -- "

"Since I was fifteen, I had people all over me. Reporters. Camera people. Stylists. Preps. Dates in the Capitol that I definitely didn't want to be on. Fans wanting autographs. And I wasn't doing anything." I sigh. "Now, I get to think. For more than a few minutes at a time. And I’m working. I can get up in the morning and know I'm going to be something other than that girl who once ripped out a boy's throat in the arena. I don't know what I'm going to be yet. But I feel like I can find out. I'm not ruling anything out, but right now, I feel like I'm finally getting a chance to get out of the damned arena. I want to look around a little."

Harrow nods. "Yeah. I get that."

"Good."

He grins. "Of course, there's still the question of population growth..."

I snort. "So stop bothering me. Go find your wife and populate. I'm good."

He laughs and gets up, giving me a sarcastic little "Your wish is my command" bow. I roll back over and look up at the sky, at the stars softened by the humid air, the hazy moon hanging above me. The smell of the ocean and the jungle the sugarcane fields combine into something intoxicating. I breathe it in deeply, and let the sounds of my life lull me to sleep.



I'd love to find out how and why Effie got the District 12 Escort job. for sonetka

-------
My hands are cold and clammy and shaking, and I don't know what to do next. I know I wasn't supposed to clean up Haymitch Abernathy, but he looked a complete wreck, and Ausonius was going to put him on television. That can't be good for our district. So I just straightened his hair out a little bit and put some of the cologne on him, so no one would smell the liquor. And, all right, I found a few detox pills to get into him. Not that he'll remember. He was completely drunk when I shoved them down his throat, and I got called away before he sobered up.

I know it's my first year on a prep team, but I thought that was what I was supposed to do: make my district look good. I always wondered how come they kept showing Haymitch looking so bad. It's not good for finding sponsors. It's not exactly hard to find him looking like this, but couldn't someone have kept the cameras away? Ausonius Glass snapped at me when I said that. He said that the Games are a show, and people think Haymitch is funny the way he is.

It doesn’t seem to be working in getting sponsors. Besides, I remember his Quell. He doesn't deserve to be treated like a clown. I remember him being very smart, and very honorable.

Now I'm being called upstairs, to the production office. I haven't been here since I passed my hairdressing test and got assigned to District Twelve in the first place. Of course, that was only three weeks ago, but it pretty much seems like forever. It was before the Games.

The door opens, and a woman with a clipboard comes out. "Euphemia Trinket?"

I stand up, even though my ankles and knees are knocking together. I wonder if Ausonius has turned me in, and if they're going to accuse me of trying to undermine the Games. I wonder what will happen to me if they do. I've heard there are camps they send people to, if they need to be reminded about things.

"Go on in," the woman says.

I search her face for any clue about what awaits me and don't find one, so I square my shoulders and go in, head held as high as I can. I smile. They always taught me in charm classes in school, smile whenever you enter a room. I did very well in charm classes.

To my surprise, Ausonius isn't there. Instead, smiling up at me from a pile of folders, there's Caesar Flickerman. "Ah, Miss Trinket," he says pleasantly. "Please, sit down."

I sit down carefully. "Hello, Mr. Flickerman. I'm very pleased to meet you."

"And you. You're awfully young to be out of school. What are you, seventeen?"

"Sixteen. Sir. I..." I think about telling him about how it was in school, the way the boys pulled off my wig and made my head bleed, and put up pictures of me crying all over the halls. I decide that he probably doesn't need to know that. "I tested out," I say. "I had charm credits and hairdressing and makeup. I even took a math class, even though I didn't need it."

"Yes, I see that on your transcript. You did very well in it. Not much history or literature, though."

I shake my head. "I was in practical school. I was supposed to learn things I could have a job in. History and literature are for the college school."

He scans my transcripts. "Did you think of going to the university? Your test scores are very good..."

I look down. "My mother got in a little bit of debt trouble. They'd never pick us for government work. That's all the university is for."

He makes an irritated little frown, though I'm not sure why. Everyone knows how the schools work. He runs his fingers down my class list. "Charm. Make-up. I see you took several fashion classes."

"I used to want to be a stylist. But I can't draw, so I couldn't get into the school."

"It's a pity." He closes the folder. "Ausonius Glass will be leaving the Games."

"He will?"

"Yes. He and I have always had... creative differences... when it comes to the presentation of the district. It came to something of a head this morning. To make a long story short, I won."

"You did?"

"Yes." He smiles. "It seems the audience isn't terribly interested in sending money to teams they haven't been made to like. The escorts who have consistently made an effort in that area have been rewarded." He wrinkles his nose, almost unconsciously. "And they've brought money into the Games' coffers."

"But... I thought that was their job. Making their teams look good, I mean, not the money part."

"The money part is more important than you think. The more money comes in, the more money is there to be spread around. You don't really think a couple of crackers are worth what sponsors pay?"

I don't say anything. This could be a test. If I agree with something like that, I could end up in real trouble. It does sound true, though.

Caesar stands up and goes to the window. "I can use that. I can use it to get them to hire people who aren't there to make fun of their teams and the districts. I can use it to push through people who might, for example, ignore direct orders from their team leaders so they can keep a mentor from being humiliated."

I frown. "What?"

"You're young," he says. "You may even be younger than the tributes you'll call."

"I'll call?"

"I want you to take over for Ausonius. As the escort for District Twelve."

"You hire the escorts?"

"I produce the pre-show. So yes, I have hiring authority over a lot of the crew. It has to be approved, but I can't see anything here that would stop it. If you'll take the job, of course."

I don't know if this is an invitation or an ultimatum. All I have is one Games' worth of experience doing the hair of a girl with the crazy name of Sassafras Lake. None of my careful curling before the interviews and the tribute parade did anything to keep her from dying when the boy from District One ran her through with a spear. Even good sponsors wouldn't have helped, since it was at the Cornucopia and no one had any gifts yet.

"Why?" I ask.

"Because you know what you're supposed to do," Caesar says. "And because Haymitch Abernathy, as annoying as he can be sometimes, deserves to have someone here on his side."

"I just combed his hair a little..."

"For the right reasons." He sits down again. "What do you say, Miss Trinket? Are you ready to sign on with the annual lost cause?"

I bite my lip. "No."

"No?"

I straighten up. "I don't believe in lost causes."
12 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
sonetka From: sonetka Date: June 7th, 2013 06:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I love both of these, but especially Effie (thank you, by the way!) She's probably the least cynical person in the entire HG world, and it's perfect that Caesar was the one to get her the job. Not surprising that Katniss would misinterpret her initially, of course. I did like seeing how regular Capitol citizens had their own troubles -- nothing on the level of having their names in a reaping ball, but the Capitol system still stunted Effie badly.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2013 02:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I figure living in the Capitol means accepting surveillance as part of everyday life and knowing that any misstep has consequences. I was struck by Plutarch's line in the book about how people loved District Twelve because they "still had some spontaneity" -- that they may have had a harsh life, but they were far enough away from the watchers that they weren't entirely beaten down.
dragonzair From: dragonzair Date: June 7th, 2013 07:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, Eno...

And oh my God, Caesar being that person to take Effie in as an Escort. Your Hunger Games world is possibly my favourite any fic-writer has created. That last line is so Effie. So naive, but also something I enjoy about her.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2013 02:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! It's hard to pinpoint the things Effie does that make her likeable, but it never rings false when Katniss and Peeta express actual affection for her in the books.
barbara_the_w From: barbara_the_w Date: June 7th, 2013 11:59 am (UTC) (Link)
oooh -- what an interesting take on Effie and Enobaria. How many years was Effie an escort before Katniss and Peeta came along?

I hope Eno has a chance for something to become, rather than just "not having to kill"...if Johanna gets a chance, she should, too.

Oh -- and I started Star-Crossed.
http://barbara-the-w.livejournal.com/82726.html
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2013 02:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think that Enobaria will like living someplace harsh, where she uses her wits and the strength of her back to survive... but in the process of building something that will last.

In my head, Effie became escort the year Katniss and Peeta were born.
redrikki From: redrikki Date: June 7th, 2013 01:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love the interaction between Caesar and Effie and the fact that she doesn't believe in lost causes even after the way her own future's been winnowed down.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2013 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
She may not actually realize how badly her future has been winnowed down.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 7th, 2013 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

Mmmmm....

The Effie one is really nice but.... It's not convincing me as a possible behind the canon moment.
I mean the Effie in the first book was repulsed by hammitch and was really tactless and "you're the best tributes i ever sponsored andvmaybe I'll get promoted to a better district now!"

Unless you're saying Effie became a really good actress and pretended to be vapid, I'm just not seeing first book Effie in this Effie

A
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2013 09:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Mmmmm....

I had her start looking for a new district when she kissed him spontaneously and he laughed at her and called her names, probably a couple of years down the line from this.

She has a pretty responsible job for someone who's apparently as vapid as she is, so I assume she has qualities Katniss doesn't notice.
shortysc22 From: shortysc22 Date: June 8th, 2013 12:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I really like it when you do these challenges and show us different scenes from your Hunger Games world. I really like Enobaria turning out to not be evil ad giving her motivation for changing her attitude, now that she's finally allowed to just be.

Also I've loved all of the insights into Effie's character.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 8th, 2013 06:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! Effie's kind of difficult because she always avoids thinking too deeply about anything, which is so not how I usually write... but she's fun.
12 comments or Leave a comment