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Repost: The Golden Mean, Chapter 14 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Repost: The Golden Mean, Chapter 14
Another one with some substantial additions and fixes, and a new end-point, because it was getting obnoxiously long. I'm going to archive chaps 13-15 once I get the new endings and beginnings synced up, in case someone is reading them there -- wouldn't want a gap. :D

Chapter Fourteen
Peeta pushes us harder every day, an almost maniacal taskmaster. He pushes himself hardest of all, straining against his bad leg, exercising in his garden long after he's let Katniss and me go, staying up late into the night taking notes on whatever we've watched, to analyze it the next day.

What we watch is the Games. Every night, a different victor. It's all the official tapes, none of the filler material that fills the gap between murders, but since all Peeta is interested in is how they fight, I guess the official record will do.

I do the math. Peeta may be worried about me being in bad shape and being too old, but in fact, I'm in the younger half of the pack (if not by much). Thirty-three victors are older than I am. Twenty-five are younger (it would have been twenty-four if Katniss hadn't saved Peeta last year). I don't think that Peeta has really let himself realize that all the training he's doing has a pretty good chance of going up against fifty-year-old arthritic grandparents who have enough brains not to take on a seventeen-year-old athlete in hand-to-hand combat. I don't mention it. If this ritual is helping him prepare himself, then I'm not going to stop him.

I just watch them, these people I've known for years without really thinking about the reason we know one another in the first place.

I see Saffron Abatty, who has frequently lectured me about my drinking, but has otherwise left me alone. She was the ninth victor. She trudges through a rainy, gray arena, leading the band of Careers for a little while before a lightning storm destroys most of their supplies, triggering an early melee. She walks away from it easily, then takes down the rest of the field. She's obviously got pneumonia at the end, but that seems to be her only injury. She's a sour old prude these days, and Drake once told me she spends half her time in Two trying to reform drunken quarry-workers. Still, she pulled me out of a bottle once when I needed to sober up quickly, so I guess I owe her.

I see Woof, from District Eight, giving terse, irritated answers in his interview with Candria Light before the Eighteenth Games. I've never thought of him as terse or unfriendly, but I can see now why he didn't exactly win over the country. He played pragmatically, intelligently -- nothing we can learn from, since he injured his head on an icy river several years ago, and it seems to have precipitated an early dementia.

Hennessey Doolin, who won the Twenty-Ninth Games, is some kind of kin to Finnick's father -- Odair's first name was Doolin -- though Finnick himself isn't clear on it. He's something of a charmer, getting the others in the Career pack to follow his lead without question… right up until he turned on them and killed them with a smile on his face. I personally don't doubt that he could do it again, but I don't think, even if Finnick isn't reaped, that he'll let an older man from Four go.

It's hard not to comment when I watch Seeder's Games, the Thirty-Eighth. The kids have some idea that she's a friend of mine, and don't say much themselves. She was heartbreakingly beautiful at eighteen, even after she took a number of wounds. She was also lethal. I always imagined that gentle, kind Seeder must have won defensively, but she didn't. She stayed away from the pack for the majority of the Games, but when she was down to the final five, she went hunting.

Two years after Seeder, Beetee waits out most of the Games in hiding, then shocks the field -- literally -- by wiring up the equipment left around the ruined cityscape and felling all of the remaining tributes. He does it almost casually. I like Beetee a great deal, and for the most part, he's just a small, nervous man with a soft voice. But it's never occurred to me to cross him. I saw these Games when I was six, and I guess that calm, casual manner must have stuck with me, because I've always thought of Beetee as a person who would kill me easily if I wronged him, and probably not be overly burdened by guilt over it later on.

Chaff's Games, a year later, are about as brutal as I'd have guessed. Almost a week before the end, his hand is crushed beneath a boulder, and he spends those final days in agony, his careful strategies falling apart as he loses sight of any goal other than stopping that pain by winning the crown.

The next year, Oliver Hedge -- already known as "Blight" in the logging camps, for reasons I've never known -- takes apart the opposition very efficiently. He doesn't use an axe. He uses fire, and takes out the Career camp in a single stroke before the Gamemakers think to make it rain.

We're getting closer to my Games. Miracle Brea, Faraday Sykes, Lucanus Bazzett, Wealthy Gibson, Etta Bossard -- all lead-up years to the Quell. Faraday detests me for reasons I've never been sure of, and I'm not terribly fond of her. Miracle and I deal with each other well enough. The others, I only know on sight. My mentor, Albinus Drake, was in this run of victors -- the Forty-Fourth Games -- but he's dead. He won't be reaped for the Quell, so Peeta didn't get his reels. I don't know how he won. Beetee told me that he did a lot of tracking before the Career melee, which he ran from, but that doesn't tell me much. He was bright, but not very creative, and he was definitely not physically the strongest in the pack. I stop myself from asking for the tape. I don't want to think of him in the Games.

We reach Brutus's Games -- the Forty-Ninth -- and watch him bluster through the whole thing. He's a standard Career winner: part of the hunting pack until melee, then besting the others through brute strength. He crows to the sky when the cannons go off, even as he's surrounded by the bodies of his erstwhile allies. Drake was his mentor, too, and does show up in the audience for the interviews. He looks excruciatingly bored. Maybe he didn't like Brutus much more than he liked me at first after all.

I won't tell Brutus this. He's a jackass, but he was always quite devoted to Drake, possibly the only human being I've ever known him to care about. Besides, maybe Drake warmed up to him after he won, like he did with me, though I can't imagine why.

I brace myself for my Quell, but Peeta just skips it without comment, moving on to Wiress's Games. I remember these well enough on my own. I was there, mentoring.

I start to pay less attention. My mind wanders off on tangents of what we were doing in any given year outside the arena. I don't share this with Peeta. In his current mood, I don't think he'd take it well.

We run every morning. I am hopeless at it. My lungs seize up and my legs don't want to cooperate. The old wound in my gut feels fresh and new.

Peeta can't get his hands on proper training weights, so we spend hours lifting buckets of water, rocks, and, on occasion, Katniss. Katniss insists on trying to lift us, but doesn't get far.

She can't get to her bows and arrows to teach us archery, but she does her best to teach aim with darts from Murphy's Pub (where Ruth gets my beer), and later, throwing knives. She seems annoyed that I can't hit the house with my knife, but this is nothing new. In the arena, I only had one extra knife, and it didn't seem like a good idea to throw it away. For Katniss, this is unthinkable. She's getting stronger on the training regimen, but she just doesn't have the build to be a physical player and never will. Peeta tries to teach her wrestling moves to throw an opponent, but she's as hopeless at it as I am at throwing knives. She depends completely on ranged weapons. She doesn't understand that Peeta and I can handle fighting in close quarters better than she can. She tells Peeta she doesn't want him getting in close to anyone anyway, and makes him practice throwing. He gets better. I do not.

April melts away. Katniss shows us what she can find inside the fence as far as edible plants go, but it's not much. She claims that the dandelions our groundskeeper keeps pulling up are one of the best plants around (a statement which inexplicably causes her to blush and look away from Peeta, though he doesn't notice it). Peeta asks how they can figure out whether a new plant is edible, and we spend an afternoon with Ruth trying to figure it out, but nothing is surefire. If you're starving, the time it takes to determine toxicity could kill you anyway. Katniss turns seventeen at the beginning of May, and we don't pay any attention to it. Peeta turns seventeen three weeks later, and we ignore that, too.

The gossip rags from the Capitol are full of gambling news. Katniss and Peeta supposedly have good odds. I am presumed to have some magical power to save them both by various fans of their romance -- unless I go into the arena, in which case my odds are nowhere near as good as theirs. My Games are not shown often, for obvious reasons, and all the audience sees when they are shown is me being rescued by Maysilee and walking aimlessly through the woods. Johanna Mason has fanatic followers in the Capitol, and also has good odds. Finnick is regularly near the top. Beetee -- who will certainly be in the arena -- is spoken of in mournful tones… what a shame it will be to lose him. Wiress isn't even remembered.

During all of this, Hazelle keeps my house pin neat, and takes it upon herself to put fresh wildflowers in all the vases. She cooks every damned thing in the world that I like, if she can get hold of it. We don't sleep together again, but she is kind to me, and one morning, when she comes in very early and accidentally wakes me up from a nightmare (all I remember is holding the kids while they burn in my arms), she takes my knife away from me gingerly, then crawls into bed and holds me until the horror goes away.

That morning, I take her for a walk around the green and warn her, as well as I can, that something is coming. I can't be as explicit with her as I was with Danny, because she has never been in the inner circles, but I tell her to be ready, and to have an escape route. She seems frightened by the knowledge, but holds my hands tightly and promises to do what she can. She kisses me goodbye.

The next day, I get a notice that I am not a licensed employer in District Twelve -- and that even if I were, I have abused my position -- and Hazelle is sent home by Peacekeepers pretending to be solicitous of her welfare.

Two days later, I see Danny come into Victors' Village. He goes to Peeta's house, and the light goes on in the kitchen. They stay there all evening. At sunset, I see the Peacekeepers headed in to oust him -- he's not a legal resident of the Village -- and I go out and give them a few vague threats about the likelihood that Peeta will fight with them, and the possible consequences of him showing up bruised on national television.

They go.

I watch Danny and Peeta through the window for a while, rolling out dough on a table, moving around each other quietly. After a while, Danny sits down with his head in his hands, and Peeta sits beside him, putting a comforting arm over his shoulders.

I go back to my empty house.

The next day, Effie arrives for the Reaping.

There are no surprises.

Effie draws Katniss's name out of an otherwise empty bowl, then draws mine only to have Peeta volunteer. I don't fight it. I look back at the gathered crowd. On the bakery steps, Jonadab Mellark is holding up the baby to see her uncle. I don't know if Peeta even sees it. Mirrem and Danny are holding hands, looking tired and beaten. Delly Cartwright is weeping against Ed's shoulder. Ed looks like holding her is the only thing keeping him from killing everyone in sight. Ruth and Prim are standing together stoically in the crowd, Gale Hawthorne protecting them both. Hazelle gives me a long, unreadable look, then puts her arm around Ruth and starts comforting her.

It's the first time in years that I've had anyone I wanted to say goodbye to, but Thread gleefully announces that there will be no time for goodbyes as we are all but frog-marched to the train. I hear Peeta tell Katniss something about writing letters. I don't think she'll even make an attempt.

Effie follows me to my compartment and puts her foot in when I try to close the door.

"What is it?" I ask. "I don't want to talk."

"I have a letter for you. From Cinna." She holds out a white envelope with his company seal on it.

I take it. "Oh. Thanks."

She looks down, her crazy gold wig catching the sunlight and throwing it in bursts around the cabin. Her eyes seem sunken under the make-up, and I guess she's been doing her share of crying lately. Even the way she is now, she doesn't want this. "What are you going to do?"

"Best I can," I say.

She bites her lip, then reaches up and touches my face briefly. I meet her eyes. The girl she once was is very close to the surface now, but I know if I try to reach her, she'll run -- back to her pills, back to Capitol Dreams, back to anything that makes it less real. I squeeze her hand.

There's nothing else to say. She leaves. I open the letter from Cinna.

Haymitch,
I guess you're not looking forward to these Games. I can't say I am, either, but the Head Gamemaker has given us quite a schedule. Peeta will have three major costumes, and Katniss will have four. The big ones will be for the parade. They have eleven circuits in each of them. Portia's outdone herself!

I thought the mentors' meeting with the Gamemakers before the parade would be from seven to eight, but it turns out it'll be six to eight instead, so don't be late. It's all planned out, and you know how touchy the Gamemakers can be.

Be careful. Let's try to avoid the alcohol poisoning this time around.

Cinna


There has occasionally been a meeting of the mentors while tributes are being prepped, though usually we're left alone to meet with sponsors. It may even, by coincidence, be from six to eight o'clock before the parade, though that would be sort of late for it. It's generally in the afternoon before the parade. Cinna's note is telling me that the real meeting will be "late," and that Plutarch's got at least six districts in on it (3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 11), and supposedly has a plan. I have not been impressed with Plutarch's "plans" so far, but I don't have a choice.

District Six is a surprise. Berenice Morrow has been helpful, sure, but she's not the most reliable ally in the world. She's usually done up on morphling to a point where I doubt she even knows who's in charge.

Generally speaking, this is the point in the trip to the Capitol where I start drinking, but I promised, and the gradually dwindling supply of beer over the last few months has helped the overbearing demand for it from my body. The mental demand is still there, though, and thinking about where I'm going and why gives me a raging desire to go to the bar car. I resist. I am fairly miserable through supper, and while I appreciate Effie's refusal of her own wine to support me, I'm in no mood to say anything at all. And if she starts dressing us up like a matched set of salt and pepper shakers, which she threatens, I may have to do something desperate.

I would rather not think about who's going into the arena, but of course, we have to. We have to know who we're up against. Effie turns on the recaps of the Reapings.

Gloss and Cashmere from One -- I've had a few drinks with them in the better quality bars in the Capitol. I don't have much of an opinion. Cashmere was a bit cool to me after Katniss dropped tracker jackers on her tribute, but Gloss was actually at least a little bit ashamed of Marvel's trap to spear Rue. He admires Katniss's archery skills, but he'll try to get any bow they put in the Cornucopia.

Enobaria and Brutus from District Two, no surprise. Brutus loves the Games. He nearly pushes aside the rest of the victors to volunteer in place of one of the younger men (a scarred kid named Philo who won after Finnick's games). Enobaria is Reaped normally, but she responds to it with a victory sign and a war whoop. There are six other women in the pool there. None of them volunteer, and one, a middle-aged woman who I only know vaguely, since she doesn’t come to the Games, looks openly disgusted with the proceedings. She leans over and whispers something to Saffron, who nods solemnly.

Beetee and Wiress aren't just the only living victors in District Three, but the only victors they've ever had. The Reaping is just a formality.

The first surprise comes in District Four. I had envisioned Mags being drawn, and a younger victor volunteering for her. Instead, Annie Cresta is drawn, and at the sound of her screams, Mags herself volunteers. There's one other female victor -- Desandi Matta -- but she doesn't step forward. Finnick is Reaped next. The other two male victors -- old Hennesy Doolin and a man named Harris Greaves, who once killed my tribute by drowning him face-first in the mud -- don't even make a move. In years past, there would have been more, but Four's status as an effective career district has been on the decline for a while.

District Five -- Faraday Sikes, who mentored Finch last year and gets a nod for her tribute's cleverness, and Thalis Dorgan, a man who makes me look like an exemplar of sobriety. We went on a bender together once, but that's really all I know.

Six, like Three, only has two victors, Berenice Morrow and Paulin Gibbs. At the Reaping, they're so done up on morphling that I'm not sure they even know what's happening. Berenice gapes at the Reaping balls, and says the light on them is pretty and makes rainbows.

Johanna is the only female victor from Seven. Between the two men, it turns out to be Blight Hedge, which I guess means that Jack Anderson will be the mentor. He hasn't mentored since Johanna won and took over mentoring the girl, though he comes for the parade and is a huge fan of Cinna's.

I can barely stand to watch Eight. Cecelia's children won't let go of her, but there's no choice here, either. Woof has to be told that his name has been called and guided up to the stage. His wife watches stoically. The sleeve of her dress has been deliberately torn.

District Nine has always kept to itself. They have three female victors and two men, all older than I am, at least by a little bit, and very reserved. I don't know them. Thelma Cotton and Hector Whiting are drawn.

District Ten has four victors, two of each flavor. I've had meals with all of them at one point or another. They choose Kate Markez and Earl Bates. Earl's talent was doing some kind of western dancing, and he always likes to entertain people in Capitol bars, teaching them to kick up their heels. The other man, Toffilis Taggart, goes up and whispers something urgently to the escort, who shrugs without any concern.

In District Eleven, there are only Chaff and Seeder. Two of my oldest friends, the first victors to take me in after I won. I knew it going in, but actually seeing it is something else. They don't weep, and no one makes a fuss, but I know Eleven. Somewhere, the rebellion is taking action already.

Of the districts Cinna named in his note, four of them have no extra victors at all, which means that their representatives will be assigned from the victor pools where there are extras, mostly One and Two. That's not a good sign.

I can't take it anymore. I go back to my compartment to sleep. I know there will be nightmares, but the waking world isn't much better. Sure enough, I'm in the arena with Katniss and Peeta, and they die, over and over. Maysilee shows up, covered with blood and shaking in her final moments. Digger melts on the fence. Somewhere, I hear Caesar Flickerman say, "So, Haymitch, what do you think of the Games having one hundred percent more competitors than usual?" I hear myself answer -- all the bitterness of my life on the Seam boiled down into a few words -- and then fall deeper into sleep. I'm walking with Maysilee, who is also Katniss and Digger and Hazelle and Ruth. She dies. She comes back. Dies again. Peeta is buried in the mud, but when I dig him out, it's just his severed head. Katniss screams and tries to kill me.

Maysilee wants to know where we are going. She doesn't want us to be the last two. I try to tell her we could try nightlock berries, but she just keeps walking away, and I am laughing. I hear myself laughing.

The dream changes, and I am in a dark room, and I feel like I'm moving. I pick up my knife and get up. I hear Maysilee scream.

I blink.

I am not dreaming.

I'm on the train, in my compartment. Maysilee is still screaming. I put the knife down and open the door, head down the train toward the sound. There is a flickering light in the television room. I see the kids on the couch. They are watching my Games. They don't even notice me behind them. I watch myself take Maysilee's hand, hold it tight. I know she won't say anything, but I want her to. I'm not sure what I want her to say, but I remember feeling like, if she could just speak, somehow, she'd explain it all.

The highlight tape cuts away after her cannon goes off, switching to the other players. It doesn't show me picking up Maysilee's body, trying to make her wake up. It doesn't show me sitting there for two hours, thinking that I can be there when the hovercraft comes. Thinking I can take my knife and start taking them out, same as I took out the Careers when they attacked me. Of course, they just send down the hook, blasting me away with a harsh wind, giving me a concussion until nightfall. I never see any of them. When I come to, I decide then to win, whatever it takes, because I want to get out of this arena and kill them all. I'm pretty sure I actually yelled that at the hovercraft, but that, of course, was not preserved for posterity.

The tape moves on to showing that insane girl from District One (her name was Filigree) killing her one remaining district partner in hand to hand combat. She was crazy even in training, and freakishly large, at least to my malnourished District Twelve eyes. She was the one who slit Beech's throat at the Cornucopia.

I go to the mini-bar and grab a bottle of wine. If I'm going to watch what I assume I'm about to watch, to hell with sobriety. The last of the other boys, Kushi Rowe, is attacked by a pack of those golden squirrels, and it's down to me and Filigree. The highlights skip the hours of us hunting each other and go straight to me dropping out of a tree in front of her and taking a wild swing at her with my knife. I know my plan is to trick her into the forcefield. Not originally to use the reflexive properties, but to actually throw the crazy bitch herself into it.

She was faster and stronger than I anticipated. I can no longer remember what it felt like when her axe slammed into my side. They cleaned up the scar on the outside, of course, though there's still scar tissue inside, and I ended up losing a foot of my small intestine. I took another wild swing with my knife that ended up in her eye, and I twisted, hoping that I'd make it to her brain. She pushed me off, not hard in my condition, and pulled my knife out of her own head to throw away.

The forcefield was all I had left, and I ran for it. The whole world narrowed down to the race between my death and the cliff. That run seemed to go on longer than the rest of the Games combined. Even when I got to the cliff, I thought I'd lost. I couldn't go a step further. The world went dark. I honestly don't remember her throwing her axe, or it coming back over me. I only know about it because I've seen this tape before. I was unconscious by then. I was out of commission for the better part of the month, the first of many times in my career as a victor that I infuriated Snow.

I slowly become aware that the tape is no longer playing. Peeta is talking rapidly, and I have never heard him sound so impressed. "...Haymitch found a way to turn it into a weapon!"

Katniss is staring at the screen, an astounded smile on her face. "Not just against the other tributes, but the Capitol, too! You know they didn't expect that to happen. It wasn't meant to be part of the arena. They never planned on anyone using it as a weapon. It made them look stupid that he figured it out. I bet they had a good time trying to spin that one. Bet that's why I don't remember seeing it on television. It's almost as bad as us and the berries!" She laughs, and it's the first time I've seen hope on her face since... well, even before the Reaping, Katniss Everdeen wasn't exactly known for being a glass-half-full type.

She's proud of me.

I can't be angry at them for grabbing the tape. Hell, I probably should have told them about it a long time ago. She knows what it meant, even with my raving edited out. And that the Capitol was not stupid enough to miss it -- that it was almost as bad as her handful of poison berries. I say, "Almost, but not quite."

They turn and look at me guiltily, but I take a swig of wine and smile at them. We all understand each other now, I think. They smile back.

I ruffle Peeta's hair and say, "Get some sleep. And I mean sleep, or Effie'll kill us all before the Gamemakers get their chance."

They laugh. I go back to my compartment and sleep the rest of the night through. The kids are still asleep on the couch when we pull into the Capitol, and the television is on, playing a musical about Capitol kids who really want to win a singing contest. It looks like the most scandalous thing they did was have a popcorn fight.

The crowd at the train station is weirdly subdued. Katniss and Peeta have only been here once, and I doubt they notice it, but this is my twenty-fifth trip, and I know what's normal. They're usually screaming and dancing at the sight of tributes. Today, they're watching solemnly, with wide eyes. A teenage girl sporting what Effie calls "the natural trend" -- a long braid and no makeup -- who has pushed her way up to the front to see Katniss takes one look and buries herself in her boyfriend's arms. The boy comforts her, then looks up at me and raises his fist. I don't know what that means. It could mean that he's trying to say he's on our side, or that somehow, he blames me for this predicament. It's hard to tell in the Capitol.

Katniss is whisked off for prep as soon as we get to the training center. Peeta only has a few minutes longer, during which he confers quietly with Effie about something, and hands her his camera. Then Claudia and Sergius drag him off for hair and skin treatment. Valentine isn't needed quite yet (though I see she's carrying her trusty syringe). I ask her for more detox pills. She already has a large bottle ready for me.

"You make sure to take them," she says quietly, and I guess that Portia has told her that I wasn't afflicted with alcohol poisoning last time I was here. "Every day."

"I will," I tell her.

She starts crying. "Why are they doing this? Why would they kill Peeta?"

"Why would they have done it last year?" I ask.

She has no answer. I don't know if she's working through it and realizing what I mean, or if she just thinks the difference between a victor and tribute is too obvious to mention, but she leaves without saying another word.

When Cinna arrives, he's not surprised by this. "Octavia's been having crying jags since they announced the Quell," he says, turning on the water in the kitchenette. "Girls are getting in trouble in school for writing stories where Peeta and Katniss escape together. Sometimes with Finnick. My neighbor's daughter was suspended from school for saying they should be allowed to live."

"Doesn't sound like what was intended."

"Sure it does. This one's as much a punishment for the Capitol as the districts. They had the nerve to be on Katniss's side." He turns off the water and fishes a black box out of his coat pocket. "Effie says you're not interested in picking a district token for yourself, so I took the liberty." He tosses me the box.

I open it. It's a solid gold bracelet engraved with flames. "I wasn't interested in picking one because I'm not interested in being a matched set."

"You never know when a matched set is useful," Cinna says. "So shut up and wear it."

He waits for me to put it on, then leaves to get Katniss ready for the tribute parade.

A few minutes later, I'm summoned down for an actual mentors' meeting, which will go from three until five (Effie says she'll take the sponsor meetings she set up for me). If there's anything from six to eight, I'm not told about it.

Plutarch is at the head of the room when I get in, but he doesn't acknowledge me in any particular way.

So many of the regular mentors are being prepped as tributes that it seems like a gathering of strangers, even though I have a vague knowledge of them. Districts One and Two can afford two mentors per team as usual, plus extras to look after Three, Six, and Eight. Some of the younger mentors seem confused by it, but until every district had a winner (District Six was the last), there were loaners every year. One of the new ones is the stern looking woman from Two who I noticed talking to Saffron. Her name turns out to be Lyme -- we watched her Games, but she barely resembles the girl on the tape -- and she tells me that she'll be mentoring Berenice and Paulin. She ignores the sympathetic glances she gets from regulars, and the snickers she gets from the other District Two victors. She is chatting in a friendly way with Philo, the scarred kid who was first Reaped before Brutus volunteered.

When she turns, I see her earrings. They are solid gold, out of place with her austere appearance. They are shaped like flames.

I look up and down the table. Harris Greaves from Four has flames on his cufflinks. (Annie is not present, which makes me nervous.) Jack Anderson from Seven, always a little flamboyant (so to speak), has dyed his hair red and orange and yellow. Toffilis Taggart from Ten has been called to mentor for Eleven, and has a giant gold belt-buckle that depicts a campfire. I glance at the Career mentors assigned to District Three and District Eight, but they have nothing identifiable happening. The other victor from Ten, assigned to her own district, is also clear of rebel signs. It's definitely planned. I push up my cuff and show my bracelet, then hide it again.

Plutarch is wearing a vest with a subtle red and orange embroidery on it. He calls the meeting to order. Most of it is standard instruction, the sort of thing I got my first year, which hasn't been mandatory for experienced mentors since before Finnick's Games. I assume it's a cover for something coming later. He reminds us of the new rule from last year, that district gifts can't be transferred.

"What if there's an alliance?" Lyme asks. "And our tributes decide to share?"

"That's their business," Plutarch tells her dismissively.

"You can tell she hasn't mentored for a while," one of the District One mentors whispers loudly.

"Neither have you," I say. "Given that I've been here twenty-four years and I've never seen you in the Viewing Center."

His face goes red, and he shuts up.

Plutarch waits for this to pass, then goes on. "I have also been instructed to inform you -- and strongly advise you to inform your tributes -- that there will be no exceptions this year. There will be no testing of the Games, and no changes in the rules. I assure you that this year's arena is not a place to express dissent."

"What is this year's arena?" Jack asks, possibly to disguise his dismay at having to tell Johanna Mason that she can't express anything she damned well pleases in any place she chooses to express it.

Plutarch smiles. "I can't very well tell you, can I? But I think District Four may well enjoy it."

I somehow doubt that anyone will enjoy it, but I guess that's a hint that there will be a lot of water. This is nothing any of them can train for, unless they've installed a swimming pool in the training center since last year.

After prattling for almost forty-five minutes, Plutarch checks his watch and says, "That's all for most of us, but I'd like the following mentors to remain. Most of you are new or have been away for a while, and Haymitch Abernathy always needs reminders."

I make a rude gesture at him, which gets a laugh from everyone but Fulvia, who's appeared at his side at some point in the proceedings.

Plutarch looks down at a list and begins to call names -- everyone who's wearing a flame sign, and no one who isn't.

The others leave, and for a long moment, we all look at each other, sizing each other up. I'm wondering how many of the newcomers might be spies, and it occurs to me that many of them might be wondering if they've walked into a trap.

But it's too late to indulge suspicions.

The rebellion has to start now.
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Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 19th, 2015 07:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Hey Fern, I don't comment nearly as much as I should, but I am really enjoying reading your updated version of this story. Everything you've added seems to enrich your already great world even more. I especially enjoyed seeing more of the other victors, now that you would know them a bit better yourself.

Two catches I noticed:

"She is chatting in a friendly with Philo, the scarred kid who was first Reaped before Brutus volunteered. "

-missing a "way" between friendly and with?


District Five -- Faraday Sikes, who mentored Finch last year, and Thalis Dorgan, Finch's mentor last year, a man who makes me look like an exemplar of sobriety. We went on a bender together once, but that's really all I know.

-which one was Finch's mentor?

Can't wait for more.

-Maraudercat
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 19th, 2015 04:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, shoot, I carefully changed Thalis's status to just someone Haymitch once went on a bender with. I wonder how in the world I ended up undoing that change!
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 19th, 2015 09:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, loving these "thickened" chapters.

"I start to pay less attention. My mind wanders off on tangents of what we were doing in any given year outside the arena. I share this with Peeta. In his current mood, I don't think he'd take it well."

Don't share, right?

Oh, I am not looking forward to losing Haymitch's friends...
~Karen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 19th, 2015 11:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I spotted that on a read-through and grabbed it. I think -- now I need to check again!
redrikki From: redrikki Date: April 20th, 2015 07:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
I thought Hamitch's thoughts/ critiques of the other Victor's games was interesting. I also liked how you took the flame motif from the book and expanded it to make a nice shorthand so everyone knew who their friends were.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2015 12:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. I wasn't sure about adding the bit where he's watching the older Games, but I figure that has to be an odd feeling for him.
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