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HG: Golden Mean, Chapter Fourteen - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
HG: Golden Mean, Chapter Fourteen
Can't... stop... writing...

Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch have been training for a few months, and the time has come for the Reaping.



Chapter Fourteen
There are no surprises at the Reaping. 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 Dannel 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. "What are you going to do?"

"Best I can," I say.

This is all there is to say. She nods and 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 in 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 is always a meeting of the mentors while tributes are being prepped. It may even, by coincidence, be from six to eight o'clock before the parade, though that would be sort of late for it. 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, let alone developed a plan for overthrowing him.

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, 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.

Enobaria and Brutus from District Two, no surprise. Brutus loves the Games, which says all I think needs to be said about him. He nearly pushes aside the rest of the victors to volunteer in place of one of the younger men. Enobaria is Reaped normally, but she responds to it with a victory sign and a war whoop. There are three other women in the pool there. None of them volunteer, and one, a middle-aged woman who I've never seen make the trip to the Capitol, looks disgusted. I suddenly remember Thread telling me that there were rebels among the victors in Two.

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, but she doesn't step forward. Finnick is Reaped next. The other male victor (an idiot named Harris Greaves) doesn'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, and a lot of their early victors have passed on.

District Five -- a middle-aged woman named Faraday Sikes, who mentors irregularly, and Thalis Dorgan, Finch's mentor last year, and a man who makes me look like an exemplar of sobriety. We went on a bender together four years ago, but that's really all I know.

Six, like Three, only has two victors, Berenice Morrow and Paulin Gibbs. They won three years apart, and have spent the decades since then in a morphling stupor together. At the Reaping, 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 Lawrence, which I guess means that Jack Anderson will be the mentor. He's skipped the Games since Johanna won and took over mentoring the girl.

I can barely stand to watch Eight. Cecilia's children won't let go of her, but there's no choice here, either. Poor old Woof has to be told that his name has been called. He's been deaf for years.

District Nine has always kept to itself. They have three female victors and two men, all fairly elderly. I don't know them.

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.

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.

Of the districts Cinna named, four of them have no mentors 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. I never see any of them. 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, but of course, that 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 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 good bit 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 was unconscious by then. The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital, feeling like my guts were on fire. My borrowed mentor didn't bother showing up, but Chaff and Seeder were there.

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 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... 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."

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.

There 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 quickly with Effie about something. 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 poems about how 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.

I get a summons down to the mentors' meeting at the usual time, and am not surprised to find that it is a more or less general meeting. Plutarch is there, but he doesn't acknowledge me in any particular way.

It's a strange meeting, with so many of the usual mentors off being prepped as tributes. Districts One and Two can afford two mentors per team as usual, plus extras to look after Three, Six, and Eight. None of them are the regulars, and at least one -- the stern looking middle-aged woman from Two -- has not been at any of the Games in the time I've been coming. She identifies herself as Lyme, and will be the mentor for Paulin and Berenice from Six. She ignores the sympathetic glances she gets from regulars, and the snickers she gets from the other District Two victors.

I try to remember a victor named Lyme and fail, then I realize -- in District Two, they almost always ape the Capitol, with old fashioned names in the language Plutarch calls Latin. She must have had a different name as a tribute, and changed it as a victor. Changed it to something that stands for the workaday backbone of District Two: the stone quarries. I realize I must be looking at one of the seditious District Two victors Thread mentioned. 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. One of the male victors from Ten has been called to mentor for Eleven, and has a giant gold belt-buckle that depicts a campfire. I glance at the District One 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. It is mostly the same thing it is every year: rules about sponsorships, the expectations for mentors (he sternly reminds the guest mentors that they are expected to be working for their tributes, not their districts), the modes of communication to which we'll have access. He says that last year's new rule prohibiting district gifts to tributes from another district stands.

"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-five years and never saw you at one of these meetings before."

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 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.

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." This gets a laugh, then Plutarch calls everyone wearing a flame symbol. He dismisses the others. Since all of us are mentoring rebellious districts -- and I'm willing to bet Katniss isn't the only one to put the pieces together and figure this out -- the others will probably assume that it's a reminder about the politics of the situation. Which, in a way, it is.

As soon as they're gone, Plutarch puts a device on the table that makes a horrible screeching sound. We cover our ears until it fades. A side door opens and two women I recognize from the stylists' pool come in. One of them has snips of wire all over her clothes, and a giant, flame-shaped hair-clip. The other is carrying a bolt of red cloth. Plutarch gestures to them. "Our liaisons for Districts Eight and Three," he says. "Come in, ladies."

They come in and sit down.

"Where is Annie Cresta?" I ask.

Harris sighs. "She was pretty upset at the Reaping--"

"I saw that."

"Yeah, well, the Peacekeepers told us she was too fragile to travel. Finnick's pretty sure they're keeping a close eye on her."

"Great."

"Well, we do have a few friends among the Peacekeepers, and the mayor's one of us, so hopefully, that'll keep her out of trouble long enough to get her into rebel hands. They do hold the shipyards, and they're clearing the mines out of the bay."

Plutarch looks dour. "I was not exaggerating my warning. What we are planning here will have consequences beyond anything we've seen before."

"We know," Lyme says impatiently.

"And you've all talked to your tributes about our goal concerning the mockingjay?"

They shift uncomfortably, and Jack says, "Well, I'm sure you can imagine Johanna's reaction. She thinks the whole thing is crazy, pinning everything on a... well, we'll translate what she called her to 'a silly teenager.' But she's on board. She knows that most of the country saw those berries as a declaration of rebellion. So she'll do what she has to."

"Cecilia as well," the District Eight stylist says. I doubt she knows exactly what's happening next. "Cecilia sent this." She unfolds a few flaps of fabric from her bolt, and pulls out a paper on which Cecilia has drawn a mockingjay. It is surrounded protectively by the number 8.

Lyme takes the paper and looks at it for a long time. "Does this child have the slightest idea what's happening?"

"No," I admit.

"Have you asked her about it?"

"She says she wants to start an uprising."

"That's not an answer."

"I told you," Plutarch says, "we have to earn her trust before we can reveal ourselves to her. And, may I remind you, if the Capitol realizes that anything untoward is going on, they will scoop up Katniss and Peeta first. It's not good for them to know anything."

Lyme looks at the mockingjay drawing again, then says, softly, "Poor kids."

"So we've all agreed to keep the mockingjay alive? All of your tributes have agreed?"

There is general consent.

"Then we're about done," Plutarch says.

"No, we're not," I say. "There's one other thing..."
9 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
shortysc22 From: shortysc22 Date: January 22nd, 2013 02:27 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm curious what Haymitch has up his sleeve here that he's going to try and bargain for or if he's also trying to warn everyone what he's learned about the possible coal shortage and what it could mean for District 12.

I'm excited you're on such a fast paced writing spree and hope this keeps up.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2013 03:03 am (UTC) (Link)
He just needs to tell them that it's not just Katniss who needs to be kept alive.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 22nd, 2013 02:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Thanks

"Can't... stop... writing..."

Because you're "catching fire." ;)

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Really enjoying the streak for however long it lasts.

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2013 03:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thanks

Heheheh.

I'm enjoying it, too.
lollapulizer From: lollapulizer Date: January 22nd, 2013 03:00 am (UTC) (Link)
This is where Haymitch tells them they have to keep Peeta alive as well, right? Because the conversation was very Katniss focused.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2013 03:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Yup.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 22nd, 2013 03:37 am (UTC) (Link)
I felt really bad for Katniss in this chapter, with the whole rebellion she is the figure head for going on behind her back. But this was an awesome chapter. I can't wait to see more of the games from Haymitch's perspective. Thanks!
Robin
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2013 04:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that always felt wrong to me. I even question Cinna sometimes (I know, blasphemy) for doing that mockingjay dress WITHOUT ASKING HER if she wanted it.
dipsas From: dipsas Date: January 22nd, 2013 07:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yay! Enjoying this very much - and your writing pace too! :)
9 comments or Leave a comment