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HG: Golden Mean, Chapter Nineteen - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
HG: Golden Mean, Chapter Nineteen
Haymitch's final Games have not started well -- after being interrogated all night, he's dropped into the viewing center, where, just as the tributes rise up, he gets a call from Portia, saying that there's been an accident, and Cinna is dead.



Part Three: Games


Chapter Nineteen
Portia's words hang in the air: Cinna's dead.

I can't seem to process it. I talked to him only hours ago, and we worked around the dress. Around the treason.

I look at the screen, where Katniss is trying to get control of herself, and I remember Snow saying, "I'm sure Miss Everdeen would be utterly bereft without her stylist tomorrow morning."

It was never about the dress. And whatever "accident" happened, it happened in front of Katniss.

She manages to stop her shaking as the clock ticks down. She straightens up and looks out over the water. The gong sounds. She jumps and swims for her life.

On the phone, Portia is still weeping. "I'm sorry," she says, "I know you have to watch... the Games... I... can't come back... Cinna was my... sponsor... I'm not a citizen..."

Effie, listening on an earpiece, takes the microphone from me and says, "Don't be ridiculous, put someone on. I'm a citizen and I'll sponsor you..."

I can't think about it. I can't take the time at all. It's a lousy tribute to someone who has now given his last measure to free people whose lives he never needed to have a stake in.

Two small screens are set into my viewing table, one with a permanent shot on Peeta, and the other on Katniss. Peeta hasn't left his platform. He's frowning uncertainly at the water, crouching down to test it, which, come to think of it, is probably smart. Katniss has cleared most of the distance to the little central island where the Cornucopia sits.

She gets to it first, just a breath ahead of Finnick. I have no idea where she learned to swim, though I doubt it's in her "big bathtub," which is what she tells Finnick when he asks. She's being hostile, which doesn't surprise me, given what she must have just seen. When she's upset, hostile is her natural stance.

He grins and says, "Lucky thing we're allies, right?"

Finnick shows her my bracelet. She blinks at it, leveling an arrow at him, then says, "Right."

There's no room for further debate. Thalis Dorgan from Five, against all probabilities, makes it to the beach next. Finnick throws his trident, and the first tribute falls. Apparently Finnick's game is not to keep everyone alive. He whispers something to her that I can't hear, then Enobaria and Gloss are headed up the beach, Brutus close behind. It's either be allies or be dead, and Katniss decides in an eyeblink to follow Finnick's lead... at least for now. They manage to fend off the Career pack, but Finnick pulls her away from the Cornucopia.

The large screen coverage remains on the Cornucopia. I can see Katniss and Finnick on her small screen, and I plug in an earphone to hear them, though there's not much to hear. At the table next to me, Toffilis Taggart is watching Seeder pull herself onto one of the long spokes of land. Chaff doesn't swim well without his hand, and he's foundering, but no one seems to be coming after him.

The dominant screen shows Brutus, Enobaria, Cashmere, and Gloss taking up positions at the Cornucopia, arming themselves extravagantly.

"Looks like you took a hit," Cashmere says, punching Brutus in the stomach, where the flotation belt he was wearing is now gone. It's lying on the sand with an arrow through it, bleeding out something purple.

"Yeah," he says. "I'll never recover. Good thing I can swim." He grins and hands her a quarterstaff. "Sorry, sweetie, but it looks like someone beat you to your bows and arrows."

She shoves by him and says, "I still think I can do better than a stick."

"I've heard that about you."

"Think you can do without one?" She digs through the pile and comes up with two flails. There's also a chakram, but she discards it. That's the danger of veterans in the arena. They know there's no point wasting time on weapons they don't know how to use, though I expect she'll dump it in the water to take it from whoever it was meant for. She continues her search for ranged weapons.

Enobaria and Gloss are digging through the hoard like a pair of kids at a birthday party. There aren't many weapons that either of them can't use.

On my little screens, I see that Finnick has swum out to get Peeta while Katniss guards -- this is the first time I've felt hopeful that she'll stay in the alliance. Trusting him with Peeta is the biggest step she can take. Peeta crouches down and says, "Haymitch says I can trust you."

"Never doubt Haymitch," Finnick says. "Come on. Let's get you to dry land. Can that leg take saltwater?"

"Hope so. Never tried it."

"First time for everything," Finnick says. "Come on. Jump in. I'll steer."

Peeta jumps in. In the next section, I can see Mags from the corner of my eye, paddling along without a care in the world.

"No!"

I look up. At the Cornucopia, old Woof from District Seven has collapsed onto the sand, bleeding from a knife wound in his side. Cecelia, running up from wherever she swam in from, grabs a rock from the beach and lobs it at Gloss, pushing him back. She puts her arms under Woof's and tries to drag him away. Enobaria comes at them slowly, smiling and raising a short sword.

Cecelia grabs a handful of sand and pebbles and runs forward, throwing it all into Enobaria's face and knocking her down. She rolls away, presenting Enobaria's back to Brutus, who was coming with his knife, then kicks her up and into him, making a crazy dash for the pile of weapons. She grabs the first thing that comes into her hand, which happens to be the chakram Cashmere rejected. She throws it wildly, cutting her hand, and it slices through Gloss's bicep, then skids into the water. She fishes further and comes up with a pair of tomahawks, and runs back to Woof, but it's too late. She makes a choked, strangled sound and closes his eyes, but has no time to mourn further, because Cashmere is on her, striking with her flails. Blossoms of blood come up on Cecelia's back.

Someone taps my shoulder and I jump.

"I'm sorry," Effie whispers. "Haymitch, I'm very sorry about all of this."

"Thank you."

"I have to go to the Justice Building and sign some forms for Portia," she says.

"Bring her straight here when you get her back," I tell her. I have a feeling that, sponsor or no, Portia is not safe in the Capitol. I want her on Plutarch's escape.

Effie nods and starts to leave. I grab her hand. She turns. "What is it?"

"Stay safe," I say. "And... you're a good person, Effie."

She squeezes my hand, then gives me an exasperated sigh and puts my hair in order. She turns and leaves.

I can't watch her go. Paulin Gibbs has reached the shore. His usual vacant expression is gone, and for the first time since his Games, I see the boy who won. He tears Enobaria away from Cecelia and throws her in the sand, but suddenly, his chest bursts open, and a spear comes through it. He falls. Behind him, Gloss is smiling, having a grand game. He comes forward and retrieves his spear, sliding Paulin off of it like shish kabob and rolling him away into the water.

Cecelia has struggled to her feet, and she stumbles back to find Seeder, who's wrestled the short-sword away from Enobaria. Enobaria scrambles back to the Cornucopia for more weapons. Cecelia and Seeder stand back to back. Seeder is striking at people with the flat of her blade, trying to disarm. "Axes," Cecelia says, looking at her tomahawks. "For Jo. We should go."

Seeder nods. They start to make their way across the beach, fending off thrown weapons. Cecelia scoops some up.

Claudius's voice comes up, and I look at the screen that's showing the official broadcast. "Looks like we have three alliances already -- Districts One and Two, as always, and the surprise alliance of Districts Twelve and Four. And now, we seem to have a ladies' only club!" He shows my team struggling through the woods, Peeta chopping at the vines with his knife while Finnick carries Mags and Katniss keeps her bow at the ready. The Careers are regrouping and rearming. Seeder and Cecelia are fighting now with the tributes from District Nine. The camera closes on one of the tomahawks, then cuts to Johanna, who is ignoring the Cornucopia and swimming around the edge of the island. I hope she's looking for Beetee and Wiress.

My phone rings. A new sponsor. I try to keep my eye on the screen while entering her into the system. She'll sign later, once we ask for money. I misspell her name twice and have to ask her to clarify how much she's pledging.

On screen Kate Markez from Ten has joined Johanna and Seeder, and they've driven back the District Nine victors. Kate is not playing by Seeder's rules. She takes a vicious slash at the woman from Nine. It would cut her throat, but she moves at the last second and it opens a gash in her cheek instead.

I hang up. I need Effie here to take the calls, and Snow knows it. I bring up the sponsor boards, which are very lively with discussion about the alliance. Pin money is trickling in from Twelve, and suggestions are starting to appear on screen. Someone wants me to buy them a boat, which wouldn't be at all an easy target in such a small arena. Others (in a thread started by the ever-reliable Delly Cartwright, I see) want me to send water, which I may do if they don't find some, but don't want to waste money on if it's not necessary. Consumables are sometimes necessary, and definitely wanted, but by definition, they have to be replaced regularly if the tributes are depending on them.

Something thumps on my table, and I look up to see Harris Greaves, who has wheeled his viewing table over. "As long as we're allies," he says, and turns up his screens. Finnick has set Mags down, and she's having a conversation with Peeta that I don't think he's following, but he's listening intently and paying attention to her. Finnick is at the base of a tree. On my screen, I can see that Katniss is climbing it.

"IDIOT!"

My attention goes to the main broadcast screen, where Johanna is now running up onto the beach, following Beetee, who is running hell-bent for the Cornucopia. Wiress tries to go after him, but Johanna shoves her aside impatiently, right into Blight, and yells, "Keep her here!"

She runs toward the Cornucopia.

Beetee makes it to the pile of weapons and starts digging wildly for something, so focused that I'm sure it's more to do with our plans than the Games. And so focused that he doesn't see the woman from District Nine sneak up on him and plunge her knife toward his back.

Johanna tackles her at the last minute, which keeps the blow from being fatal, though blood starts to gush. The knife goes skittering, and Johanna grabs it. She doesn't even hesitate before plunging it into the other woman's chest. I've spent so much time with her since she won that I forgot what a brutal competitor she was.

"Blight!" she screams. "Get him!"

Blight shoves Wiress to Seeder and rushes for Beetee, grabbing him under his shoulders, ignoring his screams as his wound is dragged across the sand. Beetee holds up a coil of wire, which Blight takes before Beetee can drop it. No one else would take it. Beetee and Wiress are the only electronics experts in the arena. Everyone else has ignored it.

Cecelia picks up a rock and smashes it into the head of the male tribute from Nine. She screams wildly. I hope her kids aren't watching.

The District One Careers have headed for the forest with their supplies, and Enobaria is fighting with Kate Markez. Brutus looks to the Cornucopia and sees Johanna digging. He runs for her.

Cecelia gives a war whoop and rushes in, tomahawks flashing.

These aren't her weapons, and she doesn't stand a chance. Brutus runs her through with his sword.

Johanna knocks Brutus down, but he's able to grab her arms and throw her away from the Cornucopia, away from the axes that Cecelia dropped. He takes a lazy swing at her with his sword when she tries to get up, and laughs when she backs away from it.

Enobaria breaks Kate's neck, then, just for style, bites her, and throws her into the water.

"Haymitch!" Harris whispers urgently. "Haymitch, what's she doing?"

I look down at my screens, since they will not cut away from the Cornucopia until the fighting is over. Katniss has an arrow pointed at Finnick. He is ready to block her with his trident.

I grimace. "She must have seen the fighting," I say. "Decided that alliances aren't going to last. She won't go through with it."

I hope. And I hope that Finnick doesn't revert to his Games the way Cecelia did.

Harris shakes his head. "This isn't how we agreed on it. He saved the boy. She's turning on him?"

"She thinks he's going to turn on her." I look at my other screen. "Peeta's coming."

This doesn't reassure Harris, at least not until Peeta physically inserts himself between them, forcing a cool-down.

"See?" I say. "All better."

"Right," Harris grumbles. "Your girl better get her act together."

Somehow, Peeta and Finnick manage to convince her to go find water. I don't dare look away from the Cornucopia any longer. Unlike other years, it matters to me what happens to the people there.

Johanna is still trying to get past Brutus, who seems to have decided that this is a fabulous pastime, as he's teasing her rather than running her through. Blight has managed to pull Beetee to one of the spokes of land, and is now trying to pry Wiress over. Seeder has been surprised by the sudden arrival of Faraday Sykes, who doesn't even glance at her district partner from Five. She tries for Seeder's short sword, but isn't as strong. Seeder smacks her with the flat of the blade, sending her down into the sand. There is a blood red streak across her face, and she is unconscious.

Claudius's voice comes over the air. "It's not clear what strategy District Eleven is using. Seeder has had opportunities to strike lethal blows, but hasn't done so. Chaff has stayed away from the Cornucopia altogether." There is a brief shot of Chaff in the jungle, trying to climb a tree as Katniss did, but hampered by his missing hand. The camera returns to the Cornucopia, where Seeder is running to Johanna's aid. "The ladies' alliance seems to include Beetee, from District Three, and possibly Blight, of District Seven. That means that nearly all of the tributes are involved in alliances very early this year."

He sounds shocked. Imagine, people who've known each other for years forming quick alliances. How strange. Graphics show the names of the tributes and start grouping them into known alliances. Apparently, the blood sport at the Cornucopia has slowed down too much to go without commentary.

"Johanna!" Seeder yells. "We have to get out of here!"

"I need weapons!"

"Get them later!"

Johanna grimaces at Brutus, looking at the fallen tomahawks in the Cornucopia, lying beside Cecelia's body. Or maybe it's Cecelia she's looking at -- Cecelia who charged in to help her, and ended up with a sword through her guts. Johanna is not one to accept help gladly, and the price Cecelia paid for it can't be re-paid. The best she can do is kill Brutus.

Which she can't do without weapons.

My telephone rings. I punch a button to put it through to a message. Not recommended procedure, but necessary.

Johanna makes a strangled sound, then backs away, wisely not turning her back on Brutus. He laughs and takes a few dancing steps toward her, jabbing the sword into empty air. She gets enough distance between them that he can't throw with accuracy, then turns and runs at full speed to Blight and Beetee.

Seeder has taken over trying to coax Wiress up, but Wiress just keeps saying, "Safe place" -- the craziest thing she's ever managed to say, given where she is.

Brutus has lost interest, or maybe thinks that he'd like to prolong the Games a bit by letting decent players remain. He's back in the Cornucopia, standing over Cecelia's body and examining the remaining weapons.

Enobaria has no such compunctions. She has picked up a dagger from the fallen District Nine male tribute. She sees Wiress, weak and handicapped by shock, and runs in with a joyous whoop.

Seeder raises her sword and steps between them. "I've already taken one weapon from you, Enobaria," she says. "I'm stronger than you are."

Enobaria flips the dagger into her strong hand and swings it at Seeder, who parries. She looks over her shoulder and yells, "Get them out, Johanna!"

Johanna is starting to run in, but stops, looking back and forth between the weeping Wiress and Seeder. With a grim expression, she finally grabs Wiress by the hair and starts dragging her. "You help!" she yells. "You help, or I'll drag you the whole way like this!"

Wiress kicks and screams, then finally grabs Johanna's wrist and lets herself be pulled in a slightly less painful way. Finally, she manages to scramble to her feet. Johanna tugs her along. They head for the sea behind the Cornucopia, disappearing from the camera's angle.

Seeder and Enobaria are dueling furiously on the beach. Brutus stands casually at the mouth of the Cornucopia, watching with a vaguely interested expression on his face. When Enobaria takes the duel near him, he reaches out, bored, and grabs Seeder by her hair. He shoves her head into the lip of the Cornucopia.

She falls, her beautiful face obscured by blood.

If we pull Brutus out of the arena, I will personally kill him. There is no time to mourn Seeder any more than there was to mourn Cecelia or Cinna. The Games must go on.

"You and me, darling," Brutus says to Enobaria. "Should we finish this here, or keep up the alliance?"

She shrugs. "We let a few go, so I'll let you live a little longer."

He grins, turns his back on her, and starts rooting for new weapons. On the beach, unnoticed by either of them, Faraday Sykes regains consciousness and manages to crawl away.
Claudius appears on the left side of the screen. "Well," he says, "that was an exciting start to the Games!"

"Can we throw him in there next year?" Toffilis mutters beside me, clearing his boards of Seeder's sponsors, sending out messages asking if they'd like to support Chaff. "Just to get that firsthand reporting, of course. See how exciting it is when he's right on the scene."

I snort, hoping he's just playing a part -- or fantasizing -- and hasn't forgotten that these will be the last Games.

"And now, we check in with our other tributes. How have they been faring while the battle raged at the Cornucopia? It looks like more alliances!"

A map of the arena comes up on the screen -- a central island, with spokes going out to a ring of forested land. It reminds me of something, but I can't place it. A light flashes at the southernmost part of the forest ring, and the camera moves in on Chaff.

Earl Bates, from Ten, has found him. Neither of them went to the Cornucopia, so neither is armed. They compare notes (neither has much information), then go about looking for things to build a shelter.

"Hell of a thing, being back," Earl says, testing a branch to see if it's green enough to bow.

Chaff pulls some large leaves from a tree. "That’s one way to put it. Think you can climb up and get a view of the Cornucopia? Is the fighting done?"

Apparently, a friendly conversation between two old men is not of interest to the Capitol. They switch away to Districts Seven and Three, where Johanna has managed to calm down, and is trying to get a look at Beetee's wound. A flashing light on the map shows them northeast of the Cornucopia. Blight and Wiress are exploring their part of the forest, searching for food. Wiress is actually good at this; she survived her Games by hiding through most of them and feeding herself and her ally off the land. It wasn't until the end, when her ally turned on her and she was forced to kill him, that she really started to fight. Blight is trying to identify the trees, which seems like a colossal waste of time.

Faraday, northwest of the Cornucopia, is getting stronger as she recovers from the blow she took from Seeder, and she manages to climb a tree. She spits a tooth out into her hand and throws it away indifferently.

The Careers have regrouped directly west of the central island. Brutus is reliving his exploits, much to their entertainment. He does a particularly amusing imitation of Cecelia's final war cry.

Berenice is across the arena from them. She finds a sleeping animal -- something orange -- and pets it in a trance, then settles down in the mud and starts painting a rock with it. Claudius reminds us that this was her talent, and tells the audience that she and Peeta "bonded" during training.

Which is, of course, a segue to Peeta himself. He's slashing through vines and branches just southeast of where Johanna and her team are. The team is still looking for water. Finnick is carrying Mags just behind him, and Katniss brings up the rear, an arrow at the ready, watching the woods for enemies. She looks ahead at what looks like the top of a hill (on the map, we can see that it's the edge of the arena) and says, "Maybe we'll have better luck on the other side. Find a spring or something."

This seems agreeable to Finnick, who must be tired after carrying Mags all this way uphill. He nods and heads for the tree line.

Peeta continues slashing at vines.

With a steel knife.

I think about Beetee's wire, and the highly charged forcefield that they're only inches from. I understand two things simultaneously.

First, that Beetee's wire is the key to breaking down the arena.

Second, that Peeta Mellark is about to die.
9 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 1st, 2013 02:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
That was brutal. Poor Cecilia. I wonder what ever happened to her kids because I don't remember them being mentioned again. But that was a great chapter. The careers are just so brutal but I do feel sort of bad for them seeing as how they were raised with a crazy perspective of the games. Anyway, I cannot wait to read more! Thanks!
Robin
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 2nd, 2013 01:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, culturally, they pretty much act the way you'd expect them to act. They don't seem to be particularly horrendous outside the arena, so it's not a generalized character issue.
maidenjedi From: maidenjedi Date: February 1st, 2013 10:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
What I really love about this is that we get to "see" the rest of what was happening in the Quell outside of Katniss and Peeta. You're doing a great job with this.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 2nd, 2013 01:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. I'm enjoying it, too, though it's a little weird to enjoy killing eight people in a single chapter, not to mention the holdover from a ninth death and the immigration crisis of another character.
shortysc22 From: shortysc22 Date: February 1st, 2013 11:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I loved seeing the Cornucopia scene from Haymitch's perspective, specially since he's friends with most of those in the arena. I also like how Effie jumped in right away to help Portia and I'd be intrigued to read a little one shot on how Portia came to be in the Capitol with Cinna.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 2nd, 2013 01:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Maybe. I'm not sure how interesting it is. She won a design contest in Three and Cinna was one of the judges. He snapped her right up. ;p
shortysc22 From: shortysc22 Date: February 2nd, 2013 01:39 am (UTC) (Link)
at least now I know why she wasn't a citizen! Interesting with her being from Three, I can picture the conversation between Cinna and her about how they could implement fake flame, since it's implied both of them worked on it.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 2nd, 2013 01:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I am really enjoying this story. I've just reread Catching Fire and have been looking forward to your view of the arena especially Haymitch's perspective. I haven't read any other THG fanfiction but as usual yours is amazing - thanks!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 2nd, 2013 01:37 am (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome -- thanks for reading! Haymitch probably has a wider view than the tributes or the people at home, so he'll be able to see everything.
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