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Challenges 6 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Challenges 6
I'm not sure how you feel about AU but if possible, could I have Prim being reaped in for the quell as Peeta feared? for Anon

The arena won't be entirely finished. We have been warned about this. The Gamemakers didn't know the parameters of the Quell, and had to move to a different arena at the last minute, because there are too many of us for whatever they'd had planned.

Fifty-nine of us.

"To remind the districts that the price of their rebellion was paid by those nearest and dearest to them, a tribute will be Reaped from among the closest relatives or friends of each living victor."

The Gamemakers stretched the ages down through ten and up through twenty to make sure as many friends and relatives as possible qualified, while still keeping the Games "interesting" (a baby is pretty boring as a competitor, apparently, which is probably the only thing that kept Peeta's niece safe). No volunteering is permitted, supposedly because there was never a choice for the victims of the war.

I was the only name in the Reaping ball for Katniss. Peeta's middle brother, Ed, is here. Haymitch is alone in the world, except for Katniss and Peeta, who apparently won't be properly punished if they are sent in, so they Reaped Maysilee Donner's niece, Madge Undersee, for him. There's a nineteen-year-old trainee Peacekeeper from District Two (Enobaria's brother), a terrified eleven-year-old from District Ten (Earl Bates's granddaughter), a pretty, willowy teenager from District Eleven who is, I think, a niece of Seeder's, and an arrogant boy from Four who's some relation to Mags.

I haven't figured everyone else out yet. A lot of the relationships seemed a little stretched -- the weirdest I heard was the younger brother of someone's personal assistant -- but I guess that's not the point. The point is that someone has been thrown into the arena to die only because of an association with one of the victors.

The stylists are limited for our parade costumes because there are so many to make, and they had to change plans at the last minute.

"Are you setting us on fire?" Ed asks, raising an eyebrow.

"Not this year." Cinna looks at him. "You, maybe. You could pull it off. But the girls aren't angry."

"I'm angry," Madge volunteers.

"You're upset and scared. If you try to be fierce out there, you'll look ridiculous."

Cinna and Portia walk around us for a long time, examining us. It occurs to me that we might well be the blondest contingent in District Twelve history. Finally, Portia stops and sighs. "Fire to ash?"

Cinna nods.

I don't really understand what happens for the next hour. The three of us are left in our Reaping outfits, but Cinna paints us with something that glitters under the light. He loads us into the chariot, instructing me to sit quietly on the back, not looking at the audience. Ed and are to lean forward somberly, directing the chariot.

I have no idea what he means to do.

I can see the other districts now. District Two's contingent is so large that they have four different chariots, and their tributes are simply dressed identically in camouflage that resembles rocks. District One has three chariots. They're draped with jewels and furs. District Three only has the usual number of tributes, and I guess whatever they were going to go with before, they went with.


I look over my shoulder at Ed. "What?"

"Are you okay? I promised your sister I'd stick by you and not let you get hurt. That goes for you, too, Undersee."

"You seem to be missing a few salient points about the Games," Madge says.

"Or maybe I know a few salient points that you don't," Ed whispers, which earns him a harsh look from Cinna.

A door at the back of the room opens and our mentors -- our relatives -- come in. Katniss rushes over, her face twisted. "Prim... this is important. You do whatever Cinna says. Cinna won't lead you wrong. Neither will I."

Ed and Peeta don't talk to each other, but I see something pass between them. I think about what Ed said about missing salient points.

Something starts to dawn on me.

Haymitch goes to Madge. "You be careful, and don't do anything stupid."

"Like what?"

"Like throwing rocks at the Head Peacekeeper," he says. "Don't bring that sort of attention on yourself. Are we clear on that?"


"Are we clear?"

"Madge, just do it," Katniss says. "Haymitch is on your side."

The parade begins, and the chariots start out of the hangar. I sit on the back of the chariot, looking sad, which isn't all that hard. Cinna runs a lighter over all of us, but we don't catch on fire. I notice as we pass beneath a light, though, that a fine white smoke is rising from Madge's shoulders. I look down at my hands -- they are smoking, too.

We wind our way through the Capitol crowds, never looking up. The smoke gets thicker as we go, and I hear gasps around me. When we reach the City Circle, I look up at the screens as unobtrusively as I can.

As we've traveled, we've all turned into statues of white ash, like we were buried in a volcanic eruption. The chariot is coated in it. Even the horses are covered. We are the living dead.

Snow steps up and gives his speech, this time harping on how the districts brought ruination on themselves and their families by rebelling, and this Quell will remind everyone of what rebellion means.

After the parade, we go back to the training center, where I am happy enough to eat, even though Katniss seems too green with worry to take a bite. Peeta suggests that we all get some air on the roof.

The fans up here are loud, and I realize why no one could hear whatever he and Katniss were arguing about last year. No microphone could pick anything up over this white noise.

Haymitch goes to the parapet and looks out furiously at the Capitol, then turns and glares at us.

"Stay alive," he says. "That's not advice. That's an order."

"We can't all stay alive," Madge points out.

"Yeah, you can." He looks at Katniss and Peeta and Cinna, and I realize that he's left all of the Capitol representatives behind. I also realize that he's distinctly, almost frighteningly, sober. He looks each of us in the eye and says, "You are going to skip the Cornucopia. You are going to stay together, and you are going to go into whatever kind of hiding you can find from that monster pack from Two. And you're going to stay there. I don't care if you're hungry or thirsty or bored out of your skulls."

"We just stay there and starve?" I ask.

"No," Katniss says. "You just stay there until we come for you."

Did Snow and Coin ever meet, and if so, when? for Anon

As far as Coin knows, I'm not listening in. I'm on the other side of a thick door, monitoring on video only to make sure that the chained up old man doesn't try anything.

But there are enough bugs in the Capitol that a person could listen for three lifetimes to a single hour's worth of collectable conversations. I just activate the one in the greenhouse.

"You sure you want to do this, Commander Paylor?" Isak asks me.

I nod.

"Because if you hear something, it gets hard to not have heard it."

"I need to know."

He nods. He needs to know, too.

Maybe the hospital will never come up. Maybe I won't have to unheard anything. Maybe she'll even say what I hope against hope is true.

But I've already heard something I can't unhear: But there's always a second bombing run.

The look on Winnow Robinson's face told me everything when I told her that Coin had said we were safe, since intelligence suggested that there would be no more strikes on Eight until we could evacuate. No need for Thirteen to send rescue crafts, though they had enough crafts to send a camera crew.

Winnow, who had been fighting in Four for weeks, just drew back, completely puzzled, and said, "But there's always a second bombing run."

I need to know. So I listen.

Snow doesn't do anything acknowledge Coin's approach. He just continues pruning his damned roses. He doesn't even look up when she clears her throat.

"You're in my light," he says.

"The Mockingjay will carry out your execution," Coin says, sitting down. "It will culminate the executions of those involved in the Hunger Games."

"And how is Miss Everdeen?" Snow asks, finally turning around.

"She'll recover."

"You must be so disappointed." He picks up a watering can and starts tending to another rosebush. "Then again, I suppose she wasn't your target. It was the younger one, wasn't it? A dead mockingjay wasn't any use to you, but a crazy one ready to do whatever you say? Maybe that's what you were aiming for."

Isak and I look at each other. He starts to say something, but nothing comes out. I look back at the screen.

Coin is looking at him coldly. "It was clearly a Capitol hovercraft that dropped those bombs."

"My dear Alma," he says "Do you mind if I call you Alma? My dear, it's fairly pointless to argue the question with me. I know what orders I gave and what orders I didn't give."

"And of course, you would never lie."

He considers this. "I only lie when it's necessary," he says. "So tell me, is anyone suspicious yet? I imagine Miss Everdeen is too crazy to be suspicious, but what about Mr. Mellark? He has a devious enough mind. And Abernathy. Abernathy undoubtedly loathes you. I understand you forbid liquor in your little warren. That in itself would be enough to make him your enemy, and he's not an enemy it's wise to choose. Consider that a friendly piece of advice from one leader to another."

"I have no need of your advice."

"No. I suppose you've done well enough on your own." Snow examines a rose, then says, "Plutarch! Of course, Plutarch must be suspicious. Unless he was in on it, I suppose. There's a slight hint of a Gamemaker's touch. But no. I've done my research on Heavensbee. He was always an idealist. What about Fulvia, though? She's very practical." He thinks about it. "I doubt Johanna Mason trusts you much, but she may not care, as long as it gets rid of me."

"Miss Mason is solidly a rebel."

"It's not a rebellion anymore, now that you're actually in control. Another piece of free advice. You'd do well to stop rebelling and get to the business of running Panem."

"I'll keep it in mind."

"Then there's Beetee. I never had a very good read on him, I must admit. But he's smart. I don't have the impression that he'd be crazy about you killing a square full of children."

"It was a Capitol hovercraft."

"Yes, yes. I saw the seal. Oh, what about the handsome young Mr. Hawthorne? I understand he was quite the golden boy, but now he's suddenly been sent off to District Two."

"He was needed there."

"He's a smart young man. I had my people observing him very closely in District Twelve. He could be suspicious." He smiles wickedly. "Or was it a betrayal of a more personal nature? Did he reject you?"

Coin straightens up. "That is beneath even you."

"Oh, come now. Let's not be coy. My spies tell me he was one of your personal favorites."

"I'm not interested in your perverse fantasies."

Snow laughs. "Believe me, Alma, my perverse fantasies do not include you." He leans forward. "So tell me... is anyone suspicious? Do they have slightest idea that you murdered hundreds of Capitol children and your own rescue team? Surely, someone must have realized that I had no motive to do it. Why would I destroy my own human shields?"

"After decades of sadistic little mind games, I doubt anyone is going to scruple about your motives. And if I were you, I wouldn't start spreading this little fantasy of yours around." She gives him a cool smile. "Though I suppose it doesn't matter. Who would believe you?"

"Ah. A good point. Who, indeed?" He turns away from her again and starts pruning another rose.

After a while, she leaves.
12 comments or Leave a comment
shortysc22 From: shortysc22 Date: June 9th, 2013 08:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I would love to see more of the AU with Prim, it's such a great little snippet and to have Ed and Madge there? Perfect combination!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 10th, 2013 02:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. I think it would need a little more thought than I've given it -- how things would change -- but it might be fun to look into.
redrikki From: redrikki Date: June 10th, 2013 01:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I definitely think it could be interesting. And by that I, of course, mean awful and heartbreaking.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 10th, 2013 11:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I totally second this. Your snippet was intriguing and I love the idea of Katniss being more involved in the rebellion because of Prim's involvement in the Quell.
hymnia From: hymnia Date: June 11th, 2013 06:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow. That conversation makes Snow seem almost likeable by comparison.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 11th, 2013 01:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
He's definitely more affable, even if the evil is about the same.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: July 24th, 2013 11:33 am (UTC) (Link)
The other big difference is that Snow isn't trying to kid anyone (or, indeed, himself), that he's a good person. I think Coin is.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 11th, 2013 11:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

Hi Fern,

Thanks so much for the first one. I felt bad requesting a fic as I've been reading your fan fiction for years but never comment. It's amazing how much you can establish in such a short challenge. You're brilliant!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 11th, 2013 01:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

It was fun to mess around with. I used to do AUs a lot (I like the whole process of deconstruction that goes on when you start pulling out pieces), but for whatever reason, I haven't done an extensive one for a while.
barbara_the_w From: barbara_the_w Date: June 11th, 2013 03:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know that part that made me tear up the most?

Cinna was alive and being brilliant.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 12th, 2013 12:52 am (UTC) (Link)
At least up to the parade.
jedinic From: jedinic Date: June 12th, 2013 01:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fascinating, as always. You keep HG alive for me.
12 comments or Leave a comment