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HG: The Hanging Tree, Chapter Twenty-Three - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
HG: The Hanging Tree, Chapter Twenty-Three
Haymitch has just lost his second tribute, when a woman who propositioned him took revenge by loosing a mutt on in the arena. Haymitch falls back on his most trusted ally: Booze.

Chapter Twenty-Three
By the time other people start getting up, I'm what my momma would have called "knockered." She'd mutter it in the mornings when Daddy was trying to function with a hangover and couldn't remember whether or not he'd made it home the night before. I have no idea what this really means -- it probably doesn't show up in Daddy's dictionary -- but at home, it means flat out, no holds barred drunk. Too drunk to be trusted with even the most meaningless of decisions, too drunk to be blamed for anything other than getting this drunk.

I am overheated, and somewhere along the line, I've shed my shirt. I'm leaning over the bar, soaking up the cold from the chilled surface. The whole building seems to be rocking a little bit, and I think that the lights behind the bar have started to move in blobs of glowing oil. The bartender (who's just here for show, I guess, since you can just press buttons and make things magically appear on the tables) has blond curly hair -- the only uncovered and undyed hair I've seen in the Capitol -- and I am convinced that he's Danny.

I mean, I know he's not, but I also know he is, and I've been telling him since before the sun came up that he really needs to not trust the butcher's daughter. The butcher's daughter doesn't have a heart, unless you count the ones she cuts out of animals. "Great…" I can't think of the word, so I just make round shapes in front of my chest. "Definitely great, there, but that doesn't make up for what's not under 'em, Danny. She's… she's embdy."

"I'll keep that in mind," Danny says on the other side of the bar, only now he's got a kind of mocking half-smile on his face and he looks less like Danny and more like the butcher's daughter, except without the great…

"Breasts!" I remember triumphantly.

The bartender laughs. "It's morning, Mr. Abernathy. Would you like to sober up?"

"No," I tell him, quite emphatically. "No, I don't think so. I want to keep going. My tributes are dead, you know. My friends. My… duties have been dis-sharged. A lion ate Elmer. He didn't do anything." The image of the lion walking away with Elmer's face comes again. I lean over the side of the stool and throw up into a bucket. It looks like it's not the first time.

When I sit back up, the bartender has put a tall glass of ice water beside me. I sniff it.

"Just to clear up your mouth."

"You're not drugging it, are you? My old mentor used to drug me so I wouldn't get drunk."

"Just water."

"And then I can keep drinking?"

"No, you can't."

This voice comes from my other side. There's a woman there who looks familiar. She doesn't seem to like me much. I think of snow and cold and a little flicker of ash in the dark. She gave me something that helped. I blink at her stupidly, and finally find a name. "Saffron?"

She grabs the thumbpad from the barkeeper and presses her own print against it. "You people," she hisses at the bartender. "Someday, one of them is just going to drink himself to death, and you should get the blame for killing a victor. That should cover whatever tab he has left." She puts her hand on my shoulder and almost pushes me off the barstool. "Come on, Haymitch."

"No! I don't want to. I don't want to play the Games. I already lost. Did you see the lion?"

"I saw it. Come on. You need to get sober."

I think I cause a scene after that. I don't want to be pulled away. I try to hang on to the bar, but I can't seem to get a good grip. Saffron has two other people, and they manage to tug me back to a booth at least.

"You need to sober up fast," Saffron says. "There's a rumor that they're calling a meeting of mentors later. You don't want to be drunk."

"Hell I don't." I reach for the little machine where I can order another drink, but one of Saffron's friends pushes my hand away. I frown. "I can drink. They're dead. Because I was… too good." I put my head down on the table. "They killed my girl for the same thing. Beckett just wanted to put her hands on me, but no, I was too good for it, so they killed her. Cooked her on the fence. Her finger came off. Like mouse leg when it's been in a soup pot. And her skin melted on me. But hey, Gia made Beckett lay off me. Good for me, huh?"

"Haymitch, stop it."

"You know who she went after? Elmer! Elmer had to make a… a… 'private apology.' He did it. But I was too good for it. I had to say no. Told him to say no. So good. Why I just about fart halos, don't I? And now he's dead. Lion ate him. Took away his face. Because I was too good to let some old bitch grope me. Elmer should have been the mentor. He wouldn't have let anyone get eaten."

"And he'd have been turned out to half the Capitol by the end of the Games," Saffron says. "And this wouldn't have happened." She holds up a little handheld screen and presses a button.

An image comes up on it. I can't focus, but it's a person, with a very bright orange head. "Oh!" the person wails. "It's so terrible! This isn't the way it's supposed to be!"

Someone else (a kind of nuclear lime green blur) says, "If it's true that they're working on sponsors that way… it just can't be right!"

Saffron turns it off. "The Capitol audience hated it. Something got leaked about mentors prostituting themselves for sponsors, and it's all over town that you refused."

I put my head back down. "Then Mr. Parton knows. He knows it's my fault."

"Here." Saffron pushes my head back and sticks a cold glass beside my face. She forces a straw into my mouth. "Drink. It'll wake you up."

I accidentally pull some of it in trying to breathe. It tastes like plain cold water.

She shoves the screen in front of me again. On it, I see a gray blur. When it talks, it has a heavy District Twelve accent. Mr. Parton. He sounds like he's been crying. "They killed my boy because Haymitch stood his ground? He best keep standing it! My boy died because of some sick woman, and she can rot on the slag heap before she touches another boy!" Then he starts crying again.

I take the screen, but I can't figure out the controls. "Make him say it again," I say.

Saffron touches a button. Mr. Parton speaks again.

I put my head in my arms and start to cry.

Saffron lets me go about it for a few minutes, then forces the straw back in my mouth. My head starts to clear. I don't know what devilry is the Capitol medicine, and I don't care. I take it.

After three doses, I am almost sober. Saffron pats my neck without much interest. Just before morning programming starts, Capitol security combs the bar for mentors to drag to a meeting.

I go along meekly. They lead me to the big conference room where we all met the first day. Not many people have sat down yet. There are cameras conspicuously present, but none of them are running yet.

Beetee looks at me suspiciously when I come in, possibly because I'm only wearing pajama pants and they have a couple of telltale stains on them, but I don't take the bait. I just nod to him as soberly as I can manage and go between two cameramen to sit down at the District Twelve table. Chaff is already at District Eleven, and has brought me a spare shirt. It's about six sizes too big for me and I look like I have a sail, but at least I won't be on television half-naked. Unless they caught me in the bar last night, I guess.

Seeder pushes a tall glass of water at me, and promises that it’s not drugged. "But you need water," she says. "You're dehydrated."

I take it. It helps with the headache that's snowballing through my skull.

From the looks of some of the other mentors, especially Faraday Sykes and Earl Bates, I'm not the only mentor who spent the night in a bottle and got chemically woken up. As everyone is dragged in from wherever they've been enjoying the benefits of the Capitol, people take their seats with varying degrees of sullenness.

At ten o'clock, when the Games programming is scheduled to start, Hadriana Livingston comes out from a side door, looking grim. Her silver hair is tied up in a no-nonsense bun, and she's carrying a piece of paper.

She comes to the podium at the front of the room. "Are we on?" she asks.

A producer in back says, "We're on in five-four-three…" He doesn’t say two and one out loud, but he counts them back with his fingers, and the lights on the cameras go on.

Livingston doesn't look up. I hear a tinny recording of the Games fanfare, and I guess we'll be live as soon as it's over.

When the music ends, Livingston looks up, her face cold and furious. "Due to events that occurred yesterday in the arena, we are aware of the egregious abuse of power committed by Avita Redmond, head of the genetic engineering department. While we may never know how the brave tribute from District Twelve might have fared in the end, we can be quite certain that his death at that point in the Games was clearly engineered.

"This is an unacceptable corruption of the Games.

"The Hunger Games are the tribute of the districts, their bravest souls, brought to remind all of us of true strength, as well as of the horrors of war. The people of the Capitol were disgusted by last night's display, and so, quite frankly, was I. I called in all of our Gamemakers last night, and we conducted a full investigation.

"It appears that some mentors have been trading sexual favors for sponsorships, catering to a small but wealthy group of donors."

I see several of the mentors around the room look up, stunned at this characterization of what has been happening, but they can see Capitol security as plainly as they see the cameras. No one speaks.

Livingston looks back at her paper. "Prostitution is illegal in all of Panem, of course, and this behavior can only be classed as prostitution. Because it is possible that, in the heat of the Games, this wasn't considered, at this time, no charges will be filed."

"Charges?" Faraday asks incredulously.

"Charges, Miss Sykes. They were discussed and rejected, due to the circumstances. We do not know how long this has been going on, or how normative it may have been considered. This year, it appears that several of our mentors refused these offers, and because of that, we were able to find the handful of junior Gamemakers who were manipulating the arena. These junior Gamemakers have, of course, been disciplined. It appears that, when the donors were refused, they offered the same amount to technicians to provide incentive for future offers.

"This offensive and unacceptable behavior was discovered due to the brave refusals of Brutus Emmett and Titania Vacka of District Two, Albinus Drake as a representative of District Six, Oliver Hedge of District Seven, Darla Grimes of District Nine, and of course, Haymitch Abernathy of District Twelve. We owe them our thanks for their services to the integrity of the Games."

No one seems inclined to give us a round of applause.

"What happens now?" I ask.

"Any further incidences of prostitution will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," Livingston says. "Any mentor -- or other victor working on a mentor's behalf -- caught trying to curry favor with sponsors this way will also draw severe penalties for his or her tributes as well."

Beetee stands. "You'd kill tributes?"

"Of course not. But we will remove any monies thought to be obtained in this manner from your District's funds."

"And what happens to Professor Redmond?" Mags asks.

Livingston smiles coldly. "Well, I can assure you that she will be making no further propositions. Now, I will require each of you to state for the camera that you understand and agree to abide by the law on this matter, and to advise any victors you may produce of its consequences."

The cameras float around the horseshoe shape of the interlocked tables. Everyone seems pretty happy to support this law, which may be a first in a room full of District citizens discussing a Capitol law.

Livingston closes the conference and disappears without talking to anyone. The camera crews start packing up, making ribald jokes about which ones of us didn't need to refuse anyone. I ignore them and go over to Beetee's table.

"So," I say, "that's good, right? We stopped it?"

"Technically, though as far as the audience is concerned, a few of us initiated it and ran it." He gathers his papers. "It's not a bad accomplishment, in terms of how we'll be treated for a little while, and it may be of some use to tributes. But I assure you, we haven't seen the last of it. And thanks to the threats about what will happen if we 'choose' this route, it's likely that people won't talk about it when it does."

I look down. "Oh."

Beetee reaches over and awkwardly pats my arm. He actually says, "There, there."

"So it might have made things worse."

"It did not," Mags says. "Really, Beetee. The child is in enough pain without your less than comforting way of looking at things." She comes around and puts a much more practiced arm over my shoulders. "It's a good thing. No matter what else happens, the audience will be on the lookout for anything suspicious that happens to the tributes for no apparent reason."

"The audience…" Beetee sniffs.

"Don't underestimate the audience. It matters what they say." Mags sighs and starts leading me to the door. "Come on back. Beetee will need you there to help out. He's not good with people, and you're still his ally. I'll wager the District Three phone has been ringing off the hook to help Elmer's last ally this morning."

She's not wrong. When we get back, the District Three table has been moved back to its regular place, and Vitranio is overwhelmed with the constant call volume. Beetee tells me I can put in a request to have my phone line assigned to help Wiress, and I do, moving the equipment over to share Beetee's table. I spend the rest of the morning taking calls from people wanting to make the Games "right" again, by helping out the people who Livingston named this morning. Districts Two, Seven, and Nine are also pretty busy, though the fever of righteousness has taken the shine off of Simon for Six. I take over handling the budget. I still don't know what to get that will warn Wiress about the boy who isn't really her ally, but we'll be able to afford whatever it is by the time this wave of money finishes washing up.

All day on screen, "The Scandal at the Viewing Center!" keeps popping up, with more reactions from Capitol citizens. Some people think that any mentor who is caught prostituting himself or herself ought to lose his victor's salary, but most are focused on the corruption of the Games themselves, and how we might even have the "wrong" victors for some years, because of such blatant cheating.

"Well, we'll just have to have a rematch, won't we?" Mags mutters at the table beside me.

The day goes quickly, and I lose myself in the math of the budget. I pretend that Elmer's helping me out, even though budget math is simple enough for a half-baked poet. I try not to think of his face dangling from the lion's mouth. It gets easier.

No one dies on the third day. Blight uses his newfound wealth to send Henry Cutler proper medicine, and Henry is finally able to crawl out of his hollow. District Two happily provides the entire Career pack with a veritable banquet. Since the Capitol is so entertained by its own theatrical outrage, I guess the Gamemakers decide to let it slide. Beetee calls it the Pax Meretricium when Plutarch stops by the table, and they both laugh without explaining themselves.

It ends in the morning on the fourth day, when the Career pack hunts down Woof's remaining tribute, Helena, and kills her under the spreading leaves of a baobab tree. Two more die in the afternoon. Spicer Fyfe from Ten has been afraid to go near the river, and dies, unconscious, from dehydration. Chaff's tribute, Dibber, makes a great show of climbing a tree, muttering a little too coherently about needing to get a view of the ground so he can spot the tributes. He climbs out onto a branch far too thin to hold him, and plummets into a rocky gorge.

We reach the final eight, and reporters are dispatched back to the districts. They've barely made it all the way out to Seven when Henry Cutler and the Careers run into each other almost accidentally. They stare for a few minutes, and then Henry goes down, a spear through his chest.

The next three days return to the Pax Meretricium, as the remaining seven tributes wander around each other. I start drinking, but I keep it to only enough to make things seem just the slightest bit less real. Whenever Simon is alone, he makes a show for the camera, miming slitting Wiress's throat or spearing her, then waggling his tongue. Whenever she's with him, he's attentive and responsible. I guess he wants to wait until it's just them, and so far, she's been good at evading the Careers.

Since nothing, by Capitol standards, is happening in the arena, various Games scandals are drawn out on the coverage, all under the banner of "Gluttony at the Games!" with continuous reports of wise Gamemakers cracking down on ill-mannered sponsors. I note that, while Avita Redmond can't very well get out of it, other names I've heard, like Adamaris Brinn's, aren't so much as mentioned… even when she's interviewed as a "regular sponsor."

I guess Beetee's right that this isn't exactly going to be a total housecleaning.

Beetee is involved heavily in getting money and trying to work the problem, but I pay close attention to all of the interviews from District Three. I'm looking for anything Wiress might take as a clue. It's not until the sixth day of the Games that I get anything that seems likely. A decent-looking boy who's surrounded by a lot of friends says that he and Wiress worked together all the time, and she once helped him win a patent.

I don't know Wiress any more than anyone else watching, but I do know what it looks like when you don't quite fit in. I saw it in the mirror every day. This boy didn't work with Wiress, and she didn't help him get a patent. I'm reasonably sure that she invented something, and he just swooped in for the credit.

I share this with Beetee. He thinks it seems likely, and he calls the boy, claiming he wants more of the story, that it will make him famous and known among the technical elite as well as helping Wiress out. Next thing we know, he's being interviewed again. He produces what looks like a shiny metal ball.

"We use glitter in a lot of propulsion experiments," he says. "It stays where it lands, so it's easy to track the trajectories. But it's really hard to clean up. I was working on this, and Wiress helped me tweak it a little. See?"

He spills glitter on the floor, sets the ball down, and watches it gather everything up.

"It works on its own propulsion, from the, um, the magnetic power…"

"Got him," Beetee says.

The little devices aren't exactly mass-produced, though every propulsion lab in Three is equipped with a few. It's expensive, but we have it.

The Gamemakers question us about the order, but Beetee drowns them in technical language when they ask how a magnet is supposed to help her guard against a traitor. They're convinced. Some of his babbling actually ends up on the broadcast. Before dawn on the eighth day of the Games, while she's on the last guard, we send her the parachute.

She opens it and frowns at the magnet, letting it roll a bit along the ground. She bites her lip and picks it up.

"Come on," I whisper.

She rolls it back and forth on the palm of her hand, then says, perfectly clearly, "I made this."

Inside the tent, Simon gasps in his sleep.

Wiress looks at the magnet.

At the tent.

She walks to the now flattened patch of grass where Elmer died, and then to the moat where Ikris did. The spot Elmer died in was trampled and the grass broken down. The area at the moat is completely clean.

She runs her hand diagonally across her chest. Looks at the magnet again.

Again, she says, "I made this."

"Use it," Beetee says.

Wiress starts to head straight for the tent, then wavers. She rolls the magnet along the surface of the blanket, then makes a big pantomime about testing several rocks. A few, it's strong enough to pick up. I have no idea what she's doing.

"She's got it," Beetee says. "And she's using it just like we hoped. See?"

She gathers sticks and long grasses and starts putting together something that looks like either a very stiff net or a very weak cage. I don't know what it is, exactly. It takes her until the sun has properly risen.

She brings it into the tent. Simon is sleeping deeply. The contraption is so lightweight that she can set it down without waking him. It goes over him more like a net than a cage. She uses a rock to secure the bottom sticks.

"Why doesn't she just kill him?" Drake asks. "I mean, I hope she doesn't, since he's my tribute, but --"

"Because she has to know," Beetee says.

She takes Simon's knife and arranges it in a contraption she's made that steadies it over his throat -- but what's holding it there is the magnet… and a system of rock weights and grass spun into twines. I don't know what it does, but I'm pretty sure Wiress has a good idea of it.

She lowers it until it touches his skin.

He wakes up.

Whatever she's done with the net holds against his initial panicked flailing, which stops when the knife pokes his neck and lets a rill of blood run down.

"What the… Wiress! Are you turning traitor?"

"No," she says. "You."

"What are you talking about?"

She reaches gingerly through the top of the trap and touches his healing wound. "That's a knife. Too straight for a claw."

"You saw the thing."

"I saw it attack Elmer. This isn't what Elmer's cuts looked like. Why did you cut yourself?"

I expect him to tell her another lie. Instead, he laughs. "You're so gullible. You should have seen yourself, fretting over me. And you think some grass and twigs are going to do the trick? This is nothing!"

He reaches up.

Wiress grabs the magnet, and the whole structure around the knife destabilizes.

As soon as Simon's hands rip at the structure, the system of weights and counterweights kicks in. The knife is held absolutely still and steady, now braced by two rocks. Her hand rests only lightly on top of it, to keep it from skipping. When Simon, thinking it will roll away, tries to sit up, it goes straight through his neck.

Wiress watches this dispassionately. Simon goes into convulsions.

The cannon goes off.

Wiress takes one of the blankets and walks away, while the hovercraft comes to scoop him up. She puts the magnet in her pocket.

Nothing else happens that day, and coverage goes to a flashback on Beetee's inventive solutions to his problems, then a full special on District Three innovations.

The next day, Wiress accidentally discovers a mutt living under an overhang of rock by the river. It tries to bite her. She stuns it momentarily, but doesn't kill it. Instead, she starts building.

Two days after Simon dies, the Career pack miscounts the faces in the sky. They've forgotten about Wiress, and think they're alone in the arena. This happens now and then. The Career mentors shout at the screen, but don't really have any options. Once the pack starts Melee -- a word that even the commentators have picked up over the years -- there's nothing anyone can do.

Anicia Culpepper is the one keeping the count. "I'm still only getting eighteen, plus the five of us. Who'd we miss?"

"Maybe we missed one back at the Cornucopia," Garret Shanzy says. "But come on. Who else could be left? Let's do this." He picks up his spear and starts drawing lines in the mud of the river bank.

"What's the rush?" Peridot asks.

"I want to get home."

"You're no way going home, man," Zeno says. "You're a dead man walking, Four."

Garret laughs. "Big talk from the guy who can't even catch a rabbit to eat."

Avaleen Magann sighs and sits up. She tugs fondly on Anicia's ponytail, then gives her a kiss on the cheek. "I'll miss you every day, Nici."

"Don't worry," Anicia says. "You don't have any more days to worry about."

They go to the center of the enclosed space Garret's drawn and clasp hands.

"Victory?" Peridot says.

It's the time-honored way that they start things.

"Victory!" they all shout to the sky.

The Melee begins.

It's as ugly as ever, and we have to watch it almost every year. These kids, who've been sharing everything for many days, who we've gotten to know on the interviews, now continue to smile as they fight for dominance. Garret goes down first, with a knife to the back from Zeno. Peridot falls to him in seconds when he pulls the knife out and strikes her with it, ending her battle with Anicia.

Anicia, Zeno, and Avaleen circle each other, wide grins on their faces, like they're already the medal winners in some local sports event.

Avaleen jerks to the side and puts her spear through Zeno's gut. I remember Filigree's axe. I wonder which one the audience thinks of as better entertainment.

She yanks out the spear, taking some of his innards with it, then kills him with his own knife.

When she stands up, Anicia, who's been her gossiping buddy since they arrived, is smiling, holding up a mace.

Avaleen falls.

Anicia looks up at the sky, smiling, her arms wide, waiting for the trumpets.

They don't come.

She looks back at the count she was keeping in the mud and yells, "No!"

As usual with the final two, the Gamemakers push them together. Wiress stays hidden. She builds. She's got a cage around the mutt she found, which is restless and keeps battering at it, trying to get to her. She feeds it a fish once, but mostly keeps it hungry. The further out she builds the cage, the more room she gives it, moving the old wall as she goes. She camouflages the cage to make it look like a growth of plants.

She swims to the far side of the river.

On the twelfth day of the Games, Anicia spots Wiress across the water. She runs, meaning to take what she thinks is a steady piece of land halfway.

The cage is designed to give as soon as she's too far from the shore to jump back.

The mutt sates its appetite.

The trumpets sound, and District Three gets its second victor.

Wiress curls up into a ball and begins to weep.
18 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 14th, 2014 11:41 am (UTC) (Link)

I Don't Really...

Understand how Wiress' booby trap for killing Simon worked, but I don't really need to.

Everything related to Wiress in this chapter was awesome, as we knew it would be. No wonder Beetee, Wiress, and Haymitch are so close (apart from Beetee and Haymitch having already hit it off). Haymitch quite genuinely helped to save Wiress' life.

And her timing of winning the Games is impeccable. Quite apart from not being conventionally beautiful and being hard to talk to/off-putting, this crack-down on the corruption/prostitution is going to mean that she's left much more alone than lots of other victors past or future. (Poor Finnick. Mags is not wrong to take comfort from the victory of the moment, but it's easy to see why she'll turn rebel when she comes to realize just how Phyrric this victory is.)

Thanks for showing Saffron again.

Sara Libby
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 14th, 2014 02:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I Don't Really...

BTW, that bartender was the father of the Peeta look-alike/cousin, wasn't he? (And hence, Mir's brother.)

Sara Libby
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: March 14th, 2014 04:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
I thought that too!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2014 02:14 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I Don't Really...

I thought maybe, but really, he'd be younger than Mir, so it can't be. Of course, given Haymitch's state of inebriation, he could well be a fifty year old woman with a purple wig on.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2014 02:12 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I Don't Really...

I couldn't design what Wiress did (I'm not much better than a half-baked poet myself, when it comes to it), but basic thing that Haymitch, as a non-engineer, didn't see is that it was like a finger-trap, designed to tighten the more he fought... only, unlike a finger trap, it had a deadly weapon incorporated into it, so that if he kept fighting or tried to get out, he'd spear himself.
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: March 15th, 2014 02:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Like in The Mark of Athena?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2014 02:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Yup. Though with sticks and grass instead of proper fibers, so it probably wouldn't have held as long!
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: March 14th, 2014 01:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Knowing Wiress was going to win, I've been trying to decide if I wanted Simon to die somewhat accidentally, or for her to bash his head in with a rock. A part of me really wanted the latter, I'm ashamed to say - but I guess that's what makes The Hunger Games so good. It takes voyeuristic part of us to the frightening extreme. There's a challenge call for you - what would the victors think if archived footage of Survivor, or even something like American Idol where the audience votes for the winner and they get all the money and accolades.

Of course, if you do have another challenge call soon, I'm more likely to ask for Haymitch meeting Finnick and realizing whose son he is. Unless you have that planned as part of a future fic.</p>

Which reminds me that I love the little things like Mags (who obviously was Finnick's mentor) telling Haymitch he made the victor/mentor prostitution thing better, a gentle reminder that it won't remain that way long.

But I digress from my original point, which was that I found Wiress's solution to the Simon question as satisfying as my idea to bash his head in, while remaining much more perfectly Wiress.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2014 02:18 am (UTC) (Link)
We'll see the meeting of Haymitch and Finnick in the course of the next fic, but it won't be his point of view.

I wanted Wiress's win to be... Wiress-y.
redrikki From: redrikki Date: March 14th, 2014 01:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Clever Wiress and clever Haymitch. I think my favorite part of this though, was the career pack. These are kids who, under normal circumstances, would have been friends. Maybe they even are friends. Avaleen and Anicia certainly seem to be, and the Games corrupt and pervert that friendship for the purposes of murder and sick entertainment. It's awful to think about.

As a sidenote, I though Peridot from Four had been killed by Simon.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: March 14th, 2014 11:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I checked back, and it was Lapis from One. These minor gemstones all sound alike after a while :).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2014 02:19 am (UTC) (Link)
The fact that they make alliances every year in the full knowledge that it will most likely end in a lethal game of king of the hill is just... twisted.
mirandabeth From: mirandabeth Date: March 14th, 2014 02:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is so... empty. Well done. I can't really get into either victory in this chapter because everything else is so awful. Basically, there are still lots of rich Capitol folk out there who want the victors, and they're still going to get them, but the victors themselves won't even be able to profit from it. And the Career melee was horrible.

All that's a compliment, by the way, if that wasn't clear. :p

Mags's comment about the rematch is a favourite. Elmer's dad! Saffron! Wiress being awesome some more!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2014 02:20 am (UTC) (Link)
The one good thing that might come of it in a more permanent sense is that the tributes might not be hostages of fortune to the war between the victors and the Capitol -- of course, other people will be now, but since that's more trouble, it may get saved for "special occasions."
sonetka From: sonetka Date: March 14th, 2014 10:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, at least the kids from the Astronomy Club will be happy; that's about all the good I can take out of this whole disaster. (And even if any of them were able to buy time with Wiress, they'd probably just want her to troubleshoot their projects, so on the whole she'd be fortunate).

For all Livingston spins it as the mentors somehow trading sex for sponsorships, the fact of what happened to Elmer when Haymitch refused has to tip at least some of the audience off about who the real ones with the power were.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2014 02:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I bet it would set off alarms in some quarters of the Capitol, though they're habituated to being easily distracted from things.

I just have this mental image of someone being "bought," then being told, "We just have this homework assignment...!"
From: queen_bellatrix Date: March 15th, 2014 02:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts and Catches

but of Saffron's Think you missed a one before of.

Mags mutters at the table beside me. Just thought I'd point this out, because I don't know if you forgot to say that Haymitch moved his table beside Beetee's when he authorized the use of his phone, or if you meant this comment to stand in for the exposition; the second way definitely works, but I just wasn't sure.

that holds steadies I think something got a bit mangled in editing there? My best guess would be holds it steady or holds and steadies, but I'm not sure.

will roll away Think you missed a comma after away.

and keep battering Think keep needs to be keeps.

I've read this chapter a few times, and I'm still as floored and gutted as the first time through.

The scene with the bartender was just sad, but the scene with Saffron was one of the hardest things for me to read in all this. For him to think this was his fault, that he was somehow too much of a plaster saint because he wouldn't give up that last inch; I was muttering curses because nothing else seemed pithy enough to express my fury at the whole system. And Mr. Parton, what a fantastic and brave thing to say on national television; I like him a lot right now!

I love how Haymitch managed to save Wiress; as someone who never quite fit in, everything he realizes about why the boy comes off as wrong rings so true.

And Wiress's use of the magnet and your explanation of it was perfect! I was really worried because it was getting very technical, and I was afraid I'd lose the thread. But I never did, and I think a lot of that had to do with how Haymitch had to puzzle it out, which gave us all the pieces. How in the world did you ever come up with that? It has to be the hands-down cleverest tribute play I've seen in fic.

The cage was also perfectly Wiress and wonderfully conceived; the magnet moment stands out to me both because I wanted Simon's death moment for chapters and it delivered in spades, and because she actually used Beetee's gift, keeping him out of trouble for sending messages!

I have to echo Rona somewhat and say that she comported herself better than most; she kept her head and she won fair and square through brilliance and skill.

I think if anything drives home the sheer pointlessness of the Games, it's the career maylay; kids who could've been (and maybe were) friends gleefully taring each other apart; the ponytail pulling was such a mixture of sweet and horrifying I still can't classify it; a truly disturbing image.

And Mags's point about the importance of the audience! I love that that seed is being planted this early. Mags in general was fabulous.

So, let me see if I have the whole prostitution thing straight in my head; as you've got it set up now, there're people who entertain in the Capitol for direct donations to Snow. Examples being Blight with someone like Cadwell or what Snow wanted to set up between Haymitch and Emiliana. Then, there are people like Brinn who specifically target the mentors during the games. So, what Snow does later is take his sideline in personal donations that he can use for whatever he chooses, and makes that the main way to "purchase" very select victors; it gets most of them out of it, but the very few that are sold are A. threatened with familial harm and B.: left with no legal recourse, because it's coming directly from the President.

This whole "scandal" makes me think; do the Gamemakers eventually become angry with Haymitch because their dispatching of tributes they don't like, for whatever reason, has to become circumspect, so as not to tip the audience's hand; more work for them, and less money in the Games coffers because some of the rich sponsors will be uninterested if sex isn't part of the deal?

You did such a fabulous job with these games; giving us just enough narrative about select tributes (Dibbor, oh Dibbor) to make us invested without bogging us down. And none of them felt like redshirts; their stories mattered. Speaking of tributes, since there were seven dead at the bloodbath and they weren't all reported, I'm assuming Drake's girl was one of them? He kept focusing on Simon and I kept going: But where's Cleo? Then, I read some bits of earlier chapters and it clicked that she probably fell in the bloodbath.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2014 03:26 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts and Catches

I added that Haymitch moved his phone equipment over to Beetee's table. He probably didn't have to, but he wants the company.

Snow's done a few deals with the really, really rich up to this point, with their people as hostages, but the casual trades for sponsorships aren't directly benefiting him. The sideline, as you put it, becomes the only line now. Which at least takes the arena hostages out of the equation.

And yeah, Haymitch -- not agreeing to sell your body and soul does not make you a self-righteous egotist whose pointless values cost someone's life. It makes you someone who did the right thing, and was punished for it. But I was going back through "Rites of Spring," and I realized what a horrible connection it was to Digger's death. Twice, he's refused to sell himself to older women, and both times, it's ended up with the death of someone he cares about or is responsible for.

Given that it seems Haymitch is still able to manipulate the Gamemakers in THG, I'm guessing they never do get as angry with him as Snow does. Snow wants these challenging people out of there. But the Gamemakers are creative types, however crudely twisted, and they might actually see the new wrinkles as challenges that keep them from being complacent. Of course, it means more danger for them, if something goes wrong, but in a society like the Capitol, where people are so bored that they live for seeing people kill each other, thrill-seekers might even find that somewhat attractive.

The Career melee... that's just sick. We get a taste of what it might have been like in Catching Fire, when Katniss is desperate to break from the group before they have to kill each other.

And yes, Cleo was killed at the Cornucopia. She got a very minor mention in Chapter Nineteen, when Haymitch hears the Gamemakers complaining about how many girls died (and there, just as part of a list of district numbers who lost their girls).
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