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Challenges 5 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Challenges 5
Okay, that took awhile; sorry! Had to look up complications that could be dealt with, but would be unpleasant.

Enobaria - any time. for Aylat

"Do you want tea?" I ask my Peacekeeper guard, Invidia.

She smiles nervously and shakes her head. She's Capitol-born, like all of the ones they have guarding me. I wonder where they found so many Capitol-born PKs. But apparently, Snow has decided to take no chances with me. He has no evidence -- or belief, I think -- that I had anything to do with the Quell breakout, but I'm not interacting with anyone from District Two, except for very occasional calls and one visit from my brother Janus, now stationed at the maximum security prison. These are all carefully monitored. He tells me how well Johanna Mason and Peeta Mellark are being treated, and how cooperative they're being.

I don't think Snow has caught on to the fact that Janus is telegraphing the truth to me with old hand signs we used to use when we were kids playing Keepers and Raiders. We always had to communicate across the ravine what awful things were being done to the imaginary captives. Now, the captives are real, and Janus is using the signs for torture and beatings and electric shocks. He's hiding them behind an exaggerated tendency to talk with his hands. It's believable enough; we all hand-talk enough that there's a standing joke that District Two would go mute if someone tied our hand behind our backs. When comics want to imitate Two, they're always waving their hands around. But not many people in the Capitol understand the nuances of it, so they just see it as pointless, overanimated waving. As long as there are no other PKs from Two around, Janus is most likely fine.

The message is clear: You are under suspicion, and if you don't keep quiet, you're going to get a firsthand demonstration of all of this.

On second thought, Snow might be perfectly aware of that message. He might be letting it through on purpose.

He's certainly concerned enough that I might somehow rally the PKs from Two over to the rebellion. He's quizzed me on the subject of who in the Peacekeeper Training facility might be disloyal, or may have expressed less than enthusiastic support for the Capitol. If there is anyone, I don't know about it. And he has to be aware already that the quarry workers and other lower class denizens have never been as enthusiastically on board as the government workers. I remember my mother sniffing at them a few times and calling them "backward."

But they don't have the guns. It doesn't matter that they don't really buy the Capitol's line about how we did much more brutal things than the Capitol imagined… at least don't care about it. I guess there are only so many times you can lecture a starving man about what his grandparents did before he starts thinking they may have had the right idea. The Capitol must know this. People from the quarries almost never get into Peacekeeper training, and when they do, they're mistrusted and heavily monitored. They have to constantly prove themselves more loyal than anyone else.

"Miss Fells?" Invidia says timidly. She seems to still be star-struck at the idea that she's babysitting a victor. She is clearly not of the class here in the Capitol that considers us commodities to be traded; instead, she's of the class that thinks anyone who's appeared on television is come kind of minor goddess. "Miss Fells, we really need to get to a reporting station. They need to monitor and make sure that you haven't been kidnapped like the others."

I roll my eyes. "I still have my tracker in. They know where I am."

"Of course. But still, they've asked… I'm sorry."

I get up. I wonder if the destruction at the Viewing Center has actually rendered the tracker in my arm useless. That's where the monitoring equipment was, after all. Snow was careful to remind me that it was still there, but it occurs to me that it might have been a feint. "It's all right," I say. "It's not your call. Is there a reporting station on the way to the fashion district? I could do some shopping."

"Maybe," Invidia says. "Let me check." She taps her wristband and a holographic map of the city comes up. There are little red blotches around it, but she doesn't seem to be paying attention to them. "Reporting station," she prompts.

Little glittering blue dots appear, none of them in the vicinity of the fashion district.

I roll my eyes. "Fine. Let's hit the one down in the theater district. See if anything's opened."

She gets up and calls for a car. I protest that I can walk another mile, but I guess she's not up for it, because she apologetically insists.

When it pulls up, I see why.

Instead of a taxi, they've sent one of Snow's fleet of cars.

"Another chat?" I ask her.

"I'm sorry, I only just got word while we were having tea. They, um…"

"Didn't want me to bite your throat out and run off somewhere?"

She lets out a strange sound, somewhere between a quiet shriek and a nervous giggle. "Something like that. I'm sorry, Miss Fells."

I get in the car. No point making a run for it. There are extra Peacekeepers around. Besides, as Snow has frequently reminded me, he's one quick phone call away from my brother, anyway.

The car goes down the streets in a stately way, like I'm some kind of ambassador, and brings me around to the courthouse, of all places. Snow is waiting in a judge's private office, eating a box of chocolates. He offers me one, but I decline. He has wealthy cronies who enjoy being bitten, and several of them like to confess naughty Capitol secrets to me while I "punish" them in this way. All of them have told me not to share food or drink with Snow unless I've already seen several other people survive it. Finnick Odair once intimated that they've told him the same thing, though of course we couldn't discuss it very deeply.

Snow smirks, and I guess he follows my thought process well enough. "Ah," he says. "I was in the neighborhood, and this seemed a more convenient meeting place than the prison." He turns a television screen around. "District Two. Still loyal, but have a look out here."

I squint at the screen. It's one of the little podunk stone cutting settlements, seen from a hovercraft. People are throwing rocks.

I sit back. "I assume that's another spot you've wiped off the map?"

"Fifty people. Not worth a bomb. They're quite pricey, you know. No, I wondered what you made of their ringleader."

He points down at one of the snarling faces, near the front of the crowd, and enlarges it.

"Lyme," I say.

"How many of the District Two victors were rebels?"

"They wouldn't have told me if they were."

"Was Otho Magro close to Lyme?"

"Otho was town. You can tell by the Latin name. Lyme was from the quarries."

"They were both Village, Miss Fells, and you know it. What of Philo? He was also town -- his mother was a strategist of mine, though I have, shall we say, removed her from her position since he participated in the carnage at the Viewing Center."

"I don't know."

"They were your neighbors. Surely you must have some idea which of them were social with one another?"

I do, of course. Otho and Philo were thick as thieves. Livius Frango, who won the year before Everdeen, had been palling around with them as well. "Lyme's old enough to be Otho's mother," I say. "And she wasn't the milk and cookies type. I don't think she had any special friends in the village. She spent a lot of time out visiting the common folk. I guess she moved in with them."

"You are not a source of useful information. We killed Magro last night."

I look up. "What?"

"You heard me. He killed two Peacekeepers trying to escape across the lake to District Three and join a cell there."

"What… you're warning me before it goes on television?"

He smirks and offers me the chocolates again. "As far as the viewing audience is aware, he died heroically in a battle against the rebels. I'm certainly not planning to advertise the defection of another victor. It's even somewhat true. There were twenty rebels on the shore waiting, and we did, in fact battle them. They won't be spreading any counter information. Now -- who else did he fraternize with in Two? Or shall I ask your brother?"

"You haven't been out to the Village to interview them?"

"The District Two Victors' Village, Miss Fells, is entirely deserted. We've accounted for most of them. All but Frango, now that we've found Lyme. Is Frango a rebel?"

I imagine the Victors' Village, always bustling when I knew it, abandoned and left to the tumbleweeds. They're all gone then. Livius is most likely a rebel if the other two were, but I decide Snow probably already knows, and is just testing me. I shrug.

"Then I will assume that you are."

"Yeah, because I've been so cozy with Abernathy and his cronies. Jo Mason is my best friend."

"Then tell the truth."

"I told you all the truth I know." I stand up. "If that's all, I want to check out the shows tonight. I'm bored." I take one of the chocolates and pop it in my mouth, then leave.

I spit out the chocolate as soon as I'm outside.

There are already blisters forming in my mouth.

In The Hanging Tree, the last chapter. You had Ruth be the midwife when Peeta was born. And Danny was looking after baby Katniss along with his older two Jona and Eddie. How did this come about? What was Mir's reaction, not good I bet. for TLW

The funeral of Albinus Drake is mandatory viewing, so Mir's sister, Rooba, has brought her television over from her butcher shop and set it up in the bedroom. The funeral is an all-day sort of thing, apparently, and the coverage is nonstop as the various victors are reported on. Haymitch is in the crowd, talking to Chaff Leary.

Mir snarls at the television. "Turn it off!"

"You know I can't," Rooba says. "Come on, you've done this twice already, and I've seen you through it fine."

"It hurts! My back hurts!"

I sit down beside her. "What can I get for you?"

Down the hall in the living room, Jonadab wails.

"You can get them quiet!" Mir yells. "My head!"

I duck out and tell Jona that everything is all right, and he doesn't need to be scared, and I need him to keep Eddie calm. I have the door to the downstairs locked, so he and Eddie can't slip out, but there's no one to watch them, and, despite Rooba's reassurances, I'm worried about Mir. She's been complaining more about back pain than she did with the other two, and she woke up screaming from it this morning, before her water broke. There is something wrong. I go back into the room as soon as Jona nods his head and starts rocking Eddie's chair.

"You can't do anything," Rooba says. "You may as well go out and watch the others."

Mir is gripped by what looks like a huge pain. She screams and grabs at the heavy drop cloth she insists on putting over the bed ("I'm not going to ruin our only good mattress"), one borrowed from the butcher shop and covered with blood already.

"This isn't right," I say. "It hasn't been like this."

Rooba frowns, and I can almost hear her preparing to say that Mir loves her dramas, and it's true, but this isn't one of Mir's dramas. I'm completely sure of it. The others have been born within a couple of hours, but this labor has been going on since dawn.

Rooba must realize it, because she sighs and says, "Pull your legs up, Sissy. Let me have a look."

Mir tries to pull her legs up, but another contraction hits, and she screams wildly.

"We need an apothecary," I say. "Look, Rooba, no offense, but this isn't like your pigs."

Rooba isn't paying attention to me. She's maneuvered Mir's legs up -- somewhat against her will -- and put her finger inside. Suddenly, her face goes pale. "It's turned the wrong way."


"No. Not that bad. But facing wrong. That's what's causing the pain. Baby needs to get its face in the other direction."

"Can you…?"

"I don't know how."

Mir screams again.

"We need an apothecary," I say. "Ruth does this all the time -- "

"NO!" Mir screeches. "DON'T YOU DARE!"

On television, Caesar Flickerman gives a somber hello to the viewing audience, as we gather together to bid farewell to a victor.

My wife throws a brush at the television and again screams, "Turn that thing OFF!"

"You need help," I tell her.


"Get help," Rooba says, trying to massage Mir's abdomen. "Now!"

I am trying to think it through. My brain insists on telling me that it's all pointless, that my wife is dying (and it's my fault) and my child is dying with her. I don't know how fast I actually move, but I feel like I'm moving through ice, my hands floating in the air as I move toward the window. I have only the vaguest thought of calling someone -- anyone -- to get help.

I'm absolutely certain that I'm imagining what I see on the street: Ruth Keyton -- Everdeen -- carrying her tiny baby on her back, walking dreamily down the street.

"Ruth!" I yell down, sure that a stranger will look up, but it doesn't happen. It's Ruthie. She frowns up at me as Mir screams again, this time a string of curses about not having "that woman" in the house.

She doesn't wait for my paralysis to break. She breaks off from whatever errand she was running and comes in through the bakery door.

I run down to unlock the way upstairs while Mir curses me, Ruth, Rooba, and the baby.

Ruth gets a determined look on her face as she climbs the stairs. "What is it?"

"The baby."

"That much, I guessed."

"Rooba says it's facing wrong. Can you help?"

She nods. "I've done it a dozen times. It'll be all right. Take Katniss." She pulls the baby from the sling and hands her to me. "And stay out with the kids. Turn up the funeral if you have to. Mir's going to be yelling. Try to keep the others calm."

"But -- "

"Danny, there's not one damned thing you can do in there, but out here, you can actually do some good. Now take the baby and go be a dad, all right?"

With that, I am utterly dismissed. She shuts the bedroom door in my face. Mir continues to curse at her.

I take the tiny girl out to the living room.

"My sister?" Jonadab asks. (He's been looking forward to the baby, and I don't think he's made the connection between Mir's yelling and its arrival.)

"No," I tell him. "This is Mrs. Everdeen's little girl."

"Oh." He comes over and looks at her. "She's red."

I nod. The baby looks a couple of weeks old. She has fine black hair. Her eyes are squeezed shut, so I can't tell if she's got Seam eyes or town eyes.

Mir screams again, calling Ruth a string of obscene names.

I reach over and turn up the volume on Albinus Drake's funeral. My hand seems to be floating in midair. Caesar has finished his opening comments, and now people are giving remembrances. I don't know if Haymitch is going to talk. He didn't mention it. I hope he's sober if he has to talk.

"His hair isn't funny," Jona comments. "I like his hair funny."

"It's not a funny time. A victor died."

"What's died?"

Mir screams again, at the top of her lungs. "Later," I say. "I'll… Jona, I'll tell you later, okay? Let's not talk about that now." I sit down on the couch with Katniss in my arms.

Jona pushes Eddie's chair over, then climbs up beside me and looks down at the baby again. "What's she do?"

"She's sleeping right now." I'm not sure how Katniss is sleeping with all the noise, but she dropped off almost as soon as Ruth put her in my arms. "So not much. Let's let her sleep."

"Can I hold her? You said I could hold my sister."

I'm inclined to tell him no, but I can't think of anything else. I arrange Jona on the couch and have him hold his arms out. I set the baby carefully into them. Jona stares, wide-eyed, then holds her back up.

I take her back. She is a small, warm spot against my chest, and I hold her. I've always liked holding them at this size. It makes me feel… stronger, somehow. I've tried to explain it, but I've never been able to.

Jona settles down beside me again, occasionally poking at the baby's blanket. I ask him to bring Eddie up, too, and the four of us huddle together on the couch, watching one District Two victor after another speak at the funeral. Jona doesn't seem to recognize Haymitch on television at all. He asks me to tell him stories.

My voice is shaky; I know that. But I start telling stories. I think about my great-grandfather, who used to sit on the porch and tell stories. He was once the local apothecary, before the Dark Days. His son married into the bakery business. He'd have known what to do today. He told a lot of funny stories about helping people, but he knew his stuff, even at eighty. But I never asked about that. I always sat at his knee and said, "Tell me a story Grandy Peet," and he knew that what I wanted was something from the olden days, before the war, when the family traveled in distant lands.

I should have asked for the apothecary stories. I'd know what to do.

But I didn't.

Instead, I find myself telling tale after tale, the wild ones he used to spin, the ones that Daddy told me were just imaginary, but I believed every word of them, and here they are, coming out of my mouth, spinning away the seconds and minutes and hours while my wife screams, and Ruth's baby sleeps silently on my chest.

Finally, the screaming stops.

On television, they've progressed to a retrospective on Drake's Games win, and his stunning back-to-back victories as a mentor. There's a cut to Haymitch, then to Brutus. They appear to be sitting as far as possible from one another. In the brief and sudden silence in the apartment, I can hear a few people cough and shifting in their seats far away in District Two.

Then the baby cries.

Against my chest, Katniss Everdeen stirs for the first time and lets out a healthy cry in return.

"They're talking!" Jona says. "I want to go in!"

I hold up my hand. "Be a big boy," I say. I put the baby back in his arms -- she continues the loud conversation. I can no longer hear Mir.

I open the bedroom door. Ruth has cut the cord, and Rooba is cleaning the baby. Mir is still and silent.

"It's a boy," Ruth tells me, smiling softly. "I told you never to believe the wives' tales."

I look at the bed.

Mir turns her head and stares at me dully.

From the living room, Katniss lets out another wail. My new son has stopped wailing. He gurgles something as Rooba hands him to me.

I stare back at Mir.

"She'll be okay," Ruth says. "They both will."

Mir turns her head away and looks at the wall.

I cradle my son in my arms, and hope Ruth is right.


11 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 18th, 2015 07:40 am (UTC) (Link)

Snow, You Moron

If you arrest Janus on suspicion, then you might as well arrest every other D02 Peacekeeper everywhere. Because they're all gonna realize that there's no benefit at all anymore, in acting loyal to the Capitol. Which they already have an inkling of, after you bombed District Twelve and killed all the D02 Peacekeepers stationed there.

-- Tom
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 19th, 2015 05:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Snow, You Moron

Yeah. I think the movie made a mistake in having the Peacekeepers have been called out of town. It's much more Snow-like to just bomb them, rather than risk tipping off the population.

But that would, of course, be a stab in the eye to the only district likely to be loyal! Probably they only stayed out of the rebellion as long as they did because the rebels killed just as many.
Tracy Wood From: Tracy Wood Date: August 18th, 2015 10:39 am (UTC) (Link)
That was great, thank you.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 19th, 2015 05:00 am (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 18th, 2015 11:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow! That was worth the wait. Great idea juxtaposing it with Drakes funeral, and Jona's "my sister?" And "what's died?" perfect for a kid his age. And Mir turning away...

I like Eno too. Like Drake said, there's Us and there's Them.

Thanks ~Karen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 19th, 2015 05:00 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't know why, exactly, it crossed my mind to literally have Peeta born during the funeral, but it seemed right.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 19th, 2015 12:36 am (UTC) (Link)


The more you write Enobaria, the more I like and respect her. I'm also glad that to see that while she has the moxy to stand up to Snow (in a really small way, but when you're in that kind of a situation, even small things are big), she has the brains to know to spit out the chocolate immediately. I hope the blisters didn't take too long to heal.

Also, nice bit of world building with the District 2 hand gestures.

My first kid was back labor. It is painful as hell.

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 19th, 2015 05:02 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Wow...

She seems like an older version of Johanna, who grew up in a different environment (probably because the only scene we really see her in is where she's pretty much seconding Jo's opinion on the Capitol Games).

Yeah, I googled painful labor conditions, looking for one that would hurt like hell, but which a country midwife could conceivably help with.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: August 19th, 2015 04:18 am (UTC) (Link)
I know I've said it before, but I like so much what you do with your stories about the Careers; they feel so much more real than they do in the books -- understandable, of course, since Katniss isn't going to spend a lot of time psychologizing about people who have spent their lives training to kill people like her, but it's nice to step outside of her perspective for a bit and see what's going on in their worlds. As for Peeta's birth, back labor is indeed a horror, but if Mir is bleeding that much at the stage I'm willing to bet there was something else going on there as well; partial placental abruption, perhaps. That Mir could be coherent enough to say she didn't want Ruth in the house is weirdly impressive under those circumstances :).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 19th, 2015 05:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I think Mir will always be coherent enough to say that. Even dead, she might have something to say about it.

People always make more sense in their own heads. Their actions are totally logical to them.
From: liam Fitzpatrick Date: August 20th, 2015 12:33 pm (UTC) (Link)


Recently with LJs new update ive been unable to use or comment getting back on and finding a new set of challenges was excellent.The Enobaria one was class with finding out 2s victors fates. Also the fact that Drakes funeral was intercut with the birth was a nice touch.

11 comments or Leave a comment