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Challenges 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Challenges 1
I was wondering, in my typical way, what kind of classical music has survived, and how residents of Panem interact with them. I think there would also be certain of the folk songs that survive as well, those things hang on forever. I don't mind who reflects on 'ancient' music, but you know how I love the surviving victors and their families. for willowlistener

In all the thinking I've done about Katniss winning the Games since she got on the train -- and I spent the whole Games deliberately thinking it as much as I could -- it never occurred to me to think about the welcome home banquet and party, and what I'd do at it. I guess I figured I'd smile for a few cameras and say how glad I was that she and Peeta were both home, and then they'd leave me alone. Mostly, that's true. I mean, it's been more than a few cameras and the celebration has gone on for four days so far, but really, they haven't asked me to do much.

What never occurred to me was that I'd actually be spending time with the glittery people that have come out here for entertainment. I met a ballet dancer I've seen on television. I got make-up tips from an actress who's on all the magazine covers, and she invited me in to get our nails done together. And she gushed over my hair. "Oh, Prim, how do you make it so shiny? What do you use?" And when I told her that it's just sunshine and fresh air, she wrote it down like I gave her a cure for miner's cough.

But the real surprise was that Julian Day -- JULIAN DAY, the one whose song, "Forever and Always" played through the whole Games, the one whose face is on tee shirts all over the Capitol, almost as many as Katniss and Peeta's -- didn't just make a fuss over the victor's little sister. I ended up sitting with him at the banquet, and he's made a point of visiting me every day. And talking to me like he's the one who's blown away by meeting me. At least at first. Now, four days into it, he just looks up from Madge's piano when I come in and smiling. "Hey, Prim. I was going to head out later."

"I was in town for…" I look out the window, at the dancing and celebrating outside. My sister and Peeta are on camera, which means they're both acting like nothing's wrong, even though I know something is. I slipped away before I could accidentally let anything slip. "I figured you might be in here. Are you writing something new?"

"Nah. I asked Madge about old District Twelve music. I like to learn what I can from other places. It adds to… well, what I know."


"She says there's not a lot that's written down, so I jotted down the music from yesterday, when the banjo-player was out. What's his name?"

"That's Elwood Rutledge. You jotted it down?"

He produces a pile of papers marked with lines and dots. "I've got perfect pitch. Comes in handy for transcribing."

"I don't know how to read music."

"It's easy. If it goes up the staff, the tone goes up. If it goes down, the tone goes down. If it's just a big donut, it lasts four beats. A donut with a stick is two beats. A filled in dot with a stick is one beat. Then you start adding a flag for each time you cut the length in half. A dot after a note adds half to whatever the value is. Now, you can read music. Well, there are rests, too. I don't know. It just takes a little practice once you get the concept."

"Effie brought Katniss a flute. Maybe I'll try to learn it."

"Go for it. Flutes are good."

"Do you play the flute?"

"Flute, piano, trumpet, clarinet, guitar, violin. A bunch of others. Most instruments are variations on one theme or another, so once you learn one, it's easier to learn one that's like it."

"There's nothing new?"

"I can't think of one that wouldn't just be a variation on plucking, blowing, striking, or bowing." He shrugs. "We've been playing the same kinds of instruments for a long time. There are old stories about when they were invented -- lyres aren't much different from harps and guitars, and those stories come from ancient Greece."

"And we play the same music?"

"No way to know. They didn't write it down in ways we can understand, and there are no recordings. But we're definitely playing some of the same stuff as way before the catastrophes. Mozart" -- he plays a riff of a song I've heard, but don't know -- "or Williams" -- a tiny little tinkle of high piano keys, haunting -- "or McCartney" -- he starts the "na-na-na-na" song that everyone learns sometime ("I like that one because it was written for someone named Julian," he says) -- "or a little bit of Beethoven." He finishes up with the crashing four-note motif, da-da-da-DUM. "I always wonder if those guys all knew each other. I can imagine them sitting around an old camp together, trading riffs."

"Were they all alive at the same time?"

"No one knows. Haven't you noticed, we've lost track of time since then?"

"I always wondered why the dates were fuzzy."

"Some aren't. But no one cared about the musicians. Now, they're all just 'classical' if they're before the Catastrophes. Or 'folk' if we don't know when they came from. That's Twelve."

"But most of the songs we sing are about the Catastrophes, so they have to be newer."

"Unless it's new words to an old song. I did some research, you know. You ever hear this song?" He plays a few bars.

I recognize it -- "The Name of Our Fathers" -- and start humming, then pick up with the words, "...on a mountain, fair in from all the water / Alone, we made our stand / Right here on our ancient land / We stood in the name of our fathers."

"That's what it is now. How would it grab you if I sang it like this?" He picks up the beginning again, but the words are totally different, in an accent I don't recognize. "I was born a coal miner's daughter. In a cabin, in a hill in Butcher Hollow. We were poor but we had love, that's the one thing Daddy made sure of. He shoveled coal to make a poor man's dollar." He finishes up and smiles. "Well, obviously, it's not a song a Capitol boy would sing, but… I found it in the archives, when I looked for music about coal, while I was researching during the Games. Then I ran it through melody recognition, and it turned out that the same tune is a new song now. I bet a lot of them are." He shakes his head. "The language must have been different, if 'Hollow' rhymed with 'dollar.' I wonder if the 'r' used to be silent."

"I don't even know what a dollar is," I say. "Do other districts do that? Don't they have anything new?"

"Variations," he says again. "But sure, other districts do it. Want to hear some?"

I do. I sit down beside him on the piano bench, and we go through the districts, "Top down," as he calls it. Capitol music is "self-consciously referential," he says with a an eye-roll, at least on the top levels. If we want the way people actually interpret music, he suggests going to the bars, where people -- including him, when he was just a poor kid -- play the music people want to listen to. He swears there's something holding it all together, but I can't spot the thread. There are show tunes and slow dancers and rhythmic bopping around and even a kind of electronic sound that he somehow manages to wrest out of the piano. He teaches me something he played when he was five and singing for coins adults would toss.

District One, which presents itself as a sophisticated vacation spot for the Capitol, uses a lot of the "classier" old music as a base. District Two is a musical wasteland, as far as Julian is concerned, and they just ape whatever the Capitol does. Three likes complicated melodies, and is especially fond of musical theater.

"Four…" He frowns. "Something's going on there with the old music. There's a real flavor to it, but I can't quite figure it out. It's very deliberate. Not like the old nautical tunes you'd think." He plays a few chords. "'Oh, come to the sea now, come and taste the cool surf, come now and let your soul rise above.' There's more like that. The words don't fit the kind of melodies. They're hiding something."

"Like what?"

"Musically, I've got theories, but they're kind of dangerous." He smiles. "Let's say, my great-grandparents were from Eight, and we have some musical secrets, too."

I pretend to know what he means. "What about Five?"

"Nothing distinct. They're not musical. They tend to pick up from Six -- lots of drums and flutes. I think it's native to Panem, actually. I don't know anything about Seven, before you ask. Never studied it."

"But you know Eight."

"You put new words to old melodies. We like to put old words to new melodies. And that's all I'll say there. Nine… perfect one part harmonies." He grins.

I just about melt. Then I remember that he's famous and older than me, and he'd probably be annoyed if I stared acting like a fan, so I just smile back and hope it looks less crazy than it feels. "Ten? Eleven?"

"Ten and Four use the same base. Ten is just a District of District Four, if you ask me." He noodles around on the keyboard. "Eleven's great. It's no wonder your sister's friend loved music. I think it's got to be the only way to stay sane in that heat." He blinks, then shakes his head. "Well, the way I imagine the heat, anyway. I know what the data are, and I know what kind of work they do. It's hot and humid and miserable, and… well, I… I hear it's not always nice there. And music's free, or at least it can be, so…"


"And that brings us back to Twelve. And my favorite coal miner's daughter."

"Everyone loves Katniss," I say.

He wiggles his eyebrows and says, "Who?"

We don't seem to hear from the District 5 victors very often. What do they think of the capitol and the rebel victors? For that matter, how are their relationships with their own district? for Beth
We scatter more or less as soon as we get into town. Tesla Corvin and I are mentors. Tesla's useless, not to mention sixty-six years old. (Or "Sixty-six years young!" as the burbly Capitol reporters always put it.) He won the Tenth Games, and things have changed a bit since then. Tesla hasn't; once he loses his tribute, he'll go in for his annual "freshening up," and we'll all pretend that he just naturally doesn't age. But at least he's sober, which is more than I can say for Thalis Dorgan. Thalis won the Thirty-Fourth, and is only in his early thirties, but he's had no "freshening." Maybe some preserving, depending on what's in the rotgut he drinks nonstop, but it doesn't do anything for his looks, and his mind's shot. Snow probably couldn't get even a desperate Games hanger-on to pay for him, so he's left alone to slowly kill himself. It will be no great loss.

Robin Keith is only a few years younger than Tesla, and she's all right. She was my mentor back in the Forty-Fifth, and she did right by me. It's not her fault that Snow decided I could serve other functions. No one was ever interested in Robin, as far as I know. She's a mousy little thing with tiny eyes and stringy hair, and even in her youth, no one would have thought she was beautiful. Now, she just comes to the Capitol to visit her old friends from the style team, all of them now retired. As far as I know, they sit around watching soap operas and drinking white wine, while catching up on gossip. I don't follow. Even if Snow left me time for it, I have no intention of turning into my mentor.

Between Robin and Thalis, we had a Quell victor, of course. He "disappeared." I speak Capitol well enough to figure that means he saw something he shouldn't have and ended up in pieces in the Capitol lake. Tesla says he was "solid kid," whatever that means. He never bothered to go back to Five. Maybe "solid" means "smart." Of course, once he managed to stretch his Capitol "visit" to three years before disappearing, Snow closed the loophole, so, gosh, thanks Charlie.

At any rate, it's Tesla and me in the apartment. Robin's with her friends, and Thalis is holed up in one bar or another. Most of them have by-the-hour rooms to rent, and he rents a lot of hours there during the Games. I'm sure he's a boon to barkeepers and whores alike. Tesla generally goes straight to Games headquarters, where he bothers Caesar Flickerman about anything that occurs to him. Caesar is unfailingly patient with him for some reason.

I, of course, have no time to waste on things like visiting friends or bars. Snow has set me up to "entertain" some crony of his while my tributes are in prep. The truth is, I don't mind it. I don't have any particular hang-ups about what I do with my body. Having it used to kill several people for the entertainment of millions strikes me as worse than I do now, but even that, I can deal with. It's not like any of it was a choice, so it doesn’t have anything to do with me, anyway. It's just my body.


I slow down, briefly considering pretending that I didn't hear. Seeder would know it's a pretense, but she'd probably just figure -- correctly -- that I'm on the way to meet a client.

I stop and look around. "What? I don't have time."

She sighs. "You really should come spend some time with us. There are a few of us meeting up after the parade -- "

"No," I say. I know who she means when she says, "a few of us." It's not the best kept secret among the victors that the ones from Eleven, Twelve, and Three fancy themselves to be rebels. I think Seven's in it, too. Places without many victors to spare, so they all travel together, and they're going to get themselves hanged together in the end. Snow will probably leave them on gibbets for the birds to eat.

"Look, you could come as Haymitch's date. It could get you out of… other appointments."

I laugh. "Yeah. I'm sure they'll care about my sudden deep relationship with your pet drunk." I pat her shoulder. "We already have pet drunk in Five. I don't need to adopt another one."

She grimaces. "You could do worse, but that's not the point. It's just… a reason to come spend time with us."

"Wow. A way to achieve my life's goal."

"You're not happy, Faraday."

"What a stunningly brilliant deduction. No wonder everyone talks about how understanding and wise you are." I turn.

She grabs me and turns me again. "There's more to life than avoiding trouble."

"Sure. I could drink myself into a stupor like Chaff and Abernathy. Or maybe tinker and go dotty like Latier. Or, I know… I could be a ballet dancer. I'm sure that my life would be full of meaning and happiness, just like yours."

"You hate this."

"And the insights just keep on coming. Did you notice the water coming from the sky outside? It's possible that it means it's raining. See? I can do it, too."

She grits her teeth. "I'm not going to waste a lot more time on you, Sykes. You know what I'm asking."

"Oh, yeah. I know. Which is why I will not be within earshot of any of you at any meet-up you think you're going to have. I may hate my life, but not so much that I'm lining up to get executed."

"Why bother?" Seeder asks acidly. "You're dead already, if nothing matters."

"Right. I'm not interested in socializing with your little band, so I must be a soul-dead nihilist."

"You said that, I didn't."

"Please. You made a strong implication, and I clarify the language to indicate that I know you don't think I'm actually undead." I roll my eyes. "Give me a break. I'm not stupid. I didn't win my Games by being stupid."

"Which is why I think you'd… enjoy the company I'm inviting you to join."

I consider continuing the conversation, but I catch a glimpse of a clock. I really don't have time. I just shake my head and say, "I'll see you at the Parade."

I walk away.

I'm going the wrong direction. I end up down in the basement of the remake center, where the chariots are being prepared. The victor from Eight, Woof -- I'm pretty sure he's in on their little "social group" as well, now that I think about it -- is trying to convince his mousy girl tribute to stand up straight and let the cloth of her dress drape properly. She keeps trying to hike it up higher on her tits. I don't think she needs to worry. Even if she wins (not likely; Eight never plays well), she looks like she's a close relative of the horses pulling the chariot she's in. They wear it better.

The technicians are having a full-fledged panic attack about whether or not the weather controls are haywire.

"It has to rain sometimes!" a frustrated woman says. "The water does build up. It needs to fall. They should have done it yesterday, but it'll be fine before the parade."

"The cobbles will be wet!" a man whines. "The glare… it will spoil all the shots!"

I pass them without looking at them, and raise my umbrella as I go outside. The Capitol always smells odd in the rain, the wet streets sending up a steamy chemical scent, but the earth and flowers on the mountains and around the lake releasing a dusty, earthy smell that tries to smother the idea that anything other than raw nature exists.

I walk along the City Center promenade, to the Presidential mansion. I imagine it will be that fat old man from the university who likes me to pretend to be one of his students, in need of discipline after plagiarizing a paper or maybe cheating on a test. Or maybe I'll just really need his expert guidance on… whatever it is he teaches. One year, he brought one of his actual students, and wanted us to both seek his… guidance. And each other's.

Or maybe the Commissioner of Peacekeepers (God, Snow and his pretense that the Peeks are a civilian force!). The Commish is more straightforward, and quicker. A lot quicker, actually. Just face the wall and get it over with. He usually takes a picture. He probably has a little album watching me age silently in a dusty corner of his office. Whatever.

I reach the front door. A dryer comes on as soon as I lower my umbrella, getting the rain-splashes off my feet and blowing lewdly up my legs.

The door opens.

The boy is about sixteen, and he looks exactly like Snow. He smiles shakily and gestures for me to come in.

I sigh, and get to work.


28 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 15th, 2016 06:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 19th, 2016 03:03 am (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome!
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 15th, 2016 08:21 am (UTC) (Link)
That was a sweet interaction between Prim and Julian. I'm getting a good chuckle out of imagining her reaction to his last comment. It makes her "Nobody is smitten" line and general seething during the play in TGM all the more hilarious.
In general, the way musical styles relate to their region's culture (or sometimes seem to go contrary to that) can be quite intriguing.
Whether it was intentional or not on your part, I can't help but see a bit of Donzo in Julian, considering their genuine interest in history/culture, keen insight to what's going on around them, and down-to-earth nature.

Faraday continues to be a... peach. I mean I can see how she might consider apathy preferable to breaking down or playing with fire, probably something when Seeder loses patience.
Interesting that the PKs aren't portrayed as a military force but as a civil one. Or is it just for the Capitol force that the farce is maintained?

-- FFR
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 19th, 2016 03:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I think there's a lot of Donzo in there. He's a character that caught in my head, and most likely will keep occurring -- the child prodigy who is not raging at his fate, who genuinely enjoys the thing he does.

I think Snow pretends the Peacekeepers are entirely a police force rather than a military one. Because, you know, it's all a town and he's totally in charge of everything, and has no need for a military force.
shiiki From: shiiki Date: July 16th, 2016 10:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Aw, Prim and Julian! That was really cute.

Faraday's really cynical, isn't she? Though I can see why ... that ending though, I can't help wondering whether Martius Snow (that is him, isn't it?) ends up getting her involved in something rebellious, though obviously of a different sort from Haymitch and co.'s rebellion.

Also love the mention to Charlie and Tesla 'bothering' Caesar. I can't remember if Tesla knows about Charlie being Caesar. It would have been a really tough secret to keep from a mentor (assuming Tesla mentored Charlie--I don't remember about that either).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 19th, 2016 03:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, Faraday is... cynical is a mild way to put it.

I'm reasonably sure Tesla remembers his tribute, though Caesar never confirms it.
willowlistener From: willowlistener Date: July 16th, 2016 01:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lovely to hear from Julian and Prim. I like the idea of four being subversive musically - we know the African slaves did that to great effect.

But I'm also getting a terrible kick out of them wondering if McCartney and Mozart knew each other - their music is just SO similar...

But I particularly enjoyed poor Martinus meeting his pivotal moment in the second last line. And it wasn't even my prompt.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 19th, 2016 03:07 am (UTC) (Link)
When it's been a while, those dates just start to get blurrier and blurrier, I guess. I'd have to double-check on authors from a couple of centuries back...
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 18th, 2016 12:48 am (UTC) (Link)


Yes, yes, yes! If there is one song from the mists of forgotten time that District 12 MUST reclaim, it is "Coal Miner's Daughter." After first reading this story, I immediately played it on Youtube...and cried my eyes out. I loved everything about the fic, Julian's music "history" lesson (snerk), his tour of the districts (I guess that District 3 would like a good Gilbert and Sullivan operetta...), and finding out that he hails back from District 8. Awesome!

The second one was fascinating, though bitter. It's easy to say that some victors cope better than others, but it's impossible to blame any of them for the different avenues they go down considering the trauma they go through and the society they have to continue living in. Poor Faraday. That dismissive line about "it's just my body" is just heartbreaking. How does she put in the time the other 11 months of the year? Was that a cameo appearance of Cecelia with Woof at the chariots?
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 18th, 2016 12:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ecstacies...

Sorry, forgot to sign it.

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 19th, 2016 03:08 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ecstacies...

Yes, I've been listening to that song ever since I started reading THG. Just because... well, come on. :D

That was definitely Cecelia in the chariot.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 18th, 2016 05:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Love the musical journey around the districts, though you'd think that the coal miner's daughter is one of the songs that a place like Twelve would remember.

Man, you just have to respect Faraday's impressive ability to disconnect herself from things and people she doesn't like. No wonder she won her Games. It's a bit sad that she doesn't realize how much of a turning point this was for young Martius

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 19th, 2016 03:10 am (UTC) (Link)
With so much disruption, I can see a lot of things getting forgotten, but I imagine the reason a folk song picked up from CMD was that it hung around for a really long time.

Faraday never does realize what an impact her very cynicism had on Martius.
princesselwen From: princesselwen Date: July 18th, 2016 10:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I like.the music fic. Is the Williams one the Harry Potter theme?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 19th, 2016 03:10 am (UTC) (Link)
It sure was! I had to.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 19th, 2016 05:32 am (UTC) (Link)


Aww, the one with Prim and Julian was so sweet. There little mutual crush session was so...normal in the craziest that is the Hunger Games (and after). You captured Prim so well, her self-assuredness mixed with humbleness. Julian was great. I love how you show how smart he is, not just a pretty face, not just "the talent" but a kid who uses music to read emotions and history and the secrets other cultures are hiding. Plus, I love how much you think about this world-building. Lyrics masked by familiar tunes. Lovely.
Faraday, wow. Yeah. She's...something else. I don't think her overwhelming bitterness would have helped the rebellion much. She's just as likely to turn it on them. Loved the Cecelia cameo. I miss that woman. I also loved how you showed (with barely a sleight of hand) the...softness of the Capitol in their worry that they'll get Rain (of the horror) at an inappropriate time. 'Cause that's just a problem no one should have.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 23rd, 2016 12:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Stories

I like Julian, and I think he was very genuinely crushing on Prim. Smart guys are awesome. :D

The Capitol people are all show-biz people. Never mind that there are kids dying for entertainment, it's ENTERTAINMENT, BABY. Just walk over the corpses and make sure the lighting is right.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: July 19th, 2016 05:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Both really good but I really liked the Faraday one. Obviously smart but at some point she just put the shields up and kept them up, not seeing how much damage she was doing to herself in the process. (I have to ask, how many of the old victors recognize Caesar? I remember that at least a few of them do but are they the exception, and Caesar/Charlie is just that good at reinventing himself, or is it more of a situation where officially nobody knows but unofficially most of them have figured it out?)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 23rd, 2016 12:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I think Tesla, his old mentor, probably figured it out pretty fast; he was most likely in touch with Charlie the longest and trying to get him back, and would know that he had no intention of coming back... and would most likely know that he was constantly in the hospital having modifications done. The modifications probably fooled the ones who weren't close to him, or weren't very sharp. And then there's someone like Mags, who may well have figured it out, but wasn't about to interfere with someone else's life choices.
Tracy Wood From: Tracy Wood Date: July 22nd, 2016 04:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wonder if the reason it seems four and eight are hiding something or have secrets in their music is because they both have underground religious practices.

I got a kick out of Julian singing "Coal Miner's Daughter" to Prim.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 23rd, 2016 12:45 am (UTC) (Link)
That's exactly what they're hiding!

I've really developed a weird taste for hardcore country like Coal Miner's Daughter. Which I never in my life liked before!
Tracy Wood From: Tracy Wood Date: July 23rd, 2016 02:00 am (UTC) (Link)
I went and listened to the whole song on Youtube after I read this today. I was thinking, if they didn't know what a dollar was, they wouldn't know what a bible was either. One of the verses mentions a "reading the bible by a coal oil light" or something to that effect.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 23rd, 2016 06:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Prim wouldn't -- it definitely doesn't seem to be remembered in Twelve. Other districts... who knows?
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 23rd, 2016 12:07 am (UTC) (Link)

music in Panem

This is related to the classical music question.

What is the song that Katniss sings when she is in prison and out of her mind in Narrow Path? With words like "wee" and "lass" it's presumably Scottish. Did you make it up or use an existing folk song?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 23rd, 2016 12:47 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: music in Panem

I made that one up. The tune in my head seems familiar, so I probably grabbed it from somewhere, but nowhere conscious. It's supposed to be "The Valley Song" that Peeta mentioned (as opposed to the lullaby, which I assume is something like "The Meadow Song").
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 23rd, 2016 12:36 am (UTC) (Link)

The song from district 4

I see the implication that the songs in District 4 may be underground religious songs. Did you have any particular song in mind for the one Julian sang for Prim? The reason I'm asking is that I sing in a choir and couldn't match it to a hymn I know.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 23rd, 2016 12:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: The song from district 4

It's "O Come All Ye Faithful"... and they do know the real song.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 23rd, 2016 08:51 am (UTC) (Link)
On a second read-through, Faraday's internal swearing of "God" has me wondering.
While words like "damn" and "hell" have secularized enough to be innocuous in such a setting, "God" still feels quite loaded with implications even if the swearer is an atheist.
Does she harbor a bit more dangerous thoughts or know folks with such thoughts than she's willing to even admit to herself?

28 comments or Leave a comment