Clove walks through the brush, Glimmer and Marvel between us, with me bringing up the rear. It had been a silent communication between she and I—the allies that can turn in any moment will be wedged in the center, where it can be easier to close on them. Her swiftness will make her better in the front and my strength can block escape.
I can't help but wonder at the way we talk in cues sometimes: if it's because of the extra training we'd do together or because we've known each for years? Possibly both, too, although the latter indicates a softness—and that's no good, no good at all—so I tend to prefer the former's reasoning.
Marvel and Glimmer keep at one another's side. It's not like they're close, from what I can tell, but they're definitely more at ease with one another than the other tributes paired together from each district. But I'm easier around Clove too, even if it's not constant or as obvious.
We hop over a fallen log, and Clove decides to practice her balancing, deftly putting one foot in front of the other. It's only for a few minutes—barely anything to register. But her calm, her having a semblance of fun here, relaxes the tension I didn't know had been building in my shoulders. We can relax a little.
Glimmer settles on the roots of an upright tree, Marvel continuing to stand but against the tree. I scan the area, searching for signs of smoke. There's bound to be a moron who's already not thinking straight; it'll be nightfall sooner than we think. It won't be for another several hours but time flies.
I look down at the weapon I have in my hand, still stained with crimson from the other tributes. I had cleaned it as well as I could have; it had begun to dry when I remembered that I actually had blood on a weapon for the first time. The feeling was slightly invigorating, showing the power I managed to gain in the years I've trained. Yet I felt slightly drained at the same time. The Girl on Fire wasn't one of the fallen. That was both good and bad.
A bird flies away, scattering some leaves. I glance up instantly—thinking of more humanlike birds, the tributes that can climb; I scowl when there's nobody.
"Cato, you need to relax," says Glimmer, looking at me from the corner of her eye.
"I am relaxed. I'm just alert."
"You're making me antsy," she replies, brushing aside her hair, "We're fine."
Clove comes up beside me, twirling a stiletto. "I think we should keep moving anyway. We killed a lot of the competition but there's plenty more we need to get rid of,"
Glimmer and Marvel stretch, looking about. Marvel then pauses and looks to the horizon. "Do you think the rest of them headed that way?"
Clove glances at him, "What makes you say that?"
He shrugs, "It just looks like higher ground over there."
Clove and I exchange looks. She shrugs, alright with the idea. We head toward the horizon.
It doesn't take long to comb through all the shrubs—I just chop a lot of the foliage out of the way. This puts me a bit on edge, with Clove in the back instead of me but it ends quickly. We all stop together and scan around. Marvel and Glimmer are murmuring, which doesn't escape my notice.
Clove's either, and she's direct, "What are you two talking about?"
Glimmer turns her head, sniffing delicately, "We're talking about where we should settle permanently,"
"Permanently?" I ask, "We're in the arena. I don't think it would be too smart to make a permanent campsite."
"No, but I mean later. When we're getting rid of more tributes,"
"What do you have in mind?" I question, with Clove quirking a brow.
I dwell on the suggestion for a moment. It makes sense essentially—the water will be nearby; economic resources like herbs and food will be more plentiful; it'll be a beacon for other tributes who won't have water. But there are flaws—it's too open. The best way to attack, when possible, is with the element of surprise, which has to be calculated in order for a desirable outcome to happen: killing whoever comes near.
"So, explain why you mean later?" I respond, trying to appear clueless.
Marvel is about to launch into an explanation when Glimmer talks first, "Well, see, we're the strongest group together. Taking the others down won't take long and when they start to get low in numbers, they'll be easier to take down. We'll be blocking the water, which is what they need to function, right?"
"In other words, they'll come to us."
Marvel speaks, looking a little relieved and aggravated, pointedly looking at Glimmer. "Yes."
She glances at him and smiles a little.
Must've been mainly his idea; it is a good one, but as stated, we'll have to wait to stake claim on it.
Clove nods, "That's good, for now. We'll come back to the idea later."
They both shrug, not affected by her dismissal. That's good—they can have their thoughts criticized and not want to murder someone, unlike Clove and I. That levelheadedness is useful.
We head further into the trees when clove stops. We pause, listening to the sounds. I hear the faintest sound of heavy breathing, frightened and need. Glimmer is the first one to head into the direction, Marvel coming up behind her, leaving Clove and I behind.
We find one of the tributes, struggling to find food in the earth. Marvel walks lightly—lighter than I thought he would—and it's over quickly, the javelin embedded deep into the flesh. They never saw him coming.
There's the sound of a cannon, blasting the quiet and birds rush out, cawing alarm.
Glimmer claps her hands, delighted with the event. Clove folds her arms but I know she likes that we've gotten another one. Marvel grins at me, and I decide to smile back. It'll make him trust me more, both of them, but, too, I like that they're not going to be afraid to get gritty if we must. Thankfully, they're fast learners and if they're not, I'm sure they can learn. They might be from an academy of their own, but District 1 is seen as frivolous and pretty for a reason, it's not just their luxuries and jewels. These two might actually prove to be better than that.
"Let's keep going, everyone," Clove remarks, continuing on. Marvel and Glimmer walk together, with her taking the javelin as he finds a cloth to clean it with. Then he laughs out loud and just takes the javelin, cleaning the pointed end with his already stained jacket. They're not used to their clothes getting dirty yet; like children who just realized they can do whatever they want and damn the consequences because it's fun.
I grin behind them, shaking my head.