The Magic behind Dandelions and Bows

Chapter 6

Chapter 6

As soon as Templesmith declares the beginning of the Games, I rush out of my platform, knowing that each second that passes will be essential for my survival. I actually infuse my legs with just enough magic to be able to run just fast enough to do what I need without calling attention to myself. I reach down to grab the first thing I find, a lump made of a cloth I cannot identify on sight. With this load on my left shoulder, I easily spy another bag, this one bigger, and I rush to grab it as well.

Right as I do so, one of the other boys runs towards me, ready to reach it. I am not going to let him to that, though: instead, I jump next to him and use the bag on my left shoulder to push him away from it, to then reach down and grab the backpack, which I hang on my right shoulder. I am about to leave, but suddenly I see something shiny come at me, and I grab it by pure reflex.

It is a knife, slightly larger than the throwing knives I saw during the training, but small enough to be reliably thrown by hand. I look beyond, and I see Clove, glaring at me while obviously stunned at the fact that I managed to grab the knife. Well, I am certainly going to take advantage of this situation: I am coming out of an encounter that could have killed me with only an extra knife for a change, so I rush towards her and try to aim with my left bag in order to push her to the ground, but she manages to step away and turn as I rush towards the forest.

Then, I move that same bag again, and feel a second knife getting stuck into it. Obviously, Clove thought she could kill me while my back was to her. The joke is on her, then. I look back, and I see the girl is furious.

"Hey, thanks for the present! I'll make sure to give it a good use!" I yell at her. Taunting her does a lot of good for my nerves, frazzled after so much time waiting and how near death was. I resume my race towards the forest, knowing that she will be unable to catch me.

In the meantime, cannons have been sounding almost constantly, signaling the deaths of more than one of the Tributes. I wish no one had to die. But it is what we have to go through now.

It is about twenty, thirty minutes after I started running – about fifteen since the cannons stopped – that I finally reduce my speed and begin to walk. I am a bit winded, but not as much as I expected. Guess that, between the magic and the food, I have managed to improve my stamina.

Not to mention the sex, the traitorous side that was awakened the night of the Parade supplies. I ignore that, forcing myself to not blush at the fact that Peeta and I have certainly had our encounters in the bathroom and bedroom. Instead, I begin to make use of my Peeta sense, of that ability to know where he is at every moment. And I follow the direction where the link tells me he is.

~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~

As soon as the countdown ends, I run faster than I have ever done in my life, knowing that every step I give will be one step nearer to salvation. My objective is one, the bow and arrows that I have seen before. These must be for Katniss, because it is her best chance to survive this hell we are both in.

Cannons take some time to begin sounding, but when they do, it is a signal that I may run out of time too soon. No one confront me, or at least I never see anyone attempt to do so, but I know that they might attack me on the back, or something similar, so I try to stay alert on every direction.

As I approach the bow, I see Glimmer, the blonde-haired girl from District One, trying to get it, so I push myself to run even faster, if that is possible. That boost aids a lot, because I manage to grab the bow and the arrow-pack just as Glimmer is touching them. I stun her by hitting her with the bow, and I look around very fast to see what else I can get.

I see a large green backpack with a mace tied to it. I consider that this may have been sent by the Gamemakers after my presentation, but do not think a lot about it before I rush for it. Anything that is within that large backpack will be things that Katniss and I are going to need. As I approach it, other Tributes continue to die, but this time I have no opposition as I hook the backpack on my back and grab the mace.

But when I set out to run towards the forest, I get interrupted by Cato, who carries a bloodied sword and is looking at me with wrath, and obviously intent on killing me.

Obviously, he does not know that what powers me is far stronger than what does him. And I have several tricks up the sleeve that he knows nothing about.

So, I decide to charge at him. I am not sure about the difference in weight, but I am sure I can stun him for long enough to make my way out.

Cato sees what I am doing and slashes at me when I am close enough, but I am able to parry his sword with my mace before it even touches me, before I tackle him. Used as I am to wrestling, I am able to keep my balance with some effort, and I am glad to see that Cato did not, dropping to the ground after my shoulder makes contact with some point in his ribs.

I do not stay there for too long, though. I took quite the risk in doing this, but now that I have a weapon for myself and for Katniss, and who knows how many supplies here in this backpack, both of us will have a greater chance to survive. So, I run towards the forest, as I agreed with Katniss, and as soon as I reach the place, I begin to seek her. I concentrate in the link between us, deeply, and I finally find where she is going. She is moving towards me, actually.

Great. That means less time until we find each other.

I begin walking towards her, keen on conserving my strength, and begin calling to her.

Katniss?

Peeta! Finally! I was worried about you!

Well, I was not hurt. What about you?

No injuries, either. I even caught a couple of knives from Clove.

Great. The sooner we meet, the sooner we can finally begin to plan.

I'm coming.

I smile, and continue trotting towards my girl. And maybe, just maybe, we will be able to do the impossible.

~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~

I finally begin to feel Peeta coming nearer. And I am glad. I need to make sure he is OK. I know he is saying nothing happened to him, but I still need to know myself if that is true. And I am sure Peeta is expecting to be able to do the same.

"Katniss?" I hear someone shout, and I smile. That is Peeta's voice.

"I'm here, Peeta!" I shout back, and run as fast as I can towards the voice source. It only takes a few steps before I see him, and as soon as he reaches me I grab him and kiss him and put my arms around him. And, for a few seconds, we are back together in the lake next to Twelve, in that bedroom before our daughter interrupts us, away from all of this horrible mess that is the Hunger Games.

But then, we break off the kiss, and we are back into reality. He grabs my hand.

"Let's go!"

I nod, and the two of us run far, fast, from any point that is too near to the lake and where the Careers can see us. And at no moment do we separate our hands, because we need the physical contact to ensure we can keep up with each other at every moment. It is only when we judge we are far away enough from the lake that we reduce our speed and begin walking, to help our racing hearts slow down. We barely speak on the way, and I am already looking around for anything that can be a refuge for tonight. If it were just me alone, I would climb up a tree and tie myself down to a branch, but with two of us here, it would be impossible to do anything similar. So, it is going to have to be something big like a cave. Or, perhaps, Peeta can camouflage us with mud.

It is going to have something to think about later, though, because first we have to stop and make stock of what we have found while running from the Cornucopia. So, when we find a specially thick trunk, we sit behind it and I put down the two bags I have taken with me.

"What did you get?" I ask Peeta, opening the larger bag. It turns out it is not a bag, but a large sleeping bag. It has several cuts from the knife Clove threw at me, but it will still be useful for the nights, and the cuts can be fixed with some work.

"I got a mace for myself, some food, a couple of tools, a canteen with water and... this," Peeta says, and I am a bit shocked that he is handing me the bow and arrows I saw earlier.

"How did you get this?" I ask him, carefully grabbing both things and feeling amazed at what he has managed to do.

"Had to run a lot to catch it before Glimmer did," he replies. "And then I knocked Cato out of the way."

I lean forward and kiss him deeply. He risked his life to get me this bow, my chances to survive have risen. And his, too, because I will do everything to help protect him.

No matter what else happens.

"What do you have?" he asks me later, after we break down our kiss.

"Food, an empty canteen, some wire, some tarp, and... a bottle of water purifier. Oh, and this big sleeping bag. It might be enough to keep the two of us together."

Think it was put there on purpose? I think to Peeta.

Probably. The Gamemakers would probably love to see us together.

Screw them. I'm not sure if we will end up doing anything, but, if we do, we can always find ourselves a cave and use some magic to cover up what we are doing. I'm sure we can make the cameras think we are just sleeping.

"Good," he says. "Should we start to look for a refuge? And water, too. What I have here in this bottle will not last for a lot of time."

"Sure. I do hope you are not adverse to climbing a bit tonight. And also having to sleep tied to the tree."

"As long as you are there, I think I will be able to do it."

~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~

We spend the rest of the day walking, trying to find food, water and a place to stay in. The former is easy, as there seems to be a lot of life around us, although I am sure that, if Katniss had not taught me how to be silent when walking – and carefully using a spell to actually reduce the noise I make when I step on the ground – I would be chasing away all the animals in a mile around us. I manage to recognize a few edible plants on the way – the time spent in that workshop was certainly useful – and I collect them as we continue walking.

Meanwhile, Katniss manages to hunt a large groosling. She says that it might be best if we try to keep the preserved food for emergencies, and I agree with her. The only problem is that we will not be able to cook them, unless we can find a way to make a fire that cannot be detected.

"I'll take care of that," she says when I mention the problem.

How, exactly, do you plan to do this?

Easy. Dig a hole, start a fire in it, partially cover it with the tarp to let air in, and when the birds get cooked, we leave it on and move well away to eat. Anyone that sees it will be confused when they realize there is no one. It's something Gale and I did when we were out hunting on weekends.

Hearing about Gale does not spark any jealousy on me, which is quite good. I guess that the fact that I know that Katniss feels the same as me helps a lot.

"I can help."

"Sure. Let's see if we can find some water source around, and then we will make a fire."

I know there is a river somewhere in this arena. I saw it earlier, while we were waiting for the countdown. However, it seems that, after running so much, we have left it far from where we are. I only remember that it is clockwise from where we are right now, but as night begins to fall, the only water source around is the canteen in my bag. We resist, as much as possible, the thirst that is demanding we find something, anything, to drink. At least, as we can speak through our link, we can avoid having to open our mouths too much.

Still, it is not enough, and in the end I take the can and drink a sip of water. I almost sigh in relief as the liquid goes down my throat, but the relief is brief as I hand the can to Katniss, who also drinks just a sip.

Let's hope that we find a source soon, or we will be in big trouble, she thinks.

Look, I have an idea. Maybe we could do some magic to find water?

It is risky, and I do not know if the cameras will actually see us doing it. We can keep it as a last resource, and perhaps it would be best at night, while we take cover somewhere not so easy to see.

We have magic to make it look like we are not doing anything. But, yes, best if we do it as a last resource.

We still have enough light to get some food, and Katniss finds a small clearing, where we will be able to cook the groosling.

Great. We do this one carefully, and it might even last us for a couple of days, Katniss thinks.

Shall we work on it, then?

Sure.

Using the tools I got, I begin digging a hole in the ground, following Katniss' instructions as she methodically and efficiently skins and cleans the bird. I find branches big enough to make a good fire, and also several smaller ones to start it. We use another branch to skewer the bird, and I light the fire, putting the bird over it and covering it with a tarp. Discreetly, Katniss also adds a little magic, reducing the smoke produced by the fire.

"How long do you think we'll need to wait?"

"Until it gets cooked? About... fifteen, twenty minutes."

"Well, then let's wait."

We sit together, always vigilant in case someone sees the smoke and comes after us, but they do not, and when we get the cooked bird out, we take the tarp and leave the fire running, which will hopefully distract anyone that tries to kill us.

Walking in another direction for enough time that the sun is nearly gone, and the moon comes out, we finally sit down and enjoy the bird, which is quite delicious, although it might actually be that we are quite hungry and have not eaten anything since this morning. What we don't eat, we put into the tarp and into my backpack, the largest, and the only thing that rests is to find a good place to stay in.

"Do you think you can climb up there?" Katniss asks, pointing to a large tree with huge branches.

"Well, I can try, and probably you will have to guide me. But I guess I can do it. I could with that wall there," I reply.

"I'll go first and tie a rope. That way, if you slip, you won't fall to the ground," she decides, and begins to climb the tree with the same agility of one of those squirrels she likes to hunt. As soon as she reaches the branch, she gets her rope out and ties it to her waist, dropping the other side to me.

As I begin to climb, I am glad of the fact that I can use magic to diminish my own weight just enough to be able to step on the lower branches without breaking them. If I did not, I am sure that I would have already fallen. Fortunately, even if I have to go a lot slower than Katniss, I manage to reach her and sit next to her.

"I can't believe trees can be this thick," I say, patting the branch.

"Well, be glad, because this is where we are going to stay for the night," Katniss tells me. "Hope you will be comfortable with a rope tied around your waist."

"I might not, but I guess I have no other choice," I say, and we get the sleeping bag prepared.

While we get into it, a fanfare fills the air, and the sky is illuminated with the symbol of the Capitol. A few seconds later, it is followed with the image of the District 3 boy.

"The dead Tributes," Katniss whispers, sad, and I nod.

One by one, they appear on the sky, and when it ends, it tells us that ten Tributes have died. Three and Six have lost both of their Tributes; Four, Five and Eight their male Tribute, and Seven, Nine and Ten their female Tribute. So, apart from us, that's One, Two and Eleven that have both Tributes, while Four, Five, Seven, Eight, Nine and Ten only have one.

"Sleep tight, Katniss," I whisper to her, and she gives me a kiss before burrowing herself into my embrace.

"Good night, Peeta," she replies.

I love you.

I love you, too.

Our sleep is somewhat troubled. We have nightmares about losing each other to these Games. Of being forced to actually kill each other. Of one of us having to live the rest of their life completely alone, unable to get past the loss of the person we love. But we still manage to rest, until, when the sun begins to rise, a cannon sounds, waking both of us at the same time.

That is the eleventh Tribute to die.

Eleven to go, if Katniss and I want to stay alive.

~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~

Our second day in the Arena is very uneventful. The only person that dies is the one whose cannon woke us up, the District 8 girl. We spend the day trying to find water, but we are unlucky. We do manage to find some plants we can eat to quench our thirst, but it is not enough, and unless we find water soon, we will die of dehydration. Not the best of deaths.

When we wake up on day three, my throat is parched, and, even though we are doing our best to save the water we got from the Cornucopia, we are already running out. I guess that the Gamemakers thought it would be hilarious if they drove the temperature up, to make us all thirsty and drive us to the nearest water source. Either way, it is working, and I know that we really need to find that water soon.

And we cannot create it out of nothing, using magic. That would definitely attract too much attention.

When Peeta comes back from peeing, I see that it is getting bad.

"It was brown-ish," he says before I can ask him.

"We really need to get water. That's a signal of dehydration."

"Well, we can only try to keep going. It's the only way we will find what we need."

We keep walking, looking around for any signal of humidity, but it is tough to do so, considering that we are surrounded by forest.

But then, Peeta stops, sniffs into the air, and smiles.

"Can you smell that?"

I sniff as well, and catch the smell of wet grass, of moss in the trees.

"Yes. Finally. Let's go and catch some water."

Peeta takes my hand, and the two of us rush towards the place where that smell is coming from, and then the sound of water as it flows along its bed, and finally the sight of crystalline water between the rocks, full of fishes that will be useful in the future. We almost jump in to drink as much as we can, but I stop us before we do.

"We don't know if it is really clear," I tell him, and he nods, understanding.

We fill up both of our bottles, and with trembling hands, I put three drops of purifier into each of them. We have to let it do its work, for twenty minutes, before we can finally drink.

To pass the time, we decide to sit a bit away from the river, under a tree, and stay silent. Or, rather, we speak though our minds.

What should we do now? he asks me.

We will need to find where the others are. Most of all, the Careers. Then, we stay away from them as best as we can. And we only kill if we have no other choice.

Wish we did not have to.

If we could get what we wanted, the Games would not exist, no one would be dying of hunger, and our biggest worry would probably be how to sneak out of our houses to meet before we went to sleep.

Or any attempts by my mother to attempt to lead me towards some other girl.

Do you think she would hate what we have?

I am sure that she is thundering about it at home. I just hope that she is not taking this against my father.

How's that?

"Did you know that my dad was going to marry your mom?"

"Really?" I ask aloud, wondering why he is now speaking like that. He probably has a plan of some kind.

"Yes. He really loved her, and I think your mom liked him. They were engaged, actually, but then she met your dad, and mine told her that he would not hold her to the engagement promise. It hurt him to let her go, but he was glad that, at least, she was happy. I think mom has always felt angry that she was Dad's second choice, and has never forgiven him for that."

"I didn't know that," I whisper. And I guess that that's why she is angry with you. Because you look so much like your father.

Only partly. Mostly, it is because she wanted me to be a girl. She thinks I am a disappointment because of that.

Well, to me, you are not a disappointment. In fact, you are almost perfect. I kiss him to illustrate that feeling.

Thank you.

We continue sharing thoughts, and even a couple of kisses, until the time is finally up and we can drink the water. I swear that nothing I have drunk has ever tasted so good, and I go through the full canteen in just a few seconds. Peeta does the same, and soon we are repeating our movements, filling up the canteens to the brim and putting the purifier into it.

"I think we should start moving, before someone can find us," Peeta suggests. Or the Gamemakers decide to 'improve' things by sending something our way.

"Sure."

We begin to walk down the river, towards the Cornucopia, making sure to stay close enough to the forest that we can hide in it if we see anyone closing in on us. If we manage to reach the lake today, we should be able to see what the Careers, who have probably taken over that place, are doing right now. Perhaps we might even get to learn what they are doing to go after the other Tributes.

~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~

On the way, we drink another canteen, trying to replenish the water we have lost, and I continue to be glad that Katniss got that water purifier liquid, knowing that it might have actually been mixed with something that would make us ill.

We do not arrive to the lake by the time night falls, so we find ourselves climbing yet another tree and falling asleep, again in each other arms. Save for the girl from Eight, no one has died tonight.

The next morning, I am awakened by a smell I am used to. The smell of fire, of wood burning. Just like in the bakery, at home.

I open my eyes, suddenly remembering that we are not at home. We are at the arena, and there is an enormous fire in the forest, coming our way. If we do not move really fast, it will engulf this tree and kill us.

I move to wake Katniss, but she is already awake, and untying the knot that keeps us fixed to the large branch we have been sleeping in.

"What the hell? How could this happen?" I ask aloud.

"Gamemakers," she replies, and I know she is right. They must have thought that it would spice up things for the Capitol viewers, who would probably love to see us and all other Tributes running for their lives against a fire.

But that will not help us much, and Katniss and I grab our backpacks and the sleeping bag. Actually, we drop the sleeping bag to the ground, since we can see that it is not in danger of burning. Then, Katniss hugs me and I lower us to the ground, using my sleeves to grab the rope and control our descent, and also to avoid burning my hands. I wish I had gloves, but beggars cannot be choosers right now.

"The river, now!" I shout, grabbing the sleeping bag. It might be our best chance to survive this fire. Katniss nods, and we run towards there, trying to avoid the fire in our way. Once or twice, we are even met with strange fireballs flying across the air, around us. I try to make the flames stay away, but distracted as I am, I do not succeed.

Katniss screams in pain when a fireball hits her. I turn and see that her right calf is burning, so I make to grab her and rush her to the river. Then, I get hit in the shoulder, and it burns worse than the bakery's oven. I cannot avoid giving a scream as well.

"We... we have to... reach the river," Katniss tells me between gritted teeth.

"I know," I reply. Doing a great effort, I manage to calm my nerves, or at least the pain sensation, with my magic, and I grab Katniss, so that none of us ends up roasted in this fire. It takes some time, but when we finally reach the river I jump in with her and lift the magic on my burn, letting the cool water soothe the pain in my shoulder, and on Katniss' leg.

"Katniss!" I say, worried at the grimace she is sporting. We ignore the forest burning right behind us, since there is little chance of it affecting us. I hope.

"It's... it's OK, Peeta," she says, even though I can tell she is not.

"It's not. You are hurt, Katniss. Those flames were way hotter than the ones in the bakery, and believe me, I know about burns," I tell her. "Right now, cold water is the best thing to begin to heal, but we are going to need something better to fully heal them."

"There's no plants in there that can help," she replies, forcing a little smile, and leaving me a bit surprised that she actually made a joke.

"There probably are downriver. On the other bank."

We turn to the source of the voice, and we see it is the young girl from Eleven, Rue, if I am not mistaken, who has jumped into the river as well, and is now swimming towards us.

"Hi," I tell her.

"You were lucky to get away with just a burn," Rue says. "There were lots of animals running away, and I think a few got caught. There's been no cannons, so no one died in there."

"Yeah, I can tell," Katniss says. Dying in a fire must be horrible, she thinks.

I know.

"So, how is it going for you?" I ask her. Internally, I am surprised I can be this calm right now.

"Been better. Hiding up there was quite useful."

I wonder what she means, but then I remember how she was climbing the wall, and how she left the stands during her demonstration.

"You've been hiding in the treetops?"

"Yes. Well, not so much now."

Do you think we could ally with her? Katniss asks me.

Yes. I think we could use a friend in here.

"Rue, I was thinking. Would you like to be our ally?"

"Really? I mean, aren't you two already allies?"

"Yes. The Careers have their own group, so, why not us?"

The three of us know that the Careers only join in a team because, that way, they can get rid of everyone else before turning on each other, but right now we can only think about that part where we could do a lot more if we work together.

"Sure. Would be good to have friends here."

While we have been talking, we continue to drift downriver, slowly leaving the fire behind us, and I know that we should get moving out of the river if we do not want to arrive too close to the Cornucopia.

"Let's get out of here," I tell the girls, pointing at the other bank of the river. Katniss nods and begins swimming in that direction, and Rue follows, swimming like a puppy behind Katniss. I smile for a bit before following them, making sure that the two of them reach the bank easily.

Of course, I remember a bit too late about the burn in my shoulder, and when I get out of the river it starts to hurt again. And, from what I can see of Katniss' face, she is also going through the same pain.

Now would be a good moment for Haymitch to get through, I tell Katniss, sitting next to her and dropping my backpack and loudly hissing when the strip brushes against my shoulder burn.

Yeah, she replies, glaring at the reddened skin in her leg as if it is offending her. Obviously, these uniforms were not made to resist fire.

"That fire got you good," Rue says, looking at us.

"Nothing we can do now," I reply, holding Katniss close.

"Maybe there is something around here that can heal burns," Rue says.

"You think so?"

"Yes. At Eleven, we have to work for a lot of time under the sun, so we learn what plants can be used to heal sunburns. I am not sure if any of them will be around, but we might be lucky."

It is then that I notice that Rue also has a small burn on her shoulder blade. It looks like she only was glanced by the fire that is starting to become extinguished, but it must hurt a lot still.

"Well, if you find something, how about we trade?" Katniss suggests. "And, anyway, if you are hungry, we have some groosling."

"You do?" Rue asks, surprised.

"Yes. Here," I tell her, opening my backpack (glad that it is waterproof) and getting some of the roasted groosling out. Rue smiles and eats as if it is the first big thing she has eaten in days. Which it probably is.

And then, we continue walking downriver, keeping an eye for the Careers, towards the Cornucopia.

~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~

The sun begins to set when we finally arrive to the edge of the forest, close to the Cornucopia. In order to avoid being seen, we have to do some moving around, but it is worth it, because it means that, when we arrive, we can hide away far better than if we approached it from the point where we run to. We might be on the other side of the river, but that obstacle is easy to avoid if we need to do so.

From the distance, I can see the large mountain of supplies the Careers have made, probably to better keep an eye on them, and two of the Career pack in there. I gaze at them, and I can see that they are a light-brunette boy and a tall, dark-haired girl. Considering what I remember about the Careers, it takes me little time to realize who these two must be.

"I think those are the boy from One and the girl from Four," I tell Peeta and Rue, who are right next to me.

"How do you know that?" Rue asks.

"The only other boy in the pack is Cato, and he is blond. Glimmer is blonde, and Clove is way shorter than the girl there," I explain her.

"Makes sense."

"Well, now that we are here... what do we do?" Peeta asks.

"We wait. We think if we can do something about making the Careers lose their supplies. We see what else the Careers are doing."

"Maybe we could steal their supplies."

"Possible. But complicated. We would have to find a way to do it without being seen. It might be possible at night, but it would depend on whether they are arrogant enough to not have any night guard. Which I doubt they will do."

"I'm wondering, where are the other three Careers?" Peeta wonders.

"Probably looking for us. Or the others," Rue says. "I saw Cato killing the girl from Eight. She made a fire to heat herself, and the Careers found her. Cato just stabbed her and left her to die."

That... that must have been horrible, I tell Peeta.

I know. If he was going to kill her... he could have given her a painless death.

"Are you two... real?" Rue asks, looking at us.

"Yeah."

"Must have been bad, when you were Reaped."

"Yes," I tell her. I do not tell her that we were not 'real' back then. I do not tell her that, somehow, we have become a very close couple in just a a few days. But who's counting, really?

~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~

"What if we distract them?" Rue says as we have dinner. "If we get them to leave, we could easily do something about their supplies."

"What do you suggest?"

"Well, they got distracted with the fire that girl made. Maybe they would think we are somewhere else, long enough to do whatever we want."

"Yeah, it is a good strategy, but risky," I say.

"Not if I do it," Katniss replies.

"Or me," Rue suggests. "Either of us could easily run away from them if there is a problem. I light a fire, climb up a tree, and then they would be unable to catch me on time."

"What do I do, then? Wait here for you?" I ask them.

"Yes," Katniss replies. "As soon as you see them leave, get in there, steal what you can find and burn the rest."

"Are you sure?"

"Don't worry, I'm sure that it will work," she says. Nothing will stop me from returning to you, Peeta Mellark.

I expect you to be here soon. I do not fancy staying away from you for too long.

She kisses me, and I hold her to me for a moment before we prepare ourselves for sleeping. Again, we are going to take to one of the trees. Rue will share the bag with us, which is a pity, because I wanted to be close to Katniss for another night, but I know that leaving her out would not be a nice thing.

Just before we do, I see a bush with some black berries. Even though they look delicious, there is something about them that I do not like at all.

"Katniss," I whisper. "Do you know what these are?"

"Yeah," she replies, whispering too. "It's nightlock."

Well, now I know why it felt so wrong. If Katniss' memories of what nightlock can do are right, then I would have died as soon as I bit into them. I leave them alone, but I keep its place in mind, just in case.

"Let's go to sleep," I say.

"Let's," she replies, and we climb up to the tree. We are in for a long night, because I know the next day will be even longer than that.

~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~MDB~~~

A/N: Well, I did promise that action was going to begin happening, and I hope you think I delivered correctly. :) It was difficult, not to accelerate things a bit too much.

Also, as you can see, there are already several differences right now: Katniss punching the District 9 boy prevents his death-by-knife at Clove's hands; Peeta tackling Cato out of the way makes him angry enough to kill District 3 boy, which means the mines are not reactivated and the Careers are forced to leave watchers so that others do not steal supplies (which will also have consequences); Katniss and Peeta moving to meet in the forest means they end up closer to water, and neither of them sees the District 8 girl dying (which takes longer, since Peeta never goes back to mercy kill her)...

My apologies for taking this long in writing. I've been involved in a few too many ideas around, and I have also been busy with my job and with searching for a new one, so that accounts for the lateness. But I will always try to finish this.

Now, for my suggestion of the chapter: "Hidden Within" (Story ID: 8434236) by undertheaegisof. In this story, Peeta is the prince of a kingdom where legends about elves abound, of their beauty and grace. Katniss tends the tavern and is the adopted niece of Haymitch Abernathy, the best storyteller of all the kingdom and the one who keeps the legends alive. However, unbeknownst to the human people (save for Haymitch), Katniss is actually the Princess of the Elven Kingdom, who has come to seek who, among the humans, might be the one that can lead Humanity to aid the Elves in the fight against the evil warlock Snow. And Peeta has fallen in love with her. Will he be the one to put an end to the war?

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