I slip Mattiniah's knife into my belt as I check the contents of his bag. It looks like there is some good stuff in here. There's flint, which will be useful for starting a fire. There is some food too, not a lot, but I'll take what I can get. Best of all at the bottom of the pack is a small sleeping bag.
I think I've found a pretty good place to set up camp; on either side of me are the river and the seemingly endless thorn bushes. Hard for another tribute to sneak up on me. The river must stretch around the entire arena, I can see it stretching from where I am all the way to the deadwood forest, which it cuts through.
I haven't seen any animals, and the plant life is sparse at best, so it's a good thing Matt had that food, otherwise I'd probably be headed home in a wooden crate soon, just like the five who died in the bloodbath. When I go home I will still be breathing, not like those who underestimate me. My entire life I've been that good girl, the one who does what she is told, who follows the rules. Here in the games there are no rules. I will survive, and those who don't think I can will end up like Matt.
He looked up at me with such a shocked expression, he didn't expect this nice little girl from a poorer district to be the one who did him in. Hopefully between my training score and my kill count I can get some sponsors. They are my key to staying alive in these games, I'm not sure how long Matt's food will last. Maybe even some people back in 9 can scrape together some money to give me a chance. With Evander allied with the careers, I'm sure to be the favorite back home.
I find a good spot by the thorn bushes to spend the night, and let my mind wander to all the people back in 9 I have to see again. There are of course my parents, they were so sad when I was reaped, but I promised them I would be back. Then I think of my brother, Biron. A lot of my friends have older brothers, and none of them are as kind as Biron. Then there's my younger sister, Portia, who just stares at people when they aren't looking. As I begin to lose consciousness my friends cross my mind, Finabe, Chager, and of course my best friend Marsh. The last person that I think of is Frook. Shy little Frook. When I get back I'm not wasting any more time, I'm going to tell Frook exactly how I feel about him. That will be nice.
The time for nice things isn't now though, I position my sickle on my chest, if someone, or something manages to find me while I sleep I want to be ready.
"How you holdin' up, Ace?"
"Been better, Aaralyn put up a good fight, but I think I would have had her if it weren't for the quake." Acely says, as I stare at what was once the cornucopia. "What is it?"
"That earthquake is going to cause us a lot of trouble." I answer. Getting separated was never part of the plan.
"Well, honestly we might be better off without Fathom, I didn-"
"That's not what I'm talking about, we have bigger problems."
"What do you mean?" Acely askes. For the first time I can her a bit of worry in her voice, she must detect the seriousness of my tone.
"Storm finally has her advantage."
"Is that what this is about some old rivalry? Who cares?"
"The other careers, they are stronger than us or anyone else, so were expendable."
"They wouldn't do that, turn on us, it's the first day," Acely says, but her voice wavers.
"Storm would." I say somberly.
"Evander wouldn't agree to that."
"But Maruis certainly would, and I think you underestimate Evander's will to survive. It's just you and me now." I say in a matter of fact tone. I look at Acely, she knows I'm right, and for a second I can see the fear on her face, but as quick as it appeared it gone, replaced by stony determination.
"Then what's our play?" she asks.
"We go after the weaker tributes, but we avoid Allan's group and the other careers."
"Fine, but why are we avoiding Allan's group? We can take them."
"Probably, but the other careers will be looking for them. If they find each other then there is a shot they take out Marius or Evander, then it's all even again." Acely nods and I pause for a second. "Storm and I are evenly matched, how well could you hold up against either of the others?"
"I'd be fine."
"Acely," I look her straight in the eye, "Now is no time to stretch the truth, I need to know, honestly, if we want to live." I recognize Acely's mask, she has been wearing it since she was reaped. It's not unlike the mask I have been wearing for years. Pretending to be a cold ruthless career, I'm not sure what I am anymore, but I'm not as much like Storm as I pretend to be, and neither is Acely.
"I shouldn't have a problem with Marius in a direct fight, but Evander could go either way."
"Alright, that's good to know," I scan the arena trying to figure out our next move. "We won't make it long without water."
"Right," Acely agrees, it's time to find something to drink. "Do you hear that?" For a moment both of us are silent, and suddenly I notice it, the sound of flowing water. It's distant, but at least we know where we are going. I smile at Ace, and we both let our guard down for a moment, seeing each other without our masks. The next thing she says tells me it's back to business.
"Keep an eye out for tributes, you never know who's out there."
I don't like this arena, everything is made of stone, the only source of water is one river and nothing in it to fish. I was planning on surviving on seafood. This is a setback, but I can overcome it. I need to come up with a new plan. I haven't seen any life out here, so hunting, at least in this area, doesn't seem realistic. My best hope is to find a tribute, pick 'em off and take their supplies. Unfortunately I haven't seen anyone since my fight with Acely.
It's too bad the Gamemakers cut our battle short, It won't be easy to get her away from her allies again, the career pack is the only group that really worries me. At least Acely's district partner died, he was pretty brutal, they should be a bit easier to contend with now. Fathom wasn't the only annoyance taken out in the bloodbath, someone who has done nothing but bother me died too, Matt. He wasn't really a threat, but I'm still glad I won't ever have to see him again. I wish I could send the person who did it a gift basket.
I look up at the moon, wondering if it's real or just a projection of the arena. Hunting down tributes may have to wait till the sun comes up, but I can't be sure when it will rise. If the moon and sun are fake, the Gamemakers can make the night as short or as long as they want. I hope it doesn't take too long, the night is cold and finding tributes could take awhile. Someone else will be around, I can still hear the waterfall, and I can probably follow that if I want to find some tributes.
Ever since passing the waterfall I have been in strange territory. The rocks stretch up to the sky in strange columns jetting every which way. Most of the arena I saw was flat, or just a gradual incline. Here though, rocks jet up every which way and there are steep drop offs everywhere.
I walk over to the edge of one of these inclines, seeing if, maybe I can spot someone in the moonlight, it's worth a shot. I almost tumble over once the terrain turns from flat rock to gravel. I set off a minor avalanche, as pieces of rock fall down the slope.
How stupid can I be? Another tribute might have heard that, and as if to confirm my fears, I hear something below me. I draw my knife, it's the best I could find in the bloodbath I was hoping for a trident, but no luck. I wait for the footsteps to come up the hill, I have the high ground, and the advantage in a fight. I just hope it isn't the careers, four on one aren't odds I like. But nothing happens. After waiting for another five minutes I slide my blade back into my belt, and nervously head down the slope. Almost instantly I lose my footing, I'm sliding down the hill, falling end over end, and I'm taking half the mountain with me.
When I land, I get to my feet as fast as I can, drawing my knife, I've thrown away my advantage, and now I'm surrounded by a cloud of dust. But still nothing happens. By the time the dust settles, I know I'm alone. I look around, making sure I really am safe, I know someone like Marius could be lurking somewhere. What I see isn't Marius, or any other tribute. It looks like a trap, a poorly made one that been set off, but has nothing in it. It being tripped must have been what I heard before.
If there is a trap that must mean a tribute is nearby, and in the morning that tribute will be back to check it. And I'll be here to greet them.
It really is lucky that Kairen and I found such a magical place. He really does have a keen eye, I would have never spotted the area, it's surrounded by rocks, but Kairen always sees the details and noticed the hidden entrance.
I take the half of coconut filled with water that I set aside a few hours ago and take a drink. I treated it with iodine, and it should be ready by now. Before Kairen went to bed we got a nice care package from the sponsors, it had all kinds of excellent things inside, like the iodine, and food.
My mother was the one who taught me about using iodine on stagnate water, and Kairen almost drank it before I told him it wasn't safe. But now that we can drink the water, I think this place is perfect. If only the gamemakers put forth the effort that went into creating this hidden oasis into solving Panem's massive environmental issues. Oh well, at least we found some actual living trees, perhaps they are the only ones in the arena. It is interesting to see this variety of tree, they are called Palm trees, and they are very different than the ones we have in 7.
These trees lack branches, and all of the leaves are up at the top. Kairen and I instantly recognized these trees, and I doubt that any of the other tributes would, seeing as how we have been taught just about everything about trees in school. So we also know about the fruit provided by these trees, coconuts. They can be useful, but are not the best source of food.
We don't have any trees that produce fruit in 7, all our trees are made only for lumber. The trees are grown with the intent of being chopped down. Once they are big and strong enough they die, it's very sad. As I look at Kairen I realize that the two of us are just like our trees back home. We have been raised up, and now that we are big enough we are sent to our deaths.
Were we always destined to die, like the trees? My grandmother would say that there is no escaping fate, that Kairen and I always were going to go to these games, but I'm not sure. We have some say in our own life I think. Either of us controls the odds, putting in more or less names, through tessarea. It is always a difficult thing to take tessarea, but still everyone's names are in there. The girl from 11, Lolita, she is the daughter of the mayor; her name was only in the bowl a few times. It must have been destined that she would end up here.
I feel so sad for that girl, she is all alone now. She had a friend, Kellen, but I saw his face up in the sky a few hours ago. I wonder what it would be like if Kairen were gone, if I was alone too. I begin to tear up at the notion. I would have no one's questions to answer, and what would Q and A be without the Q?
If these woods were scary during the day then they are terrifying at night. The moon is full but hardly any light gets through the branches, even this high up. I've always loved being high up in trees, it's been my favorite thing my whole life, but I hate this. I found a pretty wide branch, so I don't think I'll fall off in my sleep, but I don't think I could fall asleep in this place.
Everything around me is absolutely horrifying. The place is filled with sounds, I can hear animals, at least I hope it's animals, breaking branches. I hear all kinds of things I don't even recognize. I almost fall off my branch as an owl flies by, scooping a mouse off of the ground. The Gamemakers have done something to the animals, everything I have seen tonight have eyes that glow blood red in the moonlight.
I hide my head as the owl looks right at me, the mouse still in its beak. I want to go home to my own trees.
Suddenly this tree is shaking. What is going on, is it another earthquake? The tree shakes again, but this time I hear something below me, a kind of whoosh. Then it happens again. My heart is beating a thousand times a minute, what is going on? I look below me, trying to get a look at whatever is making the noise and shaking my tree. Is it some kind of vicious animal?
At first I can't see anything, but then I see the light of the moon reflect off an ax's blade. I don't know who is down there but I know that I don't want to see them. I try to think of something I could do to escape, maybe I could jump to another tree. It's the only option I have. I can hear the chopping below me getting faster and faster. I stand up nervously, making my way to the edge of the branch; I'll only get one shot at this. I bend my knees ready to jump, when I hear a loud crack.
My world is collapsing. Suddenly I'm on the ground. There is pain all over my body. The red eyed owl is still staring at me. I pick myself off the ground, grabbing the branch that landed on my leg. The branch is covered with some kind of thick liquid; it takes me a second to tell it's my own blood. My leg is completely broken, I can't move it at all, and I finally notice all the pieces of wood stuck in my body. One in my forearm and another in my shoulder, but the biggest one is sticking out of my stomach.
I drag my foot as fast as I can along the ground, I don't care how much sound I'm making, I have to get out of here. I should never have come in here, I should have protected Lolita; I hope she will be alright. The ruckus has gotten the attention of all the animals; I can see a hundred pairs of those awful red eyes looking at me. I see and hear the animals, but I don't think there isn't another human here. Maybe he thinks I'm as good as dead anyway. Maybe there is still a chance I could escape.
I don't see who stabs me in the back. Not at first. I'm lying on my side, seconds away from death when I see his face next to mine. Marius makes sure that I know he is the one killing me.