23 Cannons: The 69th Annual Hunger Games.

24 tributes are reaped by the Capitol to enter the 69th Hunger Games, marking the end of the sixth decade of Games. And as they all prepare for the fight of their lives, none of them know the true extent of the twists that will face them in the arena. With rebels, liars, and killers thrown into a deadly arena governed by power-mad Gamemaker, who will live to hear every one of the twenty three cannons sound out?

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34. Frostbite

Brinn woke to a changed environment for the second time. Only this time, instead of merely having the sensation of being covered by a pile of leaves, however that felt, Brinn's body was dipping in and out of waves of numbness. These waves were promptly followed by the most biting cold he had ever felt. His heart rate increased. And although he wasn't aware of it at this precise moment, his body temperature was also on the rise, causing the three foot deep pile of snow he was buried by to begin to melt. The freezing water dripping onto his face was what spurred him to action.

He raised his head sharply, breaking the surface of the snow as would a dolphin in the ocean. Not that Brinn had ever seen a dolphin, nor would he. His dark hair was drenched from the snow, and also perspiration. But he did not notice or care about his hair: he was too transfixed on the landscape surrounding him. A deep layer of snow had fallen, covering the dead leaves which covered once green grass. Absently, Brinn realised this was the third time in his lifespan of fifteen years that he had ever seen snow. Despite the biting cold, a sense of childlike wonder crept into his mind, and he went to stand up. That was when the problems began.

The first thing Brinn was aware of was that he was shivering harshly. The second was that for some reason, his hands wouldn't coordinate with the rest of the body, preventing him from being able to push himself up. The third, and perhaps the most concerning at the moment, was that the numbness that was attacking his entire body was worse on his hands; he could barely feel them (not that Brinn was aware of it, but he was acutely suffering from frostbite and hypothermia, but this didn't matter, as even if he made the symptoms clear, nobody in the Capitol would dare to sponsor such a crazy boy).

Yet somehow, Brinn found the strength to stand up. When he was securely on his feet, he lifted his hands from the snow. The holes formed from where Brinn was laying sort of looked like a bizarre snow angel. Brinn did not know what a snow angel was, for he had never played in the snow in his life. He had only ever marvelled at the beauty of it. These thoughts died the moment Brinn looked at his hands. They had gone red and blotchy, with yellow patches present on his palms. The tips of his fingers had turned black. Brinn screamed.

His mind was not working as it should due to the onset of hypothermia, and because of this, Brinn could not fathom a rational explanation for why his hands had changed. Terror pounded through his veins at a greater rate than his own blood did; blood which was two degrees colder than it should be. He looked around at the snow-coated trees. He saw the blue sky above him, the sun shining down. His head felt light.

Brinn.
Brinn, the time has come.
It is the lord of the dead.
His onslaught of judgement has begun.
The world has frozen over.
None will survive.
You have already been touched by death, Brinn.
Your time is short.

The ghosts swarmed in his cloudy head, and Brinn wanted to punch himself repeatedly to get them to shut up. Normally when the ghosts were talking, Brinn could still perform basic functions. But now, once the ghosts began to speak, Brinn found himself incapable of thought; he was paralysed by the spirits. This frustration died once Brinn got the message. The ghosts had told him of this a long time ago (it was just yesterday, but to Brinn, it felt like four lifetimes). The lord of the dead had arrived. He was beginning his reign of destruction. Brinn knew he would die as a result. But he did not want to die. He was not ready. The urge to survive was too strong, and still prevailed through Brinn's muddled brain.
"Please," he said in a voice that wasn't his own. "Is there nothing I can do?"

What do you mean, Brinn?

"I mean, can I not survive? Am I doomed to die?" Some deep-down, long-forgotten part of Brinn knew it was stupid to reason with the ghosts, but the rest of him was convinced it would be the only way to survive. In fact, Brinn had become so obsessed with the ghosts and their prophetic messages that his fear of trees had seemed to vanish. He did not notice.

I see.
So you want to bargain for your life.
Brinn, there is one way to do that.
This is difficult.
The odds are unlikely.

"I don't care!" Brinn shouted to the voices that weren't real. In this sense, he had become the opposite of Salvera; whereas she had seen an improvement in her mental health throughout the duration of the Games, Brinn had slipped deeper and deeper into insanity. "What do I have to do?!"

You must find the angel of life, Brinn.
Only he will offer you salvation.
Find him, Brinn.
Find him, and you may have a chance of survival.

"Where is he?" Brinn asked. Even the part of him that was sceptical of the ghosts was invested in these words. It was the only hope he would get. Absently he noted a strange painful itch on his hands. He dismissed it.

He is north, Brinn.
You must make haste to find him before it is too late.
When you find him, accept his loving embrace.
Only then will you be free of the horror that surrounds you.
You will be brought to safety.

"Thank you," Brinn said. He even smiled. Those that were watching him on camera, especially those in District 7, merely stared at their screens in utter confusion. Nobody was aware of the ghosts. Only Brinn was.

With this divine knowledge planted in his head, Brinn turned north, and began to trudge through the snow. He stumbled countless times, and at some point, he lost the feeling in his feet.

--

Kaye's eyes opened. He looked ahead of him, at the mouth of the cave, seeing a three foot pile of snow in front of the mouth, partially blocking the exit. The sun shone down outside, making it appear even brighter. He was still wrapped in his blanket; the temperature in the cave had hardly changed since last night. But he didn't care about the temperature. All that mattered was the deep sheet of snow that had adorned the entire arena. With snow that deep, it would be impossible for tributes to move without making very obvious tracks.

His mind flew to the map, and with startling glee, Kaye realised that this snow would allow him to find the other tributes that had been marked out for him. Even though they were only half or mile or so in front of him, Kaye had no doubt they'd be dumb enough to keep moving onwards, leaving tracks. They would clearly try and get out of the frozen forest, and make their way to warmth. According to the map it would be a straight walk east to the village where Tavish, Derek, Griffin, and Mason had died (Kaye did not know those four had died there). That would be where they would go. Kaye was sure of it.

He pulled the blanket off of his thin body, and leaped to his feet. He stretched, and promptly realised that sleeping slumped against the cold hard wall of a cave was in no way good for your posture. Kaye picked up the blanket. He folded it up, making it ten times smaller. As he placed the folded-up blanket in his bag, Kaye noticed a spot of mud on his hand. A groan escaped his lips: frozen, caked mud was the worst thing to try and get out. There were always parts that clung to your skin for dear life no matter how efficient you were in removing it. Kaye licked his fingers, and proceeded to wipe the mud off of his hand. As expected, small segments remained. Kaye merely brought his shirtsleeve over his hand, hiding the ugly mess from sight.

Kaye reached into his bag, and grabbed his bottle of water. Pulling it out, he was quick to see that the refreshing fluid inside had frozen over. It was merely a tube of ice in a plastic case. He would not be drinking for a while. However, as Kaye placed the bottle back in his bag, a wave of excitement washed over him again. Today would be the day he would get one step closer to victory. The snowy environment would make finding tributes as easy as possible.

The bag was slung over Kaye's shoulder. He held the map in his hands. One glance told him that the landscape on the paper would be no help for him so long as the snow remained. He folded it up and placed it in his pocket, before walking forwards, to the wall of snow. Kaye paused for a moment, looking at the white sheet. It was very deep, and he would probably not be able to move that quickly through it. This could be a serious problem, he realised. However, on the flip-side, no tribute would be able to move quickly through it either. He still had the advantage of travelling lightly.

Kaye took a step forward, pushing into the snow. His leg collided with the wall, and the white material spilled downwards onto the grey cave floor, brightening it up. Kaye continued onwards, through the wall of snow. Footprints were left behind on the patch of snow in the cave. Outside, the sun was shining brightly, but there was a bitter breeze blowing about. Kaye placed his hands in his pockets, and for just a moment, wished for gloves. In reality he knew that it was unlikely even the most adoring of sponsors would part with money just for a pair of gloves that might only be used once; Kaye had a feeling that this frozen environment wouldn't last forever.

The further away Kaye moved from the cave, the deeper the snow was on him. By the time he had reached the clearing of pine trees where he located the cave, it was up to his thighs. He could feel the cold penetrating through the fabric of his pants, and realised that the time he would be able to spend in such deep snow was limited: he was risking freezing to death, or something as agonising as frostbite.

Behind him, Kaye left a trail where his legs had dragged through the snow. One glance at it told him it could lead to serious trouble. But there was not much he could do about it; the snow seemed to be this deep all around. He placed his hand deeper into his pocket, feeling the map. He pulled it out, unfolding it again. It was still useless in that he was now unable to utilise it to find his precise location, but judging from where he was, and how far he had travelled, he was about two thirds of the way to whoever it was he was looking for. If they didn't move, he'd be there by this evening. Kaye drew his knife. The handle was cold to touch.

Kaye pushed onwards, passing by several pine trees which were half-buried by the snow. The needles that had adorned the ground below him were now frozen into the dirt, and buried by the snow. They would not be seen again by another tribute. In the sky above him, a mockingjay began to sing the anthem of Panem. Kaye noted that the tune sounded far better coming from the mouth of the bird than from some welling orchestra back in the Capitol.

The mockingjay landed on a tree above Kaye, unsettling the snow. It slid off the branch, and fell on top of Kaye's head, crashing down his body. His face instantly felt frozen, before the snow began to melt and drip off of his cheeks. Kaye wasted no time in wiping his face of the water. He could not risk being affected by the cold at all. It would severely hinder his rate of survival, and right now, Kaye knew he was going to be playing a dangerous game. He needed every advantage he could get.

Kaye trudged through the snow, dagger in hand, heading north. The chilly air around him made it so that his breath was visible, but he did not notice. His mind was solely focused on the tributes up ahead of him. Just a little further north, and Kaye would make his first kill. He would bring himself closer to getting out of here. Whoever it was would not see it coming.

--

Whoever it was happened to be one of the two remaining original alliances in the arena: Liam, Emily, and Salvera. Currently, the trio was sat inside their tent, which was buried under a pile of snow. Oddly enough, the snow was actually serving to keep the heat trapped inside the tent, so they were not at risk of freezing.

Emily sat against the opening of the tent, which had been sealed shut by the snow. In the early hours of the morning, Liam had pressed against it, discovering that they had been buried. It had not been opened since last night. Although, Emily acknowledged that if they wanted to keep on moving, they'd have to dig themselves out of the snow.

Leaning back, Emily looked across the tent. Her gaze fell to Liam, who had decided to catch some more sleep in case the snow would melt over the course of the day. As soon as Emily looked at him she felt an uneasy feeling in her stomach as her mind drifted to the other day; more specifically, what Salvera had said: Liam was in love with her. As in romantic love. Emily hadn't spoken to Liam about it, although she had been meaning to. It was just that whenever she thought she was ready to, she would panic, and keep quiet. It was stupid not being able to talk to Liam about their feelings. He was her closest childhood friend, after all. Not to mention, this wasn't some stupid playground crush. In the arena, each day could be your last. To Emily, the idea of having these feelings go  without being discussed before one of them died just felt awful. Yet even now, her stomach flipped as she imagined the conversation in her head. Would Liam open up to her about it? She hoped he would be honest enough to be truthful, but then again, what if Salvera was wrong? How would Liam react if Emily had wrongly thought he was in love with her?

Emily let out a light sigh. That conversation was not something she was looking forward to in the slightest. She knew that it would be awkward as hell, not to mention emotionally draining. And she wasn't sure if she would be able to be honest about her own feelings with Salvera there. Nothing against the girl; she was pretty sweet if a bit spacey, but Emily was certain that any sort of conversation like that would best be done in private.

For the most fleeting of moments, a truly awful thought sprung up in Emily's head: perhaps she could talk to Liam after Salvera's death. Instantly Emily felt sick with herself for thinking like that: why the hell would she even think about Salvera's death? If Salvera were to die, it would be in a confrontation that Emily and Liam would be a part of, then they'd try like hell to keep her alive. Was she actually wanting Salvera dead? No, Emily decided. It was simply her nerves about confronting Liam about his apparent feelings. She knew she was being ridiculous, but there was some part of her that felt like a billion butterflies were dancing around inside her. She had no idea why. Was she that worked up about talking to Liam? It wasn't even that big of a deal, really. Then how come she was mentally trying to dig her way out of it?

Emily decided that dwelling upon this thought would not be good for her. Instead, she looked across to Salvera, who was sat against the other side of the tent, her knees huddled up to her chest. A dreamy look was on her face, accompanied by a faint smile. Emily also noted that Salvera now had two thin braids running down the sides of her hair. It seemed to add to the dreamy look Salvera had going on. Salvera glanced at Emily, and smiled wider.
"What's gotten you so happy?" Emily asked wistfully. She knew that it could be a futile effort trying to talk to Salvera, but she had noticed that over the course of the past few days, the girl had slowly opened up. It then hit Emily. They had been in the arena for five days now. These Games had officially been going on longer than last year. For the briefest of moments, a fleeting thought struck Emily: one where over a month had passed, and the three of them were without supplies, starving and emaciated. The thought left her head instantly. It was too awful to bear thinking about.
"Oh... nothing..." Salvera replied. "It's just... this is the first time I've ever seen snow in real life..." Emily couldn't help but smile. So that was it. Salvera was experiencing the childlike wonder of seeing snow up close for the first time. In actuality, Emily had only seen snowfall maybe three or four times before now, but those snowy winters of her childhood brought dark and painful memories with them. Memories that were best left forgotten. A sudden chill ran across Emily's back, where her tattoo rested. A sharp image of her father towering over her in the family dining room, his fist flying towards her face, entered Emily's mind. Strangely enough, she recalled that during that particular beating, it was raining outside. A light drizzle. She shook her head. Now was not the time nor the place to be dwelling on such memories. Instead, Emily put on a sweet smile for Salvera.
"Really?" she said. "Does Six not get much snow?"
"Not really..." Salvera said. "It's generally warmer than districts like Eight... although we did once get frost... that was rather nice..."
"Huh," Emily said. "I didn't realise that other districts would have other climates. I figured Four would be warmer, but Six never really equated into my mind."
"It's okay..." Salvera replied. "I'm looking forward to seeing the snow... but I do have a question... is it always this deep...?"
"No," Emily said. "It's normally maybe just under two feet at the most. This is just the Gamemakers going overboard."
"I see..." Salvera said, letting out a content sigh. "I suppose it would be quite awful... if the snow was always like this..."
"I suppose it would be," Emily said. "I remember this one time where the snow caused all kinds of mayhem for the poor factory workers. Half of them couldn't make it past the front doors." She let out a quiet laugh. "It was pretty funny seeing them sliding on the ice."
"I can imagine..." Salvera replied. She let out a light giggle. It was the kind of laugh that was incredibly infectious, and Emily found herself laughing along with Salvera as well, not out of amusement from the memory, but from friendship. However, as soon as Emily began laughing, another awful thought crossed her mind. She was becoming close to Salvera. Dangerously close. For a moment, Emily envisioned a situation where Salvera was dead, and Emily's own emotional reaction. It would be devastating. But she was pretty confident they were safe from death up here. Or so she hoped.

Suddenly, Liam stirred. He let out a light groan. Emily jumped in surprise, and looked over at him as he sat up, rubbing his eyes. The fluttering in her stomach returned once again.
"Morning," he said dryly, smirking. This caused Emily's fluttering to increase in frequency. She looked away from him in a vain attempt to quell the sensation. It did not work.
"Nice to see you join us again," she said back, trying to ease the tension that welled up inside her. Liam smiled widely. Emily's heart rate increased. That big dumb goofy grin of his was eating away at her, and she wasn't sure why. Actually, she had a fairly good idea why, but she was going to deny it until the end of time. Because there was no way in hell it could be happening; he was her childhood friend, for god's sake! "You only missed about eight more deaths." For the briefest of moments, Emily saw Liam seriously consider that. She smirked to herself as he did.
"No way," he replied. He shot Emily a half-smile. "Because then we'd be in the final three. Not to mention I've only been out a couple of hours, and this arena's pretty big. So I'm sorry to say this, but that theory of yours is an impossibility."
"And thank god for that," Emily said, sighing. "Since if it came down to us, you would have woken to an empty tent."
"Yeah," Liam said, his facial expression serious. He then paused for a moment, considering something. "Hey, what time is it?"
"Just after noon," Emily said. She pointed to the roof of the tent. "You can see the sun."
"It's already that late?" Liam said. Emily nodded in confirmation. "In that case, we'd better get moving."
"In this weather?" Emily exclaimed. "But Liam, it's freezing out there!"
"Exactly," Liam said. "I doubt any tributes will be out and about, so it's the perfect time to move on."
"I suppose you're right..." Emily said. She rolled her eyes. "But if you're not careful, all this moving about's going to be the death of us."
"I'd rather die of exhaustion than at the hands of another tribute," Liam countered. Emily did not argue back. "In any case, let's get ready. Emily, could you go out and see how bad it is?" Emily nodded, and stood up. Her head was maybe three centimetres from touching the roof of the tent. Liam and Salvera were not able to stand up inside.

She turned around, and pulled at the opening of the tent's zip. It came down with relative ease, but instead of showing the expanse of dead leaves that had surrounded them, it showed an endless expanse of snow, a couple of feet deep. There was exactly four seconds between Emily opening the tent and the snow cascading through the entrance. Her boots were covered. The lower half of the blanket was also covered. Liam was protected by the thickness of the blanket. Salvera was far enough from the entrance that she wasn't touched by it.
"Hey, Liam," Emily said. "You said you wanted to know how bad it is? I can safely say it's pretty damn awful out here."
"Yeah, I can see that," Liam said sourly. "I'm going to pack the stuff up in here with Salvera, so I'll need you to clear a path around the tent."
"Got it." Emily said. Before she left the tent, she bent down and grabbed her staff. The weapon was cold to touch. Her hand soon warmed where she was touching it, though.

Emily walked towards the exit, and stepped past the opening of the tent. The snow went up to her thighs. Above her, the sun shone down brightly, but lacking the required warmth to thaw the arena. Although, Emily had a bitter hunch that they would only see an improvement in the weather if another tribute was to die: it had been a couple of days now since the last death. No doubt the Capitol was getting antsy with so little carnage occurring. However, she also decided that this wasn't worth her concern just yet, and instead, Emily focused on clearing the area around the tent as Liam and Salvera packed up.

Around an hour later, the three tributes were ready to move. Liam had packed the tent up, and had slung the bag that had contained it over his shoulder. Salvera held her own supplies, as did Emily. All three carried weapons.
"Okay then," Liam said. "I guess we're ready to go now."
"Yeah," Emily said. Liam smiled at her. Her heart skipped a beat. She looked at the snow on a nearby tree, hoping to god Liam didn't notice her cheeks were the same colour as her hair.
"I have a question..." Salvera said. Both Liam and Emily looked at her. "Where are we going...?"
Liam faltered. "I, uh, well... that's a good question." Behind him, Emily groaned. He had set them all up to keep on going, but had no idea where. "Any ideas?" Emily decided it would be best for her to speak now. Before her mouth opened, she silently prayed that the odd emotions that rose up when around Liam wouldn't make her slip up.
"Actually, I have an idea," Emily said. Her voice was clear and confident. She did not blush. "You remember how there was a village to the north of the Cornucopia?" Instantly, Liam's face turned pale.
"Em, are you suggesting we go there?" he asked. Emily nodded. "But that's suicide! You can easily access it from the Cornucopia, and it would be easy for tributes to find and kill you there!" None of them knew that this had in fact happened already, though, and if Liam had known, then he would have probably started to walk in the opposite direction.
"Liam," Emily said. "Who will honestly try and kill us? The Careers are gone. And if there are tributes out there who'll try and kill us, it'll be three against one. Not to mention that the village will provide us with real shelter. It'll only get colder out here, Liam, and if we don't do something, there may be effects on our health." This seemed to strike a chord with Liam. Emily assumed it was because he didn't want to put her at risk (in actuality it was because one of the girls that Liam had been dating in District 11 had died of pneumonia last winter, but she was not aware of this. And besides, her assumption had also factored into his mind.). He didn't reply to Emily.

"I suppose it sounds like a better place to be..." Salvera said, shrugging her shoulders. "It would be warmer... and we could also hide in the houses from others..."
"See?" Emily said to Salvera. "Doesn't it sound like a much better place to be than these freezing woods?" Salvera nodded, smiling. Emily directed her attention to Liam. "Come on now. Even Salvera's on board with this idea." Liam sighed, before looking at Emily.
"Fine," he said. "If you believe this is the best course of action to take, I'll be there with you every step of the way." He smiled warmly at Emily, despite truly feeling a sense of unease about her idea. Emily smiled back. Part of her knew that he was only going along with this because he cared about her, and with every passing moment, their inevitable deaths were only going to get closer and closer, so he wanted to be with her, but another part of her knew that he just didn't have the energy to argue with her.
"Okay then," she said. "So, are we going to head off now?"
"I suppose so," Liam said. "You can lead the way, Em." Emily didn't particularly want to lead, but since it was her idea to go out, she couldn't really object.
"All right," she said confidently. "Let's go."

And with that, the three tributes started to head east, towards the village. They left definite tracks, but thought nothing of it; they were too far out for any other tribute to see them as far as they were aware. As well as this, none of them realised that once they left the forest, they would not set foot in it again.

--

Alexis stood in the hallway of the house. Rose, Xander, and Dixie were still in the basement, where it was considerably warmer. Up here, Alexis could see her breath in front of her. The cold metallic material of her token felt freezing on the bare flesh it rested against. She hadn't wanted to leave the warmth of the basement, but once the temperature started to drop down there around an hour or so ago, she knew she had to check to see why this was.

She walked down the hallway, leaving the stairs to the basement behind her. Above her, the lights were turned off. Alexis had turned them off last night, so as to not draw attention to them. She had had a feeling that with the lowering temperatures, there was a chance that other tributes could have stumbled upon their house, searching for somewhere warm. Luckily that hadn't happened. And if this scenario had occurred, then Alexis knew it would have turned ugly. Their alliance was big enough as it was, and if there were too many tributes in on this escape plan, then the chances of it succeeding would cease to exist. In a way she was aware that by only looking out for her alliance she was partially buying into the Games, but Alexis knew better. This wasn't about survival, and anyway, there was a chance that when their escape plan got under way, there would be a few other surviving tributes that would also benefit from it. However, that all depended on when Alexis would have the opportunity to execute the plan. She hoped it would be soon.

In the background, Alexis could hear a clock ticking, and as she walked down the hallway and into the dining room, she noticed a small layer of ice coating the wall nearest to the window. Where the Mutt damaged the house. The window was cracked, and a freezing draught was blowing through. Alexis shivered. She wasn't used to the cold; having grown up as a victor's child meant that she had always been in relative comfort. But Alexis didn't let her disdain show; she was also not going to show the Capitol that they were affecting her in any way. So instead of just standing there, Alexis walked over to the window, passing the dining table. There were still a few discarded energy bar wrappers on the wooden surface. But Alexis didn't spend too long looking at that; instead she was too focused on outside. She stared in disbelief.

There was a massive expanse of snow covering the ground. From where Alexis was stood, it appeared as if their house was adrift in a sea of white. In the distance she could barely make out the trees of the forest. The snow had not been disturbed; nobody had been here. In fact, if Alexis was somehow able to, she would find that the only footprints in the snow for a few miles would be located on top of the house behind this one, where a pair of courting mockingjays had landed. The nearest tribute, although Alexis did not know this, was Brinn, but it would still take him over half a day to get here, regardless of the physical state the boy was in. Again, Alexis was not aware of any of this. She was then suddenly aware of another presence in the room.

"So, how bad is it?" The voice of Rose reached Alexis' ears. She spun around, and saw the tribute from District 3 standing just behind the dining table.
"Let's just say Christmas came early," Alexis said dryly. Confusion flashed across Rose's face.
"What's Christmas?" she asked innocently. Alexis was dumbfounded that Rose was not aware of this holiday.
"Well," Alexis began. "It's a holiday that takes place in December, where we give each other gifts and put lights on the trees. That's the basis of it. Originally it had something to do with religion, but this holiday is something that survived from the old world, and I guess it's changed a lot from what it originally was. Like apparently, there was some guy that used to fly around the world and give gifts to all the kids or something. Don't you have that in Three?"
"It sounds similar to the winter holiday festival," Rose said with a shrug. "But the stuff about the man flying around the world, and religion? Sorry, I have no idea there."
"I suppose the two are similar enough though," Alexis said. This sort of conversation was okay; it wasn't revealing anything, and besides, it ran the chance of captivating some weird Capitol citizen and get them to part with sponsor money. But then again they were discussing district life, and that was probably cause for censorship. Alexis paused for a moment. She needed to get back on topic. "But yeah, the weather's pretty bad. We're talking several feet of snow bad."
"Oh," Rose said. "So I suppose we're stuck in here then."
"Looks like it," Alexis said with a weary sigh. She offered a warm smile to Rose. "I guess that means we can't get on with our original ideas if we can't leave the house." Once again, Alexis was back to talking cryptically so as to not alert the Gamemakers to the escape plan. Luckily for her she was surrounded by smart allies that understood straight away.
"I suppose that is a shame," Rose said. "But perhaps it's for the best that we're in here. We can use this time to reserve our energy for when we leave."
"Yeah, you're right," Alexis said. "Although at least we're warm and safe here, which is probably more than can be said for the others." She was aware that she was dangerously close to tempting the Gamemakers into giving them personal hell by saying this, but Alexis knew how to work her way out of it. "And then, we'll have all the strength we need to turn these Games around." It was a simple statement, with two very different meanings. To Rose, it mean that they would be getting out once the snow was gone. To the Capitol, it meant that after some rest time, the alliance of four would try and take out all the other tributes. It was enough to ensure the Gamemakers would leave them alone for a while.
"I guess we should head back down to the basement," Rose said. "We should check up on Dixie and Xander and let them know of the current situation, so they can help us get ready."
"You're right," Alexis said. "Let's go."

Rose walked down the hallway, with Alexis just behind. As they descended the staircase, Alexis' token slammed against her chest. It reminded her that it would be very soon. All that was left was for Alexis to get the sponsors to give her the one thing to allow her token to work its magic.

--

The sun was now low in the sky, casting deep shadows across the frozen arena, whilst turning the sky a beautiful shade of orange. Inside the Cornucopia, Kylee and Markus did not see this, as the blankets they had put up last night shielded them from all this. Currently, the two tributes were having some dinner: some fruit, and some dried pieces of meat. It was hardly worth calling food, but it was still a step up from the crap they had to eat back home. For Markus, it was prison food, and for Kylee, it was a disgusting mess of tesserae. Dried meat and fresh fruit was infinitely better.

"Hey, Harker," Markus said, finishing shoving a banana down his throat.
"What is it?" Kylee replied. She was currently sat in the mouth of her tent. Markus leaned against the Cornucopia wall. It was freezing to touch, but Markus didn't show it.
"I was just thinking," he said. "Perhaps now's a good time to head out of here."
"Head out?" Kylee said. "As in go out into the frozen wasteland to hunt for tributes?"
"No way, Sherlock," Markus said. "How did you ever deduce that?" Kylee rolled her eyes. She did not get the reference. Markus only knew this, since he grew up as a very rich kid. His family had the privilege of accessing old literature such as that.
"It was pretty god damn obvious," Kylee said bitterly. "And don't you dare think you can try and be patronising around me: I will drive my scythe into your throat." What Markus had said had struck a chord with Kylee, for the simple reason that it reminded her of the men back home that abused her and asserted their dominance over her because they were bigger and smarter than she was. Most of the time she had ended up hurting them badly to get away, but there were other times that weren't worth thinking about.
"Okay, okay," Markus said, raising his hands. "Sorry. But my point still stands: perhaps we should go now. It'll be pretty easy to locate anyone, and who knows? We might end up taking out half of the competition in one evening."
"Yeah," Kylee said. To be honest, so long as Markus was the one mainly doing everything, she couldn't care less about what he had planned, unless it potentially put her at risk. And she was pretty sure there would be no risks from going out to find a few pieces of cannon fodder to wipe out. Who knew? It could be a fun way to kill some time and boredom. "I'm in then."
"Great," Markus said. He stood up, grabbing his crossbow and arrows as he did so. "Let's head out."
"Fine," Kylee said. She didn't think he had meant right now, but who was she to object? "Just let me get my stuff together."
"Okay," Markus said. "I'll be outside." He also grabbed a bag full of food and water, and pushed his way past the curtain of blankets.

Kylee was now alone in the Cornucopia. She looked over at the blankets, and, with her scythe in her hands, she had a very fleeting image of rushing out, and killing Markus by surprise. But she knew he was far too valuable an asset to have, and she could not waste it under any circumstance. Even if this enthusiasm of Markus' was unbearable. At least they'd have the idea of finding tributes to distract them from engaging in any meaningful conversation. That way neither of them would end up talking about anything personal enough that would create tension. Their alliance was nothing more than an uneasy truce at the end of the day, and Kylee had to be continually ready for the possibility that Markus would suddenly betray her for no reason. He seemed unpredictable like that. However, Kylee forced herself to leave that thought, and instead she grabbed another bag full of supplies, and walked past the curtain of blankets. As she did so, she clutched her scythe tightly. Neither of them had thought to take a tent.

Outside, Markus was stood in the middle of the snowy field, having left tracks. Kylee followed them, and found that the deep snow was too cold for her liking. She was definitely a summer person. The snow itself had a pleasant golden glow to it. It sort of reminded Kylee of jewellery. The trees that surrounded them were covered in snow, and a few of them had exposed branches, either due to wind or to the creatures that dwelled within the forest. Neither of them looked towards the village: Kylee knew that four tributes had died there already, and nobody else would ever be so stupid as to go somewhere where they could easily be found, cornered, and killed. They would not go there. Markus was surveying the tree line, his brow furrowed in concentration.
"Any ideas?" Kylee said, slightly startling Markus. She smirked.
"Not really," Markus said. He pointed in the opposite direction of the setting sun. "I know that I killed a bunch of tributes to the east of here, and if anyone else was there, I would have found them before I joined up with you."
"The Careers also took out a bunch of tributes in the village to the north of here," she said. "I doubt anyone would go there."
"Which leaves south and west," Markus said. "Now I know for a fact that the forest doesn't go that far south, so west seems like the best option." As he said this, Kylee was reminded of something.
"Oh yeah!" she exclaimed. "The only survivor from the original Career pack also fled into the woods to the west of here as well."
"Who was it?" Markus asked. He held his crossbow ever so slightly tighter.
"Dixie from Nine," Kylee said. "She was on guard at the time, and had the basic knowledge to get the hell out of here before I took her out along with the others." She then laughed wistfully. "In fact, it's almost as if there's some cycle to be completed here."
"I guess so," Markus said. "You know what, Harker? If we see that Semming girl, then you can have the honour of taking her out."
"Deal," Kylee said. She looked over at the trees. The sun was lowering. "So, you suppose we should head out there, and go see? You know, before it's too dark?"
Markus' eyes lit up. "I thought you'd never ask."

Kylee followed Markus as he trudged through the snow, towards the trees. She walked in his tracks, allowing movement to be much easier. Kylee knew that small things like this would be enough to tire Markus out ever so slightly more than her. It could potentially end up being a life-saving advantage. Once they reached the tree line, Kylee took one last glance at the Cornucopia in the fading sunlight. They would not return to the Cornucopia again. After looking back, Kylee continued to follow Markus through the woods. She kept her scythe close at all times.

As they moved deeper into the woods, Kylee began to have the sinking feeling that they were not going to find anyone any time soon. However, she kept her eyes peeled for any signs of other tributes, but saw nothing. So she just silently followed Markus as they continued west. They stopped for a break about an hour later, having been moving at a rather fast pace. In this time, their path had also taken them slightly further north. Kylee leaned against a tree, and was too busy drinking to look out for anyone else; it was also beginning to get dark. So she just continued to replenish lost energy, looking only at Markus, who stood in the middle of a small clearing just ahead of her, looking around.

--

Kaye was maybe sixty feet further north of the two tributes, and by god was his heart racing. The two of them had sneaked up from nowhere, and it was only by luck that they hadn't noticed him. He was currently crouched in a bush. Snow covered him. But he didn't dare do anything but remain there as they talked. He couldn't hear them clearly, but they seemed to be talking about the Dixie girl from 9. Perhaps they were planning on killing her. So long as it wasn't him, though, it didn't matter. They could tear Dixie to shreds for all Kaye cared. And right now, he just cared about being safe from the two most dangerous tributes in the Games.

It took a whole twenty minutes before Kylee and Markus finally moved on. They were heading west. Not north. Kaye sighed in relief: north was his direction, and they would hopefully not cross paths now. Once the sounds of their voices had died down, Kaye cautiously stood up from the bush. It made a loud rustling noise. Most of the snow on his body fell to the ground. Kaye ran a hand through his hair, removing more of the snow. Only a few small pieces remained. They soon melted, and small water droplets ran down Kaye's head. He was confident it wasn't enough to cause health complications.

Kaye held his dagger closely as he stepped away from the bush. The sky was now turning a deep shade of purple as the sun started to dip below the horizon. He did not notice this: his heart was still pounding. The fear of Kylee and Markus finding him was still there. And once he was out of the bush, Kaye wasted no time in sprinting ahead. As the moon appeared in the sky, Kaye became bathed in the silver glow. He did not notice this, and kept running ahead, knowing he wouldn't stop until he was certain of his safety. Kaye did not look back.

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