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?


33. Haunted

Alexis leaned against the wall of the dining room, arms folded, looking across the room. Xander and Rose were sat at the table, talking quietly among themselves; from what Alexis could gather, they were talking about life back in District 3. Dixie, however, was leaning against the window, lost in thought. Alexis looked past Dixie and saw a distinct crack on the window from where the Mutt had attacked yesterday.

It had already gotten dark, and the lights were on. They illuminated the room, but seemed to intensify the darkness outside. The sky was cloudy, so not even the faintest traces of moonlight existed to brighten the outside world. But it wasn't as if they were planning on leaving the house just yet anyway: there were far too many tributes left, and those that would certainly be attracting the attention of sponsors.

Alexis ran through a list of tributes in her head: there were some that would be receiving more attention than them. There was Emily from 8 and Liam from 11, who were together, and from what Alexis had gathered, were a romantic item. That would surely be enough to make them fan-favourites. Then there was Markus, Alexis' deranged district partner. Surely by now he had made a kill, which would certainly be casting him in a favourable sight. And then there was Kylee from 2. From what Dixie had told them, Kylee had murdered all the other Careers in cold blood without any of them putting up a fight. No doubt the girl was swimming in attention.

But this alliance here now had something that would pique the interest of the sponsors: Dixie, the only survivor of Kylee's Career massacre. No doubt they were spinning some sort of intense rivalry between the two: betting slips were likely being sold on which of the two girls would survive. And then there was the fact that the Gamemakers would react to this by setting it up so that the two girls would engage in a conflict to settle the score: it was the most overdone thing in the history of the Games, and Alexis knew for a fact that they were working out when to throw this fight in. It was probably being advertised right now, as she sat here, watching over her allies. It made her feel sick.

Dixie suddenly let out a sigh, and looked at Alexis.
"Hey," she said. "Is it just me, or is it getting cold?" 
"I suppose so," Alexis said, her gaze drifting to the window. "I guess the Mutt's managed to compromise the insulation, and with the weather taking a turn for the worse, there's no doubt that it's colder than what it should be." There was in fact a chill around the house that was becoming increasingly more noticeable. Probably it was unbearably cold outside. Alexis could safely say that she didn't pity those trapped outside tonight.
"If that's so," Dixie said. "Perhaps we should get somewhere warmer in this house before we freeze to death."
"A little melodramatic, don't you think?" Alexis said wistfully. "I highly doubt we'll actually perish from the cold."
"I know that," Dixie said with a sigh. "But we have so much comfort, and there's no way I'm gonna let it go to waste."
"Fine then," Alexis said. "What do you suggest we do?"
"Find somewhere more insulated," Dixie suggested. "Like a basement or something."
"That's providing we have access to one," Alexis said.
"And why not?" Dixie replied. "It's a pretty luxurious house. I fail to see a reason as to why it won't have one."
Alexis let out a sigh. "Okay then. Let's go look for it."
"Great," Dixie said with a smirk. "Hey, District Three, we're looking for somewhere warmer. Let's go!"

Alexis merely rolled her eyes at Dixie's brash nature, and exited the dining room. Normally she would be fine with it, but in the arena, that sort of behaviour could end up compromising the entire plan: Alexis wasn't sure on the specifics of Capitol etiquette, but from past experience, rude, boisterous tributes tended to be unpopular with the masses. And Dixie seemed to be dangerously close to crossing that line. She looked back, and saw Dixie talking with Rose and Xander: from the tone of voice, it was quite civil, luckily. Now Alexis could only hope Dixie would stay that way.

The four of them walked past the doorway that led to the living room, and continued towards the back door, when Alexis saw a hatch in the middle of the hallway floor.
"Hey, guys," she said, stopping. The others also stopped. "I think I found something."
"What?" Rose asked.
"The basement," Alexis responded. She then turned to face her allies. "Hey, Dixie, do you mind helping me open this thing up?"
"Sure, I'll help," Dixie said with a shrug. She walked over to the hatch, and bent down, wrapping her hands around it, Alexis doing the same. It was now that Alexis noticed Dixie's hands, and more specifically, the lack of fingers on her left hand. How had she missed that in her observations of the other tributes? But it didn't matter; it wasn't impeding Dixie, and Alexis knew the conversation would turn awkward if she asked about it. So instead she kept quiet, and merely focused on grabbing the hatch. Alexis glanced at Dixie, and nodded. The ex-Career understood, and both girls lifted the hatch. It was surprisingly heavier than what Alexis anticipated, but together, the two of them managed to lift it.

Alexis and Dixie then let go, allowing the hatch to fall away from the hole that was now in the floor. There was a set of stone stairs leading down to what they could only assume was the basement. Alexis and Dixie stood up, looking at each other.
"So," Alexis said. "Who's going down first?"
"I suppose I'll do it," Dixie said. She smirked. "After all, I am the closest thing we have to a decent fighter." Alexis knew the words were for the sake of the cameras, but she still found that the comment made her blood boil. The Careers were everything she despised about the Games rolled into a human body: they were obedient to the Capitol without question, and would willingly murder twenty three others just to be famous. However, Alexis merely let the thoughts pass, and watched as Dixie walked down the stairs, the sound of her boots echoing around. Dixie vanished from sight, and a few seconds later, the footsteps stopped.
"Well?" Alexis called down. She didn't receive a response; instead, Alexis watched as light suddenly shone from the basement.
"It's good," Dixie said, partially climbing the stairs. "And it's pretty warm: come on!"

Alexis looked at Rose and Xander, before walking down the stairs, the floor of the hallway passing over her head. As she descended further, she saw that the walls were painted a warm golden colour, and that the floor at the bottom of the stairs was made of wooden planks. It was rather cosy for a basement: Alexis had the gut feeling that there would be a trap down here. But if there was, they probably had a couple of days or so before they were in any major danger.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, Alexis surveyed the room. There was a light hanging above her head, and two plush sofas complete with blankets resting against the walls in front of and behind her. To her right was a large painting of President Snow, and to her left, a television. Alexis felt the urge to tear down the painting, but kept it in: by defacing Snow, she would be earning every member of this alliance a death sentence. Instead, she looked away, and walked over to Dixie, who was stood near the television.
"You okay?" Alexis asked upon seeing Dixie's confused expression.
"Yeah," Dixie said. "But I have a question: what is this little tray for?" She pointed at a black plastic tray sticking out from the television, with a round indentation on it. Alexis immediately recognised it.
"It's a DVD player," she said. "But why would there be one here?" Obviously they had been made aware of it for a reason. The purpose, however, was unknown. But Alexis could confidently say that there was some sort of DVD the Gamemakers wanted them to see. The question was, where was the DVD?

Alexis turned around, seeing Rose and Xander cautiously sitting on the sofas, talking to one another. She wasn't really paying attention, but they seemed to be discussing life back in District 3. Neither of them was looking at the large painting of the president of Panem, instead looking at each other. Alexis, however, found her gaze directed to the painting. There was something about it that bothered her. She surveyed it closely, finding nothing out of place: it was a portrait of Coriolanus Snow inside a golden frame. But she looked again, and saw that the painting was hung ever so slightly off-centre. It was a wild guess, but Alexis had to check.

She walked over to the painting, and pushed it upwards. As it slid sideways, a small compartment was revealed in the wall behind the painting. Alexis stuck her hand in, grabbing a thin plastic case, before pulling it out. She stood back, and let the painting swing back into place. However, the momentum caused it to keep going, and the weight of the painting caused it to fall off the wall, crashing to the ground. Alexis looked away, trying to conceal her satisfaction at that. And besides, it wasn't as if something as accidental as that could be taken out on her: they'd probably just execute some random Gamemaker.

But Alexis was more focused on the plastic case in her hands. She pulled it open, and found a metallic silver disc: a DVD. Alexis pulled it out of the case, and turned it around, seeing that there was text written on the disk.

The Complete Cut of the 68th Hunger Games. With love from Head Gamemaker Aria Dew.

Alexis felt the urge to vomit. Why the hell had the Head Gamemaker put a copy of last year's Games inside a house? It made no sense at all. And as Alexis stared at the words written in careful handwriting, she felt as if they were mocking her. As if they were gloating about their freedom, and how she was trapped in the arena. And now, they expected her to watch last year's tributes die all over again. Fury like no other was rising up from inside Alexis. How dare they. How dare they do this. How dare they taunt her.

And for Alexis, it was no surprise that her hands were clenched so tightly around the DVD that the disc shattered. Shards fell to the ground, slipping through the slight gaps in the floor. The larger solid pieces just fell to the ground, breaking up into even smaller pieces. Alexis also dropped the case onto the floor, and then, for good measure, she stepped forwards, towards Dixie, her boot crushing the remains. The cracking sound that reached her ears was far too satisfying. 
"Hey," Dixie said as Alexis approached. "Find the DVD?"
"Actually, I did," Alexis said. "But I'm just too clumsy, and ended up dropping it." The lies came naturally, and Alexis had to do all she could to ensure that the mild display of rebellion was smoothed over.
"Really?" Dixie said.
"Yeah," Alexis said. "It's a shame: I imagine it could have been quite entertaining. But I suppose we'll just have to make do with each other's company." Her tone and word choice projected what Alexis wanted the Capitol to hear, but her body language conveyed the message to Dixie easily enough: it was a sick trick played by the Gamemakers to get a rise out of them. Alexis wasn't sure if Dixie completely realised what Alexis meant, but the sharp glare was enough for her to catch on.
"Oh well," Dixie said with a shrug. "At least it's warm and safe here. And it's getting pretty late, so we should probably get some sleep."
"Yeah," Alexis said. "Sounds like a good idea."

Dixie flashed Alexis a smile, and walked over to one of the sofas, sitting on it. Alexis remained standing in the middle of the room, her mind set on one thought: the moment when they would all get out of here couldn't come soon enough.


Kaye shoved his hands in his pockets as he pushed through the brown leaves. His breath was visible in front of him, and he was shivering. Throughout today, the arena had just progressively gotten colder, and with the permanent layer of cloud, it was almost pitch-black in the woods.

He was still heading north in hopes of finding someone, but Kaye knew that for now, he would have to find somewhere to sleep without risking exposure: the head trainer back in the Capitol had made it very clear that exposure was the second most-common way of death in the Games, second only to being killed by other tributes. And it was clear the the Gamemakers were setting up for someone to die in this way: so far, all the deaths had been caused by tributes killing one another, and the Gamemakers weren't getting the chance to use their toys. He supposed it was reasonable, but Kaye did not want to be on the receiving end of that.

The leaves underfoot began to slowly peter out, and after a while, Kaye found himself walking on solid ground again. He looked around, and soon discovered why: the trees had shifted from normal trees to pine trees: there were no leaves adorning the floor, but the pine needles would make it uncomfortable if Kaye were to fall. But still, it was an improvement over trudging through countless piles of leaves.

However, with the foliage thinning out, Kaye felt the biting cold more acutely. There was a harsh wind whipping around the trees, chilling him to the bone. He had no idea how much more he would be able to take out in this cold. But the question of where to retire for the night was still present in Kaye's mind: he couldn't stay out in the open, or he'd risk freezing. And as Kaye looked around, he just saw an expanse of trees in every direction. Ideally he should try and head north, and see if he could find out what happened to Salvera, and how she had been surviving for so long, but that all depended if there was shelter up ahead.

But before Kaye could decide on a direction, a pleasant beeping filled the air. He looked up, and saw a blinking red light in the sky. A sponsor parachute. The second one he had received in the Games: seemed the sponsors were really loving him.

Kaye followed the parachute as it floated slowly to the ground, landing amongst the pine needles. He bent down, and opened the crate swiftly. Inside he found a blanket and a rolled up piece of paper. Curious, Kaye picked up the piece of paper, and unfolded it. From the looks of things, it appeared to be a map: in the middle of the paper was a golden shape, surrounded by green; there were images of houses on the northern section, and trees making a U shape around the centre. To the west of the trees was a patch of brown, and a couple more house diagrams, and to the far east of the trees were shapes that reminded Kaye of hills, with two or three houses there. As he studied it in closer detail, Kaye realised that this was a map of the arena.

But that wasn't what interested Kaye; what was interesting was the pair of circles close to the top-left of the U of trees; one was red, with the word 'YOU' written in the middle in bold handwriting, whilst the other was to the north of the red one, and was blue, with the word 'THEM' written in the middle. It didn't take a genius to realise that a sponsor had given away the position of other tributes to Kaye. And judging from the wording, it was probably an alliance. But which tributes? Right now, Kaye was aware that only two alliances still stood: the one with the pair from 3 and the girl from 5, and Emily and Liam.

Kaye quickly thought ahead; he would have to approach the situation very differently depending on which tributes were truly ahead of him. The larger alliance consisted of what he would probably call the smartest tributes in the arena: one slip-up there would cost him his life. On the other hand, if it was Liam and Emily, then he'd be in for a nasty fight: both were devoted to one another, and would kill him to ensure the safety of the alliance.

And then there was a third option: the sponsor had been forced to use a gender-neutral term so that the identity would be kept secret from Kaye; it certainly would make for a more interesting confrontation. But whatever it was, it was clear that Kaye wouldn't find out who was just ahead unless he went out there, looking for them.

Without wasting a moment, Kaye continued forward, through the trees. His eyes were trained ahead, searching for any signs of life, but as he continued, it only seemed to get darker. So Kaye stopped for a moment, holding on to the sponsor package. Ahead of him the trees seemed to get thicker, and in the dark, it would be suicide to go through there. But part of him knew that he'd be risking losing them if he didn't find them quickly. However, he also realised that as it was so late, they would probably be asleep. Which left the question: should he risk lowering his chances of finding someone?

As if to reply, the wind began to pick up, even more biting than normal. Kaye began to visibly shiver: the Gamemakers were certainly making it colder. And this was the thing that helped him to make his decision: he'd wait until tomorrow to find them. With that out of the way, Kaye looked around, hoping for some form of shelter. To the north and west was nothing but thick trees that had lost their leaves, and to the south was the stretch of pine. However, just to the east was a small cave, partially obscured by branches. A perfect place to hide out from the night that would also protect Kaye from the elements.

He walked through the pine needles, the sound carrying. And as Kaye drew closer to the cave, he looked up for no particular reason. The sky had suddenly turned lighter. Not in the sense that daylight was approaching; no, this was more like the clouds themselves were the source of the light. Kaye didn't pay much attention to it though: it was probably just a Gamemaker trick. Instead, he merely completed the short walk to the cave, and walked through the stony entrance.

The cave itself was pretty small: maybe the size of the Capitol bedroom he had stayed in. It would be a little snug, but Kaye supposed that was a good thing. The thick grey stony walls would certainly help to insulate him; already he could feel that it was considerably warmer in here. But it was still pretty cold, and Kaye wasted no time in pulling out the blanket. He walked over to the far wall of the cave, and sat down, draping the blanket over his body. It was surprisingly soft, he noted. Not many other thoughts entered Kaye's mind before the fatigue caught up to him, and he drifted off into a dreamless sleep.


Kylee sat cross-legged on the floor of the massive Cornucopia, looking out at the empty field. Behind her was Markus, who was setting up two tents safely inside the golden horn, away from the chill of the night. She hadn't offered to help, and Markus hadn't asked her. So Kylee had just sat here as Markus did the dirty work. And who knew? Perhaps this display of strength would reel in some sponsors: for some sour reason, Kylee was beginning to wonder if she had taken the Careers out a little too early.

No, she decided: if she had kept them alive longer, then all they would have done was create more rifts in the alliance. They'd probably have ended up taking each other out anyway: Kylee had sowed the seeds of doubt in the small heads of her ex-allies long before they had even set foot in the arena. And besides, if Markus had still come here, then perhaps she would have been a casualty of the conflict that would have ensued.

But as fate would have it, Kylee was still alive, and had teamed up with who she considered to be the deadliest tribute left in the arena. Not that there was much competition for Markus, anyway; he was probably capable of decimating the Careers with little effort. Not to mention, he was smart. Resourceful. He had all the makings of a victor. But, Kylee noted, whilst he was smart, he wasn't smart like she was. Because as impossible as Markus would believe it to be, she was manipulating him like the rest. Him bringing the tents in was just a tiny example: he would tire himself out long before she would. She could foresee how the Games would conclude with crystal-like clarity: she and Markus would fight with whichever tributes were left alive, with Markus doing most of the fighting. And then, when only she and Markus remained, he'd be too tired to do anything, and she'd wipe him out without a second thought. A flawless plan, she thought smugly.

"Hey, Harker," Markus suddenly spoke up. Kylee turned around to face the brutish boy. "I've finished moving the tents."
"Good," she replied. "That'll certainly help with the cold."
"No doubt," Markus said. He slapped the wall of the Cornucopia. "This thing's gotta be a few feet thick at least."
"Good to know," Kylee said. "Besides, I can't imagine anyone would want us to freeze to death, now would they?" It was obvious she was addressing the Capitol audience, which came with risks: in the past, directly talking to the cameras was normally done by rebellious tributes who wanted to vent. They normally died within three days of their outburst. Now, Kylee was certain she hadn't done anything to get on the bad side of the Capitol, but there was a slim chance that the Gamemakers had it hard-wired into their brains to push some kind of 'kill' button if a tribute spoke to them. But nothing happened, and Kylee was sure the message got through to the audience, albeit in a less profound way than how she had envisioned it in her mind: if you damn candy-coloured freaks subject us to the cold, then you can be sure that as soon as I'm out of here I'll kick your sorry asses into next week.

Kylee smiled at that: it'd be a sight to see for sure. Of course, that was barring the obvious restrictions of a Capitol citizen getting close enough to her, but she'd still like to see herself try. Then again, she did value her life, so it would only happen as a last resort. Kylee wasn't dumb like that: she hated the Capitol's oppressive regime as much as the next sucker, but in no way was she going to openly let them know of her disdain. Besides, they'd be giving her one hell of a reward when she got out of here, and she wouldn't want to risk her chances of success. Not at all.

"Hey, look," Markus said, pointing past Kylee. She turned around, and looked out of the Cornucopia. The green field, a dull grey in the minimal light, was now pure white. An endless sea of small white shapes flurried onto the ground, increasing the layer with alarming speed. Soon enough, the small green blades were long-gone, buried under the winter weather.
"Well, look at that," Kylee said. "It's snowing." One upon a time, in another lifetime, Kylee used to burst with joy on a cold winter's evening as the white flakes drifted to the ground. A fleeting memory of building a snowman with her father surfaced for no more than two seconds, before she once again looked out at the wintry landscape. It was coming in thick, and Kylee assumed there to be at least four inches by now. Another thought occurred to her: if it continued like this, then they ran the risk of being buried by the snow. Or worse. They could end up being trapped inside the Cornucopia. And as useful as Markus was to Kylee, in no way did she want to be trapped anywhere with him. She thought of mentioning this to Markus, but decided against it: if the worst came to it, she could leave him to freeze to death under a mountain of snow whilst she walked free. It was an awful way to think about an ally, but really, Kylee had to ensure she was the one getting out at all costs.

A sudden change in the wind's direction brought a flurry of snow rushing into the Cornucopia. Kylee immediately leaped back, avoiding the biting cold as best as possible. The far end of the golden horn was still quite warm, but with the snow pelting against it, everything would be cold pretty soon. For a brief moment, Kylee wondered about the possibility of getting frostbite from this weather, but soon dismissed her irrational worries. The only way that'd happen would be if she literally slept in a pile of snow. And with the tent there, that wasn't going to happen. Besides, there were blankets she could use anyway.

Kylee glanced across at Markus, who had moved, catching her attention. She noticed that his crossbow was now in his hands. He was loading it with an arrow.
"What are you doing?" she asked, raising an eyebrow to him.
"Just look behind you, and you'll see."
"Fine." Kylee rolled her eyes, and turned around. It was an odd thing to notice, but Kylee now realised that her boots squeaked against the material of the Cornucopia. In her mind, it was entirely trivial compared to the sight outside.

The snow was still falling heavily, but all across the field, there were several tall figures emerging. If it weren't for the memory that had bubbled up moments ago, Kylee would have never been able to identify them.
"Snowmen," she said in a whispered voice. 
"Get your scythe," Markus replied. "Now." Oddly enough, Kylee complied, and bent down, grabbing the handle of the scythe, which had chilled from being exposed to the cold winds.

Kylee stood up again, and once more looked out to the field. A snowman had appeared just a few from the mouth of the Cornucopia, and this close up, she could see the features: a face made of pebbles, sticks for arms, and a thick scarf around its neck. If she looked close enough, she would be able to see the definitive areas where the three balls of snow were stacked on top of each other to make up the body of the snowman.
"How'd that get there?" Kylee asked Markus, whose face had gone steely as he gazed at the snowman. For just a moment, he took his eyes off of the pile of snow, and glanced at Kylee.

The scarf was choking him before he knew what was happening.

Kylee looked in horror as the snowman began to move, gliding across the ground. The row of pebbles that made up its mouth suddenly twisted into what could only be described as a sadistic grin. It wrapped the scarf tighter around Markus' neck, and Kylee saw as his face turned red.
"Do something!" Markus said, but his voice sounded croaky. He was squirming, and trying to pull the scarf away from him. It wasn't working. Kylee then noticed that the scarf was a bright red, similar to the colour of the lipstick she wore in the Capitol. Oddly enough, this detail was what spurred her into action.

She raised her scythe, and rushed at the scarf. She swung down, and the blade which had ended the life of five tributes (a fact she hadn't told Markus, oddly enough), collided with the red fabric. It didn't slice it, or do any damage for that matter. The scarf merely stretched down, in a way that wasn't unlike when you pressed down on a high tension wire. Kylee stared in disbelief that somehow this cheap fabric was immune to her blade. It wasn't until Markus began to let out a spluttered choking sound that she looked at the snowman. It was looking right at her, its beady stone eyes glaring. She wasn't sure how she could tell, but Kylee was more than certain the snowman was glaring. It seemed to be taunting her: look at you, the big bad killer girl, who can't even cut up a scarf, was what it seemed to be saying with that glare. Or perhaps it was just that Kylee had associated snowmen with her father, who had abused her plenty of times in her childhood, and suppressed memories were violently spiking to the surface upon seeing an artefact from her childhood. Whatever the reason was, it wasn't too important, but it served the same purpose: it drove Kylee to run at the snowman.

The living sculpture didn't even attempt to do anything as Kylee's scythe hacked into the groove between where the head and body had melded together. It sliced through the snow effortlessly, as it would logically do. The snowman was decapitated, and the head rolled to the floor, smashing into a broken mess on the golden floor of the Cornucopia. With nothing to support it, the scarf followed suit, drifting to the floor. Its grip on Markus vanished, and he spluttered for breath, his face slowly returning to a healthy colour.
"What was that?" Kylee asked. 
"Damn Mutts," Markus rasped. "Why the hell are they attacking us?!"
"Perhaps people in high places don't approve of our duo?" Kylee offered. Markus went to reply, but instead, his mouth gaped open. He was looking behind Kylee. She turned and saw that the snowman had picked up the remains of the head, and was putting it back on its body. She then looked outside, and saw that every last snowman in the field had come to life, and was heading towards them. There were at least thirty.
"Oh, hell no," Markus said. "Harker, your weapon." Kylee didn't even look at him as she raised her scythe. However, before they had even started, she knew it was going to be futile; they would simply rebuild themselves a few moments after they would be mown down. There was clearly some way to defeat them, but at this moment, Kylee's mind was not clear enough to see a solution.

The snowman in the mouth of the Cornucopia lunged at Kylee. She leaped back as the Mutt somehow jumped up in the air, its body aiming right for her. Instead of careening into her, which would have sent her sprawling to the floor, and would lead to her death, the stick arm of the snowman merely grazed Kylee's cheek. Red dripped down the angelic cheek, and although Kylee didn't know it, this cut would lead to a permanent scar that would forever ruin her face, provided she lived long enough for this to become an issue.

With the Muttation on the ground, Kylee raised her free hand to her face, wiping some of the blood away. The cut stung to touch, but she didn't let it bother her. Some more of the blood dripped onto the scythe, melding with the blood of Osiris, Topaz, Dylan, Ren, and Annabell. Whilst she was doing this, Markus had rushed over to the snowman, and had proceeded to stomp on it with his boot, crushing it into a pile of slush in the corner. The edges of the heap that was formerly a Muttation began to melt, leaving a puddle surrounding it like a useless moat. However, neither tribute noticed this, as their attention was drawn to the mouth of the Cornucopia where all the snowmen were trying to pile in. Kylee felt her heart beating in her chest.

"Now what?" she said.
"I guess we fight," Markus said with gusto. Even with their lives on the line, Kylee still found a second to realise how unbelievable it was that Markus was enjoying the adrenaline rush. As she thought this, the crushed snowman began to re-shape itself once more. A pebble dropped to the ground. Kylee looked down at it. She noticed the puddle of water surrounding the Mutt. She noticed how the melted sections were not becoming part of it. And an idea blossomed in her head.
"Wait, Markus!" Kylee said. "We may not have to fight!"
"What?!" Markus said. "Are you serious?!"
"Entirely," Kylee said. She pointed to the deformed snowman that was struggling to retain its shape when a considerable portion of it was a melted puddle. "They're still made of snow, and if we melt them, then they'll be nothing but water. They won't be able to build themselves up again!"
"That might actually work," Markus said. "Even if it doesn't, it's still better than running blindly into a horde of those nightmares."
"Do we have anything we can use?" Kylee asked. Markus considered this for a moment. During this time, he fired an arrow at a rapidly approaching snowman. Its upper half fell off, splattering to the floor.
"Yeah, we do," he replied. "The blankets in the tents. They should be enough to smother them into oblivion." Smothering them with a blanket. Another haunting memory came to the surface for Kylee; one involving an older man who had forced her to go and sleep with him. She had knocked him out in his own bedroom, and then smothered him with a blanket, killing him. She was fourteen at the time. The Peacekeepers never found out who did it, for they believed a girl was incapable of murder. Likewise, Markus also had a memory of murder by blanket, although his involved wrapping the corpse of a Peacekeeper, a pretty young woman no older than twenty two, inside a blanket, and dumping it behind an abandoned power plant. Neither tribute was planning on sharing these memories with each other.
"I'll get to it," Kylee said, leaving Markus to hold off the snowmen. In the time it took for Kylee to retrieve four huge blankets, Markus had taken out exactly six more snowmen. The first one he had shot was beginning to rebuild itself.

Markus looked back at Kylee, who tossed two blankets at him.
"Thanks," Markus said. He dropped his crossbow to the floor. Kylee had done the same with her scythe before going into the two tents, taking three blankets from the tent Markus had claimed, and only one from her own. Out of interest, of the two blankets Markus was holding, one of them was the one from Kylee's tent. Not that this was anything he would ever realise, or care about, for that matter.

Kylee was the first to make her move. The first snowman that had trespassed upon the Cornucopia was trapped in the clutches of the blanket. She watched as it squirmed underneath, trying to free itself, before a wet patch emerged; the blanket absorbed everything but the sticks, stones, and scarf. She lifted the blanket, and saw these remains. The stones had arranged themselves into a lopsided triangle shape. She kicked them aside as she smothered the next snowman.

Within fifty minutes, Kylee and Markus had succeeded in smothering and melting all thirty nine snowmen, and thoroughly soaking four blankets. The snow outside had progressed to a blizzard, and snowflakes were beginning to rush into the Cornucopia, chilling the damp tributes to the bone.
"This is going to freeze us if we don't do something soon," Kylee said, motioning to the snowflakes. They stuck to her face, which was slick with sweat, and her cheek with blood. The snowflakes helped in getting the blood to drip to the floor. Kylee wiped her face again.
"I have an idea," Markus said, taking the blankets from Kylee. She watched out of curiosity as he pinned them across the top of the mouth of the Cornucopia, using six of his arrows to do so. Surprisingly, the arrows stuck into the Cornucopia, keeping the blankets in place as they became a makeshift barrier against the snow. She watched as they swayed in the wind. "It's not the greatest thing, but it should do."
"Yeah," Kylee said. "Should be enough to keep the cold out. And hopefully any more snowmen that decide to show up." She knew, though, that by taking all of them out, the Gamemakers wouldn't screw with them any more. Besides, there could also be a fight going on between tributes elsewhere that would demand their attention more than seeing the two deadliest tributes in the Games fighting holiday snow sculptures. Markus yawned. Kylee looked at him.
"I guess I'm feeling a little tired now," he said. "I'm gonna go catch some Z's."
"Okay then," Kylee said. "It is getting a little late now, so the best thing to do would probably be to sleep. Who knows what we'll need our energy for tomorrow?"
"Most likely just to make our way through the mountain of snow," Markus said in jest. Kylee took this as a serious possibility. "Well, good night." He waved at Kylee, and retreated into his tent. He took his crossbow with him, along with the other arrows.

Kylee followed Markus' example, and picked up her scythe. She had to fumble around to find it with what little light there was blocked out by the blankets. But she soon found it, and crawled into her own tent, sealing it up. The blood from her cheek soaked the pillow. It would congeal by sunrise. Both were asleep less than fifteen minutes later.

And Kylee's tent, with the extra blankets, was seven degrees warmer than Markus'.

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