ALIS GRAVE NIL (THE HUNGER GAMES)

❝knowledge may be terrible, but we can only prefer it to ignorance. light may be terrible, but we can only prefer it to the dark.❞

it is the 74th annual hunger games, and rebellion is stirring in the districts.

nyx montenegro-palmer, games commentator and daughter of district five victor carlos montenegro and former commentator cecil palmer, searches tirelessly for her absent brother, once a scientist for the games, who is believed to have defected and joined the rebellion.

mayzie sycamore, district three victor and adopted daughter of augustine sycamore, has been part of the rebellion since the beginning. she won her games at the age of twelve by outsmarting the other tributes, using every aspect of the arena against them.

nyx's search for her brother leads her to mayzie, who may very well end up being her only chance to change what the capitol's done and what it will continue to do. the only question is: will she take it?

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3. CHAPTER II

The artificial light of the Arena is blinding after the fifteen seconds of darkness he was put through.

 

They were in a valley, surrounded on all sides by hills. The Cornucopia this year was a dark, glimmering green, easily blending in with the surrounding hills.

 

To the north, he could see the faint outline of a mountain range, clouds obscuring its summit. To the east lay palm trees—a beach, or maybe tropics, Blake guessed—and to the west, a dense rain forest jungle. He couldn’t see any hint of what lay to the south.

 

He was still terrified, of course, but for the first time this week, he felt like he had an actual chance of winning, however slim it was.

 

The cannon sounds, echoing against the Arena’s force field, officially starting the games.

 

Blake hits the ground running, letting the momentum and adrenaline carry him forward. If he could grab a weapon, any weapon, he would have a fighting chance. Literally, in this case.

 

In the corner of his eye, he sees his counterpart—Tassel, if he remembers correctly—go down, brought down by one of the Careers.

 

His eyes darting around, he can see a few satchels scattered around the Cornucopia, presumably full of supplies. The weapons are hidden deeper inside, each one getting more deadly than the last the further in they were.

 

Blake narrowly dodges a knife thrown by one of the other tributes; it grazes his shoulder, leaving a decently sized cut.

 

He manages to grab a satchel that was buried deeper in the Cornucopia than the others, as well as a small dagger. It wasn’t a spear like he’d gotten used to, but it would have to do for now.

 

If he could get to the tropics, he might be able to survive the first night, assuming the area had water and a decent amount of animals to hunt. At least it would be warm, if what he read about tropical climates was true.

 

Holding a piece of torn fabric he’d snagged from the Cornucopia to his bleeding shoulder, he bolted towards the east. No one tried to stop him; no one even noticed where he was headed.

 

The passage to the east led to a tropical area, as he predicted. There were still hills here, but the path at least widened out to a much bigger area, its colored stone giving way to grass.

 

He slows down now that he’s reached his destination, looking around for somewhere to rest so he could rifle through the satchel and hopefully find a better bandage for his shoulder.

 

Palm trees dot the area, some in thicker clusters than others. A light drizzle is falling, apparently exclusively to this area, since when Blake looks back, the rain simply stops at where he’d entered, almost as though there were a wall.

 

He finds shelter under one of the thicker patches of trees, wincing as the full pain of his shoulder wound kicked in. He takes off the torn fabric, paling at the sight of the torn, bloody mess that the knife made of his shoulder. His breath turns shaky, and he closes his eyes tight, waiting for the pain to subside even a little.

 

He ruffles through the satchel, finding an empty water bottle; water purifying tablets (their container labeled them as iodine); a case of matches, paired with fire-starting wax; a medium-sized serrated knife; some cordage; and, miraculously, a first aid kit.

 

The first aid kit didn’t have much in the way of fancy Capitol medicine, but it did have a few creams as well as antiseptic and bandages.

 

He bandages his shoulder as best as he can with one hand, still on high alert for any other tributes, the Careers especially. He might be able to trust Lorelei, but here in the Arena, it was everyone for themselves, and he wouldn’t put it past anyone to kill him as soon as they saw him.

 

Only a few other cannons had gone off since the bloodbath, and Blake wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or worried. For all he knew, he could be surrounded by other tributes right now, all waiting to kill him.  

 

The sun was sluggishly making its way across the sky, its bright white light almost fluorescent. If it could be relied on to tell the time, then right now it was late afternoon, maybe five or six. He must’ve spent more time than he realized making his way here.

 

Cautiously, Blake edged his way out of his hiding place, careful not to make any noise.

 

He pauses when he sees one of the other tributes: District Nine, male. He was prowling around, the only supplies on him being a meager amount of food and water, as well as a short sword.

 

Blake shifts his hold on the serrated knife, hesitating to throw it. He didn’t want to kill the other tribute—but he knew he didn’t have a choice. None of them did.

 

But in his moment of hesitation, another swoops in and kills Nine’s male, their spear bursting out of his chest in a bloody, gory mess.

 

Blake pales, feeling faint. Nine’s killer turns to him, a steely look of determination on his face.

 

“District Three,” he says, voice low and menacing.

 

Blake regards the other tribute warily, taking a step back. He doesn’t remember all of the tributes; he barely remembers their districts as it is. But if he was going to get killed—

 

His thought was thrown out the window—quite literally since the other tribute decided to throw him against the tree. Blake groans, already deciding that this was his end; the next cannon to go off was going to be for him.

 

The guy begins to stalk over towards Blake, pointing the spear right at him. Almost instinctively, he crouches down and grabs his opponent’s feet, causing him to lose his balance.

 

Blake takes his opponent’s disorientation as an opportunity to grab the spear from him. He got into the stance that Lorelei taught him and pointed the spear at the other tribute.

 

The fight between the two took off at that, turning on its heel from a quick and easy kill to a fairer fight—that is, until Blake is suddenly pushed up against the tree again, his opponent pulling an arm back to deal the finishing blow.

 

Blake turns his gaze up towards the darkening sky, deciding that if this was his end, so be it. He had a good run, at least.

 

What he doesn’t notice is Lorelei storming over, anger clouding her face.

 

Lorelei pulls Blake’s attacker from him, then pushes him against a different tree, her dark brown eyes staring the guy down as she held up her own weapon. He tried pushing her away to no avail; she clearly had the upper hand in strength.

 

“If you even think about coming near us, I will end you, Cato,” Lorelei growls, easily intimidating her own District Four partner. Even if they were from the same District, in the end only one of them could win, and Lorelei was determined for it to be her.

 

Lorelei let Cato go, allowing him to run off without his things. The dark haired girl turns to Blake, her expression instantly turning to concern when she noticed his lip was bleeding and his eye was starting to swell up.

 

She went through her own satchel, taking out a water bottle, and wet her hand before transferring the water onto Blake’s injuries. She was no medical expert, but at least she could attempt to stop any infection from setting in.

 

“I’m shocked you’re still alive, District Three,” Lorelei remarks, ignoring his wincing.

 

“Something we agree on,” Blake says, completely exhausted from all the moving and fighting he had just done. He thinks he might have a concussion from being thrown against the tree. He feels woozy, and can’t find the strength to even sit up.

 

He keeps his one good eye fixed on the sky above them, his mind wandering to the sun’s blistering heat, to how the moon was the only gentle presence here, as mysterious lights passed overhead while they all pretended to sleep.

 

***

 

“…and as we sign off for our broadcast tonight, we leave you with today’s deaths: District Nine, female; District Nine, male; District Ten, male; District Eight, female; District Eight, male; District Six, female; District Four, male; District Three, female. Good night, Panem. Good night.”

 

The screen turns black, and Mayzie lets out a breath she didn’t even realize she was holding. At least they still had one tribute in the running.

 

When she glances out the window, she’s surprised at how dark it already was. It seemed like no time passed at all when she was watching the Games. Then again, the Cornucopia bloodbath lasted longer this year—Nyx wasn’t exaggerating when she said the tributes seemed stronger this year than before. More intelligent, that was for sure.

 

“Mayzie?”

 

Clemont touched a hand to her shoulder, careful not to jostle her too much. He may have been only two years younger than Mayzie, but it often seemed that his fellow Victor was far older than she really was.

 

“Tassel got killed in the bloodbath,” she says, her mouth setting into a thin line. She was always hit hard by the deaths of their tributes. Augustine and Lysandre have long since become desensitized to it, but Mayzie had yet to. Clemont doesn’t know if either of them ever will.

 

“At least Blake survived,” he says—it’s a poor attempt at comfort, he knows, but it’s still an attempt. “Surprising though it is.”

 

“Psh, you’re nineteen; what are you doing sounding like a novel?” Mayzie teases, some of the weariness falling from her face.

 

“One of us has to be the deep, profound one and it’s definitely not you or your father,” Clemont jokes back, glad that he managed to ease at least some of Mayzie’s worries.

 

They were in this together, once. When Bonnie—

 

…They were still in this together, regardless of what happened.

 

“We should get to bed,” he says quietly, all humor falling from his voice. He worried about Mayzie especially, but maybe that was just the brother in him rearing its head.

 

Mayzie rolls her eyes, patting Clemont’s shoulder. “Goodnight, Clemont.”

 

Mayzie walks away, making it look like she was headed to her room until she switched course at the last second, instead heading towards the roof. She knew exactly what places in the building would be untouched and among them, the roof was almost number one.

 

Besides, what Clemont didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.

 

The roof is empty tonight, as she expected. The lights of Panem shine brightly below her; the dull roar of the wind rushed past, a sharp cold biting at her skin.

 

She understood so little about this life they’d all been forced into. But the sky behind Panem’s District-powered lights—mostly void, partially stars—reminded her that she understood even less.

 

She understood Nyx least of all. The Voice of Panem; the Capitol’s media darling. Nyx was practically untouchable. If the President ever took it upon themselves to punish Carlos Montenegro through his daughter, they would have to go through the whole of the Capitol to do it.

 

If anything, Mayzie understood the power Nyx held over the opinions of the Capitol’s denizens; understood that even Nyx was responsible for the deaths of twenty-three children every year.

 

She looks back up at the sky, at its sparse collection of stars—noiseless in the void of space; cold, alone, and dying—and wondered how many of them were secretly Capitol helicopters.

 

None of the hovering lights in the sky may be stars. For the moment, it was certainly the more comforting narrative.

 

But to have nothing waiting in the crushing darkness—to be alone in an empty universe, unaware that it was held aloft by her own delusions—would be preferable to seeing two children die every year.

 

Below her, the lights of Panem twinkle, unaware of the lives they cost, and above her, the mysterious lights passed overhead in the vast, empty and indifferent void of sky as they all pretended to sleep.

 

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