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The Hunger Games Challenge #1- Introduction and Reaping

This is my first set for The Hunger Games Challenge: http://www.polyvore.com/hunger_games_challenge_thgc/group.show?id=133742
2nd. The Tribute Train and Arriving at the Capitol: http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=82480109

This took so much longer than what should’ve been necessary. I don’t quite know how I ended up with a nine-page word document for just the Reaping and profile, but oh well, c’est la vie. I hope you like it :D
Also, I apologies for all the mistakes. I'm just too darn lazy to do anything more than two proof reads. 

***

Name: Cerva Lacus
Age: 17
District: Ten- Livestock
Personality Traits: Cerva tends to decide whether she likes a person or not within minutes of meeting them. She can be charming or sarcastic, depending if she likes someone or not. She and her older brother Bovem are as thick as thieves and get along famously. She's smart but doesn't always understand the obvious, self-assured but shy, and just a plain ol' loveable mix of odd contradictions.
Skills: Her knowledge of animals and how to kill them, some basic hunting skills, and how to swing an axe. 
Nickname: … (I haven’t come up with one yet) 
Tribute Token: An acorn threaded on a chain.
Model: Nataliya Piro

***

This is the best part. If you’re quiet enough, early enough, and you get to them before they’ve woken up, you can start your day well. /If/ you are lucky enough to get to the pen in time.
I tug the bolt from the clasp and push open the wire gate just enough to creep through. My hand slips into the grain and spills it onto the mud. One, two, three handfuls of specially manufactured grain from District Nine. Designed especially to make the white chooks -the ones that will be sold to the Capitol- fat and bigger than any hen would grow to normally. Last season we had one that was as tall as my knee. The district chickens are sometimes bigger, but they’re gamey and bland. If you want a proper drumstick or thigh, you breed the white chickens for the Capitol. They’re the tasty ones.
With their feed spread out before me I heft the bucket up to sit on top of the fence and follow behind it. Once I’m at a safe distance, I start hitting the side of the bucket with my fist.
I call out and begin making as much noise as I can. “Chooks! Chookas!” Sure enough the first hens appear. They begin to waddle towards their feed, little legs hurrying to get there first, their fat lumbering along with them like a parasite the hen can’t shake off. It’s hilarious. They squabble, they skid, they start jumping into the air with anticipation and excitement only to plummet back down to the earth as if remembering they're not supposed to fly. Though I suppose I can’t blame them, I’d be happy too if the feed was the only exciting thing in my day.

The show is over now. I don’t like watching them fight and peck the smallest hen’s neck until it bleeds. It undoes any of the good luck you’ve bought on by surprising your chickens with their feed in the mornings. That’s a District Ten tradition, if you wake your hens up in the morning and surprise them with their grain, you’ll have a good day. If they’re already waiting for you at the gate, it’s a bad day filled with cowpats and wild dogs at your lambs. Superstitious bunch, the breeders of District Ten. Is your bull facing north when he mounts the cow? It’ll be a boy. A girl if she’s facing south, a stillbirth if it’s west and a waste of time if she’s heading east, because you won’t get any pregnancy at all. Have you or someone you know been attacked by wild dogs? Were they all black? Watch out, because your stock will become afflicted with the pox.

I dump the empty bucket by the feed shed and head over to the paddocks. My thoughts begin to wander as I muse over what could happen today at the Reaping. Who will be picked? Will my luck run out and someone I know or love will have his or her name called? It was good fortune I had no family members available for the Reaping. My older cousin Taurus had been old enough to be too old three years earlier. My older brother, Bovem, had his last reaping the year before. He was 19 now, too old to become a tribute in the Hunger Games. Our family had been so relieved when another boy’s name had been called last year. Finally- two down, one to go. But now the one left was me. Two more years and I’ll be free too, free to farm and breed stock as I please. Although we will be poorer, with less to eat since I won’t be able sign up for tesserae. I’ve put my name in an extra seven times this year so we get enough grain and oil to feed our family, my cousin, and his mother. 
I’m broken out of my daydream when I hear the sound of sharp, high-pitched yapping. I turn around to see a small black nose poking out from behind a fence post, the whiskers twitching. I crouch down and pat my knees. The nose stretches and morphs into ruddy red-orange scruffy fur, followed by two big, round black eyes that reflect the world they see. The eyes are followed by proportionally large ears on a small skull, which would flow almost seamlessly into a long, shaggy body and full tail if it weren’t for the shoulder blades sticking out at the wrong angles. No matter how much you feed him, no matter how often and no matter what, Vullie is always bony and always looking malnourished, with stick-thin little black legs. I make a clicking sound with my tongue on the roof of my mouth and the little red fox comes running towards me, jumping up to head but me in the forehead before coming to rest his paws on my knees. I smile and scratch under his ears. He’s happy to see me, but that isn’t saying much considering he’s excited almost all of the time. I stand up and turn back, walking towards the paddocks, the little fox doing his best to follow at my heels. 

When I reach the doe and fawn pens I approach as quietly as I can, With Vullie mimicking my silence. I come to rest my head on my crossed arms and lean on the fence, watching my brother move between the deer. He’s gentle and sweet, stroking each animal as if they were his own children. He probably thinks they are. The thought makes me snort and its a moment too late that I realise Bovem has heard. He turns to me and immediately his face lights up with a grin. 
“Cerry,” He comes over to the fence, sidestepping around the little fawn standing obliviously in his way, and reaches down to pat Vullie between the wood rails. The little fox pushes his head further into my brother’s hand as if he’s trying to join the both of them permanently.
Vullie is happy to see anyone, he’s always yapping or head butting or sticking out his little pink tongue and licking hands, faces, and any other part of you he can touch. In a way, my brother and the fox remind me of each other. They’re both the same, except that one is no bigger than three hands and the other is just over six feet.
“Mumma says she’s laid down our clothes for the reap- for today. She’s set it out for us on our beds.” He nods and pulls the little fox through the bars and into his arms, patting him with big, coarse, gentle hands. 

He doesn’t stop chatting as we make our way back to the house, his endless flow of words making up enough conversation for the both of us.
“Who do you think will be reaped?” When I don’t reply, he continues to answer his own question. “I’ve heard the smithy’s oldest son has his name in the bowl 43 times. Though I suppose they do have a big family.” I don’t have to contribute to the conversation often as Bovem continues. “Maybe this will be the year we win, maybe District Ten will have a new victor in a few weeks.” Its unlikely, but I suppose we can hope. Neither of us mentions the possibility of my name being reaped, but it’s on our minds. 

We reach the house, though it’s more of a large shack made from greying wood with patches of lichen pushing its way through the panels. We go inside and Vullie waits patiently at the door, knowing he’ll be chopped up for dinner by Pa if he crosses the threshold. Bovem gives our mother a kiss on the cheek as she plucks a little black hen before we part ways and he goes into a separate room as I head up the stairs to the loft.

Laid out neatly on my bed is a smart dress and a ribbon, with a pair of heeled boots sitting at the end. I reach out and touch the unfamiliar dark green fabric. When I run my hand downwards, its soft and silky, but met with resistance if I try pushing my fingers upwards. It must be something new; something mum has sewn especially for the occasion. I strip down and slide the cool fabric over my head and pull at the sides to try adjusting it. It’s a little tighter than I was expecting. I tug at the hem and try to stretch it to my knees, though its a little short than I’d hoped for. I push the thoughts of the dress to the back of my mind and begin trying my best to tie my hair with the silky ribbon, only to have it slide out each time. I give up and tuck it in the little pocket my mother has thankfully added. I tug a brush through my mop of red hair and squeal as the hairs get pulled from my scalp. Its the best I can do, through I know its nothing close to what she was hoping for. I take a deep breath and prepare myself for the next tribunal: the shoes. I eye them, half expecting the heeled boots to grow a pair of teeth, and tiptoe forwards. This is the first time I’ve worn anything than beaten leather. I push my feet inside the shoes and sit on the edge of the bed, feet planted firmly on the floor as I contemplate how much trouble I could get in if I just don’t turn up to the Reaping. A lot. I push myself off the bed and stand upright with little difficulty. This makes me pleased, and that’s a mistake. I begin to get too confident with my coordination and non-existent grace and start walking. I grin at myself in the mirror. This is easy; I had no reason to fear these shoes. I chuckle at how naive I must have been and end up tripping over my own feet. Sprawled on the floor I give myself a moment to wallow in the shame that comes crashing down with me.
“Cerva? What are you doing up there?” I hear my mother call out from the kitchen bellow. “You haven’t bought that ratty fox in the house again, have you?”
“Um, no. I’m just practising.” I chew my lip and hope she didn’t hear the lie.
“Practising what? Your dancing? Hurry up and come down here. We need to leave soon.”
I groan just loud enough for her to hear and pick myself up, dusting off the dress and patting down the gem collar. I take another deep breath and start the next escapade. I walk, very slowly, towards the mirror and stare at my reflection. Its... different. My hair looks brighter, shinier, and less like bramble and a little more like my mother’s. The dark emerald of the dress makes my eyes look greener and somehow bigger. I marvel at the long legs stretching out beneath me. I try smiling at myself in the mirror but stop quickly. My teeth are clean and white, though they’re certainly not straight. I suppose not everything can be as perfect as mumma would like it to be. I quickly push the hair out of my face and start down the stairs. 

By the time I reach the landing, I’ve only fallen three times. They’re all watching me. Bovem, mumma and pa, even Vullie has his head cocked and watching me. 
My mumma smiles and claps her hands together. “You look lovely, Cerry. Do you like the dress?” She asks. I know I’m a terrible liar, so I just nod and give the best smile I can without showing my teeth.
“Well, we should get on our way.” Pa goes to pat my head but settles for a shoulder instead. He’s always like this around the Reapings, always a little different. Ever since his brother was reaped and never returned. 

We walk out to the truck together, some relying on help from ma more than others, and our parents get in the front. Bovem and I climb into the tray at the back of the truck and watch Vullie slink after us, unsure if he should follow or not. I hold up my hand and tell him to wait until we get back. He sits down in the mud, his red fur quickly clouding and matching the brown, his head cocked to the side. 

Its a long drive to town and the road is bumpy, but its one the truck has travelled many times. We pull up on the side of a street and Bovem gets out. I go to follow and jump down out of the tray, forgetting the shoes, and land on my hands and knees, sprawled in front of the crowd. I contemplate curling into a ball and willing myself to turn to stone as a way of coping with the embarrassment, but mumma comes around and picks me up, muttering about the dust on my new dress. I keep my head down and avoid eye contact with anyone as we head towards the Town Square, following the flow with the other families. 
Bovem gives my hand a squeeze as I split from the rest of my family and cue up to get signed in. The line moves quickly and I soon find myself passing over my finger for a woman in a white uniform to draw blood and mark me as present.
I hold my hands over my heart as I walk towards my year group’s holding pen, which is, literally, a holding pen used for cattle before the slaughter. They say it represents our district but it feels more like another way they instil fear upon us small folk. 

The town square is silent as sons and daughters wait, praying to anything and anyone for the chance that their name won’t be called. I loose track of time as the pens slowly fill up with other potential tributes before I’m pushed back into the reality of the moment. 
A woman clears her throat. “Excuse me, yes, hello District Ten!” I look up to see Fabia Prince, our new escort, waving her arms and trying to get the attention of the crowd. When she’s content with the amount of people watching, she turns to the nearest camera and gives the biggest, cheesiest, widest grin I have ever seen, showing off her perfect, sparkling teeth which are, literally, sparkling with diamonds. She tilts her head and addresses the lens directly. “Welcome to the 72nd District Ten Hunger Games Reaping!” She waits for the cheers that never appear and instead makes eye contact and mouths the words; ‘add in clapping’ to the man behind the camera. Fabia turns again on her sky-high hot pink heels and totters over to the microphone. She musters up a much weaker smile now that the cameras are turned away and begins speaking in her strange, Capitol accent. “As you all know, my name is Fabia Prince and I shall be accompanying one lucky boy and girl to the Capitol to take part in the Hunger Games!” Again, she waits but nothing happens. She clears her throat and pulls a sleek little remote from a fold in her dress and presses a button. She takes a step back as a large screen lowers itself behind her. It flicks on and displays the Capitol emblem proudly before turning and playing the Reaping Film. 
“War, terrible war, widows, orphans, a motherless child.” A booming voice bounces of the walls and deafens everyone in the square. It’s too loud; again. “This was the uprising that rocked our nation.” The voice continues as the screen shows images of mushroom shaped black clouds, a mother clutching her young child, and an army of white helmets marching in perfect sync. “Thirteen Districts rebelled against the country that loved them, fed them, protected them. Brother turned on brother until nothing remained.” Its followed by more images of destroyed crops, a splintered mine shaft, and a bloody bull lying in a ditch. “And then came the peace,” suddenly the tone of the footage changes to something that’s supposed to instill hope; a bountiful harvest, a cart full of coal, a cow and her calf standing in a lush green paddock. 
I chew my lip and look around the square. Most of the District Ten residents are watching the film they’ve seen countless times before or they’re watching their shoes. I can guess what each one of them is thinking, it’ll range from; ‘I don’t want to be reaped’ to ‘I hope no one I know is reaped.’ I look back up at Fabia who’s mouthing the last words of the film with her eyes squeezed shut, an array of colours varying from hot pink to lime green to bright orange painted across her lids. The rest of her matches; her skin is tinted green and her lips are coloured in fuchsia. She’s wearing a dress in a myriad of all three colours with a skin-tight top and a skirt shaped like a fountain. Her phycadelic look almost makes me feel dizzy.
“This is how we remember our past, this is how we safe-guard our future.” The anonymous voice is back. It finishes the film with a few more shots of hope, except this time it has been diluted with victory and pride. A boy stands on a pile of what looks to be discarded clothing, holding his arms in the air with a trident in one hand and a fist on the other. 
Fabia’s dazzling smile is back now that a camera has turned towards her. “What a very special film for a very special day,” She breathed with what appeared to be genuine excitement. “Now, we’ll start...” She trails off, starring at the three people coming through the door from the Victory Building behind her. Fabia is the newest escort for our District, after last year’s retired because of his gout. Since Fabia is new, she’s never seen our Victors before- at least not in person. The first to come through is Gallina, our oldest Victor who won the 12th Hunger Games. She’s in her 70’s now, with a thick grey bun sitting atop her head and the warm brown-gold eyes seen on most people living on the farms. She’s leaning heavily on the arm of the second victor, Molossum, a man in his mid 40’s, with the same eyes and brown hair, the typical look for most people in this District. The two of them walk to the chairs set up at the back of the stage and sit, Gallina smiling pleasantly enough at Fabia, but with perhaps a hint of mocking and hate in her expression, as if she timed it purposely to interrupt the escort mid sentence, right before she began the reaping. Although, knowing her, that was probably been her exact plan. I can’t help but smile a little at the ageing woman’s own form of rebellion. It might not be setting fire to the head peacekeeper’s office or refusing to harvest for the Capitol, but it’s more than enough to leave Fabia flustered. Either that or she’s shocked to see –to finally actually meet- Vulpes Mons, our latest Victor who won only a few years earlier. Vulpes is in his late teens or early twenties and quite possibly one of the most handsome tributes to win the Hungers Games. He and Finnick Odair, a district 4 victor, were paid to attend many Capitol parties together as guests for the hosts to show off. He has rich red-brown hair and gold eyes, high cheekbones and a square jawline. 

It’s amusing to watch Fabia’s eyes flutter as she gaps at his tall, athletic build while Vulpes follows his fellow Victors to the benches.
“Please, continue,” He says, giving Fabia a dazzling –diamond free- smile, sending her stumbling back to the podium. 
As she begins, I could swear the woman was arching her back more than necessary.
“A, lovely, warm, welcome extended to Vul- the, ah, the victors.” She stumbles over her words and takes a deep breath, smoothing down her dress and, accidentally of course, pulling the neckline down a little further. “Shall we begin?” Without a reply, Fabia crosses over to a large glass bowl filled with slips of folded paper. “District Ten’s male tribute for the 72nd Hunger Games is...” She plunges her hand into the bowl, her long pink nails playing and tickling the corners. She grabs one and pulls it out, breaking the black seal and tottering back to the microphone. “Em-is-ary-us Seep-um-que” She struggled with the Latin name and used infliction in all the wrong places. The crowd parts as a stunned Emissarius made his way onto the stage. Emissarius Saepemque. He’s the boy all the girls swoon over, the drop-dead gorgeous boy who’s a year older than I am with warm brown hair and bright green eyes. I’ll never admit it, but whenever I’m in town I look out for him, just in case he might be walking past like he did 12 years ago with his mother who’d started talking with my mother and hadn’t noticed him give me a handful of half-dead white wind flowers. 
The Capitol will be happy with this. They’re always pleased when their tributes are attractive- it makes for better television. 

He makes his way onto the stadium and shakes Fabia’s hand –who looks far too pleased with herself- and tries his best to put on a brave face. 
“Congratulations!” Fabia tells him, her glittering smile back in place. He stays silent like the rest of the crowd and stares at his little sister in the closest pen. She has tears running down her face and is clutching the railing, trying to get as close to him as she can.
Fabia motions to the cameras to get a close-up of the sister before Emissarius moves to block the camera’s view. 
The escort waves it away and turns to the microphone. “And now, District Ten’s female tribute for the 72nd Hunger Games is...” Her voice rises at the end of the sentence from anticipation and she makes her way to a second glass bowl. The escort dips her green hand into the sea of paper, pulling out a small slip. I have my name in the reaping bowl eleven times this year, which is many more than any wanted me to put it in for, but I’d felt the need to get as much tesserae as I could before we were all too old to sign up. Now I’m not so sure if it was worth it.

I hold my breath as she clears her throat yet again, and totters back to the microphone, her heels tapping out an even rhythm on the stage. She pulls open the folded paper and beams at the cameras once more, though I’m half sure the smile never actually leaves her face.
“Serv-a Lac-cus.” She reads out my name with even more mispronunciations then she did with Emissarius’.
“Its Cher-va La-cuś.” I mutter under my breath. I look up to see the girls standing around me staring. It hits me like a raging bull. It’s my name. My bloody name has been called. 
My body becomes numb, like a shell on automatic as it makes its way through the herd, up the steps, and stops standing on the stage. Vaguely I hear my name being called and yelled out- with the correct pronunciation. I turn my head in the direction it comes from and see my family, my brother pushing against the gate, my mother sobbing into my father’s chest as he holds her close. 
I swallow and look back at the victors, at Fabia, the Capitol seal, and at Emissarius. I take a step back, a little closer to the stairs and a little closer to freedom. I take another slow step, testing the people around me and myself. I could run away from here. If I could get past the peacekeepers I could live out on the land, away from the Capitol’s strict regulations. I go to take another step before I feel a pair of arms lock around me. I try struggling but the peacekeeper’s grip is too strong. 
“Careful, we wouldn’t want you to fall down the stairs would we?” A voice whispers in my ear and I look down, realising the arms are bare. I push myself away and see Vulpes standing with his rolled-up sleeves by his side, watching me carefully.
I avoid his eyes and everyone else’s.
“Are you somehow related to Vulpes, Cerva?” I turn around to see Fabia teeter forwards, her hand poised in the air as if she were holding a tea cup, a pained expression of her face from the thought of the handsome victor and I being be something other than relatives. I realise Vulpes had positioned it to look more like an awkward hug rather then him keeping me from bolting.
I shake my head, avoiding eye contact with her or anyone else.
“I was merely congratulating our new tributes,” Vulpes says as he goes over to shake Emissarius’ hand. 
“Oh, well, everyone does tend to look the same in the districts, don’t they?” She smiles again, not realising how horrid she is.
“No we don’t.” Gallina speaks from her seat at the back of the stage, her once warm brown eyes turned hard and its obvious he wasn’t the only one who realised what I was about to do. 
Fabia stutters and bats her lashes frantically. “At any rate- Cerva, Emissarius, shake hands you two!” Her smile is back in place but fades when I don’t move to accept his out-stretched hand. 
Fabia turns to the camera and sweeps her arm across, presenting the two teenagers being offered up for slaughter. I can almost feel the pride pounding out of her in waves and it makes me sick. “Emissarius Saepemque and Cerva Lucas, District Ten’s tributes for the 72nd Hunger Games!”

I push my clasped hands between my knees and sit on the edge of the plush red sofa that’s made from the same material as my dress. I stare at the doorknob, willing it to turn and have someone –anyone I love- walk through and wrap me in their arms. There’s a knock at the door and I jump up off the seat. The door cracks open but I can’t see anyone there. I look down from the six foot height my eye’s had automatically found to see little Gallina standing at the threshold. She walks inside the room with a kind expression.
“You have-“ The peacekeeper on the other side gets cut off by her shutting the door in his face.
I hadn’t expected her to come. I’d never thought she would. I’d only imagined my brother, mumma and pa to come see me one last time. I have to stop thinking about them. I have to try and sever any connections I’ll be leaving behind in District Ten. The thought makes my eyes water again and I begin sobbing. 
Gallina crosses the room quicker than I ever suspected she could and envelops me in a hug. She kisses my head and pats my hair. She dries my eyes with a handkerchief and stokes my face, her soft hand resting against my cheek as she's done before. The old Victor had been one of the few to try for a normal life once returning to her District. She'd had a son who'd been 14 when he was reaped and killed in the Hunger Games and no children since. 
“Cerva, you listen to me.” I nod and sniff. “Vulpes will choose only one of so that he can give all the attention to that one tribute. You must show him why he should choose you. You must be strong, like an ox, clever, like a fox, and do everything he tells you.”
I’m shocked. I know favouritism happens in the Games, but I thought it would wait until we reached the Capitol at least and I certainly never thought someone from my own district would be that cruel.
“What would happen if he doesn't chose me?”
“You’ll die the moment you step foot inside the arena.”
I take a deep breath and nod. Was what Vulpes doing cruel? Isn’t it the same thing everyone did on the farms? You always picked out the price animals and kept them in better conditions then the others because they were assured to be finer. Like the white Capitol chickens and the black hens bred for the Districts. 
“How will I know if he's chosen me or not?” I ask.
“You’ll know if Vulpes favours you- just look for the signs.”
The door swings open and the peacekeeper marches in, a gun slung over his shoulders. How much trouble does he think a sobbing teenager and an old lady could cause? A lot, apparently, since he has pistols, handcuffs, and a gas vile holstered at his hip. “Time’s up.” He says, clearly seeking petty revenge for having the door cut him off before.
“No- wait! What can I do to get him to choose me? Can’t you come with us?" I shout questions at Gallina as she was pulled from the room. 
“Just look for the signs, Cerva, they’ll be there.” She shoved the last words from her mouth before the door was closed and we were cut off.

I sat in stunned silence. Emissarius already had the advantage- he hadn’t tried to run away.
I heard the shuffle outside the door and knew immediately my family was finally here. 
The door opened for a third time and this time my eyes were watching at the right height. Bovem rushed forward and flung his arms around my neck as he began begging me not to leave. I fought back my own tears and patted his back, pulling away from his grip to see our parents standing at the door, watching their daughter and son. Ma came forward but was stopped by my father placing his hand on her shoulder.
“Good luck, Cerva.” He said, before leading her out the door with him. 
My breath caught and I bit my lip, squeezing my eyes shut in a desperate attempt to not let my last image be of them walking away. 

Bovem wrapped his arm around my shoulders and muttered about how hard it must be for our father, having lost a brother and now a daughter. He was talking like I was already dead. Like my name being called was a death sentence. There was still a chance I could come home, a small slither of a chance but at least it was something. 
I wiped away my tears and reached up to kiss his cheek. “Good bye, big brother.” I tried to keep my voice as even as I could so he wouldn’t be able to hear the fear.
“But it’s not time yet; they haven’t told me I have to leave.” He starred at me.
“I’ll see you soon, yeah?” I bite down on my tongue again and shut my eyes, tight, and turn away.
There’ s a moment of silence as he realises what I’m asking of him before I feel something cold being pressed into the palm of my hand. I hear the door click open and shut again. I dry my eyes for what feels like the hundredth time today and open my hand, revealing a little brown acorn hanging from a thin gold chain. I slip it over my neck and tuck the pendent into the dress, letting it rest over my heart.
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