Ravinia had woken up with her black hair tangled amongst Evanna’s blonde hair. Taking care not to wake her princess, Ravi kissed her on the forehead before rolling out of bed. It was still several hours before the Reaping, but Ravi had always been an early riser. She had also always been a better handler of her alcohol. With a knowing smile, Ravi switched on the coffee maker. Evanna liked her hangovers with a cup of orange juice and black coffee. For herself, Ravi set a mug of tea out to brew.
Moving silently, Ravi picked her way across the small apartment. This was to be her last day here, in this home, but she didn’t want it be any different than any other day. The sun was just peeking up as she poured the food for Jacques, who bounded over from his sleep as soon as he heard it hit the bowl. She continued about her daily routine: showering, getting dressed, eating breakfast. At some point, she was joined by Evanna who followed behind her, sipping her coffee. The blonde seemed scared to touch her.
In what seemed no time at all, Ravi and Evan were at the Justice Building. With a final kiss, Ravi left to have her finger pricked and join the women in the group one over from Evanna. She stood with pride radiating from her, and those around her could feel her physical presence. On more than one occasion, people turned to look at her as if their eyes were magnetized to her.
The speech was the same. It always was. The video, the same. But then it was time for the Reaping. Maybe Ravinia would be spared the need to volunteer. Maybe her own name would be called. But no – that would be terrible. If that happened, someone could volunteer in her place.
And, would that be such a bad thing? She had a life with Evanna. The two were in love. They had an apartment, a dog. Ravinia would give her life for Evanna in half of a heartbeat. She could just let whatever woman stride up to that platform and take the glory. Take the fame. Take everything. Again.
A pudgy woman took the stage. No. No. No, that wasn’t right. Ravinia had been shirked once before. Once she had placed second. Now she had an opportunity. She could get everything back and make things even better for Evanna. She had a chance to make things perfect. Without another thought, her hand went up.
She pushed her way past the other women of her age. For a moment, she thought she caught the sight of curly, blonde hair. She didn’t let her eyesight waver, however. She strode straight to the stage and mounted the stairs. As she passed Monica, she took a moment to shake her hand. Despite the woman’s upbringing, she seemed genuinely relieved and thankful that Ravinia had volunteered. With tears sparkling in her eyes, Monica returned to her family. Why would she be like that? Didn’t she want this? Wasn’t Ravinia stealing a chance from her?
It didn’t matter. Ravinia walked across the stage to stand beside Naima. “My name is Ravinia Lux, and I will be the Victor of the Third Quarter Quell.” A stray lock of blonde hair fluttered somewhere in the assembled District, but Ravinia hardened her gaze against it.
Ravinia Lux. Naima recognized the name. When the twist for this years reaping had been announced, she had sent for the training center files from the last twenty five years. The top ranked careers-in-training, minus those who had gone on to become tributes. There had been hundreds of choices but she had been able to narrow them down sufficiently. She took out those who had gone on to be Peacekeepers, those who had completely quit training, and those who had gone on to become waste deep in their families. Ravinia’s resume was one of the better ones that Naima had read through.
Naima beamed at her new tribute’s obvious confidence. She knew confidence could be a weakness in the arena, but lack thereof was even worse. The sponsor believed in confidence. They would love her for it.
"Now for our male tribute, whom I have no doubt will be just as strong as Ravinia here." Naima stepped up to the male’s bowl and dug her arm in deep. She need a winner. A volunteer wasn’t always guaranteed. The last few years had proven that. Volunteering had fallen out of fashion with the younger generation, but with everyone eligible this year there were sure to be someone with the old attitudes still around. "Garrett Basalt."
A young man maybe 20 years old, came forward. He had not been among the files given to her by the training centers. Even his sullen, unpleasant look showed that he wasn’t a victor in the making. She let him reach the stage before turning back to the crowd. ”Do we have any volunteers?”
Naima looked out at the vast crowd. Technically it was the same size crowd. Attendance was mandatory for everyone regardless of game eligibility. However today everyone sitting in front of her, and nearly everyone on stage as well was a potential tribute. Excitement coursed through her veins. This year there were so many to choose from. It didn’t matter whose name was drawn. There were enough people out there who had lost their chance during their own reapings and were dying to prove themselves again. She herself would be one of them had things been different.
It was a dreary day. The sky was grey as slate and rain drizzled endlessly. The stage was covered, but the audience stood in the wet air. She was anxious to get on with the ceremony, but the mayor was the first to speak. When she was finally done speaking, Naima stepped up to the front of the stage. There were so many faces. She had spoken with the other Victors and trainers in training centers. They all had ideas of what old faces would show up today. She reached into the woman’s bowl and pulled out a slip.
"Monica Montgomery," Naima called. There was silence, and then a middle aged woman stepped out of the crowd. Her hair was greying and her body was plump. If she had ever been a career-in-training she had left it in the past. She was not what Naima needed in a tribute. Despite this the woman walked proudly, her head high and face as hard as steel. If she was shaken she didn’t let it show. That, at least, was a sign of her District 2 upbringing.
"Any volunteer?" Naima asked once Monica Montgomery had reached the stage. Her voice boomed through the speakers. Quickly, of course, there was a volunteer. A dark haired woman, possibly thirty years old, reached the stage. Naima tapped Monica, indicating that she could leave and then turned to her tribute. "Your name?"
09/oo outfits of Mila Kunis: Miu Miu Fashion Show - Paris Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2012 (2011)
Victor Naima Creek spotted in the District 2 Justice Building prior to the Reaping of the Third Quarter Quell.
Site visit today. Spectacular view!! 👌 #architecturestudent #penrhyn #quarry #wales #vscocam
Age thirty-six, a new experience.
It was Devin Whiteburn’s 55th birthday. The whole District was celebrating, or so it seemed. Naima had worked with Devin’s wife and brother to plan a celebration worthy of a Victor from District 2.
As a Victor, Devin was entitled to a grand celebration for his milestone birthday. For his fiftieth birthday the Capitol had gone out of their way to celebrate him. A series of interviews, more reruns of his games, a whole in depth profile of where the Victor was today. All flashy and all milking his victory for the Capitol’s gain. But this year it was District 2 turn and they would give him a celebration he deserved. Naima would make sure of it. Devin would have something a strong Victor deserved. The ballroom in the Justice Building was perfect for such an event.
Everything had come together well. Once Felixa had stopped trying to control the project. Why Devin had married the woman Naima would never understand. She was a blithering blonde idiot. More repulsive than most Capitol citizens. Yet idiot that had somehow captured the love of not only Naima’s mentor, but of the entire district. They found her idiocy amusing. Saw her as charming.
Naima clutched her champagne glass tightly. Felixa was not her concern tonight. This was Naima’s night, her gift to Devin. She downed the glass of champagne, breathed in an out slowly, and then turned to resume making rounds through the room.
As soon as she turned she was ambushed by more less than desirable company: the Ethons. Aleks Ethon’s parents, who turned out to be more infuriating than the boy himself. At first they had been good enough neighbors. Naima had been flattered with their praise, but flattery only worked for so long. They were proud District 2 citizens, they claimed had tried to raise their son right. But they were too fond of the riches and not fond enough of their son. As much as Aleks infuriated her, he was her tribute and Naima did not allow anyone, even his parents, to disrespect him and his position as a District 2 Victor.
But was she even his mentor anymore, she asked herself as she listened to his parents babble on about how amazing the party was and how she should have chosen party planning as her talent. She was retired now. She was no longer charged with babysitting the boy. She wasn’t anyone’s mentor anymore. The thought still turned her bitter years after her forced retirement had begun. She turned from the Ethons, not even bothering to make an excuse.
Only a few moments later Naima found Devin will Felixa. Her heart sank. She was hoping to get the chance to talk to her mentor but clearly he was preoccupied. She was nothing nothing more than his tribute. His friend and training partner. Felixa was his wife. Of course he prefers to spend his party with her. She picked up another glass of champagne. She wasn’t sure what number this was, but it was more than she normally consumed.
Naima fled from. For the rest of the night she mingled among the victors’ families, the prominent citizens of District 2, and even some Capitol citizens who had come for the event. Eventually the night dwindled down and the guests began to leave. Devin came up to her before he left and thanked her for helping with the party planning.
"Retired," she heard someone whisper as the last guests left. "She went soft, I heard. ’The Strong Victor’ is now planning parties. It’s embarrassing."
Her vision blurred as rage filling her. The glass in her hand shattered. A waiter attempted to help but Naima pushed him away. Her blood was boiling through her veins and her hand wanted nothing more than to be clutching her switchblade. She had to leave. Stepping over the broken glass, she took off.
Naima found herself in the coat room with a bottle of champagne gripped in her hands. Solitude was calming; the champagne was even more helpful. Her peace and quiet was quickly broken by a familiar voice.
"A Victor hiding in a coat closet? How beneath you, Creek."
"What do you want, Malachi?" Naima snapped, her eyes narrowing on the lighter clutched in the man’s hand.
"Needed a smoke," the trainer said, putting a cigarette to his lips. "And I didn’t fancy going out to the cold."
Naima resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Jonas Malachi worked as a private trainer in the District 2 tribute training center. He was handsome and a brilliant trainer, but he was reckless and flippant. Fond of woman and alcohol. He had lost his jacket at some point in the night, and his shirt was wrinkled. His smirk told her he was several drinks in, but what bothered her was the cigarette dangling from his lips. A District 2 trainer should know better.
He nodded towards the bottle next to her. ”Any chance you’re in a sharing mood?”
Scowling, Naima crossed the room and pulled the cigarette from his lips. ”You’re an idiot.”
His hand reached and grasped her wrist before she could throw his smoke away. He was fast, his reflexes had been trained to excellence since practically birth. His grip was tight, but his eyes mischievous. ”And you’re throwing away something of mine.”
He forgot, however, that Naima had the same training as he did. Even with her head dizzy from champagne she was a trained killer. In a split second she release herself from his grip, one arms slammed against his chest and the other found his neck. Her eyes narrowed and her words came out as barely a hiss. ”Don’t. Touch. Me.”
Jonas held his hands up in defeat. ”Sorry, forgot I was dealing with the temperamental victor.”
Naima’s expression only turned more deadly. The smart talking trainer before her might not make it to the end of the party.
"You need to let loose, Creek," he sigh, rubbing his neck. Then his signature smirk flashed across his face. "I could help you with that, you know."
Naima didn’t say anything. It wasn’t uncommon for Malachi to act this way. In fact it was practically the only way he acted outside of the training center. Naima knew how to handle his behavior. But her thoughts weren’t on the handsome trainer in front of her. They were on a Victor in the other room.
Devin wasn’t waiting for her. Devin was able to be happy, have a family, have a wife. He didn’t have to sit around waiting for the non-existent chance that they could ever be together.
Well then why the fuck couldn’t she?
Without giving the situation a second thought, Naima launched herself forward, pressing her alcohol stained lips against Malachi’s. There was a moment that he didn’t respond, possibly too shocked at Naima’s action. But that moment quickly ended and soon he responded, his lips moving greedily against hers.
Jonus pressed her against the wall, knocking several of the guests’ coats to the ground. Naima knew that should bother her, but she couldn’t find it in her to care. She was more concerned with feeling of Malachi’s lips against her and his hands on her waist. At some point clothing began to be taken out of the equation. Everything Naima was feeling was unfamiliar but she refused to let herself by frightened by it. She was a District 2 Victor, the bravest of Panem. She was ready for the challenge.
Blood pulsed through Naima’s veins. Every muscle ached, screaming for rest. The pleas when unanswered as they always did so long as there were still foes to defeat. And now there were three.
The holographic shapes flew about the room, hiding behind columns and poles, where ever they could find shelter. They had no minds, but if they did they would be scared. Their deaths were quickly approaching. If she was hit it would sting, send a shock through her body. Punishment for her failure, the most pain District 2 could afford to inflict on a trainee while keeping them in contention for tribute. But if the holograms were hit, a kill shot, they would cease to exist.
Boom, boom, boom. Her heart pounded. Boom, boom, boom. She closed her eyes, allowing the sound to envelope her for a moment. Her senses sharpened and everything outside of the training room faded away.
Naima dodge a sudden onslaught of knives soaring through the air. Each foe released an attack at once and three weapons were flying towards her. Drop to the ground, roll to the side, never lose sight of the enemy. Two figures moved around the ground floor with her, one ran above in the rafters. They had unlimited weapons, she had only three. Three foes, three knives. It was all she would need.
Boom, boom, boom. Her heart shouted that she was alive, that she was strong, that she would win.
From behind a column a figure charged. It was not releasing its weapon, it was going to attempt a stab. Naima stood still until the foe was nearly upon her, then she dropped. Taken by surprise the figure became acquainted with the ground. Or it would have, if Naima had not spun and guided her knife into the back of the enemy’s neck. The hologram disappeared as Naima began the search for her next target.
In the corner of the room lay Naima’s discarded gym bag, her possessions beginning to tumble out the side. A water bottle, condensation sweating down its sides almost as much as she was. A change of clothes. Her favorite knife, as sharp as the day her mentor gave it to her so many years ago. The only thing out of place was the gold envelope. Naima’s name was written beautifully across the front. Naima Creek of District 2, Victor of the 56th Hunger Games. On the back there was nothing but the broken wax seal of Panem’s president.
She caught a second of motion in the corner of her eye. There was no thought, only action. A knife flew from her hand and her second foe, the one above, burst out of existence. A clean kill, quick and effective but with little flare. Was it wrong to kill an enemy so quickly? The figure had not yet drawn its weapon. Waiting would have drawn out the action, given more of a show, but such a wait could cost your life. It was a delicate line between performance and safety, a line Naima toed entirely too often. But this was merely training, no need for a show only for speed. She needed to be in top shape for her return to the Capitol this year.
Three years. It had been three years since her involuntary retirement. Three years since her humiliation. The Capitol had been angry. She had failed her task. Her impossible task. Her orders had been to keep the boy in line, compel his obedience. It was a laughable order, completely impossible, but it had been hers all the same.
And she had failed.
So she had been punished. Forced retirement. Rumors that she had grown soft, that she had lost her touch, that she was too old to work. Lies, disgusting lies, and humiliation. They had even tried to take away her job in the District 2 tribute training centers. A Peacekeeper had lost half a hand for that and the issued had been dropped.
But three years had come and gone. It was now the Third Quarter Quell, the 75th Hunger Games, and Naima had served her sentence.
The dark haired woman arched her back, dodging another flying knife. Her movement changed course as swiftly as it had begun, and the dodge became a flip. The Victor moved almost effortlessly through the air, landing with her head tucked in as another knife missed her by centimeters. Her fingers found the knife resting at her hip. Before
The 75th Hunger Games were beginning. Anyone could be reaped, independent of age. Another District 2 victory was ripe for the taking.
Naima Creek was back.