Chapter 9: Wrath
“There is little for the great part of the history of the world except the bitter tears of pity and the hot tears of wrath.” - Woodrow Wilson
“But the child's sob curses deeper in the silence than the strong man in his wrath!” - Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Mina watched the sleeping forms closely as she stuffed a backpack with as many supplies as she could. She wasn't stupid enough to stay with the careers any longer, and she was using her chance as watch to escape. The group had added one more the previous day when they stumbled upon Tifanee and discovered, after a fair bit of torturing and preparing for her death, that she was responsible for the only death since the cornucopia bloodbath. Apparently, that won over the careers, and into the group the girl came. She didn't want to know what cruel death they had for Tifanee up their sleeves, and she most certainly didn't want to know her own.
The careers wouldn't be happy to discover they were missing precious food and water bottles, but with the disadvantage of not having any companions, Mina was forced to leave more than enough behind for them anyway. She was tempted to send the rest down the river, but angering the careers farther wasn't a smart move if she wished to make it out of these games alive.
One death would wake the others. Mina was convinced they could smell blood. She wasn't prepared for the wrath of a well-trained career. That was something she would face later. For now, she was off on her own.
Demetrius would be lying if he said Cassidee's death hadn't shaken him a bit. Their large group had been as close to enjoying themselves as they could be in the arena when her body came washing down the river. It would take a long night of tossing and turning for Demetrius to realize that the Capitol had purposefully let the body wash past them before picking it up, but that didn't matter anymore. Nothing the Capitol could do now could increase Demetrius' hate for them.
The next morning, the group had agreed to split up, and Demetrius was now alone and wandering through the arena with no clue where to go. He froze as he heard rustling in a bush. It stopped abruptly, as if the culprit knew they had been heard. Demetrius approached quietly, one hand on his knife, before Ezra's face popped out and startled him.
“Ezra!” he screeched. Ezra and Demetrius had formed a somewhat unfortunate friendship during training as Demetrius was the only one who didn't demean Ezra for his fierce love for animals.
“Sorry, sorry!” Ezra apologized.
Demetrius sighed. “Are you alone?”
“Yeah,” Ezra spoke as he climbed out of the bush. “Of course I am. No one wants to be with the boy who won't even kill an animal.”
Demetrius knew his decision wouldn't make things easy for himself, but he went for it anyway. “Do you want to form an alliance?”
“Are you serious?” Ezra said in disbelief. “Yes.”
“Just promise me you'll at least try to defend me if someone attacks.”
“Just promise me you'll at least try to defend me if someone attacks.”
“Dem,” Ezra spoke softly. “I may not like hurting innocent animals, but even I can't see the people we're stuck in here with as innocent.”
“They're most certainly animals though,” Demetrius muttered.
Mina watched the three boys from afar. She knew that Boston and Etin were stereotypical “nice-guys” from training, and Coale couldn't be that bad if he was sticking with them. Could she kill any of them when two of them didn't seem capable of hurting a fly?
She knew Boston and Etin were both “book smart” though. Maybe they wouldn't mock her intelligence like the careers had. Maybe an alliance would be beneficial because, if truth be told, Mina didn't have a clue what she was doing.
Mina quickly made her presence known so that she wouldn't be mistaken as an enemy. The other three drew their weapons regardless, but that was to be expected.
“I want to form an alliance,” she spoke quickly, before they could strike. “I think I could be beneficial to your group.”
The other three boys looked at each other closely, and Etin's slight nod seemed to seal the deal.
“Okay,” Coale spoke. “You can join us.”
The others had been furious to wake up and find Mina gone. Alissah figured they should have known she would outsmart them, but none of them had thought the smart move would be to abandon them. Staying with the careers was your best bet at getting to the final tributes. Maybe Mina had been stupider than they thought. At least, that's what Alissah's first reaction had been, but the more she thought about it, the better Mina's decision seemed.
How was Alissah supposed to win surrounded by people just as strong as she was? Shouldn't she be surrounded by people that were weaker than her? Ones she could kill right away with less threat to herself? Yes, she finally decided. That was a better plan. She reasoned with herself that she wasn't betraying the other careers, even if it felt like she was. The games, after all, didn't necessarily have to be played fairly.
Alissah scurried away in the dark, taking a page out of Mina's book, but this time she took only a water bottle and one small container of food. The others could have the rest. She could survive without it.
Jocelin hadn't been expecting to form an alliance so soon after leaving her last one, but she'd felt sorry for Fayth when she found her wandering alone. The girl's panic attacks had made her react violently to Jocelin's presence, and they had only weakened Jocelin's resolve to kill the poor girl.
The girls were the same age at thirteen, but Jocelin couldn't help but see Fayth as much younger. The panic attacks had been lessening slightly as Fayth adjusted to being in the arena, but neither knew when something would happen to set them off.
Jocelin knew she needed a plan. Traveling with Fayth had the potential to get her killed. The other girl couldn't control her panic attacks and wasn't much help during them. If they didn't figure something out soon, they'd be cornered, and it would be up to Jocelin to defend them both.
“I hear something,” Troy whispered sharply to bring the other careers to a halt. He turned towards the other three with a finger to his lips. The loss of Alissah had lowered their numbers yet again, which left him grateful for Tifanee's unexpected appearance the day before.
The others followed behind him as he crawled quietly through the undergrowth that was thick enough to hide them. He could see the young tribute from Seven picking some berries. He believed his name was Bryan, one of the youngest tributes at just twelve. The boy wasn't incredibly small, but his age was definitely a hindrance, even if Troy only beat him in that regard by two years. The four of them could no doubt take him easily.
“This'll be my kill,” Troy whispered. He made sure to look them all straight in the eye to stress his point. “Only interfere if you think I won't make it.”
It was a useless concession. If Troy was to die, none of them would stop it, but he said it all the same. They could at least pretend to be loyal to each other.
The young boy was oblivious as Troy approached him from behind. One quick stab and it was over. Troy grimaced. Two kills, and neither had been incredibly impressive. Couldn't someone put up a fight? Unwilling to let it pass so uneventfully, Troy continued to stab Bryan until the cannon signaled his death.
The other three careers watched carefully as Troy sauntered back over to them, and Troy smirked at the barely concealed horror on Tifanee's face. She wouldn't be causing him any problems.
Ezra and Demetrius. Both people that Alissah knew as kind from training, or at least as kind as could be while training to kill each other. There was no guarantee of their character anymore, and she would have to remain cautious.
Alissah knew she probably had very different ideals than these two, and Ezra was useless at most things in the arena. Still, she had never planned to be completely alone this early in the games, and disliking the two would just make it easier on her when the alliance ended later.
She should have been expecting the fear when she made herself known to them. She was, after all, a career. What would a career want with tributes from Ten and Eleven other than to kill them? She spoke quickly before they could mistake her intentions further, “I want to join your alliance.”
“What?” Demetrius questioned in disbelief. “You? A career?”
“Yes,” she muttered. She felt more out of her element now than she had at any other point in the arena. “Being a career isn't all it's cut out to be.”
“What trick are you playing?”
“I think she's telling the truth.” Ezra answered for her.
“You can't possibly know that.” Demetrius turned towards Ezra in disbelief.
Ezra shrugged. “Not for sure, but I think we can trust her.”
Demetrius sighed and thought for a few moments. “Fine, but if you get us killed, Ezra, I'll never forget it.”
“Luckily, you won't have a working brain to remember it with,” Ezra muttered, and Alissah found a small smile working its way onto her face at the joke.
“You two aren't so bad,” she told them.
Demetrius made a face before muttering, “This is weird.” But he offered her a drink of water anyway as the three began their planning.
“It's that Jocelin girl from Nine,” Coale growled from his hiding spot. “And she's got that crazy girl from Twelve. We could take them easily.”
“Do you really want to kill a crazy girl?” Etin questioned.
“She has to die eventually,” Coale reminded him. “There's no way she could win. It'd be easier for us to kill her now than let one of the careers do it and torture her.”
“I know,” Etin groaned. “But I just can't. I couldn't live with myself if I killed someone so helpless.”
“Maybe she's not helpless,” Coale pondered. “She could be faking.”
“I doubt it,” Boston spoke for the first time. “She had a panic attack right after being reaped. That was too fast of a reaction. I think it's real. Besides, you're from her district. What was she like before.”
Coale shrugged in defeat. "As far as I can remember she's always been like that, although I never paid much attention. What I said about it being better for her if we kill her still stands.”
Etin watched the two girls sadly. “Do you really think we'd be doing the right thing?”
“Etin,” Coale muttered quietly. “There's not many right things we have the luxury to do anymore, but this might just be one of them.”
Demetrius had left Ezra and Alissah behind temporarily in an attempt to find food, but what he had stumbled upon instead left him far more interested. The three tributes in front of him were far too engrossed in the insane girl and her companion to notice what was happening behind them.
Demetrius loathed his place in the games, but this was far too good an opportunity to pass up, as he was going to have to kill eventually. Although he'd managed to get a spear, Demetrius wasn't very good at throwing it, and he didn't want to lose it to the two tributes he wasn't able to hit. This left Demetrius scrambling for another way to kill one of them when the solution came to him. Coale scrambled away, no doubt going after the two girls, and Etin followed closely behind. Boston, however, lingered and Demetrius was almost tempted to feel joy at his luck.
Once the two boys were far enough away, Demetrius took off at a run. He didn't want to have time to back out, and even with the noise of his approach, Boston didn't have time to react as the spear plunged through his chest. Not stopping to see the damage, Demetrius pulled the spear out and took off into the forest. Not even the sound of the cannon and Boston's companions' screams could stop him.
Jocelin froze as she heard the tortured scream of a tribute not far away. She scrambled for Fayth, who had begun to tremble. Jocelin had learned that Fayth could occasionally avoid a full-blown attack if she comforted her.
Jocelin scanned the area as she held Fayth close, and it wasn't hard to spot the two boys scrambling towards the body of another. In the distance, Jocelin could make out the form of a fourth boy running away.
“Come on,” Jocelin urged Fayth to her feet. “We need to get out of here before they come towards us.”
The two girls hadn't made it very far when a loud voice called out, “Wait!”
Jocelin hesitated for a moment before halting.
“I can't believe I'm saying this,” Coale said. “But Boston was a valuable asset, and now he's gone. I know you're smart, Fayth, so I'm willing to forget about the anxiety stuff if you'll join us.”
Jocelin watched Fayth closely as the girl analyzed her district partner. “Okay,” Fayth spoke quietly.
“Are you serious?” Jocelin whispered harshly.
“Yes.” And it was the surest of something Jocelin had heard Fayth sound since they formed their alliance. “I know Coale. He won't betray us. He'll keep things fair, and it'll be good for us.”
Jocelin sighed. “If you're sure.”
Fayth smiled softly after. “I am.”