AUTHOR'S NOTES: I aim to provide two different dynamics over the next several chapters as I switch between viewpoints of the careers and the outer districts, allowing the readers to see the protagonists and antagonists for who they really are-just children in a sadistic game. As for who is the real protagonist and who is the real antagonist... I suppose that's up to you.
CHAPTER 11: Burning Pride
Rue was not the only one attacked by fireballs. Perhaps just to prove that they were not taking sides, the Gamemakers greeted the careers were with similar fireballs getting shot from the trees. Clove blamed Cato for them, because he had taken off in a mad rush of fury after Jason the District 6 boy, trying to live up to his 'promise' of killing him, that he had made in the training center (even if the incident he was accusing the boy for was actually Rue's fault). Now, however, they were barreling through the forest trying not to get struck by fireballs as their quarry continued to elude them—and the fireballs. Glimmer was nicked in the arm, and Marvel's hair was nearly singed, but Clove wound up getting struck right in the lower shins near her feet, causing her to buckle, and she swore loudly. She couldn't go out like this! She knew she wouldn't die, but at the same time, she was angry and humiliated that a simple Gamemaker trap had just knocked her off her feet—and burned them, apparently. It hurt for her to stand, as she inadvertently proved as she attempted to rise to her feet again.
"GRAAAHH!" she roared in anger as she fell to her knees again. The flames were closing in, but Cato, who was still uninjured, turned around. "Keep going!" he shouted at the District 1 pair, who didn't need to be told twice. "don't let him get away!"
He had grabbed Clove (a bit roughly) by the arm and yanked her up onto his back. "Hold on." He bolted through the forest with no sense of stealth at all (not like it was necessary at this point), but by the time the fireballs had subsided, Jason had disappeared into the grain fields—only for a cannon to fire moments later.
Clove screamed loudly in anger that their target had just gotten killed by another tribute—probably Thresh. Cato actually flinched and set her down.
"Next time you yell… please don't scream in my ear," Cato quipped, massaging the side of his head. "you were pretty much right next to it."
Clove mumbled something incoherent as she ripped off her shoes and socks and yanked up her pant legs to her knees. The skin of her feet and her lower shins was pink and red, and very sensitive to the touch. She growled again, mumbling something about stupid luck and fire.
"Marvel," Cato ordered, "you still have that salve?"
"Sure thing, boss," he shrugged, "Glimmer's got it right now, but she looks like she's almost done."
Cato turned to Glimmer, watching the golden-haired girl apply it to her arm before putting her coat back on. She nodded towards the District 2 pair before tossing the canister to Cato, who deftly caught it and opened it.
"Are you two alright," he asked. He might have cared for Clove more than his other allies, but that didn't mean he disregarded their well-being completely—at least for now.
"I'm fine," Marvel ran a hand through his hair, "and Glimmer just got nicked. How about you?"
"I'm not hurt," Cato indicated, "Clove took a nasty hit to her feet though."
While the injury itself was easily treatable (and Clove admittedly liked Cato massaging her feet and ankles, even if he was only rubbing it into the tops of her feet, which were where the burns were), it was the idea behind it that infuriated Clove. She was supposed to be strong. Those in her district had assured her of it, and so had the Gamemakers who had given the girl her training score. Yet, here she was, unable to stand because of some trivial burns on her feet that made them sensitive. That was not a sign of strength. That was a sign of weakness—and Clove refused to be weak. She attempted to stand again, before yelping as she fell back onto her backside, swearing loudly again.
"Clove, I don't know what you're trying to accomplish by getting up now, but just sit down," Cato reminded her, "if '11 dares to show his face we kick his ass, and I'm pretty sure we scare the piss out of the others enough that they wouldn't dare come at us."
"I'm fucking injured," Clove grumbled, "by a stupid cheap-shot that even a little no-name shitstain from District 6 can avoid."
"Hey, I avoided them too," Cato reminded her,
"That makes it worse! You're huge; I'm not." Clove tried to stand up again, only for her left foot to falter. She used her hand to keep from falling flat again, but a second later she had whipped out a knife and stabbed the ground. Even Marvel and Glimmer could tell that Clove was absolutely seething right now.
"It's over though," Glimmer tried to reason with her, "and that medicine works wonders—you just need to calm down and let it do its thing."
"She's right, you know," Cato agreed, "we're not leaving you behind, Clove."
These words of reassurance played with Clove's emotions in ways that she was not proud of admitting. Her slight mental instability coupled with the naturally volatile emotions of a teenaged girl were putting her through a sort of roller coaster of ups and downs that also kind of embarrassed her, for she did not wish to show these feelings to the public, or even her own friends and allies.
"Well good," Clove snapped, her expression suddenly changing to one that looked like she had just put two and two together, "because really, we got into this mess after you barreled after that boy."
"Hey," Cato snapped back, "you were thinking it too."
"…maybe I was," Clove admitted, "but still. To hell with that fire, man; fire for days…"
Gradually, the career pack meandered back to the base of operations at the cornucopia, with Cato carrying Clove on his back again (much to the latter's chagrin, especially when Cato playfully quipped about how small Clove was). Her pride was injured more than her body was, and that was probably what frustrated her the most about the whole ordeal that had gone down that day. Once they got there, Clove kicked off her boots and socks again, pushing her pent legs back up to her knees as she generously applied more of that salve to her burns. Glimmer's arm burn was much smaller by comparison, and so she had not needed much more of the medicine. Clove sighed again as evening came and she saw the District 6 boy's face in the sky. This was going to be a long night.
It was in the cool of the evening, however, when Peeta and Primrose began to make their moves. Seeking water, they followed a stream until it took them to a small waterfall.
"Hey!" Primrose exclaimed, peeking over the small ledge, "it's Rue!"
She skillfully hopped down the ledge, which was barely more than 6 or 7 feet high, her feet splashing slightly as they landed on the damp rock beside Rue. She nudged the darker girl, knowing that she was still alive given that there had only been one cannon that day, and it had belonged to a District 6 boy.
Rue stirred, moaning a bit from the pain in her back.
"Are you okay?" Prim exclaimed,
"I'm fine," Rue groaned, "just a little frazzled from the fires this morning." She briefly summarized what she had gone through for most of the morning, which explained her lack of movement and her exhaustion. Luckily, true to Rue's theories, Primrose did know exactly how to treat it. She collected some clean water and a few herbs from her pack, grinding them together to make a salve for Rue's back. She lifted up the other girl's shirt to expose her lower back where the burn was, and began rubbing the salve into it, causing Rue to moan in content.
"That feels amazing," she whispered, "What is it?"
"It's a remedy my mother taught me," Primrose happily explained. She much preferred healing people over killing people. "It helps ease the pain of an injury and can also help it heal faster."
"You're a lifesaver, Prim." Rue whispered, feeling slightly revitalized enough to start swinging her legs, even if they and her feet were still in the water.
"I'd much rather be that than a life-taker." Primrose agreed, before glancing up at Peeta. "hey, are you coming down here?" she called out.
"I'd rather stay high and dry," Peeta admitted, "it's got a clearer view of the surrounding area over here too. You want a hand back up?"
"Sure," Prim reached her hand up, where Peeta caught it and pulled the smaller girl up the ledge.
"Just give me a second," Rue requested, before jumping back into the water and floating to the shore where her pack was. She snagged it, and swam (well, kind of just flailed) back to her rock, keeping her now dried pack of her head. Peeta helped her up as well, before Rue shook off to throw some water off of her. Primrose giggled at the way she shook like a dog. Perhaps there was hope for them after all. 4 nights and 13 tributes were gone, which meant that already, they were halfway done…
KILLS THIS CHAPTER:
Jason, District 6-Killed by Thresh
Marvel, District 1
Glimmer, District 1
Cato, District 2
Clove, District 2
Franklin, District 3
Finch, District 5
McKenzie, District 8
Thresh, District 11
Rue, District 11
Peeta, District 12
Primrose, District 12