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Thread: The 74th Annual Hunger Games [M]

  1. #21
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    AUTHOR'S NOTES: There is no Katniss/Peeta double suicide thing going on with Clove and Cato. They're battle-born career tributes through and through, and so one victor means one victor. It's time for a fight, and a victor. On the other hand... there's at least one part that is slightly similar to the books.
    Happy Reading!


    CHAPTER 21: A Hollow Victory


    ]There was an awkward moment of silence where Clove and Cato glanced at each other. For the past week, they had been living it up, expecting that once they killed Rue, the games would end and that they would be able to go home. Now, they were being told that that was not going to happen, and that now they would have to kill each other. Both of them knew that the other wouldn't just turn themselves in the way Rue did.

    Rue… Clove glanced again at the lifeless corpse that, only moments ago, had been her greatest enemy—and her death also marked the passing of a very one-sided rivalry. Rue had not been in it to steal Clove's fame or glory; she just wanted to be able to live more than the 12 short years she had been given, and that was a fact that was quickly sinking in.

    Once again, however, Cato snapped her out of it.

    "You wanna go right here?" Cato cracked a chuckle, "The whole sacrificing thing might have worked with Rue, but it isn't exactly going to work with me."
    "I wouldn't expect it from you…" Clove mused, although her mind did wander to Rue. "yeah. Let's go at it then. You and me—don't fall off, or you're gonna be dog food."

    "To the dogs it is then," Cato laughed, removing his shoes. The traction that his soles would give against the metallic cornucopia surface would reduce the chance of him slipping off—he had noticed that when Clove (and similarly, Rue) had climbed atop the structure.

    "To the dogs," Clove laughed, raising a knife, her eyes meeting Cato's for a second.
    "FOR DISTRICT 2!" Cato shouted, drawing his sword. Clove drew her knives, and a fast-paced, close-quarters combat match began. Cato was strong, and landed several good attacks on Clove, but Clove's blinding speed was weakening Cato more than he anticipated. In contrast to the anticlimactic ending that Rue's death had given, Clove and Cato put on quite as show as they continued to whittle each other's health down. Steel clashed against steel, while Cato's strength was pitted against Clove's speed. Cato launched several mighty blows that would have likely cloven his smaller partner in two if they connected, and if Cato had not been so skilled at blocking, some of Clove's knives might have found their way into her partner's vitals within seconds.

    The cornucopia was fairly flat on top which gave the two tributes some fighting room so they wouldn't accidentally slip off with one single misstep and become food for the wolves. The darkness was filled with sparks flying as the two tributes battled it out, striking each other and their weapons as each one battled for supremacy.

    "This isn't personal, is it?" Clove raised an eyebrow. As thirsty as she had been for Rue's blood, she didn't think that the fight against Cato was one that was being done out of hatred, but out of necessity.

    It was in that moment that it hit her—and suddenly Rue's logic made sense. Everything that little girl had done had been simply a means to an end, rather than done out of some passionate loathing for the other tributes in the arena. Clove could not honestly say she felt the same way.

    "Hardly," Cato replied, "I'd hate to kill you too, but it's a means to an end."
    Cato's words clarified and verified Clove's thoughts, and while he did not express it as openly as Clove had, Cato had also realized that Rue was right.

    He managed to land quite the slash on Clove's stomach and her right arm, disabling the latter, and causing profuse blood to flow from the former. Clove cried out in pain, recoiling, but curling her toes to keep her grip on the metal. The last thing she wanted was to slip backwards and tumble off.

    "Not gonna bother gloating," Cato raised his sword, "this is just business, Clove."
    "This is too, Cato," Clove used her left arm to deflect Cato's attacks, but it was tricky, since she was not left-handed, and Cato's strength had only been rivaled by that of Thresh and Peeta. Grunting, Clove pulled out a throwing knife as she tried to play evasively around Cato, using her injured arm to fling it a few moments later.

    It caught Cato off-guard, and struck him in the hand, where his sword dropped, clinking against the metal. In a scramble to snatch it before it fell to the dogs, Cato nearly slipped, but was too slow.

    In one final act of desperation, he noticed Rue's corpse, with the jagged blades she had been carrying. They were not blunt and rusty like she claimed, and while swords and heavier weapons were Cato's specialty, he could work with knives.

    However, he misstepped during his lunge (thanks in part to trying to dodge a knife thrown by Clove) and he slid off the cornucopia, which had not been Clove's intention.

    Falling off the cornucopia right now would not have been a problem except that the mutts were down there, and they saw Cato's body as an excuse to feast on his flesh. Clove could not watch her best friend suffer in such a cringeworthy manner.

    "NO!" she roared, lunging down and attacking the mutts. She didn't even think that if she died there would be no victor, but Cato was already bleeding badly enough from his injuries that Clove had given him that she knew that he was likely dead. If they did fend off all of the mutts, Clove would then finish him off properly, but there were 2 of them, and 24 of these creatures. Clove was not about to let them tear her best friend apart.

    And so, Clove Kazera fought like a one-armed berserker, ignoring that her guts were all but hanging out of her stomach, using her injured arm to try and clutch the wound. With her free arm, she wielded a double-bladed knife with precision and skill, striking and taking down each and every mutt that tried to get a piece of Cato, and she would stay there until they were dead, or until they disappeared—whichever the Capitol decided on. Only after they were dead was there silence.

    "Clove…" Cato groaned, knowing that he was at her mercy, "I think… Rue… might have had… the right idea…" he did look a bit mangled—Clove had not been able to stop every attack, but luckily for them both, his face was still recognizable.
    "Dammit, Cato…" Clove gritted her teeth, trying to prevent him from seeing the water congregating at her eyes, "damn these games…"
    "Make it fast…" Cato moaned, clearly in great pain, "you… won. Honor… glory… District 2…" he was too weak to say much more. The goodbye was short, but it was sweet. Clove was not a happy camper when she put that knife through him to put him out of his misery. Even when the cannon rang out and Cato's face appeared in the sky, Clove did not move. Even when her own face appeared minutes later with the fiery letters spelling "VICTOR", she was still motionless. The announcement of her victory did not even faze her. Clove was alone.

    "Goodbye, Cato…" Clove took his sword, putting Cato's lifeless hand around it before straightening his arms and straightening his body, as if to pay respects to her dearly departed friend. This hurt Clove to do—and she never thought of herself as a very emotional girl.

    It hurt even more when she heard a thud from behind her. Rue's body had tumbled off the cornucopia, landing in a small heap only a few feet away. Unlike Cato, who looked rather mangled both from the nips the mutts had gotten on him and from the injuries that Clove had inflicted upon him, Rue looked almost serene in death. There was only a little blood on the right side of her head from her ear, and on her chest from where Clove's fatal wound had pierced her, but for some reason, the knife-thrower felt compelled to move Rue's body into a less awkward position from the fall. This was the little girl who had given Clove's life purpose. All these 15 short years she had spent her time trying to become the best; to fight in and become the victor of the Hunger Games. Now that she was here and had completed her goal, she couldn't help but wonder—what was next? Without Cato to size her up, and without Rue to serve as a nemesis… she was at a loss. Could Rue even be called a nemesis at this point? Even after everything she had explained to Clove, Clove still felt like she knew nothing of this mysterious District 11 girl. Now she was dead, and there would be no answers. Cato was dead as well, and the arena, which, for the past 16 days had been haunting and hectic with the noises of birds, wolves, and tributes, was now eerily silent as the night sky and the bright moon shone down upon then.

    Clove Kazera was alone, and being alone hurt much more than she would have ever thought.
    'The Crown of Zivia' Word Count: 64319
    'The Crusade of Zulera' Word Count: 52548
    'The Shadows of Shinzoka' Word Count: 51000
    'The Rebirth of Krippa' Word Count: 51000

    The Avatar in Chains (fanfic)
    Z. Zu. Zul. Zuzu. Zuly. Zulera. Lulu. 301. Zu-Zu. ZZ-Top. Zuliette. Zuley. Zulz. Zuul. Zubat. 'Lera. Zulianne. Z301. Z-hizzle. Z-dawg. Zulerey. Zully. Zulio. Luz. Ra-ra. Z-swiss. Zulera301.

  2. #22
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    AUTHOR'S NOTES: "I'll post this once a week!" I claim. LIES. Anyhoo, It's been said that Clove is a bit unhinged. She might have metured a bit in the games, but she's far from being mentally stable. So... fasten your seatbelts and get ready for a wile ride as we enter the 3rd and final act of "The 74th Annual Hunger Games".
    Happy Reading!

    PART III: LIFE BACK HOME

    CHAPTER 22: A Rite of Passage

    "Ladies and gentlemen… the victor of the 74th Annual Hunger Games… Clove Kazera of District 2!"

    These words snapped Clove out of her little trance, but at the same time, she didn't move. She was clutching her bleeding chest, as if holding her guts from spilling out onto the ground. Her breathing was labored, and her mind was fractured.

    What had happened? She wondered the answer to this question as she heaved for air, still kneeling on the ground and bleeding everywhere. The hovercrafts came for the remains of Cato and Rue, and Clove watched longingly, extending her own bloodsoaked arm after them, as if hoping to bring them back. She did not cry, but there was an expression of longing on her face. The arena began to grow hazy, and Clove was not sure what she was doing anymore. She remembered little else before falling unconscious.

    She woke up to find herself in an operating room, which, much to the prep team's dismay, set Clove into a frenzy. The shock of not knowing where she was and not knowing what all of these things connected to her was, sent the young victor into a panick, causing her to spring up and knock several things over, fist a-blazin'. She ended up slugging two of the operators in the face as she scrambled for the door in nothing but a pair of white scrubs. Her words were incomprehensible, and her eyes were wide and bloodshot.

    Much to Elroy and Enobaria's slight amusement, Clove actually made it out the door before she was stopped and restrained. Her eyes met theirs for a split-second and she finally screamed.

    "THEY'RE TAKING ME AWAY!" she tried to fight against the restraints the operating teams were putting on her as they held her down, "They're trying to kill me!"

    Clove grunted as her arms were pinned behind her. She lurched forward, flinging her head and chest viciously in an attempt to escape, before she felt a sharp stinging in her neck. Someone had jabbed her with a potent tranquilizing drug, which caused Clove's eyes to grow heavy, and her form to fall limp in the arms of the crew members restraining her.

    "I'm sorry," Enobaria turned to Elroy, "that was actually kind of funny."
    "She was pretty intent on getting away," Elroy agreed, "I wonder how long that will last…"
    Clove woke up the 2nd time to find her wrists restrained to the bed she was in. She struggled and let out quite the bellow for someone as small as she was, before taking a deep breath and realizing everything that had happened. The last three weeks had not been her imagination—they were real. Glimmer and Marvel had been real. Cato was real. Rue was very real. Clove would never admit it, but at this very moment, she was terrified. On the other hand, her body felt much better—she didn't feel any blood, and her bruises were gone. It seemed that the light body hair that the Capitol had removed before the games was not coming back either.

    Clove closed her eyes again and tried to rest, but various thoughts and images swam through her head as she tried to think. Rue was there, dancing through a meadow and singing her little song, and while it made Clove's eyes pop open as she snapped out of it, she couldn't help but think of that little girl, and perhaps maybe even develop a tiny soft spot for her. Rue had been… difficult. She had wanted little more from these games than to survive and go home.

    Clove did not know how much later it was when they finally stopped. When she was woken up, she felt dizzy and a bit nauseous. She grunted, sensing someone nearby and simply said "gimmie a glass of water" before holding out an expectant hand. To her pleasure, she felt the smooth cold rims of a glass touch her palms, which she immediately brought to her mouth, sighing as the cool liquid rushed down her throat. She forgot how wonderful clean water tasted, and so immediately asked for more.

    "What's the plan," she murmured at no one in particular, and so she was moderately pleased to hear Elroy's voice from behind her.

    "They're going to clean you up for the closing ceremonies tonight and then tomorrow morning you're heading home," Elroy explained, "Enobaria's holding Athena back so she doesn't see you till you're dressed and ready."
    "Is it bad that I would not be above strangling someone, dress or not?" Clove quipped.

    "Pick your target," Elroy winked, "I'll cover ya." This made Clove smirk a bit, even if she was still a bit groggy. She didn't remember much of what happened next, other than that she remembered opening her eyes and finding herself in a fiery orange dress. She was still a bit delirious, perhaps from the games themselves, or the numerous drugs that had been used to put her under after her miniature rampage, but she was aware enough to know where she was.

    "Hey, this dress is kind of cool." She smiled, only to see Athena standing excitedly in front of her. "Doesn't it look simply dazzling!?" she beamed, helping Clove onto her feet before steadying the exhausted teen. Clove glanced at the large mirror in front of them and she couldn't help but do a little twirl. She nearly twisted her ankle and fell, but Athena caught her and chuckled.

    "Goodness, we will just HAVE to teach you how to pull that off right!" she laughed, "but in the meantime, let's get you to Caesar's stage. You're on in a few minutes!"

    Clove did not hold Athena's bubbly excitement, but she excused the older woman as the airheaded ditz that she pretty much was. Besides, she had just finished escaping death and horrors; wearing weird shoes and a fancy dress in front of hundreds of adoring fans wasn't going to shake her.
    She could hear the thundering applause of the Capitol audiences from backstage with considerable ease. They were always excited to see their new victors.

    "And now, ladies and gentlemen," Caesar Flickerman announced a moment later, "let's all give a round of applause to the victor of the 74th Annual Hunger Games—Clove Kazera!"

    Clove may not have been as hammy as Caesar, but she was savvy enough to know what the audiences liked, and frankly, what was left of her arrogant personality still did enjoy the attention.

    She threw her arms in the air as she walked onto the stage, a sway in her hips as she took each step. Granted, Clove didn't really have much in the way of curves (a trait that she had slightly envied Glimmer for before her death), and like every victor before her, she had lost weight in the arena, so she was actually fairly small and thin. If nothing else, it explained the padding in certain areas of the dress she had on, but it wasn't enough to bother her.

    A few congratulations were in order before the crowds got to watch, with Clove, a recap of the highlights of the games. It brought back conflicting memories for Clove. On one hand, she smirked at the fond memories she had made with Cato as they dominated the arena, but on the other, Rue was someone that she did not know how to react to. She got to watch rue hiding in what looked like plain sight above her and the others, cutting down the tracker-jacker next. She got to watch her use trigger the landmines around their supplies, and she got to watch her idle her time swinging through the trees during the three days they had gotten between Peeta's death and Rue's.

    "She used a slingshot to trigger the bombs? Damn… I don't even know what to say to that… that… is actually kind of cool… damn it, Rue."

    Soon afterwards, Caesar began to as Clove questions about the games and about herself, keeping the positive air around himself and the situation, which even made Clove laugh a few times.

    "So after all of that;" Caesar paused for dramatic effect, "after 16 days of fighting and intrigue are behind you… how do you, Clove Kazera, feel about it all?"
    "Well, for one, I'm fucking hungry." Clove had no trouble using vulgar language on stage, even if it made a few people gasp, "but if you want to know how I feel about it all… I'm glad to be back. The Hunger Games are kind of like a Rite of Passage. It's like a bridge that a child crosses to become an adult—the bridge a girl finished crossing yesterday before becoming a woman."

    "A fine remark if I say so myself!" Caesar approved, "it sounds like something our wonderful President would say—which reminds me, ladies and gentlemen… let's welcome our special guest, so that he may crown our newest victor!"

    The audience erupted into their usual fanfare of applause as President Coriolanus Snow made his grand appearance. In his hands was the victor's crown, which he ceremoniously placed on Clove's head, his eyes meeting the young victor's eyes for a moment.

    "Congratulations, Ms. Kazera," he gave her a rare smile. "You fought fervently and fearlessly to reach this point in your life. Your victory is well-earned and well-deserved."

    "Thanks." Clove gave a light shrug as the president stepped back.

    "Ms. Kazera's words are words to remember," he gave a short speech of his own to the audience. "the Hunger Games can serve as a Rite of Passage, turning even the weakest of boys and girls into the strongest of men and women. This fine woman deserves your veneration."

    The crowds began chanting Clove's name as Caesar stood up and pulled her to her feet, holding her hand high in the air.

    "This moment here…" Caesar turned to the audience. "This is a moment you never forget. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the moment where a tribute becomes a victor!"
    'The Crown of Zivia' Word Count: 64319
    'The Crusade of Zulera' Word Count: 52548
    'The Shadows of Shinzoka' Word Count: 51000
    'The Rebirth of Krippa' Word Count: 51000

    The Avatar in Chains (fanfic)
    Z. Zu. Zul. Zuzu. Zuly. Zulera. Lulu. 301. Zu-Zu. ZZ-Top. Zuliette. Zuley. Zulz. Zuul. Zubat. 'Lera. Zulianne. Z301. Z-hizzle. Z-dawg. Zulerey. Zully. Zulio. Luz. Ra-ra. Z-swiss. Zulera301.

  3. #23
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    AUTHOR'S NOTES: And here we get to see a taste of how the games affected Clove. She's not in good shape, although it wasn't like she was mentally sound before the games either. Perhaps the most driving-home point of this chapter is to remind folks who these victors-these veterans-are. They aren't these old, decorated heroes who have seen decades of combat-they're just kids.
    Happy Reading!


    CHAPTER 23: A Child's Scars

    Clove didn't realize how hungry she was until after she was back up in her apartment surrounded by all sorts of delicious Capitol confections and delicacies. Perhaps in a shot of defiance, or maybe just to prove what she had said during her interview, Clove loaded a plate of food up before slamming her face right into it and eating with a level of savagery usually only seen in Districts 12 or 11.

    "This kid has style," Enobaria gave an approving smirk to Elroy, who couldn't help but nod in agreement. Clove Kazera had been an amusing tribute to watch during the games. Her antics both in and out of the arena were always an interesting spectacle. Athena's nose crinkled at the sight of Clove's messy eating, but either she held her tongue in fear of one of the mentors making a sharp remark, or perhaps they wordlessly reminded her that this young woman hadn't eaten properly in weeks, and that she had earned it.

    Whatever the case, Clove soon licked her plate clean, figuring that seconds weren't necessary with how much she had piled onto her first dish, and then shuffled into her room to shower and change into something more comfortable. After drying off and slipping into some shorts and a tanktop, she found herself gazing into a mirror at her reflection. A short, thin freckled girl with lank brown hair stared back at her, a distinct exhaustion in her eyes and a slouch in her stance. Even with as fairly small as her clothing was, it still felt a little loose on her, even insomuch that the symbol on her shirt—an abstract design looking something like a teardrop sitting in the 'arch' of an upside-down Omega symbol, seemed a bit wrinkly. Had she truly fallen this far from where she had started? She didn't know what to feel other than loneliness. On one hand, her sister was still alive even if she was out keeping the peace in District 12—and sure she had Elroy and Enobaria as well as a handful of others… but she missed Cato. She missed Marvel and Glimmer, and even, dare she say it—Rue.

    Clove felt like her life was pointless almost—she had been training her whole life to reach this point, and had never really given much thought to what happened when she was there. Perhaps she had assumed that she would die instead of reach her goal, but then again, she was Clove Kazera. She was not a quitter, and was not a loser. She was a victor.

    Rue Keniye had given Clove purpose—a fearless and cunning rival to keep her strong, sharp, and on her toes—and boy, had Rue succeeded in that department. The cunning youngster had had Clove running for her life on more than one occasion, where their whole rivalry finally culminated at the top of the golden horn where it had all begun 17 days ago.

    Clove blinked, before her eyes widened. Standing behind her, wearing the same black and grey jackets from the arena, complete with the number 11 on both shoulders, was Rue herself. Her arms were folded and a calm expression appeared on her face, that frizzy brown hair of hers obscuring parts of it.

    "KYAAA!" Clove yelped, spinning around and reaching her hand habitually for where she kept some of her knives. Of course, all that happened was she pushed the left strap of her tanktop off of her shoulder, and as she spun around, she realized the room was empty. She paused, taking a breath. She crept across the hall to Cato's old room, and for some reason, the emptiness of the room made her much sadder than she expected to be.

    There were no memoirs of Cato in this room, for next year it would house the next District 2 boy to make his way to the volunteer stage. Briefly, Clove wondered what the next Quarter Quell would entail, and if District 12 would win it the same way they had won the other two—those seemed to be the only Hunger Games that that district could win.

    But as she was enveloped by the silence again, Clove found herself sighing. She missed Cato, and missed the antics the two of them used to get up to. She wasn't sure if she would go as far as to say she missed the arena, but it was only after everything that happened to her had happened to her, that she realized how small and young she was. She played herself up as this powerful female warlord capable of taking on dozens of people at a time and ending their lives with one swift throw of a knife, but as she glanced in the mirror, all she saw was a little freckled girl staring confusedly back at her, reminding her of a painful but simple truth: At the end of the day, she was still just a kid.

    This time Rue didn't even appear behind her, and perhaps for that reason, Clove felt even more alone than ever. Her parents back home didn't care about her (or her sister). They were useless drunkards who probably had not even realized that she was gone. Her sister Chive would have been there, but Peacekeepers seldom got to take leave once stationed in their districts. No Cato to keep her company; no parents to congratulate her, no Rue to keep her on her toes, no Chive to laugh with her, and Clove realized that even though she was now considered a hero, that she didn't even have anyone to brag about it to. Enobaria and Elroy already knew what it was like; half of what she said would go over Athena's head ("that fucking ditz…"), Chive would not be back for a few weeks or months, and her stupid parents wouldn't even know what had happened. Heck, right now she would even take Rue in her list of people she wanted to talk to.

    A moment later, another figure appeared in the mirror, but when Clove spun around, she saw that it was someone real: Enobaria—not someone that Clove expected much sympathy from.

    "Was I being loud?" Clove murmured, glancing at her toes.

    "no, but I can tell you're feeling out of whack," Enobaria explained, "I've been there and done that. I had friends that I lost in the arena, and that I killed, no less."
    "You ripped his throat out though," Clove argued,

    "We were the last two," Enobaria shrugged, "he was bashing my head against a rock, so I grabbed his neck, bit his throat and tried to tear it out. It was just business. He wasn't the type to back down any more than Cato was—you just did a cleaner job killing him."

    "I might be alone in this, or maybe I'm still just being delusional from the games and the drugs…" Clove began slightly stammering, "but I feel like I got duped."
    "By who," Enobaria raised an eyebrow, "Rue?"

    "by the Gamemakers…" Clove explained, "and not just because of that stupid rule redaction… I'm just… confused. What am I going to do with my life? I'm probably just rambling like a mentally unhinged idiot right now, I know. I just wanted to rant to someone."
    "What, you think that just because I stabbed people in the skull and bit out a couple of throats that I'm somehow not empathetic?" Enobaria scoffed, "kid, killing's the name of the game, and frankly, I hate it too. I bitched and moaned to my mentors too, so you can let it out if you want. Just because I don't open my arms for every watery-eyed chump that passes my way doesn't mean I don't care. Clove… I know what you've been through. Elroy, Brutus, Layla, Leto, Lincoln, Lyme… even the ones that are gone now… we all know what you've been through, to enough of an extent."

    There was a moment of silence before Enobaria cracked something of a smirk. "you look cute with your hair down, by the way." She added.

    Clove stepped gingerly towards the taller woman before putting her arms around her. "I thought I was above it…" she whispered, "I thought that I had managed to seal away my emotions the way they train us to. I did so well… well, except around Rue—but still. I… I just…"
    "Dammit, kid…" Enobaria sighed as she heard the telltale breaths of someone about to cry, "Actually you know what? Go ahead and let it out. Don't go telling anyone, but I did the same thing 12 years ago when I won my games."
    Clove didn't really even need Enobaria's 'permission' before she started to softly sob into her mentor's shoulder. She thought of Cato, and how he had nearly been torn to shreds before he died; and of Rue, who looked so peaceful in death; and most importantly, about herself, and how she felt right now after the games—and how she had nothing to look forward to. Was this what every career who volunteered for the games had in store if they were lucky enough to crawl out of that arena alive? It was not something Clove wanted to think about right now, and so hopefully Enobaria didn't mind a few more tear-stains on her shirt.
    'The Crown of Zivia' Word Count: 64319
    'The Crusade of Zulera' Word Count: 52548
    'The Shadows of Shinzoka' Word Count: 51000
    'The Rebirth of Krippa' Word Count: 51000

    The Avatar in Chains (fanfic)
    Z. Zu. Zul. Zuzu. Zuly. Zulera. Lulu. 301. Zu-Zu. ZZ-Top. Zuliette. Zuley. Zulz. Zuul. Zubat. 'Lera. Zulianne. Z301. Z-hizzle. Z-dawg. Zulerey. Zully. Zulio. Luz. Ra-ra. Z-swiss. Zulera301.

  4. #24
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    AUTHOR'S NOTES: Despite my laziness and terrible procrastination of copying and pasting this damn thing, there are still a few more adventures to be had with our friend Clove Kazera, and the Victry Tour as well as the lead-up to it are just a couple of these things. So sit tight, strap yourselves in, and get ready for a wild ride.
    Happy Reading!


    CHAPTER 24: District Heroes

    Despite comforting the younger girl, Enobaria had failed to mention to Clove that she would almost inevitably have nightmares, and that the inevitable Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that plagued every victor ever, would keep those nightmares persistent, among other things.

    Her mentality of villainizing Rue Keniye came back to haunt her that same evening, with her mind conjuring up images of the fight on the cornucopia. The biggest difference was that instead of Cato that she was fighting, Clove was fighting Rue—and losing rather spectacularly. Rue had knocked Clove to the ground and then shoved her off the cornucopia, where she began to get mauled by the mutts waiting for her below. She struggled and found herself unable to move much as they slowly tore her flesh from her bones, and she woke up screaming—and perhaps comically, tangled up in her blankets on the floor. Well, that explained why it was hard to move and breathe anyways.

    "For someone so small, you really are loud," a male voice quipped. Clove recognized it as Elroy. Moaning, she lifted her hand out of the sheets, as if to ask for help. Elroy clutched her hand, pulling Clove to her feet and out of the sheets. "Are you alright?"
    "I'm going to assume that you're being facetious," Clove sighed.

    "Nah, I'm seriously asking a kid who just endured 17 days of hell if she's feeling okay." The playful sarcasm was practically dripping from Elroy's tone at this point.

    "Are nightmares a common occurrence?" She looked Elroy in the eyes.

    "Yes," he replied bluntly, "Enobaria still has them. There's a reason you don't want to make her feel threatened. She bites."

    Clove cringed at the thought, but nodded as she closed her own eyes. "I just want to get out of here. Please tell me that the agenda for the remainder of the day is simple."

    "Pretty much," Elroy nodded, "they're going to parade you from here to the train station in nothing but bangles and shoes, and then we haul you back to District 2 to build a life-size monument of you."

    "Bull," Clove cracked a smirk. "Elroy, I always wondered what was wrong with you before the games… now I realize it—you're just as crazy as the rest of us."

    "Sometimes, the best way to get your mind off of the arena is to resort to whatever it takes," Elroy advised, taking a more serious expression, "we might not be the most sympathetic lot, but at least here in District 2, we victors watch over our own."
    "Well, let me get dressed then," Clove replied, "and then I guess we can eat and then get the hell out of here. I'll probably end up coming here for years and years."

    "With that sort of negative attitude you certainly will," Elroy quipped, "District 2's not full of pushovers like '10 or something is, you know. We've got the best damn track record in Panem, and heck if we're going to let you blow that off."

    "Oh, relax, Elroy; that's not what I meant," Clove pushed him before ambling towards her dresser to pick out something more decent to wear. Maybe it was being around the Capitol stylists and prep teams that had desensitized her, but modesty was not really one of Clove's concerns as she spoke to her mentor.

    "What I meant was…" she rummaged through the drawers, "was that I'll probably stick around as a mentor for a long time. I might even volunteer if I like it enough. Sure, the games rocked my world, and sure, a few things are still uncomfortable to talk about. That doesn't change who I am though. I might have my moments, and hell, they might even have to sedate me a few more times. But I'm not about to turn into this little crybaby just because of a few nightmares."

    A few moments later, she was lacing up a pair of combat boots, to compliment the jacket and cargo pants she had elected to don for the day—a simplistic military-styled outfit reminiscent of the attire a lot of people wore back in District 2.

    "Welp, now that that's over with, let's eat and cut the crap, so I can get on that train and get home." Clove smacked her lips, only to have Elroy chuckle and nod in agreement.

    Even Athena was fairly quiet that morning, for one reason or another, and Clove was a bit too tired to ask her what was going on. True to Elroy's earlier statement, shortly after breakfast, He, Enobaria, Clove, and Athena were all escorted to the train station.

    "next stop, District 2!" the bubbly escort sang, "We're going to miss our District Hero for the next six months; that much is certain!"

    District Hero… what constituted a 'District Hero' to Clove? Were they the men and women that fought and survived in the Hunger Games arenas? Clove would hardly agree if so; No one decent ever won the games, and those that were decent usually dealt with post-traumatic stress on levels that most others could only have nightmares about.

    She liked that term though. Cato was a District Hero to Clove, for one; and it made her wonder who else could be considered such.

    For the longest time, Enobaria's erratic mentality regarding the Capitol had been an enigma to her. It was a dangerous mentality to have in District 2, and perhaps now Clove realized why the older woman had been so subtle about it.

    The train ride back home was not terribly long, although Clove did not actually do much during it apart from a few card games with her mentors, and a brief discussion about how the victory tour would go in 6 months. Despite some of the districts (such as '2) often having two mentors, Clove wondered if both Elroy and Enobaria would be accompanying her, or if it would just be one or the other. Not that she didn't like Elroy; but she had things she wanted to talk to Enobaria about—she wasn't even sure what these things were just yet, but figured that they would surface on the tour.

    Otherwise, her thoughts wandered to how the visits would go. District 1 wouldn't be a problem. Districts 3 and 4 would probably not like her much, but she knew that '3 had a strained relationship with both '1 and '2 because of conflicting ideals. '5 might be fine with seeing her; while 6-10 would probably just be standard fare, unless District 8 made a scene like they had the year before when they had produced victor Paige DeSiete. '11 and '12 would be interesting, and maybe even troublesome. Clove had been a thorn in their sides the entire game, even if she had been directly responsible for killing Thresh and Rue herself. It was weird, when she thought about it. Here she was with some slight concern over how people would react to her, when she had just finished crawling out of an arena where literally everything and everyone was or had been trying to kill her.

    During the ride, Athena also cheerfully mentioned that she wondered what Clove would start doing as a hobby—a trick or talent the Capitol sort of expected victors to take on after winning the games. Granted, everything Athena did appeared to be cheerful in Clove's eyes. She briefly wondered how much trouble she would get in if she connected her fist with Athena's face, but she decided not to test her luck. She imagined it would give Elroy a nice laugh though.

    After her nap, Clove glanced out the window and noticed familiar buttes and mesas that reminded her of home—which meant that surely they were getting close. During these final minutes of the trip, Clove briefly sketched the first thing she thought of when she thought of home. Oddly enough, it was just a simple graphic—the District 2 seal, with its stone block and the crisscrossed pair of tools. Right beneath that, near the lower arc of the circle, was the eye—the reminder of the Peacekeeper force that served all of Panem. In truth, only a little over 40% of the peacekeepers came from the largely populated District 2, but they were the best known for them due to it housing the training facilities.

    Masonry—Clove glanced again at the seal she had drawn, and then it hit her. Maybe she could find solace and purpose in her life by doing what District 2 was publicly known for doing. Perhaps she could build monuments to these "District Heroes"—whoever she thought qualified as one. It certainly beat being the child of two "District Zeros".

    Within a few minutes of her finishing her little abstract sketch, Clove felt the train grind to a halt as they pulled into the District 2 station. As Clove and her team were greeted by throngs of cheering crowds, her eyes wandered through the audience—and sadly, found no one that she knew closely. She did not really have many close friends; sure she had classmates at the training academies, and she recognized a few of them; but for the most part, it was just another reaffirmation that Clove Kazera was indeed alone.

    Still, after everything that had happened over the last few weeks… it was good to be back. It was good to know that she would not have to fight for her life in that arena ever again. For now, that was enough. Clove would take what she could get.
    'The Crown of Zivia' Word Count: 64319
    'The Crusade of Zulera' Word Count: 52548
    'The Shadows of Shinzoka' Word Count: 51000
    'The Rebirth of Krippa' Word Count: 51000

    The Avatar in Chains (fanfic)
    Z. Zu. Zul. Zuzu. Zuly. Zulera. Lulu. 301. Zu-Zu. ZZ-Top. Zuliette. Zuley. Zulz. Zuul. Zubat. 'Lera. Zulianne. Z301. Z-hizzle. Z-dawg. Zulerey. Zully. Zulio. Luz. Ra-ra. Z-swiss. Zulera301.

  5. #25
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    AUTHOR'S NOTES: I live! maybe? Who knows; someday I'll finish posting this here. Whatever the case, the victory tour chapters are fairly concise and so if I can remember to copy them over I should be able to get this wrapped up nice and soon. Also, Clove's parents are losers. Huzzah.
    Happy Reading!


    CHAPTER 25: Personal Issues

    Shortly after the crowds dispersed, Clove took a bit of a break over at Elroy's home in the victor village to rest, and to contemplate what her next course of action was. Despite spending a few hours here, Clove knew at once what she wanted to do first—or try first.

    Clove wished to give her parents one last chance—perhaps in one last attempt to try and reconcile with them—in hopes that they would recognize her accomplishments.

    They were an older couple—both of them retired Peacekeepers who had been in the field for at least 25 years, which in turn meant that they had been gone during Chive and Clove's early years. By the time they had gotten back from their posts in District 6, they had been almost fundamentally transformed—distant, aloof, but able to be the alcoholic losers that they were because of the Capitol stipend that was rewarded to loyal agents and soldiers of Panem's glittering heart.

    Even as Clove pushed open the door, she was greeted with silence. Both her mother and father were there watching television—reruns of the 74th Hunger Games, no less, and they did not even acknowledge the freckled girl who now stood before them.

    A moment later, the scene transitioned from showing Rue to showing Clove, which caused a reaction of some sort, but not what Clove had hoped for.

    "Hey…" her mother spoke up, "that girl on the television… she looks like you. Do you know her?"
    "Mom," Clove put her hand to her chest, "It's me… that was me in the games. I'm back. I survived."

    "We had a daughter that went to the Hunger Games once," her father spoke up, only causing Clove further emotional anguish.

    "Dad…" Clove pleaded, "that was me. I'm the one from the Hunger Games. I'm your daughter."

    Maybe she had spent too much time listening to fantasy stories from Elroy, but Clove longed for a functional family, even if she knew she wouldn't get one.
    "Our daughter…" both of Clove's parents seemed to be contemplative of that phrase. "we had… two daughters, didn't we?"

    "Yes; yes!" Clove exclaimed excitedly, thinking and hoping that it was coming back. "Chive's a peacekeeper in District 12, and I volunteered for the Hunger Games and won. I'm a victor now. I've got the cool mansion over in the Victor Village with Leto, Layla, Brutus, Elroy, Enobaria, and all of them… you know—the victors!"

    "You can win it if you try," Clove's mother smiled oddly, "like that girl… that could be our daughter…"

    "But I did!" Clove's eyes briefly narrowed, "that was me! How do you not realize that!? I'm right here—that was my game only a couple days ago, I…" she stammered, rambling a little bit in an attempt to get it through her parents' heads, but as she saw the glazed-over expressions remain unchanged, she sighed in defeat, knowing that it was no use.
    "Tell Clove…" her father called out as she was leaving, "may the odds… be ever in her favor…"

    Dejectedly, Clove left the house, far more disappointed than she had been coming in. Did she look that different? She was fairly certain that she didn't—but her parents were far worse than she remembered them. Were their minds that addled by the booze or whatever else they were putting in their bodies? Clove wished that Chive were here to talk to. Maybe she would know a bit more about what had happened—Clove had never understood it. For a while she had thought that maybe if she had not been so fixated on winning the games that she could have stopped to try and figure them out, but now that she was here, she was simply frustrated, and so she left before she lashed out at them or something.

    She'd have to ask Enobaria about those sedatives they had used on her back in the Capitol. Sure they made her a little groggy, but maybe it was a way out of the emotional turmoil that she was suffering at the moment. She had always just thought of her parents as deadbeat losers who had nothing going for them, but perhaps there was more to the story that she didn't realize or know. Maybe when Chive came back in a few months she might be able to shed some light on it. Either that or someone in District 6 would tell her—if they were even willing to speak to her.

    In the meantime, Clove slinked back to her own mansion, disappearing behind the large double doors, where she remained fairly isolated from the remainder of District 2.

    Weeks and months went by, and Clove did find herself using those sedatives more often—but they worked, and had on more than one occasion kept her from going ballistic. It was an odd sensation. Clove liked being by herself, but hated being alone.

    "This is the 3rd time this week, kid." Enobaria sighed as she let a somewhat manic Clove into her home, "and I don't think banging on someone's door at 3 in the morning is a smart way to get into their good graces—just saying."

    "Sorry," Clove sighed, "it's just… you and Elroy are pretty much all I've got left. My parents don't even recognize me, Chive is off in District 12 for 330 days out of the year, my friends at the academy have gone on with their lives, and my friends from the arena are dead. I know it's not really me to say this… but I really need you guys. I can't lose you."
    "I'm not going anywhere…" Enobaria guided Clove inside to sit her down. "It's not really me to be like this either, so don't go telling people I've gone soft or anything. Look… I volunteered for the games when I was 18. I was older than you and had a bit better of an idea of what I was getting into—but even then, there was no way I would have known what I had gotten into. War is hell, and the Hunger Games are war. It will harden even the best of us, and shut us off from those around us. I'm not like this to just anyone, Clove. I feel for you because I've got an idea of what you've been through. It's hard enough being the new kid on the block, and it's even harder once you realize that these are scars that are never, ever going to go away."

    "I just don't want to be weak though," Clove asserted, "you, Elroy, Brutus, Layla, Leto, Lincoln… you guys all come off as sop strong and stoic—and I'm over here kicking myself for coming crying to your doorstep every few nights."

    "Ha!" Enobaria chuckled, "do you really think we haven't had our moments? Don't go telling anyone this, Clove—but we've all been there before, and we've all looked to those before us to help us get through it. There is no therapy for victors other than what we can give each other, which is hard enough considering the trauma and demons that we all face on our own. I've got your back, and I'm sure the others do too—besides: I can't have my knife-fighting companion getting soft now, can I?"

    Clove growled as Enobaria playfully dug her knuckles into Clove's scalp, her right foot kicking the air as she tried to break free of the larger woman's headlock. Enobaria's free arm seized Clove's wrist to keep her from scratching, and a few minutes later she was laughing as she let the younger victor up.

    "I don't see a weakling in the girl in front of me," she smirked, "you've got your issues, and so does everyone. I'm willing to bet good coin that Elroy has told you the same thing. Maybe you just want to get your little ego stroked, eh, missy?"

    "Shh," Clove cracked a smile of her own, "what Elroy doesn't know isn't going to hurt him."

    "Hey, if you're going to keep our support, you've gotta earn it, kiddo," Enobaria retorted, "my house, 2:30 tomorrow—bring your throwing knives."

    Maybe it was a desire to keep up her skills from the training centers, but Clove still enjoyed the feeling of a sleek, shiny throwing knife in her hand, whizzing through the air from between her fingers into the dead-center of her target with the flick of her wrist.

    "Will do," she smirked. "And by the way…" Clove paused, turning up to her mentor, "thanks."
    "I can't just let the Capitol screw us over and leave us to fester in our trauma, can I?" Enobaria quipped, "Any time, kid; it's nothing, really."

    The smile that appeared on Clove's face was almost unnatural—it was not her usual sneer or smirk, but rather, a genuine, heartfelt smile that was spawned from nothing short of true happiness. It was not sadistic pleasure or mischievous mirth; this was a smile that showed solace and comfort—a smile of serenity and relief. Clove was ready for her approaching victory tour. She knew that with her team at her side and this comfort and confidence, that she could handle anything.
    'The Crown of Zivia' Word Count: 64319
    'The Crusade of Zulera' Word Count: 52548
    'The Shadows of Shinzoka' Word Count: 51000
    'The Rebirth of Krippa' Word Count: 51000

    The Avatar in Chains (fanfic)
    Z. Zu. Zul. Zuzu. Zuly. Zulera. Lulu. 301. Zu-Zu. ZZ-Top. Zuliette. Zuley. Zulz. Zuul. Zubat. 'Lera. Zulianne. Z301. Z-hizzle. Z-dawg. Zulerey. Zully. Zulio. Luz. Ra-ra. Z-swiss. Zulera301.

  6. #26
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    AUTHOR'S NOTES: and now we get to the final stretch: Clove's Victory Tour! Obviously it will be very different from Katniss and Peeta's from the books, not just because of the different district order, but also because Clove is a dynamically different person from either of them, and her feelings towards the districts are significantly different. There might be trouble once she reaches districts like 12 or 11.
    Happy Reading!


    CHAPTER 26: The Tour Begins

    Eventually the days wore on to the point where the day of Clove's victory tour had finally come. Despite what she had insisted on and asserted earlier in the year, Clove's confidence was not all there. A lingering dread had come upon her thinking about District 6, wondering if it held the answer to the mystery of her parents. Everyone knew of the Morphling endemic that gripped the Transportation District, but Clove's parents were alcoholics rather than drug addicts.

    Similarly, she was worried about District 12—not because or Primrose or Peeta—or whatever parents or siblings the two might have had—but because her sister was there, and if they knew Chive Kazera, they would at least recognize her as Chive's sister because of her surname. Chive had never really spoken of her reputation down in '12, and so Clove was not sure what to expect. If she was one of those despised Peacekeepers, Clove feared that her ego might get hurt when she spoke on stage.

    It was common knowledge that District 12 was rough around the edges, and that most Peacekeepers there were fairly lax. Those that came in and out of District 2 for their leave time or whatnot, always seemed to talk about the grungy inhabitants, the dangerous children that could very well be threatening tributes if their names were picked, or perhaps the odd sense of closeness the people of that district seemed to share with one another. Even among the districts, after all, there was disparity, and not everyone agreed on this or that. District 12, on the other hand, perhaps because of its size, seemed to have a near unanimous mindset, although no one could really pin what that mindset was apart from a determination to stay alive.

    On the other hand, Clove's tour would start in District 1. Clove could never remember if the victory tour had been in reverse order or numerical order, and was pretty sure that it had gone back and forth from one to the other at least a couple times in Hunger Games history. All she needed to worry about was what she was going to say, or how she was going to interact at the feasts that inevitably came after the speeches. These were a fairly recent addition—another move by the Capitol to make the Victory Tours seem more exciting than they actually were. It actually kind of worked, even among the victors, who could sometimes take their mind off of the horror of being reminded of the worst couple weeks of their lives by eating, drinking, and general merriment.

    Clove was not only greeted by Athena and her stylists, but also by a surprisingly well-dressed Enobaria, sporting a golden tiara and a shimmering, golden-brown dress of all things.

    "Not sure how I'm going to top that," Clove teased, "I thought the victor got to look sportier than the mentor on these tour things. Speaking of which, where's Elroy?"
    "He's at his house, enjoying the bet he won," Enobaria shrugged, "I learned a couple days ago that this whole tour preparation thing starts earlier than I'd like—so we bet on who would have to do it."
    "Now you're acting like being with little ol' me is a bad thing." Clove raised her eyebrow. While she knew that neither of them were aversive to spending a couple weeks touring Panem with Clove, it did sort of hurt her inner pride to have heard what Enobaria had just said.

    "Well, if I have to stab you with another needle…" Enobaria retorted.

    "Oh come on, that was one time!" Clove countered.

    "Two," Enobaria didn't even skip a beat. "nice seeing a smile on that face, by the way."
    "Thanks." Clove actually softened her smile a bit. Odd as it was, the fanged woman in front of her had an uncanny ability to make her smile—as did the messy-haired man that had been with her and Cato during their first trip to the Capitol.

    "No problem," the mentor shrugged, "but don't look now—but you're about to get jumped."
    No sooner had she said this than Athena had appeared, perhaps out of nowhere, right behind Clove and given the smaller girl an excited and enthusiastic squeeze.

    "And here's our District Hero!" she beamed, "let's get you cleaned up. We've got a long day ahead of us, especially for District 1 tomorrow!"

    Clove was practically dragged away, miming a 'help me' to Enobaria, who just laughed and watched her disappear down a hall.

    While something simpler or more casual might have been passable out of somewhere like District 12 or 11, it was not the case in the Capitol's favorite districts like 1 and 2. Clove emerged from the stylists' clutches dressed in a bronze-colored skirt that shimmered like scale-plate armor, with matching shoes on her feet and a darker-colored blouse to bring out the colors. The skirt was slightly longer in the back than in the front, showing off her knees in front and her ankles in the back. A tiara with small, golden-colored wings was placed on her head, and she suddenly saw the connection—it was a simplified version of her chariot outfit from before the games.

    "Give me a sword or something and I could conquer the world in this outfit!" she joked, expressing her approval. "I love it."

    With Clove dressed and ready to go, the tour was able to begin as they were escorted to the train station. Maybe it was better for Clove that they were starting with the 'easier' districts and moving on down to the ones that might be trickier. It would be a buildup to the breathtaking finale, or something epic like that. She didn't really know.

    As fancy as Clove's outfit was, it was basically just for the camera crews to catch as the team made their way through the district to the train station. Luckily it was also comfortable, and so Clove did not mind biding her time in this getup until tomorrow at least.

    District 1 was definitely the easiest stop of them all. Clove paid her proper respects for Glimmer and Marvel, for they had been allies during the games, and Clove had personally been responsible for the death of Rue, the one who had killed them both. Similarly, and perhaps because of the district's wealth, the Victory Feast that came afterwards was nothing short of glorious. A couple of older victors (who introduced themselves as Price Emerson and Miriam Luxio) challenged Enobaria and Clove to a drinking contest. Clove didn't exactly remember what became of it, but Enobaria clarified that Clove had gone down first, followed by Price, and that Miriam had actually won.

    "Granted," she added, "Miriam's been a serious alcoholic for the last 34 years, so I guess it's not too surprising when you think about it."

    Clove couldn't really argue with that sentiment, and so she worried more about dealing with the hangover that she now had as the tour continued eastwards towards District 3.

    The bright colors of District 4, as well as the glitzy, shiny lights found in Districts 3 and 5, distracted Clove during these three stops, as her mind wandered to thoughts of Rue again. Nothing of any particular note happened in any of these stops, apart from Clove being reminded of Finch and Franklin—both of their deaths had been partially because of Rue when Clove thought of it. Finch had drawn attention to Rue in the trees, only for the smaller girl to cut a tracker-jacker nest down early the next morning; and Franklin had been unable to spot Rue in time for her to successfully blow their supplies skyward.

    Really, the girl was more clever than Clove felt like she was giving her credit made her wonder what she was going to say in District 11 when the time came. She could let Athena help write her speech for her—a lot of victors did that, and obviously the escorts knew best what the Capitol wanted to hear—but Clove wanted to say it from her heart—mostly because she was too proud to say anyone else's words but her own.

    As the train hauled its way out of District 5 after more nights of merriment, Clove couldn't help but think about what lay ahead—District 6. She wondered if there would be answers for her there—answers regarding her parents. Had they fallen victim to the Morphling endemic? Or were they just irresponsible twits now that they had finished their 20-year contract as Peacekeepers? She didn't' even remember who had killed the tributes from here, and so she was not so much worried about her reception as much as she was curious about what was in store for her here.

    Clove spent much of that evening gazing out the window at the moonlit wilderness as the train whizzed by. It was a long way from '5 to '6, and so she would have plenty of time for beauty sleep—or in this case, more than enough time to muse about what would be waiting for her upon her arrival…
    'The Crown of Zivia' Word Count: 64319
    'The Crusade of Zulera' Word Count: 52548
    'The Shadows of Shinzoka' Word Count: 51000
    'The Rebirth of Krippa' Word Count: 51000

    The Avatar in Chains (fanfic)
    Z. Zu. Zul. Zuzu. Zuly. Zulera. Lulu. 301. Zu-Zu. ZZ-Top. Zuliette. Zuley. Zulz. Zuul. Zubat. 'Lera. Zulianne. Z301. Z-hizzle. Z-dawg. Zulerey. Zully. Zulio. Luz. Ra-ra. Z-swiss. Zulera301.

  7. #27
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    AUTHOR'S NOTES: I don't have anything witty to say here. Clove makes a stop in Districts 6, 7, and 8, as indicated by the title, and the tour takes a few unusual turns. Nothing too big, but there's going to be something right around the corner as she approaches Districts 11 and 12.
    Happy Reading!

    CHAPTER 27: Six, Seven, Eight...

    Miracles happened. That was about the only logical explanation Clove had for how District 6 functioned. Sure she had heard the stories from returning Peacekeepers about the endemic there, but seeing it in person was totally different. Everyone seemed to move a little slower, and seemed to behave more tranquilly. Clove wondered if this was a Capitol scheme. District 6 was a very large district—arguably containing a larger population than any other district—and while their behavior was erratic, they seemed complacent enough. Had the Capitol aided this addiction epidemic?

    Clove was determined to crack this case. She only had half a day to do it, before she would get escorted back to the train and whisked off to District 7 for tomorrow's stop, and so she already started planning this out as the train flew towards the place where it had most likely been constructed years ago: District 6, the Transportation District—sometimes also nicknamed the Morphling District.

    "It's been a while since '6 has produced a victor," Enobaria explained as they whizzed across the Panemian countryside, leaving the mountains far to the west, "they've had 5 in their history so far. The three that are up and kicking the most are Zerviah Hawke, 37th Hunger Games; Meili Meisha, 58th Hunger Games; and Dezna Meraxa, 45th Hunger Games. He's the one you'll probably want to try and talk to if you think your parents fell to a drug endemic. He's apparently one of the best in the business."

    Perhaps District 6 was cleverer than Clove gave them credit for. Jason and his partner had not exactly been formidable foes during her games, and so Clove asked Athena for help in writing her speech, figuring that a generic speech for somewhat generic tributes was fitting. Besides, it would keep the Capitol happy and not cause any incidents—most of the time anyways.

    Clove was dressed in a sharp grey suit that seemed to match the mood and color of the district fairly well. Enobaria's outfit, while still pretty, appeared even more subdued than Clove's.

    There was nothing overly remarkable about her speech or the tributes she spoke about during that arm of the stop. Clove rambled off something fairly generic, just as she had for Districts 4 and 5, and so while she had mixed feelings about the giddy Athena, the woman did serve at least one useful purpose. Her speech went off without a hitch, and soon she found herself mingling with the addled folks of District 6, most of which had tranquil expressions and pink eyes.

    She tried singling out Dezna Meraxa, which turned out to be harder than it looked. She stopped a middle-aged man with dark greying fluffy hair, who turned around at Clove's touch.

    "Dezna?" the young victor raised an eyebrow.

    "Arza," the girl corrected her—for it was in fact, a woman. "Dezna's my brother, and he's right over there. Want me to introduce you?"
    "uhh…" Clove scratched the back of her head, slightly embarrassed, "sure."

    To Clove's slight surprise, Dezna and Arza looked rather familiar. They wore similar baggy clothes which hid most of their curves or features, and had the same untamed, fluffy hairstyle. The only difference between them even at this age was that Arza had some dark grey eyeshadow over her eyelids, whilst Dezna did not. Either way, Clove was not here to try and play an identification game with a weird pair of middle-aged twins. She was here to learn something.

    "I'm here to ask you about what you know about the recent peacekeepers" she explained as they sat down, "It's a District 2 thing, really."
    "Most Peacekeepers that come through '6 are real fond of our Substance 21." Arza explained, "I help market it, and Dezna and I sell it. It's a real popular one on the market, and folks from District 1 seem like mixing it with a wine they call "Red Gold".

    "Red Gold", and "Substance 21"… this was an interesting lead for Clove. Had this substance (since she was pretty sure the wine had not been the ultimate culprit) been what had fried the brains of her parents? Or had it just been the distance between them and their children that had done the job?

    "So why do you all take so many painkillers and drugs then? Is life that bad, here?"
    "It's mostly a recreational thing at first," Dezna shrugged, "but then it becomes an addiction."
    "What's it do to people?" This was where she would know for sure.

    "It mostly just makes them hallucinate something cool." Dezna laughed, "sunshine, rainbows, a few exploding engines or paint cans or something… purple lightning… it's pretty cool, to be honest."

    Clove was not sure that this man and his sister were even all here. And yet… the story seemed fitting. Maybe this drug, combined with their distance, had been what had happened to Clove's parents—or maybe, she just had to accept the grim truth that her parents didn't know her.

    She sighed, and it took Enobaria challenging her to a drinking game to finally cheer her up—or rather, Enobaria drank Clove under the table, and they had to drag her back to the train later that evening.

    Thankfully, Capitol medicine had long since figured out a way around hangovers, and Clove theorized that it was probably created in District 6 after a victory tour some-odd decades ago. Whatever the case, it was now on to District 7. Similar to '6, there would be nothing too fanciful here, she suspected.

    She was wrong. As she stepped up onto the stage to give her speech, things started out normally. The weather was beautiful and the wind rustled through the trees, many of which were all through the district center. The odd part about it that shook Clove right to her core was not what had happened—but *who* had happened.

    There, jumping from one tree to the other before landing deftly on one of the upper branches, was Rue Keniye. She froze, glaring at Clove with a pair of blank eyes, a jagged pair of daggers in her hands that she sheathed before giving Clove a respectful hand sign. Clove paused, tilting her head in a slightly confused position, not noticing the awkward looks people were giving her. A few turned around to see what she was gazing at, but all they saw were branches Rue had seemed so very real to her.

    "Sorry…" she shook her head as she tried to recover herself, "I got distracted… this is such a beautiful district—and its tributes were beautiful as well…"
    she was lying through her teeth, but frankly, that was about as good as any of the tripe that Athena had put on the card for her to read, and so the rest of the stop went by without incident, and the feast was the same way later that evening.

    "You saw something, didn't you?" Enobaria confronted Clove as the train whizzed away from District 7 and on its way to District 8.

    "I saw her," Clove grunted, displeased with admitting this, "Rue was in those trees. She's not done haunting me, Enobaria. She's not done reminding me that I killed her. She's not done reminding me that she simply wanted to survive." Clove's fist clenched tighter around the glass she was holding.

    "Clove," Enobaria stopped her and brandished a syringe; "you need another sedative, don't you?"
    "Fine," Clove sighed, and Enobaria helped shoot her up. Clove grew drowsy, and while it stopped her from freaking out again like she had done in the operating room after the 'games, it did not make the nightmares go away.

    District 8 the next morning had Clove waking up in a cold sweat, with Rue fresh on her mind again. Luckily, she managed to calm down as the train pulled into District 8 for the day. The moment she stepped out onto that platform, however; she knew there would be trouble.

    Peacekeepers that went to districts like 8 or 11 often had trouble handling the rebellious populace. District 12, while much more rebellious in theory than District 8 or District 11; played it safe and stayed under the radar, causing few problems for the Peacekeeping force there.

    Rue did not show her face in District 8 at all, although Clove's speech seemed to stir up some of the citizens, despite that she was reading it off of Athena's card. She was a bit rushed near the end, before being escorted back into the Justice Building for a moment. There were noises that slowly subsided, and a few minutes later, they headed down for the nightly Victory Feast. Otherwise, nothing else really happened here, although Clvoe had a few ideas as to what might have happened to the would-be rioters. It was not a pleasant thing to think about.

    As the train flew from District 8 to District 9 later that evening though, Clove began to grow tense. She wasn't worried about the next two stops, but if she saw Rue in a random place like District 7—the odds that she would see that girl again in District 11—her home—were extremely high. The worst part was that she couldn't do anything about it. Slowly, that stop would come her way, and Clove would just have to handle it when it arrived…
    'The Crown of Zivia' Word Count: 64319
    'The Crusade of Zulera' Word Count: 52548
    'The Shadows of Shinzoka' Word Count: 51000
    'The Rebirth of Krippa' Word Count: 51000

    The Avatar in Chains (fanfic)
    Z. Zu. Zul. Zuzu. Zuly. Zulera. Lulu. 301. Zu-Zu. ZZ-Top. Zuliette. Zuley. Zulz. Zuul. Zubat. 'Lera. Zulianne. Z301. Z-hizzle. Z-dawg. Zulerey. Zully. Zulio. Luz. Ra-ra. Z-swiss. Zulera301.

  8. #28
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    AUTHOR'S NOTES: And here's the fated stop in District 11, where Clove gets to give Rue a riveting speech-or not. Whatever the case, she has to deal with the nightmares following her in from one of her earlier stops, and so strap yourselves in. This wild ride isn't over.
    It should also be noted that a character from one of my RPs on this very site makes an appearance in this chapter.
    Happy Reading!


    CHAPTER 28: Illusions and Reality

    District 9 was a nice break from the events that had occurred in the last three stops Clove had made, and so it was a pleasant, albeit uneventful, break from the grind. District 10 was no different.

    District 11, however, was where the problems started. Enobaria actually confronted Clove about it because she was growing paranoid.

    "She's waiting for me there," she clutched her mentor's arms, "She's going to be waiting for me on that platform, and waiting for me on that stage."
    "And then do what with you," Enobaria rolled her eyes, "stab you to death with her illusionary daggers? Clove—Rue is dead. I understand that you're still having nightmares, but you can't let it consume you. Don't become like me—don't become Enobaria the Throat-Ripper just because of a couple weeks in the arena. You deserve better."
    "I know that you know it's not that easy," Clove replied, "En… I need you to come clear with me. How bad of shape am I in right now?"
    "Clove…" Enobaria sighed, her lips closing over her golden fangs, "I watched you in the academies before the games, and as your mentor, Elroy and I watched you in the training center and then in the arena. Don't take this the wrong way, but we could tell you had a few bolts loose a while back. It's not like there was anything we could do though, and even now, you're still better off than some kids."
    "Don't try to butter me up," Clove sighed, "tell me what I need to hear."

    "Ha," Enobaria cracked a hollow chuckle. "Do you think I'm the type that would try to sugar-coat my words just to make you feel happy? That's it, Clove—you're not in terrible shape, but you're a slight bit unhinged. All I'm bringing this up at all for is because where we're going. These are Thresh and Rue's people. If you're seeing Rue jumping through trees in a place she's never even seen, you'll probably end up seeing her here. What is it about her that drives you so crazy anyways?"
    "I don't even know!" Clove exclaimed, "I thought I hated her… I thought she was out to make my life miserable… but hearing what she told me in the arena—how she was trying to survive; not to kill…"
    "Most of the kids that go into those games are like that, kid." Enobaria reminded her, "you just have to forget about it sometimes, and do what you have to do."
    "But that's just it," Clove shook her head, "that wasn't all there was to her. She was my rival—she was the one that gave my life in the arena some purpose. As long as she lived, my safety was questionable. If I had been careless like Glimmer or Marvel, she would have done me in. Rue kept me on my toes, and without her… well… I just feel this void where everything I was taught once fit. It's… weird, and I don't really know how to explain it well…"
    "You don't have to explain anything to me, kid." Enobaria shook her head.

    "Well, I'd rather you not think of me as weak or afraid, En." Clove countered without skipping a beat. "I mean, I might not be able to understand this weird obsession my mind wants me to have with that girl, but I've dealt with far nastier adversities than this."
    "Then hold onto that confidence," Enobaria insisted, "it'll serve you well when we get to '11 proper."

    Despite a brief makeover session where she was dressed in a beautiful blue and green ensemble with swirls of matching brown, as if to symbolize the earth, plants, and sky, Clove's thoughts were still on Rue. She would be seeing the girl's family today, and learning who it all entailed. Was she ready to see several older, larger Rues; or even any of Thresh's family? His threat had been shorter-lived, but much more prominent. Had Cato and Clove not been together, his attack on them might have succeeded.

    The stop itself was painful and difficult for Clove to handle. While the mayor gave the pre-ceremonial speech like they did in every district, Clove got to see just who made up Rue's family, and it was the opposite of what she had expected. There was no sign of a father, and instead of older Rues, there were younger ones—5 little boys and girls that bore a striking resemblance to the girl on the holographic screen—and a teary-eyed mother holding them all together.

    True to Clove's fears though, a 6th child appeared among them climbing onto the stage without drawing anyone else's attention. Clove didn't even have to second-guess herself that this was her mind playing tricks on her, but the more she blinked or rubbed her eyes, the more real Rue's presence seemed. She walked around her family, as if analyzing their grieving faces, before stopping in front of them, glancing up at her large picture, before suddenly cocking her head right towards Clove.

    The young victor actually cried out in surprise, garnering a good amount of awkward attention from almost anyone. Clove was just glad that this had happened before her speech rather than during it. Rue was there watching her, except that her eyes were blank and lifeless—just the whites of them were visible. She sternly crossed her arms over her chest and glared at Clove, almost threateningly.

    And yet, in this moment, as Clove calmed back down, still breathing swiftly as she stared at the illusion of Rue Keniye that would not go away, she had an epiphany—that was not Rue. She was not malicious like that, and did not try to scare people. This mental projection of Clove's was a violation of Rue's character—and she felt like her self-proclaimed nemesis deserved better.

    And thus, her speech began. She couldn't help but express admiration for Thresh's strength and vigilance, traits that were admired strongly in District 2. When she got to talking about Rue though, her entire tone changed. She swallowed hard, almost trying to prevent herself from crying on the spot.

    "After visiting District 11 I can easily see how, within a few months, Rue Keniye emerged from the hatred that surrounded her in my mind, and became one of the most significant individuals to grace the 74th Annual; Hunger Games—and perhaps the single most significant person in my life. She had boundless drive for survival in the arena, which made her a menace to me and my allies—but on the other hand, there was an elegant sense of mystery to the way she lived and an enticing sense of enigma that surrounded her death at my hands, that will continue to live and grow long after I leave. Rue Keniye had in her the stuff of which legends are made. She gave my life purpose. I am not asking for your forgiveness or your acceptance. I simply wish to come clear on my feelings for a tribute who fought fearlessly and died peacefully. District 11 lost fine individuals this year, and even I would be rather pleased to come to terms with the girl that I had once declared as my eternal nemesis—to shake her hand and to say 'well done. It's over now'…"

    Clove was not sure if the applause she received was the mandatory reaction, or if some of it was genuine. She knew that she was not well-liked here and knew that District 12 tomorrow would be just as bad, if not worse. Whatever the case, her words had been heartfelt and sincere, even if they didn't quite clarify how Clove felt about Rue. It was a love-hate relationship for sure, and was one that one of the District 11 victors called her out on at the feast that evening.

    "I beg your pardon?" Clove stood her ground against the brown, curly-haired woman.

    "I'm just saying that you confused a lot of us out there," the woman, who introduced herself as the victor of the 44th Hunger Games, Sagittaria Svenja, explained, "we didn't expect that sort of respect and admiration from the bloodthirsty folks from '2."

    "I will not say that I loved Rue," Clove insisted, "but at the same time, I did, and most of all, I respected her. She was the only one not part of my alliance that I ever called by name. That is one of the ways I show my respect for someone."
    "We've all been through different trials," Sagittaria shrugged, "and every victor has their own coping mechanisms, for better or for worse. I'm in no place to give you mentoring advice or anything—since heck; I'm not even a mentor anymore myself. That was 2 victors ago. But, whatever the case, I just want to say that you should keep that mentality of yours, kid. Stay true to who you are, even if people don't like it. You might not be well-received here or by our friends in District 12, but remember—all but a scant few of them have no clue what you've done to get where you are—what you've been through to get where you are. That is what sets you apart."

    Clove couldn't help but agree with Sagittaria on this simple aspect. She was a victor now, and there was no turning back. Clinging to this mindset was what helped her through District 11 that evening—and as she boarded the train for one of her final stops, she couldn't help but extend a hand of thanks to the mysterious Sagittaria Svenja for helping her realize this.
    'The Crown of Zivia' Word Count: 64319
    'The Crusade of Zulera' Word Count: 52548
    'The Shadows of Shinzoka' Word Count: 51000
    'The Rebirth of Krippa' Word Count: 51000

    The Avatar in Chains (fanfic)
    Z. Zu. Zul. Zuzu. Zuly. Zulera. Lulu. 301. Zu-Zu. ZZ-Top. Zuliette. Zuley. Zulz. Zuul. Zubat. 'Lera. Zulianne. Z301. Z-hizzle. Z-dawg. Zulerey. Zully. Zulio. Luz. Ra-ra. Z-swiss. Zulera301.

  9. #29
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    AUTHOR'S NOTES: Welcome to District 12. Obviously we're going to meet Katniss here a bit, and see how she reacts to Clove as a victor. Otherwise, this is probably the penultimate chapter of the series, and the next one should be able to wrap up the rest of the Capitol stop and then District 2. There might be another 1 or 2 chapters of epilogue, but otherwise, after long months, this story will be finally complete.
    Happy Reading!


    CHAPTER 29: Together Alone

    District 12 would thus be Clove's penultimate speech, and there were only two more stops to make after that—the Capitol for the grandest feast and festivities of them all, and then back to District 2, to pay her respects to Cato Salazar, her closest friend and ally in the games. Sometimes she wondered if they could have been together had it not been for the games. Seneca Crane's last-minute announcement that revoked the two-victor rule had been a reality check for something that had in fact been too good to be true. She sometimes laid awake at nights contemplating this but as the train drew closer to District 12, Clove couldn't help but think of several things. For one, her sister Chive was here, and she hoped the two of them could cross paths at least once. Secondly, Peeta Mellark and Primrose Everdeen had been her enemies, even if Cato had been the one to kill them. She did not think that she would get a worse reaction here than she had in District 11, and she didn't think that Prim would haunt her vision the way Rue had. Still… it was something to think about. She also wondered about that sister of Prim's—the girl had lost her composure and had had to be subdued and restrained by Peacekeepers during the reaping, which meant that there was something fierce in her that Clove wanted to see more of. On the other hand, she half expected that young woman to try and break ranks to attack Clove—not that that worried Clove. She knew that the Peacekeepers would protect her, but there was still a little part of her that kind of wanted to fight this girl.

    If nothing else, she would have to at least learn her name.

    The Mining District was very similar to the Agriculture District in terms of behavior of the population. Many of them were poor, and a good number of them had dark or olive-colored skin, and so many of them had dour looks on their faces, clearly showing displeasure with their lot in life. It was clear that this was a dangerously rebellious district. Clove could only guess that their small population was what held them back from doing something dastardly—or maybe that was the District 2 girl in her thinking.

    Whatever the case, she soon found herself looking out at the close-knit population of District 12, gazing upon the two women that stood in front of Primrose's face, and the stern woman and three other men (one of them appearing older than the others—the father, Clove was fairly certain) in front of Peeta's face. Neither one of them had looked nearly as cool or intimidating as Thresh and Rue had back in District 11, but as she glanced at their serene visages in the holograms, she couldn't help but respect them as well. They were persistent and resilient, and despite everything—despite not being as deep of a thorn in Clove's side as Rue had been, they had put up a marvelous fight.

    During the Mayor's speech, however, she noticed that girl on Prim's stage glaring at her. Their eyes met and the eye contact remained from the time Clove stepped up to the podium to give her speech all the way until she had finished. Like in most of the districts before here (apart from perhaps District 1, and maybe some of 11), the applause here felt fairly forced, but was applause nonetheless.

    The confrontation that Clove was waiting for happened later that night at the feast. Clove was simply chatting it up with Enobaria over some drinks and a game of Red Maiden, when she saw the girl she had been scanning the place for this entire time.

    "I need a moment," she requested. Enobaria shrugged.

    "You just want to leave because I'm kicking your ass." She retorted.

    "That too," Clove played right along with that, "but this is another issue I've got to resolve."

    Clove confronted the girl with the dark braided hair, making direct eye contact with her despite being a few inches shorter than her.

    "My friend ended up being a killer," she launched right into her explanation, "and even then, I was the one to end his life as well. What do you want from me, girl?"

    She remained silent for a moment, her grey eyes watching Clove's hazel ones with a glaring sense of distrust that had the young victor strengthening her resolve.

    "I want my sister back." She replied bluntly. "And we both know how possible that is."
    "Did you ever watch the actions of Rue Keniye during the games, umm…" she paused, hoping that the slightly older girl would give her name.
    "Katniss—and yes I did. We are forced to watch the games here, unlike where you're from where you probably see it as a privilege."
    "If you watched Rue Keniye, you would understand my thought process." Clove explained, "I did what I had to, just as she did. I did it more violently than most others would, but my end goal was the same—I wanted to win. I did not kill your sister, and I'm fairly certain that in any other situation, I wouldn't have killed any of them—not even Rue."
    She sighed. "we all suffer losses in one way or another, Katniss. You can hate me for the rest of your life if that's how you cope. I've got coping of my own to do, and so despite my violent nature in the gamed—I'd rather we not start a confrontation here."
    she knew from the girl's reaping ceremony that Katniss was fierce, and she didn't want to provoke it—not just because she didn't want to cause a scene, but also because she felt that there could be an interesting friendship or rivalry forming here that could give Clove something to think about.

    Katniss did not respond to Clove's remark with much more than a nod. She did not seem happy, but Clove did not expect her to be. She had lost someone that she had clearly loved—and here she was thinking about the same thing. She knew what it was like to be lonely.

    While she went back to the festivities for a while, Clove couldn't help but think about Katniss. On one hand, she wanted a rival again, but on the other, Katniss didn't even seem interested in her. Perhaps there would be a time to rectify that sometime.

    She tackled that opportunity later in the evening right as Katniss was about to leave. Her words were brief, but she felt that they had a poignant effect.

    "We have more in common than you think," her last words had been towards Katniss, "I know what it's like to be alone…"

    And with that, the stop in District 12 soon came to an end, with Clove and her team returning to the train to head back up to the Capitol. That would mark her penultimate stop before returning to District 2 to conclude her tour after a speech for Cato. She did feel she owed him that much.

    Naturally, the next morning, Athena was thrilled to be on her way back to the Capitol for the grandest feast and celebration of the year.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, just as the Capitol outdid itself on this party every year, Clove's stylists outdid themselves dressing her up. She was clad in a radiant orange ensemble that resembled her outfit from the interviews before the games. It was a fiery color—hot, passionate, and yet held a streak of enigma to it. Oddly enough, as she, Enobaria, and Athena approached Coriolanus Snow's enormous mansion, her thoughts were fairly peculiar.

    "Is it odd that right now, all I can think about is how nice it would be to hold some throwing knives?" she turned to her mentor as they entered the grand hall

    "I… would have to say it is," Enobaria nodded, "are you planning on assassinating someone?"
    "Nah," Clove laughed, shaking her head, "I guess I just kind of miss the feeling. It's a nice sense of release—you know what I mean?"
    "I do know that much." Enobaria had to agree with Clove on that one. During the months leading up to the tour, the two women would practice knife-throwing and fighting in their backyards all the time. Clove was so attached to this art that she missed feeling the sleek, sharp blades in her hands, even if it had only been two weeks.

    "We'll have to worry about it later though," Enobaria pointed out, for soon they were in the midst of the partygoers proper, which meant only one thing: it was time to party it up.

    It seemed late, but the train had not arrived until later either, and similarly, everyone had slept in, which in turn meant that it was going to be a long night. Unlike those nights in the arena, however, Clove was pretty well-assured that this was going to be a long, glorious night, and, given all the wild food, drinks, and substances that were pretty much at her disposal, she was pretty sure that this night was going to go down in the record books for her…
    'The Crown of Zivia' Word Count: 64319
    'The Crusade of Zulera' Word Count: 52548
    'The Shadows of Shinzoka' Word Count: 51000
    'The Rebirth of Krippa' Word Count: 51000

    The Avatar in Chains (fanfic)
    Z. Zu. Zul. Zuzu. Zuly. Zulera. Lulu. 301. Zu-Zu. ZZ-Top. Zuliette. Zuley. Zulz. Zuul. Zubat. 'Lera. Zulianne. Z301. Z-hizzle. Z-dawg. Zulerey. Zully. Zulio. Luz. Ra-ra. Z-swiss. Zulera301.

  10. #30
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    AUTHOR'S NOTES: Well folks, this marks the ending of "The 74th Annual Hunger Games". There is actually 1 more epilogue chapter because I felt like something else needed to come after this, but otherwise, this story has successfully run its course, and has run it well, however lengthy. We got to see what happened if Katniss did not volunteer for the games, which in turn affected a lot of things down the road. Those who enjoyed this story might also enjoy seeing how Clove is faring a few years down the road in my other fics such as "The 91st, 92nd, or 93rd Annual Hunger Games", which are set in the same AU as this fic. Whatever the case, I hope you enjoyed reading this fic as much as I enjoyed (slowly) writing it. Also stay tuned-there may be a 'sequel' that details the events of the 75th Annual Hunger Games in the absence of a revolution.
    Either way... Happy Reading!


    CHAPTER 30: The Reunion

    It was not a great surprise that Clove enjoyed herself in the Capitol, and perhaps partially due to Enobaria's suggesting, she tried some of that infamous liquid the Capitol used to vomit up food so they could eat more. It was wasteful and decadent to the extreme, but Clove didn't even think about it when she tried it. Instead, she came out of the ladies' room glaring at Enobaria, who was laughing.

    "I forgot how much projectile-vomitting hurts," she quipped, smacking her lips as she washed her mouth out for the 3rd time with some more water. "I feel bad for the poor sod who has to clean that…"

    "the look on your face though," Enobaria elbowed the smaller victor.

    "You know what," Clove riposted without skipping a beat, "I don't think I've actually seen you give such a mirthful smile in all my life, En. Go ahead—laugh it up."
    "What, you think just because I'm a sassy, deadpan murderer that I suddenly don't remember what it's like to actually laugh for once?" Enobaria pretended to look hurt. "you wound me, Clove."
    "Get over it, you big baby." She elbowed her mentor playfully. The way they playfully jabbed at each other was clearly both women's way of showing affection, and Clove's relationship with her mentor had improved since becoming a victor. Not that it was ever bad in the first place, Clove figured—but it helped to stay on positive terms with the people that understood her problems the best.

    "What do you think Elroy is thinking right now?" Clove raised an eyebrow.

    "Probably on how he can break into my house and steal my booze," Enobaria replied, "Although I think he'd get a good laugh if he knew what you had just done."
    "I take it that this is a sort of hazing ritual?" Clove's eyebrow would have disappeared into her bangs if her hair had not been done up into a fancy bun for her outfit this evening. "the mentor always convinces the new victor to try this stuff, only to see their reaction."
    "You know it, kiddo." Enobaria teased. "so don't take too long trying to get another victor from '2… then you can try it on them."

    Clove snickered mischievously, and Enobaria patted her shoulder. Perhaps she was not as alone as she thought she was.

    The rest of the evening was fairly eventful in terms of how entertained Clove was. She partied hard, just like most citizens from District 2 did, and that made her a bit more excited to go back to home district tomorrow. She owed her friend Cato one last speech about what a great fighter he had been, and she seriously intended to deliver on that one. She wasn't about to read some script from Athena for that one, when she knew she could be fully sincere without inciting rioting or anything.

    The next thing Clove remembered was waking up in her train compartment in nothing but her undergarments, her hair still in that bun she had had it in the previous night at the Capitol, except that it was obviously a bit more frayed and frazzled than it had been. She took a shower before throwing on some shorts and a shirt and looking around for Athena, Enobaria, her stylists, or anyone, to explain where she was.

    "We're on the way to District 2," Enobaria explained, being the first one that Clove ran into and asked about, "you got wildly drunk last night and went under. We had to drag you back to the train."

    "Damn," Clove chuckled, "it sounds like I had a great time."
    "Well…" Enobaria shrugged, "don't go too far, or Athena will have a cow trying to find you. You need to get dressed up—we're almost there."

    "Alright, alright… fine." Clove pouted, "But tonight I'm not going to stop partying until I drop."
    "Fine by me," Enobaria chuckled, "we don't have to drag you to a train tonight."

    "But we will certainly miss you!" Athena had stepped in, her chipper voice shattering the attitude of earlier, although that might have been a good thing, in retrospect.

    To cut a long story short, Clove soon found herself dressed in a rather sharp looking suit of sorts, that looked like one of those higher-ranked military officers. The khaki color of her pants went oddly well with the navy blue of her jacket and her black shoes, and Clove couldn't help but smirk at how sharp she looked, especially with her hair in a very conservative bun, no less. She mentally noted that she wanted to take it out soon, but she'd make it last at least until she got trashed tonight at the party. After all, it was common knowledge that while District 2 was disciplined and loyal, that they actually also partied hard—so maybe being the "Capitol Lapdog" wasn't as bad as some might have thought.

    While Clove was fairly confident stepping out into the square where she was greeted with passionate cheers for their newest victor, her eyes got slightly watery upon seeing Cato's face behind his grieving parents. She had felt neutral or indifferent about 21 of the tributes—everyone except Rue, who she had oddly admired thanks to her cunning and deadly antics in the arena; and Cato, her powerful and loyal partner and ally to the very bitter end of the games.

    Thus, her speech about Cato was along those same lines.

    "I think that most of us know about the scripted speeches we victors give in each district," she began, "but I'm not going to do that here. Anyone who saw those games knows that Cato was my loyal, lifetime ally all the way from the moment we stepped off those pedestals to the moment we got the heartbreaking news of the rule change revoke. We were virtually inseparable, and we made a hell of a team. We laughed together, we fought together, we hunted together, and we thought we had won together. Know this—Cato Salazar fought bravely and valiantly, and was the worthiest of opponents to me. He deserved this victory as much as I did. Those who witnessed it know that it was simply business—and that I too wish that he were here now to see this."
    her speech continued for a few more minutes, praising Cato for everything she had liked about the boy during the time she had known him. despite getting teary-eyed again near the end, she kept her composure, and as she finished her speech, the crowds erupted into thunderous applause for a speech well-given. After the crowds dispersed, a smirk developed on Clove's face as she headed to the feast. It was time to party till she crashed.

    However, before she could reach the drinks, she was stopped by a fairly casually dressed woman that had the same hair and freckles that Clove did.

    "Chive!?" Clove gawked, "the hell did you come from?"

    "Why do you think I wasn't in '12?" Chive retorted, "I got a week and a half's worth of leave time the night before you pulled into District 11, and so I knew I would catch you here."

    "Shit, Chive…" Clove threw her arms around her sister, a light stream of tears flowing down both sides of your face, "you would not BELIEVE how lonely I've been. I mean… sure I've got Elroy and En… but mom and dad are still the same deadbeat fucks that they've always been, and you were so far away…"

    "Well, you know full well that I'll visit whenever I can, right, baby sister?" Chive undid Clove's bun and ruffled her younger sister's hair, "I tried talking to them too and they don't even remember me. Just… don't get too lonely with me, eh?"

    Clove squeezed her sister tighter. "I won't… just—thanks, Chive. I know I'm probably an ungrateful little shit about 80% of the time, but the games were a good lesson for me—a Rite of Passage, so to speak. Losing Cato, fighting Rue, realizing that I miss her too… it's weird, sister. It's so weird…"

    "I can't even begin to imagine what you might have gone through, even after watching it all on live TV," Chive admitted, "and I'm not going to try and console you by pretending that there's nothing wrong with you. Whatever happened out there, Clove—just know that you can always talk about it with me. I might not be able to understand it as well as I would like, but I'm here for you—I'm here to be that shoulder you can lean on whenever you need."

    "That's…" Clove sighed, "That's more than I could ever ask for. Thank you, Chive,"
    "Anytime," she ruffled Clove's now messy hair. "now… I believe overhearing you saying something about partying till you're under a table?" a smirk appeared on Chive's face, and Clove's suddenly matched it.
    "That sounds like something I would say," she nodded in agreement, and with that, the two of them spent the final night of the 74th Victory Tour together. There would be trials and hardships along the way—of that Clove had no doubt—but that didn't stop her from enjoying herself for now. What mattered most at this point though, was that her tour—and her troubles in the 74th arena—were over now, and she was ready to handle whatever else came her way…
    'The Crown of Zivia' Word Count: 64319
    'The Crusade of Zulera' Word Count: 52548
    'The Shadows of Shinzoka' Word Count: 51000
    'The Rebirth of Krippa' Word Count: 51000

    The Avatar in Chains (fanfic)
    Z. Zu. Zul. Zuzu. Zuly. Zulera. Lulu. 301. Zu-Zu. ZZ-Top. Zuliette. Zuley. Zulz. Zuul. Zubat. 'Lera. Zulianne. Z301. Z-hizzle. Z-dawg. Zulerey. Zully. Zulio. Luz. Ra-ra. Z-swiss. Zulera301.

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