I straighten up and lift my chin as Cinna would have told me to do. If he was here. . . No. I stop my thinking in its tracks. I can’t worry about what the Capitol has done with him yet. It’s time to focus. Sixty seconds is all I have to ready myself. Being the third time in the arena you’d think I’d have this down pat. The cylinder I stand on has me raised up over a flat plain of nothing but grass stretching out all around me. No trees. In front of me sits the golden cornucopia. I look inside it expecting to find mounds of weaponry but only my bow and arrows and a long, frightening looking sword sit at the mouth of the horn. Of course. There’s only two of us and nowhere to hide. This called for a battle here and now.
My enemy stands on his platform about forty feet away brushing his golden hair out of his hair, preparing himself to make a run for the sword. I caught my breath at the sight of his hair, his brawny build. Peeta. . . It reminds me too much of Peeta. But this wasn’t Peeta.
This muscular boy with the odd marks covering his body could have been from the Capitol if it weren’t for the numerous scars covering him from head to toe. Jace. I’d watched him be called from his series as the Mortal Instruments tribute. I’d seen his cocky behavior during his interview with Caesar Flickerman. He’d announced he had years and years of experience with killing—so did I, but when he announced what he’d been killing I had to give him the upper hand. I had to remind myself I was the one with experience in the Games. These Games were mine.
In Jace’s interview, he hadn’t even showed he had a heart until Caesar asked about a girlfriend. His response only added to his likeness towards Peeta. He was in love with a girl named Clary. That itself was enough that I couldn’t kill him. This Clary loved him too and who was I to destroy that? But if the rules were YA Fantasy Showdown rules were correct, I didn’t have to kill him; I just had to knock him down enough until Claudius Templesmith announced me Victor.
My sixty seconds are almost up. I position myself to run for my bow. Jace may be bigger, but hopefully, I’m faster. And as long as I get to my bow first, this will be over in seconds and I can get back to my own series.
Claudius Templesmith’s voice rings out of the speakers then. “Ladies and gentlemen, let the YA Fantasy Showdown round five begin!”
Then the gong sounds. My body reacts instantly and the cylinder no longer exists under my feet. The world disappears around me as my adrenalin gets pumping. Only my bow and arrow and I exist. And then my loaded bow is in my hand, poised to shoot.
I’d been right. I’m faster than Jace. But just barely. He freezes right beside me, eyes locked on mine, readying to bend and get his hands on his sword. I refuse to let that happen, but I can’t kill him. I’d killed too many for the Games. And every one of those kids’ faces will haunt me for the rest of my life. I cannot let his face, so much like Peeta, be another one. Then slowly an arrogant smile creeps onto his face. “What’s wrong? Little Katniss have a problem with killing?” He knows I won’t do it.
So I let my arrow fly. Right into his right forearm. Now he can’t fight. He lets out a grunt as the arrow finds his arm. As I stand there, another arrow ready to use as necessary he musters the courage, and pulls the arrow out. Blood gushes from the wound, but something happens then.
As he let the arrow drop to the ground, the blood flow slows. Unless my eyes are deceiving me, and I have no reason not to rely on my eyes, his arm begins to heal. The smile comes back on his face as he takes in my dumbfounded expression. “Don’t worry. I made sure to give myself enough healing runes to last me a while.”
I’m too confused to let another arrow go. He picks up the sword. I take a step back. His is a close range weapon. Mine’s not. The wound is healing, but not at a quick enough rate. He’ll still be at a disadvantage.
Unfortunately for me though, he does something I’m not expecting. He holds the sword in his left hand. Mutters a word I didn’t understand and the blade light up. Well, dang.
My mind’s flying. I can’t injure him. In order to win I have to kill him. In order to get back to my series I have to kill him. Now it was my turn to muster than courage. To let the arrow find his throat, his heart, his eye. A death blow. It would be cake. And now more than just Panem was watching. Other worlds were as well. And his world, his Clary, is rooting for him to win. The Gamemakers wouldn’t tell us what they did with the losers that didn’t die, but there’s no chance they would simply let us go home.
Jace takes on a casual stance. He even swings the hilt of his sword around on his fingers. “Okay look, I don’t want to kill you.” Still arrogant; it helps in my resolve to kill him. It takes away his likeness towards Peeta. “Well, after that arrow, I’m tempted,” he admits. “But I don’t kill people.”
“I guess it’s my lucky day then,” I add, arrow still at the ready.
His smile comes back. “Our lucky day,” he corrects me. “I’ve watched the Games you beat. Twice. So I figured between your brains and mine, we could both make it out a victor.” He pauses, letting his words sink in. He’s right I did beat the Games twice. I didn’t win them, I beat them. That’s what I’m good at. So why am I thinking him as only my enemy? Just like I did two times before. Treat all the wrong people as my enemies. “Or,” he continued, “I can just kill you. But then how’s Peeta to get out of the Capitol alive?” he taunts.
Jace knows. How does he know? That of course never aired in the Games. Peeta’s in the hands of the Capitol, in the hands of President Snow and it’s my fault. I have to help him. I can’t if I’m dead though. And he needs to make it home to Clary.
But camera’s are on us right now though. Hearing every word he’s saying. We’ll be lucky if they don’t simply blow one, or both, of us up. But they haven’t yet. . .
“How?” I ask him. I still haven’t dropped my arrow or my guard. This could all be a trap.
He pulls something from his pants pocket. It looks almost like a pen, but it’s not a pen. “My token,” he says. Then he starts walking back to our platforms that hadn’t been lowered yet. I follow him warily.
“What is it?”
Then he began to draw an odd symbol on his platform. “My stele. Clary taught me a few of her runes before I was brought here. Get on,” he said once the odd design was finished.
I get on with him and then like magic the platform begins to lower. My heart skips a beat as I struggle to jump off, but he grabs my wrists and keeps me on the cylinder. “They’ll kill both of us!” I yell.
“Haymitch really didn’t tell you anything did he?”
What? Tell me what?
We are brought back down into the launch room and greeted by none other than Haymitch and Plutarch Havensbee.
“It’s about time,” Haymitch says. The usual annoyance in is voice is obvious.
“What’s going on?” I shout, jabbing Haymitch in the chest.
“Between Jace’s friends and the rebels, it wasn’t that hard getting in to get you two out,” Plutarch explains. Haymitch has done it again. Lied to me, kept me in the dark.
“You can yell all you want later, sweetheart, but now we’ve got to get out of here.”
Predicted winner: No one