Unfavored Odds - Chapter 2
just finished spamming people’s dashes with chapter one and now chapter two is out to terrorize you all. each chapter is nearly 7k words long and takes a ton of effort to write, so blease reblog and comment if you enjoyed!!
The glass surrounded Annabeth to whisk her up to the arena, and her breathing became rapid and shallow. She screwed her eyes shut and revised the simple plan they had all formulated the day before. They were going to rush the Cornucopia to secure weapons and supplies, killing anyone that got in their way. The hunt would begin after that, but it was vital they got there first. The other tributes were more accustomed to hunting and surviving in the wild, but as Careers, they desperately needed the food, water, and supplies within the Cornucopia.
When the platform finished raising her into the arena, Annabeth had to shield her eyes from the harsh sunlight beaming down on her. Once her eyes adjusted, she realized they were all standing on metal platforms, evenly spaced apart around a large lake, and the Cornucopia sat at the center on a large steel platform. Bags were tied to buoys bobbing in the water, presumably holding weapons and supplies of inferior quality. Behind her, there was nothing but sloping sand dunes and shrubs in the immediate area. Annabeth was thankful she was a strong swimmer, but there was something about the placid water that disturbed her.
She had no time to dwell on it, however, because moments later the cannon fired and the Games began.
Annabeth dove into the lake and headed straight for the Cornucopia. There were two wicked knives near the mouth of the Cornucopia, and she’d be damned if she didn’t get to them first.
Twenty meters from the Cornucopia, Annabeth realized something was wrong. The tribute to her right suddenly disappeared underwater mid-stroke. Panic and adrenaline coursed through her, pushing her even faster. Her fears had proven right: there were things under the water's surface, and she didn’t want to take chances with them.
Her hands grasped the Cornucopia’s platform when needle-like teeth sunk into her left ankle. She cried out in pain and struggled to claw herself out of the water, but she found no purchase. Terror shot through her as whatever bit her leg tried to drag her underwater. If that happened, Annabeth knew that she was good as dead.
She scrambled desperately to reach a weapon, anything she could use to fight off whatever was gnawing on her, but they were too far away. If another tribute stumbled on her right now, even one of her allies, she was doomed. Cannon fire sounded like fireworks as the mutts in the water drowned and devoured the other tributes. Unable to think of anything else, Annabeth kicked viciously at the mutt, her fingertips barely holding onto the edge of platform. She kicked at it with all her might five, six times but it pulled her down far enough for the water to lick her eyes.
“This is it,” Annabeth thought. “I might actually die here.”
White hot anger surged through her and she kicked with every ounce of energy in her body one last time. When the pressure loosened enough for her to pull herself onto the platform, she almost sobbed with relief. Annabeth’s body shook uncontrollably as she hyperventilated. It took her almost a minute to breathe normally enough to stand, a full minute spent utterly defenseless. She used the time to study her mangled ankle, which was in horrid shape. Thankfully, she could still put her weight on it enough to hobble into the Cornucopia.
She took the daggers she’d seen before and breathed a sigh of relief. Another tribute poked his head from behind a wall of supplies, hefting an axe, but Annabeth threw a knife that lodged into the back of his skull, killing him instantly. She limped over to him to retrieve and clean the knife as the cannon fired to signal his death. Now all that was left to do was wait for her allies.
Will was the first to arrive, less than a minute later, wet but untouched. He looked at her for a second and grabbed a bow and quiver full of arrows.
“One of them got you real good, huh?” Will said, nodding to her ankle.
“I can manage. It looks worse than it really is,” Annabeth lied, tearing off a piece of gauze she found to wrap around her ankle.
Will didn’t deign to respond and turned back outside and nocked an arrow. He picked off any tributes he found struggling in the water until Pearl and Luke showed up two minutes later. They had fared worse than Will, each sporting injuries: Luke with his shoulder and Pearl with her thigh. But out of all of them, Annabeth was by far the most heavily injured, which made her the most vulnerable. Her hands tightened around the hilts of her daggers.
Pearl and Luke ventured into the Cornucopia for weapons and returned with a pair of tomahawks and a sword respectively. Annabeth decided to take stock of the supplies while the other three stood guard in front of the Cornucopia. She found a backpack stuffed with medical supplies, a waterskin, and several smaller throwing knives.
As she gathered more supplies, Annabeth heard Pearl whispered to Will, “How bad is she?”
“She says she can manage,” Will muttered.
Annabeth joined them at the mouth of the Cornucopia, a smile plastered to her face. “I’m fine! I’ll just be a tad slower, but it shouldn’t be an issue.”
Luke started to speak, but the entire lake suddenly began to vibrate. Small waves formed and crashed into each other as four metal platforms rose from beneath the water’s surface, connecting the Cornucopia to the edge of the lake.
“Well, it’s good we won’t have to go back into the water,” Will said.
“Still,” Luke said. “Annabeth’s ankle is going to be a liability.”
Annabeth shot him a dirty look, but Pearl chimed in with agreement. “Yeah, she’s only going to slow us down and make it easier for other tributes to escape.”
Her eyes narrowed at the sight of Luke grasping the pommel of his sword and Pearl began to casually toss her tomahawks in the air.
“What are you trying to say?” Annabeth asked, voice low and dangerous.
The other two looked to Will who had been watching the exchange pensively, but before he could speak they heard commotion from the other side of the Cornucopia. They rushed outside to find a girl from District 4 brandishing a spear, a fierce expression on her face. Annabeth didn’t realize she was strong enough to carry a spear before she remembered the girl had scored a seven in training - she was no push-over.
She swung the spear in an arc to keep Luke and Annabeth at bay. Will nocked an arrow, but she ducked behind the Cornucopia for cover. Pearl circled around the opposite side to catch her from behind while Luke rushed in to serve as a distraction. He danced out of the way of her thrust and parried another with his sword before Pearl snuck up on her and killed her.
Even before the cannon fired, Annabeth had already started sprinting down one of the raised metal platforms. Her allies’s betrayal was imminent, and she needed to put as much distance between herself and Will’s arrows as she could. It took only seconds for the others to realize what she was up to.
“Get her!” Luke growled.
Annabeth could hear Pearl racing after her and imagined Will readying himself to take a shot.
Despair sank into her. It was no use: the platform was so thin she could only run straight, and even if it wasn’t she’d seen Will hit moving targets with ease. The platform was also slick with water, which made her fear for her footing. Falling into the water meant death - it made her a sitting duck for Will and if by some miracle he didn’t get her, the mutts would.
Suddenly, there was a disturbance in the water behind her, and she turned to see Percy burst out of the lake and break Will’s nose. Then, he hurled a javelin at Pearl, forcing her to jump into the lake. Annabeth’s eyes widened with surprise and gratitude, and Percy offered a nod of acknowledgment before diving back into the water as Luke came storming out to meet him.
Pearl thrashed in the water and reached desperately for one of the four platforms, and Will chose to help her instead of going after Annabeth while Luke searched for signs of Percy in the water. Satisfied that she’d put enough distance between them, Annabeth stopped at the end of the lake to fill up her waterskin before running into the desert behind her.
Annabeth ran for what felt like hours across the sand. She had stabbed herself with a morphling injection she found in her backpack, but running on her splintered ankle was still torturous. Forging through the sand in the scorching heat made progress slow. Sweat soaked through her jumpsuit, and still the desert stretched endlessly before her.
She hoped beyond hope that the lake wasn’t the only source of fresh water in the whole arena, but then again that seemed exactly like something the Gamemakers would do. If they were smart, the Careers would just camp the Cornucopia and wait for the other tributes to invariably come to the lake for water before picking them off. By her estimates, she had enough water in her waterskin for two days max if she rationed carefully, which meant there was a good chance that the further she ventured into the desert, the closer she brushed with death.
As the sun set, Annabeth’s knees trembled from the effort to keep her standing. The morphling had already started wearing off, removing the haze obscuring the pain in her ankle. She hobbled over to a copse of strange trees and decided to make camp, but first she collapsed on the sand and stared up at the false night sky, panting. Her tongue felt like sandpaper as she took a shallow drought from her wineskin. The water was warm and she stopped before it made any real difference abating her thirst.
Then she unwrapped her blood-soaked bandages to take stock of her ankle. The wound made her grimace as she wrapped it with clean bandages. Annabeth tried not to dwell on how fast her entire plan for the Games had turned on its head. She was supposed to be with the other Careers, on the offensive and not worrying about supplies, but here she was instead: nursing a maimed ankle and hiding in the desert by herself.
When her stomach growled forebodingly, Annabeth forced herself up and grit her teeth at the sharp spike of pain that shot through her leg. She had two more morphling injections left, but she didn’t dare use them now in case she needed them later. Throwing knives in hand, Annabeth surveyed the area for any signs of life. She had spotted lizards scurrying about earlier in the day, but it still took her the better part of an hour to find one. It had nearly escaped her, burrowing into the sand, but she managed to kill it with one of her smaller throwing knives in time.
She used her knowledge from the survival stations to gut and clean the lizard back in her makeshift camp in the copse. It was a nauseating experience, but she had no other choice - she had to eat. Making a fire was borderline suicidal, so Annabeth came to disgusting realization she would have to eat the lizard raw. She closed her eyes even though she knew it made no difference and took her first bite. The flesh was slimy and too salty, but it was still food.
After she finished her dinner, the names of the fallen flashed on the arena’s ceiling. Pearl, Luke, and Will had all survived, of course. Both tributes from District 3 died, including Beckendorf, the boy she’d noticed at the parade. The girl from District 4 died as well, but Percy’s name didn’t show up, which made Annabeth feel relieved, much to her chagrin. The other suspects, Clarisse and Reyna, had both made it past the first day. In total, a little under half the pool had died already, leaving fourteen tributes still at large.
Annabeth took one final survey of her surroundings for any signs of danger and decided to turn in for the night. She climbed one of the trees, sat on a sturdy branch, and leaned against its trunk. At first, she thought paranoia would keep her awake, but her body was dead tired and all she remembered was closing her eyes and immediately drifting off.
The shot of cannon fire jolted her awake. Annabeth wiped her bleary eyes and rubbed her shoulders, shivering. It was still dark out and hard to see, but Annabeth scanned her surroundings and noticed a disturbance in the East. There was something on the horizon, like a cloud moving along the ground. Her eyes burned with the need for sleep, but she resolved to wait until the cloud disappeared.
What started as a small cloud rapidly gained in size and crossed the dunes with unnatural speed. Her hair stood on end, and her suspicions were confirmed shortly after a hovercraft shot towards the storm to retrieve a corpse. This was undoubtedly something the Gamemakers had cooked up to make things more interesting.
By the time Annabeth climbed down the tree, an immense wall of sand was bearing down on her. She had, at most, a ten minute head start, but the storm appeared to be accelerating. She stabbed her leg with another morphling injection and started to run in the opposite direction. Her ankle screamed in agony, even through the wash of the morphling, but she willed herself to keep moving.
Her path led her to the foot of a dense jungle, and Annabeth made a bee line towards it. Cannon fire sounded yet again, pushing her even faster, and another hovercraft zoomed into the storm. She crossed the tree line just as the sandstorm finally overtook her.
Instinctively, Annabeth held her breath and screwed her eyes shut. She braced for impact but the storm still tossed her off her feet, buffeting her into a tree. Desperately, Annabeth emptied her backpack and stuffed her head inside before she allowed herself to breathe again. The storm’s ferocity tossed her around like a rag doll, but she tried her best to shield her wounded ankle with the rest of her body.
The storm passed after what felt like years, and Annabeth counted to fifty before cautiously removing her head from the backpack. She brushed the sand off her, gathered her fallen supplies, and took another sip from her waterskin as light began spilling through the canopy and illuminated her surroundings.
Annabeth did not like the sight of this jungle one bit - it had to be crawling with mutts and other tributes. Most likely, the sandstorm had been intended to corral tributes here - if killing tributes off was the primary aim, it would have been far worse.
For a brief moment, she looked back at the desert and considered returning but immediately abandoned the thought. There was no hope of finding water there, but here there was at least a chance. Besides, she had to start hunting other tributes sooner or later. With a sigh, Annabeth shrugged on her backpack and limped further into the foliage.
It took all of five minutes in the jungle for Annabeth to find herself missing the desert. All around her, the sound of rustling leaves and underbrush conjured images of mutts lying in wait, ready to tear her to shreds. At least in the desert, she could see what was going on around her.
Her progress through the jungle proved slow and miserable. It was impossible not to jump at anything that made noise. The air was humid and had her wiping sweat off her brow what felt like every other minute. Her ankle also throbbed in pain with every step she took. To top it all off, the jungle was so large and dense, she had no sense of direction. She had no idea where she was or where she was going. For all she knew, she could have been walking in circles the entire time.
After about an hour or so, Annabeth sagged against the trunk of a tree to take a break. Her ankle was in so much pain she couldn’t bear to take another step. Hunger gnawed at her stomach, so she dropped her backpack and decided to start hunting for food again.
A sudden whooshing in the air made Annabeth instinctively drop to the ground. A spear lodged itself in the tree behind her, missing where she’d been standing seconds earlier. She rolled into the brush and searched desperately for her attacker.
She couldn’t run, and she didn’t want to. It was time to fight.
Noise came from somewhere to her right, but throwing one of her smaller knives would give away her position. Annabeth held her breath and stretched her hearing to its utmost ability. Though it was subtle, there was a difference in the way humans and animals moved through vegetation: animals had far more grace.
A sound behind her made Annabeth turn and hurl a knife at her attacker. Clarisse burst out of the foliage and turned her shoulder to catch the knife, keeping it from piercing her heart. She ripped the knife out and tossed it behind her. Annabeth shuffled backwards as Clarisse prized her spear and charged towards her.
Annabeth’s hands moved faster than her mind, and she threw dagger after dagger at Clarisse, trying to avoid getting in range of Clarisse’s spear. Her aim was true, but Clarisse’s reflexes were exceptional and allowed her to avoid fatal injuries. A few of Annabeth’s knives made contact, but they seemed to have no effect because Clarisse didn’t slow down at all.
The last of her throwing knives expended, Annabeth drew her two longer knives to fight in close quarters. Clarisse thrust at her with her spear, but Annabeth stepped to the side and darted in to close the distance. Annabeth stabbed Clarisse’s stomach but her knife stopped like it had run into a wall. Clarisse dropped her spear, grinning, and caught Annabeth with an uppercut to the jaw. The impact tossed Annabeth off her feet, and the crack of pain made her vision swim.
She scrambled to her feet and barely avoided the flurry of punches Clarisse sent her way. It was only the years of training at the Academy and her own incredible reflexes that kept her alive.
Eventually, Annabeth found an opening and cut a line up Clarisse’s forearm but somehow drew no blood. It was then Annabeth noticed the glint of metallic black body armor under the torn sleeve. That explained how Clarisse had tanked all the knives she had thrown earlier.
Annabeth gnashed her teeth together. The fight was now considerably harder. Her only hope was to get Clarisse from the neck or above, but Clarisse was nearly a full foot taller than her. Reaching her neck fast enough to kill her was practically impossible, but she had no other choice. Annabeth had no doubt that even unarmed, Clarisse could bludgeon her to death with her fists alone.
She waited for Clarisse to punch her again and moved to slice her face, but Clarisse danced back in time. Seeing she was off balance, Annabeth pushed the offensive and thrust at her windpipe. Clarisse moved her head so the blade went harmlessly past, and then caught Annabeth’s over-extended arm. Annabeth tried to break Clarisse’s hold, eyes dilated in fear, to no avail.
Clarisse pinned Annabeth to the ground and held her shoulders down with her knees. Annabeth squirmed and tried to buck the other girl off her, but Clarisse had her full body weight on top of her, making it impossible to escape. Clarisse’s huge hands wrapped around Annabeth’s throat, strangling her.
“This is where you die, Career,” Clarisse spat.
Black spots blossomed in Annabeth’s vision, and her lungs burned like they were tearing in two. She stabbed at Clarisse’s thigh, but the body armor ensured her dagger did nothing. Annabeth scrambled to find a solution, but her thoughts felt distant, like sound traveling underwater.
On the verge of passing out, Annabeth threw her knife at Clarisse’s head. In reality, it was more like she tossed it in that general direction, but it got Clarisse to dodge instinctively. That subtle shift in Clarisse’s balance was enough for Annabeth to free one hand and punch Clarisse square in the throat.
The effect was instantaneous. Clarisse choked and fell backwards, clutching her own neck. Annabeth grit her teeth and mustered all of her strength into a vicious slash to Clarisse’s neck, trying to generate enough power to slice through Clarisse’s fingers and reach her throat.
Her dagger came away dripping crimson, and Clarisse gurgled, eyes wide with panic. She spat blood and clawed at her throat in a desperate but feeble attempt to staunch the bleeding.
When she realized it was futile, Clarisse glared at Annabeth with hatred and hurled her fallen spear at her with the last vestiges of her strength. Annabeth didn’t even have time to react as the spear whistled past her, cutting the tip of her ear, and plunged into the dirt behind her.
Clarisse collapsed and then the cannon fired to toll her death. Annabeth stared at her corpse holding her breath, half-expecting Clarisse to get back up to finish the job, but the body remained mercifully still. It was only then that Annabeth inhaled, and as if recalling she’d nearly been strangled to death, she doubled over and wheezed violently. Her bruised neck throbbed with pain, making it excruciating to breathe.
Her coughing fit lasted over a minute, but once it was done Annabeth sat up and tenderly probed her neck with her fingers. Even the slightest contact made her wince, and her voice was but a hoarse whisper. In a display of ludicrous strength, Clarisse had also badly sprained her arm somehow when she’d caught it earlier. Annabeth could barely raise her arm to shoulder level now.
She clutched at her arm and muttered to herself, “Great, don’t have an arm or a leg either now. I’ll definitely win the Games at this rate.”
That was when Annabeth felt the cold touch of steel at her neck. “Oh, don’t worry. You won’t.”
Annabeth dared not a move a muscle, her breath caught in her throat.
Incredible. It was just her luck to barely survive a duel to the death with Clarisse only to be ambushed immediately afterwards. She wouldn’t even see the face of her killer.
Oh well, nothing to do now but close her eyes and pray for a swift death.
Someone barreled through the foliage and shouted, “Reyna, wait! Don’t kill her!”
Annabeth’s eyes shot open - she would recognize that voice anywhere. “Percy?!”
The blade cut into her skin just enough to draw a trickle of blood, and Percy quickly said, “She could be useful. She knows about the other Careers, especially the boy from two. It’s better to keep her alive.”
“She’s a Career,” Reyna spat.
“Look, I know Annabeth’s not exactly the friendliest of people, but you have to trust me on this.”
Despite the circumstances, Annabeth rolled her eyes and croaked, “Thanks for the vote of confidence there, jackass.”
“Kinda trying to save your life here, Chase,” Percy muttered, voice tinged with fond exasperation.
When Reyna was silent, Percy dropped his voice to barely a whisper. “Reyna, please.”
A few heart-stopping moments passed and then the edge of Reyna’s blade vanished. Annabeth turned and stood up to find Reyna sheathing her sword and glaring at her, eyes cold. There was a deadness in them that made Annabeth’s throat dry up - she had no misgivings Reyna would have lopped her head off if Percy hadn’t intervened.
“Fine, Jackson. She’s your responsibility now,” Reyna said tightly. “But know this: if she so much as looks at me funny, I will kill her on the spot.”
Annabeth set her jaw. “I’d like to see you try, bitch.”
Reyna took a step forward, eyes flashing, but Percy got in between them, trident in hand. “I promise I’ll keep an eye on her. Now can we all stop with the threats and play nice?”
Reyna shot him a glare and stomped away, muttering obscenities under her breath. Percy watched her go with a sigh before he turned back to Annabeth with an accusatory look.
“I know I’ve said this before, but you are fucking terrible at making friends.”
Annabeth crossed her arms over her chest. “She started it.”
Percy pursed his lips and stared at her for a moment before shaking his head. “You’re unbelievable.”
Annabeth rolled her eyes and retrieved all of her daggers. It took her longer than normal because she had to make a show of picking them up slowly to satisfy Reyna, who watched the entire time, a hand wrapped around the pommel of her sword. Once she found them all, Annabeth went back to Clarisse’s corpse and dropped to a crouch.
When she started cutting Clarisse’s jumpsuit, Percy said, “What in the world are you doing?”
“She’s wearing body armor,” Annabeth grunted. “I’d be an idiot not to take it.”
Cutting through the body armor proved to be a pain. She had to saw through the sleeves and leggings to make it fit better, but eventually the material did yield. Once she was done, Annabeth had to strip out of her jumpsuit to put the body armor on, much to her chagrin. Percy had the decency to turn around, but Reyna stared at her the entire time.
Afterwards, Annabeth cleared her throat to let Percy know he could turn around and said, “Okay, what’s next?”
“We need to find water,” Reyna said curtly.
Annabeth worried her lip and wrestled with herself a moment before she sighed. “I’ve got some left in my waterskin. Want some?”
They both looked at her in surprise and nodded. Annabeth fished her waterskin from her pack and handed it over. They both took a small sip, just enough to keep from complete dehydration, but the waterskin was noticeably lighter when they returned it to her. If she continued sharing, they would run out of water before the day was out.
“Do we want to risk going back to the lake for more water?” Annabeth asked.
“We’ve been searching the jungle for over a day for any signs of water, but we haven’t had any luck,” Percy said, looking to Reyna.
Reyna considered a moment and said, “I think we should keep looking, at least for the rest of the day, to be certain. If we still haven’t found anything, we’ll have no other choice but to head for the lake.”
Annabeth was loathe to stay longer in the jungle, but she couldn’t deny Reyna’s plan was sound. With a sigh, Annabeth said, “That’s fine by me.”
“Are you okay to walk?” Percy asked, nodding to her ankle.
“I’ll deal with it,” Annabeth said.
Percy looked unconvinced but didn’t argue with her. Honestly, Annabeth was dreading a trek through the jungle for something that might not even be there, but she held her tongue. She could not afford to seem weak in front of them - Percy might change his mind about her usefulness otherwise. Annabeth sucked in a breath and followed Percy’s lead as they ventured further into the jungle, weapons drawn.
Although Annabeth would never admit it aloud, having allies was not all that bad, especially if you were stuck wandering a jungle filled with genetically-engineered monsters that wanted to bite your face off or worse, hormonal teenagers. They moved in a triangle formation with Percy at the top, which enabled them to cover multiple angles of attack. The hardest part was keeping pace with them while ignoring the way her ankle screamed in pain. Annabeth came incredibly close to using her final morphling injection at several points, but she grit her teeth and just endured it.
They had been walking for three agonizing hours when they heard a scream, not far from them. It was followed promptly by the sound of cannon fire. Immediately, the three of them raised their weapons and scanned the foliage. Annabeth’s throat dried up as her fingers fumbled with the zip of her pack and fished for her last morphling shot, in case they needed to run.
They all stilled and held their breaths as the shrubbery ahead of them began to shake.
“It’s probably a mutt,” Annabeth whispered. “We should run while we still can.”
“Think it’s too late for that,” Percy muttered.
As if on cue, a lizard poked its head through the shrubbery and regarded them with blood red eyes. Annabeth’s heart raced in her chest, but she dared not move a muscle. Although this lizard was different from the one she’d killed in the desert, there was a chance it was not a mutt.
Just as she thought that, the lizard hissed, displaying its frills, and spat something that nearly hit Percy in the face. The purple spray hit the tree behind him and ate away at the bark like acid.
Suddenly, the jungle came to life around them as lizards changed out of their camouflage and appeared to materialize from thin air, surrounding them on all sides. Annabeth subtly injected herself with morphling - they had no hope of killing all of them.
“We have to run,” Annabeth breathed.
When Reyna nodded tersely in agreement, Percy nodded to his right where there were fewer lizards. The three of them sprinted that direction as the lizards reared their heads and spat acid. Annabeth’s eyes bulged at the ridiculous distance the spray traveled, nearly ten feet away from the lizard itself.
As the quickest, Reyna took the lead and vaulted further into the jungle while Percy and Annabeth followed. Adrenalin coursed through her helping the morphling dull the spiking pain from her ankle, but over time Annabeth lagged further and further behind Reyna and Percy. In her desperation to keep up, she stumbled over a stray root and ate a mouth full of dirt. She scrambled to her feet, but her ankle refused to support her weight any longer. Percy caught her mid-fall and tossed her over his shoulder like a sack of flour and ran. Words of protest bubbled up her throat, but Annabeth remained silent and tried not to move to make it easier on Percy.
By some miracle, they made it all the way to the tree line without issue, but then Percy screamed and pitched forward. Hitting the ground so suddenly knocked the air out of her lungs momentarily. She sat up, wheezing, and scrambled over to Percy on her hands and knees. Acid coated his right shoulder and emitted steam, making him spasm uncontrollably. Reyna deftly cut a chunk of his jumpsuit and tossed it aside with the tip of her blade, but some of the acid had already seeped through and begun dissolving the skin beneath.
Bile rose to Annabeth’s throat at the sight of injury - it looked like something from a nightmare. The acid had eaten a fist-sized hole into his skin, leaving raw flesh, strings of muscle, and bone exposed. The most disturbing thing was that the wound did not bleed. It was as though part of his shoulder had simply been clinically removed.
Reyna dropped to her knees to inspect the wound and looked at her. “Do you have something in that backpack of yours to help with the pain?”
Annabeth shook her head. “I had some morphling injections, but I used the last one when the lizards attacked. I do have bandages though.”
“That’ll have to do for now,” Reyna said, wiping some sweat off her brow. “Don’t want this getting infected.”
Annabeth rummaged in her backpack for some gauze bandages and tossed them to Reyna. Reyna tore off a long strip with her teeth and set about wrapping Percy’s wound with practiced ease. Percy grit his teeth and screwed his eyes shut but couldn’t help violently groaning at the contact.
“You’re good at that,” Annabeth said to Reyna, trying to distract herself.
Reyna continued working without looking at her. “Let’s just say that I’ve had lots of practice.”
Her tone made it clear the conversation was over.
Annabeth tried to watch but found she couldn’t bear it. Percy wouldn’t have gotten hit if he hadn’t been carrying her, she was sure of it. It was all due to her fucking ankle. She would have died without his help because of it. That was twice now he’d saved her life, and for what reason? Why go through all of that trouble for her? She wasn’t from his district or anything. Hell, she wasn’t even nice to him. It didn’t make any sense.
Annabeth stood up, unable to sit with her thoughts, and told Reyna she would have a look around. The other girl made a noncommittal noise and left Annabeth to her own devices. Annabeth scaled the dunes nearby and shielded her eyes from the glare of the sun, searching the horizon. At first, she saw nothing of interest but then something glittered in the sunlight off in the distance.
“I think I see the Cornucopia from here, maybe a two or three miles away,” Annabeth called down to Reyna. “At least we’re close to drinking water now.”
Reyna snorted and said, “Percy’s too wounded, and I don’t particularly trust you enough to take on your old buddies alone with you. For all I know, you could be setting up an ambush for your friends.”
Annabeth narrowed her eyes. “They’re not my ‘buddies’. Percy was there when they turned on me. Ask him if you don’t believe me.”
Reyna opened her mouth to say something, but Percy convulsed and grabbed her forearm, delirious with pain. Reyna pursed her lips, pried his arm off gently, and continued tending to him. Lines of worry creased her face, making Annabeth soften a bit.
“At the very least, we should move. It’s not safe out here in the open this close to the Cornucopia,” Annabeth said.
“We’ll move when Percy can walk again,” Reyna said curtly.
“That puts us all in danger,” Annabeth argued. “We have no idea how long it’ll be before he can move again.”
Reyna shot her a nasty look and said, “He might recover quicker if you stop whining like a child and help me patch him up.”
Annabeth barked a harsh laugh. “Patch him up with what exactly? I gave you all the medical supplies I had. Without me you would have fuck all to help him with.”
“Without you, he never would have been hit in the first place,” Reyna snapped.
A string of insults hovered on the tip of her tongue, but Annabeth swallowed her pride. Right now what mattered most was helping Percy, not trading words with Reyna.
“Fine,” Annabeth said, crossing her arms over her chest. “How can I help?”
“Remember the plant station back in the training center?” Reyna said. “Look for something that either helps with the pain or works as an anti-venom.”
Annabeth pursed her lips and nodded, making her way to the jungle. She tried not to stray too far in case she got lost. She scoured the vegetation for anything helpful she remembered from the plant station. Although she remembered most of what she learned, she didn’t find anything that could help. She spent an hour looking but was forced to turn back at nightfall - she didn’t dare risk staying longer in case the mutts returned.
“I couldn’t find anything,” Annabeth announced on her return.
Reyna sat hugging her knees to her chest beside Percy, who was fast asleep, presumably knocked unconscious from the pain.
“We can look again tomorrow morning,” Reyna muttered. “I killed a lemur for dinner. I cut a portion for you, unless you want to hunt on your own.”
Annabeth’s stomach rumbled, reminding her she hadn’t eaten all day. “No, I’m fine with the lemur. Thank you.”
Again, they couldn’t afford to make a fire, so Annabeth had to eat the meat raw. Annabeth had never heard of a lemur before until learning about them in the training center. It was a strange looking animal. It tasted better than the lizard, but that might just have been because she was starving.
Images of the fallen were broadcast on the ceiling while she ate. Five more had died - the boy from five, Clarisse, both the boy and girl from ten, and the boy from eleven - bringing the total down to nine tributes. Pearl, Luke, and Will were all still alive. Annabeth, Percy, and Reyna brought the number up to six, which left three more tributes.
“We’re already near the end game,” Annabeth muttered.
Reyna nodded and said, “I would be surprised if this lasted five more days.”
Before a lull fell in the conversation, Annabeth cleared her throat and said, “So since when were you and Jackson a thing?”
“Since I asked him to be allies after the last day of training,” Reyna said, raising an eyebrow. “Is there something wrong with that?
“No, it’s just- you guys seem like polar opposites to me, that’s all,” Annabeth said, shrugging.
Annabeth squirmed in place. “You know, you’re all stoic, and he can’t shut up-”
“I’m just pulling your leg, Chase,” Reyna said, laughing. “You’re right, we are totally different. I can’t really explain why, but there’s something different about him that makes me want to trust him.”
Annabeth found herself nodding. “I think I know what you mean.”
Reyna gave her a sidelong glance. “Then why didn’t you ask him? I mean, you were practically joined at the hip on the first day.”
“Please, he was just messing with me,” Annabeth scoffed, blood rushing to her face. “But, to answer your question, trust just— doesn’t come easy to me.”
Reyna hummed to herself. “Yeah, same here. Who knows? If I had a parent like Percy’s mom, maybe I’d be different.”
“You had problems with your mom?” Annabeth asked.
“No, my dad,” Reyna said, sighing. “My mom died when I was a kid. Messed my dad up real good. He was a peacekeeper, you see. It’s why I know how to use a sword. He beat it into me, literally, since I was a kid, so I could defend myself in case I ever got reaped. I think it was just his messed up way of trying not to lose me, but it just made me hate him.”
Annabeth was silent for a while before she said, “My mom died in the third Quarter Quell.”
Reyna’s eyes widened in surprise. “Your mom was a previous victor?”
“Yeah, she won the 59th Games. Got reaped for the Quarter Quell when I was eight,” Annabeth said tightly. “She was my hero growing up. I wanted to be just like her. Her death messed my dad up too, not in the same way though. It just- I dunno, it’s like it sapped the life out of him. He stopped taking care of me, taking care of himself. He just sort of wasted away, but I needed him. I had just lost my mother, and it was like I’d lost him too. So I was forced to rely on myself, and I have ever since.”
There was a pause before Reyna said, “I’m sorry I was so awful to you before. I thought you were just another glory-hunting Career.”
Annabeth shifted in place uneasily - she still was a glory-hunting Career. “It’s alright.”
Reyna shook her head and said, “No, you have to understand, in the other districts, we don’t have an Academy or anything, so we were always terrified of the Careers. It felt unfair, like we were lambs put in a den of wolves.”
Annabeth had never considered that before, but it definitely explained all the animosity the other districts held towards the Careers. Honestly, she had never thought much about other districts at all. District 2 was all she had ever known.
“You’re from District 9, right?” Annabeth found herself asking. “What’s it like there?”
Reyna looked at her in surprise for a moment before a wistful tone crept into her voice. “It’s beautiful. You should see the grain fields in the sunset, the barley swaying in the breeze. It ripples like a sea of gold, and the air is sweet with the smell of the Earth. During the harvest, everyone sings together in the fields as they work, and sometimes when the mockingjays join in, being alive isn’t so bad.”
When Annabeth was quiet, Reyna stood up and brushed the sand off her thighs. “Get some rest. I’ll take first watch, and wake you in a few hours.”
If Reyna had said that earlier in the day, Annabeth would never have agreed to it, but now she found herself nodding in agreement. Letting guard down because of one conversation about barley fields was moronically stupid, she knew that. But for some reason, Annabeth felt like if she didn’t trust Reyna now, there was no hope for herself.
And so, Annabeth set her daggers beside her and laid down on the sand. The softness was sinful beneath her aching body, so sleep came to her almost immediately. The last thing she saw before her eyes fell shut was Reyna’s silhouette, standing regal under the moonlight.