1. The thing about the Quell was that to understand the Quell, you couldn’t start there. You had to back up a bit.
Because, see, it didn’t start with something being read off a neat little card. It started with the 74th Hunger Games.
Well, the 73rd, too. And the widespread Victor rebellion centered around the second Quarter Quell.
But the final straw was the 74th.
2. The 74th Hunger Games had the usual buzz of contraband magic just beneath the surface. This would have been less of an issue if Maddison Moss hadn’t been one of the names drawn.
(The Capital thought they had caught all of the elicitors.)
(Elicitors were quiet. Elicitors were sneaky.)
(The Capital was wrong.)
3. Madison ended up allied not to her district partner but to a couple of twelve year olds that everyone knew had no chance in the arena. She did her best to protect them.
(This is how an elicitor’s power works: Someone uses magic or doesn’t contain their magic well enough. The elicitor draws it into themselves. It doesn’t hurt them.)
(But elicitors are not shields to deflect it. They are not vessels to hold it. They are sieves, and they leak it.)
(They leak it, and it poisons those that the magic’s original owner hates.)
The little girl reaped in a red hoodie who left blood red handprints on her kills with a magic of shadows and madness inside. Her treacherous district partner’s witch magic. The half-fey Mordred.
She drew it in.
And then it leaked out and killed and killed.
Starting with her allies.
She was screaming when they picked her up in the hovercraft.
She was not screaming when she was brought into the Capital.
But she was still leaking poisoned magic. And all tributes hated the Capital.
And when Snow figured it out, the Peacekeepers came and then -
4. None of the tributes came home that year.
5. Round about the time when the Victory Tour should have been, the fire in the districts turned into riots.
6. The last time something like that had happened, it had been largely the Victors fault, so it was perhaps understandable that the Capital blamed them for it now.
Of course, the purges after the last time it happened meant that there weren’t quite enough Victors in all the districts to go around now.
So the Capital had to improvise.
7. Most of the Victors who had rebelled had been killed.
Some of them had possessed abilities that were just too tempting for the Capital’s scientists to pass up.
8. When that still wasn’t enough, they branched out to Victors’ families.
9. So when the day came, the victims after the dust and volunteers were settled were:
District One: George Knightley and Catherine de Bourgh
District Two: Jackson Downey and Ellen Stephenson
District Three: Scarlett Overkill and Dr. Nefario
District Four: Relda Grimm and Mr. Canis
District Five: Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Caitlin Todd
District Six: Toothiana and E. Aster Bunnymund
District Seven: Friar Tuck and Cara Prioress
District Eight: Myrtle Fay and Igori King
District Nine: Max McHale and Irina Spalko
District Ten: Morgan Orkney and Gawain Orkney
District Eleven: Anne Cuthbert and her young cousin Davy Keith
District Twelve: Polly Plummer and Digory Kirke
“Emergence after long seclusion” they said of the formerly imprisoned Victors.
The other Victors’ “Welcome backs” were lost somewhere in Prioress’s shaking hands and Irina’s fever bright eyes.
10. Knightley’s eyes were dark and empty. Catherine de Bourgh had a long sharpened tongue she was not about to blunt for the Capital’s sake.
Jack’s old charm was hardened by a year of dealing with a wizard and an enchanter’s grief. Ellen had never wasted much charm on the Capital in the first place.
Scarlett was hysterically over the top. Nefario sat hunched in his seat and misheard words at just the wrong moment.
Relda was sharp and Canis’s wolf growled close to the surface. Gibbs was curt, and Kate was angry to cover the way her hands shook. Toothiana was far too interested in everyone’s surgery enhanced teeth, and Bunny’s back paws tapped as if eager to summon a tunnel and be away.
Tuck was falsely jovial, but Prioress was on the verge of being too far gone to speak at all. Myrtle was distant. Igori grimly uncooperative, Max and Irina cruelly desperate.
Morgan aloof. Gawain brimming with rash anger. Anne sharp and shattered. Davy shaking. Polly and Digory old and dismissive of these paltry games before the Games.
Interviews, in other words, were . . . interesting.
11. From the beginning, the plan was to get out, at least among the Victors that could be trusted. From the beginning.
But if that was the beginning, and escape was the end, there was still the middle bit when they were waiting for the rebellion to distract the Capital’s elicitors so that Bunny could use his tunnels to get them out.
And in the middle bit, people died.
12. Canis had been fighting with the wolf for a long time. The arena proved too much for it.
He lost control, and little Davy died.
(Little boy, little boy, let me eat you up.)
Anne flew at him with nail, teeth, and dagger, but he threw her off. She hit the water, and the wolf had closer targets to pursue.
(Anne never came out of the water.)
He set his eyes on Tooth.
(Little green flying girl, come see my shining teeth.)
Wings on the sand.
(Do you believe in memory?
The Capital controls it.
Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy?
There’s no proof to show it.
Do you believe in the Big Bad Wolf?
In blood and death and madness?
Granny Relda couldn’t talk him down. Not this time.
Gawain grabbed a sword from the Cornucopia.
(Monsters kill innocents. Heroes kill monsters. And if the innocents are still trapped inside the monsters, than there’s nothing to be done.)
They were supposed to team together. There was a plan.
But in the confusion of fighting Canis and the awakening of old instincts, things got out of hand.
When the cannons boomed, there were too many dead.
And it was better not to question which of the fleeing Victors had killed them.
13. Igori was dead.
(Igori’s ears were always slightly too big for his head. The Capital hadn’t liked them, but his fiancée had said they made him look endearing.)
Myrtle was dead.
(Faeries can’t die. They never really die. But every time they lose a battle, a new monster is born.)
Nefario was dead.
(He wasn’t supposed to be there. Two years ago, nothing could have dragged him back there. But two years ago, his best friend hadn’t adopted two tiny little girls.)
Knightley was dead.
(Knightley had been a dead man walking for two years now.)
14. Everyone was supposed to protect Bunny, but too many alliances were broken now. It was every district for itself.
And sometimes, as Tuck discovered after he ate the food Prioress prepared, sometimes not even that.
15. The cannon boomed and Prioress moved on. She hid in the shadows of the jungle for a night and a day until she found a clear path to Gawain and Morgan’s cookpot.
Gawain ate and died.
(Those with faerie blood never really die. They just go on and on to Avalon.)
Morgan didn’t eat. Morgan lived.
And Morgan was angry.
(An enchantress knows all about poisons. An enchantress knows all the best ones.
And Morgan had always believed in an eye for an eye.)
(She had been scared, so scared of going back, of being in those white rooms with the doctors who picked and poked and lit her mind on fire - )
(She never had to go back.)
16. Scarlett, Max, and Irena went hunting.
They hunted Jack and Ellen.
That was a mistake.
Only Max got the chance to run away.
17. Max tried his tricks on Kate and Gibbs.
Neither Gibbs nor his knife were impressed.
18. The arena was a clock, and in the clock was a wedge that held a monster.
Polly and Digory were old. Brittle bones. Aching muscles. Shaking hands.
But it was a fine way to go, fighting monsters.
19. Catherine de Bourgh ran out of the jabberjay wedge with her blade held high and a warcry on her lips.
She ran straight into Morgan.
Morgan thought she was attacking.
Only Morgan walked away.
18. Bunny felt it when his power was free again. If that wasn’t enough of a sign, Sandy’s dust swirling through the air and forming an arrow pointing right to him would have done it.
He opened a tunnel.
And then he settled in to wait.
Sandy’s dust dissipated. He could see the Capital’s hovercraft coming in.
There. Kate. Gibbs.
Running. Running. Running -
20. The rebellion that followed was blood and lies and dark magic and death.
And then, in the end, it was victory.