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The Half-Blood Games

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I rested my head on my pillow.

Work had been canceled, so I had the next few hours to do whatever I wanted. Which, of course, meant practicing my knife work.

That was, unless my great-aunt, Hestia, wanted me to help out in the orphanage.

My aunt had never gotten married, and never wanted to get married, for that matter. But she loved children. And seeing how dangerous factory work was, District 3 made a lot of orphans, myself included. So she had made an orphanage, which now has 70 members, 30 of which were eligible for the Games.

So, it's understandable why she'd need my help every once in awhile.

As a seventeen-year-old, I was one of the oldest people at the orphanage. I was well known, mainly because I was Hestia's great-niece. A lot of the younger kids liked me.

I grabbed the knives I kept in my drawer and ran into the backyard.

According to Hestia, my father had been a talented knife wielder, which was how he made it to the final four in his Games. When I practiced, I felt closer to him, so I tried to do it every day.

I threw them at a tree, nailing my target everytime, before practicing my footwork, my thrusts, and my jabs. Eventually, Hestia came to me.

"It's time to get ready," She told me.

Right. Because it was The Reaping today. The day when two children, one boy and one girl, were selected from each district to fight to the death for the enjoyment of The Capitol. Fun.

District 3 didn't have many victors, and unlike the career districts, we thought of the games as a death sentence, not an honorable competition or whatever those people thought.

I rummaged through my closet, trying to find my best outfit. I instantly settled on the dress I always wore; a simple grey dress that had belonged to my mother. I did my hair up in a simple bun, and went to help the twelve-year-olds, who had never been to a Reaping before.

That was always the worst. You had to answer all their questions, look into their terrified eyes, wondering if their name would be drawn while reassuring them that it wouldn't. Today was no different.

When everyone was ready, we all met in the dining room. The orphanage was decently large, and so was the room. All 30 of us fit in it easily.

"Okay children, let's go!" Hestia said, her smile not quite reaching her eyes. She wasn't radiating her usual calming vibe.

We followed her out of the stone building I had called home my entire life, and down the streets of District 3 to Town Square. District 3 had twelve main factories, where mainly everyone, including myself, worked. We supplied Panem with all of its technology, so our factories were huge, and employed thousands of people. They were the cause of the black plumes of smoke that were always in the sky.

According to our history books, District 3 used to be a wealthy district. But after we played a major role in the uprising against the Capitol, we suffered a major economic decrease, and our living standards worsened. In other words, most people live in small houses, crammed next to each other, and live paycheck to paycheck.

When we finally reached Town Square, we lined up in front of the woman who was taking our blood and registering us. I barely even felt the pinch.

Our Town Square wasn't fancy. The ground was made of cement, and circling it were all the shops, where I regularly helped Hestia shop. In front of the Justice Building was the stage, which had T.Vs on either side of it, which were showing us, lining up by our age groups, boys on one side, girls on the other. The entire area was surrounded by Peacekeepers.

There were three people on the stage; the mayor, an old man named Zeus. Minerva, District 3's escort, fresh from the capitol and dressed in a poofy dress covered in feathers, her face covered in white powder and her hair done up in a complicated braid. She looked like an owl. And District 3's only surviving victor, Vulcan, who had won ten years ago.

In total, District 3 has had ten victors. But eight of them have died from old age, and one of them hanged themselves, leaving Vulcan as the only living one.

We were slightly early, so I had to wait as more people arrived. I was a bundle of nerves. Even though there was a very small chance of my name being called, The Games had always been terrifying to me. Ever since Hestia told me what happened to my father.

I remember it like it was yesterday. She had sat me down, and explained, very softly, what had happened to my parents. How my father had died in the games, and how my mother had died birthing me. And I definitely remember being in the library, reading a book on the 52nd Hunger Games, and seeing the picture of the games victor, Amphitrite, from district 4, beating my father's head in with a rock, blood and bits of his brain covering the ground and her hands.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Now was not the time to remember that.

A few minutes later, everyone was here, and the mayor began his speech. He talked about the history of Panem, how the Games were a punishment for the districts rebelling against the Capitol. Everything they taught us in school, over and over again until it became as familiar as the back of my hand.

Eventually, the mayor finishes and calls Minerva to the stage. She walks with cold steps, her entire body language giving a clear message; don't mess with me.

"Happy Hunger Games," She starts. "And may the odds be ever in your favor."

She walked over to the glass bowl containing the girls names, not even bothering to talk about how it's a huge honor to be here like most escorts.

"And first, for the girls," Minerva says, gingerly plucking a piece of paper from the bowl.

My name is in there 12 times, seeing as I'd sometimes take the terrasse if the orphanage was struggling. I held my breath, along with everyone else, desperately hoping my name wasn't called.

Minerva made her way back to the microphone, her heels clicking on the ground the only sound that could be heard throughout Town Square. She cleared her throat, and, in her stern voice, read the words that would change my life forever.

"Annabeth Chase."