<----- Chapter 3 - The Avox

Tara shifted in her sleep, nightmares of tongues and needles having woken her up frequently over the course of the night, only to calm down and drift off again upon feeling the arms of Blaze around her. He refused to let her stay in her bedroom alone after she burst into tears the previous day. But the morning had arrived and they both woke and climbed out of bed, and Tara hurried over to the wardrobe and opened it. The sight she was met with was absolutely incredible.

Carina had obviously seen that something was going to happen to her before the Games started, and there was definitely something furry about each of the other two outfits prepared, one labeled ‘Interview’ and one ‘Games’. The first was a beige and silver dress, long sleeves with the cuffs and the bottom of it adorned with some sort of fur. She could only assume it was another clue. And the second actually seemed to be made out of an animal’s pelt, the coat sporting fur on its entirety. Stroking the fur, Tara smiled a little. It was beautiful... both of them were. Her finger traced the number one on the chest of the coat before allowing Blaze to lead her to the place where they’d actually be training.

As she expected, he hurried off to the station where people were practicing the creation of fires. She knew his plan, he wanted to send flaming spears out if he could. He wanted her to purely focus on survival skills, but there was no way that was happening. She needed to defend herself. So rather than go to the camouflaging station as he wanted her to, she instead turned her focus to one where snares were to be practiced. There were some complicated knots to be made, but she managed to tie those with ease. The trainer was thrilled with her rapid progress, and a grin crept on her face at footsteps of someone running to the station before she slipped one in the girl’s path. A satisfying thud was heard, and she smiled.

“Geez,” the girl muttered before standing herself up. “Could treat a tribute more nicely pre-games you know, would be a better way to gain allies.”

“Come on, I needed to be sure that snare actually worked,” Tara told her as she quickly leant down, untangling the girl’s foot. “There. By the way, what’s your name?”

“Bellona,” the girl replied. “District Four. Don’t need to ask who you are of course, the Callaghans are probably the most famous family in Panem.”

Laughing, Tara nodded. “Shame Sheila’s mum didn’t survive when she was playing... they destroyed the supplies our districts were hoarding the year she was called. Not that she made it beyond the bloodbath.” At least hers and James’s mother were still alive. And that neither her brother or half-sister were made an Avox.

Smiling as she watched Bellona struggle with the knots, Tara leaned over to her and helped her produce a satisfactory snare to propel an unsuspecting human into the air by his or her leg, and Bellona deliberately triggered it with her foot just to make sure it worked. A grin crept onto the girl’s face, and she shook Tara’s hand. “You know, you’re a real natural at this.”

“More a natural with knives,” Tara admitted with a wide smirk. “Just don’t let anyone else know... already feel I can trust you and my boyfriend. And when the private training comes, the Gamemakers.” Because she didn’t want anyone that wasn’t a career knowing her talents, and if she ran into them she wanted to tell them personally once they were allies. “What about you? What’s your preference?”

“I’m more one with the bow and arrow. Hoping to get my token back soon though,” Bellona replied, standing up and walking with Tara to the spear launching station, and they were both silent as they targeted the dummies, Tara grinning as she pierced one right where she knew it would hurt the most on a person. There was definitely going to be some fun for  the Careers when they got out onto the arena. With a bow and arrow practitioner, someone working on throwing flaming spears and one with a thing for throwing knives, they were powerful enough with just the three of them. Tara idly wondered what the other half would be like.

The rest of the day went as was expected, only there was a bit of commotion going on behind Tara as she made to leave the training center, and she looked around to find a ginger-haired boy being forced to part with the knife he had been practicing with. She raised an eyebrow at the boy as his tribute partner went over to him to guide him away, and she was struck with a wave of recognition as she saw the girl’s face. The smug people from District Two. Did she have to work with them?

The next day however they ended up running into each other in the fire-starting station. Looking coldly at them, Tara realised they looked way too young to actually [i]want[/i] to be there. “Hello,” she said, rather stiffly despite the fact she was quite curious as to how they looked so alike.

“Hey,” the girl replied with a smile. Tara noted that it was a genuine one as opposed to the smugness they showed on the chariot. “Your outfits were gorgeous, you know... casual but still that air of luxury.”

“Thanks,” Tara replied with a proud smile. They actually liked how she an Blaze looked? That was definitely a pleasant surprise. “That was my boyfriend Blaze Greenwood... and I’m Tara Callaghan. What are your names?”

“Ala DeVoll,” the boy replied. “And this is my sister Acantha.”

Twin sister,” Acantha added. “Turned thirteen week before the Reaping.”

“You two certainly look very alike,” Tara told them with a grin as she successfully made a small flame. “So what are your plans for the Games?”

“Ally with the other Careers,” Ala informed her. “And more importantly stick together until the end, or else end up going together.”

“That’s what I’ve got in mind with Blaze...” She held out her hand to show the ring she was wearing. She had been given it back overnight, the ruby stone a precise match of Blaze’s hair. His promise ring to her that he would marry her no matter what... and now their dream would never be fulfilled. “We were hoping to be able to get married... but with us both in the Games...” Her voice trailed off, and Ala actually moved to pat her on the back. “I... can’t think what I’d do without him...” she whispered.

“You poor thing,” Acantha muttered, and she gave Tara a hug. However she was alarmed that Tara pushed her off. “What was that for?”

“I don’t want people thinking I’m too scared to fight,” she told them with a slightly annoyed glare. “If I wanted to appear weak to the public then I would ask you to do that. Blaze of course can do it whenever, because we are lovers.”

“Fine, fine,” Acantha said impatiently, shaking her head but grinning all the same. Watching the twins get back to their training, Tara stepped over to the window, it set to show the view of the floor above’s. She tensed up a little at the sight of the full moon, remembering the calendar that Carina had given her and what happened as a consequence. But as well as that, she also remembered the odd pattern it was in. Two days between each quarter... and now she thought about it she also remembered that the day they entered the arena was the second day of the new moon. But the question remained why.

The rest of that day, and the day following that, had the twins separate from Tara as she practiced with various other weapons, and she surveyed the rest of the tributes. Like Bellona, the boy from Four showed a keen interest in knot tying. The others seemed fairly good in their areas, but they would be no match for the careers, Tara would make sure that was the case.

Finally, the time came where they were to be called up from the lunch room to the training room, one by one. The first name to be called was Blaze Greenwood, which meant she would be second. Looking around at everyone’s faces, she took a rough estimate of what scores they would get. No doubt the twelves would wind up with a low score. She felt she was bound to get a twelve though, either her or Blaze. Blaze probably, for the ingeniousness of his plan.

After a couple of minutes of waiting, she heard her name being called out, and the woman got to her feet, nervous but refusing to show any signs of it, and walked over to the doors, stepping through to the different stations. Her gaze examined each one as the doors closed, before she walked over to one with the shine of steel. Her treasures were here... now all she needed to do was show off her talent.

One knife was taken into each hand, and she launched herself forward, at the targets for arrow shooting, and after rolling over she threw one of the blades at the centre, before spinning around and launching the second knife right at the nearest dummy’s head, the angle of the throw enough to sever the fabric and behead the thing. She felt several pairs of eyes upon her, and dove out of sight, and curious looks were what she could see of the Gamemakers as they looked for her. She carefully snuck behind the target she had struck earlier, and snatched the knife from the circle it had hit before throwing it right over the Gamemakers’ heads, watching with satisfaction as it pierced the heart of a second dummy - or rather, where the heart would be if it were a human.

The look of shock on their faces at the sudden ‘attack’ with the knife immediately turned to laughter, and applause soon followed. They must have been impressed with her aim. One of them stood up - she could only assume it was the Head Gamemaker - and cleared his throat. “You may go, Miss Callaghan,” he told her with a nod and a - Tara hardly dared to believe it - friendly smile. She hurried out of the room without another word, a nod of gratitude towards the Gamemakers before she disappeared from their sight. Her focus was on getting to the first floor, where she would meet their mentors, Blaze’s stylist and - if he could bother to - their escort.

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