Chapter Fifty
Ruarí Savage
Word Count: 1,082

When the rains came, she couldn’t say she was surprised.  She’d known the newest disaster was lurking just beyond her sights, waiting for an instant in which she dropped her gaze – just long enough to catch her off guard.  Perhaps it was the new rush of hormones, or maybe she had simply adapted to life in the arena, but she never lost sight of the threats that loomed in every direction.  She was confident in her choices and while the feeling made her re-evaluate her perceptions, it also gave her a small well of hope.  Not everyone was suited for the arena, everyone knew that – but Rory was beginning to think that she was a lucky one.  That somewhere in her psyche she harbored knowledge that went beyond her awareness, that she’d gathered skills and trades that could help her live through the Games.

Their steps squished beneath them and she wished she could make them quieter – but the torrential rain masked their movements and hid their footprints, even if it complicated their travels.   Hunting had taken less than an hour and, having caught sight of thick wisps of grey in the clouds, Rory had suggested they prepare the meat where they were.  She was glad for her minor paranoia, then, as they trudged through the muddy floor of the jungle.  The land had shifted, too, which further problematized their original plan to hunt and loop around to water.  Now they had to find water, but at least they had plenty of meat safely wrapped and stored in their packs, along with full bellies and readied weapons.  They had been travelling in silence for the better part of two hours when she heard it – the rush and roar of a river.  She halted and held her hand up to signal for Silas to stop, turning her head slightly to keep the rain from going in her ears while she listened closer.

She was right; the river was a few meters to their north east.  Hovering only a foot or two behind her, Silas caught the sounds of the river too and, pressing his hand gently onto her shoulder, he indicated with a few motions of his fingers that she should stay behind.  He’d accepted her suggestions all day without argument, the least she could do was accept his once.  She nodded and watched him walk off into the shadows of the trees, the rain dripping down from her nose and chin, her eyes desperate to follow his silhouette long after it vanished into the many others.  She wanted to follow him, she hated being separated – anything could happen and that was the force that propelled her forward into the uninterrupted darkness of the canopy.  She hadn’t let him out of her sight and she wasn’t about to start then; not when the GameMakers could shift the layout any time they pleased.

Visibility was terribly limited as it was, she could only see about seven or eight meters ahead – for all she knew, beyond her vision, the terrain spun wildly.

She caught sight of a silhouette roughly fifteen feet ahead of her but her stomach twisted into a knot.  She didn’t know how she knew but it wasn’t Silas, and that was more terrifying than anything she could imagine.  Her hand moved without her permission and she didn’t realize she had armed herself until she felt the cold, slick steel of her throwing knife in her palm, the pad of her finger pressing against the edge of the blade, testing its sharpness.  She weighed it against the end of her finger, measuring the force of the rain against it, rolling it around to get a feel for its movement.  All the while, her eyes moved between the silhouette and her weapon evenly, alternating every blink, until she raised the knife to aim and everything slowed.

There was a second silhouette then, creeping up on the first, and she didn’t need to see much to know who it was.  She held her breath, hoping to still her movements until she was invisible.  A wad of nervousness crashed into her stomach, sloshing acid around until she felt the swell of nausea.  She choked it back as Silas rose from his crouch, all fluid motion and deadly silence, the glint of his blade no more than a ghost in the rain.  His fingers wrapped beneath the nameless silhouettes chin, yanking his head back and forcing his mouth to remain closed while the edge of his hunting knife broke free the ocean of blood pumping through the mans throat.  From such a distance, Rory knew she couldn’t actually hear the muffled gurgle of a would-be scream, but she could almost feel it bubble up in her own throat.  Everything was drowned out by the sound of a canon.

Rory was beyond grateful that she’d followed Silas into the trees.  She could hardly choke down the panic of hearing the canon and she could still see him; she knew she would have lost her mind if she’d remained where she was.  Unable to see him, ignorant of all the activity – she’d have assumed the worst without a heartbeat of hesitation and gone traipsing into the darkness, calling out for him, unafraid of any who stood to keep her away from him.  Essentially getting them both killed with her recklessness.

Silas went back down to the ground without warning and she lost sight of him – but it was enough to warn her.  He’d been spooked by something; whether or not it was something he’d heard or seen she couldn’t be sure, but her eyes scanned the area with vigilance.  Just as she lowered herself to a crouch, her knife still raised above her shoulder, ready to be tossed, she saw it – another silhouette a little farther to the east than the first, closer to the river than to Rory or Silas, but a threat none the less.  She crept forward through the mud and the underbrush, the rain still pummeling her flesh, her clothes unable to absorb any more water, until she could see small details of the silhouette.  The shape of a weapons belt, the outline of a supply pack, the long, soaked red hair of a woman, pulled back into a tight braid against her spine.

Rory rose up a few inches and loosed the throwing knife.  A slick wet thud confirmed the kill, followed within seconds by the canon.

From behind her, Silas said, “Good shot.”

The End

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