Chapter 15: Cornucopia Bloodbath
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Across the country tens of thousands of people watch their televisions. The sight on every television screen is the same: a group of teenagers and a handful of pre-teens are standing on mounds of metal in the middle of a clearing in a forest, though a few other distant biomes exist, like a lake, further away from the central focus of the teens. 

Audiences across the country are glued to their T.V. screens as one auspicious, famous voice is projected across the arena, and into the television screens of thousands of families. The voice of the legendary announcer, Claudius Templesmith. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, let the Seventy-Fourth Hunger Games begin!” The voice booms, as hundreds of thousands of eyes remain hyper-focused on the events unfolding on their screens. The youths in the center of the forest clearing tense up as they hear the voice and ready themselves for what is coming. 

The youths are all facing the same object, a gigantic golden horn shaped like a cone with a curved tail. This is the famed cornucopia, a treasure trove positively stuffed with expertly made weapons, survival gear, and other necessities for surviving the Games. 

The teenagers surrounding the cornucopia have a number of expressions on their faces. Some look horrified, their faces filled with fear and crushing sadness. Others look nervous, but hopeful, their eyes fixated on the treasure arrayed before them. Some of the warriors around the cornucopia gaze at the cornucopia but they are not focused on it. Instead those warriors are focused on their surroundings, using their eyes of observing to carefully note who surrounds them. 

The teenagers are all abiding by one of the few rules of the Hunger Games. They all know to wait a full minute after they are lifted to the surface of the arena before making a mad dash for cornucopia, or else they will be blown to bits by land mines that are currently primed and set to go off if they detect a shift in the weight on top of them that lasts longer than a split second. 

With each passing second, the tension in the air grows. Every single person, all twenty-four of the teenagers who are meant to kill each other, stares at the cornucopia and wonders what to do. Some of them have plans that involve sprinting away from the bloodbath that will occur here, but only one of them has plans for a specific tribute. 

Cossus towers over his peers. He is standing tall and straight and peering straight ahead, his eyes locked on the cornucopia. As the seconds crawl by the stoic look on his face begins to shift. Slowly the neutral expression on the animalistic warrior’s expression turns into a cruel, excited smile. 

He is positioned far from Katniss, but he is fast. His eyes flicker over to her, and he notes the positions of the assorted tributes around him. He has no allies near him, but he also has no real enemies between himself and Katniss.

Thresh and Rue are both behind him, and so is the tribute known to Katniss as “Foxface”. Peeta is on the other side of Katniss, and Cossus fully expects that when he kills Katniss Peeta will react and be slain in the ensuing chaos. 

Katniss is studying the treasures hidden in the cornucopia as part of a means to tempt tributes into heading towards it and getting caught up in a brutal battle over choice weapons and gear. Cossus cannot read minds, so he doesn’t know this, but Katniss already sees the very bow and quiver of silver arrows she’d long for that she’d normally be fated to acquire from Glimmer’s corpse. 

Katniss is internally struggling with herself as she ponders what to do. She is trying to fight her instincts, which shout to her to sprint to the bow and arrows, due to the advance she had been given by her mentor, Haymitch Abernathy. Nevertheless the lure of the weapons she has the most confidence in call to her, and result in her making a mistake. 

She grows more confident in her decision to hurl herself at the cornucopia, right until she looks and sees her fellow District 12 tribute Peeta looking at her and subtly shaking his head at her. Cossus notices this as well, and his smirk grows even more animalistic. 

Seconds before the gong that signals that the tributes can move, sounds, Cossus silently activates “Observe” as he peers at Katniss. The smile on his face grows even more visceral and threatening as he reads the text boxes that appear in his mind’s eye.

No one on Cossus’s team knows his plan, and that is what the towering warrior wants. A gong pierces the silence that has fallen over the area immediately surrounding the cornucopia and Cossus immediately begins to sprint, pushing his legs harder than he has ever pushed them. 

The very nanosecond that the gong that signals that it is safe for us to leave the metal pods we stand on goes off I begin a fierce sprint. There is no hesitation in my gaze, no pity, and sheer bloodlust propels me forward. 

As I hurl myself towards Katniss Everdeen my mind fills with memories. I recall every second I spent in my brother’s academy, and my muscles tense as I remember every single fight I was ever in. Every punch I hurled, every time I got kicked, has all led to this. Internally I roar in triumph. This is my moment, my chance to begin the walk towards mastery of the perks that allow me to be the superhuman being I could become, if only I am diligent and remain dangerous.

I sprint past young tributes making their way towards the cornucopia. As I dash past them a few try to get lucky and swing on me, but I either dodge their minuscule blows or ignore them completely. Katniss is surrounded by a powerful golden aura of light, and I intend to snuff it out before she can get her hands on a bow or before she can speak to Peeta since in this timeline I did not make the same mistake that Cato made by dealing with District 12’s male tribute. 

Katniss is oblivious to me closing the distance between us, as she is still reeling from looking at Peeta who tried to warn her against dashing towards the cornucopia. He actually sees me and his eyes widen in alarm when he notices me angling myself to run past the treasure trove of the cornucopia. Katniss sees this and turns right as I close in on her. As I get close enough to her to hit her I utter a single word. 

“Die.” I say, almost softly as I ball my falls and launch a single powerful attack on the tribute. My blow hits her square in the stomach and I feel the raw strength of my blow lift the tribute off of her feet. 

My super-charged senses allow me to feel the subtle snapping of the bones of my first victim, and I hear the visceral sounds of her body reeling from my blow. She coughs and blood flies out of her mouth, all while I feel her body going into shock. I am hyper-focused on this particular battle, but even so, I can hear Peeta cry out in shock and fear. 

At this moment, as far as I am concerned, there are only two people in the entire world: Katniss Everdeen, and myself. The world around me slows as I feel my body gaining more power. I can see Peeta Mallark beginning to run towards me, and as a consequence of that, I watch Katniss’s injured form diminish ever so slightly… Thanks to the power of the Inverse Ninja Law. Peeta also subtly feels it, but he is too blinded by rage to pay needed, possibly life-saving attention to himself. 

Knowledge begins to slowly seep into my mind as I edge ever closer to awakening yet another perk. Distinctive memories of hundreds of hours of repetition of martial arts techniques stir within me, seeping into my very body as if I had been the one who spent entire years endlessly practicing martial arts. “White Lotus” is inching ever closer to fully awakening… That is the name of a powerful perk that would bestow me with lifetimes worth of knowledge specifically of martial arts. 

I close my hands and prepare myself to use the unarmed fighting techniques I am just now learning and mastering right as Peeta gets close enough to me to try and take a swing. His thick fist is impressive, for a mundane person, but he is clumsy and uncoordinated and I am effortlessly able to dodge his blow by swaying out of the way. 

He overcommits to his attempt at saving the girl he loves and he is unable to stop himself from almost tripping as momentum carries him past me. I do not bother responding to his ill-fated attempt at heroics, and instead, I retract my fist so that I can position myself to take advantage of the newfound knowledge and instincts that I possess. Katniss sees this and she tries to hurl herself backward so she is out of range of my techniques. 

I doggedly pursue her and laugh all the while. I know this strange behavior must be frightening to those who see us, but many tributes are wise enough to not try and meddle with our fight. Even gigantic warriors like Thresh and Cato do not try to interfere, and all around us tributes are reaching the cornucopia, grabbing something good, and then fleeing into the forest or one of the few other biomes in the distance.

The next blow I launch at my spirited, but doomed, competitor is a powerful knee strike raw momentum of my sprinting coupled with my muscular weight. This blow unsurprisingly connects with her stomach and sends her reeling back. 

I can feel more of her bones shattering in the wake of my superhumanly heavy strikes, and I do not give her even a split second of reprieve as I grab the collar of the jacket that the tribute is wearing. It is the same hooded jacket I am wearing, as we are all mandated to wear the same tribute uniform during the games, though the uniform is different each year. 

I pull her close with one hand and with the other I hurl a single truly devastating punch aimed at the neck of the Girl on Fire.

The entire country of Panem is watching the event known to many historians and armchair commentators of the Games as “The Cornucopia Bloodbath”. People throughout the country are on the edge of their seats as they watch their children die, kill, and reveal their true colors in the heat of battle. This is an annual event, even within the grander narrative of the Hunger Games themselves, but none of these yearly visceral battles have ever been this memorable. 

Families listen intently as Claudius Templesmith winces and offers surprisingly opinionated commentary on the brutality of Cossus’s treatment of Katniss. He is delightedly commentating on the raw power of the tribute from District 1, and throughout the Capitol itself, the loud exclamations of an enthralled audience reverberate throughout eerily empty streets. 

The Career Pack are casually slaying various tributes unlucky enough to try and sneak past the chaotic battle occurring between Peeta and Katniss, and Cossus. They have managed to put their hands on various fun toys given by the Capitol to expedite the brutal slaying of various youths. Nevertheless, the country is captivated by the fight between Cossus and the two tributes from District 12. 

When Peeta almost trips as Cossus gracefully dodges his attacks and lands another brutal blow on Katniss Primrose Everdeen cries out in fear and disgust. The preteen is beside Gale, Mrs. Everdeen, and Peeta’s family, all of whom are watching the battle in real-time. 

Gale’s eyes narrow as he watches Cossus grip the collar of Katniss’s jacket, but of the assorted citizens of District 12 only Mrs. Everdeen sees Cossus’s other fist ball up in the nanoseconds before he launches a single, simple, and devastating punch. 

In the eyes of the families of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark time itself seems to slow as they watch the gigantic fist of Cossus Braun slice through the air and race towards Katniss’s neck. 

Ghriza herself excitedly watches this event unfold, and when the fist of her chosen champion reaches the neck of the unlikely heroine, the eldritch entity begins to howl in laughter. The blow strikes true, and as it does it is propelled by the destructive power of Cossus’s nature as a jumper and a plethora of dark perks. All of this mixing together causes the entity’s fist to glow with a radiant white light visible to all, even the drones that record the brutal combat. 

The curtain of radiant light that protected Katniss is snuffed out by Cossus’s entropic fists and destructive hatred. No miracle or unlikely occurrence occurs to keep the malnourished but spunky heroine safe from harm, and Cossus’s life-ending fist not only slams into her neck but actually tears through her skin, and bones, and comes out the other end of her neck, covered in blood and bone. Katniss’s life is ended in an instant, and the pain she feels is mercifully short, though unimaginably intense. 

Katniss’s death is not the first of the 74th Hunger Games, but it is certainly the most seen of the deaths that occur during the very first minute or two of the rush to the cornucopia. Cossus is still for a split second, his hand still jutting through the neck of the teenager whose life he has just snuffed out. 

Peeta lets out a pained wail, but the inarticulate sound he emits is drowned out by the triumphant sound that Cossus emits. The inhuman sound that the tribute from District 1 emits is a sound no human could ever hope to replicate, a horrifying, discombobulating wail that mixes bloodthirst, hatred, and elation into one sanity-rending noise that no television is able to reproduce. And that is before the eager murderer begins to glow, his skin beginning to emanate supernatural light as perks begin to fully burst to life within him. 

Peeta, who is right behind Cossus, gets an earful of the deafening vocal attack that Cossus has just unleashed and is stunned by the mind-damaging audible assault of the inhuman tribute. Cossus turns around and his long arms snake forward and grab Peeta by the neck. He effortlessly lifts the remaining half of the tributes from District 12 off of his feet and then unceremoniously crushes the neck of the would-be warrior. The man’s life is snuffed out mere seconds after his girlfriend’s life was ended, by the very same entity who crushed the Girl On Fire.

“Two… Down.” The inhuman entity whispers as he turns his gaze towards the cornucopia. The career pack all gaze at the figure who is the closest thing to a leader they have, but their eyes are filled with fear. They have been cowed and dominated by the powerful entity, especially since his skin is still emitting rather mysterious light. 

Cossus does not bother approaching the cornucopia. He merely gestures, using his head, towards the forest where the majority of tributes that escaped the cornucopia fled. His companions are paralyzed by fear, but after a few seconds, they nod at their “Leader” and begin to slowly walk towards him, and the forest, where they all know more prey lurk. As they do they walk, unceremoniously, on bodies they created by ending the lives of their rivals. 

The six-person team begins to awkwardly stalk away from the cornucopia and towards where more victims are located.