The Crowning

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Cyril Covett, in the past three hours, has grown used to the feeling of eyes on him. 

It's been his plan all along to come out on this day, at the first strike of noon, along a route he's already walked. The moment he bids farewell to Cybil and steps into the prying eyes of the Capitol, a capital so obsessed with watching and formulating opinions that it rules their traditions, he meets them, green, blue, brown, and always the abnormal, alienish colors that Panem so likes to boast. They catch him on the street and from windows, squinting, and now they catch him in a waiting room. The secretary stares. Others with lesser situations stare. Even security officers stare, muttering amongst themselves, rechecking the news of many years ago on their phones to reaffirm what they've been told is true.

From a couple he hears an echoed whisper. "Isn't that the gamemaker who died? They said he died, Celia! I remember because they had a nightly special before showing the little girl's hanging-"

"Mister Covett," the secretary calls, green lips large and puckered. He snaps his sharp face to attention. "The president will see you now."

Cyril stands, posture straight but relaxed, and flashes a smile, a nod, towards the woman. "Thank you, Lucy. I'll put in a good word for you. Very swift. Wonderful!" He passes by her desk and can't help but shift a glance peripherally. The woman, under all the lime-colored glitter, is both pale and flushed; she has just been complimented by a ghost.

The elevator is empty when he steps into it, and for that he is grateful. No eyes other than his own stare back; he tightens the tie, smoothes his crimson suit. It reminds him of gamemakers of the past; Kierce, Aderyn, Ereol. Rohe, Tender, Amelia. A few Nighys, even, historical bastards. He will try to be them all, just for the next ten minutes.

The lift stops; his throat hitches. Breathe. Don't do this now, just breathe. You're alright. You're alive. Get your ass out there. With closed eyes and a gentle sigh, the doors open, and he marches down the hall, fists held tight at his sides. He doesn't want to look at the decor or see the red in his cheeks or let the irony of these walls taunt him. He simply wants to get through the door and into that office.

And so he does.

What he sees is less like an office and more like a throne room, the walls a plain white, the floor a plain white, the elevated chair itself a plain white. The windows are thrown open, illuminating the large world around him, and this brightness brings him enough peace to approach the man in the chair and bow his head in greeting. "My name is Cyril Covett and I have requested an audience with you."

"So I've been told," the man says gruffly. It's not a rude remark, Cyril can tell. There's a tinge of excitement in the elder's voice. The speed of his words lift. "I have long admired your work with the games even after your absence. I was told you'd had a fit of madness and bashed your head against the wall. They said it'd killed you. Before you continue, tell me how it really was."

Cyril swallows, but he's got all his nerves in order, all of his ducks in a row. His thin lips move quickly only because he's eager to get to the point. "Your resources were lying and I only took some time to look after my health, as any sane man should."

"I see." Dark, wrinkled knuckles tighten on pale armrests, then loosen, pleased. "Well, I'm glad you've come back to society, then. So tell me, Cyril, why've you come now? Not stirring up trouble before my Quell, now, are you?" A healthy smile cracks the lips of the monarch, and he laughs a loud, hearty laugh that fills the whole room. Cyril returns the smile. It's fake but works.

"No, sir. In fact, that was the topic at hand." This is it, then. "I was hoping you'd allow me to be a part of this year's games. I know it's short notice, but surely I can work quickly enough-"

Author Games: Broken CrownsWhere stories live. Discover now