As previously stated, I'm not good at fighting. I had never fought before in my life, unless you count that time Vibrant stole my sandwich at lunch. I gave her a good beating for that. Still, fighting is not my forte. I couldn't kill somepony, not even if my life depended on it. Every year, as I watched the Games, I would imagine what I would do if I were picked. I guess I would hide and wait for death.
My family is reasonably wealthy, for the poorest District that is. My mom is a seamstress, and my dad is the foreman over at the mines. I took up playing the cello, and that earns us some extra bits in hard times. It's funny, what I can do with music. I'm somehow able to... influence people. Not mind control or anything, just when I play, people seem to forget their troubles, and lay back to enjoy my music. I always get at least one bit from everypony listening, even from the cheapest or poorest in the District. My cutie mark showed for it. The music note had appeared on my flanks back in fourth year during music class. We had just started the cello, and since the school could only afford three, we took turns. When it was my turn, everypony was silent, just staring at me in awe. The teacher even began to cry, saying it was the most beautiful thing she had heard.
After that, no pony really paid attention to me. I don't strive to be noticed, I just... exist. I try to live out my life. I guess I'll find myself a nice stallion or mare to settle down with soon enough. It's my last year in the Reaping for The Pony Games anyway. After this, I'll finally be an adult.
The morning of the Reaping for the 74th Pony Games was like any normal one. I ate my breakfast, brushed my teeth, practised my cello for about an hour, then headed out into town. My mom wanted me to get some things from the market anyway, so I took the list from our counter, grabbed my saddlebags along with my cello, and headed off. On the way there, I bumped into Roseluck. She's the florist's daughter, and my best friend. We've know each other since we were fillies.
"Hey, 'Tavia!" Roseluck bumped my shoulder, and smashed her head into mine. For somepony who grew up all around flowers and nature, you'd think she'd be a little less rambunctious. Nope, she was the District's biggest tomboy, and always insisted we greet with a shoulder brush and a head smash.
Shaking the dizziness off, I smiled back at her. "Hey, Roseluck. What's been going on with you?"
Roseluck smiled and rolled her eyes. "Nothing really. Mom's pregnant again, though."
"What? Don't you already have three sisters?"
"And two brothers, don't forget that. They go at it like rabbits every night, so I'm not really surprised. I'm glad I can get nine months of uninterrupted sleep."
I grimaced. "TMI, Roseluck. I did not need to know that."
Roseluck laughed. "Well... what's up with you?"
I gave that some thought. Nothing really interesting was going on in my life. "Nothing really. You know me. I'm just that boring mare who plays the cello."
Roseluck smiled at that remark. "Aw, come on... you must have something interesting to tell me!" I shook my head.
"Sorry, you're out of luck, filly. I'm heading off to the market to play to get us some bits for grocery money."
"Yeah, because I couldn't tell that by the cello sitting on your back."
"Hey, for all you know, I could have been using my cello for something else."
"You know, fishing."
Roseluck bopped my head. "Silly filly. Anyway, mom wants you to convince your dad to raise my dad's salary a bit. You know, with the new foal coming and all."
My dad was a good hearted stallion, and him and Roseluck's father had been friends for years. I guess that's one of the reasons me and Roseluck knew each other. We had been destined to be friends since birth. "Sure, he'll be glad to do it. All your dad needs to do is ask, they've been friends forever."
My friend nodded. "Alright, I gotta get back to my place. Shop opens in ten minutes and I'm running counter today. Good luck at the Reaping!"
I smacked myself mentally. Today was the Reaping! "You too!"
Trotting off to the market, I went over to the corner where I normally play. Today, something was different. A thin unicorn with a rag tied over his head and horn was standing on the makeshift stage and preaching to a small group of onlookers.
"... I'm telling you! District 13 is still alive and functional! Discord just wants everypony to think he can go and obliterate whole Districts like that to instil fear into us! Well, he hasn't got me fooled! Anypony who wishes to join me, I'll be leading an expedition out into the wild to find the District! Come tonight at-"
"Excuse me, sir. That's normally where I play my cello." We got crazies like this all the time here. I think it might be something in the water. Or genetics, I'm not sure, and really don't care. The other day we had three mares who were convinced that Roseluck's dandelions caused non-pegasi to swell up and float away when eaten. The Peacekeepers normally dealt with this deranged ponies though. While I can't say I can agree with their methods, I suppose it's the only way to get them to stop.
The stallion gives me a glance. "Oh. You're the cello girl. Then my time is up." The strange pony used his horn to levitate pamphlets to the small crowd. "Anypony interested in leaving for a better life, take one of these and meet me at the fence tonight!"
The unicorn left, and I got up into the stage. More ponies gravitated towards the crowd as I put my bow to the strings. I started off with a simple melody, a calming tone to take pony's minds off the Reaping. More and more showed up to listen.
Once I was finished with that score, I moved on to another, one that was slightly eerier, one to fit the mood of the day better. The ominous notes soared through the quiet air, and even the merchants stopped selling to come and join the crowd. I ended the track with a shrill screech from the strings.
Everypony was silent. Then, one by one, they began stomping their hooves into the ground, cheering and calling for more. I shook my head, and told the crowd "Sorry, that's all for today. With the Reaping and all."
The ponies deposited their bits into the small crate I kept near the stage for such a purpose, and departed, going back to the normal marketplace lifestyle. I looked in the crate. A heavy haul today! I went off to buy the groceries. Even after I was finished purchasing the food, I still had plenty left over.
The bell tower rang, bringing me back to reality. It was noon! The Reaping was starting! Rushing home, I opened the door to the kitchen to drop off the food, when I saw my mother crying.
Most ponies assume I'm an only child. That's not true. I had an older sister who was picked as a tribute back when I was still a little filly, before I could even remember. She wasn't as lucky as to win. My dad recalls that they sent her body back in a small box. The only thing that they could salvage was her left front hoof. The rest... I guess they had the decency not to send the rest.
I trotted over to my grieving parent. "Shh... it's ok mom. I'll be fine." I brushed her mane with my hoof. "I'll be fine..."
My mother sniffed, and looked up at me through watery eyes. "I'm sorry... Octavia, it was so hard on us... most days, I try not to think of it... but the Reaping..." My mother burst into tears once more. It's days like this when I despise Canterlot and all they've done. I'd despise them more... but there's no use in that. I'd just end up surly, hating everything if I dwelled on that too long.
My mother took a sharp intake of breath, and sighed. "Come on, 'Tavie. Let's meet up with your father. He's with Roseluck's family."
I nodded, and put my saddlebags down. My mother and I trotted off to the town square where we spotted my dad waving us over almost immediately.
Joining up with them, Roseluck's parents were trying to corral the foals. Roseluck met up with me, and we greeted each other in our maner.
"It's Daisy Petal's first Reaping." I looked at the young filly. She had just gotten her cutie mark, three daising tied together at the stems. She looked very nervous.
I smiled reassuringly at her. "Hey, don't worry. The odds of you getting picked are astronomical. You're only in there once."
"Yeah, I'm in there fifty-six times. If anyone in this family is going, it's me." Roseluck grinned at her sister. You're added one more time every year, so I was only in there seven times. But seeing as Roseluck's family had so many kids, and so little money, they opted for tessera, for extra grain and oil. So, she was in seven times herself, twice for her parents, once for each of her siblings. These stacked up every year, leading her up to a whopping fifty-six. I'm surprised she hadn't been picked already.
Up on the large stage which the town erected every year for the Reaping, the Canterlot Royal Guards stood all around as the mayor stood up and read the short history of Equestria at he main podium which, the watered down one that praised Discord to no end, and read the list of fallen tributes. Upon reaching the 59th, my mother choked back a sob.
Rolling the scroll up, the mayor groaned and announced the only living victor of District 12. "And now... the only living victor of District 12... Hayseed Turnip Truck Sr.!" Hayseed stumbled his way up to the stage. As his name implied, he had a son which he named after himself, along with two others. The Turnip Trucks were a family of farmers, the only ones in the whole District. So, the only produce we have that isn't shipped from District 11 comes from them. Unfortunately, they only grow Turnips, and I hate Turnips.
Victory was not easy on Hayseed. He took to drinking soon after, and became the town drunk. The winnings he earned from winning drained away, so now the family struggled with finances. Somehow, Hayseed had attracted a mare, and had a family. He wasn't an abusive drunk, he was just... sad. Pathetic. I don't know what his wife saw in him, but they had three children, so...
Hayseed staggered drunkenly over to the mayor, shook his hand, and collapsed into the stage. A few snickers rose from the crowd. Like I said, pathetic.
"Yes, well, thank you, Hayseed. And now, to draw the names of this year's tributes... Hoity Toity!"
No pony applauded, or really did anything as the fancy looking Earth pony strutted onto the stage. the mayor backed away as the stallion took to the podium. Hoity Toity once was a fashion designer over in Canterlot, but was promoted to Reaping Overseer. We could all tell he liked Fashion far more, as he was assigned to the one district who never won.
"Yes, well, let's get this over with," Hoity Toity said in his drawling accent. I hated his accent. The way he enunciated his vowels, and they way it made him sound as though he was better than you... I hated it all. I calmed myself down. That was not the outlook I wanted to have.
"Well, let's go for the mare's first, shall we?" The stallion stuck his head into the large bowl which held the names, and spit out a piece of paper into the podium.
"This year's female tribute for District 12 is Octavia Violone."