"Hey, wake up!"
I blinked wearly. The world was dizzy and blurry, and my mind wasn't fully awake. Somepony was bent over me, purple tones flashing around like crazy.
As my vision adjusted, I saw that it was in fact Twilight Sparkle, and she was prodding me with a stick. "Yoo-hoo... Octavia... wakey-wakey! We gotta go gather up some food!"
I slowly rose to my hooves, and Twilight pointed to the dirt below me. It was dusty and dry, and covered in tracks.
"Did somepony go through here?" I asked her.
"Nope! That was you rolling around all night. You were muttering something about roses." I blushed. I couldn't remember anything about last night's dream, but roses? I hadn't dreamed of Roseluck at all, hell, I hadn't even thought much about her since after the training incident.
"Um, well then..." I coughed and looked around. "Where's Pip and Rarity?"
Twilight rolled her eyes. "Oh, Rarity took him down to the lake so they could get 'proper grooming'. I tried to tell her about how dangerous that would be, not to mention pointless. She brought her swords, through, so I think she'll be fine."
I thought about this. Certainly this was irresponsible, but Rarity had proven herself worthy time after time. If anyone was to be trusted with Pip, it was her.
I looked up at Twilight expectantly. "So... we're gonna gather food?"
Twilight nodded her head, her mane bobbing around as she did so. "That's right! It's a good thing I did all the research on edible plants and berries while I was in the training arena."
We headed off into the woods behind us. The leaves and branches brushed past me, shaking off the dust that had collected upon my count in rough clouds. Twilight, who had the misfortune to be behind me and the time, turned her head and coughed.
I blushed a bit at this. "Sorry..."
Twilight shook her head a bit to rid herself and the dust, and said "Oh, don't worry. I'm used to dust from District 3."
I paused and looked back at her. "District 3? What's it like?"
Twilight stopped walking too, and thought about this for a moment. "Industrial. We have buildings upon buildings of places where we process research, and factories lining the streets where we create technology. It's a giant mess of factories, sort of like District 8, but more organized and orderly. Just as it should be." Twilight looked down at the patch of greenery we were currently in. "Oh, we can look for food here!"
I nodded and began my search through the bush. The leaves were odd and pointed and got knotted in my fur. They didn't yield any berries, but I kept digging in further. Maybe there were some roots worth eating down in there.
"So," Twilight said, levitating several blackberries from a bush nearby into her saddlebag "What's your district like?"
I had come across some little tubers growing at the bottom of the bush. Beetles and grubs scuttled away from the light which I had shed upon their home. "Huh?" I responded to Twilight's question intelligently.
"District 12! I know it's where we get all our coal, but tell me more about it!" I looked up, and saw an expression of pure fascination on the unicorn's face. I guess she really was one for knowledge.
"Um, well... what do you want to know?"
Twilight looked as though she had just been given the world's greatest birthday present. "Oh, everything! Let's start with what you did back in your District?"
I smiled at her enthusiasm. "Oh, I was cellist!"
Twilight cocked her head at this, slightly confused. "Yes, I remember several other ponies talking about it, but... what's a cellist?"
It was my turn to wear an expression of shock and confusion. "You don't know what a cellist is?"
The unicorn shook her head. I burst out in a small fit of giggles, and Twilight gave me an indignant look.
"Sorry," I said, still giggling slightly. "It's pretty commonplace from our District to know what a cellist is! It's somepony who plays the cello."
Twilight Sparkle's face lit up with comprehension. "Ah, and a cello is a musical instrument, right?" I nodded my head.
Twilight stuck her head down into a bush to the left of me, and came back up with several tubers levitated around her. This reminded me of the own tubers I had found, and dove my head underneath the bush to pick some of my own.
"Anyway," the lavender unicorn continued, "We don't have a lot of musical instruments that aren't electronically created. Mostly the stuff ponies like Vinyl Scratch created was industrial sounds that she made more harmonic. She said it was somewhat popular with the foals in Canterlot."
I looked up, my mouth full of slightly muddy tubers. I spat them out into Twilight's saddlebag, right on top of a small mound of blackberries.
"You knew Vinyl Scratch?"
Twilight looked a bit peeved at my actions. "The tubers go on the other side! We can't have them intermingling, that's just disorderly!" She used her magic to move the tubers into their own little pile. "Sorry, I just hate to see things disorganized... listen to me, I sound like Rarity!" She smiled sheepishly at me. "Anyway, I thought I already mentioned this, but yes! I knew Vinyl Scratch. She even came to talk to me during our stay in Canterlot, numerous times, in fact."
I grinned like a maniac at this. Twilight gave me an awkward smile that conveyed mass amounts of uncomfortability in this situation.
"So, um... tell more about your District," Twilight said in slightly scared voice.
"Oh, well, as you know, we do all the coal mining..." I put my hoof up to my chin and thought about my District. The grey snows, the rundown buildings, the beautiful wilds that lay beyond the fence...
"Well, yeah. What else?"
I thought some more. "Also, we have the best woodlands."
Twilight paused at this. "Woodlands?"
I nodded. "I snuck out in the winters beyond the borders with my friend Roseluck. THe landscape there is just... wonderful."
I smiled and looked up at the branches above me, then back down at Twilight, whose mouth was agape. "What, is there something wrong?"
"You snuck out? Without being caught?" Twilight;s face was a mix of emotion, an odd bond of fear, excitement, and curiosity. "How?"
"The fence is just barbed wire. Nothing particularly dangerous. And they don't keep constant maintenance on it. It's practically gone in areas. I mean, if they notice a large group of people leaving, then they go after them and kill them, but..."
Twilight's look of fascination seemed to grow with every passing moment. "In 3, they keep security tight as can be. They make sure nopony even ATTEMPTS escape."
This hit me harder than I anticipated, because I never thought that news would hurt. It did, though. It meant that Canterlot just didn't care about our District. They never bothered to send in more troops for the peacekeepers, new supplies to fix the fence, hell, they didn't even seem to bother with electricity. Total neglect.
"Well, come on then. We've gathered everything around here. Maybe there's some fruit trees over in the next patch." Twilight began to trot off, but I put a hoof on her saddlebag to stop her.
"Wait! What if Rarity and Pip think we just took off, or worse," I swallowed hard. "Got killed?"
Twilight looked at me with a little smile. "Don't worry, Octavia, I told Rarity we were going to go get food before she left!"
I blushed a bit, feeling foolish for not considering that. The two of us trotted off through the woods, off into the next clearing.
There we were greeted with a sight I'd never forget.
The yellow mare from 7 was silently crying. A few birds and small woodland creatures were gathered around here.
"Isn't that-" Twilight held her hoof up to my mouth. I looked out and saw that there were two figures slowly and noisily breaking through the brush. I held back a gasp when I saw who those figures were.
Trixie and Snowflake, the two from 2. Trixie was smiling evilly, while Snowflake held the same facial expression he always did, the one of grim determination.
"Aw, the poor little filly, all alone in the woods..." Trixie's voice carried through the air sickeningly, poisoning my ears as I heard her speak. "With nary a friend to help her..." She smirked, and drew ever closer to the yellow mare.
Trixie's eyes shifted about, then she called out "Fancypants! Fleur! Derpy! Come on out! It's safe, just the yellow one from 7, Fluttershy!" More snapping foliage was heard, and two more unicorns walked gracefully into the clearing. With a loud snap, and branch fell to the forest floor, followed by a grey pegasus who crashed into the ground. Fluttershy flinched at the loud noises, and Trixie groaned.
"Honestly, the Great and Powerful Trixie doesn't know why she keeps you around, Derpy. Shape up!"
"I just don't know what went wrong!" The grey pegasus's good eye was focuses apologetically on Trixie.
"Well, at least you knife better than you fly," Fleur said with a little laugh, and both Trixie and Fancypants joined in soon after. Snowflake said nothing, just continued staring his stare down at Fluttershy, who was now curling up in a ball, absolutely terrified.
"I have to help her," I whispered to Twilight.
"Shh!" Twilight hissed. "They can hear us!"
"What was that?" Trixie stopped laughing and looked over at a patch of brush around ten feet away from us.
"What was what?" Fancypants said with a drawl.
"I heard somepony talking!" Trixie swept her head all around, her mane swooshing into Snowflake's face, who did nothing still.
"Come on, show yourself," Fleur called out.
"Idiot, they aren't going to come out just because you asked them!" Trixie facehoofed. "What did the Great and Powerful Trixie ever do to get stuck with a retard," she moved her hoof over to point and Derpy, who looked down on the ground "An airheaded looser," she pointed at Fleur, who looked offended "And a living statue!" She gestured to Snowflake, who was still staring down at Fluttershy.
Trixie groaned. "Fancypants, as the only other remotely competent pony in this party, Trixie commands you to go and check out where that sound came from," Fancypants looked like he was about to whine about it, but Trixie gave him a look which sent him moping to the bushes.
"Now then," The evil grin returned to Trixie's face. "The Great and Powerful Trixie shall deal with you!" Fluttershy squeaked, and Trixie levitated a short sword from the underbrush at her hooves to in front of her.
As Trixie slowly trotted forward towards the mare in front of her, Twilight had to practically hold me back. In fact, she had wrapped her hooves around me and was keeping me close to the ground, half buried in undergrowth to keep me from moving.
"How could you let this happen?" I growled, trying to wiggle free.
"They'd kill us all, Octavia," Twilight hissed in my ear "You know they would! As cruel as it sounds, it's better only one dies instead of three!"
Well, I couldn't really argue with that logic. Still, it pained me to watch this go though.
"We're in a death arena, Octavia," Twilight continued. "We're not going to make it out alive, not both of us, anyway. Either you or I will die, and then we'll most likely be killed by one of those horrible excuses for ponies that are just about to kill Fluttershy!"
"Hey, it's coming from over there!" I heard the hoofsteps get closer. I twisted my head back to Twilight.
"Did you bring a weapon?"
Twilight levitate out two small knives. "They were all Rarity left that I could fit into the pack. Always come prepared, right?"
I grasped one of knives in my mouth, just as Fancypants smashed through the bush and stepping right in front of us.
Twilight stabbed first, but I was a second after. My knife sunk deep into his left leg, and Twilight's did the same to his right. Fancypants screamed in agony, and fell over, blood pouring from his legs.
There was another shriek, and a shunk, and hurried hoofbeats over towards us.
"RUN!" Both me and Twilight jumped to our hooves, and bolted as fast as we could away, back towards the cornucopia. As I shot to my hooves, I got an unpleasant view of what had happened to Fluttershy. She lay there, still breathing, with blood pouring out of a deep neck wound.
As Twilight and I crashed through the forest, I heard the boom of a cannon.