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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
The Hunger Games Prequel
by Suzanne Collins
Part 1: The Mentor
Coriolanus released the fistful of cabbage into the pot of boiling water and swore that one day it would never pass his lips again. But this was not that day. He needed to eat a large bowl of the anemic stuff, and drink every drop of broth, to prevent his stomach from growling during the reaping ceremony. It was one of a long list of precautions he took to mask the fact that his family, despite residing in the penthouse of the Capitol’s most opulent apartment building, was as poor as district scum. That at eighteen, the heir to the once-great house of Snow had nothing to live on but his wits.
His shirt for the reaping was worrying him. He had an acceptable pair of dark dress pants bought on the black market last year, but the shirt was what people looked at. Fortunately, the Academy provided the uniforms it required for daily use. For today’s ceremony, however, students were instructed to be dressed fashionably but with the solemnity the occasion dictated. Tigris had said to trust her, and he did. Only his cousin’s cleverness with a needle had saved him so far. Still, he couldn’t expect miracles.
The shirt they’d dug from the back of the wardrobe—his father’s, from better days—was stained and yellowed with age, half the buttons missing, a cigarette burn on one cuff. Too damaged to sell in even the worst of times, and this was to be his reaping shirt? This morning he had gone to her room at daybreak, only to find both his cousin and the shirt missing. Not a good sign. Had Tigris given up on the old thing and braved the black market in some last-ditch effort to find him proper clothing? And what on earth would she possess worth trading for it? Only one thing—herself—and the house of Snow had not yet fallen that far. Or was it falling now as he salted the cabbage?
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