Then, just before their interviews, Peeta asks Haymitch to coach him separately. This angers Katniss, who feels betrayed, but decides that she and Peeta aren't friends and the sooner they stop pretending they are, the better things will be. At the interview, however, Peeta professes his love for Katniss, and the audience believes they are star-crossed lovers, trapped in an arena where their love cannot survive. Katniss is furious with Peeta for making her look weak in front of the audience and the other tributes. Haymitch and Cinna, however, assure Katniss that Peeta has given her an advantage, making her appear desirable.
The 74th Hunger Games begin with the tributes rising up from below ground. They stand in a circle around the metal Cornucopia, a giant golden horn that holds supplies and weapons, meant to lure the tributes in for a bloodbath. Haymitch has instructed Katniss not to run toward the Cornucopia, but to run as far away as she can and find water immediately. Upon seeing a bow and quiver of arrows, however, Katniss questions Haymitch's advice and readies herself to retrieve them from the Cornucopia, but as she does so, she sees Peeta shaking his head at her, which distracts her long enough to make her miss the opening gong that releases the tributes. She runs in just far enough to retrieve a single backpack and then takes off into the woods, where she is most comfortable. She runs all day, placing as much distance as she can between herself and the other tributes, while taking stock of her surroundings. The woods calm her, but she's unable to find water.
That first night, while sleeping in a tree, she sees that the Careers, the tributes from the wealthier districts, have formed an alliance and are hunting the weakest tributes together. She is shocked to see that Peeta is a part of their group and decides that she can't trust him after all, that he distracted her at the Cornucopia on purpose, and that he has been misleading her all along. When she sets out the next day, she still can't find water and is close to death when she finally discovers a small pond. While in the arena, Katniss constantly has to battle hunger, dehydration, the other tributes, and the Gamemakers, who are able to send violent fires and explosions through the woods.
One night, the Careers and Peeta pin Katniss in a tree. Rue, the young tribute from District 11 hiding in a nearby tree, silently points out a tracker jacker nest to Katniss. Katniss cuts the nest loose, dropping it on the Careers and Peeta early the next morning. The tracker jackers kill the girl from District 4 and Glimmer, the beautiful tribute from District 1. Katniss gets stung a few times herself but is able to escape.
As she's running, she remembers the bow and arrows that Glimmer had. She goes back to retrieve them before the hovercraft comes to take away Glimmer's dead body. Hallucinating from the tracker jacker venom, Katniss has a hard time concentrating, and she can hear the footsteps of the Careers returning. It's Peeta who finds her and tells her to run. He stays to fight off Cato, the violent boy tribute from District 2, and saves Katniss' life, again making her question Peeta's motives and wonder whether his feelings for her are true or simply an act for the audience.
Katniss forms an alliance with Rue, who reminds Katniss of her little sister Prim. Rue says she knew she could trust Katniss because of her mockingjay pin. Rue loves mockingjays and their songs, and Katniss and Rue decide to use the mockingjays in the arena to communicate while they carry out their plan of destroying the Careers' food supply down at the Cornucopia. Katniss sets off the Careers' own booby traps, destroying most of their food and causing Katniss to lose hearing in her left ear, but when she returns, she can't find Rue.
Following Rue's screams, Katniss appears in time to see the boy from District 1 spear Rue to death. Katniss kills him. Then she sings to Rue until she's dead and then decorates her friend's body with flowers. This memorial to Rue is seen as an act of rebellion by the Capitol; tributes from opposing districts are supposed to kill each other, not form true friendships during the Games.
With just six tributes remaining, including Katniss and Peeta, Claudius Templesmith, the Games' announcer, declares a new rule to the Games. This year, two tributes can win so long as they come from the same district. Katniss immediately sets out to find Peeta, whom she knows has been injured badly by Cato. She finds him camouflaged in mud and in bad shape. The gash on Peeta's leg from where Cato struck him has become severely infected. Katniss takes him to a cave where he can heal in safety and, while there, she works hard to give the audience what it wants, which is romance, knowing that satisfying them will earn their support in the form of gifts. She knows, too, that if she plays the audience right, Haymitch and any sponsors he can find will deliver the very necessary gifts at the right time. She kisses Peeta and talks sweetly to him. They continue to flirt in the cave, but Peeta gets blood poisoning and Katniss knows that he won't live much longer without medication.
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