Linden Lockhearst is a Victor who was reaped for the 63rd Hunger Games. He was recently called to the Capitol to serve as a Mentor for the Never-ending Quell.
Linden Lockhearst was born in District 6, orphaned at a young age, and adopted by one of the district's wealthier families at the age of 5. The circumstances behind his parents' deaths weren't openly discussed, though he claimed for years that he had seen lights in the sky around the time it happened. In the transportation district, that could mean a lot of things, and citizens tended to exchange glances when the topic came up, assuring the kid that the memory of a terrible accident was what he was recalling. Though his adopted family was relatively well-off and saw that he was fed and cared for, he wasn't actually their child, and their blood understandably took priority when it came to resources. He was more like an especially well-treated servant than a true member of the family, a help around the house and a playmate for his three "siblings". Though the community congratulated their generosity and kindness for taking him in, another mouth to feed was a burden in a straining economy even for a wealthy family, and extra tessarae were taken in Linden's name. His odds, from the beginning, weren't fantastic.
Though Linden wasn't what anyone would be able to call outright unpleasant, he had a tendency toward coldness and aloofness that didn't endear him to his peers. Adults found him interesting but unsettling, given his uncannily good memory and penchant for mimicking and reciting things he'd heard by heart. A small and skinny thing even when he was old enough to safely take his place working in the factories, Linden was well-suited to crawling into tight spaces and cleaning heavy machinery, but he proved to be an unreliable worker, growing bored quickly with tedious tasks and wandering off mid-shift. He was far from unintelligent, but the fact that he was so spacey was difficult to overlook. Machines he was put in charge of cleaning or fixing tended to jam and run poorly until he was pulled off of factory duty out of mutual exasperation. Seen by his community as "clever but different", and unsuited for the kind of work prevalent in the district, a lot of head-scratching went on to determine his role as he dedicated actual effort towards what passed for academic pursuits in District 6. Most of these were focused around learning what was available about the Capitol and other districts; the vehicles manufactured in his district were nowhere near as fascinating as their destinations to him, and he had a tendency to hang around Peacekeepers for news and rumors. He had a talent for academia; some people noticed that he didn't merely read books, he memorized them, and it was noted that it was something of a waste in a district like 6 where education wasn't a priority for most people. He developed an obsession with finding lost things, from trinkets to pets to other children using deductive reasoning, and many speculated that it was the natural progression for the psyche of one who had lost his parents at an early age. Nevertheless, the Reaping came along in his fifteenth year for the 63rd Hunger Games, and it didn't matter anyway. Depending on who you asked, Linden's chances were higher just because of all the tessarae taken to support the burden he had been on an already strained family, but some said that his Reaping was "helped along" by simple merit of the fact that he was unsuited for the harsh life in a district that was, at the time, in the throes of a significant depression. No one liked to admit it out loud, but the ostentatiously nosy orphan Linden was someone the district might be better off without, especially if he saved someone else's son's life by being Reaped. Not a single tear was shed when Linden's name was announced; in fact, some smiled about it. He wouldn't last long in the Games, but 6 had learned a long time ago to expect their tributes to be claimed by the arena.
Linden took his Reaping in fairly good stride. He seemed to actually look forward to the opportunity to get away from the desert and the empty sky of his bleak district, and he spent most of his time in training reading. He demonstrated a blithe and mystified disregard for authority, as well as an unnaturally keen interest in Avoxes; he scrutinized each one he encountered until his embarrassed and frustrated escort pulled him away from them. He scored a mediocre number during a session spent demonstrating his photographic memory and enduring ability to fit his small frame into tight spaces, but his interview was the part of the preliminary process that could actually be called noteworthy. The Capitol audience latched onto the romantic and tragic idea of a young orphan misfit whose genius went unappreciated in the practical District 6, and Linden intensified that fascination by saying that if he won the games, he hoped that he could find his parents, because he knew that they were alive... but refused to disclose more, saying that it really was a secret and that reporting further on the topic would be unwise.
If I come out of there alive, how about I tell you then? The young man's strange charisma, along with the taunting promise of a juicy secret's details, made Linden an unexpectedly well-liked competitor despite the fact that his own district had been glad to see him off. His oddness and affected, absentminded unawareness of social rules and protocol were entertaining; his sheer audacity drew eyes and dropped jaws. Unlike the more recent and revolutionary victor Katniss Everdeen, his antics were difficult to interpret as inflammatory; they were harmless enough, things like ruffling the hair of his aghast stylist while the cameras were on them and facing the wrong way in his chariot. Ranging from apparent forgetfulness to playful, mild pushing of envelopes, though, these antics made Linden, a physically unimpressive factory rat from District 6, memorable. If he presented as a bit of a fool, he was at least an entertaining fool, and not the sort that people wanted to see bite it in an arena rumored to be especially brutal. Whether he was childish, crazy, or a genius, he was fun to watch, and when he was put into his subterranean arena, he vanished easily in the dark caves, corners and pits. Sponsors responded well to his inventiveness and creativity; he was sent multiple helpful items, including a set of nightvision goggles, and found many more. He almost died on the third day in the arena after cutting himself on a poisonous stalactite; sick and feverish, he chipped away at the formation until he had a deadly weapon in his hands. Since his cut was small, he recovered, and was able to remain hidden and armed for most of the Games' duration. As the end of the Games approached, though, he was found and hunted by a career tribute from District 2, Scorpii Cronen, who Linden became obsessed with; maybe under different circumstances, the two would have been friends or worked together. In the arena, it was a sly and ruthless game of offered alliance and veiled treachery, which both agreed to while secretly looking for ways to kill the other one. They engaged in conversation, even shared carefully-watched meals, both claiming to be above the brutality of the arena. Linden planned to dispatch Scorpii even as he admired the other young man, and together they killed two other tributes. In District 6, Linden had never encountered someone who thought so much like him, and when it was down to the two of them, he floated the idea of refusing to kill each other until the Gamemakers had no choice but to let them both live. Scorpii was enthusiastically onboard with the idea for two days, after which he dragged a knife across Linden's throat. Whether it was the pain of being betrayed by his first friend or humiliation that he wasn't the one to do it first, Linden used his last ounce of strength to shove Scorpii backward onto a poisonous stalagmite, which impaled him through the stomach. After a tense minute of shallow breathing, bleeding and burning hatred in both their staring eyes, Scorpii succumbed first, and the Gamemakers rushed to preserve Linden, who was rapidly bleeding out.
Following the Games, Linden was different. Gone was the quirky absentmindedness he'd affected prior to his time in the arena; there was something hard and sharp about him in interviews following his victory. He came across as bitter and ungrateful, wanting to talk of nothing but Scorpii. While this was definitely interesting, it was a stark departure from the clever, quick-eyed and likable kid that had gone into the arena, which made things uncomfortable. The Capitol whisked him off-camera for a few days, and when he was back, he was again changed, placid and calm and reciting his answers as if from rote. A smiling, waving, blissful couple of the proper age was briefly produced and paraded about while Linden reported that he'd found his parents, providing false but highly effective closure for the relieved Capitol citizens. His placation was readily identifiable to those who could recognize it as being the influence of Morphling, almost certainly administered against his will... at least the first few times. It was easy to prefer that warm haze to reality, which was that the Capitol wasn't the wondrous place he'd always assumed it to be, Scorpii was dead as well as his Judas, and his long-lost parents were, by now, long-time Avoxes in service of the Capitol. That was the secret, a hollow and empty truth that brought him no joy and caused him to sink more deeply into his addiction. The last odd-decade hasn't been kind to him, but he has one piece of advice for the tributes from his district: trust no one, even if they're like you, especially if they're like you.
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