"Momma?" Your voice is quiet in the dark of night as you rub your bleary eyes. Your clock shows gently illuminates 0400 onto the nightstand. Sitting on the base of the bed is the woman who raised you to be who you are.
"Good morning, my little prince," she says in a caring voice, "It's time to start the holy work."
You were only five when the training started.
She had led you downstairs, past the storefront and into the basement. A space had been cleared between boxes and a few mats had been placed out. It was cluttered back then while she learned to be a teacher. You had known it was going to start sometime soon, but at five you had just been able to start processing the world around you.
That night had started like one of your usual lessons-albeit at a much earlier time.
"Name the Saints," she had said as if it was the start of one of your history lesson.
"Adder Ames, Samiyuq Hernadez, Babe Adroxis," you had started, listing them off one by one. Even from a young age, she had ensured you knew the blessed by heart.
"...Nico Thorne, Kassandra Nerys, Ridley Le Roux," you finish, taking a deep breath as she nods approvingly.
"And what are we put on this planet for?"
"To be warriors," you repeat back the phrases she had seared into your mind. That's what you were born for, to follow in the footsteps of the saints before you. This is why, that night, she had placed a flimsy, miniature sword in your chubby hands--she had told you it was the simplest weapon--and had directed you at your first dummy. The sword didn't cut, but it didn't matter to you. This was the start of everything she had told you would become.
The years pass. Plastic turns to wood and then to steel. She was right- the sword was the easiest, but you couldn't just stick with a sword. Mom had told you that, to become a saint, you would need to know how to use more than one weapon. "Why?" she would answer when you would ask why a tribute couldn't stick with one weapon, as if it was obvious. "You never know what the divine will place in your hands. Justice Fray alone used a sword, an axe, and throwing knives in the 73rd."
That convinced you to follow through.
The days became monotonous. In the morning, you'd wake up and go for a run through the streets of district one only to return to the basement for the next few hours. During the day, you'd go to school--an unfortunate necessity, mom had said--while mom and dad kept the jewelry store running. At night, you'd be quizzed on your games history, you'd have plants placed in front of you for identification, and then you'd sleep.
As the years go on, your pudgy hands grow rough with callouses and your muscles are molded into sharp outlines by your mother's harsh training. At school, the kids joke about you being crazy for your religion. They tease you for not going to a proper career academy, but your mom tells you the church's training regimen is better than anything you'd get at one of those rickety institutions. When was the last time they produced a proper victor?
The weekends were a welcome break. Each Friday and Saturday was movie night, your favorite. You'd get to sit on the couch with mom and dad and watch old games reruns. You'd laugh at the tributes who were too idiotic for their own good, and you'd even shed a frown or two when you see a favorite, not one of the victorious saints mind you, get struck down. After each movie night, you'd sit and discuss with your parents. What went wrong, what did a tribute do well, what did they not do well. Of course, at the end of the day the tributes' lives are in divine hands, but it doesn't hurt to know what a divine being looks favorably on.
Sundays were always a day of rest and prayer. Mom would take you to the church group, or sometimes they'd come to your basement for a group study. You would all pray together, and each week a different church member would take a turn leading the group. There were other kids with you, all of them were around your age. Each of them also wanted to become a saint.
It was instilled in you and each of them that when you grew old enough and strong enough, you would speak the two most pious words to start you down the divine path: I volunteer.
You'd sometimes see them for your morning trainings and spar with them. They weren't exactly your friends, but they kept you down the path you know you are destined to take. Each of the children of the church believe they will one day wear the victor's crown, and you are no different.
One evening, after a long session of mutt history, you had asked mom why she, or anyone from the church, had never volunteered for the games. You felt the sharp sting of her hand on your face for the next week. You can ask any question, but no that, she had told you. She had apologized later, calling you her little prince in the affectionate way she does, and explained that the question you had asked was off limits. You weren't sure why, but she told you that it doesn't really matter because at the end of the day, she's still completing the divine work by training you.
You had never asked that question again, and she had never hit you again (outside of training, that is). It makes it easy to continue your routine, to continue your life dedicated to the divine.
Mom always made sure to keep you on track, to stop nothing from clouding your view. When a personal issue arises, she's always there to make sure you stay true to your focus.
Like with that girl from school. You had been so into her for a year, and you had finally worked up the courage to ask her on a date. You didn't know what you were supposed to do for a date besides taking her out to dinner or something-- mom had just kept saying she'd explain dating and everything after you won the games. Mom had caught you getting dressed up for the night and asked what is what about.
You didn't go on that date. She had reminded you about what is important. That your life is for the church and that you have a purpose. A love life comes after achieving your goals.
The girl was upset that you stood her up, and so were you for a time. But you got over it quickly. Your mom reminded you of your purpose. And no distraction would let you deviate from that.
Your commitment to your mission, despite your occasional waverings, is strong. You know that one day, you will be a warrior chosen for the most divine battle, and you know that you will be victorious.