The tributes rise into the arena to find the air cloaked in nostalgia. The giant horn of plenty at their center is a quaint reminder of everything you may need in the days ahead. Despite its alarming size, it appears to have been hand-woven, expertly bound together by gentle and caring hands. During the bloodbath, the various goods spilling out of its mouth could be the only thing keeping it tethered to the ground. One strong gust of wind could be all it takes to send this thing tumbling into the distance. Tiny holes in its surface allow the white-gold sun above to peak through, and you decide it would do little in terms of protection from the elements, but it sure is nice to look at.
Overgrown with golden grasses and wheat, and surrounded on all sides by a haphazardly built wooden fence, this area seems especially peaceful and tranquil. Pumpkins grow fat and plump, clusters of acorn squash sit ready to be picked, bottle gourds seem unnaturally vibrant and out of place. It goes on for acres, with birds fluttering inside hollowed out gourds and scarecrows swaying in the wind. If this was not a part of the arena, if this was only what it appeared to be, certainly everyone would be happy to pay it a visit at least once. But the logician in you knows the hard truth: this is a garden full of food, and you are far from the only thing in this arena that will get hungry.
The quiet here is perhaps the most unsettling, because it doesn’t make sense. Towns are supposed to be vibrant with life. Firelight is supposed to pour from the windows, smoke rising from the chimneys. Children are supposed to be heard laughing and animals are supposed to be calling. But there is nothing. Just a bunch of seemingly empty old houses covered in a thin layer of snow, and an unnerving presence that somewhere, in one of these windows, someone or something is watching you. At the very least, some of these houses still look good enough to take shelter for the night.
While the trees here are alive, their presence is somehow more ominous than if they were dead. For the most part, these trees could seem to be ordinary oaks: trunks bigger than a person’s arm span and pretty leaves that create more than enough shade on the forest floor. But the holes in each tree make up faces, twisted and gnarled to the point of looking anguished and deeply sad. To make things worse, a sticky black substance drips out of the holes to look like tears. Be careful, though: you notice a few large burls and clusters of roots that seem to resemble something like a cocoon. Either something will soon come out of these trees, or they have the ability to trap something within them. Either way, it’d be wise to keep your guard up.
The air here is so cold that your breath begins to fog with each exhale. Mist rolls off the shore, crisp and cool, and pieces of ice float along the gray river’s current. There is something maybe even more appealing than the river itself: the steamboat. It is old and rusted and, by the sounds of it, barely working, but it is still working. It seems to be set on autopilot, floating from the southern end of the river all the way up to the north and then back again over and over. It only stops at one of two docks located at the northern and southernmost points in the arena before setting on its way. It could be your saving grace if you’re out of options for shelter. Or it could be a blaring call for danger. After all, there can only be one captain.
The old mill is little more than a dilapidated old building at this point. The tin roof is rusted with age, the bricks have been overcome by colorless vines, and the water wheel that is submerged in the river has ceased movement. Like everything in this arena, it is quiet and lonesome. The interior is covered in a thin layer of dust and jars of black oil line the walls on all sides. There is a single staircase that leads all the way up to the roof, which could offer a pretty good vantage point, but other than its simplistic beauty and the ability to make you wonder what happened here, the old mill seems pretty unremarkable. But, perhaps, that is exactly what you are meant to think.
The ground is devoid of vegetation: just packed, dried dirt. The trees here could’ve died centuries ago. Their trunks are hollow and soft, stripped of their bark and devoid of color. This is made up for, of course, by the hundreds of thousands of threads that have been draped over the aching limbs. Plump yarns ranging from the deepest reds to the lightest blues, strings so soft they may unravel at your touch, or some durable enough to be used for fishing line. The threads are so plentiful, in fact, that you could swear they grow from the trees like leaves, tangling themselves from trunk to trunk like vines, splaying themselves across the ground like their own root systems. It looks both like the biggest prank ever and a work of art, but even though the trees are dead, the beady eyes staring down at you from within them are very much alive.