Kris isn't the worst Viking in the village but he's far from the best. For the most part, Kris is happy just to be alive. His mother and father were killed when he was barely more than a baby and Kris was left an orphan with only his father's bone flute and the weird dragon tattoo his mother gave him before Kris was old enough to remember. He misses them but time blurs the memories and the grief until all he has left of them is a warm loved feeling in his heart.
His mother was a high priestess of Frigg, the Mother of Hearth and Health. Kris remembers her as a warm, soft figure who always wore earth colors She taught him how to pick out different herbs and she laughed a lot. His father was a Viking, a good man who loved his mother and Kris and killed eighty dragons before a mortally wounded Nightmare crashed into their house one night while they were all sleeping.
Kris doesn't hate the dragons for killing his parents; his mother used to argue with Stoick's father for hours about dragons being creatures of Frigg's making like every other animal and plant under the sun. It is considered one of Kris' major character flaws and he never learns to hunt dragons. Kris doesn't really regret that either.
Besides, life as an orphan in Berk isn't that bad. He lives in the long house, doing all those jobs that proud Vikings don't like doing but still need to be done. The women make sure that he's fed and his clothes don't have too many patches and Olga finds him a sword that used to be his father's when he turns sixteen and becomes a man in the eyes of his people.
Two days later, Kris finds out that he's officially inheriting everything his parents left behind.
Kris finds out over an awkward dinner with Stoick and Gobber while Hiccup, Stoic's seven-year old son clattering around in the background discussing what should be done with the treasure his father set aside and the house that his mother made their home.
"Well, the thing is, lad," Stoick is playing with his tankard and looking ill-at-ease which is a dead giveaway that something is bothering him. "There's no really easy way to put this, y'see..."
"Will you not just tell the lad," Gobber snaps. Stoick slams his tankard down and they glare at each other. Kris hides his smile in his own tankard (which is full of milk rather than mead) and Gobber sighs gustily. "The point-"
"The point, lad, is that Neil, your father, was a great Viking," Stoick says heavily. "He took part in a hundred different raids-"
"-two hundred raids!" Gobber nods and Stoic glowers at him.
"-and well, like I said, there's no easy way to say this, lad but well, you're rich!"
Kris spits his milk all over the lamb's leg on his trencher. "Sorry, WHAT?"
"You're rich," Stoick says gloomily. "Richer than most of the rest of the village, point of fact."
Kris stares at them but Stoick isn't canny enough to be lying and neither of them are cruel enough to play a joke like this on him. Relieved to have the worst of it over with, Stoic launches into a detailed explanation of what Kris' treasure has been doing for the village and Kris thinks about it as Hiccup comes scurrying over with a lumpy wooden carving and crawls into his lap to fall asleep.
He doesn't need treasure, Kris thinks. He could do with some new clothes; even if Olga thinks he's going to grow maybe another inch, if he's lucky and he'd like to have a house of his own and space and his mother's books on herbs and potions. He's always wanted to be a healer but that's not going to cost anything really. It certainly isn't going to need the mountain of treasure Stoick is describing.
"I think..." Kris interrupts as quietly as he can, given the boy cuddled up against his chest and snoring almost as loudly as his father is talking. "I think the treasure is best where it is."
It's very nearly that simple; Stoick however is an honorable man and he takes a lot of persuading to agree that Kris' treasure should stay 'invested' where it's helping the whole village and Kris will start studying his mother's herb-lore and repair his family's house and no-one else in the village needs to know.
It's hard work and it's lonely because well, boys who know how to cook and make potions are useful but that's not really manly enough to impress Viking girls. Kris also has to be out of the village a lot because the really potent herbs grow in really distant locations and sometimes - well, okay, lots of times - Kris is gone for weeks, into the wildest parts of the island. It doesn't bother him; he's comfortable in his own company and the wildlife is fascinating and out in the wilderness where no-one can laugh at him, Kris can sing for hours.
The only part of his new life he really feels guilty about is how often he leaves Hiccup on his own. Hiccup is as uncomfortable in Viking society as Kris used to be, with the bonus complication of being the chief's son. Hiccup is going to be chief one day, unless Stoick the traditionalist breaks tradition entirely and disinherits him. It isn't an easy burden to bear and Kris does his best to help Hiccup find his place among the Vikings; talking Gobber and Stoick into allowing Hiccup to work with Gobber at the forge and use his intelligence to earn his place in the village.
Then during an attack, an unlucky strike takes out all of Kris' drying room and Kris has to go back out to recover them before the winter fevers start to set in. It's going to take months to find everything he needs. Kris spends a whole week working out the best route and the likeliest places to find the herbs that wouldn't be in season in the nearby islands. Hiccup kept him company the whole three days he was back in the village, bringing Kris random devices or improved versions of devices he gave Kris in the past.
"So, um, you know I'm going to miss you, right?" Hiccup finally blurts it out the night before Kris leaves.
"I'm going to miss you too," Kris hugs him and Hiccup who's still young enough to get embarrassed by things like that squawks and flails a bit. They're in the forge, helping Gobber get the last of the swords sharpened.
Hiccup smiles at him and hugs him again. "You-you have to come back, okay? No heroic deaths picking flowers or stuff or...or I'm going to write a nasty limerick on your cairn!"
"You wound me, Hiccup!" Kris claps a hand to his chest and staggers back, the light of the forge throwing the vivid red tattoo that spreads down from his shoulder into sharp contrast to Kris' pale skin and Hiccup touches it lightly, looking half-afraid that it's going to bite. Kris waits until he takes his fingers away before pulling a shirt back on.
"Your mom did that, didn't she?" Hiccup asks and Kris nods. "Did-, I mean, did she tell you why?"
"From what Olga and the other women told me," Kris says carefully because he's never talked about this to anyone before, much less a young boy who doesn't know what he's asking. "She said it was because my fate was bound up with the dragons."
"They've never attacked you," Hiccup's eyes are wide with wonder and Kris shrugs. "I mean, like your house has never been burnt since-"
Kris can almost see Hiccup's brain catching up with his mouth and he claps the boy on the shoulder to calm him down. It would be an ill omen to talk of his parents' deaths before a journey to the Wild Lands. Hiccup's a good lad and he's still looking guilty the next morning when the village turns out to see Kris off.
"You, you promise that you'll come back, right? I mean, your sword's only good for another five months and-"
"I'll come back," Kris promises and clasps Hiccup's hand. "Just remember, Hiccup. Just because you don't see the world the way all the other Vikings do, doesn't mean that you aren't right." He smiles and winks as Stoick launches into a farewell speech. "Some of the time, at least."
Kris goes with the entire village praying to Frigg for his success and safe passage into the wilderness.
Fat lot of good it does him; in the first week, Kris' rowing boat gets washed miles off course, up along the Northern coast, only to founder on some jagged rocks. Kris has to climb a sheer cliff face with his pack tied to his back and his sword in his teeth. He prays to Thor and Loki, because he's going to need the Trickster's own luck to get to the top alive. Loki comes through but Thor is upset; Kris finally makes it to the forest just in time for the storm to hit. It's a summer storm, furious wind and crashing thunder and Kris is soaked and the tree is sheltering under is hit by lightning. Kris is just too exhausted to care after that; he spends the whole night huddled under the fallen tree, shivering and wet and he falls asleep sometime just before dawn.
When he wakes up, it's mid-morning and the sun is beating down. The only proof that there was ever a storm are the fallen trees and ripped up grass, even the puddles have dried out. The storm turns out to be a blessing in (heavy) disguise; the torn-up trees reveal mushrooms and mistletoe and a dozen other rare herbs that would have taken days to find.
Kris offers prayers of thanks to Thor, Loki and Frigg for guiding him to such bounty and he even manages to capture a wild boar and find a campsite. He leaves the boar under the spread out canvas that will hopefully be his tent tonight and goes looking for water.
He finds a dragon. A thin, scruffy dragon that's halfway dead, tangled up in driftwood and half a tree that must have been blown into it by the storm, washed up in bay. It takes nearly a minute for Kris to be sure it's breathing. Kris has his sword in his belt and even if he doesn't hate dragons the way a Viking should, surely it would be an act of mercy to put the poor beast out its misery?
Kris steps closer, a twig snapping under his foot and the dragon's head jerks up. It's not a Nadder or a Nightmare or any sort of dragon Kris has ever seen. It's black with wide eyes the color of a summer sky.
"Night Fury," Kris breathes.