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The Blessing

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The aftermath of great battles are always anticlimactic. Your victory comes in a screaming, spectacular wave and then the world would be quiet again. The mountains that echoed with your battle cries go silent, as though they never noticed you were there in the first place. The dust settles, the bodies are consecrated and burnt, the injured are gathered up to be looked after, and you start wondering how the hell you are going to deal with everything that’s now changed.

Holding your boy, your only child, your heart outside your body, in your arms, watching as one of the healers examines what used to be his left leg, your mind finally slows enough for you to start thinking about how you’re going to get nigh on two hundred and fifty people back to Berk with no ships and a with bunch of unsettlingly docile and kittenish dragons milling around. Out of instinct, you watch the beasts closely. The other children are cautiously petting them and talking to them in low voices. The dragons don’t seem to mind. The Nightmare seems brusque, but isn’t acting like it’s going to bite the head off young Snotlout. The Nadder is positively friendly, allowing Astrid, Frigg and Adderbite’s daughter, to scratch it behind its spikes and pet its brilliantly colored sides. The Gronkle is actually purring. It’s like a dream, and you’re still feeling like you’re going to wake up any second. But you don’t, and you find yourself feeling the all-too-real gravity of the situation when the healer cuts way the rest of Hiccup’s tattered boot and trouser leg and reveal the true extend of the damage.

The boot was soaked through with blood, and now you can see why. The boy’s foot isn’t really a foot anymore. Hanging off his ankle is a bloody snarl of twisted flesh and crushed bone, still bleeding sluggishly, more akin to a piece of raw meat than a limb. The ankle itself is purpling with bruises, and is clearly shattered, what with the way it dangles limp and pliable. The wounds don’t stop there, however. The calf is mangled and torn open in places, and there is an unnatural bend in the bone where it split and ripped through the skin like a dull knife. You’ve seen battle, and you know wounds. Blood has never bothered you, and you’ve suffered dozens of injuries yourself, both minor and major. This is different though. You’ve seen worse, but this makes your blood freeze and your heart boil. For a moment you think you’re going to be sick. Gobber, who sits at your side, squeezes your shoulder, and you bury your weakness. The healer says that there’s no way to save the leg, but you knew that already. Gobber shouts for someone to start up a fire and the healer readies his tools.

All the while, the Night Fury watches. It… He looks like he’s in pain, but not incapacitated. You feel an odd rush of thankfulness for the thickness of dragon hide and the solid, steely strength of their bones. You flinch as the creature (Toothless, is that what Hiccup called it… him?) scoots forward and noses at Hiccup’s face like a cat wanting to be petted. There’s blood on the beast’s mouth and you just know how it saved your son. Had it been any other time, you might’ve attacked the dragon with your bare hands, but right now you’re still holding your boy, feeling the slow, but steady, rise and fall of his skinny chest. The Fury croons and laps lightly at a scratch on Hiccup’s cheekbone, making a soft whining noise. You watch the dragon nuzzle your son without really noticing what you’re doing or what’s going on around you (it’s so strange, so unlike everything you’ve ever known), when suddenly you find a pair of enormous peridot-green eyes looking right into your own. The beast chuffs and the resulting blast of warm arm ruffles your beard and snaps you out of your reverie. The Fury huffs and makes a rising, almost song like noise and gestures with its sleek head at Hiccup’s feet, where the healer is readying his things and where Gobber is stoking a growing fire some feet away. A blade and a long metal wand topped with a black iron cup are heating to a glowing orange in the flames. The dragon wants to know what’s happening.

“He’s going to lose the leg.” You say flatly, almost not hearing yourself. “It can’t heal like this.”

The dragon’s pupils narrow to dangerous slits and it looks frantically at the fire, at Hiccup, at you, and back at the fire again. For a moment, you think the Fury might attack, but instead it closes its eyes for a moment and lets out a long breath. When it opens its eyes again, the understanding you see there is so human and painful you almost can’t look at them. You place a hand on the creature’s nose and it chuffs again, pressing back against your hand for a second before it (he) rests its head on its wide paws, looking for all the world like a mournful hound.

When the blade and the cup are ready, Gobber holds the leg steady while the healer lines up his strike. You hold Hiccup tightly, ostensibly to keep him still should he thrash. The dragon looks on with slitted eyes.

The Healer nods and suddenly you are aware that a crowd of your people has gathered to watch. You hear snatches of prayer and oaths. Astrid and Ruffnut Thorston are holding each other, weeping softly. That’s alright. They are young and female and can’t help it. You mutter a prayer to Eir and hold your boy tight as the Healer brings down the red-hot blade, just below the knee. The dull side of the blade is weighted to give it an extra-powerful bite, and the sharpened side is thinner and keener than any fighting blade. The cut is clean and swift. The healer moves quickly, shoving the bodiless leg out of the way and making room for a junior healer to press the heated metal cup onto the stump of Hiccup’s thigh. There is a sharp sizzling noise and the air is filled with the smell of burning flesh. Hiccup’s eyes snap open and he gasps for air, tensing and twisting in your arms. He’s fainted again almost as quickly as he came to, but it was enough to startle the Fury, who howls and buries its face into the pebbly ground, making everyone, including you, jump and shiver at the sound.

“Quiet yourself, devil.” You say, and touch the mighty creature’s head between its large, rabbit-like ears. The Fury shrugs off your hand, but there’s no anger in it. You know how it… he feels. The two of you watch as the Healer douses the cauterized stump with some mead from his wineskin and then wraps Hiccup’s leg up in clean brown bandages. He then checks over the rest of the boy, narrating as he goes, gruff and efficient.

“The other leg’s got some dandy bruises, but otherwise it should be fine… some lacerations and minor burns on his arms, charring on the right hip, his ribs are… well they’re not broken, but they ain’t happy. The cuts on his face should heal fine on their own, and that one will give him a nice scar to be proud of. He’ll most likely have a fever. Nothing very dangerous, but we’ll have to keep an eye on it. When we get back to Berk, go to Gerdr and have her give you some extract of willow bark, her nightshade salve, more bandages, and… some dried chamomile. She’ll tell you what to do.”

Ah, yes. Getting home. You have forgotten about that. The ships are all burnt, and there’s not even enough salvage to make a raft. You don’t think you could ride the Fury, what with the odd, ruined contraption buckled onto his back and tail. The Fury nudges your knee suddenly and barks sharply. Slowly and with great care, he hauls himself onto his feet and limps over to where the Nightmare is receiving a belly rub from the bewildered and uncharacteristically quiet Snotlout.

Fascinated, you and your people watch as the Fury barks at the other dragon and lets out a string of snarls, growls, croons, and more of those odd song-like whistles. The Nightmare growls and snaps its mighty jaws, but goes silent again as the Fury barks and roars again. The Nightmare is silent for a moment before crooning and pulling itself to its feet. The great beast lumbers over to where you sit with your son and presents its horned head to you. For a moment you have to fight the urge to attack. The only time you’ve ever been this close to a Nightmare was when you were trying to kill it, and being so very near one now is vastly unsettling. The dragon’s teeth are long as a child’s arm and as sharp as Gungnir. Its yellow eyes are so bright you swear that they’re glowing. The beast sniffs loudly and it’s long pink tongue whips out and laps quickly at your arm. Its tongue is rough like a cat’s. Slowly, slowly, you carefully place your hand flat on the Nightmare’s nose and the dragon huffs in approval. With some nudging from the Fury, you climb onto the dragon’s back, up to the base of its neck. Behind you, the Fury scrambles up the Nightmare’s tail (the giant dragon growls in annoyance but allows it) and settles in between the enormous wings.

You call to Gobber, putting him in charge until you can send the fishing boats to retrieve your people. Gobber nods dumbly, his eyes wide with awe. You grab on tight to the Nightmare’s spikes with one hand and squeeze your legs around its huge body. Your other arm hold’s Hiccup close to your chest and prey to Odin that the Nightmare won’t buck you off in the middle of the ocean. Behind you, the Night Fury barks and the Nightmare spreads its giant wings and takes a running leap into the air.

It’s nothing like riding a horse. It’s a little bit like sailing on stormy seas. The only solid thing to hold on to is moving and undulating beneath you. The great wings pump on either side, the spine arches and falls, the heart and lungs expand and contract and you feel everything. It’s utterly terrifying, but when you burst through the ominous mist that surrounds Helheim’s gate, the sea is stretched out beneath you, glittering brilliantly, and when you approach Berk and see that from above your home island looks like a giant emerald, your wonder eclipses your fear and you hold your boy tight, glancing down at his closed eyes. No wonder, you think.

The Nightmare brings you down on a hill just out of view of the edges of Berk. The moment you touch down, you leap off the beast’s back and revel for a moment in the feeling of solid earth beneath your feet. The Nightmare actually rolls its eyes at you and wriggles it’s backside until the Night Fury slides off of its back. As soon as the black dragon is down, the larger dragon is off again, flying back towards Helheim’s gate.

___

It takes three days to get everyone back to Berk, ferrying them in the small fishing boats and on the backs of the Nightmare, the Gronkle, the Zippleback, and the Nadder that have served as the mounts for Hiccup’s friends . Gobber is an admirable ad hoc leader, but the elders insist that you must leave your son’s bedside and decide what to do. The lack of proper battleships leaves the village achingly vulnerable to attack by rival tribes and foreigners. There’s also the small matter of the dragons that arrive in groups or on their own, roosting in the caves in the cliffs above the village. Some of the bolder beasts cautiously approach the edge of the village and a few, lead by those young friends of Hiccup, actually perch on the rooftops and sleep in the larger barns and stables. There is an unspoken truce, fragile but holding, between the dragons and the people of Berk. The elders try to convince you to return to your post, but they are careful around you, which might have something to do with the Night Fury crouching beside Hiccup’s bed or glaring down at them from the rafters. The beast hasn’t left the house since you brought Hiccup home.

You feel like you should mind more, but there’s something about the Fury’s eyes that settle your doubts. He’ll sit across from you on the other side of Hiccup’s bed (you moved the thing downstairs after the dragon nearly wrecked the stairs trying to get up to the loft), watching the boy with those half-lidded, dilated, green, green eyes and you know he’s thinking. Oh, of course all dragons think, as do other animals, but this Fury… he’s not just watching the shadows or wondering why his master won’t wake up and feed him, he’s thinking like a man would think. He listens with those comical ears of his to every groan or murmur that passes your son’s lips, and when the healer visits to check on him, the dragon sits up and watches the whole procedure with an expression that reminds you of Hiccup’s own. The world has become so fantastic now that the idea of this beast thinking is obvious, almost commonplace.

However, there is a truce. You and the Fury dance around each other, careful not to break the delicate peace. You are a legendary dragon killer, and he is a legendary dragon. At times he’s just a like a big cat, curling up in front of the fire or beside Hiccup’s bed, purring away. Still, analytical creature or adoring pet notwithstanding, there is still the flash of dagger like teeth and claws, and eyes that glow green in the darkness. The Fury is tamed, but only by Hiccup. You understand that. The beast seems to understand that you are the master of the house, and stays out of your way as long as you stay out of his. You feed him, you sit with Hiccup with him, and you share the space with him, but that’s it. What could you say to this creature? What could you have to do with this living legend?

Besides that, you’ve got more important things on your mind.

Hiccup develops a fever that runs high for three days before peaking dangerously and then finally breaking and settling to a safe temperature. You don’t think you slept more than two hours at a time during those harrowing days, but now you sleep and rise like clockwork. The healer gave you a list of various herbs and extractions to give to Hiccup at certain times; times to change the bandages around his ruined leg, and types of food the boy is allowed to have. You only know battlefield medicine, and only the most perfunctory methods at that. The potions and tinctures you’re dealing with are a mystery to you. This one smells awful and is supposed to keep him asleep so that his body can heal quicker, that one stains the blankets and needs to be reapplied to the burns on Hiccup’s sides twice a day, this one needs to be mixed with exactly three-and a half tablespoons of mead and not a drop more, and on and on and on. You’ve never felt so helpless before in your life. You were always a doer, not a thinker. Being forced to just wait it out is not something that you are used to.

So you do the only thing you can think of to do. One night after carefully tipping a mutton broth down Hiccup’s throat, followed by the round of mysterious medicines, you leave the house and go to the shed where you keep the sheep and the goats. You select the best spring lamb, a male that would grow into a fine stud if you let it, and carry it up into the woods.

There is a clearing some ways into the forest, a sacred place. There is a tall, beautiful ash right in the center of the glade, and in front of the tree there is a large flat stone that bears thousands of scars from previous supplications right alongside elaborate carvings several hundred years old. The wide top of the stone is stained a dull reddish brown.

The lamb bleats in alarm when you lay it down on the stone, but you hold it still with one large hand while you free your dagger from your belt with the other. You invoke Loki, the God of change, of massive upheavals and merciless progress, and slit the lamb’s throat. The little creature gurgles and twitches for a few seconds, but bleeds out within a couple of minutes, flooding the ancient altar and filling the air with the sharp, metallic smell of blood. You’re playing a dangerous game here, invoking the Chaos God, but with your entire world so changed, you don’t know what else to do. You sit for a while on the cooling ground, watching the blood congeal. After a while you hear a snap of twigs behind you and you are on your feet in a split second, dagger in hand. The Night Fury looks back at you from the edge of the clearing, eyes fixed on the blade. Carefully, carefully, you toss the knife to the side and lock eyes with the beast. Seeming satisfied the dragon pads around you to sniff at the stone and the dead lamb. It laps at the blood thoughtfully. Fascinated, you watch as the beast rears up on its hind legs and releases a jet of flame, reducing the lamb to ashes. The sacrifice is completed. You and the Night Fury walk side by side back to the house.

_____

 

You don’t remember falling asleep at Hiccup’s bedside, sitting on the floor with your back against the bed, your chin on your chest. The crick in your shoulders wakes you up and you curse your advancing age. You have to be so strong for everyone it’s easy to forget that you’re fast approaching forty. Groaning and massaging your stiff neck, you lever yourself up off the floor. You move to rub the sleep from your eyes when you notice the flaking, dried blood on your hands. Ah, yes. You invoked old Flame Hair last night. Hopefully the Jotun will be merciful.

You pop your neck with a swift twist of your head and go about checking on Hiccup. His color is a little better and his fever has gone down a bit. You notice, not for the first time, how young he looks for his age. He’s still a lad, a mere fifteen years old, but he looks younger. He hasn’t hit his growth spurt yet and there’s still traces of baby fat on his cheeks. You’ve carried him in your arms more in the past few days than you have in years, and you’re still surprised at how light he is. When you were his age, you were a good foot taller and much huskier, built for strength and raw power. Hiccup’s built like his mother, all arms and legs. He has her eyes, too.

Not for the first time since this whole ordeal started, you think about Val and the way she died. Hiccup had been a toddler at the time, unable to understand why his mama wouldn’t hold him or play with him. He’d screamed and cried without stopping for what seemed like days before Gobber came and took him away so you could say goodbye to your wife in peace.

You’d had some weeks to say what you needed to say to Val. It was hard, of course, but at least you’d had time. The thought that your son could very well have died so quickly and without that precious time makes your skin crawl with horror. You had lost Val over a period of a month and a half. You could have lost Hiccup in seconds.

You feel the creeping terror crawl up your spine and your eyes sting with tears. Resolutely, you scrub at your eyes with your hand and go to wash up.

The dragon has appeared at Hiccup’s bedside when you return with a clean face and clean hands and bowl of fresh goatsmilk. The beast is so large and still so incongruous to your sight that it is him that you see first and not your son, sitting up and stroking Toothless’s nose with a pale, shaking hand. When you do, you make a very undignified, unmanly, unvikingly noise, something between a gasp and a sob. You don’t drop the bowl of milk, but your hands shake as you place it carefully on the floor next to Hiccup’s bed and embrace your son for the first time in many years. He sits still, letting you hold him, but not returning the gesture. Instead he fists a bit of your bearskin cape in one hand, as if he’s afraid to do more. It dawns on you that it’s very likely that he is afraid to touch you and the shame chokes out the sobs that were threatening to surface. Vikings are gruff, but they are not unfeeling. You pull back and, for all the strangeness of the situation, you find yourself in a familiar predicament; you and your son never really had much to talk about. Seeing him there, pale and sick looking, with a dazed expression on his face, your mind runs dry of words.

Then Hiccup pulls a face, doubles over, and vomits all over your boots.

Well, you’ve heard worse conversation starters.

“Oh Gods.” Hiccup moans and coughs. “Loki’s balls.” He catches sight of his bile on your shoes and starts stammering an apology, his blush especially bright on his pale face.

“Hiccup- Hiccup! Calm down. No, don’t get up.” You out your hands his shoulders and hold him down. You’re no Healer, but you know that even if he hadn’t lost the leg he’d be in no shape to be up and about.

“S-sorry, dad, I’ll-“

“Stay, Hiccup.” You automatically use your sternest tone and wince inwardly went Hiccup goes still and silent, his eyes wary. On the other side of the bed, the dragon growls warningly. You take a breath and try again. “It’s alright. I’ve had worse crap on my boots.” Hiccup doesn’t look convinced that you aren’t angry (you’re actually breathing relief that not only is Hiccup awake, but he’s strong enough to vomit up his guts and still be well enough to try and apologize for it), so you busy yourself with getting him situated with the goatsmilk and a cup of water from the dipper. He drinks slowly and stops often, already tired. Once you’re sure he isn’t going to faint dead away, you go out behind the house and give your boots a dunking in the rain barrel. You wipe them clean on the grass and pull them back on again, tightening and adjusting the leather cords holding the sheepskin snug on your feet. You are definitely not stalling.

Slowly, you reenter the house and quietly approach Hiccup’s sickbed as if you’re trying to approach a dear without spooking it. The boy is sitting with the blankets flipped back, white as a ghost, looking at the stump of his leg. You drop all thoughts of trying to be discreet and move quickly to his side. He’s breathing hard, clearly trying not to panic. He looks at the dragon, who moves forward and nuzzles his hair tenderly. Hiccup wraps his arms around the dragon’s dark head and presses his face to its neck. You feel embarrassed by the intimacy in the moment and look away. You don’t look back until you feel Hiccup touch your arm very lightly.

“Dad...” He says and pauses “What am I… what am I gonna do now?” He won’t meet your eyes and you feel a surge of some strong emotion you don’t recognize. You reach out and leave your hand hovering an inch from Hiccup’s mussed hair (your color, Val’s texture). You finally let your hand settle on your son’s shoulder, your wide palm enveloping the small joint completely.

“Hiccup…” your throat feels tight and dry; your words scrape on the way out “Hiccup I-“ It was so easy before, when he was unconscious.

“Oh Gods, Oh Gods, Oh Gods” your son grips his hair in both hands and whispers oaths to himself, eventually the words blur together into a quiet, miserable groan. You have no idea what to do. You only know what Stubborn Hiccup and Sarcastic Hiccup needs (a firm hand, in both cases). You have no frame of reference for Sad Hiccup or Hysterical Hiccup. Hiccup’s face is red and blotchy and while there are no tears (yet) the soft, sad noises he’s making have a choked quality to them. You don’t want to watch this, your chest hurts, you feel totally lost. You raise your eyes and meet the burning gaze of the Night Fury. The beast holds your stare, and you know that look; it’s a challenge. It’s a look that calls you a coward lest you step up and prove your worth. This animal is telling you that you are a Viking, godsdammit. You come from the stock of Ullr the Great, the first chief of Berk. The day you were born, Thor himself struck the oak tree behind your father’s home with a lightning bolt, a sure sign of approval. You’ve stared down Nightmares and Barbarian Warriors alike. You never back down from a challenge.

You’re clumsy, used to solving problems with brute strength, but somehow you manage to get your arms around your child again and hold him tight. The words still stick a little, but finally you can say them.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Hiccup.” You stutter when Hiccup wraps one hand around to hold your upper arm while the other twists itself in your cloak again. “It’ll be alright. I’ll take care of this, I’ll fix this.” You’re just babbling now, but you couldn’t care less. Your son is calming down, breathing a bit slower and no longer sobbing dryly. He takes a few more deep breaths and you let him go. He smiles weakly at you and you are reminded for the first time in a long time of just how much he looks like Val. He wrinkles his nose suddenly and looks down.

“You’re standing in my puke.”

You look down too and yes indeed, your left boot is planted firmly in a puddle of bile. The dragon actually laughs, it laughs. It doesn’t sound anything like a human’s laughter, but the woofing noise it makes is unmistakable. You jump on your clean boot, teetering this way and that until you can pry your soiled boot off (again). You glare at the dragon and fling your boot out the back door. You swear lowly and spend the next twenty minutes alternating between refilling Hiccup’s cup, mopping up the sick on the floor, keeping Hiccup in bed (even with one-and-a-half legs the boys is difficult to keep in one spot), keeping the dragon out of the bed, and repressing the urge to jump for joy. Your boy will be alright, you think. It’s been a strange, awful week, but you know it will be alright. You’re going to make it alright.

Hiccup falls asleep again about an hour and a half after his awakening and you use the opportunity to get out of the house and start making orders. The dragons are wary of you, as you are of them, but they keep their peace as you walk through the village, calling to the people you need. You manage to gather up your usual team of warriors, craftsmen, and builders and start issuing plans and commands. Everyone seems too surprised to see you in such a good mood so soon after Hiccup’s near-death experience that they obey without question, though there are a few skeptical looks here and there. Soon enough your best architects and your best builders are squabbling good naturedly over designs for extra-large stables, your fishermen are calculating just how much fish the dragons are going to need, your shipwrights are making plans for rebuilding the fleet, and your warriors, under the strict supervision of Hiccup’s friends, are slowly and cautiously approaching a few of the dragons that have settled in the village, learning how not to attack. You’re discussing the stable plans with Grimeye the Thatcher when Gobber saunters up and fairly drags you away to the smithy.

“What’s this about, Gobber? I’ve got a lot of bargaining to do with Grimeye.”

“Hush up about Grim and look at this.” Gobber hobbles into the small back room of the smithy that served as Hiccup’s workspace as well as a storage closet. You’d only ever been in the place once or twice, but when you see the large sheets of parchment laid out over every inch of available space, you immediately know something’s up. You pick up the nearest piece of parchment and examine the detailed design inked onto it. It’s a sail of some kind, meant to be strapped on to something and adjusted by some mechanism you don’t recognize. It takes you a moment to realize that you’re looking at the designs of the tail-fin contraption Hiccup had used to fly the Night Fury. You’re no blacksmith, but you can tell from the tiny notes and carefully drawn details of the design that this is very sophisticated piece of mechanical whatsit.

“Did Hiccup…” you murmur and star to rifle through the other drawings.

“Yes, yes he did.” Confirms Gobber. “There’s nearly fifty of ‘em. Saddles, sketches, tail-fins, harnesses, you name it. Looks like he’d been at it for weeks.”

You nod mutely as you admire some of the other drawings. They’re mostly designs for various pieces of dragon tack, but here and there are drawings of the Night Fury; napping, pouncing, eating… They’re good. They’re very good, and Hiccup drew every last one of them. Gobber is saying something about the designs, but you’re too focused on the fact that Hiccup was capable of so many things and you never noticed. Once again, you’re no smithy, nor are you an artist. Your area of expertise lies entirely in the realms of battle and leadership. Still, you have high standards for just about everything, so you know quality when you see it. So how could you have not seen all this in Hiccup? He could barely lift a weapon and his people skills were rough at best, but he could take a deadly, injured beast and make it fly for him. Shame mixed with awe and pride make for an odd sensation in your chest.

“… I mean, with a little configuring, I could fix up the stirrups to hook into a false leg. I’ve started on a peg for him, with a little Hiccup flair thrown in o’ course, and with a few adjustments I could… Stoick?”

Gobber nudges you and you snap back to the present and mumble an indistinct agreement.

“I’ll come by this evening to take some measurements then, if the lad’s up to it. I figure he must be fairin’ fine if you’re out and about.” You nod and give yourself a little shake.

“Uh, yes, he’s better. Don’t be surprised if he sleeps through your visit, though.” Gobber only laughs and says that it would probably make the whole process easier.

You spend the entire day working hard. You go back to the house around noon to make Hiccup eat some bread and cheese and then you’re off again. You spend another ten minutes that evening hurriedly lighting the hearth and setting some dinner beside Hiccup’s bed before you’re off again to help hew some trees for the new longboats. You don’t finish up until after sundown, but you don’t mind. You like being busy. Idleness lets your mind wander back to Hiccup and how very, very close you were to losing the son you barely know.

The moon has risen when you finally trudge back up to the house. You open the door slowly, not wanting to wake Hiccup. The fire is still burning merrily, probably thanks to the dragon, and Gobber’s left you a note stuck to the doorframe saying that he’ll have the false leg by the day after tomorrow. The dragon’s asleep at Hiccup’s beside and once again you find yourself staring at the fantastic beast rather than the ordinary but no less fantastic sight of your son, sleeping peacefully next to none other than Astrid Hofferson. She’s half-sitting, half-sprawling on top of the blankets next to your son, looking as though she’d fully intended to just sit with him but fell asleep before she could leave him to his rest. More surprises from your son, all in one day. Maybe you should get used to them. Your son lives, and he will live. Life is changing fast, but it’s changing for the better. Hiccup was almost lost, but now you have the prospect of actually getting to know your son stretched out before you. You silently thank Loki for changes that knock you on your ass and force you to learn and promise to never take your child for granted. You’re going to be a good father now and (you eye the way the way Astrid shifts closer to Hiccup as she sleeps) a good grandfather in the years to come. You won’t waste a moment.

But for now, you let the kids and the dragon sleep. The world is changing, but you are blessed enough to have survived the initial upheavals with what matters to you most intact.