Dark. All dark. Can’t breathe! Can’t see! Need… need someone. Help!
The creature thrashed about in its prison, tearing through the soft tissues that surrounded it until it hit something hard. Using its still-delicate claws and its single, sharp tooth, it beat furiously at the barrier. It could hear sounds; crooning, encouraging sounds. The creature was too frantic to realize that it had never heard sounds before.
Out. Out! OUT!
The barrier cracked, deafening to the creature’s tiny ears and light blinded it momentarily.
The Night Fury kit broke through the eggshell and tumbled into his mother’s gentle paws.
At nineteen, Stoick was one of the tallest, strongest, bravest men on Berk. He could uproot a tree with his two hands and knock out a Nadder with one. On the outside, Stoick was the epitome of Viking.
Inside however…well, not so much.
He clutched the beautiful spear wrapped in silvery wolfskin in shaking hands as he watched the sunlight shimmer on the dark hair of Valhallarama, the most beautiful and fierce young woman on Berk. He was going to do it. Today he would ask her to be his wife. He had never been more terrified in his life.
Elder Vör had visions. Everybody knew that. She could warn the village of bad storms and predict epidemics and good harvests.
Most of that was plain common sense, but Vör didn’t tell anyone that. Her real visions she shared only with Elder Ullr.
But when Vör dreamed of a young prince riding on a black dragon the night Valhallarama gave birth to a son, Vör didn’t even tell Ullr. It was a vision steeped in Wyrd, and Vör knew to speak of it might upset the balance of Past and Future. The times were changing. Radically, but for the better.
Hiccup had been born with light blond hair that stood up like a duckling’s downy feathers. It had all fallen out in six months, however, only to be replaced with vivid red hair that it made it look like his head was on fire. His hair grew darker as he got older, finally settling into auburn by the time he was ten. Stoick had snipped a lock of that red hair when Hiccup was a toddler, and kept it like a precious relic. Red hair like his own. Proof that no matter how strange he was, Hiccup was his son.
He knew that he should remarry. He was the Chief and a chief needed not just an heir, but several spares just in case. Bloodlines were important and it was his duty to maintain his. He needed to remarry and have a passel of kids, but it seemed like there was never enough time. Never enough time to start checking out prospective women, never enough time to care for hypothetical children, and, most importantly, there was never enough time between the present and the day Val died that he could think of remarrying without feeling like he was betraying her.
“I told you to eat your cabbage, Hiccup.”
“Hiccup-“ the chief growled.
“I don’t want it!” The five-year-old interrupted and shoved his plate across the table.
Stoick grit his teeth.
“If you don’t clean your plate in the next five minutes, boy-”
“I hate you.” Hiccup snarled with an alarming amount of venom, his green eyes (her eyes) bright with tears.
Stoick couldn’t remember how his hand had become raised, poised to strike, but the terror in Hiccup’s eyes froze him in place. He turned away.
“Go to your room.”
Hiccup ran upstairs, leaving Stoick alone.
“Forgive me, Val.”
When Astrid first realized she had a bit of thing for Hiccup, she didn’t actually realize it. They had all been children then, and Hiccup was not yet completely outcast. They were playing tag and at some point, Ruffnut tackled Hiccup. He tried to squirm away but Ruffnut held fast and laid a wet, smacking kiss on his cheek. Hiccup shrieked and finally got loose, fervently wiping his face.
Just then, jealousy erupted in Astrid so strongly she almost threw a fit. She forgot about it later, but that spark of interest remained, waiting to rise to full flame again.
Gobber eyed the child before him with some doubt. He knew the boy fairly well, but he’d never been around him much. He was always in his peripheral vision, being looked after by Valhallarama or off playing alone, but now that Val was gone… Well, that’s why he was here.
Six years was a bit early to start a child in an apprenticeship, but Gobber knew Stoick had reasons. Namely, the chief needed Hiccup busy, indoors, and out of trouble. It was a legitimate reason, but still, it was a shame the boy had to end his childhood so soon.
Most households on Berk consisted of upwards of five members: The children, the children’s parents, the children’s parent’s parents, and sometimes even the children’s parent’s parent’s parents. There were often cousins and other relatives as well, though some preferred to move out and build their own houses.
The Haddock family was unusually small; just Hiccup and Stoick. Hiccup’s paternal grandparents and maternal grandmother had died before he was born and his mother and maternal grandfather had both been taken by the same deadly illness when he was a toddler. The house was often empty and somewhat sad in its silence.
He didn’t do it purposefully, it just happened. He wanted to be his own man, separate from her, but no matter how hard he tried to ignore or sever it, the connection between them was strong as ever and sensitive to the point that it was kinda creepy.
When she was hurting, he knew. When he was sad, she knew. When one was angry, the other would get riled and antsy.
It was aggravating, knowing someone so well. It drove Tuffnut crazy, but when his sister appeared with understanding eyes when he was upset, his frustration changed quickly to gratitude.
Berk didn’t produce the best veggies. They were nourishing and plentiful, but they weren’t the tastiest food around. Still, when winter came and you were given the choice between a tough turnip and starvation, you took the damn turnip.
So in spring, ever since he was young, Hiccup (Stoick was a terrible gardener, so the chore fell to his son) would go out behind the house and plant rows seeds in the brown dirt. It was dirty, tedious work, but he didn’t mind it. There was something comforting about the smell of earth and the care of green growing things.
It was Hiccup’s turn to make breakfast. Hiccup set out the bread and cheese and cooked the porridge well before sunrise. By the time his father was up, he had already washed up and was halfway through his own meal. Stoick grunted a greeting, and Hiccup nodded back. The chief washed up messily and ate quickly. The boy ate slowly, lost in his thoughts. When Stoick finished, he grunted again and left the house in a hurry, clearly eager to get somewhere and do something. Hiccup only noticed his father was gone when the front door banged shut behind him.
As a child, the reactions pretty much everyone had to his strangeness confused Hiccup, and as a preteen, it tormented him. But by the time he turned fourteen, he had learned to appreciate the freedom being thought of as odd gave him. He could pretty much do whatever he pleased when outside the forge or when the sky was free of dragons. He was certain he could dance through the village with a cod on his head and no one would give him a second thought beyond “Oh, that’s just Hiccup being Hiccup” and then go on with their day.
Hiccup had spent most of his preadolescence wondering when his life was going to start. He was kept indoors most of the time, whether at his father’s house or at the smithy, watching the other children run wild over the hills and woods. He spent his fair share of time wandering in the forest, but while the others played at adventures, he walked alone, drawing and dreaming.
He came up with The Mangler while walking his favorite path and he knew, he just knew, that this invention would be the catalyst that would start him on the path to greatness.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like fighting and drinking and throwing things as much as the next guy, he just liked flowers and birdsong and sunsets too. Was that so wrong? He did all the things a Viking boy was supposed to do, and he liked it . And yet, he always had to be alone when he went out to admire the spring wildflowers or go birdwatching or stargazing. He composed clumsy but nonetheless moving poetry only in solitude and hid them in his mattress. It was hard and gutwrenching sometimes, but after all, Snotlout had a reputation to uphold.
Leather, smoke, dust.
The little Walker kit is back. He’s a strange little beast, but harmless. I wonder what-
Seawater, blood, slight decay.
He’s got fish.
Thank Jormungandr for small miracles.
Hmm… a savory, musky scent… Spotted Silvers and… sweet, slightly briny… Fat Silvers! My favorite!
An overwhelming, acidic smell. Invades the nostrils, makes the hollow bones in my face feel like they're full of stone. UGH!
A Skinny Striper! Of all the disgusting things!
Get rid of it, and for Nidhogg’s sake, wipe your paw.
How did your species get so far? You can’t smell anything can you?
She wondered where he went, sometimes. Well, when she wasn’t jealously imagining gruesome deaths for him, anyway. The rest of the class would go down to the Mead Hall, but Hiccup would just disappear like a white rabbit into a snowbank. She’d followed him once or twice, but he always gave her slip, fading into the forest and not returning until sundown. What could someone like Hiccup be doing in the woods for so long? He didn’t hunt, and he never brought his axe with him, so he wasn’t training… What did someone like Hiccup do with his spare hours?
The Night Fury wasn’t what he had expected. Such a creature of horror deserved massive spikes and jagged teeth, firey red scales and buring yellow eyes.
But no, it turns out the most dangerous dragon ever was comparatively small, playful, and had funny rabbit-like ears. The only thing scary about it was its coloring: pure , matte black. Even then, thought Stoick as he watched the mighty Night Fury doze in front of the fire, the color just made it prettier, all sleek and catlike. It sure was cute though, he admitted, and proceeded to g
“C’mon Toothless, I thought you liked flounder.”
The Night Fury stared dolefully at the offered fish. Hiccup sighed and jiggled the fish invitingly.
“It’s fresh! And, uh…” reluctantly, he brought the flounder close to his face and took a big whiff. “Uck… I mean MMMMmmm! Smells great! Come on, you know you want it.”
Still no response from the dragon. Hiccup sighed and brought the fish to his face again. He took a deep breath and took a bite out of the flounder, swallowing quickly.
Toothless snatched the fish out of his hands in an eyeblink, looking far too smug. ive Toothless a belly rub.
Fall was short on Berk. The leaves changed and fell within a month, making way for the gray skies and dreary weather of winter very quickly.
It was a lovely little season, though. It suited Hiccup wonderfully in Astrid’s opinion. He seemed to wear autumn about him like a fine garment. His hair seemed redder, his eyes more verdant, his skin golder under the scarlet, orange, and ochre leaves of the trees. He didn’t realize this, of course. So Astrid kept it like a secret to be relished, pulling it out and admiring it when they walked through the forest.
“Ugh.” Snotlout grunted and wrung out his tunic for what had to be the hundredth time. Firewyrm growled in agreement and continued to smoulder gently, steam rising from where water had pooled between her wings and scales.
“That was… stupid.” he said, shaking his head and scattering droplets everywhere. Again, Firewyrm crooned as if to say “Hell yes it was.”
“Still…” Snotlout picked up his satchel and pulled out an old book. After glancing about to make sure no one was there to see, he flipped it open and admired the carefully pressed wildflowers he had collected. “Totally worth it.”
The Vikings had gotten to the point that learning something new about dragons had become a daily occurrence. However, there was one event that so knocked them all for a loop that they found their awe of the great creatures renewed.
On New Moon nights, just before dawn, the dragons would gather outside… and sing. Their song was a low, hypnotic croon that grew louder as the sky lightened. When the sun peeked over the horizon, the dragons would all roar and howl with joy. The ruckus woke everyone up, but their joy was a lovely thing to wake to.
Hiccup gaped. Toothless, in an honest effort to be friendly, had hacked up a slimy salmon tail in Stoick’s lap.
The Viking chief looked back and forth between the fishtail and the dragon staring at him expectantly. Much to Hiccup’s relief (and apprehension), after a few minutes Stoick heaved a resigned sigh and took a big bite out of the raw fish. He chewed slowly and swallowed with a look of pleasant surprise.
Stoick eventually combined raw salmon (one of his new favorite foods) with boiled grains, green onions, and horseradish and called it S.U.S.H.I.*.
*(Savory Uncooked Salmon Horseradish Invention)
The truth was, Hiccup would always be just a little bit suspicious of his friends, no matter how much time passed. He knew that they had been young and he knew they had all changed dramatically over the years into more considerate people, but the scars from his childhood still ached sometimes. There was a side of himself he never showed, not even to Astrid.
That side was reserved for Toothless. Toothless had never judged him, and yet he was the one who saw Hiccup’s flaws and weaknesses. The entire world could abandon him as long as he had Toothless.
Zipplebacks were among the hardest dragons to train. Unless the rider was very good at multitasking, one Zippleback required two riders who had a system of quick communication down pat. The dragon itself was a hassle too, being flighty and literally of two minds about almost everything.
The Thorsten Twins had no such problems. They were just as alike and just as different as the heads of their Zippleback. Hot headed, loudmouthed Tuffnut rode Lightning, the sparking head, while subtler, but no less wild Ruffnut rode Thunder, the gas head. Altogether, they were a chaotic, bizarre, but deadly effective team.
“Okay, when going into a dive, just hang tight onto the saddle and lean down as far as you can.”
“Are you sure we should be doing this so high up?”
“It’s actually harder to pull a dive from a shorter height, Dad.”
“Are you sure?”
“Very sure… you don’t have to yank on the reins, she knows what she’s doing.”
“Easy, just let her do her thing. You know what you’re doing, don’t you girl?”
The Timberjack chuffed affirmatively.
“Hiccup, I really don’t know about-“
“Relax. Okay, on my mark, lean down and here we go...”
Hiccup had always been an early riser. Whether it be because of his internal clock or the dragon attacks that occurred most frequently in the wee hours, he was almost always up before the sun. After the battle with the Green Death, it was most often the blast of fishy breath in his face and the nuzzling and shoving of a massive head that woke him.
When Toothless wanted his breakfast, he wanted his breakfast.
It wasn’t all bad, though. The sun coming up over the sea was quite a sight, and it was especially beautiful when seen from dragonback.
“Aaah, Gods!” Hiccup leapt up and tumbled down a short hillside, narrowly avoiding an explosive blast from a Gronkle.
“Heads up!” Tuffnut dashed past, hurling water at a bit of Nightmare fire creeping up the side of a nearby shed. Ruffnut followed closely, dousing a flaming patch of nettles.
A flock of Terrors flew by, a few breaking off from the group and slamming headlong into a house.
“We are never, ever leaving the mead storehouse unlocked again. EVER.” Groaned Hiccup as several of the downed Terrors meandered drunkenly over to him and climbed all over him, begging for attention.
“Ask her now.” Insisted Gobber.
“No, wait til Washing Day, when you can be alone. She won’t like you proposing and then running off to go to work.” Argued Stoick.
The two men locked eyes while eighteen-year-old Hiccup looked on, half fascinated, half confused.
“Are you sayin’ I wouldn’t afford the boy some time off to get himself a wife?” growled Gobber.
“I’m sayin’ they need time alone for the askin’! It’s more romantic like.”
“Don’t be such a sop, Stoick.”
“Who’re you callin’ a sop?!”
Hiccup escaped out the back while his fathers duked it out in the kitchen.
Due to a lot of physical work, genes, and a hearty diet of meat, bread, tubers, meat, mead, and meat, the women of Berk were famous for their shapely figures. Voluptuous was the norm and buxom never went out of fashion. Maybe it was their Viking blood, or maybe it was just Berk, but around the age of seventeen, the island’s girls suddenly filled out.
Hiccup had never given all this much thought until one day he saw Astrid bending over to pick up an axe and realized she had… Wow.
That night he plucked up his courage and proposed.
He seemed so boring. He liked to read and the most exciting thing he ever did on a regular basis was sail through the occasional summer storm. Of all the boys in the village, Fishlegs was probably the one that Ruff looked at the least.
It took her a bit to realize it, but Fishlegs’s steadiness and sweetness had a peculiar effect on her. Her natural wildness felt much freer and less like trying to top Tuffnut. He did his damnest to keep up with her yet kept her grounded. Even wildflowers need strong soil in order to take root.
Astrid had beautiful skin. It was soft and smooth and smelled delightful girly, despite all of Astrid’s ‘unfeminine’ habits. What Hiccup liked best, though, were her imperfections. Maybe the loss of his leg gave him a rueful respect for scars, or maybe he just had a taste for tiny details. Either way, as much as he adored Astrid’s silky back and pale throat, he liked her calloused palms and the twisting burn scars on her hip and right thigh more. He loved her freckles and each and every mark left over from old injuries. They made her who she was.
It was called the Honey Moon. Honey for the mead given to them at the wedding, moon for the four weeks that the mead was supposed to last. It was supposed to symbolize the sweetness of the union, but Astrid knew better. It was supposed to get the couple drunk often so that they could make a baby as quickly as possible.
Too bad for the tribe that she and Hiccup had decided to wait. They had a fairly reliable method of watching Astrid’s cycles. They wanted babies, but they wanted to enjoy being together and explore the world first.
It was all too easy to forget it sometimes. Toothless had all the mannerisms of a spoiled housecat. He purred, he cuddled, he got into things he shouldn’t, he begged for table scraps… Yes, he was big and exotic and had some impressive teeth, but he could be so gentle and silly it was easy to forget what he was capable of.
The night a rabid Boneknapper came crashing into the village green, screeching and snapping and foaming at the mouth, the entire village received a vivid reminder of why they called Night Furies the offspring of lightning and death.
Astrid’s cooking skills were mediocre at best. The food she prepared wasn’t bad, really, it was just that her knowledge of recipes was limited and she didn’t know much about using herbs for flavor.
She never really worried about it until she became engaged to Hiccup. She honestly wanted to impress him by proving she was good at girly things, but the third night after their wedding she was surprised to come home to find a delicious smelling meal already on the table. Hiccup offered her a plate.
“I’ll show you how to make it.” He said with a smile.
Hiccup had grown up with no mother and no sisters.
So, a couple of weeks after he and Astrid married, he didn’t have a clue as to why his wonderful new wife was kicking him out the front door while welcoming several young women their age in.
“Uh… What just happened?”
Toothless, who had also been jettisoned from the house, only crooned in bewilderment.
“Ach.” Boy and dragon turned to see Stoick standing a few feet away. “Why don’t ye come down to th’ Mead Hall with me, lads? Hiccup, there’s a few things you need to learn about women.”
In the third month of their travels, Hiccup, Astrid, the healer Thorntooth, Ruffnut, and Fishlegs crossed the channel between Southeast Albion and Gaul and thence down to Southern Iberia. The heat was intense and the sunshine astounded them all, but it was a certain plant that Hiccup remembered most fondly. It was a smallish tree with dark leaves and round, bright orange fruit. He and Astrid had cut the thing open and, finding it to be juicy and pulpy and sweet, shared it and ended up with sticky fingers and lips, and sugary fingerprints in places others could not see.
They called her Ruffnut the White for some reason. Maybe it was because of her light-colored hair. It might have been her skin which was so pale it was practically translucent. These southerners had olive skin, and the Nubians they ran into had beautiful blue-black skin, so maybe they thought her skin was the most remarkable thing about her.
It wasn’t until she asked that she found it was because she had no husband, and that that meant she was thought of as a pure virgin. She thought that was hilarious, but she kept her mouth shut on the matter.
Stoick sat on his stoop, drinking thoughtfully from a flagon of mead. The Midsummer festivities were ending, and only the liveliest young folk remained outside, dancing tipsily to the wonky tune of a flute and a single drum. It was a beautiful sight, especially with the golden rays of the setting sun giving everything a rosy glow. His son was out there, dancing badly but happily with his lovely wife.
He was so lucky, he thought. He was older now, and his bones ached in the morning. But he got to have this moment, and that was enough for him.
A silver streak of lightning lit up the world in vivid detail for a split second.
Hiccup lay awake, counting in his head. One-zippleback, two-zippleback, three-zippleback, four-zippleback…
Hiccup jumped, not at the sound of the thunder, but at the sudden touch of his wife. She had reached out and clung to him in her sleep. Another flash of lightning precluded another crack of thunder, far off over the sea but still loud enough to startle the sleeping Astrid into burrowing into Hiccup’s side. Hiccup wrapped his arms around her and smiled. He so rarely was allowed to protect her.
In winter, the days got shorter and shorter until there was a whole week or so of no sun at all. It was part of Yule, the longest night of the year. Families stayed indoors, sheltering from the howling wind and stinging blizzards. They played at cards and told stories until everyone was thouroughly sick of each other.
It wasn’t all bad, though. In fact, some referred to it as the most productive time of the year. Everyone looked forward to seeing not just the sun again, but also who was sheepishly grinning and ordering cradles from the local woodworker’s.
Astrid looked good in blue. She wasn’t the most fashion conscious girl, preferring leather and spikes over tunics or vests. However, no matter what she wore, she always included blue in her ensemble.
But as she looked at herself in her polished shield, not even her favorite color could redeem the dress she wore. At nine weeks pregnant she was finally starting to show and her usual spiky-leather-kilt and shoulder-guard combo just didn’t fit. The dress was pretty comfy, but Astrid vowed that after the baby was born, she would burn the ugly, awful dress and dance in the ashes.
Ruffnut wasn’t what one would call feminine. She was loud, aggressive, and abysmal at needlepoint and spinning. The only remotely girlish thing about her was her long hair, fine as Araby silk and pale gold like ripe wheat in color. When she was alone with either Astrid or (some years later) Fishlegs, she would unbind her locks and let them flow around her narrow frame. Astrid had liked to braid it and fiddle with it, but Fishlegs just liked to run his fingers through it and watch it shimmer in the light. Sometimes she wasn’t sure which she liked better.
The bleeding stopped within a couple of hours, but Astrid did not stir for days. She only lay there, whether she slept or was awake, staring into space. The stillborn child was burnt and life went on in Berk.
But the chief’s house was dark and still. Hiccup sat beside his wife, holding her hand and hating the Gods, the world, and himself. Even Toothless and Skadi were silent, lurking overhead like ghosts.
There would be other children, the midwife had said. They could try again. But for now, for Hiccup and Astrid, the world was a meaningless, colorless place.
Her passion was exhausting, sometimes. Ruffnut seized each day with a vengeance and squeezed every drop of living she possibly could out of it. Fishlegs was the thoughtful, sedentary type that was actually very badly suited for someone as wild as Ruffnut. She never loved, she worshipped. She never disliked, she loathed. Her exuberance blinded him and left him dizzy and confused. It was simply too much.
It was a bad thing to think, but Fishlegs knew that if it wasn’t for his ability to escape her for a few hours on Horrorcow, their marriage would have ended long ago.
They were never able to part entirely with the ships. The dragons didn’t depend on the winds. They were faster than the ships and they had the added factor of really scaring the hell out of anyone down on the water. A ship full of ruthless Celts could be reduced to a bucketful of screaming ninnies when they spotted a Dragon battalion on the horizon.
But the ships held sentimental value and the Vikings were traditionally a seafaring people.
Plus the sight of not just Vikings on dragons but a full fleet of longboats as well was really, really intimidating.
“What are they doing?” Skadi stuck her head out the front door and gaped at the humans frolicking around in the snow.
“It’s a game, I think.” Said Toothless, rolling over to expose his belly to the hearthfire. “They think it’s fun.”
“What’s so fun about hurling snow at eachother and getting all wet and cold?” the Nadder huffed.
“Don’t look at me, I’m not a human.”
Both dragons looked up as their humans tumbled inside, kissing and tearing at eachother’s clothing before stumbling upstairs.
Skadi flopped down next to Toothless. “Humans have the strangest mating dances.”
Toothless nodded sagely.
Astrid woke up curled around Hiccup, wrapped in the protective embrace of Toothless, who had climbed halfway onto the bed during the night. That wasn’t really an unusual occurrence, but the rising nausea was. She scrambled off the bed and stumbled over to the chamber pot. While she was puking up her guts, Hiccup came over to hold back her hair. He sniffed the air and pulled a face.
“What’s that smell?”
Just then, Stoick kicked through the bedroom door, a plate of fresh Lutefisk in his hands.
“I have breakfast!”
And that’s how they knew Astrid was pregnant again.
Astrid suspected that Lokabrenna was scheming to remain an only child, and thus be the center of attention and adoration. She had this habit of having nightmares, but only on the nights when Hiccup looked at Astrid that way over supper, or when Astrid had gotten a little handsier than normal.
On those nights, Loka would cry out and run to her parents’ bed, insisting on spending the night with them. She’d burrow her way into the middle of the bed, between Astrid and Hiccup, and proceed to jab them in the ribs with her pointy little-girl knees and elbows.
For the first few weeks of spring, Hiccup was literally the only young man living in Berk. Like some sort of mournful maiden, he'd make daily visits to the docks and scan the horizon for the white sails of Viking longboats. It was kind of embarrassing. Still, with his leg and his general inability to handle a weapon without goring himself, he was stuck at home with Toothless and little Lokabrenna during the annual raids. He was lauded enough that he didn’t have to worry about being shamed or anything, but still, he hated every day that Astrid was away.
“Mama’s crying!” Lokabrenna said tearfully.
“I know, kiddo, But Mama’s fine, I promise. Having a baby is hard.” Hiccup bounced Loka on his knee and exchanged a look with Toothless, who nuzzled Loka comfortingly. Hiccup had been in the room with Astrid when the… the miscarriage had happened, as he had been when Loka was born. Now, he had to stay outside and watch his daughter while Astrid delivered their second child. It took nine hours of games, stories and reassurances before Loka fell asleep, only to be awakened by the midwife bursting out of the house.
“It’s a boy!”
“Like this, sweeting.” Astrid rearranged the small trowel in her son’s chubby fist, guiding his hand down into the dirt, making a small divot in the earth. “And then you put the seed in…” she tucked two or three beet seeds into the hole “And then you cover it up!” Lif stared at the newly planted plot for a second before chucking the trowel at Lokabrenna and shrieking with delight. Loka glared at her little brother with all the venom a six year old could muster and then went back to planting turnips.
“Okay” sighed Astrid “Let’s try it again…”
Walpurgis has always been Astrid’s favorite holiday. The Vikings never needed much of an excuse to party, but on May first they pulled out all the stops. Bonfires were lit, maypoles erected, and songs sung. There was a huge feast and a joyous ritual to the Vanir and the other guardians of the earth.
Astrid loves all those things, but there is one very special reason why she loves Walpurgis most.
She cuddles against Hiccup and watches Lokabrenna and Lif take turns dancing around the bonfire with tiny Roan. Her youngest child was conceived on this day one year ago.
Enclosure meant safety. Enclosure meant family. Enclosure meant home and warm and love and care. It meant coming home to a house with a lovely fire and soft blankets after flying through a nasty storm. It meant playing with Astrid and Hiccup’s kits. It meant wrestling with Skadi. It meant all the best things in life.
Enclosure also meant cramped. Enclosure meant dependence. Enclosure meant trapped and prisoner and longing. It meant watching his fellows soar without help. It meant never having any time alone. It meant being a damn house pet. It meant all the worst things in life.
They rolled in the grass, touching and tickling and wrestling. She loved to tackle him and hold on until he laughingly begged for release, and he in turn loved to bury his nose behind her ear and breathe in the sweet female musk of her. Green eyes gazed into blue and they had to laugh, overcome with happiness.
Up on a hill nearby the young lovers, Astrid huffed in boredom.
“Are they done yet?”
Next to her, Hiccup turned to look at Toothless and his blue-eyed, Night Fury girlfriend and whipped back around immediately, his cheeks bright red.
They called her Star for her big blue eyes and her haughty nature. She could be sweet (she absolutely adored their son Lif and would twine around him, purring madly) and she could be tender (who knew a temperamental female Fury could be so gentle with children?), but mainly she was snooty and demanding. She tended to be noisy when she wanted attention and gods help you if you didn’t feed her on time.
But the doofy look on Toothless’s face was clear as day: he was gaga over Star, and so they did their best to love her too.
3 was an important number. The universe was composed of three worlds, which in turn encapsulated nine (which was three threes, of course) different countries. There were three Norns, three cockcrows that signaled Ragnarok, and nine days during which the Allfather hung on Yggdrasil and read the runes.
Three also was the number of a complete unit. Man, Woman, and child, or in the case of the Haddock family, Man, Woman, and Dragon. Hiccup and Astrid had their beloved three children, and Astrid had her Nadder, Skadi, but it was She, He, and Toothless that together formed the perfect trio.
The hearthfire flickered and leapt, casting orange lights and shadows across the faces of the enraptured children.
“’Handmaiden!’ yelled Thrym ‘Why does my lady eat and drink so ravenously?’” the children all grinned and giggled in anticipation of the next line. Hiccup did the funniest voices.
“’My Lord Thrym!’” The children all burst into hysterics at Hiccup’s high pitched imitation of a woman’s voice. “’My Lady was so eager to marry you she could not eat for three days!’ said Loki.”
Outside, thunder growled and rain hammered the village, but the Haddock household was safe, gathered together around the hearth.
The days grow short, the light seems to change, and then comes the freeze. It lasts for days; relentless cold, sleet, and snow that freezes the water in the harbor into treacherous chunks that undulate and crash into one another. Ice forms over everything, sealing doors shut and creeping through the cracks in the walls.
Inside the chief’s house a pair of Night Furies and a Nadder guard their fragile, precious charges. Skadi tends the fire, Star watches over her single ebony egg, and Toothless wraps his human and his family in his wings, holding off the ice and cold.
Hiccup and Toothless dived, creating the ballistic screech that was their herald and shot out three blasts of blue flame, blasting one enemy ship in half and igniting another.
Blood-drunk, they swooped and screamed and attacked mercilessly. Toothless was fully given over to the side of himself that still lead many to whisper the name ‘Night Fury’ with fear and reverence. Hiccup, gentle, funny, thoughtful Hiccup, drew back his bow and neatly skewered an invader.
He would think back on his kills with remorse some hours later, but for now he was lost in the red storm of the Berserk.
The blue drape the man wore was very fine indeed. The color was so rich that the blood was almost unnoticeable. If one looked closely enough, one could see how the red changed the azure of the fabric to a rich, dark purple.
Astrid grimaced at the blood. She didn’t enjoy killing people. But these southerners, these Romans… They came to Berk, wanting a foothold in the far North. This was the third such invasion. Astrid wiped her sword on the Roman’s toga, watching her Nadder roast a would-be invader, and wondered when they’d get the hint and stop trying.
It was easier than it should have been. The log, a heavy pine thing, cut through the air and struck the Roman on the temple. The makeshift club had gathered enough momentum that even after he hit the Invader, the weapon continued its arc, making Hiccup lose his balance. They were fairly isolated, he and his opponent, away from the sounds of battle coming from the village, giving Hiccup plenty of time to admire the way that he (Him! Of all people!) had managed to cave in the Roman’s skull, causing blood and brain to leak out onto the dirt.
He ordered the executions, and was obliged to watch them, but that didn’t mean he enjoyed it. He could never look at anyone and see them as just one thing, not even the people who were supposed to be his enemies.
As each marauding pirate was beheaded, he wondered who they were, if they had families, if they had special talents, or if they liked smoked eel.
He was the chief, and he had to make hard decisions. He knew that killing the pirates was the right thing to do, but even they would never be just enemies to him.
Astrid died in early summer. The worst time for someone to die, Hiccup thought. He would stand in the doorway, leaning on his cane, and glare at the blue skies, the green grass and bright flowers. His world was dark but the outside world didn’t care.
He was sitting inside, fiddling with some gadget, when his oldest grandchildren, the twins Stoick and Alfdis, came in with armfuls of… something. He ignored them as they moved around behind him. When they left, he turned and saw the little altar dedicated to Astrid had been decorated with beautiful summer flowers.
Lokabrenna clasped her husband’s hand in her left and held her youngest child in her right arm.
It was better this way, she thought. Dad had never been the same after Mama had died. Now they could meet in Frigga’s Hall, where true lovers were reunited in the afterlife.
As the oldest child, it was she that was supposed to put the torch to her father’s pyre but she did not. Instead, the black dragon that was her mount now stepped forth, and released a blue blast of flame that would send his former rider and friend to the heavens.
Toothless has lived to be three-hundred-seventy-two years old. He was only one-hundred-and-sixteen when he met his Hiccup, a dragon barely entering adulthood by Fury standards. Hiccup passed when Toothless was one-hundred-eighty-four. Hiccup died at a ripe old age, the humans said, but it was too soon for Toothless.
He has been the mount of five generations of Haddocks: Hiccup plus one child from each litter of Hiccup’s decedents. He loved them all like he loves his own kits, but the day the sky opens up above him and he sees Hiccup, young and hale, beckoning him, he couldn’t be happier.
“Tonight, the team will be visiting Berk. This tiny island may seem like a lush Norse paradise, but it is thought to be one of the most haunted townships in Europe.
Though Berk is known mainly for its well-preserved ruins, ghost hunters are drawn from all over the world in an effort to catch a glimpse of the strange presence thought to be the ghosts of Hiksti Drekkin and Ántönn, the first known rider of wild dragons and his Night Fury mount. We’re going to see if we can hunt down this dragon-riding ghost tonight… On Most Haunted: World Tour!”