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One of Us (One of Them)

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Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III is one of Loki’s favorite humans.

 

Not because the child engages in mischief (deliberately), or because the child is sly and cunning (he isn’t), or because he fits the parameters of what mortals and most of Asgard believe should be in place for Loki to have favorite humans (he doesn’t have those parameters, and if he did, Hiccup would not fit them).

 

Hiccup’s clan broke away from the rest of his people—they turned left while the rest of the host heading towards what will come to be known as North America turned right—but unlike the rest of his people, they stayed even after dealing with dragons.

 

For all that Hiccup’s father likes to claim that they’re Vikings, that they have stubbornness issues—no. It’s just this clan. Other Vikings would have recognized a lost fight when they saw one and they would have removed themselves with all due haste.

 

But lost and kept away from the rest of their people, forced to rely on interbreeding...yes, they are stubborn. Over the generations, they also lost things like common sense. But Hiccup Stoicksson (Loki is too accustomed to Asgard to think of him with all of his ridiculous names) has a greater shine of intelligence than his fellows.

 

And like Loki, when he discovered he had the talent for seiõr, Hiccup was shunned by his community for placing them in danger at times (that was true enough), but moreover, his community sensed that there was something unnatural about him. He was not a warrior. He could hardly hunt. He had issues herding sheep.

 

In short, in a small community that was dependent on each member hauling their own weight, he was worse than useless. The only reason why he had yet to be abandoned by the community was the protection of his father and the village blacksmith, and that was tenuous at best.

 

And yet.

 

The child does not have seiõr, not the way Loki knows it, but he has something nonetheless. His village classified his issues with sheep that Hiccup could not get the sheep to obey him, which they would lead him instead of the other way around. This is not true.

 

Hiccup knows exactly where the sheep wish to go. They know where the best grazing is, the best temperatures, the most water, and so he lets them go. They do not trouble him—indeed, they always come at his call—but since he is only ever seen trailing them with his little book of sketches, he is thought to be lazy at best, ineffectual at worst.

 

Hiccup cannot kill. There is nothing wrong with this on an abstract level, but the community depends on hunting, fishing, and mutton. Thought is not extended as to why Hiccup cannot kill—he is seen as weak.

 

But Loki knows.

 

Which is why he lets events take their course.

 

--

 

Thor does not understand the favoritism of this particular human. He surprises Loki one afternoon as he watches Hiccup stumble through the forest, searching for a dragon he had sworn he had brought down. “Your interest has been noted by the All-Father, brother,” Thor rumbles, placing a hand on Loki’s shoulder.

 

Thor likes to touch. He communicates as much with a touch to the shoulder, the arm, or lower back as much his words do. His touches often belie the tone in which he says his words.

 

Thor is an honest soul, and it frustrates Loki as often as it amuses him.

 

“You and the All-Father have had your favorites,” he points out. “Why should I be denied mine?”

 

“Our favored are warriors. This one is a weak child,” Thor glances at the viewing orb and barely hides his shudder at the magic on display. “What use is he to you?”

 

“One does not need to have be useful to be favored,” he replies softly, resisting the urge to bite out the words. Thor tries, he truly does. But there are times that no matter how he looks, he cannot see.

 

Thor removes his hand. Loki’s finger twitches as the loss of contact, and unbidden, a branch snaps Hiccup in the face. The both of them hear his complaint. “Do not torment him,” Thor says reprovingly.

 

Loki covers his mouth with his hand, but his eyes glitter in amusement nonetheless. “Trials will harden him,” he finally says, as bland as butter.

 

“As they did you?”

 

Loki glances at the orb again. Hiccup has almost found the dragon. “Not quite in the same manner. Brother.”

 

Thor snorts and leaves him alone.

 

--

 

With the things he learns from the dragon (whom he has dubbed Toothless, honestly, mortals) and yes, trickery, Hiccup wins accolades and acceptance from the village. It’s a change for him, one he’s not comfortable with.

 

If it would not doom him in the eyes of his fellows, Loki would appear to him and warn him that this sort of quick acceptance easily dissipates should their fortune change again. While Hiccup may feel necessary—and he will be, in the times to come—humans are quick to turn on those who are different when winter’s chipping at their bones.

 

It is not, Loki reminds himself, a uniquely human trait.

 

He has been trying to determine what form of seiõr the child possesses. That he has some form of magick is irrefutable, but the form it takes is unique to Midgard. Though Midgard has it’s shares of sorcerers and magicians that are worshipped as gods, each realm also has a unique form of magick that is unable to be understood by the other realms.

 

Whatever Hiccup possesses, there are no Midgardian words for it yet.

 

There have been examples of what Hiccup possesses in other Midgardian mythologies—the Greeks, the Romans[i], etc—but there’s no name for it. The closest would ‘shaman’ or ‘priest’ but the child lacks the necessary knowledge to be a shaman.

 

Instead, he has a—a bond with other creatures. He can see through their eyes, but he is not a skinchanger. He can understand but never know, not in the way creatures do. This is what connected him to the dragon, just as he instinctively knew that to free the dragons the queen must be killed.

 

And though he may not recognize it, he has become the new queen.

 

The dragons flock to him—at first, because of his bond with them. Later, all dragons, all the offspring, recognize him innately as their queen. They will stop at nothing to protect him, and they will listen to him when he speaks because he speaks their tongue.

 

His village does not understand, but they are grateful. They see dragons as beasts, of burden and helpmeets. Hiccup does not. He sees them as people. Dragons are people to Hiccup before people are people to Hiccup.

 

--

 

Loki walks through Hiccup’s village by night, cloaked in shadow. He is out of the sight of all mortals and most dragons, but the one dragon who can see him is the protector and partner of the child he seeks.

 

The dragon’s green gaze sharpens upon him as he walks through the wall to gaze upon Hiccup. He holds a finger to his mouth; the dragon is silent, though his teeth are bared in a snarl. He has an internal moment of amusement; if this dragon decided to harm him, he could be gone long before the dragon has finished firing his shot.

 

The child is fast asleep, one hand twitching on the covers, and the other tucked underneath them. From this angle, he looks pure mortal, but he is not. Not anymore.

 

He touches the boy’s visible hand lightly. The dragon is fully alert now, his hackles raised and a quiet snarl ripping out of chest. “Peace, protector,” Loki murmurs. “I mean him no harm.”

 

The dragon does not relax, but the growl ceases.

 

He closes his eyes and presses down with the tips of his fingers, searching with his magick. When he finds the right junction, he reinforces it with light touches of magic, and then he releases the chi—

 

No.

 

He is a man, now.

 

As he turns to leave, to fade, the dragon snarls at him, demanding to know what has passed. “He will not come to any harm,” Loki assures the creature. He smirks slightly. “He is your kind’s forever.”

 

 ---

 

There’s a tickling sensation between Hiccup’s shoulder blades all the time. He once tried to speak of it to Astrid, but she shrugged and said that he was a champion of the village, how could he expect people not to stare.

 

But he gets the feeling even when he’s away from the village and it’s just him and Toothless, out flying or in the cove or anywhere, really.

 

Finally, he seeks out the Elder. Her house is dark—the only light comes from the fire—and smells of strange herbs. On the walls are the animal-skin drums she uses in ceremony, and plants are hanging from the low ceiling to dry. Though the place is alien to him, he feels comfortable there. Toothless wedges his head through the door and sneezes.

 

The Elder is mashing juniper berries—he can tell by the sharpness of the scent—and when she sees him there, she looks unsurprised. “I have been waiting for you.” She puts aside the mortar and pestle, grasping her staff and gesturing him out. Toothless walks backwards so they can leave her house. He walks behind them while the Elder strides purposefully into the forest, every now and again bumping into Hiccup’s back with his nose. Hiccup grits his teeth as they begin to climb up a hill; he’s still getting used to his metal leg, and walking for a great deal of time not only makes him tired but makes the skin covering the stump of what’s left chafe and burn.

 

She hands a sickle to Hiccup. “Help me.” She kneels and begins to cut away at some of the leaves of a bush. Hiccup turns and does the same, the prickling sensation heightening the longer they’re out there.

 

Finally, Hiccup forces himself to ask, “Can you help me?”

 

She glances at him. “You must be more explicit, young dragon-tamer.”

 

“I didn’t really...tame the dragons,” he protests, though with little heat. “I feel like I’m being watched. All the time.”

 

She’s silent, turning back to cut leaves. Toothless nudges Hiccup, lipping his palm. “I mean, I think the Gods hate me,” he starts again, but the Elder rises abruptly, shoving the end of her staff in his face, a scarce inch from his nose.

 

Toothless begins rumbling in warning, but the Elder ignores him. “You are not hated by the Gods, dragon-tamer. Most of us should be so lucky; the Gods leave alone those whom they hate. They only begin to meddle in the affairs of those they love.” She scrutinizes him, and then withdraws her staff, thumping the point into the ground with a soft sound. “You are well-beloved by the Gods, Hiccup Haddock Horrendous the Third.”

 

“But—how?”

 

She curls her lip. “The Trickster has his hand upon you. You feel outcast because you are outcast in every way that is felt but never understood. The moment you killed their queen,” she nods at Toothless, who appears cowed by her, “you became one of them. You wear the skin of man, you believe you are man, but you are dragon underneath that. You will outlive us all.”