“Dragons,” Elinor muttered, fingers digging into Fergus’s arm as he escorted her to her seat. “They’ve tamed dragons.”
They didn’t often see dragons in this part of the kingdom. Conventional wisdom held that Mor’du’s very presence kept the beasts far away. Someone might spot the clear-cut path of a Timberjack deep in the woods, and Scauldrons were a fact of life along the coast, but in general dragons were considered a northern problem. In many ways, they’d been Elinor’s greatest allies in her dealings with Stoick; with the more immediate threats of dragons at his very door, he’d had little interest in her kingdom beyond ensuring they wouldn’t come looking for retribution for past Viking raids.
“I suppose fighting ‘em off is out of the question?” Fergus joked. Elinor gave his arm a hard squeeze; now was not the time. Her eyes slid to Stoick, who was either too engrossed in his food to have heard Fergus, or was pretending not to out of courtesy.
The four dragon riders certainly hadn’t. They were far too busy yammering and stuffing their gobs – all but Stoick’s boy. He responded to the jibes and comments thrown his way with a dry wit that flew over the heads of the other three, but mostly he just watched everything, a silent and thoughtful observer. Not at all what Elinor had been expecting.
Snotlout and the twins – Elinor was still working out which one was Ruffnut and which was Tuffnut, but at least they were different enough that she could tell them apart – were exactly what she had expected; uncouth, loud, and frankly disgusting in their table manners. Naturally, her boys adored them, watching the Vikings with undisguised fascination.
Merida wasn’t even trying to make conversation, not that Elinor blamed her. At least she wasn’t doing anything to start a fight; the last year had seen Merida grow more thoughtful and careful about what she said before acting, and it filled Elinor with considerable pride. She was already dreading the talk she would have to have with her daughter later about just how important this alliance with Berk was becoming, so she hoped this thoughtfulness would remain at the fore.
Damn all dragons and their Vikings.
Fergus settled his ponderous bulk into his chair, leaning towards Hiccup and craning his head to get a good look at the boy. “Must be some tale behind that leg of yours, lad.”
And damn Fergus for good measure.
Hiccup paled, then flushed scarlet. “Oh, yeah, it’s a big one,” he mumbled, shifting uncomfortably on the bench.
“He helped kill a giant dragon,” Snotlout announced, earning a dark glare from Stoick and a smack to the back of his head from one of the twins. “What? He couldn’t have done it without us.”
Hiccup curled in on himself, going pale again even as he forced a laugh. “I don’t like to brag…” He pushed his dinner away, and Snotlout took that as an invitation to help himself. “Dad, you tell it so much better than I do-” The false leg let out a tortured squeak, and the lad’s face lit up. “And I really need to take care of this before anything breaks, and, y’know, I should check on Toothless, so if someone could point me towards the smithy…” He trailed off hopefully.
Perhaps it was wrong to take so much delight in Stoick’s pinched expression, but even Elinor could take only so much before wanting to hang a man’s head on the front gate as a warning to all others, so she would take her victories where she could find them.
Merida caught Elinor’s eye, poised to rise from her seat. Elinor considered briefly, the nodded. If nothing else, she was supremely confidant in her daughter’s ability to handle one boy, Viking or not, if the need arose.
“I can show you,” Merida announced. The triplets were clearly torn; stay and hear the story of Hiccup’s adventures in slaying a giant dragon, or go and maybe see dragons for themselves. They whispered amongst themselves as Hiccup followed Merida out of the hall, and Hamish and Hubert peeled off to scamper after them while Harris remained to listen. Stoick drained his tankard before he began the tale, and one of the maids promptly and wisely filled it again while the squeak of Hiccup’s leg faded into the distance.
“I was leading my band to wipe out the nest of the dragons that had been plaguing Berk-”