Astrid felt far too tired to complain. She hadn't expected Hiccup to be this...talented as a fighter and had never guessed, that he would have been able, to actually hold up with her – even without a shield! Well...he hadn't won the fight, but still she was slightly impressed. Still, she was very happy about the bloody blow she had given him, straight across the face. It gave her at least some satisfaction!
She merely looked at Hiccup, who stood very still behind her. He was still gazing up towards the tier of the arena, probably trying to understand, what just had happened.
Since everybody else was still too busy with celebrating the very soon upcoming wedding, Astrid turned around and walked towards the gate, to leave this damned arena.
She felt a little...numb... inside, as if this fight had sucked any considerable emotion from her body. She did not know what to think, what to say or what to do. Therefore the young woman only opened the gate slightly with her bare hands, walking through it.
Some guards from her tribe were already waiting for her, insisting in her to follow towards her father's ship.
Astrid did not complain. She felt tiered. She whole process of fighting – not only physically, but also mentally and verbally made her feel this way. The young woman followed without a word.
They brought her to chart room, a place were Hakon likes to stay, since he loved to have a certain control over the route of their ship. He really liked it that way – to have everything in perfect order, no matter if its something within their village, or their house or her life.
To Astrid it felt, like her father had always a plan. How she should behave. Which weapon she should have. Which suitors were acceptable in his eyes. And now it felt, as if he had always planned out her life to this very point, very well knowing, that the day would come, that she would marry the heir of the Haddock Clan. Not only because of a stupid pact. But because it would be best for her, in his eyes.
It felt like...she never had a choice, no matter what both their parents have told her.
She only was another piece in one of Hakon's many plans for a wealthy, happy and save Hunter tribe. And she had always been a desperate try of her mother, to fulfill long-lost dreams.
Astrid was sitting silently on one of the chairs in this small room. She had her hands folded, which laid on her lap, waiting for her father to come.
The waves beneath the ship were carefully rocking it, getting her back to the harsh reality around her, which came suddenly crashing into her.
Suddenly she understood what had happened. What Gobber had said. What it meant for her – for them. No – screw the remaining eight days! She had only time left until tomorrow, until she would loose her freedom altogether!
Her rib cage felt suddenly all too tight around her lung, making it hard to breath and she felt like drowning in the ocean bellow her very feet. It made her heart feel, like it has been caught in a vice, trying to suppress every beat of it, making her feel dizzy and desperate at the same time. Her head was spinning like the shield, she had thrown at Hiccup, only minutes ago.
Gripping her head with both hands, Astrid suddenly felt very, very lost. The strong and determined warrior was lost underneath a sea of sadness and sorrow – emotions she had withheld from the the very beginning, since her father had announced this wedding to her. Feelings she had tried to suppress with anger and fury and the promising hope from her mother's words.
And for the first time in weeks these emotions started to emerge and tears, she had hold back each and every night, left her eyes and ran down her dirty cheeks.
She did not know, what hurt her most about this situation – that she had trusted her mother without a second thought, or that her father forced her into a political marriage! That her people were left to live among dragons in peace or that she was the one to live on this strange island with even stranger people! With a husband, she would never be able to love.
Her breathing got heavier and heavier with each passing minute. The tears were taking her view altogether, burning hot and salty in her eyes and on her cheeks.
She was...trapped. Has always been – ever since she was born. Born as a girl, to be married to Hiccup, who was by accident born as a boy!
This...was so wrong on so many levels! What had she done, that she deserved this punishment from the gods?!
Oh Odin, Thor and Freya...What had she done...?
The door opened with a harsh swoosh and closed again with a loud bang.
Astrid expected her mother to be the one, to talk to her first about her loss, but – no – it was Hakon, standing tall in this small room, wearing a grim frown on his aged face, hands pressed into a tight fist.
The young woman wiped in a hurry away her tears and felt immediately dumb for crying.
A warrior shouldn't shed tears, after tall! That is, was her mother has always told her. Especially not in front of men – since this would make her even weaker in front of this oh so dominant gender!
Hurried she stood up from her chair, mirroring his pose with clenched fists, to show, that she was not impressed by his size or afraid of his name.
“Father-“ she said, but Hakon interrupted her without waiting for her words.
“I am disappointed of you!“ He nearly shouted with his deep voice, in a way, he had never addressed her before. “You not only dishonored yourself, but also our Clan! You dishonored your tribe!“
Why was he telling her that! She knew, that she should have had Hiccup killed within the first five minutes of this fight! That she shouldn't have been so irritated by his weapon or by the way he dodged most of her moves! She really was disappointed by herself!
“Father. I-I know that I wasn't paying attention to all his moves and I should have taken his balance when he-“
“No! That's not, what I mean!“
His voice was booming within this small room and Astrid had the feeling, that even the walls were shaking from it.
She gulped and made one step away from her father.
He breathed shakily, reached for his head and paced around in the chart room, trying to calm himself down.
“I never taught you to behave like that! Like a ruthless killing machine! Like...like a monster!“
“You taught me how to fight...“ Astrid said with a brave voice, trying to defend herself. “How to hold an axe and taught me techniques that mother couldn't show me...“
“Astrid...!“ He sighed, still sounding very angry, but slowly regained some calmness in his voice. But when he looked at her, Astrid silently gasped, only seeing disappointment and shame in his eye, where usually was fatherly love.
It made her heart beat even faster, slowly but clearly understanding, what she had done to make him feel this way. To...see her in this light...
“It would have been okay for me, if you had made him surrender. I would have never complained and would have accepted, that you absolutely did not want that marriage. It would have been hard, since I really have high hopes for the alliance and...for you two... But killing him – another chief, who is kindhearted, smart and full of compassion – that is off limits. You were always the one to reconsider first, before you kill... And what would you have gained by his death? Astrid...it would have been nothing. All you wanted to do was to make your mother proud. Isn't that true?“
She couldn't answer and with another sigh the old chief continued:
“I know, that it isn't fair to you. For me, to expect from you to accept all of it. But – Astrid – I know you. You are normally not like this. Where is that little girl, that cried at the age of ten, because she thought, that she would never be able to kill a dragon with her own, bare hands? Where is that young woman, that was philosophizing about the rights of dragons, whenever she had a jug of mead too much? Where is...where is my daughter, that made me open my eyes up a little...I-I can't believe that my eyes are more open to this wonderful opportunity to live in peace with dragons, then yours are now, in a contrary way to when you were younger...“
“I have killed dragons, father. You know that. And I think that Hiccup will not like the thought of it!“
“And did you like that? Killing the dragons...“
Astrid blinked. Why was her father doing this all the sudden – speaking with her on a level – not a political level, but as her father, to make her see things, that she had blocked out of her mind for so long. Which she had tried to forget. To fit in. To be the perfect little warrior, that everybody had her expected to be. To be the one, who would always protect the tribe...
Why did her want her to see, that she once had been more open to the thought of peace with dragons.
This side – her soft side, as Ljóda had called it, did she bury deep within her, because...well...she was the daughter of the chief of the Hunter tribe. A tribe known for killing dragons within five minutes without mercy. A tribe, that would not hold back, when a enemy – human or not – was coming too close to their little, peaceful island. A tribe, that had been excellent at hunting – especially for things that had a high value on the markets. A tribe, that would have become – very slowly – more trader than hunters within the next ten or so years. A tribe that had changed since its brutal beginnings...
Astrid did not answer, pressed her lips together and looked away from the prying gaze of her father.
“Astrid...you have denied for so long, that your tribe is changing... We have lost so many good people – whole families – because we are still used to our old traditions of hunting and killing dragons. We have lost big parts of our villages, burned down to ashes, because this brutal fire to mercilessly kill anything in our path has vanished. Because we have seen so many beloved ones die. Like my brothers did. My sister... Your grandparents when you were only five years old...Astrid...I don't want to loose you, too, because blind hatred is fueling you. A hatred, that had been planted by your mother, because we hadn't been able to reach her home island, which had been attacked by dragons. This hatred had been growing and growing within you in the past years, which I wasn't able to control. Because I looked away... Thinking, that your own compassion and sensitivity would withstand this aggression...“
Astrid clicked her tongue at that, but still didn't dare to look back up to her father. Yes, in her mind she tried to deny it – all his words, which tried to put some sense back into her. But...her heart was beating in another direction, trying to make her see the truth behind all of it.
“You were the first who wanted me to be trained! I am a warrior, because you said so!“
“We are Vikings!“ He said, but he wasn't sounding as if he wanted to apologize for it. “And there are still many tribes out there, who fight in the old Viking-way. Who raid and kill without mercy! And there is a difference between merciless slaughtering and fighting for something that is right! You know that! As my daughter you will be one day in charge, if my time on Midgard is over and the great Valkyries take me to Valhalla. As my daughter I want you to fight for what is good – for our people. That is the most important task of you as a Chieftess... here on Berk and when my time comes, also on Hranafall...“
“You were the one to order the wedding to be held by tomorrow. Am I right?“
Astrid was biting the insides of her cheek the whole time, knowing the truth in Hakon's wise words, but not wanting to betray her beloved mother, whose words were still very dear to her.
Finally the young woman looked back up again, to face her father probably, when he answered:
“Yes, it was me. Gobber said, that it would be no problem, since the people of the Hooligan tribe were fast with the preparations and it only had to be done a little for your big day... Also I did not want you, or your mother, to get any other ideas of betraying me and our tribe!“
„I would never-“
Hakon merely shook his head and Astrid closed her mouth on an instant.
“Ljóda is held in our quarter's until the wedding. She will be followed by a guard at any time and every word she shares with you will reported to me immediately. I don't want my wife to brainwash you again...And tomorrow you will become Hiccup's wife – Chieftess of Berk! I already ordered everything for your Cleansing Ritual. You may rest now for a few hours. Somebody will get you, when everything is ready!“
Astrid nodded, hanging her head in sadness, before she scuffled past her dad, not daring to look at him, again.
She stopped halfway in the doorway.
“...Make me proud, again!“