He was twirling around, flying high and low, leaning close to his winged friend, while they soared through the endless sky over Berk.
It was a nice evening, filled with warm summery air, with the sun already descending to the ground and nowhere was a cloud to be seen.
Hiccup loved evenings like this one and even more he liked this feeling flying. This freedom and the way he wasn't bound to any responsibilities and duties. The way, in which he could just be himself – not less and not more.
And he knew, that Toothless loved it just as much.
It was like they were one – one in a strange dance, that only those two friends could understand.
Oh, how dearly Hiccup missed those flights. They have become rare, now that he was the Chief of Berk, but he enjoyed every second of it! And always would, no matter what would come. And now with the wedding, he hoped, that it would not prevent him any further from going of for a little flight.
Hiccup lifted his head a little, to look over to the sun, that was already half hidden behind the horizon, knowing, that it was about time to land.
He sighed at that, patted the head of his scaled friend.
“Okay Toothless – time is up! The guys are probably already waiting for me...“ He mumbled, guiding his dragon to fly lower and lower, until they landed on the ground, just behind the Haddock house.
With a weary look, Hiccup looked at the wooden building, which would hold another resident, just when Tomorrow would be over. It would not make this House feel like a home, again, just the way it did, when his father was still alive. It would probably more feel like a prison then...filled with sadness, anger and silence.
Toothless grumbled a little, when Hiccup still hadn't moved and was still sitting on his back.
“Oh – sorry, buddy! I was just lost in my thoughts for a moment...“ And he wasn't lying.
When Hiccup got off of Toothless's saddle, his chest started to hurt again and a shaky breath escaped his lips. Well – looks like Astrid had hit him good there with her shield and every now and then it hurt, whenever he moved or breathed. And for his nose – Gothi tried to fix it – which brought back the tears in his eyes when he remembered her swift move with his nose between her fingers, With a crackling noise and a sharo pain she had brught it back into the right place. Then she had closed the wound on his forehead with a few stitches. It would probably stay as a ugly scar, but at least the old woman had cleaned and had took care of it. Gobber was right, after all – if the wound would have been infected, then things would have gotten even worse.
Toothless nudged his owner a little with his head, wanting him to finally go forward and inside the house. He was probably too eager to finally get some well-deserved fish, after this flight.
“Hey – you are not the one, who might get humiliated by a few stupid traditions and a few Thorston pranks!“
But with Toothless pushing against his legs even more, Hiccup had no other choice, but to step inside. At least the room was not as filled with people as he thought. Yes, he had really feared, that most of Berk's men would try to participate in these Rituals – a unnerving thought for the young Chief. But thankfully (or not so thankfully) there where only his friends already waiting for for him with anticipation grins on their faces. And he suddenly knew, he would not get away so easily.
Hel – why did Hiccup have the feeling, that they would enjoy those stupid traditions more than he would?!
“Ahh...Hiccup! Finally you are here~“ Tuffnut said with a wide gesture of his arms, crossing the space between him and the young chief, to lay a friendly arm around Hiccup's shoulder. „We were waiting for you!“
“Yeah – you are five minutes late!“ Snotlout agreed, now laying an arm around Hiccup's shoulder from the other side. “At least we were able to tell everybody else, that there was no need of even more people for these rituals! All of Berk would have been not so happy, with you were late!“
“So...it's only us!“ Eret said gleefully.
“Guys...do we really need to do this... I mean – nobody of you is married yet! You are technically not even allowed to participate in my Cleansing Ritual!“
"And so is Ruffnut!“ Fishlegs added, raising his finger and said in a wise tone: „But she thought it would be best, if she helped your bride a little with her Cleansing Ritual!“
“So, my dearest cousin – since we are not allowed to participate in their little 'Ladies Night', it is an honor for us to spend the last remaining hours of your bachelor life with you!“
“Is it really a wise idea for Ruffnut to spend some time alone with that maniac?“ Hiccup mumbled, sounding unimpressed.
Eret shrugged. “Well, since they are in the bathing house and Astrid ran out of axes, Ruffnut might have a chance to survive it...“
“Or we will celebrate tomorrow also her funeral. Chicken has already practiced a song for this occasion!“ said Tuffnut proudly.
“And don't worry, lad! Won't be too bad! Ya'll survive it, too!“
“...Thanks... And now what?! We ride to the caves and we bath there, while you try to tell me everything about my duties as a husband? Oh – and let me guess – after that you want me to get merciless drunk in the Great Hall?“
“Well – no! Not yet!“ Fishlegs said, smiling widely, when Gobber stepped in, explaining:
“Though being a chief and before ya can be send of to be cleansed, ya are still considered as a boy, due to yer unmarried status-“
Snotlout and Tuffnut snickered a little at that, very well knowing, what Gobber was intending to say.
“Therefore ya must decent to the depths of death, to be reborn as a man!“
“Oh, Hiccup will definitely die, of he tries to lay a hand on Astrid in their wedding night...“ Snotlout whispered mockingly.
The young chief on the other hand tried to ignore the reactions of his friends and rolled his eyes.
“Oh...how could I have forgotten about that part?!“
With that they lighted a few torches to light the way, when its getting darker and the little group left the house and walked straight through Berk, while other Vikings cheered at the young man, for finally becoming the man, he already was considered to be.
The young chief followed silently, while his friends sang songs about Thor and Odin, merciless fights and the sweet hands of young maidens to conquer. Toothless on the other hand, was a little too confused about all of this, walking bravely next to Hiccup and has suddenly forgotten his beloved fish. The poor dragon was just too curious of what the night would hold for his owner.
Oh how he wished, he had never agreed to marry Astrid, now that he had to witness this horrible singing in all its glory. And now – not only his chest, nose and forehead were hurting, but also his ears, which would probably start to bleed, if they wouldn't stop soon.
But thankfully they arrived at their destination and with that they stopped singing.
“There we are!“ Tuffnut announced happily.
“You know what you have to do?“ Eret asked, while the young chief nodded, patting his dragon one last time on the head.
“Yeah – of course! I need to get down there, retrieve a sword and come back to you...“
“And then its time to celebrate!“ Snotlout shouted.
They stood in front of a small house, made out of stone and closed by a heavy iron door. It was looked not far away from Berk, but was hidden safely by a few trees and bushes.
It was the entrance of the Haddock Crypt, where all the bodily remains of his ancestors laid to rest.
“Not just any sword!“ Gobber added suddenly and wisley, laying a hand on Hiccup's shoulder. „Normally it is the sword of an ancestor, but since yer family is more found of fighting with axes and hammers, I decided to forge a new one for ya... Hope ya will like it...“
While his friends started to chant and cheer Hiccup's name, Toothless looked a little irritated by this.
“Don't worry, buddy. It will only take me a few minutes, until I get back up here. Have an eye on the others, okay?“
Toothless nodded, while the young chief reached for the iron door, letting it open with a loud creak. He stepped inside and saw a staircase, leading down into the darkness below.
Hiccup exhaled a deep breath, looking down in the complete darkness. Not that he was afraid of the dark – but he was a little unnerved to go down there all alone. There was just something unsettling about the thought, of walking through your ancestor's tombs, while its getting darker and darker outside.
„Here, boss!“ Eret said, handing Hiccup one of the torches to light his way. The young man nodded at that, tried to smile a little, before he began to walk down the stairs.
„Good luck! And don't get bitten by a Draugr!“ Tuffnut shouted behind him.
„A Draugr?! Don't be ridiculous! Those don't exist! It's a old Viking fairy tale!“ Snotlout said
„Draugr's don't exist?! They are certainly as real as are trolls and gnomes – I tell ya that!“ Gobber added.
Hiccup stopped for a moment, turning around on one step, though he was too deep already, to see his friends.
„It's not helping here, guys!“ He shouted back, while the discussion above stopped.
„Sorry!“ They merely said after a few minutes of silence.
Hiccup sighed, finally going down the stairs even more, until he soon reached its very end.
The torch in his hands wasn't helping much, but at least he could see about two feet ahead of him. There was just too much blackness in this crypt to be surrendered by just one torch. And – it really, really wasn't the darkness, that bothered him – but the sheer amount of tombs and – even worse – the number of twisted corridors, that stretched for some time underneath the earth. Why in Hel did he need to have so many ancestor?! Wasn't one enough – or at least a smaller crypt?!
But trashing around or considering another way out wouldn't help this time – he knew that. And he would only be allowed to leave, if he finds this sword and brings it back to the surface – to undergo a symbolic death and to be reborn as a man, like so many young Viking men before him!
He clenched his free fist, before he started to carefully move forward – planning out the way to go. He would start from the left corridors and then slowly work his way towards the ones on the right. And just like that, he would be able to comb through all of them, not missing one out and to be able to find the sword!
Therefore – when he first had the chance to take one of four corridors, he did choose the one on the far left, scanning everything with his eyes, that past his way.
There were so many graves and coffins out of wood and stone. Decorated with pictures of gods, religious ornaments and runes, that stood for wealth, power and happiness.
Hiccup only knew a number of his anncestors by names and the things they had acomplished as their time as a chief. But it still amazed him to this day, that Berk had always had such great persons to lead them and help them, if needed. And he dearly wished, that one day, one of his heirs would back at him in the same, admiring way.
After he went left another time, he carefully stroke over the coffin to his left, which held the remains of his great-grandfather, stopping there for a moment.
He knew, that this place was doing something with his mind, but he couldn't put a finger on it. Yet, standing there between the death, something gripped his heart and he slowly understood, why this would make him a man. Facing the death always changes you, and being so close to the death really changed him.
Just the way his father's death did.
He sighed a little at that – Stoick had died the death of a warrior and therefore Hiccup would have never the chance to bury him here. Therefore he had started to build his father's face out of stone, high above Berk, to have something to always remind him of this great warrior, man and father...
With a shaking hand Hiccup wiped away the tears that had formed in his eyes, returning to his task, to search for the sword.
He did not know, for how long he was already down there in the Haddock Crypt, but more and more he got used to it. Soon he had the corridors on his left finished and he worked his way to the right ones, carefully reading the inscriptions, whenever he found one, that was still readable.
It really was a inspirational journey. But suddenly:
A strange noise, compared to a raspy breathing suddenly reached his ears and with a loudly beating heart, he turned around.
Nothing... Well, he couldn't see much, though his eyes got a little used to the darkness around him. But he couldn't see anything.
Had it been...his imagination?
He squinted his eyes in an attempt to see more and he thought, that he was able to see a small silhouette, not far away from him.
A little bit of panic gripped his heart, but he tried to chuckle nervously.
“Oh Tuffnut? Really? Are you trying to play a Draugr?! It's not your best prank!“
Hiccup shook a little his head. How could his friend believe, that he would fall for a disguise a a half-dead body! Not very original!
But what Hiccup confused a little, was the fact, that his friend wasn't moving. Just standing still – not even complaining, that he was caught.
“Ah – okay. Not Tuffnut. Eret? Really? He got you to play along in one of his pranks?“
Still no answer.
Hiccup gulped heavily and he had probably gotten very pale by now, slowly stepping backwards.
“O-okay...so...if this really might be a real Draugr – then you belong to my family! And as that you should not haunt me or anything, because – hey – I am the only heir of Clan Haddock left!
While backing away more and more, he suddenly had the feeling, that this thing was coming closer and closer.
Hiccup closed his eyes, recalling to himself, that Draugrs are not real, and that there was nothing to fear about and that there definitely was a logical explanation for it and – Oh by Thor, there was something at this back!
While Hiccup's mind was messing with him, he had himself pressed against the nearest wall, his torch held high in front of him. And still it was coming closer and closer to him and finally stepped into the light-
It was the old Gothi.
Hiccup could only stare at the old woman, a little irritated and shocked, that he would see the old woman down here.
“G-Gothi?!“ He merely gasped in shock, while she smiled a little at him, before she started to scribble something in the dust to their feet with her staff.
While she did that, Hiccup gripped his heart, trying to calm himself and chuckled a little at his stupidity of believing that Draugrs were actually alive. He should have known better!
But then, he crouched down, holding the torch above their heads, to read, what the old woman is writing.
“Ah...now I understand...“ He mumbled, reading, that she only was following a old ritual to summon luck upon the Haddock family and the upcoming connection. And he smirked a little at the last words she wrote. “Yeah...with a wife like Astrid, I definitely will need that!“
Gothi nodded a little, before she straightened herself again, pointing to a corridor on the right. Then she nodded, before she turned left, to vanish into the darkness.
Hiccup laughed a little at the quirky behavior of the old woman and even without asking he knew, that she would find the way out without a problem. She was Gothi after all!
For some time he looked into the corridor she had left in, then he turned towards the right, wondering, if she had just showed him the way.
Was he even allowed to follow her advice, since he had to go through this Ritual all alone? But...who would know about it in the end? And who would complain anyway?
Hiccup merely shrugged, before he followed the corridor, looking left and right in hope to finally find the sword – which he soon found at the end of the way, leaning against the wall with a little note around its hilt.
He was drawn to the weapon automatically, sensing, that this must be the sword that Gobber had been talking about. It was far too new for a place like this and to belong here, down in the crypt.
With steady fingers reached for the note, bringing it together with the torch close to his face to be able to read it. It probably was some congratulation, that he found it but – no... this was not Gobber's handwriting.
It was Stoick's...
His father had written those runes, some time before he had died!
Hiccup's heart stopped for a minute upon noticing that, only staring at the words, but not quite reading them.
Something gripped his heart, understanding, why Gobber had this sword forged. He understood, why this was so special and why he would like it!
Because it had been supposed to be a gift from his father!
'Gobber – forge a sword worthy of my son! He is the pride of Berk and will be a good chief. It needs to be finished, when he becomes chief! - Stoick!'
As always Stoick hadn't lost many words, but those few alone made Hiccup very happy, letting him know, how much he had been loved by this man. A wise chief and a good father.
Knowing, that it had been his assignment for Gobber to make a sword only for him, it would be an honor to carry this sword. Because the young chief knew, that from this point on, he would always have his father with him.
“Thanks, Dad...“ he murmured, when he had put the note in his pocket to keep it, reaching for the sword – which really was a nice sword, ornamented with dragons at the hilt, that even looked like Toothless (as far as he could tell in the light of his torch).
It really warmed his heart.
And suddenly the darkness around him, the looming corridors and the treat of the upcoming wedding were forgotten, feeling a little more safe now. And a little more honored to be a Chief – the Chief his father has always seen in him.