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The Chieftess of Berk

Chapter Text

With tears in her eyes she looked out of the window of the guest hut, she had been staying for a few days now.

Today was the end of her life…the day, that would change everything.

Sobbing she looked down on herself, carefully stroking over the dress, that she wore as part of the big ceremony, before wiping the tears from her cheeks away.

She knew, that it was for the best. That this needed to be done for her people – for a better life for them. For the alliance between her village and… these people.

It was her sacrifice after all.

This – a marriage with a man she did not love.

A man…she despised.

Well, that was a price she had to pay, as the daughter of the chief – a old tradition, that would her make chieftess. That would make her the mother of a new heir.

She knew, that she would take this step sooner, than she had expected and she dearly treated the wedding night to come. She nearly threw up, when she was already thinking about it. And she would hate her groom for it and herself and her own body. And her parents, for not leaving any other choice left for her.

Yeah, she hated it – everything – about this marriage that would ruin her life in only a few moments.

There was a soft knock on the door and her mother with a cheerful smile on the face emerged from the other side.

“Ljóda, my daughter…” she said, crossing the space between them, to hug her tightly. “I want you to know, that we are very proud of you…”

“Thank you, mother…”, she whispered, trying to not cry again.

“And you are such a wonderful bride! Hakon will not take his eyes of you… And soon, you will be the chiefess of the Hunter tribe. You will be Ljóda Hofferson and the alliance will finally be complete!”

“Yes…” Ljóda merely whispered, while she had the feeling that her dress was getting tighter and tighter.

“Are you coming then, my dear?”

“Just a minute…?”

Her mother nodded, smiling proudly at her daughter, kissing her on the cheek as a sign of good luck, before stepping out of the room, waiting outside.

Ljóda laid her hands on her mouth, hiding a cry that escaped her lips, panicking.

She knew, that there was no way that she could flee and leave everything behind.

She needed to be strong! This needed to be done.

But just as she stepped towards the door she knew and she swore to herself:

“If I bear a daughter, I will give her another chance – a way to escape, if it will ever come this far!”

And with these silent words she held her head high, left the room and without flinching, she walked towards the ceremony and the beginning of the rest of her life.

Chapter Text

Just another swing.

A Block.

Jump and roll to the side.

Back up again – weapon raised and finish with a deadly blow to the head.

Only a millimeter was left between the blade of her axe and the head of the poor guard that had trained with her was left. But if this would have been a real fight, then she probably would have had him killed.

She smiled proudly at herself, retreating the axe from the poor guys head (who was visibly shaking) and looked over to her mother, who was standing on top of the arena, clapping at her.

“You are getting better and better, my dear!”, she exclaimed happily, before stepping down the stairs towards her daughter, while the guard regained his calmness, bowing deeply before the daughter of chief Hofferson.

“Thank you mother…”

“But you need to be a little fast when you block. Seconds can be important in a fight – especially when you fight men and-“

“-Dragons. Yeah, I know mother and thank you. But I suppose that I need another axe. I…I don’t know. But handling this one has gotten harder over the time. I need one, that is much heavier and the blade needs to be bigger.”

“We will talk to the smith about it. I knew you had a few problems there. And also…”
The older woman reached for her daughter’s chin, raising it higher into the air, which also made her look much prouder and much stronger.

“Hold you head high. Your enemies need to see, that you are proud of every victim you killed. You are a Hofferson after all. And you are a-“

“A woman. And no man ever will fear a woman until I have showed him my strength. I know that, mother…”

“To be a woman in this world is a hard package to carry, Astrid…You know that. And if you want something or if you need to prove yourself, then you need to fight. I tried my best I could, to protect you from it, but there will come the time, that you need to fight. And I know, that you can do it…And you will have a better life than –“

“Chiefess?!” somebody suddenly called for her mother and cut into her words, leaving Astrid to wonder, what exactly her mother was talking about. “Chief Hakon wants to speak to you and your daughter. Immediately.”

Her mother sighed but smiled at her daughter.

“Well, let’s see, what your father has to say…”

Astrid nodded, handing her axe to one of the guards over, leaving the arena to walk towards their hud.

Yes, over twenty years have gone by, since Ljóda has married chief Hakon Hofferson of the Hunter tribe and a little while later she had given birth to this beautiful girl she has named Astrid, after her grandmother.

Astrid knew, that both of her parents loved her deeply and were very proud of her. Everything she ever wanted, they gave to her – a new axe, a new armor and the best training on this island and beyond. It made her strong and she was by far the smartest young woman on this island. And having the good looks of her mother, with her pale skin, blonde hair and blue eyes, the young woman had many suitors, but none of them could quite match her taste.

Not that she wanted to get married any time soon. She was just happy with the way it was, but every now and then liked the attention the young viking men gave her.

And yet she knew that the day would eventually come, that she needed to get married.

But until then she would have enough time to choose for somebody to take the place on her side.

“Ah! Ljóda! Astrid! There are my two favorite women on this world and beyond!”

Her father, a man in statue similar to a bear with a thick, grayish beard and wild eyes embraced her, before kissing his wife happily on the lips.

Astrid rolled her eyes, trying to avoid this view.

“Stop it, Hakon!” Ljóda said harshly, rolling her eyes at her husband and tried to push him away. “Just tell us, what you are up to!”

Yes, Astrid knew, that her father must be planning something, especially when she saw her father’s adviser, sitting at the big table in their kitchen. A piece of paper, that just looked like a letter, was laying on the surface, threatening her in a strange way.

“Father…”, she said carefully, eyeing her mother, who was also looking at the letter with a suspicious look in her eyes. “What is going on?”

“Well…well…” he stammered, before pointing at the free chairs, for her mother and her to sit down. “Sit… We have something to discuss.”

Her mother was pressing her lips into a thin line, but both woman obeyed nonetheless, sitting across the two men.

“Hakon – spit!” Ljóda said, anger already rising in her voice, while Astrid crossed her arms in front of her chest.

The poor man only sighed, rubbing his eyes and forehand in discomfort, before it was his adviser, who raised his voice:

“A letter from Berk reached your father this morning…”

“Berk? Isn’t this that scumhole, filled with dragons and mead drinking lunatics?” Astrid asked immediately, remembering a few gossips she had heard throughout the island.

The adviser cleared his throat, while her father gave her an angry look.

“I don’t want to hear you talking about these fine people like that! Their chief – Stoick the Vast – has been a good friend of mine, ever since we have been little boys! We were writing letters for a few years now. But sadly…”

Her father sighed, lowering his gaze towards the letter.

“Stoick died in a battle a few weeks ago. Truly a dramatic story.”

“So, Berk is left without a chief?”, her mother asked, leaning forward in interest. “Is it possible to take over this place to expand our territory? And clean it of their little…dragon problem…?”

“Oh – oh no! This is not the case! Berk has a chief! Stoick’s son has taken over. And as I heard, Hiccup is doing great as a chief!”

“Hiccup?” Astrid laughed. “What a ridiculous name! Do these people still believe in gnomes and trolls and that such names will fight them off?”

Her mother was the only one who was laughing. But her father and the adviser stayed quiet.

“And that is the problem there…” her father said with a deep wistful voice.

“What problem?”, Ljóda asked, while stopping to laugh.

“If it is a problem, then he should consider to change his name!”, Astrid added but stopped laughing, when her father shook her head at her.

“You see…”, the adviser started again, handing the letter over to Ljóda for her to read. “As a chief it is important to take care of a worthy heir for the island and all its people. And Hiccup needs to have an heir, in case something happens to him.”

“Especially if you consider his little, dangerous hobby. Although I have heard that he is an excellent dragon rider!”

“Then he shall get an heir!”, Astrid uttered, learning back into her chair, getting bored by this discussion. “Or does he not know, how to do that?”

“Astrid!”, Hakon said, getting even angrier with her, before eying nervously his wife, who laid down the letter, shaking her head furiously.

“Hakon! You should have told me!”

“Ljóda, calm down. I can explain-“

“You said that she would be able to choose, before the time comes! That she can make her own choice! It was a lie, wasn’t it?!”

“Ljóda it is just the way how traditions work… And I made this pact with Stoick long before they were born.”

Astrid looked at her parents: Her mother was raging. Furious. Unstoppable. She had left the chair, pacing around the kitchen, before reaching for a vase and threw it on the floor. Screaming at her father. Screaming how he had betrayed her. How he had broken his promise.

Her father on the other hand was calm. Political. Rational. Watching her mother carefully, while trying to calm her with his words. With his logic and arguments. But he stayed seated, trying not to dominate her with his strength or his high.

“What is she going to be? His housemaid?! I never taught her these things! I taught her to be a warrior! She is no birth machine! No object to hand over to the next tribe!”

“…The alliance between our two tribes is-“

“The alliance is bullshit! Where were the Hunters people when my father’s tribe was run over and destroyed?! And she is your daughter after all!”

That was the moment when something in Astrid’s brain clicked.

They…were talking about her the whole time.

“Mother…Father…What are you talking about…?”

She didn’t need to hear the answer. She knew it, even before the adviser opened his mouth.

It was the reason she was here after all. The reason, while her parents were fighting like this. The reason, why this letter arrived them.

“Your father made a pact with Stoick the Vast as an alliance between the Hooligan and the Hunter tribe. It says that, in case that something happens to one of the two chiefs, that their heirs would bond in marriage to maintain the peace and strength of both tribes. For them to give birth to a new heir.”

“Astrid…”, her father said, while the world started to spin around her. Breathing was hard, but it was even harder for her to stand up or to focus on the people around her. “You know, that it is the best…”

“But father! I-I thought I was allowed to choose a man on my own when I am ready. I don’t want to marry this…this man!”

“Astrid…”, he sighed “Hiccup is a young, strong Viking. He has been the first one to fly on a dragon. And he is befriended with many other tribes around the archipelago. It is political sacrifice and I am sure that you will love him one day…”

“Love?!”, her mother hissed, walked towards the young woman, laying her hands on the shoulders of the younger one. “A political marriage is never for love. You know that!”

Her father lowered his eyes with hurt in them.

Then he sighed.

“She is a Hofferson. She is my daughter. And as her chief I can decide who she would marry.”

Standing up he turned towards her, balling his hands into fist.

“Astrid, before the next moon you will marry Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third. Hope and Heir of the Tribe of the Hairy Hooligans and son of Valka and Stoick the Vast. You will be the new chiefess of Berk. And this, as your chief, is my last word!”

Chapter Text

2. His Name was Haddock

“Oh no! Oh no, no, no! And we won’t ever talk about this again!”

“But lad, this is how it works! As the chief of Berk ya need to take care of a-“

“If you say that word again, I will tell Toothless to bring you to the next island and leave you there. I don’t want to marry any time soon. AND I don’t want to be a father! And I wasn’t even asked to be chief in the first place.”

Wasn’t it bad enough, Hiccup wondered, trying to run away from Gobber, his old friend, uncle figure and adviser, to get these endless discussions to an end. He just had lost his father, fighting this madman Drago Bludvist and became chief of Berk. He still needed to learn how to handle a bunch of hungry Vikings and even hungrier dragons.

Well, his mother Valka, who has returned to Berk, alongside with his friends were of big help and each and every day Berk was getting bigger and bigger, regaining his old beauty and strength. He would have never done this alone and very, very slowly he got used to his new…job…

Sure, the pain of the loss of his father was still there and the empty hut at night reminded him each and every day of the mistakes he made in the past.

Yet, he was very willing to look forward to Berks bright future.

But not this kind of future.

“Listen – I have heard that the daughter of chief Hakon is quite some eye candy. And strong and smart, too.”

“Yeah? But I don’t care. I don’t want to marry some woman just to have a kid! That’s not how marriages or how I work!”

Hiccup has finally reached his hut, while Toothless already jumped through the window to finally get some fish. The poor dragon was hungry after this long fight after all.

“A-and I don’t care, if father made some kind of pact with this Hakon. I will not marry this Astrid Hofferson! And as a chief, this is my final word.”

Before Gobber could say more, Hiccup had entered his home, shutting the door behind him, before the older man could enter.

It was just too frustrating!

Then he sighed in defeat, grapping his hair with his fingers, pulling at it, to calm himself, before sitting down on the floor by the door.

Everything was quiet. All too quiet. He wished for the stomping steps of his father, coming down the stairs to greet him, to ask him something about dragons or just for a happy little chat.

But those times were gone, blown away because some madman wanted to take over Berk and enslave all dragons.

Because Hiccup did overestimate himself, thinking, that he could talk sense into every person he encountered. But that was not the case… There are just bad people that can’t be changed, no matter how hard you try.

Toothless, sensing the sadness of his owner walked to him, carefully nudging his head against Hiccups, softly grumbly in a comforting manner.

“I am alright, buddy…” Hiccup mumbled, wiping the tear from his cheek with his thumb, before standing up to give his dragon finally a bowl of fish, to which Toothless made a happy purring sound.

“It’s just… hard to handle everything in the right way. You know…like father would do it. I know, you are just a dragon and you don’t understand much about politics and the concept of marriage. But I just wish… That somebody would understand, why I don’t want to marry some random woman I haven’t even met before…”

With a questioning look the dragon looked at Hiccup, to which the young Viking only sighed, again.

“Eat up, buddy. I want to finish a few more houses today and I don’t want a grumpy and hungry Night Fury to help me.”

Grapping an apple form a bowl in the kitchen, Hiccup paced around the room. Unnerved. Thinking about a way to get out of this situation of a forced marriage.

Suddenly a knock from the front door startled him, yet knowing, that it must be Gobber again, trying to convince him further about this pact and alliance with the Hunters tribe.

“I said, that I don’t want that marriage! And I won’t repeat myself!”

But the door opened nonetheless, only to reveal the friendly face of his mother, slowly entering the hut, closing the door silently behind her.

“Oh… it’s you…”

Normally he would be happy to see the face of his long-lost mother, but not right now, when everybody he knew had a word to say about this…situation.

“Do you want to convince me, too, to marry her? Really, mother, I don’t want to! I just want to live my happy live, here on Berk, ride dragons and work at the dragon academy. That’s all. I don’t need a wife and I definitely don’t need a child!”

His mother chuckled, patting Toothless on the head, before standing across her son, smiling warmly at him.

“I did not intend to talk to you about that topic, although Gobber asked for me to hit some sense into you. But I don’t want to.”

“You…don’t…?

This was the first time for days, that somebody did not want to convince him otherwise, which astonished him.

Valka shook her head, sitting on the kitchen table, gesturing Hiccup, that he should do the same.

“Hiccup…, I did not know about this pact and I am also very nervous about a few other treaties your father had made without my consent. But I don’t think, that your father had something bad in mind…”

“Yeah? That is easy for you to say. You two married out of love. Because grandfather was still alive, and you didn’t need to care about an heir in the first place. But…I don’t want an heir! I just…” He sighed again. “I just want father back. I just want to be everything the way it was before…Drago. But I can’t have that.”

His mother was silent for a second, but while he looked over to the happy, eating Toothless, his mother watched him, trying to figure out how she could help her son.

No, Valka did not want this kind of marriage for her son, either. Especially since she was happy enough to choose herself a man and she dearly loved Stoick, still to this day. But now she is witnessing how her own son is pushed into a forced marriage, he had never asked for in the first place. And there was nothing that could stop it, not even his own words as a chief. Because this was the way tradition and a pact worked and Berk and Hiccup were bound to it, if they wanted to, or not.

“Mother…what if I marry that woman, but we won’t…you know…have a child. What happens then? Am I also forced to…”

His words were failing, but Valka knew exactly what Hiccup was trying to say: Would these age-old rules force them to have intercourse? Would they, those two poor people, be forced to sleep with each other, just for this heir?

Valka’s heart was breaking more and more, seeing her poor soon, trapped into a situation he can’t escape.

Though she felt the tears in her eyes, she tried to smile, comfortingly stroking her sons hair, before she answered him with a shaking voice:

“I-I don’t know”, she answered truthfully. “But, Hiccup, you are a Haddock! And the Haddocks are known for finding solutions out of difficult situations. You will figure out a way…”

“Yeah, how about Snotloud? He can be chief now and he’s probably glad to hear, that he will get married in a few days!” Hiccup bitterly joked, knowing that this would not work out.

Valka chuckled and Hiccup, as hard as this situation was, laughed, too.

“Chief Hakon will be here soon. Talk to him and his family. Maybe we can convince them otherwise. I am sure, that he will listen to you. He is a good man with a good heart. Maybe he doesn’t want his daughter to be married, either. After that, we will think about something else.”

Hiccup sighed, nodding.

“Sure. I really hope, that this will help!”

Chapter Text

3. Her first Impression

Astrid sat at the end of their ship, sharpening her new axe, that the smith had made for her.

At first, she had been watching her home island, getting smaller and smaller with every minute they were traveling towards Berk. She was not mourning. There was no sadness inside of her, that she probably would never see her people again. This island, with its mountains and hills, deeps forests and lakes. This little haven she had called home for so long.

No…, there was no sadness. Only frustration and pure anger – for this damned pact, this alliance, for her father and this man she would marry but didn’t even know. She felt only hate for this Hiccup. Why must he be a boy after all? If he was born a woman, there would no way be a reason for her to marry Stoick’s heir. But no…the gods had decided otherwise – for her to be born a woman, for him to be born as a man…

This Hiccup was probably looking forward to marrying her. Probably too weak or too ugly for him to find a wife on his own. And now he was lusting for her, wanting her only as a trophy – an object he would own and do to her whatever he pleases. To fulfill his desires.

Yes…her mother had warned her to take a man like this as a husband. A man that only demanded his foot to be made, his laundry to be done and the house to be cleaned. A husband that would only be happy with her, if she obeyed. A husband, that would make her hate her own body...

She felt sick, only thinking about it – how this unknown man would persuade her to do things she did not want. Things, that would disgust her and would only fulfill his needs and desires. His lust…

No… A political wedding was never for love. Only for alliances and for a worthy heir.

But she did not want that. No marriage. No child.

No husband.

The well known hills and mountains and the vibrant village of the Hunter tribe was long gone now, left behind. She did not know, if she would ever come back, but listening to her mother, she probably would never see this wonderful place again.

No. She is forced away from her home, towards a place where there is peace with dragons and where they lived in traditions, she did not know about.

There was no may to convince her father otherwise. No way, to end this pact. No way, that her mother could help her.

She was left alone.

“You will catch a cold, if stay here all day…”, she suddenly heard a powerful but warm voice behind her, but she did not turn around to greet her father.

It had been his fault after all. He made this pact with the Hooligans chief after all, deciding over her fate!

“Then I will die, and the Valkyries will take me to Valhalla. It’s better this way, anyway”, she answered him bitterly.

She wanted him to know, that his decision had hurt her. Betrayed her. That it was not right for him to decide over her fate, just because he was her father and her chief.

“My dear…” he murmured, sitting slowly down next to her, to also watch over the horizon. “…just…don’t be mad at me. I can’t stand, if my little girl doesn’t want to talk to me!”

“Well, I am not such a little girl anymore, if you force me into marriage, am I right? To force me into having a child, just for your own political needs!”

“Astrid. I just want to say, that I am really sorry, the way this had worked out. I should have told you about this pact a long time ago. Prepared you…”

“Prepared me for what?! How to do the laundry? How to cook and how to massage my husband’s feet?! How to spread my legs for him to-“ Her frustration made her go mad and made her burn with fury, clenching her axe with her fingers, until they turned white and until she spoke about things she would never discuss with her own father. But as she saw the pure sadness in her father’s eyes, she lowered her voice again, sighing. “So…yeah? If you are sorry, then why don’t just change the rules?! You are the chief after all!”

“But I can’t choose to end this pact. This alliance is-“

“This alliance is a valuable, political connection between the two tribes and will bring peace, wealth and strength to our people. I know that! I have told me enough times!”

Astrid felt she was talking with a yak. He just didn’t understand her. Did not listen to her and was far to stubborn to change something about it.

Hakon was silent for a minute, accepting the anger of his only daughter. Accepting, that she was mad at him.

But he hoped to change this with his following words:

“You know, Astrid…when I was your age, my parents, too, told me to marry for a political reason. I was also infuriated and I nearly fleet with a little fishing boat, while it was storming outside. Which was a dumb idea to say the least… But they stopped me. And you know what – today I am happy, that it came this way. Because I could marry your wonderful mother and became your father, my little warrior princess. And… it took me some time, but eventually I fell in love with your mother and I still love her to this day. I would do everything for her, as I would do for you. But this marriage…its best for our people. I can’t end it. But I hope, that you will love Hiccup one day as much, as I love your mother…”

“Why are you telling me this?” Astrid asked, sighing. “Because…I won’t love him. I won’t love a man I am forced to be with…”

“I just want you to understand… And I want you to be happy.”

“Don’t tell her that”, a harsh voice suddenly interrupted and as they both turned around, they could see Ljóda, approaching them.

Astrid’s mother had listened to them from the beginning, curious about what her husband had to say to her daughter. Curious about the way he would try to change her mind about all of this. Curious about the way he would make her accept this marriage.

“How can she be happy in this situation? How can you say that, being her father who forced her into this?”

“Because it was the same with us, dear. And because of what I have heard, that Hiccup seems to be a good fella, worthy of my daughter. Our daughter...”

Ljóda only shook her head, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

“I can’t understand myself, that I believed in your words, when you said, that she could choose. You are just like my father!”

Astrid flinched at these words, since she knew, that Ljóda hated her own father.

And yet, Astrid always thought, that her parents loved each other. That they were happy, the way it had worked out for them. But seeing them now, fighting each and every day since her announced wedding, especially now, that they are trapped on this boat, she doubted her believes. Doubting even more, that this would work out for her and…this man.

While the tension between Hakon and Ljóda was still thick enough for her to cut through it with her axe, she could hear the helmsman’s voice, shouting over deck:

“Get ready for the arrival in Berk! We will reach the docks in a few minutes and throw the anchor!”

Astrid’s heart nearly jumped out of her chest, hearing these words, knowing, that there was no returning now. Knowing, that this was no nightmare she could awake from.

No turning back now…

“Finally…” Hakon sighed, getting up from where he was sitting, looking back sadly at his daughter, but even sadlier at his wife, before he walked towards the front of the ship, leaving the two women alone.

“Mother…what can I do?”

Despite her will to fight against this marriage and the will of her father to persuade it, she felt desperate. For the first time in her life, she did not know, what she should do. How to escape.

How to fight…

“Stay strong!” Her mother whispered, nearly choking on her tears. “We still have a few days left. We will figure something out – together.”

Astrid looked at her mother, not knowing how her words could help her.

And yet – she was right! There was no need to cry or to pity herself. She was Astrid Hofferson after all and as that, she would somehow be able to get out of this situation.

With these thoughts, she followed her father’s steps, walking up to the ship’s front, curious about her new home. At least for now, until she was able to escape this nightmare.

That’s when the guards suddenly screamed, gripped their weapons, hiding behind their shields.

“Prepare! Dragons!”

Astrid raised her axe, while her mother – unarmed at this moment, ducked behind a few boxes on the deck.

“No!” Hakon shouted. “Lower your weapons! We won’t harm any dragons, while we are on Berk!” He reminded his people, looking angrily at everybody, who dared to hold his weapon high. “The Berkians are living in peace with them! And so will we, when Astrid is married to chief Hiccup!”

Yes…, this was definitely something Astrid would never get used to. Something she would probably hate even more than this marriage. And something, she had only heard of, but never dared to believe it.

When she looked up to the sky, she could see two giant dragons – a Gronkle and a Monstrous Nightmare – flying high above them, being uninterested in their ship, while being ridden by somebody. By two young men as it seemed, which were looking down to her ship, waving in glee at them.

Yes…the people of Berk were really riding on dragons!

And now, that she looked forward to this island, she could see its colorfulness and business. Human and Dragons – living peacefully in harmony…This definitely was the worst part of all!

How would she be able to hunt down these creatures? Kill them?! How could she do that if she just wasn’t allowed to do that?! She would never be able to feel their blood on her hands, again. To tear the wings form their bodies and push her axe into their neck without mercy.

Her father on the other hand was most impressed, laughing happily at this sign with his deep voice.

“So, the stories are true! What an amazing view, isn’t it?”

“This…”, mumbled her mother under her breath, “…this is horrible!”

“Ha! You must be joking my dear! This is the best thing I have seen in a long time! Humans and Dragons in peace! No more fighting. This will make life for us much easier. I hope that they will help and show us, how to train these creatures!”

“Train?!” Astrid asked, out of words. “Why should we train those monsters?!”

“Well… You should get used to it. Your future husband was the first one to ever ride on a dragon, after all!”

Now the sickness and the feel of throwing up returned to her, opening and closing her mouth, while being unsure of what to do or to say. Therefore, she only stayed quiet, while her father still seemed far to happy about this whole situation, being like a little child. Her mother on the other hand far too calm, judging the situation before her, leaving Astrid with the first impression of Berk all alone.

Chapter Text

His first Impression

“Your wife is coming! Your wife is coming!”, Snotloud exclaimed happily and mockingly at the same time, standing behind Hiccup, while the young chief tried to focus on a new little gadget.

“How nice…!” The young chief answered sarcastically, still working with the metal and leather in his hands, not wanting to look up. He was not interested in this at all!

Snotloud and Fishlegs have been to an outpost, providing them with food, and on their return they had seen a ship close to Berk’s docks with the flag of the Hunter tribe. They have seen people on deck and Snotloud was absolutely sure, that he had seen a young, blonde woman, which he believed to be this Astrid Hofferson – Hiccup's bride-to-be.

And like small children, they were running around, shouting around, that the Hofferson family has arrived, trying to convince Hiccup to come and see the young woman.

“She is probably a really nice person. Let’s get to know her.” Fishlegs said, far calmer than their shorter friend.

Hiccup sighed desperately, finally looking up and over to his two friends.

“I don’t want to meet her! And she surely is no nice person! You know – Hunter tribe, like hunters. Like hunting dragons! I don’t want people like that on Berk. Or anywhere on this archipelago!”

“But-“, Gobber suddenly interfered, listening to the three young Viking man from were he worked in the forge. “-they are our guests. You should at least introduce yourself. You are the chief after all. It’s a formal manner of courtesy.”

“Yeah, yeah – I know! But you are missing one crucial detail – I don’t want to! Now let me get back to work. And since when do we need courtesy?! We are Vikings after all, it’s in our blood to not be friendly.”

With that Hiccup turned back around to his working bench, trying his best to ignore these men, being all too bitter about this situation his father had trapped him in.

“Maybe I should introduce myself to her. Can I be chief, if I marry her?” Snotloud mocked. “Please? I will be a good chief, if you let me!”

“No, sorry. Won’t work. I have considered this myself. I can give chieftain only to my own-“ Hiccup stopped himself mid-sentence, not wanting to speak out this treated word.

Why can’t they just understand, that he did not want to marry this woman! That he doesn’t want to marry at all!

“Well lads… If our dear chief wants to keep on pouting, then let him. I’ll go to the docks and greet our guests. At least one of us needs to be reasonable!”

“Oh yes! Let’s get Ruff, Tuff and Eret! They will be interested to see her, too!”, Fishlegs exclaimed, walking off with Gobber and Snotloud, leaving Hiccup and the half-asleep Toothless in the forge alone.

Through the opened windows Hiccup could hear the people outside, shouting in excitement, that the future chieftess of Berk has arrived.

Why on Midgard, in Hel and Vallhalla was everybody so interested in this marriage?

Everybody but him…

This woman war probably one of those princess-type of girl with long flowing locks, wearing flowing dresses and was probably all to interested in doing the laundry, the household and all this stuff. She would probably love to cook for him all day and – even worse - would love to bear his child. She was probably trained to do so, behaving like an obedient little girl to fulfill him every wish. And – the worst part of it – she was probably all to afraid of dragons, insisting in Toothless to sleep outside. Or for all the dragons to leave...

No…Hiccup did not want such a wife – no wife at all!

Hiccup knew, that his nightmare had become true and he silently cursed under his breath.

“Can’t we bring her to an isolated island and leave her alone there?”

Toothless growled in agreement, raising his head from the ground and looked with big eyes at his owner.

“At least you are on my side!”

Hiccup laid is tools and the gadget down, looking to Toothless and let his head and shoulders hang in misery.

“I wish, that I could flee from this… But… I can’t. I am Berk’s chief… A-and maybe mother was right – maybe I can find a way out of this situation...”

Slowly he made his way to the door, opening it and he saw, that Berk seemed to be strangely vacant for this time of the day. Yet, he could hear their voices, cheering from the docks, waiting for his wife’s arrival.

Depressed he looked up to the big, rocky mountains, high above their village, where they have started to shape his father’s face out of stone. Out of honor and to look over Berk, when he hasn’t the chance to do so.

“Don’t look at me like this!”, Hiccup growled at the giant stony face, high above him. “It is your fault, that I am ending up in this marriage! You could have at least told me about it before! Like – ‘Hey son, when I will ever die before my time comes, you will get married to a girl from the Hofferson clan. Nice people anyway, her father was my friend! Hope you like her!’”

He sighed, when he finished the imitation of his father.

“But you didn’t. But I hope, that you are still proud, that I somehow accept my fate…At least for now...”

The young chief closed the door and sat on his dragon, rising into the air.

“Well, if I really need to meet her, then at least make a good first impression! Shall we?”

It only took them a few seconds until they arrived at the docks, with his people cheering happily and in excitement, calling his name, while the people from the Hunter tribe screamed in fear, recognizing his dragon as the Night Fury that he was.

Toothless landed with a loud bang on the ground, in the middle of the giant crowd, that already seemed to wait for him.

With elegance he swung off of Toothless saddle, standing tall and proud next to the winged reptile.

After all, he didn’t not want the Hunter tribe to think, that he, as a chief, was some kind of a pushover.

“About time…”, he heard Gobber mumble, as the older man took his place as an adviser on his side.

Hiccup only nodded, before his hand was already caught in a tight grip and was shaken with strength and force until it hurt.

“Oh! You must be chief Hiccup! I am glad to finally meet you in person!”

A big, muscular man said, shaking his hand, while smiling widely through his thick, grayish beard. His dark eyes were shining like those of a child and Hiccup could only assume, that this must be the chief of the Hunter tribe – Chief Hakon Hofferson.

“Ah…hello there!” He only could utter, when this man let go of his hand, which was hurting badly by this encounter.

“Chief Hakon Hofferson! Nice to finally meet you again, after all these years!” Gobber said, greeting the tall man, while Hakon laid a friendly hand on the older man’s shoulder. “Gobber…, still without hand and leg, as I see.”

For some moments they were joking around, showing some old friendship, that was still there and never forgotten. But suddenly Hakon’s demeanor went sad and he lowered his gaze.

“I am most sorry about Stoick. Wished to have seen him one last time. Must be hard for you and Berk to lose such an honorable chief. I really grief the death of my old friend…”

“Yeah…” Gobber agreed, also mourning his old friend. “But we got good back-up, as you see!”

“Yeah! I can see! I am most impressed, that chief Stoick’s son has not only trained dragons but is also flying a Night Fury. Thought to never see one with my own eyes…”

“We thought so, too…”, Gobber and Hiccup agreed, shrugging.

“I am amazed...”, Hakon said walking up to the front of the dragon, squatting down, so he could be at least somehow on eye level with him. “And you are really a beautiful creature, I must say. A pity that you might be you the last one… May I?”

Hakon lifted one hand to Toothless head, but looked at Hiccup, before he laid hand on the reptile, waiting for approval.

Not knowing what else to say, Hiccup nodded and the other chief carefully patted Toothless head, making the dragon purr in bliss.

“He likes you…”, another voice suddenly said from behind and Valka stepped up to them, smiling at Hakon.

“Valka…”, the big man only exclaimed, standing back up again. “…I only heard rumors that you have survived the attack, years ago. But seeing you with my own eyes…”

Then he cleared his throat, pointing at the Night Fury.

“I suppose that your boy has much more from you in your blood, than I thought. As I remember, you were always fighting for peace between them and us humans.”

“He has the heart of a dragon, Hakon. And Stoick was very proud of him. So am I.”

“I know…A-and don’t worry, though we still have still our conflicts with dragons, we won’t harm any of them, while we are here. I give you my promise. And – maybe – you guy’s could teach me how to train and fly them? To make peace with them?”

“It takes some time.” Hiccup spoke up again, stepping next to his mother. “To gain their trust. But it is worth it. It changed us and it changed Berk.”

“I suppose that the change is worth it. As is this alliance between our two tribes, chief Hiccup.”

And there was it, the moment, where this friendly chat has gone political, again.

Hiccup pressed his lips into a thin line, nodding slowly. He did not know what else to say.

“So, Hakon. Where are your wife and daughter, if I may ask? About time to get them to know, right?”, Gobber asked, looking to the deck of the ship in hope to get a glimpse of the two women.

“Right!”, somebody shouted from the crowd and the voice seemed to belong to Snotloud.

“Oh, sure!” Hakon agreed, turning back towards the guards.

“Get my two favorite women!”, he shouted, still smiling.

Hiccup’s heart was beating. He was nervous, yes. Although he did not want this marriage, he was still interested to see, how this future wife everybody was talking about looked like. Yet he tried to look calm, leaning casually against Toothless’s side.

Then, finally, they came. Two blonde women, one older and one younger, both looking very similar with flawless white skin and blue eyes. They both, Hiccup sadly had to admit, looked very beautiful, yet appeared to be very calm and collected. Nearly emotionless.

Therefore Hiccup tried to avoid to look at them for too long.

They stepped down the docks, walking next to chief Hakon, his wife one his left side, his daughter on his right.

“Chief Hiccup”, the older women said, bowing slightly in front of Hiccup, which was irritating and felt somehow strange for the young Viking. “It is an honor to meet you.”

Yes, there were no emotions in her voice. Not even in her eyes. She merely looked at him, judging and Hiccup knew, that, in opposite to her husband, she did not like him at all and was only doing this for courtesy.

“Chieftess Ljóda…”, he greeted back after some time, remembering her name and his manners and standing back up again.

“Don’t worry about her, she did not like the journey to Berk. Well and this-“, Hakon said, before taking his daughter’s hand and shoving her in front of him, so that she was standing directly before Hiccup “-is my daughter Astrid, your wife-to-be.”

For the first time he was facing her, making eye contact with her. Meeting her… The woman he is supposed to spend the rest of his life with. His wife.

Yes, she absolutely beautiful. Even more stunning, as he could see her up close now. With rosy cheeks and luscious lips and golden blonde hair, weaved into a thick braid, laying off of one shoulder. And her body…how could a woman have such wonderful curves and strong muscles at the same time? All her curves were especially showing through her red shirt, which ended into a studded skirt. With the furry hood, the wrist wraps and the heavy boots she really looked like a fierce warrior. A hunter. Especially the axe she was carrying on her back fitted this image.

Yes, Hiccup really found her stunning and yet…there was no spark. Nothing, that made him feel connected with this young woman. Nothing, that made her feel like his wife.

And, somewhere in his brain, he really had thought for love at first sight, to make this whole ordeal more bearable.

And when he looked back into her eyes, he could see the same repellent feelings:

Hatred. Fury. Sadness.

“One of your legs is missing…” She said, calmly, crossing her arms in front of her chest, while she started to circle him.

“Yeah…I lost it”, He murmured. “But I handle it pretty well, as you see…”

What was she up to? Was she trying to irritate him? Mock him? Could it be that she was just as against this wedding, as was he?

“And you are quite tiny for a Viking. For a chief…”

“Yeah? But I have more intelligence in my little finger, than dragons got scales on their bodies. And I am taller than you.”

Astrid now eyed the black dragon that was by Hiccup’s side, walking around it, like her father did before.

But Toothless hissed at her, eyeing her dangerously.

She pressed her lips together into a thin line, her hands twitching, as if she was ready to take her axe.

“A Night Fury? Really? Do you need to compensate something?”

Before Hiccup could say something, and probably start a terrible argument with her, Gobber stepped in, cheerfully announcing:

“Let’s head to the Mead Hall! We have prepared a good meal and a few drinks for our guests to celebrate the upcoming wedding!”

And the people around them cheered.

All, but four. Two mothers, a young man and a young woman, all caught in their own thoughts, but far away from happiness stayed quiet, but followed the crowd nonetheless.

For now, they had no other chance…

Chapter Text

Her Friends

“This is absolutely horrible!”, she hissed, leaning against a pillar in this giant Mead Hall, holding onto a big jug with mead. “I really, really don’t want to marry him! I mean – just look at him! He is so short! And where are his muscles?! And where in Hel is his beard?! And battle scars? Has he ever been in a real fight – man against man?!”

Astrid was absolutely pissed. Outraged. Her father can’t possibly be serious about this marriage with this guy.

“And what is with his leg?! Nobody told me, that he is broken!”

“Astrid…”, her mother sighed, standing before her, as if she was yielding her from any other person. But for now it seemed like there was no real interest in her – or she at least demonstrated enough, what she felt about Berk's chief. At least for now. “…, just stay calm. I know, that this whole situation seems worse, than it already is, but I will get you out of it.”

Her mother was absolutely serious about this, not wanting for Astrid to marry this failure of a chief. After all, she swore this to herself, all those years ago.

Both, mother and daughter looked over to Hakon, sitting among the people of the Hooligan tribe, sharing his childhood stories of Stoick with them. Laughing loudly and hearty, clapping on Gobber’s back, when something was most hilarious, or wiped away a few tears, when he was reminded of the good old times.

How could he do this – betraying them both.

“Astrid, I will talk with him again, before we go to bed. I will try to put some sense back into him. I am sure that he thinks the same way about Hiccup as we do. He must be insane, if he really wants you to marry this cripple of a chief.”

“He is not even a real Viking…”, Astrid snarled, after she had taken a sip from the jug. “…not even a real man. I hate those philanthropic, dragon-loving guys that think, they could change the world just by talking! Can he even hold an axe? A sword? Can he even hold a knife with those tiny hands?!”

“I am not sure about that and I am still wondering, how Stoick could have been proud of his heir… He is not even worthy to be a chief!”

Astrid scanned the room and soon found Hiccup with his eyes, standing on the other side of the Mead Hall, also leaning against a wall, while talking with a few younger Vikings, that also seemed to be around her age.

He doesn’t even bother to look at her, being far to involved in his little discussion with his friends.

That was the moment when she asked herself: Would she consider him handsome?

Astrid did not know, since she had always imagined herself with some other kinds of men. With big, bulky guys, with bushy beards, lots of muscles and tattoos. With scars all over their bodies and faces, always carrying around a weapon or two. Men that had killed at least twenty dragons by the age of 18.

But chief Hiccup... He was too far from this description as could be. Yes – no beard, not as high as she had liked, no scars and tattoos. Just one annoyingly aggressive Night Fury and a prosthetic leg.
Yeah...he was okay looking with his green eyes and tousled brown hair – she guessed. And he was by far more eloquent than her suitors, back at home. Far too eloquent for a Viking...

Was this really the man she was supposed to be with? The man, that would impregnate her and take her away from her home...

Her hand, that was not holding onto the jug was clenching, when he suddenly made eye contact with her. Only for a moment, before he pressed his lips together and looking back to a thin young man with long blonde hair and a exaggerated expression of glee on his face.

“Get me away from him – please! And away from this shit hole! And from these people!“ Astrid pleaded. “Or else I might consider using my axe!“

Her mother nodded, understanding the desperation from her only daughter.

„First of all, try to stay away from Hiccup. I don't want his strange ideas and ideals come to your head.“

„Don't worry about that. I would never consider riding on a dragon! That is just too insane!“

„Nah~ Not as insane, as you think.“ A voice suddenly interrupted their little discussion and both, Astrid and Ljóda, looked at a strange young woman, with some weird blonde braids and a big grin on her face. „Hi, I am Ruffnut. The more intelligent part of the Thorston twins. Nice to meet you.“

“Not interested...“ Astrid murmured, looking back to her mother, who seemed to try to ignore the young woman, too.

„Ah. You are trying to play the one that is hard to get – am I right? So, since you are the one, who will marry my friend Hiccup-“

„I will not marry him!“

„Yeah...since you will marry my friend Hiccup, I guess I should be forthcoming to introduce myself to you. To become your first friend, if you like. I would love to show you around to Berk, and show you a few of our traditions and dragons and stuff.“

„But I don't want to!“

„Don't worry, I, as a member of the Thorston family, won't take any fees for my excellent job, but I will be glad, if-“

„Listen up – my daughter does not want that! She is in no need of a friend!“

Astrid was thankful, that Ljóda has stepped in for her, since she was already annoyed by this woman. Did all Berkians behave like this? And why would she even be her friend in the first place?!

Her mother has always told her, that friends were only ballast on the battlefield. Some weak burden she needed to leave behind, before facing an opponent. She did not need friends, especially not those, belonging to the Hooligan tribe. She got along well for twenty years without such, after all!

“Ah okay. So you also want a sightseeing tour of Berk? Well, then I announce you, that I have a good price for you two. It's including dragon-riding – two rounds for the price of three! Also, I might be talk active enough to share a few secrets about your future husband – including his favorite food and most hated color – it's a bright orange.“

Astrid sighed.

Why couldn't this woman take a 'No' for an answer (especially now since she changed her mind in putting a fee on her little sightseeing tour)?

This was far too annoying – especially since this Ruffnut really tried hard to be nice to her – in her own strange ways.

“Listen, Ruffnut? How about you go back to Hiccup and your other little friends and stop to annoy me and my mother. Really – we don't need and want any help from you or any other Berkian. I am not interested in this marriage or your friendship. All I want to do now is to go to bed and leave this island as fast as possible. And-“

Astrid leaned towards the other young woman, to whisper into her ear:

“And get your dragons away from me. I know that my father does want this alliance to live in peace with dragons, but I am not interested in it! I like to kill dragons and if you or one of your little Hooligan-friends turns his back on me, I might try to get my hands on one of them. I sharpened my axe in preparation this morning. Now go back and tell chief Hiccup to call of this wedding!“

Ruffnut blinked her eyes when she heard Astrid's voice, unsure of what to think about it.

“Well, you are one disturbed individual, my dear. I will leave you now...“

Turning on her heels, Ruffnut left without looking back at Astrid and her mother, stepping back up to Hiccup and his friends.

“So...you want to take the psychopathic path, I guess?“ Ljóda asked, amused by her daughter’s words.

The young woman only shrugged her shoulders, smugly grinning because of the way she had turned down Ruffnut's assistance.

“You know me, I am not some woman to befriend with another girl. Or anybody at all!“

“That's my girl. Looks like all the training has finally paid off. Now we only need to convince your father otherwise.”

“If it won't help, I will try to convince Hiccup, that this could be the worst decision he had ever made. Hope to get my hands on this Night Fury in this process...“

“And you will...“

Astrid smiled widely at her plan, before she stepped away from the pillar she was leaning on, setting down the jug with mead on the first table she passed and she had only emptied halfway, before casually walking towards were her father and Gobber, among a few other Vikings, were sitting, her mother following close behind.

“Father.“ She addressed him, holding her head high to show her pride and determination. “I am tiered. I want to be brought to my quarters.“

“Ah, sure. But have you already spoken to your hus-“

“No. I want to sleep.“

Hakon looked at her for a few minutes, sadness and anger mixing in his eyes, before he slowly nodded and turned for the last time to Gobber.

“Sorry to leave the little celebration, but my two favorite women want to go to bed. We will return to our ship, if you mind.“

“It's okay. Must be tiered for being on the sea for so long. But don't forget to come towards the chief's house tomorrow. Still need to discuss about the upcoming wedding and the marriage. I will bring the groom and Valka – or at least try to get them to stay...“

Hakon nodded, while Astrid's chest tightened when she heard that.

“Do I need to come, too?“ She asked, before she could have stopped herself.

Gobber shrugged.

“Sure. Ya are the bride, after all. Don't want to decide on the dress and stuff on my own. Or you can send your little friend to do so.“

The older man pointed at Ruffnut with a movement of his head, at what Astrid only growled dangerously.

“I don't have friends! Father! Come now! I need to get to bed!“

Gobber hissed at her words, before Astrid and her mother turned and left them, to get to the door of the Great Hall. The guards already followed.

“Got a feisty daughter there, if I am allowed to say so.“

Hakon shrugged, but stood up and laughed a little at that.

“She got that from her mother. But don't worry – from what I have heard about Hiccup, they will fit perfectly together.“

With that, that big man hit Gobber one last time on the shoulder, before wishing him a good night and left with his guards and the two women.

Gobber on the other hand only watched for a few moments and when the door closed behind the Hunter's, he looked over to Hiccup, who had watched them for some time, gulping.

„We will see if they fit together so well...“ He mumbled under his breath, unsure of what to do with these two young Vikings that can't stand each other.

Chapter Text

His Friends

“Yup – your future wife is absolutely bonkers! Won't marry her, if you ask ol' aunty Ruffnut!“

Hiccup stood there in total disbelieve when Ruffnut had returned to him and their friends, now unsure of what to say or to do.

Why had she talked with Astrid and her mother in the first place?! He did not ask for it! But Ruffnut had been gone all too suddenly, standing next to the other two women and Hiccup did not even know, what the topic was about.

Why were his friends sometimes so unpredictable?!

„I still find her very hot. Please Hiccup, can I marry her? You can keep chieftain, if you want! But I will show her around Berk and let her ride on Hooky and I will show her a few other things...“ Snotlout said, wiggling his eyebrows into Astrid's direction, although she was not looking.

„I am not sure about this! When I have been a trapper, we made a few deals with the Hunter tribe. Ruthless people I have to say. They learn how to kill a dragon by the age of ten. Chief Hakon himself is said to have killed over a hundred dragons! And considering that Astrid had the best training on the island, she will have a fair share of killings on her own.“ Eret said, standing tall next to Hiccup and eyed the young woman with caution, while he shared his information with his friends.

„And so have our parents. And ancestors. Before Hiccup showed them how to befriend with dragons. And think about Dagur and all the other people we have encountered in the past years. Nobody is perfect and can learn from their mistakes!“, Fishlegs said wisely.

„Her pa on the other hand seems to be far too interested in the pact, if you ask me. Won't matter, if somebody has killed a dragon – or not.“

The friends looked at Tuffnut, who tried to sound far to much like a prophet, while gesturing widely.

„Why did you talk with her in the first place, Ruffnut?“ Hiccup asked while the tension was far too thick between them now, still irritated about his friend's behavior.

„Yeah. You should be afraid, that she would hit you with her axe if you say one wrong word.“ Eret agreed.

Ruffnut shrugged.

„Nah, wanted to get to know her...“

„And you, my sister, are totally in need of a female friend – all born into this male word of hard-working, vicious male Vikings!“

„Shut up!“, Ruffnut grunted shoving her twin brother to the side, before continuing:

„So, your future wife-“

„I won't marry her!“

„She is absolutely insane – going all crazy about killing our dragons and stuff. She probably has some withheld feelings she can't get rid – or stuff like that!“

„Hey – hot or not – nobody will lay a hand on Hookfang!“

„And on my Meatlug!“

„Chief...“, Eret murmured when he heard that, „I will keep watch at night, as long as the Hunters stay in Berk. We should not trust them and turn our backs on them. We don't know of what they are capable of...“

Hiccup nodded in agreement.

„You are right. But don't go alone and switch with somebody, when you feel tired.“

Eret nodded, gesturing with a nod of his head for Snotlout and Fishlegs to follow, which they did without complaining.

„And you two-“ Hiccup started, while looking at the twins but was interrupted by Ruffnut:

„We will keep an eye on her. We understand!“

A little confused Hiccup nodded, although feeling a little dumbfounded, since the young Viking had already guessed his plan. That was exactly what he had on his mind!

But – yes - he did not trust them – any of them. Neither Astrid, her mother, not even Hakon himself, although he seemed to be a good and kind chief.

Above all Hiccup did not trust them near there dragons, considering their long history of killing them.

„Whenever you see Astrid near a dragon, one of you comes to me to report it. The other tries to distract her, before she can...do anything. Understood? There won't be blood on Berk, while they are here – I promise you that!“

The twins nodded, saluting after hearing the words of his chief, before slowly retreating from him, ready to spy on the young woman and her mother.

Hiccup sighed, while Toothless looked worried between his owner, Astrid and chief Hakon, perfectly understanding Hiccup's distress.

„Don't worry...“, Hiccup murmured to the winged reptile. „She won't come near you. And I will talk tomorrow with their chief. Maybe I can change his mind, if his tribe still benefits from this – without a marriage! Without her staying here...“

Toothless nodded.

Out of the corners of his eyes, Hiccup suddenly noticed a movement from across the room, watching Astrid and Ljóda leaving their spot they had stayed in since they had reached the Mead Hall.

Hiccup pressed his lips together.

How was his father thinking, that this had been a good idea?! Yes, Hakon might have been a good friend of Stoick, but he had never mentioned him or his family. He had never mentioned, that Hiccup was left to marry a … a warrior. A dragon slayer with a horrible love for axes – as it seemed.

And Hiccup has never imagined his wife to be...that. Vicious and mean. Yeah – he would consider her 'hot', as Snotlout had said, but how would he be able to live with such a person, who was full of anger and hatred? How should he built a vulnerable connection with her, just like his parents did? A connection that would last through everything, even being years apart.

He would never be able to have that with her...

Again, he sighed, combing in desperation through his hair with his hands, while watching the people of the Hunter tribe leave to rest.

At least he had his friends, also (somehow) doubting the rightfulness of this political connection.

What would he be without them?

When Hiccup saw, that Gobber was looking at him, he slowly walked over to the table, sitting across from the old man, leaning back into the chair and crossing his arms.

„You ar' mad, are you?“, the older man asked, sipping at his mug with mead.

Hiccup nodded, while rising one eyebrow at this man he had known for so long and he was seeing as his uncle.

„Not mad... Frustrated is a better word. Like... What was dad thinking – that I would jump into the air with happiness, when somebody would give me these news?“

„Your dad only wanted the best for Berk. And the pact between him and Hakon was made long before your birth. Your father was a bit younger back then. And as I think, he did not think that far into the future with all the dragons on our island – now and before you tamed them.“

That might be all true, but it still hurt to know, that his father had been hiding such a big secret from him for so long.

„Did mother know?“

„Valka? Mhm... Valka?! Did you know about the alliance?!“ Gobber screamed across the room, so that Hiccup's mother could hear him.

Valka looked up, stopped the little chat with a few older Vikings from their tribe, before standing up to walk over to them.

She sat next to Hiccup and laid an comforting hand on his shoulder.

She was silent for a minute, lowering her eyes to the ground.

„You knew...“, Hiccup whispered, but understood, that there had been no time for her to tell him this, after her vanishing and her return to Berk. Maybe...she even forgot about it all along.

She nodded, sighing.

„I did have long talks about it with your father. But I was still young and I – too – thought, that it would never come this far. It had always been a tradition in case that the old chief would die before his heir had married. As a safeguarding. We thought that this pact would have never been come to use... But...now...with Stoick's death...“

Valka's voice was heavy and she swallowed hard, the pain and emptiness his father had left in her still to big to grasp.

„You could have been married by now. But you more preferred to fly on dragons than to choose a wife on your own.“ Gobber said, trying to make it sound like a joke.

Hiccup glared at the old Viking, as did Toothless.

„Okay...“, the young chief then said, „If you can talk smart like that, then maybe you can tell me a way out of this misery!“

„Hiccup...“, Valka whispered.

„Oh – let's guess! There is no way out of it, am I right?!“

„Well...“, Gobber murmured, but more to himself, than to Hiccup, his mother already shaking her head. „There is a way, but won't tell ya...“

„There is?!“

„Gobber, no!“, Valka said, now finally letting go of her son's shoulder. „Don't tell him about it. It's far too dangerous and I am not sure of what Astrid and her mother are capable of!“

„Well, I did not intend to tell him – don't worry! I want our chief to be whole and with all of his pieces.“

What were they hiding?! What was this way, they were talking about?! He needed to know!

„Don't worry about that lad. Just – ehrm – look forward to your wedding with this charming, young lady and-“

„You won't tell me, won't you? What do I need to do for you, to tell me about it?! Clean the forge? Do your laundry for a week?”

“Hiccup...”

“Okay, a month. I will even fold it for you and-”

“Sorry lad. Won't tell you. I don't want your mother's wrath on me and your stubbornness to kill you!”

Hiccup huffed, crossing his arms before his chest once more, before he stood up.

“Fine. If you won't tell me, then I find somebody else! I will just ask my friends, with all their brilliant ideas – they fore sure will come up with something! One of them has probably heard of such a way to leave this forced marriage.”

At least he hoped for somebody to know about it and to tell him!

“Good luck with that!”, Gobber shouted, while Hiccup stomped though the main door, to leave the older Viking, his mother and this celebration that was meant for him and his betrothed behind.

“Those two are like two bullheaded yaks!”, Gobber said under his breath, when his chief has left.

“What else do you expect from them?”

He shrugged, looking now directly at Valka.

“Ya' know – like acceptance?”

“You can't be serious!”

“Yeah, but I don't want this whole situation to get serious when Hakon finds out, that Hiccup is not accepting his fate. Let's say – I don't want to loose another chief and I don't want another war for Berk!”

Defeated Valka nodded, lowering her gaze to her hands.

“I know what you mean. I don't want that, either...”

Chapter Text

Her last word

Astrid did not sleep well. Not at all.

Still in her quarters on their ship she turned from one side to the other, not feeling tired at all.

She could hear their screeches and howling, the flapping of their wings and their loud noises when they landed on the ground or on the roof of a hut. These Dragons! And yet she could do nothing against it. No – these people here were living in peace with these monsters, seeing them as their pet and worse as their friends. Part of their family! But she did not want to be part of theirs.

No Haddock!

It was already shortly after sunrise – she still hadn't been able to close her eyes – when a soft knock surprised her.

She sat up in her bed, covering herself with the blanket, shortly before the door opened with a soft creak.

“Mother...”, she whispered, seeing that Ljóda had entered and closed the door just as softly behind her, before the older woman walked to her bed, sitting by her feet.

“Why are you up so early?”

Ljóda sighed, patting the knee of her only daughter under the blanket.

“I just wanted to tell you, that I was not able to convince your father otherwise. He still wants your wedding. I tried everything a woman could do...”

First Astrid blinked at her mother, but suddenly blushed and looked away, when she understood, what Ljóda was implying. She did not want to talk about this, nor even think about it. It was not her business to ask about her parents love life after all!

“But...”, Ljóda started again, going with her hands through her long, blonde hair in desperation. “Hakon is just too stubborn. He is constantly repeating the things, that we would benefit from, if we go through with this pact. And that you eventually will fall in love with Hiccup – because he is 'a really good chief and a nice guy'.”

Her mother snarled the last words with much hate and discuss.

Astrid only nodded, understanding the way that her mother felt for this man that would take away her only daughter – her only child.

Ljóda looked back up again, sadly smiling, before she reached out for the young woman, stroking away a strand of her long blonde hair from her face.

“You look tiered... Good. Maybe Hiccup won't find you attractive with your eye bags.” She said, acknowledging the deep dark circles under her eyes. But then Ljóda sighed: “Haven't you slept well?”

“No...” Astrid murmured, swinging her legs out of the bed, walking over to her cloths she had prepared the night before. “The dragons outside were far too loud and annoying. I would have loved to take my axe to get some quietness out of them, but I don't think that I should do that, as long as father wants his peace with Berk and these creatures...”

“Don't worry about them...” Ljóda mumbled after some time, walking over to her daughter to help her with her braid, when Astrid had finished her dressing up. “Today we will convince everybody that this Hiccup is not worth enough to be your husband...”

“How? He is probably all to happy to marry me and already drooling all over the thought to have me on our wedding night!” Her stomach tightened at that thought, a feeling of nausea returning to her, just like all the times, when she was thinking about it.

“Don't worry about. I will convince everybody otherwise!”

“Apart from dad...”

“Well, if he sees, that the Hooligan tribe is not interested in fulfilling this pact, then he might be able to get rid of this damned thought! He only needs to see that!”

Astrid nodded slowly, remembering that there was still some time left – ten days to be exactly, until her doom would arrived, to give her no chance of turning back. Then she turned towards her mother, who has finally finished the braid for her.

“Remember – I will get you out of here, no matter the cost!”

“Thanks...” was all Astrid could say, hoping that her mother's words would keep their truth.

Before they have left the room, Astrid took her axe – just in case she would be able to get a use out of it. Or at least, when she needed to defeat herself.

Chief Hakon was already waiting at the docks, talking with a few Berkians about their dragons. Astrid rolled her eyes when she saw that.

“Now, father is now turning in one of these philanthropic dragon-lovers, too.” She mumbled under her breath for only her mother to hear it as well. Ljóda agreed with a short nod of her head, before they approached the big man.

“Ah – there you are! Glad to see you happy and awake. Well – at least you are awake! Now come on you two, lets head to chief Hiccup's house. They are already waiting for us.”

“They?” Ljóda asked, rising one of her thin eyebrows.

“Yes. Chief Hiccup, Gobber and Valka. We need to discuss the wedding, so everything will be perfect for my little warrior princess!”

“Perfect would be no wedding at all!”, Astrid sarcastically said under her breath, eyeing evilly the Hideous Zippleback, that was standing by one of the Berkians, which hissed aggressively with his two heads in reply.

“Oh come on! You can't be all to grumpy about it. And you will surely look lovely in your wedding dress.”

“Wedding dress...”, Astrid mumbled, pinching the bridge of her nose, to reduce the headache that her father was giving her. “I hate dresses! Why do I need to wear one, anyway!”

Her father shrugged.

“It's tradition!”

Oh by Odin, Thor and all the gods above – if only Astrid could go back in time to kick her ancestors asses for inventing those damned traditions, then she would even give her axe for it!

“Don't make this situation worse than it already is, Hakon!”, Ljóda dangerously mouthed.

In silence the three of them walked now to the hut which sat on top of a big slope, Hakon knocking at the door, when they arrived.

But nobody answered for some time, letting a bit of hope rise inside of Astrid's heart – until Gobber opened the door to let them inside.

He tried to smile warmely at them, gesturing for them to come inside.

“He did not sleep well. Don't expect much out of this conversation!” She heard him whisper nonetheless.

Hakon nodded at that and then they entered, and she looked around in this big house she would probably need to call 'home' in the future, if things turned out the bad way.

There was a fire pit with a few chairs standing by, a pair of stairs that led to rooms upstairs and a big table in the middle of the house. Chairs were around it, a big arm chair resting on the other end. It was empty, although Astrid felt, that normally a chief should take a seat in it.

But no, Hiccup sat on a chair next to this one, arms crossed and eyes fixed on Toothless, who was sitting next to him, while his mother Valka sat on the other side of this big chair.

This had probably been Stoick's chair and out of respect for him and his death, it stayed empty.

“Well, sit. We have enough chairs for you three.”, Gobber said, taking his seat next to Valka, leaving the Hoffersons to sit across from them.

“So, you are all here!” Hakon said, trying to sound cheerful, when they have sat down.

“I-it's my son's wedding after all!” Valka answered, when the other two Viking's stayed quiet. She tried to smile, but she couldn't.

And yet again there was some painful silence.

Hakon cleared his throat.

“Well... as your guests we have gifts for you and Berk. I will tell my men later to bring them to the Great Hall. After all – it is an honor to share our possessions with such a formidable tribe! ”

Gobber nodded, then eyed Hiccup and Valka, who stayed silent.

“Yeah... we are looking foreward to the connection of your tribes, too! …, an' we will have the big wedding in ten days already! The preparations have started already.”

“Sounds great!”

Why in hell was her father all too excited about it?! If he really wanted this marriage, why couldn't he just marry Hiccup on his own and leave her alone with it!

“So, Hakon – do you have any conditions under which this marriage should take place?” Gobber asked in a proper manner, to further follow the traditions. Astrid very well knew about this.

The big man nodded, leaned forward, eyeing Hiccup, until the young chief finally looked up.

'Sure', Astrid thought, knowing, that all her father wanted, was to learn how to train dragons and befriend with them. But she suspected, that Hiccup would know that already.

“Hiccup...”, he yet said, putting his hands together as if he was pleading the young man, “...all I want from you is to take good care of my Astrid.”

Her mother blinked, when she heard these words, while Valka gasped silently. Hiccup's eyebrows rose until they vanished in his bangs, while – on the other hand – the young woman herself widened her eyes in shock.

Why would her father want that?! Did he forget, that she was a great fighter and that she could handle herself better, than any other person did in her age?!

She clenched her hands into fists under the table and – when her shock had settled and had turned into anger – she cast her father a angry look.

“I have high hopes for this marriage. Not only in a political way, but also in what it would mean as a connection between the two of you. I know that Astrid can fight and can take care of herself – but... I want a worthy husband for her and you, Hiccup, you are in my eyes very worthy of it. I have heard many stories of you and your deeds. Of the way that you have changed Berk and this archipelago in a way that no fighting can do it. Make her happy. That is my topmost condition – it is even more important than to fulfill this alliance.”

“Hakon...”, Valka said with a soft voice, after she had looked at Hiccup in sorrow. “It is not as easy, as you think. The past has shown, that a political wedding is mostly a challenge for both – the couple, as it is for the tribes. I-I am not sure if Hiccup and Astrid are really meant for each other...”

The young woman was suddenly all too keen of hearing. So... Hiccup's mother was also against this bond, as was hers. Shouldn't that help her father to change his mind?!

“Oh nonsense! The past has also shown, that many couples were capable to find love in each other! And for them it is possible, too! Am I right, my dear?”

Lovingly Hakon smiled at Ljóda, reaching for her hand, but she pulled away before he could even touch her.

Then he sighed.

“The pact can only be broken by the two chiefs, who made it, Valka...”, he mumbled in defense, somehow sensing that there was nobody else on his side. “And I don't want our tribes to think of us as weaklings. If we now break the pact, it will set our political decisiveness in doubt. I don't want an uproar – neither for your Tribe, as I want it for the Hunter's. And – after all – Berk needs an heir, if something happens to Hiccup. You know that. And you know that I am right about that...”

It was Hiccup, who now pleadingly looked at his mother, but she turned away from him, showing, that Hakon was all too right about this. And that she had known it for longer, then she would have shown.

“We can't force them to have intercourse!”, Ljóda suddenly voiced bitterly. But she was far too calm, sounding dangerous, as if she was ready to jump right into Hakon's face, to hit him with a sharp weapon.

“Oh...no, no! That is not what I want!” He defeated himself. “It's just for precaution!”

“Precaution...”, both Hiccup and Astrid murmured to themselves, not sure what to think of this word.

And yet again there was this treated silence and not even Gobber knew, how to get rid of it.

Astrid looked around between them: Gobber, who was nervously playing with his lost hand, Valka, who was now resting her head in her hands in desperation. Her father, who was sadly looking between her, Hiccup and his mother and Ljóda, who glared daggers into Hiccup. And he – her groom – who was just doing the same like Astrid did, looking away, when their eyes locked for a moment. And she didn't dare to look at Toothless, because she was already feeling his uneasiness and his rejection against her.

That was, when a knock ended this difficult situation and Gobber hurried towards the door.

Astrid did not want to turn around, but when the door closed again, the old Viking came back to the table with something in his arms. And by the look of it she knew exactly what it was, staring at it, when he laid it on the table.

“Just got finished. Hope you like it, but we have excellent tailors on Berk. If she tries it on, then we might be able to change it 'til the big day!”

“Looks good”, Hakon said in glee, while he started to feel the cloth. “Good quality.”

“No.” Astrid merely said, eyeing in discuss the dress that laid before her.

“Oh Astrid, but you will-”

“I said no! I don't want that dress! I don't want that wedding! I don't want-” She pointed at Hiccup, while standing up from her chair “Him!”

He looked back at her.

“I am sorry, but I had no choice in this, either! And who said, that I would want to marry some crazy, axe swinging-”

“Contain yourself, Hiccup!”, Gobber warned.

“Oh, don't worry! I will find a way out of this pact and a way away from this dragon filled, shitty-”

“Astrid, hold your tongue!” Hakon spit.

“Oh yeah?! Better to live with dragons, than to fight them! You know – these reptiles have more sensitivity in their left wing, than you in your whole body!”

“Hiccup!”, Valka shouted.

“Oh, are we getting personal now?!”

Toothless hissed.

“You started it! Who would want to marry you anyway?!”, Hiccup yelled.

Fury was burning inside of her and she clenched her hands into fists, until her knuckles turned white.

“Fuck this! I am out of here!”, she screamed, turning and leaving, before anybody could hold her back, banging the door, when she left. This was her last word, after all!

“At least one good thing, that you can do!”, Hiccup shouted, before, he too, stood up, leaving towards the other direction, with Toothless on his heels and left the four Vikings behind.

“Well...our Astrid did not seem to be the only one, that hasn't slept well...”, Hakon mumbled, while Gobber nodded at that.

“Yeah...and they are already fighting like an old couple...”

Chapter Text

His last word

His lips pressed together, fists clenched and heart beating, when he left his house through the backdoor, letting it shut with a loud bang. He was trembeling with fury and anger.

There was no way, that he would marry that woman! Such an arrogant, hateful, annoying, aggressive little -

Toothless grumbled next to him, nudging his head against his left hand, as if he wanted to support his owner.

“Yeah...sorry, buddy. I am not in the best mood today... Or..ever will be, again! I mean – how can they expect me to marry her?! She is like the worst person I have ever met!“ Well..., not really, he reminded himself, but this Astrid must at least be under to top five.

He sighed, sat down against the wall, next to the door, while Toothless laid next to him, pushing his head on Hiccup's lap to support him.

It didn't even help, that he hadn't found out of the way to escape this wedding, that Gobber had implied the night before. Nobody seemed to know about it – or at least had heart something similar. Not Fishlegs, not Snotlout. Not even the twins had come up with a mysterious tradition, which they had heard about somewhere. It was just too frustrating!

“I wish...“, he mumbled to himself, looking up into the sky. “I wish, that I just could fly away. Leave Berk. But I can't...I can't leave them without a chief. And I can't leave my friends and Gobber and the dragons. And mom. I have just found her, after all. But I wish, that we would to it – just fly away and leave her behind!“

He looked down to Toothless, who looked at him with big eyes, understanding every word, that he said.

Hiccup rolled his shoulders in strain, before he yawned.

He felt tired and sick at the same time. He hadn't slept well, ever since his dad has died. Even worse when Gobber announced his wedding to him. And the last night was by far the worst, now getting to know that horrible woman from the Hunter tribe. He hadn't closed an eye the whole night and was still far too awake, when his mother tried to wake him up this morning.

And his mother...Valka...she knew of it – the pact in general and that there would be no way for him to break free of this burden. To convince chief Hakon otherwise. No – she stated to him, that it still was possible to change his mind, but perfectly well knew, that it would not help.

He felt a sting in his heart, knowing, that his mother had somehow betrayed him in that.

But what other choice did she have?

Suddenly the door next to him creaked softly and both, him and Toothless looked up to Valka. She looked back at them with a sad expression, knowing of her bad deeds.

“Hiccup...“, she sighed, closing the door behind her, sitting down against it, so no other person could follow. “...I am most sorry... I...I should have told you before, that there was no legal way for us to break this pact. Hakon is right. A pact can only be broken by those who made it. Especially now, since Berk has already started with the preparations...“

The young chief merely looked at his mother, but said nothing. He wasn't in the mood to complain, or to accept her apology.

Valka closed her eyes.

“You know, that I would love to turn back time, to change all of it... But...sadly I can't. But I will stand by your side. I will help you, with everything I have. A-and it will probably work out in a good way in the end.“

“But not for me!“ Hiccup snapped, feeling trapped in this hopeless situation. “That's how it always had been – just...trying to get along. Just pretending. Like the time when I was not able to kill dragons. O-or when I thought that was all too easy to bring peace to this world by talking sense into some mad people. Or now that I thought, that I could be a good chief!“

“But you are! You are a worthy chief for Berk and you know it! Everybody loves you. And you have great friends, that will help you, whenever they can. And Gobber and I – we are so proud of you! And Stoick would be, too! You have brought such great change to Berk, like no other chief before you. A good change...“

Hiccup looked away, pressing his lips together. He knew, that his mother was – somehow – right, but he did not want to accept it.

But it was Toothless, who grumbled in agreement.

“And Astrid probably has some good sides on her, too!“ Valka said, trying to cheer him up.

The young Viking laughed at that bitterly, shaking his head in frustration.

“Yeah – when she turns around, so I don't need to see her face!“

Valka smiled sadly at that.

“She probably has much more to herself, than you see right now. I mean – she was brought up this way. Ever since she started to learn how to walk, she needed to hold a weapon. Fear and Hate against dragons are the biggest emotions they learn from the beginning.“

“So it's in her blood, to be this axe wielding maniac!“

“And so were the people of Berk, if you remember. It did only need a young boy with the soul of a dragon to change these peoples minds. And – maybe – this will be the same for her...“

Again Toothless grumbled in agreement, nodding at Valka.

“Hey – who's side are you on now?!“

The winged reptile stuck out his tongue, before he laid his head back down on Hiccup's lap.

“There are still ten days left, Hiccup. Maybe you should talk to her. Get to know her better. Show her how to fly on a dragon – I am sure, that she will like that!“

“I doubt that...“, he mumbled, not really wanting to get Astrid near any dragon for their sake. “And it didn't seem to help, that confessed in front of Hakon, that I am not very fond of his daughter, did it?“

Valka sighed sadly, shaking her head.

“I don't think, that it helped. He is far to blinded by this upcoming wedding. It tends to happen with chiefs, when they see, that two powerful tribes will connect in the future. It's most unlikely to change his mind! But, like I said – talk with her, it will make things only better... Believe me. That's how relationship's start, after all!“

Hiccup rolled his eyes – he did not want or need these advises! Especially not regarding Astrid Hofferson.

“What's with you...“ Hiccup suddenly mumbled after a moment of silence, trying to change the subject. He did not want to talk about her or this wedding the whole time, after all. It was already enough, that he was thinking about it, far too often.

“What's with me, Hiccup? What do you mean?“

Again he looked off to the sky.

“When will you return to your Sanctuary?“

Valka blinked, looking in surprise at her son.

“But...“, she started, not quite sure of what to say.

He smiled. Warmly, understanding his mother more, than he thought.

“Hey – you are the crazy dragon-lady! I know that you have said, that you would stay here, but as long, as there are still people, who treat dragons poorly, so long we need somebody to take care of them.“

“I can't leave you right now!“

“Hey – if I wasn't chief, then it would have been me, who would run of to the Dragon Mountain to look after them. But now that we have people like the Hunter tribe here, I need somebody else to take care of them. Don't you think so?“

He sighed, before he continued: „For now we can't change anything in this situation, anyway. And I really don't want to bore my mother by complaining each and every day about my horrible wife-to-be.“

Valka did not know what to say. Yes – she had stated, that she would stay by his side, to help where ever she could on Berk, but the dragons still needed her help. And his, too...

“Mother, if something happens, I don't want anybody to get hurt. No dragon. No human. But since these people are known for fighting and killing dragons, we should take a few precautions and get some of them out of their way. At least for now...“

Valka nodded, understanding her son's intentions perfectly. She smiled, stroked through his disheveled hair in a warm, motherly manner.

“But I will return to your wedding.“

He chuckled.

“Let's stop to talk about that, okay? No more talks about weddings and marriages and about Astrid! And that, as Berk's chief, is my last word!“, he said jokingly.

It was a nice moment, knowing, that at least his mother was by his side, understanding his frustrations. Yes, her knowledge about the unchangeable way of the pact still hurt, but he knew, that his mother only wanted the best for him.

For some moments mother, son and dragon enjoyed the warm air of this summerly day. Not saying a word, but happy that they had somebody, that understood them. Somebody, who would always be by the others side, no matter what the future would hold for them.

That was until a horrible screech echoed through Berk, coming from not that far away from the house.

“A Nadder?!“, Valka asked, getting up first, while helping up her son. Toothless was already looking around with narrowed eyes, his back hunching and snorting dangerously.

“Sounds like it is in danger!“, she murmured.

“Oh please, no...“, he added, already sensing that Astrid might be involved in it.

Without another last thought, the Night Fury jumped up on the roof, hurrying to the source of this sound, while Valka and Hiccup took the shortest route through the Haddock House.

“What's the matter?!“, Gobber asked, being the only one left inside, trying to put the Wedding dress together.

But they didn't answer, just hurried out of the front door and down the path.

There were people screaming. Shouting for it to stop. In the middle of it was his future bride, an axe held high, anger and fury covering her face. A Deadly Nadder circling her, full of excitement, hissing in fear.

“Astrid, stop!“ They could hear chief Hakon's voice, while Ljóda only stood next to him, not saying anything at all.

“What's she doing?!“, Gobber asked, while Hiccup already jumped into action, alongside Toothless. With only a few steps, the young man stood in front of the young woman, the black Alpha Dragon by his side, with his back and fins glowing blue and ready to protect his dragon friend. Hiccup on the other hand had already his sword ready, pressing it against the blade of Astrid's axe.

“What in Hel are you up to?!“ He snapped at her dangerously, while Astrid growled.

“That beast has attacked me! I only wanted to teach it a lesson!“

He looked her directly in her blue eyes – only seeing her aggression and rage. There was no mercy. She was absolutely ready to harm or kill the Nadder before Berk's very eyes.

“Astrid, step back!“, Chief Hakon shouted with his deep voice.

“She had all the rights to do so – the monster would have killed her instead!“ Ljóda answered in her daughter's defense.

“Our dragons would never kill a human! Lower your axe – NOW!“

“Or what? I am not afraid of you or your little lap-dog!“

“ASTRID!“ It were the giant hands of her father, that reached for her axe, pulling it from her hands, throwing it away, so she wouldn't reach it again.

Hiccup lowered his sword, too, yet his heart was still beating and Toothless next to him was still glowing.

“Forgive my daughter. I will bring her to our ship and remind her of her manners. It won't happen again – I promise you that. And I am most sorry for this occurrence!“

“Chief Hakon – I can't accept the use of a weapon against a dragon-“

Hakon nodded, understanding, while his daughter started to curse behind him, stomping of to the ship by herself, with her mother close to follow.

“It won't happen again. Really. She will get used to the dragons before the wedding comes. Forgive her...“

Hiccup couldn't say anymore, since the tall man already has turned, to leave, too.

“Yep...“, he mumbled. “There is absolutely no chance, that I will have a conversation with that crazy woman!“

With a heaving chest, the young chief turned around, walking over to the Deadly Nadder, which his mother had already tried to calm down.

“Is she hurt?“ He asked mournfully, patting the neck of the blue, winged reptile, while Toothless raised himself on his back legs, sniffing at his dragon-friend, cooing in comfort.

Valka shook her head weakly after she had examined her.

“It's nothing. Not even a scratch. She was on the lucky side here.“

Hiccup sighed sadly but relieved, leaning his head against the Nadder's as a sign of compassion.

“I am sorry, Stormfly. She won't hurt! I promise you that!“

Chapter Text

Until it was late at night Astrid had been pacing around in a small cabin on her father's ship. Cursing. Shouting. Gazing madly at Hakon, whenever he entered her quarters. Seeking comfort in Ljóda, who was all too quiet now, unsure of how to help her only daughter.

It made Astrid nearly go crazy – this waiting, being unable to do anything!

Nobody understood her! Nobody would and she had to live with it!

But how could they – everybody wanted to persuade their own egoistic needs, not caring about the other. About their feelings. About their believes and ideals.

About her.

No – she was the one, that needed to go through with it. There never seemed to be a way out – now that she knew that the pact was unbreakable and her father was just too stubborn to change anything about it – stating that it would be the best for her, the Hunter tribe and also for Berk.

And her mother – well her mother still wanted her to believe in a better ending. But no! She didn't seem to do anything for it. Just this endless talking!

For the first time in her life Astrid felt lonely. Since that little incident with that damned Deadly Nadder she was not allowed to leave her quarters and her father had taken her axe. He even insisted her to stay there, until there would be further conversations about the wedding! And it was her damned future-husband that insisted, that her people should leave their weapons on the ship. Now they were defensless against those monsters out there!

Hakon did not speak much with her about it. His looks of sadness and shame were enough for Astrid. Enough for her to boil in fury. Enough for her to even throw around some furniture, or to rip a tapestry from her wall. Why couldn't he just understand her?! Why in Hel wanted he to go through with this wedding, when nobody else – not even the groom's mother or the groom himself seemed to want it! Her father was the only one left in believe for an happy ending, that she didn't even ask for in the first place!

Ljóda on the other hand visited her whenever she could, but never said much. Only the same old things, that she had told her many times before. Astrid already couldn't listen to it anymore. So she only nodded her head, staying silent. Yes, she still listened to the last hope that had remained in her mother – but she had nearly lost all the hope herself.

But, at least, in her mother's eyes, she had done the right thing – protecting herself, even if it would have meant, that Astrid had to kill that Nadder! She had been attacked by this dragon after all! And Ljóda also stated, that the Hooligans and Berk should see, how the young woman feels about this marriage and the dragons and that Astrid was not afraid to provoke a war, if needed.

“It might help for them to lower Hiccup's reputation in their eyes. If his future wife disgraces him, then those morons are against the wedding! And maybe consider a change of their chiefdom altogether! Why having a Hiccup, if there are far better choices?!“

Yes, Astrid would love to do that! But now, with guards constantly standing in front of her door or following her every step, she would never be able to do so. They would report it to Hakon immediately – maybe even Hiccup himself! And – as her mother said – Hakon already was a pain in the ass enough. So, for now there was no chance for her to lower the young chief´s reputation even more...

And now it was already the next day – and Astrid hadn't slept well, again - that she was sitting on her bed, wondering how it would turn out for her in the end. She sighed heavily at that, wrapping her arms around her legs which she had pulled to her chest, while laying her head on the knees. There was nothing left that she wanted to destroy and nothing else to do. She did not want to read, since her thoughts would only distract her. Eating was also no option, since she wasn't hungry at all. And going outside for a stroll or to train was not working with the guards outside and Hakon getting her back into her quarters – also she didn't want to cross paths with another dragon or Hiccup, especially now that she is unarmed.

Therefore the only option that was left now for her to do, was to ponder:

But...how would turn out her life, in only a few days? Nine days, to be exactly. Well..., she would marry Hiccup. She would be called Haddock from this day on. Chieftess Astrid Haddock. It really sounded strange to her. It sounded so wrong, on so many levels...

And...what else... She would need to say good-bye to her parents. Probably she would never see them again. Only write every now and then a letter. She had to follow her duties – helping these people. Cooking for her husband. Clean the house. Feet the Night Fury. Massage his feet – well...only one. Undress if he needs to...fulfill his desires. Yes, he would probably want that from her, even though he was against that marriage, as was she. But that's what men do – use women as they please. Mother has told her that many times before... And it would probably be part of a revenge, now that she had turned against one of his priced monsters!

But – she would chop of his hands, whenever he would dare to touch her – that she knew for sure.

And yet...Would there ever be a day that this would fulfill her? Being his littles mistress and a slave to the ways of Berk. No – probably not! She was trained differently! She was trained to fight!

In desperation she fell backwards on her bed, sighing deeply, before she covered her eyes with her hands.

“Please..., Odin, Thor and all the Gods out there – make it stop!“

That was the strange moment, when a knock rang through her silent room, startling her, just as if the gods had heard her pleadings.

“Yes?“ She merely said, leaning on her elbows to see her mother enter her quarter's. She felt somewhat disappointed, to see this familiar face, again. And the older woman was only here to have another talk about possible ways to prevent that wedding, though they would probably not work!

Ljóda on the other hand seemed to be far too excited, for just having another little chat.

“Come now!“ Her mother exclaimed, smiling for the first, since she had heard about the alliance. “You need to get up and hurry! And we need to get your axe.“

“But-“ Astrid started, wanting to remember her mother about her father's words and the guards by the door.

Ljóda shook her head, pressing a finger on her daughter's lips, silencing her.

“I talked a little with a few older people of the Hooligan tribe. Trying to play nice... and I have some information that might be of interest! On this archipelago is a way to end this pact – if your father wants it that way or not.“

Astrid sat up immediately upon hearing that.

„Tell me!“

Ljóda nodded eagerly, getting her daughter's arm wraps and boots, which she had laid of for Astrid to pull on.

„Have you ever heard about the 'Dance of the Maiden?'“.

No – Astrid had never heard about it, but her mother soon explained every detail about this long-lost tradition, to her and what she needed to do for it, while they were already leaving the quarters. It would help her daughter to leave Berk an to retrieve her daughter's freedom. Astrid was just too happy to hear about it.

Finally – it was the solution that they had sought for, for so long!

A few guards tried to stop them, but Ljóda convinced them to otherwise – being the chieftess after all. Therefore they could leave the ship without any other disturbances, walking straight past every dragon and human they encountered. Straight to the Haddock house, in hope to find Hiccup there.

“Ljóda! Astrid!“, they could suddenly hear their chief's voice. A guard had probably told Hakon about his daughter's escape and now he is following the two women, calling them. „What are you two trying to do now?!“

But no one of them answered and instead kept on walking straight on.

With his fists clenched the chief of the Hunter tribe followed. What else should he do – he knew that he has done a few things wrong in the past – but couldn't they understand, that he only wanted the best for them?! For their tribe. And for Astrid!

After all, he had seen a change in her. A change that terrified him – as a chief and a father. Yes – Astrid had always been very determined. Strong willed. Ready to fight for all the wrongs. Ready to fight for her people. Yes – Astrid was a good fighter – but never ruthless. Never filled with angst and fury. She would never attack without considering first. And never killed just for fun. That was something that he despised and had never done in the past! And it was something, that he nearly come to witness, when his daughter stood in front of that Deadly Nadder, her axe and head held high with pride. It only strengthened his believe in this wedding, for her to change in a better way!

But...why was she all the sudden behaving that way? Was it really some aggression that she withheld all these years, now revolting against this wedding? Or was it...something else?

With a sad expression he looked at Ljóda, wondering how much she was trying to convince her daughter to fight back? But... was Ljóda really trying to...brainwash his daughter...? No – No! That couldn't be. And how could he think something about his wife like this?! He should be ashamed of himself!

Therefore he only followed his two favorite women without any more complains, until Ljóda entered chief Hiccup's house without knocking.

Inside was the young chief – visibly surprised by intruders, while standing in the middle of the entrance hall. Gobber and his friends were there, too, looking at the Hofferson family with opened mouths as they entered. And Toothless grumbled at them.

“Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III!“ Astrid announced, holding her head high in pride. „I challenge you to a 'Dance of the Maiden!'“

“Oh Odin, no!“ Gobber said immediately, both annoyed and afraid of what to come. „You can't be serious!“

“Yes – I am!“ She hissed, stepping up to the young chief until she stood directly in front of him, clenching her fists and looked up into his deep, green eyes.

“I challenge you to fight me for my honor!“

“What?!“, as the shared reaction of Hakon and Hiccup's friends.

“Don't be ridiculous! I will not fight you!“

“But that's what my daughter wants from you! A Dance of the Maiden is a legal way to end this wedding. Once the Bride-to-be has challenged you, you can only accept it or refuse!“, Ljóda exclaimed, while Hakon looked at her in shock. “It is to demonstrate the young woman's strength in a battle against her future husband. To display, that she can take care of her own and to demonstrate that she would be able to protect her people in battle! If Astrid defeats you, you are free, as is she.”

“With their bare hands?“ Ruffnut wondered loudly, sharing a confused glanze with her brother.

“Each party is allowed to have one shield and one weapon of choice.“

“To fight until one of them is dead?!“ Fishlegs questioned, slightly shaking at the thought to loose his friend in such a sad and (considering of what he knew about Astrid) cruel way.

“Until one of them surrenders. If Astrid surrenders first, both must bond in marriage. If Hiccup does, then Astrid is free to leave Berk and to choose herself a new husband, when the time comes!“

Astrid thought that it would take some time for Hiccup to consider his answer. That he was too afraid of her and her prowess! But he surprised her, when he immediately nodded his head.

“I accept!“

“Oh, Hiccup – wait, wait wait! Lad – consider ya answer for another minute and-“

“No, Gobber. The boy said, that he accepts the fight!“ Ljóda said immediately. „It's tradition around here and we don't want to break that. And now that he accepted it, he won't get out of it!“

“W-well that is right.“, Gobber stated, while Snotlout behind them whispered, that he would then get the chance to marry to young woman, but was ignored by everybody else in the room. „Unless both heads of the families are against this. Then the fight is to be ended before it even has started!“

„Heads of the family?! Then I reject, as the head of the Hofferson clan!“ Hakon immediately stepped in. “So there will be no fight!“

There was silence for a moment – not even Hiccup's friends dared to speak up in this very moment.

Yet, Astrid did not care to look away from Hiccup, wanting to demonstrate her will power and strength. Showing this guy that she won't back down in a fight against him.

And Hiccup held her gaze all the time.

“Hakon...“, mumbled Gobber all the sudden. “Sadly...that is not enough. Both heads are needed to decline the Maiden's Dance. And since Stoick is considered as the head of House Haddock, but due to his death, he can't give a vote of his own. We only have yours against it... I am sorry Hakon. But those two are left to fight until one surrenders...or...dies...”

The old smith sighed remorsefully.

“I will prepare the arena for it. Astrid. Hiccup... Choose your weapon and we will meet tomorrow at dawn. For the Dance of the Maiden...“

Chapter Text

Victoriously Astrid smiled at him, when she had heard Gobber's final words, probably already planning out her triumph. Hiccup could only stare back without twitching, to show that he was not afraid. That he would fight her, no matter the outcome.

„Well, then that's everything for now...“ she said, finally turning around to leave, with her mother following the proud young woman.

Hakon on the other hand sighed sadly, still standing there by the door.

„Hiccup...“ He murmured, looking directly at the young chief. „You don't have to do it. Astrid...I...I don't know what has gone to her mind! Normally she is not like this! Are you sure, that you really want to fight her? It is not that I doubt your strength – but I doubt that my little girl has a clear mind right now...“

Hiccup opened his lips to answer, but Gobber stepped in, saying:

„Sorry Hakon, but we can't escape it. Both – the bride and the groom have chosen to fight each other. We will see by tomorrow what will happen. Let's hope for the best – for both of them...“

The tall chief nodded sadly, before he turned around, finally following the two women. The door closed on its own on his way out, leaving Hiccup, Gobber and his friends behind.

„Ar' ya insane!“ Gobber grumbled, hitting with his wooden hand against the young Viking's back of the head, which immediately hurt badly. The gang snickered mischievously, when they saw that.

„Ow! What was that for?!“ Hiccup questioned, holding his head, flinching, when Gobber raised his hand again.

„We don't know much about ya dear wife – but I know enough and tell you, that this woman will end up in a total killing spree! And Berk can't effort the loss of another chief!“

Hiccup only shook his head, getting back to his friends, to discuss a few future plans for Berk – but Gobber disturbed them, again.

„This is the worst thing, that could have happened, lad! It's neither helping ya, nor Berk!“

„Why?“ Hiccup snapped.

Why couldn't the older man see, that this finally the way out that Hiccup had asked for! That this was a way to end the wedding and marriage, before it already had started. Yes, the young chief was somehow relieved, that Astrid found out about it, for her to challenge him in this fight. Nobody else was telling him about this Dance of the Maiden anyway! At least not the people he had asked, most of them stating, that they were unaware of such a tradition, saying that he should be happy to marry such a strong, beautiful woman!

And - what could possibly go wrong?! He would surrender after a few minutes and both of them were free. She could leave Berk with her crazy mother and the rest of the Hunter tribe, while Berk would remain the same, as it had been before this damned pact. It truly was a win-win situation!

„Why?! You really ask that?! Then start to use yer smart brain, lad! What will happen, if ya surrender?“

„Hiccup can choose another wife!“ Fishlegs said.

„And I can have Astrid.“ Snotlout added. „She is totally my type. And I will totally teach her, how to be nice to dragons!“

„Yeah!“, Ruffnut shrugged. „What is the matter? Totally sounds fine to me, too!“

„It's not like it's the doom for us and Berk!“, came it now from Tuffnut, too.

Hiccup looked at his friends, and upon hearing that, he suddenly realized, what Gobber was hinting at – ignoring the fact, that Tuffnut and Ruffnut normally should follow Astrid and spy on her. They probably only forgot about it or found this task far too boring.

And yet the young chief's heart stopped for a moment, suddenly realizing why this tradition was not talked about much and why his mother and Gobber had refused to tell him about it in the first place. It had a far higher impact, than he would have guessed at first!

Gobber saw the sudden understanding in his eyes, when Hiccup looked back up to the older Viking and nodded, as if he wanted to reassure the young chief in his believes.

„It is Berk's doom if I surrender!“ Hiccup exclaimed with a somber voice, confusing his friends behind him.

Toothless cooed comforting at his rider, nudging his head against Hiccup's taunt hand. But the young Viking didn't reply.

“What do you mean?!“ Fishlegs wondered, not quite understanding, what the two men said.

“If I surrender...“ the young man mumbled, more to himself than to his friends, „...then it will challenge my position as a chief. As Berk's chief. Not only that – but with that Berk will become a target for doubt among our tribe – our own people -, but also for other tribes in request to conquer Berk. It will endanger us and it will put our dragon's into danger, too! Because I will be seen as a weekling. A pushover. And Berk, too, with a chief like that! People will see Berk as an easy target...which will result in many fights to come...“

Hiccup gulped, looking back to his friends. “To protect not only mine but also Berk's honor, I need to fight against Astrid! Not only that, but...but I need her to surrender, or the Hooligan tribe will loose it's status.“

“There...there never was a way out of it, lad. Not really.“ Gobber said wisely. “And – truth to be told – with an opponent like Astrid, it will be a tough fight! She won't get down easily – if at all! She is trained to fight until the very end. Or to end your life, if needed.“

“Can't he talk with her! You know – to stop the fight! There is still some time until tomorrow!“ Fishlegs said with a hopeful voice.

“No...as it was said – only the heads of both families can finish it with their objection. But...with Hakon being the only one of them, we can't use this way out...“

„Can't I be considered the head of the Haddock Clan? I mean – I am not a child anymore. I am grown up and the chief of this tribe!“

„You have no heir to be considered the head of your family, lad...“

Everything was turning around Hiccup. He felt dizzy. Breathing was hard and he felt as if he was drowning. The air around him was hot and cold at the same time.

What has he done?! Yes – this situation had been bad from the beginning. But now – he made it even worse. Not only for him. But also for Berk. That's the worst thing a chief could possibly do to his own people. If only his father had been here...he would have handled things differently. Would have done the best for Berk and its people...He would have accepted the wedding, without flinching and without an afterthought. Because that is, what a chief needs to do...

The only way out was this damned fight! A fight, that had seemed so easy in the beginning, but was now the toughest thing for him to do.

Why had his brain stopped for a minute there?! Why hadn't he considered first? Asked about this tradition, he had never heard of. Why did he accept Astrid's challenge, without another thought?!

He couldn't fight her – not that he was the worst fighter and the choice of a weapon would make it easy for him to choose his inflammable sword. But – as Gobber had already stated – Astrid would probably never surrender! Something like that wasn't in her blood! She would probably prefer to die...

But he had to make her surrender. He had to beat her. Or die miserably while doing so. There wasn't another option left.

And...he had to do it for Berk...

“Do you now understand, why your mother and I refused to tell you about this?“

Hiccup nodded meekly, his friends already panicking behind him.

“Does it need to happen in front of Berk?! Can't they just fight somewhere in the forest?“ Snotlout asked, sounding angry about this situation and because of the wrong decision of his cousin.

“It needs to be done in the arena. And I guess that everybody on Berk will come and see the fight, since your dear future-bride is probably already bragging about her triumph...“

In a fatherly way Gobber laid his healthy hand on the shoulder of the young Viking, patting it in comfort.

“All that's left is to fight. No turning back and no talking out... Ya need to do it...for Berk...“

Hiccup pressed his lips together, clenching his fists until his knuckles turned white.

Gobber was right – what else should he do after all? That was the only thing that he could do in this situation!

The young chief took Inferno from were he had left it on the table, turning back to his friends.

“Ruff, Tuff – I want you two to spy on Astrid and her mother, again. I guess that she will train the whole day and won't get near any dragon. But I want to be absolutely sure, that she won't do something stupid! I don't want another mishap like yesterday!“

The twins nodded and saluted, leaving in a hurry the house of family Haddock to follow their task.

“Snotlout, Fishlegs – get Eret. He will probably be somewhere around the stables on his watch.“

“Why?“ His cousin wondered.

“The three of you will help me get into shape...until tomorrow...It's true – Astrid won't get down with an easy fight. And I won't give her that! I will make her surrender and...and...marry her. It's best for Berk this way!“

“Alright.“

With that, both Snotlout and Fishlegs left to find the former trapper.

“Hiccup...“ Gobber started, but did not really know, what he should say. The young Viking smiled at that, now laying a hand on the old smith's shoulder.

“Don't worry, Gobber. I will kick my future-bride's butt and nobody will ever talk about this again.“

“It will not be easy. And Toothless won't be able to help ya this time!“

“I know...“

“Well...then I hope that the gods may be on your side! Don't want to prepare your funeral! Might as well sent someone to tell your...mother...“ The last words left Gobber's lips in a strange way. They were slower, as if he suddenly had a flash of inspiration, while a thought had crossed his mind.

The older Viking nodded to himself, mumbling something like „That might work...“, to himself, before he turned on his heels towards the door.

“Do what ever you must. Prepare yourself – I will get Valka!“

With that the smith left in a hurry and Hiccup didn't even know were he went.

“Don't worry about that, Gobber!“ he shouted through the still opened door.

Hiccup chuckled sadly, now also turning around to meet with his three male friends.

He would have loved to say, that the fight wouldn't be a problem. That it just would be too easy and that Astrid was no match for him. But he didn't. He knew very well, that he should never underestimate the young woman. That it would be a tough fight – maybe even the hardest he ever fought, remembering all the things he could loose – Berk in particular!

That's why he thought is was the smartest decision for now to train and to get a little in shape. Yes – he hadn't even one day left. But it was the only thing left to do!

Toothless followed close behind, when he marched through the village. He didn't want anybody to notice his previous failure, but when he saw a few Berkians whisper, pointing his way, he knew, that somebody must have already spread the news – probably the young woman herself.

Oh Hel, what had he done?! Why had his brain stopped working in that very moment?!

He arrived at the arena and to his surprise he already saw his friends, standing there, watching something from the top. Something, that was going on down below, in the center.

Although he told them otherwise, Ruffnut and Tuffnut were there, too.

With raised eyebrows he went closer.

“What is going on? Ruff, Tuff – why are you two here. Haven't I told you to-”

“Hush!” Tuffnut suddenly interrupted his friend and chief. “We are watching your irrefutable death!”

“My...WHAT?!”

“Yep – it isn't looking all too good, boss!” Eret added, pointing down to the center of the arena, which made Hiccup finally come closer to stand next to the others.

He gulped at what he saw down there.

“Won't come close to her blade, if you ask me!” Snotlout commented, nodding at the young daughter of the Hunter tribe's chief, as she hurried through the arena, fighting a few of her guards in training – with one of the axes Hiccup made himself, he noticed.

“She is good!” Fishlegs mumbled in amazement, while they watched her – blocking, twirling around, kicking and attacking with her axe in such an ease that kept them speechless.

She truly was a warrior!

“Was nice to have you as our chief, I guess!” Ruffnut said, patting the young man on the back. “But she is absolutely bad-ass.”

“Your death will hurt badly!” her brother added. “I don't want to be in your skin now!”

Toothless was also watching the happening down below, moving his head, whenever Astrid made another jump or a step, hissing aggressively when Astrid knocked one of the guards out.

It was a sound, which made her look up to them and seeing, that she was watched – especially by Hiccup himself – she narrowed her eyes, locking gazes with her soon-to-be-ex-fiancee.

And the young chief couldn't look away. Shame about his decision and fear of what to come were just too big to handle right now.

He should have kept his mouth shut, once in his life! But – no – his stubbornness made him accept this fight, now trapped in this more like before! He should have accepted this wedding, which suddenly wasn't all too bad any more, when he considered this only other option, that was now left for him.

The gaze of her blue eyes became too much for him and Hiccup turned around.

“Hey! Where are you going?!” Snotlout asked out loud. “Thought you wanted to train with us a little! To prepare you for your fight!”

“We will find another place. I guess it's best, if she can't be able to analyze my every move before tomorrow!”

And without another word spoken he left and his friends following silently behind.

Chapter Text

It was early in the morning, when Astrid pushed her blankets away from her body, standing up to dress. It was still dark outside and the sun wasn't to set until the next hour.

Looking outside the small window of her cabin she felt excited.

Finally the time has come, to show not only her father, but this whole damned village what she thought about their little chief! Yes – finally all the training would pay out for her!

Astrid smiled, already sensing her freedom again – after all these days of waiting and holding on.

Her mother's words had kept their truth – she had found a way for her to escape the marriage. And it would be a glorious one!

Filled with anticipation the young woman stepped closer to the table of her quarters, where the axe she had found in the arena had rested the whole night, waiting for her to use it against him.

Her slim fingers wrapped around its handle, lifting it of the surface and she marveled in its dangerous beauty, imagining all the things she would do with the weapon today. She had to admit, that the people of the Hooligan tribe knew some things about weapons and that this axe was crafted with care and that the smith knew his handicraft. It would help her today, to win the fight and to get her honor back.

Well, she only needed to make Hiccup surrender – but nobody has told her to not have a little fun beforehand. Hakon had stated that Hiccup was a good and strong fighter and probably had a few aces up his sleeve, so Astrid hoped that he would at least put a little effort into it. Well, she probably would not start to sweat, but maybe she would feel a little breathless.

“It's over...“ the young woman whispered to herself, before she silently turned around to leave her room and the ship. She wanted her weapon to be prepared, after all! And since her father had taken her grindstone (in another childish attempt to keep her from fighting), she needed to find another way to sharpen her axe. And the guards on their ship really did a poor job, since they were asleep, instead of guarding her door.

She wandered through the empty streets of an early Berk, which would soon start to buzz with liveliness of their residents and their dragons. But she hoped that she would long be gone before that would happen. She did not plan to fight longer than ten minutes, after all! Well... maybe twenty, depending on how good of a fighter Hiccup really was!

Soon Astrid found that place, she had been looking for – the forge. Surely she would be able to sharpen her axe here, or at least would be able to find a new grindstone.

But then she stopped, surprised to see the light of a candle flickering in the window. And...was there coming smoke out of the chimney?

Astrid shrugged – reminding herself, that Gobber was the local smith and was probably occupied with working on a few weapons or stuff for those dragons. And she guessed that he would not mind, if she used his grindstone. He seemed to be a far to friendly guy for that!

Therefore Astrid walked closer to the forge, not bothering to knock at the door, before she entered the building. Before she entered, the young woman got a little confused by the sign of a tooth by the entrance, wondering, why it was there in the first place, but merely shrugged it as some kind of a Berkian nonsense off.

It was a spacious building, with many weapons hanging from the walls, or standing in special racks, waiting to be used. There was nothing, that was different from the forges on her island, with the tools and shelves and a big fire pit. Only the saddles that hang from the wall made her curious, stepping closer to one of those.

It was made out of thick leather, carefully sown together and crested with smaller designs. They were far too big for horses or any other animal, therefore she assumed that those were special saddles for their little dragon-friends. And they really had put effort into it!

Astrid raised her hand to carefully touch the one saddle before her, softly stroking over its smooth surface.

Yes – she despised this friendly way with these winged reptiles – but she could recognize a good handwork, when she saw one – and for a moment she wondered, what it was like to fly.

“What do you want?!“ A voice suddenly snapped at her and she took away her hands with a swift move, suddenly feeling very caught.

“Nothing...“ She murmured, not bothering to turn around, when she realized that it had been Hiccup's voice, that had startled her.

“Shouldn't you prepare, or something? Chopping of somebodies head? Or kicking your guards butt?“

Astrid sighed in annoyance, rolling her eyes, while finally turning around, raising her axe for him to see.

“I am just searching for something to sharpen this axe on. My father has taken mine plus my grindstone, so there is no way I can get prepared, while staying on the ship...“

The young man merely nodded, turning around to leave, after he had pointed at a big grindstone in the corner.

“I guess that you know, how you can use it?“

Astrid hadn't the chance to answer, since he was already gone, walking somewhere to the back of the forge, where she couldn't see him any longer.

She pressed her lips together, stomping over to the tool she had been looking for so long.

Of all the people she could possibly meet here, it had to be Hiccup!

Lifting her axe to the grindstone, she merely shrugged every thought of, that started to rise inside of her. He was probably only searching for a weapon and a shield to use – why else would he be in this forge at this time?

The young chief on the other hand was still too confused about this little meeting. He didn't expect anybody here at this time of the day – especially not the woman he would fight today!

Toothless opened his eyes, looking with a tilted head at his owner.

“Don't worry, buddy. She will soon leave...“ Hiccup murmured, sitting down in his workshop again, to continue a few drafts for a few saddles, that his fellow people had ordered from him. At least he hoped that he would at least be alive after today to fulfill these orders...or, at least have the remaining body parts to do so.

For some time he carelessly doodled around, listening to the sound of grindstone against axe.

No, he did not want her inside the forge. Or Berk, but he needed to accept it for now... For always – he reminded himself, grinding his teeth together, when he remembered, that his 'plan' somehow involved to get married to her... Which would mean, that she was supposed to stay on Berk. Forever...

Hiccup was already very awake. He had trained with the three young men for a few hours, before he went to bed, in hope that all of this had been only a dream. A nightmare! But it wasn't! And he hoped, that today it wouldn't get any worse.

The young chief had been up for some time now and unsure of what to do, he had walked straight to the forge, trying to get rid of his dark thoughts, while working. And he wasn't alone after all – Toothless did accompany him, watching him or playing with a few screws on the floor.

Suddenly the sharpening sound from the main room of the forge stopped and Hiccup guessed, that the young woman just had left and he finally went back to draw the main sketches, now that his mind had slowly returned to its task.

“So...“Astrid suddenly said from behind him, startling him once again, making him jump in his seat and he dropped his charcoal pencil to the floor. „What exactly are you doing here?“

Hiccup turned towards the young woman, raising his eyebrows at her, while Toothless grumbled with a deep tone.

„What I am doing here?!“ Hiccup started with an angry voice, but suddenly noticed, that she couldn't know of his job in the forge, unless somebody told her. But that didn't seem to be the case.

Therefore the young chief sighed in annoyance, not only turning back around, but also rolled his eyes.

“I am working here...“ he merely said, getting back to his drafts in hope, that this was enough information for Astrid and that she would now leave.

But she didn't.

She crossed her arms before her chest, looking in curiosity at the drawings on the wall, admiring, that there was some kind of a talent behind it – which she wouldn't tell him, of course!

“And what are you doing here. Just drawing...stuff?“

Hiccup did not know, if she asked out of genuine interest or because she was trying to insult him. That's why he stayed quiet.

Now it was the young woman, who rolled her eyes at his stubbornness.

“Yeah, you don't need to answer me! I don't mind!“

For a few minutes the young chief considered – should he talk to her? Maybe he could talk some sense into her, make her see, what his loss would mean to Berk. Yes, it would also mean, that in the end he would marry her, but...but was a price he was willing to pay.

For Berk, he reminded himself, as their chief...

When she was about to leave, since the young man didn't seem to have the intention to talk to her, Hiccup suddenly stood up and turned back to her.

“Astrid...“ he said, trying to sound calm and yet dutiful. “You know...what it would mean to Berk, if I loose against you.“

She stopped in her tracks, looking over her shoulder, but not fully facing him.

“Of course! I am aware, that Berk might loose it's honorable status in this archipelago and beyond“ Coming from her lips, it sounded as if it was some insignificant ordinariness for her.

He nodded merely, while she shrugged.

“Why should I be bothered? I am not my father! I have no interest in this pact and the alliance. And certainly not in this marriage!“

“And so am I...I don't want this wedding. I don't even want you as a wife!“

She sighed in annoyance.

“Yeah...You already said that! I won't forget that! I don't want you either as my husband. So...why not just surrender? I am free – you are free. Everything is fine then. And if you and your little tribe are really such great dragon riders, as my father has stated, then it won't be a problem for you, if you will be attacked. I mean – fighting is in your blood. You are a Viking, after all! A very scrawny one, but still a Viking!“

“Hey – I have my fair share of muscles, too!“ He tried to defeat himself, feeling genuinely offended by her words. “And just for you to know – I won't let you win. I am their chief! And I will do, what's best for my people!“

Astrid crossed her arms in front of her chest and raised her eyebrows, not feeling impressed by his words at all.

“Sure!“

With that she turned to leave, but stopped, when Hiccup called her one last time:

“You should do the same!“

“W-what?!“ The young woman did not know what the young man was hinting at.

“You should do the same!“ Hiccup repeated. “Doing, what is best for your people. You are the daughter of a chief, after all! Neither of us is in the position to complain about the unfairness of our fathers pact, since they only wished the best for their tribes! Neither of us should pout and trash around like a little child would do it. Instead we should act like responsible grown-ups and do what's best for everybody. Don't understand me wrong – I loathe the thought of getting married to a dragon killing warrior. But I will do everything to make your surrender! And by the end of this fight – I promise you that – you will surrender!“

For a moment she stood there, while something had gripped her heart, which she wouldn't admit that some truth laid in his words. As the daughter of her tribe's chief, she should act in every beneficial way for her people.

'Doing what is best for your people...'

Hearing those words, coming from Hiccup's lips made her heart beat slower for a second and exhaled a deep breath.

Therefore she merely tried to fake a confident smirk, before she turned around, extending her free hand, that was not holding unto the axe, to the young man in front of her.

“Don't worry about the marriage. I will win anyway! But as a fair warrior I wish you good luck in this fight.“

Though Hiccup didn't feel like it, he chuckled a little, reaching for her hand to shake it.

“We will see, who wins and who will loose. But I promise you a fair fight, M'lady!“

Chapter Text

Their Fight

They had parted shortly after, without loosing another word.

Astrid went back to the ship, not wanting to attract someones attention, to be reported to her father, that she had left her quarters. She sat silently on her bed, waiting for somebody to get her for her big fight, while she wondered, what was actually best for her people.

Hiccup on the other hand stayed at the forge, drawing to get of any dark thoughts that were rising withing him. He knew what he had to do – make her surrender – but he also knew, that it would be not easy.

Nothing would ever be easy again, no matter how today would turn out. Either he would die a horrible death, leaving Berk without a chief and without honor, or he would win and marry Astrid Hofferson... The second was the...best...solution. He knew it, but felt sick, when he thought about it for too long.

They were not meant for each other! He was a dragon rider! He loved to be in the sky. She was a fierce, ruthless warrior, who preferred to stay on the ground.

And from what he had learned from his past encounter with Drago Bludvist, he knew that bad people can't be changed...

And by the way it seemed, neither would he ever be able to change her and her aggression against his winged friends.

He sighed. Sadly and deeply, before he blew out the candle on his desk, finally standing up.

“Come on, buddy...“ He murmured towards the Night Fury by his side, who stood up without complaining, walking beside him, when the young chief left the forge. “..., it's about time to win us a wife!“

The sky turned already into a grayish hue and a soft streak of orange was showing at the horizon.

The time has come.

Many of his fellow Vikings were already walking over to the arena, greeting him happily or wishing him good look. The young man suspected, that they were unaware of the seriousness of this situation, probably not knowing the reason behind this strange tradition. Still he felt, that he should not disappoint them.

And he wouldn't.

Before the arena were his friends, waiting for him. They looked nervous and afraid, all their happiness and jokes were gone. With their pale faces and their dull eyes, they very much reminded him of the overall desperation, that had spread when Stoick had died – only a few weeks ago.

And now...they probably hoped, that the would not need to mourn another beloved chief. And a friend.

“Hic-cuuup~“ Tuffnut said crying, as if he was about to loose Chicken – which really meant, that he was caring about the young chief. „It was nice to have you among us, to play tricks on you!“

“Yeah, like awesome tricks! We will miss that!“ Ruffnut added, also sobbing slightly.

“Are you sure, you need to fight her?“ Fishlegs now asked, sounding nervous and as if he was about to faint. „Can't you do something better? Like playing cards?“

“If she gets you killed, can I become chief? J-just wondering...“ Snotlout added, trying to sound mocking and probably he tried to cheer his cousin up, but failed miserably and therefore he looked away.

“Guys – don't worry. She might get one or two good blows at me, but she won't kill me. I promise you that!“ Hiccup said, faking some cheerfulness. “And in about a week I will get married and we will have a big celebration. With lots of mead and big meals and – Ruff, Tuff – you guys are even allowed to prank us, if this would help you!“

The twin simultaneously sniffed and nodded.

“Good luck, chief!“ Eret said, patting the young man on the shoulder.

“Thanks...“ Hiccup murmured, but suppressed to say, that he really would need this luck. He just didn't want his friends to feel sad and afraid even more.

Turning his head, he searched for Gobber, who he hadn't seen since yesterday and who had left in a mysterious hurry.

“Where is Gobber?“

His friends shrugged.

“I saw him flying of with his dragon yesterday. But I hadn't seen him returning...“ Snotlout said.

It hit Hiccup like a punch in the stomach. Well... He suspected, that Valka wouldn't make it to see her son get beaten up by some angsty beauty from the Hunter tribe. But with Gobber he felt a bit disappointed. This old Viking felt like a uncle for him and was the only fatherly figure that had remained in his life. And with him being absent from this important fight felt something like a betrayal.

“He will surely be here any minute. I doubt, that he wants to miss this Dance of the Maiden-thingy.“ Fishlegs added, probably sensing Hiccup's distress.

Hiccup nodded, agreeing to Fishlegs' words.

“Yeah, you are probably right!“

This was the moment, when they suddenly heard footsteps from behind them. Coming closer and straight towards them. When the gang turned around, they could see the Hofferson family and a few of the guards, finally arriving for the fight.

“Ah, Chief Hiccup!“ Hakon happily greeted, laying a hand on the young Viking's shoulder. It made Hiccup see the sadness in his eyes much easier and he gulped, especially when Chief Hakon leaned closer, to whisper:

“Hiccup – you really don't have to do it. I will even raise the dowry, if you want. But this fight is ridiculous. I hadn't a chance to talk my daughter out of it!“

“Don't worry...“ The younger man answered, just as quietly, “..., I will win this fight...“ Lowering his eyes, he even added: „And I will marry your daughter. The alliance between our tribes will be completed and we show you, how to train dragons.“

“What are you two talking there?!“ Ljóda asked, sound quite annoyed and stepped next to her husband. “The fight should start in only a few minutes!“

“I am sorry, my dear. I only wished him good luck!“ He said, flashing her a reassuring smile, before laying a hand on her lower back to guide her towards the tier, to watch the fight down in the arena. The guards followed.

Knowing, that the time to fight was coming closer, he turned again to his friends, patting Toothless on the head.

“Can you guys watch him? He will probably try to interfere or-“ He looked over to Astrid, who was still standing behind them, fumbling unimpressed with the wooden shield and the axe, then he whispered: ”or he will try to safe me. Distract him a little. I know that I am allowed to choose a weapon, but I guess, that having a dragon fight for you, won't count...“

They nodded and Hiccup thought, that it was nice to have friends like these, who were now guiding the winged reptile away from the arena, assuring him a huge pile of fish, if he would just let his owner 'play' with his future-wife. After nodding for Toothless to follow the gang, the Night Fury obeyed, though he still looked back at Hiccup, as if he was waiting for another order.

“Your friends won't watch the fight...Or...your dragon?“ Astrid asked, watching this strange happening with raised eyebrows, watching, until his friends and the black dragon had vanished behind a few buildings.

Hiccup sighed.

“He tends to be a little overprotective sometimes...“

“Overprotective?!“ Astrid asked, clicking her tongue upon hearing that. “Why would such a monster feel something like that for a human?!“

Hiccup merely shrugged, reaching for the holster on his side to take Inferno in his hands, checking, how much Zippelback gas was left. It would be enough – he hoped.

“Were is your shield?“ She raised her voice again, examining him carefully.“Did you forget it? And what is this?!“

Surely it looked strange – just like a hilt of a strange sword. How could this be a weapon – would he try to throw it against her head?

“This?! This is my weapon. And a shield - nah – I won't need it!“ Hiccup said, grinning slightly and proudly. “After all – I have promised you a fair fight! And with the shield I normally use – oooh~ - you would have a big disadvantage!“ And with all the technologies he had put into his new shield, he thought, that the fight would really be 'unfair'.

She laughed – a sinister, yet somewhat honest laughter. It was a sound, he had never heard her make before and did not know, if he would like it or not.

„We will see, who will have a big disadvantage here. You really shouldn't underestimate me, Haddock. You should never – ever – underestimate a woman at all!“

„I don't underestimate you, or any other woman...“ He said with a serious tone. And he wasn't joking. Something in his eyes and by the way he looked exactly at her, she knew, that he said the truth about that.

She didn't question him any further.

Somebody above them blew a loud horn and the gates towards the arena opened for them to enter.

“Well, be prepared for the fight of your life!“ She said, grinning the same triumphing smile, she had showed him, when he had accepted the fight.

He chuckled – this time more out of nervousness.

“Well, get ready to surrender, M'lady. If I win, I will teach you how to train a dragon! And how to fly one!“

“Are you serious?!“ She looked flabbergasted at him, still not moving to go inside.

“Absolutely!“

Hiccup took the first step inside of the arena, leaving Astrid with a dumbfounded look on her face alone.

Well – she knew, that she had to marry him, if he really would win (Which he won't). But he couldn't be serious about her, flying and training a dragon. Or could he? But if he really was that serious, then she would for sure show him, that she was absolutely uninterested in befriending with any dragon!

She saw, that Hiccup was already standing at the far end of the arena, with the empty sword hilt in his hands, waiting for her to enter the arena.

She took a deep breath – why in Hel did she feel all the sudden so nervous? Or nervous at all?! This was just another regular fight! And Hiccup would probably never stand a chance against her!

Pressing her lips together into a thin line, she stomped inside of the arena, stopping just a few steps away from the gate. She stood directly in front of Hiccup, who wasn't focusing on her, but on the people above him – his fellow Vikings, who were about to witness the fall of their chief.

Right above of him stood her parents – Chief Hakon looked afraid, probably fearing, that the alliance would never be put through, now, that her triumph was within reach. When he noticed, that she was looking directly at him, he slightly shook her head, stating for her, that she should give up right away, so she would marry Hiccup and become the Chieftess of Berk.

She snorted at that, before turning her eyes towards her mother.

Ljóda on the other hand seemed very calm, standing proud and tall next to her father, who seemed so small all the sudden. The older woman nodded her head, before she reached with one hand towards her throat, drawing an invisible line across it. Astrid understood – all that Ljóda wanted, was Hiccup's death. Maybe even more, than Astrid wanted that herself.

“Dear people of the Hooligan tribe. Dear Guests from the Hunter tribe – though we are looking forward to the bond of our two tribes through the marriage of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and Astrid Hofferson, the young bride had decided to battle our dear chief for her honor and to show her strength. He accepted the Dance of the Maiden, therefore both are now facing each other, until one surrenders – or dies.“ Spitelout's voice echoed over the arena, probably taking the spot of Gobber, who would have done this announcement instead.

“So...Fight!“

Finally – it was the starting signal, they both had been waiting for!

Astrid stepped forward, while she let her shield rise a little higher, gripping her axe even tighter. She focused on Hiccup – and only on Hiccup. The people around them and their dragons are forgotten. All that counted now was her triumph and his surrender!

Hiccup on the other hand stayed right on the spot, not moving, just watching his female opponent. His grip was tight around Inferno's hilt, but he could feel his hand already sweating and his heart was beating to his neck.

It annoyed Astrid that he was still standing there. Why wasn't he doing anything? Why was he just watching her?! This was not how she had imagined the fight!

Astrid was only a few steps away, when Hiccup pressed a small hidden button and the blade emerged from the inside, burning bright and hot from the Monstrous Nightmare Gel.

“Wh-what?!“ Was the young woman's reaction, her eyes wide when she gazed at the sword in his hands that was very much aflame. She had never seen something like that before! Also – now she noticed – he was left-handed! She had never seen something like that before!

“See?“ Hiccup said, now also putting his second hand to the hilt, raising it next to his head, lowering his balance as a sign of defense or as if he was about to attack. “I told you, that I won't need a shield! Inferno is already enough!“

Was there some arrogance in his voice, or was it more in a reassuring manner? Astrid did not know, which irritated her even more.

And since she did not know, what else she should do – she jumped forward, closing the remaining space between them with a fierce battle cry, that would haunt Hiccup for weeks.

She swung her axe at him – but being lean as he was, he was able to roll to the side with ease, leaving her to crash her axe to the ground below.

But it would not bother her. She merely turned around, pursuing him with another blow. And another. One from the side, one from above. She swung the axe without any problems and as if it was just an extension of her arm. But with every dodge Hiccup made, she went only madder and madder. Why couldn't he just attack back? Or block with that ridiculous, fiery sword in his hands?!

Hiccup on the other hand did not want to attack. It had never been in his mind. He knew exactly, that Astrid was just as capable of dodging, as she was at fighting. And since she was still very agile and alert, it was the best, if he would just stay away from her, until it was save for him to get closer.

It really must have looked like some kind of a weird dance to the observers, high above their heads. Neither of the two young Viking's were getting to close to the other, while moving around each other with ease.

Yes, the Berkians knew, that their smart chief had something in mind and was following a plan, that he had long ago formed in his mind. Astrid was probably playing right into his hands with that. The Vikings of the other tribe seemed all too confused about Hiccup's strange behavior – though it impressed them, that he could keep up with the young woman for so long.

“Can't you just-“ Hiccup heard her suddenly press through her teeth, while drops of sweat were already forming on their foreheads. She jumped very close to him, but yet missed him once again, hissing aggressively “-stand still, so I can hit you?!“

She wasn't used to this behavior. No man ever tried to avoid her blade for so long, thinking, that they could easily handle the little blonde girl, that merely was hiding behind the name of Clan Hofferson. She had always been attacked, but her offenders always were the last to laugh about her.

She was strong! She was a warrior! And no man ever should treat her like a weakling or even believe that, that she was easy to defeat! Especially him!

Out of spite and anger, Astrid took her shield throwing it at Hiccup.

He hadn't seen this spinning disc coming – being hit by it directly on the chest, pushed to the floor, while the air in his lungs had been pushed out of them. Inferno landed far away from his reach.

There were gasps high above and stars were turning in front of his eyes.

He should have seen that one coming – yeah, he had expected -or even awaited - the axe being thrown towards his head. He had prepared himself for this move. But the shield coming towards him this low...that was not what he had planned!

Even before he had left his short, unconscious state, Astrid was right above him, putting one foot on his already bruised chest, holding her axe high above her head.

No – there was no mercy in her eyes. No compassion – not that he needed or wanted it. He only could see himself, reflecting in those deep, blue eyes and the wish, to be finally free of this burden of a political marriage.

Yet – he had other plans!

With an abrupt move, he gripped with one hand her ankle, yanking at it to the left, while he turned his body to the right. She fell, but was able to land gracefully, while he hurried towards Inferno again, breathing heavily.

“Well, time to change my plans!“ Hiccup murmured now in a somber voice, now being to one o hurry towards her.

She smirked at that, running towards him, too, with fast paces.

But just as she was about to to strike, he suddenly lowered his body, sliding past her on the ground, while some green gas emerged from the hilt of his sword.

It not only made her caught, but she also lost her sight – losing track of the young chief.

And she recognized the smell of it. Her eyes shoot wide open and without another thought, she jumped straight ahead, hoping to leave the green cloud of Zippleback gas.

Just a second later the cloud of gas ignited, resulting in a big, hot explosion behind her.

She covered her face, but still felt the heat on her skin.

What...what was that? Had it really been coming from Hiccup's sword?! Where did he get such an...fascinating...weapon?

Her thoughts frightened her even more than they should, distracting her for a moment from her task.

Therefore she only noticed Hiccup standing close to her, when some heat had returned to her. When she looked up, she saw the young man, standing in front of her with a determined look on his face, the tip of his fiery sword pointed directly at her.

“Surrender!“ Hiccup commanded in a harsh voice. “Please...“ He added with a soft tone, while his features softened, too.

That was the moment when Astrid noticed a difference between the two of them – though he was fighting hard, he would never want to hurt her. She on the other hand-

“No!“ She hissed, turning around in a circle in her crouched stance, while one of her legs was outstretched, which easily reached Hiccup's. He stumbled, but this time didn't fall over. Probably since he was already expecting something like this to happen and prepared himself.

But at least it gave her enough time to fully stand back up again, to fight back.

She hit him from the right with her axe. He parried easily with his sword at her wooden hilt.

“Don't...“ he mumbled for only her ears to hear.

“Why?! So you can marry me?! So you can have me in the wedding night?!“

“No...“ He answered, slightly shaking his head, lowering his eyes towards her handle. “Because the handle won't last any longer!“

Her eyes followed his gaze and she gasped, when she saw black smock coming from the wooden grip, exactly there, where his sword was hitting it.

This damn thing was burning through it!

She withdraw the axe, stepping back a bit, so she still had a good look on Hiccup and could easily judge his next attack. The only problem was – that the axe had a bad damage from the fire and heat from Hiccup's sword.

And the grip breaking from the heaviness of the blade, which fell with a loud bang to the floor, the end of the grip, still smoldering from the embers.

She only could stare at it in disbelieve.

Was this really happening?! Was she really loosing to this...this...

“Astrid...“ He again started, reaching forward towards her, sounding calm and collected, whereas she felt, as if she was close to loose her mind. “...surrender...“

„NO!“ She screamed at the top of her lungs, reaching for the axe blade by her feat, holding on it with one hand and lifted it up – hosting it at Hiccup's head, before he could blink.

He saw it coming – right towards him. Right towards his head. He leaned towards the side, slightly turning his head, closing his eyes in hope that the impact wouldn't not hurt too much, or at least would kill him instantly.

A sharp pain. It spread from his forehead, down to his neck and into his fingertips. A hot, sticky fluid ran over his face, over his left eye and cheek, cloaking his few, when he opened his eyes again.

But he could see it – the axe's blade – rammed deeply into the wall of the arena.

And he...he was still alive!

She hissed in pure wrath, lunging at him.

“Why can't you just die?!“

He was thrown on the ground again. Inferno – again – out of reach. Astrid was sitting atop of his chest, getting to hit one blow straight into his face – it must have been his nose – while he was able to get to grip her wrist, before she could land another hit.

Hiccup rolled them over, now gripping in hurry also her second wrist, also pressing it to the cold ground below.

“Can't you just stop it?!“ He said angrily, but felt dizzy due to the hit in his face, blood coming down from the wound on his forehead, flowing down his cheeks and towards his jaw.

“No!“

She still had her legs wrapped tightly around his upper body and since she still had enough strength in her, she was able, to roll them over, again.

But he didn't let go of her wrist.

Being in this wrapped up situation, all that was left for both of them, was to look in fury and anger at each other, breathing heavily and left in a desperate hope for their win.

“Ahhh~, well, well, well! That had been a good fight!“ Somebody above them suddenly announced, coming from a voice that was all to familiar. „We should call this a tie. And I believe that the young bride really showed, that she would be able to fight with everything she has for Berk. What a good, aspiring Chieftess, while our dear Chief surely would never back down in a fight and displayed his smart brains, once again! Therefore I call this fight as over!“

Both, Hiccup and Astrid looked up, seeing not only Gobber, but also Valka standing by Hakon's and Ljóda's side, with the smith being the one to make this announcement.

“Both head's of the families stated, that they see the other party very worthy of engaging in this marriage!“

“What?!“ Both young Viking's said with Adrenalin still rushing through their blood, not understanding, what Gobber was stating.

Astrid stood up from Hiccup, while the young man immediately jumped to his feet, wiping the blood from his forehead.

They were standing still, while the Vikings around them cheered, happy about the upcoming wedding.

Ljóda seemed to be the only one up there, that was infuriated by that, shouting something at the three other Vikings around her, which couldn't be heard over the tumult around them. Valka only shook her head at that, pointing at herself, while Gobber and Hakon agreed to that. With that Ljóda turned on her heal, stomping of, while it was her husband, who seemed to insist on some of his guards to follow her.

It was Valka, who looked down to the arena, smiling happily, since she hadn't lost her son, but also sadly at him, while Hakon patted Gobber's shoulder.

Still, both young people were confused, which must also be a result due their hard fight.

Astrid wasn't even able to get angry at this announcement, and even stayed quiet, when Gobber started to shout again:

„My dear, fellow Vikings – I happily announce to you, that to prevent further delays we will hold this wedding on the next, close day of our sacred goddess Frigga! Therefore the wedding won't be held in eight days, but tomorrow!“

Chapter Text

Her Father

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.

“And...Astrid?“

She stopped halfway in the doorway.

“...Make me proud, again!“

Chapter Text

His Father

Hiccup did not know for how long he had been standing there in the middle of the arena, but he noticed, that Astrid had already left. He was shaking, since he felt cold inside, now that the fight was over and all he had won – even though it had been announced as a tie – was the hand of a ruthless warrior-princess. Astrid Hofferson would become his wife...Chieftess of Berk...

Yes – he should be happy, that he was still alive. But.. now he had seen her full evil potential, he was afraid of her even more. If she wouldn't want to hold back due to some old tradition, then what would she be capable of, when she was about to face a dragon, again?!

No – people like these would never learn their lesson. Would never learn to accept and tolerate a way without killing innocent lives. Just like Drago did...

The voices of his fellow Vikings washed over him. They were so happy – happy, that another tribe would join forces with them to expand the peaceful territory. Yes – he should be happy, too, that this alliance was put through. That has been his aim, after all.

But...wasn't he overestimating himself again? Would he even be able...to handle that? Handle her?

But then and since the young chief did not know, what else he should do, he turned around and left the arena.

He needed some time for himself. Some time were he would fly with Toothless through the air without a care in the world. Some time, where he could lay down the responsibilities of a chief to just be...Hiccup.

After all – this was his last day as a bachelor! He should be celebrating his remaining freedom, until it would be snatched away by this beautiful killing monster, that would soon become his wife.

Hiccup stumbled through the village, not caring about the celebrating shouts of his fellow tribespeople, or that he should go and visit Gothi, since the cut on his forehead and his nose were not only bleeding badly, but also hurting. Swiftly touching his nose he flinched, knowing that it was definitely broken and probably wasn't looking all too good, too. And for his chest, where she had hit him with the shild...it was probably bruised...

But just as he had reached his house, he could already hear the happy cries of his friends and an even happier Toothless jumped at him, licking his face. But the poor reptile stopped, when he notices and probably tasted the blood, looking at his owner with big, shocked eyes.

“Hey buddy...“ Hiccup sadly mumbled, patting the sides of Toothless' head with both hands, while he laid on the ground. “...Guess what – Astrid will be moving in as my wife...“

Toothless grunted angrily at that, moving back a little, so that Hiccup could be able to stand back up on his feet.

“Yeah...I am sorry, too...“

“So – you made it!“ Eret said, trying to sound cheerful, although he failed at it, feeling sadness for his chief.

“At least you are still alive...“ Tuffnut said.

“Yeah...and at least she didn't kill you!“ Ruffnut added.

“Erh...guys...Isn't that like the same thing?“ Fishlegs wondered and gazed at the twins, who only shrugged.

“Looks like she had a good aim...“ Snotlout said, pointing at the wound on Hiccup's forehead, then at his nose. “She must have been a fierce fighter!“

“Fierce?“ Hiccup mumbled, pushing past his friends, since he wasn't right now in the mood to talk to anybody. He wanted to get inside his house to get something to wipe of the blood and maybe to have a look at the scar, before he would take of with Toothless. „More like ruthless. Crazy! Without Mercy! And absolutely ready to kill me and everybody on Berk, who would force her any further into this political wedding. But well – surprise – Gobber announced our fight to end in a tie and since her eager father can't wait any longer, the wedding will be held tomorrow!“

“TOMORROW?!“ Was the combined reaction of his friends, who were still following him inside.

“What do you mean with tomorrow?!” Eret asked, though he already understood, what Hiccup had been saying. “I thought the wedding would be held on the day of Frigga!”

“But tomorrow is Friday, too” Fishlegs mumbled, understanding.

“Is everything even ready for the wedding?” Snotlout also added with a concerned tone in his voice.

Hiccup merely shrugged, wiping his forehead with a piece of linen cloth, that he had found in the kitchen.

“It doesn't matter anyway! I am the last one that has something to say about it – am I? Well, I might be the chief, but ever since this damned topic of 'political wedding' came up, everybody treats me as if I was a little boy! Doesn't matter, that I am the chief now, especially since I don't have a wife to gift me with an heir!“

Yeah – everybody might be talking about the pact and the alliance, but the real problem here was, that he had nobody to give chieftain to, when something might happen to him! He knew that, though everybody was trying to say differently, playing this little fact down, as if it was some kind of nullity! Like – yeah sure, it's nice to have Astrid giving birth to a new Haddock – but have you thought about the possibilities of this alliance and what it would mean for Berk!

Hiccup knew that too well.

“So – what is your plan then?“ Tuffnut asked aloud.

“No plan...“ the young chief mumbled, looking sadly at the cloth that had turned dark red, he had in his hands and shook his head. „I'll just do, as everybody pleases and put this whole wedding behind me. That's what my father would have done – raise the chin a little higher, take the axe and just get that wedding started!“

“Nah, lad! Ya father would have shouted 'Get the mead!' before he would have married because of some political reasons!“

It was Gobber, who had just entered the Haddock house, together with Valka closely behind.

His mother closed the space in a hurry, closing her arms around him in a tight hug. She was breathing heavily and Hiccup had the feeling, that he could hear her heart beating.

“Thanks Thor – you are still alive!“ She mumbled, when she let go of him some moments later, yet let her hands rest on his shoulders and the young Viking could only see pure sorrow and fear in them.

“She has hurt you badly!“

“I am alright!“ Hiccup said, swiftly turning away from her, since he felt deeply conflicted about the little games everybody around him was playing, using him only as a chess piece.

“Looks like she has broken yer nose! He – Fishlegs – get Gothi over here! Must look at that and that nasty cut on your forehead!“

“What for?!“ Hiccup hissed, while his plumb friend hurried of to get the older healer. “So I can look handsome on my wedding day?!“

“Nah – don't want it to get infected! It had happened to my great-great uncle. He had lost his right hand because of it. Well, and since ya can't get a replacement for ya head, we should take a few precautions! And for being 'handsome' – I don't know what yer dear bride is considering to be 'handsome'!.“

“Yeah...she is probably into scars and blood and that kind of stuff!“ Ruffnut said.

Hiccup merely rolled his eyes, feeling tiered and to too annoyed to say something about it.

“You have probably already figured out, why we had called it a tie? Haven't you?“ Valka now asked, when a uncomfortable silence spread between them.

Without hesitation Hiccup nodded.

“Yeah. It was absolutely clear to me the moment, when the words had left Gobber's lips – you are considered as the head of the Haddock family as long as I am not married! It is just too strange that it is considered as appropriate for a woman to handle the family, when her husband has died, but not as acceptable for her to take over chieftain, so instead it is to be given to the firstborn son...“

“To yer mother's defense – she has been thought dead for over twenty years and-“

“I understand!“ Hiccup said angrily, knowing that no matter what he had been saying, nothing would change the way it is. „”I understand...I really do. It would have been just too nice to make my own choice there. And why to let it end in a tie? Was it that necessary?! Why didn't you just called the fight to be over?“

Gobber looked at him, sighing:

"Well... It was easier to explain it that way. If ya two are considered as equals, especially in battle, then nobody would question it. They saw ya two fighting. And by the way it looked, nobody of ya two were trying to put an end to it...well...especially not by surrendering... And nobody needs a dead chief! And for hurrying the wedding to be tomorrow – that was Hakon's suggestion. He is probably trying to prevent another betrayal of his 'two favorite women'. Ljóda didn't seem to be all to happy about that, if ya ask me...“

“Equals...“ It sounded so strange in Hiccup's ears, since none of them had any common ground...Anything, that would make them...equal... So the young chief also sighed, before he said: “But, well, I will keep my promise and marry that girl for Berk's sake!“

“Your father would have been so proud of you, Hiccup...“ Valka said with a sad smile on her lips. „He would have been from the very beginning. Because you were not running away, trying to accept it more than anybody else would have done it! And now...If he would stand in front of you right now, he would smile happily...“

“Because, despite all of yer complaining, ya have grown up, lad! You have become a man, who stands to his word. That's what makes ya a great chief! The chief of Berk! Anybody else would have jumped right on the back of the next dragon and just flown away. Never coming back. Ya stay...“

"Thank you...“ he merely mumbled, trying to sound unimpressed by their words.

But something in his heart was telling him, that they were absolutely right with it – that his father would have loved to see him develop into a young man, that might consider many options first, tries to run through closed doors with his head first – like when he had first accepted the Dance of the Maiden without reconsidering – but in the end does what is best for Berk and its people. Stoick had quite the same approach there, especially when Hiccup remembered the many, dangerous attempts to find the Dragon's Nest.

Hiccup just had to smile a little at that, finally looking up from the spot on the floor he had been looking on for some minutes now, unmoving.

"You are right – father would done this with absolutely zero complaining and tried to accomplish the best through multiple attempts! I am still absolutely sure, that Astrid is the offspring of pure evil – especially when I think about Chieftess Ljóda for a moment and forget the kindness of her father – but I will try to make the best of it. I have promised her after all, to teach her how to train a dragon. She might not like it and will try to stab me, when I am not looking, but it's the best thing I can do! And I will do it! As I said before – I will marry Astrid Hofferson, now that the fight is over. It is just a political wedding after all! Can't be that bad, I guess... And for that heir-thing... I will find a solution. Because – one thing I can tell you right now – I won't ever touch that woman again and there is now way I will do stuff with her!“

"That's my man!“ Eret cheered, while the others also seemed very much to enjoy the words of their chief.

“That's the spirit, lad!“

It was just the moment, when Fishlegs with the old Gothi finally arrived at the house. The young Viking was too irritated about the whole change of emotions, that her nearly forgot how to breath. After all – when he left, everybody was deeply grieving, while just now everybody seemed to be in the most happiest and festive mood imaginable!

Gobber laughed a little, while the gang tried Fishlegs to explain the change, when Gothi started to tend Hiccup's wounds.

"Well lad, then enjoy yer last hours as a bachelor – since ya will be a dutiful and 'loving' husband by tomorrow! Ya could go on a flight, or-“

"Wait – 'last hours as a bachelor'?!“ Tuffnut said, his eyes suddenly gleaming with pure joy, nudging Snotlout with his elbow, who understood immediately. "You know, that this means!“

"Yeah-“ Ruffnut murmured, suddenly all too grumpy. „You guys have fun with his Cleansing Ritual, wile I bore myself to death...“

"Can't you go to Astrid and 'help' her a little?“ Eret asked, while Ruffnut made starry eyes at him right away.

"What a wonderful idea, oh my dearest Eret, son of Eret!“

"Hey – guys. Don't think about it! I-I don't want any rituals! I just want to fly a little with Toothless and enjoy the rest of this day!“

"Oh nonsense!“ Tuffnut stepped in, again. „We will give you the best Cleansing Ritual, that any poor bachelor has seen on this whole island! It will be an honor for us to plan it and to participate in it!“

With a disturbed look, he saw to his mother, who laughed a little at the antics of his friends.

"Oh no! I really wish, that I hadn't dodged Astrid's axe...!“

Chapter Text

Her Cleansing

She had stayed in her quarters, sitting against the wall with her legs pulled to her chest. She went there straight after the conversation with her father, not wanting to face somebody else.

And now she was thinking...

Just thinking, while she stared out of the small window. Remembering the luscious trees and green hills of her island. The little houses out of wood, each and every street and everybody that lived there. She tried to remember the taste of the mead in the Great Hall and the lovely bread, that only Helga could make. She just hoped, that Hranafall would always stay in her mind... And that it would always stay like this...

How long would she be able to remember these things, now that they would be taken from her without a compromise. Now that...there was no turning back...

Astrid sighed sadly, now also remembering the words of her father and the way he had looked at her – with shame and pity. With anger and fear. She had dishonored him. Their tribe. Their name.

Had she really...changed? Had she been really softer before?

Yeah – she remembered the times she cried as a young girl, because she was afraid of killing a dragon. Not because she panicked whenever she saw them, but because of the way she felt deepest respect for them. There had been a time, when she had been amazed by these winged reptiles. A time, where she thought, that dragons should be handled with care and compassion. That there was more behind those big eyes, than everybody thought.

And they had laughed at her , since she was thinking like that. Kids her age, who thought, that she – Astrid Hofferson of the Hofferson Clan – was absolutely ridiculous. Because they thought, that dragons were to be fought against, so they won't destroy their possessions and kill their families. So they won't stand in the way of a big trade! Because the elders still taught them that, although the time has started to change for the Hunter Tribe, who was more and more becoming a trading folk.

And yet it had been her,who changed the most, to fit in better. To be accepted among her people. To protect them, when no one else would. To fight, when everybody else has stopped fighting and had laid down their weapons.

To do, what is best for her people.

To protect them.

And now...everything she had learned seemed suddenly to be so wrong? Wrong in her father's eyes? Wrong in the eyes of her future-husband?

That was why Hakon wanted this alliance so much – to have finally peace and harmony with dragons. To stop the killings and the senseless slaughters.

But – Astrid considered – wouldn't that make them weak? Open for being attacked by other tribes?

And with her here on Berk – how would she be able to help her people anyway? Traveling to Hranafall – even with a fast ship – would take her nearly a week! It was absolutely impossible to act fast, if help really was needed.

A loud knock suddenly interrupted her thoughts and she looked over to the door, but stayed quiet.

“Astrid?“ A guard said from the other side, knocking again. “Your Cleansing Ritual is ready. Your father has ordered us to bring you to Berk's bathing house!“

The young woman sighed, slowly getting up.

Well, she did not know anymore, what was right and what was wrong, how to behave and which rules to follow, but she knew, that she had to do something, to earn her father's respect back. Maybe even the respect of her whole tribe!

Silently she followed the two guards, trying to not look them into their faces, in fear to witness the same dishonoring looks from them.

She would not be able to stand them right now!

The young woman was therefore only looking to her feet, did not even pay attention to her surroundings. But she noticed very well, that it was already getting darker and darker, since the sun was about to vanish behind the horizon.

Yes – she really felt like a prisoner. A prisoner of ancient traditions and political entanglements. A slave to everybodies needs.

And there would never be a way, that she would be able to escape this golden cage they had built around her, not even giving her a weapon to fight for herself. Her life really was going downhill and nothing could stop this enormous boulder of responsibilities from crushing her body and soul. It really hurt, knowing that.

This really must be a curse from the Gods!

“Here we are.“ A guard said, a mixture of pity and shame coming through the tone of his voice, though he tried to sound dutiful towards her. “You may have all the time you need...“

Astrid now looked up, since the young man of her tribe was handing her something, to fulfill her Cleansing.

She merely nodded, before entering the spacious building, only to be immediately hit by a wave of heat and thick swaths of steam. She wasn't even able to see her hand in front of her own eyes!

For a moment Astrid lingered by the door, a little unsure of what to do.

Well – not that she was unaware of the Cleansing Ritual a young woman had to go through before her wedding! It was just...that she hadn't anybody to go through with it.

Normally her mother, married sisters and female, married friends would take part in the ritual. Unfortunately, she did not have anyone to fit in the last two categories. And her father would certainly not let her mother near her, after all that had happened in the past few days.

So...she had to go through this ritual all alone...

Astrid bid her lip a little, now looking at the stuff, the guard has given her. One was a white linen dress, that would cover her after the Cleansing, and the other was a small, wooden casket, which was empty.

Of course it was empty – Astrid reminded herself. Because this little casket would hold her Kransen, the symbol of her Virginity and her Maidenhood, until she would be able to give it to her daughter, which she probably would never have, since there was no way, that Hiccup would get close to her, without getting one of his hands chopped of!

Astrid sighed at that, laying both, the casket and the dress close to the door and began to undone her hair, which she had been wearing in this tight knot for the last time. For the last time, since she was now required to wear them down, flowing over her shoulders and down her back, showing to everyone her married status. Yeah – she slept that way, but having to wear her hair like that all day was a strange thought, that was very revolting for her.

With careful fingertips she reached for the woven band around her head, freeing it from her hair and the sweaty skin underneath.

It already felt very strange to the young woman.

Astrid's heart was beating faster, now that the Kransen was laying on both of her palms, resting there, as if it was her most treasured belonging.

It gripped her heart tightly, thinking of what to come by the end of tomorrow and for a moment the young woman closed her eyes, reminding herself, that nothing will ever be the same...

She tried to press her eyes shut a little more, when she felt hot tears emerging beneath her lids. These stupid tears tried to emerge from her eyes again – but she did not want to cry! She wanted to stay strong! Stay the warrior she had been taught to be!

She merely gulped heavily, before she knelt in front of the casket, opening it with one hand, before she laid her Kransen carefully inside. Closing it to never emerge again.

It really felt like the good-bye to her old self.

With shaking knees she stood back up, starting to undress herself, beginning with her tunic and her breast bindings, which were already soaked with her sweat, due to the unbearable heat of the steam. And so was her long hair already sticking to her back and her shoulders and it somehow made her feel even dirtier than before. And she really had been feeling stinky and dirty after the fight with Hiccup, with a mixture of old, cold sweat and dirt all over her skin. And there even were a few drips of Hiccup|s blood on her hands and on her cloths, as a careful reminder of what she had done to him.

“It really is hot in here, isn't it?“ A female voice suddenly said, when Astrid had reached for her skirt, to pull it down. But now she only gasped in shock, lost her balance and fell with her back against the closed door behind her.

“In sweet Thor's name – who is this?!“ Astrid asked, her heart beating in her chest, while she tried to see something through the steam.

Was this an attack? A trap? An ambush?!

“It's just your good old friend Ruffnut!“

“R-Ruffnut?!“ Astrid nearly screamed, now trying to cover her bare breasts with her arms, though it would be absolutely be impossible to see something in this pure whiteness. “What are you doing here! It's my Cleansing Ritual!“

“Yep – I know that. Just wanted to give you some company! Thought you would like that. And my offer is still up for becoming friends!“

Astrid did not know, what else she should say. She was too irritated by this whole...meeting, that she merely stood there with her mouth wide opened. She blinked.

“Are...are you even married?!“ Were the only words that left her lips and she did not know, what else she should say and felt a little dumb for asking that. Why would she even need this information? Or somebody to participate in this stupid ritual?!

“Married?!“ She could here Ruffnut laughing at that and Astrid frowned a little. How did she dare to laugh at her in the first place?! And why did she thought, that this question was so hilarious?

“No – sorry. I still need to convince Eret a little further, before he finally asks me. But don't worry – I have already planned everything for the wedding and where to live and that my brother and Chicken get a room in our house, to nanny our six kids...“

Was Ruffnut joking, or did she really had this ambitious plan? Astrid couldn't tell.

“So – what about now? Fancy yourself to get over here for the Ritual? I don't have all the time in the world and my brother and I still have a few things to plan for tomorrow!”

“No!“

“Bohoo...why suddenly spoil all the fun? Every bride needs to go through a Cleansing Ritual! I even have the birch branches for the steam and I promise, that I won't laugh, when you jump into the cold water! After that, you will be cleaner than a newborn baby! And don't worry – I won't bite! Well, only if you annoy me, then I might bite you, but don't worry about that for now!“

Astrid blushed a little, looking down at herself, unsure of what to do. Well, she was already half-undressed and she had her arms still crossed over her upper body, but she did not want to undress any further! Yes – she knew how a naked woman looks like, if only she had ever seen her own body naked, since she didn't go to the big bathing events in their bathing house back at home. But she was a little...unnerved to show herself in front of another woman! She won't probably see much, due to the steam covering much of the nakedness, but she still felt very...uncomfortable about it.

“Oh Thor – are you playing little Miss Prudish now? Take that!“

A linen towel was thrown at her and Astrid managed to catch it with one hand, hurriedly wrapping it around her body to cover herself up, without a second thought.

“Don't worry – its not like I haven't seen a naked body before!“

Well, she had two options – one was to get out as fast as she could out of the bathing house, which would result in the guards reporting it to her father, which would only ake the whole situation worse. Or she went along with the whole Cleansing Ritual and Ruffnut being here.

Astrid merely sighed at that and rolled her eyes, before she finally reached under the linen towel, to swiftly kicking off her boots, before she pulled down her skirt, leggings and underwear in one move. She shivered a little, when the hot steam was finally reaching for her bare legs, but she liked the feeling of it a little.

“And now?“ Astrid merely murmured, holding tightly with one hand onto the towel to prevent it from slipping down, while she reached with the other hand forward, in case something would be right in front of her, without her sensing it.

“Come here and sit and – hey! Ow! That's my face!“

Before Ruffnut had finished her sentence, Astrid had already poked the young woman's face with her fingers, coming too close to her.

“Erh...sorry!“ Astrid quickly withdrew her hand immediately, stepped a little to the side and searched with her hand something to sit on. Which she found and sat on it with shaking knees.

This whole situation was really too strange! Especially when her sticky arm touched by accident the one of Ruffnut – though she desperately hoped, that it really had been her arm!

How close was she sitting anyway to the other woman?!

“So...tell me – Fearless Astrid Hofferson – how do you feel now, that you are about to marry our beloved Chief Hiccup? By tomorrow, you will be Chieftess of Berk – you know that?“

“Yeah...I know...“ Astrid mumbled, but then shrugged. „And how shall I feel – I haven't won the fight and hadn't the chance to kil- er...to make Hiccup surrender!“

„Yep – he has gotten a pretty decent fighter. Especially when you think about the way he had been a total Loser about five years ago!“

Astrid suppressed the urge to ask, why Berk wasn't considering their chief now to be a 'Loser', too, since he was not as tall, muscular or bearded as many of the other men. Therefore she merely asked:

“Why five years ago?“

What else should Astrid do? They could sit in silence next to each other, which would certainly get boring very fast, or she would try to get along with Ruffnut, to get to know Berk and her...groom … a little bit more. To have a few advantages if needed.

Now Astrid felt the other young woman shrugging, before Ruffnut continued:

“Back then we were still fighting Dragons.“

“You were?“

“Yep – Tuffnut and I have just started to learn how to fight them! But I was certainly the best of the whole class! And well, for Hiccup...he was not too good. Couldn't even lift a weapon or a shield!“

Ruffnut laughed a little at the small, scrawny Hiccup, who stood in the middle of the arena and had tried to fight. But she returned quickly to her story:

“What we did not know was, that Hiccup had been able to catch the Night Fury! He had knocked it from the sky with one of his many gadgets but when he had the chance to kill it – he just couldn't!“

“The Night Fury – it's Toothless – am I right?“

“Hush little one – let aunty Ruffnut tell you the story! So...where were I... ah yes – Hiccup had slowly become better and better at Dragon Training.“

“But I thought, that he would not attack the dragons?!“

“He wasn't. He learned how to train them and how to fly on them. I mean – if it hasn't been him, who had defeated the Red Death, then I would have taken on him with my bare hands!“

Astrid's eyes opened at shock and she turned her head towards Ruffnut – or at least where she thought Ruffnut would be sitting.

“A Red Death?! Hiccup defeated a Red Death?! T-the...the dragon?!“ Astrid cleared her thoat a little – she didn't want to sound impressed after all! But – Hel, who was she kidding – she was absolutely impressed by this! It would take about twenty of her fellow tribesmen to defeat this kind of dragon and hearing that Hiccup had done it on his own, was really...amazing...

Yet, she somehow tried to doubt it.

“That can't be true! Nobody defeats that dragon all alone! Especially not...Hiccup!“

„He did. Well – the others and I helped and I was definitely his biggest help in it, but in the end it had been Hiccup who flew on Toothless and Bang and Bing nothing was left of the Red Death! Well – sure – Hiccup lost his leg while doing so but-“

“So...that's why the prostheses...“ That would definitely explain, why no one of his tribesmen were seeing in him a cripple, but a warrior. Because he hadn't lost his leg in an accident (which she had assumed) but in battle.

“It was built by Gobber, but Hiccup improved it. Well – everything. He is constantly improving Toothless mechanical tail fin and his sword and his shield-“

“His sword?“

“The inflammable one. As of what I have heard, he used it against you...“

“And...he made it?“

“All by himself! He is working in the forge after all and knows how to work with metal and leather and all that stuff! What now – are you impressed? “

Although Ruffnut couldn't see her, Astrid shook her head immediately.

“No – I am not impressed! Not at all! I have just been wondering, how he got his hands on this...thing!“

“Yep – he made it! If you ask him kindly, he might forge something for you, too. Who wouldn't do that for their wife?“

Astrid clicked her tongue, leaning back, to sit more comfortably.

“Don't need that! I more like the reliability of a normal axe!“

“If you say so...“

Astrid did not know, how to feel about all of this or why Ruffnut was telling her all that. But it somehow felt nice to have somebody talk to her, who wasn't only talking about the marriage and her responsibilities. It almost made her feel...normal.

But Ruffnut when raised her voice again, Astrid could hear a mischievous smirk, that laid on her lips:

“So...and now for your responsibilities as a wife. I mean – at the Cleansing Ritual, you talk about stuff like that! So...how about we start with his-“

Chapter Text

His Cleansing

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...“

Hiccup nodded.

“Thank you...“

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:

“Hhchaaa...“

A strange noise, compared to a raspy breathing suddenly reached his ears and with a loudly beating heart, he turned around.

“Hello?!“

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.

“F-Fishlegs...? Snotlout?“

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.

His 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.

Chapter Text

Their Mothers

Ljóda pressed her lips a little tighter together and raised her eyebrows, together with her chin, a little higher. She held her hands folded in front of her, standing tall and proud in the middle of Berk's forge. She did not want to be here, but had been forced by Hakon, in order to get the last preparations for their daughter done.

“Ah...wait...I only wanna give it a little finishing polish...“ she heard Gobber murmur and therefore she sighed and rolled her eyes. Why in Hel was it taking him so long? All she wanted, was to get the little item and get back to their ship, before one of those annoying Berkians would try to engage her in a conversation. And she absolutely did not want that!

And yet, it was the day of the sacred goddess Frigga and therefore the day had already arrived. That treated day, she had always feared would eventually arrive. A day that had always haunted her in her dreams, even though she hoped, that it would never come.

But now it had come and it felt like drowning in the deep, dark sea, being dragged to the dephts of Hel itself.

Ever since her own wedding day, she had promised herself, that she would never – ever – allow her own daughter to be married of in a political marriage. But sadly – no – this promise had been broken by her own husband and she is now left in imprisonment like a thief by a few of her own guards and without another option left to help her daughter out of it. They would follow her every step, if Hakon wasn't around and would report every word she spoke to somebody else. It was frustrating beyond words! And worse – it was a betrayal to her as the Chieftess of Hranafall and the Hunter Tribe!

But now and in the end, all her works against the will of her husband were of no use and the day had arrived - it was Astrid's and Hiccup's wedding day and Berk was already buzzing with life, preparing the last things for the big celebration, that will be held later that day. Their Cleansing Rituals were held. Astrid's Kransen had been stored in the little casket she had given her. And as Ljóda hoped, it would never emerge again. She did not wish for a grandchild, especially not from the seed of a Haddock! But from what she has heard, Hiccup had also been very successful within the tombs of his ancestors, retrieving a sword and has fulfilled his own Cleansing.

And now- Ljóda felt like vomiting, already thinking about all of it. How she would need to leave Astrid here in this filthy hole with a bunch of nasty, winged monsters and a crippled husband, that would never be able to hold up against the young woman. Ljóda did not want to think of all the things, that Hiccup would do to her beautiful Valkyrie of a daughter, but she already had something in her mind to prevent the upcoming wedding night – especially now that the held the cushion in her hands, that would help her in her mission...

But for now she looked over tho the old smith of the Berk tribe, who still wasn't finished, with the treat of the wedding coming closer and closer as a way of a indescribable doom.

It was just like the day, she had been wed to Hakon.

Oh how she hated her husband for particularity everything! Hating him, ever since she had got to know him, meeting him first, just a few days before their wedding. Hating him during the ceremony, kissing her in front of everybody, though she did not want to. And even worse - during the wedding night.

Hating him, when he got her pregnant, though she was able to dearly love the result of it.

There never had been love. Not once. Only disgust and repugnance. Even more now, that he made Astrid do all the things of a worthy wife, too, when the day is over.

“Ahh..., it's finished.“ Gobber suddenly announced, lying the little object of gold and silver on a velvety cushion, that Ljóda had in her hands.

“There. I hope the bride will like it...“

Ljóda merely nodded, taking the cushion, without looking at the ring, that laid on it, turning around to leave.

The guards closely followed her, trying her to get her the fastested way back to the ship.

“Ah, Chieftess Ljóda!“ A calm and friendly voice suddenly called, just as the woman had left the forge.

It was Valka, the mother of her oh so hated son in law and she, too, had a cushion in her hands, though it was still empty.

“I hadn't been able to see you since yesterday, when the fight had been over...“

“You mean – when you and my husband betrayed this dumb tradition, calling it to be over?“

Valka merely blinked, but then nodded, unsure of what to say.

Ljóda hated it, when people were trying to hide the truth, pretending otherwise! If it hadn't been for Valka, then Astrid for sure had been able to kill Hiccup and this little wedding would have been called of!

Already boiling in anger, the Chieftess of the Hunter Tribe snapped at Valka:

“You know, what is funny – that a woman, who has been thought to be dead for twenty years, is still considered as the head of the family, when her husband died! But a wife, that had stayed for many years with her husband despite everything has absolutely no saying in the fate of her only daughter! No saying in the alliance, the pact or this forced wedding!“

“Ljóda...“ Valka sighed and lowered her gaze for a moment.”..., Calling the fight to be a tie was the best solution for everybody. Hiccup and Astrid can be now considered as equals... With that your daughter will have a high rank with our best warriors and all of Berk will consider her as worthy as the new Chieftess...If we had stated it to be just over, then everybody would have had questions and would have started to doubt the alliance and wedding, due to a possible degradation of Hiccup as our Chief...”

“Then let them doubt it! As if Astrid would like that...being a warrior of a tribe of weaklings, that hide behind their pets! And as if Hiccup can be considered as a honorable Chief! He is a weakling, who hides behind a few stupid gadgets! Those are just empty words!“

“Dragons are not just our pets, Ljóda. And I am sure that Astrid will eventually understand, that-“

“She will do nothing, but stay away from this craziness!“

Both women were staring at each other, while the guards tried to get Ljóda away from the Berkian woman and to hurry her to the ship. But the Chieftess of Hranafall refused, even pushing away a hand of one guard.

“You don't know, how lucky you are, Valka! Married to the man you love! Accepted by the people of your island! Having a say in this alliance! Having your husband die a honorable warrior-death, while mine refuses every fight altogether, hiding in hope, that one day a miracle will help it's pitiful tribe!“

“Hakon knows, that it is wise to change things for Hranafall and for your tribe. You – as his wife – should be happy about that! Happy, that your tribe will be more safe and happy in the future with the help of dragons.“

“My tribe? My tribe?! Oh Valka...“ Ljóda laughed with fury in her voice, shaking rapidly her head at those stupid words, that came out of her ignorant lips, “...My tribe is dead! Killed by those monsters you so dearly protect! Eradicated without one of our many alliance partners stepping in to help! Without Hakon even sending of one of his ships!“

“There might have been an explanation to that and-“

“No! He just wanted to save his own ass! That my parents – Astrid's grandparents - died from that attack did not matter. And now...the life of our own daughter doesn't matter, either, because the alliance is more important than her!“

In silence both women stood there, facing each other. Valka looked at Ljóda with shock on her lips and tears in her eyes. Ljóda on the other hand was breathing heavily, baring her teeth at the Valka. The two guards at her side were only looking with sad and confused looks at each other – unsure of what to do.

Normally Ljóda wouldn't have told Valka about her island – or even her parents. She hated them – both of them. With her father trying to make her the perfect little wife, being obedient to every wish a man would make. Giving her no weapon to fight with. Beating her, whenever she tried to be different to his expectations. Her mother on the other hand only stood by, accepting, how he treated her. Accepting, when he announced the wedding to Hakon. Accepting that an unknown man would do outspoken things with her.

Ljóda never wanted that for her own daughter and has always hoped, that she would never give birth to a little girl. On Hranafall she had trained for that – being stronger, than her own father had ever wanted her to be, to pass on this legacy to her daughter in hope for a better life.

And eventually she did – and she did her best to make a pure blooded warrior out of her.

“What is a life you can't decide about? Nothing! I gave everything I had for Astrid and now – in the end – it won't matter.“ Ljóda hissed, clenching the pillow tightly with her hands. “Berk will eventually see, what my daughter is really capable of! Just you wait!“

“Chieftess Ljóda...“ one of the guards murmured, tugging carefully at her arm, to get her moving. “We need you to get back to the ship, or else we have to report it to Chief Hakon.“

Ljóda sighed, before smiling bitterly at the other woman.

“Sorry for that, but I need to follow my wifely duties and responsibilities. I guess, that you don't even know, that I am talking about since your husband died and due to your long absence – Dragon Lady!“

With that Ljóda finally turned around, following the guards towards the haven and towards their ship, but stopped after a few steps.

She turned halfway around, rising he chin, casting Valka a hateful glance.

“Oh how I wish, that more than one Haddock had died by the hands of the mighty Drago Bludvist!“

And with those words she left, leaving the poor mother of the groom with a shocked and sad look on her face behind.

Chapter Text

Their Wedding

Hiccup fiddled nervously with the clasp of his heavy, a little bit stinky, old cloak, that felt a little too wide for his shoulders. After all – it had belonged to his father, who had been taller than him and always had broad shoulders, even on his and his mother's wedding day. Toothless looked nervously at him, cooing sadly, when Hiccup locked eyes with his beloved reptile.

If only his friend could help him this time...

And yet he wondered why did he feel this way – this nervousness? He didn't even love his bride and didn't even wish for her to be on this island. But...that was, what a Chief had to do to keep his people save.

“I feel pretty dumb...“ He mumbled to himself, when he had been finally able to close the ornamented clasp around his neck, before he straightened the festive, dark green tunic a little more.

“Well, and you look dumb, too!“ Snotlout said, trying to mock his cousin with a big grin and pointed at the oversized cloak.

Hiccup only raised his eyebrows at that.

“Thanks... But don't have high hopes – you are still not allowed to marry Astrid.“

“Boo – that is really unfair!“

“You should be happy about that, Snotlout!“ Eret stepped in, handing Hiccup his sword, he had picked up in the Haddock Crypt, which the young chief immediately put in the leather scabbard, he had already fastened around his hip. “I mean – we don't know, what Astrid is all capable of, but at least, Hiccup can keep up to it.“

“Yeah...Hiccup, you totally should keep an eye on Astrid.“ Fishlegs added, a cautious tone added to his voice.

“Oh I promise, that I totally will keep an eye on her! After all, I won't underestimate her!“ Hiccup pointed at the scar on his forehead. “She already taught me a lesson I won't forget.“

“Yeah – but at least you can be happy, that she did not absolutely disfigure you.“ Ruffnut said, while Tuffnut agreed in saying and pointing at his sister:

“Yeah. The scar looks good on you, but look at her face. A scar like that would have made her at least acceptable!“

Before Ruffnut had the chance to launch at her brother, Hiccup stepped in.

“How comes, that you even survived a meeting with her? I mean... You were unarmed at the bathing house!“

“Maybe she is a ghost!“ Tuffnut said, but when Ruffnut hit him straight in the face, landing him on the ground, he added: “Nope – she is no ghost! I totally felt that!“

Ruffnut grinned smugly at the other men, folding her arms in front of her chest.

“I am no ghost, because she was not able to hit me with anything! Well...she tried to scalp me, when I tried to introduce her to her wifely duties, but thankfully survived that due to her towel that slipped from her body and-“

“She was naked?!“ Snotlout squealed in glee, nearly jumping up and down in joy like a small child on Snoggletog.

Ruffnut rolled her eyes at that in annoyance.

“Nope you idiot, I couldn't see her, since there was too much steam! But I guess, that she really has a problem with her being seen in her birth suit. She is absolutely prude and I know who won't be able to-“

“Ah, thank you for your report about that!“ Hiccup said hastily, raising his hands for Ruffnut to stop talking. After all, he had enough about that, when they were at his Cleansing Ritual – which was more of a joke from the guys, and somehow still had a humiliating feel to it, getting to know everything, that a man could do to please a woman – though he wondered, where they had these information from. Never mind – Hiccup did not want to know that! But their friendly advises got even more, when they had returned to the Great Hall to drink – with every jug emptied, the situation and the dirty talks about his wedding night were getting worse and worse.

The female Thorston twin grinned happily about that and nodded proudly.

That was when a knock suddenly interrupted the light mood and everybody looked towards the entrance with some fear – as if this really was the day of their friends funeral.

“Yes?“ Hiccup said, trying to sound confident. „You may enter...“

The door opened and to their surprise a few people at once entered – so many that Hiccup nearly would have lost track by them.

First came Gobber, who sang a happy, but old wedding song, sounding far too cheerful about the upcoming ceremony, holding something wrapped in his hands, which he laid on the dining table.

Then there was Valka, who walked as well to the table, to lay a cushion on it, that seemed to hold something on its center. She then hurried towards her son, smiling warmly, as she tugged at his cloak and tunic, before she wiped away some invisible dust from his shoulder. Hiccup immediately noticed the sorrowful look in her eyes and when she hugged him tightly she whispered:

“We need to talk as soon as possible!“

But he was not able to ask about what she needed to talk so urgently, when he suddenly had been torn from her arms and trapped into another tight hug again.

He had to cough a little, and he held his breath, since his rips started to burn again, still very bruised from yesterday's fight.

“Brother!“, yet the young man, who hugged him so tightly said, letting go of him to pat both his cheeks with his hands.

“Nice to see you, too, Dagur!“ Hiccup mumbled, before Dagur embraced him once again, just as tightly, which made his friends snicker behind him and his rips burn even more with agony.

“I have already heard, that your dear bride is more of the feisty ones. But don't worry, if you need a few advises, then you can come to me and ask me. Women can have a tough shell sometimes. But to crack them open can be worth it in the end it!“

“Ah...thanks?“ Hiccup nervously said, who really had enough advises the past night. But he was nonetheless happy, that Dagur was here with him. After all they have been through, it really feels good to have a good friend such as Dagur at his side.

Finally Dagur let go of him and so the young Chief was able to greet Dagur's wife, who had a visible bump beneath her tight leather armor, but was still very much shining with beauty.

“Mala...“ Hiccup greeted friendly and with a slight smile, while still having a friendly arm from Dagur around his shoulders, trying to not look on her belly for too long, since dark thoughts of his own inescapable heir to come were trying to cloud his mind even more. But deep down, he felt nonetheless happiness for his old friends and was very glad, that they made it despide their upcoming parenthood. “I see, that you are expecting. Congratulations on that!“

Dagur laughed happily at that, patting his brother on the back, while the others also started to congratulate.

“How far are you?“ Fishlegs asked happily, while Hiccup could hear Ruffnut mumble, that she merely thought, that Mala had eaten too much – which of course earned her an evil glare from the Queen.

“We will be blessed in about four moons.“ Mala said with a firm, yet friendly voice, Dagur now letting go of Hiccup to get to his wife, stroking affectionately her belly with a big, proud grin.

“Yeah, and little Daggi will be the pride the Defenders of the Wing and the Berserkers. And we will teach him everything he needs to know!“ Dagur said, his voice already taking shape of baby talk.

“He? How do you know its a he!“ Snotlout wondered out loud.

“Parents sometimes just know...“ Valka answered for the two, casting Hiccup a motherly, warm smile. „We did know, too...“

“Yeah, and guess who is off to babysit the little one!“ Another voice suddenly said and now Heather, who had stayed in the background for some time, stepped up to Hiccup, hugging him tightly, too. “I am sorry for your upcoming wedding. Gobber and Valka told us about the bride, when we arrived.“

When they parted Hiccup looked at his female friend, shrugging merely and tried to cast her a confident smile.

“Ah..., don't worry. I plan to make a new rider out of her. And there probably could have been worse out there!“

“Yeah... and she had been kinda nice to me, when we were all alone. You would have liked her, too. Getting to know that crazy girl from the Hunter Tribe!“

“I am not sure about that...“ Heather voiced skeptically towards Ruffnut. “And you really need to marry her?“

Hiccup nodded.

“Yeah...no way out...“

There was some silence between the group of people that ha gathered in the Haddock house and nervous glances were shared. Especially Valka looked very restless, as if she had something on her mind to say.

“Well...“ Gobber then said all the sudden, trying to break the tension that was between them and he walked over to the table, were he had rested a strange object, hidden beneath a blanket. “Since the wedding is about to start soon, its time for yer last preparations...“

And with that he unwrapped a heavy battle axe, for Hiccup to carry as a blessing of the great god Thor. Hiccup knew, that this was just another tradition to follow. Also – it had been a spare axe of his father and yet something else, that he could carry on this day in honor of this great man.

All the while Astrid got ready, too.

She stood with a heavy beating heart in the middle of the cabin on her father's ship, looking with a sad and wary expression out the window and towards the endless horizon.

Her hands hang loosely to her side, while she felt completely defeated and exposed of what to come.

But no – she would not cry. She promised that herself and even though she felt like shedding tears, she stayed strong and instead bid her lip.

“There you go...“ Ljóda suddenly behind her murmured, when she had finished the bindings of her wedding dress, which somehow felt a little too tight for the young woman. And yet – it felt so right and added up to the feeling of her captivity of an unbreakable system.

“You look beautiful, my daughter...“ the older woman said, as she walked around Astrid, admiring the sight of her only child.

Astrid merely looked down at herself, but said nothing, before she looked over to the mirror at the other side of the room. Yes – she guessed, that she looked kind of acceptable for an occasion like this, with a long, dark red dress, that had a nice ornamented, golden hem, bindings in the back and held it together on her shoulders with heavy, golden clasps, that had, due the dress being sown on Berk, dragons on them. Her arms mere mostly bare, apart from a certain length of loose fabric that hang from her shoulder clasps, down the back of her arms, which was enough to hide them completely in it. And long enough to drag it behind her. For her hair – which still very much horrified her, seeing it all down and without her Kransen – it was carefully combed by her mother, with some smaller braids intertwining into each other, adorn with freshly picked flowers. But sadly...from now on she was not allowed to ever wear it in a braid again, as a sign of her married status...

That was one thing, that Ruffnut made absolutely clear the night before – that also on Berk this tradion is followed, for every woman to show her down after the wedding. This was of the many things she said – though she clearly exaggerated about her wifely duties, letting her want to scalp the young woman for trying to humiliate her.

But in the end it really had felt nice to have somebody to talk to. And Astrid nearly had called it 'fun'.

Astrid merely nodded, not quite knowing what to say or what to feel.

Ljóda merely cupped her daughter's cheek, sensing the distress of the young woman, smiling sadly at her. She still had so many things to say – so many thoughts and ideas to share, but she couldn't. Guards were standing by the door, with their backs towards the two women, to catch every try of Ljóda and Astrid to further prevent the wedding.

Therefore she let go of Astrid's cheek and went over to the table, that was in the middle of Astrid's cabin, getting the crown, she had woven from straw and flowers, placing it on Astrid's head, carefully stroking back a strand of loose hair behind her ear.

Then she again walked towards the table, once again looking towards the guards, to be sure, that they wouldn't turn around, again, before she lifted up the cushion, that held the ring on it.

“For you to see – one of the two wedding rings you and Haddock will wear.“ Ljóda said, holding the cushion in front of Astrid, until the young woman took the little item in her hands, to look at it carefully.

“Sure...“ Astrid murmured, seeing the little dragon head with the dark red jewel on it. „...a dragon...“

“This one you will give Hiccup during the ceremony.“

Astrid rolled her eyes.

“And let me guess – mine will have a dragon head on it, too?“

“Maybe...“ Ljóda answered with a mysterious voice, before – checking on the guards one last time – she went to her knees in front of Astrid, which made the young woman raise her eyebrows in wonder at the strange behavior.

Ljóda on the other hand put one finger on her lips to indicate, that the young woman should stay quiet, on which Astrid only nodded. Then the Chieftess of the Hunter tribe revealed a hidden pocket within the cushion – which she had prepared only moments, before she had went to Astrid to prepare her for the wedding, telling the guards, to wait a moment in front of her room, so nobody would notice it.

It this little pocket, which was so perfectly hidden behind the seam of the cushion, was a short dagger – almost a knife.

Astrid immediately felt her heart beating fast upon seeing that, while Ljóda took the little weapon and reached for the hem of Astrid's dress to pull it up to her tight, fastening the knife with a strap of clothing, she had hidden with it.

The young woman knew exactly what her mother wanted her to do with the knife – using it on Hiccup, when nobody else was seeing it. On the wedding night, when they were alone. And then? Probably fleeing towards her mother, so they finally could escape.

Astrid nodded, while Ljóda got back up, a dangerous gleam in her eyes, while she hugged her daughter tightly.

“I wish you the best luck for your marriage...“ she said loudly, so that also the guards could hear it perfectly. “You really are a beautiful bride!“

“Thank you, mother...“ the young woman answered, just as a loud knock echoed through the little cabin and only a moment later, it was Hakon, who entered, with a wide grin on his lips.

“It is time!“ the tall chief said, walking past the guards and straight towards his daughter, to admire her. “And you, my daughter, must be the most beautiful bride of them all!“

Ljóda merely rolled her eyes and stepped aside, for Hakon to walk over to his daughter, who reached for her cheek in fatherly affection, smiling proudly at her. And Astrid – somehow – smiled because of this, too.

“You make this old man very proud!“, he whispered, before he reached for the old sword on his hip, pulling it out of the scabbard, holding it in front of him.

“You know this, don't you?“

Astrid nodded. “It's the sword of our ancestors, first worn by Styr Hofferson the Ruthless...“

“My daughter...carry this on your wedding and the blessing of our ancestors will with you and will be carried on to your children.“

Before he untied the scabbard from his hip, he put back this sacred weapon in its leathery protection and gave it over to his daughter for her to carry.

Immediately Astrid bound it around her hips, the sword nearly disappearing within the folds of her dress.

“Are you ready, my dearest Warrior Princess?“

Yes, she could have stated, that she wasn't and never would, but she knew, that trashing around and fighting her father wouldn't help anymore. Nor did she want that – she was too tired of it.

Therefore she exhaled heavily, before she nodded.

“I am...“

“Perfect...“ Hakon whispered, telling his guards to guide them towards were the ceremony would be held.

And so, both – bride and groom – walked with heavy steps towards their wedding. It felt, as if it was their execution, not their wedding day. Loosing their freedom, while winning so much for their beloved Tribes.

Hiccup's friends and his mother followed closely, joking and chatting, as if this was a normal day ind a desperate try to cheer their Chief up. Toothless tried to nuzzle his hand every now and then as a sign of comfort. Astrid's parents and their guards were far too quiet, not even saying a word.

And as soon as they had reached the center of Berk, were a spacious place was found, were normally were markets and little stalls located, they found now a big arc out of wood, ornamented with runes for the gods blessings and for a happy and fruitful marriage. Above their heads stretched long garlands from flowers, casting a few shadows to the ground and people below.

And there were many – every member of the Hooligan tribe must be here, waiting for the ceremony and the moment, that their beloved chief would finally become a worthy husband with a beautiful and strong wife.

As soon as they had reached the crowd, the two saw each other and stopped for a moment to take in the sight of each other, amazed, that they have looked so different from when they last saw them yesterday on their fight, while still looking all the same.

Seeing Hiccup in the far too wide cloak, with the sword and the axe on his side somehow reminded Astrid of what a good fighter the young chief was and was reminded, that he had been able to hold up against her during battle, since he didn't try to underestimate her. Something no other man had ever done, though it really did not look that way, when she first had seen his slim frame and his prosthetic leg.

And Astrid looked in Hiccup's eyes really and utterly beautiful in this long dress and with her hair down and for a moment he forgot, that she was a ruthless warrior, loving to kill dragons. And the sword on her side really reminded him of her strength and that he should from now on accept, that she would always be at his side.

For a few moments both stood like that, looking at each other, unsure of what to think, say or to do.

It had been Gobber, who was the first to reach the arch, waiting for the young pair to finally reach him, their friends and families gathered close by. Even Toothless walked loyaly towards them, though he eyes Astrid dangerously. Both their mothers had the cushions in their hands, on which the wedding rings of the young couple laid.

With beating hearts and anticipated whispers around them, they both tore their eyes from the other and walked forward, stopping a few feet away from the old, Berkian smith, who widely and joyously smiled at the couple.

“I...I am really sorry, that it needs to be this way...“ Hiccup murmured, his eyes darting around to make sure, that nobody else was hearing his words, that were only meant for this young woman.

“As if...“ Astrid whispered back, making Hiccup growl a little in annoyance, but stopped, when she added, this time with a far softer tone: “...I am sorry, too...“

With sadness both looked at each other, before their hands reached for the other, clasping them tightly together and lacing their fingers.

That was the moment, when Gobber raised his loud and booming voice:

“Dear people – I am happily announcing the wedding between those two people – the Chief of the Hairy Hooligan Tribe Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and the daughter of Chief and Chieftess Hakon and Ljóda Hofferson of the Hunter Tribe from Hranafall – Astrid Hofferson.“

The people cheered.

Hiccup tried his best to hide his shaking hands with laying his free on the hilt of the sword, while he squeezed Astrid's a little tighter. The young woman on the other hand hoped, that he wouldn't notice how sweaty and cold her fingers were and therefore squeezed back just as tightly.

“Many Vikings before those two have already bond in marriage, as it is sacred and protected by our dearest goddess Frigga. We shall pray for a moment for her blessing, so the marriage of those two will be long, happy and fruitful...“

Everybody around them lowered their heads, praying for Frigga. Hiccup could clearly hear Astrid's shaking breath in that moment and, without thinking again, he stroked with his thumb over her finger, as if he wanted to tell her, that she should not fear any possible, male lusting from him, since he would never do things to her, only to ensure, that this marriage would be 'fruitful'.

“Don't worry about that...“ he whispered as softly as he could, but since she didn't react on his words, he merely thought, that she hadn't heard his words.

“And so-“ Gobber spoke again “Those two stand here together in anticipation of becoming husband and wife – Chief and Chieftess of Berk.
And though the path on yer journeys will be rocky, ya will walk it with ease, since ya carry the other. And though the mountains are high, ya can climb it in hurry, since ya make the mountain bow for the other. And no harm shall come upon ya, since ya are the shield for the other. And no sorrow shall cloud ya days, since ya will be the sun in the other's life. And no burden shall be too heavy, for ya two to carry it together.
Therefore I ask you – Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III – will ya take Astrid Hofferson of the Hunter Tribe as yer honorable wife, until Ragnarok comes or the Valkyries take ya? To love her faithfully and to respect and to honor her on each and every of yer days together? Will ya fight for her on the battlefield and furthermore see her always as yer equal?“

Hiccup gulped upon hearing those words leaving Gobber's lips and cringed a little at the word 'love'.

And yet he steadied himself, straightened his shoulders and looked over to the young woman at his side, before he said loudly:

“Yes – I do take Astrid Hofferson as my wife and honor and her with everything I have. She shall be at my side in battle, shall be my equal and shall be the lawful Chieftess of Berk...“

Gobber nodded at those words, before he also turned towards Astrid, now addressing her:

“And now I ask ya – Astrid Hofferson of the Hunter Tribe, daughter of Hakon and Ljóda – will ya take Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III as yer honorable husband, until Hel opens and swallows all of Midgard? To love him sincerely at his worst and at his best, now, tomorrow and forever? To fulfill yer duties as his wife and our Chieftess? To be his sword – er...axe and shield on the battlefield and to be his equal?“

Astrid looked towards Hiccup, who looked back at her, sensing, that he as well was not happy to witness this moment with her. Both their eyes locked on their hands, clasped tightly together, already hurting a little. Then she looked over towards her parents – Hakon smiling widely and proudly at them, even having a few tears in his eyes, while her mother bit her lips to hide her scorn and anger, while guards stood close by her side, holding tightly unto their weapons.

A few moments went by, Astrid's breath was caught in her throat and she noticed, that the people around her were already starting to whisper and murmur, wondering why the young bride wasn't answering.

Yes, she really wanted to tear her hand from Hiccup's and run, but she knew, that there was no place she would be able to hide. And – after all – she finally had to do, what was best for her tribe. To make them proud of the daughter of their Chief. To make her father proud … again...

Her heart stopped for a moment, holding her head high, before she finally parted her lips to answer:

“Yes – I do take Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III as my husband and I will honor him with every fiber of my body. I shall take upon all the duties as his wife and stand by his side as the Chieftess of Berk. I shall shelter him from all harm, as he is to be my equal and my respectable husband...“

Again Gobber nodded, though some sadness colored his eyes a little darker, though his smile stayed just as strong.

“And so it shall be! And as the goddess Frigga has said – the bond between a husband and a wife is sacred, never to be broken. Therefore carry a ring as a symbol of yer unbreakable link, so the world shall see yer connection. And so Frigga asks her fellow gods, to bless this marriage, too, for Thor it is, who watches over you and all yer children to come. Therefore – Hiccup – present your ancestral sword...“

Finally Hiccup let go of Astrid hand, reaching for the sword at his side to pull the weapon out of the scabbard, holding onto it with both hands.

“The ring...“ Gobbor murmured and it was Eret, as Hiccup had chosen him due to their new, strong friendship, for this task, to step forward, taking the ring that laid on the velvety cushion Valka held. He laid the little shiny object on the blade of Hiccup's sword.

With his hand he wrote the sign of Thor into the air, just above the ring as a sign of blessing.

“For the gods to watch over this connection...“ He said, trying to sound confident, though is eyes betrayed him, knowing of the burden's Hiccup has to carry with a wife like Astrid.

Still Hiccup turned towards the young woman, holding the sword still in his hands, presenting her the ring, that balanced on it.

“I shall watch over you – in good, as in bad times. Now, tomorrow and forever. For I shall be your husband...“

Astrid saw immediately the little dragon head on the ring, ornamented with a with blue stones. She somehow knew, that her ring would look just the way Hiccup's did. And from now on she really had to wear it...

So she reached for the little item with her right hand, before she put it shakily on her left ring finger.

For a few seconds she looked at it, the feeling of manacles and chains around her raising with it.

Yet Gobber turned towards her, clearing his throat just as Hiccup put his sword back again.

She looked at him, her mind clouding with even darker thoughts, trying to shake them away, while pulling the sword from her side, holding it now, just as Hiccup did.

It was his father, who took the ring from Ljóda's cushion, walking up to the young woman to lay it on the sword's blade.

He smiled widely at her, before he blessed the ring with the same sign, as did Eret before him.

“For the gods shall watch over this connection...“ He said loudly and with a booming voice, before she turned towards Hiccup, presenting him the ring.

“I-I...“ she stuttered, but then sighed, clutching the sword a little tighter, knowing she had to go through with it. “I shall watch over you – in good, as in bad times. Now, tomorrow and forever. For I shall be your wife...“

Hiccup smiled sadly at he, while she closed her eyes, just as he took the ring, putting it on his finger as well.

“And so...“ Gobber's voice boomed again, while Astrid put away the weapon, turning back to the smith, as did her husband, while their hands this time hang numbly at their sides. “...I shall announce ya as husband and wife. Astrid, from now on ya shall be known as Astrid Haddock and shall be our Chieftess, for ya two to watch over Berk together...“

And the people around them cheered, celebrating, that the connection between the two Tribes was finally complete and that their Chief finally had a wife he deserved.

“And ya...“ Gobber added over the noise, nearly screaming to be heard by everybody “Shall now kiss yer bride as a sign of yer blessed bond!“

“What?“ Hiccup asked, eyes wide.

“Kiss?!“ Astrid said, shock and fear rising within her heart.

Gobber nodded.

“Only so the marriage is legit...“

Though nobody else should have noticed this little interruption, everybody around them was just too quiet suddenly, waiting for this final step.

“Come on, lad...“ Gobber murmured, leaning a little closer for only them to hear. “It's only for the show... No need to put effort into it! Ehr...sorry Astrid, for saying that...“

“B-but...“ Hiccup whispered with an unsure voice in return.

“Sorry...“ the old Viking mumbled, shrugging a little, while the people around them already started to chant for the well-deserved kiss.

“Just do it!“ Astrid hissed, feeling a little irritated by Hiccup's behavior, who has went through the ceremony more confident than she had. „There is no way to back out now!“

“Fine...“

And with that he swiftly laid his hands on hair waist, pulling her against him a little, while also leaning in. He found her lips immediately, closing his eyes just as their lips met. Astrid, pressing her hands against his chest, just did the same.

And there they were, for the first time pretending to be absolutely in love, now that they were announced husband and wife – Chief and Chieftess of Berk, while everybody around them cheered.

Chapter Text

Their Celebration

Hiccup admired Dagur and Mala. He had been for some time now – watching them from were he and his wife were sitting on the big table in the Great Hall. He thought how lucky they were, having each other, married for some time now and expecting their first child. A child of love, not because the people around them were desperately waiting for an heir. And still – after all this time – they looked so happy together, leaning closer to the other, whispering affectionate words in the other's ear, while smiling, as if nothing else in the world matters, but being with the other.

And sometimes his eyes wandered over to his other friends – Fishlegs and Heather, though not being together anymore, they sometimes shared nervous glances and blushed heavily, whenever their eyes locked for a moment. There still had been some connection between the two of them, though they were not talking about it and would definitely state the opposite. And yet, even a blind could see the love they still were sharing.

And then there was this strange triangle between Ruffnut, Eret and Snotlout, with Ruffnut gushing over everything that Eret does, while also happily taking every opportunity to send Snotlout around – who of course obeys. Sure – Snotlout tried to deny his still existing affection for the young Viking woman a few times already, while he also tried to heavily hit on Astrid, but everybody could very well see the feelings he had for Ruffnut.

Well, and Tuffnut? Tuffnut was just happy the way it was and Hiccup thought, that he really was very lucky, for still being able to find the special someone, who could marry one day, without somebody to tell him something different. Or he will live happily ever after with Chicken and all the coming Chicklets...

And he – the Chief of Berk and leader of the Dragon Riders - was left with a wife, that hadn't talked to him the past hours, while they sat here, with a celebration around them in their honor.

Hiccup glanced sideways towards her, wondering if her lips had also tingled a little from their forced and shared kiss. Not that he enjoyed it – though it felt very amazing for the first time kissing a girl. He surely wouldn't deny that.

The mood around them was high, with people dancing, cheering and singing, eating delicious meals, while drinking lots of mead. They had been presented with lots of gifts and blessings.

And yet both young Vikings felt more depressed with each passing minute, very well knowing, what had to await them, later that night.

Astrid sighed a little restless and tired, while she straightened her shoulders, which were hurting already from sitting so long on this chair. She had refused many dances. Yes – she wasn't the best dancer, but also she wasn't absolutely not in the mood to dance...not even on her own wedding.

“Are you alright?“ Hiccup suddenly asked a little concerned, and though she didn't feel like answering, she did nonetheless:

“It just getting a little boring...“ she murmured, just quiet enough for only Hiccup to hear it.

“You could have danced, when Gobber or your father had asked for it, you know? I really don't care!“

She shrugged.

“I don't dance.“

Upon hearing that, Hiccup chuckled a little, which made Astrid nearly lay a hand on her sword, still hanging faithfully at her side.

How did he dare to laugh at her in the first place – even though she was now considered as his wife! But then she remembered her last escape being tied to her tight – the knife – which already had damaged her skin underneath a little, hurting, but trying not to flinch because of it.

“You really are not a normal girl, are you? I mean – though most of our women are trained in battle, they still enjoy celebrating and dancing. And wearing dresses. You...not so much...“

Astrid eyed him carefully, not quite sure, what he wanted to tell her, therefore she merely answered:

“I am just not a typical girl. That's all...“

Hiccup nodded, yet raised an eyebrow at her.

“I just think, that is more to it, than one can see...“

The young woman was starring at him. What could he know, after all? He could not know, what she had to go through, to become this person, she was now. That people from her tribe were thinking, that she had been a pushover and easy to defeat. That she was hiding merely behind the name of Hofferson. That she had been stupid for believing, that dragons had something like... feelings...

And now she were here, sitting in the Meade Hall of a Tribe that believed in equal rights for men and women, while also would clearly start a war for their winged friends. And she was left to stay here...

Astrid looked over towards Toothless, who was laying faithfully behind Hiccup's chair, feasting on a basket with a different assortment of fish, cooing happily at the warmth around him and the deliciousness of his meal. But the black dragon squinted evilly at her, when he noticed her glance, making the young woman look back at her husband, sitting by her side.

“Were does he sleep?“ Astrid asked, wondering if the rumors were true, that Toothless slept in the Haddock House.

“Toothless? Where do you think he sleeps? And why are you asking?“

Many thoughts crossed Hiccup's mind, wondering, what she was up to, when nobody would be watching, later that night. Why else would she need that information after all?

Now it was Astrid who shrugged.

“Just wondering... Don't want to share a bed with your little pet, too!“ Also she didn't want to have the dragon in the way, when she would use the knife on his owner.

That was the moment, when somebody suddenly cleared his throat, to get their attention, standing right in front of their table.

It were Dagur and Mala, who Hiccup had admired just moments ago.

“Sorry brother...“ Dagur said, grinning widely, while he and his wife were setting something in front of the young, married couple. “We didn't want to interrupt your little conversation with your bride...“

“Don't worry about that...“ Hiccup mumbled, while Astrid nodded in agreement. “But haven't you given us your present before?“

“Oh this?“ Mala asked, pointing at the little pot and a strangely ornamented cup in front of them. “This is not a gift in the common sense. It's Bridal Ale.“

“Bridal Ala?“ Both Astrid and Hiccup asked out loud, not knowing, what those two were talking about, though the young Chief could darkly remember something like that on their wedding celebration as well.

Dagur nodded.

“It's an old tradition from my people. Your Bride is to serve this as a sign of her willingness to care for you as your wife.“ Dagur even winked at them a little cheekily, making Astrid blush, both in embarrassment and in fury.

Astrid sighed a little at that, even letting her shoulders sink for a moment. She really didn't want to go through with even more traditions. The past days were already straining enough. Yes, pouring something into a cup wasn't very stressful, she just wasn't into the mood to follow even more duties for today.

“Fine...“ Hiccup nonetheless murmured, giving in to the pleading looks of Dagur and Mala, and when he turned towards Astrid he murmured: “Won't be too bad, I guess?“ Yet he feared a little the taste of the strange mixture, which contents he really didn't want to question.

“Very well!“ Dagur said cheerfully, before raising his voice for everybody to hear: “The Groom and Bride will now share a cup of traditional, Berserkian Bridal Ale! With that the Bride will show, that she will care for her husband in good and in bad times. The Groom on the other hand shows his affection for his wife and that he will gladly accept any help she offers him!“

The people cheered once more, even stopping the music and their dancing to watch.

“Ehrm...okay...?“ Astrid murmured, before Mala gestured for them both to stand up, which also would help them to get seen even more.

Dagur pushed the decorated cup into Hiccup's hand, who held onto it carefully, in fear to break or damage it, while being absolutely unsure about all of this. And Mala handed the young bride the pot, which laid heavy in her hands.

„And now?“ Astrid whispered towards the Queen, not knowing, is she should just pour the Ale into Hiccup's cup, or if she needed to say something beforehand.

“Oh yes – say: 'My dearest husband Hiccup, for now on I shall care for you in your good and bad times...“

Astrid rolled her eyes at that, before also repeating:

“My dearest husband Hiccup, for now on I shall care for you in your good and bad times....“

Mala nodded with a big smile, pointing towards the pot to indicate, that Astrid should fill the cup in her husband's hands. And Astrid did as she was told, rolling her eyes a little at the thought, that everybody was watching them again during yet another tradition. It really was annoying for Astrid.

“Okay Hiccup and you say – 'I shall now take this drink for I gladly accept your help and assistance in all that I am doing'.“ Mala also said.

And Hiccup did exactly how he was told and afterwards lifting the cup to his lips. A bitter smell instantly reached his nose and it even burned in his eyes, letting the young groom know, that this drink was far too alcoholic for him and that he probably wouldn't like the taste of it.

Therefore he merely took only a little sip, letting his lips and tongue burn immediately. He also prayed to the gods, that he wasn't ought to drink all of it – since Astrid had been very generous with filling the cup. Or that this Bridal Ale wouldn't kill him...

Dagur nodded proudly at that, turning back towards Astrid to say:

“And now you, Astrid, shall take the cup and drink from it, too. It symbolizes your joy about his acceptance.“

“Wait – I am not going to drink from the same cup, like he did!“ She hissed quietly, not wanting anybody to hear her complaining.

“But so is the tradition! Now drink up!“ Mala said, gesturing for Hiccup to finally give Astrid the cup – which he eventually did.

The poor bride looked puzzled at it, breathing heavily.

Hiccup smiled a little, even laying his hands on her shaking ones, that were around the cup, leaning in a little closer:

“Then just pretend that you are drinking from it, we will get rid of it, once nobody is looking anymore. Also – I should warn you – the Bridal Ale is really not for the faint of heart!“

Hiccup merely whispered, being close to her ear, so only she would hear his words. His hot breath tickled a little her skin and somehow gave her slight goose bumps.

“And I didn't spit into it! So don't worry!“ He said louder this time, making a few people that could hear it chuckle.

“Haha...that is nice of you...“ Astrid answered, faking her amusement, before she turned the cup to make sure, to absolutely not hit the spot, where Hiccup had been drinking from it.

“You owe me one, Haddock!“ She mumbled, raising her eyebrows dangerously at him, while she lifted the cup to her lips, also feeling the burning sensations, he just had witnessed.

“As you wish – M'lady!“

There it was – this charming side of him, she had already seen a few days ago in the forge, when they had been alone, just before the fight. And again her called her this ridiculous name – probably to mock her – and again it very much irritated her. And so she swallowed a big gulp with it, making her throat burn hot and painfully.

She coughed heavily, while Hiccup took in a haste the cup from her hands, patting her back lightly, until it got better.

Dagur whispered in an impressed way, nodding at his wife:

“Better than we were. Most people I know spit it to the floor, because they can't handle the taste.“

Mala also nodded in agreement.

“Yes – you two really have a bright future ahead of you!“

It was Hiccup, who glared at his two friends, who left them, while the celebration around them started again.

“Sorry about that“, he mumbled, before her withdrew his hands from her back. “I didn't know, what they were up to. And my friends tend to be unpredictable at some occasions. All of them. The twins are the worst...I guess...“

“I already noticed that...“ his bride said with a raspy voice, holding her throat lightly in hope, that the pain would soon vanish.

“Do you need some water? Or mead? Anything that would help you?“

For some minutes Astrid merely looked at Hiccup, who was desperately trying to help her, making her wonder, why exactly was he doing this to her. Was her trying to calm his conscience for what he was about to do to her, when they were alone at his house? Was he desperately trying to get her drunk, so she would deny his seductive attempts? Or what else could it be, that he was doing this – pouring some water into a empty jug and giving it to her – for her.

With shaking hands she took the drink, lifting it towards her lips to drink. It at least soothed a little the pain with its refreshing coolness and she sighed a little at that.

“Better?“

She nodded, before raising one suspicious eyebrow at him.

„Why are you doing this for me? You don't have to do this for me... You don't have to be so kind after-“ She took a good look at the scar on his forehead and noticed, that his nose had a slight bluish hint to it “...everything...“

To her surprise he shrugged and yet again cast her a bright smile, which showed his tooth-gap – something, she never really acknowledged before.

“I just want you to feel welcomed, I guess. After all – it looks like you are going to stay here for some time now... And it would be probably easier for both of us to get along without fighting. Don't you think so, too?“

“You say that so easily...“ She whispered, leaning a little closer, since a few people around them were already looking at the young couple, wondering what they were talking about. “But don't you forget, that we don't have a common ground...It won't be easy!“

He leaned even closer towards her ear, both young Vikings unaware of how close they were standing. Even more unaware were they, that some fellow Vikings cheered on them for that, stating, that their Chief really wanted some time alone with his bride.

Clueless about the thoughts of a few of his tribesmen he said to Astrid:

“Isn't our common ground the well-being of our tribes? And we are married now, so lets get through with the alliance. There is no way out now any way...“

He was right and Astrid nodded slightly at that, feeling a little impressed, that he thought that way.

“Ahhh...I see, that ya are getting along well! That is good!“ Gobber suddenly said cheerfully, standing right behind them, before the old smith grabbed the bride's and the groom's wrists. “Then now ya two can go on and dance with the other! The people are already waiting for yer first dance together!“

“I-I really can't dance!“ Astrid stuttered, being nonetheless dragged towards dance floor, were a few people were already making room for them.

“A-and I don't want to!“ Hiccup hissed, yet being pushed against the young woman and a rather harsh way by his old friend.

“As they say – there is no real wedding until bride and groom haven't shared a dance!“

Both of the young Vikings looked in a rather annoyed way at the other, while seemingly the whole village had gathered around them, with Hiccup's friends cheering at their Chief.

“There is no way out, lad!“ Gobber said, just as the music started, playing a tune that the young man was all to familiar with.

Petrified Astrid looked at the young man, unsure of what to do and feeling very watched by the many eyes around them.

“I really can't dance, Hiccup!“ She hissed, sounding afraid and angry at the same time.

Hiccup considered this situation for a moment: Sure, she was an excellent warrior, probably knew every battle move that existed and could move her body in a fight like he had never seen before. And now, this brave and strong Valkyrie was standing right in front of him, all too unsure how to dance, without embarrassing herself altogether.

“I will lead you...“ He murmured back, raising one arm, while laying the other on his back. “Only have your eyes on me. Behave as if nobody was watching us... As if this was a fight you needed to win desperately...“

“Can't we just fight then?“ She whispered back, while also raising her arm to lay it against Hiccup's, while they both started to walk around in a circle. “It definitely would be easier for me...“

He chuckled.

“Sadly no...“

And suddenly they changed direction, walking now around into the left direction, before Hiccup grapped her hands, doing some crazy steps, that were caught between stepping and slightly jumping.

She couldn't quite listen to the music or the words that were sung by a few Berkians around them, clapping happily to the music, while Hiccup did his best the lead her – which to her surprise worked pretty well, despite having grab the hem of her dress to halfway through, in fear, that one of them might stumble over it.

Even before the young Chieftess knew, what exactly was going on, she danced with Hiccup in unison, perfectly in tact of the music, as if she had always done this. And though she might not be the best dancer – and gods could tell, that she never would be – she quite enjoyed it, remembering over and over Hiccup's words, that this somewhat reminded her of a fight – with their bodies twisting in time, while their heartbeats and breathing tried to catch up with them.

While the last words were sung:

'I'll swim and sail on savage seas
With never a fear of drowning,
And gladly ride the waves of life
If you would marry me!',

the young woman could finally make out the words, just before Hiccup had lifted her up towards the air, holding tightly onto her waist, spinning her around a little, before letting her back down towards the ground.

In the background Gobber was still singing a few notes, though being heavily exaggerated and crooked. A few fellow Vikings were already complaining, finally making the old smith stop.

“Was it that bad?“ Hiccup asked her, while still standing quite close to her, his hands still laying on her waist.

She shrugged.

“I can't complain...“

For a few seconds their eyes laid on the others face, wondering, why exactly they had given in to this stupid dancing, while also having to admit to themselves, that it had been quite some fun.

That was the moment, when Hiccup suddenly noticed, that his hands were still laying on Astrid's waist, therefore letting go of her in a hurry, while both young Vikings stepped immediately away from the other.

Astrid cleared her throat.

“Well...thank you, for not letting me entirely blame myself in front of the whole village“

He nodded, rubbing the back of his head.

“Sure. Wouldn't look too good, if I let the Chieftess stumble all over the wedding dress, wouldn't it? So...ehrm...do you want some mead? I will get us some jugs...“

Before Astrid could answer, he turned away from her, walking straight to the back of the Great Hall, were a few barrels of mead could be seen, with a few tribespeople already heavily drunk dancing around them.

“What was that?!“ A voice behind her suddenly hissed, and the young woman immediately recognized her mother's voice. And yet her breath caught in her throat, feeling somehow caught at some kind of misdeed.

“Be careful...“ the young bide whispered back, when her mother stopped next to her, yet a little afraid of looking at her. “The guards are probably close...And father-“

“Your father is too busy getting drunk with a few of these lunatics. As are thankfully the guards. Now tell me, my daughter, why did it seem to me, that you were having fun with your 'husband'? Do you still remember, what you have to do, tonight?“

Astrid nodded slightly, feeling the pain at her tight returning, remembering the knife, that was tied to it.

“I do, mother. I won't forget that! It was just...for the sake of the show...I would not actually enjoy myself being with him...“

Ljóda nodded satisfingly at that, while Astrid did not exactly know, what made her feel worse: That she had lied to her mother for enjoying the dance with Hiccup, or actually enjoying it.

Her eyes darted over to the young Chief, who was still standing close to the barrels, now with two jugs in his hands, while talking to his friends and his mother. For a moment she wondered, what they were talking about – with his friends being all too cheerful, while his mother looked a little sorrowful at her son. What Hiccup was feeling right now she couldn't tell, since his back was turned to her.

“He is not good for you, Astrid...”, Ljóda whispered, leaning a little closer, “...you know that. He is a damned Dragon Rider! A Cripple! He has no worth as a Chief! Now get over to him, tell him to leave for the night and finally get the job done! It is for the best this way! Or do you want him to touch you any further? I mean – why else would he like you to drink mead? Why else would he like to make you drunk? Remember – that was, what your father did to me. Making me will-less, so he could have me for the wedding night. That should not happen to you, too, if you want to keep your virginity and your honor!“

Something in Ljóda's words tickled Astrid's mind, believing all to well that, what her mother was saying to her. Clouding her mind once again.

“You are right!“ She hissed, feeling, that it was about time, to finally put a use to the knife.

Ljóda grinned maniacally at that, before she pulled her daughter into a tight hug. „Come to the ship, when you are done! I will be waiting for you. If you succeed, we will be gone before the sun rises!“

“Thank you, mother...“ Astrid whispered back, burying her face into Ljóda's shoulder for a second, before letting go of her, walking straight across the room towards Hiccup.

“Hiccup-“ She said with a loud voice „I am feeling tired. Let's head towards our house for rest!“

Chapter Text

Their Wedding Night

'It had looked, like it had been fun!' they had said, nudging him playfully in the site and winking at him, while he carefully tried to balance the two mead filled jugs in his hands. And that 'He really got used to her!', they had said.

Hiccup had only shrugged it off, stating, that he only wanted Astrid to feel welcomed on Berk – after all, she was likely to stay here for some time.

And yet it had been his mother, who had said, that he still should stay careful.

“I believe, that Ljóda is the driving force behind Astrid's behavior. With her constantly trying to manipulate the girl, you still should be careful and not trust her too much. I wouldn't turn my back on her. Really, Hiccup, don't be fooled by a pretty face...“

His mother really had a bad feeling about all of it, stating that they should wait to return to the Haddock House together, until Hakon and Ljóda had left for Hranafall the next morning.

That was shortly before Astrid had suddenly stood right next to him, saying that she was tired and wanted to leave to go to bed.

Valka eyed her dangerously, before turning her head, to look for Ljóda, who was already hiding again, somewhere in the crowd.

“Sure you want to leave...“ Snotlout said with a suggestive voice, winking once again at Hiccup, who now only rolled his eyes at that.

Astrid glared for that at the shorter Viking, who immediately hid behind Fishleg's back.

“Take me to our house...“ She said yet once again, laying her hands on her hips, before sighing a little annoyed. “Please...“

“Are you sure, that you really don't want another drink?“

No – she absolutely didn't want to drink mead, even more stating that, when she merely turned around, heading straight for the big doors of the Great Hall.

“Hiccup-“ Valka said, yet once again, grabbing onto the sleeve of his tunic, before he, too, could turn around, „Please, don|t zou think, just because you two had some fun together, that she is now a different person. You definitely should not turn your back at her. Don't underestimate her, just because she had smiled a few times at you!“

Hiccup nodded.

“I know that, don't worry!“

With that, he put the jugs back on the table – somebody else would probably take care of it, since for most Vikings the night wasn't over, yet.

He followed Astrid, standing now directly next to her, right in front of the door and facing the Hall with all its Vikings in it.

“Looks like the bride and the groom are ready to leave for the night!“ Somebody announced, thus making everybody else to turn around to look at then, too, making both young Vikings blush a little at that.

“But they need to be guided to their bed!“ Another male Viking shouted.

“Oh no...“ Astrid mumbled at that “You guys still have this stupid tradition...“

“I am sorry for that...“ Hiccup whispered back “I have forgotten about it for a minute... But don't worry, let me handle it-“

Hiccup waved for Eret, Fishlegs, Ruffnut, Tuffnut and Snotlout to come over to them, since he knew, that he could trust them the most.

“Six people!“ Gobber now shouted in complainant, already sounding a little drunk himself. Therefore Hiccup whistled for Toothless to come over to him, what the black dragon immediately did, though he grumbled a little at the sight of the young bride. The old smith shrugged. “That might do it, too...“

“Then we bid to goodnight. We hope that the mead and food will taste you, until the sun rises once again...“ Hiccup said loudly, while he offered Astrid his elbow, which she took with shaking fingers.

After all, she did not know how to follow her plan, anymore, for she had wanted to lure her poor groom into the bed and while he had been busy with undressing her, she wanted to slash his throat with the knife in one swift move. But with his friends now following them and waiting for the gods know how long, it would be difficult to go through with the plan like this.

But the little group left nonetheless the Great Hall, walking straight to their house, which was close by.

Her heart was beating horribly and Astrid was afraid, that it could betray her.

“Boo...do we really need to bring you two into bed. We are not your moms!“ Tuffnut complained.

“Yeah...this is really boring!“ Ruffnut added to the lamenting of her twin brother.

“And we really don't want to see stuff, we won't be able to forget!“ Snotlout also said.

“But it's tradition...“ Fishlegs mumbled, raising one finger into the air, speaking wisely. “Though I am a little scared to see things, too!“

“And you guys really behave like little children!“ Now Eret said, immediately stating, that his village went through with this tradition without even complaining one bit, the witnesses even staying until both groom and bride were undressed completely. Or even making fun of it.

“Guys!“ Hiccup hissed, a little annoyed, while Astrid rolled her eyes merely at them, though she really tried to get out of the way of Toothless, who was walking right behind there, hissing and grumbling in an angry fashion at her. “That is enough for now!“

They finally stopped right in front of his families house, with Snotlout already having his hand on the handle to open it.

But the young chief stopped him.

“There is really no way, you guys need to go through with this stupid tradition!“

“But we need to make sure, that you guys get into the bed together!“ His cousin complained, though he pulled his hand away, when Hiccup eyed him for some time dangerously.

„Fine... No eyewittnesses then!“

„Well, then good night, guys!“ Eret said, already turning around to leave again, knowing very well, what his friend had in mind.

“Yeah – have a nice 'sleep'!“ Ruffnut said, even marking the last words with her fingers and the young couple could clearly see the wink the young woman gave them.

“Yeah...have 'fun'!“ Tuffnut also added, doing the same quoting with his hands.

“Just ignore them!“ Hiccup mumbled, before he pushed the young bride right through the door, before his friends could make any more stupid jokes about their wedding night.

Before Toothless followed, he looked for a few minutes at the gang, some of them already laughing at their own jokes, while shaking irritated his head.

“Hey Toothless-“ Fishlegs whispered to the black dragon, before he could leave „If they are getting too loud, you know where you can find me! Meatlug would gladly share her bed with you!“

This statement made them laugh even harder, while the poor winged reptile finally went after his owner and this strange woman, quite unsure, why his friends were behaving so strangely.

For some time they could hear their laughter through the closed door, but soon it was becoming more quiet, until it had vanished. They were gone, leaving the groom, the bride and the dragon alone.

Astrid stood by the table, hugging herself, while the darkness around them made it hard to explore her surroundings. She had preferred it to know, where she could hide or escape in a hurry, when she had went through with the plan. Also she felt a little lost in that big house, that was supposed to be her home from now on.

Hiccup on the other hand, walked straight to the fireplace, piling up some wood, before he asked Toothless to fire it with a blast.

Finally some light and pleasant warmth surrounded them, making a desire rise in the young woman to come closer to the fire to ravel at its heat. But she resisted this feeling, still standing close by the table, for Hiccup to finally make a move on her.

But irritatingly enough he merely took a candle from a shelf next to the fireplace, holding its candlewick to the fire until it enlightened, too, before he walked over to her, to push the candle into her hands.

“Here...“ He said.

“What is it for?“ Astrid answered, a little confused about his behavior.

The young chief pointed with a movement of his head over to a small staircase that was close to the second exit at the other side of the house.

“The bedroom is upstairs. You will find a bed there. Make yourself comfortable...“

Her heart skipped a beat, knowing, that he wanted from her to undress already, so he could come up when he had finished everything he needed to do downstairs, to have her in any way possible. And yet she asked:

“A-and you?“

He shrugged, already turning away, before he moved over to one of the chairs, were he already had positioned a few covers, furs and pillows, throwing them an a rug, close to the fireplace.

“I'll make myself comfortable down here.“

She looked at him for a few moments, not quite understanding.

Hiccup saw a uncertain glance towards the rug, while already unclasping the coat around his neck to lay it over the back of the same chair.

“What – did we really think, that we would-“

Seeing her glance, he knew, that she was thinking exactly that. That they would went through with their wedding night. With not only sharing a bed, but also their bodies. A thought, that really was revolting to him. After all – he didn't even know her. Or loved her. He didn't even wanted her to have her here, in this house, even after the little fun they might have had at their celebration.

“Listen, Astrid...“ He carefully said, unsure of what to say, that would not make her furious or hit him with the sword, that still laid around her hips. “..., you might be considered by our people as my wife. But...I don't see you like that. And I know, that you don't see me as your husband. There is just...no connection between us, so why would we need to act like a happy, loving couple, when no one is watching anyway? So there is really no need to consummate our wedding night, just because everybody is expecting us to do so! And I suppose, that this is a approach, you also agree on, don't you?“

She considered for a few minutes his words, though she very much was surprised by this. After all, her mother has always told her different things about men, which she had always seen as sex-hungry monsters.

And now here he was – this Chief, who would not dare to touch her, and even would sleep on the floor, so she could have his bed.

Was he telling her the truth, or was it only a trap, so she would lay unsuspectingly in bed, for him to have an ambush on her?

The wax was slowly tripping down the candle, tripping onto her fingers, bringing her back to the reality around her, while Hiccup had already started to spread the furs and covers, while Toothless cooed at his owner, while sniffing at the he pillows.

“Alright...“ She then whispered, slowly retrieving from the view in front of her, turning towards the stairs to walk upstairs.

“Goodnight...“ He whispered, while she only nodded at his words, walking upstairs, towards the bedroom.

It felt strange to be in an unknown house...in a completely new bedroom, standing in front of a foreign bed. And it all smelled somehow like...him. Like leather and the scent of his skin, she still had in her nose ever since they had kissed and like...something dragon-ish. It was not a smell she despised or hated. It was just...different and yet it felt somewhat comforting to her.

She sat the candle into a candle holder, that rested on top of a small, wooden night stand, before she leaned over the bed, carefully stroking with her hands the covers, as if she had to remind herself, that this was not her own bed. It all felt so...surreal to her.

For a moment she only stood there, not sure, what to to. Her fingertips touched carefully the side of her tight, there, where the knife still hang trustworthy at her side, being all to ready to be used on somebody.

But...she didn't want to use it, feeling the power of her mother's words slowly draining from her, making her thoughts clear, again... It all the sudden felt so wrong to her...

Really feeling tired all the sudden from the whole traditions they had to go through and from the ceremony, she really wanted to take some rest.

So she tried to reach for the back of her dress to undo the bindings, which suddenly felt far too tight, again. And after all – if he really was this nice for not daring to touch her in any inappropriate way, why would she need to make a move on him? She somehow felt, that her mother would understand, wouldn't she? Her mother had only wanted her to protected from Hiccup. But...she didn't need this protection right now. And all she wanted now, was to desperately getting rid this dress and suddenly noticed, that she couldn't do it. Not alone...

She sigehd a little annoyed at that revelation, before she silently walked over to the door of the bedroom, trying to take a glimpse from downstairs, if her dearest husband was still awake. But she couldn't see the fireplace or the young Dragon Rider and his dragon.

Therefore she carefully tiptoed to the staircase, walking down a few steps, until she could see them.

And what she saw, was a view she really had to get used to, though it wasn't looking too...strange...

There they were – Hiccup and Toothless, both laying on the furs and rug close to the fire, with the black dragon being curled up into a ball, his eyes already closed tightly, while the young man rested his head against the side of the winged reptile. She couldn't quite see his face and therefore couldn't tell, if he was already sleeping, too.

A little fascinated by this sigh, she took yet another step downstairs, as if she was drawn to this, like a moth by the light, but immediately stopped, when that damned stair creaked underneath her foot.

Toothless was the first, who's head immediately shoot up again, his eyes focusing in a hurry at the young woman and growled a little, while Hiccup slowly sat up, patting the head of his scaled friend.

And to Astrid's surprise, the young Chief was shirtless, making her swallow hard at the sight of his defined muscles on his back and shoulders, which had been perfectly hidden underneath the leather armor he was always wearing. It took her a little by surprise.

“Astrid?“ He asked after some time, while she still stood halfway on the staircase, raising his eyebrows in curiosity at that.

She didn't answer right away, suddenly having the feeling, that she forgot what the purpose of her coming downstairs had been.

The black dragon yet again hissed at that, moving a little into a crouching position, as if he was ready to jump at her, if needed. Could he maybe sense the knife, still hidden underneath her her dress? Could he sense, what she and her mother had been planning all night long, though she right really wasn't in the mood to go through with it. But considering the fact, that Toothless just looked now, as if he wanted to attack her at any moment, she would maybe reconsider her choice, with her hands already feeling twitchy.

“No, Toothless!“ Hiccup said in a calm manner, laying a hand on the back of the dragon, shaking his head at him, when his friend looked at him with big eyes. “We don't know, what she wants...“

And still his eyebrows raised even higher, and Astrid could clearly see, that his eyes had moved over to his sword, that laid on the table, for a moment, as if he wanted to make sure, he could reach it in time.

She tried to smile a little, feeling, that she would loose more, than she would gain, if she would now reach under her dress, jumping straight down the remaining steps of the stair and past the dragon, just to use the knife on the Chief. The words of her father were returning to her mind for a second, as was the feeling of loosing her honor once again.

No...she really wouldn't do it now and if he really would try something bad on her, then she still had the option left...

“I...I need help...“ She therefore admitted a little coyly, walking down the stairs, carefully walking past Toothless and straight in front of Hiccup – to also marvel for a few minutes at his very present muscles.

“Help? Why could you possibly need help?“

She merely turned around and Hiccup immediately understood, when he saw the tight bindings at her back, that she couldn't possibly open on her own.

“Ah, I see...“ He said, already reaching for the cords, before he stopped halfway. “Hold the front of your dress...“

She nodded and did, as he told her, before she could feel his hands on her back, carefully trying to open up her dress.

“Wow...who did this to you? It is really tight...wait, just another moment...“

He was pushing at her, while she desperately tried to remain in an upright position.

“My mother probably thought it was the best, if you couldn't unpack me that easily...“

“Ah...I see...“ He mumbled, lightly chuckling, remembering the words of his mother, that he should more likely be aware of Ljóda than of her daughter, which seemed to trust him enough to open up her dress, which was a quite irritating moment for him.

And finally the bindings loosened and both felt, that dress was slowly slipping down her shoulders. But she did hold it tightly to her breasts, not wanting him to see anything.

“Thanks...“ She said, slowly turning around to him, blushing at the thought, that this must be a strange sight – with him shirtless and her holding desperately at her wedding dress.

“You are welcome, M'lady... And sleep well...“

“I will and goodnight to you, too...“

She said, feeling a little dazed all the sudden, while already walking back towards the stairs and back up again.

Hiccup still stood there for a few minutes, wondering, what exactly had just happened between them, before he scratched the back of his head, turning towards his trusty friend, who only sat there like a cat and watching Hiccup with a tilted head.

“What?!“ He said, shrugging, before he walked back to the rug, to lay back down. “I can't possibly deny her my help. And maybe its for the best...“

'Sure!' said the look on Toothless' features.

“Oh shut up, you useless reptile!“ The Chief joked. “And now sleep. I don't want you to be unbearable, if you don't get your sleep!“

Chapter Text

She awoke. Slowly. Feeling content and...happy and strangely relaxed. Though she immediately noticed, that she wasn't in her bed, she had to admit to herself, that she slept pretty well, though she didn't know, for how long she had slept. But it had been way better than she had expected and far better than she had done those past days and weeks! And Hiccup's bed was extremly comfortable for her taste.

Carefully she opened her eyes and with a slightly clouded gaze she looked over to the window at the other side of the room, seeing that the sun was already shining outside and even was high in the sky already. How long exactly had she been sleeping?!

She gulped a little at the thought, that she somehow felt, as if she had betrayed her mother, for not killing Hiccup when she clearly had the chance to. Would she understand – understand, that Hiccup was not that bad of a man and that she even was able to get along with him a little. And that he looked more impressive, than they had thought, which was hidden underneath the thick leather of his armor.

She blushed a little at that memory of the past night – it somehow felt strange to think about a man with a little attraction. Not that Hranafall hadn't its own fair share of attractive men...but Hiccup...he somehow was different, than all the other men she had known - which had tried to persuade her into a marriage on their own. But what exactly it was, that made him stand apart from everybody else, she didn't know and couldn't tell.

For yet another moment she cuddled into the covers and into the pillow beneath her head, sighing a little at that stupid thought, that she wasn't a Hofferson anymore, but a Haddock. A wife.

A Chieftess of a foreign village and island.

Even though the wedding had been hours ago, she finally realized, what it meant for her, even more now, that her 'dearest husband' was still alive and, probably, still sleeping downstairs.

And she? She had to get up now, making him breakfast, that he had to be able to digest and that wouldn't poison him. Regarding that and her poor householding skills, she wondered, if it really had been such a good idea from her father to give her free to marry? After all...she didn't really feel, as if she was...made of worthy wife-material... And Hiccup had now to witness that himself. She was more the warrior...

Underneath her covers she smiled a little at that stupid thought, remembering, how it had been her, who had thought the same about the young Chief, for him absolutely not being worthy to be her husband.

But, well, they now had to live with the consequences and they had to behave like husband as wife, at least as long as they were being watched. Which doesn't mean, that she shouldn't try herself – at least a little.

She twisted a little under her covers, to just lay there for a few more minutes until her upcoming duties would catch up with her, for her to get up to make her husband some breakfast. But suddenly a sharp pain went through her thigh, startling her until and she sat up immediately.

“What in sweet Thor's name...“ She whispered, pulling the covers away from her naked body, only to see the white of her skin covered in dark red.

It was her blood and she gulped a little, when she noticed and remembered the course of it – when she had undressed, she had forgotten the hidden knife, that was still bound against her thigh. It had cut multiple times through her flesh, leaving big cuts there, as well leaving everything underneath it with a bloody stain.

With steady fingers she undid the knot of the binding, carefully tearing the knife out of the flesh underneath.

It really looked...bad and hurt terribly...

Her heart started to beat at the realization, that she had to do something, if she didn't want to become infected. Which meant, that she needed somebody to tell about the knife, she had hidden there, to get either the needed help, or at least...something to mend it. Which meant, that she needed to tell somebody about the plan she and her mother had made.

Knock knock knock

A soft knock suddenly startled her, making her nearly jump in the mess she had made in the bed that didn't even belong to her. And now, yet another realization dawned her – she had nothing to wear...

Of course, why would she have something in this house? Normally the mother of the bride had to take care of a few clothes for the bride to wear after the wedding, since she wasn't allowed her old clothes anymore, when she had underwent her Cleansing. But with Ljóda in the believe, that her daughter would have killed her husband and would have escaped with her, thus making task futile.

Therefore the young woman was left alone, hurt and naked in the house that belonged her supposed husband, which made her feel really vulnerable.

“Astrid?“ He then asked from the other side of the closed door, while Astrid nearly stumbled out of the bed only to answer him. She hurriedly wrapped her covers around her body tightly,trying to smear the blood on the underside of her pillow, so he wouldn't notice it and turned around the fur, she was laying on.

Then she finally opened the door.

It must be a strange sight to the young chief – the young woman opened as fast a lighting the door, nearly dripping over the covers that were tightly around her, while having a mess of disheveled hair all over her head and a nearly panicked look on her face.

“A-Astrid...I didn't expect you to be-“ He stopped mid-sentence and Astrid could clearly read, that he pretty much didn't expect much, but was just too surprised to see her like that. Or...to be still here in the same house like him.

“Ah...yeah...I am awake and I am here. So, what do you want, if I may ask?“ She said nervously, leaning a little against the door frame to casually hide her previous panic and to hide the bloody mess on the bed behind her.

Nervously she glanced at the bundle he had in his hands, while his brows raised a little to hide themselves underneath his bangs. Was he suspecting something?

“I have brought you clothes...since your mother didn't bring something to wear for you, and I thought, that you clearly are not the type of woman to walk around naked through the whole village. So I went down to the docks, were thankfully a few traders already arrived early. I am...not sure if it fits your tastes or...if it fits you at all. But it might help until you get to the market or the traders yourself, to buy yourself something you would like...“

She nodded eagerly and while she still hold onto the cover around her with one hand, she stretched out the other for Hiccup to give her the bundle of clothing, which kinda excited her – not knowing, what she was going to wear.

But suddenly he stopped, his eyes wide and fixed on her hand. He immediately grabbed it with one hand, holding it tightly, turning it around with some care.

Astrid's heart started to beat harder, now seeing, what he had noticed – a few bloodstains on her wrist, in her palm lines and underneath her nails, which she couldn't entirely get rid of.

“Were you bleeding?“ He asked with heavy shock in his voice, still holding onto her arm with care. „Are you hurt? Should I get Gothi?“

“No!“ Astrid immediately said, pulling her hand away from him in a haste, trying to hide it in the fold of the covers. “I-I...“ She stuttered, shaking her head and not sure what to tell him, that wouldn't freak him out or let him launch his trustworthy dragon at her - or let him do both.

“I know, that I am not in the position for you to tell me everything, but if you are hurt, then we should take care of it.“ he said gently, clearly trying to not push her into something, that she wouldn't want to.

She looked at him for a minute, carefully considering, what she should do, but immediately admitted to herself, that he was right – she was hurt and something needed to be done about it.

“Okay...but...don't freak out, or anything...“ She mumbled and waited until he nodded, to proceed. But when he did, she eventually started to pull the covers on her left leg upwards, until the cut was very visible to him. As were the bloody stains on the cloth and her skin around it.

“What in Hel's name, Astrid – what have you done?!“ He said, his voice getting louder a little at the sight in front of him, while he laid her now clothing on the floor, to kneel in front of her. “Is this still from our fight and nobody took care of it?! I can't remember, that I hit you in any way, but...Astrid – I need to get Gothi for this!“

“Oh no, no, NO! No other person should see this, or should know about this!“

“Why?“ Still kneeling in front of her, he looked back up again, having a slight confused look on his face. And she was a little irritated from her words, too. After all – she knew, that she really needed somebody to help her, while at the same time, didn't want anybody to know about her...plan...

She sighed a little and closed her eyes, so she wouldn't be able to see the disappointment or the look of betrayal on his face, before she admitted with a quiet voice:

“My mother had me hiding a knife under my dress, which I have forgotten to take of, when went to bed... I must have been too tired to think about it...“

“A Knife?“

“To...kill...you...“

“Kill me...“ He repeated in a whispered voice, while Astrid still didn't dare to look in his face. Therefore she only nodded.

“So that was it, what he had been sensing. Toothless... And that's why he was so very aggressive against you the whole day.“ He mused and Astrid thought that she had noticed a slight hint of amusual in his voice. “But tell me – why haven't you went through with the plan. I certainly have been unarmed, when you asked me to open your dress and I also have been very...unexpecting. And as a fierce dragon slayer, you probably could have easily taken out Toothless...So why not doing it when you had the chance. You would have been free from me and your duties...“

With every word he said, she more and more opened her eyes, finally looking at him, when she noticed, that he wasn't that mad at all. Well, maybe a little hurt, but it felt more like he was relived, that she didn't actually kill him. And told him about the hidden knife.

So, when she was looking down at him, his eyebrows raised even more, clearly waiting for an answer.

The young woman gulped and her heart started to beat faster and faster with every passing second, until she finally opened her lips:

“Because you were not, what I have expected... You were different from everything my mother has ever told my about men and their...cravings... And when you clearly showed no interest in our 'marriage consummation' I didn't see the need to proceed with mother's plan. And, after all, you were right – yesterday - when you said, that we should do this for our people and the sake of this alliance.”

He nodded slowly at that, before he yet again lowered his eyes towards her leg, raising one hand, as if he wanted to touch it, but stopped, just a inch away from her skin.

“May I?“ He said, waiting for her approval to touch her. Which she gave him with a whispered „Yes...“

His slightly shaking fingers touched her soft skin and she hissed a little, when this butterfly-like touch brought back the stinging pain, that went right through her whole body.

“I am glad, that I am actually not that bad of a guy – at least not too bad, if it kept you from killing me.“

“Are you getting sassy?“

„Haha – sorry. I was just joking. But – seriously – we need to take care of this. But tell me - how do you want somebody to treat this, if I am not allowed to get you a real healer? Gothi really is the best we have here on Berk and she certainly will not loose a word about it! I can promise you that...“

Astrid sighed a little annoyed.

“Because I don't need somebody else to know about this. I don't think, that it would help my reputation, if somebody knows of my previous killing plans for the current Chief of their island, don't you think? And it doesn't matter, if she can talk, or not!“

“Then what do you want to do?“

Astrid shrugged a little, as if her following words were just a little nullity:

“Give me a needle and some thread and I will do it myself... And maybe some alcohol to sterilize it...“

Hiccup got back up again, a look of shock and surprise on his face.

“You can't be serious, Astrid! I won't let you do that! Will you even be able to...handle it from that ankle?!“

“Then you do it!“

Yes, he was right – it would be difficult for her to stitch the cuts correctly with the ankle she had from moving her body. Her mother had shown her a few times, how to treat a wound – at least for some time, until a medic could do it and she was quite sure, that she could have done it on her own. But she knew, that it would be better, if somebody else would do it for her.

“You can sew, can you?“

She knew that he could work with yarn and a needle – Ruffnut had told her at her Cleansing, that he had sewn many dragon saddles and even used to work on his own clothing before.

“I-I..., wait – what?!“ He stuttered, not quite sure, what to say.

“Hiccup, please...Or I will do it myself. Do you really want that? And I should tell you, that I am not the best at those...tasks... I could prick my finger with the needle or do...worse. Do you really want that?“

“Are you getting sassy now?“

She grinned smugly at him, knowing that she had won him over for her course.

“Maybe...but I would still be thankful, if you do that, Hiccup...“

Chapter Text

His Morning

Hiccup had expected many things from his first shared morning with his 'wife' – for it being filled with screams, and the occasional dodging of an axe, that she had been hiding somewhere underneath her dress (well, turned out, that it had been a knife, which she thankfully didn't use on him) and Toothless trying to fry the young woman, whenever she made the wrong step.

Well, he had expected something to happen that night. Toothless had been very restless – standing up every now and then, walking around nervously in the room and gazing up the stairs, to where Astrid had been sleeping. Sniffing the air, before sitting calmly by Hiccup's side. The young Chief had thought, that his dragon was sensing something, he had been oblivious to, therefore staying awake for a long time and awaking early. And now knowing of her plan, didn't really help his nerves. But, yet, on the other hand – she hadn't gone through with it, even when she had the chance!

And he was really thankful for that.

But having her sit now calmly on a chair in the kitchen, with her very exposed leg right in front of him, while Toothless was sitting dutiful next to him was certainly not what he expected. It felt even stranger to him, now that he had her blood all over his fingers and hands, while he tried his best to carefully sew the wound on her thigh.

Every time she hissed from pain, he flinched and hoped, that she wouldn't throw anything at him – but every redeemable weapon seemed to be too far out of her reach. Thankfully...

“Well...“ he mumbled, a little more to himself, than to Astrid “For now it will help, I guess... But you really should see a healer...“

With a knife he cut through the threat, before he reached for a small bottle with some clear liquid in it.

“Looks good...“ She said, while examining the scar and his excellent work, that now covered her skin. She wouldn't admit it, but it looks by far better than everything she would have made.

With a sorrowful look she glanced at the bottle in his hand, which contents he already poured on a small piece of cloth. She gulped, knowing, that it would hurt, once again. But it needed to be done, to make sure, it wouldn't get infected.

Hiccup moved a little more to the side, so she wouldn't kick him again, like when he first had disinfected her wound, only a few minutes ago. And by Thor – he knew, that -even though the cut was now closed, it still would have an effect on her, since the skin around the scar was sore as well.

“Are you ready?“ The young chief asked and waited until she nodded, before he went on, by putting the alcohol drenched cloth on her skin.

The young woman dug her fingernails into the cover, that was still around her and bid heavily on her lower lip, in hope to reduce the pain. She hissed loudly, letting Hiccup know, that it was really hurting her, especially when she was showing it openly to him, despite her warrior-attitude. He really didn't want to swap possition with right now, though he had endured it only a few days ago, when she had given him that terrible scar on his forehead.

“Okay...“ He whispered, while Toothless cooed a little, as if he wanted to comfort both young Vikings. “Now let's put a bandage over it and just hope, that it will heal probably...“

With shaking fingers he reached for the neatly rolled cloth and started to wrap it around her thigh. He only tried to hold his eyes on the spot, were her wound was still visible, since it made him a little uncomfortable to look anywhere past it – which was a very naked girl leg. A long...naked...like very naked and very exposed...girl leg, which he had never seen so close before. And which made him feel not in a bad way uncomfortable but...in a strangely good way.

“So...I am finished...“ He mumbled, patting carefully the spot of her scar, when he had made a little knot into the bandage, so it wouldn't open up again. Then he stood up, while she lowered her cover again, to hide their little secret underneath.

“Thank you Hiccup...Really...But – you won't tell somebody else, will you?“

“I won't! I promise! And he won't, too!“ The young Chief said, pointing over to the black reptile, that still eyed her with some suspicion, but now mixed with some curiosity. Which was certainly a good sign.

“And you won't tell my parents! Especially not my father...“

“Hakon? Why would I-“

„My father really should not know about this! It's just...I have always thought, that my parents had a perfect relationship. But it has been stained, ever since he announced our wedding. My mother, she...she really did not like the thought of me getting married to a man I don't know and I don't love. And I don't want them to drift apart even more, when father knows of my mother's plans to...get rid of my problem...“

Hiccup understood and though he still had the opinion, that she should tell somebody, who could actually help her with her injury, he knew, that her father was certainly not one of them. Especially if it meant, that it would destroy his parents-in-laws marriage. Though he thought, that Hakon should know of Ljóda's misdeeds, when the time comes. After all – this was not a behavior he accepted.

But Hiccup nonetheless nodded at her words, promising her for now, that he would stay quiet about her scar.

“And Hiccup?”

“Yes?”

“What about the covers? And the fur and mattress? And the pillow I had the blood smeared on?”

Hiccup saw her petrified look, knowing that these were the evidences, that would give away her little secret.

He gulped, knowing, that it would be hard to get rid of it, especially now, that Berk was going to watch every move of their beloved, newly wed couple.

“We...” He said, thinking about a plan, of which nobody would hopefully notice it, “...will pack everything in a bundle. I will get rid of it, once I take an evening flight with Tootless. Washing it would be problematic, since everybody would think, that we...well...”

“What? That I had forgotten about a knife around my thigh, which I wanted to use on killing their beloved Chief?”

“No...They would more likely think, that we actually consummated our wedding night. I mean – blood on the mattress and on the covers. At nearly the exact spot where...'stuff' happens....”

“Oh...” Was everything the young woman could utter, after hearing those words.

“Yeah...I mean...it would certainly play in our hands of pretending to be absolutely and madly on love with each other, or that we take our marriage seriously. But I don't know, how your mother would take it...After everything...”

“You are right...You really should get rid of it, without everyone knowing it.”

For a few moments, the three of them stayed in this quite comfortable silence – with Astrid sitting on the chair, looking over to the dragon, with the same, interested look, with his winged friend returning her gaze, while the young man stood there to watch them both, with his bloody hands in front of him.

It was the croaking sound of a late rooster, that crowed outside, that brought them back to reality.

Toothless shook his head a little, grumbled at the young woman, before he jumped over to his feeding bucket, which was still very empty. Astrid on the other hand, finally stood up and looked nervously over to the staircase, while Hiccup went over to a bowl, that was filled with water, to clean the mess up.

“I-I need to dress...And after that, I should make you breakfast, right? You want some, don't you?“ The young woman suddenly sounded so strangely uncertain, while she made sure, that to blanked was still tightly secured around her still naked body.

“Breakfast?“ Hiccup asked, looking over his shoulder, smiling a little at that. “Don't worry about that. I have already boiled a few eggs and brought some fresh bread and meat from the traders, when you were still asleep. And I don't want you to feel like a slave, or something. Also, I sent a few Terror Mails to invite a few guests over for breakfast. It would be a lot, if you had to prepare it all on your own. Especially on your first day as my...on your first day here on Berk.“

She looked at Hiccup with a very confused face and he was not sure, what irritated her more: That he made breakfast, or Terror Mail – which he certainly should explain to her, if she was to stay on Berk.

“Ehrm...we use Terrible Terrors to send us some letters and messages. Its quite effective. You will like it – especially will it help to fasten the correspondence between you and your parents when they are back on Hranafall.“

Astrid still didn't seem to be all too sure about it, but for the moment only shrugged it of, before she made her way up the stairs.

“Whatever, I guess... Your Berkian ways are really strange – you know that?“

“Oh, of course I know that!“ He chuckled, while she disappeared upstairs, closing the door behind her.

Toothless huffed a little.

“Hey, why suddenly so angry, buddy? You seemed to have some pity for her, too! And I guess, that she really is not too bad... I mean – she hasn't killed me, yet!“

Toothless rolled his eyes at his owner's words, before he nudged at the bucket with his head.

“Wait...are you jealous now?“

No, the black dragon 'absolutely' wasn't jealous, especially when he turned around, mocking the young Chief.

“Sure...I understand. Your are not jealous!“

Trying to not think about his dragon's behavior too much, the young man looked back down at his hands, which he still tried to clean, now using the soap and a brush, to get of all the red remains – even underneath his nails.

Which suddenly startled him, now finally realizing, who's blood he was trying to get rid of.

Astrid's blood. The blood of the woman, who had tried to kill him in fight and tried to lower his reputation, the first time they have met. And now he had taken care of her cut, without even hesitating for too long.

Why had he done that? That was not something one should do for a person that is despised.

But – who was he kidding? He kind of liked the way they were getting along together, when nobody else was around them. Especially not her mother...

No – not that he had started to like that woman. It was just...somewhat different now and Hiccup couldn't quite put his finger on it. Surely, there was a reason behind this realization, but it still felt too foggy for him to grasp it.

It were Astrid steps, as she walked down the stairs, that brought him back out of his thoughts, yet once again. As fast as he could, he dried his hands with a linen towel, before he turned around, to greet her once again.

But his words couldn't leave his lips, being a little surprised, that the clothes he had chosen for her suited her – suited her even perfectly.

“Well...“ She said, laying her hands on her hips, just as she had stopped right in front of him, “Looks like you have quite some taste there...“

Yes – she really looked good in her new dark green tunic, with the red, short west with a slight squared pattern on it and the heavy shoulder plates. And he really hoped, that she liked her new wrist wraps, fur boots and studded skirt – which he was able to find one, that had been quite similar to her old one. And though her long, blond hair still looked very messy, she already looked quite stunning.

While the young woman was still looking down on herself, fastening a few straps on her arm wraps and boots, Hiccup had taken the bowl with bloody red water and had walked towards the back door, opening it slightly and pour the liquid behind a stash of wood, so nobody would notice it. Then he returned to the kitchen once again.

“But...“ She suddenly said, when she had finished her adjustments, while the young Chief desperately hoped, that his eyes won't fall out from staring, “You have forgotten about one thing.“

She actually pointed towards her hair.

“I need a comb or a brush...“

“I know, but I couldn't find one, when I brought you the rest...“ He admitted, nervously brushing through his hair with his fingers. “You see, I don't really need a comb or something to take care of my hair. I just wake up, shake my head a little and it just sits perfectly-“

“You shake your head? Really?“

He sighed, smirking at that, while he crossed his arms in front of his chest.

“I just wanted to say, that you don't need to worry about it. I already have somebody else to take care of it for me.“

Just before Astrid could ask, what exactly he could mean, a knock echoed through the kitchen, which Hiccup answered with a loud:

“You may enter!“

It was Heather, who carefully looked inside, before she opened the door completely and stepped inside. As planned, she had something in her hands and walked straight over to the young blonde woman, who took her little gift with some surprise in her eyes.

“Thank...you...“ Astrid mumbled, raising her eyebrows at the brush, that the other young woman had given her, before she looked over to the young Chief, with a questioning look in his eyes.

He merely smiled and nodded a little at that.

“As I said...“ he mumbled, while already walking over to one of the kitchen shelves, taking a few plates from it. “Somebody else would take care of it for me!“

”Well, then excuse me for a moment...“

Before they could say more, Astrid was already getting back up the stairs, again, to probably brush her hair in front of a mirror. Though she seemed to be genuinely confused about all of this.

Heather waited for a minute, before she walked over to Hiccup, to help him with a the cutlery for the breakfast, and whispered:

“She doesn't seem to be too bad. Of what I have heard from the others, I thought, that she was hating you with everything she had.“

With one free hand Hiccup scratched the back of his head, looking at his friend, who was now at the other side of the table.

“She does not like me. Not at all! I just think, that we try to make the best out of our situation. It's for the alliance, you know?“

“And her little dragon-hating problem? How do you think you will handle that? You just can't pull a trigger and she has completely changed!“

Hiccup nervously glanced up towards the bedroom, hoping, that Astrid would not come down in any second. He just didn't know, how she would react to their little conversation.

“I will give her some time to adjust to our ways. I know it won't happen today. Or tomorrow...Maybe not even until next Snoggletog, but I will give her the time, she needs. I promised her, that she will eventually learn how to fly. I even have a dragon in mind, that would eventually suite her...“

“Let me guess – a Nadder?“

He smirked at that. He was glad, that somebody understood him and his mind. It felt nice to have somebody like Heather, who has been like a sister to him for some time now. Somebody, who wouldn't judge him, his ways, or wasn't constantly trying to prank him.

The young Chief nodded.

“Yep. She already had an encounter with Stormfly. Not the best encounter, if I say that and since that moment, she is not allowed to have a axe without my permission – so, if you see her with one in her hands, just take care of it, or try to tell me immediately! Astrid had stated, that she attacked her. I don't think so. Stormfly just wouldn't do that. I think, that Stormfly noticed some potential in her. Like...some Dragon Rider potential!“

Toothless grumbled angrily at that, probably also remembering the danger, his dragon friend had been in. Hiccup rolled his eyes at that.

But Heather smiled a little, still seeing that ambitious, reasoned young man, that Hiccup has always been, even after all these encounters with a wide range of crazy mad men, like Ryker, Krogan and Johann. And just recently Drago, who he couldn't change, just like he had thought. But his optimism to show everybody the good in those winged reptiles had still remained. Hidden, but still obiously there. And he seemed to be very willing to show that to a young woman, who had to be forced with him, hated him and dragons.

„Why are you smiling?“ Hiccup asked after some time, while he was still preparing the table.

„I am just glad, that you didn't change...”

“Change?”

“You know, when this Drago Bludfist...changed everything around you. Underneath the void your father has left in your, is still that optimistic Hiccup, that we all know. And she – Astrid – will eventually see that, too. I suppose that there is more to her, than this ruthless warrior-lady, that everybody had been talking about. I am sure, that you were that, if she really was that...bad... Or at least she would have tried to attack you at night, when you were asleep.”

Hiccup smiled a little at that, knowing very well, that that had been her plan, long before she had somehow changed her mind. But he wouldn't tell Heather that, especially since he promised Astrid to stay quiet about it.

“I just think, that you will be good for her. And Astrid...“ She said, lowering her voice a little to a whisper, “..., she seems to be very good, for you, too. Believe my female intuition and just you wait...“

Chapter Text

It was quiet. Too quiet for her taste, to be exactly, especially when she considered, that there were so many people around her right now:

There were her parents, who sat silently next to each other and across from her and Hiccup. Then there were also Gobber, Valka and Hiccup's friends, alongside with Dagur, Mala and Heather, who worked as witnesses for the further agreements.

And there was her now 'husband', who was seated right beside of her, nervously playing with the spoon with one hand, while the other nervously grasped onto the armrest of his chair with the other. With nervous glances he oh so often looked over to her parents. Hakon was currently reading a few sites of parchment, that Hiccup has already signed with his name. Those were the upcoming agreements for the newly formed alliance, now that it was counting as valid, due to their marriage.

Astrid had only glanced through it in some unknown hurry, just before their guests for breakfast had arrived. After all – she, too, wanted to know, what exactly was going to happen now, that they were married. And what it meant for her tribe, back on Hranafall.

She had heard from a few agreements already – like being equal trading partners, having some kind of defense- and attack agreement, whenever one of the parties needed help in battle. Also that the Hunter tribe was in charge of protection of the southern archipelago, defending it from harmful intruders, while also making sure, that other trading partners could pass with an easy permission.

And of course that Hranafall from now on accepted dragon's as a harmless species in combination with some willingness to learn from them and to live with them, without harming those winged reptiles. The Hooligan tribe on the other hand would ensure, that Hakon and his people would get all help needed to train dragons, to be eventually able to fly on them.

“Every newfound species of dragons shall be reported immediately to Berk, for them to further explore them and to research their needs and behavior...“ Hakon read out loud, while looking up from the writing in his hands, facing the young Chief across from him.

Hiccup nodded.

“You see – me and my friends are still working as some part time job at the Dragon Academy and we need to figure out more about dragons.“

“And unknown species!“ Fishlegs added.

The young Chief nodded at that.

“We still are probably at the brim of the knowledge of what those creatures hold for us and thus we are still in need of every new information we can get. Therefore, if you find a dragon, that hasn't been categorized by us before, just let us now. You...you have probably read the part about Terror Mail?“

“Yeah – yeah. I have read that, though I am still not sure, if it really works!“

While the two Chiefs are once again engaged in a deep conversation, Astrid looked with a heavy heart over to her mother, who had been eyeing her and Hiccup dangerously, every since she had arrived.

The young woman understood her mother's anger, for it had been some betrayal to her, for not following her plan. And she already feared her outrage, once they were able to talk alone. Which she really needed to do, just before her parents would leave her for...forever...

But now it was impossible, with her father and husband next to them, while also Hiccup's friends and mother had been invited for their first breakfast together, Well...mostly it had been Hiccup, who had all written down already, while her father only had to agree to it and sign it, too.

“...But how can I be sure, that the Terror's are arriving Berk, together with my message? Won't they try to eat it...or burn it?“ Hakon said, still slightly doubting this mail system the young Viking's had come up with.

“It really works!“ Snotlout admitted “Though you should be careful with them – when they have flown for too long, they get hungry and might try to eat your finger, when you try to get the message.“

“Yeah...“ Eret added “You should distract them with fish then. And while they eat, you can get the message and read it.“

“Just make sure the little ones get enough sleep. Especially if ya consider the distance between Berk and Hranafall...“ came it now from Gobber, before he slurped some more of his porridge, that Hiccup had made for them. And it really tasted good, Astrid had to admit and was somehow happy, that she hadn't cooked for them, since it would have been a far worse outcome... She would have burned down the house probably, which certainly was not the best invitation for breakfast.

“It really works, Hakon. We have been skeptical, too. But now we use it frequently between our people and the people of Berk.“ Mala now added.

“So we at least knew, that the wedding was scheduled a week earlier.“ Dagur also said, chomping onto a piece of freshly baked bread. “And therefore we could arrive early.“

“Mhm...“ Hakon hummed, still not sounding too sure of this strange way of delivering messages. Though it would certainly shorten the time of responses – especially if they were needed immediately.

“We will see, how this works out...“ the older chief then mumbled, before he reached over for a pen, that laid close to the contract. He looked up and over to the young Chief on Astrid's side. “Well, I need to say, that this really is a respectable contract. I am happy to sign it.“

“Are you sure?“ Ljóda, eyeing him dangerously asked.

He still nodded, marking the parchment with his name.

“I am very sure. I gladly sign this contract!“

Then he stood up, looming tall over everybody else, who sat at the table, before his giant hand reached over it, towards Hiccup's direction. The young man mimicked this behavior instantly, shaking hands with Astrid's father.

“I am looking forward to our shared partnership.“ Hiccup said, smiling a little at that, while Hakon also turned towards Dagur and Mala, saying:

“King Dagur, Queen Mala – we will also come together and think about a future agreement? You and your tribe are always welcomed on Hranafall as well...“

Dagur nodded eagerly, while Mala answered:

“Sure! We would love to work with the Hunter Tribe together. Especially now, that you signed your piece with dragons.“

Hakon smiled widely at that, before he turned back towards Hiccup and said:

“Surprisingly enough this was a well made breakfast-“ He eyed suspiciously his daughter, of whom he knew would never accomplish something like that “But sadly enough we need to leave as soon as possible. It breaks my heart to know, that my beloved tribe is left alone without a tribe and thankfully we can now return earlier. After all – what is a village without its chief, am I right?“

Hiccup laughed nervously at that.

“Yeah, you are right...“

Astrid's throat on the other hand tightened a little, knowing that it was now time to say goodbye for what seems like forever to her parents. And it somehow hurt, knowing, that she was left behind.

All on her own and all alone.

“Yer stocks will last until ya arrive Hranafall, Hakon?“ Gobber asked, now also standing up, while Hiccup's friends were doing the same, noticing the moment of depature.

“We stocked up yesterday morning before the wedding. And we will probably find a few traders on the way as well – if we even need them. But thank you...“

Everybody was standing now, chatting friendly about different things, like the alliance, the coming winter and it's impact on the villages and of course dragons.

And Astrid only sat there, looking forlornly to her half-eaten bread, unsure of how her life will develop from now on. Sure – Hiccup was quite nice and she got along with him if they both tried, but it was not the same with her suitors, back on Hranafall.

And it definitely would never be the same.

Valka, Gobber, Heather, Mala and Dagur had already left the kitchen, waiting outside, so they could go together to the docks for the departure of Hakon and his people. But the young woman couldn't bring herself to stand up.

“Are you alright?“ Hiccup asked all the sudden, startling the young woman and making her jump in her seat slightly.

She looked up towards the young chief and tried to smile a little.

“Yeah...Just still...tired. That is all...“

“Ah, we know, that this means...“ Snotlout whispered suggestively, just loud enough for the young couple to hear, pressing his elbow in Hiccup's side and wiggling his eyebrows at them. “Had been a long night for both of you~“

“Shut up, Snotlout!“ Hiccup hissed back dangerously, before his cousin left the building with their other friends, for Chief Hakon's depature. But the shorter Viking merely laughed at that and by the sound of it, the other young Dragon Rider's had joined this laughter.

“Are you coming, too, my daughter?“ Hakon asked, smiling at the young woman. “We really need to leave now and I would love to have you by the docks to wave us goodbye...“

“Yeah...just...just a moment, father. I will...clear the table and will follow shortly after...“

It were both – Hiccup and Hakon – who looked with a sad look at the young woman, but said nothing.

But Ljóda merely said:

“I will help her. It's her first time doing this after all!“

“But...we need to leave...“ Hakon said, raising one eyebrow at his wife, who already started to stack the plates.

For a few seconds he merely looked at Ljóda, then at Astrid and Hiccup before he moved his eyes back towards his wife, to then press her lips into a thin line, until her husband agreed.

Which he did.

With a heavy sigh he walked over to his wife, gently kissing her temple and smiled a little.

“But follow as soon as you are finished... Hiccup? Are you coming, too? We should leave the two alone for a minute there.“

“Sure...“ The young chief mumbled, eyeing the older woman a little with suspicion, before he followed the older chief, softly closing the door behind him.

Astrid gulped, while her mother stayed quiet for yet a few more moments, with only the steps of the two men slowly getting more and more quiet. Until they were gone.

That was when Ljóda heavily smashed the plates on the table – loud enough to startle Astrid, but soft enough for not breaking them into pieces.

“Why-“ Ljóda said, leaning over the table and grabbed Astrid's arm, finally snapping, now that nobody else was watching or listening “- in Hel is he still alive?! WHY? Don't you remember what we agreed on? To kill that freakish cripple? Why is he still sitting at your side, smiling at me and your father?! Tell me!“

“Mother-“

“He did seduce you, didn't he?! Was it nice to be his little mistress? What did he do to you and your body? Oh, am I becoming a grandmother now? Will Berk and Hranafall get the heir 'we' all have waited for?!“

Astrid could only stare at her mother, while the spot where Ljóda was holding her turned already white and hurt badly.

And there was something in her mother's eyes – some...psychopathic madness, that Astrid had never seen before. And something inside of her was scared by it.

“N-no...“ Astrid stuttered, ripping her arm out of her mother's grasp, finally standing up and holding that exact spot. Never had her mother touched her like that before. It hurt and made her feel cold inside.

“No?“ Ljóda repeated and turned away from the young woman, before she added more to herself, than to Astrid: “...Then you still have some worth...“

But the young woman could hear this clearly and with a shocked look on her face she stared at her mother, wondering:

“What 'worth'...?“

Ljóda stopped moving for a moment, as if she had been realizing, what she had said, before she turned back towards her daughter, staring at her with a indefinable look on her face.

“What...'worth', mother?“ Astrid repeated, pressing her mother a little to finally answer.

And the older woman smiled.

“Your virginity, my dear. You know – we still will get you out of this mess your father has brought you in and when everything is said and done you will be finally be able to choose your own husband. Which means, that you should stay pure and untainted until you can find one...“

“Okay...“ Astrid whispered, still not quite convinced about her mother's words.

“And...“ Ljóda then added “Now that you infiltrated into this scum hole, you might be able to get a few secrets out of them. Out...of your dearest 'husband'. Other, more worthy chiefs might be willing to pay a high amount for your hand in marriage, once we get you out of here. But, don't worry, we will find the right one for you!“

Once again Astrid could only look in shock at her mother, stunned by those words, that had left her lips, while dark thoughts started to cloud her vision.

Of course, she knew, that a few men were willing to buy them a wife. Of course, she knew, that the price climbs the more worth a woman has. But she had never thought, that her own mother would dare to see her as one of these pricey possessions, especially after all that had happened these past weeks and days.

“You...want to sell me to another man?“ Astrid whispered, still deeply caught in disbelieve, while the whole world started to spin around her.

Her mother smiled even wider, now walking around the table, to hug her daughter tightly against her chest. It was a hug, in which Astrid laid numbly and which she didn't respond to.

“No...I would not do that. I am just saying, that if you keep your worth during this 'marriage' with Berkians crippled chief, then all doors will be opened to you and you can choose to marry, who ever you would like. Isn't that all you ever wanted?“

Astrid meekly nodded against her mother's shoulder, while Ljóda started to stroke her daughter's long, blonde hair.

“I will get you out of here. Just you wait... I should have known, that you are too kind to kill this failure of a chief... Give me some time and soon you can return to Hranafall...“

“Okay...mother...“

Ljóda finally let go of Astrid, stepping away and once again smiled widely at her.

“You really are all my pride and joy, my Astrid Hofferson! Don't you forget that!“

Before Astrid could say something against that, her mother turned around, leaving the kitchen, to also hurry back to her father's ship. Leaving Astrid all on her own and alone, who quietly stood in this foreign kitchen, in a house that was to be her new home.

In a village, of which she now was a chieftess...until fate would decide once again otherwise – once her mother knew, what to do.

Chapter Text

His Value

Hiccup had a bad feeling about this...A very...very bad feeling...

Astrid being all alone with her mother, of whom he knew, would love to see him dead and had more preferred to celebrate his funeral, than to celebrate his wedding with her very own daughter. Somewhere deep down inside of him, he felt, that Ljóda was plotting yet another plan, to get rid of him and to get Astrid back to Hranafall. And it would probably involve her beloved daughter...

Well, if it had been that easy, then she could just take her and this whole marriage-problem would have been solved, while everything could go back to normal. For him. For Astrid. And for their both tribes.

But that was not how politics and agreements worked. He was married now and he would carry this 'problem' with pride. And after all, Astrid was easy to get along with, once nobody was watching them.

“Is everything alright, Chief Hiccup?“ Hakon suddenly asked, startling the young man a little, while the big chief laid a friendly arm around his shoulder.

Hiccup looked up to his now father-in-law, trying to smile a little, while his dark thoughts tried to suppress it.

“Yeah...everything is alright! Ehrm...thanks...for asking.“

What else should he have told the older man? That his wife and daughter had planned to kill him the previous night, but Astrid hadn't done it, since she...had something like pity for him? Or felt some compassion? Or just started to like him a little? Yes – the young woman was right, neither would help this her parents relationship and marriage, nor would it be beneficial for the previously signed contract between their two tribes.

Therefore he stayed quiet...

Hakon laughed a little at Hiccup's answer, patting fatherly his shoulder, while the two of them still walked towards the docks, where their friends were already waiting.

“What? Are you afraid of me, now that you have married my daughter?“ The Hunter Tribe's chief asked. “Don't worry, son, I know how a heir is made and you don't need to worry, that I rip of your head, for...consuming your wedding night! I just hope to be a grandfather, soon!“

Hiccup gulped a little at that, his already crooked smile turning into a more agonizing one.

There was now way, that Hakon needed to expect an heir now! But he couldn't tell him that – knowing it would hard to explain, why they hadn't shared a bed and went on with their wedding night, after they had departed from the celebration.

“Yeah...“ He mumbled “No need to be afraid...“

Thankfully they had finally arrived the docks, while a few of Hakon's men had already prepared the ship for it's departure. A few of them were still walking hurriedly around on deck, screaming and shouting, to make sure, that everything was ready, when their chief was about to leave.

“Nice Ship...“ Dagur commented, looking a little impressed “But soon you will travel with dragons. Then you won't need it anymore!“

“Ha!“ Hakon said happily, finally letting go of Hiccup “I am looking forward to that! Can't wait to have my own dragon and fly on it, where ever I want.“

“A delegation will be send to you soon enough, for them to show you how to train dragons“ came it now from Eret, who took his place next to Hiccup and crossed his arms in front of his chest.

“I will look forward to that.“ Hakon said, his eyes shining like those of a child. “And I hope, that you guys soon come to visit Hranafall, to see our dragon population. I am sure, that there are a few species, you do not know, yet!“

“That would be nice!“ Fishlegs agreed, looking over to Hiccup, to make sure, that his friend was just as excited about that, as he was. But for now Hiccup had other things in mind, especially when he saw his new mother-in-law approaching, with Astrid following her close behind.

To his surprise the young woman had a strange, distanced look in her eyes and he wondered, what exactly had happened between mother and daughter, when they had stayed behind in his house. Guessing by the bis smile on Ljóda's features it surely wasn't something good. Especially not for him...

“Are we ready?“ The older woman said, glancing at her husband, waiting for their departure.

Hakon smiled.

“We can leave as soon, as possible. We were only waiting for you, my dear.“

With a strange look, Ljóda mustered Hiccup, who gulped silently, since he knew, that the older woman probably had plotted her next plan to get rid of him and to get her daughter back. Yet – in all courtesy – he stuck out his hand to shake the one of his mother-in-law.

But she refused to take his and merely bowed, just like she had done, when she had first arrived on Berk.

“It was an honor to meet you, Chief Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III“ She said with a hard voice, before she turned around, to hug her daughter one last time. And strangely enough it took Astrid a few minutes, until she returned it.

Then Ljóda let go of her – nearly abruptly – to turn around and to walk up towards the deck of her husband's ship, without even bothering to look at all the other people, that had gathered for their departure.

“Don't mind her, Hiccup...“ Hakon said, now a sadder smile spreading over his features. “She will eventually get used to you as her son-in-law. Just give her some time.“

“I will give her all the time she needs...“ he mumbled, before it was him, who took Hakon's hand, shaking it, before the older chief pulled him into a tight hug.

“Take good care of my daughter...“ Hakon whispered, to which Hiccup answered without hesitation:

“I will“, just before they ended that hug.

“And Astrid, my beautiful warrior princess!“ her father then said, now also embracing his daughter, tighter. “My pride and joy! You really made this old man proud! I hope, that you will lead Berk with honor and strength into a bright future!“

“I...“ She whispered into her father's shoulder „I will...“

It was Hakon, who pulled away, reaching with his giant hands for Astrid's cheeks, looking with fatherly love at her.

“You will be a good Chieftess. I know that. With a husband like your Hiccup, you will succeed in making our tribes and this archipelago a better place. Don't forget his value. His strength and visions. The good that I see in his heart. I know Stoick and I gave your marriage a rocky path to follow, but it will be worth it in the end. Just wait and see...“

Hiccup was sure, that Astrid's answer was only meant for Hakon's ears to be heard, but he nonetheless was able to hear her words:

“I will do my best. So you can remain proud of me...“

Hakon nodded at that, adding with a sobbing voice:

“I know you will... You are my daughter, after all! And I love you as much, as a father can love his daughter!“

Astrid closed her eyes, when Hakon laid a gentle kiss on her forehead, before he finally let go of her, to bid farewell to everybody else, that waited on the docks.

All the wile Hiccup watched the young woman, who stood with a sad look on her face not far away from him, her hands hanging numbly by her side, as she watched her father walk from one person to the other, talking and joking with them, as if it would be the last time, they would ever see each other.

So he decided to come closer, which earned him an irritated look from his winged friend.

“We will visit them. Don't worry about that...“ He mumbled, which startled Astrid a little, since she hadn't noticed the young man, being this close to her.

“Sure...“ She whispered back, not sounding all too convinced by that.

“I promise. You will see Hranafall again. And more than once!“

Astrid only nodded a little, before she turned her eyes back towards her father, who was now waving everybody, before he walked up the ship.

“Fare thy well, my new friends!“ He shouted with his loud voice, when his men lifted the anchor and set the sails, which the wind soon enough caught to let the ship slowly follow it's way. Back towards Hranafall.

Hiccup could hear the heavy gulping of the woman next to him, who only held her eyes onto the very ship in front of her. Standing silently. Not even waving them goodbye. Hiccup could only guess, how much it hurt her to see her parents leave just like this. Leaving her behind in a village, she still didn't know and was so much different to her beloved home. And the young man vowed to himself, that he would give her all the times she needed to get used to it.

“We will escort them until the prim of Berk's territory.“ Eret said, pointing with his head towards his, Fishleg's and Snotlout's dragons, who had already come close, probably in curiosity. “As a sign of courtesy.“

“Yeah. Do that. But come back as soon as possible. A few houses in the eastern side of the village still need some mending. I want them to be finished before the first frost settles in. And Gothi said, that there might be some rain coming from south by the end of next week. I don't think, that they want wet feed...“ Hiccup said, his position as the chief suddenly catching up with him again. Eret yet nodded, gesturing for the two other Vikings to follow him, mounting their dragons, to follow Chief Hakon's ship.

Because suddenly – everything went back to normal, now that their honorable guests had left. And it had to – winter was coming closer and closer with each day and there were still a few signs of Drago's rampage. And suddenly he wasn't just the groom or the newly wed husband, but the chief again.

And things just needed to be done.

“Gobber-“ Hiccup said, now turning towards the smith, who immediately stepped closer “How far are the preparations for the harvest?“

“Nah, don't ya worry – the fields will be empty before the next moon.“

“Enough food for the winter?“

“Looks good. As far as we are not going under attack, again...“

Hiccup understood – with the storehouse partially destroyed during Drago's attack on Berk, there was no way, that they could regain the same amount of food, like all the years before.

“Food shortage for the winter?“ Dagur said, who had listened to the conversation.

“Not that bad. But the last years had been better for Berk.“

His red-haired friend looked over to his wife, who nodded immediately.

“Then we will send you some food, brother...“ Dagur said.

“You would do that?“ Hiccup said, sounding happy about the offer and a little relieved.

“The Gods have blessed us with rich fields this year.“ Mala added, slightly smiling. “We will prepare everything, as soon as we have returned.

“Some weapons, too?“ Gobber asked, earning him a dark looks of his chief. “What – the arsenal had also taken some damage! We just need to be prepared. And I don't think, that ya want to stand in the forge the whole night to work?“

“I will make sure, that there will be a few weapons among the shipment...“ Heather said warmly.

“That is very kind of you guys. And if there is something, that Berk can do for you-“

“We will come back to it. Don't worry. Especially when little Dagi is out, we might need a babysitter.“

They laughed and it was Dagur, who laid a friendly hand on Hiccup's shoulder.

“It was nice, to see you again, brother...“ he mumbled, to which Hiccup also laid an hand on his old friends shoulder. “And it was nice be at your wedding... But as your...father-in-law has said – a village needs his chief. And we have to return, too...“

“Our own departure had been far too abrupt, since your wedding has been moved forward for a week. Which took us a little by surprise...“ Mala added, to which Heather only could nod.

“I understand. But I am still glad, that you were able to make it.“ Hiccup then turned towards his mother, who was standing not far away from him, looking into the distance. “And I understand, that you need to leave, too...“

Valka looked at him, surprised by his words.

“Well, you said, you would be back to my wedding, which now is over. So, technically you also have time to prepare everything for winter...And to be there for the dragon's... When Snoggletog comes, they will lay their eggs and that's when they are counting on you.“

His mother smiled warmly, very well understanding, that he meant the upcoming time for dragons to lay their eggs – which would mean even more work for her, with the new hatchlings.

“Are you sure, that I can leave you...two...?“ She asked, looking over towards Astrid, who was still standing at the edge of the docks, watching her parents ship become smaller and smaller in the distance. Being unaware of the normality that had back kicked in for Berk. And that would soon catch up with her, too.

“Yeah...I think, we will handle it...“

His mother instantly hugged her son tightly.

“You really have become a great man, Hiccup! And a great chief...Don't you think that!“ But then she whispered: “Still have your eyes on her and turn your back at her. You might be a valuable Chief to our people – and Astrid knows that – but I am not sure, of what plans her mother still had in her mind.“

„Don't worry...“

Valka sighed at that, stepping back, to look at Hiccup with a small smile on her lips. Maybe he should tell her one day about what had happened the night before and what should have happened to him. Maybe...maybe she knew, what to do about his mother-in-law's murderous wishes and how to make Astrid feel not too bad about it.

“If only Stoick could see you now – how you chief this village and its people. How you act with leaders of other tribes. He really would be proud of you...“

“Thank you...mother...“

Her words meant much for him, especially now, that he had a new burden to carry – this so called 'wife' of his.

Knowing, that he had to do something – he walked back towards where she stood, now also facing the small silhouette of the giant ship and the three dragons high above it.

“So...“ He mumbled „I am not sure, what your normal daily routine would be like, but I thought you would like to have a look on everything, that Berk has to offer. Ruff and Tuff would gladly show you around a little.“

Hiccup looked over his shoulder and towards the twins, who seemingly were caught in yet another one of their fights and sighed a little annoyed at that.

“I just don't want to bore you with casual chiefing stuff, you know. And we still have so much to repair and so much to prepare for the winter. I thought it would be best, if you first get to know everything, before...we would look at your upcoming duties as...“

“...as the chieftess of Berk... I know that.“ It was her, who sighed heavily, turning around, since she was about to leave the docks, stopping for a moment to say: “But for now I have to refuse your offer – I just have lost everything I have known and loved. I need some time alone and...“ She pointed towards Toothless “..., away from these creatures to clear my mind...“

And with that she walked past the twins and back towards the Haddock house, leaving everybody in confusion about the chieftess' behavior.

Chapter Text

Her Duties

It felt so strange. Too strange to be exactly. From one day to another, Astrid and Hiccup had been forced to share their lives with the other. To sleep in the same house – or even bed, to have breakfast and supper together and to be there, if the other needed help. They were expected to get along easily. To be happy about their changes and about the duties they had been forced into – to be a caring husband and a loving wife. To lead the village as chief and chieftess.

Well – for most parts it seemed to work, whenever they were in public. With pretentious smiles looking at each other and slight touches at the hand or the shoulder. Not too much for both young Vikings to feel absolutely awkward, but enough for their people to feel pleased. Of course there were always a few people, who voiced their concerns of a political wedding and that the young couple didn't look all to happy about it. But those complains never lasted for too long.

The young couple knew about them and to make everybody happy and to silence these doubtful voices, Astrid had even dared once to carefully kiss the cheek of her so-called husband. For only a few seconds and she had barely touched his skin, but it had worked its magic and nobody would since then dare to speak up against the marriage again.

For the other parts it had seemed, that it wasn't working at all – this marriage, especially when they were alone. Sure, they sometimes ate together (with Hiccup still making their meals) and they even had conversations on rare occasions. But it merely was some small talk – nonsensical things about the weather, the upcoming season or about the foot on their plates.

It was not much. And it made it hard to connect with the other.

But what else could they do? Could she do? She was thrown into a completely new territory and after all these passing days, it didn't even feel better.

But on the other hand...she didn't want it to feel better...

How could this place ever feel like home? Without her father. Without her mother. Without all the people she knew – from the smith in Hranafall's forge, to Helga the bakeress and of cause all those servants in her father's house, who had always loved to do the laundry or the household or the cooking. Things, they were expecting her to do now...

And how could this place of Berk feel like home, when she was still completely oblivious to their traditions – from their strange dragon riding, to the upcoming harvest season or this strange 'Snoggletog' that Hiccup had mentioned sometimes. Who would introduce her to these customs? How would she know, which roles she had to play in it? And why was she thinking like that?!

No – there still was some revolting feeling deep inside of her because all of it. Ever more now, since her mother had shown this...strange behavior the day her parents had left. Even more now that her father was absolutely proud of her.

Now, that she absolutely did not know, what to do...

And she was absolutely alone with this – with her tremendous thoughts and her ever growing confusion. Nobody could help her with it, because – how would they understand? Or how would they not call out this marriage as a farce, that it was in reality...

“You are...silent...“ Hiccup suddenly said, sitting across from her at the table in their house, while eating breakfast together. Which...she wasn't eating at all, only stirring around in her porridge, only looking up to the young chief, when he had raised his voice.

Astrid shrugged.

“I am just not that hungry, you know...“

“...you haven't eaten much the past days, either...“ He added, surprising the young woman a little. Sure – they were most of the time eating together, but she had never before realized, that he would notice her absent of any redeemable hunger. After all – she was the one, cleaning in a haste the table just when he had finished eating, only to make her food disappear – which surprisingly worked well with a ever hungry dragon nearby. “...don't you think, I haven't noticed?“

With a movement of his head he pointed towards Toothless, who looked a little caught at that, before he returned to munch away the fish he had in his bucket.

Astrid huffed at that, before she crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair.

“What do you expect from me?“ She hissed, yet not quite sure, if she should feel offended by this revelation or not.

It was now Hiccup, who shrugged, before a weary smile crossed his lips.

“I just want to take good care of my...of you, you know? I promised that to your dad after all. And I think it would help your mother's and my relationship, if she sees, that I am not that bad of a guy...“

“So – you only take care of me, due to some responsibility my father has laid upon you?“ Astrid snapped back.

Yes – she knew, that she should behave like that. But these words just slipped from her tongue, without her thinking too much about them. Maybe it was in a desperate attempt, for him to see this situation she was in. To make him understand.

Or it was just her way showing him, that she hadn't slept well the past days (even though she was still allowed to have his bed with him still sleeping on the floor with Toothless by the fireplace) and that she wasn't feeling all that well in general.

And the fact, that her scar on her tight had started to burn horribly, bleed a little and had turned a horrible dark red, was not helping, either. Which – of course – she wouldn't tell him, since she feared, that he would then call somebody – this Gothi, he had previously been speaking about – for assistance and to take care of it. Something she didn't need, since those were probably only the signs of a proper healing process!

“Ehrm...no...“ He mumbled, raising his left eyebrow a little, so that also is scar right above it was hiding beneath his banks. „I just want to take care of you, because I genuinely want it.“

“But you don't have to feel responsible for me! I can take care of my own...“

Hiccup sighed, sounding a little annoyed.

“Sure...I try my best, to not further take care of you, if it helps you...“

She nodded.

“Thank you...“

“But I still want you to eat up! Toothless is not interested in porridge, anyway – right, buddy?!“

The black dragon eyed his rider with annoyance, even sticking out his tongue a little. After that, he walked around his bucket, to sit back down on the opposite site, with his back now facing the table that both young Vikings were sitting on.

This behavior amazed Astrid a little. It ever has and she just couldn't point her finger on it, what it exactly it was, that made her feel this way, but it just felt so...human to her. Which was a site, that she never has seen before in these monsters, making them seem not so...monstrous anymore.

But she still always tried to change the topic, when she felt, that Hiccup was coming up with an offer, to finally introduce her further to this...dragon riding.

Which seemed to be just again the case, when he raised his voice again:

“What are you doing today?“ He asked, leaning a little more on the table and towards her direction, and a strange shadow laid over his eyes, indicating to her, that he – indeed – had something on his mind.

So she shrugged.

“I wanted to go down to the docks“, she said, though it wasn't that much of an excuse “I wanted to see a few traders in hope to get a few clothes for me. Like...you know...stuff for winter, or something to change and stuff.“

“I know, that there are a few women on Berk, who would gladly help you and show you, how to sew your own and-“

“I don't sew...“

“Yeah – sure...how could I forget that...“ He mumbled “But I don't think, that it would take you long, which would mean, that you still have some time left today. And of what Gothi has told me, it might start to rain later this day...“

Astrid gulped, hoping that he was not about to ask her, to have a little flight in the rain.

“Yeah...then I can try and do some chores. Don't you think?“ Well...she could try...

“Or you could come with me to the Great Hall. I have a meeting with the elder and a few of our warriors...“

This took her by surprise, but she tried to hide it and sipped on the mug in front of her.

“There will be just...very boring talks about the winter, the harvest and about our outposts. And of course about the alliance with Hranafall. I thought, that you might be interested in this... You know...and it might help you to find your place among my...our people.“

Even before Astrid had the chance to say something about it – or even consider an answer for a minute, a hurried knock interrupted them.

Both young Vikings looked over to the still closed front door, unsure of what to say or what to do.

Yet again, the unknown visitor knocked once again, making Hiccup sigh and stand up, only to walk over to the door to answer it.

Though Astrid couldn't see the person on the other side, she could hear the voice of an older woman, speaking with a strange haste with Hiccup:

“I am sorry, my chief, to interrupt your morning with your wife“ She said „But I need to hurry and get the chieftess. Mathalda is in labor and her wish was to get your wife as a blessing for the soon-to-be-born child. You know what they say – it brings good luck to the family, if the chieftess attends the delivery! And now that Berk has a chieftess once more, why not make this blessing work?“

Astrid was petrified upon hearing that, staring holes into Hiccup's body, who was all too silent for a moment there.

But...a child? A new-born?! She didn't want to get involved into things like that! She had never witnessed a birth before! She had never before held a child in her arms! So how in Hel's name should she bring blessing to this poor family, if she didn't even know, what she had to do!

Hiccup still hadn't answered the woman by the door, only turned around, to face Astrid, with a questioning look on his features.

“Please, chief. It would be an honor!“

“I-I...“ he stuttered and Astrid knew, that he didn't want to decide this alone. “I had planned a few other duties for her to fulfill and-“

“Maybe this experience would help you two, when you get your child on your own...And don't worry-“ She said, now looking past the young man in front of her “..., my chieftess, all you need to do, is to hold Mathalda's hand and speak your blessing once the child is there. But we need to hurry now! The mother-to-be is already very far...“

Both Hiccup and Astrid exchanged glances. Unsure of what to say or what to do. And Astrid knew, that she now had certain duties to fulfill, now that she was the chieftess of this village. But she just didn't expect them to be...something like that!

With a beating heart she could here her parents voices in the back of her head, hearing her father talk about his pride he felt for Astrid, while Ljóda once again stated the mad way, that those people lived on Berk.

And yet, with wet fingers and a heavy beating heart she stood up, nodding timidly.

“I will come with you...“ She mumbled nearly voiceless, hoping, that it would be that bad of an experience. Well, she hoped, that she would at least have some time to think about Hiccup's offering, of accompanying him at one of these meetings.

The older woman grinned widely and before Astrid could say something more, she had stormed inside the Haddock house, grasped her by the arm and pulled her through the door and down the streets.

“Ah...see you later?“ Hiccup called after the younger woman.

“We will see?“ She called back, unsure of what she had been put herself into...

Chapter Text

His Duties

Everything had been so strange these past days. Well, of course there was this strange new habit, that he was now sleeping on the floor, while she was sleeping peacefully in his bed. But...it could be worse. It didn't even bother him, that he was making them breakfast and dinner. He had always done this, since his mother wasn't there to do so and his father had often times been to busy. And – he wouldn't brag though – but he could handle a pot, a knife and some food pretty well! Well...had least he hadn't somebody complaining before.

But that wasn't that thing, that made him think so much these last days about this...marriage he was caught in.

It was more...Astrid herself.

Sure – he really, really wanted her to feel welcomed on Berk. To make her feel like a part of their people. To make her feel like she was home. But...it was hard, with her constantly avoiding every chance of getting to know Berk better – with the twins still being very open about the idea to show her around the village and the island – and his constant wish of getting her closer to one of his dragon-friends. Stormfly in particular.

But Astrid was constantly rejecting this idea...Changing topic, just before he could bring up this treated question. Refusing every aspect of getting closer to these winged reptiles.

Though...Toothless and Astrid were getting along these past days pretty well. Well enough, Hiccup guessed – with Toothless accepting the remaining food from Astrid's plates, while she seemed to be comfortable enough around him, for not eyeing him dangerously. Just with some caution and sometimes even with some interest, hidden deep in her blue eyes. Or throwing anything at him – especially now weapon.

And it even fascinated him sometimes, when both – his 'wife' and his winged friend were sitting still for a minute, just watching the other in silence. Considering the danger, that still lingered in both of them. And considering, what they both hold for the other's future.

That was the reason, why Hiccup let Astrid change the topic the refuse the upcoming question about flying.

Because he felt a change, that happened within Astrid. Because he wanted to give her all the time she needed. After all, he didn't want to force her. He wanted it to be her, asking about her first flight.

And deep down inside of him he knew, that the time would eventually come, when she wouldn't change the topic anymore and would be interested in those words he had to say. When she would listen. When she would accept...

Somebody next to him suddenly cleared his throat and Hiccup shook his head slightly to get back to reality and back to the plans of the upcoming harvest and the amount of food they needed to store for the winter.

“Ehrm...yes – as I said, there is the possibility, that Mala and Dagur send us a food delivery. And a few weapons.“ He said confidently, remembering what he had wanted to say, just before his own thoughts have interrupted him. “All we need to do, is to finally finish up the storehouse, before frost settles in and ruins everything. Yet we still should consider buying corn from a few traders, whenever one comes by.“

It was Spitelout who pointed on a small island in the east, where one of their outposts was located.

“We should have a few more men and dragons here. It's a frequent route for traders with corn or for fishing boats. We should intercept them there and buy everything they have, only to then bring it back to Berk.“

The other people around them mumbled, most of them sounded as if they agreed with it.

“But what if new intruders are incoming without our knowledge? We are still weak from Drago's attack! We should have every warrior on Berk as long, as we haven't regained all of our needed strength.“ Came it from Hiccup's left site.

“But can't Valka send us a few dragons for help, if needed?“ Somebody else now said, which earned yet another agreeing mumble from the crowd.

It was hard to consider everything – every option that his people gave him, only for him to find a solution, that would fit everyones needs. It was hard – especially since he still was a little afraid of this high position, that the death of his father had put him into. But...what could he do? As Stoick's heir, it was his duty to be there for his people and he now would gladly take these responsibilities and would do his best, to satisfy them, as good as he could. He knew, that there always were a few fellow tribesmen, who would accept his decisions with doubts. And he knew, that not everybody would always be happy about his words, but that was what a chief had to do! To find the best way for everybody else!

Hiccup listened to a few more suggestions, before he once more spoke up again:

“I see your doubts, of sending of a few of our people to the outpost for food, but we nonetheless should take this option. Spitelout-“ „Yes!“ “How about you take five men with their dragons and fly of as soon as possible. I will provide you with enough gold for you to buy a good amount of corn and fish!“

“Yes my Chief! I will be of by sunrise!“

“And if we really need some more help in case of an attack, then I immediately contact my mother to assist us. Also we should consider the get ourselfs back to training. It is right, that we should stay in shape, in case yet another madman strikes and we should be prepared – with and without our dragons.“

His people agreed on that.

“What about Chieftess Astrid?“ One of the few warrior women around them suddenly shouted, which made some of them murmur in question, while Hiccup also raised his eyebrows at that, not quite sure, what to say. Or..., what exactly she was referring to.

“Our Chieftess Astrid? Well, she still is accustoming to Berk's ways...“ Gobber now said, before the woman once again raised her voice:

“We all have seen her fighting!“ They all agreed “And we all have seen, that she was easily able to hold up against you, Chief – in no offense! But she was really good!“ Yet another agreement in unison and Hiccup finally got a clue, what she was stating.

“Why are we not asking her to train us?“ She added finally, while a few fellow tribesmen agreed to that.

“What could a woman teach us?“ One of the eldest men said, with only some of them nodding, though not completely convinced to that.

“Well...“ Gobber said “She definitely would kick yer ass to Hel and back, if she would hear that!“

They laughed and Hiccup had to nod at that. Gobber was absolutely right.

“Well...“ Spitelout said yet once again “..., I would love to get one or two tricks from her. She definitely has some knowledge in the fighting department. And if she ever learns to fly a dragon – well, I wouldn't want to be the one, fighting her.“

“Chief – can you ask your wife, if she gives us some training?“

Hiccup shrugged.

“Well, right now she has a few other duties to follow...“ And he hoped, that she was getting along well with the mother, the midwife and the new-born, she eventually had to bless “..., but once we both have returned home, I might ask her...“

While a few of them cheered, some of them were elbowing the person standing next to them, indicating things, that would rather happen in the Haddock House with the newly wed couple instead of some casual 'asking'.

Hiccup only rolled his eyes at that and tried to ignore this immature behavior as much as he could.

“Anything else?“

It had been a long day after all and from what he could see through, the sun was already setting outside. And all that Hiccup was wishing for, was a long ride on Toothless back, who was probably still playing outside with a few other dragons that passed by. And to finally lay down – in front of the fireplace – and to get a good sleep, after all these straining talks.

Thankfully enough his men and women were agreeing on ending the far too long meeting, before most of them bid the company a good-night.

“Good work, lad!“ Gobber said, once everybody around them had left or had started to look for some delicious food to settle down for the evening. “Ya really are a good chief! If only Stoick could see ya... He would have been absolutely proud...“

“Thanks, Gobber. I really appreciate your words...“ And he really did.

“Now tell me...“ His old friend, after he had put an arm around the young Viking's shoulder, pulling him to his side, so nobody else would be able to hear their conversation completely “...how is it going? With Astrid? Haven't seen her much around...“

Hiccup shrugged.

“She still needs her time to get used to Berk and you know – dragons. But I will give her all the time she needs.“

“Aaand...any chance for a new heir, soon?“

Hiccup eyed his older friend dangerously from the side, while the old smith laughed nervously at that.

“Haha, lad! Don't worry. I know, that the two of you haven't...you know~“

“At least somebody believes that. The others constantly say, that we are always 'occupied' once we enter the house. It is a little annoying. Though I believe its just joking from their side...“

“Yeah...I understand that. But remember – that is what everybody believes after all. That ya have fallen madly in love with Hakon's daughter and that ya cherrish every day with yer lovely wife. Just - keep on doing that. It is better that way, if Berk believes in a happy marriage for their chief.“

“I know that...“ Hiccup sighed, letting his shoulders fall in defense. “It is still hard.“

“I know, lad. But ya guys are really doing good. I rarely hear only doubts about your 'love'.“

“I have noticed that. But...“ It was yet another sigh that escaped Hiccup's lips, while he looked over his people, that still have stayed in the Great Hall to talk or to eat and drink. “There will come a time, when they demand an heir, right?“

Gobber looked at the young man at his side, nodding slightly and sadly.

“Yeah...that's the biggest demand from yer people – to have somebody, that can take over, if your time on Midgard is running out. And if that dangerous hobby of yours, this demand will come sooner than later. I have already heard rumors, that some expect yer wife to give birth in nine moons. So – hurry up!“

“Really...?“

“Don't worry. Yer parents also made them waiting for a few years. And then ya came along!“

“It was different...“

“It still had been yer parents duty. And now, it is yours...“

“I know. And I will find a way out of it. And if nothing works, Snotlout still can take over, right?“

“Sure!“ Gobber laughed, before he mumbled: “Sure ya will find a way in the end. Just use that smart brain of yours.“ He finally let go of the young chief's shoulder, before he added: “Just make sure, everybody stays happy!“

“Sure, I will...“

“Including yer self.“

Hiccup was silent for a minute, unsure of what to say about his old friend's words. It was even harder, when he returned his gaze with a sad smile.

“Ya know, that I had to keep up the act, so our people wouldn't start doubting Berk's and Hranafall's connection. But it hurt me deeply to go through with everything. I hope, that ya know that.“

The young chief did not know, what he should say about that – sure, he knew that Gobber knew exactly, how to please everybody around him by saying the right words and doing the right things. But now – with the whole matter of marriage – he had even fooled his own friend, letting the young Viking think, that Gobber was even more looking forward to this connection, than his new father-in-law himself.

And this startled him more, than he could tell right now.

But at the same time, he understood Gobber's reasoning behind it, and was somewhat relieved, that he had somebody, who calmed his people, when he hadn't been able to do so.

“I know that. Or at least, I know it now. Thank you...“ He mumbled and was absolutely honest about it.

Just before a wave of sentimentality could take over the two Vikings, Gobber noticed somebody out of the corner of his eyes, and when the old smith noticed the nervous group, that stood by the entrance, he nodded over to them with his head, for Hiccup to notice his friends, too.

“Looks like they are waiting for ya. And I have somehow the feeling, that it has to do with the dearest wife of yers. Well lad, good luck with that...“

And before Gobber could say any more, or Hiccup could ask him, why he thought, that this sudden appearance had something to do with Astrid, the older Viking had turned around and left, to speak with a few older men by another table.

Therefore Hiccup had no other option left, but to walk over to his friends, who really seemed to be waiting for him.

But before he could greet them, Eret spoke up:

“We have a small problem...“

“A small problem?“ Hiccup asked, raising his eyebrows “What do you consider to be a 'small problem'?“

“We can't find Astrid...“ Fishlegs stated, shaking a little.

Hiccup shrugged casually, not yet seeing any problem in it.

“The midwife wanted her to be at the birth of Mathalda's child. It is some kind of blessing, if the chieftess attends it – and since we now have a chieftess, again, they wanted Astrid to be there. I don't see a problem with that. Especially since she somewhat went there without complaining and on her own.“

“Ah...that might be the problem...“ Snotlout said nervously.

The young chief gulped, somewhat sensing, that this conversation took a turn for the worse.

“Oh Thor...what did she do?“

“Nothing!“ Tuffnut answered.

“Nothing – yet!“ Ruffnut added.

“We found her, just when she was about to leave Mathalda's house, looking a bit too frustrated and we tried to convince her to finally get to know Berk better.“ Eret explained to the still oblivious chief “But somewhere between fetching herself a new axe and disappearing in the forest we have lost her...“

Chapter Text

Their Argument

It had been a long and horrible day! Like down right terrible and tremendous and awful! Astrid couldn't describe it differently.

And what had she been thinking, when she had agreed on coming along with the midwife to attend the birth of a new child – just to be there as a blessing?!

Yeah – the young woman had every now and then seen a baby, being held by their mother or father. And she had heard, that a birth was pretty painful for the mother. But she had never expected it to be like...that...

Sure, all that Astrid had to do, was to sit calmly by this Mathalda's site, holding her hand, which at first had seemed like a pretty easy job. But once the contractions hit the woman again, it was clear, how exactly painful it was for a woman to bear a child. Also for the one, who was holding hands – like what Astrid had done the past few hours. And yet, her hands still felt as if it was falling off just every second and nothing really seemed to help with its pain.

 

Then - after a few hours of this agony, pain and screaming – the midwife happily announced, that she could see the little ones head. Somewhere hidden between Mathalda's legs and thankfully enough also hidden from Astrid's view. And yet this thought alone made Astrid cringe deeply.

Suddenly everything went so fast:

The mother had to push now, squeezing Astrid's hand even more in the process – now with both of her hands – while screaming and pushing until suddenly – her oh so large belly dropped a little and while Mathalda's face returned a little to its relaxed status, a loud and annoying crying echoed through the air.

The baby was there! And the midwife announced, that it was yet another healthy boy. A brother, for the two other siblings, that were waiting downstairs with their father.

Astrid did not know, why her heart was beating insanely in her chest, while she now felt drops of cold sweat on her forehead, as she was looking at the small, bloody bundle on the midwife's arms, which she laid on the mother's chest.

And strangely enough she had a very content smile on her lips, talking with the small one in hushed voices and kissing its messy cheek. It cooed happily back.

“My chieftess...“ the midwife said, touching her shoulder lightly and startling Astrid, as she did so. Then she handed her a small knife and the young woman looked in shock at the older woman in front of her. “...you need to cut the umbilical cord.“

“The what?!“

Astrid was still too confused about this whole ordeal, since she had never expected a birth to be...like that!

“The umbilical cord, Chieftess Astrid. There...“ The midwife repeated calmly, and pointed at a strange, fleshy rope-like thing, that still hang from the baby's belly button.

Sure – Astrid had nothing to do with babies and being a mother was of limits at any time soon. But...could she really hurt this small one?!

The older woman next to her nodded reassuringly and Astrid finally moved her hands forward, while the mother laid the small one in such a position, that it would be easy for her, to cut through the cord.

“A little higher. Yes, there you go...“ The midwife said, commenting the way Astrid had to hold the knife.

And then – she closed her eyes, cutting through it without touching it and...the small one only grunted a little about that.

And Astrid...she nearly felt like fainting!

“Excellent! Mathalda – now give her the small one for its blessing!“

And before Astrid could say something about it, she had it on her arms herself! The small one! Still very naked and bloody and smelling strangely. Cuddling into her chest slightly.

She could only stare at it with big eyes. With heavy breathing and a heart, that didn't seem to take a break from its hurry.

“You may now bless the child. In Thor's and Freya's name...“ the midwife whispered, probably sensing, that Astrid had never in her life done something like that before.

“I-I...“ the young woman said faintly, still staring at the small one, as if it was some abnormality, that didn't belong on Midgart. It felt so strange to have a new life on her hands – hands which she usually had used to kill men and dragons. But now she had been witness to this strange thing, everybody called the 'wonder of life'. And somewhere deep inside of her, the young woman understood, why everybody called it that. Yet – on the other hand – the thought horrified her, seeing herself in this position that Mathalda had been the past few hours with all the pushing and screaming and agonizing pain. Which probably was a pain, that no warrior would withstand, no matter how hard they were trained. And that only, because she had to press a baby out of her-

That was the moment, when everything around her had turned the darkest black, only that she found herself a few moments later on the floor next to Mathala's bed. Thankfully enough the midwife had sensed, what was about to happen to the chieftess and took the small one from Astrid's arms and giving it back to the mother, before it would have landed on top of her.

“My Chieftess?“ The Midwife faintly said, laying a wet, cold cloth on Astrid's forehead, until she woke back up again. “You don't look too well... And you also feel very hot. You should lay down at home and take a nap. Shall I send somebody for Gothi and your husband to inform them?“

Astrid pushed herself up a little, still quite unsure of where she was, since her consciousness hasn't yet returned completely. But she soon noticed the older woman above her, still speaking to her in hushed voices, while Mathalda with the small one in her arms looked worriedly at her.

“I need some fresh air...“ Astrid only mumbled, looking once again with big eyes at the small, fuzzy head, that now fed on the mother's chest, which made the chieftess nearly faint, again.

“Of course! And don't worry about the blessing...“ The midwife said, before Mathalda added: “We will come to you once you feel better! You now should care for yourself...“

Astrid only nodded to that, before she got up – with a little help from the midwife – and to leave the room, walking down the stairs, past the hurried questions of Mathalda's two other children and husband and out of the house.

Only to bump into a few familiar faces, which just has past by the house.

It were Hiccup's friends, which already seemed to be looking for her. They quickly cheered, that they had finally found her, and if she didn't want to come with them, to get to know Berk a little better, only to later meet up with Hiccup in the Great Hall.

But she refused, only walking past them in hurry – taking an old-looking axe, that some fellow Viking had rammed into the wall of a building for good measure. And they had been following her, wondering out loud, why she wasn't answering them, and asking where she would go.

The young chieftess had only fastened her steps, hurried around house corners and behind trading stalls, only to finally loose them, just when she had entered the forest by the village, with the trees and bushes concealing her every way.

And she was finally alone.

With only the occasional chirping of birds and the roaring of wild dragons.

Finally she was able to train a little – to get rid of the past days frustration and to distract her thoughts about the birth and the still very aching scar on her leg. And with the big forest around her, there surely would nobody say something, when she would kill a few trees. Sure – she still wasn't allowed to be armed on Berk. At least Hiccup hadn't yet lifted his ban for that. But... for now she wouldn't use it on any dragon – as long as they were not attacking her!

Meanwhile Hiccup had a very, very bad feeling about all of it. He knew, that Astrid tended to be a bit overreaction from now and then. Especially when she wasn't used to something in particular. And probably it hadn't been the best idea to attend a child's birth – even though it had been her idea to go with the midwife to be there, in there first place.

So, while the clouds above his head got darker and darker with every passing minute and the wind blew even harder around his body and the wings of his dragon, he only had eyes for the forest down below. After all – who knew, what Astrid was up to, not that she got herself an axe once again and was all alone and could to with it whatever she wanted, since nobody was watching her.

And somewhere in his mind he thought, she would go and search for an unsuspecting, poor dragon, to still her blood thirst and to get rid of any redeemable, dark thoughts.

“Hey Boss!“ Hiccup could suddenly hear Eret, who's dragon seemed to be nervous all the sudden, while facing the ground below. “I think we have found her!“

The young chief's eyes followed the direction that his friend was pointing to, seeing a path of destruction with destroyed bushes and chopped down trees. Something, that no dragon would do, but probably a very angry young Valkyrie.

“Alright – she shouldn't be far ahead!“

For a few minutes both riders followed the part of destruction, until suddenly -

A couple of Typhoomerangs burst through the thicket of trees – crying horribly and hunting past the two riders, only to disappear in the distance.

Though being very startled by that, Hiccup still could catch a glimpse of tuft of blonde hair and the shimmer of a battle axe.

It had to be her!

“Toothless!“ He commanded, letting his reliable dragon decent in hurry, making him reach out for her with his two front claws and snatching the young woman off of the ground, before she could have jumped away from his reach.

“What in Hel's name-“ Hiccup could hear Astrid's voice coming from underneath, knowing, that they have trapped her.

And while the young woman was trashing around, screaming and cursing at the sudden captivity, Hiccup shouted over to his friend:

“Get the others and find the Typhoomerangs! Make sure, that you take care of them and of any possible wounds she might have inflicted on them!“

Eret nodded, before he turned his trustworthy Skullcrusher around, so they could find the other riders, who were searching for Astrid as well.

Still flying on the spot (with an already very angry Astrid) Hiccup looked for some time after his friend, unsure of how to deal this situation, that the young woman got herself into – being well aware of the rules she had broken: First of all carrying around a weapon when he still hasn't her allowed it to do so and secondly – which was worse – probably hurting a dragon. Or two for that fact.

And this thought alone made Hiccup's blood boil with anger and grit his teeth.

“Home!“ He only demanded, knowing, that he had to do something against his so called 'wife' that had thrown away his trust, just because she still followed a protocol, that her toxic mother had given her. Making him feel stupid, because he honestly had cared for her and for trying to find a place for her on Berk.

Soon they arrived the Haddock house and while still being in air, Toothless let go of Astrid, who landed right in front of the back door. Standing, though being a little wobbly on her legs. And the black dragon with its rider landed, with Hiccup swinging his legs off of his scaled friend in hurry.

“What has gotten to your damned mind! You can't just hoist somebody up in the air without their compliance! And – why in Hel are you looking so mad?! It is me who should be mad and-“

“Oh can't you just shut up for a minute! You are behaving as if I have been the one, who had done something wrong-“

“Something wrong?! Oh no – I have done nothing wrong and now let me get back into the forest! I am not done with my training and-“

“With hurting dragons?!“

Astrid tried to hurry past the young chief, who only had his eyes on her, judging every move she made. And he knew exactly, that she wanted to jump past him and probably hurry back into the depths of the forest behind them.

But it was him, who made the next step:

Before she had the possibility to get past him, he grabbed her in hurry by the waist and lifted her up, to lay her over his shoulder to carry her inside of the house. Of course she cursed because of this once again, kicking his chest, while madly beating his back, while the poor Toothless only waddled behind them, being a little confused about this situation and the strange behavior of his owner and his woman. And the poor dragon could smell the Adrenalin, coming from both young Vikings, which irritated him even more, very well knowing, that...Astrid hadn't done something wrong.

With ease Hiccup set her back on the ground in the middle of the kitchen, standing now directly in front of her, though he wasn't able to clearly see her, since it was slowly getting darker and darker outside. Then he looked back towards both doors, to make sure, that they were closed, so their people wouldn't be able to hear the argument and discussions that had been forming between them. With tension so thick, that they could easily cut through it with a knife.

“You-“ Astrid said, once she had regained her power and breath, after the previous rant, when she had laid over Hiccup's shoulder. “-were kidnapping me with your winged lap-dog over there, thinking I have hurt a dragon?!“

“Sure you did! What else would a girl from the Hunter Tribe do, when things were not going her way? When she feels frustrated and wasn't able to channel her anger and wrath these past days?!“

“Oh in Thor's name!“ Astrid exclaimed, just as angry as he was and even rolled her eyes at that “Can you just please for once stop thinking about these creatures! Because that is all that you can do and-“

“All that I can do?! Oh excuse me, that I have feelings and care about the creatures and people around me! Would be nice, if you do that, too and don't just chop through everything, that isn't at the count of ten hidden behind the next tree!“

“What are you saying – that I don't have feels?!“

Astrid felt like she wanted to hit this idiot straight into his face! How could he dare to speak like that about her?! He didn't even know her and couldn't know, what she went through, when she was younger! He couldn't know the hard work, that she had to endure to become the warrior she was now! And he couldn't know, that she had always tried to hide her feelings, so it wouldn't be her who would get hurt in the end, because she knew, that fairy tale endings were never real, and that she never had a chance to find herself a perfect suitor, given, that her parents had always different plans fro her.

Hiccup on the other hand felt the anger just as strong gripping his heart, as it was gripping hers, feeling betrayed from the previous trust he had given her. Feeling dumb, because he thought, that he was finally able to change her, too. Being fooled from her pretty face and the nice words that had left her lips.

It was a faint knock, that tried to interrupt the tension between the two young Vikings, but nobody of them allowed the door to be opened.

And yet, just before they raised their voices again, it softly creaked open, with familiar faces looking inside with fear, before their five friends dared to enter, with their dragons still waiting outside. But it nonetheless stopped them from screaming at the other again, feeling like they were now able, to get rid of their hidden thoughts:

“You know what, you muttonheaded idiot – it would have been easier, if you just have went through with it!“

“With what – following my 'responsibilities' as your stupid husband, so you could have slashed me open with that stupid little knife of yours?! To make your make your toxic mommy proud?“ Hiccup shouted.

“Well – at least you would have been dead now and you wouldn't waste my time any longer! Because – let's face it: Fuck you! And fuck Berk! And your stupid little friends over there! And your stupid little dragons! How could I have thought, that this-“ Astrid pointed between herself and Hiccup in this very moment “-would have worked. Oh yes – I know! Because you lured me into thinking that we were doing this for our tribes! So you could lull me into believing you! Into trusting you! So I would be submissive to you, once nobody was watching anymore! So you could care for your stupid heir – because you don't seem to be able to find a wife on your own!“

“Oh – are we talking like that now!“

“Yes – we are talking like that now! And don't you dare to put your foot down, just because you are the chief or my 'husband'!“ She mockingly spit the last word, as if it was the worst insult of them all.

“Oh – now you know what?! Then fuck this marriage! Get back to mommy and daddy to Hranafall and cry about how bad of an husband I am! Because – you know what – I don't care! I don't even want you here and Berk or in my house! I don't even want you was my wife and I can't even think about a clear-thinking individual on Midgard and beyond, that would gladly take you as their wife! Because who would want you to be next to them anyway?! I mean – even your people were glad, that you left their tribe and-“

That was the moment when she had enough – slapping him square across the face with her hand, leaving a dark red mark on his cheek, gasping people behind them and a softly cooing Toothless next to them.

“Well...if that's your opinion, then it would be the best option to leave!“ Astrid said, nearly in a whisper, feeling hurt by the words, that had left Hiccup's lips. And it wasn't helping either, that the scar on her leg was calling for her attention by stinging painfully and she felt, as if some blood was coming from it, leaving an imprint on the outside of her leggings.

Also – why was it all the sudden so hot in this room and she felt a little dizzy.

But she didn't want him to notice it. Especially now.

And yet she had a little hoped – deep down inside her heart – that his words were not the truth and that it was some anger, that was arousing him so much, that he was speaking with her like that. That there still was that kindness, that she dared to like more and more with each passing day.

“Then it is for the best...“ He mumbled, feeling also hot from the argument with her, while turning around, so he didn't need to face her anymore. After all – there were suddenly some regrets that gripped at his heart, knowing that there was much of his stubbornness that had contributed to his words. “Take everything you need and take the next boat you want.... Finally I can have my bed back. And the house is mine, and mine only... And I will write your father as soon as possible...“

Astrid felt, as if she needed to say something about it. Do something.

But all she could do, was clenching her fists tightly, breathing heavily, before she nodded.

“Fine. Then you are free – again!“

“And so are you...“

And with that she had left, storming out of the Haddock house and down to the docks, in hope to find a boat, that she could handle on her own and that would her bring back to her home as fast as possible.

That a lightning crashed through the clouds high above her head didn't matter, as were the more and more forming regrets in Hiccup's heart and the need to follow her, before she would do something, that no words could take back...

Chapter Text

Oh Astrid knew, that it probably was the worst idea of going on the sea this late, while a storm was about to reach the archipelago completely. All on her own. Yet she wanted nothing more but to get away from this damned place, that didn't even want to be here in the first place and who's muttonheaded chief judged about a offense she didn't even commit in the first place!

No – it hadn't been on her mind to harm one of his beloved dragons! And it wasn't her fault, that she surprised a few sleeping Typhoomerangs, when she threw her axe at a tree they were sleeping next to!

But how would he know?! His stubbornness made him blind and unable to realize, that he was wrong all along!

When the first rain began to fall from the skies above, she finally found a small, but steady looking fishing boat – which even looked as if it still had a few baskets of fish on deck! This would surely be enough to get her back to Hranafall! Back to her parents, in hope, that they would welcome her back with opened arms.

Knowing, that she was the reason, that the previously signed contract was probably now declared as invalid, a silent tear left her eyes. She already knew, that her father wouldn't be all too happy about it, while her mother would just state, that she was right about Hiccup.

And yet it was the young chief himself, who stared at the still opened door, wondering, what he had done to the young woman. About all the bad things he had said. Sure – her cursing wasn't good, either, but...had he given her another choice? And judging by his friends looks and the still sad cooing of his winged friend, he knew, that this hadn't been his most shining moment.

Trying to calm his conciseness, Hiccup patted the top of Toothless's head with care, trying to smile confidently at the dragon. Yet, it felt quite strange, that his trusty friend hadn't stepped in when she had hit him, like he had normally done.

“Well...she is gone now buddy and won't ever hurt a dragon on this island, again!“

“...ehr...Hiccup?“ Fishlegs carefully raised his voice, still feeling a little scared from the argument that went between the two young Vikings and of which he and the others were witnesses from.

“Yeah...H?“ Tuffnut mumbled, unsure of what to say, before he faced the gang and whispered: „I don't want to be the one, who tells him the news...“

“What “news”?“ Hiccup still asked, now finally looking over to his friends, though he was aware of them from the very beginning, when they had entered to house. And their nervous glances didn't make him feel better, either.

“Okay, we know, that that little stubborn brain of yours likes to think every now and then that it is right, right?“ Snotlout said in a hurry, before it was Eret who added:

“You know – the Typhoomerangs – they were not hurt! They didn't even have a scratch on them and just did seem to be a little surprised by something. And we tracked back to were we found Astrid and-“

“And you are a total idiot. Astrid was right!“ Ruffnut now said, laying her hands on her hips.

“We assume that she just scared them, when she killed one of the trees, they had their sleeping place next to it.“ Fishlegs now finally finished, making Hiccup stumble back at this revelation and making him feel like a real muttonhead.

“You mean...“ He mumbled, while the room suddenly started to spin around him madly “..., that she wasn't trying to kill them? And that I have been accusing her for the wrong reasons? Why haven't you told me, before I have been sending her off! No wonder her mother likes to see me dead!“ He knew, that he shouldn't talk about Ljóda like that, but right now it didn't matter and he guessed, that his friends had already notices a certain tension between him and his mother-in-law.

“You guys were shouting at each other!“ Ruffnut said, lifting one finger, as if she wanted to count and added yet another, when her brother said:

“And you both were saying horrible things to the other.“

“And you were using bad words!“ Snotlout finally said, making Ruffnut hold three fingers up into the air.

In frustration Hiccup combed through his already disheveled hair with his fingers, starting to pace around in the room and thinking about a way, to apologize to the young woman for his wrong-being.

“Oh Thor, what have I done?! We were just on the right way of including her on the village and my stupidity scared her off! Why can't I just shut up for a moment?!“

“Yeah...that is one thing I am asking myself ever since you were born...“ Snotlout mumbled more to himself, although he was the younger one of the two of them.

That was the moment when yet another lightning crashed through the clouds, enlightening the earth underneath, while Hiccup was finally able to see the drumming rain for a moment.

Yes – Gothi had been right the week before. A heavy storm definitely had reached Berk and nobody should be outside in such a weather, especially when they don't know-

Hiccup's eyes widened immediately, knowing very well, who was outside right now and probably worse – trying to escape the island by boat or ship!

And it was his fault all alone!

“Astrid...“ He whispered, while fear gripped his heart and he immediately gestured for Toothless to come and follow him. They had to find her after all! And bring her back to safety! Yeah, sure, she would be absolutely mad at him – he was that himself – but at least she would be sheltered from the storm and could leave, when it had gone away!

“We need to find her! Riders – on your dragons!“

“Are you sure, that she is doing something stupid?!“ Snotlout shouted, while they were already storming outside into the rain and mounting their dragons.

“Yeah...she also could have gone to the Great Hall! Or in the arena! Or anywhere else!“ Fishlegs added, making Hiccup consider this for a few moments, before he nodded slowly.

“Okay – you guys search there and if you don't find her there, then return here so we can further discuss possible methods of finding her and...keeping her here. Eret-“ He looked over to his tall friend, who already sat on the Rumblehorn and nodded, once he heard his name “...we will search the sea, as far as it is possible. Sure – it is not something 'stupid' that she might have done. But something short-sighted might be doable for Astrid, especially when she is fueled by anger. And lets face it – I would be utterly angry, if somebody would have said to me the things I have said... Maybe we have a chance, that Skullcrusher can still track her despite the storm!“

And he really hoped, that they would find her, though Astrid really wasn't aware of the sorrow, that her disappearance caused the young chief. All she wanted was to get away fast from this damned island, that gave her some reluctant feelings. Sure – she had thought, that some of them might have cared about her and the ways she felt alone on this all new island. But that had been probably one big fraud, so they could lull her into believing, that she was actually accepted. That she wasn't just a birth machine for their new heir.

But for now she had bigger problems to face – and those were the monstrous storm around her, the unmanageable wind from the South and the lightning and thunder from above. And of course the ever bigger getting waves from underneath.

Sure – her father had shown her how to handle boats like this one, also in some similar weather. Though....there surely was some difference between lessons with her father and well...this!

And not to mention that she wasn't feeling all too well – she knew, that her body temperature had risen in the past for hours enormously and was nearly unbearable, while the seam of her scar felt as if it torn, leaving her now with a gaping wound. She knew, that she had to find a doctor fast – but her will to return to Hranafall was yet stronger.

That was the moment when a dragon roar echoed from behind her, and turning around she could make out two of them – flying directly into her direction. And of what it looked like (at least when a lightning illuminated the sky for a minute) they had two riders on her back.

Could it be-

That was the moment when everything around her turned dark and quite.

Hiccup on the other hand had just seen the small boat, not far away from Berk's shores. And he knew that only somebody as angry as Astrid would have been able to row outside here to escape.

But that was the moment, when he saw a small shadow on the small deck of the boat, that suddenly tumbled over the the boat's railing, and into the water.

“Was that Astrid?!“ He could Eret hear, just with as much concern in his voice, as he felt in this very moment.

“I-I don't know!“ He mumbled, but yet spurring Toothless on to fly faster and to land on the deck of the abandoned boat.

His heart was beating faster, feeling, that Astrid surely wouldn't like to take a swim in this very moment and with this horrible storm around them.

There surely was more to it and before he knew it, he left his trusty dragon friend behind, jumping down from the boat and straight into the depths of the black water underneath. Thankfully enough yet another lightning lightened the water up a little – for Hiccup to see Astrid's slim frame descending more and more with each passing moment.

Without thinking he swam after her, hurried, to grab her before it was too late. With the coldness unbearable on his skin. And the water crawling underneath his armor. And the darkness making it nearly impossible to see her.

So all he did was swimming down as fast as he could, with his arms outstretched in hope, that he soon had caught up with her.

And soon, with kicking the water and holding back his breath as best as he could, he reached her, holding onto her wrist, before she was yet again out of his reach. Gripping her with all the power, that he could muster. Absolutely not letting go.

So he pulled her back up again, making it harder now with the extra weight he had to carry. But thankfully enough he soon broke through the surface and found the wall of the small fishing boat, before it was Toothless' tail, that hoisted them up and onto the small deck.

Hiccup could barely make out her face, but soon enough noticed her unbearable heat, that radiated from her skin. He instantly knew, that there was more to her fainting, that her had first thought.

But worse – even worse then the unbreakable wall of rain around him and the drumming of thunder from above – was the fact, that she still didn't take a gasp for breath!

Before he could answer the uncertain calls from his friend, who was still waiting on his dragon above of them, he laid her down on the deck, laying his ear on her chest, close to the spot were her heart should be.

And though the beating of his own heart made it nearly impossible to hear something around him, he still could make out the faint sound of hers.

„Oh Thor...“ he mumbled, before he reached with one shaking hand for her nose, pinching it closed, before he laid his lips on hers, to get some air into her lungs.

He repeated this a few times, pleading to the gods for her to finally take her first breath again, while every passing second made it harder and harder to focus on this task.

“Come on!“ He mumbled, still not answering Eret, who waited just as impatiently.

The young chief listened again to her heart, feeling more and more helpless about this situation, when she suddenly jolted, water coming gurgeling from her lips.

Finally!

“She is alive!“ He finally shouted to his fellow dragon rider, though he knew, that he needed to be fast now, with her ever rising heat and the storm, that still became more and more dangerous.

He hooked on arm under her legs and the other one under her back, lifting her with ease up into his arms and holding her close to his body.

“Let's get you home...“ he mumbled, crawling back onto the back of the black dragon, making him soar back up into the air and leaving the small boat behind.

“What's wrong with her?!“ The young chief could make out his friend's voice, as they neared Berk once again. “Shouldn't she be awake...and maybe trashing around for taking her back towards the village?!“

“She is ill! I need to take care of her!“

It was a difficult task to fly and to hold on this young woman, but they – both Hiccup and Toothless – eventually managed it pretty well and soon arrived the Haddock House.

Thankfully enough the door opened for them, with their friends already waiting for the two riders and their dragons.

Their faces filled with sorrow immediately when they saw the young woman in Hiccup's arms and the pained face of their chief.

“What is with her?!“ They asked and: “What has happened?!“

Hiccup couldn't answer them, yet, already storming past them and past the fire they have made for them to warm themselves there. Sure Astrid needed some warmth – but she needed to be in bed right now and a healer to look over her!

He reached the stairs to go upwards, but stopped for a second to order:

“Somebody get Gothi over here as fast as possible! And there by the fire are some furs and blankets! Get them up to the bed! And Ruffnut-“

“...yeah?“

“Follow me! I need you!“

Before could ask for his motives, he was already gone, sprinting right through the bedroom door to lay the young woman down onto the bed.

His heart was beating madly in his chest and the world was turning around him. This...felt so surreal! Especially the fear that had taken over his body. A fear for loosing her...

With shaking and wet fingers he reached inside of the small night stand by the bed, searching for something small.

Eventually he found it – being very small but laid good in his hand. It was filled with Monstrous Nightmare Gel and could be used with ease to make a small fire. And with that he enlightened the candle, that was on top of the night stand to get some light.

And what he was shocked him:

She was unbelievable pale and had dark shadows underneath her eyes. Her breathing came out in small puffs, while her chest only rose and lowered itself slightly.

It was strange to see this beautiful, strong warrior in such a weak and helpless state. And made him feel with regret, that this was probably his fault all along!

“Hiccup...?“ Ruffnut suddenly mumbled, unsure what to say in such a strange situation.

But the young chief couldn't answer her and before the blonde Viking knew, what was happening, he lifted a little her skirt up and – before he could reach for the leggings underneath – he already saw the bloody imprint, that had soaked through her clothing.

He knew it!

With care he pulled at he clothing a little, only so, that the scar underneath was visible to them.

“Oh wow!“ He heard his friend behind him. “What is that?!“

Hiccup gulped, upon seeing the festering wound that and he let go of her cloths to cover her up again.

“That is the reason we need Gothi here immediately...“

He should have known! He should have known, that somebody specialized as the older woman was, should have taken care about Astrid's scar! Not him! He only knew how to sew leather together! But not skin!

“Ruffnut...“ he mumbled, stepping back a little „...can you undress her? We need to get her out of the wet cloths!“

“Wait?! Make her naked?!“ Snotlout suddenly squealed, as he and Tuffnut had reached the bedroom with piles of blankets and furs on their arms. “I can assist!“

“Oh can you just be mature for once!“ Hiccup grumbled, going over to one of the wooden wardrobes and taking out a old tunic and threw it towards his female friend. “Then put her that back on and put her underneath the blankets and furs, so she can stay warm!“

“Why do I need to do stuff like that?!“ Ruffnut asked, sounding a little annoyed, though some sorrow still shone through her voice.

“Because you are the only woman apart from her in this house and lets face it – once she gets better and hears, that I have been the one, who undressed her and saw her naked, she might try to get yet another axe and use it on me...“

“Or I might be actually...thankful...“ A weak voice suddenly whispered, startling the four other Vikings, who were still in this room. It was Astrid, who had pushed herself up a little to see them better. Her long, blonde hair clinged on the skin of her face, shoulder and arms, while her clothing seemed to be just as wet. Her eyes were very clouded and she had a few problems to keep them opened. And yet there was a small smile that lined her lips.

And it was Hiccup who immediately hurried back towards the bed, kneeling next to it.

“You are weak, Astrid...Just lay down. Gothi will be here any minute...“

“Now that is one...compliment that will get you...an axe thrown straight towards your head...“

“She absolutely looks fine to me!“ Tuffnut said upon hearing that threat aimed towards Hiccup. But thankfully enough it was his sister, who hit him straight into the stomach and earned him an evil eye of the other three.

“You know, what I mean...“ Hiccup said, looking back towards the young woman, that had laid herself back on the bed and now looked up to him with her clouded eyes. He even dared to stroke back a strand of her wet hair behind her ear.

“And I know...“ She whispered, flinching a little when she moved her legs „That it probably wasn't my smartest idea...to flee during such a...storm...“

“With a very infected wound...“ He added, while his hands were drawn towards hers in a strange, affectionate manner. Holding onto it tightly and feeling the coolness from the water and the heat from her skin underneath. And it didn't even matter to him, that his flight suit was just as wet, as was his skin underneath. And that he slowly began to freeze because of it. But for now, he had different things in his mind.

But it was to his surprise – she smiled about his last words. It was a faint smile, but it nonetheless looked very beautiful on her, that made his heart skip a beat.

“Looks like you are not the only stubborn person in this house...“

“Well – if that isn't a match made by the gods!“ Ruffnut uttered behind them, but they ignored her.

“Yeah...look...Astrid, I am most sor-“

“If you dare to tell me now, that you are sorry, then I think of another torture method, Haddock!“ She hissed weakly.

“Okay, okay! I understand – we were both not very mature back there. Especially me, if I can say so...“ Hiccup said, feeling that his heart went slower not, that he saw, that she still was the same. Especially when she rolled her eyes at that.

“You really...like to hear yourself speaking, don't you?“

“Oh – that is my most unique trait! If you stay here, you will come to like it!“

”'If?'“

“Well...you know...“ He blushed a little at that “..., if you still want to go through with the agreement...After all that I have said...“

“We can try...“

Now it was him, who smiled, especially when he noticed, that it didn't even took her a second to think about that answer. And that she returned the pressure on his hands with her weak fingers.

“Or how about...“ Hiccup mumbled a little quieter this time “...I will eventually teach you how to fly, once you feel better, so can leave Berk whenever you like...“

For a few moments Astrid only breathed in and out, watching the young dragon rider with an uncertain look on her face. And then – may it be luck or her bad condition – she answered:

“Okay...teach me this...Dragon Riding!“

Hiccup grinned a little wider at that, while it were his three friends behind him, that cheered on that.

“Is that an agreement, then?“

She nodded, before a silent knock interrupted the happy mood for a moment and once they had turned around, they could see Gothi, who had finally arrived at the house to take care of Astrid.

With a grim nod she gestured for the three men to go outside and Ruffnut rolled her eyes in annoyance, noticing, that she had to stay there – probably for the still very obvious problem of undressing the young woman on the bed.

While Hiccup finally let go of the young woman's hand and stood up, she said with a faint voice:

“Yes...it is an agreement...“

“Alright...“

Gothi on the other hand wasn't very happy about the situation, that the men still hadn't left and tapped her cane three times with harsh force on the ground, until they hurried away and closed the door behind them.

This revelation – of Astrid's well-being and her changing behavior – made Hiccup very pleased and content and he couldn't help the smile, that still was very present on his features.

And it was his cousin, who noticed this, too:

“So, when exactly have you fallen for Astrid?“

Chapter Text

Her first Lesson

It had been a few, strenuous weeks. For both of them – for Hiccup and Astrid. Sure, it had been Hiccup, who had to constantly answer questions about the chieftess' well-being and if she would soon get better – which was each and every day quite annoying. But it was the young woman herself, who had to endure the illness she had herself gotten into. She knew, that if she had said something early about the state of her wound, then it wouldn't have become this bad and she wouldn't have nearly drowned in the depths of the sea. She she wouldn't feel like crap for these past weeks – that was for sure.

The high fever made her stay in bed during days and nights for the first week, being far too high to actually think straight or to do anything else but sleeping. Every now and then Hiccup came by to wake her gently up, so she could drink something or to give her that awful medicine, that Gothi had made for her. But she just felt too weak, to actually say something against it – for she couldn't even focus on Hiccup's face when he was by her side.

And yet it somehow felt so...good to have him there. Next to her and taking care of her. In the worst moments even holding her hand to get her through it. She had never before witnessed something like that! Well...she never before had been so sick...

But still – no suitor from Hranafall, who had stated, that he was absolutely and madly in love with her, would have done something like that – waiting, until she felt better. Not being patient at all. Sure – they all had loved to give her wonderful presents, from weapons to exquisite armors, or the head of a rare dragon (which she would never ask for in the first place). But Hiccup gave her something more special – more needed – he gave her his time.

And maybe it had been Hiccup himself, that made her feel better sooner than expected. And she promised herself – though she knew, that the things they had said during that night still hung in the air and needed to be resolved – that for now she would return his kindness and would try her best to pay him this back. Not because she wanted to make her father proud. And not because deep down in her brain she wanted to prove, that her mother had been oh so wrong about men. And of course not for her people, since they only knew their little acting game anyway. But just because she wanted to. After all – it just felt so right... And why not for once do something she actually believed was the best thing to do? For herself...?

And then there may be even his friends, who every now and then visited her, asking about her condition and when she would be up again. Talking with her, when Hiccup had due to his duties no time and made her feel just as welcomed. And though she wouldn't admit it in that moment – she kind of liked it, that they seemed to care about her and somehow understood, why 'having friends' might not be the worse things to have. And maybe the best thing – they did it not just because she was the daughter of Hranafall's chief, or because her mother would eye everybody dangerously, if they wouldn't do that. Not even because she was Hiccup's 'wife' and their chieftess.

But just because they actually and genuinely seemed to like something about her. And maybe not even 'some thing' – but actually herself!

So when the days came, that she was finally able to sit up again, and to eat something proper, she was more aware of the visits, the people gave them – even when she still had been in bed. Some of Berk's people, who wanted to talk to her and even told her, that they have prayed to the gods, that she soon would be better.

Sure – it felt a little strange, not to be seen as the warrior she actually was, while she sat there by the fireplace in the kitchen in a few, loose clothes, but she knew, that she would return to her previous self soon enough. And by the way, that the people of Berk treated her, they seemed to know that, too.

Those were the days, when Astrid had forgotten her plans to leave Berk all along. Sure – she had an agreement with their chief, to wait and learn how to fly a dragon to return to Hranafall, but now she just felt too welcomed, to actually...think about it.

And one strange fact added up to that, too – It had only been her father, who have send her a letter these days. Not her mother, who had previously stated, that she had wanted Astrid to come back to their island as soon as possible. And that she would every now and then write her daughter a letter about her plans to achieve that.

But no...it had only been her father...

Yes – it had really been a strange sight, to see that small Terrible Terror in Hiccup's arms, who had the proudest smile she had ever seen on his lips. Saying, that the Terror Mail had been a success between their two tribes. That was the moment, when he told her, that he had already send her father a letter about her current state, and that he shouldn't worry, since she had getting better ever since the first day.

“And don't worry-“ Hiccup had said in that very moment, when a look of shock had emerged in her eyes “- I have written, that the scar on your leg came from a little accident you had during training in the forest. Just like I have told Gothi and the people on Berk.“

She was very glad, that he did that. Sure – nobody would ask questions then and would just assume, that she had been a little careless with her axe.

While she had thanked him for that, the young chief had sat the small dragon down on her leg, who had purred and had snuggled himself more into Astrid's belly for warmth and to lay comfortably.

And she didn't even know how to behave in such a strange situation and could only stare at the small creature, that seemingly had been exhausted by the flight from Hranafall to Berk.

With a helpless look she glanced at Hiccup, who merely smiled at that situation, while it had been Toothless, who had nudged his head against the small dragon, who then immediately had presented the letter for her – though he had been clearly annoyed by that.

Astrid really was amazed by that and wondered, how long it had taken the dragon to deliver this letter – for it surely and normally be around two weeks on the normal way and she made herself a note to try this Terror Mail herself one day, before she began to read the letter from her father:

'My dearest warrior princess and pride of Hranafall-' it said, clearly written in her father's terrible handwriting, which always was quite hard to read '- your mother and I have taken with tearful eyes notice of your condition and hope, that your husband Hiccup is doing everything, to make you feel better soon enough. Don't you worry – even the strongest warrior is not immune to illness and gives a chieftess some time to take a break from her duties. Don't you overestimate yourself, for our tribes need you back in good health!
You have been always so strong and no illness could bring you to your knees. I have seen bearlike men bow in agony because of a little cold. But not you! And I know, that you would gladly would jump around like a young yak in spring. But I really want you to take your time, since no one could replace the wonderful young woman you have become!
And for that I am sure you like to hear, that Hranafall is getting along with dragons quite well now. We have every now and then a few accidents, since these fantastic creatures are hard to handle – especially since we tried to eradicate them every now and then for hundreds of years. Don't tell that Hiccup – I really appreciate him as the good chief he is and don't want him to anger him because of that.
Also I dearly hope, that you take your time now and think about the whole perspective of dragon-riding. It not only make you stronger as the fighter you already are, but brings you closer to the people from Berk. And closer to your husband, you surely already started to love deeply.
As are we and we hope, that you visit us soon.

In love, your father and your mother – chief and chieftess of Hranafall.'

It had warmed her heart to read something like that and to realize, that the life on the Hunter Tribe's island just went on as smoothly as expected. Sure – she did not know, if this was a good sign, or not, but at least the whole aspect of working with this previously signed contract seemed to move Hranafall into the bright future, that her father had always wanted for their tribe. And knowing, that now no more deaths will occur due to dragon attacks made her feel very relieved.

And from that day, she hid that letter in the night stand next to the bed and whenever she felt like it, she read it, to make sure, that everything was fine. And to remind herself, that she was not only loved by them deeply, but also all she needed to do, to finally see her parents again, was to learn how to train a dragon, once she felt better.

And so came one particular strange day, that would from there always stay in her mind.

It was a day, were her fever wasn't all too high and on which she knew, that she would spend a day downstairs by the fireplace, to read a few books, that the people had given her. Something about the lore and traditions of Berk. Nothing, that her sometimes by fever clouded mind wouldn't comprehend, but still was easy enough to remember.

As soon as she had awaken from her deep, medicine induced sleep, she heard the steady footsteps of the young chief, climbing up the stairs towards the bedroom and with a soft knock, he announced, that he was there.

“You may enter!“ She answered, wrapping the blankets a little tighter around her, since she had a sleep dress out of linen on her, which she thought was quite inappropriate for Hiccup to see. Sure – she got used to him seeing her in a not so groomed state quite easily, but seeing her only in a night dress still felt a little...odd...

“Good morning, M'lady! I hope that you had a peaceful slumber and that you are feeling well today! On a scale from zero to ten – how good do you feel today?“

It was a strange and silly habit, that had started a few days ago, but one which she quickly started to like. She enjoyed to be greeted like that, especially since that one night...

“Five!“ She immediately answered “I don't think, that the fever is all to high today, but the scar is quite stinging. And I think, that my legs are quite weak today...“

“Well...“ He mumbled, placing a cup with water in her hands, which she drank, “...it is at least better than yesterday and the day before. And let me tell you something-“

“Oh, now I am a little afraid. Might change my state then back to eight!“ She said sarcastically, which made him laugh a little.

“Oh don't worry! It really is not bad. But, I need you to get out of bed...“

“Like right now?“

“Absolutely right now!“

With raised eyebrows she looked at him, sensing, that something was up. Like something big, that made him nearly jump up and down in joy, as it seemed.

She sighed a little annoyed about that, setting the now empty cup on the night stand next to her.

“Alright, Dragon Boy, then wait outside and let me get dressed, first.“

“Okay!“ He was immediately gone again, closing the door behind him and she knew, that he was waiting impatiently behind it.

She on the other hand slowly got up, silently cursing under her breath and holding onto her tight bandage, that held her new scar underneath. Yes – today really was a day, were it hurt a little more than the days before, but from what she had heard from Hiccup, it meant, that it only was healing up.

So she needed to make her way over to the shelf with very, very shaking legs, holding onto the side of the bed, or a nearby stool, so she wouldn't fall over, sitting down, to dress herself in a light tunic and some wide pants, that had belonged to Hiccup himself and worked quite well now to council her state.

Then she got back up again, combing her hair, until it laid smoothly over her shoulders, before she made her way over to the door, opening it and to reveal the young chief with the same big, tooth-gaped smile as before.

“Ready?“ He asked with excitement edging in his voice.

“Sure...“ She said, shrugging, before slowly trying to make her way down the stairs. Which was quite an annoying task in her current condition.

And Hiccup notices as well, that she wasn't very happy about it and decided to help her out.

Before the young woman knew, what exactly was happening, he had hooked one of his arms under her legs, laid the other on her back and he had lifted her up with ease, carrying her down the stairs and towards the backdoor.

“What do you think, are you doing here?“ She asked, nonetheless laying her arms on his shoulders, to give him better support on her body.

“Hey – are you complaining?!“

“Oh, why would I, you sassy muttonhead?!“

“Well, excuse me M'lady – it is not like I always carry a beautiful girl in my arms!“

“Are you saying, that I am beautiful?“

“Maybe?“

“Well, then be careful, because despite my current state, I am no damsel in distress and I would gladly show you that, by kicking your butt, once I can stand properly on both legs! Where are we going anyway?“

They were standing right now in front of the back door, before Astrid yet again stroke another thought:

“And were is Toothless, by the way?“

Normally the black dragon would be wide awake by this time of day, eating or playing in the kitchen and impatiently waiting for his rider to finally get outside of the house.

Also...was there a chair from the kitchen table missing?

“Well...“ Hiccup said, suddenly feeling very caught “...then close your eyes now.“

“Are we getting that childish now? Really?“

“Oh Astrid, could you please just for once do as I tell you?“

“Fine!“ She sighed with annoyance in her voice, closing her eyes tightly, while she felt him turn around, so he could push open the door with his back.

Sure – normally Astrid wouldn't have done something like that. Trusting him blindly. But ever since that day, things have changed between them. And not in a bad way.

First she was greeted by the warmth of early fall, with sun shining into her face and the distant chirping of birds. They were close to the forest after all.

And then, there was the screeching of dragons – two like it seemed, which came not from too away from them. Which – on a island full of these winged reptiles – was not such a strange thing.

Still with her eyes closed, Hiccup moved her on the chair, he had put outside before, making sure, that her eyes were still very closed.

And then he whistled in a strange way and she heard the stomping steps of those two creatures approaching, until they stopped right in front of them.

“Okay – Astrid?“ He asked, sounding still very excited. “Can you stretch out one arm – yeah – exactly like that. And bow your head a little down...“

“Bow my head? Why? I already have my eyes closed!“

“Just...do it, alright? With a little humbleness...“

She sighed, but did, as she was told. Holding out her arm in front of her and lowering her head, so her long, blonde hair was hanging around her like a drape.

“Wonderful...“ He mumbled and she heard his feet shuffle around a little until...

...something seemed to sniff her hand. It was a strange and exciting feeling for her and she had to grab the side of the seat, in fear that she would fall over.

And soon after – something touched her palm.

It was strangely warm and felt kind of rough. And smooth at the same time. It made her heart beat loud and fast and caught her breath in her throat.

“Open your eyes...“ He whispered softly and she did, as he had told her.

Her eyes feel into a big, scaled face, with a horn by its nostrils and sharp teeth escaping the pinkish gums. And big, yellow eyes, that hypnotized her immediately.

Eyes, which she recognized, since she once before had stared at them. In fury, while those have been filles with fear.

“It is...you...“ She whispered breathless, remembering the last encounter with this specific Deadly Nadder, for it had been not a good one.

The blue Nadder stepped back a little, now looking curiously at the young woman, examining her from one side to the other, sniffing at her hair, her face and even her feet. Flapping her wings and jumping around her, seemingly in joy.

And all Astrid could do, was to stare at the dragon, that had caught her attention, completely ignoring the young chief and his trusty, black friend, who stood next to them and watching them proudly.

Suddenly the Nadder stopped in its tracks, standing again in front of Astrid, but this time lowering herself a little and showing her its scaled side, screeching comfortingly at the young woman, that still stared in awe.

“Oh sorry, Stormfly, but I think Gothi might kill me, if I let her fly in this state!“

Disappointingly the dragon looked at the rider, who could only shrug at that, then sneered, before she ran back over to Toothless and immediately began to play with the black dragon again.

“Well...looks like she really was the first one, who could see your 'Rider Potential'...“ Hiccup mumbled, lowering himself on the ground, next to the chair on which Astrid still sat, to watch the play of the two dragons in front of him.

„She?“

“Well, of course dragons have genders, too. And Stormfly over there is a strong, beautiful dragon, that still hasn't found a rider, yet.“

“Yet...?“ Sure, normally Astrid was more eloquent, but that previous moment still stuck with her and she couldn't come out of the daze, that this encounter had gotten her into.

Hiccup nodded, for a moment looking over to the young woman by his side, before returning his gaze to the two winged reptiles in front of him.

“Back then, when you tried to...attack her with that axe, she wasn't trying to hurt you. She was checking you out, maybe figuring out beforehand, that the two of you are very alike. And that's why, I brought you here...“

“To get to know her?“

“Yeah...And right now, you don't seem to able to run away or to attack her -Ow!- Why did you hit me?!“

“Just because! Because I am not all that...hotheaded and furious!“

“Oh, do you want to tell me now, that I have been right?“

“With what exactly?“

Finally Astrid was able to tear her eyes off of the dragons in front of her, to look down to the young man by her side, raising her eyebrows at him and crossing her arms in front of her chest.

“You know-“ He said faintly, shrugging once more “-back then, when I have already said, that there is more to you, than one can see. I have been right with that! You are not all fighty and angry and full of wrath! There are actually feeling underneath that harsh shell and I think, that I am starting to like that new Astrid, that is coming through.“

Astrid did not know, what to say. Sure – she could have stated, that she also quite enjoyed this kind and caring side, that he showed her. A side, that made her feel warm and welcomed on Berk.

But she guessed, that this wasn't right now the right time for it.

Therefor she stood slowly up from the chair, moving it with shaky legs aside, so she could sit next to Hiccup on the ground.

Hiccup tried to hide his smile because of that, since he looked back towards their winged friends, which seemed to play some hide and seek game with the few trees close to them.

“Hiccup...“ she then said after some time, breaking the silence “...what exactly is up with Toothless' tail fin? I mean – sure – Ruffnut has already told me, that you did build him the mechanic one. But...why is it missing in the first place?“

Sure – Ruffnut had already told her, that it had been him, who had caught the Night Fury and learned to fly and train dragons because of him...But...that was all...

Hiccup leaned back a little and she could hear the deep breath that came out of his lungs. A look of uncertainty came to his features, as if a painful memory returned to his brain.

“You know...“ He suddenly said after some time, as if it had taken him some time, to be sure, what exactly he wanted to share with her “...back then...about five years ago...I haven't been as admired by my people, as I might be now.“

“Yep – Ruffnut told me, that you were quite a looser back then...“

“Wow...and that girl I call my friend!“ He joked, though the young woman noticed, that there still was some pain from the past in his voice.

But then he sighed sadly, before he continued:

“...and one night, I tried out my new gadget, because – well – I have always been more brains than muscles and couldn't even hold a weapon. And with that, I have caught him.“

With his head he pointed over to Toothless.

“And the next day, when nobody was believing me, that I have caught the mighty Night Fury that haunted our village, I went out to find him. And I did...all tangled up in ropes from the projectile. And I took my knife, that I had always with me and I...I...“

Astrid couldn't watch the dragons any more, not quite believing, what she heard from him. Coming from some ancient dragon-killing-side, that was unknown to her. A side he had immediately laid aside, when he had stepped in front of his winged friend.

“...you...couldn't?“

He nodded.

“But why?“

He once again was silent, carefully considering his words.

“I...looked straight into his eyes. And all that I could see, was...that he was just as afraid of me, like I have been of him. And in that moment I knew, that I couldn't kill a dragon. Not him. Not any other dragon. I freed him and he fled. Once I had found him again, I learned from him. Like that dragons are afraid of eels and that they like to play quite a lot and that he is an excellent artist!“

“They are more human, than most of us...“ Astrid whispered, remembering his words, feeling pretty amazed by that and making Hiccup nod.

“And I soon found out, that he couldn't fly. Because my attack on him, made him loose his tail fin. So I decided to build him a new one. And you know what – ever since that day – the two of us cause havoc, where ever we go!“ He said and by the end of it, sounding more cheerful than before. And so she decided to not ask him about the Red Death – a dragon she had heard, that he had killed. She didn't want him to loose the good mood, that had returned to him.

And after all – she noticed with a smile – for now, she actually had learned enough.

Chapter Text

His first Lesson

Hiccup felt a little nervous...to say the least. He had spend all day thinking of what to come later this day and how the outcome might be and if there might be a few deaths before the moon had risen high above them. Not that he would expect something like that to happen, but still... The following hours might be just easier, if he just knew, what they in the end would mean. For him. For Astrid. And of course for them.

He spend the last hours during his chiefly duties in the forge with much thinking, while he worked on a few saddles, that his people had needed, or to improve those, which were already finished.

As of this one, right in his hands, that was made out of soft leather and on which he had dedicated some time now. A saddle, on which had worked for a few weeks now, not quite feeling, that it had finished until now. Until it had been perfect for him.

But he wanted it to be perfect – for somebody, who had never been on a dragon before and would soon experience their first time flying.

While he finished a few more stitches on the straps of this saddle, Gobber was watching him, raising his eyebrows at that strange behavior of his young apprentice.

“What yer doin' over there?“ The older Viking asked, padding his trusty Grump lightly, who had yet fallen asleep after a long day of work in the forge. “And where is ya stupid little smile coming from?“

Hiccup stopped for a moment, looking over to his old friend, who was staring now at him, while that smile on his lips disappeared.

“I don't know, what you mean...“ Hiccup mumbled after a few moments of consideration. Because he told Gobber the truth – he did not know, why he had been smiling at all.

“Aha...if you say so...“ Gobber mumbled, turning back to a few of the forging tools to put them on shelves and to clean up his work space.

The young chief on the other hand raised his eyebrows at Gobber's strange behavior, then looked over to Toothless, who also seemed to shrug. Then he returned to finish the stitching on the straps.

“And-“ yet the older Viking once more raised his voice, making Hiccup stop once more “-how is Astrid doing anyway?“

“She is back on her legs. Everything is fine again...“ Hiccup said nonchalantly. “And you can come and visit us, if you like. She really is used to Berk and its people now. She even accepts the shenanigans, that the twins are sometimes up to. And I think, that this is a good sign, that she is finally accepting - the contract, and that for now she needs to stay here...“

“For...'now'? Lad, what exactly are ya plannin' over there?“

Hiccup stopped immediately what he was doing, slowly looking back up and over to the older Viking, who was eyeing him dangerously.

“Ya plan to get her back to Hranafall, don't ya? I am not sure, of what Hakon will think or say about that!“

Hiccup merely tried to brush it of, by shrugging and smiling, taking the saddle from the workbench and walking past his friend, before saying:

“Let's just say, I want her to be able to visit her family every now and then. I know, that getting her back to her home, might evoke a few questions and possibly put the contract in question. So, don't you worry about that, Gobber. I am just nice to her, because-“

“Because ya actually like her, don't ya?“

Hiccup stopped in his tracks and looked over his shoulder.

“Why is everybody assuming, that?“ He wondered a little louder, than it had been planned.

“Ha – I see and it looks like I am not the only one, who sees something like 'That'! I may be old and my eyesight might not be very best any more, but I can tell you one thing and that is, that ya are in lo-“

“Hiccup?“ A voice suddenly interrupted them and the young chief really thanked the gods, that Gobber immediately stopped speaking upon realizing, who had just entered the forge to visit them.

“Ah, Astrid, you are already here?“ Hiccup said, now finally completely turning back around, smiling at the young woman, who was still standing uncertainly by the entrance, while the old smith started to eye both young Vikings carefully, nodding a little, before he mumbled something unintelligible to himself.

“Yeah...“ She said, looking over to Gobber, who still seemed to behave strangely. “..., you told me, to come here at dusk, so I am here...“

“Yeah, sure. It is just, that the time went so fast today, with all the work and - oh wait 'till you see this!“ He suddenly exclaimed, when he had remembered the saddle, that he has just finished the work on and which he still had in his hands.. He hurried past his older friend and over to where Astrid was standing, putting it straight into her arms.

“This is for you. Well...and for Stormfly...“

“Our saddle?“ She asked, sounding a little breathless while she examined the stitches he had just made and the way that the saddle was made. “It really looks awesome!“

“Hiccup made it all by himself~“ Gobber mumbled from where he was standing behind them with a strange sing-sand like voice.

“Really?! You have made this?“ She asked, sounding a little surprised, which startled him a little and making him raise his eyebrow.

“Hey – you know, what I can do. It sounds as if you believe, that I am very untalented in the forge!“ He was not seriously offended and by the view she gave him, he knew, that he was seeing this as a joke as well.

“I know that!“ She said nonetheless “...It is just...you made this! I mean look at that. I had never such a nice gif-...“ She stopped immediately and though Hiccup had a feeling, that she wanted to tell him, that she really enjoyed that small gift, he would not pressure her into finishing the sentence. It felt just so nice to see, that she really appreciated the effort, that he had given this saddle and even more he enjoyed it, that this made her smile.

So he immediately grinned wider, until his teeth and tooth gap were showing.

And after all – it was nice, to see her up and so lively again. It now had taken them a few weeks, with the constant pain in her leg from the healing process of her scar and from the every now and then emerging fever. So they had agreed, that Stormfly could come and visit her every now and then, so the two could grow closer and develop some kind of trust, that they both would eventually need for their upcoming first flight. And yet it had been another agreement, that they would wait for three days in a row, where she would rate her mornings with a 'One', to make absolutely sure, that she would be ready to finally sit on a dragon all on her own. To flight, without her needing to take care about her own condition.

And today had been this special day and by the look in her deep blue eyes, Hiccup knew, that she was just as excited as he had been.

While Hiccup was still looking at her, it was Gobber, who cleared his throat, making Hiccup to shake his head slightly and to get out of his sudden daze, that Astrid's pure presents trapped him in.

“Ehr, right...“ He mumbled, scratching the back of his head lightly and stepping back from her “...would you wait here for a minute, before we start? I need to change and I guess that Toothless is still sleeping in my workshop and-“

“You need to...change...?“

He could clearly see, that she was eyeing him up and down, probably wondering, why he would change his leather armor, in which he usually flew with Toothless.

“Well, I have been working on something for myself as well. For some time now, to be exactly and I would love to try it now as well...“

Astrid blinked a little at that, but then merely shrugged, now also turning around, with the saddle still in her hands.

“As you wish, Dragon Boy, I will wait outside with Stormfly. But hurry – she seems to be more exciting than I am!“

And with that she had left, closing the door behind her.

“Okay, lad...“ Gobber suddenly said after some moments “..., now stop drooling over her and get ready, just as ya have told her! Don't let yer wife wait for too long!“

Hiccup merely tried to ignore his older friend, while finally walking straight into his workshop, where his trusty black friend was indeed still sleeping tightly, while the thing, he so desperately wanted to try out, waited for him on top of the table.

For a moment he marveled in its black, rough beauty, feeling very excited to finally try it out. And he hoped, that this new Flight Suit would work just as good, as the old had worked for him. Though this one was more like a armor, made out of Toothless' shed scales and with hours of hard work. But he still liked it very much! And he really wanted to see, how Astrid would react, if she just would see, what could be possible – up there in the air.

With a still sleeping dragon behind him, he changed his previous leather armor for his new Flight Suit, enjoying its cold feel on his skin and the way it fit him perfectly.

That was the moment, when his winged friend behind him grumbled slightly and opened his eyes.

“Ah, you are awake!“ Hiccup exclaimed, turning around towards Toothless, while fixing the way, the scaled gloves were laying on his hands, before taking the helmet in his hands, but not yet putting it on his head. “How about we go on a little flight? Together with Astrid and Stormfly?“

The black dragon yawned, but then stood up nonetheless, stretching a little, before happily trotting over to his Rider.

“That is the spirit, buddy!“

Together they walked out of Hiccup's workshop and passed the old smith, who eyed him with amazement. He even whistled at Hiccup's new appearance.

“Looking good, lad. Want to impress yer wi-“

“If you call her that one more time, I swear, you will be working on the orders alone until the next moon!“ Hiccup grumbled, sounding a little annoyed, both of them very well knowing, that away from their fellow tribesmen there was no reason, to call her that.

“If ya say so...“ Gobber mumbled, before her pointed towards the entrance of his forge, indicating, that the young woman was still waiting outside.

Hiccup only nodded at that, before he finally left, together with Toothless only to be greeted not only by Astrid, but also by his other friends, who were all already waiting for the two of them – quite to his annoyance. After all – he had been looking forward to their time alone. But now...things have been changed by the gang and their dragons.

“Finally you are here!“ Snotlout exclaimed, sounding a little annoyed, leaning casually against Hookfang's side.

“We have been waiting here for some time now!“ Tuffnut also said.

“Yeah...right here!“ Ruffnut added.

“Sorry Boss, but when they have heard, that you and Astrid wanted to take a little flight, they all wanted to see that as well!“ Eret said, shrugging a little defenseless, when Hiccup raised his eyebrows at the sight in front of him. “There were even bets going on, of what I have heard!“

“And we want to fly with our babies, too...“ Fishlegs mumbled, cuddling a little Meatlugs side.

“And also-“ Tuffnut now said, now also pointing at the strange black and red outfit, that Hiccup was wearing “- what are you wearing there! Looks like the new Haute Couture!“ His friends only looked a little confused at their young Viking friend, who was once again such strange words. And while a strange argument about the meaning of this oh so strange word raised between them, Hiccup walked over to Astrid, standing by her side, to whisper:

“I am sorry for that. I did not know, that they would want to join, if they know about our plans... If you want to have your first lesson on another day – without them – then it is okay for me, too!“

“It is okay...“ She said, holding the saddle close to her chest, while she watched his friends as well. “I really want to go on a flight for the first time! And I don't care, if they accompany us, or not. They are your friends, after all...“

“Really?“

„Yeah...“ She whispered back, now also looking over to Stormfly, who sat patiently next to Toothless, while the two dragons watched the strange human behavior in front of them as well.

“Then let's go – if we leave now, then maybe they won't notice for some time, that we left...“ He mumbled.

But once the two humans and two dragons had started to move, walking towards the arena, the gang still started to follow them as well – still very much arguing now about different things.

“What is up with your new armor anyway?“ Astrid asked, while they were getting closer and closer towards the arena, trying to break the tension, that had formed strangely enough around them.

“Oh...this?“ Hiccup asked, pointing towards his chest “...it is my new Flight Suit and I thought, that now was a good opportunity to try it out, while I am not alone with Toothless, in case it would not work.“

“You mean – in case I need to save you? Me – who has not a clue about Dragon Riding?“ Astrid joked.

“Well, I guess, that you are quite talented and today will be the day, to prove that to yourself!

“And what if, if I need to be saved and you are busy with your little Flight Suit?“

“Oh, don't you worry about that – I don't think, that Stormfly will let you fall to the ground! And I will have my eyes only on you!“

As if in agreement, the Deadly Nadder screeched at that.

“Well, let's just hope for that...“

Soon they have reached the arena, that functioned as the Dragon Academy for some time now. And the last time they had been here – together – had been the day, when they had fought against each other. And standing here now together really was a strange feeling. Especially with the dragons and their friends, that surrounded them.

“Okay-“ Hiccup started, wanting to introduce her to a few basics of learning how to fly a dragon, when it had been Ruffnut and Tuffnut, who had already mounted their dragons, waving their hands high in the air.

“Let us show her how to fly!“ They screamed and before Hiccup knew, what exactly was happening, they both were already with Barf and Belch high in the air, flying above their heads without a care in the world.

“Hey – no showing off, up there!“ Snotlout screamed upon seeing that, also now jumping on Hookfang's back and flying up, to demonstrate his skills as well.

A little helpless Hiccup looked up to his friends, while Eret whispered something towards Fishlegs, who nodded, before the bigger Viking followed with Meatlug, too.

“We give you some time to explain a few things to 'your' girl, okay Boss?“ Eret whispered in Hiccup's ear, who then vanished with Skullcrusher as well. And the young chief didn't even had the time to complain.

“Well...looks like, that my first flight lesson would work out differently than expected, I guess?“ Astrid said. Looking up as well, while the young man by her side, didn't even know, where to start, now, that his friends where doing everything, he wanted to explain her anyway.

“Yeah...“ He only mumbled, letting his shoulders hang in defeat, before his scaled friend nudged his side with his head, cooing a little in support, getting him back towards the reality, that still surrounded him – Astrid being here and very willing to learn how to fly.

“So-“ he then started, now finally being able to tear his eyes from the spectacle above their heads and to turn towards the young woman by his side. “-first we need to get that saddle on your dragons back!“

And they did – though it had been most of Astrid's work to fasten the straps on Stromfly's stomach. But Hiccup nonetheless assisted her, even though most of it had been only his description, since he knew, that the young woman was far too eager, to learn everything herself. And yet he checked two times, if the saddle won't slip, once they were in the air.

And once they were finished, he said:

“Now mount her!“

He could clearly see, that Astrid gulped heavily, though he suspected, that it wasn't for fear, but more for respect of this whole situation. And yet she sat very comfortably in the saddle and without any problems.

“Now hold onto her tight-“ Hiccup said, but before he could finish his sentence (which was quite an annoyance on this particular day) Stormfly already pushed herself off of the ground and launched high into the air – letting the young chief know, that the Deadly Nadder was all too ready and eager to have her first flight with the young woman.

And all the poor, young woman could do, was to scream and to clench tightly onto the blue dragons neck.

And it was Toothless, who made a snickering noise by the view of that.

“Oh, you really are one gloating dragon, over there!“

And yet the young man sat on his saddle himself, holding with one hand onto his black helmet, while making his winged friend follow the young woman, who still didn't seem all too confident about all of this. And he also guessed, that their grinning and laughing friends around them, where not helping this situation, either.

“It would help, if you open your eyes!“ Hiccup nonetheless screamed over the sound of wind and Astrid's screams. “And hold onto the handles in front of you! I especially designed them for you to have more freedom on her back!“

“YOU SAY THAT SO EASILY!“ She shouted back to him, but still reached with her shaking hands for the handles on Stormflys neck, while she carefully tried to open her eyes.

“Good! Try to steer her! Try to control the direction you want her to fly to! And you don't need to be afraid – either one of us will catch you, if you fall!“

“I am not afraid!“ Astrid hissed back, opening her eyes at the same time and Hiccup could see, that she was slowly pushing against the handle, until the Nadder turned in the left direction. And a slight smile appeared on her lips because of that.

“Perfect! How about up and down?“

And Astrid did, as Hiccup told her, making Stormfly raise higher into the air, to where their friends were waiting for them on their dragons, before the blue Nadder once again descended, coming closer and closer towards the ground.

“Ehr...not so deep...“ Hiccup could hear Fishlegs mumble and the young chief's heart as well started to beat furiously in his chest, upon seeing the way that Astrid was flying closer towards the rocky ground below them. Yet – she didn't try to pull Stormfly back up.

“Did she loose control?!“ Tuffnut asked out loud, yet making Hiccup shake his head, feeling, that something like that would not happen towards her.

And he was right -

Just moments before both dragon and rider would have hid the ground below, she pulled them back up, making the gang cheer once more, while Hiccup sighed in relief.

“Woman!“ Eret screamed, once she had reached them again, holding tight to his heart “Don't you dare to scare us like that!“

“Scare? Oh don't you tell me, that you guys haven't tried something like that as well!“ She smirked, letting Stormfly fly past them, feeling very confident about this situation and her dragon, who squealed loudly in joy.

“Okay-“ Ruffnut said, while they watched the young woman, unfolding on the back of the winged reptile, as if she was born anew. “-I take my bet away, that she would kill herself on the first flight!“

“Me too...“ Tuffnut mumbled. “No burial today...Guess that chicken won't show the new song I have practiced with her any time soon!“

“Yeah...“ Hiccup mumbled, looking after Astrid with a slight smile “...thankfully...“

They followed the young woman and the dragon, flying over Berk and towards the sea, feeling the joy, that spread from her first flight towards them, too. Making them feel as if had been their first flight, too. Doing tricks to impress her and to rejoice this particular feeling.

For Hiccup, this was a very special view, making him lean closer towards Toothless, pulling a few levers, so his tail fin would fly him automatically.

“Ready, buddy?“

Toothless grumbled a little reluctantly, but then he did something like a short nod. Hiccup grinned and put on the helmet on his head, before he pushed himself off of Toothelss' back, to make the hidden wings in the suit spread and Hiccup fly into the air high above the water.

His friends were not noticing that for the moment, since both him and Toothless were still behind them. It made him enjoy this even more, though he noticed every now and then a few mistakes in his construction, that he needed to fix.

Yes, he really enjoyed this freedom, that the Flight Suit gave him – which was an even more different freedom to when he would fly with his trusty dragon. And yet he wouldn't want to miss this feeling for anything in the world.

While still soaring through the air, he had a pretty good view on Astrid, who flew ahead of them, enjoying herself on the back of the dragon as well. For a few minutes now she had been brave enough, to let go of the handles, that were attached to the saddle and to just spread her hands and arms up into the air, to touch the clouds there and to just marvel into this feeling of air and Adrenalin, that flying gave her as well.

And felt this as well – this Adrenalin and this soaring wind underneath the wings. They were still together – Toothless and him – though it had changed a little since their very first lesson together. But thankfully enough it had made them strong enough, to give their knowledge others, that needed and wanted this as well.

Back then, it only had been them... But now there were so many, having changed Berk like never before.

“Hey!“ somebody suddenly shouted, making him nearly loose his balance. But thankfully enough Toothless was there immediately, flying just close enough to his Rider, so he could grip his saddle and pull himself to it.

Annoyed he looked over to Snotlout, he was now flying beside him, grinning widely and pointed towards the young chief.

“I want one too! One that would suit me and Hooky!“

“And while we are at it-“ Ruffnut said, now pointing towards herself and her brother“ We want one two!“

“Yeah, one for each of us!“

“Wait...were you thinking, that we would wear one together?!“ Ruffnut asked, raising her eyebrows at her brother, who smiled a little stupidly at that, which made her grin, too “...though I guess, that this would be awesome!“

“Me too!“ Both Eret and Fishlegs shouted from his other side, raising their hands in unison.

Yeah..., he somehow knew, that something like that would happen, but on the other hand...wasn't that the worst idea, that all of them had similar Flight Suits, that would also fit their dragons.

And while he was there - he thought, looking over to the young woman in front of them, who looked a little skeptically at the gang behind her, though a slide smile tugged at the corners of her lips – why not making a suit for all of them?

But before his plan formed more and more in his head, he let Toothless speed up a little, so he could fly next to the young woman.

“And? What is it like to be on one of these 'monstrous creatures'?“

“To be honest...?“

He nodded.

“It is amazing! I mean...Stormfly is amazing! They all...“ She looked to Toothless and then back to the other dragons. “...are amazing! I really need to thank you...“

“What for?“ Hiccup wondered, looking over towards her and suddenly finding her very beautiful with all her hair fluttering around her and her flushed cheeks and the slight gleam in her blue eyes.

“For not letting go the thought of getting me to fly!“

He smiled, knowing, that she had taught him something as well – that people could always be changed, despite their past full a hatred and scorn towards those winged reptiles. As long, as these people wanted to be changed in this very specific way. And Astrid, though their path until this very moment had been a rough and rocky one, was one of these people. And it seemed like this whole ordeal had been worth it in the end.

„You are very welcome!“

Chapter Text

Their Friendship

Each and every day on a dragon's back felt very amazing for Astrid. There was no way she could describe the intense joy that rushed through her veins and the immense feeling of freedom around her.

A freedom, that she thought she knew, before she had gotten married of for some political reasons, but was now completely new to her. Because, despite everything she thought she had known, she felt more free now then ever before.

And one day – so she hoped – she would experience the same kind of freedom, that Hiccup witnesses, whenever he was flying by her side with is Flight Suit. Until that day, she still hadn't found the right words to describe the amazement she feels, when ever she was watching him.

But still, there was something in the back of her mind, that every now and then tried to emerge from its depths. Some kind of deep rooted doubts and regrets. Because until that day, both of her parents didn't know about her success on her dragon's back.

And maybe – just maybe – especially her mother should know of that. So she should not feel the urge to get her away from Berk anymore, since Hiccup would grant her that, whenever she would like. Well...as long she felt confident enough on the back of a dragon.

“Hiccup...?“ She suddenly asked, while they were cleaning the table and were about to do the dishes.

“Yeah?“ He asked, putting the remains of their foot in Toothless' bucket, who wasn't caring about that right now, since he was already happily full after the delicious fish and now soundly asleep by the fireplace.

“Do you have...you know...Do you mind, if I write a letter to my mother ?“

“Why would I mind?“ He wondered, raising an eyebrow at her, while taking the dirty plates from her hand, to clean them up.

Astrid shrugged a little, before she hugged herself, feeling strangely worried about his thoughts that might catch up with him, regarding her mother's...dislike against him.

“Because she wanted to see you dead?“ She said honestly, seeing no reason on why she would deny that little fact, since he was very aware of it.

“Yeah...I know that. But still – why would I mind, if you write her a letter? I mean – of course you can write her – she is your mother after all and I would want to write my mother as well, especially after all that has happened in these past weeks!“

“And you don't think, that I would want to write my mother a possible escape plan from this island?“

He smirked a little at that, and casually crossed his arms in front of his own chest and leaned against the table, watching her carefully.

“First of all – we agreed, that once you have mastered the Dragon Riding, you are free to leave Berk and to return to Hranafall – as long as the contract won't be broken by that – and secondly: Why would you do that anyway? I don't see a reason right now, why you would want to kill me anymore and I guess – at least for my part – we are getting along pretty well. Don't you think so, too? Also – the people here are getting used to you and they pretty much seem to enjoy the fact, that their chief is married – without them actually noticing, that all of this is only a hoax behind their very backs!“

She looked at him for a few seconds, not quite sure what to say or what to think. And yet – he was oh so right about this! Why should he even suspect something like that to happen after – basically – everything that has happened in the past weeks. And Astrid thought, that it would be nice for her mother to know that, too, so she didn't even need to make up a new plan for her escape in the first place.

This silence made Hiccup smirk even wider, knowing very well, that he had been right about this, before he pushed himself off of the table, to walk over to a shelve next to the fireplace, to get a piece of parchment and a pen, giving it to Astrid with a soft smile.

“I will wash the dishes, if that is okay for you?“ He asked, walking over to a bucket with cold water, to clean it up.

Astrid couldn't say more, but was very thankful to have Hiccup here, who was so kind and understanding. She wondered, if any other man would have done the same for her. Therefore she merely whispered:

“Thank you...“, to which he replied:

“You are very welcome...“

Astrid sat down at the table, laying the parchment right in front of her, before she started to write:

“Dearest Mother“, she wrote, but then stopped for a minute to consider the following words.

“What should I write?“ She wondered out lout, suddenly feeling so strange and unsure of what she could tell her mother, and should for now stay a secret.

“Whatever you want, I guess...“ Hiccup said, from where he was still cleaning the dirty plates.

Yeah, he was very right with that and yet she was a little afraid of how her mother would react to her following words. Especially, since she had seen this strange and...slightly psychopathic...side, that she had never witnessed before. And on the other hand, she wanted to calm Ljóda down, to get her previous peacefulness back.

Astrid bit her lip, before she put the pen back on the parchment, to continue:

“I dearly hope, that you and father arrived well on Hranafall and that you can slowly embrace the conditions of the contract, that father has signed with Hiccup. I know it might be hard, especially regarding our history with every dragon species, but for me it seems very worth it.“

Astrid looked over to Toothless, who cooed a little in his sleep, before he rolled himself more into a little ball, hiding his eyes behind his tail fin.

Yes...befriending dragons was really worth it and she really had started to like the company of Hiccup's winged companion. As much as she was looking forward each and every day to see Stormfly and to fly on her back. And by the way, that Stormfly had started to snuggle her head against Astrid and the exciting sound, that escaped her, Astrid could tell, that the Nadder was always happy to see her as well.

“For you to know, I just recently have started to learn dragon riding. Hiccup and his friends are my teachers and though some of the more maneuvering moves are still a little difficult, I already know the basics well. At least well enough to not fall off of Stormfly's back and to land probably, again.“

“Are you writing, that you nearly lost balance on Stormfly's back and fell into the ocean?“

“Shall I come over and hit you, again?“

“Sorry, I haven't said anything!“

“Hiccup really is a great teacher and he seems to know almost everything about dragons. Things, that we didn't even realize, when we were still hunting them. But I guess, that you guys are getting to know that as well.
Ever since we had been 'married' he had wanted to show me how to fly, but due to my sickness, we couldn't quite get me out of the bed for a few weeks now. As you already know – my fever had been high and the scar on my leg-“

“My parents think my scar had been a training accident?“

“That's what everybody is thinking...“

“Should I write mother, that it had been the knife, that has slashed open my tight, which she had hidden underneath my wedding dress?“

“Will your father read the letter as well?“

Astrid raised her eyebrows at that, before she looked back down at her writing. She knew exactly, what he was saying – that if her father would by any chance read this letter, then he would know the truth – which only would cause even more havoc between them and maybe even more destroy theire marriage, which seemed to be fractured after Ljóda's past attempts of getting Astrid away from this island. And she didn't want that – she neither wanted Hakon see her mother in this strange, dark light, nor wanted she for her father to know, what everything went behind his back – which would have resulted in the murder of a fellow chief.

“So...it had been a training accident with my axe?“

“Yep... when Gothi asked me about it, I couldn't come up with a better explanation. At least she wasn't asking any more after that...“

“I see...“

„Still, if you want to tell your mother the truth-“

“Oh, no, no! You are right! Father could read this and I don't want him to know, what has happened...“

“-had been a terrible accident. I wanted to try a new move, that has gotten to my mind, but sadly it failed. But thankfully Hiccup was there, to help me out.“

Once again she stopped, suddenly noticing a few things, although she wasn't finished yet. And once again a little unsure of what to write, she asked for the young chief's opinion:

“...Hiccup?“

“Yeah?“

“Would you consider me to be a...friend?“

Hiccup twirled around upon hearing that, blinking, when he faced the young woman, with the most innocent look in her eyes, that he had never before seen in them. This startled him a little, but remembering a few things, he suddenly understood, why exactly she was asking him that.

Therefore he wiped his wet hands on a linen towel, before her walked back towards the table, sinking into a chair across from her.

“Am I a friend for you?“ He asked with caution, his heart in his strangely fluttering at that.

“I...I can't answer you that...“ She asked in a slight whisper and with a tiny shrug. “...My mother has always told me, that friends would only be ballast on a battlefield. Like an...unnecessary burden.“

“Am I...a 'burden' for you?“

“No.“ She answered without hesitation, clenching the pen in her hand a little tighter. “If anything, your are quite the opposite of that. I mean – you have shown me how to fly and you are kind and anything from what Mother has always told me, would a husband be like. You let me sleep in your bed and you don't let me cook for your – which is a wise decision! And we clean up the house together. You made me my own saddle and introduced me to Stormfly. And...you have accepted me, the way I am...“

He smiled widely at that, though her words made his cheeks blush a little.

“See? Then I am your friend! And to answer your question – I see you as my friend as well!“

“Really?“

“Yeah...you don't need contracts and pacts to be friends, you know? All you need are two people, who would look our for the other and share some kind of...liking...for the other. And Astrid – I have really started to like you over these past weeks and I am glad, that it has been you, who I had to marry by force!“

“...Thank you...“

And she really meant it, while she now felt a little excited to finish the letter about her life here on Berk.

“I even consider him to be my friend. I know, what you think – friends are ballast on the battlefield! But Hiccup is no burden! And somebody has told me, that friends don't need contracts and pacts. And yet there is this sort of 'liking' between us, that I am really used to, by now. And by now, I am glad, that it has been him, who I have been forced to marry. For any other man could have done unspeakable things to me, only to fulfill their desires. But not Hiccup. He lets me sleep in his bed and he cared for me, when I have been sick. And by now, I don't think, that he would ever try to take advantage of me. He is far too kind for that.
And so, Mother, I tell you, that I would gladly like to stay here on Berk, as part of the contract and because I genuinely feel welcomed by now. Don't worry about me. I will be fine.
After all – I have somebody who is watching my back...“

No, she wouldn't tell her, that Hiccup has saved her. At least not for now... But still, she needed to know, that everything has worked out for her just fine – here on Berk.

“I love you and father dearly and I hope to visit you soon.

You daughter,
Astrid H-“

She suddenly stopped, wanting to finish the letter in all formality, but soon found herself struggling. After all – how should she finish it? Sure...mostl likely she would consider herself still to be a Hofferson. But if an enemy – or her father – would got this letter in her hand, then it would only evoke questions, on why was using her father's name. Not that of her husband. And yet, the marriage she was in with her new friend was only a farce in front of their tribes.

“Haddock or Hofferson?“

“Why?“

“To finish the letter in a proper manner...Mother likes it that way...“

Hiccup raised one eyebrow (the one underneath his very visible scar) and thought about it for a few moments, before he stretched out his hand towards her, upon which she gave him the pen immediately, before he pulled carefully the piece of parchment in front of him.

And then, with a swift move, he finished, what she couldn't.

She looked at him, then down on the writing and back up again. A little in disbelieve, since all he had done, was to make a small dot behind her last rune.

“Astrid H.“ He said, smiling a little, giving her back the parchment. “Nobody will ask questions then, since so it might be harder for enemies to trace back this letter, when it had gotten into the wrong hands. And I guess, that your mother might understand, if I guess correctly, what you have written in the letter. And for Hakon it will be just fine...“

Sure – she could argument, that her mother wouldn't be satisfied and that it still would be able for the enemy to figure out, where this letter was coming from – but in the end, she felt that he had found the best solution for this problem, and therefore only nodded and smiled.

“I guess, you are right...“

“Of course I am!“

“Are we getting sassy there, again?“

“Ehr...maybe? I mean – no! And you don't need to come over here to hit me! Okay – can I make an attempt for amend? How about we find you a Terrible Terror to get that letter to your mother as soon as possible?“

She smirked.

“That really sounds like a good amend there!“

Chapter Text

Their Pasts

It hadn't even taken them half an hour in the next day's morning to find Astrid the perfect little Terrible Terror, that would deliver her letter to her mother. It was one with an aqua green color, yellowish spines and magenta wings. Astrid immediately fell in love with it, when she saw, how fast it just could disappear and re-appear again, even startling the poor Toothless for a moment, making Hiccup laugh and Astrid giggle. She somehow felt, that this little guy suited her perfectly, since she saw sneaking as a good, warrior-ish talent, that she hoped would one day come in handy.

And she was even lucky enough to name him, making him from then on known as 'Sneaky'. And by the way he looked at her, he somehow seemed to enjoy that name as well.

But yet it felt so strange, to watch that little guy flying off with her letter, soon making him vanish at the horizon and beyond.

“I still can't believe, that this is actually working!“ She said, while she stood next to Hiccup and Toothless by the docks, still looking over the water with raised eyebrows and crossed arms.

“Oh it will work! We just need to wait and see, if your mother is getting used to this whole 'dragonizing' of things and lets Sneaky return with her answer, or with your Terror and your mothers letter will arrive separately.“

Hiccup was in general a little afraid of how Astrid's mother might react to the letter, since their last encounter hadn't worked out well between them... But he understood, why Astrid has been wanted to write her in the first place...

“I hope she answers me with the dragon. It really is a fast way and correspondence will be only a matter of days – not weeks...“

“Well, that is right. But for now we should not worry about that. Winter is coming. Of what it looks and feels like, we had last night the first frost. Might be getting worse the following days and weeks. I need to get the harvest and the storage done! What will you be doing today?“

She shrugged.

“Well...just boring chieftess stuff, I guess... I still need to bless Mathalda's baby, which got a little lost, due to my fainting and the fever. And then I am planning on meeting Stormfly and I am a little afraid, that Ruffnut and Tuffnut are planning one of their shenanigans again...so...yeah...I am pretty occupied then. Boringly occupied, but still occupied.“

Hiccup nodded at that and by the way he moved his lips silently, she felt, that he had something to say.

“Is there something on your mind, Dragon Boy?“

Indeed – there seemed to be something on his mind, but he couldn't quite form it into words. And it didn't even help, that Toothless bumped his head into Hiccup's side, to clear his mind a little.

“Y-yeah...“ He stuttered, suddenly sounding a little nervous. “There is something on my mind. But before I can tell you about that and get you all excited, I need to agree upon it with Gothi. I really don't her wrath upon me or disappoint you. I will tell you later...“

“This is quite unfair – you know that! First teasing me some confusing thoughts of yours, only to let me down. Can't you tell me now and I will talk with Gothi?“

“Ah – sorry! My lips are sealed! And I need to get going to fulfill my chiefly duties! And you need to do yours!“

“I will get you for this, Haddock!“

“We will see about that, M'lady! And see you later!“

And with that he was gone, leaving Astrid to wonder, what he was planning once more. And that for the whole day...

It really had been a hard and exhausting day. Astrid had been first at home, feeling a little restless about the occurrences of the day. Sure – blessing Mathalda's baby boy was quite easy, once the midwife had given her the words she needed to say. And by the joy in their eyes it really had been worth it. Which probably had been the course, on why the midwife had asked Astrid to attend these births more often. Or better to say – every time when a birth was about to happen on Berk. Astrid knew, that the older woman wanted for one part this old tradition to fulfilled and as long as Astrid wasn't the one to actually carry this child to Midgard and as long she wouldn't see things, she would never forget, then she would do this and fulfill therefore her duty with that. But on the other hand, the midwife probably wanted Astrid to prepare for what the future might hold for herself, though she pushed that thought far away and into the darkest corners of her mind.

So, with that agreement, the midwife had wanted for Astrid to follow her around a little, to visit two other soon-to-be-mothers, to get them to know her a little. It was a strange sight, to see these round bellies with an unborn child in it, but she eventually had to get used to it.

And probably there could be worse things for her to do...

…, like trying to convince the twins to not blow up a few trees in the forest, since that could disturb a few dragons, that were sleeping nearby. And she knew what she was speaking of, though there certainly was no comparison to one tree falling due to the use of an axe or a few trees flying around in all directions, because Berk couldn't contain their chaotic twins.

But thankfully enough, they soon found this idea quite boring anyway and soon began to plan a few things with a yak, a sheep and their dragon Barf and Belch. And for now she hoped, that the outcome of this would be less dangerous...

And still had all of this taken so much time, that it had already gotten dark outside and she was quite glad, that she had the chance, to buy a loaf of bread from a trader, as well as some smoked salmon for dinner, just after she had visited her beloved Stormfly. The Nadder had been really happy to see her, though Astrid wasn't yet confident enough, to take a flight alone, when Hiccup or his friends were not around. And knowing that they all were quite busy, she didn't want to bother them in any way. But this pure time of bonding was for now enough for the young woman and her dragon.

And for the food she had bought - sure – it wasn't the most extraordinary meal in the world, but she wanted for once give Hiccup a meal, when he would return home. A meal, which would include no cooking and hopefully filled stomachs enough to find a peaceful slumber. And after all - cutting come salmon and bread could she handle as well.

While she prepared the plates and a few mugs with water, she once again wondered, what Hiccup had wanted to tell her in the morning, but for now, couldn't quite come to a conclusion.

But thankfully enough she heard the familiar flapping of the Night Fury's wings and soon enough the silent thump of them landing, just outside of the door, followed by their footsteps and the sound of the opening door.

“Hey...“ Hiccup mumbled, smiling, though very much sounding exhausted “...you are already here...“

“Yeah...“ She answered, returning his smile, while pointing at Toothless' feeding bucket, to show the black dragon, that she had already filled it as well. Tiredly he walked over to it, half lying and half sitting in front of it, only to feast on it with delight.

The young chief walked over to the chair, where he usually sat on and Astrid immediately noticed the pained expression in his face and the slight limping of his feet. She immediately knew, that it really had been a harsh day for the young man.

Though she feared some kind rejection, she still asked:

“Can I help you in any way? And please – don't tell me, that you are fine!“

He smiled once again, pointing at the laid table in front of him.

“You have taken care of the dinner, enlightened the fireplace and gave Toothless something to eat. And I didn't even ask for it...“ The end of the sentence was trailed of and Astrid knew exactly, that there yet was something he wanted to do.

“What else?“

“Really, that is enough and I am really thankful for everyth-“

“What else, Hiccup? You have done so many things for me in the past, that I for once can lend you a hand.“

Though she normally felt really flattered by his chivalry, she now felt quite annoyed by it and even crossed her arms in front of her chest.

Which made him sigh a little and avert his eyes from hers.

“Would it...bother you, if I take off my leg?“ His words were so quite, that Astrid really had a few difficulties to hear them correctly. But she did and her first instinct was to immediately ask, how he would be able to 'take off a leg', before she pressed her lips back together, silencing herself.

Of course he could take of his leg – for his left leg was missing and replaced by a prosthetic one. For some time she hadn't noticed this anymore, being far to normal for her by now, nearly even forgetting about it all along.

It was just something, that...didn't matter to her, because it was neither influencing his behavior, nor the way everybody was seeing him as the real Viking, that he was.

As did she.

So the aspect of 'taking off the leg' had never occurred to her once, since she had never before seen him doing that before. Or asked her about her permission. Probably since he was only doing this, once she had gone to bed.

But why...would she be bothered by that?

“Oh – I am sorry! I shouldn't have asked you that!“ he blurted out, once he wasn't getting a response from her. “I can wait until you go to bed! It is not bad and-“

“Of course you can take it of, if you want to!“

He looked back up to her again and she could see the surprise gleaming in his green eyes.

“You don't...mind?“

She shrugged and sat down next to him, to be on eye level with him.

“Why would I mind? If it hurts you, then take it of! This is your house, after all and you really shouldn't feel bothered by me...“

“I just...rarely take it off in front of people...And the sign of it is really...strange! And really not pretty!“

“I can look away, if you feel insecure or anything. But just for you to know – I don't mind at all!“

She stood back up, making it up for him to decide, whether or not he wanted to remove his prosthetic. And she hoped, that it would be easier for him, when she had turned away from him, to cut a few more slices of the bread.

And it didn't even take long, until she heard an unfamiliar sound of rustling leather and metal and a thumb to the wooden floor. She smiled a little to herself, knowing, that he had taken off that heavy burden.

And for Hiccup – it really had been a relief, though it still felt a little strange, to sit there without his prosthetic leg on. And he hoped, that she really wouldn't mind.

“Had it been a harsh day?“ She said merely, as if nothing has happened, walking over the table, to place the tray in the middle of it. And by the slight smile on her lips, he knew, that she wasn't minding that at all! And of course he was glad, that they had changed the topic.

“Oh, basically, we have been on our legs all day. Or in the air to hoist heavy crates with food in it. But thankfully enough the fields are completely empty now and of what I have heard from the outposts – Dagur and Mala's ships will arrive early tomorrow with even more goods. So we absolutely don't need to worry about the upcoming winter.“

He sighed, taking a piece of bread, biting into it once, before he continued:

“Oh and then there were the twins, who were trying out...just something with a yak, a sheep and their dragon! I had the feeling, that it somehow meant for them to burn down half of Berk or something similar to that!“

“What...again? I have also convinced them to not blow up the forest!“

“Ah...that's why they were so pissed, when I told them to find something else to do...“ He mumbled to himself, before he looked back over to Astrid:

“We really need to contain these two. I really don't want to know, what they will do, once the Winter has arrived and it gets even more boring for them!“

“Can't Eret control at least Ruffnut? I mean...she is heavily into him and maybe she could need a little distraction...And for Tuffnut...maybe he should start to raise a barn full of chicken?“

Hiccup's features saddened a little.

“Well...for Ruffnut's part that might be...But for Eret...“

Astrid understood immediately.

“He is not into her...“

The young chief nodded, leaning a little bit back into his chair, watching Astrid carefully.

“He might be living here on Berk just recently – only a few weeks longer than you – but every now and then I have deep conversations with him.“

“Deep, emotional, male conversations?“

„Yeah...the real emotional stuff!“ He joked back and Astrid was glad, that he was taking this so lightly. “And he confessed to me once, that he found Ruffnut really...really nice and all, but...“

“He can't fall in love with her...“

“Yes. You know – he told me, that back there on his home island, he had a girl. And he really had loved her for a few years. Like childhood friends, that developed a deep, emotional conection to each other... And she loved him back, until...“ He sighed sadly, before he pointed between them. “...the exact same thing happened.“

“She was married off to another guy...“

“And of what he had told me, she got a child with that other guy, too. And therefor Eret took on his father's Dragon Hunting career to flee this whole situation. Since he doesn't want to see his girl with her happy family again...“

“That really is a harsh story there...“

“I agree. And I can't imagine how it would be like to love somebody, only to loose them to somebody else. And I can understand Eret on why he doesn't want Ruffnut to get so close to him. He doesn't want to get hurt, again...“

For some time, this was the last word, that either of them had spoken, while they were eating there in silence for some minutes, until it was a strange thought, that crossed Astrid's mind.

“And what about you?“ She asked him all the sudden, making him look up in shock, while he still had bread between his teeth. And to give him some time to chew up and swallow, she added: “Has there been a special someone who you can't get over? Or...someone, who you haven broken their heart?“

He snorted.

“Me?!“

“Yeah! I mean – you have always been the son of the chief. You have learned how to ride dragons all on your own. You are best buddy with a Night Fury! And you are not that bad looking either!“ Sure – she could have told him, that there was something attractive about this tousled, brown hair, his pale skin and freckles and that he dearly enjoyed his smartness and kindness, but she did not know, how he would react to that.

“Is that a compliment, M'lady?“

“Oh – come on – you know exactly what I mean! It is just, that I can't understand, why you haven't married earlier to someone who is into you, just like you are into them.“

He leaned back forward, places his elbows to both sides of his plate and laid his chin on top of his hands, watching her once more with deep carefulness. A strange gleam was in his green eyes, while a slight smile danced on his slim lips.

“And what if I tell you...“ He finally said after a few agonizing minutes of silence “..., that there hasn't been 'A Someone' before? Because I had no time to think about stuff like that I have been far too busy with Dragon Training and fighting off evil madmen.“

A little interested about this, Astrid mimicked his pose, leaning herself against the table as well, while she was watching him just as he did.

“Then maybe I would be interested in how you got yourself into these situations – of 'Dragon Training and Fighting off evil madmen'. I think – as your pretentious wife – there is still so much for me to know...“

“Oh...that could be hours filled with stories. And for that, we just might invite the others, since they might want to share their perspective, too...And it might be a little more entertaining...“

“Oh, I would gladly skip on that...“ She said, while she was suddenly noticing, that they both were speaking with hushed voices, as if they didn't want to weak up the dragon behind them, that had fallen asleep. Or maybe – just maybe – there was something else, that could explain their strange behavior. “...Ruffnut has already told me a few stories at my Cleansing Ritual and I quite can't believe them.“

“Now I am curious – what has she told you?“

Astrid gulped a little, looking straight into Hiccup's beautiful green eyes and hoped, that it was the right thing to do, to press forward with this topic, which had burned itself deep into her mind. And – granted – now that he had removed his prosthetic, while she had been present, was quite a fitting time.

“Well...“ She said, hoping that Hiccup would not get angry, if she actually tell him that “..., she has told me, that you have killed a Red Death and lost your leg in the process. And seeing you as one, who would never dare to hurt a dragon, I can't imagine you to do something like that...“

His smile immediately vanished and Astrid knew exactly, that she had hit a weak spot there. Which seemed to be one, that wasn't for her to touch, yet.

And all he could do, was to look at her with that blank look on his face. But well...he guessed, that the day would eventually come, where she would ask something like that. Since – sure – there were enough people out there, who could have told her that. And he wasn't even mad at them – or Ruffnut in this case – for doing so.

“So...“ He murmured after some moments “She has told you that?“

“We don't have to talk about that!“

“Oh, don't worry. And I mean – you are right – it would be nice, to know a few things about the other. So...yeah... We defeated the Red Death. I mean - Toothless did most of it to make that thing clear!“

A soft grumble behind them seemed to reject this statement, though it had been only a noise from Toothless' sleep.

“And I guess...we were just on the lucky side there. It had been a giant nest of dragons and the Red Death was something like...their queen. And the other dragons – those, who plagued our island – were delivering it the food it needed to survive. Provoking fear and terror in them and eating them, when they did not deliver. And those dragons fled, when my father and the other Vikings opened up the nest, exposing the Red Death in all its power and scariness...“

Astrid listened carefully and didn't even dare to blink.

“Me and the other Riders, we were there just right on time. And we were fighting it with the little knowledge we had. And thanks Thor – all of that has worked somehow. And the Red Death – it began to fly, following me and Toothless into the air and he – Toothless – shot a blast right into its mouth, burning it from the inside. And before you ask – we had to do it. Kill it, or Berk would have lost all its warriors. And maybe even flew over to Berk, destroying it for good...“

“And...your leg...“

“Oh that?“ He asked grinning “That only was a little collateral damage! And it could have been worse, if it hadn't been for Toothless, who had saved me, while we were falling from the skies and right into the flames of the exploding Red Death...“

“Mhm...“ She mused, making Hiccup his eyebrows raise. He had expected many emotions from her and many things, that she might have wanted to ask him, but 'Mhm' was not one of them.

“Mhm? That is your reaction to my whole story.“ He said, almost sounding a little offended and the strange way his features reacted to that, made Astrid giggle a little.

“Don't feel offended by that! It is just, that this must be the most intense story, of how one got lost his leg. It is definitely more interesting than all the old, boring warrior stories, that I have heard back on Hranafall!“

“Interesting?“

“Yeah – I mean – you would clearly never hurt a dragon, only if this would mean, that your people are in severe danger! Plus – how old were you back than?! You were a teenager and your saved your whole village, defeated a dragon, that only exists in our tales – though my people like to pretend, that it would take them only 20 man to kill a Red Death – and you survived all of it to tell these stories!“

“It definitely sounds more exceeding, when you say it that way...“

“And I can't wait to hear more of your stories...“

He smirked, feeling, that he had trapped her. And sure – he would gladly tell her more about his past adventures, but before, he wanted to hear a few things from her past.

“Not so fast there, young lady! Before I tell you more about me, why don't you tell me something about you beforehand. Like – wasn't there a 'Special Someone' who would always wait for you, or even try to conquer you back, now that you are here on Berk? And what was up with all the Dragon Fighting and Killing and that fierce attitude of yours...I know, that there is more to it, than one can see!“

“More to it?“ She repeated, shaking her head a little at that, sitting up straight and suddenly avoiding his gaze completely. And he suddenly feared, that he there had stepped to far in certain territory and shouldn't have been so eager to know everything.

And yet...it just has felt so right. Right here and there, while they were alone and undisturbed – completely private - with a certain amount of easiness between them. But before he could have apologized, she opened her lips.

“Sadly...there is not more...Because that is all that ever was there.“

He desperately wanted to tell her, that it was okay for him, if she didn't want to talk about it and if she felt insecure about something in her past. But he didn't want to stop her, once she started to speak again:

“Sure...I had my far share of suitors. These big, hairy men, who had probably only seen me as the Chief's daughter and a nice trophy due to the fact, that I could hold myself in a fight pretty easily. But that is all. I have sworn to myself, that I would take my time to find me the right husband, since...well...they all haven't felt 'right' at all. Sure, it was nice to flirt with them, because they gave me their attention, or bought me expensive gifts, which I didn't need anyway. But it felt nice for my self-esteem.“

“But you have tons of self-esteem. You don't need that...“ He said, trying to sound reassuringly. And he even looked at her hand, that still laid on the table surface and thought about it for a minute to touch it. But he didn't dare to, fearing, that she would pull away anyway.

“Maybe...“ She answered to that with a sad smile, shrugging a little. “..., but on the other hand I had nobody, who would talk to me beyond daily casualties, or because they were asking audience to speak to my father.
Because – and I dare you to not laugh at me – when I have been younger, I thought, that dragons were actually nice and...I have always dreamed to have one as a friend. I have always admired, that they could just fly off to where ever they wanted and to never come back. That they had actual feelings! But everybody laughed at me for that. Because all they did, was to destroy our village, or the precious goods and kill people. Because we were fighting them with everything we had, to get them away from Hranafall and leave us to be the friendly trading tribe, that father has always wanted them to be.
And...maybe it was painful for Mother and Father to look at their daughter, which was called names and humiliated each and every day, because she didn't quite fit in and had now friends. And so they have decided to give me the best training they had. And mother...giving me all these crazy thoughts, that dragons only were killing machines and savage and didn't care about any other lifeforms. And this idea has manifested itself over years in my head until...well...now... Because, like it seems, I have been right about it all along...”

Hiccup felt some pressure, now that had hurt the full extend of her past behavior and suddenly he understood...everything. Because in front of him sat a young woman, who was only misunderstood and formed into a different shape, only to fit in perfectly. Since the heir needs to be somebody, that the people can look up to. Because a heir protects them.

Because the heir is one person, who fits in perfectly and would without a doubt take over the tribe when the old chief can't rule over them anymore.

And Hiccup understood, that maybe, they were not so different at all, though it had been Astrid's parents, who shaped her and it been Hiccup, who had shaped his tribe. But before that – all they have been was a misunderstood child.

“Don't get me wrong...“ She soon mumbled, finally being able to look back up and over to Hiccup again “..., I really, really enjoy fighting and it makes me happy, that I can beat an outgrown Viking men in a matter of minutes. It is just...things might have been easier for me, if mother hasn't told me so...so many things, that suddenly don't seem to be so true anymore.
After all – she has always told me, that men only see weakness in women and only want them as their birth machines. That the only reason, why they had a wife, was for them to clean up their houses, take care of their children, to massage their feet, when they have returned from battle. To...fulfill their needs. But then I came here and suddenly saw that everything is so different from what she has told me. Like you, who just would not fit into this mold. Or even Fishlegs, Snotlout, Tuffnut and Eret! Or Gobber, or all the other men out there, who seem to be anything but that! And I even guess, that my father, is not like that, either...“

The wish of just gripping her hand and hold it tightly was growing even more inside of Hiccup. But he suppressed it, by holding with one hand onto the knife and with the other on a piece of bread.

And she was pulling her hands from the table anyway, to lay them on her lap, a pained expression of defeat on her face.

“I guess...that there are men like that... But I can at least say to myself, that haven't found them, yet...“

Her blue eyes shifted, focused on Hiccup and a slight smile tucked on the corners of her lips, again.

“...thankfully...“ She whispered, and seemed to be very glad, that it was him, to sat across of her.

Though Hiccup still didn't know what to say exactly, since something wasn't quite working right in his brain, while she looked in this most gorgeous way at him, he still opened his lips, hoping, that some intelligent words would escape them.

But thankfully the slight croaking sound, that escaped them was all too suddenly interrupted by a scratching from the already closed window shutters.

Both young Vikings were a little surprised by this and raised their eyebrows, before yet another scratch echoed through the room.

Hiccup laid the bread and knife back on the table, wanting to stand up, put his prosthetic leg back on and to walk over to the window, but Astrid had already stood up to do so and carefully opened it to peer outside. Se lightened up a little, when she saw the Terror sitting there, flying inside and straight onto the table and in front of Hiccup.

“Looks like we have some late delivery there!“ He said jokingly and thanked Thor, that the small dragon arrived, before he could have said something pretty stupid, which could have ruined the mood. He then grasped the letter, that was attached to it, while Astrid sat back down and began to feed the small dragon some salmon.

“And who wrote this?“ The young woman asked, while she tore her eyes from the small guest and looked up to the young chief, who was reading eagerly and with a small smile on his face.

“Its from my mother!“ He finally said, rolling the parchment back together. “And what would you say, if we have a little trip tomorrow, once Dagur's ships have arrived.“

“A trip? Where to?“

“She wants to show us something on her mountain.“ Well, basically Valka had only asked him to come, probably since she didn't know about the changed bond between them, but he guessed, that she would not mind, if he brought Astrid with him.

Still a little confused, Astrid wasn't answering and merely looked unsure at Hiccup.

“It is a few hours away on the back of our dragons. Well...actually it might take us two or three days, depending on what she will show us, and until we return to Berk. But it would mean, you can train a little distance flight and could see a few awesome dragons. And you could escape from your duties for some time...“

“And you...?“

„Well..., the harvest is finished, I will help to storage the goods that Dagur and Mala delivered us and basically Gobber knows how to handle Berk every once in a while. Are you in?“

He stretched across the table, holding out his hand, for her to shake it in agreement.

And yeah – he was right – what was holding her back?

So without hesitation, she took his hand in hers, shaking it.

“Let me guess – she only asked you to come and does not know about me and might therefore be a little surprised?“ She asked, quirking an eyebrow at him, to which he could only smirk.

„Oh, you are so right!“

Chapter Text

Her Smile

“How are you over there?“ Hiccup screamed over to Astrid, who was wiggling a little in her saddle, an annoyed and slightly pained expression on her face.

“To be honest?“ She asked, holding tightly onto the handles, while cold wind was blowing all around her, making her shiver lightly. If she had known, that it was colder by Valka's Mountain, than Hiccup's casual explanation of 'A bit cool', then she surely would have taken a fur mantle. Or at least something similar to her old, fur hood.

“Yeah! Be honest!“

“I am freezing my ass off and the saddle gets a little hard over time! But flying over sea and seeing all these tiny islands down there is simply amazing!“

“Okay, I will memorize that, once we have returned to Berk, to improve your saddle. After all – its a similar distance towards Hranafall like this one! And for the second thing – I am glad to hear that!“

“Ah – good to know! But I don't think, that this is it, what annoyes me most...I guess it is my hair!“

“Your hair?!“

“Yeah – since I am not allowed to wear my hair in a braid anymore, since I am technically married to you, it is too loose for these kind of adventures! And its going everywhere – especially in my face!“

“You can bind it together, when we are flying. You know – I don't care if your hair is loose or not! As long as you feel comfortable!“

It really sounded too good to be true, but she somehow felt, that there surely were a few Berkians, who still wanted her to follow that tradition. And yet – especially while flying – having her hair in a braid would be so much better!

“Look – we are there soon!“ Hiccup's once again echoed over the sharp wind, while Astrid averted her eyes towards the distance and to a high mountain, that raised from the horizon at the very edge of the sky. Strangely enough there were huge spikes of ice piercing towards the sky, which was quite a sign she had never seen before.

“Just stay behind and stay close, we will fly inside...“

And she did, yet wondering, how they could that, but once they have reached a icy tunnel, she knew exactly, what he meant. Soon she knew, that the training had come in handy, since she was able to maneuver Stormfly easily through the tunnels and stay close behind Hiccup and Toothless, though she felt her heart beating fast with Adrenalin, whenever they came quite close to the walls.

Still, she felt how it was getting warmer and warmer with every passing second, and soon the coldness from outside was completely forgotten. And before she knew it, they have reached the inside of this massive structure and they were suddenly surrounded by something, that Astrid could have only dreamed off.

Thanks to the warmth, there were many, beautiful plants of many different kinds growing around them, spreading a pleasant, quite exotic smell. And above them – covering the stony pillars and the roof, tangling down from them. Beneath her were deep pools of water, and by the slight stream emerging from it, she knew that this must be quite warm and the reason, why these plants could grow here so easily. And still this wasn't by far the most amazing thing – it were the many kinds of dragons, that surrounded them – flying, jumping on the mossy ground below, or swimming in the depths of the water. Sure – there were a few kinds that looked similar to the species, that lived both on Berk and on Hranafall. But there were also dozens she had never seen or imagined before.

And all that the young woman could do, was to stare in awe just everywhere, in fear, that she could miss something. Stormfly must have been noticing Astrid's behavior, therefore decided to get a littler slower, but stayed behind Toothless close enough.

Astrid would have loved to say something, but she quite couldn't find something, that could describe her fascination with this place, or the pure beauty of it. Which was one of the reasons, that she didn't even notice, that they were landing in the first place and found herself to be a little frustrated, when she found Stormfly already standing on the rocky ground. Oh how she would have loved to see more of this place!

“Ah, Cloudjumper!“ She could suddenly hear Hiccup's voice exclaiming in joy, just before she decided it was the best for her to get off of her dragon's back. Therefore she found herself in front of a tall, owl-like creature, which was already patted lightly by the young chief in front of her. And seeing that dragon, she somehow felt, that she had seen him before, but still stood quite next to Stormfly, since she had no clue, how to approach an unknown dragon, yet. But by the way, that Toothless soon jumped around it, hiding beneath his wings, she thought, that dragon was also one of the kinder ones.

“Hiccup!“ Somebody suddenly called in joy and before she could have said or done something, he was already embraced by the slim woman with long, brown braids and a loving smile.

“I am glad, that you could make it so fast!“ Valka said happily, now holding her son a little away, so she could muster him “I can't wait to show you, what Cloudjumper has found a few days ago! I have never seen something like them and maybe we could figure out together-“

She suddenly stopped, her blue eyes fell upon Astrid and she immediately let go of Hiccup. Quite unsure she looked between the young woman and Hiccup, then towards Stormfly, who urged Astrid to go forward by pushing her lightly with her head.

“You...“ Valka said, walking a few steps past Hiccup and towards Astrid's direction, while all that the young woman could to, was stand there, knowing very well, that this was quite a surprise for Hiccup's mother. And judging by her reaction...it wasn't a pleasant one...After all – the last time, that they have seen each other, she had been quite a different person and one, that Valka probably didn't want too close to her beloved dragons. “...you are here...“

“Ah...yeah!“ Hiccup stepped in, somehow sensing the uneasiness between the two women, walking closer to Astrid and reached out with his hand for her, grabbing her wrist tightly and softly pulling her closer. “Look Mom – there might have been a few difficulties in the past between us, but we sorted them out...“

“Most of them...“ Astrid added, feeling, that it was better to remain truthfully towards Hiccup's mother.

“Yeah...“ He said, still not letting go of her wrist “...but time has proven, that Astrid had been able to accept Berk's ways and she has learned how to fly a dragon - as you see here - and right now we get along pretty well!“

“So...you two are a couple now?“ Valka asked, still with a blank look on her face.

Astrid eyes widened immediately and her whole body went stiff, while Hiccup immediately let go of her wrist and scratched the back of his head with some shame painted across his face.

“Ehr...no...We are just friends...“ Hiccup mumbled absently, before he cleared his throat and stepped forward to approach his mother once again. “Sure..., we are still pretending in front of our people, but at least the contract seems to work. Hakon has send his first letter with Terror Mail and of what I have heard, they really try to approach peace with dragons quite well. So does Astrid. She is not hurting any dragon. She is flying them and she is really fond of Stormfly and Toothless and every other dragon as well!“

“And what about you...“ Valka whispered, though Astrid could hear her clearly.

“What about me?“

“She still could try to attack you behind her back...And what about her mother?“

“Don't worry. Astrid would not do that. I know it...“

The was a tense moment of silence between the two of them.

Astrid understood her pretty well – this reluctance. After all of what she has heard about Valka, was she the perfect example of what the vigilante woman had been fighting against the past years. And she tried to kill her only son, when they were fighting in the arena for the Dance of Maidens. But she deep down hoped, that Valka would accept her here in the Sanctuary, now that she would never do something like that again.

“Okay...“ Valka soon said, looking back towards Astrid. “She may stay...“

Astrid saw, that Hiccup exhaled a puff of air in relief, while his mother walked past him and inside of yet another cave.

“See...it has been quite a surprise for her...“ He said, trying to sound cheerful.

“Yeah...“ Astrid chuckled nervously and added with sarcasm in her voice, before they both followed Valka: „...what a surprise!“

And the three dragons followed closely behind.

They were going through a tunnel inside of Valka's cave, where she had her sleeping place and can cook and just spend time, when she is not around the dragons. Astrid just couldn't stop to look everywhere, since she felt amazed, that Hiccup's mother had lived like that for about twenty years.

“Come here, son!“ Valka called smiling, waving her hand in excitement for him to come closer, while they were going towards the fire place, where a big and heavy pot over it, with something inside of it that rattled quietly.

“I have never seen some like these before! Cloudjumper has found them and brought them to me a few days ago and I guess, that they came from a few traders.“ She said, while her son stood right next to her, watching with raised eyebrows the pot, that still had a lid on it, concealing the contents inside.

The young woman still stood a little away from them, unsure, if Valka wanted to share her secret with her, too. But yet again it was Hiccup, who invited her, with a sharp nod of his head and one hand, that reached out for her, to take her place next to him - which she did after a few moments of hesitation, but she still notices Valka's careful watch, that laid upon her.

“What is inside?“ Hiccup finally asked, before Valka lifted the lid off of the pot, revealing three eggs inside, that were already moving a little around. Well...at least two of them, since one laid there quietly and without moving. And though there was some dim lighting surrounding them, Astrid could clearly see, that they had a pale, metallic shine to them and cracks all over their shells – they were about to hatch!

“I have never seen dragon eggs like these before. And I have seen many in my life...“ Valka explained, closing the lid again. “Have you?“

Hiccup immediately shook his head, scratching the back of his head, while he tried to remember something similar.

“No...I guess not. I guess...something like a sketch, that one of the Eastern traders had, but it could have been the sketch of any egg...“

“Then we will witness the birth of an unknown species...at least for us...“ Valka exclaimed happily, though her tone suddenly shifted and an uncertain darkness suddenly laid itself upon her eyes. “...well...at least two of them look like they want to hatch soon. You see – the still one, it hasn't moved, yet. And I quite doubt it will, for it had been heavily damaged on the bottom. Yet I hope, that Thor might show some mercy upon the small one and gift it with life.“

“Well...at least we can try...“

Valka nodded sadly, before she moved past them, to pet Cloudjumper in comfort.

“How long will...you two stay here?“

“One or two days...“ Hiccup answered, looking over to Astrid, as if he wanted to make sure, that she still was agreeing to that. She guessed, that he was feeling the uneasiness between her and his mother. But still she gave him a tiny nod as an answer, before he continued: “Winter seems to be striking soon. And I don't want them to be alone for too long.“

“That is reasonable.“ Valka said “And I was thinking to return for a while again. After all, I have promised you, to stay on Berk, whenever I can, to help you. And now, that this...'certain danger' seems to be gone, the dragons could return with me as well...“

“Certain danger?“ Astrid wondered out loud, not quite sure, what Valka was hinting at.

But Hiccup seemed to understand immediately, pressing his lips together into a thin line.

“Astrid is no danger. Neither for me, nor for Berk. Really. You don't need to worry.“

“Hiccup is right.“ Astrid said, stepping in as well. “I may have raised my hand against dragons multiple times in the past, but mostly in defense. But I will not do that again! I have learned my lesson and appreciate Berk's ways. I won't ever lay my hand on a dragon again!“

Astrid's chest was heaving and she clenched her firsts together, not quite sure she understood, why she wanted Valka to see, that she has changed. But nonetheless – she wanted her to believe it, for it was the truth.

Valka pressed her lips together, just like her son did before.. Sure, it still was hard for her to see, that anybody could change, who had killed dragons before in their lifes. But it has worked – for Berk. The Bersekers. And now for the Hunter tribe as well. And from what it seemed like – there was something else, that has formed between Hiccup and Astrid, that she still could grasp.

„As I said before – she may stay and I will try my best to see her in this new light.“ The older woman finally said, smiling a little. „For still I am sorry, whenever I do not behave like I have said.“

Astrid nodded.

“I accept that...I really do...“

Valka opened her lips again, maybe for an apology, or maybe to release a few more doubts, but was stopped from a loud crack from inside the pot. And yet another. And a third, more silent one, until quiet screeches echoed through the cave.

The older woman hurried back towards the pot and looked inside. But before any of them could have said something, a small creature looked with its dark yellow eyes at them, followed by a similar head with red eyes.

“They have hatched!“ Hiccup and his mother exclaimed happily in unison, while Valka let go of the lid immediately, taking out one of the small dragons, to hand him over to Hiccup, taking the second out as well.

They were long, snake like creatures, with soft, fish-like scales, which were shimmering in red and yellow. On their heads, that were a mixture of smaller dogs and a yak, were longer, thinner scales, that somehow looked like clusters of hair, while two of those were hanging from their noses, just as if they had tiny beards. And they were so small, cuddling themselves tightly into Hiccup's and Valka's chest, their little wings flapping every now and then.

And Astrid was amazed, having never seen such fresh hatchlings before.

Hiccup looked over to Astrid and smiled, walking closer to her, petting the small dragon in his arms.

“Ever seen such a small hatchling?“ He asked, while the small dragon his arms was examined by Toothless and Stormfly equally, who sniffed and nudged the little one, while he only stared, his tounge coming out every now and then.

She nodded slowly, though those she had seen before, were probably a little older, than these two here.

“Ever had a hatchling in your arms?“

“What-“

Before Astrid could have reacted, Hiccup was giving her the hatchling, laying it onto her arms, as if it was a human child. She snorted a little at that, not sure, if she should feel irritated, flustered or happy about it.

“Why has every now and then somebody the tendency, to give me a new-born?!“ She asked out loud, though she clearly was joking about it. And maybe, she could get used to it as well...

“Well, its the chieftess' duty to bless a new-born!“

“Even dragon hatchlings? And what will come next – a yak calf? A little chicklet?“

“It should be an honor to be trusted like that with new-borns!“

They were joking some time like that, petting the small dragon, while letting their dragons looks and sniff all they wanted. It was a nice moment, that made her smile wide and feel her warm inside. And Astrid was very glad, that she was allowed to witness this moment together with Hiccup. This particular moment even lasted for some time, both of them being watched by Valka, who couldn't help but smile herself at the sign that unfolded in front of her - until Hiccup turned a little back to his mother.

“What about the third?“ Hiccup asked, still having one hand on the back of the hatchling, while he looked over to his mother, who's dragon seemed to be more agile and had already started to climb on her shoulders with his claw like feet, sniffing carefully at Cloudjumper.

“The egg looks like it has a few bigger cracks. And it definitely has moved a little. We should give it some more time...“

He nodded, while Valka closed the lid once more, to keep the last egg warm, having a sad smile on her features.

“But I still hope, that he will make it!“

“He will – if he has come this far now, then he will also get through the shell as well.“ Hiccup said reassuringly, while he was taking the second hatchling now from Astrid's arms, since it had begun to get agile as well – which seemed to be a little too much for the young woman. And he gave it to Valka, once he had stretched out her hand for him, laying it now on her left shoulder, whole its sister laid on her right.

“Well...let's hope for the best and hope, that you are right. In the meanwhile, Cloudjumper and I will show these two how to fly! And you can show Astrid a little around, if you want!“

Oh how she wanted to see more of it! She wanted to see every corner of this mountain and all of its caves! She wanted to meet every dragon, give her knowledge on those she already knew, while she wanted Hiccup to teach her things about those she didn't.

“Sure, I can...“ He said with a grin on his face, taking one last look of the egg inside the pot “But I hope, that we will be back, once this one is hatching, too!“

“Oh, our dragons will lead us here. They have a sense for that.“ Valka said, mounting her dragon, with the two smaller ones clawing on her back. “And by the way – it looked kinda beautiful – I would say. The two of you with a small one between you....“

And with that Valka was off, leaving the two young Vikings behind, both with a light blush on their faces, and their two dragons, that seemed to snicker behind them with small grunts.

“I am sorry for that...Didn't know, that my mother could be teasing, too“ Hiccup mumbled, rolling his eyes at his mother's strange behavior.

Astrid eyed him from the side, setting her fists on her hips.

“Well..., first I thought, that she wanted to drag me out of this cave with her bare hands and that she hated me for everything I have done and now I have the feeling, that she just wants nothing more, but to have a grandchild!“

“Yep...that definitely is that desperate need for an Haddock-heir that everybody has evolved over the past months! But I have to agree with one thing there...“

“And that is?“

“It really looked beautiful...“

“Are we getting cheesy or sassy there? Or both?! Shall I hit you to clear your thoughts...“

“No...I mean – it was not what my mother meant, what looked beautiful!“

“Then what else?“

“That smile on your lips, when you held the hatchling... It somehow still lingers on them...And it really suits you...“

Before she could have punched him, he jumped right onto Toothless' back, and made him fly through the cave towards its entrance, while the young woman stood there dumbfounded. And she reached for her lips, noticing, that it still hadn't vanished, wondering, if it really had been the hatchling, that had made her smile, or if it had been something else...

Stormfly cooed next to her, nudging her rider into her side, to get her to mount her back. But Astrid could very well see the mischievous gleam in the Nadder's eyes, making her roll her own.

“Oh, don't you dare to say a word about that!“

Chapter Text

His Smile

Hiccup had laid awake for many hours now and still he just couldn't find his sleep, sighing a little, as he once more shifted his head on Toothless back and tried to make himself comfortable on his bedroll once more. But it didn't seem to work and sleep didn't want to catch up with him, especially when his eyes fell once more on the sleeping silhouette at the other side of the cave.

For the first time he could watch Astrid sleep – not that fever induced, painful sleep – but an actual, peaceful slumber, cuddled tightly against Stormfly's side and onto her bed roll.

If somebody would have told him, that this young woman, who had appeared on Berk with a high-held battle axe and scorn and wrath in her heart, would be able to change and would come to love dragons, then he surely would have laughed. But things have changed.

And something in himself has changed as well and he can't deny it...

Hiccup was not dumb. He unterstood what this bubbly feeling inside of his stomach and that steady smile on his lips meant, whenever she was looking at him. He knew exactly, how wonderful it was, to look right into her deep, blue eyes and to earn a smile, whenever he had done something, that had surprised her, or just because...he was there for her and showing her how to fly or this world full of dragons. Just because he had been nice to her...

He knew exactly, that his friends and mother's teasing had a reason behind it. And he knew, that all his thoughts surrounding her, had a damn reason. And he knew, that his mother was trying to accept Astrid's presents for a reason.

The only reason, why he wasn't acting on these feelings, were his rational thoughts. Thoughts like, that she would never see more than a friend in him. Or her teacher. Or just the nice guy with only one leg, who lets her sleep in his bed, while he awoke each and every morning with aching back pains and sometimes with a horrible headache.

And...he thought again with yet another sigh..., that she would love to do nothing more, but to finally return to her parents, since she could take the things she has learned with her and show them to her people. And then...he would be alone with Toothless again, in the far too big Haddock House. Or she would return to him, only to continue with their little faked marriage...

Therefore he settled with just being there for her, whenever she needed him. As a friend – on which they both had agreed on.

Hiccup could hear hurried footsteps suddenly approaching and he sat up – knowing, that those were coming from his mother.

And when she emerged at the entrance of this smaller cave, smiling widely and with the two hatchlings on her back, he knew, that he was right. And something in a thick cloth in front of her chest.

“It's hatching!“ She cried in joy, making Astrid stir and the two dragons stir as well. But it wasn't enough to wake them up, yet. He on the other hand stood up immediately and hurried over to his mother, while she pulled the cloth a little away, so he could see the enormous cracks on the egg and a few smaller holes, that revealed the dragons scales.

“Get her, she probably wants to see that as well!“ Valka said, smiling lightly at her son, and pointing with a movement of her head over to Astrid, who was still not sitting up.

He nodded, hurried over to the young woman to wake her up. But then, he stood there for a moment, quite unsure of how to do that. Should he shake her by the shoulder? Stroke her hair? Or her cheek?

“Hurry!“

“Ah – yeah!“

Since time was running out, Hiccup decided on carefully taking her wrists, pull her up until she sat. She blinked at him and yawed.

“What is the matter?“ She asked sleepily and tried to focus on the young chief, who was still crouching in front of her, a little confused about his strangest behavior.

“The last egg!“ He exclaimed softly “It is hatching! We thought, that you wanted to see that as well...“

Astrid understood immediately, hurriedly rubbing the sleep from her eyes and stood up – forcing with that move Hiccup to let go of her wrists.

“Come here, Astrid! Witness yourself!“

And they did, both walking over towards the older woman, who had knelt down and lay the egg on the cloth on the ground. Astrid and Hiccup followed her, kneeling down as well.

One could really notice, that this little hatchling had its fair share of problems with breaking through the shell – which was different from its brother and sister. It was taking its time, moving slowly. The shell was cracking slowly and inch by inch. Smaller pieces falling from it every now and then, revealing more and more from the small, red dragon.

And then, all the sudden...it stopped moving all along and so did the apparent breathing of the little one.

Hiccup's heart beat fastened with every passing second and when he looked over to his mother, he noticed the worry in her eyes as well.

“Can't we help it?“ Astrid asked and he thought, that the end of her sentence was shaking a little. “You know...opening the egg for the small one?“

Valka shook her head, wrinkles of sorrow emerging on her forehead.

“Sadly we should not. You know – there are eggs that explode, when they hatch and there are eggs that disintegrate into ashes. Then there are those hatchlings, that will be only accepted among their kind, when they hatch all on their own and hatchlings, that get help from their parents. And since we don't know, what kind of dragons these belong to, we should not interfere, for it might get for the little one more difficult to find its place among the swarm... The other two – they made it on their own as well...And a human should never help! That is one of the few things I have learned early on...“

“So...we only can wait...?“

“Yeah...“ Hiccup whispered, daring to lay a caring hand on Astrid's shoulder, on which – to his surprise – she laid one of her own, grasping his fingers lightly, keeping him there.

“Don't worry...the small one has come this far...“ He whispered, while he felt Toothless, Stormfly and Cloudjumper appear as well, peering between the three humans, who still kneeled on the floor, grief filling them with every passing second. “And he will break through the shell as well!“

“Come on little one...“ Valka said softly, pointing with her finger at Toothless and the on the ground below the egg, the dragon understanding immediately, before heating the rock with a blast. “Maybe that will to it...“

Engulfed in heat, the egg started to move again. First swaying from one side to the other, until the cracks on the egg began to grew again and-

The shell flew away in pieces like small projectiles, though being hit by them didn't hurt at all.

“Thanks Thor!“ Astrid exclaimed, letting go of Hiccup's hand, once she was seeing the small dragon, that looked exactly like a replica of his siblings. Only that his eyes seemed to appear blue upon blinking.

“He made it...“ Valke sighed in relief, while the older dragons cooed comfortingly and the two smaller ones climbing off of Valka's shoulders to greet their brother.

He was still blinking, curled up into a ball with his tongue every now and then showing itself, while breathing heavily.

“One of his wings is smaller than the other...“ Valka said, once Hiccup has noticed it as well. “He might have a few difficulties with flying. But we will see about that, once the time comes...“

“The damage of the egg seemed to have some influence on the development of the dragon.“ Hiccup added, nodding slightly.

“He really is a lucky one there...“ Astrid added and Hiccup saw her hands twitching, as if she wanted to reach out and take the small one on her arms herself.

“He really is...“ Valka added, taking the small hatchling with a tiny smile – that even seemed to be smaller than his sibling – with a mischievous gleam in her eyes and placed it on Astrid's lap. She immediately embraced it, seemingly fearing, that she would drop him to the ground and gave Hiccup an evil eye, when chuckled at that.

“And since you named him, you can hold him first.“

“Wait?! Named him?!“ Astrid croaked, while Hiccup still grinned, seeing, that Astrid once again was blessed with the honor to hold a new-born in her arms. „I did not name him!“

“I think, that 'Lucky One' seems to be very fitting. Don't you think that as well, Hiccup?“

“You are right...“ Hiccup said, smiling widely – and even wider once the dragon cuddled more into Astrid. “Very right...“

The two small siblings of Lucky One – which were named Enchantress and Magican by Hiccup and his mother due to the fact, that they have instantly charmed any dragon they came across - came closer towards Astrid, climbing on her arms and shoulders, to get a better look on the small dragon, little coos of comfort escaping them, while they cuddled its small muzzle and sides.

“At least the two of them seem to accept their brother.“ Valka said, now slowly getting up, before she looked over to Hiccup and Astrid once more. “And how about I make some breakfast?“

“Breakfast?!“ Hiccup squeaked, while Astrid answered, sounding delighted: “That would be wonderful!“

Hiccup gulped and looked over to Astrid, knowing, that he somehow should tell her of the...not-existing cooking skills of his mother. After all – he didn't want to scare her of – which seemed to be quite ironical, since Astrid had stated multiple times, that she wasn't the best cook, either.

“Then let's go!“ Valka exclaimed and with that vanished with the three older dragons, leaving Astrid, Hiccup and the three hatchlings alone.

“Need a hand, Dragon-Mommy?“ He joked, finding this picture of Astrid with the three small dragons on her equally amusing, fascinating and beautiful at the same time.

Again she gave him an evil look, but he immediately noticed the small smile, that tucked on the corners of her lips.

“I am not gonna hit you for that, because I have the babies on my arms! But be sure to get beaten up, once we are alone!“

“I just wanted to lend you a hand...“ he said, trying to sound a little hurt in a joking way, though he had to admit to himself, that he would love to spend some time with Astrid alone. Not the 'Astrid, Hiccup and Toothless' – kind of alone, but only the actual two of them.

He heard her sigh and she smiled at him.

“Fine. I may allow you to help me...“ she said softly, while he laughed about that a little and he encircled his arms around her, pulling her back up to her feet. And then – they stood for some time like that, merely looking at each other, while different kinds of thoughts echoed through their heads. And above all – it felt just nice to be that close to that young woman, that had somehow captured his heart.

“Thank you...“ She finally mumbled, stepping back, just before the two small dragons jumped over to Hiccup's shoulder, leaving only Lucky One in her arms. „We should follow now your mother, don't you think so? I don't like the thought, that your mother might try to tease us, again...“

He cleared his throat, rubbing the back of his head, while Enchantress and Magican clawed on his shoulders for support.

“You are welcome and very right, I guess...“, he mumbled, before she turned around and followed his mother. “And by the way, shouldn't I prepare something eatable?!“ Hiccup wondered out loud, but sadly enough nobody answered to that, making him sigh in defeat and looking at the two dragons. “You guys would agree, if you could speak, right? You look like somebody with a functioning taste...”

But since the two dragons couldn't agree to that, he could only follow in silence.

And after all – his mother has already started to stir in a pot, that seemed to contain some sorts of fish, by the time Hiccup had reached them. Sure – Toothless and Cloudjumper sat next to his mother, eyeing her with dilated pupils, and some saliva even dropped from Toothless' tongue, while the black dragon peered inside the pot. Of course – as long there would no eel be inside of whatever Valka was cooking there, then surely he would love to eat it. But Hiccup wasn't quite sure himself, if he wanted to try it – or let Astrid try it.

But on the other hand, he didn't want to tear the spoon out of his mother's hands, since she seemed to be so happy about the three hatchlings, whose species still was very unknown to them. And he did not know, how Valka would react to this revolting act any way, or didn't want to bother Astrid by it.

Therefor he merely sat down by the fireplace and looked over to Astrid, who was standing in front of Stormfly, still with the little dragon on her arm, who still seemed to be very exhausted from the hard hatching – process. She seemed to be talking with both of them in soft voices, letting them sniff the other dragon, while alternating between them with her stroking and petting.

And Hiccup couldn't do anything but smile softly, being far to captured by the view that unfolded itself in front of him, remembering his previous thoughts of his own stupidity. After all – why in Thor's name, would Astrid ever dare to see something else in him, but his friend? He was nothing like the men she had imagined herself to be with and far from anything, that he mother wanted for her. Not...that he actually wanted Ljóda to like him, but on the other hand, would it be far easier, if she did.

He sighed a little, noticing, that his thoughts were recently far too occupied by the gorgeous young Valkyrie in front of him, which wasn't probably healthy, either. Sure – he was very glad, that she stumbled into his life by force, and he knew, that they were coming along pretty well by now and he wouldn't want to change anything.

Still...things might be just easier, if she just would...return his feelings...

But yeah – for now he was very happy with the bright smile, that she cast him in that very moment – probably having noticed the way, that he had looked at her for some time now and he couldn't hold himself back and smiled even wider at her.

“So...“ Valka suddenly asked in a hushed tone, sitting down next to him with a bowl in her hands that very much smelled like that stuff she had prepared only minutes before. “...when do I get my grandchildren?“

Hiccup turned back towards his mother with wide eyes and an expression of shock on his features, while at the same time being very glad, that Astrid had turned back towards Stormfly and started to speak with her again.

“What?!“ He hissed, just as Toothless pushed his head between him and Valka, devouring the contents of the bowl instantly, making Hiccup wonder, if the food she had prepared had been for the humans in this cave at all.

“Hiccup...“ Valka said calmly, smiling slightly “I am your mother. And as that I can see, if my son has developed feelings for somebody. And in your case, this somebody is Astrid. And with every passing minute, I begin to understand on why that has happened.“

“Oh you do?“

“You two have more in common, than I have first thought...And clearly there is something between the two of you, that one can't describe! And by the way you look at her...You know...Stoick used to look the same way at me.“

That was the moment where Hiccup noticed, that his eyes had turned once again towards Astrid, hurriedly averting them once more to not provoke any suspicion.

“What way?!“

“Well...your pupils heavily dilate, which not only happens to dragons, when they look at something that they like, but also to humans. And that smile...if you really don't want her to notice anything about your feelings, then you shouldn't smile like that - like she means the world to you...“

“Then what do you suggest me to do?“

“Act on your feelings!“

“What- But...but I thought, that you don't like her and want me to have an eye on her, in case she would try to make a move on me!“

“I have never said, that I don't like her!“ Valka said, sounding a little irritated, but honest at the same time ”...But I still want you to look out for her – or for her mother, as a matter of fact. That is the one woman I will never trust! And for Astrid - also I can't deny the fact, that she is looking the same at you. And that is something, that makes me very happy for both of you...“

“I am just her friend...“ He mumbled in defeat, though being very grateful for that.

“If you say so, but you know what people say – love is blind and-“ Valka mumbled, wanting to add more, but suddenly stopped, when she could hear a few dragon screams from outside the cave, standing up immediately.

“What is that?!“ Astrid asked, while Hiccup stood up, too, facing the Sanctuary with the dragons, his heart beating heavily.

“An Attack?“ He mumbled towards his mother, who nodded.

“Probably Hunters outside... Some of the dragons seem to sense their presence...We need to go, before they find out, that we are inside of this mountain!“

“An Attack?!“ Astrid asked, coming closer to them, followed by Stormfly. “Then we need to vanquish them!“

While Valka was already mounting Cloudjumper, Hiccup walked over to Astrid, laying one hand on her shoulder, looking her into the eyes, while he let the two small hatchlings crawl over to her and onto her back.

“Wait here...“

“What?! You can't be serious! You know, that I can fight and that I will be of big-“ She stopped, seemingly suddenly noticing herself, that she was without an weapon. “If you give me just something I can help you! I promise, that I won't harm a dragon with that!“

“It is not that...“ He whispered softly, trying to smile courageously at her.

“Hiccup!“ Valka shouted, making it clear, that they might be running out of time.

“What then? Let me help you...“

“We will use our dragons. And I want you to be confident with the attack and defense maneuvers, before I want you to go in battle on Stormfly. It is better that way, for both of you. So just...stay here and if by any chance somebody gets inside the mountain, then defend the dragons with everything you have...“

He knew, that Astrid wanted nothing more but fight and help them. But he still felt, that this wasn't the right time. She needed more training, though she already was quite an excellent dragon rider. But he had never before trained with her an emergency like that! And he didn't want to endanger her because of that...

Hearing his mother call out for him again, he knew, that the time was running out and that he needed to hurry. And despite knowing, that it won't be a hard fight, he wanted her to be safe inside this cave. And without knowing, what he did, he leaned forward, pressing his lips on her cheek, before he mounted Toothless and followed Valka close behind.

...Leaving a very flustered and bewildered young woman behind.

Chapter Text

Their Sword and Shield

Hiccup was irritated. Why has he done that?! Kissing her on the cheek...That was just not something, that one does on a regular basis – especially not with somebody like Astrid, who just got used to...basically everything that regards emotions beyond wrath and anger... But there had been so many things in that very moment, which had led to his outburst of very present feelings for the young woman. He couldn't deny that.

And well...sure...he wanted to show her some kind of affection. Wanted to show her, that he cared about her and her feelings and that he knew, that she could handle a fight pretty well – even without an axe and maybe even on the back of a dragon. And therefore he had suddenly been in such a rush, to just do...that... There could have been definitely worse – like kissing her on the lips, which was quite a nice thought, as well as a disturbing one, regarding her possible frustration and anger afterwards. And of course some embarrassment as well...

But kissing Astrid...it surely would feel like flying for the first time – wonderful and exciting and so many things more.

He knew, that she would love to hear some explaining, once he has returned and surely she would be angry with him. Maybe even slap him, since she didn't have the chance before with his fast disappearance. Or she would craft an axe out of what ever she would be finding in Valka's cave – only to throw it at him. Well and he - he would understand that. Accept it...

And still...he couldn't help himself but smile about it like an idiot...Because above all – it had felt so right and nice...

“Can you focus now?!“ Valka shouted towards him, holding her staff tightly in preparation for the attack.

“I am focused!“ Hiccup shouted back, leaning in closer towards Toothless back to fly him faster. But he grinned widely. “Don't worry about that!“

Out of the corner of his eyes, he noticed the small smile that hang on the corners of Valka's lips, which made him roll his eyes. Nice – she must have noticed that as well, which would continue the endless circle of teasing... At least the gang didn't know about that, since that would be far more annoying – and he would make sure, that they would never got to know about that!

“There they are!“ Valka shouted, pointing with her staff towards a small ship in the distance. The flagpole did not hold a flag, that Hiccup knew and therefor he was relieved, that those were not a few of Drago's remaining men. And first he hoped, that those were no Dragon Hunters, either, hoping, that those poor people were only misled travelers or traders, that have lost their course. Some people that only needed their help, not seeking their attack.

But as soon as those people have noticed the two dragons with their riders on their back, they began to shout, words, which were quite hard to make out from the still very present distance.

Hiccup narrowed his eyes, his hand already twitching towards Inferno's direction, very well knowing, that they would not come out of this without a fight.

And by the way Valka has already positioned herself on Cloudjumper, with her staff held high in her hands, he knew, that she was sensing this danger as well.

„Ready?!“ She shouted towards her son, who only gave her a sharp nod, before they both let their dragons soar towards the ship.

The screaming got louder and they saw people running around on the deck.

And arrows soaring through the air, towards them, trying to hit any of the four. But they were no match for mother and son and their dragons, easily flying past them with a few masterly moves. And those, that came too clase were destroyed with the staff or the flaming sword without mercy.

They lowered towards the ship, Valka letting Cloudjumper grasp one of the men with his claws – and that even without any words, which still to that day amazed Hiccup. Then the two off them flew a little over the water, before letting the man down, landing in the icy water underneath, while Hiccup shouted for Toothless to give the ship a blast, before flying back up towards the sky. On the way up he cutted through the sail with Inferno to prevent them from getting away to flee.

„How many?“ Valka asked in a hurry, while they once again dodged the arrows while flying.

„Something like 20. Definitely more. I don't know, if there are still people inside the ship and will come up at any second.“

“Their leader?“

„Not sure – couldn't make one out right away!“

„Me neither...And I don't think, that they would like negotiation at all..“ Valka added, making Hiccup nod once more, while he watched the people running around on deck, trying to put out the fire – in which they shortly after succeed, since the Night Fury didn't use the full force behind it and had only resulted into a small fire.

Hiccup had heard the shouts of amazement and greed, when he had flown Toothless close enough, knowing very well, that they wanted to have the Night Fury in some kind of collection – but for now he didn't know, what exactly they were persuading with hunting down dragons anyway.

„No...they seem to be far too interested in our dragons!“ The young chief shouted, seeing that they were preparing two catapults with trapping nets.

„Then lets fight them more!“

Hiccup nodded about that, and let Toothless follow his mother, with both dragons gripping onto the mast, while flying straight ahead, until the ship tilted to the side. Screams emerged from the deck, while the dragons flew away and the ship heavily rocked from one side to the other, making it impossible for the people to stand or to shot their nets in the correctly – thankfully missing the two dragons and hitting the mountains behind them.

 

Hiccup really hoped, that those attakers had enough and would retreat – but no – they started with their attack again, shooting a wave of arrows once again. Clearly – they hadn't enough!

The young chief looked over to his mother, seeing her nod at that, before she let Cloudjumper fly lower and lower even more, dodging the arrows with ease, before they both landed on the deck, fighing the men there hand to hand, with Cloudjumper launching at them with his wings, tail and teeth. Valka easily fought the men with her staff with graceful moves.

Hiccup followed her close behind, taking his place by her side, while Toothless worked together with Cloudjumper – his back, fin and forehead glowing in a bright blue to demonstrate his status as the Alpha dragon, making the men on deck shout out in fear once more. A few of them even ran away and inside the ship, to be save from the frightening black dragon.

The young man on the other hand took his flaming sword once more, fighting two men – one large and thin, while the other was quite small and bulky – at once, dodging them and attacking them at the same time. But he immediately noticed that they were trained well and probably wouldn't go down in an easy fight.

But still he hadn't figured out where they came from, or what they wanted – with or without their dragons. And nobody yet had themselves revealed to be their leader, from which he had hoped to get a few answers about this.

Yet – in that very exact moment he had different things to care about – like that the should have brought a shield with him, to dodge one weapon, while trying to parry the other with Inferno. Still – they were not getting too close, making it difficult to land an actual strike and – sadly enough – due to his past months of chiefly duties, he wasn't in the same shape he had used to be, neglecting his skill in combat all along. Skills, which would have come in handy in this particular fight. But he would handle them – all of them – who would dare to harm any dragon. Those two, which were fighting alongside with them, and also those, who were hidden in the mountain behind them.

And just as he had taken out the two – sadly in a far too long fight – he had turned towards the next, who had wanted to avoid a fight with the two enraged dragons and instead had tried to focus on Hiccup instead. This very muscular man held two maces high in his hand, his teeth bared and with a look of fury in his eyes, coming closer towards the young chief with big and heavy steps, forcing his two weapons down onto him, which the young man dodged, by jumping and rolling to his side, holding Inferno up and against the man's handle. The man drew away from the immense head, but started to look more angry because of that.

But just before he had been able to come back up from the wooden deck, the man had turned around and swung his two maces, about to strike once again – with a force that wouldn't be easy to take for the young man.

So he held his flaming sword high, holding tight onto its handle, hoping, that Inferno would cut through at least one mace with ease.

But the contact never came, though a loud, crashing sound echoed towards his ears, as well as a piecing scream of fury. A female scream...

That was the moment, when Hiccup noticed, that he had closed his eyes for the impact and immediately opened them back up again – only to see the back of the young woman that magically had captured his heart.

A few of the attackers shouted irritatingly, asking loud, where the young woman has suddenly emerged from, while a few others cried, when the blue Nadder, that had come along with her, shoot its sharp spines towards them, capturing them, or making them dodge them with their weapons and shields.

But this irritation had been enough for Astrid, to knock out the muscular man in front of her, who had probably seen her as weak and an easy target. She had smirked at that, before her foot had come in contact with his head, making him tumble backwards, only to crash into the wooden deck and now laying the unconsciously. She even gave him a good, second hit with her fist, just to make sure he would stay that way.

“Watch your defense, my Chief!“ She shouted over the noise around them, sounding a joking and sounding serious at the same time, hurriedly helping him back up to his feed, before she raised the shield in her hands for both of them, to hide from a few arrows, that were targeted at their heads.

He smirked a little at that, before they moved, standing back to back and waiting for the next attack.

“I am sorry, M'lady! I should have brought a shield for this fight! Aaand...I might not be in the best shape!“

“Then let me be your shield!“

“And my personal coach for future fights once we have returned to Berk?!“

“What?! You know, that this is not the best timing to discuss anything but the fight?!“

“Sure - Forget about it!” He said, immediately regretting, that he had said that „Then just let me be your sword then!“

“Alright – then – move!“

And he did, launching into the guy in front of him with a fierce battle scream, making him move backwards, towards the railing. Astrid moved around him, dodging a cut from a sword from the left and a blow of an axe from the right.

They both were amazed on how well they worked together, moving in the fight as if they were one being. They didn't need communication for that, just their trust and knowledge about the way the other moved, having witnessed this on their own, when they had been fighting the other. Having learned more than expected from the Dance of the Maiden. Hiccup could force a few men into the water without worrying to get hit by any weapon, since Astrid functioned as his eyes and ears for those things, he wasn't noticing on his own. The young woman on the other hand was just too amazed about the way Hiccup made the flaming sword work – enlightening shields and weapons, that were not protected enough and he had a perfect hit on. And his technique was excellent as well – nearly fore sighting the attacks of their opponents. Just the way he did back there, when he was fighting her.

Sure – their fighting style hadn't changed much in the past months and ever since they had encountered the other, but fighting now for the same thing – on the same side – was a whole new experience and Astrid even thought, that she was even better, now with all the fury and anger gone, that had clouded her perception. And she felt the same change for Astrid – fighting even harder now, that he fights for something he actually believes him, not just something that he had to do to keep everybody happy.

And soon enough they have lowered their attackers to only five people, with most of them being forced by human or dragon into the water, while the other half laid unconscious on the deck. And thankfully enough their side didn't seem to be hurt at all.

“Where is your leader?!“ They could finally hear Valka shout, just as she had yet another men pushed towards Cloudjumper, who had packed him with his claws, flying high and letting him fall in some distance over the water, before the dragon returned.

With them finally being in majority, the attackers finally noticed their incoming defeat, retreating from their attack, yet with their weapons still held high. But Hiccup, Astrid and Valka didn't lower their guard either, with his mother still holding tightly onto her staff, as she stood next to Cloudjumper, patting him lightly on the head, and the two young Vikings with sword and shield still tightly in their hands, their eyes narrowed and panting from the effort.

“Alright...“ One man with a helmet finally said, raising his shield and mace into the air as a sign of defeat. “...you guys win...“

Hiccup immediately knew, that he must be the leader, since all the other men raised their weapons up into the air as well and he decided to confront him, by getting closer, Inferno pointed towards his face.

“What do you want?! Why are you here?“ He asked loud, while he felt Astrid's presence close behind him and saw Valka standing behind the group of men in the middle of the ship.

“Dragons...“ The man said and one could hear his loud gulp, when Toothless growled angrily at him. “We are just traders! We do not harm dragons!“

“Well, that doesn't mean, that we won't harm you, if you don't spit, who you are hunting the dragons for...“ Valka said, while Cloudjumper leaned closer to the men, sniffing on them, as if the big dragon wanted to make sure, that they won't be dangerous anymore. And the men shuttered because of that – most of them in fear.

“Who are you the dragons hunting for? A guy named Drago?“ Hiccup repeated, nearly shouting with the anger, that suddenly filled him.

Valka narrowed her eyes at the sound of that name as well, but stayed nonetheless quiet.

“Drago? No – we don't know a Drago! Or does anybody know a Drago...?!“

The few remaining men around him disagreed, but then were quite again, when their leader suddenly pointed at Astrid. A strange urge went through Hiccup to stand right in front of her, so the man wouldn't be able to look at her at all, but he suppressed it, by just clenching his hand even tighter around his sword.

“You – I know you!“

“Me?! How could you know me?!“ Astrid asked out loud in a hissing tone, pushing past the other man to pull off the helmet from their leader. It was an older man, with a greyish beard and many wrinkles and age spots all over his face. She immediately noticed him – for he was one of her father's more frequent traders and she probably should have known the flag, once she flew past it.

“Halvar...“ She hissed, laying her hand on his throat in case he would try to make a move at her and to demonstrate her strength.

“Yeah – you are indeed the little Hofferson-Girl. Well...not so girly anymore, as I see!“ He coughed a little when she clenched his throat harder, not quite liking the fact that somebody would call her 'girly'.

“I have grown up. And-“ She looked over to Hiccup, making a quick decision, so the older man wouldn't ask too many questions. Sure – Hiccup and Valka would have enough questions by the end of the conversation, but she was willing enough to give them those, once they had enough time for it. And so she sighed, before she continued: “-I am married now! I am married to the Chief of Berk – Dragon Master Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III. Ringing a bell somewhere?“

The pale eyes Halvar looked over towards Hiccup for a minute, gulping once more, before he answered:

“I might have heard off him...“

“And so you might know off his people and that they don't accept any form of dragon hunting? And so do I. And my father as well...“

“Chief Hakon of Hranafall is no longer interested in any dragons to sell...“ Valka said calmly.

„Indeed. And of what I have heard, any form from it is now under punishment. So I would suggest, that you from now on search for other things to trade – my father is also very font of any kind of crafts...And he like to sell them to other traders as well!“

“Oh I will do that, I will do that...!“ He pleaded, nodding the best he could under her tight grip.

“And Halvar – If I ever hear, that you continue your dragon hunting and selling, then I will hunt you down personally and make sure, you won't ever do that, again!“

She pushed him away from her, standing with clenched fists in front of him, demonstrating her strength, that one couldn't quite tell with their bare eye.

“You heard her, men – gather those other idiots out of the sea and try to wake the unconscious ones! And repair the sails! We will be turning the ship! No more dragon hunting for now-“

“Ever!“ Valka added, to which the older man nodded. “Ever...Yes! I won't ever touch a dragon anymore – just like these guys. Right?!“

They all agreed.

“And we will be traveling East. And maybe a little down the South. I have heard the Anglo-Saxons have a few nice crafts, which they like to sell for a low price.“

The men hurried away, to prepare the ship for a longer voyage, while Halvar shouted commands for his people.

“Is he trustworthy, Astrid?“ Valka asked out loud, while she walked to Cloudjumper and mounted him.

The young woman nodded.

“Off what I know about him – he is. Halvar might be only after profit, but he knows, when he makes a mistake. I will let father know about him, once we have returned to Berk.“

“And there might be a few things to talk about?“ Hiccup asked, raising his eyebrows, finally speaking up again after such a long time, not being quite sure, how he should feel about the whole deal of 'selling dragons'. Something, that nobody has ever told him before and that Hakon seemed to participate in.

Astrid felt his concern and felt her heart beating faster because of it. Therefore she gave him a tiny smile, before she walked over to Stormfly as well, to jump into her saddle.

“Yeah...there are a few things, we should talk about...“ She mumbled, following Valka, who was already flying high with Cloudjumper in the sky. Hiccup's eyes followed her, wondering, if there could be more things, that she was hiding from him. Not...that something would change the way he felt about her. But he guessed, that there still were things, that he needed to know about her.

“Can we both agree, that women are difficult and complicated and full of mysteries?!“ He asked out loud.

And thankfully enough Toothless agreed with a nod – together with one of Halvar's men, who loudly mumbled: “Oh you are so right, Dragon Master!“

Chapter Text

Their Strangest Behavior

Astrid walked for some time now back and forth in Valka's cave, desperately trying to explain basically everything to Hiccup and Valka, while the three larger dragons were playing with the three hatchlings by the front of the cave.

The young woman looked pretty flustered, with her long blonde hair disheveled and sticking out in all directions, while she spoke with frantic gestures and hurried words. No – she didn't want them to believe, that she withheld valuable information about her tribe or her father – though – she had to admit to herself – killing dragons was suddenly a far worse option then to just 'sell' them. Of course she had known, that those dragons where send off to fight each other or to a few madmen, that had a strange collection of those winged reptiles.

And yet the first aspect – of killing the dragons - always only appeared in context of protecting Hranafall, the tribe and of course their own family. The other – the shockingly more recent one – was only meant for profit. And her father – as a trader he had become of the years – really loved this profit. And she knew, that there were people out there, who would buy dragons for a good price. Maybe that was even the aspect, why the Hunter Tribe had been more wealthy than a few others out there.

And though Astrid knew, that now with the contract and the working pact, there would be no way, that Hakon had went on with those trades – finding other things to buy and sell. But she somehow still felt guilty for not telling them, though Hiccup already knew pretty much from her past. Maybe even more than her own parents...

“You see...“ Astrid finally said, stopping right in front of them once more “...I see no way, that my father would continue with those trades! He is a man of honor and I know, that he accepts and tolerates the contract and will do everything to make it work! And he certainly would not betray you as a chief! He honors you too much for that... But please – understand – hiding this information was not intended. It just...didn't seemed to have such a big importance compared to basically everything else!“

Hiccup wasn't speaking yet and it was something that quite irritated Astrid. But...what else could she say? She had given them any information, that was relevant to the story, on why Hakon had certain trades involving dragons. She even gave them the more irrelevant ones! And yet – and that was, what irritated herself the most – was the reason behind Halvar's current hunting session. Sure – they haven't been married for too long and the information of the contract surely hadn't seeped through to all off their usual traders. But she still wondered, why Halvar – who had been on Hranafall quite frequently in the past – didn't get the information before. And a tiny blast of doubt echoed in the back of her mind.

What if, she wondered, standing right in front of Hiccup and Valka,...her father wasn't acting like settled in the contract. What if...he was still hunting dragons and she didn't even know it.

She needed to find out beforehand, if this really was the case, or if there was a deeper meaning behind all of that, instead of Halvar just 'not knowing' about any contracts at all. And she needed that to do soon. Before...before she would tell Hiccup about these doubts in her own father...

But right now she couldn't do something against that and she had to wait, until they have returned to Berk. Since all that mattered now, was that he understood her and the reasoning of her father behind those trades. But still...he was avoiding her gaze all along, making Astrid believe, that she once more has done something wrong.

“Well...“ Valka said, being the one who noticed the uneasiness between the two young Vikings and stood up from where she was sitting. “...certainly it is good to know, that your father won't continue with any trades, since the contract was signed. And I believe you, that this Halvar won't do anything, now he has that information...“ Astrid could still hear some hestiation in her voice and the young woman understood, that Valka also needed some time to accept that. She couldn't even blame her...

And yet her words were kind, while she came over to the young woman, who still stood with some kind of uncertainty in front of them. She laid her hands with care on Astrid's shoulders, slightly smiling at her, which made Astrid's breath get caught in her throat. After all – this was the first time, that Valka was smiling at her like that and it really meant much to the young woman.

“And...“ Valka finally said, after some silence had reached them, coating them with insecurity and more doubts “...I believe, that your actions today were evidence enough, that you are on our side now. Though...“ The older woman looked to Hiccup for a minute, while Astrid followed her gaze “...You should have stayed here, like Hiccup has told you. I don't think, that they would have been able to find the entrance of the mountain. Still it would have been nice to have some kind of backup, in case that would have happened...“

“Right...“ Astrid mumbled, suddenly more and more understanding, why Hiccup was treating her with this rejection. After all – there were just too many things, that hadn't worked out the way he had intended to.

Sure – she had hidden the three young hatchlings inside the pot by the oven, where they had some warmth and were save by the strong iron around them. And she knew, that she should have followed Hiccup's orders but...she had the feeling deep down inside herself, that it would have been better, if she would have just helped them. And she was thankful for the shield she had found close to Valka's bed and that she had made it in time towards the ship. If she hadn't reached them in time and the guy with the maces had been able to take a hit on Hiccup...well...she did not know what she would have done then...Probably fallen straight into a deep pit of wrath and fury, wanting to take revenge on these people. That thought alone, that somebody could harm Hiccup...it was a thought, that made her gulp heavily and made her breath come out in uneven puffs. And even now her hands started to shake and all that mixed up with the confusion, which that small kiss on the cheek had given her.

But on the other hand – seeing that now by herself - she has taken a good hit on Hiccup's pride with her actions... With not following his plan and not listening to him, when he wanted her to do so. And that was not something a friend or even...a wife...would do...

“But I see so much of me in you, Astrid. Taking orders from others had been hard for me as well – Stoick had to learn that as well. But we compromised eventually, which only made our relationship stronger...And as long as you two work together in the end – you will learn it, too. As long as you listen to the other and consider both sides. But – Astrid – I have seen, that there is a good heart inside of you, that beats for our dragons. I see, why Hakon is so proud of you. If Stoick was still alive, he would have been glad, to have a daughter-in-law like you. Even if your marriage is a fake one...“

Valka's hands moved to Astrid's cheeks, which were burning from shame and from happiness – since she understood her mistake and her was equally happy about Valka's words.

“You are always welcomed in my Sanctuary, Astrid...“ Valka said, before she continued with a more quite voice “...and I am glad, that it has been you, who stumbled into my son's life. You are just as thickheaded as he is. As all the Haddocks are...You fit in our family very well...“

“Thank you...“ Astrid whispered back, her heart beating heavily, unsure of how to excuse to Hiccup now. But she had to – she knew that.

“And one more thing – why don't you your hair back a little? I have seen, that you had there a few problems with it when you were fighting and flying. You know what – Berk's people won't care, if you just fight for them the way you did back there. And it will be easier for you to see an opponent...“

Valka winked at her and if the air around them wasn't thick with tension, then surely she would have giggled about this strange behavior. At least a little...

Hiccup's mother on the other hand finally let go of the young woman, turning around and walked towards the three hatchlings, who stopped with their playing and looked up and over the the older woman. Valka reached down with her staff and the three immediately understood and climbed it up and towards her back and shoulders – though it was Lucky One who had a few problems, but was helped by a push from Cloudjumper.

Then she turned towards Hiccup, asking:

“Do you mind, if I take Toothless out on a flight? It is feeding time and I guess, that our dearest Alpha is hungry as well.“

The black dragon immediately jumped up and down in joy upon hearing that.

Hiccup raised one eyebrow at that.

“Well...as long as you can handle the mechanics of his tail fin... He mostly can fly on his own now, but still-“

“Oh believe me – I will. I am the crazy Dragon Lady after all! And Astrid – is Stormfly allowed to come, too?“

She merely nodded and before one of the two young Vikings could have said something against it, Valka had jumped straight onto Toothless' back, flying out of the cave with him and being followed by Cloudjumper and Stormfly as well.

And suddenly there it was – the moment Hiccup had wished for, earlier this morning. Being alone with her. But suddenly he dreaded it...not sure what to say after that incident on the ship. And by the way Astrid was looking at him, she seemed to feel just the same way...

“Hiccup...“ She whispered, finally sitting down next to him, facing him, until he was able to look up. “I did...harm your pride...didn't I?“

“It is not my pride, Astrid...You did an amazing job there and I am really thankful, that you were there, but...“ He sighed, but was very truthful in his words.

“But I shouldn't have come. I should have stayed here. Waiting...“

He nodded, though his heart easily understood, why she had done that. She was a fighter – a warrior. And he should treat her as that. Sure – she still didn't have the knowledge about various maneuvers and he had noticed the concerned looks towards Stormfly and the fear in it about the Nadder's well-being. But in the end – she was right – she had been able to hold up against the man with just an shield.

“Astrid?”

“Yeah...?”

“Would you vouch for your father, that he wasn't trading with dragons, now, that we have the contract between our tribes?”

She looked at him with big eyes. And he...he understood, for she didn't know, what her parents were doing on Hranafall, now that she had lived for some time now on Berk. He understood, that changing behavior was hard, for he thought, that it had been easy for Hakon, who had such a big fascination in these winged reptiles. And he understood, that Astrid was doubting that herself, since she couldn't be sure.

“Hiccup...” She sighed, laying both her hands on his, that rested on his knees and he was desperately trying to hide that small smile, that was forming because of that on his lips. “..., I wish, that I could do that. I really do...But...I have the fear, that I might have trusted my father too much about that. I will write him as soon as we have returned to Berk. He will answer me about that and then...we can do something, against it. But...Hiccup...he isn't a bad man. He would not betray you. If he would do that, then he must have a reason for that, that I am not aware of. Yes...there is some doubt...but...I am also sure, that he would not do that... Does that make any sense to you?”

He once more looked up and into her eyes, trying to read her. And yeah – maybe he was blinded by the feelings for her – but there was no reason, that he couldn't believe her anymore, after everything they have went through together in the past months...

Therefore smiled wider at her and laid his second hand on top of her two, patting them lightly.

“It does make sense to me. And you are right – you should contact your father first, before we act on any conjectures... It would not help us, or our tribes...”

She nodded lightly about that, before it was her, who averted her eyes from him. He felt, that there still were a few things, which they had to talk about. Therefor he tried to change the subject:

“We did...“ He mumbled “...an amazing job there, didn't we. We were quite a good team. And you clearly were able to defeat these men!“

“Because you were the one fighting. And I could easily tell, what you were doing there, which made it easy to act on it. It helped in the way I had to work the shield to protect you...“

There was a certain somberness in both their voices, which made it once again hard for Hiccup to look her in the eye, once she had turned back to him. So he stood up, walking over to the cave entrance to have a look inside the Sanctuary – seeing, how all the dragons had formed a giant swarm and followed Valka and Toothless. It was an amazing spectacle, but it didn't help to distract his mind. But there were still too many things, that were going on inside of his brain.

“I probably should have known, that you would come to fight...“ He said, his shoulders slumping in defeat. “...You are Astrid Hofferson, after all! I shouldn't have underestimated you...“

“I don't think, that you did. I know, when people underestimate me. That has happened my whole life. So don't worry about that...“

Astrid stood up as well, walking towards the cave's entrance as well, but stopped by the opposite wall, leaning casual against it, to watch the dragons outside as well. But every now and then she watched him out of the corner of his eyes. Watching, how his face turned from anger into sorrow and then something like worry and shame. She wished, that she could tell, what was going on in his mind. Just...something... that would help in this damned situation.

“I should have listened to you and stayed here...“ She whispered. “You are the chief after all – you give the commands...“

“I won't command you!“ He retorted with a little hurt in his voice, before he added: “You should know that by now...“

“But you are still the chief. And I am your wife...“

“You are not...You are my friend, Astrid...“ There was something behind his words – something, that she couldn't tell. And it was something, that made her heart beat faster.

“I am your wife by law – don't forget that! I-I wear the ring and said my vows and you kissed me on the lips...“

Hiccup chuckled a little to that.

“You forced me to do so – remember?“

„Oh...how could I forget that...?!“ She answered with sarcasm. “Back than I wanted it to be just over!”

For yet another minute silent fell between the two young Vikings, Astrid crossing her arms in front of her chest, while Hiccup let his lay numbly by his side, both of them staring straight ahead and towards the now nearly empty Sanctuary.

“Hiccup?“ She once again started, waiting for him, until she continued.

“Yeah...?“

“I now understand you...I mean...when we were on this ship, all I could think about were these dragons. Like Stormfly, Toothless and Cloudjumper. And our three little hatchlings. And all the dragons that live here and on Berk. I...I understand, why your mind is constantly circling around these creatures. Because..., well...they might be strong, but still need our protection. From people like these traders. Or those people who kill them for any reason... And seeing the way you and your mother fought for them, only made me more see the rightness in your words and believes. And I wanted to win that fight – not for me and not for my tribe. But because you were so right about dragons and I wanted to protect them with all my heart. And I wanted to protect you, because you make this world a better place...“

He looked over to her and couldn't help the small smile that once more formed on his lips, because of her words. But she didn't seem to notice that, since she was still staring straight ahead, which made him once more frown. But at least he understood now the reasoning in leaving the Sanctuary...

“You really make me look like some kind of hero...But I am not...“

“You are...at least to me...And I believe, that those dragons believe so, too. As does Berk...your mother...and your father – I just know that, even though I have never before met him...And...I find that sad, since I know, that you are great man and I wish I had the chance to got to know the man who brought you up that way.“

“Astrid...“ He gasped, for she did not know, what she was doing to him with these words, which meant so much for him. In both ways – talking that way about his father and about himself, which really gave him a warm feeling.

“And Hiccup...I am sorry... For not listening to you, when you clearly had a better plan and for...everything else. Like not telling you about my father's past trades with dragons. And for the things I have said during our argument and-“

“The argument? That was weeks ago! You shouldn't be sorry about anything you said! And you had all the rights to be angry at me, for accusing you for something, that you haven't done! I mean – you were right back there – I was a muttonhead and an idiot!“

“But I am sorry for what I have said...I mean – I don't wish for you to be dead. If I only think about the knife and the things my mother wanted me to do to you...I...I wouldn't be able to forgive myself. And I know, that you would never force me to do things, that we both would regret...just for an heir and to make our tribes proud...And I am most sorry about cursing at you and Berk and your friends as well...That really was most disrespectful of me!“

“Our...friends...“ he mumbled, knowing, that over these past weeks she had started to like them as well. At least for most of the time she was speaking kindly about them. Well...at least a kind as one could be, regarding the strange way the gang was sometimes behaving.

“Our...friends...“ She repeated his words with a soft smile on her features, finally turning back to him with a slight gleam in her blue eyes. “You are right...“

“And Astrid...“ He said, feeling, that it should have been him, who should apologize to her about his words and they way he had send her away. After all – it had been his fault, that she had nearly drowned in the sea during a storm. “...I am most sorry, too...“

“You don't need to apologize, Hiccup...I know, that your words were only fueled by anger.“

„But still...I mean...I have said horrible – horrible – things. I mean – of course I care about you and what you feel and I want you to belong on Berk more than anything else, because any tribe would be glad to have you as one of them! And Berk is really lucky, that you live there now...And I am glad, that you stay with me and Toothless in my house and I am very glad, that you are the one, I have been married too – in a fake marriage. I mean – there must be tons of men, who would love to marry you and have you close to them and stuff like that!” He hurriedly said the last thing, before she could hear too many of his feelings for her behind his apology. Not that he minded...or well...he surely would mind, since she surely would not return those feelings.

“I am glad to hear that...“ She whispered with a sigh and a small chuckle, hugging herself tighter for a moment, feeling warm from his words.

With that, her eyes fell on the wedding ring around her finger, happiness spreading through her, since she was proud to wear it. Very...very proud to be exactly... After all – if it hadn't been for the forced marriage, then another woman would have come and snagged him away, with her not even having a chance to get to know that wonderful man. She got one special chance – on to be close to him. To get to know him. To trust him. He had shown her so many things – like the actual value of ones feelings, that there is more in life, than just being a lonesome warrior. And of course that dragons make a life more than complete. As friends and allies. And that searching for somebody to spend ones life with was sometimes not the hardest work in the world, and that her heart had more a saying in it, than her brain.

And...she thanked the gods, that they lead her way to him and that he had been able to change her hearts direction as well...In more than just one way - she mused with a tiny but soft smile on her lips, touching her the small dragon's head on her ring with her thumb, to feel its texture and to bring her back to reality.

“Hiccup...?“ She finally whispered softly, looking back over to him and her heart made a happy jump, when she saw his brilliant green eyes immediately focused on her and that slight smile on his lips.

“Yes...Astrid?“

“Why have you asked me to be your trainer? Back there, when we were fighting?“

His eyebrows raised in confusion and the corners of his lips fell slightly, since he had thought about many questions, which were possible for her to ask him. But not that particular one, since his outburst on the ship had only happened in the heat of the moment, when he had been too confused about her sudden appearance. He didn't even think, that she would remember it at all – this sudden question... And by the way they were talking about so many other things he really had thought...that that stupid little kiss on the cheek would be the next topic for her to talk about...

“Do you think I would forget something like that?“

“Ehr – no – no! Of course not!“

“So, why were you asking?“

His eyebrows raised even more.

“Remember that morning, when you have sent your Terror Mail to your mother?“

“And you teased me about something...“

„Yeah. Well...“ He scratched the back of the head, suddenly being him, who had forgotten about that „...to tell you the truth – that was the exact topic, I wanted to talk about with you. You see – just before you got sick, a few of our people asked me, if you couldn't train us. Clearly you have some experience there with weapons and combat. You have really made a big impression on the Dance of the Maiden. And seeing how your health got better, I thought it would be nice, if I help you find your place among Berk's people even more. As some kind of combat trainer or something similar...“

“Oh...I impressed the big Dragon Riders of Berk?“ She mocked cheekily.

“Hey – our flight maneuvers are extremely good – but I guess we should be reliable in hand to hand combat as well. And with all the techniques you have learned...you know...Berk would be excellent with their defense, especially on those days like Snoggletog, when the dragons are gone to hatch their eggs...“

“If I can start by teaching you a few things? I mean – I have noticed, that your hit from the left seemed to be sloppy a few times. Any opponent, who notices that, might like to take advantage of you because of that. And we clearly need to work on your balance.”

He laughed a little, feeling relaxed, that she seemed to enjoy that particular idea. And having some extra spare time with Astrid might not be the worst thing in the world.

“Fine – if you really want me to be your student! But remember – if you give me a hard time, then I will pay you back during flight training!”

“We will see about that– Great Dragon Master!”

Finally she laughed, too and Hiccup really was glad, that after all the past hardships in her life and during her time on Berk, she was able to do so. Yes – she was a well-trained warrior – but he equally enjoyed that soft and emotion-filled side of her as well. Maybe even the most, since it made him see so many facets in her, that he just wanted to explore. To understand the full spectrum of that beautiful woman, that he could spend time with, because the gods have decided make their paths cross.

“Snoggletog...” she suddenly said in a blissful voice, changing the subject once more “I would love to witness that...Ehr – not because the dragons are gone...But...everybody likes to talk about that holiday with joy and anticipation. I mean...we have a few holidays as well, but I don't think, that our people are looking forward the same way as Berk's people do towards Snoggletog...“

“Oh – you will like it! We build a giant tree out of green blanks and decorate it with shields! And we get gifts for the people that are close to us and then we have a giant celebration in the Great Hall! Everyone wears his best outfit – oh you should see Gobber's helmet with reindeer horns on it – and small bells on his prosthetic arm!“

They both laughed lightly at that thought.

“I would love to see that...I guess..., that there are still so many things, that Berk could offer me...“

Feeling, that the tension was completely gone by now, Hiccup sighed a little, while he suddenly saw Astrid getting closer to him, now standing directly next to him. He blinked a little about this strange behavior, but decided to say nothing about it.

“And...Hiccup? One more question...“ She then breathed and the young man even saw a light blush creep on her cheeks.

“Y-yeah?“

“What was up with the kiss on the cheek?“

Oh crap..., she also remembered that! He really, really – really – had hoped by now, that she had totally forgotten about it during the fight and after everything else they were talking about. But now he seems to be forced into this very awkward conversation nonetheless. But – Hel – what had he been thinking?! Sure – it had been just another outburst of his feelings and he should have known, that she wanted to talk about it in the end. Well..., she clearly was new to this whole 'Being friends' thing, but he guessed, that she could distinguish a friend's kiss on the cheek, because one cared for the other or a stupid little kiss, because he really cared about her. And for her only. Like...more than just a friend. Even more than a best friend!

A series of noises escaped his lips, that one couldn't make out or put together in an understandable sentence.

It made her giggle and roll her eyes at that strange behavior, before she dared to behave just as strangely, by letting her hand that was closest to him, wander down his elbow, along his forearm and wrist, until she could lay her palm in his, lacing their fingers, which suddenly felt so cold and limp.

“You...you know, Hiccup...I am most glad, that you are the one, that I am married to...“

Poor Hiccup prayed to the gods, that this wasn't a dream, to which he would wake up to at any moment. That his mind has fooled him. But – no – nothing could feel as good, as her warm, soft hand in his, clenching tightly on his fingers. No...a dream wouldn't make his heart beat so fast and make him feel all warm and fuzzy inside. A dream wouldn't smell like the things of lavender and honey that she seemed to wash her skin and hair with.

No...a dream just wouldn't be so real to him...

“Have I caught you off guard?“

He chuckled, finally being able to hold her hand tightly in his, giving her fingers a careful stroke with his thumb.

“A little?“

“But...did I guessed the meaning behind the kiss correctly?“

“I...I believe so...“

“You really are lost off words, aren't you? It's not something that happens often to you...“

“Well...“ He mumbled, finally turning towards her and taking her other hand “...looks like something like making me speechless would need the right person...And maybe even the perfect moment to...finally act this way...“

“Yeah...“ She merely whispered now, seeing that he was getting closer to her. „...that is definitely the perfect moment for it...“

Because of the heavy anticipation in the air, Astrid lifted herself on the tiptoes to be even closer, closing her eyes, just as Hiccup had let go of her hands, reaching for her cheeks, brushing over her skin with his long fingers. She held onto him by his waist, hoping, that she wouldn't tumble over and to keep her steady.

Yes...this moment was just perfect...

And she could already feel his soft breath on her lips and already felt the stubbles of his chin against hers and she held her breath to finally feel his lips against hers, hoping, that finally all her – their – feelings would finally make sense. And so they -

A loud yowling and cheering echoed through the air and towards their ears, stopping them right there and then, making their hearts skip a beat in frustration and annoyance, while they immediately noticed the voices behind that sound. They were so close to the other. And they wanted to lean in completely, but couldn't, now, that that perfect moment was gone.

Hiccup pulled back a little, but only let his hands fall to her shoulders, looking over the cliff's edge and down to the overgrown Sanctuary down below. But thankfully enough, she didn't step away either and he even felt her fingertips holding tightly onto his sides.

“What are they doing here?!“ Hiccup asked out loud, rolling his eyes, just as the gang of Dragon Riders emerged through one of the many icey tunnels and into the Sanctuary – screaming and shouting things, that the two you Vikings couldn't quite make out.

“Definitely ruining that perfect moment...“ Astrid murmured, watching the five riders and their dragons, which were seemingly unsure of where to fly to. “...let's just hope for them, that they have a good explanation for that!“

And they waited, watching that strange race finally coming to an end, once Fishlegs had spotted the two of them, pointing directly at them, until they all steered their dragons towards that cave, wanting to land there.

Thankfully enough, they were close to the cave wall and therefore the dragons could easily fly towards the tunnel and land, before the Dragon Riders unmounted their winged reptiles.

“I tell you once more-” Snotlout exclaimed loudly, pointing between Hookfang and himself, before heavily gesturing towards the other riders “-we would be far faster, if Hookey wouldn't get distracted by the other dragons all the time. He needs his space! That clearly is some Jorgenson-thing, that you guys can't quite understand!”

“That is just your explanation, on why you were not the the one winning the race!” Eret said, crossing his arms in front of his chest, shrugging slightly.

“And the other reason is – that you couldn't find Valka's Sanctuary in the first place!” Tuffnut added, while Ruffnut agreed with “Yeah – you have lost your orientation!”

“Ehr...guys...” Fishlegs said, holding onto something tightly and nervously pointed at the Hiccup and Astrid, who still stood the same way by the cave's entrance, their eyebrows angrily raised and lips tightly pressed together. “...we have something to deliv-”

“You are all just a little jealous, that Hookfang and I are best buddies and understand without saying a word, what the other wants – right?” Snotlout patted his Monstrous Nightmare hearty on the neck, making the red dragon growl a little. “See – he agrees...”

“As if we would be jealous...” Tuffnut said, pointing towards Barf and Belch. “We have two dragons in one!”

“Yep – that is definitely better!” his sister once more agreed to that.

Eret on the other hand stayed silent about that to, finally noticing Hiccup and Astrid as well and cast them an apologetic smile, before he cleared his throat to end further discussions.

And finally, the three other dragon riders noticed, too.

“Worst. Timing. Ever!” Hiccup merely said, his features staying blank because of the sudden interruption.

“I have changed my mind – I will give them a hard time, if you don't mind?”

“Oh, don't worry M'lady – I won't mind at all!”

“Hey!” Snotlout finally shouted, noticing their strangest position “What is up with the two of you?!”

“I think, that Hiccup might be dying...” Tuffnut mumbled.

“Ehr – what?! No! I guess its Astrid, who is dying and she seeks comfort in him, due to his new status as her friend... So tragic!”

“Dying?!” Snotlout said out loud, looking shocked at the twins once more “Nobody is dying here! And it is totally clear, what is going on here - I think it's Hiccup's gambling problem and Astrid is just trying to help him with that!”

Both Fishlegs and Eret (who hit his forehead with his hand in desperation) shared nervous glances, very well knowing, what exactly was happening between the two young Vikings, not quite understanding, on why the other three rider's where not seeing that as well. Even when Astrid and Hiccup were still standing closely together, though they both had now took the sad opportunity to step away from the other and just settle with holding the others hand once more.

“I am sorry...didn't know, that they would come and visit us here...” Hiccup mumbled, while the twins and Snotlout yet again engaged in another discussion about Astrid's and Hiccup's strangest behavior.

“You couldn't know...” She whispered, clenching his fingers tightly. “And I guess, that we will find another perfect timing for...that...”

He nodded and grinned a little.

“Sure...After all...there seems to be a few more things to discuss?”

He eyes twinkled at that.

“Yeah...I think so, too...” Then she leaned in, giving him a soft kiss on the cheek, before wistfully letting go of his hand. “But for now, that is enough...”

She then stepped past Eret and Fishlegs, who had averted their eyes from that play of affection from their chief and his wife. She first hit Snotlout on the arm with force. Then Tuffnut. Ruffnut was happy enough to hide between her twin-brother, before Astrid had the chance to get her as well.

Hiccup followed her after some time, standing between Fishlegs and Eret now, watching the twins and his cousin.

“Hey – sorry boss...We didn't know, that you were...busy...” The dark-haired man said, patting Hiccup lightly on the shoulder.

“Yeah – and I hope Astrid won't beat us up as well!”

“Beating up? I am not finished with these three here and maybe I will spare the two of you, but I definitely thinking about the three here! And why are you here any way?!” Astrid finally askedand turned back towards Hiccup, Fishlegs and Eret.

“Oh – yeah! Here, that arrived in the middle of the night via Terror Mail!” Fishlegs said, pushing something into Astrid's hand.

“And it looked pretty important!” Eret added, pointing at the scroll, that had her name on it.

“And we read it!” Ruffnut finally said, interrupting Snotlout in mid-sentence, while Tuffnut nodded heavily: “Yeah! And we thought it would be best, if you read it on your own!”

Astrid bit her lip and eyed the twins evilly, before she unrolled the parchment and immediately noticed her mother's handwriting. Her heart made a happy jump, seeing, that her mother must have been accepting the dragon's way and maybe even the current 'friendly' situation with Hiccup.

But then – just as she read the words there – her breath got caught in her throat and her face paled. Eyes widened. And her finger's clenched tightly the parchment underneath.

“Astrid?” Hiccup asked in a whisper, stepping forward, when he noticed, that something just wasn't right. “What did she write...?“

“Father...is sick...” She breathed shakily, lowering the letter, to look him straight into his eyes. “...of an unknown disease...Mother wants me to see him as fast as possible, for...” She gulped heavily “...for she does not know, if he will survive it...”

Chapter Text

Their Departure

Before everything else there was void. Blank, dark void, that echoed through the young chief's brain, not quite knowing – or understanding – what the blonde Valkyrie in front of him has said to him.

The previous perfection of the moment was gone, because right now the 'them' had lost its importance and came crashing down to the purest and most cruel reality, that has caught up with Astrid. It was a wave of shock and uncertainty that went right through him and into the very edge of his being. Twisting and turning to bring him back to this very reality in front of him.

Only then, when his focus has returned, there were so many things going on in Hiccup's mind at that very exact moment, crashing the blankness from before. But he just couldn't collect them and piece them together, make one straight thought out of it, that would have led to one correct sentence, leaving his lips. His breathing and the beating of his heart were unsyncronised and the control of his body was lost.

And all he could do, was standing there, looking at Astrid, who just looked so forlorn and small with that parchment in her hand, that had suddenly changed everything in just a few seconds. And he could only guess, how she must be feeling in that very moment.

“The twins told us...” Eret finally said, now, that silence had reached all of them. “...and we thought, that you immediately wanted to know about it.”

The young woman wasn't saying something about that, just staring into the distance. The gang shared a concerned look, wondering, if it had been the wrong decision to bring her that letter. But Hiccup understood – he knew, that they had done the right thing. She just wasn't prepared for something like that. And he understood her better than everybody else, for he hadn't been prepared for Stoick's death either.

And still, there was a slight difference in their situations – she possibly had time to bid him goodbye – something, which he couldn't do to his own father. And without thinking twice, Hiccup immediately knew, that he would grand her the wish to go and see Hakon. Not because he liked her in a special way, but because everybody should have the opportunity to see their parents the last time, before they left Midgard to be embraced by the Valkyries.

“Would you guys give us one more moment, please?” He asked with a calm voice and gestured towards the inside of the cave, when she still hasn't said anything. “I guess, that my mother made something...eatable...If you are brave and hungry enough, you may eat something.”

They merely nodded at that, calmly asking their dragons to come along to give the two young Vikings some peace and quiet to have a needed conversation.

“Sorry, boss...“ Eret said once more, sadder this time and giving him a hearty clap on the back, before he left with Skullcrusher as well.

The young woman didn't even notice, that there friends left in the inside of the cave, for she still couldn't believe the things she has just read. Nothing. Not a word! There was just such a strange surreality to it – to this fact – that her powerful, strong father has gotten ill from an unknown disease. A man, who she has always believed in to be stronger than that and would only die, once his time had run out. Because he always was so unbreakable for her. So invulnerable.

And now...that...

The first time she noticed, that she was still standing in the middle of the cave's opening was, when Hiccup laid his steady hands on her shaking ones and his green eyes pulled her out of this emptiness, that she had creeped into.

“You can leave for Hranafall, once my mother has returned with the dragons...“ He calmly said, brushing with his thumbs over he icy, cold fingers.

“I can't...I mean... I am Berk's chieftess and-“

“I am their chief. I will explain it to them and they will understand. There is no reason for you to not go and see him.“

“But-“

„If I had the chance to say father good-bye and tell him, what a great father he had been, than I would take it without hesitation and you should do. It might be your last opportunity to do so, Astrid. And I want you to take it...“

She bid her lip and lowered her eyes on their joined hands, laying them directly on his wedding ring, that came with the promise of always being there for her – understanding more and more the words behind their vows and understanding, why he would let her go so easily. Because he knew, that she eventually would return to him. Not because of that pact or any contracts. But because of him. And for the dragons and their friends. Because of Berk itself. And she would do that, without a doubt.

No – but to go alone seemed to be impossible now, especially when she thought about their nearly shared kiss, only minutes ago.

“Come with me?“ She asked in a whisper, understanding, if he would decline this, with the full package of duties he had to carry as the chief of the Hooligan Tribe.

And yet – without pausing or hesitating he said:

“I will...“

Surprised she looked back up again – her eyes wide and her mouth standing open to say something against it. But she just couldn't find her voice to do so and instead he explained:

“As said before - I am the chief, Astrid, and as that I need to make sure, that a fellow chief gets the last honor he needs, especially in these hard times. And more importantly – to be there for him as his son-in-law. Also our people will see it as an act of strengthening the contract between our islands. Plus – Berk is good with Gobber for now and if they really need me, then I will return. And you...you can return, to us, whenever the right moment has come to do so. No need to hurry then, because your father needs you there and your current duties can wait for that...I mean – it is your duty to be there for him in the first place!“

She gulped a little about that, really hoping, that it just was so easy for him to just make a visit to her home island as one of his duties and responsibilities. And seeing, that she still didn't seem too convinced by his words, he added:

“We might be chief and chieftess, Astrid. And our topmost duty is to take care about our people – that is true. But we are also humans and need to stay loyal to those we love as well. Especially in times of need. Your father needs you now. You should see him. And I will come, too. After all...you asked me to do so!“ At the end of his explanation he smiled a little, before he carefully pulled at her hands to pull her forward and against his chest, embracing her for the first time. He just wanted to show her, that he really cared about her, her feelings and family and that he would be there for her, no matter what. And – yes – he knew, that this was quite a bolt move to engage her in a hug, but it felt for him very right in that moment.

Astrid immediately stiffed upon noticing his intentions, when she came closer and closer to him – but there certainly was also something soothing about it, just as she felt the warmth of his body radiation through her, since there had been such a bitter cold, that had caught up with her. And she felt save and protected from the fact, that her father's condition was quite unknown for her and even let go for a moment about the thought of loosing him in the end.

Sure, this hug wouldn't replace the perfect moment from before or make up for it, but it still felt nice to have somebody, who understood her and would somehow get her through these hard times. And therefore she laid her arms around his waist and her head on his shoulder, holding onto Hiccup tightly and just hoping, that everything would work out well in the end. She even closed her eyes and just hoped, that this whole letter had been just a nightmare.

From afar they could hear the gang rambling and blabbering, though their words washed over them and it was unclear, what they were saying. Also, they could hear the screams and screeching noises from Valka's other dragons, making it clear, that they were returning from their feeding.

At least that meant, that they were able to get to Hranafall very soon. At least they didn't need to pack everything, since all they need for the journey was already packed. Maybe a little stock up on their on their food supplies...But they could depart as soon as Valka had returned to them.

The shouting of the dragons got louder and even without looking over to the Sanctuary, Hiccup immediately knew, that it was once again filled with life. And soon enough, he heard Valka with Toothless landing close to the entrance, followed by her trusty Cloudjumper and Astrid's Stormfly. The three hatchlings were still clinging tightly onto her arms and shoulders, but by the way they liked their small muzzles, it was clear, that they were able to eat something as well.

He still held onto Astrid and looked over her shoulder towards his mother, who had a wide smile on her lips, just as she saw the two young Vikings in a loving embrace. She even wanted to say something, parting her lips – but Hiccup interrupted her with a slight shake of his head, indicating, that this was not the right time to talk about them.

Valka's eyebrows furrowed in worry upon seeing that, dismounting the black dragon, before she started to watch the two closely, wondering, what exactly has happened. But once she heard the murmuring sounds from inside the cave from Hiccup's friends, she knew, that something bad must have happened, when they all have gathered here.

Therefore she nodded, before she walked inside, followed by Cloudjumper, while Toothless and Stormfly stayed behind – probably sensing the distress of their riders. They even were coming towards them, nuzzling their heads against against the two humans is comfort and thus making them finally part from each other.

“Bad news, buddy...“ Hiccup mumbled, patting the Night Fury with a sad smile on his lips “...Hakon is sick...We need to fly to Hranafall...“

“But don't worry, my people won't harm you...“ Astrid added, holding onto Stormfly tightly as well and sighing sadly. “It just would have been nice, if everything was perfect for once...“

“It will be, Astrid...don't worry. And if you like, we could consult Gothi and ask her about your father's disease...Maybe she does know a few things about it – and how to heal it!“

 

The young woman nodded and looked over to the young man by her side.

“And what about them?“ She asked, gesturing with her head towards he inside of the cave. Hiccup understood immediately. She was referring to the gang. “Do they want to come along?“

“Probably...they must be far too interested in Hranafall and in its dragon population. That is probably also the reason, on why they all came here...“ The young woman pressed her lips together, making him wonder, if she liked the thought of taking them along on this journey as well, or not. “I mean – if you don't want them to come with us, then I always could send them back to Berk.“

“I don't really mind, Hiccup...“ She mumbled “It is just...“

“Your mother?“

„Yeah...I mean – I still do not know, what she thinks off this whole situation. Of me riding dragons and accepting that I live one Berk. And also this whole friendship-thing, that she always wanted for me to be avoided. Sure, it had been months since she left and since she intended to get you killed...but...I am afraid, that she didn't change her mind, like I did...“

“I understand...“ He nodded.

“On the other side-“ She then added with the tiniest of smiles crossing her features “-it would be nice, if they all came along. I mean...for you to see our vast dragon variety. And for them to understand, why my parents brought me up to be this way...“

The young chief smiled back, understanding her intentions.

“Yeah...that would be nice...“

Sure – there still was the uncertainty of how Ljóda and her people would react, when they came flying towards them – hoping, that they really have accepted Berk's and therefore the contract's ways. But – Hiccup wondered – what could be the worst scenario? That they were attacked, since the Hunter tribe wasn't following the path, that their chief wanted them to. That they were outcasting them and demanding a way to escape the pact, to further persuade the dragon hunting, killing and trading? But on the other hand – would they really do that, if their own chief was so fond of dragons and to live in peace with them? Would they do that, now that their own heir was married off to a chief, that approached the friendly way with these winged reptiles. Especially now, that a special bond has formed between him and Astrid, with her trying to do everything herself, that no harm should come upon their flying friends. Yes – he believed, that Hranafall's people would be happy about their arrival and the return of their chief's daughter. For Ljóda on the other hand, they had to wait, only knowing of what she will think about this whole new situation, that her daughter has found herself into, once they have arrived. And seeing Astrid's distant look in her eyes, she must be thinking the same way.

“Then let's get them to leave as soon as possible! Only so we can figure out everything...“ He said, taking her hand to guide her inside the cave once more.

Toothless cooed a little in confusion about the sudden and immense body contact of the two dragon riders, which even made Hiccup chuckle a little.

“He is not very used of sharing you with somebody else, am I right?“

“Well, he needs to get used to it now...“

“That is true...“

Yes, she still sounded very restrained and sad about the who situation and they were far from their joking bantering from before, but it still felt just nice and natural to talk like that – just as if they have done this always. And both young Vikings knew, that it could always be like that. If only her mother would see, appreciate and accept it the same way – just like a few of their friends...

“You know, Hiccup always had a Gambling problem...“ Snotlout explained, with one finger high in the air, as if he was some kind of importand teacher, that knew about everything in the world. ...he is totally the guy of that. And I will tell you why-“

“Oh not again!“ Tuffnut exclaimed, stepping once again in front of the other Viking. “And just like I have told you – he is going to die, because-“

“No, Astrid is dying!“ Ruffnut complained.

They both looked a little annoyed about that, while Eret, Fishlegs and Valka could only stare at them with some frustration.

“Well...let me consider once more, if I really want them to be on Hranafall as well...“

“If we depart now, nobody might notice-“

„Oh no!“ Ruffnut said, turning towards them, while Tuffnut added: „The two of you are not going anywhere without us!“

“Yeah-“ Snotlout agreed „-with all of us!“

Chapter Text

Her Wish

How long has it been, since she had been here? Here, on that island on which she was born and grew up on. This island, of which she knew every corner and every hiding spot. Every person, that lived here...

Well...roughly about two and a half moons, she guessed and thought, that those must have been the two most intense months of her life, with all these new experiences she had gathered. After all – she got married, found friends and made peace with dragons – things that were impossible for her, when she had still lived on Hranafall, due to her parents expectations and her self-imposed pressure, of always being the greatest warrior of them all. Sure – she still might be the best, regarding the combat training she had in the past, but Astrid now knew, that there was just more in life than fighting, weapons and shields and armor.

And she got to see that, thanks to that disheveled, green-eyed Dragon Rider, who had been able to get a hold on her heart, with her not even trying to fight against it. But by the way he was smiling at her, while flying next to her, she knew that submitting to her feelings had been a right and good decision to make. Because – despite everything that might happen on her home island – she couldn't help herself but smile back.

“Ooooh! Look at that island! I wonder, how many new dragon species we will be able to find there! Don't you think the same way, Hiccup?“ Fishlegs said, as they were getting closer and closer to Hranafall with with big mountains and deep forests and the village that spread from the shore to the foot of it.

“Looks like a good place to blow a few things up, don't you think the same, Ruff?“

“I totally thought the same way, Tuff. And how much do your people like pranks? We have a few new ones we like to try out and-“

All Astrid did was eyeing them angrily and shaking her head to shut them up. After all – this was not the right time to think about something like pranks, or blowing up something.

“I just hope they will see the potential of the Jorgenson clan – after all, it is easy for us to make new friends!“ Snotlout now added from her other side, making her sigh a little in annoyance. “And I certainly think, that the Ladies might be interested in me as well! I mean, I am full of husband potential...“ Sure, she notices the uncertain look in Ruffnut's direction, but this made her still roll her eyes.

“Are you sure, it is okay for us all to come along, Astrid?“ Eret now asked. “Or should I take the guys back to Berk for you, so they won't embarrass you in any way? Or get us killed...“

“„It is too late now!“ She answered, with a little shrug of her shoulders “And I am also quite glad, that you guys are coming along... It is a nice distraction and if somebody of you gets out of control, then I still can send you to prison to think about that you have done!“

Hiccup chuckled about that, while Snotlout and the twins seemed to be slightly offended by that.

“You can't do that!“ Ruffnut and Tuffnut shouted as one, while Snotlout added: “We are your friends!“

“And I am still the daughter of the Hunter Tribe's chief!“

“And Berk's Chieftess! And I definitely see a reason as well to be consequently, if one of you misbehaves!“ Hiccup added with a wink in Astrid's direction, making Ruffnut gag a little in the background.

“Eww! They have the same humor now! Disgusting!“

“Yeah, totally annoying and that in the face with death. Poor Hiccup – must be hard for him to know, that his life is ending soon...“ Tuffnut mumbled, shaking his head in defeat.

But before either Ruffnut or Snotlout could add something to that discussion again, both Astrid and Hiccup eyed them with shared anger, which silenced them immediately. After all – this was definitely not the time to start this one discussion again, for all their believes were wrong anyway.

“So...“ Fishlegs finally said, while they were getting even closer to Hranafall “..., where are we going to stay anyway? And our dragons?“

“Yeah – did they already build stables?“ Eret agreed with a nod.

Astrid gulped heavily, suddenly noticing herself, that she didn't think about that. Sure – her people should be approaching dragons with friendliness now, but having six of them suddenly land in the middle of the market square should be considered carefully beforehand. It might startle and surprise them – with or without dragon riders on their backs and she was a little afraid now, that this sudden intrusion might result in a few of them reaching for their weapons, before they could have explained themselves. And for the questions, if they already have build stables, she didn't even have an answer to that, since neither her father or her mother informed her about that.

“I don't know!“ She shouted back, before she steered Stomfly to fly around the island, instead of flying straight towards the village ahead of them. “And also we should land in the forest and approach my people with caution. They still might be not that used to dragons at all and I don't want them to act at that with any weapon.“

“Good...“ Hiccup agreed to that, letting Toothless follow the young woman and her Nadder. “...and for Fishlegs other question – were will we stay?“

“Close to my parents house is a large hut for guests. Seeing, that all of you have your bedrolls with you, we might need them...“

“Wait-“ Eret suddenly said upon hearing that “-'We'? You are going to stay in the guests hut as well? Your father is the chief!“

“And I am married!“ She said, pointing towards Hiccup with a movement of her head “..., therefore I have no right to stay with my parents anymore. And it only would evoke questions, if I sleep separately from my husband.“

“True...“ Hiccup said with a nod, while the face of the ex-trapper went blank.

“I swear to the gods, if I catch the two of you trying to do just 'something', while we sleep peacefully in the same room, I will-“

“Nothing will happen!“ Hiccup immediately cut in.

“Really?“ Fishlegs asked with a slight hint of fear in his voice, probably having the same thoughts as Eret before him.

“Really...“ Astrid sighed annoyed. “And above everything, that should be the last thing, you guys should worry about!“ For it was her mother's reaction, which she feared the most. Maybe even more than her father's current condition.

“I still hope, that the two of you won't try anything!“

The young woman tried to ignore Eret from now the best she could – though she clearly noticed that worried look towards Hiccup's direction. She did not know, what to read from it, or why he should be worried in the first place. But still she decided not to dwell on it, while she already searched with her eyes for a clearing, that was not too far way from the Hunter Tribe's village. It would be large enough for all their dragons to land there comfortably and small enough for them to hide in case they needed to. Also a small creak ran through it, so their dragons had all the time fresh water and could catch their own fish, when they were not able to bring it to them.

Thankfully enough, Astrid soon found it, letting Stormfly land there first, while the others followed closely behind.

“Nice...“ Snotlout commented the place with some approval. “But lets still hope, that your people have already build stables for them. Is probably more comfortable for them – especially since Hooky is very used to it by now.“

“But for now it needs to be enough...“ Astrid said, patting Stormfly on the head, before she turned around to face her friends. “You guys will behave and only show your best behavior?“

“Booo...No fun at all?“ Tuffnut asked out loud.

“Yeah...totally sounds boring, to me as well!“ his sister added and dismounted Barf.

Astrid merely rolled her eyes at her words.

“My people are just not that used to stuff like your typical nonsense. That is all. And with my father sick, I only can imagine, how much they must be grieving right now...Don't take it personal – that is all...“

Tuffnut sniffed a little about that – just as if he really was taking it personal, but nonetheless gave her a sharp, understanding nod. Astrid sighed a little in relief about that. After all – it was much easier to approach her parents, when she had her friends behind her.

They all took their bedrolls, before they patted their trusty dragons one last time, everyone in their own way assuring them, that they will soon have a better place to sleep. The dragons seemed to be a little sad and irritated by that – most of all Toothless, who sadly cooed at Hiccup with a pleading tone, in hope, he could come along as well.

It broke Astrid's heart a little seeing that, but both – Hiccup and her – knew, that this was for the best, until they knew about the current acceptance of dragons among her tribe.

“No buddy. Stay here and have an eye on the others...“ Hiccup mumbled with hushed voices. “I will bring you some delicious fish before dawn. I promise you that!“

She bid her lip, before she laid her bedroll to the ground and stepped away from Stormfly as well, to lay a caring head on the Night Fury.

“Also Toothless...“ She said with a small smile “...here is far more space to play than in the village. At this time of day it is mostly too crowded. I know you want to meet many new dragon friends, but you need to wait a little while longer...“

A small sound, similar to a sigh escaped Toothless, before he turned around, to trot towards the creak, together with the other dragons.

“And now he is sulky...Well, don't worry – it is not your fault. He sometimes likes to behave like a baby – don't you, you useless reptile?!“ Hiccup shouted after him, making his winged companion grumble and turning completely his back towards them. The young chief rolled his eyes at that, before he stepped closer towards Astrid, with one hand taking one of hers and with the other scratching the back of his hand.

“So...ehrm...and what is your wish for us...I mean – you know – we still don't know, how my dearest mother-in-law reacted to the revelation of us being friends. And now...that we try to...be more, it could be quite shocking for her as well... And I certainly don't want to anger her. I mean...I want her to genuinely like me, for it certainly would help, if you understand, what I am trying to say...“

“I do...“ She whispered back, holding onto her h”and tightly, while she looked up into his eyes. “And I think it is the best, to act the same way like we did back on Berk.“

“Pretending?“

“Yeah – I mean – my people see us as a married couple as well, for the marriage and the pact had been the reason on why I left Hranafall in the first place. And...it is not so much pretending anymore, right? And in front of mother...I recommend to be careful, until we know more.“

She pulled at his hand to get him a little closer to her, after she made sure, that the gang was busy with their own dragons and wouldn't try to bother them again.

„But it does not mean, that I am not interested in this at all...“

“Oh, I certainly know that! You have been the one, who tried to initiate our first kiss. But I might need a little reminder every now and then – especially if they keep on interrupting us...“

He took her second hand now as well and she really, really, really hoped, that they would not be interrupted now.

“Hey-“ She whispered, as he pressed his forehead against her and a warm feeling creeped through her stomach and into her toes and the tips of her fingers “-what do you mean by 'I tried to'. Remember the kiss during the wedding ceremony. I might have a hidden a knife underneath my dress, but that does not mean, that I hadn't found that kiss quite nice! And I nearly had to force you, to do it!“

“'Quite nice'? Do I need to be offended now?“

“Well, the next one will be different...“

“Let's try?“

“Ye-“

“Hey, what is taking the two of you so long?!“ Snotlout shouted.

“Yeah – you can plan Hiccup's funeral soon enough!“ Tuffnut added.

“Hiccup's funeral?! No – why don't you see it?! It's Astrid's!“ Ruffnut disagreed.

And it was Eret, who hit himself on the forehead with his hand, while Fishlegs could only shake his head – giggling a little.

Astrid stepped away a little, furious, that their friends definitely having the perfect timing in interrupting them, what seemed to be their new hobby. And quite annoying for the two of them. And because of that she clenched her fists together, bared her teeth and wished to have a axe – or anything else – to throw at them.

“Oh I definitely will kill them! Please Hiccup, let me-“

But before she could have finished the sentence, he had grabbed one of her hands again and had pulled her back, to finally – finally – lock their lips together in what might not be the most perfect moment, but definitely the most perfect kiss. And it may be only a short one, but not less meaningless, gentle or pure. More and more emotions and feelings came alive – things of which she had only dreamed of before. Things, which made her world spin, her toes curl and her breath get caught in her throat. And things, which made the three, previously ignorant Viking's gasp in shock behind them, while Fishlegs let out a small squeak of joy.

When they (sadly) tore away from each other, Hiccup let out a small sigh and desperately tried to hide that big grin on his face, which nearly made Astrid giggle as well.

“Okay...“ Snoutlout mumbled, blinking still about what just had happened.

“Yep...that changes-“ Tuffnut said.

“-Everything!“ Ruffnut finished for her brother, before her voice got more gleefully. „That means, that i get five coins from each of you!“

“Wait – you didn't even notice until now!“ Eret complained.

“But I have said, they would kiss before Snoggletog! Like in real!“ The female Thorston twin said in her defense, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

“But I still don't think that counts...“

Fishlegs cleared his throat.

“But I have been the one, who said, that they would be together before the third moon, so-“

“Hey – kissing and being together can be two different things!“ Tuffnut now said, stepping in for his sister. ”Our uncle Argon Thorston liked to participate in frequent meetings with different women and he never said, that he had been together with them and-“

“Too much information...“ Eret mumbled, shaking his head.

“May I still kill them?“ Astrid whispered, her cheeks still warm and flushed and she still couldn't help that dreamy smile on her lips. “Please...I won't make them suffer...“

“Nah – let's keep the killing card for another time.“ Hiccup whispered back, lacing their fingers together. „But I think, that I should have send them back to Berk. I really do hope for you, that they behave in front of your people!“

“Oh, I definitely wish that as well!“

“And Astrid-“

“I really can't believe, that my cousin has a girlfriend before me!“ Snotlout complained in the background, making Hiccup stop once more.

“Well...technically he has a wife...“ Fishlegs corrected.

“That is even worse!“

They both rolled their eyes at that, before Hiccup was able to continue:

“And Astrid...I really wanted you to know, that I am in for everything you have in mind. I mean – this is your island. You know, how your people act, or what they believe in. Whatever you want me to do, I will do it. And I make them do it as well! Also, you should not worry about how long this will take you. You can stay by your father's side as long as you want to and need to. I accept that. And I...I will stand by your side, no matter if I need to get back to Berk because of my own duties or if I am able to stay here as well. Your father is most important now.“

“Are you trying to explain to me, on why you kissed me?“

“Does it help in not trying to kill me as well?“

She chuckled lightly.

“Well, I don't think, it had needed any explanation at all...But I am still thankful for your words...“

“So...I am allowed to kiss you once more?“

“We will see about that...“ She mumbled, finally letting go of his hand with a mysterious but happy gleam in her eyes, since she really wished, that it would happen once more. „But the next time, I hope we won't be interrupted by them, again!“

“Yeah...definitely no audience the next time!“

Chapter Text

His Wish

Yes, it had been quite a bold move from Hiccup's side to move in for a kiss. Not that he regretted it and it had been very worth the wait and the nagging of his friends. But he hadn't wanted to see the previous opportunity come to waste once again. Especially now, that he had wanted to make it absolutely clear to her – and maybe even himself – that he would stand by her side, no matter what would be happening on Hranafall and how this would change the future. He had just wished to show her, that he was caring for her deeply and that he would try everything to make Ljóda like him, for the sake of their blooming relationship.

He didn't even expect that perfect reaction from her, after – well – basically everything. He had expected her to push him away from her, especially since their friends were watching them. But at least that had put an end to the endless 'Either one of them is dying or having an addiction'-discussion to an end. Sure – Snotlout still believed in the later and they still were discussion the outcome of some kind of bet they had made before their wedding, but that was very fine for Hiccup, for he couldn't be happier right now.

And he had also expected her to pull away immediately, only due to the pure fact of him kissing her. He knew, that there was still that lingering fear of men using her for their own lusting needs and he certainly didn't want to exploit her for anything like that! But as she has stated and which was very true to him – they had tried to kiss before, so it had seemed to him, that she had been absolutely ready for that. But no – neither her fear, nor any other urge to get him away from her had emerged and had left him with a feeling of happily dancing behind his friends on this path towards the village and a big, tooth-gaped grin on his face. He thankfully could suppress the first one, but he couldn't help the smile that lingered on his lips.

“Hey – boss...“ Eret suddenly whispered next to him and Hiccup looked over this his friend. “...you should cut of that smile there. After all, we are here, because your father-in-law is sick and maybe even on the brink of death.“

The young chief tried to move his facial muscles and make them relax again. But he failed miserably, when his eyes once again fell on Astrid's back, who was leading them out of the forest.

“I am sorry...I just can't help myself...“

“Ahh...helplessly in love? But can I still ask you something?“

Before Hiccup could have analyzed the fact of 'Being in love', he murmured: “Sure!“ to immediately calm his nerves about that specific topic.

“Don't you think as well, that all of it is just a trap from Astrid's mom's side, to get the two of you here? To get rid of you and to make her stay here?“

“What?!“ Hiccup asked out louder than he had wanted to, making the heads of his friends turn around to them for a second, before they returned to their previous conversation. “What?“ He therefore whispered, more quiet this time.

Eret looked over towards Astrid as well, pressing his lips tightly together.

“It is just smells a little fishy to me...“

„Wait...do you mean...“ The young Dragon Rider immediately stopped walking. As did Eret and thankfully enough their friends didn't notice it and kept on walking. “...do you mean, that she is just pretending to like me?“

The corners of Eret's lips fell upon hearing that and for a moment he looked sadly at his friend. And then, he gave a sharp nod.

“She wouldn't do that!“ He blurted out, being absolutely sure, that Astrid would have not done that! How could she after all – with all the fun they had in the past weeks and with the things he had taught her and showed her and all the things they had been talking about! For Hiccup, there was absolutely no way, that she had pretended her feelings for him.

“I am just saying...the two of you are perfectly acting as if you are happily married. And Berk buys it. And our friends are buying. And-“

“I am buying it?“

Once again Eret nodded.

“Love is blind, boss. And I am just saying, that it would fit perfectly into some plan, that Ljóda has hatched! With Astrid giving you the lovey-dovey eyes, you falling for it and her mother having the knife ready for the kill.“

There was something ugly crawling up his stomach. Something that pushed away the previous warmth and tingling from the kiss. Something, that made him clench his fists and gulp heavily. It was the quiet echo of 'What if?' that spun itself around Hiccup and it certainly didn't feel nice.

“No...that hasn't happened here...I believe in her words and that her feelings are true...“

Sure...there could have been a small percentage, that Eret's words were the truth itself, but he didn't want this doubt and fear of betrayal catch up with him, though he knew, that it would remain for some time there.

“Are you sure?“

He nodded sharply.

“I am! But you might be right about her mother – I certainly will have an eye out for her.“

Eret breathed heavily and the young Dragon Rider knew, that he was still worried and concerned about the Chief's well-being. But eventually he nodded.

“Then I will have your back. Whatever you do, I trust you in it.“

“And so you trust Astrid as well, for I trust her with my life.“

Hiccup returned walking and hurried, to catch up with their friends, with Eret following him shortly after.

But he sadly he had to admit to himself, that his friend's words have sown a seed of doubt within his brain and it was impossible for him, to get that wide grin back on his lips. As a matter of fact – his face stayed blank, though he desperately tried to give Astrid a bright smile, when she had turned back at him. And since he couldn't know for sure, of what exactly the truth was, he only could calm his nerves, until he would know more.

And asking anything wouldn't be possible either, since they were already reaching for the end of the path, with Hranafall's village already spreading in front of them. With it's stony houses and busy streets. And a wide array of people living here with their livestock and different occupations, just as one would find them on Berk as well.

But strangely enough, there were no dragons to be seen in that very moment, which made this village very different from their home island. And gave Hiccup an even stranger feeling inside is guts – but seeing Astrid stopping for a moment to look around with an irritated look on her face, he somehow felt, that she must be thinking the exact same thing.

“There must be tiny dragons on this island. I can't see one!“ Tuffnut said, scratching his head about that.

“Yeah...or they are invisible...“ Ruffnut agreed, looking around as well.

“Or they are simply not existent!“ Snotlout blurted out loud, raising his eyebrows at that.

“I don't understand that...“ Astrid mumbled, turning, to walk over to Hiccup once more with a worried look on her face. “Normally there would be dragons crossing the skies above this village – not even caring for the people here, unless they were attacked. And with the contract...I am just not sure, what is happening here...I mean...father has written in his letter, they were trying to get along with them...“

“Maybe your mother knows something?“ Fishlegs asked.

“Or is behind that...“ Eret murmured behind the young chief, who pressed his lips tightly together, now even more unsure of what to expect from all of it. Yet, it seemed to be him, who needed to make a decision as a leader, so he tried to bring up a confident smile and laid the hand, that was not holding onto the bedroll, on Astrid's shoulder.

“Don't worry. There probably is a explanation behind that. We should go and find your mother. And of course see your father...“

She looked him deeply in the eyes and Hiccup desperately tried to understand the emotions that were hidden in them. But there was just...something unsettling in them. Something he could read or understand. Something, that was past any redeemable worry and seemed to be twisting right into some bitter terror. And something told him, that she now knew, that bringing them here, might have been not the best idea at all.

And though he knew, that all of this really seemed odd – especially regarding the missing dragon population of this island – he would stand by his word. He still would trust here. He wanted it, since there was no reason, on why she would betray him once more...after everything that had happened between them.

Therefore he squeezed her shoulder a little tighter, to make sure, that she knew that as well.

“Isn't that...?“ Somebody behind them suddenly asked out loud, making Hiccup pull his hand by surprise and Astrid twirl around to the sound of the voice.

“Yeah – it is her!“ Another voice agreed, this time coming from a middle-aged woman, who had a basket in her hands and who's face immediately lightened up, upon seeing the blonde Valkyrie in front of her. „M'lady Hoffer-“

“Hush. It's Chieftess Haddock now!“ The man next to her corrected her, bowing his head a little, upon realizing, who was standing in front of her.

More and more people gathered around them, whispering and mumbling, when they realized, who had returned to their island. Most of them seemed to be overjoyed, crossing the space between them and the young woman to ask her different questions about the wedding and marriage and about the truths of the stories they had heard about Berk. Then there were a few tribesmen, who had started to inspect their friends – curious about their looks and of what they could tell them.

And lastly there were those people – mostly men of different sizes and ages – who eyed the young chief with suspicion and even some antipathy. Well – these were probably Astrid's past suitors, Hiccup guessed, by the way they were looking between him and back to the young woman with longing and lustful looks. And of course they were exactly of how Astrid had always discribed them – muscular and with scars and tattoos and thick, bushy beards. And suddenly – before Hiccup could have helped himself, a sting of jealousy stirred within the mix of confusion and doubts as well and whenever he had the chance, he eyed them back just as much provocation he could muster.

“Get off of these poor people! They must have been arrived just now and need some rest and not so many annoying people!“ A small, older woman suddenly shouted and glared at everybody, who wouldn't walk away from them immediately. And the young chief had to hold back a grin, when he noticed, that this woman somehow reminded him of Gothi – though this woman here seemed to be more of a talkative side. “And Chieftess Haddock is probably here to see her poor father. You guys really should be ashamed of yourself to encircle her and her friends like that! Now get away!“

The people did as they were told, though some remained in the background, to still get a look on the gang, that still stood in the middle of the path. And though very flattered by that attention – their friends clearly didn't seem to know, what just had happened there.

“Excuse me, M'lady. You know, that these common people can get a little annoying, if a celebrity is nearing them.“

Hiccup raised his eyebrows a little at the words, that the older woman had chosen to use, but he wouldn't question it now.

“Don't worry Ingunn...I should have known, that the presence of me and my husband should have caused havoc in any way.“

“Eh...especially with your sutiors, M'lady. These muttonheads still believe, that you would have returned alone and pure and ready to marry one of them. But well – as it seems – none of that have happened. Looks like an heir is on the way and I am most happy to meet your husband now. Ingunn Andrson. I am the healer of the Hunter Tribe.“

While Astrid was blushing a bright shade of red and looked down on her stomach to wonder, on why the older woman would have said something like that, Ingunn bowed deeply in front of Hiccup, who in courtesy bowed his head as well, trying to ignore the whispers of his friends, who were suddenly asking, if Astrid really would be pregnant – with Tuffnut even asking, if it happened from the kiss before.

“Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III. It is an honor to meet you as well, Ingunn.“ He said in return and was very glad, that the woman seemed to be too interested in him, than in his friends behind them.

She nodded satisfied at that, reaching out with her long, slim fingers, to raise his head, turning it from left to right, to get a good look at him. And he let her – after all, she was one of Astrid's people and if this was one of their strange ways, he would let them do that. It could have been worse after all...

“By Odin and Thor and sweet Freya. Never thought, that one would have so much of good old Stoick in your eyes.“

His eyes widened at that and he stumbled a step backward.

“You knew my father?“

“Oh I knew him very well. Well...at least good enough. Whenever he and Hakon were meeting, I would have been there as well, since I would sometimes advise the Hranafall's chief as well. Haven't seen him in years and certainly was sad when the Valkyries have taken him...But, don't dwell in the past – I always say - and it looks like you are getting along as chief pretty well, yes?“

“Ah-yes?“

“That is good! Very good! And look at that – how handsome you are! Well, M'lady, keep out an eye on that one here, or I might take him from you!“ Ingunn said with a sassy wink directed at the young woman. “Good for the two of you, your father's made this pact! You suit each other pretty well! And I so know, that you will make many beautiful babies and-“

While the gang behind them giggled and snickered about everything that the older woman was saying, it was Astrid, who stepped in to interrupt her:

“Ingunn – there will be enough time to catch up on everything, later...“

“Ah – I am most sorry! You and your servants must be tired of your journey-“

“Friends...“ Astrid corrected her kindly, while Eret thankfully slapped a hand over Snotlout's mouth, before he could have exploded at the older woman.

“Friends? Oh well...fine, then – I will bring you to a place to rest. And then you should see your parents...Come...“

Hiccup felt some irritation coming from the older woman, when Astrid had referred to the other Dragon Riders as her friends. Sure – how could the healer know that, if Ljóda hasn't told her fellow tribes people about the letter that her daughter has send to her and the current developments of her stay – including the fact, that she had found herself friends. But it still made him smile a little, seeing, that she was embracing her own change, even now that she was on her home island.

“Don't worry, Hiccup...she likes to tease people every now and then. You shouldn't take everything too serious she is saying. And I guess, that she is very fond of you...“

“Oh – I definitely don't worry – though I have been wondering, how I got you pregnant in the first place...“ He joked back, reaching for her hand to lace their fingers – something he felt was very necessary with Astrid's past suitors watching them carefully with eagle eyes.

“Oh stop it! I am already wondering, of what my parents have told them anyway!“

“Well...remembering Hakon's departure, he seemed to be very keen about the fact, that we have spend our wedding night in the same house, without killing the other. He...was most excited about the fact, that there was probably a new heir coming soon...“

“Then he definitely told Hranafall, that the marriage is an success – if you know what I mean...No wonder everybody is looking at me, as if I am hatching a egg – oh by the gods – you know what I mean, even without the puns!“

He chuckled a little at that, before he got serious again, watching Ingunn carefully in front of them, who had taken a strange interest in the twins now.

“Can we trust her?“

“Ingunn? Why are you asking?“

“I would like to ask her about the missing dragons...“

Astrid nodded a little at that, now looking back to the older healer as well.

“Ingunn is something...I would see as the closest thing I had as a friend here on Hranafall. Not the same thing I have the gang and definitely far away from what I have found in you-“ Warmth spread through him and he was astonished by all these feelings, that Astrid made him feel in such a short time “-She is something like an odd aunt, you can ask about things, you would never dare to talk with your parents about. And with whom you can joke, but can get on your nerves quite easily.“

“Ah...something like Gobber to me. I see.“

“If you see him that way, yes...exactly that way...“

“So... you trust her?“

“I do...“

Hiccup nodded about that, feeling thankful, that there was somebody Astrid trusted. He should keep that in mind.

“Then we should ask her. When Ingunn really was that close with Hakon as she had stated, then maybe she did know something, don't you think that as well?“

“That is true. But we should wait, until the right moment...“ Unsure she looked around, seeing, that there were still a few people that watched them.

“Right...“ He mumbled, before they stopped walking once more.

It was a long house with dragon ornaments at its walls and roof, that extended right in front of them. The shutters were closed, indicating, that nobody was currently inside. Also - there was no smoke coming from the chimney and something told him, that this must be the guests hut, that Astrid had been talking about.

“Make yourself comfortable!“ Ingunn said, opening the door for them and went straight to the fireplace in the middle of the enormous room. “There should be enough space for all of you. Hranafall is expecting no other guests right now. And M'lady – if you don't mind - I will prepare a small celebration for your and your husband's arrival. Shall I prepare some Yaknog, or do you want to?“

“Yaknog?“ Fishlegs asked with interest, after he had laid his bedroll. “Is it something to eat?“

“It is a traditional Hranafallian drink, we like to make during Winter time. And some like to make it on special occasions, like when guests are staying here.“ Astrid explained, helping the older woman to make a fire.

“Sounds good.“ Snotlout said, probably happy to get something into their empty stomachs.

Astrid nodded.

“Ingunn – will you prepare some? I would love to visit my parents and I don't think I will have the time to do so.“

“Of course and as you wish! My Yaknog is the best on this whole island anyway...“

It felt kinda nice to meet somebody, who had been always that close to Astrid. Ingunn really seemed to be a kind – maybe a little eccentric – woman and he even believed, that Astrid had always a friend in the old healer. But never noticed it. Probably due to the fact, that the older woman sometimes acted more like a servant towards the young Valkyrie, and like a friend. And maybe now Astrid will see that as well – with having some experience in friendship due to the other Dragon Riders.

This was the moment, when he noticed, that Astrid was looking over to him, who then pointed at the older woman with a movement of her head, before she slightly nodded. Hiccup immediately understood.

“Ingunn – may I ask you something?“ He asked, just as she was finished with the fire.

“Sure...“ She mumbled, stretching a little her back, which seemed to be hurting do to bowed posture.

“Your village is really a beautiful one – well – at least from what I have seen. I was just wondering...“

“Where you can find the dragons?“

He raised his eyebrows, but eventually nodded at that.

Ingunn laughed a little, even holding her belly for a short moment.

“Sure you won't find them here. Chief Hakon has ordered for them to be brought to an island not far away from here, to learn from them and train them. After he had returned, his first attempts of following the contract were not...working too well. And he nearly burned down the docks, but thankfully enough Thor had gifted us with rain that day...“

“Uhhh...sounds like our Dragon Academy!“ Fishlegs exclaimed, sounding very excited about that. “We need to see that!“

“And we need to hear more of how he nearly burned down the docks...“ Ruffnut mumbled.

“Yeah...for researching porpouses...“ Tuffnut said, but Hiccup glared at him, since he knew exactly, what they meant with that – they were far too interested in using that information for a prank.

„So, you guys deported the whole dragon population far away from Hranafall? Without any help?“

“Our dragons had mating season a month ago and chose that to fly of to another island. Hakon chose that as an opportunity to have them away and save for their training. And of what I have heard from one of the guards, they are close to archiving the first flight on a dragon's back. And I hope they hurry up, for I definitely want to learn that, too, before my time on Midgard is up!“

She then suddenly stopped and had a surprised look on her face, just as if she had noticed something:

“M'lady – how did you arrive in the first place? I mean – where you not coming here by dragon yourself? And I definitely haven't seen a new ship in the docks!“

Now it was Astrid, who shared a worried look with Hiccup and he knew, that she was quite unsure of what to tell Ingunn. But thankfully enough, it was Snotlout, who blurred out their little secret:

“Oh, we did. Our dragons are hiding in the forest-“

“Hiding?“ Ingunn asked, sounding a little irritated by that. But after a blink of confusion, she smiled again: “Oh sure. Nobody knows, how a bunch of Vikings would react, when a few dragons landed by the docks out of no where, right? Pretty clever there, M'lady Haddock. But I wouldn't expect something different from you. Shall I get something to eat for them? Fish it is?”

It was Eret, who stepped in now:

“It would be nice, though I suggest, that we will take care, that they are feeded.“

Hiccup knew, why his friend was saying that, before one of their other friends would have had the chance to answer. He didn't want the location of their hiding dragons give away – at least not until they knew more of what exactly was going on here. And he somehow was thankful, that one of them was not completely blinded by Hranafall's offerings.

“That is doable. Though I hope to get a look on your dragons. I have heard, that you – Chief Hiccup – have a real Night Fury...It would love to see one with my own eyes...“

“I might introduce you to Toothless, when we still have time.“ He said calmly and took Astrid's hand. “But I think, that we first should pay respect to Chief Hakon and visit Chieftess Ljóda...“

“True...“ Astrid said, nodding, making Ingunn chuckle about that.

“Ah...the annoying reunion with pesky in-laws, right? But regarding the face of death Hakon might encounter soon, it is an honor, for you to be here as well.“ She looked now towards Astrid directly and lowered her voice a little “...I hope your mother will see that as well...I will come by later this evening and provide him with some new medicine I came up with. I dearly hope it helps...“

As sad look emerged in Ingunn's eyes and pushed away the previous sassiness that had been hiding there.

“You really have a strong father, M'lady Haddock. If only I had a cure for whatever has entered his body. But I promise you to do everything, that is in my power to get our chief back on his feet. Maybe the sign of his beloved daughter will help...“ She sighed deeply, before she turned back around towards their friends and now happily exclaimed: “And now to you, you infamous Dragon Riders. Tell me your stories!“

Hiccup took this as the opportunity to get Astrid – who was paralyzed now by the older woman's words and who's hands felt icy in his own hands – out of the guest's hut and to finally get her to her father.

He pulled at her hand to get her outside and closed the door, just as Snotlout has started to tell their story.

“'Face of Death'. With not even Ingunn is knowing how to heal father's disease, then he really is doomed, isn't he?“

“Wait, wait, wait – we will see about that! Astrid – I know, that things might not seem to be so good for your father right now, but there is still hope. I know that!“

Or at least he knew, that Gothi had a vast knowledge of illnesses and diseases and maybe they really should consult her in that case...

Astrid's breath came out in shaky puff's and it took her some time to collect herself again. But eventually she did and she looked back up in his eyes.

“Since when isn't Eret trusting me anymore?“

This startled him and he even took a step back.

“How do you-“

“He is constantly eyeing me with suspicion and as if I would jump at you with a knife at any minute...One must be blind or pretty stupid to not notice that.“

That was true and she clearly wasn't one of the two things.

“Hiccup...do you trust me?“ There was something completely new in her voice – something he had never before heard like that. Something she had never before felt that way or until that way was just too good of an actor to hide it. It was genuine vulnerability and it nearly froze and broke his heart upon realizing, what made her feel this way.

“As I said before – I do trust you. Sure...he gave a few good points on why I should have an eye on you, but that doesn't change the way I am feeling for you. And it mostly concerned your mother...“ He told her that without hesitation. After all – why should he lie to her and spread even more doubt between them?

She heavily sighed.

“That is true...But...Hiccup...what do you wish for me to do, to prove, that I have nothing bad in my mind...?“

Finally a tiny smiled reached his lips again and he reached with his free hand for her cheek.

“My wish? Just be yourself...this won't give me a reason to not trust you...“

This seemed to give her some hope back, for she finally started to smile as well.

“Oh...I think I could do that...“

Sure – this had been the most perfect moment to recreate that sensation of the kiss they had shared early. But before he had the chance to act on it, somebody else had already grapped Astrid by the shoulders, swirled her around and hugged her tightly.

And it had taken Hiccup only a few seconds to realize, who this person had been...

“My daughter!“ Ljóda exclaimed with a tiny sob at the end “You have come!“