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A World on Fire

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Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, including the characters, settings, plots, themes, etc. from said franchise. I do, however, own this story and the unique characters, settings, plots, themes, etc. contained in this story that do not appear in the franchise as of the date of this publishing, unless otherwise indicated.


Prologue

Fearless Finn Hofferson


Fourteen years before the Red Death incident…

»  Fearless Finn Hofferson  «

Fearless Finn Hofferson stared into the dark horizon, his eyes scanning for the slightest hint of a threat. The man's stood with an unbreakable confidence and the ferocity of his presence made lesser men shrink in awe. Rain beat down on his figure, but he remained focused as he attended to his guard post.

It was twelve days north of Hopeless and a few degrees south of Freezing to Death. It was located solidly on the Meridian of Misery. A small Viking village rested on the Isle of Berk, surviving centuries of a bloody war; the only thing more stubborn than the village itself were the people who inhabited it. Only the dim flicker of the torches adorning the town's Great Hall and the moon's soft glaze illuminated the settlement. Finn turned to survey the many structures scattering the hillside, lingering on one in particular.

If one were to ask any Viking in the village, he or she would tell you that Fearless Finn was the bravest man this side of the archipelago; as his name would suggest, he was fearless, afraid of nothing. This was true, or at least it had been until earlier that year. Ten months ago, his brother and sister-in-law had given birth to a beautiful wee lass whom he cherished as if she were his own. Fear for her safety quickly manifested itself in his thoughts. It was no secret that Berk was anything but a haven for children with its devastating winters, dragon raids, and skirmishes with hostile tribes. Taking his gaze off of House Hofferson, Finn returned to scanning the skies, silently promising that no one, dragon or man, would hurt a hair on his little niece's head as long as he drew breath.

As the seconds turned to hours and the storm had long passed, any weariness in Finn was replaced by sheer power of will. Then it came, the shrill whine, the deadly whistle, and the signature announcement of a singular being.

"Night Fury!" A voice from a distant watch tower cried out.

"Get down!" Replied another.

The unholy offspring of lightning and death itself, the Night Fury, a dragon that no living man had ever seen. The only chance of survival was to hide and pray it didn't find you. But Fearless Finn Hofferson did not hide. In an instant, the large man was racing to sound the raid alarm.

As the deep horn filled the night, most of the town was already garbed in their assortment of armors, the sound of the Night Fury's arrival being more than enough to stir them from their slumber. Torches came to life, lighting the landscape, as Vikings scurried through the streets and took up arms to defend the village. The young and elderly were rushed to the Great Hall to take haven during the assault. Finn scoured the crowds, catching a glimpse of his own brother and Spitelout Jorgenson, the Chief's brother-in-law and well-respected general, making their way towards him. He continued to search until he spotted his sister-in-law running towards the Great Hall, a battle axe in one hand and her babe in the other.

Finn turned back towards the ocean and in the direction of the Night Fury's whistle. "Here I am ungodly beast, Fearless Finn Hofferson! Come and get me, if you dare!"

Then, there came another terrifying whine and a blue orb of plasma appeared in the sky. Finn looked for cover, but…wait. The Night Fury's attack wasn't going to strike anywhere near him; in fact, it was going to miss the entirety of Berk itself. An inexperienced warrior may have written it off as a mistake or bad aim, but Finn knew better. The Night Fury never missed. The shot streaked past a distant sea stack, providing just enough light for Finn to see the doomed target. Ships? Ships! Four to be exact. Where had the ships come from? Surely, they weren't Berkian as the home fleet was safely docked at the harbor.

At that moment, all Hel broke loose as the Night Fury's attack collided with the deck of the closest ship. An explosion of flames engulfed the vessel from stem to stern and the ship and its crew sank into the unforgiving ocean. A cloud of smoke rose from the site, it's likeness similar to that of a mushroom. Light from the raging fire swept over the remaining members of the flotilla allowing Finn to make out the image of a Skrill decorating their sails. The Skrill was a distant cousin of the Night Fury and rivaled the Fury's explosive blue blasts with deadly bolts of lightning. More importantly, it was the symbol of the warlike Berserker tribe, a group known to be quick to violence and slow to forgiveness. Ever since Oswald the Agreeable had become the Chief of the Berserkers there had been peace between the two tribes. Did Oswald mean to break the treaty and attack the Hooligans after they were left weakened from a dragon raid?

A hand fell on his shoulder. "Finn," Spitelout's uniquely high-pitched voice came from behind, "What's going on, laddie?" Spitelout looked to where Finn's eyes were focused.

"Berserker ships. Three sailing. One sunk. They move in from the Straits." Finn responded to the query, straight and to the point. "Night Fury's the only dragon so far."

Spitelout was furious. "Odin's beard! The Berserkers mean to attack during a dragon raid? Those sons of maggots, not a spot of honor in their bones. We must ready the catapults to repel this Berserker swine."

"Wait," the steady voice of Finn's brother entering the conversation, "This is not a Berserker attack." The younger Hofferson's calm and calculated demeanor was rare amongst the anger-prone and quick to action Vikings. This earned him and many Hoffersons before him the position of Chief Strategist among the tribe's council.

"Not an attack? Of course, it's an attack. Why else would a fleet of those maniacs be making their way to Berk in the dead of night. Have you lost it, Gunnar?" Spitelout looked at the man with narrowed eyes.

"Four ships are nowhere near enough to challenge Berk, even if we are caught after a dragon raid." Gunnar Hofferson looked closer at the lead ship. "There! See? That one flies the white flag." As he spoke a dragon shaped fireball appeared in the sky and a Monstrous Nightmare descended from the clouds, letting out a mighty roar. One dragon turned to two, two to four, four to eight, eight to sixteen, until the sky was teeming with the fire-breathing devils. The screams of damned souls could be heard as the dragons rained flame and fury onto the ships.

Finn looked towards the General who was already making his way to the nearest entrenchment to relay rescue orders to the men. He spoke to his brother, "Gunnar, tell the Chief what's going on. We don't want Stoick to think this is a Berserker attack."

"Right," his brother said before sprinting towards the town.

Finn looked back towards the Berserker vessels. Two more had been overrun by dragons, falling far behind their ally. One's sail dissipated as the flames ate the canvas and its oars hung dead off the side of the hull. The other still put up a futile resistance, soldier after soldier being flung from the deck. The sole survivor raced to reach the safety of Berk's beachhead and Finn sprang into action to ensure there would be someone to receive the besieged sailors. Gathering a small squad of warriors, Finn charged towards the coastline while bellowing a thunderous battle cry. The final ship hit the rocky sand, wood splintering as the barnacle-ridden keel dug into the ground.

"Stand fast, men!" Finn barked as they reached the crash site, "Here come the dragons, little demons up front, big ones in back." It was only seconds into the engagement before the beasts dispersed. The brief relief from fighting did not last as a familiar whine, once again, filled the sky. "Night Fury!" Finn yelled to his team, "Get down!" As fortune would have it, the Berkian soldiers obeyed his command and escaped the Fury's wrath unharmed. The last of the Berserkers were not so lucky as the remainder of their ship exploded from beneath them. Any who tarried on the deck were engulfed by the blue blazes and those who had disembarked were thrown from the site by lethal concussive forces.

Finn stumbled to return himself to his feet; he had escaped the explosion but was left with a ringing in his ears from the deafening blast. He looked around and saw the Berkian catapult entrenchments peppering the airborne attackers with boulders. Gathering his senses, the sound of tiny crying replaced the ringing and he ran towards it to investigate. After clearing away a section of the ship's hull, Finn came across a bloodied boy with three parallel streaks of blue warpaint marked diagonally across his left eye and horizontally along his bicep. An image of the Skrill adorned his armor. The Berserker boy was clutching a wailing child no older than Finn's own niece.

The Berserker looked up at the Berkian and painfully spoke with trembling lips, "I-I am Dagur, Chief of the B-Berserkers. O-Oswald the Agreeable is d-d-dead. The dragons have t-t-taken the island o-of Berserk. We are a-all who are left…" Dagur let out a wheezing cough and Finn held him in a seated position. "The g-gr-great Berserker tribe has fallen." He caressed the child's cheek before thrusting her into Finn's strong arms. "This is Heather. She is the l-last hope and heir of Berserk. Keep her safe." His viridian eyes widened and peered into Finn's azure. "Promise me!"

Without a hint of hesitation, Finn put a hand on Dagur's shoulder and spoke with comfort lacing his words, "I promise." The boy drew a final breath and closed both eyes as his body went limp. "In Valhalla, may you finally rest."

Finn started jogging to the Great Hall, needing to find shelter for the baby amidst the raid. Gazing at the child he now held, Finn rocked her in his warm embrace to soothe her crying. Her minute viridian eyes matched those of the passed boy and contrasted elegantly with her raven hair. He had always wanted a child but grave circumstances had left him an early widow and without a descendant of his own. He promised to look after the tiny thing and had every intention of keeping his word. Reaching the center of the village, Finn saw the doors of the Great Hall straight ahead, only a few meters away. Smoke from burning homes had filled his lungs and a gash on his leg bled to no end from the Night Fury's previous attack.

A guard at the Hall's entrance took note of him sprinting towards the structure. Moving to open the doors, the soldier suddenly stopped, looking into the sky above Finn's head. "Finn, look out! Dragon!" The man called out to him, raising his crossbow.

Finn took no chances, diving to the ground and sheltering the baby with his own body. Expecting to meet a fiery demise at any moment, he took solace that the mewling child would be safe under him. "Shh-shh," he cooed to her, "Everything will be alright." He closed his eyes as the beat of heavy wings shook the air around him, stirring dust and dirt into the harsh breeze. To his surprise, the dragon lifted away, something else piquing its interest. Looking up at the massive predator, Finn watched it soar up the hillside, four separate wings hammering the wind to keep it aloft. This huge dragon had never shown itself on the Isle of Berk before this day, but Finn recognized its markings from the Book of Dragons, a Stormcutter. Coming to his feet, he watched a flame grow in the passing dragon's mouth but his view was barred as he moved past the heavy doors of the Great Hall.

»  Stoick the Vast  «

There is only one accurate description of Stoick the Vast, Chief of the Hairy Hooligan Tribe. Simply, the man was the Viking of Vikings. A head taller than the next biggest Berkian, and thrice as strong. His stubbornness was greater than that of all his people…combined. They say that when he was a baby, he popped a dragon's head clean off of its shoulders (Do I believe it? Yes, I do.).

Stoick watched the Stormcutter race his way up the slope and towards his position. "Ah! Do you want some of this this beast?" He bellowed with his rough Nordic accent. "Ha-ha-ha, come and get it!" His hatchet was raised at the ready, the auburn tresses of his beard danced in the breeze, and his steely emerald eyes were unwavering despite the great size of his aggressor. The dragon soared higher into the sky, ignoring Stoick's challenge and letting a blast loose from its jaws. The Chief watched the attack impact the side of his own home, leaving a charred hole as the wood vaporized. Stoick's fiery demeanor melted away as his eyes grew wide and he whispered, "Hiccup…no…"

His legs had never carried him faster as he sprinted up to the top of the hill, watching the Stormcutter tear through the remainder of the wall and enter his son's nursery. Not even bothering to open the door, the massive Viking rammed through, ripping it from the metal hinges. It was when he was halfway up the stairs did the crying start, as his son, his little hiccup, wailed into the night. The door at the top was already open when he arrived. Upon entering he hesitated for only a second as he saw his boy weeping in the crib with a bleeding cut on his chin. There was stuffed blue dragon toy resting on the ground. Snapping back into the moment, he caught sight the dragon cornering his wife, a useless sword drooping in her hands.

"Ah," he grunted, hurling his axe into the tiny separation between his beloved and the beast with the hope to give the woman space to escape. "Valka, run!" The enraged dragon whipped its head towards Stoick and spewed a river of fire.

"No, don't!" he heard his wife plead to the Stormcutter as she grasped at his wing.

Stoick saw the monster turn back towards Valka. "Hold on," he shouted. He leaped over the flames, snatching up his son and recovering his weapon, but, alas, it was too late.

"No! Stoick!" she screamed as the dragon caught her shoulders.

"Valka!" He could only watch in horror as the woman he loved and the mother of his child was taken from his very home.

"Stoick!"

"Valka…"

Chapter Text


Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, including the characters, settings, plots, themes, etc. from said franchise. I do, however, own this story and the unique characters, settings, plots, themes, etc. contained in this story that do not appear in the franchise as of the date of this publishing, unless otherwise indicated.


Chapter 1

Underdogs and Outsiders


» Heather Hofferson «

She took a single step and the world around her changed. The cozy and warm surroundings of House Hofferson were left behind, replaced by a freezing and horrific battleground. Fourteen-year-old Heather Hofferson looked up into the night sky to see the first wave of dragons descending on Berk. In her hands she gripped a unique dual sided axe, each end of the handle held a jagged hatchet head. The metal from her armored skirt, pauldrons, vambraces, and kneepads flickered as waves of fire streaked across the night sky. Three parallel streaks of blue warpaint marked diagonally across her left eye and horizontally along her bicep.

"Heather, let's go! The Ingermans were hit by a pack of Nadders," a voice called from ahead. Her blonde cousin turned and tossed a large bucket.

"Lead the way," she replied, snatching it out of the air. The two dodged terrified sheep and disgruntled yaks as they made their way across town, stopping briefly at the well to fill their buckets.

"Hey, babe," said a beefy Viking teen by the name of Snotlout Jorgenson as came up to her cousin, "Fancy seein' you here."

"Muzzle it, mutton-head or I'll muzzle it for ya," the feisty blonde snapped at the unwanted suitor. Heather couldn't help but chuckle, knowing that Snotlout would be on the ground with a broken nose if her cousin's hands had been free.

"Still playing hard to get?" he continued, clearly not having learned his lesson from previous encounters, "No problem, you won't be able to resist all this raw muscle for much longer." He looked at the exasperated girl and flashed her a smolder. Her cousin looked like she was about to drown Snotlout in his own water bucket.

"That's enough! There are more important things to worry about right now." Heather yelled as she cast herself between the two.

"Who asked you, Berserker swine? You're just a dirty outsider who is gonna end up with the rest of your people." He growled, shoving the raven-haired girl into the ground.

That was the last straw. The other Hofferson glared at the boy before swinging her bucket into his face and dousing him with its contents. Snotlout crumpled to the ground, crying and nursing his broken nose. "Heather, are you okay?" Her cousin asked.

"Fine, I'm fine...aagh!"

The blonde frowned, looking at the unstable leg and also noticing the girl's downcast eyes and furrowed brows. "This is no good. I'm taking you off of the fire patrol." A sprained ankle wasn't too big of a deal as it would heal but the emotional damage done by Snotlout's vicious comments had taken its hold. "Head over to the forge and see if you can be of any help there. They are probably swamped with repairs. Can you make it on your own?"

At mention of the forge, Heather's face lit up and her spirits were momentarily lifted. "Yeah…erm…I'll be fine." She grimaced as she put weight on her injured side. Nodding to her cousin, she turned and hurried limped towards the forge. Now that she was injured and alone, she did not want to be caught out in the open by one of the fire-breathing reptiles.

Slowly but surely, she made her way to a bustling structure. An endless stream of men and women circulated through the doors and smoke made its way out of the ventilation hatches. The sharp clangs of metal against metal were drowned out by a terrible thorforsaken singing.

Oh, I've got my axe and I've got my mace,

And I love my wife with the ugly face,

I'm a Viking through and through!

Oh, I've got my club and I've got my bludgeon,

And fifteen Berserkers locked in my dungeon,

I'm a Viking through and through!

Oh, I've got my club and I've got my rope

And I smell like a yak 'cause I don't use soap

I'm a Viking through and through!

Heather felt her body tense with the second verse, but she coaxed it back, telling herself that it was only song. A small part of couldn't help but be put down especially with Snotlout's earlier attacks fresh on her mind. Taking a deep breath to bury the emotions, she entered the forge and approached Berk's legendary blacksmith. "Hey Gobber, how can I help?" She always looked up to the man as he didn't let even the loss of two limbs stop him from becoming the best smith in the archipelago.

"Huh?" The large man looked up, "Ain't ya supposed ta be puttin' out fires, lassie?"

"Hurt my leg," she explained, "So, what can I do?" She knew she didn't have skills anywhere near those of Gobber's, or even those of his apprentice, but she could work her way around a grindstone and tanning rack.

"Lad should be comin' out of the back. He'll give ya a job."

"Thanks, Gobber."

As if summoned, a tiny, runt of a boy emerged from the tiny storage room, struggling with an armful of weapons. His auburn hair was tussled and untamed and his emerald eyes peered at her from behind his cargo. "H-Heather!" He exclaimed, clearly having difficulty with the weapons.

"Hi, Hiccup!" Heather beamed at him. Hiccup was the reason she had any forging experience at all, as she would visit him at the forge very often. Excluding her cousin, the young apprentice was the only friend she had in the world and he was always kind to her. "Gobber said you had something for me?" she asked as he dumped the pile onto a workbench.

"Uhhh…actually, yeah. Why don't you get the grindstone cranking? Those over there need sharpening." He immediately noticed her heavy limp. "Heather, are you okay?"

She glanced at him to see his eyes focused on her leg. "Erm…yeah, just a sprain. It's noth-"

"Come here," Hiccup interrupted while pulling out a stool. Nervously she complied and took the seat. She fidgeted as he gently removed her boot and inspected the area. The ankle was very swollen and had purple and red tinges. "How'd this happen?"

"Snot-hat."

He nodded, "That'll do it." He pressed on different areas of the injury until she let out a whimper. "Sorry. I'd say you have a fortnight until its fully recovered. Pain should go away in five moons or so." He fumbled around under a workbench, hitting his head as he rose again. "Ow!" Rubbing his head, he turned back to the sprain. "I'm gonna put this brace on your foot. Keep it on for at least seven moons. Okay?"

"You just had a brace lying around?" She questioned him with a confused look. His eyes immediately went to the ground and it was clear that the question had aroused embarrassing and painful memories. "Hiccup, I'm sorry." Her hand went straight to his shoulder from instinct.

"No, no, it's okay. I just…it's just that…I happen to find myself in lots of…situations…that end up with me needing some sort of brace. Just a fact of life now." He sighed as he redid her boot, clearly wanting to move on from the subject. "There you go, all done."

"Thanks." A genuine smile tugged at her lips.

"No problem. Now back to that grindst-," he stopped abruptly and his emerald eyes shot wide open. A familiar whine filled the sky as Hiccup stared into Heather's equally as shocked eyes. With only a whisper, he uttered the name, "Night Fury."

"Get down!" Gobber yelled into the shop before skipping out with his hammer attachment equipped. Hiccup sprang into action and pulled Heather under a workbench, shielding her with his body. A nearby catapult exploded as the unholy offspring of lighting and death dived and delivered its attack, disappearing once again.

"Stay here!" Hiccup ordered.

"Where are you going?"

"Stay!" He repeated while sprinting out of the shop, a strange cart in tow.

» Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III «

This was it! This was his moment. Hiccup the runt would finally shoot down a night fury and prove to his father that he wasn't a complete failure. He would finally earn his father's love and pride. After fortnights of work, the bola launcher was finally done and this time he had taken it far out to the edge of the cliffs to prevent it from destroying the town…again. Snapping it around, he hit the release and caused the entire contraption to spring into the firing position. Finally, Hiccup stepped onto the deployed weapon and took the handles.

The minutes that passed seemed like an eternity and the ongoing battle was just a distant echo in his ears. He stared into the starry night sky, waiting for his prize. His diligence was rewarded with an approaching whistle. "Come on, give me something to shoot at, give me something to shoot at," he muttered to himself. A commanding roar filled the night and Hiccup frantically searched the sky to find the source. Only a moment after he spotted a dark shadow, a nearby tower exploded as the Night Fury swooped in for the attack. The light from the explosion blinded him and the recoil from his fired weapon tossed the tiny boy back. Immediately recovering from the fall, his eyes followed the bola as it hit its target; a screech cried out as the dragon crashed into a distant swath of trees.

"I hit it? Yes, I hit it!" He exclaimed with his arms in the air. Swinging around looking for a witness, he asked, "Did anybody see that?" Hearing a snarl behind him, he slowly turned back around and came face to face with a displeased Monstrous Nightmare. The euphoria left his body and his shoulders slumped as he cursed himself. "Except…for you."

» Stoick the Vast «

Stoick dreaded dragon raids. Sure, the pillaging of food, destruction of homes, and loss of life that came along with each raid was devastating, but they were Vikings. It was an occupational hazard. To Stoick dragons raids only meant one thing: another chance for his failure of a son to screw up. Wait…his son wasn't a complete failure. Hiccup never failed to embarrass the Haddock lineage and he always succeeded in singlehandedly destroying more of the village than the dragons. And? What was a widowed Chief supposed to do? Disowning him was out of the question. The boy was one of two possible heirs to the chiefdom and that idiot nephew of his would run the tribe into the ground after a moon.

Hearing an all too familiar screaming, Stoick sighed as he wrestled a Deadly Nadder to the ground. "Ugh…what now?" He looked towards the direction of the scream to find his son being pitifully chased by a Monstrous Nightmare. "Hiccup!" he yelled out, trying to get the boy's attention. Of course, when being chased by five thousand pounds of flame and muscle, one tends to ignore everything…except for not dying. Thus, Stoick's call went unheeded. Kicking into a sprint, Stoick ran up the hill to save his son from the wrath of the enraged Nightmare. He watched his son take cover behind a rapidly melting pole as the dragon closed in for the kill. It was now or never. Stoick lunged into a tackle and rammed the dragon away from the boy.

The Monstrous Nightmare was not happy as the burly Viking in front of him had deprived it of a desperately needed toothpick. The dragon opened its jaws to vaporize Stoick but only a small ember burst forward. "You're all out," Stoick growled at the beast and leapt forward, hammer in hand. He launched multiple strikes pushing the dragon further and further back. "Any last words, devil?" he asked before charging to deliver the final strike. The Nightmare indeed had something to say as it opened it jaws to fire in a final attempt to survive. "No," Stoick whispered, watching a soft glow appeared in the dragons' mouth. The fireball hit the massive Viking dead center sending Stoick flying through the air. The last thing he heard before descending into darkness was the voice of his son calling for him. His limp figure crashed into a stack of barrels, splintering the wood on impact as he remained unmoving.

» Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III «

"Dad!" Hiccup screamed in horror and watched his father be thrown through the air. He closed the gap and fell to his knees. Tears rolled down his face as he took the man's enormous hand. "Dad, dad, please get up. I need you." The dragons were now pulling away from Berk carrying as much food as they could hold. The other villagers started to gather around the downed Chief, sobs and gasps spread throughout the crowd. Hiccup felt a hand rest on his shoulder and turned to see Heather frowning at him.

"Hiccup…," she started, unable to find the words to comfort him. Looking around she saw everyone else was just as speechless and could only stare at the horrific scene.

A pair of strong arms pulled Hiccup away from his father. "Oi, boy-o, don't worry. We'll look after him." Spitelout spoke with a grave voice that betrayed the words. "Head back up ta yer home." Then he turned and whispered to Heather, "…an' make sure he gets there." Heather nodded and started leading the distressed boy towards House Haddock.

Behind them they heard Gobber's sunken yet commanding voice, "Stop standin' there like a buncha yaks, ya lot. Go an' fetch Gothi." It was the last thing Hiccup heard before Heather closed the door to his home.

» Heather Hofferson «

Heather was speechless as she watched Hiccup shrink into a chair. She had opted to make tea to bring some warmth and comfort to his quivering form. Filling up a nearby mug, it was no surprise her attempt to hand him the serving went unanswered. "Come on," she insisted, "Just a sip?" Still no response. Hiccup was frozen and his eyes remained unfocused, staring into nothing. She couldn't help but feel a bit of irritation, and some of her feisty cousin's temper surfaced. "Either drink it or wear it. Choice is yours." She snapped at him. Hiccup momentarily pulled out of his trance. Opting to not having a scalding hot liquid poured on him, he gingerly took the mug.

Hiccup's dilemma was all to familiar to her. About ten years ago, her adoptive father, Fearless Finn Hofferson had been killed by the decennial Flightmare attack. He had gone to face the dragon alone, but, when the moment came, he froze in fear and just stood there as the dragon took his life and destroyed the village. Of course, Heather didn't believe it because her father was the bravest Viking ever to walk the Isle of Berk. Her belief didn't stop the entire Hofferson clan to become shamed and lose all standing in the town. Gunnar Hofferson, her uncle who had taken her in after Finn's passing, had even been removed from the council. The shaming mixed in with her Berserker blood had resulting in the entire town shunning and ridiculing her. The only friends she had were her cousin and Hiccup, who was equally, if not more, as disliked.

Half-an-hour passed with Hiccup passively sipping the tea and Heather refilling the mug when it ran dry. The door to the home was kicked open, and Spitelout barged in with Gobber on his tail. Spitelout wordlessly entered the Chief's bedroom while Gobber took a seat next to his apprentice. "How ya doing, lad?" He asked Hiccup.

"I-I don't know…where is he? Is he alive?" Hiccup replied without looking up.

Gobber nodded. "Gothi, an' the other healers are bringing him 'ere." Gobber answered, " Me 'n' 'Lout came first to make some space and check up on you."

Spitelout had made his way back to the door and stuck his head out. "Everything's ready. Bring 'im in." He shouted, stepping back to allow Gothi and several other healers entry. Following them were two beefy warriors hoisting Stoick in a makeshift stretcher.

Heather could only look at the ashen and pale man struggling for life. She could feel the pain Hiccup was going through at the moment. Tears had started to return to his eyes and the slump in his shoulders became greatly exaggerated. She got up, moved toward the blacksmith, and whispered to him, careful to not let Hiccup hear. "This isn't good for him. He needs to get out and occupy his mind with something."

"Aye," Gobber agreed. Gently slapping Hiccup on the back, he raised himself from the seat with a grunt. "'ight, Hiccup, get up. Got a lot of damaged weapons in the raid 'n' they ain't gon' repair themselves. You two get to it now. I'll let ya know how he's doin'." With that Gobber ushered the two teens out the door.

Heather followed Hiccup back to the forge, frowning as she noticed the heavy drag in his feet. Upon reaching the smithy, she sighed and gathered some extra hides to prepare on the tanning rack. It was going to be a long night. After a only a few minutes of work she heard footsteps enter the shop.

"Hey," her cousin's voice rang out, "can I get this sharpened?"

"A-Astrid! Hello, Astrid. Astrid. Hi, Astrid." Hiccup started to blabber. His face had lifted and a blush was working its way up his cheeks.

"Right away," Hiccup agreed, nearly dropping the axe when she abruptly placed it in his hand. "Okay. Razor-sharp battle axe, coming right up."

"Careful! That's my mother's." she scolded with narrow eyes.

Heather found amusement in Hiccup's awkwardness and discomfort. She watched Hiccup place the axe aside to spin up the grindstone. Unbeknownst to Astrid, Hiccup and the axe had been acquainted a couple years before. The axe had been shattered during a raid on Snoggletog Eve and Ingrid Hofferson, Astrid's mother, had brought it to Gobber. The blacksmith had immediately deemed it beyond repair and tossed it in the scrap pile. Hiccup, however, had reclaimed the broken pieces and re-forged the entire weapon by himself, reusing all the original materials in addition to some new high-grade iron. He had even put in the time to engrave "ASTRID" into the head. Heather had caught him trying to sneak into House Hofferson in the middle of the night and had forced him to tell her everything. After hearing his explanation, she allowed him to place the axe next to Astrid's Snoggletog helmet and promised not to say anything. The next morning, the Hofferson clan had gathered to open their Snoggletog presents and Heather had never seen a happier Astrid. The moment the blonde realized the axe was hers, she covered her mother with a barrage of kisses, in a very un-Astrid-like manner. Ingrid was dumbfounded and believed that a Snoggletog miracle had occurred overnight.

Hiccup's voice snapped her back into the present. "So..uh…I saw you guys on fire patrol last night." Hiccup commented, "Looked like a good time."

"Yeah," Astrid acknowledged, "I didn't get burned though. It's only fun if you get a scar out of it."

"Yeah, no kidding." the boy said in an artificially deeper voice, "Pain. Love it." Heather snorted at his attempt to put on a macho façade. "Yeah," he continued, "I would've been there, too, but I was out downing a Night Fury. So, yeah, pretty busy."

Both girls' eyes widened at the news since no one had ever taken out a Night Fury before. "Really?" the blonde asked, "Where-where is it-"

"Uh…no, it got away…erm," Hiccup interrupted, "but it won't be back anytime soon, believe you me. Heh. Yeah, you know, this apprentice thing is just my, sort of, on the side…uh…I'm mostly here to bulk up. Lift some iron and stuff. Become one with the steel."

Heather had moved next to Hiccup to watch him masterfully sharpen the axe, hoping to improve her own skills. Good thing, too, as Hiccup had started to stare at Astrid, oblivious to the drooping axe. She quickly pulled the axe up and away from the grindstone before it was damaged and hissed at Hiccup, "Careful, mutton-head."

He looked at her, his face redder than melted iron. "Uh…thanks," he whispered. Then he turned back towards Astrid who was making her way to his curtained off nook in the workshop. "No, you're not actually supposed to…" he exclaimed, too late, as Astrid pulled back the curtain. Heather realized that even she had never been in there, in fact, Hiccup was probably the only one in the entire village.

"What…is all of this?" Astrid questioned with hesitation.

Hiccup started blabbering to cover his embarrassment. "Those? Nothing. Just some stuff I'm working on. It's just…confidential, upper-level development. I-I can't really talk about it, so…"

"'The Mutilator'" Astrid read from a piece of parchment.

"Yes, yes. Basically, it uses twin-weighted, counter-levers to launch crisscrossing blades in four different directions." He explained.

"How do you hold it?"

"Well, you don't. You shoot it."

"Oh, well…I'm more of an old-fashioned, 'take it down with an axe and then lop its head off' kind of girl. It's kind of the Viking way, right?"

Hiccup looked gingerly at the axe he was sharpening before nervously saying, "Go, Vikings."

"Astrid!" an impatient voice from outside called, "You coming to practice with us or what?"

The blonde held out an open hand to Hiccup, who placed the freshly sharpened axe in it. Swinging it a couple times and tossing it from hand to hand, she was satisfied with the results. "Hmm…thanks." She complimented.

"Sure." He said, letting out a sigh as he watched her walk away with the more Viking-like teens. Turning to Heather who was engrossed with a job at the grindstone, he asked, "Aren't you going to go train with them, too?"

"Can't," she lifted up her injured ankle, "besides, they don't want me and I'd rather be here."

» Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III «

Another couple of hours passed as the damaged weapons in the shop were repaired and retuned. Heather had gone to fetch dinner for the two and Hiccup was left alone with his thoughts. The boy could not stop worrying about his father and the slight reprieve that Astrid had brought him did not last. He knew that she would probably never speak to him again or acknowledge that he existed. Hel, Astrid wouldn't come near him if she was on fire and he had the only bucket of water in town.

It was then that Heather came hobbling in as fast as her injured ankle would allow. "Hiccup!" she gasped, "He's awake!"

Hiccup dropped the hammer without a word and sprinted to his home, but when he got there he could not bring himself to open the door. What if his father hated him? What if he was going to be thrown off of Berk for getting the Chief injured? What if Snotlout was made the heir and Hiccup was demoted to be his cousin's thrall? He would have stayed at the door forever running countless scenarios through his head if someone hadn't opened the door from the inside. To his surprise, he came face to face with Gunnar and Ingrid Hofferson.

"Aaah…M-Mr. Hofferson, Mrs. H-Hofferson, can I-I help you?" he stammered, turning white from the shock.

The couple smiled at him and Gunnar put a hand on the boy's shoulder. "No need for that, son." He beamed, "Go see your father, he wants to speak with you."

"Yes, sir," Hiccup nodded, "Uuuh…may I ask…how is he doing?"

"As well as can be expected," Gunnar answered honestly, shaking his head. "Go on now, lad. Best not to keep him waiting."

"And. If you need anything, Hiccup, let us know." Ingrid interjected, "You must be having a very hard time."

Hiccup bowed his head. "Thank you, both." Saying goodbye, he creeped his way inside towards his father's bedroom.

"Hiccup!" Stoick's booming voice resounded inside the house despite his injuries, "Is that you, son?"

"Yeah…uh…it's me," Hiccup squeaked, his entire body shaking as he entered the room.

"Come here. Are you hurt? Still have all your limbs?" The large man painfully craned his neck trying to get a glimpse of the boy.

"Uh…I should probably be asking you that. You know, considering…" Hiccup walked up to the side of the bed. His father's chest was heavily bandaged being the place where he took the brunt of the attack. His arm had been broken from the landing impact and his entire body was covered in cuts and bruises. Any normal Viking would have been killed instantly, but Stoick the Vast was no normal Viking, as even the most ignorant of bystanders could tell from his six-foot, nine-inch body. Hiccup looked into the man's eyes and saw the pain of his injuries reflected in them, only overshadowed by the worry for his son. The boy dropped his head in shame and spoke softly and suddenly, "D-dad…I'm sorry. If I hadn't been such a failure and an idiot none of this would have happened. It's all my fault. I don-"

"Enough!" Stoick silenced his son, "This is not your fault." He pondered for a moment. "Although…I have to admit. If you could just follow orders and stop trying to get yourself killed, things may have turned out a bit better." Hiccup's shoulders had drooped again and he refused to make eye contact out of shame. "But. How is this your fault. Did you release those devils from Helheim? No. Did you breathe the fire that caused my injuries? No. I am your father. You are my son. No matter how many stupid things you do, it is my duty to protect you. And only Odin knows how many stupid things you do."

"Dad-"

"I do not want to hear another word of this. Do you understand?"

"But-"

"Do you understand?"

"I understand." Hiccup's eyes were still focused on the ground, but the slump in his posture straightened.

"Good. Now sit." He looked at the edge of the bed as Hiccup complied. "I have something to tell you."

"Yeah," Hiccup said, nodding his head, "Gunnar Hofferson mentioned that you wanted a word, but he didn't say what about."

"Well, son, I am no longer a young man and my injuries have reminded me that I am not invincible."

"Who would of thought…" Hiccup muttered under his breath, his sarcasm not deserting him. Stoick glared at his son with eyes that could melt Gronkle iron. "Uh…sorry."

"And in light of this," Stoick continued, "I have decided that I need to secure the future of Berk and ensure my lineage is strong." The man eyed the boy, "This…" He used his good arm to indicate Hiccup's entire being.

"You just gestured to all of me." Hiccup scowled.

"…is not strong. Son, apart from the children, you are the smallest, dare I say it, Viking in the Archipelago. You can't lift a sword or throw an axe or swing a mace or…well, you get it. And every time you try to fight a dragon, you end up destroying half the town."

"If you are trying to instill an unbreakable confidence in me, let me tell you, you're doing an amazing job."

"But. But. Thank Thor. You aren't stupid. If that idiot nephew of mine, Snotlout, had an inch of intelligence, I would have disowned you ages ago."

"Gee…thanks."

"And, most importantly, you already know the most crucial thing that anyone could teach you."

"A Chief protects his own." Hiccup interrupted again but this time without even a hint of sarcasm.

Stoick nodded once. "That is why I know, with a great deal of help, you will be able to lead. You care for the people and will always put their needs above your own. I know this. But you do not have the strength to protect the people. I mean look at this." Stoick gestured to his son again.

"Again, with the all of me."

"So, I have decided that, with someone strong and Viking-like by your side, you will be able to lead the people together. And, who knows, I might even get some grand-heirs." Stoick said that last bit with a little too much cheer in his voice.

Hiccup's eyes narrowed as he put the pieces together. "Wait just a-"

"You're getting married!"

Chapter Text


Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, including the characters, settings, plots, themes, etc. from said franchise. I do, however, own this story and the unique characters, settings, plots, themes, etc. contained in this story that do not appear in the franchise as of the date of this publishing, unless otherwise indicated.


Chapter 2

The Fire-Breathing Damsel and the Dragon in Distress


» Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III  «

"Whaaaa…" Hiccup's mouth hung open. He was utterly dumbfounded and unable to process the information. "Wait! What?"

"You're getting married." Stoick repeated.

"You can't be serious. Me? Married? Oh gods, what did you do?" The boy leapt from his sitting position and assumed an aggressive posture. "I can't get married!"

"Yes, you. Yes, married. And I've already arranged it for this Friggasday, before the worst of the season sets in. So, you will follow through."

"This is ridiculous! You can't do this! I won't do it!" Hiccup was adamant to win this argument. "How could you do this to me?"

"I can do this and you will do it." Stoick commanded, growing tired of the debate. "If you refuse, I will replace you with Snotlout and enter you into his servitude. How does that sound?"

"How is that fair?" Hiccup was now yelling at the top of his lungs.

"Enough! This is for the good of Berk and the contract has been accepted. I do not want to hear another word of argument."

That was it. It was over. The boy's head fell and a defeated slump presented in his stance. He knew his father would follow through with the threat without hesitation. Hiccup didn't know who to feel sorrier for, himself or his 'lucky' bride-to-be. Which begged the question… "Who?" He asked without looking up.

"The Hofferson girl."

No wonder the Hoffersons were just in his home with huge grins on their faces. For them, a lucrative deal had just been struck and they were about to reclaim all of their status that had been lost years ago. But which girl was it? There were two Hofferson bachelorettes on Berk: Astrid Hofferson, the biological offspring of Gunnar and Ingrid, and Heather Hofferson, the adoptive child of the late Finn.

On one hand, he had always dreamed of being wed to Astrid and loved the girl for as long as he could remember. The problem with that idea was that it was only ever a dream. A girl as amazing as the Astrid Hofferson would never want a scrawny fishbone like him as a husband. Not to mention that she'd be up in arms, quite literally, if they were engaged. Hel, if she was indeed his doomed Promised, he might save her the trouble and go feed himself to the nearest dragon.

On the other hand, Heather was his dearest friend and he greatly appreciated her company, but he never saw her as more than that. She just wasn't…Astrid. In addition to that, a marriage would only harm their friendship and lead her to hating him for ruining her life. He knew that Heather would be more accepting of the terms than Astrid, but he couldn't do that to the girl and break off their friendship. Well, what he could and couldn't do was out of the question as he didn't have a choice. At least with Heather, he would come out with all his extremities intact and wouldn't have to face the girl he actually loved every single day, knowing that she despised him.

"Heather?" He asked, praying to the gods for him to say yes.

"No, the other one. Astrid." Stoick immediately noticed the ashen look on Hiccup's face. "What?" he asked, "Gobber told me you were sweet on the lass. Are you not?"

"No, no. It's not that. Gods. I do lov-like Astrid. I always have." Hiccup cursed himself for almost saying it out loud. It would only help to encourage his father. "But she doesn't like me. She doesn't even know I exist."

"Nonsense. And it's your duty to make sure she likes you."

"But-"

"Enough talk. I must rest. We will discuss this further tomorrow after it is announced to the town."

With that, Hiccup trudged out of the room, trapped in his own thoughts from the draining news. He didn't even have the strength to make it up to his bedroom. After finding the nearest fur and collapsing on the spot, he just lay awake pondering the news and cursing himself until exhaustion overpowered his body.

The next morning, he awoke to a harsh 'thunk' that came from the house's front door. Grumbling and moving to investigate, Hiccup opened the door and peered at the damage on the outer surface. His eyebrows furrowed in confusion as he inspected the axe which had been freshly burrowed in the spruce. "What in the name of Thor?" he whispered.

"Hiccup…Horrendous…Haddock…the Third!" A hostile voice growled as the owner prowled towards the house. "Pack your bags, 'cause you're going to Helheim. Permanently!"

Very, very much afraid, Hiccup looked up to confirm the identity of the enraged Viking. To his great dismay, an unhappy and crazed Astrid Hofferson was stamping her way to him. How nice, his 'loving' fiancé had come to bid him a good morning. Her burning eyes clearly showed that she was out for blood and wouldn't stop until she got it. "Da-da-da…I'm dead." Hiccup muttered while facepalming.

Astrid was closing faster, having spotted her prey. She was now describing, in painstaking detail, of all the ways she would kill him. "...and after that, I'm going to-"

Hiccup didn't hear the rest because he had slammed the door closed and barred it. Oh, yes, he was going to have Hel to pay for doing that. Looking around for an escape, he decided on sliding out the back door and taking refuge in the forest for the time being. He was meaning to go out to search for the Night Fury he had shot down earlier, but he couldn't build up the courage. Deciding that feeding himself to the unholy offspring of lightning and death itself would fare better than the atrocities that Astrid had promised, he was off.

» The Night Fury «

He was tired, so very much tired. A pool of blood spilled from his tail and the untreated wound brought great pain. After countless failed attempts to clean the injury and coat it with his healing saliva, he had finally given up. The abrasive ropes dug deeply into his sides and halted movement of any kind, forcing him to lay still ever since he was shot down the night before.

The Night Fury had landed in a dense forest on the Isle of Berk. He had been without food or water for almost a day. After being hit by the bola, the dragon had crashed into a swath of trees and the harsh impact had left him with a morbid wound to the tail. Due to the restrictive bindings, he was unable to assess the true damage. After several hours of fruitless struggling, the Fury had simply accepted its fate gave in to sleep.

The Night Fury retained this state even as the strange voice sounded next to him. "Woah…I-I did it. Oooh, I did it! This-this fixes everything. Yes! I have brought down this mighty beast!"

The sudden application of weight on his front leg brought the Night Fury back into reality. He pushed the weight away with a groan as the aches in his body resurfaced. Heavy breathing returned to the reptilian body as the dragon regained consciousness. His eyes shot open and scanned the surroundings, fixing on a trembling figure. It was small and runty, barely a toothpick. Sweat gleamed on its scale-less skin and a sharp, shiny object was clutched in both its paws.

The creature's breathing deepened as it started to speak again. "I'm gonna kill you dragon. I'm gonna cut out your heart and take it to my father. I am a Viking. I am a Viking!"

The Night Fury groaned in annoyance. What was the biped going on about now? The dragon watched the creature raise the sharp object above its head. Predictable. It was going kill him and that object would easily pierce his skin ending his life in a matter of seconds. Stealing one last look into the strange thing's eyes, the Fury's own widened as the creature braced to follow through with the deed. He was sad. He was afraid. He didn't want to die! All he could was stare as the creature took everything from him. Giving one last whine to say goodbye to the world, he closed his eyes in resignation, rested his head, and waited for the end to come.

But it never came, instead, the creature kept chattering. "I did this."

The Fury's eyes shot open as he felt the creature cut his bonds. What? Why is it doing this? Vikings always go for the kill! He felt his hind legs come free of the ropes and, with the next cut, he pounced on the creature. Using one paw to pin it against the ground, he watched it panic and writhe. Should he kill it? Should he eat it? Probably not. It was skinnier than a fishbone. The dragon reared with an audible growl before lurching right back down with a deafening roar, jaws wide open. "That'll teach it to mess with me." he thought.

The Night Fury swept around and pounced into the air, wings spread for flight. He was free! But as soon as he had taken to the air he was involuntarily returned to the ground.

» Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III  «

By the time Hiccup made it back to the village, darkness had already fallen. Hiccup had fainted three times on the trek back and lost all track of time. Skirting around the outers edges of town, he decided that it would be best to avoid his home as Astrid was likely staking it out. Finding an opening, he made for the forge, hoping that it would be abandoned. The fires were unlit so he assumed that his wish to be isolated had been granted and made way for his tiny nook.

"Hiccup?" a voice called out.

Hiccup jumped and his heart threatened to burst from his chest. Heather was standing next to the tanning rack, hoisting several raw hides. "Heatherrrrr…" Hiccup stalled, scratching the back of his head, "…ha-ha…what are you doing here?"

"Just tanning out some hides. We're running pretty low on leather. You?"

"Uh…nothing, nothing. Y-you haven't heard the news?"

"What news?"

Hiccup sighed the deepest sigh of his life, learning that Heather hadn't found out about the arranged marriage. Unfortunately for him, the relief was short-lived as a blunt object caught his neck and pushed him back against the wall. "Gaaah," he choked, finding himself pinned by the blunt tip of an axe. The blades were positioned on either side of his neck and kept him from moving to free himself. Of course, he already knew who brandished the weapon, but he risked a peek anyways. Astrid was glaring at him; her face was red with anger, her shoulders were bobbing from a heavy pant, and her mouth was contorted into a scowl.

"Uh…hiya, Astrid." It was all he dared to say.

"Astrid! What the Hel are you doing?" Heather exclaimed, unsure of what to make of the scene.

"Heather, I think Ma is looking for you. Maybe you should head to the house." Astrid warned the raven-haired girl, motioning to the exit with her head. After Heather refused to moved, Astrid turned the glare towards her. "Now!"

Heather looked at Hiccup for an explanation but he just nodded. "I-I th-think you should listen t-to her." He whispered. Astrid increased the pressure on his throat upon hearing him speak. "Please." He begged with only a squeak, watching Heather reluctantly leave.

As soon as the girl was gone, Astrid had turned her full attention back to the cowering boy. Her sharp eyes were boring holes into Hiccup's own. "What the Hel? How could you do this to me? You have ruined my life with this little stunt!" She screamed at him.

"I…ack…don't know," Hiccup managed, gasping for air. "Plea-, need…breathe."

Astrid released Hiccup but shoved him to the ground, towering over him. "Now. I'll give you one chance to tell me this is all a joke before I start removing limbs."

"W-what?"

Astrid raised her axe, eyeing his left leg. "I warned you!"

"Okay! Okay! Wait! Please!" He pulled his knees to his chest, trying to get his legs as far as possible from the madwoman.

"Well?" She raised an eyebrow, making a point of holding her axe at the ready.

"I really don't know what to say…I didn't find out for myself until last night." He started recounting the previous night's events, "After my father woke up, I went to see him and I ran into your parents at my house. I didn't think too much of it then, but now I'm guessing they were settling terms. So, after meeting them I went in to talk to Dad and that's when he dropped the yak on me. He told me how I was weak and useless and how all this…" he paused to gesture to all of himself, "…was unfit to lead Berk alone. So…he chose someone, you, to lead for me…you know, when the time comes. I'm sorry! I didn't want this to happen. I didn't want to ruin your life."

» Astrid Hofferson  «

After listening to him blabber on about the discussion with his father, Astrid couldn't take it anymore. "Stop. Talking." She commanded, trying to process everything he just said.

She had initially thought that the marriage was all Hiccup's idea. The Chief could easily produce the best bride price on Berk and a union with the Haddock bloodline would restore the Hofferson name. No wonder her parents had accepted the arrangement. In her mind, Hiccup had convinced his father to do it, to buy her as if she were livestock. She wasn't an idiot, it was obvious that the young Haddock liked her. Anyone with half a brain could tell. Was it possible that he was actually a victim in all of this? Matter of fact, the reason for most of her rage wasn't because it was Hiccup, he was a decent person and skilled smith. And, let's be honest, anyone was better than that idiot, Snotlout. It was even possible that she may, may, have allowed him to court her in the future. The reason for her anger stemmed from the belief that he had forced it and refused to give her a choice. She was only just now coming in on fifteen and wasn't ready for a marriage. Wait…did Hiccup even want to marry her? Hold on…why did she care what he wanted? Her apprehension at the thought didn't stop her from wondering how she would feel if it were true.

The boy at her feet was growing more nervous and he started to speak again. "I know you don't want to marry me. I mean look at me, I'm a talking fishbone. Who would want to marry…this? But I swear I didn't have anything to do with this," he pleaded, as if reading her mind, "and, when Dad first mentioned it, I thought it was going to be Heath-" He abruptly stopped, realizing that he shouldn't have said that.

Astrid's death glare returned causing Hiccup to squirm. "I said stop talking. Next time you open your mouth without my permission, I'll cut out your tongue." That shut him up for the time being. Astrid fell back into thought, his latest words lingering in her head.

Was he about to say 'Heather'? An unexpected wave of jealousy hit Astrid and it annoyed the Hel out of her. Why would she be jealous that he would rather marry her cousin? She didn't care. She pushed it out of her mind and turned back to look at the boy. In his own words, he had reported that the Chief believed him 'unfit to lead Berk alone'. That was why she had been pulled into all this. So was it really all Hiccup's fault because he had failed to meet his father's expectations? It had to be, right? She hadn't done anything wrong and was being forced into the arranged marriage. So, that would only leave him to take the blame. But- "Ugh." She groaned. This was giving her a headache.

Hiccup was now on his knees and his shoulders were sunken. He looked into her azure with his bright emerald eyes. There was a pain and a sadness in there…and…resignation? He spoke again with only a whisper. "When you do it…could you…could you make it quick?"

She narrowed her eyes, confused at the question. "Make what quick?"

"You know. When you..." he paused to eye her axe, "when you end it." His voice broke with that last bit.

Wait did he actually think that she was going to murder him? Then, it hit her. Of course, he did, the boy had been ignored and cast aside his entire life. Any sense of self-worth had been eroded by years of harsh words and insults. She also realized that whenever she saw him talk back to one of his aggressors, and boy did he talk back, it was met with physical abuse ranging from a punch to the gut to the breaking of a bone. Nevertheless, she needed to ask him to confirm her suspicions. "You think that I'm going to kill you?"

His eyes fell to her shoes as he answered. "I mean, you're Fearless Astrid Hofferson. You're brave and brilliant and beautiful. And? Look at me, I'm worthless and runty and disgraceful. I'm the furthest thing from a Viking that you could get, even that Mildew is more Viking than I am. If I were you, I would kill me, too, so I wouldn't have to marry me. Just…please…have mercy and make it quick."

(The new scene/rewrite begins here. If you haven't had a chance to read it, please do!)

Her heart stopped for a moment and she didn't know how to respond. His abused background definitely played a huge part, but did she really come off as if she were trying to kill him? It was a very hard hit to learn that someone whom she'd known for her entire life was in fear of losing his life...to her. She definitely wasn't going to kill him and he convinced her that he hadn't orchestrated the entire arrangement. "I'm...sorry...I-I am not going to kill you, Hiccup." Oh gods, she was going soft, Astrid Hofferson did not apologize! But what else could she say? Luckily, the horn calling for a gathering in the Great Hall sounded and she didn't have to supply a proper response to the defeated boy. She turned away and started to move towards the exit, but a hand grabbed hers. Oh, that stupid boy.

"Astrid," he started, "wait-" He didn't get a chance to get the rest of his words out. She had painfully twisted the extremity that had touched her, leaving Hiccup sprawled on the ground.

"Why would you do that?" He exclaimed.

"That was for slamming the door in my face this morning." She felt little remorse as she held her axe over him, dropping it so the handle painfully collided with his gut. "And that was for everything else." Satisfied with the results of the interrogation, she left him in the forge and made her way to the Great Hall. She knew all too well what was about to happen during the town gathering and she was not looking forward to it.


 

Chapter Text


Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, including the characters, settings, plots, themes, etc. from said franchise. I do, however, own this story and the unique characters, settings, plots, themes, etc. contained in this story that do not appear in the franchise as of the date of this publishing, unless otherwise indicated.


Chapter 3

Relationship Remix


» Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III  «

After Astrid left, Hiccup took a moment to collect himself, quite relieved that she hadn't done any lasting damage. He did pause to count his extremities several times, not quite believing they were all intact. Upon exiting the forge, the town around him had become barren and quiet. The entire village had assembled in the Great Hall to answer the summons and only a few stragglers remained. He quietly ducked behind a pair of Vikings making their way to the gathering and attempted to make himself small and inconspicuous. It was actually pretty easy since no one really cared enough to notice him in the first place.

"So, Mulch. What do you think is 'appenin' now?" Hiccup overheard the taller villager, who wore a bucket on his head, ask his stockier friend.

"I dunno, Bucket." The man named Mulch responded, "Maybe it's 'bout the Chief."

Hiccup had no need to speculate and tonight's topic of discussion was not something he was looking forward to. Upon reaching the massive doors of the Great Hall, he took in a deep breath to steel himself before stepping through. Spitelout and Gobber stood at the head of the crowd, trying to control the masses. All throughout the room, Vikings were questioning one another in attempts to find out the reason for the meeting. Some surmised that it was about the Chief's condition and others assumed it was about the upcoming Devastating Winter. One particular Viking was overjoyed because he thought the town's leadership had remembered that it was his birthday. Not a single guess that reached Hiccup's ears came close to the truth. Oh, boy, were they in for a surprise. Looking around, he saw his cousin standing in a group of the more Viking-like teens and, also, spotted Gunnar and Ingrid Hofferson in the front row. But where was Astrid?

"Silence!" Spitelout commanded to the assembly. Immediately the room fell quiet and all eyes turned to the general. "First thing's first. As many of you already know, Stoick was gravely injured during the last raid and could not make the meeting." A collective gasp filled the room. "He is alive but will not be able to perform his duties while in recovery. At Stoick's request, the council has appointed Gobber as acting Chief and I have temporarily been granted all military and defense oversight."

Gobber took the floor and picked up from Spitelout's introduction. "I know all of you are worried about Stoick-"

"I'm not!" A crinkly voice cried out.

"Oh, shaddup, Mildew. Yer hut is already on the other side of the island, so unless you want to wake up on a sea stack tomorrow, stow it." Gobber spitefully forced the old man down. "Anyways, before I were so rudely interrupted…Stoick has entrusted me and 'Lout with the safety of Berk. If there are any problems come to one of us. This is for serious issues only. I don' care if somebody stole your sweet-roll. And if I hear even a rumor that someone be botherin' Stoick, I'll be given 'em lessons on how to put on their skivvies with one hand…if ya know what I mean."

There was a room full of nods and numerous prayers were made for the quick recovery of the Chief…and to never come near Gobber's skivvies.

"Attention!" Spitelout yelled, calling for order.

"Now there is one more thing on the agenda. Erm…Gunnar, you wanna take this one?" Gobber conceded.

Hiccup watched an unmistakable grin spread on Gunnar Hofferson's face as he paced to the head of the group. "Thank you, Gobber." He said with a nod before turning to address the gathered Vikings. "It brings me great sadness that Stoick was unable to deliver the announcement to you himself, as I am sure he is overjoyed with the news." He paused to scan the room, focusing on someone on the far side, "Ah, there you are lass. Would you come up here?"

Following Gunnar's gaze, Hiccup spotted Astrid standing next to a very confused Heather. He watched the blonde shift her way through the sea of Vikings. Any indication of her earlier fury had been erased, replaced by a cool façade. Upon reaching her father's position, she just stared straight ahead – calm, unblinking, emotionless. He was so engrossed in her changed behavior that he didn't register that Gunnar was now turned towards him.

"Hiccup! You, too. Make haste, son."

Ignoring the silent murmurs, he started towards the front. There was a noticeable shake in his body, but he forced it down, trying to copy Astrid's demeanor. He refused to embarrass her in front of the entire town, at least no more than the announcement would.

When Hiccup reached his destination, Gunnar put an arm around each of the 'happy' couple. "It is with great happiness and pleasure that I announce that the marriage of Astrid Hofferson, my beautiful daughter, to Hiccup Haddock, the heir to Berk, will take place this Friggasday."

Chaos ensued. Some were wholeheartedly cheering, not for Hiccup and Astrid, but for the grand feast that accompanied the wedding of an heir. Others were aghast, trying to figure out how anyone would be mad enough to marry Hiccup. A few offered condolences to the girl and spat insults at the boy. There was even a bit of crying, given the prospect of a wedding. Although, none were crying as loud as Snotlout, who felt betrayed and mistreated at the loss of his 'beloved' to his cousin. He would have to keep an eye on Snotlout, afraid that the larger teen might attempt something irrational. Hiccup was beyond grateful that Astrid kept her professional demeanor in face of all the abuses thrown his way and the words of sympathy thrown hers. He already felt terrible, so at least she wasn't adding to it.

Suddenly, Hiccup and Astrid found themselves face-to-face with one Tuffnut and Ruffnut Thorston. The Thorston twins were among those in the couple's age group and did not relent from ridiculing Hiccup. If that wasn't bad enough, they were also well-known pranksters and the runty heir always found himself at the top of their hitlist.

Ruffnut spoke first, directing her words towards Astrid. "Oh, my gods, Astrid. I can't believe you're gonna be marrying Chief Loser over here."

"Yeah!" Tuffnut picked up, "At least tell us it was arranged so we know to feel sorry for you."

"Uh, hello! Standing right here." Hiccup complained. The twins' assault was not helping his already shattered confidence.

"And what are you going to do about it?" Both Thorstons shot at him. Hiccup just stared at the ground, knowing that the twins were right. There was nothing he could do.

Ruffnut turned back to Astrid. "Hey, if this doesn't work out, let us know. Who knows? A tragic accident could befall the groom." She sneered.

Tuffnut bowed, "Our Loki-blessed skills are at your disposal."

The insinuation was clear, the two were offering to spring one of their deadlier 'pranks' on Hiccup. As soon as they had mentioned it, Astrid's signature death glare was back, but it was directed towards the brother and sister. "I suggest you two imbeciles move along before 'a tragic accident' befalls you." She growled at them through clenched teeth.

The two twins got the message and scampered away, muttering to themselves. "What a jerk, threatening us after we offered our unique services."

Hiccup was in shock. Astrid had just defended him. Right? No that couldn't be right, why would she do that? She hated his guts and definitely did not want to marry him. Though, earlier, she did say she wasn't going to kill him. Hiccup risked a glance at the girl. "Erm…Astrid?" He winced as her name left his mouth.

The blonde swung her head around to look at him, death glare and all. "What?"

"Uh…thanks…for, you know…" Hiccup could have sworn a little bit of red appeared on her face.

"Shut up!" She spat, immediately turning away.

The crowd had started to disperse as the meeting came to an end. Astrid had left his side and was storming through the exit, an even more confused Heather in tow. He decided to follow her lead and make himself scarce, but, unfortunately, Gunnar Hofferson was blocking his escape.

"Walk with me, will ya, lad?" Gunnar requested.

Hiccup realized that refusing his soon-to-be father-in-law was not the best way to start his marriage. "Of course." he answered, following the man outside. "So, what did you want to talk about?"

"You know as well as I do that your father is a great Chief, one of the best that Berk has seen."

"But?" Hiccup prompted.

"But…I know that he can be – how do I put it? – unsupportive in his role as a parent at times."

Hiccup was flabbergasted, no one had ever said anything of the like before. "You got that right." he responded, trying to stay cool.

"It's not his fault, Hiccup. I've known your father my entire life and I know that he loves you. Something changed in him the night Valka died. He shut himself off from everyone, including you, when he needed us all the most. Even to this day, he struggles with his emotions and communicating with you."

Hiccup stiffened at his mother's name. He never really knew her as she was taken from him when he was still a baby. "He is Chief Stoick the Vast. The only emotion he has is anger."

"That's what he wants you to think, son. He is afraid that if he opens himself up again, he will be just be torn apart all over. This applies especially to you. I mean, look at you, you're the spitting image of Valka. You remind him too much of her."

"And how do you know all of this?"

"You and I are more alike than you realize, Hiccup. We are both observers. We watch the world around us, taking in the details. We think before we act. You may not accept it, but it is true. And like I said, I have known you father my entire life and I have watched him struggle for the last fourteen years."

"What are you saying?" Hiccup was dumbfounded and unsure with that to do with all the information.

"Well, now that you will be wed to my daughter…" Gunnar paused, watching a huge blush blossom across Hiccup's face. He continued with a smile, "…I will not only be her father, but yours as well. So, if you need advice, you can always turn to me. But you cannot forget about your own father. Stoick loves you a great deal and just has a hard time showing it. No matter what he says or does, you need to always remember that."

Hiccup just stared at the man, still red with embarrassment. Gunnar had just ripped open his entire relationship with Stoick in a matter of minutes. And on top of that, he had offered Hiccup a source of fatherly advice which he wasn't able to secure with his own. The Hofferson may have just topped even Hiccup in the un-Viking-like gestures championship.

Gunnar quickly picked up on Hiccup's difficulty at processing all the information and moved to end the conversation. "No need to say anything more. I've said my piece and I trust you were paying attention." With that he nodded once and walked away.

Hiccup, now alone, ran the nights events through his head, still not believing that things hadn't turned out worse. He had been expecting a riot or, at the very least, an angry mob. For one, it was quite a relief that Astrid wasn't out for his blood, and maybe he had misjudged her discourse towards him. She had defended him in front of the twins, of that there was no longer any doubt in his mind. And then there was that redness on her face that appeared after he thanked her. Was it anger? Embarrassment? A blush? The only way he could know for sure was if he asked her, and, by Odin, that was not going to happen. What still completely baffled him was the conversation with Gunnar. Somehow, Gunnar managed to lay out all the details of Hiccup's relationship with Stoick, most of which Hiccup didn't know himself. Everything that had been said was spot on and he was only now realizing this.

"Ugh…why does everything have to be so complicated." The boy complained, massaging his temples. The day's events had left him exhausted, but his father was still expecting him to discuss the preparations for the coming week. "Well, might as well get it over with," He muttered to himself.

Upon arriving in House Haddock, Hiccup shrugged off his brown vest and replaced the charred wood in the fire pit. After the flame grew to a reasonable size, he set up three servings of mutton – two for his father and one for himself – and let them slowly cook. It would take a little while to fully cook the raw meat, so he went and knocked on the bedroom door.

"Enter." Stoick answered. The man was now sitting up, and some of the life had returned to his face.

"Hey, Dad. It's me. I set some mutton on the pit."

"Ah, mutton! The food of real Vikings!" The man had a strange obsession with mutton. It was the only thing he would eat!

"If you say so."

"How'd it go?"

"Uh…okay, I guess. Gunnar made the announcement. There was a lot of noise and the Thorston twins…congratulated…us." Hiccup lied, not keen to go into details. And there was no chance in Hel that he would bring up the conversation with Gunnar.

"That's good. I'm sorry I couldn't announce the engagement myself, son. I wanted to! I really did! But every single time I tried to get out of the bed, Gothi would smack me with that Thorforsaken stick of hers."

Hiccup let out a weak chuckle, having paid enough visits to Gothi to get his own set of smacks. "It's okay, probably wouldn't have made too big of a difference." Hiccup lied again, knowing that he would have received less verbal abuse if the Chief had been there.

"Alright. So, tell me, what do you know of the marriage preparations and rituals."

"Not too much, just what I have seen. Exchanging of swords, drinking the special mead, and what-not." Hiccup had been present at the tinier weddings on Berk. He was required to attend, being the Chief's son, but it was still clear that no one wanted him.

"Aye. That's a small part of it, but, as you know, being my heir means that your marriage is a grand event. The whole of Berk will attend along with delegations from our friends and allies. It's a big deal."

"Maybe it's too big of a deal. You know, with Devastating Winter coming around the corner, we really don't need to be wasting food." Perfect, he would not only embarrass Astrid in front of all of Berk, but in front of several neighboring tribes as well.

"Ha-ha-ha," Stoick bellowed, "you keep working on that humor, son! Since this is such a large event, there are a lot of things to take care of. And there many things that you are responsible for."

Stoick went on for what seemed like an eternity listing all of Hiccup's duties leading up to and during the wedding. Some of the things were fairly simple such as procuring a morning gift and the wedding bands and Hiccup was certain he could utilize his forging skills. But, of course, this was a Viking wedding, so there remained several Viking-like and insane tasks as well. For instance, Hiccup was to bury a sword into the Great Hall and the depth would determine the couple's future fortune. The only issue was that he could barely lift a sword, let alone put it through a wooden beam. If that wasn't already a huge problem, an ancestral sword was required for the ceremony. When presented like that, it didn't seem too bad, but the sword in question was still with Hiccup's grandfather, in his grave, six feet under. Stoick had little faith that Hiccup could accomplish the retrieval and made a point of telling Hiccup that he could just slap the Haddock crest on any old sword to pass it off as the real deal. In defiance, the boy promised himself he would acquire his grandfather's sword; he knew that Astrid didn't want this wedding, but he would do everything to make sure it was perfect for her.

"Is that all?" Hiccup asked sarcastically.

"No…erm…there is one more thing."

He sighed. "Okay, go on. I'll add to the list."

"There remains the matter of the consummation."

Hiccup simultaneously turned red and flushed. His body unable to decide what emotion it should express. "The what?" He squeaked.

"The consummation. After the ceremony, an audience will accompany you so we can-"

"Stop!" Hiccup was frantic. "No. No, no, no! We are not doing that!"

"It's tradition." Stoick insisted.

"It's barbaric!" Hiccup shot back.

"We're Vikings."

Hiccup facepalmed. "Yes, that much is very clear! Okay, you know what? Go ahead and make Snotlout heir and me his slave. There is absolutely no chance that I'm going to do…that…in front of an audience." There was no way. It wasn't going to happen. Hiccup would rather die.

"Heed your words, boy."

"Look, so far, I have done what you asked and promised to go through with this whole mess. But I am not going to…consummate," he spat the word, "with half of Berk watching me."

"It won't be half of Berk! Just me, Spitelout, probably Gobber, Gunnar, Ingrid, Gothi, then there's-" he started to list off all the people that would attend.

"And that is already six too many!" Hiccup cut him off.

"I'm not going to change your mind, am I?"

"I'd rather wrestle a greased-up Night Fury in a flaming boar pit! Not even Odin could change my mind."

Stoick pondered for a moment, never seeing his son so determined. It was obvious that the boy would not stay silent in the matter. "Okay. While I make no promises, I will talk to Gunnar and see what Astrid thinks. But when the time comes you will do what I say."

"If Astrid ever agrees with me on something, this will be it!" Hiccup couldn't believe it, he had already been planning on faking his death when his father conceded. This was the first time he had won any sort of argument with the man.

Stoick ignored the retort and beckoned his son closer. "Now that we have straightened everything out, there is something else I needed to talk to you about." Using his good arm, the man dumped a hatchet into Hiccup's hands. "You get your wish. You start dragon training in the morning."

Chapter Text


Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, including the characters, settings, plots, themes, etc. from said franchise. I do, however, own this story and the unique characters, settings, plots, themes, etc. contained in this story that do not appear in the franchise as of the date of this publishing, unless otherwise indicated.


Chapter 4

Day One


» Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III  «

When the next morning came around, Hiccup found himself stiff at the entrance of Berk's dragon killing arena. It was a large, caged structure with interlinking metal bars and chains covering every skyward opening. The arena itself was dug into the ground with walls of solid stone rising up on every side. At various points inside, captured dragons were housed behind thick metal doors, each one barricaded with reinforced timber. Even from the outside, he could make out countless bloodstains and scorch marks that echoed battles long past.

For many years, the young Haddock was obsessed with getting his first dragon kill. Why? He was the son of Stoick the Vast and, thus, expected to become a legendary dragon slayer. Countless times, he had tried to kill a dragon. And countless times, he had failed. Years flew by with him goading his father to allow him to start dragon training so he could learn to do it the right way, the Viking way, but he was always refused. Now, finally, at the age of Fifteen, his father trusted him enough to train in the arena. And, oh, the irony couldn't have been richer! He lifelong wish had finally been granted, but he couldn't have been more depressed. In three-hundred years, he was the first Viking who couldn't kill a dragon. Only two days ago, the Night Fury had been served to him on a silver platter. But what did he do? He set it free instead of cutting out its heart like any other Viking. Loki was probably looking down on him now, admiring the spoof that was his life.

Hiccup let out a sigh and his left hand firmly gripped the dominant position on his axe. Knowing that it was unavoidable, he slogged in to find the rest of his age-group already assembled. There was Snotlout Jorgenson, his hostile cousin who relished every attempt to make his life miserable, brandishing a simple mace. Ruffnut and Tuffnut Thorston, the mischievous twins who found no remorse in endlessly pranking him, were both present and armed with matching javelins. Next was Fishlegs Ingerman, hoisting a tiny stone hammer. He was a huskier boy and the local know-it-all who avoided Hiccup at all costs, trying to stay with the 'in' crowd. And then, carrying a much-too-familiar axe, there was his beautiful, blonde fiancé who had no interest in marrying him. Oh, joy! It was going to be another amazing day. As he walked towards the group, he didn't see a single friendly face. Plus, on top of it all, Astrid was ignoring him and purposefully looking in a different direction. He wisely chose to let her be.

"Oh, great. Who let him in?" Tuffnut was the first to pipe up, "Can I transfer to the class with the cool Vikings?"

"Let's get started!" Gobber impeded, taking his place as their trainer. "Is everybody here?"

"They are now!" A newcomer yelled. All seven heads whipped around in unison.

"Heather?" Astrid asked skeptically. "You're injured. What are you doing here?"

The raven-haired girl marched towards them, her custom-made axe slung over her right shoulder. Her limp was now barely noticeable, though she still wore a brace around her ankle. "What do you think? I'm here to kill dragons." She answered.

"Astrid's right, lass," Gobber posed, "You'll only get yerself killed if you ain't able to move about properly."

"We're Vikings. It's an occupational hazard." Heather insisted. It was a standard response and quickly put an end to any debate.

"Well, I can't argue wit' that." Gobber accepted.

"You have got to be joking!" Astrid pushed, "She could get seriously wounded!"

"Aye, but she's made up her mind. No more chit-chat! It's time to get to work." Gobber moved forward. "Now, the recruit who does best will win the honor of killing their first dragon in front of the entire village." Gobber made a gutting motion with his hook.

"Hiccup already killed a Night Fury. Does that disqualify him or…?" Snotlout chimed in and earned a few sniggers.

"Don't worry," Gobber privately reassured Hiccup, "You're small and weak. That'll make you less of a target. They'll see you as sick or insane and go after the more Viking-like teens instead. Heh-heh."

Hiccup frowned, Gobber's words doing more harm than help, and lined up with the rest of the teens. His eyes flicked to take a glance at the others; each one stood tall and proud, weapons resting on their right shoulders. His noticed own axe was stationed on his left shoulder, so he quickly adjusted it to his right and puffed his chest.

Gobber then addressed the entire group, "Behind these doors are just a few of the many species you will learn to fight." He strode around the arena, naming the dragons trapped behind the various doors and stopping at the last one. "The Deadly Nadder, the Hideous Zippleback, the Monstrous Nightmare, the Razorwhip, and…the Gronkle!" He exclaimed as he moved to open the door.

"Woah, woah, wait!" Snotlout cried out, "Aren't you gonna teach us first?"

"I believe in learning on the job." Gobber responded with a smug expression, turning the lever to release the dragon.

An orange-brown Gronkle burst out of the pen and immediately took flight, ramming the far wall. Spotting a pile of rocks, the Boulder-class dragon hastily chowed them down; it would melt the rocks in it's furnace like stomach and use them as ammunition.

(I wanted to apologize in advance for using the word 'shield' twenty times in this scene, but it was unavoidable.)

"Today is about survival. If you get blasted, you're dead. Quick! What's the first thing you're going to need!" Gobber announced.

There were a variety of suggestions. "A doctor?" "Plus five speed?" "A shield!"

"Shield! Go!" Gobber confirmed and pointed at Astrid, who had given the correct answer.

Astrid and Snotlout shot off without hesitation and effortlessly snatched up one of the various shields in the arena. Hiccup had spotted a red shield resting on the ground only a few paces away and pounced towards it.

"Yer most important piece of equipment is yer shield." Gobber instructed while watching Hiccup struggle to carry both his weapon and his shield. "If ya must make a choice 'tween a sword or a shield. Take the shield!" As he said the words, he snatched Hiccup's axe and firmly planted the shield in the boy's arms.

To no one's surprise, the twins had already started squabbling, fighting over a single shield among a pile of several.

"Get your hands off my shield!" Tuffnut demanded.

"There's like a million shields!" Ruffnut shot back.

"Take that one," the male motioned towards a colorful one, "it has a flower on it. Girls like flowers."

The sister wouldn't have it as she pried the shield from the boy's grasp and hit him over the head. "Oops. Now this one had blood on it."

Neither Thorston was paying attention to the incoming Gronkle that had them in its sights. It fired a single time and a ball of lava incinerated their shield, knocking both to the ground in a daze.

"Tuffnut, Ruffnut, you're out." Gobber decreed before continuing with his lesson. "Those shields ar' good for 'nother thing. Noise! Make lots of it and throw off a dragon's aim." The remaining competitors followed the man's advice and banged their weapons on their shields, causing the Gronkle to growl in confusion. "All dragons have a limited number of shots. How many does a Gronkle have?"

"Five?" Snotlout asked.

"No, six!" Fishlegs eagerly corrected moments before the Gronkle shot his shield out of his hand.

Gobber watched the boy run around in fear. "Fishlegs, out!"

» Astrid Hofferson  «

Astrid's drive to survive the battle took over her mind. The only goals that remained were winning her way to the final challenge, killing a dragon in single combat in front of the entire village, and proving that she was the strongest warrior of the generation. Taking in her surroundings, she spotted Hiccup cowering in a corner after a Gronkle shot narrowly missed him. with Gobber yelling at the boy to get into the fight. Snotlout remained in the running as well, but was lounging aimlessly behind her.

"So anyway, I moved into my parents' basement. You should come by sometime to work out. You look like you work out." The beefy Viking boy was attempting to flirt with her in the middle of the exercise. Clearly, her new relationship status had not helped to discourage his lame advances.

She scowled. She had hoped that the one good thing that come out of the arrangement was an end to Snotlout's incessant attempts to court her. Hel, she would willingly marry Hiccup in an instant if it meant that she didn't ever have to see Snotlout again. The Gronkle was now making its way towards her, coming in at full speed with gaping jaws. Instinct took over and she sprinted out of the way, feeling a wave of satisfaction as the dragon scored a direct hit on Snotlout's shield. There were now just two-and-a-half Vikings left: Astrid, Heather, and Hiccup. The survivors stood shoulder-to-should with Hiccup in the middle of the two girls.

"I guess it's just us. Huh?" Hiccup noted.

"Nope," Heather replied as she rolled away, "just you."

Astrid was about to follow Heather's lead but made the mistake of glancing back at the boy. The runty heir was glued in place, his eyes wide and unblinking. He just stared at the Gronkle coming to strike him down and his shield was uselessly hanging at his side. "Hiccup!" She yelled, trying to snap him out of his trance, but the boy remained unmoving. As the Gronkle fired the scorching hot lava at Hiccup's exposed torso, Astrid made a very stupid decision. She jumped in between Hiccup and certain death, letting her shield catch the blast. The force from the impact tossed her off her feet and into Hiccup, who was shoved into the arena floor.

The wind had been knocked out of her and her head was swimming; it took her a second to register what had happened. She blinked a few times, and, as her vision began to focus, she found herself staring into a pair of brilliant eyes. Hiccup was pinned under her and his face was just a few short inches away from hers. His skin had turned beet red and his wide emerald eyes were peering into her equally as wide azure. Oh, wow. Those were some incredible eyes. How did she never notice before? She could feel his rapid heartbeat and the bobbing of his torso with his heavy breathing. But her mind just kept coming back to his eyes, wide and sparkling despite his obvious embarrassment.

Abruptly, Gobber's now frantic voice ripped her from the moment. "Heather!" She heard him yell. She pushed off of Hiccup and leapt to her feet, swinging her head around to see an outmatched Heather fleeing from the frenzied Gronkle. Astrid watched in horror as Heather's injured ankle gave away without warning and sent her toppling into the arena wall. The snarling Gronkle, now at point-blank range, was preparing its sixth and final shot. There was nothing anyone could do and Gobber would not be able reach her in time.

Suddenly, a large shape crashed into the Gronkle and the dragon's attack collided, harmlessly against the wall. Astrid inspected the large shape again, only to realize that Fishlegs, of all people, had tackled the dragon and saved Heather's life. A sigh of relief left her mouth as Gobber grabbed the Gronkle wrestled it back into its pen.

"Go back to bed, ya overgrown sausage." Gobber berated, "You'll get 'nother chance, don' ya worry." After securing the doors, he returned to the trainees. "Remember, a dragon will always, always, go fer the kill." He looked directly at Heather, who was leaning heavily on Fishlegs for support, as he spoke the last bit. "Heather, I'll be havin' no more arguments on the matter. 'Til that injury is fully healed, you are barred from training."

The girl nodded, too shaken to protest.

"Do you want me to take you home?" Fishlegs offered to the injured girl.

"Please." Heather graciously accepted the offer and hobbled out of the arena with Fishlegs' assistance.

The others followed suit and Astrid found her self alone in the arena. Well, almost alone. Hiccup was still in the spot where she had been thrown into him, but he was now sitting up with his head hung. Rage boiled inside her and she decided that she would have a 'nice' chat with the Haddock.

"Is this some kind of a joke to you?" she chastised him, looming over the boy.

"Astrid." He whispered not meeting her death glare.

"What?" She shouted back.

"A-are you okay? It didn't hurt you d-did it?"

His query surprised her. She had just chewed him out and he was asking about her well-being. "I'm fine." She spat out.

"That's good. I couldn't live with myself if you got hurt because of me."

Wait…did he really just say that? "Then, what the Hel were you doing out there?"

"I'm sorry. I-I don't know what happened. One second I was planning to jump out of the way and the next…everything just stopped. A-all I could think about was that night when Dad and that Nightmare…" His words trailed of and he looked up.

Upon meeting his eyes, a tidbit of empathy ran through her as she remembered how she felt when her Fearless Uncle Finn met his demise at the hands of the Flightmare. But as soon as it had come, it was gone. "Our parents' war is about to become ours! Figure out which side you're on." With that she stormed out of the arena, leaving the boy behind.

» The Night Fury  «

He couldn't believe it! He had been released from certain death and freed of his bonds by that human creature. But what did the fates have planned for him? A mutilated tail that forbade any chance of flying, that's what. As if it couldn't get worse, there were steep rock faces on every side, trapping him in a small cove. He roared in irritation as he launched himself in the air again, to no avail. His claws scrambled to find a grip in the stone surface, but, like countless times before, he just slid down the side and was right back where he started. He groaned in sadness each time he failed, knowing that he would never be able to soar across the sky again.

The Night Fury collapsed on the ground in defeat and exhaustion. It had been a full two days since his last morsel of food and he was starving, to say the least. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a fish skip out of the water in a nearby pond. Mmm, haddock, his favorite! Moving closer in a cat-like prowl, he spotted two of the delicious water-dwellers relaxing in the cool water. He pounced and threw himself into the water, not even coming close to catching either fish.

Suddenly, a noise came from the other end of the cove. Assuming it was another bird taunting him, he lazily stood and look around. But it wasn't a bird, the strange human had returned. Had it not learned its lesson? He had made it very clear that he would eat it the next time it showed itself. The Fury analyzed the human who was frozen and unmoving, perched on the top of a rock face. Oh, he was going to eat it alright, but how? He couldn't climb the wall and flying was definitely out of the question. To his dismay, the human decided at that moment to flee the scene and he was alone once again.

» Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III  «

There were only two thoughts that raced through Hiccup's mind as he trotted back to the village. First, Gobber had told them that dragons always, always go for the kill, so why didn't that Night Fury? And second, why didn't the Night Fury just fly away? Something wasn't right and the dragon was starving in that cove.

Coming into the outskirts of town, Hiccup stared at his newest sketch. It was a quick but accurate capture of the Night Fury's physical structure from a top-side view. The most prominent features were the dragon's enormous – relative to the its size – bat-like wings which held a wingspan almost twice the Fury's entire length. This body composition gave it a huge thrust-to-weight ratio, allowing it to effortlessly carry out all those blazing fast strikes and instantly disappear without a trace. Furthermore, when he had been drawing the creature in his journal, he had instinctively added symmetric tailfins. After additional inspection, he learned that the Night Fury only had a singular fin, located on the right side of the tail. As he continued to study the drawing he realized that the Night Fury was built completely symmetric, apart from the tail. Indeed, it was a curious discovery. He was now certain that something was off. Hiccup tucked his journal back into his belt where he always kept it; it was his most precious possession and he never let it off his person.

The doors of the Great Hall now stood before him, and he slipped inside to grab a hot beverage and a bite to eat. Hiccup needed more information but there was no where to turn. Before now, no one had ever seen a Night Fury and lived to tell the tale. As far as anyone was concerned, Hiccup was the foremost expert on the mysterious dragon and he still knew next to nothing. Of course, no one was actually concerned because no one knew, and Hiccup was adamant to keep it that way. After collecting his meal, he absently went to sit at an empty table which was usually frequented by the other teens. His mind was still wracked with stray thoughts and speculations.

Sighing, he turned to his food, tore off a bite of mutton, and looked around the room. To his left were another set of tables seating a couple of lonesome Vikings. To his right…Hiccup froze. Oh. He was a complete mutton-head. Somehow, he had missed the fact his fiancé was occupying the same table, sitting only a couple armlengths away. The Night Fury had taken up so much of his conscious mind that he hadn't even registered that Astrid was quietly seated at the other end, buried in an ancient book. He abruptly shuffled to move from the table, lifting his tankard and plate.

"Sit." Astrid ordered without looking up.

Not daring to disobey her, he complied and stuffed his mouth with mutton to avoid saying something stupid. His anxiety continued to grow as he watched her take no action apart from the occasional flip of a page until she finally turned the cover.

Standing up, she slid the book to him. "You missed the meeting earlier."

Hiccup flinched, knowing exactly where he had been during the meeting. "Uh…yeah."

"Gobber was telling us stories about his great-great-great-grandfather, Bork the Bold." Seeing Hiccup's confused look, she continued. "You know? The guy who wrote the first ever Dragon Manual. That book in front of you."

Hiccup shook his head. "No…sorry. People usually don't talk to me, so I don't get told much. I didn't even know that this was a thing." He said, pointing his thumb at the book.

She started to walk away, taking a second to say one more thing over her shoulder. "Page fourteen – Deadly Nadder – study up. You almost died today. You almost got me killed today. Don't let it happen again because, next time, I am not looking back."

Mouth gaping, Hiccup kept his gaze on her until she was out the door, and, then, stared at the Dragon manual. Could this be it? Did Astrid just inadvertently hand him the answer to his Night Fury problem?

Chapter Text


Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, including the characters, settings, plots, themes, etc. from said franchise. I do, however, own this story and the unique characters, settings, plots, themes, etc. contained in this story that do not appear in the franchise as of the date of this publishing, unless otherwise indicated.


Chapter 5

A Tale of Tails


» Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III  «

"Dragon classifications…Strike-Class, Fear-Class, Mystery-Class…" Hiccup was now alone in the Great Hall. Of the two candles that provided any illumination in the large barren space, one was already dwindling away. The pages of the Dragon Manual flipped rapidly as the boy tried to find a specific entry. "Night Fury," he whispered as he reached the page, "Speed unknown. Size unknown. The unholy offspring of lightning and death itself. Never engage this dragon…your only chance: hide and pray it does not find you."

Hiccup couldn't believe it. That was it? Every single thing that the entirety of Berk, now and past, knew about dragons was contained in this book, and all they had for the Night Fury were a couple of lousy sentences. This had been his only chance to figure out what was wrong with that Fury he had shot down and why it had not left the cove.

The boy sighed and flipped to page fourteen to find the Deadly Nadder; Astrid had specifically told him to study up on this dragon, so it was likely going to be showing up soon in their training. Her actions had left him completely astounded. He knew that she wanted – more than anything – to win the right to kill her first dragon in front of entire village. So why would she give him the advantage of being able to prepare ahead of time? She must have thought her tip would just be overcome by his runtiness and be wasted on Hiccup. "…or maybe she doesn't actually want me to get hurt." He hoped to himself.

"Deadly Nadder…bird-like construction…razor-sharp tail spines…blind spot between the eyes…" Since the Nadder was one of the most common species on Berk, the book was chalk full of the dragon's abilities and useful methods to kill it. Hiccup flew through the information and decided to continue with some other species while he was at it. There was the Thunderdrum, the Timberjack, the Scauldron, the Changewing…wait!

He urgently flipped back to the entry of the Scauldron and whipped out his journal, comparing his depiction of the Night Fury to that of the Dragon Manual's Scauldron. It was unmistakable; the Scauldron was a huge, water-dwelling, and Tidal-Class beast that had nothing in common with the Night Fury…except for the fact that it, too, had a fin on the tip of its tail. But, while both dragons had only a single tailfin, the Scauldron's was centered unlike the rightward protruding fin of the Fury. In addition to this, every dragon he had seen in the book had a symmetric body structure and the Fury definitely did not. Hiccup tore through the Manual, carefully analyzing every tail he could find. There were smooth tails, tails with tendrils, clubbed tails, tails adorned with spines, multi-tails, razor-sharp tails... "Aha," he declared, coming to the Stormcutter entry.

Most of the ink in the Stormcutter's section was fresher than that of the rest of the book. Hiccup looked for the dates and found that the original entry was made over two centuries ago but had been heavily updated only fourteen years ago. Hiccup could not remember ever seeing such a dragon before, but there was something eerily familiar about the four-winged creature that brought him a tinge of sadness. Shaking his head, he returned to his analysis of the tail. The Stormcutter had three tailfins: two on either side acting as horizontal stabilizers and an additional one on the top acting as a vertical stabilizer. There was no longer any doubt in his mind and the answer to the Night Fury's problem was clear. The downed dragon was missing its entire left tailfin, forcibly grounding it and leaving it in an extremely vulnerable position. Guilt coursed through the boy as he realized what he had done; the Night Fury was perfectly fine before the bola launcher sent it hurdling into to the forest, meaning that the damage had been completely Hiccup's fault. "I did this." he groaned.

As soon as the words had left his mouth, his kicked into high gear. "Okay, okay…think, think. The unholy offspring of lightning and death itself is missing its left tailfin and it's all my fault. If someone finds it, it will become a very easy and very valuable target and it will be killed. What can I do to fix this? Well that answer's obvious: build a new tailfin. But that's not possible…or is it?" Hiccup snatched his charcoal writing utensil and jumped to a clean page in his journal. His left hand was gliding across the parchment as he jotted down dimension estimates, material candidates, and an elegant sketch of the prosthetic. After more than an hour of designing, redesigning, and re-redesigning, he gathered his things, including the Dragon Manual, and leapt to his feet. His excitement had overpowered his exhaustion and he knew that sleep was now out of the question. So he decided that there was no better time to get started on the tailfin.

The town outside was now eerily barren and a heavy rain shower beat town on the island. Hiccup took solace in his good fortune since most of the Berkians were surely asleep and the sounds of the storm would drown out his forging. Tucking the Dragon Manual under his vest to protect it from the water, he skirted through the shadows to avoid being seen. Upon arrival, He quickly reinforced the dying embers and restarted the forge to allow it time to warm up. To his relief, the shop was empty and there still wasn't a soul in sight. Hiccup knew that he couldn't use any new materials or Gobber would come asking where they had gone, so he deemed it best to salvage metal from the scrap pile or his own inventions.

Hiccup had lost track of the time and could no longer tell if it was late night or early morning. The storm had tapered down and the sounds of his hammering were becoming more apparent. The boy decided that it was best to postpone the construction of the tailfin until he could get a better look at the Night Fury's tail. Not to mention that a couple hours of sleep would do him a world of good. He deftly cleaned up whatever messes that had been made over the course of the night to cover his tracks, but he was unsure on what to do with his work-in-progress invention.

Thus far, Hiccup had constructed a light metal skeleton of the tailfin with several iron rods, each of which was fixed to a brace by a metal link. He had yet to stretch leather over the metal and still needed to get a closer look at the Fury's tail to make size adjustments. Unfortunately, he couldn't move the prosthetic to a hiding spot as it was still cooling, but he sure as Hel couldn't just leave it out in the open for somebody to find. Given his options, covering it with a tarp would likely be his best bet and Gobber was very well aware not to meddle with Hiccup's creations. The first and last time the blacksmith had done so, Hiccup had to repair to a dragon sized hole in the ceiling. Nothing in the main part of the shop was suitable for his needs, so he vanished into the storage room to locate a large hide or strip of canvas. "Hmm, this'll do." He said as he cut off part of a discarded sail and made his way back outside. Hiccup instantly froze.

"Oh, h-hi, Heather. W-what are you d-doing here?" he stuttered, his frantic eyes flicking back and forth between the girl and the tailfin.

"I've been rolling around in my bed for hours. This is usually where I come when I can't sleep. I thought you knew." She responded frankly, still inspecting the strange contraption. "What's this?"

Blood was rapidly flushing from Hiccup's face. "Uh...ahem…n-nothing. Just another invention of mine to kill dragons. You know me. Killing dragons, love it."

"What does it do?"

"Erm…it does…uh, you know…what it's supposed-"

Heather's eyes narrowed as she watched his face redefine the meaning of the word pale. "It's okay. You don't need to tell me if you don't want. But, then again, you've already made it clear you were aware of that."

"Wait, what?" Confusion had joined Hiccup's panic.

"Is that all you have to say?" Heather's previously cool eyes now burned with anger. "Hiccup, you are my best friend – my only friend. I mean, I expected this from Astrid; she doesn't tell anyone anything. But you? I thought you were better."

"I-I…what?" The boy was now cowering against the back wall, unsure as to were all this fury had come from.

"Really? Do you know how this makes me feel? My best friend is marrying my cousin, who is basically my sister, in a matter of days and neither of them had the decency to tell me."

"Heather…you don't understand. Please let me explain." Hiccup pleaded in an attempt to calm her down.

She nodded once and temporarily reigned in her anger.

"The reason Astrid and I didn't tell you was because we didn't know ourselves. I swear it! The whole thing was arranged by our parents without our knowledge. I only found out the night of the last raid and I think Astrid was told the morning after." Hiccups words rapidly streamed from his mouth, nearly intelligible.

"And then the announcement was made right after that, giving you no time to tell anyone…," Heather finished as her anger dissipated.

"So…"

"I believe you. It all makes way more sense than-" Heather stopped herself, knowing she needed to apologize. "Look, I'm sorry-"

"No." Hiccup interrupted, "It's not your fault. You didn't know the whole story."

"Thanks, Hiccup, but it is my fault." She disagreed and looked at the ground while shuffling her feet. "Anyways, I guess…um…congratulations are in order, then." She looked up to see him half smiling and half wincing. "What?"

"Oh Freya…I thought you had figured it out."

"Figured what out?"

"You remember when Astrid cornered me in here yesterday?" He instinctively brought his hand to his neck as he remembered Astrid's method of capturing him.

"Yeah, and?" She urged him to continue.

"Well, that's because she was very unhappy with the situation, and, by that, I mean she was absolutely, positively furious. Astrid doesn't care about me and she certainly doesn't want to marry me. I mean why would she? This whole thing has basically ruined her life." Hiccup finished with a whisper and was staring at his foot.

"Don't be ridiculous." Heather scoffed. "Open your eyes. Have you seriously not noticed?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." Hiccup said back with a subtle sharpness and his face revealed that he was offended.

"Oh. My. Thor. You really are a mutton-head." she exasperated while facepalming, "I was being chased by a crazy Gronkle and I still picked it up."

"Telling me what it is might help. Don't you think?" Hiccup sassed back, crossing his arms."

"You need to figure this one out on your own." Heather shook her head and started to walk out of the forge. "Stop thinking that everything is doomed and just open yourself to the possibility."

"What possibility?" Hiccup looked up, but she was already gone. He sighed, covered up the unfinished prosthetic, and proceeded to his little nook in the shop. There was a makeshift bed inside the tiny space that was meant for situations like this…not that he had been planning to stay up all night building an appendage for Berk's most hated enemy. The words from his conversation with Heather still clung to his thoughts, but the physical exhaustion in his body took charge and sent him straight into a slumber.

Hiccup awoke to harsh rays of light peeking in from the curtain. A thin crust had formed on his eyes and they still stung from his lack of sleep; the few short hours left much to be desired. Yawning, he clambered out of the bed. The growling in his stomach reminded him that he needed to eat, but his frayed nerves had squashed his appetite. Electing to force a stale piece of bread down his throat, he exited his nook and spotted the covered prosthetic from the night before. Suddenly, he started at his own piece of bread and realized that the Night Fury likely had not eaten for days. Hiccup remembered its futile attempt to catch the fish in the cove's tiny pond. According to a nearby sundial, today's training session was only an hour away. There was no way he could make it to the cove before the lesson and he very much wanted to visit the Night Fury again. Hopefully his next choice did not come back to bite him in the backside.

» Astrid Hofferson  «

Where was he? She had grown irritated at the hold up; training was supposed to start ten minutes ago, but Gobber insisted on giving the tardy boy a few minutes. What gave Hiccup the right to take away her precious minutes of practice? Every second counted!

"Right, no point in waitin' fer 'im any longer." Gobber sighed and there was disappointment painted on his face.

Astrid watched the large man drop the portcullis at the main entrance, effectively removing any chance of a late entrance by Hiccup. "Finally," she muttered to herself. Though a dash of concern briefly entered her thoughts, it was quickly replaced by concentration for the next round of dragon training.

"Today is all about attack!" The large man yelled, while gesturing to a large, wood-walled maze. With a grin on his face, he flipped the lever to one of the dragon pens, and a sky blue Deadly Nadder with elegant golden accents pounced out. The bird-like dragon squawked and bounded into the maze, frantically trying to locate an escape. "Well?" Gobber addressed the five present teens, "What are ya waitin' fer? Get ou' there!"

Instantly, the trainees scattered into different parts of the maze. Snotlout hounded behind Astrid, to her great displeasure, the inseparable twins made off together while bickering, and Fishlegs was left to fend on his own.

"Aaaaaa-woah!" Astrid heard the husky boy scream followed by the sound of Nadder spines flying through the air. "I'm really beginning to question your teaching methods." Fishlegs complained.

"Look for its blind spot." Gobber advised, "Every dragon has one. Find it, hide in it, and strike."

His words were followed by a silence and Astrid had lost sight of the Nadder. She quietly crept around the maze, hugging a wall and taking light steps in an attempt to be stealthy. To her relief, Snotlout seemed to be following her lead for the moment.

"How about I give you one?" Ruffnut's gruff voice found itself to Astrid's ears. The audible queue of the magnesium-based attack of the Nadder immediately followed from the same direction.

"Blind spot? Yes. Deaf spot? Not so much." Gobber retorted.

Astrid assumed that Fishlegs and the twins had likely abandoned the exercise, leaving only her and Snotlout in the running. Her surroundings were quiet and she could hear the footfalls of the heavy creature as it darted around the maze. The sounds grew louder but bounced from wall to wall and it was impossible to pinpoint the dragon's location. The Nadder skirted around a corner and spotted the pair, squawking in their direction.

Suddenly, she was shoved from behind and saw Snotlout lifting his mace, "Watch out babe, I'll take care of this." His mace twirled through the air and flew towards the Nadder, but, in a very Snotlout manner, it uselessly collided against the wall. Astrid could have sworn that the failed attempt had earned a chuckle-like squawk from the dragon. Since when did dragons laugh? She glared at the beefy boy and he quickly turned to make an excuse. "The sun was in my eyes, Astrid!" he whined as they dodged a magnesium-blast, "What do you want me to do? Block out the sun? I can do that but I don't have time right now."

The Nadder was now enraged and barreled into the walls, inducing a domino effect as the maze collapsed. Astrid, now, stood across from the Nadder and spotted the others cowering near Gobber's position. Everything was in her hands and it was her moment to prove that she was a real Viking.

"Steady now, lass." Gobber's concerned voice piped up, "Think before you strike and get in its blind spot."

Astrid had lost her shield in the engagement and now exerted a two-hand, white-knuckle grip on her axe. Refusing to make the first move she stared down her reptilian opponent and shifted her weight to her toes. The dragon reciprocated her posture and assumed an aggressive stance with its torso slightly lowered and wings partly spread. Why wasn't it attacking? For some odd reason, Astrid could not help but notice how the Nadder's blue scales gleamed in the sunlight and how the golden accents perfectly emphasized its key features. She was beautiful. She? She! Where on Midgard did that come from? There was no she! There was only a blood-hungry monster. There was only it!

Shaking her head to refocus her thoughts, she decided to take the initiative and darted in a haphazard zig-zag pattern. This would confuse the dragon and allow her to close in on its blind spot. Unfortunately, the trick did not work as well as she had hoped and a stream of burning magnesium streaked towards her. It was too late to dodge the blast and she no longer had a shield, so, in a desperate attempt, she raised her axe to deflect the attack. It worked; Astrid was left unscathed, but her beloved weapon was not so lucky. The half of the axe head which had taken the brunt of the blow was warped and twisted into gruesome shapes.

Fury filled her and she rolled into the Nadder's blind spot, taking a second to plan her next moves. Without warning, the now blunted side of weapon found its mark on the side of the dragon's head, causing it to stagger backwards. This gave Astrid the opening she needed as she turned to the remaining sharp side of her axe and struck the creature. The Deadly Nadder squawked in immense pain as a deep and long gash appeared on its underbelly. It hopped back from the girl and whimpered, attempting to inspect its wound. The cut was very painful and was bleeding profusely, but it remained mostly superficial as it had missed major organs.

"Nicely done, Astrid!" Gobber praised, before he jumped in to secure the Nadder. After it was secure in the pen, Gobber continued, "That was a feisty one alright. In all my years, I 'aven't seen a fresh trainee land such a blow on a Nadder withou' gettin' worse in return. Keep this up 'n' you'll be the one ta earn yer first kill."

Astrid knew that she should be proud, but she definitely did not feel it. She looked at her ruined weapon with sadness and frustration, wondering if it could ever be salvaged.

As if he could read her thoughts, Gobber answered, "I'm sorry about yer axe, lass. But it's time to look fer a new one. I can tell ya now, fixin' tha' one will take ages longer than makin' a new one outta scratch."

Astrid just nodded and walked out of the arena, Axe still in hand. Not five minutes into her trek back to the village, she heard a rustling in a nearby thicket and felt like she was being watched. She ripped towards the thicket, deciding to investigate, and heard a surprised yelp that confirmed her suspicions. Instantly, her hands contacted a fur vest and, with another yelp, its owner was flipped over her shoulder and onto his back. She turned, prepared to deliver another strike, but was stopped short by a pair of wide green eyes looking at her in fear.

"Hiccup?"

Chapter Text


Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, including the characters, settings, plots, themes, etc. from said franchise. I do, however, own this story and the unique characters, settings, plots, themes, etc. contained in this story that do not appear in the franchise as of the date of this publishing, unless otherwise indicated.


Chapter 6

Flowering Bonds


» The Night Fury  «

He quietly stooped on a large boulder, assuming a cat-like stance to stalk the fleshy being. The human had intruded in his prison once again, and the only thing that stopped him from eating the insufferable creature was the juicy haddock it carried in its right paw. The Night Fury shimmied his shoulders and padded forward, letting out a faint growl to let his presence be known. To his satisfaction, the human jumped and turned around to watch him gracefully hop off of his perch. Not once taking his semi-stilted eyes off of the creature, he huffed and growled again.

To his surprise, the fleshy neither ran or attacked and only extended a paw. It was offering the haddock to him. Should he take it? It had been so long since he had last eaten. The Fury's pupils dilated and he crawled forward and opened his mouth to accept the offering. Suddenly, he pulled back, growling, into a defense position, his stilted eyes focused on the human's waist. The fleshy lifted a layer of its coverings to reveal the shiny, sharp object it brandished earlier. As it reached for the object, he snarled in warning and earned a flinch. Taking the hint, the human gingerly lifted the object and dropped it on the ground. The Night Fury nodded its head to the pond and the creature kicked the object into the water, out of harm's way.

Pupils wide, he dropped his wings and relaxed his battle stance. His ear twitched in confusion as the fleshy extended the tasty morsel again. Why would it do that? It had just tossed its only defense into the water. How could it trust that he would leave it unharmed? He stepped towards it again and opened his gummy mouth to take the fish.

"Huh? Toothless. I could have sworn you had…" The human started to make noise and he impatiently snapped out his retractile teeth and snagged the haddock. "Ah," it yelped, before jumping back in fright and sheltering the paw that held the food, "…teeth."

After days of starvation, it felt like the fish was the tastiest he had ever eaten, still the tiny morsel was nowhere near enough to satisfy him. He prodded the human with his snout searching for more.

"No, no, no…I-I don't have any more."

Oh, where were his manners. Of course, the fleshy was upset, it had just given him all its food. He would not let his hunger stop him from being courteous. The Night Fury opened his mouth above the human's lap and regurgitated half the fish for it. He sat back on his hind haunches in anticipation, but it just sat there. Why wouldn't it eat? After a few more seconds of waiting and a couple guiding gestures, the human finally downed a bite, spreading its lips as proof. What a strange expression it was. The Fury decided to mimic the creature, warbling in difficulty and he shone his own gummy grin.

The moment was short-lived as the human extended a paw that came much to close for comfort. He snarled and glided away, deciding to take a nap and warming a patch of dirt on the opposite side of the pond. To his annoyance, the fleshy was determined to get close to him. It took several attempts, but he was finally able to get some rest while suspended from thick tree branch.

When he woke, he was surprised to see that the human was still here; surely it had more important things to do. Wait…what was it doing? The Night Fury stalked over to where it was seated and peered over its shoulder, warbling and cooing in wonder. It was him! The human had made him in the dirt! Whatever this was, he had to try it, so he waddled over to a tiny tree and ripped it out of the ground. Dancing around in a large patch of dirt, he constructed his masterpiece. He finished drawing, took a step back, and nodded to signify its completion. It was perfect! He was proud of his amazing capture of the human's face.

Suddenly, he snarled as the fleshy stepped on his creation – the audacity! Fortunately for the human, it realized it mistake and removed his foot, leaving the Fury to contently warble. This continued a couple more times until the human navigated the portrait and found itself inches from the dragon. He snorted a burst of air at it, letting it know where it was.

It held out its paw again and he snarled at it to warn it off. Undeterred, it averted its eyes and turned its head, holding out his paw as far as it could reach. He stared at the extremity, wide-eyed and unsure, contemplating if he should accept the offer of trust. Hesitating twice, he finally closed his eyes and bridged the gap, touching his snout to the paw.

The boy looked up in shock and awe to meet his gaze. "Toothless," Hiccup whispered right before the newly dubbed Toothless darted away.

» Astrid Hofferson  «

"Hiccup?"

The boy she had just tossed over her shoulder simply looked back at her and groaned in response.

"What the Hel are you doing?" She berated.

"What am I doing? You're the one who tried to break half the bones in my body!" He retorted and pulled himself off the ground with a grunt.

"Serves you right for sneaking around!" She angrily prodded him in the chest with every emphasized syllable.

Hiccup let out a nervous chuckle and, against his better judgement, intercepted Astrid's finger, mid-poke, with his own. He timidly pushed it back and winced as she glared at the intruding extremity. "I wasn't sneaking around. I was in these bushes and you happened to pass by."

"So, you were hiding?" Astrid was now annoyed, "Hiding from who? Me?"

"Well…uh…yes, in this specific scenario I was hiding from you, but-but it's not that I was hiding from you. You just happened to be here, so I hid…from you…but not you. I mean, I don't want to hide from you, but, since you were here, I hid from you. Wait this isn't coming out right. Yes, I was just now hiding from you, but I am not trying to hide from you." Hiccup was now relentlessly blabbering, unable to communicate his message.

"Ugh," she snarled. Why did this boy always talk in circles? It was obvious to her that he was lying, and she really was not in the mood for these games. "Maybe we should take a little trip to the Chief and you can it explain to him. You know…about why you've been spying on me instead of attending dragon training."

Her threat had hit its mark and Hiccup's eyes widened to their fullest extent. "No, no, that won't be necessary…I'll be…I'll be honest with you, but you have to promise that you won't tell anyone…especially Dad." He offered the compromise.

Astrid rolled her eyes. "Alright, fine. I promise."

"Okay, good, okay. So…um…"

"Oh, my Thor! I promised. Didn't I? Now out with it!"

"I can't kill dragons."

"Yes, I know. We all know. That's what training is for." She grew more exasperated, "If you bothered to show up, that is."

"No, no, you don't understand. When I say 'I can't kill dragons', I meant that I actually can't kill dragons, no matter the amount of training." Astrid raised an eyebrow to indicate that she remained unconvinced. Noticing the gesture, Hiccup continued to explain, "Look, a little while ago I found a Ni…uh…dragon out in the woods." He consciously pointed in the direction opposite of the hidden cove. "Someone had shot it down; it was all tangled up in a bola and was vulnerable. All I had to do was plunge my dagger into its heart and I would come back a hero. That was it! But, I couldn't do it. I couldn't kill the dragon. When I pulled out my dagger, it opened its eyes and looked at me…like it knew what I was about the do…like it was afraid…like it didn't want to die." Hiccup stared at the ground and shuffled a foot.

"Hiccup," Astrid icily whispered, "Where's the dragon?"

"It…got away."

"Don't lie to me." Her eyes narrowed.

"No, really," he looked back up put up his hands in surrender, "I went back to check and it wasn't in the spot where I first found it. Actually, that's where I was coming from right now and why you caught me hiding… and also why I didn't show up to training. I'm afraid of what will happen to me if anyone finds out."

"You've got to be kidding me." Astrid shook her head and glared at him. "What is wrong with you? How could you just let one of them go free? They steal our food. They burn down out homes. They kill us! Why can't you just man up and do your duty as a Viking!"

"I-I…but-"

"Oh, wait! That's right. You aren't a man, just a worthless fishbone!" She hissed her words, lacing every other with heart-wrenching venom. "And the worst part of it all is that I have to marry you. You! All I'm going to be doing for the rest of my life is cleaning up your messes. I should have let that damned Gronkle finish you in the arena. You've thrown your lot in with them. You're not a Viking. You're not one of us."

Wait…was that a tear? Even in the face of atrocities at the hands of his fellow Berkians, Astrid had never seen Hiccup shed a single tear. Her unwarranted fury slowly subsided as her words dawned on her. She was a monster. How could she have said that to him? Yes, Hiccup tended to mess up…a lot. But she knew that his intentions were always pure and meant to bring benefit to his village. On top of it all, Hiccup never hoped ill-will on his people, even those who were cruel to him. And she had just called him a traitor. He was a good person at heart and she turned every single one of his insecurities on him. Of course, she was still mad about the whole dragon in the woods thing…and it had pushed her over the edge. The shock about the wedding, the loss of control in her future, and the recent frustration about the destruction of her axe had been bottled up inside her and wrongfully spilled out onto Hiccup. He did not deserve any of it. He had trusted in her and confided in her, only her, and she threw it all back in his face.

Astrid moved closer to him. "I didn't mean that."

Hiccup flinched as she drew near and he jumped back from her. His eyes now burned and his voice was toxic and foreign. "No. You were very clear. You wouldn't have said all that if you hadn't meant it. Enough is enough. I thought you were decent and could see past my outside, but you're no better than the rest of these mutton-heads. You never ridiculed me or attacked me, so I guess I was just so far beneath you that I wasn't even worth the effort. You think you're a warrior, but you're just a murderer. Enjoy being a dutiful Viking. You certainly have what it takes." Hiccup spun around and started running back into the woods, not sparing a look behind.

Astrid's feet were glued to the ground and she could not bring herself to follow. She had never seen Hiccup so angry and unsettled. His most recent words had infuriated her, but, at the same time, she had said some awful things herself. Her mind was fighting itself and her emotions were confused.

» Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III  «

Oh, Thor. Oh, Thor. Oh, Thor. What just happened? This was all his fault. Luckily, he was able to hold his tongue regarding any specific information about Toothless. But, in his grand wisdom, he revealed one of his biggest secrets to Astrid to keep her from telling his father that he skipped dragon training. Before he was just a disappointment who did not have the bodily strength of a real Viking to put to use fighting dragons. Now, after he had been forced to spill it all, she knew that he did not have the mental fortitude or the stomach. Everything she had said was true. To make matters worse, he had screamed at her and accused her of being horrible to him in the past, while, in truth, she was one of the only ones who did not tease or torment him. Of all people, why did he have to go and yell at his betrothed.

» Astrid Hofferson  «

The door to House Hofferson slammed behind her as she stormed in and made way for the staircase.

"Astrid." Gunnar called out, "What's the matter, my dear?" Her father poured some liquid from a steaming kettle into two mugs. Sitting down next to the hearth, he held one out for her. "Come sit down, lass. Talking about it will make you feel better."

Astrid knew better than to argue with her father. There was no point. He was always right. She quietly took the extended mug, plopped down on the opposite chair, and took a sip. There was the distinct flavor of birch and slight undertones of angelica and moss – her favorite tea. She looked up at her father, "I can't tell you…I promised him."

"You don't have to keep any secrets from me, lass. I'm your father and I will always be on your side…and Hiccup's."

Astrid was shocked, "How did you know it was about Hiccup?"

"You just told me," he smirked, "Besides, who else would it be?" The two sat in silence, slowing draining their mugs and waiting for the other to speak first. After twenty minutes of this, the pair had emptied the kettle and Gunnar rose from his seat. "You don't have to tell me and I think it's admirable that you want to keep your word, but ask yourself who that will benefit. It is clearly troubling you and I doubt Hiccup is faring any better. My ears are always open for you, lass. And my lips are always sealed." He started to walk away.

"Dad?" Astrid stopped him as his words finally registered. She knew that she could trust her father, and, like always, he was right. Keeping her promise to Hiccup would only cause turmoil to fester in the both of them.

Gunnar turned around with a smile, "Yes, my dear?"

"Could you sit down? We need to talk." Through averted eyes, she told her father everything that Hiccup had revealed earlier. There was his truancy from dragon training, his inability to kill a downed dragon, and his cowardice against their enemy. Astrid left out the last bit, where she had spat abuse at him, knowing her father would not approve. When she looked back after finishing, she expected him to be as furious as she had been, but there was not even a hint of anger. To her surprise, he merely grinned and stared into the hearth as if he were replaying a bittersweet memory.

Gunnar laughed and looked back at his daughter. "Aye, of course he goes and does that. I bet he even cut the dragon loose before someone else found it." He laughed again.

"Cut it out. This isn't funny!" She simmered.

"Ha, of course it is, lass, the boy's the spitting image of Valka. It makes sense that he would turn out so much like her as well. The only things he got from Stoick was his gender and that Haddock nose."

"No, it isn't! And who even is Valka? Why does she matter?"

Gunner stopped chuckling. "Ah, a great woman she was a voice of change, a dear friend. She was Hiccup's mother, you know?"

"What?" Astrid's eyes grew wide. She had never known anything about his mother…and had never given it any thought either.

"Aye."

"What-what happened to her?"

Shaking his head, Gunnar answered. "It was a tragedy, lass, and not one I care to repeat. All I can hope is that she found peace in Valhalla."

"You said Hiccup was like her?"

"Valka was always trying to convince the village that dragons were peaceful creatures and we didn't need to fight them. But, this is Berk, so no one listened to her. There was even this one time that several of us returned from a diplomatic journey and found that somebody had released all the dragons in the arena. It was never proven who had done it, but I have no doubt that it was Valka."

"But doesn't that make her and Hiccup weak."

"No, Astrid." Gunnar said sternly, "That makes them the strongest of us all. It takes immense strength to do what is right when all you have ever been taught tells you to do wrong."

"But it's not right!"

"Tell me…do you think that I am weak? That I do wrong?"

"No, of course not!"

"Then what if I tell you that I have never sought out a dragon to kill. We both know that I have killed many dragons before, but not a single one was killed out of spite…or anger…or revenge. I have only ever killed a dragon in my defense or the defense of my fellows. I'll ask you again. Do you think that I am weak? That I do wrong?"

She didn't know how to respond. A knock at the door broke the silence and Gunnar moved to answer it. Astrid couldn't see the visitor but could hear every word in the conversation.

"Hello, son. How can I help you?" Her dad spoke first.

"Hi, Mr. Hofferson. Is Astrid here? I need to speak with her…alone." Wait was that Hiccup?

"Aye. But, if you don't mind my asking, what's this about?"

"I need to apologize for my earlier behavior." Hiccup responded frankly. She was the one who said all those terrible things to him, but he had come to ask for forgiveness.

"Go on in lad, she's by the hearth."

"Thank you, sir."

Hiccup padded into the room with his head low and eyes downcast. Pieces of undergrowth were tangled in his hair and clung to his vest. "Um…hi," he said when he saw her.

"What do you want?" She feigned ignorance.

"I was hoping that you would give me a few moments to talk to you." He spoke cautiously.

"And what exactly is there to talk about?"

"Just one thing…"

"Fine, go on with it." She already knew what he wanted to say, but she did not feel deserving.

"I'm so, so sorry about the awful things I said to you. I'm sorry for yelling. I'm sorry for saying that you weren't a warrior. Please, let me make it up to you. Tell me anything, anything at all, and I'll do it. But I'm guessing you want to be alone right now, so I'll go." He stared at the floor through the entire apology.

It hurt Astrid to hear him speak when it was clearly her who should have been apologizing. What he had said did not hold to a candle to the atrocities she had thrown his way. "Hiccup, sit down."

"W-what?"

"Sit!" She pointed at the chair her father was previously in. As he warily walked over to it and sat, she started to say her piece. "What do you think you're doing apologizing to me? There's nothing you need to make up for. After all those things I said to you I should be saying sorry to you. So…I'm sorry." The words were painful to say and this was now the second time she had said them to Hiccup. Why did she keep finding herself in this position…and with him of all people?

"No, you didn't do anything wrong!" Hiccup looked at her in shock.

"Shut up and take the apology, Hiccup." What was up with him? Why could he not accept that he had been wronged and she was the one who needed to ask for forgiveness? Only an hour ago he was distressed by her words and retaliated, but now it was as if he had forgotten – or refused to acknowledge – everything she had said.

"Okay."

"So…?" She inquired.

"So?"

"Am I forgiven?"

"Yes. Always." He answered and looked up at her. His eyes immediately darted away and fixed on an object leaning against her chair.

"Oh yeah," Astrid said sadly, "It got damaged during training and Gobber said that it was too much trouble to repair it."

"Can I see it?" He asked holding out both hands.

She picked up her axe and looked at it, hesitant to hand it over. Finally, she gave it to him. It was already damaged beyond repair so where was the harm?

"It'll take a bit of time, but I can get it back to you better than new." He told her as he inspected the damage and ran his fingers over the engraving.

Astrid's spirits immediately lifted, "Really? But Gobber-"

"-can be the laziest man on Berk when he puts his mind to it." Hiccup interrupted, "Besides, the damage is no where near as bad as last time."

"Last time? What do you mean last time?It hasn't been damaged before."

Hiccup's eyes shot wide open and darted around the room. "Did I say last time? I was mistaken. I probably mixed this up with another axe."

"Cut the yak-turd! You are a terrible liar."

"Who me? I'm not lying." He was turning the deepest shades of red.

Astrid shot him her signature death glare and it was all that it took.

Hiccup sighed and closed his eyes and started recounting the memory. "It was two years ago, on Snoggletog…"