Hiccup was seated in his study scribbling away at the annual treaty he was drafting for the Meathead tribe. He had spent the earlier part of that day dealing with a dispute between Spitelout and Sven. They had gotten into another argument about Sven’s sheep and Hiccup wanted to ram both of their heads together. He could never understand how grown vikings managed to act more like children than the actual children did. He was glad that this day was blessedly almost over. All he had to do was finish up this treaty, and then he could scarf down a bit of fish stew before collapsing in bed.
Suddenly, a knock came at his study door, interrupting one of the final sentences in the wartime clause.
In walked Astrid. She had probably just come back from a guard shift. Her hair was a little tousled from the brisk wind picking up and she was still in her armor with her ax strapped across her back.
“Good evening, Milady. All quiet in the village?” Hiccup said with a crooked grin. Astrid’s face lit up at that smile.
“Not a ship in sight and the twins are… let’s just say otherwise occupied for the time being." Hiccup knew that was code speak for I-locked-the-twins-in-the-old-dragon-stables-again.
“Well, that is something,” he said. Astrid walked over to him and sat in his lap, reaching up to twist his auburn locks. Hiccup leaned forward and pressed a kiss to her forehead, sweeping loose strands of hair behind her ears. Astrid sighed in contentment and a bit of sadness.
“Hiccup, we have a problem.”
“And what is that?”
Darby was an eight-year-old boy who lived in Berk. He was an intelligent, red-head who spent a lot of time reading, and happened to be Zephyr Haddock’s best friend.
“What about Darby. Is something wrong?”
“I spoke with Gillie Thorn after my guard duty. She was actually heading here to let you know, but I told her that I’d pass on whatever news she had and you could meet with her tomorrow if you needed more information. Her and Darby are moving to Berserker island.”
Hiccup was surprised. That was something he hadn’t expected. Berkians were adverse to change; especially after having to embrace and let go of the dragons.
“Did she say why she’s leaving?”
“It’s too hard for her, Hiccup. Ever since she lost her husband in that freak blizzarde, she hasn’t been the same. She’s been keeping herself up for Darby, but everything here reminds her of what she’s lost.” Hiccup sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. He was very familiar with that feeling.
“Zeph’s not going to take this well at all,” he sighed in resignation.
“She’s going to be heart broken,” Astrid agreed. “What do we do? Do we tell her?”
“I don’t know. Maybe we should let Darby be the one to break the news. He’ll probably do it tonight or tomorrow.” Astrid sighed again and nodded.
“You’re probably right. It’s his news to share.”
The following afternoon found Zephyr, Nuffink, and Darby lounging around in a little clearing on the edge of the forest. Darby was leaning against a dead tree root alternating between reading his book on Trading ports through the ages and watching Zephyr and Nuffink fiddle around with a contraption they were building.
“Grab that vine, Fin. No, the thicker one,” Zephyr called. She was currently twisting two thin, flexible branches together. Nuffink handed her the desired vine and she tied it around the twisted branches and attached that to the mane contraption that was made out of dead logs and spare metal parts from the armory.
“What in Thors Thunderdrum is that supposed to be,” Darby asked in awe and a little exasperation.
“We call it the Autobat,” Nuffink announced proudly. He bent down to adjust something on the underside of the machine. “Basically it will stand in as a sparring partner when you can’t find anyone else to spar with.”
“Mom gave us the idea a few months ago when Dad was sick and couldn’t make there daily sparring date,” Zephyr added with a grin. “She took care of him but when he wasn’t in ear shot she ranted about people not wanting to spar and worming their way out of beneficial training or something along those lines.” Darby snorted. Mrs. Haddock was always a riot.
The two siblings did a little more work on their Autobat while Darby watched them with a mounting feeling of dread. He knew once Zephyr turned her full attention on him, he’d have to tell her. Part of him didn’t want to leave. New Berk was his home, and Zeph was his best friend in the world. He’d miss his village, celebrating Snoggletog, and hearing about all the adventures from when dragons roamed the Archipelago. But there was another part of him that ached every time he turned a corner. All he could see was his father’s bearded face, contorted in fear and filling with icicles, as he was blown over the edge of the cliffs. He had been trying to help everyone else get to safety; the storm had come out of no where and no one was prepared for its fury.
“Hey, earth to Darb, come in, Darb,” Zephyr was yelling. She was right in front of him, her hair an auburn mass of half-finished braids and twigs.
“Oh sorry, zeph. What’s up?
“We’re done with the Autobat for now. What do you wanna do?”
“Oh, um. I was actually wondering if you and I could talk for a bit.”
“Yeah, sure.” She turned to Nuffink. “Scram little bro.” She said it playfully, reaching out to run her fingers through his blonde locks. Nuffink rolled his eyes and gave a cute playful pout that only five-year-olds could pull off.
“Fine. I was going to hang with the Ingerman twins anyway,” he said before jogging off. Zephyr planted herself next to Darby and glanced over the book he was reading.
“Trading ports, huh?”
“Yeah, they’re pretty cool. Dad took me to one two years ago remember?”
“Yeah I do. You brought me back that rainbow shell that looks like a star.” They both smiled. “I know you must miss your dad, Darb.”
“I do,” he agreed, shutting the book. “And that’s kind of what I wanted to talk to you about. You see, Mom… well, um. Mom wants us to leave.”
“leave?” Zephyr said in confusion. “Like go on a trip?”
“Not exactly. We’re moving.”
The words hung in the air. They were heavy and Darby wished that he could take them back. Zephyr, on the other hand, was trying to decipher any other meaning from them.
“M-Moving? To where?”
“Berserker Island. Mom and I can’t stay here, Zeph. We see Dad everywhere we turn. We have to start over.”
“And by start over, you mean leave all the ones who care about you behind,” Zephyr said calmly. Her blue eyes were beginning to flash in anger and Darby raised his hands in defeat.
“Look, I wish I could stay. You’re my best friend, and I never wanted to leave you, but it’s not up to me. Mom’s already made the decision.”
“Then don’t go,” Zephyr said urgently. “Stay here. You can move in with me; you practically live with us anyways. Dad wouldn’t mind. Or you can move in With Uncle Fishlegs and Snotlout and be Uncle Fishlegs’ apprentice like you’ve always wanted.”
“I can’t leave my mom, Zephyr. She’s my family and she’s already lost my Dad.”
“But you’ll leave me just fine.” Zephyr stood angrily.
“C’mon Zeph, it’s not…”
“Save it,” she said angrily. She kicked the dead log that Darby was still sitting on. “Just leave already. I don’t care. Go to stupid Berserker Island and make a new best friend, because you’ve lost your old one!” With that she stomped away, leaving a dejected Darby alone with his thoughts.
“Hey Fin. Hey Rolly and Robin,” Hiccup called. He was strolling through the market place and happened to see his son and the Ingerman twins Running around near Mrs. Hofferson’s bakery stall. Fin’s face was smeared with blueberry jam, and his brown eyes were bright with contentment..
“Please tell me you guys aren’t up to any mischief today?” Hiccup said, looking pointedly at Fin’s messy face. He offered up an innocent smile that could melt even the most suspicious heart.
“Nope Uncle Hiccup, we’re being as good as Gronckles today,” Rolly called.
“Yeah, we only misbehave every other day. So prepare yourself for tomorrow,” Robbin added, her green eyes sparkling with mischief. Hiccup sighed at their antics and prayed to the Gods that he would make it through tomorrow. He would have thought that the Ingerman twins would have been more mellow than the Thorstons, even with Ruffnut being their mother. However, the fact that Snotlout was their other father most likely canceled out any calming, good behavior influences from Fishlegs. Nuffink laughed at his dad’s resigned face.
“Fin, have you seen your sister lately?” Hiccup asked as he fumbled through his pockets. He pulled out a spare bit of cloth and wet it with a contraption he invented last year to cary water on the go. He began wiping at the blue smudges on Fin’s face. Fin grunted in displeasure.
“She was talking to Darby in the clearing, but that was a few hours ago. I haven’t seen her since.” Hiccup nodded, swiped the last bit of jam from Fin’s face, and smiled at him.
“No more treats until dinner, alright Fin?” Fin nodded and ran off with Robbin and Rolly on his heels.
Hiccup left the market in the opposite direction in search of Zephyr. He was pretty sure that Darby had broken the news, and if he knew his daughter at all, he knew that it didn’t go very well.