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Noblesse oblige

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Chapter 1

‘Drip’

‘Drip’

‘Drip’

Astrid let out a frustrated shout while hitting the damp moss-covered wall with her fist. Her knuckles burned but she didn’t care. Right now she just wanted to pummel someone or something. She knew it wasn’t very lady-like but who gave a flying Thor’s behind right now.

Light shone from out the tiny window of her cell as if mocking her predicament. She had been a lady of Nobility. A lady of luxury though it never went to her head. The strict upbringing of her House had seen to that. What she wouldn’t give to have a nice feathery pillow right now instead of the threadbare cot that had seen better days. Then she could use that pillow to get a good night’s rest before smothering that damned Duke’s son who put her here with it.

Astrid thought gleefully ‘Maybe she could feed the guy to Stormfly or any other dragon for that matter.’ but then she sighed. That would just give the poor dragon indigestion.

As Astrid continued to think of ways to get her revenge any sane person might be wondering what she could have done to earn herself a one way trip to a damp cell and possibly the gallows.

This all started many months ago.

The Kingdom of Berk, situated on the Sea of Frozen Death, was a quaint place. It snows nine months out of the year but it was peaceful.

The kingdom’s citizens got along well with their neighbours, the Dragons. So well in fact that each person had a bonded dragon to call their own. It was the dragons that chose their companions however and those that had a strong dragon were often highly regarded.

Such a person was Astrid. She had bonded with Stormfly on her 6th birthday and though she was the daughter of a low ranking Baron House she was still considered the cream of the crop during the Social seasons.

Astrid had cared little for these parties because she knew her fiancé would be decided for her anyways. Her father was very adamant that she be wed to a higher House of Nobility. Not only would her family’s wealth increase but so would their lands. The nobility rarely wedded due to love after all. Everything was politics.

She had no say in the matter, not that she particularly wanted to. As a member of the nobility, she could easily get a lover on the side discreetly if her future husband paid her no attention. She wasn’t the first one to do so either. The husbands usually turned a blind eye because Noble women tended to be dangerous. They were the social butterflies of the court and one rumor or jilted woman could end up with a man being penniless. No, Astrid was by no means powerless. She knew how to play the game.

Much like the women taking lovers, the men of noble birth could take a concubine or two, depending on their standing within society. It was an archaic practice and the only one Astrid abhorred. She had no problem with the man also taking a lover, but to marry them while she could not get married anymore grinded her bones. It was the society she had grown up in but that didn’t mean she had to like every aspect of it. The concubines and the wife would often clash causing quite a few catfights and tumbles down marble stairs.

One rainy day Astrid had walked into her father’s office and had been informed a suitable husband had been found. Her father looked especially gleeful and she soon figured out why. The person she would be marrying was the Duke’s son who was 4th in line to the throne of Berk. Marrying into the Royal family was a big deal even if it was into the house of a Duke.

Her father had spared no expense and Astrid soon met her future husband. Snotlout Jorgenson, Son of Duke Jorgenson and cousin to the Crown prince of Berk. She didn’t like him. No scratch that, she really didn’t like him. He was arrogant and prideful and thought that he was god’s gift to women. Astrid often wondered if he was overcompensating for his small stature. She wanted to maim him the first, second and third time they had met. Maybe that was why her mother had confiscated all her knives. Even the family axe on the mantelpiece had been removed.

Just three meetings and a month later she was walking down the aisle in a gorgeous white gown that was the envy of every woman. She held her head high as she entered the round church from the left. Once she was at the altar the doors to the right would open and the groom would enter. Astrid gripped her bouquet tightly as she approached the altar. The priest was nodding towards her and then everyone looked to the right. The double doors were opened but…….. There was no groom.

Astrid blinked as she stared at the empty doorway. It took her a few seconds to realize that the groom probably wasn’t coming and that she had been left at the altar. Murmurs flitted through the church as those attending the wedding were whispering to each other. Speculating as to what was keeping the groom. Astrid’s cheeks burned at the humiliation and the looks of pity from many and glee from others who wanted to see her fall. She already had an idea of the rumors that would be making its way through the city within an hour’s time. Tongues wagged and this time, not in a good way. Her reputation as a lady had just been ruined and it was all Snotlout’s fault. To stand a lady up at the altar meant that she was seen as undesirable.

If her foolish fiance, no….. ex-fiance, did anything worse then she would not only be the laughing stock of the entire social scene, she and probably her entire family would most likely be excommunicated from high society altogether.

Astrid turned slightly to see her father clenching his hands so much that they would probably be bleeding. Her mother had a glint of murderous intent in her eyes and, at that moment, no one would doubt where Astrid got her feistiness from.

Astrid, however, was having none of it. There might still be a way to salvage some of her reputation. She threw down her bouquet and then proclaimed, “If that mulch-eating troll is too scared to show himself then he can stay gone!” Several ladies gasped and one even shouted agast, “You can’t talk about Royalty like that!”

“Can’t I?” Astrid rolled her eyes as her voice carried. “Then get the groom in here or shut up.” With that she left the way she came and once the door closed the murmurs grew louder.

Just like Astrid suspected, the rumors were flying through the city like wildfire. Some said the Duke’s son ran away to join the circus, others speculated if the engagement had even been real or that he had a male lover and just couldn’t go through with it. This went on for weeks and when Astrid first heard a word about Snotlout it wasn’t how anyone thought it would be.

The Social season had begun once more and like Astrid suspected suitors now avoided her. No honey or vinegar would attract those flies again. No one wanted a woman that was left by Royalty at the altar. Astrid still remembered her father raging downstairs after the almost-wedding. Stuff could be heard breaking and honestly, she couldn’t blame him. Duke Jorgenson had already accepted Astrid’s dowry and so far no word was heard of it being returned.

It was at one such party that Astrid leaned against a wall. She had had enough of the pitying glances from the guests as well as several ladies who hated her just because she was ‘low-born nobility’ in their words. Whoever said sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me obviously hadn’t met these ladies. Astrid likened them to serpents with barbed tongues. She honestly had more chance of joining the kingdom’s army than finding a husband at this point.

“Presenting Duke and Duchess Jorgenson!” Someone proclaimed and Astrid’s head shot up. It wasn’t only her but everyone in the room looked at the man and woman descending the white marble staircase. Soon whispers filled the room again as the couple walked past arm in arm. Astrid’s brow twitched as she recognized the so-called ‘Duchess’. Blonde, blue-eyes and with a honey-like voice. Her rival since she was little, Camicazi.

Camicazi Jorgenson, nee Bog, was the daughter of an Earl. She and Astrid had met at etiquette lessons and have since then tried to one-up each other. Camicazi had a higher status than Astrid so Astrid had to swallow a lot of her pride. Sometimes she wished she had just kicked the girl into the duck pond. It would have been so satisfying. It, however, didn’t stop her from doing better than Camicazi during etiquette lessons.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I know I have been away from the capital for a few weeks….” Snotlout began, “But I was spending my honeymoon with my lovely new wife Lady Camicazi.”

The proclamation earned several gasps and murmurs from the party-goers. Astrid was still leaning against the wall and looking at the couple critically. “This is a social gathering for single people. Just why are you here?” Her eyes narrowed as she asked after gulping down her goblet of wine in one swig.

“Why Lady Hofferson, it is because I have something to proclaim.” Snotlout haughtily said. “I know that my eloping with Camicazi has left you with discontent so I am here to offer you the position as my concubine.”

More murmurs filled the room and Astrid was starting to see red. “Concubine?!” She growled low as her eyes narrowed.

“Yes, Lady Camicazi is the daughter of an Earl while you are the daughter of a mere Baron. The position of wife, it should be clear to all as to who gets it.” Snotlout proclaimed. “Fret not, I will not go back on my word. I will marry you and give you a place in my esteemed household.”

“Fret not? Fret Not!” Astrid’s voice was getting a bit high. “I do not want sloppy seconds from a fiance-stealing-hussy that can’t keep her hands to herself. I will never be your concubine!” She proclaimed causing a ripple of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ through the room.

“Being the concubine for a Duke’s household is a prestigious position.” Camicazi retorted.

Astrid knew that Snotlout was likely doing this to humiliate her for that comment in the church but she just couldn’t help with firing back “So he’s grown tired of you already. Figures. You were never that much interesting.”

Another round of ‘ooohs’ and whispers filled the room as Camicazi turned red with either anger or humiliation at her insinuation. Astrid couldn’t tell.

“Lady Hofferson, Astrid, I am here to keep my promise of marrying you,” Snotlout said as he held his new wife back. “Please be reasonable,”

“How dare you?!” Astrid proclaimed as her hand closed over a very expensive porcelain vase. “Be reasonable?! The only reason you are proposing now is that you do not wish to return my dowry to me!” She shouted before flinging the vase at Snotlout’s face. She then proceeded to jump Camicazi and punch her in the face as well.

The rest of the night was a bit of a blur for Astrid. She remembered it taking several guards to pry her off the couple. Some of them might have even gotten injured, which she did feel sorry for. They were only doing their job. She remembered neither Snotlout nor Camicazi escaping without visible bruises. And that is basically how she got here.

When the guards had finally succeeded in restraining her Snotlout had ordered: “Lock her in the deepest dungeon!”

Astrid had expected this all to happen. Getting locked up, probably having a death sentence hanging over her head for assaulting members of the Royal family, her father disowning her and letting her rot in prison. She had expected it all and she couldn’t have been happier. To see that shocked look on Snotlout’s face when her heel connected with his groin had been totally worth it in her opinion.

“Agehm,” A voice uttered causing Astrid to look up from where she was seated. She blinked as she couldn’t understand what she was seeing. There was a lanky auburn-haired man standing in front of her cell. She hadn’t had a visitor since she got locked up here so this was out of the ordinary.

“Milady, please forgive me for interrupting your musings but I wish to discuss a possible deal with you.” The man, whom Astrid noted was dressed in very plain green and brown clothes, said before bowing to her slightly.

“You must have the wrong cell.” Astrid huffed as her eyes narrowed. She knew the guy looked familiar but she just couldn’t place his face.

“Lady Astrid Hofferson, formerly of House Hofferson?” The man asked with a raised brow.

“Alright, so you have the right person.” Astrid stood up now as she approached the bars. “But what do you want with a woman that can see the hangman’s noose at any time?” She then asked as she observed her visitor critically. He was dressed plainly but by no means was he dressed poorly. Even the forest green tunic was tailored to his figure. Astrid recognized some golden embroidery in the hem as well. ‘Definitely has an affluent background,’ she surmised in the span of seconds.

“I and every other Noble in the kingdom think that your sentence was unfair, given the circumstances.” The man began. “There was no trial but those that support you can’t take action to save your life. Snotlout issued an imperial mandate as he can do per Berkian law.”

“I thought only the King could do that,” Astrid mumbled. She didn’t think what Snotlout ordered would be considered a mandate.

“No, any member of the Royal family can issue a mandate as long as it doesn’t conflict with the King’s policies. His first order to the guards to throw you in here was just that, an order. He has gotten it in writing since.”

“I’m guessing the fate of a lowly daughter of a Baron house is of no consequence,” Astrid clenched her fists. “So he really did that out of spite.”

“So why are you here if the mandate is irreversible?” Astrid sighed and flopped down on the cot in an unlady-like fashion.

“I never said the mandate was irreversible.” The man said with a raised brow “You just need a mandate that ranks higher than that of the Duke’s son to counteract it.”

Astrid scoffed and then said “So you need someone from the direct line of the Royal family to countermand it. I highly doubt that you can pull that off unless you’re the Crown Prince.”

“I am the Crown Prince,” The man deadpanned with a chuckle. “Sorry for the late introduction Milady, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the 3rd at your service.”

Astrid blinked, Astrid gaped, Astrid sputtered. She bolted upright and immediately into a curtsy as her upbringing had taught her. “Forgive me for not recognizing your Highness.”

“Please let’s be informal about this.” Hiccup said quickly as he looked around. Probably for the guard. Once he was certain that no one was around he looked back at Astrid. “I’m here to guarantee your freedom.”

“So my freedom for whatever scheme you have cooked up?” Astrid frowned.

“No No, You misunderstand Milady. Your freedom is guaranteed. If you choose to accept my plan afterwards is another matter.” Hiccup quickly explained. “You are more than welcome to walk away from this matter entirely.”

Astrid crossed her arms and thought for a moment. She’d be getting out of this damp cell. That was a plus. What followed afterwards however was not. As a free but disowned woman she could not return to her former residence. Which meant that she had to seek housing elsewhere. No sane noble would house a disgraced lady and she had no dime to her name after being disowned so she had no way to procure lodging. She also didn’t have any clothes and Stormfly was still back at the Manor.

If she by some miracle managed to get a house then it would likely be low rent and in a bad part of the kingdom. All Astrid’s weapons were also at the Manor. Buying new ones would hurt her wallet and she would basically be a walking target for the unscrupulous.

“What is your offer?” Astrid then asked. She really had nothing to lose. She also thought nothing could surprise her after the events that had occurred.

“Marry me,” Hiccup said as he looked Astrid straight in the eye.

“SAY WHAAAAAAAT!” Astrid exclaimed in a very unlady-like manor but at this point again… who cared.

 

AN: Ooookay so this story wasn't on the docket. This plot was so spur of the moment that I have no clue where it will lead to. So let's find out together. You guys have Harrypanther to thank for inspiring this (During tipsy time)