Dragons. You've probably heard of them. Big, scaly lizards with a slightly unhealthy attachment to fire. Terrifying mythical monsters that have filled our legends since the beginning of time. I'm sure you've heard of them. You probably know a lot about them.
But of course, if you believed everything I just said, you obviously don't know as much as you think you do. See, not everything I told you is true. I'm not talking about the scaly part – that's true. Or the big part – that's usually true. And certainly not the fire part. No, the lie I told was the mythical part, because you see, dragons are very, very real. My village was at war with them for hundreds of years before Toothless and I came along. Now, we all live together in harmony. We're partners, allies, best friends. Virtually every family in Berk has at least one dragon of their own, and everyone able to shoot a bow knows how to ride one. I'm no exception. I got one, too: Toothless. He's a good guy. A little too obsessed with chewing on tables, but I still love him.
Seeing as we're a village full of dragon-riding Vikings (and trust me, it's every bit as awesome as it sounds) you would think that any intelligent resident of Berk would naturally have an open mind about other mythical beasts. Maybe for everyone else that was true, but not me. Nope. No way. I didn't think there could be anything out there other than dragons. So, when I finally found my first so-called witch, I laughed.
Right up until she started throwing lightning at me.
"Move!" I cried.
My foot shifted in the stirrup, changing gear and sucking in Toothless's tailfin as he twisted to dive. A stream of yellow lightning passed over us, just inches away from frying me. The clouds rumbled. The residual light made Toothless's eyes glow.
"Careful, guys!" I called. "She's winding up for another!"
"I got it." Fishlegs grinned atop his hovering Gronckle, and pointed at the witch. "Meatlug, go!"
Above me, Meatlug spat out a glob of fire. It descended to earth with a whine, picking up speed as it did.
The witch snarled. She leapt out of the way, and unleashed another bolt of hot lightning.
"Oops." Fishlegs said. He and Meatlug watched with wide eyes as the lightning drew closer –
With a war cry, Snotlout and his Nightmare swept in, bearing down directly on top of Meatlug, forcing both rider and dragon below the lightning. That wasn't all it did; the momentum sent Meatlug and Fishlegs down further, right into the ocean.
"You're welcome!" Snotlout hollered. He jutted out his chin, puffed out his cheeks, and looked around for a certain someone. "Hey, Ruffnut, did you see that?"
"Yeah, yeah," Ruffnut grunted. "Eyes on the prize, loser."
With Ruffnut atop one head and her twin atop the other, Barf and Belch weaved their way toward the witch. The Zippleback twisted past one bolt, drew its necks far apart to evade another. Meanwhile, I urged Toothless higher, higher –
"Got you!" Armed with a sharp grin, Astrid patted her Nadder's neck, signalling her to fire. The Nadder swooped in behind the witch, bearing her wings wide to slow herself.
The witch yelped. She barely dove out of the way, and flames scorched the rocks next to her. But she managed to force Stormfly back with more lighting. The witch rose, bushy-haired and wild-eyed . . .
This seemed as good a time as any.
"Like we discussed, Toothless. Ready . . ."
He found a spot above the witch, and hovered.
" . . . Now!"
We dove. The witch stiffened as she heard the telltale shriek of a Night fury preparing to fire.
The second she looked up, it was done.
No, we didn't shoot her. I wasn't looking to splatter her all over the island. Toothless just hit the ground next to her, which I heard feels like being smacked by a Gronckle's tail.
A cloud of dust rose, hiding everything on the ground. Grains stirred, moving away like a school of fish as the other riders and I descended. Once we hit land, I dismounted, taking a moment to switch my prosthetic leg from its flying setting to its walking setting.
I hadn't heard anything yet. I held my hand up, warning the others to stay back. Off my waist, I grabbed my sword, and the fire lining it made just a tiny bit easier to see through the dust.
A hand reached out.
The witch was on the ground, completely brown with dirt. She clawed her way up to her hands and knees, hissing, "You . . ."
I bopped her on the head with my sword's pommel, and she dropped.
I turned. "Everyone accounted for?"
As I spoke, Fishlegs and Meatlug finally caught up. They were dripping and panting. "Yeah, I think so."
"Great." I looked at the still witch. "Now what? I don't think a regular cell would hold her."
Tuffnut laughed darkly. "Let's burn her."
"Nah." Ruffnut shoved her brother aside. "I say we fling her off a catapult!"
"Oh, oh, I know!" Fishlegs bounced up and down, hand up. "Let's leave her on a rock in the middle of nowhere!"
As they, plus Snotlout all began to argue, I rolled my eyes and walked toward Astrid. "What do you think?"
"I don't know." She frowned thoughtfully, absently petting her purring Nadder. "I'm sure Stoick would like to know why she's here and where she came from, but it's too risky to bring her back."
"Well, we could always keep her in place and bring him here." I lifted an arm, and flexed. "I think I'm strong enough to wrestle an old lady."
Astrid laughed. She flicked my bicep, teasing, "You sure about that?"
"Hey, I've been working out," I said, strutting around her. "It takes a lot of muscle to wrangle a vicious Night Fury, you know."
She smiled. "I'm sure."
"I might even be stronger than you . . . Argh! Okay, you win!"
Astrid released me from the lock she had me in, and I rubbed my sore wrist tenderly. She offered me her hand, and pulled me to my feet. At that, Toothless and Stormfly, reassured that no fighting was happening, went back to trying to herd the remaining bits of dust in the air.
"Nice try," she told me.
"Someday." When she playfully rolled her eyes, I walked backwards and said, "No, you just watch. I'm going to became a big, hairy giant like my Dad, and then you will be sorry you ever teased me . . ."
As I was speaking, Astrid's eyes had grown wide. Odd, but maybe I sounded scarier than I thought –
"Hiccup, behind you!"
I looked just in time to see a very much awake witch. A white beam shot from her hand directly toward me.
Toothless shrieked. A ball of purple fire emerged from his throat, seeking to intercept –
The two smashed together. The beam didn't stop. Now, it was just covered with purple sparks as it came toward me.
This was going to be fun.
A quick wiggle told me that I had all my fingers and toes. I could still see . . . oh joy, I was still alive. Hooray! And I didn't feel like I was missing anything. Maybe Toothless's fire had done the job after all. You know what they say: dragons trump witches!
Speaking of the witch, Toothless had pounced, and I don't think she would be getting up again.
"Well, that could have been a lot worse." I shook my head, and shuddered. "Good thing, Toothless was there to save the day. Right, bud?"
Toothless panted. He wagged his hindquarters.
"Okay, now we need to get back to Berk." I glanced at the others. "Why is everyone looking at me like that?"
By that, I meant slack-jawed and with pale faces. Even Astrid. It was pretty adorable.
Stormfly suddenly hopped closer. She leaned down, and sniffed me.
"Hello to you, too." I said.
"Hiccup?" Astrid walked forward, scanning the air. "Hiccup, are you there?"
"Uh, yes," I said. "Astrid, I'm literally right in front of you."
She continued to look at the air above me. What was she doing? I walked up to her, determined to get her to stop this madness . . .
Since when did Astrid get this tall?
She looked down – down – at me. In a tight voice, she said, "Hiccup, is that you? Nod if you understand."
I had no idea why she was treating me like this, but I nodded. When I did, instead of being relieved, Astrid was clearly horrified. She held her hand over her mouth, and backed away, whispering, "Odin . . ."
She wasn't the only one. Everybody was giving me that same horrified look. Except the dragons. And even they – with the exception of Toothless who seemed to be practically leaping into the air with excitement - were looking at me strangely.
I looked around. What . . .?
I noticed my helmet. It must have fallen off when the witch attacked. I walked up to it, intending to put it on.
Something was wrong. It shouldn't be this big.
I leaned closer. Peered into the shiny metal at my own reflection.
I saw green eyes. A black body.