Siding with Them
Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at

Teen And Up Audiences
Archive Warning:
No Archive Warnings Apply
How to Train Your Dragon (Movies)
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, Toothless (How to Train Your Dragon), Snotlout Jorgenson, Alvin the Treacherous, Stoick the Vast, Astrid Hofferson, Gobber the Belch
Additional Tags:
Transformation, Dragon!hiccup
Part 1 of Siding with Them (HTTYD AU)
Published: 2016-09-02 Completed: 2016-09-19 Words: 111,338 Chapters: 19/19

Siding with Them


Thrown off a cliff and captured by the tribe’s greatest (human) enemy; how could things get any worse? A moment of sacrifice (and a dash of magic) leads poor Hiccup on an adventure of trust and fear that will leave him forever (physically) changed. HTTYD1 AU. T-rated. Transformation.

Probably can't get any worse

Chapter Notes

This is a pile of information about what you're getting yourself into. If you'd prefer to skip to the story, scroll down to “Chapter 1 :” after the next Author Note.
Title: Siding with Them
Thrown off a cliff and captured by the tribe’s greatest (human) enemy; how could things get any worse? A moment of sacrifice (and a dash of magic) leads poor Hiccup on an adventure of trust and fear that will leave him forever (physically) changed. HTTYD1 AU. T-rated. Transformation.
Reading instructions:
The use of the separator “-SwT-” indicates a POV switch or significant jump in time. When reading, expect to be suddenly somewhere else reading someone else’s view when that separator appears.
Rating justification:
This story is rated T for overuse of “Hel,” “Damn” and “Damnit,” and passing descriptions of injuries. Er… graphic descriptions. Dang, I didn't leave much to the imagin… ahem. Descriptions of injuries. There will be blood and probably tears too.
Writing schedule:
I don't have a writing schedule. I also have a very strange life. To avoid long pauses in updates in the middle of events (the kind that infuriate me about other stories) I’m writing entire arcs before publishing. Yep, whole arcs. Like all of HTTYD1’s events. Done and ready to post.
Alternate Universe primer:
I’ve never read the books. I don't plan on reading the books. All locations and persons should be assumed to be movie!verse, unless stated otherwise by the characters themselves in needed exposition.
As for the distances between islands, they’re roughly half what the RTTE map describes. It’s nearly impossible to time a damn story around day-and-a-half flight times on dragon-back. HTTYD 1 definitely ignored canon flight times and so do I.
As for how else this universe is alternate: Magic. Damn magic. There is a long and complicated history and set of rules behind its existence and use, that I spent months sorting out before even beginning to write.
I don’t own How To Train Your Dragon, in part or in whole. I release any claim of ownership of any character, place, or series of events featured herein. This work is released for Free Public Enjoyment as a Non-Comedic Parody and is not intended to compete with, pirate, or otherwise infringe upon the property of Dreamworks Animation or Cressida Cowell.
The only portion of this story of which I wish to retain ownership is the system of magic used by those characters of which I have no ownership.
As this work is Parody of another work, I make no claims or limitations on any further derivative works, beyond what limitations are set by the original owners of characters and events herein (Dreamworks Animation and Cressida Cowell).
In short: It’s FanFiction. I’m releasing it for free. I’m not trying to steal anyone’s livelihoods. Please don’t sue me, and please don't steal that incredibly weird and complex magic system thing.
It’s finally made its way here to AO3! I think I’ve spent over a whole year and a half on it at this point, including spending all summer 2015 developing the backstory and AU world. I don't think I’ve ever even thought about doing anything so massive. But wow, it’s here.
Good luck. Have fun!

Chapter 1 : Probably can't get any worse


Oh man, where do I even star-- Date! The date goes first.

15th of August, Year of Odin's Reign 1009

Oh man, where do I even start on today? Okay, probably with the worst bit. Or do I start with the normally bad bits and work my way up? Ah forget it, let's do the worst bit.

I was working on the bola launcher, again -- During shop hours, again. Logson came in to get his mace repaired by Gobber and -- whaddya know, coincidence of all possible coincidences -- I touched the launcher the wrong way and it went off. The bola went shooting off into his face, still folded because I haven't finished that spinning mechanism. (Making tiny parts is hard! Really hard! Putting them together is no issue but Gods you have to be a master smith to make them!)

Okay, the bola didn't fly into Logson’s face … exactly. It flew into his mace, knocking that into his face. Either way, dad gave me the classic disappointed scowl and told me to head home for the day. They're heading up to see Gothi and… Gods, it's all such a mess. Why do I always mess up like this? And in the worst ways! The thing couldn't have gone off when Logson wasn't standing there, no. Just had to be right when he walked in and held up his mace!

Why am I like this? Why couldn't I be one of them? The Vikingly Vikings?

So anyway. That's what I'm dealing with. At the moment, of course, I’m not at home. Why would I be? It’s just waiting for dad to get home and give me another disappointed scowl. Might as well skip that and compress the entire night’s dosage into one morning sigh. It isn't like being out here is an issue. Today probably can't get any worse.

I'm out on the sea cliffs, watching the sunset and wishing that for just once I could be someone else. Anything else. Seriously, I’d take being a dragon right now. At least, I’d be as strong as dad wants me to be, then. Woo, hey dad, no more talking fishbone! Now I can breathe fire! Like that'll ever happen.

Speaking of the sunset, it is kinda pretty. I'm going to see about trying to do the water shading rig--


“S- Snotlout!” Hiccup stammered, slamming his journal shut on his pencil and shoving both into a vest pocket. “Wh- what are you doing out here?”

“Y’know Hiccup, I really can't believe I'm related to you most of the time,” Snotlout said, offhandedly. “I mean, look at me. Look at my dad. Look at your dad. You're nothing like us. Why is that?”

Snotlout was Hiccup’s cousin; he was theoretically a rival for the chieftainship of the tribe. Their fathers, Stoick the Vast and Spitelout Jorgenson for Hiccup and Snotlout respectively, were brothers.

Stoick was the chief of the Berkian tribe, the Hairy Hooligans, but Spitelout never took that bitterly. Rather, the less powerful brother put all his power into making his family line show up that of Stoick’s -- including by training his son to aggressively assert his greatness at every opportunity.

Hiccup shrugged nervously. “I dunno, maybe it was a joke Thor played on me? Perhaps Odin just decided that someday I’d do something so great, he needed to throw obstacles in my way?”

“Yeah, keep thinking that,” Snotlout sneered, shoving Hiccup back. “We both know which of us is better around here. It’s m--”

Hiccup stumbled backward, tripping over his feet. He fell hard on his rear, reaching backward to halt his fall before his head hit the ground. His right hand caught grass. His left swung through air. “Wha--”

Hiccup’s torso swung out over the cliff, dragging his legs along for the ride. The grass tore out of the ground in his hand, leaving him with nothing to hold on to. As he slipped over, he thought he saw his cousin’s eyes light up with genuine fear for his safety.

Then he was falling. Hiccup was too stunned that he was actually going over the edge to shout or scream. Oh, Thor. Is this me, dead, already? he thought, I'm not even grown up yet!

Snotlout’s voice recovered some of its gusto as he shouted over the edge, “Y- yeah! Maybe a swim will teach you to--”

Hiccup lost Snotlout’s words as he hit the water, smashing several paces down in under a second. At least it isn't ice. I'd be dead already. The cold began clawing at him almost immediately, soaking through his clothes and stinging his skin. Then there's that.

He spun underwater, clawing his way toward the surface a good fifteen paces away. His lungs started burning, begging for more air. He breached the surface, taking a deep breath before sinking under again. Sinking? No! Why--

He curled up, grabbing at his boots and pulling them off. He could get new boots. He couldn't get new lungs if he filled these ones with water. He kicked, breaking the surface again for another gasping breath.

Still too heavy. he thought as he sank again. He shrugged out of his vest, then caught it with one hand. Might need this, and my journal--

Air, please. his lungs prompted. He kicked again, taking another breath.

His head slipped under once more. Damn. Maybe if I lose my shirt? He pulled one arm out, handing the vest to that hand. Awkwardly, he freed his other arm and ducked out of the shirt. It sank into the depths as he ascended to the surface again.

Yes! he crowed, mentally, as he successfully tread water.

He looked up the cliff, his brain swapping to a more analytical mindset now that he was more than mere seconds from drowning.

The cliffs: not an option . The surf was rolling up and down the rock face. If he tried to grab on, he’d tear his hands open (and, probably, the rest of himself) trying to grasp it. Have to swim elsewhere. But where? If he went south, he could make it to the harbor in an hour’s swim around the southern tip of Berk. A shiver shook his body. Don't have that long.

He spun in the water, looking north. The sea caves, under Raven Point! The beaches were sandy, smooth, and -- most importantly -- not more than a half hour’s swim away. I might make it!

He began swimming, kicking hard. He slipped back into his vest as he moved, unwilling to leave it but also needing full use of his arms. If he had a chance of not freezing to death, he had to move .

He swam north for what felt like forever. He didn't want to stop because his limbs were already tiring. Can't stop. Might not start again.

He noticed with a hint of panic as his fingers stopped responding to the impact with the water on each stroke. Too cold. Have to keep moving!

He finally spluttered to a stop when he forgot to take a breath above the water. The inrushing salty liquid immediately reminded him what a bad idea that was. The water tasted of something else too, though. Sand!

He threw himself forward, not even bothering to wipe his eyes and figure out where he was. The prickling sensation of small grains against his body’s numbness began to grow until his arm’s progress was impeded by something. Jubilant mentally and exhausted physically, Hiccup dragged himself from the water and onto the beach.

“Dear Thor… Alvin! You need to see this!”

Alvin? Hiccup’s groggy brain questioned. Isn't that the leader of the Outcasts?

The Outcasts were, to put it in mild terms, Berk’s sworn enemies. The tribe was made up of outcasts from a number of different Viking groups across the Archipelago, but its leader had been exiled from Berk itself. Alvin the Treacherous had never forgiven the Berkian tribe, sometimes even taking the Outcasts on ill-fated attempts to raid Berk.

Why am I hallucinating someone talking about him, of all people? Hiccup wondered. He lay on the beach, too tired to get up and engage the strange hallucinations, especially that of the beached boat not fifteen paces in front of his nose.

A white-haired, wrinkled, old face appeared not a pace from the top of his vision. Its owner leaned heavily on a cane as he bent down to get a closer look at the scrawny, woozy young Viking. “Why, Savage! It’s Stoick’s boy! How-- What did you do to get ‘im down here?”

I know that face… Hiccup thought, struggling through his exhaustion. It was Mildew, the hermit that lived on the edge of town, growing cabbages and questioning everything the village ever did. Why can't I hallucinate pleasant things when I’m dying?

“Hiccup? Here? Grab the li’le embarrassment ‘fore he can warn his father!” a voice roared out of the cave.

“Careful sir, you don't want to break the egg!” the first voice advised back, still out of Hiccup’s view.

“The egg hardly matters if they know we’re here!” Alvin bellowed, his voice growing clearer as he approached, “Where is that runt?!”

“Here, Alvin,” Mildew said, his cane leaving Hiccup’s view, “On the shore.”

“Wha-- Oh Thor. He looks frozen ‘alf to death! What did you two imbeciles do?”

“I- it wasn't me sir!” the first voice stammered. “I just saw him swimming up to the shore, then he collapsed like this!”

Hiccup’s eyes slipped closed, despite his mind’s protestations. He was just so tired .

“Maybe if you take ‘im, Stoick will be too confused to defend himself when the Whispering Death hatches!” Mildew suggested.

Hiccup’s hearing grew dimmer as consciousness slipped away. “Find out why he ended up down here,” Alvin growled. “Use it ta distract the village. We're taking him. Savage, load him aboard Girtha and push off! We’ll leave the egg where it is.”

Hiccup felt hands grasping him, felt the cold grains of the ground give way to freezing air. He didn't feel himself get set down.


Hiccup shot awake, sitting up quickly. Alvin! The Outcasts! A Whispering Death egg?! And what does Seabreath Ingerman’s old gala ship have to do-- His frozen, cramped muscles screamed in protest, splitting his sides and forcing him to collapse back to the wooden deck. He gasped for breath, shivering as feeling returned to his body.

Wooden deck?!

His eyes, which had opened when he awoke, finally focused on his environment. He was tucked into the bow of a small ship, just behind the figurehead. It was a very small ship, hardly larger than three rowboats stuck together. Further aft, one hulking black-bearded figure sneered at him while another, slimmer, clean shaven one moved between a tiller and two lines tied to the small ship’s sail.

“So, the little ‘iccup finally wakes. Almost thought you’d died. Would've made deciding what to do with you easier.”

Hiccup's mouth opened, releasing a hiss of air that was supposed to form words. His vocal chords weren't interested in cooperating with any form of speech, though.

“Almost considered throwin’ you overboard asleep. But, then, ‘ere is always the chance you'd drift back to Berk and somehow live. I couldn’ have that.”

“Y- y- you're Alvin--”

“Alvin the Treacherous! Enemy of Berk! The one and only. Here I thought you’d figured that out by now.”

“I- I d--”

“Tha’s enough. I'll ask the questions now.”

Hiccup shut his mouth, shivering from the cold and a large helping of fear. Alvin the Treacherous was the leader of the Outcasts, Hiccup’s mind re-confirmed, and that was very, very bad news for him.

“So, little Hiccup, what was Stoick’s embarrassment doing going for an afternoon swim ‘round the sea cliffs? I thought you Berkians were smarter than that.”

“I- I slipped,” he lied. It wasn't like the truth -- that his cousin had shoved him off accidentally -- mattered.

The Outcast chieftain and his subordinate burst into roaring guffaws, vibrating the ship with their mirth. Hiccup curled up tighter, finding a small inkling of warmth in his reduced volume. When Alvin calmed, he wiped a mirthful tear from his eye. “Thor almighty! And to think you’re the offspring of that stubborn oaf Stoick. Hah! So where was he when you… slipped? Pushing you off?”

Hiccup wrapped his hands around his knees, pulling even further into the corner of the deck and the figurehead of the ship, trying to hide from the new round of boisterous laughter from his two black-haired captors. I may not be what my dad wanted, but he wouldn't--

“Ah, what does it matter. If you're that useless to your own father, I can't see what a runt like you would have to offer me.”

The boat shifted, the deck sinking a little bit toward the figurehead as Alvin rose and approached. Hiccup barely had time to gasp in shock before he was lifted off the deck by his neck, his legs left dangling over the water. He grabbed at the massive hand with his own, tinier ones, trying desperately to give himself room to breathe.

“Any last words, Hiccup?”

“W- What if I m- make it back?!” Hiccup’s head whipped left and right as best it could in Alvin’s grip. He couldn't see any land on the horizon, either in front of or behind the boat.

“Make it-- Oh Hiccup. We're halfway to Outcast Island! The only place you’re going is to the bottom of the sea.”

Halfway... that was impossible! Outcast Island was a week away by longboat with favorable winds. If he was unconscious half a week, he should be dead! He halted that line of thought. There were more pressing issues -- like not ending up dead -- for him to deal with. Think… Think of something! What would a big scary Viking want? “I- I can make weapons!” he choked out.

Hiccup swung precariously in Alvin's grip, still grasping at the larger man’s fingers to keep from choking to death. Alvin looked thoughtful. “What kinds of weapons?”

Uhh… lots of dragon-slaying weapons? Sort-of? None of them exactly work… “Dragon fighting weapons!”

“Dragon fighting? You?! You must think me so naive.”

“Really! All my designs are in my journal! Please, I- I don't want to die!”

Hiccup’s knees buckled as his feet hit the deck, leaving him sprawling into the gunwale. Alvin turned to a pile of three objects on the bench next to where he had been sitting: a dagger, a pencil, and a waterlogged journal.

Hiccup struggled to rise, to get to the journal. “L- let me show you. The most recent one, the bola laun-”

Alvin’s kick to the gut sent him sprawling back to the deck, gasping for air. “Please, boy. I'm not fool enough to let you near a book. Who knows what you've got in there!”

He lay gasping on the deck as Alvin pulled the journal open, smearing the soaked pages. Hiccup winced as months of his life were blurred beyond readability.

“I can't read any of these scribbles…” The Outcast chieftain flipped through several more leaves of sticky pages, then shut the book. “Fine! I'll give you one day. But you better make me something able to take dragons right out of the sky!”

Hiccup let out a gasp of relief, his head flopping onto the wood. He squeaked in surprise as a meaty hand wrapped back around his throat, crushing his windpipe.

“I’m not called Alvin the Treacherous for nothin’. If you try to double cross me, I’ll make sure you live to regret it, runt.”

The hand remained on his neck a moment longer, then let up as its owner returned to the rower’s bench. Hiccup sucked in a breath, shivering from fright more than cold. The darkness retreated from the edges of his vision, and he curled up. Alvin and the other Outcast continued their respective sitting and sailing, ignoring the quivering boy on their deck.

I don't want to die. Please don't let me die, Thor, Odin, or whoever else.

Or make it quick. A lot quicker than this.


18th of August, Year of Odin’s Reign 1009 -- I think.

So, I’m having a bad-- New journal! let me write in some owner information:

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third

Outcast Island, Prison

If found, please return to owner. Thanks.

Right, so, I’m having a bad day. Yes, needing a new journal is a part of it; I’ll get to that. So, let’s start at the beginning. Not the beginning of the day, most of the day was pretty boring -- the beginning of the bad part.

Snotlout shoved me off a cliff. I’m sure you’re laughing already: “He’s just toughening you up Hiccup!” You’re right, he probably meant it in a way for me to grow some spine. (Seriously, though, beating people up to get them to grow character is yakshit.) What’s important is what happened next.

I swam north, to the sea caves under Raven Point, and got captured by the Outcasts. Yes, those Outcasts. The Outcast Island rejects-of-other-tribes Outcasts. They were planting a Whispering Death egg under our island! And, to top that off, Mildew (the old man who grows cabbages and complains about everything my dad does) was helping them!

Where am I now? Well, I’m on Outcast Island in a cell with walls covered in what look like claw marks. Dragon claw marks. I don't want to think about how they got there. Isn't my life going great?

Ah... just… wow. Maybe I should've expected this. My previous entry -- in my previous journal -- had me wishing to be someone else. Looks like one of the Gods was listening. Ha. Very funny, thanks.

Oh, and, tomorrow Alvin wants me to build him some kind of dragon slaying weapon, or he’s going to kill me. (Like this starvation isn't doing that anyway…) He won't let me have my previous journal and whatever remains of my designs in there either. He said something along the lines of “I’m not falling for that again.” Falling for what? What could I do with my old journal? I don't know what that guy thinks I’m going to do, but I have no clue.

I just can't sleep. I’m worried. Not scared, worried. I should work on trying to remember one of my designs. The bola launcher probably. I mean, I never finished it, but theoretically, it'll work. I hope.

Gods, let this work. Please.


19th of August, Year of Odin’s Reign 1009

I’ve survived the day! Seems today isn’t my day to get sent to Valhalla by angry Outcasts. Praise be to the happy things.

So I woke up this morning in the cell...


Hiccup startled awake, his head slamming into the grooves on the rock wall behind him. He winced, rubbing at the newly acquired bump on his head. His journal lay in his lap, detailing a number of complicated mechanical systems -- with one thick line cutting down through them all to where his pencil rested, limp in his hand.

He looked around at the one metal-barred and three rock walls which -- to a complete lack of surprise from Hiccup -- had not moved as he slept. Nobody stood guard outside. He stood, wincing from the disuse of his limbs and soreness from being manhandled the previous day and walked haltingly over to the bars of his cell. He peered up and down the canyon, unable to see more than a dozen paces left and right through the bars.

He took a deep, ragged breath and called out, "Hello?"

From somewhere out of sight, he heard the startled gasp of someone waking up, then clambering to their feet.

Hiccup tried calling out again, "Hi. I'm awake. Do you guys have a morning scheduled, or can I sleep in?"

He heard the guard gasp again, then footsteps retreating further from his cell.

Hiccup leaned heavily on the bars. "Oh, yes, run from the dangerous, caged Hiccup. Roar. So scary." He sighed, then paused to listen.

Echoing from some distance away, Hiccup heard the growling, indistinct voices of Outcasts, then more footsteps as a group came his way. He peered through the bars until he spotted the group coming to get him. It consisted of three Outcasts. One Outcast was unarmed, carrying keys. Hiccup guessed that was the sleepyhead guard that had been startled by his waking. The other two hefted Outcast-made axes menacingly.

Hiccup stepped back from his cage's door. The unarmed guard unlocked the door, then came inside. "Woah, guys, are the axes really necessary? I was freezing to death yesterday," Hiccup quipped.

The unarmed guard grunted and grabbed him roughly by the shoulder with one Viking-sized hand. Hiccup was hauled stumbling out of his cage while the guard shut and locked the door with his free hand. The motley assemblage turned and marched or, in Hiccup's case, stumbled their way down the canyon.

"So, get many visitors?" he asked, trying to lighten the mood. The Viking manhandling him grunted. In another few steps, they reached a narrow footpath up one side of the canyon. They might as well have been indoors, for all the slate-gray sky above did to cast light on the rocky plains they entered into. One of the axe-wielding guards broke off and headed toward an assembly of buildings that, judging by the shading of the sky, Hiccup guessed were southwest. Maybe. He and his remaining two handlers went due west, relative to the buildings.

"Y'know, it's kinda homey around here. I could get used to this fireproof gray feel," Hiccup joked. His humor was rewarded with a shove just barely shy of knocking him face-first onto the ground. The rest of the journey he took in silence.

After passing up and over another narrow path, Hiccup, the sleepyhead and the leftover axe-wielding guard approached a small hut of metal bars and stone. Inside, Hiccup could see tools and metal in various stages of refinement and wear.

In front of the hut's door -- which looked like a cell door hastily affixed to the metal lattice making up the structure of the hut -- stood Alvin and Savage.

"Alvin! Nice place you have here," Hiccup quipped once he thought he was close enough his guards wouldn't try anything that could cause him harm.

“Up and at ‘em boy! I've a tribe to run; I can't spend all day babysitting my newest prisoner!” The sleepyhead jerked Hiccup to a stop right in front of Alvin. “Sludgefinger, where’s the lad’s journal?”

“Th- the what?” the sleepyhead guard stammered.

“Oh for Thor’s-- Imbeciles!” Alvin grabbed Hiccup by the vest, pulling him forward and savagely going through his inside pockets. It took him only a moment to find the book.

Hiccup stumbled back as Alvin began leafing through the pages. The scrawny Viking nearly bumped into sleepyhead. “What-- Why do you have so much against writing?” the scrawny Viking complained.

“Savage! I told you he wasn't going to try anything like that! There’s nothing in here but a sappy diary entry and designs for a… Ooh, I like this.”

Hiccup stared up in confusion. What were they expecting me to put in the journal?

“A- Alvin, I thought I suggested that he didn't know any--”

“Y’ thought wrong!” Alvin snapped.

“Y- yes sir. Of course sir.”

Alvin pushed the journal into Hiccup’s hands. The boy rolled his eyes as he put the book away. “Could someone at least acknowledge I’m speaking Norse? I feel seriously ignored.”

Alvin lifted Hiccup off the ground by his vest, thrusting him through the haphazardly constructed door and into the dark smithy. He stumbled over the threshold, sprawling onto the ground next to the anvil.

“A dragon slaying weapon, Hiccup! Or you’re going to wish I threw you overboard!”

Alvin and Savage left, taking sleepyhead with them. The remaining axe-wielding guard took up residence by the door, watching Hiccup's every movement.

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever you say,” Hiccup muttered.



So I was in the forge-hut, freezing my fingers and toes off, and I discovered the Outcasts hadn’t left the forge lit for me. After some searching, I found some Loki wood and some lighting-flint. (No steel knuckles to go with it, though. Seriously, who has lighting flint without the steel?)

Using my vest as a mask (to keep the Loki wood’s fumes out of my lungs) and a hammer as the steel, I managed to light the coals of the forge. (The heat was so welcome. You have no idea.)

Of course, then I realized with Loki wood as the only available wood, the bola launcher design I made back on Berk wouldn’t work, pretty much at all. Loki wood is weak, inflexible, and when burned makes pretty toxic fumes (hence my vest-mask earlier.)

So that spawned the last five or so pages of scrawled designs. I’m just glad the mechanism that spun the bola as it was fired was all metal gears: that part took me ages to design back on Berk. I’d probably be dead by now if I had to reinvent it. Everything else I pretty much just made into a mounted crossbow, built around the launcher’s barrel.

I used some metal with a number of bends in it (sorta like a spring, but with bends rather than coils) to replace the boughs making the tensile force. I was barely, with all of my strength, able to pull it back to load it, so the Outcasts (or any other Viking) should have no trouble.

Also had to scrap my little wheelbarrow cart. Too much work to make that out of metal. I replaced it with just a flat-ish base of two crossed metal bars, leading up into a multi-bearinged omnidirectional mount thing I came up with for mounted crossbows, back before I realized none of the other Vikings cared for mounted weapons smaller than a yak.

Wait, why am I describing this all again? You could just flip back a page to see the design. Go on, the text I’m writing will wait.

Done? Great. Glad you cared enough to look.

Before Alvin would even let me out of the forge-hut/cage I had to fire it a couple times, to prove I didn’t put traps in it or something. (Really?) He was pleased with my work, mostly because the metal replacements for the wood boughs I would’ve used on Berk gave it a draw strength that could throw bolas farther and faster than most (all? Pretty sure I beat literally any human thrower with this) Vikings could. (Besting Vikings at something is the only way to get any respect from them…)

So Alvin was happy (not that you couldn’t tell from this entry’s existence) and he even deigned to give me food before throwing me in the cell. That was nice. It was some kind of cod-slop, though. I don’t think I’ll ever like cod again. I'm not even sure they cooked it.

Right, so, I mentioned besting a Viking is the only way to get respect? I have this idea for getting out of here, or, at least, earning some more freedom. Today, when working on the tiny components for the spin-the-bola bit of the launcher, I made some lockpi--

Hold on, I think I hear something outside.

The sky is flickering and there’s roaring. I think-- It has to be a dragon raid. I guess I should be thankful for my canyon prison now; there is no chance of those things coming down here. It would be too much work for them.

I hope.

I’m going to try to sleep.


Alvin pushed through the crowd of Vikings gathered around the arena’s metal netting, toward his prize. His face hurt like he’d been struck by a dragon’s claw, but by Thor, it was going to be worth it. There was only one dragon he could've hit with that launcher, the only dragon never to be downed by Viking hands before: A Night F--

“What the Hel is this?” he roared, tearing the tattered remains of a tiny wing off of a chain limply hanging over a hole in the metal net. “Where’s the dragon? What’s this hole for? You didn't let it get away, did you all? What are you all staring… at…”

The first rays of sunlight -- streaming in from the horizon under the cover of the clouds near-perpetually coating Outcast Island -- illuminated the sleek black dragon lying unconscious on the far side of the arena. As Alvin watched, he saw its chest rise and fall, despite the bola pinning its four legs and two large wings.

“By Thor, it’s alive! Patch this hole! Savage, we’re going to go down there and--”

“B- But sir!” Savage stammered.

“But what?” Alvin asked, rounding on him.

“Well, sir, a Monstrous Nightmare can set itself on fire! I'm not really sure I want to find out first-hand what a Night Fury can do in close quarters…”

Alvin considered this. Nobody had ever seen a Night Fury and lived to tell the tale. Maybe there was a reason for that. “Fine. You lot, patch this hole. I'm going to have a talk with a particular Hiccup about his latest… hiccup.” His hand went to stroke his beard, once again finding the missing space.

The Outcasts in the crowd grumbled but set to work getting some metal from the village to the southwest.



The dragon raid is over. I think the silence woke me up.

I suppose I should be thankful, gives me an early start on whatever I’m building (or rebuilding, or repairing) for Alv-

Someone’s com-



Hiccup shut his new journal on his pencil, stuffing both into his vest. Just as he scrambled to his feet, the Outcast chief came into view, flanked by a nervous looking Savage.

“Al- Alvin! Hi, Alvin. Hi Alvin. Wha-what are you doing here at this time of the morning? It is morning, right?” Hiccup stammered, embarrassed at how easily his fear shone through his attempted nonchalance. The Outcast chief turned to face Hiccup and the scrawny Viking sucked in his breath. The right side of the chief’s beard had been shorn off -- quite painfully, it appeared.

“That contraption of yours needs a bit of work!” Alvin bellowed, “Look wha’ it did to my beautiful beard!”

Hiccup fidgeted where he stood, unsure of what to do with any part of his body and wanting to be anywhere but in that cell. He tried to stammer out coherent words in reply, “Wha-- How? What part of the-?”

He was interrupted by low laughter, which quickly evolved into roaring guffaws coming from the Outcast chief. After almost a minute of this, the chief calmed down enough to speak, “See Savage? Wha’ did I tell ya’? Boy didn’t have a clue he’d built it too short.” He gave his second-in-command a clap on the back, which sent the slightly-smaller Outcast stumbling.

If Hiccup hadn’t been petrified with fear, he would’ve slapped himself. He’d built the metal bola launcher to his height, just like the one back on Berk. Even the Outcast chief, Alvin -- who was slightly hunched over for a Viking of his tribe and strength -- was half Hiccup’s height taller. Any full-size Viking trying to use the launcher would have to hunch over to aim it, and that would put their facial hair dangerously close to getting caught in the rope that propelled the projectile!

“Still, sir, a lapse in judgment like this shouldn’t go unpunished?” Savage questioned of his superior.

Alvin rubbed what remained of his beard thoughtfully while Hiccup stopped breathing. “Yes, I suppose it shouldn’t. And I have just the solution!”

If it were possible, Hiccup would’ve become even more stock still. As it was, he continued mimicking a statue as Alvin entered his cell and grabbed him by the shoulders, then let himself be led out by the Viking many times his strength.

The entourage turned right, leaving behind the relative safety of Hiccup’s cell. It wasn’t long before their progress was blocked by a large iron door built into a rock wall that blocked the canyon. Just next to the door, a pathway led up and away. The door was solid metal, excluding a viewport partway up at about Alvin’s eye level.

“Wha-- Where--” Hiccup wasn't sure which question to ask first. “What are you going to do with me?”

Alvin gave a low chuckle, one that scared Hiccup much more than any of his threats in the last few days. “Other than the little facial hair issue,” he said, “your lil’ device worked perfectly.” He switched topics, seemingly at random. “Tell me, boy, what’s the one dragon no-one’s ever seen? The one that never steals food, never shows itself, and never misses?”

Hiccup knew that wording: he’d written it into his previous journal -- still in Alvin’s possession -- only a day or two before Snotlout had pushed him off that cliff. He also knew exactly the dragon Alvin was talking about. “A Night Fury,” he breathed, putting two and two together.

“Now you’re gettin’ it boy! So, why would I bring a little, expendable ,” Alvin emphasized the word and Hiccup paled, “runt like you to an iron door that just so happens to lead to our dragon fightin’ arena?”

Hiccup could assume what Alvin was getting at. Well, he thought so. On the other side of that door was probably the Night Fury, ready to tear up any nearby humans. However, there was one part of Alvin’s statement that didn’t make sense…

“W-wait, I’m expendable?” Hiccup stammered.

“Sure you’ve got that mechanical genius, but your journal here shows most of your designs are more trouble than they’re worth. Since you managed to almost create an accident-free device, I think that’s probably the best I’m gonna get from ya’. So, instead of any more blacksmithin’, I’ll just have you do simple and incredibly dangerous tasks like this one.”

Alvin’s explanation left Hiccup stunned. They were thanking him with a death sentence!

“Righ’! Tha’s enough chit-chat. I think it's time for you to take care of our dragon-sized problem…” As Alvin trailed off, he handed Hiccup a tiny dagger -- his hunting dagger. It had been in his vest on the ship; he hadn’t even thought about it since ending up on Outcast Island.

His hand closed around the dagger’s handle and before he could blink he was shoved through the door, which slammed closed behind him. He heard metal-on-metal grating and looked back to find Alvin and Savage looking through the viewport. Alvin said something; Hiccup didn’t catch most of it, but he was pretty sure it ended with, “ a boy.”

He swallowed air, Adam’s apple bobbing. Thor, please don't kill me yet. I just want to go home!


Magic is Real

Chapter Notes

Chapter 2 : Magic is Real


Hiccup looked around the arena. The sky was blocked off by a spiderweb of rusted metal spars. One area near the top looked very recently (and very hastily) to have been patched over. All around, rock walls rose to at least three times his height. Across the stone arena, a sleek, black dragon of a kind he’d never seen before lay tangled in the ropes of a bola -- one of his bolas.

“Oh my Gods, it worked!” he exclaimed, jogging over excitedly. It really had worked; it had done even better than he’d anticipated. The bola had caught more than just the wings of the dragon, its legs were pressed into its belly too. It wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. “Oh, this- this is amazing!” He paused an arms’ length away, looking the reptile up and down. “Just think if my dad was here to see this…”

But he’s not. Nor will he be. Ever.

The errant thought stopped Hiccup cold. He wasn't on Berk. This wasn't the kill ring. His dad wasn't watching. This was Outcast Island: Alvin the Treacherous was watching, ready to kill him if he failed.

The dragon’s eyes snapped open, focusing immediately on his left hand. Hiccup stumbled back as it thrashed, trying to free itself from the tight ropes. The scrawny Viking landed hard on his rear, three paces from the creature. Dimly, he registered guffaws emanating from where the door sat in the wall.

Its thrashing slowed, then stopped, as it recognized the futility of its actions. Its eye, the one visible from where Hiccup sat, turned to look at his face. He saw an emotion there he had felt so often but never seen in another living being: Fear.

It was afraid of him .

“I did this.” The quiet thought slipped out before he could think it through. Once the words left his mouth, though, the idea took ahold of his mind and wouldn't let go. Sure he didn't fire the bola launcher, but he built it, for the Outcasts-- the Outcasts, a tribe of criminals and scumbags. And he built them a weapon capable of this.

He looked back at the door. A small crowd of Vikings had assembled on the far rim of the arena, looking down at Hiccup and snickering as he sat before the bound Night Fury.

He looked back at the dragon. The beast looked back, its pupil a slit. A low note hummed from its throat, at once both sad and terrified.

“Ah, Hel. They’ll probably kill me if it doesn't,” he reasoned quietly to himself, “Not like I’m much of a Viking anyway.”

Before he could begin to second-guess his awful plan, Hiccup began to saw through the dragon’s bindings with the dagger.

“Oi! What d’ya think you’re--” Alvin began to roar. Hiccup didn’t get to hear him finish. As the last rope broke, the dragon pounced on him. The sudden motion -- both of the rope breaking and the dragon’s attack -- tore the knife from his hand and left it clattering harmlessly on the ground as Hiccup fell backward under the dragon’s paw.

Faster than Hiccup’s heart could take another beat, he was lying on his back, stone ground digging into his shoulderblades. His ribcage screamed in protest at the sudden weight. The dragon was atop him, holding him down with a paw on his chest, its claws on either side of his neck, its toxic green orbs boring into his own. Hiccup closed his eyes. This was it, this was how he’d end. Not in some battle protecting Berk, not from one of Snotlout’s stupid pranks. (Though maybe this qualified, indirectly?)

Outcast Island, in an arena, freeing a dragon.

Well, at least it’ll be quick, whenever this dragon decides--


Hiccup came to groggily. He was lying on his back, on stone. His head was pressed awkwardly up against a stone wall. Above him, the iron bars of the Outcast’s arena covered portions of a cloudy sky. He sat up slowly, mindful of his spinning senses and sore spine.

On the other side of the arena, dozens of Vikings wrestled a black form to the ground. A scorch mark scarred the ground near the mass of Outcasts. One Outcast, with half a beard and a larger horned helm than the others, raised a rugged, dull, overused ax over his head. The Viking’s name was Alvin, Hiccup’s groggy mind recalled. Ax… dragon… Alvin…

Alvin was preparing to kill the Night Fury!

“Don’t.” Hiccup tried to shout, but it came out only as a whisper. He took a deeper breath and tried again, “No!”

Everyone in the arena froze -- even the dragon. His shout echoed off the stone walls in the silent space for a few seconds. Alvin turned to look at Hiccup, his axe-arm relaxing.

“The Night Fury didn’t kill the boy sir!” one of the Vikings shouted in surprise.

Alvin whacked the speaker over the helmet with the flat of his ax. “I don’t feed you ta state the obvious! Tie up that dragon, but don’t kill it! We might have more visitors from Berk than we thought.”

Alvin marched across the arena, hauling Hiccup off the ground and into the air by the front of his vest. Meanwhile, some of the Vikings holding down the dragon ran off, only to return with chains which they used to tie down the once-again struggling dragon.

Alvin shook Hiccup, dizzying the still groggy boy. “Who’s the dragon?” he spat into Hiccup’s face.

Hiccup gave the Outcast leader a blank look. Had the guy finally lost it or did Hiccup hit his head harder than he thought? “I- I don’t know--”

Hiccup’s face’s expression of confusion morphed to one of pain as Alvin dropped him back to the cold stone. The Outcast stood over him intimidatingly and spoke again, “Do you take me for a fool, Hiccup? I’ve seen that kind of magic before -- the kind that turns men into dragons, living weapons! You’re a smart boy, you wouldn’t ’ave freed that dragon unless you knew it wouldn’ta hurt ya’. So I’ll ask ya’ again: Who. Is. That. Dragon?”

Who? Dragon? Dragons are people? What? “I don’t know!” Hiccup wailed, curling in on himself.

“Don’t play games with me Hiccup. We shot down that dragon with your launcher design and it crashed itself spot-on in our arena. Then I send my expendable runt in to deal with it and said runt frees the dragon .” The Outcast chief leaned in, looking even more intimidating. “I know enough not ta’ believe in coincidences.”

Hiccup pulled into a tighter ball, tears staining the dirt crusting on his leggings.

Another Outcast walked up behind Alvin and tapped him lightly on the shoulder guard. “Uhh… sir, we’ve secured the Night Fury. Also, sir, with all due respect, of course, I don’t think Hiccup, sir, had met the Night Fury previously or had any information about that, er, magic, sir. It might’ve been that he no longer wished to be under our… employ.”

“So, what, you’re saying he was trying to get himself killed?” Alvin considered, stroking what remained of his beard.

“Well, yes, sir. That would seem to be the way of it. Sir.”

The Outcast chief grunted, “I still don’t like it. Seems a little too lucky to me, that a dragon woulda’ just decided not to kill ‘im. Fetch me a candle and that book we got, the one from that one girl .”

Alvin spoke the pronoun with venom as if the girl had caused him a lot of trouble in the past. As Hiccup continued quietly bawling on the ground, some small part of his mind wondered what this girl had done to earn a grudge from the chief of the Outcasts.

Savage began crossing the arena, toward the entrance door. “Send everyone else away too!” Alvin shouted after him, “If this works, I don’t want any of them around.”

Savage returned not a minute later with an unlit wax candle and a small, worn, leather-bound journal, along with two crossbows. Alvin took the journal and opened it, flipping through to some early page. Savage, meanwhile, set the candle in front of Hiccup, then retreated a good distance -- as if afraid of the book’s effects.

Alvin dropped the book in front of Hiccup, between the scrawny Viking and the candle. Hiccup, who’d calmed somewhat, blinked away the tears and attempted to read the page. The left-hand page had Norse, which seemed generally like gibberish. Many words seemed made-up as Hiccup couldn’t think of anything their letters could possibly be trying to spell out. Those he could read were arranged nonsensically, forming meaningless lines with random indentation rather than clear paragraphs. The page on the right had a large circle, filled in with circles, short vertical lines and even shorter horizontal dashes. He couldn’t make heads nor tails of any of it.

He looked up and found Alvin had retreated to the same distance as Savage, roughly halfway across the arena. Both Outcasts now held crossbows and had them aimed across the arena at Hiccup. “Alrigh’ boy! You’re goin’ ta’ stare at tha’ candle, then touch the circle on the right-hand page. Refuse and we’ll shoot ya’!”

Hiccup sniffed and blinked away another tear. This whole thing seemed crazy. What could this possibly accomplish? Sure there were flying, fire-breathing reptiles, but this didn't make any sense!

“Well?” the Outcast chief questioned.

“This- this is crazy!” Hiccup whined.

“Oh, really? How did you think I felt when that--” Alvin cut himself off with a growl. “Just touch the damn rune, boy!”

He looked down at the book. Rune? What the Hel is Alvin on about? Deciding to play along for his own life’s sake, he looked at the candle’s wick, reached out, and touched the edge of the circle on the page with a finger.

Then he blinked hard, as suddenly the candle burst into a merry little flame. He pulled his hand away from the book and the candle continued to provide light, sputtering a little in the wind.

“Stoick’s Shirtless Son Slings Spells!” Savage shouted. His words were followed by a metal clang, which Hiccup discovered was from Alvin whacking Savage over the helmet with his crossbow. Alvin’s second-in-command slumped to the ground, unconscious.

“I don't feed you for alliteration,” Alvin grumbled, tossing his crossbow to the ground. He marched over to Hiccup, snatched up the book, and began flipping through to a different page.

“Wh- what?” Hiccup said, voice raspy from his earlier breakdown.

Alvin found the page he was looking for and dropped the book by Hiccup again, this time between the boy and Savage. “Magic, Hiccup. Magic. Ya’ just became very useful ta’ me. Far more than this ol’ joke of a second-in-command, at least in this form.”

Hiccup blinked, trying to process Alvin’s words. ‘In this form’... did he mean-? Hiccup remembered Alvin’s words from earlier, when the Outcast chief was interrogating him: “[magic] that turns men into dragons, living weapons!” The Outcast chief couldn’t be suggesting that he would…

Alvin drew his ax, holding it threateningly ready to strike. “Lets us not make this harder than it has to be, Hiccup. You’re gonna cast this spell on Savage and I’m gonna have me a new scaly friend.”

Hiccup was aghast. A leader that would turn his own men into beasts -- without their consent no less! “N-no!” he strangled out, crawling backward toward the wall of the arena.

Alvin growled and prepared to strike Hiccup with the ax, then seemed to remember that Hiccup was the one with the ability to activate the book’s magics. He looked around as if searching for something to threaten Hiccup with. The scrawny Viking took comfort in the fact that there was probably nothing here he cared about, that he could be threatened with.

Then Alvin started walking off toward the Night Fury.

It was a dragon . Hiccup didn’t know it. Even if it was at some point a person, (which they had no proof of,) why would he care? Forcing a transformation on someone was wrong. Really wrong. The life of a dragon was worth that, right?

Alvin held the ax threateningly over the chained-and-muzzled dragon’s neck, then looked back at Hiccup with an evil grin. Hiccup looked on in abject terror. “We both know wha’ I’m gonna say, Hiccup. Now would be a good time.”

Hiccup gulped air. A Night Fury, a dragon he didn’t know or one of their (his and its) captors. The choice should be easy -- given the chance to kill a captor with no consequences, go for it.

But transforming someone -- changing their species -- was so wrong .

Alvin raised the ax higher. Hiccup jumped forward to the book and slapped his hand down on the right-hand page, staring at Savage.

Nothing happened. He’d expected blood, scales, perhaps even Savage waking up and screaming in pain.

Hiccup was met with silence.

“Well?” Alvin asked, ax poised to drop.

“I-I’m trying!” Hiccup said. He looked down at the book, then back up at Savage. He slapped the symbol a couple more times, smudging the charcoal marks, but nothing happened.

Alvin gave a roar of frustration and threw his ax toward a wall of the arena. It bounced off the wall, emitting a few sparks, then clattered to the ground. The Outcast chief marched across the arena and grabbed Hiccup’s hair, pointing his head at Savage. With another massive hand, he enveloped Hiccup’s arm and slapped the boy’s hand into the book’s symbol two or three times. Nothing happened.

He shoved Hiccup’s head down, stretching his neck. Hiccup cried out at the rough treatment, as his head was forced to look down at his own chest. He felt his hand slap into the page a couple more times.


Alvin switched hands, walking around Hiccup so that the boy was staring up at the chief’s own torso. Hiccup’s hand slapped into the book. Nothing happened. Alvin gave a cry of fury and threw Hiccup backward, leaving the boy sprawled out on the ground.

He walked over to Savage and gave his second-in-command a sharp kick to just below the ribs. Savage woke up and curled in on his midsection, groaning at the abuse. “It didn’t work,” Alvin growled at Savage, “Lock the boy back up and get that book outta my sight. I’m done dealin’ with magic today.”

The Outcast chief stomped out of the arena, slamming the iron door behind himself. His second groaned again and rolled slowly to his feet.

Hiccup slumped back to the ground. Magic. What creation of Loki was his life becoming now?



Magic is real. I think.

Alvin dragged me off to have me kill a Night Fury for him. An actual Night Fury he shot down with my bola launcher. I-

I set it loose.

I don't know what happened next, exactly, but when I woke up Alvin was about to kill the dragon. He stopped when he saw I was alive, then started going on about magic.


He forced me to use a book he got off some girl he hated (don't know why…) to light a candle from five or so paces away. Just touched the book and poof, the candle burst into flame. Then he--

Alvin forced me to try to turn Savage into a dragon. By some grace of the Gods, nothing happened. Thank Thor. I don't know… How would I live with myself if I did that to someone? Worse, Alvin forced me to try the magic on myself, and on him!

Savage put me back in my cell. Looking at the grooves on the walls -- like clawmarks -- I have to wonder if the girl he dislikes so much… succeeded where I failed. I hope not, for her sake. I mean, if she did become a dragon, she’s probably dead now.

Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? Any of this?

Burning down Berk all the time doesn’t count: that’s the fault of Loki and happenstance. I mean what did I do.

This is so… Gods, I don't want this.

I’m going to focus on escaping. Freeing the Night Fury again seems like a pretty good plan right now, as far as my plans go. Which is to say, I'm going to get myself killed.

I hope that's all that happens.


Hiccup shut his journal and looked up at the stone wall across from him. On the wall, claw marks cut deep into the stone. It was the only sign of another prisoner he’d seen. Or, he hoped, it wasn’t a sign of another prisoner. Shaking his head, he opened the back cover of his journal.

He picked at the edge of the leather binding until he found the tiny pocket he’d cut into it. Inside, he felt the lockpicking knife and pick he’d fashioned in the forge the day before. He withdrew both, then went to his cell door and looked up and down the canyon. To his left, snores echoed from wherever that sleepyhead guard liked to rest.

Hiccup inserted the lockpicking knife and pick into the door’s lock, reaching through the bars. Gobber had shown him how to open locks pretty early on in his smithing apprenticeship, as it was something someone of Hiccup’s stature could do without difficulty or very much effort.

He hadn’t exactly been good at it, though.

The second pin was stuck pretty well, rusted from the elements, and Hiccup leaned his weight on the door to move it. He stumbled forward as the door came open suddenly. The door hadn’t even been locked! Stupid Outcasts.

Frowning, Hiccup removed his lock picking tools and stepped out, putting his tools in his vest pocket. He examined the lock. The bolt inside -- the part sliding into the wall to keep the door shut -- was shorn in half. It must have been that way the whole time he was kept there too. Quietly, he eased the rusty door shut then moved up the canyon toward the arena in the far north. Nobody stopped him.

He arrived at the iron door and found it held shut by a drop bar and a simple, lockless latch. With no small amount of effort, he lifted the metal bar off the door and set it -- quietly -- on the ground. Then he opened the latch and pulled on the door. It barely budged. He pulled harder, and it slowly ground its way open, hinges growling from rust the whole time.

Then he was in the arena with the Night Fury. He moved over to it quickly and its great green orbs flicked open, locking on to him. “Shh, shh, I’m here to get us out of here,” Hiccup whispered to the dragon.

It made a noise that might’ve sounded like, “Coo,” if its mouth hadn’t been held shut by an iron band. Hiccup felt the muzzle and found a latch on the right side, which he undid. It popped off in his hands, and the dragon yawned, teeth glinting in the low light. Hiccup set the muzzle quietly on the ground. As he turned back to the dragon, he found it looking at a shackle on its leg with its mouth glowing.

“Wait wait wait wait!” Hiccup whispered quickly. The dragon paused, letting its fire die out. “We can’t burn them off with your fire, that’d be too loud!” Hiccup hadn’t heard its distinctive charging shriek while he was setting down the muzzle, but he figured he’d rather be safe than roasted by a small explosion.

The dragon gave him a blank look. Hiccup took advantage of the silence to feel around the shackles on the legs. As it turned out, they were the same kind Vikings used on their human prisoners. Hiccup chuckled at the mental image of a Viking comparing his arm size with a dragon’s foreleg. He withdrew his lockpicking pick from his pocket and jammed it into the lock. The pick pressed on the one pin inside and the shackle popped off, clinking on the stone ground. Hiccup repeated the process on the other three shackles.

The dragon stretched its legs, then shook out of the chain wrapped around its wings, which had been tied to the now-released leg shackles. Hiccup moved back to the door and beckoned the dragon over. After a bit more stretching its cramped muscles, it followed him. The door was just large enough to fit the dragon without complaint, though the Night Fury did have to push the iron blockade open further, leading to more grinding from its ancient hinges.

Once they were back in that small canyon between his cell and the arena, Hiccup paused. He didn’t really have a plan other than to free the Night Fury again. “Well, I didn’t think this through,” he muttered.

Hiccup nearly jumped when he heard the shouting echoing up the canyon. Loki-damned timing, they’d noticed his absence! He looked to his right, up the ramp next to the arena. “C’mon, this way!” he whisper-shouted to his scaly ally, who moved to follow him. Together, they began to run up and out of the canyon.

They made it to the top of the ramp without being spotted. Hiccup stopped, looking around the arena’s rim and searching for some way out. The canyon’s walls were widened and rounded for the arena but narrowed back above the viewing area. To his dismay, he discovered the canyon did not continue further north, instead coming to an abrupt end on the arena’s north side.

Hiccup looked back at the gate at a clatter of armor. The group of Outcasts stumbled to a halt, staring at the open arena door.

“Oh, I did not think this through!” Hiccup moaned. The dragon rumbled, narrowing its eyes at him. “What?”

The Outcast prison guards at the arena gate heard him and began to raise the alarm.
“There he is!”
“He’s got that dragon with ‘im!” Their armor’s clanking echoed off the ramp as they gave chase.

“I'm sorry… uhh… dragon. This is all my fau-- AAAAAH!” he began to whisper. The apology ended in a loud cry of alarm, as jaws clamped down around his torso. “Wha- w- what are you doing?!” Hiccup nearly shouted as his feet left the ground.

To his surprise, Hiccup noticed that he was not dead or dying, despite having a dragon’s jaws clamped down on the right side of his torso. Rather, he was lying limply in the dragon’s mouth, parallel to the ground as it ran up one of the arena’s supports. He couldn’t even feel its teeth!

“They’re gettin’ away!” shouted one of the guards, “I’m goin’ to fetch Alvin!”

“No,” cut in another guard, “He’s gonna be pissed at the people tha’ stay behind because we didn’t catch ‘im! I’m gonna tell Alvin!”

The Night Fury leaped into the air, and with a flap managed to crest the cliffside of the canyon edge around the arena. They landed heavily on the edge, the dragon’s left hind leg scrabbling at empty air for purchase. Once it was safely over the top, it took off running again, headed (by Hiccup’s estimate) northwest.

The guards’ squabble was lost in the background, as Hiccup and the Night Fury escaped into the jagged foothills of Outcast Island. As he lay in the dragon’s mouth, Hiccup tried to ignore the sensation of saliva dripping down the right side of his torso and vest. Once they were more than five-hundred (human) paces from the canyon, he decided to speak up. “Th- thanks.”

The dragon, unsurprisingly, ignored him. He sighed. At least the dragon was helping him escape, even if it wasn’t giving him much of a choice in the matter. He took another long breath to steady his nerves and realized with a start that he was being gripped on only two semicircles by the jaws: the lips and the gums. The teeth were just gone . The two began to near the sea-cliffs on the edge of the island, but Hiccup was more focused on the dragon’s lack of teeth. Where did they go? Was a Night Fury like… uhh… which dragon was that? The dragon that could leave its teeth behind? If so, the Night Fury must trust him a lot to have abandoned its teeth to carry him.

He thought about that for a bit. The dragon was pretty nice, once he got to know him. Him . Hiccup had used a gendered pronoun for the dragon. That said a lot for how much he’d decided to trust the dragon, as well. Any Viking on Berk wouldn’t be caught dead using “him” or “her” to describe a dragon, instead using names like “beastie,” “devil,” or “monster.” But this dragon was friendly, protective, trustworthy and -- dare he say it -- honorable. He deserved some kind of recognition for it, like a name. Something that described his nature…

“Toothless, I could’ve sworn you had- OH THOR AND ODIN ABOVE!” Hiccup began to speak some of his thoughts aloud but was cut off as “Toothless” -- as he’d decided to call the dragon -- leaped off one of the sea cliffs and took flight. Hiccup shouted in terror as the Night Fury flapped, and began banking hard toward the left. His terrified cries only got even louder and more frequent as, much to his chagrin, the Night Fury didn’t pull out of the bank and instead seemed to tumble toward the water.

Then he saw it. Half the Night Fury’s tailfin was missing, or so he assumed. One fin sticking out to the right of his tail flapped wildly, attempting to correct their flight path. The left side had no fin, only a scabbed-over scar. Toothless had been shot down by his bola launcher. The only explanation for the damage to the tail was his weapon, built for the Outcasts.

I did this. I doomed us both . Hiccup thought, as the two of them splashed into the stormy, freezing sea.


He was aware of cold. So, so much cold. It wrapped around him like a blanket, hugging his chest like a wet vest. It gripped his lungs like a vice, trapping the air, keeping him from breathing.

Then something prodded him in the chest, hard. His lungs convulsed, and the cold lost its grip for a moment, and all in a rush the air began to escape. But it wasn’t air! He felt the gurgling sensation rise up his windpipe, felt the burning wrongness of the liquid in his throat, flowing out over his lips.

He had lips, a head, liquid in his lungs… pressure on the back of his head. He was on his back?

Another push at his chest. More water bubbled out of his lungs. Something was wrong with his position -- keeping the water in his lungs. But what? He was so tired, his eyes were already closed, maybe he could just drift off and…

Drowning . The thought flitted through his mind and he realized what was wrong with his position. With what felt like all the strength he’d ever mustered, he turned his head to the side.

The dam burst. His lungs convulsed on their own and the water came spurting out of his nose and mouth. He gagged on the liquid, then took a gurgling breath. Air entered his lungs. He was alive!

His eyes fluttered open and found a pair of incredibly concerned toxic green orbs filling his vision. “Tooth- less,” he gasped. His words were followed by more coughing. Another half-mug of water found its way onto the stone, next to where he lay.

He looked around. The two of them were in a cave and outside he could hear the crashing of water against cliffs. They were in sea caves, somewhere. Since Toothless couldn’t fly, as evidenced by their crash into the ocean, they were probably still on Outcast Island. A sea cave somewhere on Outcast Island. That made sense.

He coughed a few more times, the convulsions followed by a bit more water splattering onto the ground. Toothless gave a concerned coo, but Hiccup waved the dragon’s worry away. He wasn’t sure if the dragon understood his gestures, but if he didn't then it wasn’t like Norse would help. He coughed a bit more then slowly, achingly, sat up. He was freezing , he noted detachedly. He was still dripping wet, and the light breeze coming into the cave from the ocean outside wasn’t helping with keeping his temperature up.

On top of the environmental cold, he was still wearing his sopping wet fur vest and leggings. He quickly shrugged out of the former, shoving it toward the cave wall opposite Toothless. After a quick glance at the dragon, who was staring curiously back, he decided to keep his pants on. Sure it was a dragon, but with all the intelligence he had shown so far, Hiccup felt the odd need to preserve his privacy. Now that sensation was returning to his body, he began to shiver violently. He was so cold .

Toothless circled around behind him, then set himself down behind Hiccup’s back. His head, now on Hiccup’s left, looked down with evident concern. Cautiously, Hiccup lay back against the dragon’s scaly belly. A sigh of delight escaped him. The dragon was warm . Meanwhile, the dragon prodded the fur vest with his snout, then recoiled -- likely from the temperature. That thing had to have been as cold as the ocean water outside, if not colder.

Hiccup felt a leathery membrane descend over him. He followed it up over his shoulder to where it connected to a scaly joint. Toothless was protecting him with his wing, letting him use it as a blanket.

His mind turned to darker thoughts. Why was the dragon being so nice to him? It was his fault the reptile was in this mess, he’d…

Oh, Gods. His bola launcher had taken off the dragon’s tailfin. It was all his fault the dragon couldn’t fly.

I did this.

His thoughts began to jumble together. He couldn’t have been more selfish if he’d tried. He was doomed back on Berk; nobody as small as him could run the forge on their own. Without Gobber, he’d be out of a job. Nobody who’s incapable of work lives long in a Viking village.

Then he got thrown off the sea-cliffs and captured by Outcasts. A real Viking would’ve told Alvin to “go to Hel!” and accepted the coming gutting and slow agonizing trip to Valhalla. Instead, Hiccup pleaded for his life and built them a weapon .

And that weapon…

I did this .

Now their escape attempt was ruined. What were a kid and a flightless dragon going to do on a rocky island full of angry Outcasts? He couldn’t just let himself die, no, he had to go and drag that dragon into it too.

I did this .

Now, that dragon was being nice to him, sheltering him, for what? He’d doomed them both. It was all his fault. He didn’t deserve the dragon’s kindness.

IdidthisIdidthisIdidthisI --

Hiccup shoved the dragon’s wing away, half falling and half crawling his way away from his concerned-looking scaly friend. Sobs wracked his small frame.

He didn’t deserve this kind of treatment. This whole predicament was his fault!

He curled up against the cold rock of the cavern floor, letting sharp pebbles bite into his shoulder as he let more tears flow. He welcomed the cold. He should’ve just died back at the sea cliffs on Berk. Toothless should still be in the sky, flying around and doing dragon-ey things. Instead, the Night Fury was forced to cower in a cave with him of all people -- the person who’d hurt it so much. Hiccup was so Loki-damned selfish. Why couldn’t anyone just let him die?

A claw gripped his shoulder and dragged him a pace or so from the wall of the cave. Before he could react, a massive, warm weight dropped atop him, pinning him there facedown.

Toothless was holding him down and forcing him to warm up! Hiccup wasn’t okay with this, but against several times a yak’s weight in scaly, fire-breathing reptile, he didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. He was upset, for a while. He didn’t deserve kind treatment! He did this to the dragon! We're both trapped here, and it’s all my fault!

But soon, the comforting warmth that Toothless’ body radiated began to lull him to sleep, and it wasn’t long before unconsciousness claimed him.


Chapter End Notes

No, Alvin’s grudge isn't against an OC. Rather, a character we all know and love is stirring up trouble a lot earlier, because her father never sent her away to grow up elsewhere.
Oh yes. It’s that character all you people who watched RTTE Season 1 are thinking of.
However, she’s a very minor character until somewhere in the sequels, apart from her having left that magic book on Outcast Island.
I hope you’re all enjoying this so far! Next time, some Toothless perspective!

The Scales of the Situation

Chapter Notes

Chapter 3 : The Scales of the Situation


She was here, Her voice humming through us all. She wasn’t really with us on the human-settled island of rock, but Her influence remained. Her influence guided. Her beautiful influence ordered.

The others flitted this way and that in the flickering light of fire, human- and dragon-made alike. Stonetails used balls of lava or their own rock-like bodies to bash holes in Viking structures. Preenscales fired venomous spines into the gaps, taking the defenders within by surprise. If there was no food stored inside, Twinheads filled the structure with gas and detonated it, killing any of the foul humans within.

If there was food… Her voice did not discriminate as to who would bring it back -- only that we must bring it. If there was food within the human structures, sometimes dragons would lose sight of friends and foes, clawing scale and human flesh alike to retrieve that which She desired.

I avoided the food and the fights on the ground. That wasn't my place. My place was with the Flamescales, though I performed their task differently. The Flamescales She tasked with decimating the strange contraptions that throw large chunks of stone. The Flamescales destroyed them by climbing upon them, killing the defending humans and lighting themselves aflame.

Me? I destroyed those structures as well, but with much more stealth.

I spotted a stone hurtling through the air, just missing a Preenscale who dropped two sheep in surprise. Squawking wordlessly in alarm, she dove after them. I traced the path of the stone back to its source and spotted one of the humans’ contraptions on an outcrop over the ocean. No Flamescales were nearby; I saw most of them dealing with a number of resisting humans on the far side of the human nest.

With a flick of my tail, I spun and dove toward the contraption, a piercing whistle vibrating in the small cavity between my mid-wings and my wings, building as my speed rose. I opened my mouth and let my fires build, a purple glow edging into the bottom of my vision. When the humans at the contraption’s base began bellowing in their strange barks, I let my fires loose. The bolt shot out, splintering the trees of which the contraption was made. With another flick of my tail, I whipped past, my wings opening to catch the air and send me arcing back upwards.

Flight. I couldn't remember a time when I was without it. As far back as I could remember…

My ear plates stood on end and I blinked, the thought gone. Her voice purred in my mind and I remembered what I was thinking about. Flying. That’s what I was doing. I needed to bank around and to take another swoop over this human nest. With a dip of one wing I swept around, passing momentarily between the moon and the human structures.

Sky above, I love this.

There were draconic squawks of alarm coming from near the center of the human structures; the humans had lit a large fire in a raised bowl and were chucking their claws made of mountain-vein at us, stalling our attack. I adjusted my path and dove, aiming spot on for the middle of the leafless human-made tree supporting the fire-bowl. With my signature (beautiful) whistle, I blasted the thing asunder, sending the bowl crashing down into a human structure that quickly caught alight. Even as I arced back up toward the sky I watched several Preenscales and a Twinhead dive into the structure, pulling out the strange woven-branch containers filled with fish kept there.

I heard the clank of a human contraption releasing -- one made primarily of mountain-vein. I snapped my head around quickly, looking for the source. The more mountain-vein the humans used in something, the more dangerous it was. Some of the more mountain-vein-ey contraptions only I could blast apart. This sounded very much like one of those.

I never spotted it. I never had a chance against it. By the time I heard the second sound -- the whooshing of taut vines in the air -- it was too late. Human woven-vines wrapped around me, gripping my wings and pulling them shut. My legs were tangled too, pulled flat against my chest. I squawked in surprise, probably the most undignified sound I had ever made. Now that I thought about it, the first sound I remembered making in a long time with my mouth, apart from the shriek of my fire.

I had no time to ponder that thought, though, as my flight path immediately deteriorated. I had some upward momentum remaining from my swoop at the fire-bowl, but that was quickly expended fighting gravity without the aid of my wings’ lift. I began to fall, the world spinning around me as the ground below grew larger. A piercing shriek filled my ears and it took me a moment to realize it was me -- screaming. Everything spun sickeningly, the black skies blurring with the near-black ground. The only thing I could see clearly was directly ahead, growing larger by the moment. A net of mountain-vein expanded in my vision, filling up everything I could see.

As a last ditch effort to save myself from whatever fate awaited me colliding with that mountain-vein, I let the fires build in my throat and released them, cutting off my shriek of terror. The gasses exploded forward in a final, desperate attempt to do something.

The flash of the shot detonating filled my vision, the crash of whatever I hit breaking combined with that of my body hitting it, the two sounding nearly like one noise. I passed through almost okay. Almost. Just an eighth of a wingbreadth from making it through, something caught on my tail.

I stopped thinking, stopped feeling, then. Everything was pain, like the sky had disappeared and the ground had swallowed me whole. I felt crushed, battered, burned and scraped, every part of me afire with pain. My tail, though, that outpaced everything else in its severity. I didn’t even feel my impact with the stone ground beyond the mountain-vein net. The only sensations I could register were of unadulterated agony, originating at the furthest point on my spine.

My mind shut down, blocking out all input to protect itself from the onslaught of warning messages describing the damage done to me. As I blacked out, the last vestiges of rationality not swallowed whole by shrieking pain thought about what this meant for me.

If I wake up, am I still going to have a tail at all?

Then my thoughts were no more.


I sucked in a deep breath, bruised ribs complaining at the sudden change from restful unconsciousness. The first thing I registered was that, by some miracle of the sky, my tail didn’t hurt as badly as before I blacked out. Then I slowly realized that, despite getting shot down by the humans, I wasn't dead yet.

I opened my eyes, taking in the scene around me with a panicked, darting gaze. There were stone walls, a floor, the sky covered over by a mountain-vein net and-- A human! A tiny, strangely very pink human stood right next to me, not a wingbreadth away, holding some miniscule mountain-vein claw. I could smell it, close and dangerous and, to my confusion, afraid. My eyes darted around, looking for anyone but this tiny, threatening being. I found none.

I thrashed, trying to break the human-made woven-vines. It was no use. They bound my legs tightly, my wings even more so. I couldn't move if my life depended on it -- which, in fact, it did.

No. No, please… I crooned submissively, hoping against hope that somehow the human would find some ounce of mercy. It was stupid, of course, thinking one of these evil creatures would show such a developed emotion. Still, I was desperate. I was terrified. There had to be a way out of this alive.

Of course, even in the midst of seemingly rational terror, parts of me were being observant and entirely irrational. That human doesn’t wear many false-skins like other humans. Where are the false-skins over its hind feet?

The human shot forward, slipping out of my vision toward my unprotected underside. I tried to thrash or kick it away, but with little success. I was still bound by the woven-vines wrapped around my wings. I could almost feel the human’s mountain-vein claw, clawwidths from my underbelly. I was doomed; there was no doubt in my mind. Everything I could remember told me that a human always, always went for the kill.

Death didn’t come. Instead, inexplicably, the human began to saw at the woven-vines. At least, I assumed it did. I couldn’t see it doing it, but I felt as the vines vibrated, smelled the bark of the dried vines getting stirred up, then heard as they snapped.

I didn’t remain idle in the face of this new freedom. I swung myself around, leaping to jump atop the tiny human. His mountain-vein claw clattered away on the stone, failing utterly to protect him. I pinned the human to the ground between two of my forepaw’s claws, the small gap easily encompassing the human’s neck. One twist of my leg and I could slash the tiny being’s windpipe. A bit more pressure and I’d crush it. With a tug, I could pull its head clean off its shoulders.

Its eyes were closed, its breathing slow. I smelled ocean water, stone, and charcoal on it, mixed in with a heavy musk of fear and submission. It was like the human expected me to kill it. Any other time, any other situation, I would have. Yet, this human-- this tiny, idiotic human had just released me. With me free, it was no threat to me. It had to have known that. So why did it release me?

Barks of anger echoed across the stone and I looked up. Properly armed, larger humans were storming into the space between the mountain-vein net and the stone walls, clearly angered by my freedom. I spared one last glance at the tiny human under me, then tossed it away, behind me. If I survived and it survived, then I could figure out whatever ground-bound lunacy just occurred. For now, I had a fight to deal with.

I was a Shadowscale: most elusive, most feared of my kin. Maybe, just maybe, I could use that to my advantage. Sucking in a deep breath I prepared my fires, readying to blast the onrushing humans. Attacking them directly, though, wouldn't work. I couldn’t fire fast enough to get them all, and there were more of them than I had shots.

At the last moment, I chose to fire at the ground, thinking that scaring them all might be better than hurting a few. Most of them stumbled to a halt, but two didn't even slow down. I roared and charged the two, ducking under their attacks and swinging my wings upward to throw them back at the other humans. They tumbled through the air, knocking some of the more sensible humans over. However, there weren't as many of the sensible humans as before…


Some of the ones that had stumbled to a halt had snuck around to my sides. Now they leaped onto me, pinning my wings, back, head and -- to my horror -- very injured tail. That limb screamed out in protest at the rough treatment after so recently being gravely injured. I didn't even know how injured it was! I forgot to check!

The pain from my tail’s rough handling stunned me, keeping me from mounting any sort of defense as more humans piled atop me. They all smelled different from the small human: of mountain-vein, of grime, of stone, of anger . Nowhere in this pile of bodies did I detect fear.

Another human approached, I could just make it out past the restraining forelimbs of one of the humans. It -- the most massive human I had seen to date -- came nearer, wielding a brutal mountain-vein claw with an edge as tall as my neck. As my neck .

No! Please! I don't want to die! Please, don't kill me…

My pleas fell on deaf human ears, my struggles stopped by massive, remorseless human hands. The massive, black furred human -- what had to be the alpha of the humans -- raised its claw over me. I struggled, fruitlessly trying to escape the fate that awaited me. Rational thought shut down as I realized this was where I would die. I didn't want to die, I wasn't ready, there had to be a way out but I was so terrified I couldn't see it but there had to be one and if I struggled hard enough maybe I would get some space to just think and fight this and--

A chirp echoed across the small space, freezing the human alpha with its claw poised damningly above me. The alpha turned, looking toward the source. As little as I could make out, I spotted a flash of pink against one of the stone walls. The tiny, sapling-sized human stopped the human alpha?

The humans grunted amongst one another, clearly making some form of communication. After some conversation, the alpha handed out orders and some of the humans holding me down slipped off, leaving the stone-walled space. Those that remained were still plenty heavy enough to keep me restrained, especially when one of them pressed on my tail again. I whined in agony. What happened to my tail?

The human alpha approached the sapling-sized human, the size difference staggeringly apparent as the former shook the latter like a toy. The humans that had left earlier returned, bearing mountain-vein netting that, when they brought it closer, smelled like blood. Dragon blood, human blood and other scents I couldn't identify; I was sure I didn't want to identify those other scents. I pushed away, trying one last time in vain to free myself. It didn’t work. In moments the humans had me restrained fully in the mountain-vein, my legs bent at uncomfortable angles.

A slimmer human approached the place where the alpha was punishing the Sapling human. They grunted, growled and hummed at one another, then the slimmer human barked at the humans standing around me. I cowered in fear as the humans… left. Every human left except the alpha and the Sapling exited through a hole in the wall, that they then covered over with mountain-vein. The Sapling human curled into a ball, producing a hiccuping keen that sounded so very broken . It honestly distressed me, seeing this human that freed me now himself in distress, seemingly because of his actions. Why do I care? It’s just a human.

The slimmer human returned, bearing a few things I couldn't make out. He set one on the ground and handed the other to his alpha. The alpha did something with the object, somehow changing its size and producing out of it a flurry of white leaves, before setting in front of the distressed Sapling human. The alpha and slimmer human retreated, barking and snarling in that nonsensical human speech of theirs. They waved the remaining objects brought by the slimmer human threateningly at Sapling.

What I saw next looked impossible. Sapling ( when did I begin to call him that? ) reached out to touch the object the alpha had changed in size. At the same moment his paw came into contact with it, the object some distance away lit on fire, producing a tiny tendril of flame with an equally tiny tendril of smoke. No fire passed between Sapling and the thing that lit, nor between the other humans and it. One moment it was not burning, the next it was.

The slimmer human hissed in surprise, then the alpha attacked it. The alpha, far larger than the slimmer human, won immediately. The slimmer human slumped to the ground, unmoving. I didn't think it was dead -- there hadn’t been any blood -- but the violence frightened me after the incredibly strange occurrence with the fire. What else can this human alpha and his strange objects do? What will he do to Sapling? What in the sake of the sky and the ground is going on?

The alpha approached Sapling, picking up and manipulating the size of the strange leaf-like object he had Sapling use to create fire at a distance. Seemingly satisfied with the leaves, he set the book before Sapling once again and growled at the miniscule, pink human. Sapling crawled away, afraid of the alpha’s demands.

My mind could not keep up with any of this. It made no sense. How does this miniscule human resist his alpha’s orders? Why did the alpha attack that other human? Did they disagree? How could this alpha have so little control over his constituents?

The alpha raised its mountain-vein claw as if preparing to strike Sapling. Then it paused, turning slowly to look my way. No, no not again! Not after I just escaped this fate! The alpha approached me, danger practically oozing from his posture. I shrank back, struggling to move in the mountain-vein restraints the subservient humans left me in. My efforts were fruitless. The alpha stood over me, claw poised once more to end my life, then growled at Sapling.

Sapling jumped forward to touch the strange pile of leaves the alpha kept manipulating. Nothing happened.

No, not as in something happened elsewhere with seemingly no transfer of energy, I mean nothing happened. No fire, nada. I whined as the alpha barked loudly at Sapling then hurled its mountain-vein claw against a wall. The massive human stormed over, grabbing the fur on Sapling’s head and pulling like it was trying to tear the weaker human’s head off. I whined again, this time in sympathy for the pain the tiny creature must’ve been feeling. The alpha tossed Sapling to the ground, seemingly frustrated by the lack of… anything.

Storming over to the unconscious slim human, the alpha kicked its subservient and barked orders at it. As the slimmer human began to groan and recover, the alpha stormed out of the stone-walled space.

At its departure I let out breath I didn't know I was holding. With the alpha not here, I was likely going to survive for a time -- at least until it returned. Humans usually made a big show out of killing us, when they captured us alive. I assumed. I was really only basing this thought on the two times She sent us raiding and we arrived during some ceremonial human killing of one of us.

I stopped that dive of thought almost as soon as it began. Undermining my assumption was not important. The assumption was comforting and I didn’t want to undermine that feeling of safety. Nonetheless, I watched anxiously as the slim, subservient human rose to its feet and began collecting the many objects strewn about the stone floor. Once it gathered the inanimate things it roughly pulled the Sapling human to a two-legged position and began half pushing, half dragging the small human out of the stone-walled space. Sapling gave no signs of resistance, either too injured to or something else.

The mountain-vein moving-wall clanged loudly against the stone, and I was alone.

I struggled with the restraining mountain-vein around me, trying to get some measure of comfort from the unyielding vines and claw-grip-like things around my legs. I couldn't find any comfortable position and I growled in frustration.

Moving on from immediate bodily concerns, I took stock of my situation. I was trapped and bound in a human nest, on a human island, surrounded by bloodthirsty humans. As if that wasn’t fun enough, my tail was somehow badly injured, in a way I couldn't really identify as restrained as I was. I craned my head, trying to peek at my tail behind me. The chains stopped me quite a distance short. I snarled at them, the wordless threat coming out more like a snort with the mountain-vein wrapped around my snout.

To add to the strangeness of the situation, that tiny Sapling human had helped me not once but twice, the first time risking my wrath, the second that human alpha’s. I couldn't wrap my head around it: Why? It made no sense. He -- it! -- was a human. They killed dragons, ripping them limb from limb with their mountain-vein claws. Why in all made of sky and ground would one risk death and punishment to help me?

I heard Her voice on the edge of my perception, so very far away. Everything I had learned under Her control and guidance, everything I had seen, told me this was some kind of trick the humans were doing. I couldn't fathom its purpose. If they wanted me dead then Sapling would have killed me right there in the woven-vines, pinned to the ground. What, then, could they be planning?

I shook my head, then tried to roar my frustrations and confusions out. With the mountain-vein wrapped around my snout, the sound came out like a loud growl, infuriatingly far from the bellow I needed to release my annoyance. The difference between what I needed and what I got only heightened my frustration.

I sucked in a deep breath to growl out a complete lungful of air, then paused. Somewhere beyond the mountain-vein moving-wall I heard a clank, like mountain-vein hitting stone. I held the breath, hoping that by some blessing of the sky this was not some human coming to end my life.

To my utter surprise, my hopes came to be. The mountain-vein moving-wall ground open, dragging on the ground, and a tiny human form slipped in. Sapling was back, this time without a mountain-vein claw! He hissed at me, oddly calmingly, though the content of the hiss was something I had no clue how to interpret.

You? I cooed. I had intended it to be a coo, anyway. Once again the mountain-vein on my snout butchered the sound, making it far more growley and accusatory than I’d intended. The human didn’t seem to mind, approaching me far faster than I was comfortable with. I would have shrunk away had I not been restrained by the mountain-vein.

Then he was directly in front of me, his paws on either side of my face. It was unsettling, having something I so recently hated and thought hated me so very close. Then Sapling helped me again, unlocking the mountain-vein on my head.

I yawned, immensely thankful for the room to move my jaw. Then I turned to my remaining restraints. They looked stronger than the band Sapling had just removed, surely much harder for him -- it! I have to stop that -- to remove. It wasn't a problem, though: I could burn them off. I began preparing my fires, readying myself for the slight pain I’d get from my own fire so close to my body. Sapling squawked in alarm, causing me to halt and swallow the gasses. I looked at him, hoping that even the human could understand my annoyance. He made me waste most of a shot’s gasses! As if to aggravate me further, he moved back to me and produced tiny sticks of mountain-vein that he inserted into the mountain-vein restraining me. My aggravation drained away, though, when as if by some mystical power, the mountain-vein holding me snapped into two pieces, immediately falling from my leg.

I stared in amazement as he did the same to the other three mountain-vein loops. Once all my legs were free (and eyeing Sapling carefully) I shook out of the remaining mountain-vein netting. With my legs free it seemed to hardly resist sliding off. Sapling moved to the door, swinging his paw towards himself as if to tell me to come nearer to him. Curious and apprehensive of the consequences of remaining within that stone-walled place, I followed. He led me out the mountain-vein moving-wall -- which I had to move slightly wider to fit through -- and out into a canyon. There he paused, as if lost.

I sniffed at him, taking the opportunity to get a better understanding of my less-than-unlikely ally. He smelled of fire and mountain-vein, even more than the ones that pinned me earlier. He also smelled of a great number of the other humans, which was odd for his tiny stature. Many human scents clung to him but none of them appeared to be stronger than the others. His back smelled of stone and was caked with dust, as if he spent time sleeping on the stone ground this island seemed covered with.

The only situation I could develop for the strange mix of scents was that this tiny human was being kept here and forced by many other humans to work on mountain-vein; that didn't make sense at all. Not once had I encountered humans not bearing mountain-vein claws ready to fight us away from their nests.

Until now, that is.

Sapling flinched when human barks and growling rang out from further down the rock crevice. My human looked left and right, then took off running up a nearby ramp, hissing back at me. I glanced between him and the source of the sounds, then hastened to catch up.

At the top of the ramp, now overlooking the arena, Sapling stopped. He looked around at the cliffs rising above us, letting out a loud moan.

Keep quiet, human! They’ll hear us! I rumbled.

He looked directly at me and chirped.

The barks of the humans clattering around at the bottom of the ramp grew louder. Clearly, they’d heard him. Unbelievable. I snorted.

He shrank, seeming to grow smaller as he began hissing. He looked more apologetic by the second.

Madness of the ground-- Fine! I retracted my teeth, pulling them into my gums (against my every instinct with a human standing right next to me) and scooped up Sapling’s torso in my mouth, around one of his forelegs. He shrieked in alarm. I turned, leaping onto a thicker portion of the mountain-vein cage into which I’d crashed, then ran up it, toward the top of the hill-like structure. The humans chasing me and Sapling stumbled to a halt at the top of the ramp, unwilling or unable to climb the cage after us.

Reaching the top of the cage, we leaped into the air. A quick flap of my wings sent us sailing up to the edge of the cliff, though my landing was more unbalanced than I expected. Scrabbling to get my left hindpaw over the edge I silently cursed my previous entrapment.

Then I was free . Or we were, Sapling and I. Away from the humans and their trapping mountain-vein, I began sprinting northwest, toward where She lived, carrying Sapling along. Sapling hissed quietly. I ignored him.

As I ran to Her, a thought struck me. How will she react to Sapling?

He was unprecedented: a human that didn't attack dragon kind. If we could keep him, use him, we might be able to…

And that was where my argument broke down. I knew hardly anything of humans apart from what I’d seen in raids. I had no idea what a pet human could be useful for.

Apart from saving me from humans.

I shook the thought away. It will be fine. I have the whole flight home to consider it. My tongue jostled in my mouth, touching the disgusting false-skin that barely covered the human’s torso. Though, maybe I don't want to carry him all that way back.

As we reached the sea cliffs on the edge of the island I launched off the cliff and into the air.

Flight, oh how I missed you.

I began tilting left, probably due to the uneven weight of the human I carried. Unconcerned, I tilted my tail to correct the roll. It worsened.

No. Nonono, not that kind of tail damage, please!

I swung my head left, looking to confirm what my other senses were already telling me. There wasn’t any rush of air, stretch of lift, pull of muscle…

My left tailfin was gone .

My mind stopped, blank. Without a tailfin, I couldn't fly straight. I couldn't really “fly” at all. I might as well be dead.

As suddenly as the realization hit me, the water rushed up to meet us both. I spun head over tail from the impact, the freezing cold water like Tinywing claws under my scales. For a moment I drifted, the shock of my loss combining with the shock of the water to completely stun me. As water began to push into my nostrils, pain flaring in the sensitive areas, I regained my senses and pushed hard for the surface.

I took a deep breath of air, my lungs spasming on the small amount of seawater that made it into my throat through my nostrils. I cast about, getting my bearings. My mouth was clear, free of the (awful) taste of human flesh and false-skins.

Oh. No! I realized with sudden terror: I dropped the Sapling human!

I tread water, looking for a flash of his pink hide. All that greeted me was the stone grey of the sea, reflecting the equally grey sky.

Sapling! I barked, deciding the descriptor of his size would make a decent enough name. There was no hiss or squawk in response. I dove under the water, my eyes stinging as I looked for the strange human. I spotted a splotch of pink in the icy waters and hurriedly swam toward it.

Well, swam is too kind a descriptor. Without my tailfin I was severely off balance, my elegant swimming devolved quickly into a hatchling’s wriggling as I tried to stay on target. After one stupid miss, I managed to scoop him up in my jaws, turning back toward the surface.

Around the false-skins Sapling wore, water began seeping into my mouth and throat. I nearly gagged as the cold liquid met the warm interior of my body.

I am not concerned with drowning, I am not concerned with drowning, I am not going to drown-- Oh skies above, I need to swim up faster!

Just when I felt I couldn't suppress my gag reflex any longer we broke the surface. I took the opportunity to snort the seawater that leaked into my mouth out of my nose, ignoring the painful stinging that came with it. Relieved, now that I had a clear throat, I focused on coming up with a plan to save us both.

On the cliff face, maybe two wingbreadths above the crashing surf, I spotted a deep cave in the cliff face. If I could make it up there it would shelter me and Sapling from the wind and surf, as well as keep us away from any prying human eyes. The question was: how?

As a Shadowscale I couldn't take off from water. If I were a Flamescale I could climb the cliff wall with gripping foreclaws. If I were, which I wasn't. Although…

The two ideas merged, forming the stupidest plan I had ever conceived. If it didn’t work, Sapling and I would be crushed between the surf and the cliff face. If it did work…

The relentless surf pulled us further in, only five wingbreadths remained between us and the wall. Preparing for the next wave crest, I let my body sink a little lower into the water. I felt the wave flow beneath me, lifting me upwards and, startlingly quickly, toward the wall. Under the water, I pushed my wings down as hard as I could, giving my body a clawbreadth’s clearance above the top of the wave. The wall rushed up and I grabbed ahold, gripping the wet stone with all the force I could muster.

I managed to keep my hold, the wave retreating out from beneath me. As soon as my tail was clear of the water I heaved myself upwards, giving a solid flap to keep my upwards momentum. My forelegs made it into the cavern entrance…

Then I ran out of momentum. Scrabbling against the rock, I flapped frantically and weakly to keep myself from slipping back down. With a few moments of terrified effort, I dragged myself over the edge. I laid Sapling out on the floor, then took a few massive, shuddering gasps of relief.

It was in contrast to my own breaths that I realized Sapling wasn't breathing.

Sapling? Sapling!

He didn’t respond; his tiny chest remained unmoving. I pressed down into his chest with my snout, forcing it to move. Water bubbled out over his lips, running over his pink flesh to the stone floor to join the pool already left by his false-skins.

Why did you free me? Oh skies, I should’ve paid more attention to my own injuries. I’m so sorry.

I let my head thump onto his chest again, another few drops of water flowing out of him. I jumped back in alarm when, to my astonishment, he moved! His head lolled to the side, a river of seawater spilling out. When what would’ve been a mouthful of water (even for me) exited his tiny frame, he shudderingly sucked in air.

I would have jumped around for joy had I not been worried I’d land on him in the small space. He sputtered some human-speak sounding syllables, then coughed up more seawater.

Are you going to be alright? I cooed, the question producing a dissonant, sorrowful tone in my throat. Sapling waved one of his forepaws, then began to struggle to a sitting position. After only a moment sitting up, he began shaking violently, like a hatchling that was getting too cold. He shrugged out of the false-skin covering his torso, shoving the fur away across the stone. Cautiously, I set myself down behind him and nearby, offering my warmth for his use. I was cold myself, but cold for me was still far warmer than the ocean we so recently escaped.

Equally cautiously, he lay back against my side. I shivered at the unfamiliar weight, once again having to restrain my instincts. It was so strange, not attacking a human.

I looked down at the false-skin he’d removed, considering it. It looked warmer than being uncovered, and I moved my head down to nudge it toward him. Then I recoiled in disgust. It wouldn’t warm him up; it was colder than the ocean, and sopping wet! How it hadn’t turned to ice already, I had no idea. I shook my head and awkwardly pawed at my snout, trying to get some feeling back. Sapling was still shivering, trying to cover his belly with his twig-like forelegs. Again with caution, I covered him over with my wing, reflecting my body heat in the small cavity containing my human.

My human. I suppose he is like a pet now. Ground damnit all, I am an awful keeper.

I considered the situation. Sapling was incredibly helpful, when the situation allowed. Still, though, I had to be very careful with him. He was surprisingly delicate, compared to the others of his species that fought us dragons.

I looked out of the mouth of the cave, staring over the horizon. I could hear Her voice, calling us back. Those who raided last night were probably still flying home, likely exhausted from their two days of sleep deprivation. She would be pleased, though... probably.

Not that it mattered. I would never see Her volcano or hear Her voice up close again. I was trapped here, with none of my kin, flightless.

With a pet human.

I just had to find the worst possible way to mess up, didn't I?

Suddenly, Sapling pushed his way out of my warm embrace. He crawled away, muffled hiccups coughing from his tiny form as he collapsed less than half a wingbreadth away.

What are you doing? I thought you were cold! Drawing the attention of the evil humans that captured us both, now trying to freeze himself? What was I getting into, trying to keep him alive?

I stood, moving over to the shivering human. Grabbing a shoulder, I half dragged, half rolled him onto his belly. Before he could protest, I lay down on top of him, leaving his head peeking out from between my forepaws.

Curling my head off to the left, I tried to get comfortable while he struggled weakly underneath me. He’d tried twice now to save my life, I was going to keep him warm and alive whether he liked it or not. After a few minutes, Sapling stopped struggling and his breathing began to even out. As he began to warm up beneath me, I dozed off as well. No use spending the rest of the daylight awake -- nighttime is when everybody should be active anyway.

Warm, safe, and maybe a little hungry, the two of us dozed off.


Chapter End Notes

Interesting thing to note about this whole story: Dragon perspectives are written in the first person, human perspectives are written in anything else, though usually the third-person non-omniscient style of most of my writing. You’ll see why that needs to be a clearly definable line later on.
Thank you all for reading!

Human/Dragon Gala Team

Chapter 4 : Human/Dragon Gala Team


Hiccup was warm. Really warm. It was fantastic, but… Gods, he was too warm. He was sweating under this… leather blanket? He preferred fur blankets. Why did it feel like a yak was laying on top of him? On top of that, how did he fall asleep with his neck bent so awkwardly?...

He opened his eyes to find himself staring at a stone floor. His head’s range of motion was greatly restricted by whatever was on his back, but he was able to take a look around at the cavern he was in. He could hear heavy breathing and the crash of surf against cliffs.

Then it all came back to him: Alvin, the Outcasts, Outcast Island, Toothless, the ocean. He turned his head over and looked left, into a large green eye.

“Toothless! Get off me!”

The dragon grumbled something as it stood, though for obvious reasons Hiccup couldn’t understand what. As soon as he had clearance, Hiccup shot to his (still bare) feet. While the dragon settled back down elsewhere in the cave, Hiccup moved over to his vest. As he expected, it was still wet and freezing cold, unlike his warm-but-damp leggings. Dejected, he sat down against the opposite wall. Toothless looked on from the back of their small cavern.

So what if he’d made a ton of bad decisions in the name of self-preservation? He had to at least try to atone for those mistakes.

What could he do, though? Maybe if he and Toothless could make it back to Berk, he could talk his dad into understanding that Toothless wasn’t a threat. That, or he could figure out how to get Toothless back to wherever the dragon lived when he wasn’t raiding villages, and hope the crippled dragon didn’t decide to eat him.

Or he could betray the dragon and surrender to the Outcasts. That’d probably end with him dead somewhere within the day, but it was a much easier option to pull off than escaping Outcast Island.

Suicide seemed to be out as Toothless kept saving him from his own stupidity. (Or lucidity. Frankly, staying in this insane world seemed the more stupid choice. Hel or Valhalla or whatever came next for him had to be better than this.)

He couldn’t betray Toothless; at this point, that’d be worse than having killed him in the first place. So… Toothless’ nest or Berk?

He didn’t have to think long, the choice was pretty obvious. Berk was his home. It might be full of insane, dragon-slaying Vikings, but he was the chief’s son. He could talk them down! Probably. Toothless had saved him a few times, and helped him escape the Outcasts! (So far, anyway.) There was no way they’d kill their chief’s son’s savior, right?

Still, there was the question of how to get there. It wasn’t like he could build a raft and float back: Loki wood -- available all over Outcast Island -- floated well, but he had nothing to hold it together with! No rope, no nails, nada. There wasn’t a land bridge between here and there, so he couldn’t exactly walk there. Toothless couldn’t fly, so they were trapped to Midgard’s surface…

How could they make it back? Maybe the Outcasts had something he could steal to get back? But then, what kind of Viking ship would he be able to operate with only the help of a dragon? What kind of Viking ship was small, and made for one or two Vikings?...

...What ship could Alvin and Savage operate entirely without help? “Girtha,” or whatever Alvin had called that tiny ship!

“Toothless, I have an idea,” he said, looking over at his friendly dragon. Said dragon opened one eye to glance at him.


I let Sapling up when he squawked awake, though I did grumble Don’t try freezing yourself again.

With any luck, Sapling would have some amazing idea to save us both from the islandful of bloodthirsty, crazy humans. After that, who knew? I couldn’t go back to Her, regardless of how much I wanted to. I could still hear Her beautiful voice on the horizon, beckoning, but I knew I simply wasn’t worthy. What use would She have for a flightless dragon? None.

I lay down at the back of the cave and waited. I had almost dozed off when, suddenly, Sapling looked over at me and chirped something. I glanced up. Taking this as a sign to continue, he launched into a series of grunts, hums, hisses, and clicks -- or "tuh"s, or whatever that strange noise is.

A couple of the noises jogged my memory of other humans. One of the sounds, "boughautuh," sounded a lot like something that humans would shout immediately before or after I or another of my kin blew up their many floating piles of chopped up trees -- specifically, "vah boughautuhsss!" Currently, I wondered why the shouted version had an extra hiss at the end that Sapling's version didn't have. Maybe it was a human thing for destroyed objects?

Now Sapling was waving his forepaws around, in motions that sickeningly reminded me of our less-than-optimal flight path this morning. I hoped he wasn't upset about that, but, how could I know? Clearly, he only spoke and understood that odd human language.

He ended his speech with two digits of one paw in his other cupped paw, seemingly riding something turbulent to somewhere. He chirped, in a way that seemed to be asking for my approval.

I blinked at him. Surely Sapling realized I couldn't understand him?

He waved both of his forepaws in front of himself, huffing something more in Human, then stood and made his way over to the frozen false-skin he'd left on the ground. Lifting it with what appeared to be care not to further freeze himself (good human) he waved it around as if trying to warm it through further contact with the air. (Erm...)

As he continued I began laughing at his silly actions. He didn’t even notice. I gave him another few seconds of fruitless waving before acting. He didn't notice as I charged my flame, but yelped in alarm when I heated the rock floor between us to a soft glow.

He looked between me and his false-skin. I nodded between his false skin and the scorched rock.

Finally making the connection, (slow little pet human) he lay out the damp, cold skin on the hot rock, letting the remnants of my fire warm it. After a few seconds, Sapling lifted the false-skin, chirped approvingly, and put it on, soft fur sliding over the odd, pink flesh.

How did these fleshy little humans ever manage to challenge dragons in battle?

Then he made for the cave entrance.

I jumped to a standing position. He wasn't going to throw himself to the waves, was he?

He leaned against the edge of the cave, looking around the exterior. Then, he took a step to the side and disappeared around the left edge of the cave entrance.

I shot forward, almost forgetting to slow down. My claws scrabbled at the stone to keep my momentum from pulling me out of the cave. Once stopped, I frantically looked to where Sapling had just disappeared.

There he was, paws gripping a section of the rock wall and standing on a ledge that sloped upwards, inching his way up the cliff face. Are you crazy? I growled. He made a coughing sound that reminded me of laughter, but much higher pitched.

I looked up and saw the rock wall extended upwards another two times Sapling's height from where he was, which was half his height above me. I waited anxiously -- concerned for his safety -- as he climbed the remaining distance and scrambled up over the lip of the cliff. A few seconds later I bounded onto the ledge, then again up the cliff face. With a flap, I managed to crest the edge and join him.

Sapling pointed out across the island at a section lit by human-made fire in the dying light of the day. He hissed and grumbled something in Human, then began to walk toward the nest that we had so recently escaped.

Questioning his sanity under my breath, I followed.


Having an overprotective black void following you around really helps with hiding at night , Hiccup mused while crouched behind Toothless' wing. Under the edge, he could see the flickering torchlight from the watchman he'd nearly walked right out in front of. Perks of being the chief's son coming back to bite him in the behind: he didn't consider torchlight dangerous, even though rationally he understood his predicament.

The watchman passed the alley entrance by, and the dark of night crept back in around boy and dragon. Toothless pulled his wing out of the way and Hiccup tiptoed out into the path, glancing left and right to check for any people that could spot them. “Looks clear, Toothless,” he whispered.

Like a shadow, the Night Fury followed the boy into the dim moonlight. Together the two crossed the road into another alleyway between stone houses. They moved forward in the dark until the alley abruptly ended, the buildings' back walls set mere fingerwidths from a jagged cliff that dropped precipitously hundreds of paces into the churning sea below.

"Third time's the charm, right?" Hiccup said to his scaly companion. Toothless chuffed. The boy inched closer to the edge, bare toes of his left foot slipping out over the edge. He looked down, view shifting left and right, searching for... There!

Off to his left, protected from the roiling ocean by a low rock jumble collapsed into the sea, a small dock with a few Outcast ships sat in semi-placid waters, moored to a walkway of Loki wood. Gripping the stone wall of the house behind him, Hiccup leaned out a little further, trying to see the access route to the dock.

Toothless whined at the teen's precarious situation, and Hiccup pulled back.

"I can see the docks, but I can't see the way down to them. If we try just guessing and walking in that direction, we'll probably miss it just like the first time." The boy whined. The dragon leaned out over the edge himself to see what Hiccup meant, shifting his wings to balance over the precarious drop.


When they'd crashed into the water off the cliffs on the far side of the island, they'd banked left. The Outcasts' docks were off to the left. They'd also lost height pretty quickly, but here they had even more height to drop before they'd hit the surf.  

Spotting the docks, Toothless moaned and pulled away from the edge, eyeing Hiccup with what was probably no small amount of annoyance.

"Maybe we don't have to back through the streets again, Toothless." Hiccup whispered.

Toothless tilted his head, and Hiccup remembered how little understanding of Norse the dragon had shown back in the sea cave.

"Uhh..." He floundered for a moment. Pointing at the dragon, he said, "You," then at himself, "me," he pointed around the edge, in the direction of the docks, "go," he waved his arms up and down, attempting to imitate flight, "fly..."

He thought for a moment more, but couldn't think of an action to explain the last concept. He pointed out past the edge of the cliff. " the docks." he finished.

Toothless gave the boy a look, then glanced out over the edge at the docks. His gaze returned to Hiccup.

Toothless whimpered and backed away from the edge, clearly upset by the idea.

“Toothless, c’mon. It’ll work!... Probably.”

The Night Fury shook his head, curling his tail around and presenting the single fin to Hiccup, seemingly ashamed of the injury.

Hiccup nodded, wincing internally at the damage that was technically his fault, and folded his hands in front of his face like butterfly wings. Folding half of the left wing in, he swung his arms out in the path he expected they'd take: banking over and crashing into the docks.

Toothless looked from his fin to the teen, then again glanced out over the edge. The ridges over the dragon's eyes rose as his eyes opened wider, understanding shining through.

Hiccup nodded again, more quickly. Did dragons even understand nodding? Whatever, Toothless probably got the point.


“What do you mean they’ve escaped?!” Alvin roared.

The subservient Outcast’s voice wavered in fear as he replied, “Well, sir, we found the cage that ‘Iccup had been put into no longer had the boy in i’, so we went a-runnin’ to the arena ta look for ‘im, and found ‘im escapin’ off wi’ that drag--”

“When?!” Alvin shouted, cutting off the other Outcast.

“Er, around mid-day, sir.”

“Then why,” the Outcast leader growled, “AM I ONLY HEARING ABOU' IT AFTER THE SUN'S SET?!” The subservient Outcast -- Alvin thought his name might be “SpleenGuts” or something -- quivered in fear where he stood. Alvin rounded on Savage, who was just behind the Outcast leader and off to his right. “Savage, you locked up the boy after that whole incident in the cage. You did secure him properly, righ’?”

Savage looked like he was in discomfort. Worse discomfort than he normally had when speaking back to Alvin, anyway. “Yes sir! Of course sir! Latched the cage door shut, made sure it wouldn’t open, all tha--” Savage’s final syllable was cut off by a sudden cough, and the Outcast second-in-command looked somewhat embarrassed. Alvin and “Spleen” glanced at each other. He resumed. “Locked him right up in the same cage--” Savage coughed again, then another time, the convulsions of his lungs turning into a fit. Still embarrassed, he brought a hand up to cover his mouth.

Alvin and “Spleen” took a few steps away from the sick Outcast. As Vikings, they knew how bad illnesses were, especially contagious ones.

Savage continued to cough, lungs spasming seemingly uncontrollably. He fell to one knee, then pitched forward face-first onto the ground. His helmet clanked loudly as it collided with the omnipresent stone flooring of Outcast Island. Now unconscious, the sick Outcast’s breathing evened out.

Alvin took another step back as he saw the hand Savage had been using to cover his mouth, now splayed out in an uncomfortable-looking position next to his head.

It was spattered with flecks of blood.

The Outcast chief gawked for a few moments, before composing himself. He was a chief! Just because his Second was sick didn’t mean he could slack off on his responsibilities. He still had to punish “SpleenGuts” for letting the boy and his dragon escape.

And once again, the perfect opportunity had presented itself.

“SpleenGuts! Get Savage off my floor an’ take him to the medicine woman. Make sure he doesn’t drool in here, or something. I don’t want to come down with whatever he’s got.”

“B-but sir,” “‘Guts” stammered, “what if I catch the sickness?”

“That’s why you’re pickin’ ‘im up, an’ not--” Alvin began. He was interrupted as another Outcast came barging through the door into the hall.

"Sir! The boy and 'is dragon, they're attackin' the docks!" the new arrival exclaimed breathlessly.

"Then why are you HERE?!" Alvin roared. "Go stop them! Bah. Idiots! The lot of you people."

The new arrival had a moment to look confused before the Outcast chieftain barreled past, dragging him out the door.

"SpleenGuts" stood in the empty hall with the unconscious body of Alvin the Treacherous' right-hand man, looking uncomfortably at said body.

"M' name is Spleenfish, sir," he muttered to the uncaring room.


"Agh! Careful Toothless!"

Hiccup would have rubbed his side where the somewhat unhelpful dragon's wing joint had just pressed into him. He would also have clutched at his hand, now bleeding from gripping too tightly to one of the tiny fins… er… spine… things on the dragon's spine.

He would have done those things, had he not been -- in fact -- clinging for dear life to the aforementioned dragon at that very moment.

The issue with Toothless' flight was banking to the left, as the dragon was missing his left tailfin. Hiccup's solution? Lie on the dragon's right wing joint, shifting the balance of weight at least a little to the right.

He wasn't sure if his weight was actually balancing or if his positioning was hindering the dragon's ability to flap on the right side, but they weren't actually rolling over to the left. Much. Just yawing and ever-so-slowly tilting, a little. Until Toothless tried to flap, which led to the current situation.

"We're almost on the right flight path, there isn't any reason to- Gah!" Hiccup cried out as the dragon flapped again, and the joint once again swung into his side.

"Now we're pointed at it, but we're too high, we're going to..." Hiccup trailed off as Toothless pulled in his wings, nose dropping for a dive. Wind whistled past, and a ballistic shriek began to build. "Oh Thor almight--!"

A brilliant flash lit up the docks ahead and, with an echoing explosion, the middle of the dock was reduced to splinters. Several Outcasts unloading a ship near the cliffs screamed and shouted, running for the cover of a door in the cliff face at the end of the walkways.

Hiccup felt a shift in the dragon's spine as Toothless flicked his tail to pull them out of the dive. He opened his mouth to shout at the dragon for the stupid maneuver...

...but was cut off as the world shrank to a blur, spinning around them with no control whatsoever.

Toothless hit the deck first, the wood of the Outcast vessel cracking ominously beneath him. Hiccup, somehow still clinging to the dragon's back, delivered his kinetic energy relatively safely into the dragon's back.

The two of them untangled themselves and stumbled unsteadily to their respective feet. Hiccup, refocusing on the goal first, leaped over the side of the boat and onto the remains of the dock. They'd crashed on a boat further from shore than the aftermath of Toothless' shot, thankfully separated from any angry Outcasts by the now splintered decking. The boy turned around, searching for the smallest ship in the docks. He spotted it moored at the end of the walkway, untouched by his friendly dragon's mayhem. He looked back to said dragon, finding the crazy beast clambering out of the boat after him.

"C'mon, this way!" Hiccup shouted, setting off quickly toward the boat that would hopefully spell their freedom. Toothless, once he had purchase on the dock, followed close behind.

Hiccup slowed to a halt and knelt next to the pillar the ship's guideline was tied to. Fumbling with the tight, Viking-like, confusing knots, he made little progress even after almost a minute had passed. Evidently fed up with the human boy's incompetence with heavy rope, Toothless blasted a small stream of fire at the rope, severing it and letting the burning end drop into the ocean.

Freed, the boat started to drift away. Hiccup jumped on board and Toothless followed, rocking the small vessel with his landing. The dragon watched, perplexed as Hiccup manned the oars, then seemed to understand their use as the Viking teen's effort added (a little) velocity to the ship's drift.


Alvin the Treacherous wasn't called "the Treacherous" for his stupidity. No, he knew better than to barrel right into a situation with enemy forces, especially when they had the elements of surprise and confusion. So, rather than waltz right on down to the docks, through the cave systems where he'd learn absolutely nothing about the attack, he ran out to survey the situation from the top of the cliffs.

And it wasn't good. That boy and his Loki-damned dragon had blown apart the middle of the docks and were making off with the Ingerman's gala ship, the one he’d had Mildew sabotage one or two years back so he could steal it. If he had his way, he'd shove the boy feet-first down that dragon's throat, cut the Night Fury's head off with the boy's head in its mouth, and mount them both on his wall!

But he wasn't getting his way, and with his docks incapacitated and the escapees nearing the open ocean, he needed a plan. A good one. Something that could cripple their ship with a single long-range blow.

Something, perhaps, like a launcher ?

"You!" Alvin shouted at the Outcast he’d dragged with him from Savage’s sudden collapse, "Where's that boy 'Iccup's bola-launcher?"

"Y-you lef' I' on tha' cliff y' fired i' from in last nigh's raid, I though', sir!" the Outcast stammered.

Alvin didn't bother to reply as he flat out sprinted for the specified rock outcrop overlooking the Outcast settlement. If he remembered correctly, and he'd bet gold that he did, he'd have the perfect angle on that ship as it left the harbor. They'd be dead in the water -- perhaps even taking on water -- and have no idea what hit 'em.


Toothless whined as Hiccup rowed, urging the teen to propel the boat faster. Hiccup, too, could hear the shouts of men preparing what ships they could still reach to chase them down.

"Oh, I'm sorry..." He heaved, throwing his whole torso as he could barely reach both oars at the same time. " you want to be..." Heave. "...doing this?" Heave. "Oh, wait, my bad..." Heave. "You don't have opposable..." Heave. "...thumbs."

Toothless whined again, then the odd plates on his head Hiccup took to be ears stood straight up, and the whine took on a different pitch, one that sounded...


Hiccup, facing backward in the rower's position, looked past the cowering dragon at the docks.

He heard the bola at the same moment he spotted the fleck in the night sky, swooping its way through the air toward them.

"Oh Hel..." Hiccup had time to gasp while he ducked down with Toothless before the upper half of the ship shattered.

Two of the weights on the bola wrapped around the mast of the ship, the sudden force snapping it in two. The third broke free of its ropes and smashed through the figurehead of the vessel, sending wooden splinters splashing into the water ahead. The upper two-thirds of the mast -- no longer attached to the ship -- fell over the side and began to sink.

Silence, apart from the lap of the sea against the hull, reigned for half a minute. Thinking the situation clear, the ship's two occupants rose to asses the situation.

Hiccup moaned. "Some people break an ax, or a mug, no, not me, I manage to break our only chance at escape!" Dejected, he collapsed back on to the rower's bench. "Why won't the Gods just kill me already?"

Toothless had other ideas. Hiccup watched with mounting confusion as the Night Fury went up to the side of the boat, stuck his wing in the water and tried to flap it. The boat shifted slightly, but it wasn't nearly enough speed to outrun the Outcasts, and it appeared to require a lot of effort on the dragon's part. Hiccup dropped his head into his hands and slumped over on the bench.

Hiccup felt the boat rock as Toothless jumped over both him and what remained of the mast to the front of the ship, but the teen didn't bother to raise his head. What could the dragon do? The mast and sail were probably at the bottom of the Outcast's little harbor now, and it wasn't like there was a boat on Midgard that could on oars alone outrun a sailboat.


A huge volume of air rushed over Hiccup, and he nearly fell off the bench as the boat suddenly accelerated


Another rush of air passed over him, and this time, he did fall off the rower's bench. Scrabbling to his hands and knees, he looked forward to the front of the ship.

Toothless stood at the bow, his head where the figurehead had once been, great wingspan swinging up and down. On each beat, the wings displaced a huge volume of air and shoved the ship forward, accelerating them far faster than even a sail could.

"Y-yeah! Good thinking Toothless!" Hiccup shouted in joy. The dragon gave a bark of jubilation as well. Hiccup moved aft to man the tiller at the back of the ship.

Working together, human and dragon escaped Outcast Island.



More quietly, mostly to himself, but fully audible to the crew, Alvin continued to growl, "They 'aven't even got a sail and still you idiots can't keep up with 'em! What am I even feeding you all for?"

The Outcast chief stomped aft on the longship, then glanced forward again. The gala ship -- now just a slightly darker speck on the dark horizon -- grew a little smaller while he watched.

Then it disappeared from view.


Alvin's stream of abuse continued to echo across the ocean, even as the crew of the longship decided that continuing a fruitless chase would be a waste of time. Without orders from their blue-in-the-face leader, the crew turned back for Outcast Island. Alvin’s echoing anger continued even as the longship re-entered the Outcast harbor, reduced by time from coherent insults to a stream of incoherent guttural rage. The Outcast finally stopped to breathe heavily as the boat bumped into what remained of the dock.

He slumped over, breathing hard, and slammed his fist into the side of the ship.

The crew, quietly, disembarked around their fuming leader.










21st of August, year of Odin's reign 1009

... Yeah, great reign there Odin. Thanks for the incredibly sane , straightforward and safe life you've given me. It's fantastic.

I think it's the 21st, I mean I thought it was the 18th on my first day of captivity, but I could've been wrong. And it has been 2 days and a morning since then, so...

Outcast island disappeared over the horizon maybe three hours before sunrise, but we didn't lose the last Outcast ship chasing us until sunrise actually arrived, I think. Toothless wasn't letting himself rest, but I couldn't see anything on the horizon.

Toothless. Yeah, so I'm friends with a dragon. Dad's going to kill me, though I seriously hope he doesn't kill Toothless. That'd be bad for both of them.

Speaking of that silly Night Fury, he's sleeping now. I don't blame him, he was flapping hard all night and hasn't eaten in a day.

Oh, we escaped! I’m sure whoever reading this is happy to hear that. Me and Toothless the Night Fury, free from Outcast Island and left to roam the seas. On a boat without a mast.

I’ll get to that.

I definitely wouldn't have made it off Outcast Island without my now friendly dragon. Apart from never making it to the docks, I'd have been caught immediately by the Outcasts unloading that other longship. Even if I made it past them, I wouldn't have made it out of the harbor without Toothless.

The Outcasts used my bola launcher to take the mast off the ship we stole -- believe it or not, I think it's the gala ship the Ingerman clan built a few years back, that one that sank offshore. So we had -- and have -- no sail. Toothless propelled the ship by flapping, just kinda pushing the ship against the air. So we totally outran the Outcasts and are now drifting about somewhere to the southwest of Berk. I think.

And I haven't eaten in a day either. Food would be nice.

Oh, why don't we fly? Well, Toothless is missing his left tailfin. He seemed as surprised by it as I was when we were escaping so… I think… it was probably my bola launcher’s fault. Some friend I am, right?



I think the tide is pushing us west. It's more of a guess given the direction of the wind, but I'd like to think that we're going in the right direction.

And Toothless is still asleep. I'm trying to rest underneath the rowing bench, but the sun is everywhere and I have no shade.

Thor damn these sunburns.


I opened one of my eyes a little, looking over at Sapling. He was laying in the tiny shadow cast by the branch of wood that earlier he was sitting on to push the long-wide-branches against the water in the early part of the water chase. Bleh, that was a confusing description. I have to learn smaller words for some of these human objects if I’m going to spend more time around Sapling.

He was keeping as much of himself out of the sunlight -- mercilessly beating down on us -- as he possibly could. His feet, which had been in the sun since I'd collapsed to rest, were turning a vivid shade of red, like the color of some rare Tinywings. Compared to the white-pink of his head (the parts not covered by fur) and fore-limbs, I suspected that was not a normal or desirable thing for human flesh.

How your species ever came to be almost equal to dragons in battle, I will never understand. I grumbled. The human looked up from where he was using a stick to leave marks in a pile of rectangular leaf-like membranes.

I swished my tail under the water, the boat drifting imperceptibly in response. Sapling fidgeted, moving his legs and wincing as the red part of one of his feet came into contact with the deck.

I could use my wing to shelter him from the sun . I thought though I hesitated to put the thought into action. What did I owe this human? The puny being would never have made it off that island without my wings...

I wouldn't have made it off that island without his clever little paws and mountain-vein breaking sticks...

The restraints, from earlier: I'd never have gotten the muzzle off myself. Even if I had full use of my limbs, there was a band of mountain-vein wrapped around my head. Anything I did to break it or tear it off would've hurt me more than it. And the restraints on my limbs, he had tiny mountain-vein sticks that just broke them open, with barely an effort, even for the twig that he was!

I grumbled at having to move my sore joints, but rolled onto my side, presenting my underbelly to Sapling and extending one wing to provide shade.

He'd trusted me enough to free me from restraints twice, with no guarantee of safety for himself. It was time I trusted him more.

And even if we were both starving to death, I could always overpower him and eat him.



Well, Toothless is being a very, very nice killer dragon and letting me shelter from the sun under his wing, so that's great. And I'm tired. Even with the breeze off the ocean, lying next to a dragon is really warm.

And I'm tired. Did I mention that?

And I've sketched Toothless like fifteen times now.

I guess the only other thing to do on this boat until rescue comes is sleep. Good midday, journal. I’ll write you if anything interesting happens.

Or if I get bored again.


Boat, Help, Fish

Chapter 5 : Boat, Help, Fish


Sapling was asleep and had been since a few moments after I offered him my wing as shelter.

I was just waking up. Under Her rule, most of us learned to keep a nocturnal schedule, like She did. Dragons caught sleeping when She was angry didn't last long, for good reason. Nobody actively wanted to displease Her who didn't want to die. I looked to the horizon, lifting my ear flaps and catching a few strains of Her beautiful voice. She was right and just, perfect in every way; dragons not helping Her deserved what they got. Everything She did -- every less-than-savory decision She made -- was for the good of the nest. How could any dragon, any being, say otherwise against Her voice?

I shook my head, ridding myself of the strange thoughts that came to me after the memory of Her consuming some of our kin. Those that She slew deserved it. The good of the nest.

I tried focusing on something else. The water lapped against the side of the pile of cut trees, producing an oddly rhythmic sound. Her voice echoed across the horizon again, glorious strains producing a stirring in my chest.

The good of the nest. I’m no good for the nest now, am I? I’m flightless. I have to rely on my mad human pet to survive -- and even that’s going rather badly. I haven’t eaten in over a day, neither has he.

What am I going to do?

What am I good for, now?


Hiccup startled awake as a high-pitched keening split the air. Memory returned more quickly this time -- Outcast Island, Alvin, the bola launcher, Toothless, and the escape.

But now, something had apparently distressed Toothless, as behind him the dragon was pawing at his head and keening loudly, the sound probably audible all the way to the horizon, now dark with night.

The scrawny Viking scrambled to his feet, his footing unsteady as Toothless' continued distress caused the boat to rock -- not quite dangerously, but close to it. The boy stumbled over to the remains of the mast and balanced himself against the splintered wood. "Toothless, woah, what's wrong bud?" Hiccup asked.

Toothless spared him a glance, then returned to his keening, the sound now a little louder than before. Whatever had upset the Night Fury, either the boy was a part of it, or he wasn't helping.

Open ocean, quiet night, escape from an island filled with enemies that want to kill you, what could possibly have set him off? Hiccup wondered.

Another part of him whispered, It's your fault he doesn't have a tail. It's night time, he's a Night Fury, but because you built a weapon for the Outcasts, he can't fly.

...I'd be mad too.

"Toothless, I..." Hiccup knelt before the dragon. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

Toothless quieted down, and looked at him, the air between them becoming suddenly silent, expectant.

"I was afraid of the Outcasts, and I built them that bola launcher that took you down, and it's my fault you don't have a tail, and I'm sorry." Tears threatened the edge of his vision, but he kept talking, baring his heart to the dragon: "When I was considering just giving up, earlier, you comforted me -- in your own weird way -- and kept me going. Even my dad wouldn't do that. He's just sorta really..."

Hiccup trailed off, then remembered something. He looked up.

"You can't understand a word I'm saying, can you?"

Toothless looked at him for a moment more, then turned away and resumed keening his misery.

"Woah, woah, Toothless, c'mon..."

Toothless paused again, looking at Hiccup with eyes that, on a human, would've been shimmering with tears. Hiccup found himself in a crouching position, hands raised in front of himself defensively, and guessed that his body language probably wouldn't help his case right now.

So he changed it. He stood, slowly, and reached his left hand toward Toothless, fingers trembling.

Toothless snarled at Hiccup's hand then -- seemingly startled by the sound he'd made -- backed away

Hiccup sucked in his breath and looked away. He trusted himself, bodily, entirely to Toothless. Unlike before, when they'd had a common enemy, there was no other target for whatever ire Toothless had over his lost tail. By now, Toothless had probably learned enough about the boat to steer it even while propelling it. Toothless didn't need Hiccup at all.

But Hiccup needed Toothless, or he'd be drifting on the ocean alone, with no propulsion.

He waited, hand extended out of his view, trusting Toothless entirely.


Sapling talked at length, humming and hissing and clicking out human speech for an indeterminate time...

Then he stopped, voice chirping in question.

What was I to say, about my situation? What did it matter, anyway? He couldn't understand the speech of dragons.

She was there, She was so glorious , but to Her, I was so useless . What was I possibly worth compared to Her glory? Why did I exist? Why didn’t those ground damned humans kill me? Put me out of the misery of flightlessness.

I couldn't...

I can't...

I began to keen again. Everything was so hopeless... There was no point to...

Hum. Hum. "Tuuhfflisss," click-hum-low-hum.

"Tuuhfflisss," that sound Sapling kept using around me… it wasn't the same noise other humans used for me. That was: "nihhtuhfuereegehtuhdouunn." What did Sapling's sound mean, in the human tongue?

I looked at Sapling and winced as I saw his body's position. He seemed afraid of me.

Why- why are you afraid of me? I’m useless...

Suddenly he began to rise, standing and reaching out toward my face. Even though it was Sapling , and even after everything we'd been through in the past two days, I saw his paw approaching and immediately my mind flashed to danger. My instincts -- drilled into me by years in Her glorious service -- told me this human was not to be trusted.

And I snarled. At Sapling.

I shrank back, trying to compress further into the front of the ship. My tail slipped out of the "boughautuh," past the splintered tree on the front, splashing lightly into the water.

Sapling was looking at me, hand out and reaching...

Then he looked away.

I could kill him right then and there, and even he wouldn't know. I could claw through his neck, or bite his head off his shoulders, or blast his torso apart with fire, or throw him over the side and hold him underwater, or just break every bone in his scrawny frame by grabbing the floor and crushing him between the trees of the "boughautuh" and myself.

And he just stood there, reaching out to me. Accepting all those things, and seeking my acceptance. Seeking the acceptance of one as worthless as me.

Slowly, like ice melting into the floor of a cave, I pressed my snout into his paw.

He looked at me. Our eyes met.


Though Hiccup and Toothless didn't realize it as they each thought the other their better, their thoughts were, apart from the language barrier, identical:

I’m useless. Worthless. Lost.

Maybe he can find a use for me.


Meanwhile, on Outcast Island...

"What? What's wrong with Savage? Can't you see I'm busy plottin' my revenge against Berk's littl' embarrassment?" Alvin growled over his tableful of maps and spreadsheets. The somewhat elderly medicine woman across from him took a raspy breath.

"Well, Alvin," the medicine woman mumbled, "Savage doesn't appear to be sick with anything. What's happening is very... Odd. I've seen nothing like it before."

"So what's wrong?" Alvin pestered, "If he can do his job, why's he still in your care? He isn't being a lazy little..." He trailed off as the medicine woman took another breath to continue.

"He's shrinking. His torso and head are becoming smaller, and it appears he no longer has a rib cage."

Silence reigned. The candles providing light sputtered, the cast shadows flickering.

"Well I'll be..." Alvin muttered.

The medicine woman took another shuddering breath. "Do you happen to know why these strange… transformations… are occurring?"

"I know exactly why," Alvin spoke, before shifting to a more barking, order-giving tone. "Move Savage to one of the arena cells! We're about to have a scaly guest, and I'd prefer that he be safely locked away, in case there are any issues."

The medicine woman blinked at the Outcast chief, uncomprehending.

"That boy 'Iccup used magic on Savage, and now he's turning into a dragon! Now lock 'im up before he goes crazy and kills someone!"

The medicine woman blinked again, then hobbled off as quickly as her frame would allow.

"Stupid dense subordinates and their Loki-damned stupidity..." Alvin muttered.


"W-where are you takin' me? What's going on?" Savage grumbled, awakened from his rest by the jostling of his bed being carried.

Behind him, out of view, the medicine woman's quiet, raspy voice answered. "Alvin says that you're transforming into a dragon and that the best course of action would be to lock you in one of the cells..."

"Lock me in one of the cells?!" Savage shouted, "Turnin' into a dragon?! That's- I was only unconscious for a few minutes! Sure I never saw which of the magic things he was forcin' the boy to do, but he wouldn'ta tried to turn 'is right 'and man into a dragon! Tha's madness!"

The two Outcasts carrying his bed and the medicine woman were silent. Passing them, Savage spotted the door to the cell in which he’d locked Hiccup.

"This in't necessary, really. I'm sure that the shrinkin' is some sort of... Of skin co'dition! I'll be fine, I'll be totally fine. I'll grow back to normal size and I won't get any scales. That's me, normal human Savage, right-hand man to Alvin the Treacherous and..."

He trailed off as they entered the dragon arena and headed for the first cell on the right.

"Don'... Now don' put me in tha' cage! I'm human, and I'm an Outcast, jus' like you people! Turn around righ' now, and take me back to the medicine hut!"

The medicine woman entered his field of view and tugged on the slightly ajar door. After application of some effort, it ground its way open.

"I'm Alvin's right-hand man, you imbeciles! Don't you know who you're dealing wi- Oof!"

His tirade was cut short as the two Outcasts tossed his bed into the cage.

Savage struggled to reach a sitting position, to get up and show these crazy people that he was just fine. His arms, twice as big as they needed to be for his torso, spasmed weakly. His chest, which had rounded out with the lack of rib-bones, heaved up and down with his breathing. "Pick me up and carry me out of this cell right now, ya’ hear me?! I'm fine!"

He heard the cage door grind shut, then retreating footsteps.

"You better run! You're gonna be dead when I'm through wi' you! I'm second-in-command to Alvin the Treacherous! I'll show you wha' it means to lock someone up!"

The door to the arena clanked shut behind the medicine woman and her two escorts. One of the escorts turned to the other. "What kind a' dragon you reckon 'e'll turn inta?"

The other chuckled darkly, "I reckon it'll be a Terrible Terror. You see the way 'is chest was 'eavin, and the way it was all rounded out?"

"Yeah. Savage the Terror. Imagine the look on 'is li'l face!"

The medicine woman remained silent while the two men laughed. She'd gone to Outcast Island after being exiled from the Lava Louts to patch people up when they were cut or burnt or crushed.

Men turning into beasts was not her job.


The first rays of the sun struck Outcast Island as Alvin approached the door to the dragon cages. He figured keeping both human and dragon prisoners in the same canyon was rather efficient. Prevented any significant problems, as if one escaped the other would surely make noise. Of course, they hadn't bothered capturing dragons for some time, as surviving on Outcast Island was training in and of itself. That was, until "Stoick's little embarrassment" came along and ruined his life, and beard. Now the long canyon was only a reminder of his mistakes.

The Outcast chief approached the first cage on the right of the arena, looking down on its bedridden occupant.

Savage had scales now. His head had shrunken to the size of two fists out together, if that, and his hair had begun to fall out around him on the bed. His torso was proportionately smaller, but his limbs maintained their original scale. The lower part of his limbs, anyway -- the upper part began at original size, but then shrank down like cloth being pulled taught to where it met his torso, at a slightly less than proportional size. And seemingly everywhere there were patches of scales.

"Alvin!" Savage spoke, his voice some kind of strange mix between a croak and a squeak, "Alvin, you know how to undo this, right? That's why you used that spell out of the book? Especially on someone so important to you as your second-in-command?"

Alvin gave the part-human a long look. "No, Savage. I don't." It was the truth: he'd been over the book a half dozen times and in the text he could read or find translations for (what little there was) he found no mention of a counter for this curse he'd put on his right-hand man. Not a one that could be employed without someone who could use magic. The promise of a loyal, draconian soldier had just been too great...

"Loki dammit Alvin! Why'd you do this ta me? There are plenty 'a Outcasts more expendable than me!" Savage burst out, his tirade coming out more like a rushed whisper.

Alvin remained inscrutable and silent for a long moment. Then turned away.

"Alvin! Don't go already! There's gotta be somethin' you can do! Somethin' in the book! The people makin' it, they didn' want to be dragons forever, righ'? There's gotta be some kinda counter that can be activated by those under the effects! Dammit, bring me the bo..."

Alvin shut the door to the arena, muffling his second's already quiet voice. He hoped to Hel and back that when he forced the boy's head up at himself, the spell hadn't struck.

He did not want to follow in Savage's… pawprints.


22nd of July, year of Odin's reign 1009

A man can only draw the horizon so many times.

And for me that number appears to be about five. I drew every wavecrest, every splinter of wood in the side of the ship, every undulation in the overcast sky...

I hate to admit it, but Gods I'm bored.

Last night Toothless freaked out about... something. His tail, I think. I calmed him down and I think he trusts me more now.

And I'm still alive, so he isn't mad at me about the whole tail thing... Not that he even understands it's my fault. I guess that’s one way the language barrier is a good thing… for me, anyway. Not that I deserve that benefit of it.

So I think it's midday. He's sleeping (he's there in like three sketches) and has barely moved since the sun rose.

And we're out here. Alone. Gods I could really use something to eat.


"Bucket, I think I see somethin' ou' there," Mulch muttered, looking south through his magnifying glass -- a gift from Hiccup a few years back. He didn't admit it to anyone, but he liked the lad and his crazy contraptions... except when they didn't work.

"Whaddya see Mulch?" Bucket asked, as the tall Viking klomped his way loudly across the deck of their fishing longship. The metal bucket over his skull glinted, even in the overcast light.

"Well, I' looks a bit like a boat wi'out a sail, there on the horizon," Mulch replied, waving his right hook in the general direction of the object he'd sighted.

"A boat without a sail? Mulch, should we help them? Or are they people that don't like us very much?" Bucket pestered.

"Calm down Bucket! I don't think they 'ave a mast, either, so we'll 'ave to head down there and see who it is."

"But what if they are the people who don't like us very much?!"

"Bucket, they don' 'ave a sail ."

"So?" Bucket whined, "they could still... What if they boarded us?!"

"We'd sail away first," Mulch explained, slowly.

"But... But..."

"No sail, no moving. We've nothin' to fear, Bucket!" With his proclamation, Mulch collapsed his spyglass into a pocket and turned to the ship. Apart from himself and Bucket, Stoick had sent him on this fishing voyage with Spitelout Jorgenson and Seabreath Ingerman. Spitelout, being brother of the chief, was peeved that he wasn't in command of the voyage. Mulch suspected that if he had been leading then they wouldn't have made it out of the Berk docks. "Spitelout, Seabreath, tighten the sail lines. Bucket, man the till and steer us due south."


"What, so we're just sailing right over to these mast-less fools? What if they try to attack us? They're not one of ours, we're the only ship out right now, what with the whole..." Spitelout trailed off as he realized he'd just strayed into the territory that had him out on a fishing trip, rather than back at the village helping his brother.

"Spitelout, you know better than to question the captain on the open sea. Tighten that line already," Mulch chastised.

Spitelout grumbled under his breath but set to the task. What was his stupid son thinking when he shoved his cousin off that cliff? His brother's tiny son was probably smashed against some rocks now, or sunk to the bottom of the sea. And then, once the panic started in on their chief, to let the secret that he'd done it out to the public; he left so many obvious clues. Idiot! Even Mildew figured out it had been Snotlout who did it, before any official proceedings. He never raised his son to be so politically stup--

"Gah!" Spitelout shouted, the line cutting through his fingers and whipping free in the wind. It flapped about in the breeze and Mulch gave an aggravated sigh.

"Spitelout, man the till. Bucket, fix Spitelout's work," Mulch ordered.

It wasn't spoken verbally, but Spitelout was certain there was an undertone of, "Can you at least hold a straight course with a stick of wood?" behind Mulch's words. Silently fuming, 'lout manned the till while Bucket chased the end of the whipping sail-line around the ship.

If Snotlout hadn't been exiled by the time he got back, Spitelout was going to teach him a serious lesson about keeping bad things quiet .


"Toothless, there's a ship approaching! Toothless, I think you’ll want to wake up bud!"

The Night Fury grumbled, blinking back exhaustion under the bright, overcast sky. Hiccup was leaning on the starboard bow of the ship, next to the sleeping dragon.

"Their sail... I think they're from Berk! We get to go back to my home, bud!"

At Hiccup's excitement, Toothless blinked a little harder, and struggled to a standing position, looking blearily over the side next to the Viking teen. Another ship was, in fact, approaching. Hiccup bounced on the balls of his feet, excited to go home. Seeing the ship, Toothless awoke fully and backed away, taking a battle-ready stance. Hiccup didn't notice.

As the ship approached, Toothless shifted off to his position at (and as) the figurehead, in case they needed to leave quickly. Hiccup remained at the starboard side, bouncing excitedly.

The Berkian longship turned to port, coming into a broadside at five-hundred paces out. Even at this distance -- and even with his naked eye -- Hiccup could make out the hulking, angular form of Bucket, and his relatively diminutive, rotund friend Mulch, both standing at the starboard side of the Berkian ship.

"Bucket! Mulch! Man am I glad to see you guys!" Hiccup shouted across the water.


"Bucket! Mulch! Man am I glad to see you guys!" the figure standing in the incapacitated boat shouted across the water.

"Mulch, that sounds like--" Bucket began, voice taking on a note of fear.

Mulch cut him off. "I know who it sounds like, Bucket, but we can't stan' to make any assumptions."

Spitelout looked like he was dealing with a number of conflicting thoughts simultaneously, but he added his loud voice to the considerations anyway. "Make any assumptions? There's no assumption to be made! That's obviously Stoick's boy Hiccup over there! This is a miracle!"

"Nobody asked you, Spitelout," Mulch chided.

Seabreath Ingerman decided to follow the Ingerman way and remain silent until he had something to add.

Mulch turned to the damaged vessel. "Damaged ship! State your affiliation!"

The reply from the other ship echoed back over the water. "Oh c'mon guys, it's me! Hiccup!"

"I'm tellin' you, that's Hiccup!" Spitelout protested, "I don't know how, but he's here! Let's take him back to Stoick and clear up this whole mess with my son--"

"Enough, Spitelout! Stop questioning me on my own ship!" Mulch again turned to the other vessel. "You claim to be Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, Hope and Heir to the tribe of the Hairy Hooligans? Is anyone else aboard your vessel?"

"Oh come on!" the figure -- Hiccup -- answered, "This ship is tiny, you can see the whole thing! It's just me and... er..."

"I knew this was bad..." Bucket trailed off.

"Where is the other occupant? Show him to us!" Mulch ordered.

Hiccup, if that's who he was, rubbed the back of his neck. "I kinda... er, he's pretty obvious. I guess I thought you'd seen him already."

"Thor almighty!" Seabreath suddenly exclaimed, "The figurehead of his ship, look at the figurehead!"

The other occupants of the longboat switched attention, staring at the figurehead. It did seem a bit odd, the dragon's head too wide and flat, and the bow of the ship too thick...

Then it moved, and two green orbs stared back.

"Dragon!" Spitelout screeched, stumbling back toward the till. Bucket crouched down, cowering beneath the side of the ship. Seabreath ran back to the port side of their vessel, manning the sail-line there. "Deploy the sail, get us out of here!" Spitelout shouted.

Mulch stood, staring at the dragon. It wasn't any type of dragon recorded in the book that he remembered. At least, not that had its image recorded.

The other ship's figurehead -- an actual, live dragon, spread its wings. "Night Fury! Get down!" Mulch shouted, joining Bucket on the deck.

The activity on both ships was interrupted as Hiccup began to shout. "Woah, woah! Toothless, stop it! You're scaring them, bud!" Hiccup turned to the other ship, sail half deployed and turning a slow circle in the water, "Guys! Don't run, we seriously need help!"

"We?!" Spitelout shouted, practically hysterical, "That's a Night Fury! You're on a boat with a live dragon!"

"I know! And I wouldn't be alive now without him!"

That brought silence between the two boats. The water lapped at the sides of the vessels as the dragon sneered at the opposing ship.

"Toothless." The dragon turned to look at Hiccup. Hiccup gestured to come down off the figurehead of the boat and, reluctantly, the dragon obeyed.

"What is it? What's going on?" Bucket asked. Mulch stood, looking over the side and watching the communication between human and dragon unfold.

"By Thor's beard, I never thought I'd see the day..." Mulch stated, voice audible only to those on his ship.

"What day? The day madness and dragons took the chief's son? Let's get out of here before this madness takes us too!" Spitelout panicked, hands gripping the till so tightly they turned white.

Seabreath let the sail line go loose, joining Mulch on the starboard bow of the ship, to be closer to the disabled vessel with boy and dragon. After a moment, Bucket peeked his bucket and one eye over the side too.

"Bucket, Mulch, other Berkians on your vessel, meet Toothless." Hiccup said, gesturing to the dragon at the end of his sentence.

“That’s certainly different,” Mulch commented to those on his ship. "What was it that you needed, Hiccup?" Mulch asked of the other vessel.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" Spitelout screamed at the top of his lungs. The three at the bow saw the dragon wince and growl at the sudden noise, and Hiccup's startled reaction to the dragon's action.

"Bucket, tie Spitelout up," Mulch whispered to the other two at the bow, "Seabreath, make sure he stays quiet. I don't know what the chief's son has with that dragon, but I don't want to stress it."

The two named Hooligans turned, and began to approach Spitelout. The chief's brother released the till, looking for something with which to defend himself. In moments, Seabreath had him in a chokehold that rendered the Jorgenson unconscious and Bucket bound the sleeping man's hands and feet.

Mulch made a mental note not to ever get on an Ingerman's bad side, then turned back to Hiccup. "Hiccup, you needed...?"

"R-right, sorry. Didn't expect you to just understand..."

"Can't say that I do understand, lad, but I think that I'd like to. Now, what is it that you needed?"

"Well, I kinda want to go home… a-and get some food... a-and get some food for Toothless, though..." He trailed off.

"Though...?" Mulch questioned.

Hiccup gave his dragon a sheepish look. "I don't know what he eats."


The other human "boughautuh" approached ours. I was ready to blow it branch-from-branch, but Sapling kept making quiet noises at me in human, so I let it approach. It came alongside and Hiccup handed the shortest human on board what remained of the human woven-vine I'd set afire in our escape to release our "boughautuh." The other human did something to secure it to the rear of their "boughautuh" and soon our two piles of trees were headed north, pulled by the wind pressing into a woven-vine mess tied to a big tree in the other ship, like the one removed from our ship by the evil, flying woven-vine.

Then I smelled it: Fish -- lots of fresh fish.

Ignoring Sapling's calls of alarm, I climbed over the broken front-tree of our "boughautuh" and onto the rear of the other, following the scent. The tall human with the metal-vein head there shrieked in alarm, tripping over himself to flee my presence to the front. I ignored it, instead following the scent to a pile of woven branches.

The branches smelled of fish, all over, but I couldn't find a way in! I snarled at the branches and lashed out with a claw, severing several and causing a half dozen fresh fish to slide out. Eagerly, I began to wolf them down.

Sapling leaped from our "boughautuh" to theirs, standing on the side and looking down at me eating. He grumbled something in human and made that coughing sound that seemed to be human laughter.

The tall mountain-vein headed human moaned something and the short one chirped to silence it.

None of that mattered to me.

Because fish .


Lured back to the gala ship by another basket of fish that Hiccup precariously carried over, Toothless was now sleeping soundly.

Hiccup returned to the longship to explain his tale, though he decided to skip the part about magic. He'd befriended a dragon, that was enough crazy for one adventure.

The other Berkians seemed perplexed by his tale. It wasn't that they didn't believe him, it was just that the story seemed so preposterous.

"So the Outcasts have had my family’s old gala ship, Girtha, for how long now?" Seabreath asked.

"Dunno, Alvin didn't really talk about it except to mention its name when they kidnapped me. If I had to guess, I’d say Mildew had a role in its supposed sinking.”

"And Mildew was there at the sea cave, collaborating with Alvin?" Mulch joined.

"Yes,” Hiccup affirmed.

"I never liked Mildew," Bucket whispered.

A groan from the aft of the ship -- opposite one destroyed basket no longer filled with fish -- caught the group's attention. Spitelout rolled over, then opened his eyes.

"What's going...? Hiccup? When did you... Where's the dragon?! Oh Gods, did it kill us? Are we all dead?!" Spitelout immediately began to panic.

"No you idiot, Hiccup tamed the beast. It doesn't seem intent on hurtin' anybody." Mulch answered.

As if to specifically counter his words, a screech followed by an explosion blasted over the waves, shattering the relative quiet. Behind the two ships, a huge plume of water shot into the air.


"Shut your trap, Spitelout. The dragon just hit water..." Mulch trailed off as he stood over Spitelout, looking out to sea to assess the damage. Hiccup jumped over Spitelout and joined him.

"What?! What is it?!"

"It's... fish,” Mulch gasped, surprise evident.

Hundreds of stunned fish, a whole school, rose to the surface where the plume of water was still dissipating. Hiccup looked out over it all, an awestruck smile playing over his features.

He looked over at Toothless and found the dragon trying to mimic his expression, toothless gums visible in a lopsided grin.

"Seabreath! Bring us about! Looks like we're still headin' back to Berk with a full haul!" Mulch ordered.



We got rescued, which was AWESOME! Toothless nearly scared them off, but Bucket and Mulch were really understanding once they saw he wasn't trying to eat me, or them. That's great.

They had to tie up Spitelout though. He still thinks they should kill Toothless, and freaks out at the slightest action from the dragon. Thank the Gods he wasn't awake when Toothless found the fish baskets.

Oh, and the fish! Toothless stunned a whole school with the Night Fury plasma blast thing that he does, so we're actually still fish-positive, despite feeding everyone (and every thing , if Toothless still only qualifies as a thing to you, journal) on both boats, heartily. That's a great thing! Another reason for my dad to not kill Toothless, I hope.

We were a day south of Berk by standard longship navigation when Bucket and Mulch found us, so we should make Berk by midday tomorrow.

And food. Gods above, I never thought week-old preserved meats could taste so good, and fresh water. It was just that good.

(It’s a shame we couldn't cook any of the fish on our wooden boats. Toothless looked like he really enjoyed it. On the other hand, I’m not sure I can stomach seafood after Outcast Island’s slop, so maybe it’s a good thing.)

This week was crazy. I made a real friend who almost nobody I know will trust. And nearly died, repeatedly. And hopefully will return in time to foil an Outcast plot to turn Berk into that “Swiss” cheese trader Johann was selling that one time, all full of holes. Remember, the Whispering Death egg Alvin planted in the Raven's Point sea caves? Yeah, I hope that hasn't hatched yet.

I can't wait for this adventuring to be over. I hope Berk accepts Toothless.

And I am going to get some sleep. Goodnight, journal.


Breath on the Wind

Chapter 6 : Breath on the Wind


Savage opened his eyes, though he quickly regretted returning to awareness. He was still on his back, still in that bed, and still in that cell.

Dammit all. Can't I just die, somehow, and let this nightmare be over with?

He tried moving his right arm. Strangely, and unlike before his exhaustion-required nap, it felt like it was actually moving -- though the movement was as if through molasses. He stretched the arm, trying to reach a more natural position than laid out flat next to him on the bed. The current angle was stressing his shoulder to no end...

The arm pressed into something leathery and heavy that wouldn't give way. He groaned out loud, then squawked in alarm as the noise came out like a low hum, something utterly not human. "What on Odin's..."

He trailed off. The words he'd spoken didn't come out right at all. It was as if his mouth wasn't forming the words. It sounded more like "aahmm uun oominss..." the last sses turning into a hiss, as he nearly bit his tongue.

"Nnoo..." he moaned, struggling to try to reach a sitting position. His neck responded far faster than he expected and he slammed his chin into his chest.

His scale covered chin, and jaw, into his scale covered belly. And there, where his ridiculously large human legs met his tiny dragon body, a scaly tail .

Savage shrieked -- the sound completely beyond anything he could do with his previous vocal chords -- and shook violently to free himself from whatever bags were wrapped around his limbs. His left hand -- he thought it was still a hand -- managed to poke a hole in one of the bags, and he pulled, tearing the opening wider.

His belly was spattered with splotches of red as his left forelimb came free from the deflated remains of his left upper arm. He stared at the scaled leg, its claws glinting in the dim moonlight; they shone at him dark red, glistening with his own blood.

He shrieked again, struggling all the harder to free himself from the bed. His right arm burst free as well, and he rolled over using the two free limbs, twisting his spine inhumanly as his lower legs refused to move. He sunk his claws into the pillow, trying to pull himself away from the reality of the situation.

His last two limbs tore free, their human originals bleeding into the bedding. With his forelegs, he pushed off hard and leaped away from the gruesome scene. Claws clicked against stone as he landed in a haphazard heap.

Then he dared to look back at his deathbed.

Two forearms with associated hands and two legs with knees, feet, calves, and heavily torn-up thighs lay on the bed, bleeding into the bedding. The clothing splayed around them was in shreds from his struggles.

There was no torso, no head, to commemorate the passing of his human form. Both of those came with him to the dragon side.

Savage collapsed back to the ground and tried to cry, shutting his eyes tightly and shuddering on the ground. His body's only response was a high-pitched note that clenched the back of his throat.

And Savage keened for his loss.


"What's all this racket?" Alvin questioned, as he approached the door to the arena.

The guard -- who looked suspiciously like SpleenGuts -- stuttered out a response. "Well s- sir, there were some strange noises from inside sir, then suddenly this sound started up. I went in to see what was the matter, and found a t- Terror covered in blood right in there by the bed, sir. And Savage's chest and head just d- disappeared, sir, in a lot of b- blood. I decided it would be best to j- just wait outside, sir, until someone with more n-knowledge of the sit’iation c- came along..."

Alvin rolled his eyes at the imbecilic Outcast and made his way inside, not even bothering to scold the idiot for his stupidity, or figure out if it was SpleenGuts back on guard duty when he should be catching some plague helping out the medicine lady. Leaving the dithering idiot in the darkening night, he shut the door behind himself, then turned to the cage. Inside lay the source of the piercing note that had been the subject of his questions outside.

There was, in fact, a lot of blood. The bedsheets, once the dirty tan linen they made do with on Outcast Island, now were a deep scarlet, heavily contrasting the flesh of the four limbs lying on top. Behind the bed, a Terrible Terror lay piled in a limp heap, sucking in breaths that inflated its tiny frame, then blowing out long piercing notes that almost had Alvin wincing.

"Savage! If that's you, stop that blithering nonsense!" Alvin shouted at the cell's lone, blood-smeared occupant.

The Terror paused, and opened one eye to look at Alvin. Then it leaped to its feet, or more specifically what would have counted for feet for a human, which left it immediately collapsing back to the ground.

"Aahmn! Aah eh uu oh ho meh?" It squeaked, the syllables sounding like some vague mangling of Norse.

"Savage? Is that really you?"

"Oph hass ehss mmeh! Hammeh Aahmn!"

Alvin couldn't understand a word of it, but it sounded like the creature was trying to communicate, which meant it was probably Savage. In a dragon body. It -- he... whatever... it wasn't like pronouns were important anymore -- was a Terrible Terror, of all things, but he -- or it -- was still a dragon. That was something, though Alvin couldn't guess what he'd use a human-intelligence Terror for. Carrying messages, perhaps?

"Well, alright then Savage. I'm gonna open this cage door. If y' try to hurt me, or anyone else I didn' order you to, I'll kill you meself. Understand?"

The Terror nodded, which was an odd thing to see a dragon do. Alvin tugged on the gate and it ground its way open, leaving a gap for the Terror to exit. Savage the Terror made his stumbling way out of the cage, tripping over his own feet (both the dragon ones and the human ones still in the bed) as he exited.

Then he sat before Alvin, giving the Outcast chieftain what any outside observer would describe as a rock-melting glare. Alvin looked down at the dragon and stroked what remained of his beard, wondering what he could possibly do with a Terrible Terror under his command.


"Oh c'mon, what's so hard about it, eh? Jus' flap y' darn wings Savage!" Alvin shouted. Under the nighttime torchlight, Savage gave Alvin another glare, then stumbled his way forward and jumped, trying to flap his new shoulders-behind-his-shoulders.

The one on the right went down, the one on the left came up. He landed heavily on his left side and gave another humming moan, which bounced up and down through the octaves. He lay there on the floor of the arena, taking a few deep breaths and moaning. While his new form was durable enough to take mistakes like that, that didn't mean it liked to.

"Oh for cryin' out... At the same time in the same direction , obviously! Really, Savage, I thought you'd be smarter than the rest of the Vikings on this li'le island."

Oh, I know plenty, Alvin. About being a Human ! Savage complained, inside his head. His only verbal response was another moan.

"Alright, fine. I suppose if you don' want ta learn flyin' you can go a third day in a row without food." Alvin said.

Third? Savage wondered, Oh gods, I didn't eat anything while lying in that bed! W- what do I even eat now?

"Until y' can fly yer way out of one o' the gaps in this arena, have a good time sleepin' on the ground." Having given his ultimatum, Alvin stomped off and pulled the arena door shut.

Savage looked around. The arena door was really heavy; there was no way he'd be able to open it as he was now. The gaps in the cage above were really far away; he'd really have to learn flying to get out.

He looked over at his right wing, focusing on trying to move it.

It twitched. He moaned.

He would go to sleep, just like Alvin suggested, but he'd spent most of his time in that bed asleep, and the sun was starting to come up. He was too well rested to sleep, too inexperienced to fly.

At least I learned to walk he thought, standing and moving, without stumbling, in a circle. His wings dragged on the ground behind him, and he gave another dejected moan.

Damn transformation, didn't teach me how to use the stupid body it gave me.

He focused on those new shoulders on his back, trying to draw them in. Like before, it didn't work... at first.

Suddenly, it was like something clicked into place, and the wings snapped up to his back just like he'd intended. He jumped and ran around in a circle for joy. Finally, something was working out for him!

His joyous scampering slowed, as his head began to hurt. Thoughts and ideas clattered around in his head, some of which he couldn't figure out a source for.

The smell of raw fish? When did I take the time as a human to sniff it that closely? And why does it smell good?

The feel of breathing fire? I haven't done that yet! Where'd this memory come from?

Wingbeat. Wing beat. Oh, that's how I move my wings to fly. Wait what?

He clutched at his head, the thoughts buzzing and burning even as...

Woah, he was so... tired. He just wanted to curl up on the ground and go to sleep...

Yeah... Everything would be better if he just went to sleep...

No! Wait, he'd just been sleeping, on his deathbed! He wasn't tired a moment ago... Where was this exhaustion coming from?

Savage clutched his head in his paws as the dark, overcast sky lightened into morning. He focused on the pain of the new memories as he struggled to stay awake.

Then, as suddenly as it started, it was over.


I sat up. The burning in my head had stopped. Everything felt the same, yet, different...

Oh gods, did that screw around with my memory? Am I the same person as...?

Yes. I'm still Savage. Good. None of that damn kid's magic screwed with my human memories. Actually, if that magic was teaching me things...

I looked through my memory. Everything human appeared to be in chronological order, and nothing in chronological order had any duplicates or gaps that I hadn't remembered previously, so that was good. On the other hand, I also had this host of other experiences, almost entirely actions, smells, and sounds, that just sort-of... were. They sat there in my memory. I couldn’t remember when or where they happened, or when I learned them, but I had them.

I pulled out one from the early stages of the burning: The feeling of blowing fire. It wasn't hard, I just take a deep breath, move this muscle in my throat to inject gas, then breathe out while clicking my back teeth together.

I tried it, and a jet of orange flame shot from my mouth.


I leaped into the air, my wings responding automatically to push me higher. I grabbed a section of the chain-and-bar dome roofing the arena and scampered up to the top where I squeezed my way out.

I sat there for a bit, on top of the dome. No Alvin to deal with, no responsibilities as an Outcast...

The ocean was pretty, roiling even on an overcast day. I turned right and looked out over the Outcast settlement, stone houses and dim torches being extinguished in the early morning.

My life before was awful .

I curled up on top of the dome. Nobody was around to tell me what to do, so I was going to relax and...

I sat up. There was a sound on the wind, not heard so much as felt. Like a hundred panpipes playing a single, pure note, formed into words I couldn't make out.

I had to know what the words were. I turned around and looked, searching for the source. As mysteriously as it started, it stopped. But I had a direction, and I was going to find the source if it killed me.

That sound was so lovely, so pure, I had -- I was physically compulsed -- to go find the source. I took wing headed west-northwest and left the misery of Outcast Island behind.


Hiccup awoke on the deck of “Girtha” -- as Mr. Ingerman had confirmed his gala ship had been named. He clambered to his feet and looked out over the ocean around them. It was nearly midday, the sky filled with gray clouds. Toothless was sound asleep near the aft of the boat, and Hiccup chuckled lightly. The two of them has done a lot to get the Vikings on this expedition to warm up to dragons, though Spitelout was still a tied-up exception.

Hiccup climbed onto the bow of Girtha then stepped onto the aft railing of the longship. He hopped down onto the fishing ship's deck and began to make his way forwards.

Luckily, Spitelout was asleep again. Or unconscious again. Or pretending to sleep to spite everyone. In any case, he remained silent as Hiccup passed, breathing evenly.

Hiccup approached Bucket and Mulch, who were standing at the bow. Mulch noticed the teen's approach.

"Sorry laddie. It's nearly midday, and Berk's still outta sight. I guess we made worse time than I thought we would towin' Girtha and your dragon back home."

"Really, it's no problem. I'm just glad to be around people that aren't insan--" Hiccup began to reply.

Bucket cut him off. "I'm so sorry Mulch! It musta been muh maps throwin' us off."

Mulch gave an aggravated sigh. "Bucket, we aren't off course; We're just slower than usual because we've got another boat tied to ours."

"Oh, really?" Bucket sniffed.

"Yes, Bucket," Mulch comforted. "Besides, everyone knows your maps are the best. You've just been artistically talented ever since..." Mulch knocked his knuckles on his helmet.

"Oh. Right," Bucket affirmed, knocking his own knuckles on his bucket in mimicry of Mulch.

"So, anyway laddie," Mulch said, turning back to Hiccup, "at the rate we're goin' we won't make Berk 'till early evenin'. That's if the wind holds."

"Really, guys, I don't mind how quickly we get home, I'm just glad we're headed home," Hiccup said.

Mulch nodded. "Okay, well, we'll run the ship. You just get back to breakin' just about every Viking tradition ever."

Hiccup chuckled. "C'mon, there are a few that don't involve dragons, right?"

Bucket and Mulch shared a look in thought. "No, don't think so."

Seabreath, who'd been listening to the conversation while swapping back and forth between the sail lines, piped up. "The ceremony for a child reaching the age of maturity happens in the dragon arena, fighting dragons. Peace treaties between tribes are signed in dragon blood. Even marriage uses dragon claw tea and dragonscale jewelry. I sincerely doubt there's a single Viking tradition that doesn't indirectly or directly involve dragons."

"What about Snoggletog?" Hiccup asked.

"It's a ceremony to celebrate the time of year when dragons aren't attacking us,” Seabreath answered, "That still counts."

Hiccup sighed, and made his way back toward Girtha.

Seabreath interrupted, "Hiccup, I forgot to ask before, but, can I have Girtha back when we get back to Berk?"

"Oh, sure! I mean, it is your ship, I just stole it back from the people who stole it from you, so... Yeah, of course."

Seabreath nodded and gave a curt, "Thanks." Hiccup continued back to the gala ship, then sat down next to his friendly dragon.

Man, how weird was that even four days ago? Friendly dragon. Heh.


Spitelout listened in on the whole conversation. He was furious . Bucket, Mulch, and Seabreath were just letting his brother’s runt get away with ruining all their traditions! Befriending dragons! It was preposterous! Quietly, he worked his hands back and forth, continuing the work he'd started last night. The extra time before they'd return was good. He had to be the first one off that boat and he had to get to his brother. If he could get his bonds off, but make it look like they were still on, he'd be home free. He'd tell his brother what madness was occurring here, and the four mad traitors would be put to... perhaps not death, but some kind of punishment. That Night Fury would become a trophy on someone's wall -- probably Stoick's -- and everything would return to sanity. He might even clear his son's name, in all this.

Before all that, though, he had to get to Stoick. Before that , he needed to get these damn ropes off.

He stopped for a moment, letting the bonds settle. It felt like the ropes were tighter than before. Dammit, how does that bucket-brained idiot tie knots like these?!


"He wasn't in the arena, s-sir."

"I suspected as much, SplurgeFace. I suppose tha' magic finished its Loki’s work, then: changed his mind too. The real Savage wouldn'ta up and left. He'd do something stupid and flamboyant, trying to get my approval." Alvin sighed. "Prepare a funeral pyre for the limbs. We'll do the classic Outcast send off."

The "classic Outcast send off" was to light the funeral pyre, then shove it off a cliff into the ocean. It pretty much represented how the lives of all Outcasts had gone, and how they ended.

Also, they didn't have the boats to spare for real pyres.

SpilledGuts nodded vigorously and scampered off. Alvin leaned back in his throne. That was that, then. He'd felt perfectly normal the past few days, so hopefully none of that magic had affected him.

He really, really hoped.


"I see Berk!"

Hiccup shot to his feet at Bucket's cry. The wind had remained surprisingly steady, but Mulch had been too reluctant to say they'd make it by early evening. With the land in sight and a couple hours of daylight left, it was now a near certainty they would.

"I see it too, Bucket,” Mulch affirmed. "Head to the tiller and turn us four degrees to starboard."

Hiccup saw Bucket pass Spitelout as the young Viking jumped onto the larger boat. He passed Bucket on his own journey forward. "Where is Berk, on the horizon?" he asked Mulch.

The rotund Viking pointed to a dark speck almost directly north of them. "There. I reckon we'll make the docks by nightfall."

Hiccup sprinted back across the boat and leaped over onto Girtha. Toothless opened one eye in annoyance at all the interruption of his sleeping.

"Toothless, we're almost home! We're actually headed back to Berk!"

Toothless huffed at Hiccup's excitement and lay back down. Hiccup threw his arms out around his scaly friend and leaned into his chest. It was sort of like a hug...

Fine, Hiccup admitted to himself, I'm hugging a dragon.

Toothless stiffened momentarily, then leaned into his human’s affection.

"Man, I really hope my dad doesn't freak out about this."


Stoick "the Vast" Haddock, chief of the Hairy Hooligans, stood in Berk's town square and surveyed the bustling activity. He would prefer to be in the caves or on a boat, mounting another search for his... likely dead... son. He'd prefer to prosecute his brother's son, for killing his own. He'd prefer to grieve, alone, in the now empty Haddock home.

Then Trader Johann had shown up with several tons of food from the south -- grains and preserved meats. He didn't want to deal with chiefly duties but, dammit, Berk needed that food for the coming winter if they wanted to avoid digging into their sheep herds for sustenance.

The village was in full trading mode, moving perishable materials like oils and processed goods like clothing and weapons down to the docks to trade for the food Johann brought. He would've had more fish on hand to trade Johann -- something the trader seemed oddly interested in -- but he hadn't expected the trader. They only had the other village staples, and the one fishing expedition he had out wasn't due back for two days -- well after Johann had to move on.

Stoick sighed, regretting sending his brother on the expedition. It was petty of him, to force his brother away from town because of what his son did. If Spitelout were here, he'd probably have no issue with overseeing the moving of the trade goods. He was always better at labor and logistics, if lacking in diplomacy, tact, and overall intelligence.

Stoick returned his attention to the matter at hand and spotted Gothi moving through the crowd toward him.

The village elder. I wonder what news would bring her all the way down from her mountain hut.

He turned toward the blacksmith shop, which was just as busy as everywhere else. "Gobber!" Stoick shouted, "Can I borrow you for a moment?"

"Ehh..." Gobber the Belch -- with his non-prosthetic hand -- tossed a scythe out the shop window. It sailed inches over one Viking's helmet and into the waiting hand of another, who carried it down toward the docks. "Li'le busy at the moment Stoick!" The sound of hammering resumed.

Gothi came up next to Stoick and tapped her stick on the ground to get his attention. Stoick glanced down at her, and she began to write in the strange mix of Norse characters and pictures only Gobber seemed to understand.

"Gobber!" Stoick bellowed, "I believe this is of some importance!"

Gobber leaned out the shop window. He nearly dropped the sword in his prosthetic tongs when he saw Gothi. Quickly he put aside his work to make his way over.

"What did she say, Gobber?" Stoick asked, more quietly now that they were all together.

"Err... Okay, that doesn't make much sense."


"Alright. Boat retu- OW!" Gothi whacked Gobber with her staff, and Gobber amended his translation. "Boats! Plural! Fine. Boats returning. Fish done... Fishing? Yeah, fishing done. The ones that left aren't the only ones... erm... Okay, Gothi, that's just plain ridiculous."

"What?" Stoick questioned, impatience growing.

"She says they have a black dragon with them. I'm pretty sure she's talking about the fishing boat we sent out, but now there's two boats and a black dragon."

Stoick stared at Gobber, then looked to Gothi, expecting her to reprimand him and force him to fix his translation.

Gothi nodded.

Stoick took a breath. On the exhale he whispered, "What in the name of--"

A villager came running up. "Chief Stoick! Just spotted the fishing boat on the horizon! It's returning already!"

"Yes, thank you Logson, I just heard the news."

Logson looked at the assembly of three of the most influential people in the village. "Right, of course, chief. I'll just... Things to carry..."

Logson left and Stoick turned back to the group. "Explain this to me one more time. Let's start with how you knew the boats would be returning..."

Gothi began writing. Gobber translated. "Having the short-agh! Tall! Tallest house in the village helps one rest your elbows- ow! Oi! Oh. Helps one spot faraway... What's that, squiggles? Oh, floating things. And..." Gothi wrote some more. "Hiccup made great towers? Agh! Spyglasses! Hiccup made great spyglasses. Not sure what that has to do with..."

"Let me understand this, Gothi," Stoick cut in, "Using your house's height and a spyglass, you saw the boats?"

Gothi nodded.

"And they had a dragon with them? A black dragon?"

Gothi nodded again.

"And there were now two boats, not just the one we sent out?"

Gothi scribbled something, which Gobber dutifully read. "Two boats, one mast, one drawin- Ow! What is that? One dragon?" Gothi scribbled another line. "Oh, one figurehead and one dragon. Doesn't sound like the second boat is much of a boat, though..."

Stoick rubbed his temples. It seemed supervising trade was the least of his confusing problems today.


Welcoming Party


Hiccup rode in Girtha as the two boats approached the docks. He figured staying close to Toothless and keeping him calm would increase his scaly friend's chances of survival during this encounter. Toothless, for his part, was pretending to be Girtha's figurehead again. Hiccup wasn't sure if the dragon realized his positioning made him look fake, or if the dragon just liked the spot, but it was helping them out right now.

Mulch's commands drifted back from the front of the longship, "Fifteen degrees port Bucket, Seabreath let both sail lines slip about two paces."

Hiccup looked around at the Berkian docks. They were busy, even busier than usual -- that is, usual for the brief northern summer. One of the other berths was taken by a ship familiar to every Berkian: Trader Johann's vessel.

I wonder if I'll get to trade...

His thoughts were interrupted as the longship slid into its berth, Girtha just behind. There was a sudden commotion and a pounding of feet across the aft deck of the longship. Hiccup looked in the direction of the noise...

Spitelout leaped onto the wooden deck of the berth and began to shout, stumbling toward the busier sections of the docks. "STOICK! YER BOY'S GONE MAD! HE HAS A PET--"

Whatever the rest of the sentence was, it died on Spitelout's lips as a black shape shot off Girtha and knocked him to the ground. Hiccup clambered up onto the railing and jumped onto the dock after the Night Fury.

"Toothless! No!"


I rested my head on the splintered front of the "boughautuh," letting the light breeze wash over my face as our two piles of trees approached the mountainous, surprisingly green island. Although I was viewing it from the surface of the sea, the two mounds of rock vaguely resembling humans we passed told me where we were going: one of the largest human nests She ever sent us to.

If I was right back on the island of rock -- about Sapling being trapped there just like me -- this nest was probably his real home. Maybe he was going to keep me around, have me help humans light fires or some such. That wouldn’t be too bad: even flightless I could be useful for that. If these humans brought me fish I could get used to living with them.

I heard a strain of Her melodious chorus echo across the horizon and my thoughts turned darker. The humans could be taking me here to kill me. Maybe they’ll kill Sapling too, and he’s looking for some way to escape. Maybe Sapling is planning to kill me to gain the favor of these humans--

I shut my eyes and pulled my ear plates flat against my head, suppressing a whine and blocking out Her song. She wouldn't want me back; She wouldn't want a flightless, useless...

One of Sapling’s forepaws brushed my side as our balances shifted, the front of our “boughautuh” bumping the back of the one that rescued us from the open sea. I blinked my eyes open blearily. I had to have dozed off while I was--

I decided to stop that thought before it led where it was going. Me and Sapling. I had to focus on what was important right now. I attempted to get up, but my sore muscles protested my brief attempt to move my head. Sleeping with my head higher than my body: not an experience I wanted to repeat. Without moving my neck, I took in our environment.

Humans. Everywhere. There was no reason to be afraid, though, right? Sapling was still here with me. He knew how to handle humans. He was going to keep me safe, right?

I was distracted from my thoughts when something drew my attention. That human that'd been bound with woven vines throughout our rescue was sitting up in the "boughautuh" ahead. That in itself wasn't what drew my attention. Rather: where its forelimbs were, did.

This human's forelimbs had been bound behind it, except when eating, since Sapling allied us with the other humans from the other “boughautuh.” Right now, they were in front of it. A moment later, the human used its forepaws to unbind its lower limbs, then jumped to a standing position.

It didn't seem like the other humans -- Sapling included -- noticed. Humans in general bound creatures they didn't like, but that they didn't want to kill yet. At least, that’s what it seemed they did to those of us they captured. I couldn’t recall tales of any dragons who stayed at human nests to find out what humans did with bound creatures. If this human had been bound during our journey, the other humans -- Sapling included -- mustn't like it. The other humans were helping me and Sapling…

It sprinted across my vision. My head snapped up, following despite my neck’s soreness. Whatever was happening was more important than discomfort. The human was no longer bound at all, instead leaping off the “boughautuh” and onto the stationary platform of trees, sprinting toward the humans further away.

Then it started screeching, loudly. The humans further away reacted, mountain-vein claws appearing in their hands.

This is bad. Was this supposed to happen? Those humans look dangerous now.

The previously bound human was getting away. I doubted Sapling could catch it -- if my human had even noticed yet. In absence of any clear direction, I acted, leaping off our “boughautuh” and pinning the screeching human.

It stopped screeching, squeaking quietly in terror. I wrapped my claws around its neck, preparing to sever its head from its--

“Tuuhfflisss! No!”

Sapling barked something in human. That word he used for me, followed by that word that stopped the human alpha on that other island... What could he mean?

Perhaps he was telling the other humans not to stop me or hurt me. It seemed the prudent action. Still, though, I waited to see what Sapling would do to explain the situation. The tiny human came running around beside me, then placed his paws on my head, applying pressure. It seemed like he was struggling to get me off of the human pinned beneath me!

What-- It was provoking the other humans, Sapling!

"Tuuhfflisss," and a whole bunch more in human came tumbling from his mouth. I couldn't understand a word of it, but he pushed harder and I released the now-unbound human. Said human took immediate advantage of its freedom to scamper off toward a line of humans forming at the end of the dock. Sapling kept his hands on my head, pressing down to hold me back. I could have shaken him off in a moment, but the clear indication kept me in place: Sapling was telling me not to move.

The humans all around on the "boughautuh"s had mountain vein claws and bludgeons in their hands. I couldn't help myself, I growled at the overwhelming and -- as I realized with a quick glance around the cliffs surrounding the bay filled with "boughautuh"s -- likely inescapable situation. I growled especially at the humans, letting them know, Don’t try anything. When Sapling and I work together, things usually work out for us. We’re strong… Strong as in… good at running away. Strong enough not to die, probably. I wasn’t going to say that part aloud.

A massive, red furred human -- slightly taller and noticeably wider than the rest -- stepped forward from the line of humans and growled back.


"Hiccup,l" Stoick said, voice rolling like a wave over the crowd even without shouting, "What..." The chieftain paused to collect himself. "What in Loki's name is this?!"

"Dad, the first thing I need you to understand is that he's not dangerous!" Hiccup shouted back, "He was just--"

"Not dangerous?! Hiccup, that dragon just tried to murder your uncle!" Stoick bellowed, impatience and anxiety obviously mounting.

"He was afraid, dad! As afraid as I was on Outcast Island!"

A ripple of whispers ran through the crowd. Stoick spoke up, "Outcast Island? Impossible. Hiccup, Outcast Island is almost a week away--"

"By ordinary Viking longship! Alvin the Treacherous took me there in Girtha, in two days."

Many of the Vikings scratched their heads in confusion. Only a few made a connection between Seabreath Ingerman's ill-fated gala vessel and the present situation. Among them (after a moment of thought) was Stoick. "You can't be talking about--"

"Seabreath Ingerman's gala ship. Yes, I am. Alvin had someone here on Berk sabotage it for him."

Stoick wanted to steer the conversation back toward the topic of the dragon growling on his docks, but some Vikings in the crowd dragged the interrogation on without him.
"Who's the mole?"
"Who's working for the Outcasts here on Berk?"

"It was Mildew!" Hiccup answered, "When I made it to the sea caves under Raven point, he was right there with Alvin and Savage planting a Whispering Death egg!"

Whispers rippled through the crowd again. Public opinion seemed split fifty-fifty between Hiccup lying and Mildew actually being the mole. The old man himself wasn't there to defend his side.

Stoick retook the conversation before another villager could throw anything further off. "Hiccup, that may be, but that doesn't change the fact that you're standing there with a dragon while we're over here with the weapons! Have you gone mad, son?!"

Spitelout seemed to have regained his voice. "He has, brother! He was alone with that dragon on the shattered remains of the Girtha when we found him, then he convinced Bucket, Mulch, and Seabreath to tie me up!"

Mulch, huddling with Bucket and Seabreath on the far side of the longship from the angry dragon, added his piece. "We only did tha' because your screamin' and shoutin' were aggravatin' the beast!"

"Toothless isn't just a beast! I would've died on Outcast Island without him!"

"It's a dragon , Hiccup!" Stoick bellowed, his shout rattling the stones in the cliff walls. Toothless winced.

" He is a dragon that saved my life!" Hiccup shouted, his left hand pointing at Stoick to emphasize his words. "Gods above. Are you even listening to me, dad?"

"Hiccup, get over here right now and let us get rid of that beast!"

"No. I won't let you hurt him!"

"Hiccup, get out of our way!"

"Dad, no." Hiccup pulled back his gesturing hand to cough. His voice had been getting hoarse from all the shouting. "He saved my life, dad. I'd do the-..." Hiccup broke off to cough again twice, then resumed his tirade, more quietly. "...same for him."

Stoick was about to reply, but he paused when he heard his son's ragged breathing. One breath, two, the Hiccup began coughing into his hand again. Suddenly the hand on Toothless' head wasn't holding the dragon back, but using him for support. The dragon, for his part, made some concerned-sounding noises toward Hiccup that were entirely disregarded by the other Vikings.

Until, that is, Hiccup fell to the wooden dock, convulsed, and lay still.

The Night Fury shrieked as Hiccup's right hand left his head, the sound echoing off the surrounding cliffs. Stoick took a step back when he saw the hand his son had been coughing into.

Hiccup's left hand was flecked with red. Blood.

"Hiccup!" Stoick shouted.


Sapling coughed. It wasn't the laughing kind of cough, this reminded me more of sickness. I glanced uneasily up at him as he continued to chirp and hum in human. He paused to cough, then resumed more weakly. His breathing sounded weak, wet. Not at all like at the start of all this human speech. Then he began to cough again, his left forepaw going back up to his mouth.

Are you alright? I crooned up at him. He didn't appear to notice as the coughing fit continued, and he leaned his weight on me.

I spotted the blood on his hand at the same moment he began to fall, collapsing forward onto the stationary "boughautuh." SAPLING!

He didn't respond. He lay on the ground, shaking, then still. The alpha of this island's human nest -- for no other human was that massive or talked nearly as much to Sapling -- barked something deafeningly.

Humans everywhere, Sapling unmoving ( Skies above don't let him be dead! ) and me, flightless: In the bottom of a sea-cove filled with suddenly even more aggressive humans.

The human alpha began to charge at me. I scooped up Sapling in my mouth ( Ew. Ew ew ew. ) and leaped up to the tall tree on the nearest "boughautuh," the one that rescued us from the sea and brought the woven-branches filled with fish. The alpha stopped where I had been and barked something else, this time directing his call at the other humans. The crowd of humans dispersed around the "boughautuh"s -- both stationary and floating -- their mountain-vein claws and bludgeons at the ready.

There appeared to be only one way out of this cove, for humans or flightless dragons. An earthen ramp began where the stationary "boughautuh" I'd just fled from met the land, continued up and to my left -- facing the shore -- and ended at the top of the cliffs, by a number of human tree-nests. The bottom of the earthen ramp had humans on it, but the top half was clear, and at my present height.

It was also too far away to glide to, at least if I drifted to the left as I had the last few times I’d flown since my tail...

There! To my left and closer to the ramp, another "boughautuh" bobbed in the water, its central-tree with the flat-woven-vine mess reaching slightly higher than I was now.

I pushed off of the central-tree I was on, the wood cracking behind me as I leaped into the air. With a single wingbeat, a lot of drift, and some scrabbling, I was atop the central-tree of this other "boughautuh." I jumped once more toward the cliff, wings extending to give me the extra glide I'd need...

Oops. I jumped straight at where the ramp was my height, and my left drift would have me slamming into the cliff under the ramp! I pulled in my right wing and let myself sideslip to the right, coming down with a hard slide on the ramp's earthen surface.

The humans at the bottom of the ramp barked and chirped, then began to charge up the ramp toward me. I leaped to my feet and sprinted for the top.

At the top of the ramp, I found myself surrounded by human tree-nests. With a quick jump, I clambered atop one, looking for somewhere to hide.

The humans couldn't have completely covered the island in tree nests, right? Where would they get the trees?

Next to two massive tree-walls and a single, slightly larger tree-nest on a hill, there was a flash of green. I leaped a tree-nest closer, humans on the ground below squawking in alarm. Yes! A treeline, beginning a rather large forest. I jumped from tree-nest to tree-nest until I reached the hill where that bigger nest was. Ignoring it, I went past it and into the forest beyond.

For an indeterminate amount of time, I just ran deeper into the underbrush. The further I got myself and Sapling from the human settlement, the safer we'd be.

This escape run finally ended when I didn't see a cliff coming. With a hop, I leaped over some bushes, then found myself falling far further on the other side than I'd intended. My wings snapped out and I spun into the ground, landing hard on my right side again.

Throughout the escape and crashes, Sapling never touched the ground. I was quite proud of that. I set him down, happy to be rid of the frankly awful taste.

Don’t be dead. Please don't be dead. I breathed, voice barely taking on a tone from my vocal chords.

I nudged him in the chest, like the last time Sapling was unconscious. This time, though, there was no water, nothing discernibly wrong. The tiny human had just keeled over. Sapling had just been talking to them. They never used any sort of attack against him. What could humans do that caused others to die at a distance like that?

Die, at a distance... Like the fire-at-a-distance thing, back on the rocky island! Can humans just kill each other with that?

I moaned, dropping my head on his chest. He didn't respond, but something felt off. I listened carefully… His chest expanded under my chin; Sapling was still breathing! I jumped into the air, bouncing around for joy.

Hang on… I paid attention to where Sapling and I were. Every direction I looked, tall cliffs rose into the sky, blocking off all exits. They were taller even than the cliff on the side of the island of rock had been! The circular depression had a lake in the middle, which from a quick inspection I found to be generously stocked with fish and fresh, non-ocean water.

I leaped at a cliff, trying to flap my way up as I had at the sea cave. It didn't work, and within moments I slipped off to the left and hit the ground. I turned and tried again, this time starting off with a bit of momentum to the right. With my tail in the condition it was, I couldn’t stabilize myself and the rightward momentum just increased until I couldn't maintain my height. I dropped heavily to the ground.

Ground take you, stupid cliff. The insult was for other dragons, but I didn't have anything better to shout at the cliff. It isn't like the cliff had breath to smell like eels, or claws to snap in two, or scales to lose in patches. It existed, it blocked my way and -- much to my chagrin -- the ground had taken me, instead.

Suddenly, I heard a rustling. I turned in its direction and found Sapling blearily sitting up. Sapling! I chirped.


Hiccup was lying on dirt. His right side felt wet, a different kind of wet than from water. Sort of like the wet from when Toothless picked me up in his mouth... though, I don't see why he'd need to do that again…

Hiccup sat up and opened his eyes. His chest hurt, a bit. Otherwise, he seemed fine. Still, he was sitting on dirt, somewhere unfamiliar and-

A chirp from behind him interrupted his thoughts, and he turned to look for its source. Toothless, his underside absolutely filthy with caked dirt, came bounding over, his tongue lolling.

"Woah, hey, I'm happy to see you too, Tooth--"

Toothless used that tongue in a way Hiccup had in no way been expecting. The dragon licked Hiccup's face.

"Oh! Agh, what? Ew! C'mon!"

The dragon paused, and Hiccup tried to rub the saliva off. It was bad enough the dragon had to get saliva all over his side while carrying him, but on his face ?! That was so many levels of not okay. Hiccup sputtered for a moment more, until he'd wiped the most part of the sticky wetness away. Then he actually noticed what he'd been missing:

Unfamiliar place… Toothless had to carry me...

"What happened bud? Where are we?"

Given the obvious language barrier, Toothless provided no answer, only another croon of what sounded to Hiccup like concern.

Okay, let's take stock of the situation. Hiccup thought. He had his vest and leggings, both in disrepair from their less-than-optimal operating conditions and overuse. He had the journal from Outcast Island, and associated charcoal pencil and lock picking implements. He had...

That was really all he had. He groaned, then stood, still-bare feet leaving imprints in the grass as he stumbled.

Wherever they were, Toothless had found a pretty beautiful cove to stay in. Trees lined a small lake, leading up to stone walls that extended vertically quite a distance.

Quite a distance. How could Toothless get out of here?

"Toothless, are you able to jump out of here?"

The dragon cocked his head, and Hiccup remembered that damn language barrier.

The scrawny Viking shrugged, deciding to move on to something more confusing, and with less obvious answers: What happened in that conversation with his dad? He was facing down practically the whole village, then he... started coughing. And... after that… nothing.

Perhaps Toothless couldn't literally tell him what happened, but actions did speak louder than words. Hiccup raised his left hand to his mouth and faked a cough.

Toothless shot forward, setting his head just below Hiccup as if to catch him. The dragon crooned up concern at him.

"Shh, shh, it's okay, Toothless. Sorry, I was trying something."

Hiccup looked at the hand he'd coughed into. He was left-handed, so using his left to cough into was just natural. What drew his attention, though, was what his earlier coughing had left behind:

There were dried flecks of blood on his hand.

"Well, that right there explains a lot," He muttered, "... and nothing at all. Why was I..."

He couldn't think of any reason he'd be coughing. It didn't make sense. He wasn't sick with something, or he wouldn't have woken up without medical care. If it was some sort of sickness, he should have had earlier warnings, some sort of symptoms. The last few days, apart from minor malnourishment, he'd been fit as a fiddle.

Staring at his hand, he didn't notice as his dragon’s expression shifted from one of concern to one of annoyance. Mischievously, the dragon slipped out of Hiccup’s view, unseen as the scrawny Viking examined his hand.

He did notice when the dragon’s spade-like head slammed into his back, sending him flying. “Ahg! Tooth--”

Hiccup splashed down into the lake, then stood, glaring at his dragon. The reptile began warbling short, repeated notes. It was a strange sound Hiccup could only really describe as laughter. So he was laughing at me back in the cave!

“Not funny,” Hiccup complained, shaking out his soaked hair. Toothless laughed harder.


Stoick cursed as the dragon disappeared over the edge of the dock ramp. It was still carrying my son! He should've expected the beast to do something like that; dragons did have a certain propensity for the air. Still, why did it use the masts of the ships to escape? Surely it could just as easily have taken wing to the sk--.

The chieftain's thoughts were interrupted as, with a great rending of wood, the fishing boat's mast gave in to gravity, collapsing the remaining distance into the water. Stoick sighed at the additional repairs. Curse that Hel-spawned devil .

What did it even want with his son? And why was his son defending it? What in Loki's name happened on Outcast Island? More to the point, what happened out on that fishing expedition to bring the boy and the dragon back?

He had four people to ask to find out. "Mulch Harjopen, Bucket Bjorn, Seabreath Ingerman, and Spitelout Jorgenson, I'd like to speak to you all in my house."

"But sir, the ship's lost 'er sail!" Bucket moaned.

"That wasn't a request,” Stoick growled. The chieftain turned to the remaining assembled Vikings. "All of you, finish the trading with Johann. I want another five barrels of grain, trade him some of this catch of fish if he wants it. Work into the night if you have to. I have my son's mess to clean up."

The party of five made their way up the ramp and into town. Stoick noted that a trail of houses -- even ones recently repaired -- had claw marks on their roofs. He sighed. Yet more to fix, if they even got around to it.

Spotting the group, a certain one-armed, one-legged smith decided to join the procession. Stoick was comforted by Gobber's presence. Apart from Mr. Ingerman, everyone assembled was on what he considered his inner circle of people important to and involved in operation of the village.

The six entered the Haddock homestead, which was dark and eerie with its hearth cold. Stoick sat in a chair and rubbed his temples, looking at the four returned sailors. Gobber set about trying to light a fire.

"Explain to me what just happened," Stoick ordered, the quietness and relative calm of the command lending it even more weight.

"Stoick," Spitelout piped up immediately, "I know you don't want to hear it, but the evidence is right there! Your son's taken the side of a dragon, against the village and--"

"Thank you, Spitelout. You already said your piece down at the docks," Stoick cut in. "Mulch, Bucket, what was your view of the situation?"

"Well Stoick," Mulch began, "we spotted the ship on the horizon and decided to approach to identify it. When we saw it didn't have a mast, we pulled in closer to offer assistance. We exchanged a few words with Hiccup, then Seabreath spotted the dragon."

Bucket joined in. "It was a figurehead, and then it was a big dragon! And It was really scary..."

"Right,” Mulch affirmed. "So then Spitelout started screamin' bloody murder and the beast looked like it was gettin' pretty agitated from the noise, so we may have tied Spitelout up, to keep him from annoying the big scary dragon."

"Was I the only sane person out there?! We should've left Hiccup to his dragon madness and gotten the Hel out of there!" Spitelout argued.

"Enough, Spitelout! Mulch, continue."

"Spitelout, that dragon is a Night Fury. If we'd tried to run, it could've blown us clear out of the water with a single shot. Anyway, Stoick, Hiccup only asked for a tow back to Berk and some food for him and his dragon--"

"You fed the dragon?" Stoick questioned.

"Well... yes and no. We weren't sure what it ate, so we just got underway. As soon as we were towin' them back north, the dragon leaped aboard and tore into one of the baskets of fish--"

"So we just lost our fishing boat's mast, and you didn't even come back with a full load of fish." Stoick rubbed at his temples as food logistics flooded his head. They'd have to cut into the supplies they were getting from Johann early, they might even need to send their own trading ship to the Peaceables before winter came; sending ships to the Peaceables was a dangerous gambit, as the Outcasts always seemed to get wind and raid them...

"Actually, Stoick, that's the funny thing," Mulch said, "That dragon helped us catch more fish than it ate."

Stoick looked at Mulch blankly, then turned his attention to Spitelout as the chief's brother became argumentative again.

"It could've just as easily killed us all with that plasma blast!"

"But instead," Mulch countered, "It stunned a whole school of fish for us to just pick up out of the water."

"Fo' a little bit, it was raining fish..." Bucket added, clearly reminiscing in the moment.

"So you're telling me the dragon helped you gather fish?" Stoick asked. Three of the sailors nodded. Spitelout frowned.

The five of them blinked as the light in the room suddenly intensified, taking on an orange hue. "Hah! Got it,” Gobber shouted, holding flint in his good hand.

"Thank you, Gobber," Stoick said. "Seabreath, you've been quiet so far, what's your understanding?"

Seabreath took a deep breath, then began to talk. "Hiccup certainly had, if not control, then some level of understanding with the dragon. I suspect that whatever relationship they had, it began during their escape from Outcast Island."

"So you think Hiccup was actually on Outcast Island?" Stoick questioned.

"I built Girtha with my own two hands and one mind. I know how fast she can go, Outcast Island in two days is certainly a possibility. I suspect, for the return journey, that the dragon might've been the primary propulsion, just as Hiccup told us."

"How much did Hiccup tell you?" Stoick asked.

"Darn near everything, from getting thrown off the sea-cliff by Snotlout to freeing the dragon from restraints the Outcasts put on it, twice."

Spitelout winced at the implication of his son. Stoick's steely gaze gave him a glance, then returned to Seabreath.

"The short version is, Hiccup swam to the sea caves at the same time as they were planting a Whispering Death egg there. They kidnapped him, sailed home on Girtha, forced him to make weapons, which they used to shoot down the dragon. Hiccup freed the dragon, but they both got recaptured. Hiccup escaped and freed it again, they worked together to steal a boat, then we found them out at sea."

Stoick rubbed his temples again, processing the strange tale. A detail nagged at him. "Why didn't the dragon just... fly away?"

"The crash after getting shot by Hiccup's 'bola-launcher' took off one of its tailfins," Seabreath answered.

Stoick sighed. There was a flightless Night Fury on his island, and his son was defending the beast. "Did he have any evidence of this tale?"

"Aye,” Mulch answered, "He had this journal he was writing in, says he got it on Outcast Island when Alvin took his old one. I took a look through with his permission, hasn't got anything from before two days after Snotlout pushed 'im. Got plenty afterward, though."

Stoick stood. "We'll take a boat to the Raven point sea caves and look for this egg. It would be a disaster if another dragon got loose on our island."

Gobber, who'd been listening the whole time, decided to add his opinion. "Sounds to me like it already is a disaster, Stoick. What're you gonna do 'bout Hiccup's dragon? And that bit with the coughin' and the bleedin'? What if he's sick with somethin' and dies out there with only--?"

"Gobber, enough!" Stoick commanded. His long-time friend shut his mouth, though his brow remained creased with a frown. Stoick knew the smith wasn't trying to be aggravating, but the many unknowns of the situation were already eating the chieftain from the inside. He didn't need his best friend helping them.

“Spitelout, Gobber, Bucket and Mulch, come with me to one of our remaining ships. Seabreath, see about making that fishing longboat seaworthy again.”

A round of "ayes" and several sets of footsteps followed Stoick out the door.


I was approaching an island. It was a curious little place, covered in greenery and steep cliffs, with a small human settlement on the southwest side. Still, the sound (those sonorous notes) did not originate here. I had further left to travel.

An ache in my wings drew my attention away from the note, and suddenly I found myself. In the literal sense, it was like I had been lost in thought, then suddenly returned to the present.

I looked around. It was late evening, the sun just below the horizon far behind me. It had nearly been midday when I left, how far had I flown?

Flying. Such a weird thing to already be accepting. Like being a dragon, but somehow even more strange. Half a day and I'd already flown my way to another island. Incredible.

Another island... Hold on, where was I anyway? I'd been following that... whatever it was for so long...

I flew on, after the note. The sound. Suddenly the only thing that mattered, and--

Agh! My wing joints hurt again. Carefully, I began to descend, bleeding altitude for speed as I descended toward the island. I'd been flying west northwest for... a long time now. Where could I possibly have ended up?

I recognized the island and suddenly reconsidered landing there. As a dragon, it would probably be better to land literally anywhere else. Back when I was a human, Alvin had looked into raiding this place over and over, mostly due to his personal vendetta.

Berk. Home to some of the best dragon-slaying Vikings... ever. And I'm a dragon.

I flapped, trying to turn my speed back into altitude. The action, so familiar, didn't quite work out when my wings were (figuratively) on fire from flying (literally) half a day straight.

I adjusted my trajectory, at least, flying over Berk's village and into the forest beyond.

One of my wings caught on a branch, and I crashed my way heavily to the ground through the canopy. It wasn't too bad; I'd taken worse beatings rising through the ranks on Outcast Island.

I picked myself up and...

Huh. The note I'd been following was gone. Gone-gone, like a candle snuffed out. I listened carefully, but the only goal I'd had since my transformation was no longer audible.

Another sound was, though. Somewhere nearby, I heard a thumping noise -- like massive wingbeats -- and a tiny, male, human voice. For lack of better things to do, I followed the sound. Eventually, I emerged from a bush to find a deep depression with a lake in the ground.

And a large, black dragon. A specific large, black dragon that fell from the side of the depression, hit the ground, and cursed aloud.

SKY AND GROUND! This is both embarrassing and infuriating!

What hit me first wasn't that it was the same dragon that freed Hiccup, nor that I could understand what it -- a dragon -- was saying.

The first thing I noticed was that I had a name for the type of dragon, that differed from the one my human mind assigned to it.

A Shadowscale.


Stoick stepped onto the sandy beach, his foot sinking into the particulate grains. Tightening his grip on his hammer, he moved forward into the cave.

After a few dozen paces, he spotted it: a round, blue rock with patches of black. It was almost obvious how much it didn't belong to the cave.

He stood over the rock, raised his hammer, and brought it down. The egg shattered. White amniotic fluid sprayed in every direction, splattering his kilt and boots.

A chief protects his own, He thought.

Quietly, a small part of him whispered words he didn't want to think about. What does that make Hiccup?

He glanced around, looking for any more eggs or traps left by Alvin. Surprisingly, there weren't any. I suppose Alvin planned on secrecy protecting this plan . It almost worked too...

Stoick turned to Spitelout and Mulch. Bucket had decided to remain behind on the boat. "It seems the egg was real." How much else is? A dragon, not dangerous? Spitelout’s son, an attempted murderer? Stoick wondered.

Spitelout looked pale. Mulch nodded, then spoke, "S'pose we'll be payin' a visit to Mildew then?"

"Spitelout and I will,” Stoick answered, "This whole mess has kept you and Bucket from the fish for long enough."

Mulch nodded again. The group turned and exited the sea cave.


Spitelout kicked a rock as he followed behind his brother along the trail to Mildew's hut.

With Hiccup's return to Berk -- and the revelations that came with it -- the situation for the Jorgenson clan had gone from bad to worse. Even if his son's stupidity in letting the truth out wasn't bad enough, Hiccup was now back and able to testify against him! If he couldn't keep Hiccup away from the village somehow, Snotlout was an exile. There was no way around it.

However, Hiccup's insistence on having a pet Night Fury might just be Snotlout's saving grace. If Spitelout could keep Stoick's ire toward dragons going, he could drive a wedge between Hiccup and the village. Under ideal circumstances, Hiccup's dragon loving would get him killed and Snotlout's status as the new heir would clear his name for him.

All this hinged on keeping Stoick against the dragons. It shouldn't be that difficult, what with...

Well... Valhallarama. Valka. Sad story, that.

But, maybe Stoick had realized all this and was just waiting for Spitelout to bring it up. Maybe he was waiting for his own brother to use the situation politically, then he'd accuse Spitelout of doing that, and use that as evidence against his nephew.

Spitelout rapped his knuckles against his helmet, trying to calm the whirlwind of his thoughts.

Such a mess, all of this. If only Snotlout hadn't...

Too late for if-onlies now. The two emerged from the trees to find Mildew's hut -- more of a shack, really -- and his poorly maintained cabbage field. Spitelout almost felt sorry for all the plants that had to live in the foul man's presence.

Stoick trudged up the remaining path, past the sad, orderly greenery, and knocked on Mildew's door.


High Reason

Chapter 8 : High Reason


Mildew startled awake. Someone was knocking on his door. What damnable person would be knocking on his door at this time of night? Everyone was busy trading away all their damn clothes and weapons to that swindler Johann for his damn grain products. Who'd have the Gods damned gall to shirk their duties and/or sleep to come visit him ?

He rose shakily, leaning on his staff. Fungus, his faithful li'le sheepie, followed right behind him as he made his way to the door. Mildew pulled the door open. There, just outside, stood Stoick the Vast and his idiot brother.

Oh. Damn. They had to have pinned something on-- No! That wasn't possible! There was nobody on Berk who knew of his presence during Hiccup's unplanned kidnapping and Alvin's planting of the Whispering Death egg. This must be about something else, perhaps Mildew's outspokenness against Spitelout's boy, Snotlout.

"Stoick! Spitelout! To what do I owe the pleasure of a visit from the Berk's high and mightey? Can I ge' you somethin'? Tea?"

Stoick's gaze was like iron. Mildew fidgeted, and hoped the chief would write the motion off as the shakes of old age. The chief took a breath. "No, thank you, Mildew. We're actually just out here to make sure you heard the good news."

Good news? What in Hel's name was he talking about? The chief and his brother came all the way out to his house just to deliver some news about… What, the grain they’d bought from Johann? Everyone on the island knew about that, they were helping trade for it!

“Well Stoick, it seems I haven’t yet heard this good news. Pray tell what could bring you all the way out to my humble abode…?”

Stoick chuckled, the sound ominous in Mildew’s ears. “Why Mildew, my boy Hiccup’s returned to Berk!”

Mildew’s world came crashing down. Hiccup. Return. Berk. He’d been right there, in the cave, talking to Alvin and Savage. Hiccup would finger him for sure and, probably returning with some fantastical tale of bravery and escape, they’d believe him.

Loki damn that stupid child. Damn Alvin too, for dragging him into this mess.

Still, Mildew couldn’t just hand Stoick a confession!

“Why, that is good news Stoick! Where’s the lad been all this time? I was so worried what with him being missing and the next in line being implicated…”

Spitelout, who so far had found his boots far more interesting than the conversation, gave Mildew a hard look and frowned. Internally, Mildew smiled, though outwardly he maintained his ever-present frown. This might be terrible news for the old man, but at least Berk’s second-in-line would probably be getting exiled. That’d leave exactly… nobody in line for the chieftainship. Excellent.

When Alvin had told Mildew to keep Berk focused on the heir’s disappearance, he hadn’t taken the order lying down. He had figured that Hiccup’s bullies -- the second-in-line and those Thorston twins -- would be involved somehow in Hiccup ending up in the water. So, the first thing Mildew did back in the village was to seek them out. After asking several villagers for the whereabouts of the bullies he located the Thorston twins hiding behind a barn.

Or more specifically, listened in to their conversation while ensuring they were unaware of his presence.

“So then, I took all the eggs in the basket and set them under the ramp to the coop.” Said the female of the two.

“Oh! Oh! What’d he do when he discovered all the nests were filled with rocks again?”

“Well, he came outside and stomped on the ramp like usual, right? All upset and stuff?”

“Uh huh”

“Then one of the eggs under the ramp cracked, and he heard it.”

“Oh, this sounds so funny.”

“So the guy looked under the ramp and flipped out again!”

The male twin burst out laughing. “Oh man, I can not believe you did that without me. Like, why would you even do it if I wasn’t there?”

“Well duh, so I could blame it on you without you pinning it on me. Your cluelessness would make the adults think you were guilty!”

“Oh, right. Hadn’t thought of that.”

Mildew sighed in annoyance. It was the Thorston twins’ classic troublemaking, nothing to do with the now-kidnapped...

“Okay, okay, I’ve got a story you won’t believe.” The male said.

“Oh, what’s that? Betcha I’ll believe it anyway…”

“No, seriously, this is so wacky. I heard it straight from Snotnose while you were busy with the egg thing.”

“C’mon then, what is it?”

“Well, it’s pretty simple. Snotlout found Hiccup drawing in that journal of his up on the sea cliffs on the west edge of town, right?”

“I don’t get it. Hiccup draws stuff all the time…”

“I’m not there yet, just wait. So Hiccup freaks out, right? Gets ready to run away and all, puts his book away, whatever.”

“Still not getting the--”

“As soon as Hiccup was standing, Snotlout shoved him.”

“What, like make-him-stumble like usual shove?”

“Well, that’s what he meant to do.”

“No way!”

“Yeah! Hiccup went right over the edge, he said.”

“Snotlout would never do that to Hiccup. He’s the chief’s son! That’s just not a--”

“Told you that you wouldn’t believe it!”

“Wait, are you still stealing my goat, or is this a thing Snotlout did?”

“Nah, Snotlout did it! He expects Hiccup to show up in the harbor like frozen half to death in an hour or so. Seemed a little worried about it, too...”

“Tuff, this is like not okay! What if Hiccup doesn’t show up?”

“So what, it’s Hiccup! Nobody actually expected him to be chief.”

“Maybe you should, like, not tell other people about that.”

“Oh c’mon, it’s hilarious!”

“It’ll also get Snotlout in a lot of trouble if Hiccup doesn’t show up. A lot a lot. The kind of trouble that leads to Outcast Island.”

“And? It isn’t like we’ll be sent to the big bad O.I.”

“Do you really want the only two other people our age on the island to be Miss-Perfect-Viking and Fishgut?”

“Oh… I guess you’re right. I’ll keep it quiet, for now. Oh! If Snotlout becomes chief, can we like blackmail him with this?”

“Oh yeah, that’d be awesome! We could get away with so much!”

Mildew snuck off. He’d heard the important parts, and now he knew exactly what he needed to keep the intrigue going for ages. A few details here and there, reveal the truth a few days later with a pointed question, the pointing out all the clues he spread around, everyone would spend time trying to follow the clues to prosecute Snotlout.

And all the while they’d missed the Outcasts’ involvement, as well as his own misdirection. Until now. Standing with Stoick and Spitelout at his own front door, pretending futilely not to be involved.

“I seem to recall a lot of the suspicion against my son came from you, Mildew ,” Spitelout snapped.

“Oh, I’m sorry, is following obvious clues suddenly not a thing Vikings are allowed to do?” Mildew replied icily.

“Oh yes, because they’re so obvious that only the hermit who lives outside of town can gather enough to piece them all together,” Spitelout snarled back.

“Why, Spitelout, it seems you’re accusing me of something. Do tell, what evidence do you base this on?” Mildew snarked.

“My son’s testimony,” Stoick stated flatly.

“And, pray tell, what do you accuse me of?”

Spitelout sneered. “Working with the Outcasts, you damn traitor.”

There it was. Stoick and Spitelout outright accusing him of working for the Outcasts, with a reliable witness. Damn.

“I demand to face my accuser in a trial of Viking law,” Mildew said automatically. The trial would take a day or two to prepare, perhaps he could escape during that time…

Stoick and Spitelout shared a look. Strange, if Hiccup were really back, there wouldn’t be any concern or anxiety about his testimony. Then again, could be the condition Hiccup returned in. It was unlikely he got away from Alvin unscathed. Even worse for poor old Mildew. As the heir, any injuries the boy incurred indirectly due to the old man’s actions would probably worsen his punishment many-fold.

“That can be arranged,” Stoick said, his voice taking a hard edge that hadn’t been there prior, “However, until such time as a trial can occur, we must confine you to the great hall.”

“B-but my cabbages! Fungus!”

“We’ll send someone out to care for your damn cabbages, Mildew. Your sheep can come with you to the hall if you don’t mind cleaning up after the damnable little thing,” Spitelout said.

“How dare you insult Fung--”

“Enough, Mildew,” Stoick commanded,  “Come along now, preferably quietly.”

“At this hour of night?!”

In answer, Stoick reached out a hand and took one of Mildew’s elbows -- the one not in use supporting the old man on his staff -- and led Mildew out of his own home. Fungus baaed and followed into the night. Spitelout pulled the door shut harder than necessary.

The three humans and one sheep walked, limped and trotted toward the village.


“Toothless, if you're so eager to splash me back just find a way up here,” Hiccup goaded. It had seemed like a good idea during their splash fight of the ages: use the competitive spirit he was making to help Toothless get out of the cove.

Or maybe he was just running from the freezing water. Nah, that wasn't it. Being up here was totally justified.

Roused, Toothless launched into the air again, straight up the cliff toward Hiccup. Unfortunately, and predictably, Toothless hit the ground off to the boy’s left again. Miffed, he roared in frustration. Hiccup couldn’t blame him; he’d be pretty angry if he were trapped in a hole.

… Er, wait, there was that one time with the twins and the well. That was more scary than it was infuriating…

A chirping sound came from further off to Hiccup’s left, startling him from the thought. He cautiously looked through the underbrush toward its source. After a few moments of searching, he found it. A Terrible Terror was sitting on the edge of the cliff. It was maybe fifty paces away around the circumference. It was looking down at Toothless and his friendly Night Fury was growling back.

And, Hiccup noted, it was covered in dried blood. Uh oh.

The Terror chirped again and Hiccup quietly slunk away from the edge into the underbrush. He’d found a small crevice that would let him get three-quarters of the way down the cliff and the remainder was clambering over rocks. However, Toothless couldn’t fit in -- the dragon had tried when Hiccup had first run (correction: retreated) from the splash fight.

Hiccup found the divot that led to the crevice and dropped in, moving back over toward the cove.

When he reached the edge of the hole in the cliff wall, he listened intently. The Terror was chirping away near constantly. Toothless barked something and the Terror dissolved into a high-pitched, giggling, draconic laughter.

As quietly as he could, Hiccup dropped from the lip of the cavern to the last rock, then onto the next highest rock. His boot dislodged a loose section stone and he fell two or three paces onto another rock, incurring no injuries.

The Terror and Toothless were both suddenly very aware of his presence, though. The Terror hissed at him menacingly.

Toothless’ left wing, raised in aggression toward the Terror, shifted forward a bit as if indicating where Hiccup should go. Not wanting to disobey his friendly dragon around a possibly hostile dragon, Hiccup put the wing between himself and the Terror.

The growling and humming and barking between the Terror and Toothless continued on for a very long while. Hiccup almost got too tired to stand. Over time, Toothless became less and less aggressive, and his side of the conversation slowly became more long-winded.

Then the Terror left. It just chirped something and walked off, leaving Toothless seemingly confused.

“Was he a friend of yours?” Hiccup asked, only somewhat sarcastically.

In response, Toothless gave his human a long look, then dropped his head to the ground and moaned.


Having a hard time? chirped an annoyingly tinny voice.

I stood up from the ground and flared my wings, searching the top of the cliff for the source of the voice. I found it not a moment later: a green Tinywing coated in what appeared to be blood. Dried blood.

Fish blood didn’t dry. Whatever this Tinywing had attacked, it lived on land, had a lot of blood, and the Tinywing won. The wind changed direction, coming now from behind the interloper. The tiny dragon didn't make a move to change position to hide its scent, oddly appearing unaware of the change in the wind. I took a sniff out of the air. Definitely blood. Not just any blood, though. It was human blood, like the flecks on Sapling’s hand.

This thing might attack Sapling, I thought. I fought the reaction to look at my tiny human and urge him to climb back down into the cove through that cave I couldn’t fit into -- if I did, I’d give away his position. For lack of a better way to threaten the possibly malicious little dragon, I growled at him.

What are you going to do down there, Shadowscale? You’re down there; I’m up here. If that wasn't issue enough, your performance a moment ago demonstrated that you can’t fly.

Damn. The Tinywing had seen that. One more weakness this stranger could now exploit.

At least Sapling was keeping quiet.

It isn’t like being unable to fly should be embarrassing or anything. I learned this morning, after all. Think I might’ve over-exerted this new body getting here…

An adult Tinywing just now learning how to fly? “New body”? What was this dragon talking about?

Oh come on, I know you can talk, Shadowscale. If I recall, you just cursed the sky and the ground.

I decided to respond. If I could keep the Tinywing talking, maybe I could learn something useful. What do you mean, “new body”?

The Tinywing chirped in laughter. As if the situation wasn’t embarrassing enough without literally being laughed at… He spoke again. Hah, oh Thor and Odin above, so many coincidences. Have you always been a Shadowscale then? Oh, the look on Alvin’s face if he could see this conversation.

“Thor”? “Odin”? “Alvin”? The sounds didn't make sense to me as words; they sounded like names. What kind of beings were these that this Tinywing would refer to them individually? Friends of his like Sapling was to me? If that was the case, why weren’t the titles he gave them more descriptive, like mine? I tried to think of other things I had named or heard named in the past, before Sapling. Oddly -- apart from Her -- I couldn't recall any.

My mind caught onto another part of his confusing speech. He asked if I had always been a Shadowscale. What kind of question was that? How could a dragon not be what they hatched as?

It was all so confusing. I wanted to keep the thing talking, give time for Sapling to hide or run or get to me, but I couldn't develop a coherent response. In lieu of anything sensible to say, I summed up my confusion with a single word. What?

The Tinywing convulsed into laughter again, eventually falling on one side. I glared at it until I heard a pebble fall to my left. I looked and found Sapling dropping down the last rock to the floor of the cove. The Tinywing spotted the small human as well, righting itself and hissing. You! Loki damned child. I should kill you right now! Gods I wish I had the sense to grab that book from Alvin before taking flight. If I’d known I would see you here...

I growled back, Hurt Sapling and I will end you. I shielded Sapling behind one wing, once the human was close enough. The dragon atop the cove wall watched intently, then began to chirp laughter again. WHAT?! I roared, peeved.

Between fitful bouts of laughter, the Tinywing responded. You’re all upset -- hahaha -- that you can’t fly -- hahaha -- and you’re protecting the reason you can't fly from me. Oh, that’s just rich .

I growled again. Sapling helped me escape from the humans that took my flight!

Oh yes, the Tinywing snarked, because you’re so free right now, in the bottom of this cove.

I paused, the Tinywing was right. I was only trapped in this cove from trying to protect Sapling from the humans he had brought us straight to and… No, still, I would’ve been trapped on the ocean surface or back in that mountain-vein cage without Sapling. I’m more free than I was under their mountain-vein, blocked from the sky, forced to listen to Her knowing I could never return.

Now, strangely, the Tinywing was the one to look confused. You said “Her” like some kind of title. Who is “Her”?

Something I knew that this strange Tinywing didn’t. That was a first. Time to play it to my advantage… Tell me what you meant by “new body” and I’ll tell you about Her.

Making a deal with an Outcast? Dangerous game… Fine. I suppose the aftermath could only be hilarious. That boy you’re calling Sapling turned me into a dragon with magic.

What. What? “Into a dragon”? What were you before?!

I was human, you scaly damn lizard. One of the strongest. Second hand to Alvin the Treacherous! You were sitting right there and watched your “friend” cast the spell. The candle that burst into flame? Alvin knocking me out? Any of this ringing any Snoggletog bells?

The fire-at-a-distance thing? The human alpha of that island Sapling and I escaped? You were the beta to that massive human on the island of rock?

If “beta” means “second-in-command,” then yes. I was. Past tense.

What. A human, becoming a dragon? As if things weren’t already hard enough to understand after being knocked from the sky…

Well? Who’s this “Her”? I may have all night, but I certainly don’t feel like spending it waiting around for you to tell me something.

Why do you have all night?

That wasn’t the deal, Shadowscale. “Her,” now.

Fine, Tinywing-once-human. “She” is a massive dragon, ruler of the only nest I’ve ever seen. She controls several entire species of dragons, organizing them into raiding parties to attack human villages. The dragons bring Her food, She keeps them organized. When food is scarce sometimes-- I broke off, realizing that mentioning Her less than just eating habits wouldn’t cast Her in a very good light. Those dragons deserved it, but… I was in Her glorious service until whatever human threw that woven-vine took my flight.

“Whatever human”? Humans have been trying to take you down since you first appeared in the Archipelago. We only succeeded because a human didn’t throw it.

Wasn’t the woven-vine thrown by a human?

Thor no! Hiccup’s pile of metal threw bolas three times as fast and far as any human could.

“Hiccup”? “Metal”? “Bolas”?

The Tinywing deflated, hissing in annoyance. Must I explain every word in my language to you?

Are these words human words?

Well clearly, but they don’t sound like the Norse versions of the words to me.

So what--

I think I’ve wasted enough time talking to you. Unless you know anything else I should know to live my new life as a damn lizard, I’ve got other places to be.

Wait! I…

Think of anything else ?

Well… no.

Then goodbye, damnable Shadowscale.

I sat there uselessly as the Tinywing turned tail and disappeared into the forest. That conversation left me with far more questions than answers. A human becoming a dragon? And Sapling made it happen? How was that even possible?

I looked at him -- questions burning in my eyes -- and cursed the damn language barrier.

He whispered a few words to me in human, none of which I understood. I dropped my head to the ground and groaned.


Stoick sighed as he stared into the fire. Mildew was safely ensconced in the great hall, several villagers who believed Hiccup watching over him. Hiccup himself hadn’t been seen since the Night Fury took off into the woods with him. Several villagers on the fringes of town had reported the sounds of dragons in the forest, but nobody could actually find them.

Inhaling deeply, the chieftain turned to face his two most trusted confidants. “So what happens now?”

Spitelout and Gobber shared a look but remained silent.

Stoick sighed again. “This whole… thing is a Gods damned mess. Spitelout, your son tries to murder mine to take the heirdom. My son gets kidnapped by our worst human enemy, then to escape befriends literally our worst inhuman enemy. Then we finally get him back on the island and he collapses and gets kidnapped by the damn dragon he just- I don't even- befriended!”

Gobber nodded. “Tha’ about sums it up, Stoick.”

Stoick rubbed his temples. Unbelievable, any of it. If he could just find Hiccup away from the dragon, talk some sense into the lad…

“So what are y’u gonna do about it?” Gobber prompted.

Stoick sighed. “It’s too late to send out search parties tonight. We’ll wait until late morning, then send villagers searching if we haven’t seen hair nor scale of them.”

“Alrigh’,” Gobber agreed.

“Go get some sleep, both of you,” Stoick dismissed. Gobber stood, stretched, and left. The door swung shut behind him.

Spitelout didn’t move, the frown on his face seemingly etched into stone.

“Spitelout, we aren’t going to get anything done tonight. Go get some rest.”



“Don’t you think seeking out your son might just be… futile? Possibly dangerous?”

Stoick was taken aback. “Why would you say that?”

“Stoick, when that Stormcutter took Val, we never saw her or the dragon again! We all know what happens on the raids. They're here for our food. If that Night Fury gets hungry, there might not be anything of Hiccup to find.”

Valka. Oh Val, what would she think if she found out her son was defending a dragon?! “What are you saying we do?”

“I’m saying, Stoick, it’s probably already too late for us to find Hiccup. You spent the day running around checking up on Hiccup’s story; who knows what the dragon’s been up to!”

“What, should we just give up? Leave my son out there to be eaten by his supposed friend?”

“No! Yes! I don’t know. We can try searching, but it’s a dragon in a forest! We’ll be at a huge disadvantage if we find it, or it finds us! Instead, we should make a trap for it. When it gets hungry enough to try taking the food in the trap, we grab it and kill it.”

“You’re telling me I should just leave my son out there to die?”


Stoick was silent for a long moment. “No.”


“I said NO. If we leave Hiccup out there, Mildew walks free to keep plotting against us. You know Viking law, he demanded to face his accuser. Hiccup’s the actual witness. If we can't produce Hiccup in a day or two, then the Haddock’s name is sullied with false accusation and Mildew walks away.”

“Half the village heard Hiccup talk about Mildew planting the Whispering Death egg with Alvin! The remains of the egg are right there in that cave! Isn’t that evidence enough?!”

Stoick turned to face the fire, rubbing his temples again. After a long moment, he spoke, “I don’t know.”

“Look, Stoick, it probably doesn't matter anyway. Hiccup, alone with a flightless dragon… he’s probably dead already.”

Stoick was silent a long moment. “Get out.”

“Brother, wha--”

Stoick turned on his brother and bellowed in his most commanding voice, “Spitelout, get out of my damn house!”

Spitelout turned and stomped out the door, slamming it behind himself. Stoick turned back to the fire.

“I’m sorry Val… I’ll get him back,” he whispered.


Damn Loki and his damn tricks. The trickster god was probably playing with him right now! He totally fouled up that conversation. It seemed like Stoick was even more bent on getting Hiccup back, rather than less. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid…

Spitelout rapped his knuckles on his helmet in frustration. What now?

“Thor and Odin dammit all. Why in Hel’s name are you so mad at my son?!” He shouted at the night.

The stars gave no response.

Spitelout pulled the door to his home open, then slammed it behind himself.

Damn Hiccup and damn his Night Fury. It would’ve been so much easier if the lad had just died on Outcast Island.

Just… Dammit.


23rd of August, year of Odin’s reign 1009

Is it just me, or is writing in the dark kinda hard? Whatever, I’ll try to kep this short amd legible.

Bucket, Mulch, Seebreath, and Spitlout rescued me and Toothless and towd us back to Berk. Dad was not happi to see a dragon, to say the laast. I tried to talk him down, but I ended up colappsing in a coughing fit… for no reason. Toothless rescued us both but managed to get himself traqped in an inland cov north of the village.

So… Yeah. I don’t waht to be followd back to the cove, so I had a graat idea. I’ll leave a letter under my dad’s fromt door, explaining thinbs and asking him to leave a response on the back door by sunset. Then we cen communicate pretty well wothout me giving away Toothless’ cove. We’ll have this sorted out in only a few deys!

Gods, there are so meny spalling mistakes in here. Dan this darkness. I’ll try ta do bettar on the leHer:

[Torn page edge]

To Chief Stoick the Vast of the Tribe of Hairy Hooliqans,

Hi dad!

Our meeting down on the docks did not go at all how I wanted it to. Sorry about that. That was pretty much entirely Spitelout’s fault, except for the coughing fit which I haven’t figured out yet.

Dad, Toothless saved my life on Outcast Islend. Neither of us would’ve made it off without the other. I’m not going to let anybody hurt him.

So, I really do want to come home. But, I can’t do that if the other Vikings are going to follow me to Toothless and attack him. If you could agree that none of the Vikings will attack any Night Furies (at least ones not flying. In a raid Toothless could stay grounded.) then Toothless won’t attack anyone and we’ll be able to sort this out.

But I need your word, dad, that none of the Vikings will attack Toothless.

Pin your reply to the backdoor of your house by sunset the 24th of August.

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third

P.S. Toothless jumped on Spitelout because he was making a lot of noise and, as a dragon, the Night Fury felt threatened. Totally wasn’t Toothless’ fault.

P.P.S. It is the 24th the dey you got this, right? I lost track on Outcast Island and forgot to ask Bucket & Mulch on the tow back to Berk.


Hiccup pocketed his pencil and carefully tore his letter out of the journal. He pocketed the book and letter. Trying to avoid disturbing Toothless, Hiccup slipped out from under the dragon’s wing.

The dragon, being nocturnal, noticed. As Hiccup began to make his way toward the crevice that led out of the cove, he found his way blocked by a black void and two toxic-green orbs.

“Toothless… look… I have to try to fix things with my dad,” Hiccup pleaded.

Toothless didn’t budge.

“He wasn’t the one that caused me to have a coughing fit, Toothless. He’s probably more scared for my safety than you are.”

Toothless blinked and flicked an ear plate.

Hiccup sighed and tried walking around. His progress was impeded by a black, leathery wall. He walked around the other way and met the same treatment. He returned to directly in front of the dragon. “Toothless, please, I’ve gotta sort this out so that you don’t have to be this overprotective of me.”

A slow blink and a snort.

Hiccup threw his hands up in the air. He turned around and took one step toward where the two of them had been lying on the ground. Then Hiccup jumped backward, over the space where Toothless’ right wing had previously blocked his progress. The wing snapped out to stop him, but rather than coming up in front of the teen it slammed into his knees, giving him an additional boost that let him clamber quickly up the rock pile to the crevice. Toothless leaped after Hiccup, but the teen got deep enough into the crevice that the dragon couldn’t reach.

Toothless warbled and whimpered at Hiccup, pleading across the language barrier for Hiccup to stay in the cove.

Hiccup stepped a little closer to the dragon and reached his hand out, like before on the gala ship in the middle of the sea. Toothless set his snout against it and whimpered again.

“I'm coming back Toothless,” Hiccup whispered.

Then he left, climbing up through the crevice.

It took him almost half an hour to find the village and, by that time, Hiccup found himself quite exhausted from the day of rushing around. He broke the treeline and looked down the hill toward his father’s house. Through the upstairs window, he saw a dim glow that indicated a fire downstairs. Darn. Hopefully his dad wouldn’t notice the note as he slipped it under the front door.

He approached the back of the house, then slipped along the side as quietly as he could. When he reached the front corner, he paused. He could hear people talking inside, two men.

“Spitelout, get out of my damn house!” one of them bellowed. His dad…?

Hiccup heard loud footsteps approaching the front door and shrank back from the corner of the house. The door swung open then slammed shut. Hiccup watched as his uncle strode down the path, rapping his knuckles on his helmet.

His uncle paused at the end of the path, then turned and shouted at the night sky. “Thor and Odin dammit all. Why in Hel’s name are you so mad at my son?!”

Once Spitelout was out of sight, Hiccup edged back around to the front steps of the house. It seemed his kidnapping(s?) had caused quite a lot of tension back here in the village.

Making a snap decision, he pulled out his pencil and the letter and wrote one more post-script. He pocketed the pencil and edged carefully up the stairs. When he could reach the door jam, Hiccup slid the piece of paper with his letter under the door.

The occupant of the house, his dad, suddenly gasped. Hiccup cursed his luck. He sprinted around the house as heavy footsteps approached the door and made the treeline by the time his dad made the house’s corner. “Hiccup!” his dad shouted. Hiccup ignored the call and ran on. He didn’t look back. He didn't want to see the anger, resentment, or disappointment in his father’s eyes.

Hiccup headed more east than due north. He didn’t want to leave a path straight back to Toothless. If he climbed around in the mountains for a little bit, even Berk’s best animal trackers wouldn’t be able to follow his trail.


Stoick stood at the corner of the house, panting for breath from his sudden sprint and his bellow. Hiccup had been right there, he’d seen the lad disappear into the trees. Dammit all.

He looked down at the crumpled piece of paper in his hand. It was a letter, from his son. Quickly, he scanned it in the moonlight.

The last post-script, written haphazardly, unlike the rest of the letter, caught his notice:

“P.P.P.S. I forgive Snotlout. Don’t exile hem, or anythinq else. He’s stupid sonetimes, dut he boesn’t deserve Outcast Islend. Nobodi dees.”

Stoick looked around the village. Everyone was sleeping away the long day of hauling goods. Nobody heard him call for Hiccup. Other than Spitelout, himself, Hiccup, and that Hel-spawned dragon, there probably wasn’t a soul awake on the island.



I’ve found it again! When I reached the end of the island furthest from all those humans, the note returned. With barely a moment’s thought to my exhaustion, I leaped into the air.

It’s growing closer now, the sound. By midday tomorrow, I’ll be there. I’m sure of it. I’ll find the source of these lovely tones, and I will worship it forever.

And ever.


Didn’t that Shadowscale (er… Night Fury) say something about a dragon that could control other dragons? Was that what this note was?

I shook the thought away. Surely not; something so beautiful, so perfect, couldn't be mind control. Even if it was, I wasn’t really a dragon, was I? Not entirely. The human side of me would surely be able to resist any kind of “control.”

I flew on, my doubts disintegrating in the morning light.


Muddied Footprints

Chapter Notes

Chapter 9 : Muddied Footprints


Hiccup woke up in Toothless’ forelegs. When he’d returned to the cove last night, he was dead exhausted from the long day and the sprint away from his dad. Toothless had leaped on him and pulled him into a scaly cocoon, crooning worriedly. Hiccup didn’t complain at all as he drifted off to sleep.

Now, though, he was awake and the silly dragon wasn’t. The scaly forelegs wrapped around his arms and rib cage were holding onto him too tightly to just slip away. He sighed at his predicament.

As the few spots of light peeking in from the top and bottom of the black void grew brighter, Hiccup marveled at how comfortable he’d become around Toothless. Already, it was as if they had spent their entire childhoods together. Even now, with the dragon’s chest pressing against his back while he slept, he didn’t feel at all uncomfortable or frightened.

Enemy of my enemy is my friend alright. Huh. What an amazing friend to have.

Eventually, though, boredom got the better of comfort and Hiccup pushed hard at the limbs, trying to free himself. Toothless snorted, then grumbled at having to actually wake up and move to release his friend. Grudgingly, the legs loosened and Hiccup rolled out of the cocoon of wings into the daylight.

In the darkness of his friend’s wings, Hiccup had slept until the sun peeked over the lip of vegetation above the cove. He had maybe two hours until midday, another six after that until sunset.

And nothing to do. Idly, he sat on a rock near the water. Toothless’ face from last night, so concerned and overprotective, was etched into Hiccup’s memory. He didn’t notice that he was drawing it in the dirt until it was almost complete.

He looked at the face, staring up at him from the ground. Pictures, drawings…

Wait, he could break the language barrier between himself and Toothless! One didn't need a language commonality to recognize a drawing of a face or a place.

He thought about how to send a clear message for several minutes. Eventually, he had the idea of groups, circles. He could indicate which people liked which people by having them nearby each other… Wait, that wouldn’t work.

Oh! Perhaps scales of relationships were too complicated, but maybe he could just indicate individuals that supported them, and individuals who supported others with differing opinions. One circle would have Toothless in the middle with Hiccup, Bucket, Mulch, and Seabreath around the outside. Another would have Stoick in the middle and Spitelout, Gobber, and Berk as seen from a map. Then a third circle for Alvin, with Mildew, Savage, and Outcast Island.

He spent almost until midday drawing out the circles, then drawing in the faces and places. It took some time, but his artist’s instincts did a pretty good job replicating everybody. (In his humble opinion, of course.)

As he went along, he realized he could also show changing relationships. He drew Bucket, Mulch, and Seabreath again in Stoick’s circle, then crossed them out and drew arrows to the Toothless circle’s versions of their faces. He did the same for Mildew from Stoick’s to Alvin’s, though he doubted Mildew would matter at all to the dragon.

Now to see if Toothless understood any of it…


After the long night of worrying about Sapling, I slept well and deeply until midday. I would’ve kept going until the next evening, but Sapling decided to poke my leg with a stick. When I looked at him with a half-lidded gaze, he did the “come-here” gesture from our escape on the island of rock. He didn't seem afraid or agitated, smelling only of excitement and, oddly, a lot of dirt. I grumbled my annoyance wordlessly but rose to follow him anyway.

He’d covered the ground around a rock with scratches and marks, all but four long marks contained by three large circles. He stepped carefully over the lines and pointed one paw at one of the groupings of marks, in the center of a circle.

I shot him an annoyed glance. Playing in the dirt? Really? How helpful. Nonetheless, I took a closer look. After a moment of examination I realized that, to my surprise, the marking rather resembled myself. I turned to the cove’s lake to check, but the markings definitely depicted a very concerned-looking me.

Sapling pointed to another grouping of marks, next to “me.” This one took me a little longer to figure out, but eventually -- looking between him and the markings -- I understood. That one was him!

I looked at the other markings in the circle. One with a flat top I understood almost immediately as the tall human from the pile of trees with the fish. The one next to him took a little longer, but the piles of fur around its mouth gave it away as the rotund one who barked at the others a lot. The last group of marks in the circle was a human with fur down the top of his head and a very round chin, with a very tiny set of horns. Again, another human from the “boughautuh” with fish.

Sapling did the strange stretching his mouth and showing his teeth thing that he had done but a few times, only when really happy.

I moved over to another circle. The grouping of markings in the middle of this circle resembled a human I saw only once, the massive, red furred alpha of the island we were presently trapped on. I looked around at the other markings, but many of them were ones I simply didn't know. A few I recognized after a moment as reproductions of ones from the first circle, with extra markings added over top. The markings on top seemed to destroy these images and indicate others in the previous circle.

I followed another “marked-out” marking to the last circle, which had another massive, hairy human in the middle, with uneven fur on his jaw. This circle represented those humans loyal to the alpha of the first island we were trapped at. Apparently, someone from the present island’s alpha had at one point changed allegiance to that of the rocky island.

It was a lot of information and the concept was somewhat unfamiliar. Thinking it over, though, I understood: these were various allegiance groups, flocks around certain alphas. The island of rock was led by the massive, unevenly black furred human as I suspected. The island we were on now was led by the massive, red furred human. Finally… Did Sapling consider me his alpha?

I stared at the image of me for a long moment. I looked so concerned, so worried. Images of Her flashed through my mind. When has She ever been worried? Concerned? Especially for one of us?


I froze, the thoughts threatening to overwhelm me. She couldn't be a just ruler: She forced us to bring Her food and ate us if we failed. She forced us to fight humans when, in all likelihood, we probably could’ve found enough for Her in the sea or on uninhabited islands. What-- what kind of monster--?

I banished the thoughts from my head. It hurt too much to think about. She was my alpha, it wasn't right to tarnish Her memory.

Was your alpha. But a memory, now.

I shook my head, focusing instead on images of Her.

I had something I needed to tell Sapling.

I turned around, searching for some open space, then used my claws to carve out my own circle. I hardly even noticed the dirt getting under my scales, I was too focused on getting this right. Carefully, I dragged my claw along the ground, forming a line that approximated Her mighty crown. With less-than-deft movements I drew Her six, piercing crescent eyes, slitted as they almost always were. With two longer strokes, I marked out Her shoulders.

Below Her I scratched an image of one of every species of dragon I could remember from the nest, all five. I was certain there were one or two more at some point -- unique in the nest, like myself -- but I hadn't seen them in such a long time, it hardly mattered. Finally, I copied the markings Sapling used for me, then did the “marked-out” marking going from Her circle of influence to… mine.

Sapling stood to the side, mouth agape as I worked. I finished off by marking out the slimmer human from the island of rock and drawing a long indicator to the base of the cliff where his dragon form had spoken with me not half a day before.

I looked back at him and tried to replicate his expression, the strange one with the corners of his mouth pulled up and his teeth on display but also slightly hidden. I don’t know whether I was doing it right, but Sapling’s mouth got bigger and he did the high-pitched coughing that seemed to be his species’ laughter.


Hiccup laughed out loud. It seemed like Toothless understood what he’d drawn, and added his own updates! The dragon drew a new circle with some kind of six-eyed dragon in the middle. Then he added a bunch of other dragons to it, including himself. Then he’d crossed himself out and drawn an allegiance change to the circle with himself in the middle. And he was smiling at Hiccup, too. A dragon, smiling. He was never going to get used to that.

That’s when Hiccup stopped understanding the changes, though. Toothless crossed out Savage -- of all people -- and drew a line to where the Terror had been sitting on the cliff.

As the realization sunk home, the smile dropped from Hiccup’s face. Toothless couldn’t mean…

The Terror had hissed at him, specifically, not Toothless. On top of that, they’d been making noises for a long time at each other, like a conversation.

Which meant…

Hiccup had to check first. He had to know . He walked over to Toothless, stumbling a little as he did so. Taking his stick, Hiccup drew an image of Savage and an image of the Terror, with the dried blood everywhere.

The smile dropped off Toothless’ face as well, his scaly brow creasing in concern.

Slowly, as if he were trying to make the action very clear to Hiccup, Toothless crossed out Savage and drew an arrow to the Terrible Terror. Then he looked up, crooning at Hiccup.


Gods no.

Hiccup stumbled backward, away from Toothless. He couldn’t accept it. It wasn’t possible! He didn’t turn Savage into a dragon, it just couldn’t be real!

Toothless crooned in concern and strode over. Hiccup continued walking backward from the drawing of Savage and the Terror on the ground, ending up back at the four circles and tripping over the rock in the middle. He landed on his rear, next to the drawing of Toothless, in Toothless’ circle. The dragon sat in front of the rock and took on a nearly identical look of protective concern to the one in the drawing.

Hiccup pulled his knees up to his chest and let out a sob. He’d turned a man into a dragon! Unbelievable. Wait, did that mean, was he turning into a dragon too? Was Alvin? Hiccup looked down at himself. He looked fine, unchanged. But concern niggled at the back of his mind:

The last few days, apart from minor malnourishment, he'd been fit as a fiddle.

If it was some sort of sickness, he should have had earlier warnings, some sort of symptoms.

Why did I collapse coughing on the docks?

Hiccup thought about it, but he couldn’t think of any possible reason why he collapsed coughing. Any reason, that is, except the one he so recently discounted as impossible. The one he’d hoped was some method of Alvin’s of breaking prisoners, or something.


He hiccuped out another sob. Toothless circled around Hiccup, crushing all the drawings in his circle. Carefully, he wrapped himself around his distraught boy, covering him with his wing. Hiccup continued to cry, but he felt comfort from the presence of the only friend he’d ever really had.

Loki damnit all. Why are you toying with me like this?

Toothless, concerned for Hiccup and with no further way to show his support, licked the boy.

“Agh! Really? S-stop. Just stop. STOP. I-I c-can’t--”

Toothless stopped. Hiccup curled up tighter and continued to cry.


I have no clue how much of my scratches regarding Her Sapling understood. I was certain, though, he knew about the Tinywing-once-human. When he made the second set of markings and I filled in the mark-over, he stumbled back afraid like he had been when we first met in the mountain-vein covered space with the stone walls, when there had been a mountain-vein claw and years of fear between us.

Then he began shaking and leaking water from his eyes, like when he was interrogated by the alpha of the island of rock. Unsure of how exactly to help, I tried licking him.

Lick your wounds, right? Emotional wounds are like physical ones… probably.

Sapling was… not amused. He barked at me, hissing, then barking louder. I pulled away, again uncertain. I was so unused to dealing with emotion. What- what had him this upset?

Sapling leaned away, leaking water into the dirt. It hit me then, suddenly. I did this. What kind of monster was I? I upset him as much as that evil, evil human did. The ground was right in taking me from the sky. I was a worthless, good-for-nothing--

Sapling uncurled, leaning back into me and curling up again. Completely at a loss, I sat still.

He shook and leaked water from his eyes for nearly two hours. The shadow cast by the cove’s sheer walls stretched longer until none of the grassy floor stood in direct sunlight.

Eventually, he calmed. Still hissing air through his nose, he stood. He looked different, perhaps sickly. His standing posture was unsteady and his chest didn’t seem as wide as before. He didn’t seem to notice, though.

Then he began walking off.

Where are you going? I asked.

He didn’t answer. Stumbling a little as he walked, he made his way over to the water’s edge and sat down, pulling out his strange object of flat white leaves he made black markings in. Staring intently at the water, he began to make more scratches on another flat leaf.

Cautiously, I came up behind him and watched him make marks.

With a few strokes of the stick, the form took shape. He was drawing himself, as he looked reflected in the water. Eventually, he finished his own form and moved on to me, looking over his shoulder. The resulting image was a hauntingly accurate reproduction of our reflections, and I--

I turned away, disgusted with myself for upsetting him. What use was I, unable to communicate properly?

Why- why did he mark me in the allegiance circle images as his alpha? I wasn't an alpha; I wasn't even a regular dragon. I was flightless. I was useless in ground combat. I was useless .

Behind me, he barked in a way that seemed language-less, a humorless imitation of human laughter. Then he whispered a few words in the human tongue.

Noticing my absence he looked up from his reflection, turning to look at me. I didn’t meet his gaze, preferring to hide my shame in any direction other than toward his piercing eyes.

No, I wasn’t his alpha. If anything, he was mine.


Stoick didn’t sleep that night. He wasn’t even aware of the time passing. He sat in his hut, staring at the letter, only moving to stoke the fire as it slowly died away. Each new log let it flare to life again, but then it would die away. Again and again. Each new log adding more ashes to the pile.

When does it end?... Does it end? Could Hiccup, and Val before him, have found another way?

He was finally broken from his reverie when Gobber came knocking on the door, looking for him.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

“Stoick! It’s Gobber. People in town ‘ave been askin’ where you’ve been. Didya even leave yer house taday?”

Stoick didn’t answer. He stared into the fire. He didn’t even need to read the letter anymore, he’d memorized every stroke.

“Stoick, you might be the chief, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know m’ way past m’ own latches. I’m comin’ in there if you don’t open this door!”

Nothing. Stoick just couldn't figure out what to do, what to think.

“Fine, fine,” Gobber complained. There was a series of clicks as Gobber switched prosthetic hands, then a clunk as something slipped into the door and lifted the latch. Gobber pried the door open, stowing whatever latch-picking hand he’d used in a pouch on the back of his belt. “Stoick, for cryin’ out loud, it’s nearly midday! Johann’s been waitin’ on your blessin’ to leave dock, an’ he’s gettin’ all kinds a’ impatient too. Wasn’t it you who was rarin’ ta go searchin’ for the lad and his dragon last nigh…”

Gobber trailed off as he took in Stoick’s defeated frame, and the small piece of paper in his massive fingers.

“Hiccup…?” Gobber asked, leaving the rest of the question unspoken.

Like a statue coming to life, Stoick slowly nodded, letting his best friend take the note.

Gobber read the note over. “All we do is tell the village not ta attack ‘is dragon? Pretty sure we already do tha’...”

Stoick’s head whipped around in surprise.

“... If I remember the entry on Night Furies in the book of dragons, it went something along the lines of ‘Hide and pray it does not find you.’ Seems like we already wouldn’t be attackin’ it.”

Stoick opened his mouth, jaw working a few times like a fish out of water. “I’d be the first Viking chieftain… ever… to order his men not to attack a dragon for a reason other than retreat.” His voice sounded hoarse, unused as it was for hours.

“Eh, there is that,” Gobber admitted. “Bu’, on the other hand, er… hook… whatever, you’d have this mess with your son sorted out in a few days, maybe less! Who knows, the dragon might even help out with fishing. You heard Bucke’ and Mulch fawnin’ over the thing. ‘Raining fish’? A half dozen Vikings wouldn’t be ‘alf as useful as a dragon on our side.”

Stoick grunted. “Is it on our side, though?”

“Wha’ do you mean?”

“I mean, when a raid happens, what then?”

“... Oh. Righ’. Hadn't thought o’ tha’.”

The two thought in silence for a few moments -- one standing, one sitting.

“Stoick, I think there’s only one good way to find out what’s best.”

“... What’s that?”

“Try. Find another way, like Val always said.”

Stoick shut his eyes, trying block out the painful memories. “She was killed by the beasts, Gobber.”

“Doesn’t change wha’ she would’ve wanted.”

The silence stretched on for another long moment.

Gobber set the piece of paper on the steps to Hiccup’s loft. “Well Stoick, up and at ‘em. You might’ve had a bad night, but you’ve still got chiefing to do. Johann is still waiting on you to send ‘im off, and I’d rather not see his ‘ticked off’ prices, Eh?”

The humor swept by the stoic chieftain ineffectually.

Gobber sighed, but brightened as the chief slowly stood. “Tha’s it, Stoick!”

The two walked slowly out into the light of late midday. “What would I do without you Gobber?”

“Eh, end up in an emotional spiral spurred on by several webs o’ political intrigue from which you’re unable to recover in time to save the village?”

Stoick sighed and shook his head. “Probably.”


Stoick’s council sat before him, the light of the setting sun shining through the open front door onto the wall. Each had read the letter. Mulch wore an expression of expectant anticipation. Bucket looked vacant and confused, as usual. Seabreath -- added to the council due to extenuating circumstances -- was remaining characteristically calm. Spitelout was fighting back a hopeful grin. Gobber, having already read the letter, was expectant only for the conversation.

“So,” Stoick stated, summing up the situation in one word. The other men nodded. “Seabreath, Gobber informs me that the Book of Dragons entry on Night Furies already has a recommendation not to engage. Is this the case?”

Seabreath muttered something before he responded. Stoick caught the words “Ingermans” and “walking book of dragons.” Then the Ingerman spoke aloud, “Yes, that’s the case. Given his ancestry, though, I think he’s more qualified to speak on it.”

Stoick shook his head. How did he keep forgetting Gobber was the great-great-grandson of Bork the Bold? “Right, of course. So, what do you all think?”

Spitelout launched in first, his opinions from last night having mysteriously reversed after reading the note, (especially after reading its final post-script.) “I say we accept the dragon. Bring Hiccup home, let this whole mess be over with. Who knows, this could be great for… peace, or something!”

Mulch commented next. “I agree. We’d be able to fish far more effectively if the dragon could just stun them all for us.”

“We could?” Bucket asked. Mulch elbowed him. “Oh, right, yes we could. Can.”

“You know I’m all for getting my apprentice back, Stoick,” Gobber commented.

“To a vote then,” Stoick said, somewhat more grudgingly. “All in favor of a ceasefire against Night Furies and the return of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third to Berk, say aye.”

Three “aye”s rang out. An elbow pressed into a hip and a fourth voice said “aye” twice.

“Then it’s settled. At dinner tonight, we’ll announce the change to the village,” Stoick said. He sighed. “I’ll write the return letter to my son, now.”


Hiccup looked at Toothless, who looked positively dejected about… something. Then he noticed the sky. “Dang, it’s getting late,” Hiccup muttered. He stood from the water’s edge.

He hoped he was imagining it -- surely he was imagining it, it wasn’t possible -- but his legs and chest felt gangly, a little malformed. Please don’t be turning into a dragon, please don’t be turning into a dragon.

With the sun nearly set, Hiccup had to get out of the cove to retrieve his dad’s reply. To do that he had to escape Toothless’ overprotective… ness. Since Toothless was more lethargic during the day, Hiccup’s plan was to escape while the sun was still up.

In the cove, at least, the sun was no longer up.

Toothless blocked Hiccup’s path the moment the dragon figured out where the teen was going. “Oh come on Toothless! I'm trying to sort this whole mess out! I can’t do that unless I can talk to my dad, with the letters we’re sending each other.”

Toothless chuffed. Hiccup sighed.

“Fine, I’ll figure out how to get you out of the cove, so you can follow me. Don’t attack any one or any thing , okay?”

The dragon, still barely able to understand even a few words of human speech, chuffed.

“Y’know what, whatever. I’m just going to figure out how to get you out of here.”

Hiccup turned around and looked at the walls of the cove his overprotective dragon wasn’t making off-limits. The walls were sheer, bending inwards toward the top to make climbing directly impossible. Cracks in the walls ran vertically, not horizontally, so breaking off a section of wall to just climb up wasn’t going to work. Even worse, plant roots grew down and around the sections of wall that looked unstable, providing even more support.


Across the cove, one root structure reached from the bottom of the cove all the way to the top. There was a section of root that -- if Toothless could get a grip on it -- he could use to jump all the way to the top of the cove! Excited, Hiccup ran around the cove’s lake and over to the base of the root. Off to his left, a rock more than twice his height provided a perfect place to jump off toward the root. On the root itself, one section sloped inward, toward the wall and away from the vertical. If Toothless grabbed on there, then pushed off toward the section of cove wall just slightly lower than the rest… Yes, this could work!

“Toothless!” Hiccup called. The dragon came over, slowly, still looking wary and upset. Hiccup picked up a stick, drawing a quick sketch of the section of wall he thought Toothless could climb. Then Hiccup drew arrows, suggesting a path up. Toothless watched without much interest until he compared it to the wall above them. He looked up at the wall, then back at the drawing, then back at the wall. “Think it’ll work, bud?”

In response, the dragon bounded over to the rocks, suddenly seeming to escape whatever had him upset. After a moment to prepare, he leaped up toward the root structure. With a bit of scrabbling that scratched away a lot of the bark, he was safely attached to the root, halfway up the wall. “Yeah!” Hiccup shouted. Toothless crowed with achievement, then leaped off the root toward the wall.

He missed, slamming neck-and-chin first into the rock wall of the cove. Hiccup’s smile wilted.

Hiccup ran over to where the dragon hit the ground. “It’s okay bud, we’ll--”

The dragon shrugged off the boy’s comforting hand and stood, growling at the sheer rock. Before Hiccup could say anything more, he’d bounded off the rocks again, landing on the root with another scrabble of claws. Rather than jump off the root again, Toothless continued to crawl his way up the root, using his claws for support. Hiccup’s smile returned.

Before long, the Night Fury made it to the top of the cliff and looked down on Hiccup. He crooned, clearly happy to be able to be overprotective of his human outside the cove. Hiccup laughed out loud, then ran around to the crevice on the far side of the cove -- followed above by his now more-free best friend.

Since Hiccup had found his way back to the village the day before, he was able to guide the two of them there much more quickly than he’d gone the night previously. When they reached the edge of the tree line, Hiccup paused.

He turned to his scaly friend. “Toothless, stay. It’s sunset, the night isn’t fully out yet. Someone might see you.”

Hiccup took a step away from the tree line. Toothless followed.

“No, Tooth- oh for crying out loud.” Hiccup walked back into the tree line. Toothless followed again. Using a stick on the ground, Hiccup drew a line with Toothless on the side further into the forest and himself on the other, closer to the village. “Stay. There. Don’t get seen.”

Hiccup turned back around and was about to break the tree line when the back door of his dad’s house opened, and his dad stepped out. Oh. Oops. The reply letter hadn’t been pinned up yet. Thank Odin his overprotective dragon was being… overprotective.

Hiccup waited as his dad pinned a piece of paper to the door with a dagger. His dad looked back at the tree line, failing to spot the hidden teen and dragon, then went back inside the house.

Hiccup broke the tree line, sprinting down the hill to the back door. He grabbed the dagger and the letter off the door, then ran back up the hill. Toothless was right behind him every step of the way.

When they were back inside the tree line, Hiccup turned to the dragon. “What did I just say about staying?”



“Astrid! Woah, chill, it’s just us.” Tuffnut said as he looked at the battle-ax embedded in the arena gate next to him.

Ruffnut, on the other side of the ax, giggled.

“What… Are you… Why… You don’t just go opening gates without saying that you’re there!” Astrid reprimanded.

“Jeez, sorry. Won’t happen again, mom,” Tuffnut snarked.
“What are you even doing here right now?” Ruffnut asked.

Astrid deflated, her aggression leaving in a huff of air. “I wanted somewhere to train. Normally I’d do that out in the woods, but the adults are all terrified of Hiccup and his stupid, Loki-spawned Night Fury. It’s just so… not fair!”

Tuffnut and Ruffnut shared a look. Tuffnut spoke, “What, do you want a dragon of your own?”

Astrid gave him an incredulous look. “It’d have to be Ragnarok -- or worse! -- for me to become friends with a dragon.”

Ruffnut shrugged. “If not the dragon, then what’s the unfair thing?”

“It’s… It’s just… Hiccup! And a dragon! Like, who or what in Hel’s realm even came up with that? And the adults’ reaction to it!” she dropped her voice, trying to imitate the accents of Berkian adults, “Ach, you young kids, we said we’re startin’ dragon trainin’ two days after the next dragon raid and we’re stickin’ to that, even though there’s a big scary dragon on our island we’re all afraid of! We’re just going to not teach you all how to defend yerselves against it!” Astrid coughed to clear her throat of the weird accent. “It’s just so… unfair!”

Tuffnut nodded sagely. “I know exactly how you feel. There was this one time Ruffnut and I were stealing bread from the bakery, and they totally knew it was us. Then Stoick said we didn’t get meals at the great hall until we stopped stealing from the bakery.”
Ruffnut joined in. “But if we kept stealing from the bakery, we’d be totally fine for food, right? So we did, then Stoick went and put guards up at the bakery!”
Tuffnut feigned hunger, groaning and stumbling back and forth. “It was like so unfair! We didn’t get to eat for two days!”

Astrid shook her head at the twin’s tale. How on Midgard has the chief not shipped them off yet? “So what are you guys doing here, anyway?”

“We wanted to see some of the dragons!” Ruffnut answered. “Waiting for the next raid is so boring .”

Behind the twins, a squeak of alarm sounded, followed by retreating footsteps. Astrid stopped whoever it was in their tracks with a quick shout. “Fishlegs! Let me guess, you’re here because you’re sick of waiting for training as well?”

Fishlegs, standing at the top of the entrance ramp, eeped again. “Well, no. I mean yes. If the arena is in use I can come back another time…”

“It isn’t. Not since the twins showed up. Come on in,” Astrid said, approaching the gate. Cautiously, the rotund teen joined the group at the bottom of the ramp.

“So what did you plan to do here?” Tuffnut asked Fishlegs.

“W-well, the Book of Dragons has descriptions of various dragon noises like growls and roars, and I-I wanted to see if I could identify the dragons through their cage doors from the descriptions of the growls and… uhh… that. Yeah.”

“So boring stuff,” Tuff commented.
“How about you join us for not boring stuff?” Ruff asked.

Fishlegs squeaked, clearly terrified of the twins’ idea of not boring.

Astrid pulled her ax out of the metal gate, leaving a slight gash in the grating. “Whatever. You three have fun getting yourselves killed. I’m going home to get some rest.”

Variations of, “Bye Astrid…” followed her out the gate. She huffed in annoyance. One of the twins was probably going to let a dragon out of its cage and get hurt. At the moment, she didn’t care. It was their fault, and their class was getting smaller all the time anyway. First, Hiccup went missing, then Snotlout got accused by Mildew of trying to murder the heir. If one of the others got hurt now, it’d probably just be continuing the damn trend. For once she actually wanted a dragon raid. Bring on the fire, bring on the scales. Afterward, she’d finally get dragon training and get to be off the stupid fire brigade.

As she re-entered the village, she looked up at the chief’s house. There wasn’t much activity around, except over at the steps of the great hall. Everybody was headed up to dinner now.

Then she saw it. Movement. Something huge and black following something small, pink and brown toward the back of the chief’s house. Hiccup and his Night Fury!

She took off at a sprint toward the chief’s house. There was no way she’d let that traitorous bilge-rat get away from the village this time!


Gunnar Hofferson wasn’t worried that his daughter hadn’t shown up at dinner. She’d stayed out late practicing with her ax many times before. No, what worried Gunnar was that, because she wasn’t at dinner, she probably was out practicing, specifically against what she’d been told. After finishing his own meal, Gunnar took his dishes to the “to-be-washed” pile, then turned back to the room.

The Thorston twins, who’d been at dinner earlier, had disappeared, probably off to cause some mayhem the village would have to clean up. The only other person of her age group around was…

Mr. Hofferson approached the table the Ingermans tended to use. “Excuse me a moment, Seabreath. Can I speak to your son?”

Seabreath Ingerman nodded. “Of course.”

“Fishlegs, have you seen my daughter around?” Gunnar asked.

Fishlegs swallowed a huge bite he’d taken out of the chicken leg he was eating. “Yeah, yep. I saw her leaving the kill ring just before sunset.”

“She was at the dragon arena? Why?” Gunnar questioned.

“I dunno. I was on a hill reading the book of dragons, and nowhere near the ring.”

Seabreath and Gunnar shared a look of confusion at Fishlegs’ specific emphasis at having not been at the arena.

“Yes, I definitely didn’t …” He dropped his head toward his food and muttered the next few words: “...violating direct orders from adults…” He raised his head again. “...go to the arena to stop the twins from trying to see one of the dragons. That is something I did not do.”

Oh. The twins. Of all the stupid and irresponsible things they could’ve done… Wait…

If Fishlegs stopped them then, which he was implying he did (without outright saying it,) then who was stopping them now? Gunnar looked to Seabreath, who seemed to have had the same thoughts. “Seabreath, go find the twins. I’ll explain the situation to the chief.”

“Aye,” said Seabreath, as he rose from the table. Fishlegs stared at his three half-eaten plates of food. Seabreath patted him on the shoulder. “Good job, son. We’ll handle this from here.”

Fishlegs nodded and seemed to brighten a bit under his father’s praise. Gunnar turned away, searching out the chief in the crowd of feasting Vikings.


Stoick used a chicken leg to push his food around his plate. With everything going on, and his son’s life hinging on the boy’s ability to make peace with a dragon, the chief didn’t feel very hungry. Sometime before all the Vikings in the room left to sleep, Stoick had to tell them all as their chief to not attack a dragon.

Not. Attack. A dragon.

He pushed his fish across his plate with the chicken leg, then pushed it back.

“Chief Stoick!” a voice called over the din of feasting Vikings. Stoick looked up and found Gunnar Hofferson standing next to him. “Stoick, I think the twins are breaking into the dragon arena to see a dragon.”

“How do you--”

“Fishlegs told me and his father. Seabreath is already on his way to stop them.”

Stoick turned in his seat, looking past Gunnar. “Gobber, get to the arena. The twins--”

“I heard Gunnar. On it Stoick!”

“Stoick,” Gunnar continued, “That isn’t all of it. Astrid’s missing.”

Stoick’s frown, seemingly ever-present since his son’s return, deepened. “Astrid goes training through dinner all the time. What’s different now?”

“I told her to stay in town until the situation with Hiccup was resolved.”

Oh. “Where was she last seen?”

“Fishlegs said she saw her leaving the arena just before sunset.”

Just before sunset… Oh no. Abruptly, Stoick stood, sending his chair clattering to the ground. Kicking his chair out of the way, he pushed through the crowd to the entrance of the great hall. Gunnar followed in his wake. The chief shouldered his way through the doors, the heavy oaken panels barely slowing him. He turned off the path and strode toward his house, Gunnar continuing to follow. Passing his front door, he came around the back.

Where he’d stabbed the reply into the door with a dagger, all that remained was the cut in the wood. On the back steps were a pair of dusty, bare footprints. Stoick looked in the direction the broken blades of grass led back up the hill.

Gunnar stopped to stare at the footprints on the back step as Stoick followed the tracks up the grassy hill. Where the tracks met the forest dirt, they became far more obvious.

All three sets. One dragon, one barefoot human, and one booted human.

“What in Thor’s name…” Gunnar whispered.


Chapter End Notes

Sundown! Intrigue! Action!
Thanks for reading!

Facing Fear

Chapter Notes

Chapter 10 : Facing Fear


Hiccup stopped his climb to look out over the forest. He and Toothless had been retreating into said forest for maybe half an hour, ever since he’d grabbed his dad’s reply off the door. Better safe than sorry when they read the note, right?

They were partway up the mountainous terrain in the middle of Berk, on the western side. Down below, to the north, Hiccup thought he could see the cove they’d spent a few days confined to. He reminisced momentarily on that place, back where he and Toothless had broken the language barrier, at least a little bit.

He sat down on a rock. Toothless sat behind him. He was tired. All the running around and clambering and moving was stressing his arms and legs, especially his upper arms and thighs.

“Whaddya say we read his response now, bud?” he asked. Toothless chuffed, clearly annoyed Hiccup was talking when he still couldn’t understand. Still couldn't. Only a matter of time now. Does Toothless know I’m changing? Hiccup chuckled at his friend’s predicament (mostly to get away from thoughts about what was coming for him) and pulled his dad’s reply out of his vest pocket. To Toothless’ obvious chagrin, he read out loud.

“To Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, Friend to Dragons,

“I can’t say I agree with your choice of friends, son. However, I very much would like this whole situation to be resolved.

“I’ve talked things over with the influential parties of Berk. We agree to your terms. At dinner tonight, I will announce to the village our truce with your particular dragon.

“I look forward to having you home.

“Chief Stoick the Vast, Tribe of Hairy Hooligans on the isle of Berk”

Hiccup almost bounced up and down where he sat. “We’re going home bud! Oh, this- this fixes everything!” Hiccup wrapped his arms around his dragon’s neck. His dragon purred at his human’s happiness. Hiccup’s happiness faded quickly, though, as he remembered what had been said in the cove when he broke the language barrier. What he’d done to Savage, and to himse-- don’t think about it .

The dragon’s purr suddenly stopped as he sat up and looked downhill, ear plates raised. “Toothless?”

Hiccup followed the Night Fury’s gaze. There was nothing there. Just rocks lit up in the moonlight and…

Wait, something moved. A rock shinier than the others suddenly ducked down. “Hello? Who’s there?”

Silence. Whoever it was, they didn’t respond. Hiccup’s breathing quickened. “We know you’re there! Come out! Y- you can’t sneak up on us.”

More silence. Hiccup thought perhaps he and Toothless were getting jumpy, seeing things. He was about to give up and return to climbing when suddenly…


A flash of polished iron shone in the moonlight. The figure came charging up the hill toward them, bellowing at the top of her breath.

Toothless responded immediately, charging and releasing a blast of purple fire: “SSREEEEAAAAACHOO”



The sound echoed off the cliffs and spires surrounding the dragon training arena. The twins looked up at the night sky, which for a moment had noticeably brightened.

“What do you think that was?” Ruffnut asked.

“Don’t know, don’t care. C’mon, let's go see a dragon really up-close!”




“Mulch, what was that?” Bucket whimpered.

Spitelout, along with many of the other Vikings in the crowd milling about outside the great hall, looked up the mountain at where the sound and a preceding flash of light had originated. “I think that’s our undeclared truce ending…”



Stoick and Gunnar looked up at the flash of purple light that shone through the trees.

“Astrid…” Gunnar gasped. He took the lead, sprinting through the trees toward the source of the flash. Stoick followed.


The plasma blast flew down the hill and struck a rock just in front of the charging figure. The rock exploded, tiny pebbles raining down all around her. A large chunk collided with her gut, sending her rolling a half-dozen paces down the slope. The double-bladed ax she wielded clattered off a lot further, almost to the tree line.

Toothless leaped to a rock just above the fallen figure, spreading his wings intimidatingly. Hiccup hopped down after him, ducking under the dragon’s wing. He winced as sharp pebbles and dust scattered everywhere from the exploded rock dug into his bare feet. He reached the fid…


“RAAAGH!” Astrid bellowed, leaping up from the ground and tackling Hiccup. They wrestled on the ground for a few moments, Toothless too afraid to interfere for fear of hurting Hiccup.

“A-Astrid, what in Hel’s name are you do--”


Her tirade was cut off as Hiccup, with strength he didn’t know he had, got his left leg between their wrestling bodies and shoved, throwing his attacker off. He grabbed at the leg, groaning from a massive pain in his thigh.

Toothless leaped at Astrid as soon as she was off Hiccup, slamming her back into the rocky ground and knocking the wind from her. A purple glow built in his throat and--

“Toothless! No!”

Toothless paused, again, swallowing his fires. Hiccup ran over and pushed Toothless away, leaving Astrid to roll away and clutch at the back of her head, which had hit the ground really hard after the dragon’s tackle.

“It’s okay Toothless, it’s okay.” Hiccup calmed the dragon.

“What... the Hel... Hiccup?” Astrid gasped, gulping for air. Most of her aggression was drained after the sound defeat.

Hiccup put himself between the two, a hand out blocking each from the other. “You just scared him”

I... scared him ?!... Him ?!... That’s a... dragon!...”

“I kn--”


Gunnar broke the tree line first, emerging onto the rock-strewn hill. Up above, maybe five hundred paces up the hill, a great black dragon stood with threatening wings over two figures wrestling on the ground. The angered shrieks of one echoed down the slope.


The tirade was cut off as the figure on top was thrown from the wrestling match. Just as quickly as she was in the air, she was slammed into the ground as the dragon pounced on her.

“ASTRID!” Gunnar shouted. He began to clamber his way up the hill, tripping over rocks in his haste. Stoick broke the tree line and, seeing the situation, followed.

Another shout echoed down, this one distinctly male. “Toothless! No!”

The dragon paused. The figure that had kicked the other off rose from the ground and stumbled over to the dragon, pulling it away from the downed Astrid. Gunnar spotted Astrid’s ax, not fifty paces above him.

The two figures exchanged a few more words, Astrid stumbling away. Then Gunnar reached the ax.

“Gunnar, wait. Astrid attacked fir--” Stoick began, finally catching up. Gunnar, still mad with worry for his daughter’s safety, threw the ax.


“I kn--” Hiccup began. He was cut off when, unexpectedly, Toothless grabbed Hiccup’s vest in his mouth and rolled, pulling the teen to the ground. Something large, double-bladed, and glinting in the moonlight flew through the space where boy and dragon had once been. It clanked loudly against a rock and ricocheted off elsewhere on the slope.  

Hiccup scrambled to hands and knees and looked down the slope. There, a hundred and fifty paces down, were his own father and Gunnar Hofferson.

What would the best dragon slayer in Berk, the best dragon-slaying protogé on Berk, and the chief of Berk all be doing out at night?

Hiccup stumbled backward and leaned on Toothless’ neck as the dragon rose back to his feet. He looked at Astrid with new fear in his eyes.

Astrid’s eyes were equally wide with fear. “Hiccup... I--”

“Were you hunting us ?!” he asked, pointing down the hill at Gunnar and Stoick.

Astrid’s head whipped around to look, then she turned back. “N-no… I didn’t--”

Hiccup snorted, then turned to his dragon. “Toothless, we’ve gotta get out of here bud.” He took off across the rocky slope, wincing as the rocks pressed sharply into his bare feet.


Below on the slope, unheard by the two escapees, knuckles met flesh. Gunnar stumbled to the rocky slope, more from surprise than actual harm.

“You could’ve hit my son!” Stoick bellowed at the downed Viking. Gunnar, too surprised by the punch to act, lay on the ground. Stoick continued to run up the slope, toward the retreating forms of boy and dragon. “HICCUP! WAIT!”

Hiccup and his dragon descended on the far side, disappearing into the northwestern Berkian forests.

Stoick came to a halt. This late at night, against foes built for hiding in the dark, he didn’t have a snowball’s chance in dragonfire of catching them. He rounded on Astrid, now joined by her father. “What were you thinking, lass?”

Astrid stared at where Hiccup disappeared into the forest, then looked up at her chief. Voice wavering and still breathless, but with strong conviction, she spoke. “That... was not... your son.”


Stoick, Gunnar, and Astrid slowly made their way back to the village. Gunnar had to support Astrid as they moved along. The hard tackle from the dragon left her breathless and gasping for air, even half an hour later when they finally broke into the diffuse torchlight.

In front of the great hall, the three discovered a much larger group of armed Vikings. Spitelout stepped forward as they approached. “Brother! What happened? Are you alright?”

Stoick nodded silently, not trusting his voice. Gunnar spoke for him. “Astrid followed Hiccup and his dragon out into the woods. They attacked her.”

Astrid took a breath and clutched her side as her diaphragm twinged in protest. “I… attacked… first.”

Spitelout shook his head incredulously at the tale, then turned to Stoick. “Brother, after you stormed out of dinner, I had the other men set up a perimeter and move everyone from the village inside.”

Now it was Stoick’s turn to shake his head. “Spitelout, it’s Hiccup and a single dragon, not a damn raid--”

One of the villagers in the crowd cut the chief off, drawing everyone’s attention as he pointed into the night. “DRAGONS!”

Several other villagers joined in the call as they spotted the dark specks blotting out stars.

Gods damn it all, Stoick thought. “You three,” he shouted, pointing out three Vikings on the edge of the crowd, “Light the torch towers! The rest of you, defensive positions!” He turned to Spitelout. “What happened to the twins?”

“Seabreath and Gobber caught them on the bridge to the kill ring, dragged ‘em back here,” Spitelout answered.

Stoick turned around to Gunnar. “Hoffersons, get inside. Tell Gobber to let the twins loose, and that Fishlegs is leading the fire brigade.”

Astrid’s face spoke volumes of consternation. “All due… respect Stoick… I can still… lead the--”

Gunnar cut her off. “No, you can’t.” He turned back to the chief. “Stoick, I’ll get it done.”

“Thank you.” Stoick turned to the remaining villagers, those who didn’t have specific defensive positions during a raid. “All of you! With me! Let's move!”


I flew through the night, approaching the specks of light on the island below. Something about them seemed familiar, as if I had seen them not even a day ago. The feeling, whatever it was, died away as She told us to dive, to break, to rend…

And we dove… All of us. Uncountable numbers of all our kin, working together as of one mind.

Her glorious army.

Fire lashed out from the mouths of the first few Flamescales to land, and the humans’ tree-nests burned.


Gobber was working at a fevered pace. Without his usual assistant around to help him swap hands and do some of the lighter menial tasks, keeping his weapon repair line going was an exercise in futility and haphazard piles of dangerous objects.

And also, occasionally, some very stupid -- or stubborn -- Vikings. Case in point…

“Astrid? What’re ya doin’ here? You’re supposed ta’ be restin’ in the great hall!”

“I… needed… to help… and… Hiccup… did some… something… here…. Right?”

Gobber was about to tell her off for being stupid on the battlefield. His retort was cut off, though, as another Viking dropped a bent blade on the pile in the shop window, and said pile promptly collapsed into the smithy.

“Fine, Astrid! Fine. Move all these weapons onto the coals, and try to keep the fire on the blades rather than the handles. After that…”

Astrid set to work immediately clearing the weapons from the floor. Gobber sighed in relief at the recovered floor space.

“Okay…. Next?”

“The bellows, over there. Pull them until the weapons glow orange, like the setting sun. Don’t let them get white, like parchment, and don’t bring ‘em to me if they’re only blood red.”

She was a quick study, and only ended up damaging a single weapon. He managed to get his line running almost as well as he liked it. The Vikings milling outside were pleased to actually be getting weapons at a decent pace.

As the raid died down in the early morning light, Gobber grudgingly admitted that even injured, for the menial tasks, Astrid was almost equal to Hiccup at smithing.


The fire brigade was awful. That wasn’t just his opinion, his sister totally agreed. They just sorta knew that, tonight, they were doing worse at putting out fires than literally ever before.

It was a good thing that this raid happened, though, or they’d never hear the end of the lectures from the adults. Gods above, they must’ve wasted half an hour listening to them talk about how stupid and irresponsible it was to try to see the dragons in the arena. Jeez, it was an arena . It was supposed to contain the dragons! If it wasn’t any good at that, why build it?

Tuffnut looked at his sister, who seemed to at least be having a similar internal dialogue. She rolled her eyes at Fishlegs as the portly Viking tossed another bucket of water onto a house that had been burning for several minutes now. Tuffnut nodded.

It was a great plan his sister concocted, he grudgingly admitted inside his own head. Sneak away from Fishlegs, then see a dragon anyway, but one that was totally not contained. One of the attacking dragons. How awesome would that be?

Together, the twins slipped off with buckets of water in tow, leaving Fishlegs to ineffectually fight out-of-control blazes.

They found out how awesome a dragon was up close really quickly. In an alley between two houses, a tiny green dragon shot to the ground in front of them, hissing menacingly. It had flecks of something Tuff couldn’t make out in the firelight under all of its scales. Ruffnut stumbled back in alarm.

“It’s so tiny! What’s that all over its--”

The dragon leaped from the ground and onto Tuffnut’s face, biting down hard on the unwitting teen’s nose.

“Aargh! Get it off! Get it off!” Tuff stumbled over backward in pain, and Ruff did the first thing she could think of.

She tossed her bucket of water over the dragon, leaving the bucket hanging off her brother’s face. He spluttered for a moment, then shouted. “Aaaaaaagh! It’s even more on my face!”

Remembering his own bucket, Tuffnut swung it around and hit his sister’s on the side, knocking bucket and dragon off his face.

Tuffnut clutched at his nose, tripping over himself and crawling away. “Oh I am hurt. I am very much hurt.”

The dragon ended up face-down in Ruffnut’s bucket and worked frantically to right itself and escape the tiny wooden space. Ruffnut took the bucket from Tuffnut’s still flailing hand and put it down rim-first on the other bucket, throwing all her weight onto both.

To the twins’ surprise, Ruff’s weight contained the dragon. Tuff, holding his bleeding nose, laughed out loud. “Hah, I always knew you were fatter than a dragon!”

Ruff kicked up at him from her place on the ground. She managed to catch him on the thigh, which sent him sprawling. Not quite between the legs, but she’d get him next time.

“So… What do we do with the dragon now?” Ruff asked.


The catapult swung, protesting unhappily at its sudden and extended use. Stoick pinched the bridge of his nose, expecting the rock to miss any and all targets once again. Surprisingly, there was a loud squawk of alarm as a Nadder was nearly struck by the hurtling stone. It dropped the two sheep it had been carrying and flapped hard, swinging out of the stone’s trajectory, which arced out over a cliff into the sea. No hit that time, but they saved another two sheep.

Stoick turned away from the catapult, surveying the village. Most, if not all of the attacking dragons, had flown off into the early morning light. Over half of their dark silhouettes left empty-clawed.

The dragons had done a worse number than usual on Berk’s houses, shops and storage sheds. On the other hand, they didn’t escape with nearly as much livestock as in raids past, thanks to the catapults not being blown off their mountings by a Night Fury. He thanked the Gods that the dragons didn’t seem to have any more of the black devils among their number than the one… The one that… Well.

Stoick,out, and another Viking whose name Stoick didn’t bother to recall descended from the catapult and returned to the village. Stoick made straight for the smithy. Gobber -- being at the center of town and in a place almost every Viking visited at least once per raid -- usually had the worst of the casualty reports prepared by the time the chief got there.

He looked in through the shop door and found two people working the smithy. “Astrid? What are you doing out here?”

“Had to… help… sir,” she said, breath coming more easily than at the start of the raid.

Stoick shook his head, a mix of emotions washing through his mind. He turned to Gobber, pounding away at a blade. “Gobber, what’s the damage?”

“Apart from maybe ten houses,” bang, “one storage shed,” bang, “and the seamstress’?” The sword hissed as he dropped it in a water trough. “Not much. We lost almost none of the sheep, so I hear, thanks to your men on the catapults. Meanwhile, at the docks, we had nary any fish left for the dragons to take. Traded it all to Johann.”

“Really?” Stoick said, surprised.

“Aye. Tha’s the truth. Also, the Twins managed to catch themselves a Terrible Terror with their buckets. I’ve got the poor wet thing stuck under a table, ‘round ‘ere somewhere.”

“Over there.” Astrid gestured with a hand to a table at the back as she carried a deformed mace over to Gobber.

“Yah, tha’s it.” Gobber nodded, then set about rounding out the mace.

“That’s fine. Gobber, when you’re done with your weapon repairs, get the Terror stored in the kill ring. We can use it during dragon training in a few days time. Do not let any of the teenagers near the arena when you’re working with it.” Stoick turned to the Vikings milling about the village square. “All of you, start triage repairs of houses. If all it needs is a roof tile or two, fix it. If it needs a new roof, let it sit. I want as many houses as possible livable again by this evening!”

Some of the villagers grumbled at the damage the dragons had caused, but almost all of them set to repairs.

Stoick crossed his arms and frowned. Any villager outside Stoick’s inner circle would think the chief was thinking up new ways to protect the village and slay dragons.

Any villager would be wrong.


Hiccup wasn’t emotionally distressed. No, not at all. He and Toothless spent almost all night crossing and re-crossing their tracks, taking a looping, impossible-to-follow path through the woods. Eventually, they returned to the cove where Toothless had been trapped. They approached it from the north, opposite the village.

And now he was perfectly fine. Not having an emotional breakdown at all and…


Mr. Hofferson had thrown that ax right at Toothless’ head. If Toothless hadn’t seen it coming, it would’ve killed him. If Toothless had seen it but hadn’t grabbed Hiccup and dragged him out of the way…

It would have killed me.

How many more people had been hidden in the trees, ready to join the attack?! If he and Toothless hadn’t run when they did, one of them would be dead for sure.

He wanted to return to Berk, to leave another letter, but what do you say to that? What do you say to nearly being killed by the people you want on your side? What do you say to people irrationally trying to kill your best friend?

That wasn’t the worst thing, though. No, the worst thing about today -- and the one thing that really had him in this upset state of mind -- was that he had a scale. He had a damn scale, on his chest , right there, where he could see it, where it was difficult to hide with his vest. He couldn’t deny it anymore; something was happening to him. He was turning into a dragon, somehow.

The only good thing was that the scale was black. If he was turning into a dragon, at least he seemed to be turning into a Night Fury. That’s a bit of consolation, at least. I’ll get to understand Toothless better.

But he didn’t want to be a dragon. He wanted to go home, to the people who just tried to murder his best friend. He wanted to end the damn hostilities and have the best of both worlds: his smithing, his best friend, and his life as a human.

Why were the Gods doing this to him? Why couldn't someone else deal with magic and dragons and being useless? Why couldn't he have been a breadmaking Viking or a small home repair Viking?

Why did he have to have magic?

Hiccup continued to cry as Toothless curled around him, protecting him from the world as daylight began to rise. Eventually, Hiccup managed to fall asleep, looking far more peaceful than he had awake when awake. Toothless hugged him tighter and fell asleep as well.


I slammed again into the wooden walls of the trap, but they didn’t budge. If I hadn’t been completely drenched with water I could’ve burnt my way out in moments. As it was, I was trapped like…

The analogy had been on the edge of my mind, but it slipped away. I thought it weird for only a moment, then was distracted by Her voice.

Oh how I wanted to free myself, to claw apart these tree-made containers and fly back to Her. When I escape, perhaps I’ll even claw up a human or two. I’ll slash out their throats and bathe in the sweet, dark blood. That was what I did, right? I looked down at my forelimbs, invisible in the dark space. When I had gone to Her, I was covered in blood. I bowed down before Her and sung out my praises, and She accepted me. Then…

I can’t recall what happened. After that blank space, though, I was sent here on my first raid. The joy of flying, the rush of attacking…

The fear of this entrapment.

In the tiny space, I twisted around to get good leverage on the walls. I began scratching, trying to make a hole or a break in the structure.

“Stop tha’ you damnable li’le thing.”

The voice rang in from outside, so many guttural tones and hums and hisses. Strangely, though, I knew what it said. Words came back to me, slowly, as though repressed.

I didn’t have time to think about it, though, as suddenly my container was hoisted into the air. My head slammed into the top as it suddenly came to a halt, and I growled at the damnable humans outside.

“Feisty li’le bugger, alright. Astrid! Take a few buckets of water from the well and toss ‘em over the coals. I’ma take this li’le annoyance up to the kill ring.”

Kill Ring? What could that be?! They weren’t going to kill me, were they? They couldn’t! I had to escape, to return to Her!

I scratched feverishly at the walls, trying to escape again. The human outside shook the container, hampering my efforts.

“Li’le guy just doesn’ give up.”

The human flipped my container, causing me to fall and land on my head. I twisted and squirmed, trying to right myself and resume my escape.

Turning over was easier said than done. It had to have taken me at least five minutes. Right as I went to attack the walls of the container again, it rolled over once more. I landed chin-first on the side I had been about to scratch at and whimpered pitifully.

Suddenly, the wall behind me disappeared. I scrabbled backward, trying to leap out before I could be re-trapped.

My flank collided with a piece of wood and I pushed harder, trying to get away from the tiny container. The wood slid aside and I popped through…

Into a massive, rock-hewn dark space. I scampered about, finding the wooden swinging thing I had entered through without difficulty.

I pushed against the wood. It didn’t budge.

No! Let me out! Let me back to Her!

“Silly li’le Terrors, always happy to jump any direction inta any situation. Ah, classic.”

Damn you human! Open this door!

Clomping footsteps -- one wooden and one hide -- retreated from the other side. I deflated. I was trapped, still.

Hello?... Are you new?

Who is there?! I squeaked.

I’m the Stonetail in the cage to your right, facing the entrances.

I turned to face the door. Her (his? No, her) voice came from the right, echoing outside. A low rumbling voice sounded from the left. Stonetail, stop trying to be nice to the newcomer. It’s a Tinywing; it probably doesn’t even know right from left.

HEY! I shouted, I can tell the difference between right and left!

Two more voices joined in from further left, overlapping and finishing each others’ sentences. Oh really?
You do?
Where are
The two of
One of

A final voice echoed dimly from farther off to the left. Now you’ve done it. The Twinhead takes forever to shut up.

The Stonetail is to my right, the Twinhead and… I think a Preenscale are to my left. I’m not certain what you are low-voice.

The dragon with the low voice rumbled out a low, humorless laugh. You’re a strange Tinywing. Have you not met a Flamescale before?

I thought about it. I couldn’t really remember anything before meeting Her, and afterward, I didn’t spend much time talking to other dragons. Or, for that matter, talking. Not as I recall, no.

Hmmm… The Flamescale hummed, a low and sorrowful note. That does not bode well for the rest of my kind, if already the Tinywings forget them so easily.

Well, I added, I only arrived at the nest under a day or so ago. I don’t even recall speaking with other dragons; we were all too busy preparing for the raid.

What about
about those
of our kind? The Twinhead asked.

There were a number of two-headed dragons among our number. Yes.

Excellent! They replied simultaneously.

Are you all still talking over there? You’re distracting me from picking the dirt out of my scales . The Preenscale’s voice echoed.

That shut all the other dragons up. I tried to ask another question, but the Stonetail shushed me, and the Flamescale growled.

I guessed none of them wanted to deal with an irritable Preenscale.


Once again, the chief’s house managed to avoid all damage in the raid. It probably had to do with being so far from any storehouses, though Stoick wasn't sure.

The chieftain sat at the kitchen table, trying to think of what to write to his son. What did he say? “Sorry a good friend of mine tried to kill you for trying to kill his daughter for trying to kill you last night”? That seemed like something Hiccup would say if he were in Stoick’s position.

But that wasn’t the case, and Stoick had to look at all sides of the situation. Most specifically…

A chief protects his own.

Hiccup… When did you stop being in that number?

He sighed, and put pencil to paper.

The letter was concise, saying exactly what Stoick meant, and stating it once. He stood, the chair creaking as his weight left, then went to the back door. He opened it and looked at the mark where the dagger had been stuck in previously.

He’d had a weapon, last night…

...and he didn’t use it.

Stoick picked up a rock from the ground outside and set it on top of the page, on the back steps. Anybody going up or down the steps would see it there, by the foot of the door.

He turned and shut the door, retreating back inside.

The letter flapped in the wind under the stone, charcoal lettering smudging slightly. It read:

“To Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third,

“I’m sorry. I had indeed planned to announce the truce at dinner that night, but Astrid saw you leaving with the letter and took it upon herself to remove the threat to the village posed by your friendships.

“When we realized she was gone, Gunnar and I followed. After seeing Astrid attacked, Gunnar overreacted.

“We were raided by dragons immediately after our return to the village. While I hope you can still come home, working out a truce now would be less than optimal.

“Please, keep writing letters. I want you home, son.



Snotlout winced as, once again, that decrepit old man’s voice shattered the dim atmosphere of the great hall. “Two days, Stoick! Two days I’ve been cooped up in this hall! Either bring your damn son in here and lop the head off his damnable Night Fury or just let me get back to my cabbages!”

Stoick slammed his fist into the stone ring surrounding the hall’s central fire pit, where he was discussing village repairs with a number of adults. “Mildew, it’s been a day and a half! Viking law states we have five days to bring the accuser to--”

“Five days!” Mildew spat on the floor. “When was the last time anyone actually had to wait that long for a trial? Has it happened ever ?”

Snotlout tuned the argument out. It was stupid, Mildew complaining about his trial. He never got a trial, and he was pretty much the heir now! No, instead Mildew finds out about everything like a seeming magician, then he’s accused, then he’s stuck on great hall duty for -- like -- ever! Why did all the adults get to decide what happened to him?

Crawling under a table, Snotlout picked up a half eaten chicken leg and set it on a plate, grimacing in disgust. Lunch was just the worst because nobody actually ate anything; it all ended up on the floor!

Oh, his dad and Ruffnut and Stoick were all, “be glad you aren't exiled!” and stuff, but that was just stupid. They kept him so busy, he never got to leave the mess hall anyway. He might as well be exiled, for all of Berk he saw. There was a dragon raid last night -- a dragon raid! The adults were all like, “No Snotlout, you stay in here and do all the dinner cleanup yourself.”

It just made him so mad.

And then, AND THEN! Hiccup came back as best buds with a Night Fury! A dragon! What does everyone do? They let his traitorous dragon-loving behind run off into the forest! As if all that wasn’t enough, Astrid goes out and practically gets mauled by the dragon and Stoick doesn’t lift a finger to help her! Beautiful, perfect Astrid!

When did Useless get the power to take on Astrid? What the Hel? It so wasn’t okay, not when Snotlout’s babe was getting beaten by dragons and village idiots. The only person who should be beating Astrid at anything was him, Snotlout, because he was the best at everything.

Instead, it was like Berk had gone to Hel in Loki’s hand basket, along with a half million servings of chicken legs off the floor. Ugh.

He crawled under another table. This time, blissfully, there was no food left lying on the floor. He crawled out the other side and stood with his plate of cleaned-up food…

...Which was promptly overturned by a particular, long-haired, blonde Viking. Tuffnut grinned like nothing was wrong, but there were scars on his nose. “Hey Snotlout, what’s up? You’ll like never believe what me and my sister did last night in the raid.”

Snotlout groaned as the half-eaten chicken legs he’d just cleaned up off the floor clattered back under the previously pristine table.



Chapter End Notes

Snotlout Jorgenson, getting his just desserts! Er… Such punishment. Much wow.
Hope you’re all having fun reading!

Burning More than Bridges

Chapter Notes

Chapter 11 : Burning More than Bridges


Does the date even matter anymore? I’m turning into a dragon. It’ll only be a few days until I can’t write these.

Or read them. Maybe. I don’t know how all this turning-into-a-dragon stuff is supposed to work.

Whatever. I guess I’ll date this…

… Must’ve lost my dad’s reply last night. I don’t remember a date on it. I suppose I’ll keep on the same schedule.

25th of August, year of Loki’s reign 1009

Like what I did there? Obviously the trickster god is running things; humans are turning into dragons!

Ha. Ha. I’m sure you’re all laughing. Gods… why is this happening?

So, I didn’t get to journal yesterday. Here’s the short version: my life is yakshit now.

Now the long version:

I got to “talk” with Toothless. By talk, what I really mean is sort out a mutually understandable system of symbolic drawings done of people and relationships between people. Those drawings led to the first problem.

Savage is a Terrible Terror. Savage, as in right-hand-man to Alvin the Treacherous, Savage. Toothless had a conversation with him the night before last, when he stopped in to taunt us, or something. I don’t know, as I don't (yet, apparently,) speak dragon.

How do I know I'm turning into a dragon too? Well, we can start with the SCALES GROWING OUT OF MY CHEST AND FACE. Or my ARMS LITERALLY GETTING THICKER. Or parts of my rib cage having seemingly disappeared, though that might just be me having not felt up my chest under scales. Yeah, scales. It’s as weird to feel them as it- it--


At least my lower arms and lower legs seem fine. Maybe they’ll be the last to go or something. Also, what about my wings? My back doesn't feel any different yet…

My. Wings. Hold on I think I’m going to--

On the other hand, I might have a solution to our food problem. Fish! We’ve got a lake full of fish right here, and last night’s (harrowing) escape reminded me that Toothless can stun fish! I’m going to talk it out with him when I’m done journaling. Well, “talk.”

Also, I have no clue what to tell dad. How do I explain to him, “Hey dad, I’m turning into a Night Fury because magic is real and Alvin the Treacherous is a terrible person! Sorry about failing the truce thing like I did everything else, but this time it wasn't really my fault because you were hunting us ! Please don’t kill me or my best friend! Signed HHHIII, more than friends with dragons!”

Because that would go so well.

I’ll think of something by sunset. After then, I dunno, I’m going to try getting one more human-like night of rest. Screw this sleeping-in-the-day thing.


Hiccup shut his journal and dropped it into the pocket of his vest. He was leaning up against Toothless, once again sleeping through a part of the day with the dragon. Or he had been sleeping. Then he was writing. Now, he was looking at the lake. He knew he’d seen fish in it the other day, so if he could wake up Toothless and get him to blast ‘em, they were set!

Hiccup stepped over the pile of protective legs and wings, making his way over to the sleepy dragon’s head. Toothless didn’t even flick an ear plate at him.

Hiccup put both hands under the dragon’s chin and heaved upward. “C’mon bud, we gotta eat!”

The dragon opened one eye and looked at him. Hiccup, trying to get his point across, bounced up and down and pointed at the lake.

Toothless looked at the lake. Seeing nothing of interest, he began to go back to sleep.

Hiccup ran over to the water’s edge, and Toothless’ eyes followed, bleary with sleep as they were under the midday sun.

“Okay Toothless, I need you to do that plasma blast thing…” Hiccup raised one fist to his mouth, then extended it out toward the lake. “...into the water, to stun all the fish.” He opened his fist and wiggled his fingers while raising it.

Toothless looked at the water, then back at Hiccup. He warbled out a question, which obviously Hiccup couldn’t understand.

“Oh c’mon, please?”

Toothless, grumbling, stood and hopped atop a rock by the water’s edge. He looked around in the water for a few moments, then fired off a blast that threw water vapor five paces into the air.

When the vapor cleared, Hiccup could see almost a dozen fish floating on the surface of the water…

“Yeah!... Oh, come on.”

...In almost the precise middle of the lake.

“Did you plan that?!”

Toothless edged away from the water, as if unwilling to go retrieve the fish that far out.

Hiccup sighed. With lots of second-thoughts, but little choice, he ditched his vest and trousers on shore. In the buff, he dove into the water and swam toward the floating fish.

Toothless warbled in alarm but calmed as he saw Hiccup’s swimming was just fine.

Hiccup was shivering when he reached the first fish. The water was cold cold, like the kind of cold too cold to turn to ice. With a heave, Hiccup threw the fish he reached back toward shore. Toothless, spotting the flying food, snapped it out of the air.

Hiccup laughed, or tried to. It turned into hiccuping gasps by the third breath, and he decided to focus on throwing the remaining fish and getting out of the water. The second, third, fourth and fifth went without a problem, straight down Toothless’ needy gullet. The sixth slipped from Hiccup’s hand too early as he threw, and it landed in the lake next to the onshore Toothless. Toothless jumped into the shallows of the lake after it, sending a wave of figuratively-colder-than-ice water rushing over Hiccup. The teen sputtered and frowned as his facial muscles froze. The seventh, eighth, and ninth went without further difficulty.

The tenth and last, Hiccup decided to take for himself. Swimming with the fish under one arm, Hiccup made his way back to shore. Apparently, though, he held the fish the wrong way around. As the water flowed over its gills, it suddenly flopped to life in his arms and shot off deep into the lake.

“Ohoh CcoMme OnN!” Hiccup chattered out.

Hiccup made his way out of the lake, falling to his hands and knees for the last little bit, ignoring the mud. On shore, he collapsed shivering.

“ShHouLd’Ve b-BuilTt a F-FirRe f-f-fiRsT.”


I don't understand Sapling.

He continually risks himself for the stupidest reasons: Me, trying to communicate with those humans, me again, fishing...

Why? Why me? He’s so clever, so kind, so unlike She was. I don't know how to deal with him as my alpha.

And he thinks I’m his alpha. That- that doesn't even make sense. He’s a human. They always follow human alphas. They have their human communication.

Why does he care so much ?

This time, he risked himself for me, again. It’s been days since the “boughautuh” with the fish and I haven't even had a bone to gnaw on since then. Had I known how much what Sapling was planning would risk his health, I never would’ve let him go.

It had seemed benign, though. He asked me to release my fires into the water to stun the fish. The stunning attack that Shadowscales usually use doesn’t really work for me, grounded as I am. It fails not because we need the speed of flight to make a proper plasma charge (which we do! My landed ones are so much weaker…) but because we can’t grab the fish in the water. We can’t use our claws as our limbs are keeping us afloat and we can’t use our mouths as we’ll drown ourselves long before we swallow any fish.

I figured Sapling had some good plan for getting the fish, that he’d thought everything through. I stunned the fish for him.

Sapling’s solution? He swam out and threw the fish back to me on land.

It seemed like a good plan at first. With the fish sliding down my throat I was ecstatic. Sapling was amazing, everything was perfect.

Then Sapling came back to shore.

He hadn't thought it through. He was shivering again, just like in the cave after drowning in the ocean, which was my fault. I was hurting him, hurting his health, and it was all my fault again. All my fault.

Quickly, I scorched a section of ground nearby with my flames. Grabbing my shivering human friend by the shoulder with my mouth, I dragged him over and laid him on his back on the blackened ground.

Sapling screeched, seemingly in pain! I leaped backward, unsure what I had done. Sapling rolled himself over, crying out louder as his right forelimb pressed into the warm ground.

The flesh on his back . In places where he hadn’t been sprouting scales over the past day, his skin had changed to an angry red or sickly yellow.

Humans must not be meant for a dragon’s level of heat. I realized. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

All over his right forelimb and lower limbs, angry yellow and red spots were forming. I whimpered. I did that to him.

I jumped and flew to the other side of the cove. I crashed painfully to the ground for thinking I could take to the air, but I didn’t care. I harmed Sapling! Any pain coming my way I deserved. I covered my head with my paws and keened my regrets, hoping he would forgive me.

Why couldn't I do anything right? I was flightless, stupid, awful, useless. Whyyyyyy?


Daaaaaaamit all!

Everything hurt! Especially Hiccup’s back and right arm. What the Hel was that? He came out of the lake and Toothless tried to roast him alive?! I thought we were friends!


He came out of the lake shivering. Now, lying practically on his face next to the surface of the sun (Er… A scorched patch of ground) the one thing he wasn’t anymore was cold.

Toothless was trying to warm me up … He thought, aggression fading.

Hiccup clambered laboriously to his feet, being careful to keep his still very human arms and legs away from the worst of the ground’s scorching, only burning his feet slightly. Thighs aching, he took stock of himself. His chest, thanks to his new scales, was fine. His legs had slight burns where they met his chest. He moved elsewhere on his body before his brain could think too deeply between his legs. His right arm had angry burns all down the outside, but nothing that wouldn’t heal well enough if left alone. His back… he felt around. The human skin remaining there had a lot of burns, but they seemed about the same as the ones on his right arm. And…

He kept feeling around. Something wasn’t right with the two strips of human skin on his back. Starting at his shoulders on either side of his neck and extending almost to his buttocks, two (now burnt) strips of skin covered over… something. He felt at the skin, pushing it a bit. Whatever was underneath gave a slight force back then held fast, like compressing a book.

Folded, on my back Wings! Under my skin !?

Hiccup sat on un-scorched ground while he processed all this. Then he realized something else:

Where’s Toothless?

He looked around the cove. It took him several moments to find his friend, then he wondered how he ever could have missed him. Toothless was curled into a ball on the far side of the lake, bawling like he had been on the gala ship, Girtha, not five days ago.

Hiccup went to comfort his scaly friend, then paused.


The dragon cared about him, that much was clear. He didn't know what he was doing, though. The Night Fury could've accidentally killed him right there, had Hiccup not been partway transformed into a dragon. The hypothermia combined with the sudden shock of severe burns would’ve messed up his body badly.

He wouldn't have had that problem living with humans. Humans didn't throw each other into fires to warm them up. That was a dragon thing.

I’m not a dragon. I don't want to be a dragon. I just want to go home.

Berk. Home. They might not accidentally toss him into a fire, but they did try to kill him. Him and Toothless.

Or… did they? Something in what Astrid said -- and how she said it -- nagged at Hiccup. “N-no… I didn’t-”

Did she not know Stoick and Gunnar were there?

Hiccup shook his head. It didn't matter whether she knew, she had been trying to kill him and Toothless!

She had been trying to kill Toothless.

A thought occurred to him. He could still get out of this, most of it, anyway. If he went back to the village, pleaded with his dad, he’d have a chance at getting leniency from the village. They’d surely kill Toothless but…

How could he think that? How could he think that? It was Toothless ! They’d only known each other for a week now but… Hiccup couldn't bear the thought of betraying the dragon. They'd trusted each other with their lives repeatedly. How could he betray that trust? It was inhuman.

I’m pretty inhuman now, siding with a dragon rather than my home, my village.

Stop it. STOP IT. He couldn't betray Toothless. He wouldn't. He owed the dragon that much and so much more.

Hiccup stumbled over to his clothing. He donned his dirt-caked leggings and vest, both of which chafed on his new burns. Without thinking, he moved to the cove entrance. Then, remembering his scaly friend, he looked back at Toothless. The dragon was still in the corner, quietly keening over harming him.

Hiccup turned around, looking at the unguarded crevice that led out of the cove. He wouldn't betray Toothless, but he still had to try to fix things with his dad. Stoick was his father, even if he didn't…

Even if he didn't show it very much.

Hiccup reached into his vest, fingering the incredibly worn journal he’d been gifted by Alvin. It had everything, said everything. It even mentioned the magic, briefly.

In and out. Leave the journal, go back to Toothless in the cove…

Then wait.


He shivered, still uncomfortable with the idea of losing his humanity. His body was weak, scrawny, useless, sure. It was good enough for smithing, though. For running from Snotlout and his cronies when they bullied him, most of the time. For drawing, writing…

He still didn't want to lose any of it. It was so hard, giving it up to do what was right.

Is protecting Toothless right?


Hiccup climbed up into the crevice and disappeared into the thick forest.


Stoick leaned his face on his fist, exhausted from the long day of listening to complaints and ordering people around. As a villager walked up, the chief’s elbow slipped off the throne’s armrest and he startled upright.

“Chief Stoick, the triage home repair teams still ‘aven’t gotten to my house yet!”

Stoick sighed. He had to have heard this complaint at least fifteen times today, every time with the same results. Nonetheless, he responded, “What exactly are the damages to your house?”

“It’s just a hole in tha’ roof. I’s really minor, they should’a fixed it by now. Well, i's not quite minor, it’s most of tha roof, but it’ll take like nothing to fix it.”

The chieftain shook his head. “Look, we don't have time for major repairs like an entire roof. Ask your neighbors if you can stay over; there's still plenty of room left in the village.”

“M’ neighbors’ houses burned to the ground!”

“THEN ASK OTHER NEIGHBORS!” Stoick roared, impatience reaching a peak. The villager blanched and scampered off. Stoick collapsed back into the chair, leaning his head again on his fist.

Another villager came up to Stoick. The chief sighed with relief when he noticed it was Gobber.

“Stoick! I’ve been wonderin’, and I wanted ta get yer approval, since Hiccup’s sorta gone feral, woul’ it be alright with you if I started trainin’ a new apprentice?”

Stoick’s face remained stoic, but internally he wilted. Everything came back around to Hiccup now. Some people even blamed the dragon attack on him, after hearing Astrid’s side of the tale. “ Were you hunting us ” didn’t put a very good light on Hiccup’s friendship with the dragons. “Hiccup’s coming back,” Stoick said with confidence he didn’t feel, “I’m certain of it. In the interim, though, who did you have in mind?”

“Actually, I was thinkin’ Astrid would be pretty good for i’.”

Astrid. If she hadn’t had the village’s best interests in heart when setting out after Hiccup and the dragon, Stoick probably would’ve finished what the dragon had started. As they say, the road to Hel’s service…

“Fine,” Stock grunted. “After we finish repairs of the lost houses, you can ask her father for permission to borrow her free time.” The chief stood from the throne, making toward the great hall’s entrance with exhaustion borne of sleep deprivation and hours of tedium.

Gobber hurried to catch up. “Thanks Stoick, though, won’t tha’ be after dragon trainin’ starts? I doubt she’ll have much time ta spend in the forge --

“Good,” Stoick stated. He hated sounding petty, but Astrid’s stupid decision nearly cost him his son’s life, and probably did cost him his relationship with his son. He looked around as they exited the hall. With all the construction, no other villagers were in earshot.

Gobber blinked, then sighed. He could see right through the chief, at what was really upsetting him. “Stoick, see, you’re thinking abou’ this all wrong. Hiccup’s practically a grown lad! At some poin’ you have to stop bein’ a father all the time. You won’t be there to watch out for him forever, and this tryin’ to pull him in when he so clearly wants to be… er… doin’ other things… It’s not workin’.”

“He can ‘do other things’ once he comes home, Gobber. Every attempt he’s made to come to our village with that beast has been a disaster! I don’t even know whether he trusts me or if I trust him anymore.”

Gobber shrugged. “He’s friends with a dragon, terrified of his own village, and stuck survivin’ ou’ in the wilderness. Stoick, he probably doesn’ trust himself.”

Stoick grunted, then turned back to his walk home. He didn’t have the energy or patience for dealing with other villagers right now.

“Bring him home, Stoick, bu’ for the love o’ Thor don’t force ‘im!” Gobber shouted to the retreating chief.

Stoick walked on, slowly cresting the hill atop which his house sat. Had it been a normal day, with his head screwed on straight, he never would have seen the dirty, bare footprints leading up the front steps. As it was, with his head hung and mind swirling in thought, he saw them.

They led right up to his door and through it. Stoick paused before mounting the first step. After he stepped there, the creaking wood would alert anyone inside the house to his presence.

He waited, listening. There was no sound coming from inside. Continuing to listen, he brought his weight down on the first step, then the second, ascending at a slow walking pace.

The effect was immediate. Footsteps began to scamper around inside. Strangely, they came down the inside staircase and toward the door. By the time Stoick reached the landing, they’d stopped just to the door’s left. He’s hiding right behind the hinge .

Stoick reached for the door handle and pushed the door open, continuing the slow, deliberate walking pace he'd established. If Hiccup’s here on friendly terms, he’ll announce his presence right now…

The door swung open before him. The person on the other side didn’t move. Dammit Hiccup, what are you playing at?

Stoick couldn’t keep up the ruse. If his son was sneaking around inside his damn house, he can damn well deal with the consequences. With a shove, Stoick leaned over on the door, squashing the figure on the opposite side between the door and the wall. “Agh! Thamn! Thah! Waih, don’--”

Stoick stepped aside and threw the front door shut. His son collapsed flat on the floor in front of him, lying face down. The interloping heir made no move to rise. “What in Hel’s name do you think you’re doing, sneaking around?” Stoick demanded.

The boy tensed, leaving his face flat on the floor.

“Well?” Stoick asked again.

“Thah, look…” Hiccup said to the floor. He sounded like he had something stuck in his mouth, which Stoick supposed he did; the floor was right there in front of his face. “...Fings have ghothen a bih more, I thunno, complikaheh, ssinsce we lasth exhangeh lehhers.”

“Oh, I’ll say! That pet dragon of yours jumped Astrid, it could’ve killed her! What are you thinking staying with that beast?”

“Thah…” Hiccup’s voice wavered. “Leh me ssthay on thopic. Thiss iss really importhanh. Thiss iss worlh-changhing levelss of importhanh.”

Stoick couldn’t believe what he was hearing. World-changing was taking things a bit far, but not by much. Still, though, the chief let a small bit of sarcasm bleed into his own voice, a habit of his son’s that rubbed off on him. “I wouldn’t go nearly that far. All you’ve done is turn half the damn village against you!”

“Thah, I neeh you tho lissten tho me, pleasse.”

“It’s bad, Hiccup. Even Mulch is having second thoughts on any kind of truce. Mulch and Bucket are two votes on my little council, and you know--”

“Thah! For onsce in my liffe woulh you pleasse jus lisshen tho me!”

Throughout their exchange, Hiccup had kept his face firmly planted flat on the floor. Stoick, confused by the usually meek boy’s sudden outburst and strange behavior, actually became silent, listening to what his son had to say. Hiccup took a long breath, then spoke very carefully. “I’m tuhrning inho a dragon.”

Stoick would have laughed if the situation wasn’t so serious. How could his son be cracking a joke at a time like this? “Hiccup, now isn’t the time for joking around! We have to solve your… dragon… problem…”

Stoick trailed off as his son turned his head to look up at him. There were scales. There were scales on his face . Even now, his jaw looked more angular, less human. The hair that protected his scales from view -- Stoick could now see -- was patchy, missing in places that his previous positioning had covered. His neck too was slightly thicker, more connected to his head. As he took a breath, Stoick saw the thing in his son’s mouth disrupting his speech: his son had a forked tongue. “What in Thor’s blessed-- Did that monster do this to you?! I’m going to kill that scaly spawn of--”

“Thah! Thiss wasn'th Thoothlesss, thiss wass… uhh… I acthually--”


“Who’s there?” Stoick bellowed.

“Acth like I’m noh here!” Hiccup whispered, scrambling up and hiding behind the door’s swing-path again.

“It’s me, Stoick! Your brother!”

“What did you want to talk about?”

“Couldya open the door, first? It’s kinda rude to leave someone out in the cold.”

“Oh, right,” Stoick mumbled, stepping over to the door and unlatching it, opening it for his brother. Spitelout stepped right inside, standing out of the way so Stoick could shut the front door.

He waited for a moment. “Stoick? The door?”

“Actually, Spitelout, now isn’t a good time. If you could come back lat--”

Spitelout frowned. “Why could this possibly be a bad time?” Stepping forward, he took the edge of the door himself and pulled on it. Stoick didn’t let it budge. “Stoick, shut the damn door. You’ll freeze your own house!”

“Spitelout... Come. Back. Later,” Stoick practically growled. Spitelout sighed and made as if to leave. As he came perpendicular with the door, he pulled hard, wrenching it from Stoick’s grip. It slammed shut with a rattle that shook the whole house, and Spitelout sprawled to the floor. “Spitel--”

“Dear Gods! What spawn of Hel herself is that behind you?!”

Hiccup winced at the insult, shrinking back into the corner of the house. “That’s… Hiccup,” Stoick said.

“That isn’t Hiccup, Stoick! It has scales!” Spitelout stumbled backward to his feet, drawing a shortsword from his belt.

Stoick stood between the two. “It’s Hiccup, Spitelout!”

“It must have worked some kind of magic to appear like Hiccup to you, look at it! It has scales!”

Stoick didn’t bother to look at his deformed son, who was busy discovering how much his modified form could compress into the corner of two walls and a floor. “It’s Hiccup, and he’s turning into a dragon. I don’t know how or why yet, but I can’t learn that from him if you scare him off again!”

“Brother, I won’t let him work any evil magics on you!”

“He’s not going to--”

Spitelout leaped forward, right-elbow first. The attack caught Stoick off guard, striking him on the side of his forehead and sending him collapsing to the floor. Spitelout tossed his shortsword from his left hand to his right and took a left-to-right swing at Hiccup.

Hiccup tried to duck under the blow. Compressed as he was into the corner, this only served to redirect the swing from the front of his neck to the top of his back. Spitelout’s sword sliced through the fur vest and the patch of human skin beneath, getting caught in the scales over Hiccup’s spine. Hiccup screamed, collapsing sideways and letting the motion wrench the sword free of the sensitive place it had just unwittingly connected.

On hands and knees, now, Hiccup scrambled out of the corner and past his attacker. Spitelout swung overhead, then down, only to hit the woodwork behind the deformed teen.

“Come back here, Devil!” Spitelout shouted at Hiccup as he wrenched his sword out of the wooden flooring.

Stoick, now back on his hands and knees, watched Hiccup duck under the table, the remains of his fur vest falling from his shoulders. Absent mindedly, he thought that what little skin remained on his son’s back looked badly burnt.

Spitelout took another swing, embedding his sword in the table leg in front of Hiccup. “Get back here! Release my brother you foul b-- Agh!”

Stoick tackled Spitelout, knocking him away from the sword still embedded in the table leg. After landing atop Spitelout, he turned to shout, “Hiccup, run !”

Hiccup scrambled out from under the table. He pushed through the living room back-door to his father’s room, leaving the door wide open. As Stoick watched Hiccup’s escape, he didn’t see his brother’s right-hook coming. Once again he was sent sprawling to the floor.

Spitelout rose and barreled off after Hiccup, through the bedroom door. Hiccup, meanwhile, finished unlatching the back door and shoved it open, leaping out...

...and tripping over a rock set on the steps, landing heavily on the grass outside. He rolled over, looking back inside.

“Hiccup!” Stoick shouted, watching helplessly as his brother coiled to jump out the back door, onto Hiccup.



Hiccup’s arms shot up to cover his face as he saw his uncle preparing to leap out the door after him.


The back of the house exploded, wooden splinters blasting everywhere. Hiccup cried out as the heat of the explosion washed over his body, his cry growing louder as splinters cut at his legs. A black form filled his peripheral vision, and he suddenly felt scales closing around his midsection. He let his arms fall aside and found himself being carried off through the woods by Toothless.

Hiccup felt numb as they briskly shot deeper into the trees, far from the Viking village. He couldn’t do this anymore, bridging the dragon and human sides of his life. Berk didn’t want him, that much was clear. It hurt, but he couldn’t deny it anymore.

Living with Toothless wasn’t so bad. They understood each other, even if they didn’t understand each other’s bodies. That problem too would be solved soon. He was turning into a dragon anyway.

It was time he stopped fighting to go back to a human life he didn't have.


The back of the house exploded, wooden splinters blasting everywhere. Stoick watched from the floor as his brother was thrown across the bedroom, slamming heavily into the wall between it and the living room. Then the chief was in motion, shooting to his own feet and rushing forward.

The back supports of the house and the rear doorway had been blown to splinters. All that was left was a gaping, burning hole that extended up to the second story. Out the hole, he saw a black shape disappear into the line of trees, a vaguely pink, somewhat black form dangling from its jaws.

He didn’t have time to think. Stoick turned to his brother. Spitelout had been knocked cold, either by the explosion or his collision with the wall. The entire front of his body was covered in tiny bleeding cuts from where splinters cut through his villager’s garb and broke skin. Thankfully -- probably a miracle -- none of the splinters seemed life-threateningly large.

Stoick grabbed his brother under his shoulders and began to drag him out of the now-burning building. Before long his back bumped into the front door, and he turned to pull it open. He lugged his brother down the front steps, safely clear of the failing structure, then collapsed to his knees. Staring up at his burning home.

A crowd of villagers gathered around the chieftain and his brother, whispering amongst themselves. Gobber pushed his way to the front and spotted the two brothers on the ground. “Stoick, wha’...”

Stoick drew a long breath, then exhaled. He looked down at his brother and saw a small pile of brown furs -- a bloody vest -- that had caught on his brother’s foot as he’d dragged him clear of the fire. Barely above a whisper, but somehow audible to everyone present, he spoke one word.



Afternoon turned to evening as Toothless descended back into the cove, Hiccup in his jaws. Hiccup didn’t care. His mind was still back at his house, stuck on how his uncle was so convinced he was some snake-tongued devil that needed to be killed. Sure he had a forked tongue now, and scales… That didn’t make him an evil monster, did it? It was the choices someone makes, not their body, that defined who they were.

The Hel does it matter? You’re never going back there. A part of him whispered.

So, what, I’ll live in this cove with Toothless the rest of my life? I think we’ll overfish the lake in two months, if that.

That shut the selfish side of him up real quick.

Toothless set Hiccup down on the ground and crooned concern at him. The sound was glorious, like two people humming in dissonant longing. Hiccup reached up and wrapped his arms around Toothless’ neck. “I'm sso ssorry Thoothlesss. I’ll never leave you likhe thah again.”

Toothless hummed more happily, then pushed Hiccup’s right arm away. “Whah are you--”

Toothless licked his arm. He seemed to pucker his face at the taste, but then he did it again. “Whah in Hel’s--” Hiccup pulled his arm away. “Ith you don’ likhe ith, why are you…”

Hiccup rubbed at his arm. Almost immediately, the burn began to feel better.

“Oh…” The saliva must have had some kind of healing property. Hiccup hugged Toothless again and the dragon purred.


Stoick looked down at the water-damaged, torn, leather-bound journal. Around it sat a slightly bloodied pile of fur, a dagger that until recently had belonged to Stoick, and a lock-picking “wrench” and “feeler pick” as Gobber had called them.

Everything his son had left behind. He’d left everything but the pants on his legs. Absently, Stoick wondered how long they’d continue to fit.

He’d read the journal three times now. Once to himself, when he looked through the vest. A second time out-loud to the council, omitting nothing but the complex technical jargon behind the bola launcher -- too smudged and written in too small a hand to read anyway. A third time to himself again, just to make sure it was real.

Alvin the Treacherous had a book of magic that could turn men into dragons, but only when used by certain people, like Hiccup. Savage was a dragon. Hiccup was probably now a dragon. Alvin was, at some point, probably going to become a dragon.

The Whispering Death egg was destroyed. Mildew was making himself scarce in some back corner of the great hall, trying to avoid the trial he knew was coming on the testimony of Hiccup’s journal, assuming that Hiccup himself wasn't returning. At the behest of Hiccup’s first letter, Snotlout wasn't going to be punished with exile or death for his terrible misdeed. Spitelout was recovering from the explosion of Stoick’s home at his own residence.

Everything was resolved, except his son. Stoick slammed his fist down on the stone ring of the great hall fire-pit, next to the pile of things. Even though the vibration passed through hewn stone, the objects visibly jumped.

It felt like so many people had wronged Hiccup and, due to public opinion on dragons, Stoick couldn’t do a damn thing about it. He hung his head, praying to Thor and Odin for some solution to come to him.


Gobber sat in the back room of the forge, looking at the mess of drawings pinned up around Hiccup’s little space. He’d built the entire forge with his own two hands, back when he was less portly. The structure was one of the lucky buildings to avoid significant dragon damage so he never got around to expanding the doorway on this first story to give himself access. He’d just moved on up to the attic and given over the back room to his apprentice.

It was glorious. The contraptions here, Gobber couldn’t have come up with in his wildest dreams. There was a system for a village-wide anti-fire pipe network, launchers and weapons so numerous he couldn’t tell them all apart, spyglasses, spring-loaded contraptions that didn’t even seem to have a purpose…

Hiccup’s mind was so active. Why fate had to take him and do whatever it was doing, Gobber would never understand.

He looked back at the entrance, which he’d smashed a little wider to get access to the back room. Astrid stood there looking around at all the drawings. “Did… Hiccup come up with all of these?”

Gobber hung his head, willing himself not to cry. He was a Viking. People died or moved on elsewhere in life… eventually. It had to happen. But like this, to Hiccup? He sniffled. A little. “Aye.”


Hiccup woke up in Toothless’ arms and wings… er… Legs and wings. Whatever. He felt really uncomfortable and sort of sore, like he’d spent the night sleeping on his shoulder while it was stretched out, but for both his arms and legs. That was odd considering that, on previous nights, this position with Toothless had been really comfortable. He tried to stretch himself out now without disturbing Toothless.

His left arm was easiest to move. Strangely, it felt like someone had put a glove over his arm, or something. Whatever was in the end of the glove, it was heavy enough to cause a bit of resistance, but not too bad. Hiccup shook his arm, trying to dislodge it. With a sound like tearing leather and a splash of wetness, it came free and flopped onto Toothless’ wing. Hiccup looked at it, finding his vision surprisingly good even in the dark cocoon of Toothless’ wings. Then he identified it , the human forearm and hand that had just come loose from his own, entirely scale covered left foreleg.

Hiccup screeched.


After I finished tending to his wounds -- the ones he would let me at (Why are humans so attached to the false-skins over their legs?!) -- Sapling slept the rest of the night away. I kept him safely cocooned in my wings. Much as I disliked all the time it took me to get out of the cove, nothing bad had happened to us here. It was the one safe-haven we’d discovered in this insane world of dragons and humans and humans turning into dragons.

Speaking of which, over the course of the night, the remainder of the fur on Sapling’s head came off. The shiny tufts of brown just fell off occasionally as he slept, getting blown away by my breathing. By the earliest rays of light in the sky, my little human looked far more dragon than human. The only things still pink and fleshy about him were his limbs, which remained almost the same size and shape. Otherwise, scales took over everything, everywhere. Even the flaps of skin on his back had receded to reveal wings, just like mine.

As more light filled the looming clouds above, I began to doze off. I may have fallen entirely asleep, but all thoughts of dreams were shattered when suddenly…

Screaming. Sapling, screaming.

I jumped awake, standing over Sapling and ready to attack whatever was attacking us. It was then that I felt the wet thing rolling across my wing.

Sapling’s left foreleg, detached and spitting blood all over my wing .

I joined in the screeching, leaping away from Sapling as he writhed on the ground. Our voices echoed off the cove’s walls for several minutes before Sapling and I finally calmed down and took stock of the situation. The space where we’d been lying -- previously the circle of markings of myself, Sapling and the three humans from the fish “boughautuh” -- was saturated with blood, three limbs bleeding out onto the ground there. One of them, a bloody hind-leg, had been ripped clear in two all the way to the ankle as Sapling’s tail pulled free. The fourth limb had come with me as I jumped away, lying a few wingbreadths from the others atop my image of Her terrifying visage.

There was, of course, blood all over my wing. I shook my limb, trying to get it off. It only served to spread the blood out more, making it appear even more ghastly.

I looked over at Sapling, who had also escaped the pile of his own body parts. He now appeared fully a dragon, a Shadowscale like myself covered in blood. He stared at himself, as much as he could with the flexibility of his neck. Cautiously, I stepped closer. Sapling?

He looked at me and said something. He looked like he was trying hard to form his mouth into words that didn't fit there, human words. Even after all that, we still couldn’t understand each other!

I groaned as I sat down on the ground. He looked at me, then awkwardly imitated my seated posture. I let out a huff of air. There was going to be a lot of teaching to--

Sapling shot to his feet, then stumbled over sideways, as if struck. He dropped back to the ground, this time much more uncontrolledly. He slammed his chin into the ground and covered over his head with his forepaws. Suddenly, he was crying out again. This cry, though, wasn’t the screech of terror from before. This was pain. Sapling, what’s wrong?!


The burning sensation, the strange memories I never had, they filled my head from all sides. I couldn’t think. It was like swimming in the freezing ocean and lying on the ground Toothless scorched, but at the same time both sensations were inside my skull . I felt so close to giving up, just letting the pain wash away consciousness and let it end . If I just went to sleep I could escape this--

Sapling, please get up!
Tell me what’s wrong!
Let me help!
Don’t die!
I don't know what I’ll do without you!

The voice echoed through my head, distracting me from the pain as I tried to make sense of it. It wasn’t speaking Norse words, yet I understood what it said. Grasping onto the voice as a lifeline in the strange, impossible sensation, I weathered the burning storm. As the pain receded, I cautiously opened one eye. A Shadowscale jumped back and forth in front of me. Through the haze, it took me a while to assign a name to him. Or, to remember the name I had given him. Toothless?

The dragon paused in his jumping around. The concern in his eyes deepened. No, you aren’t toothless, Sapling. You just need to unsheathe your teeth, like this. Toothless demonstrated, his teeth popping in and out.

I chuckled, the sound incredibly foreign, yet somehow commonplace. I knew that, somehow. Who is Sapling?

Toothless ducked his head. That was what I was calling you when you were… Human. I began laughing harder, and the other Shadowscale took on a look of downright consternation. What? What is funny about that?

Toothless wasn’t a mumbled question, Toothless. That’s what I was calling you .

Toothless? Toothless?! Do I look Toothless to you, eel-breathed once-human?! I can take care of myself just fine.

I couldn’t contain my laughter nor the sarcastic comment that slipped out next. Oh yes, because you were so great at catching those stunned fish out of the lake without my help.

Toothless looked furious. Maybe if that human “Hiccup” hadn’t thrown that “bola” and taken my flight, I wouldn’t need you to fetch the fish I stun!

I froze. Of all the things for Savage the Terror to mention, it had to be my bola launcher. What had I done? Toothless would hate me if he ever found out. And I deserved it too, didn’t I? It was all my fault.

All my fault. An apologetic keen slipped out of my lips before I realized my throat was doing it. I clamped down on it but…

… What? Toothless asked. I looked away. Sapling, do you know this “Hiccup?”

I backed away, tripping over my legs with the strange sensation of both never having used them before and knowing exactly how they worked. I had to get away, I couldn't face more disappointment, not from him .

… Sapling? he asked, voice rising with fear.

I-I didn’t-- th-they were going to kill me… I backed up until my back feet were in the lake. My body (or my new memories, as I was having trouble telling the difference) reacted with fear, suggesting that going for a swim was not a good idea. This left me trapped between the water and Toothless, his look of fear and betrayal almost too much to bear.

I- I’m… I’m Hic-c--

Even though I couldn't bring myself to say the full name, Toothless recoiled in fear. He screeched. You?! You made the thing that took my flight?! He began to back away, toward the root that he could use to climb out of the cove.

The Outcasts were going to kill me! What choice had I? Look, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I’ve been beating myself up over it ever since. It was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. I didn-- ungh. I stopped mid sentence  as an incredibly strange feeling rushed out from my core, a feeling like ice in my veins. Suddenly I felt cold, like I had been sitting next to a fire that had just gone out. My legs felt weak and I barely had the strength to drag myself away from the water before collapsing to the ground.

Toothless paused in his escape, looking at my now-shivering form. s- Sapling?

I contracted, curling in on myself, trying to find some inkling of warmth. s- s- so… cccold…


He was Hiccup. He was Hiccup . The name finally made sense now, compared to others of his kind. Why didn't I see it? Why couldn't I guess? I had spent almost a week protecting this- this monster!

I should have killed him on the boat. I could have gone back to Her, pleaded for either some task to do for her or a quick death. I was so stupid for not seeing this squishy stick of a human for what he was: a dirty, evil human.

I stared at him, making sure he could see every ounce of fear and hatred in my eyes. To my utter surprise, he looked back at me with not a hint of fear, not of me. He looked so tiny, so sad.

How- how could he? Why would he? He’d worked so hard ever since, risked so much of… himself.

Slowly it dawned on me, why he had done everything that he’d done. The answer to all my questions:

He feels remorse over building that which stole my flight.

That was why he freed me, repeatedly. That was why he sided against human alphas. That was why he marked me in that circle, now filled with blood, as his alpha.

I looked at him again, this new idea changing my view of him. He wasn't a monster, no. He made a mistake and was trying to atone for it. As he paused to take a breath and limp toward me, I spoke. S- Sapling?

It was then that I noticed his curled up position and shivering limbs. S- s- so… cccold… I couldn’t understand it, he looked dragon, he sounded dragon, how could he be cold? Wouldn’t his furnace be keeping him warm?

I wasn't sure what to think. He had done to me something so heinous, so irreversible, yet he was trying to reverse it. Even when he didn't understand the life I had before, he was trying to fix my life. Where was I when he stopped to try to fix his own life? When he returned to that human village, over and over? I was hiding, growling, dragging him back.

But he took my FLIGHT. I just couldn't get over that. It hurt so much, seeing my tail every day and knowing that the rush of air over my wings would never be even, never make me useful again.

I looked him over again. He was still acting cold, shivering and curling up tighter and tighter. Wary of some kind of trick from my once-human once-attacker turned-dragon turned-friend, I approached. I came within less than a paw’s breadth from him. He stayed there, shivering and looking at me with so much -- so much -- sorrow in his eyes. Even though he couldn’t speak anymore over his sudden shivers, I could see how sorry he was for taking my flight, for starting this whole series of events.

I nudged his chest with a paw, feeling his temperature. I waited to feel the warmth of another dragon’s furnace beneath his scales.

I didn’t find it. Sapling, Hiccup, whichever -- his furnace was out. He was freezing to death. Oh sky above…


Chapter End Notes

Just a note to make reading easier. You’ll find that, from this point onward, Hiccup might have some… difficulty conversing in Norse. However, for plot and character design reasons (as well as my sanity) it is still possible for Hiccup to speak Norse. However, Hiccup’s Norse is now… we’ll put it at “heavily accented” with a lisp relating to his forked tongue.
This author’s note is to introduce a quick translation guide for what one of my alpha readers has affectionately termed “Norsese.”
“#” represents an optional (yet unknown) section of a word. It may represent the beginning or end of a word.
“*” represents a required (yet unknown) section of a word.
Uppercase letters are the first letters of words.
Rules are in priority lowest to highest. First rule is lowest priority, next rule is higher, etc. Rules are never applied to letters set by a previous rule.
“#s#” -> “#ss#” (usually. Optional.)
“#f#” -> “#ff#” (usually. Optional.)
“#t*” -> “#th*”
“#d*” -> “#th*”
“#t” -> “#h”
“#d” -> “#h”
“#st#” -> “#sth#”
“#sd#” -> “#sth#”
“#th#” -> “#th#”
“#sh#” -> “#sh#”
“#ch#” -> “#shch#”
“#b#” -> “#f#”
“#p#” -> “#f#”
“#v#” -> “#f#”
“#g#” -> “#gh#”
“#x#” -> “#ckss#” OR “#xs#” (depends on level of practice.)
“#ing” -> “#ing” (No change.)
“B#” -> “F#” (usually. Avoidable with pronunciation practice.)
“to” -> “thoh”
“do” -> “tho”
And that’s the ruleset! Not too bad, right? I hope… In any case, let me throw some examples out:
“Probably not a good idea.” -> “Frofafly noh a ghooh ithea.”
“I am going to lose my mind!” -> “I am ghoing thoh losse my minh!”
“Sepia Tone Laboratory” -> “Ssefia Thone Laforathory”
The examples are not spoilers, I assure you. Internet cookie to whoever can name the game from which the last example originates. (Hint: song soundtrack title)
Thankss ffor reathing!

Very Different Things

Chapter Notes

Chapter 12 : Very Different Things


I scorched a patch of ground and dragged Sapling to it. (I would carry him by the torso, as before, but I'm worried about damaging his wings.) He’s a dragon now, so he had no issues taking the heat. He’s even perked up a little.

I still don't know what to think. He ruined my life. I had everything under Her: direction, purpose, goals, Her voice…

Are those not all the same thing ?

I shushed the thought. There were other good things about Her rule! The… umm… the…

My mind locked up. It was like the world had turned upside-down and air no longer had density. It made no sense. Almost every thought or memory I had of Her rule said it was something great, to be worshiped. And yet… What was so great about it? The dragons who didn't bring food to Her, why did they deserve to be eaten themselves?

I shook my head. This was ridiculous to think. All I needed to do was listen to Her voice, just for a bit, then my head would clear. Maybe She’d even provide direction on this matter: Sapling… or Hiccup. I snarled at the second name, pawing the ground.

I listened, surprised I hadn't already caught a note of Her voice to clear my head. It was near constant, shouldn't I be able to hear Her? Where was She?

Her voice wasn't there. It wasn't there!

Stop panicking. Why do you need Her voice? Calm yourself.

Why did I need Her voice? That was obvious! I needed Her to tell me what I was doing, what was right, what was wrong, what--

What was right and what was wrong. Why did the dragons She ate deserve it?

Like a tree bent to the breaking point with one more Tinywing alighting on top, my world snapped. That ground damned monster!

What? Sapling asked, weakly. No! Not Sapling, Hiccup! That other monster that took my flight.

And gave up his life amongst humans to make up for it.

Shut up. I growled, not willing to deal with multiple moral arguments at once.

Why would She do that? Control other dragons to bring Her food? Eat them for failing?

Only one conclusion came to mind: She’s evil. But, then, how long had I wasted serving something evil? How many had died because of Her?

Sapling took a breath. Toothless--

Don't call me that, I snapped. Toothless. It reminded me too much of what I was now: weak, useless.

What… What is your name, then?

It’s… I trailed off. I had no clue, not once could I recall being referred to individually,much less given a specific name . I couldn't even remember another of my species at the nest to differentiate me from, assuming I had even been spoken to. … not that.

Sapling wilted. I almost felt bad for snapping at him so much. Almost. I was having difficulty feeling bad for him at the moment, even despite the cost of his attempted atonement. What’s happening to me? Sapling whispered. I couldn't tell if he directed the question at me or if he was talking to himself.

I decided to answer anyway. Your furnace is out. Beyond that, I don’t know.

What’s a furnace? I didn't respond, instead trying to turn back to my own thoughts.

He was not content to let it sit. I mean in this context. The idea of the word equates to a Norse word for a structure filled with fire, but I doubt that’s the dragon--

Now that we could talk to one another, it seemed he’d never shut up. Norse is the human tongue?

He paused, stammering a little at the sudden tangent. Y- yeah. F- for most humans I know of, any--

I snorted. Their meaning of furnace is accurate. It's an entrail in dragons, at the base of the neck. It connects to the throat and allows us to breathe fire.

Oh… So… Why’s mine-

I don’t know. My response was curt, to the point, very much unlike his speech. I’m nothing like him, I vowed, anger flaring dimly.

Uh-hh… th-the col-ld…

I rose and walked over. Aiming so as not to hit his scales directly, I began scorching the ground around him with my flames. Instantly he relaxed. I walked away and sat down again, letting him know that I could just leave him to suffer.

Sapling spoke again. Who… Who was, or is, the dragon in your circle? The one you drew?

“Drew” was a new word to me, but from the context I assumed he meant the action of scratching things into the dirt, from earlier. That was Her .

A few moments of silence passed between us. Who is Her ?

I huffed as my thoughts were scattered again. She’s a monstrous dragon forcing almost five whole species of dragon to attack human settlements and bring Her tributes of food. I considered calling Her evil, but I still wasn’t sure. Perhaps She was right. If humans could ruin our lives so soundly in a matter of seconds with their mountain-vein contraptions, perhaps forcing us to fight them was the right idea, even if She had the wrong way of going about it. But if She has the wrong way of going about it, then isn’t she evil anyway?

Oh. He didn’t say anything more, rubbing himself a little deeper into the ground I had scorched.

Hiccup was so strange. He turned on his captors, but only after… Only after another’s life was involved. That spoke for his morals, though not for his foresight. He should’ve seen that others would be hurt by what he made for that island’s alpha. If he objected to others being hurt, why accept building weapons for his captors? If he’d give his life to protect and save the others injured by those weapons… Why?


Why did you release me, on that island of rock? A member of a different species, another prisoner, and he decided that he was wrong -- to atone. I had to know.

Oh, I… He trailed off into silence. I waited for him to continue.

Why? I prompted, when he didn’t.

I couldn’t kill you. What an embarrassment I must be to my dad: first Viking in three-hundred years who wouldn’t kill a dragon.

That didn’t help at all. He couldn’t even make up his mind on whether he was physically incapable or morally incapable. I decided to make things clearer for him. You were more than capable. Why put your life in my talons?

Hiccup chuffed, his snort of morbid amusement turning into a shiver. I was sick and tired of fighting my own battles: against my society, against the Outcasts… I figured if I gave my useless life so you could fight, that’d be worth something.

Useless? I asked, surprised that a word I had used to describe myself so often recently came up in his self-descriptive vocabulary.

Do you know what Hiccup means in Norse? It means runt. Often it means mistake. My parents literally called me “little” and “mistake.” Yeah, I was pretty damn useless. Dad always looked at me so… disappointedly. When I saw you lying there…

I waited for him to continue, but impatience got the better of my politeness. What?

I looked at you and I saw myself.

Saw himself? What, a weakling who couldn't… wouldn’t… kill others? Someone utterly useless? Yourself? I snarled.

Someone lost from everything they knew, trapped and bound to the whims of others. Someone who wanted to fight, to be free. I saw that and I realized… it was my fault. I put someone else in my position. I had to at least try to undo that.

Oh. It was my turn to embarrassingly leave the conversation in silence. He had been dealing with everything I had felt in the past week, but for his entire life. Uselessness, weakness… He truly felt sorry for putting me there.

Umm… it-t’s--

I shot up before he finished the request. Less wary than previously I approached and scorched the ground just around him, letting him absorb the heat. I retreated again, but not as far this time. Throughout the process, I couldn't bring myself to meet his gaze.

A part of me worried at how quickly I was approaching my shot limit, trying to keep Sapling warm. Is this human eel worth it to me?

I was about to think that, no, he wasn't worth it and that I should just let him freeze, when I realized how wrong that was. She would do something like that. She, the one who controlled others and killed them for failing Her.

I refused to be like that, even if not being like Her meant being a little like Hiccup; I would protect him, atone for his loss of his old form because that was my fault.

He might never recover, a part of me whispered. Unbidden, the memory of the last strange occurrence I ever saw at Her nest came to mind:

The Shadowscale lay unmoving, submissive on the ground in Her presence, on one shelf of Her firey-mountain. This one particular dragon was the only one of his kind present, though kin of other species coated every other available surface.

She rose threateningly from the mists below, head looming larger than even two of the humans’ floating piles of trees. Her fearsome snout swung about to face a female Preenscale and her mate, the remaining two of the upper caste not always used as slaves to Her whim. The Shadowscale had only ever seen four, apart from Her Herself.

The male tried to produce more fire to warm his mate, but failed with only a pathetic stream of burning droplets.

Seven nights, and your furnace has not relit Fimmti.

Your majesty! Have mercy! It was ah- a minor misca-calculation. The loop tak-takes tih-time to master! I’m cert-tain my fires will reht-turn!

Fimmti’s mate said nothing, as She became angry when others spoke when it “wasn’t their place.”

She looked down on them, her six great orbs blinking slowly in pairs of two. You have failed, and are becoming a drain on the resources of this nest.

No! Please! It will return, this wha-as the solution! I’m sure of it!

If you have not found him, he cannot be found. Since you added no limit for your fires to return without his location…

He’s out there! He will return to you! Just wait for me to find him!

No. I think you’ve had long enough, taken enough food, wasted enough time.

Please! Think of our future! You need us to have a new generation, to continue your--

I always did like your mother more… She mused. The two Preenscales had but a moment to look horrified before Her flames lashed out, scorching them and the rock around them. Piercing screeches echoed for only a few seconds, absorbed by the motionless wings of dragons all around. When She stopped, the rock glowed red hot, and the bodies of the two dragons were nothing but ash. With a breath, She blew their remains into the air.

I hope you’re warmer now…

The ashes of the last of the upper class dispersed amongst the still, unmoving forms of the innumerable dragons present. A fleck of ash landed on the Shadowscale, leaving a ghostly tingle on the dragon’s scales. The Shadowscale didn’t twitch.


I whined as the memory receded, even the memory of Her commands bringing terror.

Toothless? Sapling asked.

Nothing. Lost in thought, I snapped.

Sapling nuzzled a little closer into the ground. As if reading my thoughts, he spoke up again. This isn’t going to work for long, is it?

I remained silent. It would be a pretty awful atonement if I outright told him how much I was going to fail to keep him alive. At the same time, I couldn't lie to him.

After a moment of awkward silence, he continued. Me. Without a furnace. How long can you keep up that fire every five or ten minutes?

“Minutes.” Another new word. It was so strange how humans -- even speaking in other tongues -- still managed to be so confusing. I… I chuffed sadly. I don’t think I can keep it up through the night.

Toothless, it’s okay-- Sapling began, trying to comfort me. Him, trying to comfort me?

Why do you call me that? I barked.


I’m not some hatchling with no abilities, I’ve been alive for over fourteen winters -- I mean, I think…

… You don’t know?

I paused. Sapling was right, I had no idea how long I’d been serving that monster, except through my memories. The further back they went, the more indistinct even those became. Not like it matters anyway.

What? How does your age not matter?

We’re both dead! I growled out. Sapling didn’t recoil, he looked too tired to. Instead, he lay shivering on ground that was probably getting too cold for him. I hadn’t been thinking consciously about how bad our situation was, but it rose to the surface almost immediately when I had the thought. You’re dying because your furnace is out, and I can’t fly. Even if I didn't have to dote over you to keep you alive, I can’t fish safely without flight and my chances of hunting anything on land are slim.

Sapling shut his eyes, whimpering a little at my outburst. Then, his eyes snapped open. Could you hunt something if you didn’t have to dote over me?

Are you even listening? I couldn't believe him sometimes. I just said my chances are slim even if I didn't have to dote over you.

That’s better than no chance.

I considered it. He was right. Without him, I had a slim chance at surviving. It would be a dim life, totally unlike what I had before with my flight, but I’d be alive. Still… That slim chance isn't worth your death. Or… was it? I mean, this was Hiccup. This was the human that had stolen my flight.

What? No! That wasn’t what I was suggesting!

I was taken aback by his response. Often in our recent past, his solution to problems like cold and wetness was “give up and die.”

I’m saying, you aren’t the only source of heat around here.

I looked around. There were no heat cracks in the ground, no hot springs, no roaring fires, human-made or otherwise. There was nothing around to provide heat… Human-made! Oh.

I’m saying we get a pile of wood, you set it on fire, then set me nearby it!


It took me the better part of the afternoon to prepare things. Rather than building the fire in the open, where it could get blown out, rained on, or noticed easily, I built it behind the rocks I used to jump into and out of the cove.

The material in the cove was too, “lively and green,” as Sapling told me, so I dropped in a lot of dead brown material from outside of the cove. This necessitated a lot of climbing in and out to keep him alive and build his fire. I managed it, though my claws began to dull quickly. After we had a good pile going, I carried him over by the scruff of his neck and laid him between the cliff and the fire. The flames were protected somewhat on the other side by the rocks I used to jump in and out. It was perfect.

With a short blast of my flame, the “bonfire” (a Norse word that seemed to butcher the word fire) roared to life. Yes! I crowed with my success.

Hiccup was a little less enthusiastic with verbal celebration. He was too busy dragging himself closer to the flames and humming contentedly -- a good sign.

As day turned to night, it seemed Sapling would live to fall asleep as the sun rose tomorro-- oh, wait, nope, he fell asleep by the fire as the sun set. Never mind that. What kind of sane dragon slept at night?!

In any case, I decided to go hunting through the night, leaving the fire to watch over Sapling. Surely I’d be able to catch something , even with no ground-bound practice, right?


Stoick startled upright, sitting up in the chair where he’d been resting his eyes. Spitelout stood hesitantly beside him, the rest of the council arrayed further away around the fire pit.

“Sorry, brother, it’s after noon. We wanted to give you some re--”

“You should have woken me,” Stoick said gruffly. Spitelout nodded and took a step away. Stoick looked at the assembled faces, all of which (excluding Bucket’s) had some level of determination etched into them. “Have you all come to a decision about of to deal with this dragon problem?”

“We have, Stoick,” Seabreath said. After being involved for so long, Seabreath refused to be off the council, so long as this situation continued. Stoick suspected it was political maneuvering on the Ingerman clan’s part.

“Aye, bu’ you’re not gonna like it,” Gobber “muttered,” his statement audible to everyone present.

Stoick looked sharply at Gobber, then around at the assembled. Slowly he stood. They couldn’t mean…

“Stoick, we cannae continue to pursue any kind of peace with the beasts now livin’ in our forest if every negotiation ends wi’h someone on our side nearly dyin’!” Mulch ventured.

“Aye! Death’s bad,” Bucket agreed.

Stoick soured. They were suggesting they leave his son to the whims of dragons? This was preposterous! “One of those so-called ‘beasts’ is my son!”

“Is ‘it...’ Stoick?” Spitelout said. With his few words, the conversation ground to a halt. Showing uncharacteristic social aptitude, Spitelout let the statement sink in a bit. The assembled Vikings shifted uncomfortably. “Hiccup has thrown his lot in with them , with clear intent, I might add. He refused to let us injure, capture, or kill that one dragon so that he could return to us. Then, he began transforming into a dragon and, what does he do? He breaks into your house and tries to manipulate you into allowing his dragon into our village!”

“‘Manipulate me’? How--”

“Think rationally Stoick!” Spitelout shouted,  “If you were turning into a dragon, what would you do?”

Stoick actually stopped to consider this. If he were transforming into their most hated enemy, and he knew it… “I would go to Elder Gothi and pray for a cure.”

“And ‘your boy’ decides to continue protecting that dragon, from us . Face it, Stoick, he’s thrown his lot in with them. He’s not your son.”

Stoick grabbed at his chair and heavily sat down in it. As much as he wanted to shout and bellow and deny his son’s traitorous acts, he had to admit Spitelout was correct. Given repeated opportunities to come home, he’d chosen the dragon over the village. “What…” Stoick stopped and licked his suddenly very dry lips. “What are you all suggesting we do about it?”

“With the daylight we have left, take the nest hunt ready population of the village on a hunting party across the eastern half of the island.”

“The eastern half? In every escape so far, they’ve fled north,” Stoick noted.

“Aye, bu’, there are numerous paths ‘tween the northern forests and the eastern side o’ the island. We suspect they’re hidin’ somewhere in the east simply ‘cause that isn't where they’re goin’,” Gobber answered.

“Also, we’d be at a disadvantage fighting in forested terrain whereas the plains between the trees to the east will give us a safer rally point,” Mulch reasoned.

“I don't like trees with dragons in ‘em,” Bucket whispered.

“And if we don’t find the dragons?”

“We’ll keep searching the island until we do,” Seabreath said, confidently.

Stoick hung his head. Hiccup had thrown his lot in with the dragons. They weren’t hunting him before, that night with Astrid, but now they certainly…

“Bring Astrid,” Stoick said.

“What?” Spitelout asked.

“Astrid managed to follow these beasts for almost an hour without being spotted. She’s had to have learned something about them. Bring her along.”

“Gunnar won’ be happy about tha’, Stoick,” Gobber said.

Stoick shook his head. “He’ll be right there with her, with over thirty other villagers. He’ll get over it.” It was only then that Stoick realized what he’d just said a few moments ago. He’d lumped his son in with “these beasts.”

He couldn’t think about that.

A chief protects their own.

Hiccup… Why did you side with them ? Why won’t you just come home?


Alvin was feeling confident. It’d been six days since Hiccup escaped, three since Savage flew the coop. If he was going to turn into a dragon, surely he would’ve done it by now.

He looked down the sea cliffs, at the recently rebuilt docks. The hull of a new ship rested there, a massive ship three times the size of anything they’d used before. What really made his new beauty stand out was the wood it was made of. Vikings normally used oak or pine, both kinds of wood that were slow to burn and quite sturdy. This ship would be his legacy: a ship built out of Loki wood. Fast to burn with noxious fumes, sure, but he wasn’t going to set his damn boat on fire. He wouldn’t be fighting dragons.

This boat, yes, this boat would win him Berk!

As he watched, one of the Outcasts carrying a pile of Loki wood to the ship stumbled. The wood fell from his arms and split in two.

“Oi--” Alvin stopped to clear his throat, raising his right hand to cough into. “Whaddya think I’m feedin’ you for! Don’ break the damn buildin’ materials!”

The worker looked up the cliffs in fear, then scampered to gather up the useless bits of wood and get them out of his chief’s sight. Alvin, though, found himself preoccupied. He took a step back from the edge and raised his hand to cough again. He coughed another time. A fourth. It wasn’t stopping.

He stumbled backward, holding his breath and refusing to cough. No! It can’t be! I will not become a scaly--

Alvin’s back slammed into a wall, and suddenly the coughing fit was upon him again. His world became spasms of coughs, then airless convulsions, then blackness.


Shimmering in the moonlight, a blonde head broke the treeline. She rolled forward and hid behind a rock, looking up the darkened hillside. After a moment, she raised her hand and beckoned forward. A brown haired head leaped out to join her, followed by thirty more cautious, variously colored heads. The brown head left the side of the blonde, turning to a red head.

“Stoick, I’m still not liking having my daughter on point!” Gunnar whispered angrily.

Spitelout answered for the chief, “She’s lightest on her feet, quietest, and sharpest arm around with that ax. If we find the monsters out there, she’s got the best chance of seeing them, attacking them, an’ living to tell the tale.”

Stoick grunted, his eyes far away.

Gunnar frowned, then moved to catch up with his daughter, who was already a good distance up the rocky slope.

After a few minute’s climb, the hunting party reached the point where the rocky slope turned into a sheer cliff. Astrid led them right, heading east. As everyone else moved on, Stoick stopped to take a look at the surrounding forests.

In the distance, to the north, he thought he saw smoke obscuring some stars. He rubbed his eyes, looking again.


Sighing, he turned and jogged to catch up with the rest of the hunting party.


I searched the northern forests for hours. There was a family of deer I found at one point, but they smelled me coming and fled. Elsewhere I found a family of rabbits, but they hid inside a burrow in the ground. Getting a face-full of dirt to blast them out seemed unappealing, especially for only a couple rabbits. Fish would be best -- the tastiest thing ever -- but I couldn’t risk myself to try getting any out of the lake. Without Sapling’s human form to help, that’s out too.

Eel-breathed, broken-clawed mindless animals, the lot of the creatures living on this island. Couldn’t catch a single, damned thing to eat.

Eventually, I gave up hunting in the forests and took to climbing the rocky, mountainous areas near the middle of the island. One spot gave me a good view of the eastern half of the island, where I spotted a very large number of humans passing across a plain. I considered climbing down to them, following them, then stealing (and eating) their (probably nutritious) quarry. I rejected the idea, though, when I saw just how many humans there were. How could they sneak up on anything?

I clambered back to the northwestern side of the rocks I’d climbed, then made ready to glide down to the forest below. It was only with a lucky moment of hesitation that I remembered how painful that would be. Without my tail to control my descent, I’d surely end up crashing painfully. Agonizingly slowly, I climbed back down to the forest level then made my way back to the cove.

Hopping down the root with little difficulty, I landed next to Sapling. He startled awake at my landing but curled closer to the fire when he realized it was only me. Hi, Toothless.

I paused in my approach to the fire. You still call me that?

He chuffed. You know my name and you still call me “Sapling.” Do you have a name you’d prefer?

I wrapped around the fire, opposite Sapling. I… I thought hard about it, but I couldn’t recall ever being called anything. At all. I was always one of Her drones, never singled out.

Never named.

I don't. Call me what you will.

He chuffed again, this time almost reaching a chuckle. “Call me what you will.” Sorry, that just sounds funny. Are you ever going to start calling me Hiccup?

I’m used to Sapling, I responded, diplomatically asserting my opinion while also not outright saying I was avoiding his human name.

He bobbed his head, then hummed. Fine. Call me what you will.

I looked at him sideways at his echoing of my earlier response. He opened one eye, then burst out giggling at my expression. I chuckled a little bit, then fell silent. Sun’s rising, I commented.

I know. I think I’ll keep sleeping, though.

Are you still too cold to move?

Are you kidding? If I step away from this fire I think I’ll keel over instantly.

I chuckled, and he did as well. Well, I suppose I’ll join you in rest.

I’ll wake you if the fire gets cold.


This could work for a bit... until we start to starve. He’ll get better before then. He has to.

He will.


Stoick and the villagers returned to the village defeated. They’d stayed out all night, scoured half the damn island, and found nothing . A whole lot of nothing .

The chief punched a tree as he broke the treeline behind the rest of the villagers, shattering the bark. It was infuriating. Where could his son and that dragon… er… those dragons… be hiding?!

The villagers filed past the remains of his house and onto the steps of the great hall, looking haggard. Stoick stepped up in front of the doors, his face lit from the east in the early morning sunlight.

The chief spoke to the crowd, “So, we didn’t find anything today. The good news is, we now know on which half of the island they’re hiding--”

“What if they were hiding in a sea cave?” A villager asked.
Another joined in, “Or off a cliff?”

Stoick sighed. “We’ll send out fishing boats to do nearshore fishing today. They’ll circle the island and keep an eye out for the dragons--”

“And if they spot our ships and flee?”

“The original Night Fury cannot fly. They’re trapped on this island. If they can’t hide on the cliffs or in the caves, we can find them on the land.”

“Who says they’ll stick together?” Stoick shook his head at the repeated interruptions from all throughout the crowd.

“Hic--” Stoick caught himself before he said his son’s name. It didn't feel… right. “The transformed one was fiercely attached to the other dragon. We find one of them, we find them both. Now, if there are no more questions, we’ll head inside for--”

“Chief Stoick!”

Stoick sighed as one of the men who’d stayed behind came running up, pushing his way through the crowd. “Logson, yes, what is it?”

“Chief!... Visitors!... Approaching the docks!” His message was broken up by his breathlessness.

“Who?!” Stoick bellowed, looking over the assembled out to sea. Over the tips of the houses, he could just make out sails disappearing under the eaves of the cliffs.

“Bezerh… Bezerkers… sir.”

Stoick blanched. The Berserkers? Here? Now? He should’ve had men keeping an eye out to sea for more strange arrivals. He cursed his son’s scaly ally for burning down his house and, by extension, melting the ceremonial chieftain armor. “Spitelout, gather the most alert men from this crowd and follow me to the docks.”


“Gobber, improvise something for the ceremonial armor, and do it fast.”

“Actually, Stoick, I managed to salvage the belt buckle from it... Well, mosta it. I could attach it to your belt and, given the ceremonial stuff is almost whatcha wear anyway, they probably wouldn't notice tha’--”

Stoick took off his belt and tossed it at Gobber, who caught it. He held up his fish-scale kilt with one hand, bunching it against his waist. “Make it happen. The rest of you not selected by Spitelout, get inside the great hall and start preparing breakfast. I'm not going to let bad timing ruin our diplomatic relations.”

A chorus of exhausted “aye”s followed Stoick as he made off after Gobber. The smith was already halfway down the steps to the village square.

Stoick watched as Gobber disappeared into the smithy. He heard a half dozen banging noises as he approached, and when he reached the door he nearly ran straight into the re-emerging Gobber.

“Hol’ still.”

Gobber threw the belt around the chief, then struggled to tie it through the buckle in the front. Stoick noticed with dismay that his girth was keeping the belt from fitting properly. “What did you do to my belt--”

“It’s your usual buckle, Stoick, it adds another pace of length to your… stupidly… large…”

Stoick coughed and Gobber linked the belt together. “Thank you, Gobber.” Turning, he made his way toward the docks.

Ten men assembled on the docks to greet the incoming Berserkers. Among them, Spitelout, Stoick, Gobber, Gunnar, and Seabreath. They waited patiently as the two Berserker ships glided into port. A Berserker soldier brandishing a dual-headed spear set out a gangplank then began a long spiel.

“Presenting the high chief of the Berserker Tribe: Cracker of Skulls! Slayer of Beasts! The Great and Fearsome--”

“Oswald the Agreeable?” Gobber asked.

“DAGUR, THE DERANGED!” The soldier finished, stepping aside to reveal the man himself: Dagur, son of Oswald the Agreeable.

Dagur spat on the deck of his ship, then chuckled menacingly.

“Dagur?” Stoick asked in surprise.

“Deranged?” Gobber asked, surprised by the title.

“Oh Thor,” Seabreath muttered.

Dagur drew a knife and threw it, pinning the gangplank to the dock. With a leap and a roll, he crossed the gangplank and pulled his knife out, letting the plank splash into the water. He stood in front of chief Stoick, almost nose to nose -- excluding the fact Dagur was a head shorter than Berk’s chief.

Stoick spoke first. “Dagur? Where’s your father?”

“Oh, well, my father has been… retired. He lost his taste for blood. I on the other hand…” He let the statement trail off, then in a sing-song voice continued. “ staaaarving !” He let the note trail off into a maniacal giggle. Stoick and Gobber shared a look. Suddenly, the laughter stopped and Dagur looked around suspiciously. “So. Where’s your boy, Stoick?”

Stoick was about to reply with some terribly crafted lie, or half-truth, but Gobber leaned over and whispered in his ear. “Trick question, Stoick. Don’t answer.”

“You know, I happened to be coming on over here anyway to talk about renewing that whole peace treaty dealio my dad had with your boring little tribe, but I ran into Trader Johann along the way. Y’know, that simpleton peddling his wares across the ocean? Anyway, he had the strangest story about your little boy, Stoick…”

Dagur trailed off. The silence grew, eventually becoming awkward. Gobber and Stoick shared a glance.

“Oh for crying out loud. The Night Fury? The boat without a sail? The attack right here on the docks? Don’t tell me that crazy tradesman made it all up! I was so excited !”

“Oh. Tha’ story,” Gobber said out loud.

“So it’s true? You’ve got a flightless Night Fury trapped on your island?” Dagur asked, bubbling with excitement.

“Er… Aye...” Stoick answered, taking a step back from the eager Berserker.

“Oh, this is going to be gloooorious ! Tell me we can help you hunt it! Pleeeeease !”

“Dagur, the situation is more complicated than when Johann left--”

“Stoick, Stoick, Stoick… don’t tell me you went soft on some dragon-loving traitor just because he happened to be your son . That’d be ridiculous, right?” He burst out laughing, keeping the laughter going far longer than strictly necessary. Or rational. Even the men on his boats were shifting uncomfortably when his guffaws came to an end.

“Y’know Stoick, the Beserkers’ help may very well be what we need to pin down those- er- dragon, and kill the- it.” Spitelout reasoned.

“Sorry, did he say ‘those’? Is there more than one?! Oh, the suspense is killing me! You guys are so good. Did you plan this? Just for m--”

Stoick sighed, then cut the manic Beserker chieftain off. “You and your men can help with the hunt, on one condition .”

“Oh? What’s the condition? You want the glory? That’s fine for one of them, I suppose, but if there are two Night Furies I have got to just take my ax and bury it right in one of their--”

“It will be a capture mission, Dagur.”

Dagur stopped short, then stepped threateningly close to the Hairy Hooligan chief. “Capture. Mission. Are you serious? That’ll be so boring! There won’t be any killing or destruction! You aren’t going soft on the dragons for your son’s sake, are you? You know that twig will get over it if you kill his--”

“That’s the condition Dagur, take it or leave it.”

“Maybe I’ll leave it, and leave without signing that stupid peace treaty! In a month I could be back here with an armada the strength of five thousand brave Berserker men! I’ll kill you, your village, the dragons, and your stupid little fishbone son! How about that?”

Stoick and Dagur stared each other down. Before Stoick could do something rash, Gobber stepped in. “How about we talk about the situation a bit more? See, since Hiccup met tha’ dragon, he hasn’t quite been… Eh, y’know... himself. We wan’ ta capture the dragons so we can bring ‘em back and kill them in a controlled ceremony, to… ah… break the dragon’s control over ‘im. At least, tha’s wha’ Elder Gothi said woul’ work.”

Stoick and Dagur both stared at the smith, the Hairy Hooligan with incredulity, the Berserker with suspicion. “You switched between plural and singular a lot in that explanation,” Dagur commented.

“Eh, I’m still gettin’ used to the second dragon in tha situation.”

Silence fell over the group, until…

“Ugh! Fine, you win. Sailing all the way home for my armada would take too long anyway. I’d be bored out of my miiiind . I’ll help capture the Night Furies, but there better be blood afterward!”

Stoick let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. From the rush of air, Stoick guessed a couple of other villagers had been equally worried about that situation exploding.

“But first, I think we’ve spent enough time standing around on the docks. Are you hungry? I’m hungry.” Dagur began walking off toward the ramp up to town.

Stoick leaned toward Gobber. “Did Elder Gothi say that? When? How difficult is the--”

“Ah, no, Stoick. I made tha’ up so Dagur wouldn’t kill you.”

“Kill me? How--”

“Tha’ knife he threw down tha dock was poised righ’ under your belt buckle.”

“... Ah.”

“Uhh… Sir!” One of the men on the Beserker ships called, “You dropped the gangplank in the water! Sir!”

Without even deigning to turn around, Dagur answered curtly, “Can’t you idiots jump?”


Astrid watched the whole exchange from the top of the cliffs, catching the gist of the situation: Stoick was having Dagur help hunt Hiccup and his dragon, but was willing to stress diplomatic relationships to go lenient on the little bilge rats. Unbelievable!

“Loki-spawned troll from the fires of Hel herself--”

“Woah, Astrid, what's got your braids in a tangle?” asked a male voice from behind her.

“It’s Hiccup, Tuffnut. Him and his stupid dragon. You saw Dagur arriving, right?”

“Sure we did,” Ruffnut answered.
“We were like totally considering all the destruction he was going to cause. I bet my sister that one of the catapults would be destroyed before he left.”
“No, I bet you that.”
“If you lose, you have to wear my clothes, that was the bet. I lose, I have to wear your clothes.”
“But I win if a catapult is destroyed.”

Astrid turned around to watch the teens fight each other. It was a brief scuffle, with Tuffnut getting arm-pinned to the ground.

“Ow! Ow! Owohhh, that feels really goo-- Agh! Fine, you win sis. If the catapult is destroyed, I’ve gotta wear your clothes!”
“Shake on it?”
“How am I supposed to do that with you bre-- ah!-- breaking my arm?”

Ruffnut let her brother up, and each of them spat into their palms and shook on the new deal. Astrid smirked. Apparently, Ruffnut was already using the takedown Astrid had taught her to great effect on her brother. Then she remembered Dagur and Stoick down at the docks, and her blood began to boil again. “Ugh, it’s just so infuriating. Stoick lets his dragon-loving son get away with so much! He burned down their house for Thor’s sake!”

“I thought his dragon did that…” Tuffnut said.
“And then he turned into a dragon,” Ruff continued.

“Whatever, the point is, this isn't okay. Something has got to be done.”

“Well if we know how the chief responds to things…”
“... And we totally do…” Tuff added.
“... They’ll resume the hunt after lunch today. Give time for breakfast to settle and Dagur to be calmed a bit -- butter him up to sign the treaty.”

Astrid stared at them. “You guys just know that?”

“How do you think we avoid immediately getting in trouble for things?” Tuffnut asked rhetorically.
“We’ve got most of Stoick’s secret village council all figured out, except for Fishlegs’ dad,” Ruffnut said.

“Wait, what secret village council?”

“Like, where were you yesterday before they recruited you to go hunting Hiccup? The council was shouting the mess hall into a frenzy around the fire pit like all afternoon,” Tuffnut answered.
“They read this really old, battered-looking book that seemed to predict everything Hiccup did until like day-before-yesterday.” Ruff continued.
Tuffnut scratched his head. “It was called ‘Last diary of an H.H.H.,’ or something.”

“How did you two get in? Didn’t they keep the door guarded for most of the afternoon?”

“Hey, where we should be…”
“... and where we are…” Tuff cut in.
“... are two very different things for us.”

Astrid shook her head, unsure how the Thorston twins weren’t yet exiled. Then an idea popped into her head. “Where’s Stoick keeping that book now?”

“Oh c’mon, he read the whole thing out loud. We could tell you like any part,” Tuff answered.
“Remember that time Hiccup slept in the dragon’s arms?” Ruff asked.
“Yeah! Every time he slept after he met the dragon!”

The slammed their helmets together, producing a loud clang. Astrid shuddered, unable to believe what she was hearing: Hiccup wasn’t just comfortable with the dragon, he was sleeping with it?

“Look, how hard would it be to retrieve the book?” Astrid asked.

Ruff and Tuff stared at Astrid. “Did Astrid Hofferson just ask us to steal--” Ruff began to ask.
“Yes! The rest of the stuffed Yak is mine!” Tuffnut crowed.
“Dammit,” Ruff muttered. Astrid looked between the two. “Bet,” Ruff explained simply.

Astrid shook her head again. “Alright, the book, can you get it?”

Tuffnut shrugged. “What’s in it for us?”

Astrid thought about it. “The next thing I catch you doing, I won't rat you out on.”

“No, wait…” Ruff cut her brother off from accepting. “You won’t rat us out for stealing the book and we get to choose another thing you won't rat us out on.”

Dammit. She noticed that, thought Astrid. “Fine. Deal.”

Simultaneously, the Thorston twins spat into their hands and held them out. Astrid looked at them blankly.

“Shake on it, or no deal,” Tuff said.

It’s for the good of the tribe, Astrid thought. Swallowing her revulsion, she spat into her own hands and shook the Thorstons’ simultaneously. As soon as she finished, she began wiping her hands off on her leather skirt vigorously.

“Okay, see you in like ten minutes!” Ruff said.
“I bet I can get it first!” Tuff called, taking off toward the great hall.
“What do you bet?” Ruff called, chasing after him.
“I bet the rest of the spoon!” Tuff’s receding voice answered.

Astrid shook her hair out, then checked that her braid was still in place. Feeling more stickiness on her fingers, she rubbed them off on her skirt even more vigorously. Ugh. The twins. Like a Hideous Zippleback without gas.


Chapter End Notes

I get the feeling some of you might be wondering why drowning is such a concern for Night Furies. In my headcannon… Actually, I’ve forgotten my own headcannon regarding that. Let me catch up...
Right. In my headcannon, a Night Fury’s lungs are connected directly onto the throat. The pharynx in a Night Fury opens the furnace, which is an even worse place to get water. To swallow food, a Night Fury relies on gravity to keep its food out of its lungs. There’s a reason a Night Fury never eats upside-down in cannon, and I’m calling it!
(This throat structure would also make coughing up food easier. Just saying, it fits the canon pretty well even if it makes little evolutionary sense.)
In other news…
They’re baaaaaack!
Ladies and gents, I give you all: the Twins!
Also the rest of the teens. With Hiccup and Toothless in a precarious, monotonous, slowly deteriorating situation, we need something to fill space!
What better way to fill space than teenager antics?! (Tuffnut: Learned that one from RTTE. You like it? It’s quite the time filler over there. Yeah. I know. So cool. Uh… How long do I just fill space for? Oh, just keep talking like Tuffnut? Right. I’m on it. So on it. Down with it. Oh, wait, I blew it. Dang it. That it, always getting danged and damned. Alright, back to other stuff.)
Oh, and how could I forget, Dagur! (Dagur: Forget?! Wait wait wait, nobody forgets me! If I find out anybody forgot about my presence, HEADS WILL ROLL! Huahaha…. Huahahahhahaha! Ahahaha… Haha… Yeah, I’m over it now. Keep going.)
Right, so… enough about characters. Thank you aaalll for reading!


Chapter 13 : Trust


“Snotlout? What are you doing here? I- I was expecting someone else,” Astrid said, trying to act nonchalant.

“Oh, nothing much, just bringing you that book you hired the twins to get,” Snotlout replied, succeeding at acting nonchalant.

“Wait, what?”

“I caught the twins breaking into the kitchen looking for Stoick’s stash of Hiccup’s stuff. I pointed them in the wrong direction and brought you it instead.” As he spoke, Snotlout checked his nails, picking at a bit of dirt under one.

“Wait, so, you just brought me the book?”

“Sure.” He tossed the book to her. “For you Astrid, anything .”

Swallowing her disgusted remark, Astrid opened the book. The page she opened it to at random depicted one very sad-looking boy and one mildly concerned-looking dragon. Astrid shuddered at the title: “Last Human Sketch of HHHIII.” She turned to the next page, discovering only one more journal entry. She flipped backward, toward the beginning. The rest of the book was indeed very water damaged, the charcoal getting more and more smudged as she approached the beginning. The technical diagrams on the earlier pages were nigh unreadable, but the entries around them were.

She read through the book: Hiccup building the “bola launcher,” Hiccup surviving a dragon raid, Hiccup performing magic , Hiccup and “Toothless” escaping Outcast Island, over twenty drawings, fifteen of a large black dragon missing a tailfin and five of the horizon, and a few more of Hiccup himself. Then that haunting one, then--

“Astrid! We couldn’t find…” Tuffnut said, running up to her.
“Snotlout? What are you doing here?” Ruffnut asked.

“Don’t mind me, I just brought the most beautiful girl in the Archipelago some dragon-loving traitor’s journal because she wanted to read it.”

“Snotlout! Dude! That was, like, our job!” Tuffnut complained.
“We searched the rafters for the stash of Hiccup’s stuff for like half an hour!” Ruff joined in.
“So wait, if Snotlout got the book to Astrid first, which of us gets the rest of the spoon?” Tuffnut asked.
“I do! I didn’t fess up to Snotlout and nearly got us caught!”
“Oh yeah? Well, I saw Snotlout and Astrid with the book first, so I literally found it first.”
“If Snotlout hadn’t been trying to do our job for us, we never would have found it!”

In a few moments, the twins were in one of their regular fights. Snotlout continued staring at Astrid. Astrid continued avoiding Snotlout’s gaze and reading the journal.


“What’s that babe?” Astrid gagged at Snotlout’s tone.

She continued, “I can’t tell if it was the dragon controlling him somehow, or if he actually wanted to be friends with the beast. He seems pretty suicidal up until the dragon raid, at which point Alvin apparently forces him to do magic. Magic . What… What happened to him out there?”

“So were you right?” Tuffnut asked, he and his sister apparently distracted from the fight by her comments.

“Right about what?”

Ruffnut rolled her eyes. “In you dad’s retelling of Hiccup-kicking-your-butt, you were shouting accusations that Hiccup used some kind of magic to convince Stoick to even consider the truce. Didn’t you hear the rumors?”

“Oh. Well, no. I hadn’t heard that.” Specifically, she hadn’t heard about it getting out.

“So is it true?” Tuffnut asked.

“Woah, guys, let's not interrogate her or anything,” Snotlout said, finally seeming to take notice of more of the conversation than Astrid’s appearance.

Astrid rolled her eyes at Snotlout, though he appeared to be completely oblivious to the action. He smiled smugly as she turned back to Ruffnut. “Yes, that happened. I got a little carried away because that was--”

“Hah! Knew it! So did Stoick punch your dad too?” Tuffnut shouted.
“Ooh! What about Spitelout’s explanation of what happened in the chief’s house?” Ruffnut asked.

“Guys, just because I was there for one part doesn’t mean I know everything. Though, Stoick did punch my dad for nearly hitting Hiccup with my ax.”

“What about him turning into a dragon?” Tuff questioned.

“Turning into a what now?” Snotlout asked.

“The journal seems to confirm that, at least as much as we can believe it,” Astrid said.

“Hold on, did you guys just say that traitorous little Useless is turning into a dragon?!” Snotlout asked again.

“Yeah, Spitelout told Stoick’s council that Hiccup was some half dragon monster when the chief’s house burned down,” Ruffnut answered.
“That sounds so cool ,” Tuffnut said. Ruffnut nodded.

Astrid and Snotlout stared at them. Snotlout ventured to ask a question. “What, do you two want to be a Zippleback or something?”

“No!” “No!” They shouted simultaneously.
“I wouldn’t want to have to go everywhere with her !” Tuffnut complained.
I wouldn't want to go everywhere with her either!” Ruffnut agreed.
“Yeah!” Tuffnut agreed. “Wait, what?”

“Wait wait wait, let me try to get this all straight,” Snotlout said, “Hiccup the Useless is a dragon, can do magic, and is probably magically manipulating his dad into accepting a dragon. Meanwhile said dragon keeps attacking people to defend Hiccup. Aaand Stoick is willing to attack people and strain diplomatic relations just to protect his son.” The others stared at Snotlout, not expecting his clear representation of the situation. “What? Is that not what’s happening?”

“So… We should do something about that,” Tuffnut said.
“Why? If the dragons destroy Berk, that’ll be so cool to watch!” Ruffnut complained.

“And then we wouldn’t have a Berk to come home to! No food, no houses…” Astrid quickly shot down Ruff’s idea before it could infect her brother.

“Oh, Darn,” Ruff muttered.

“Well if that’s all, I think we can solve this pretty simply,” Snotlout said.

“How? Do we blow something up?” Tuff asked.

“If Hiccup is manipulating a dragon into liking him by manipulating his dad into accepting the dragon, then all we do is kill Hiccup and the dragon. No more manipulation!”

The group fell quiet.

“So… You’re saying we go kill Hiccup and his dragon before the adults notice,” Ruff said.

“How, exactly?” Astrid asked. “I spent all night out with the adults looking and we didn't even find a scale off either of them!”

“You were looking at night. Things look totally different in the daytime!” Snotlout stated. Astrid was unsure if he meant things in general or her, given the way he was staring at her.

“Okay, fine. I suppose we could go looking while the adults feed the Berserkers,” Astrid conceded.

“Yeah! This is going to be awesome bab--”

“But first, you all need weapons,” Astrid pointed out, fingering her ax’s blade where it rested on her back. “The only places with weapons are the smithy and the armory, both in the village square and both off limits to us.”

“Nuh uh!” Tuff said, “The way you were working with Gobber in that last raid, it’s like you’ve already replaced Hiccup!”
Ruff took up the encouragement. “Walk in like you’re supposed to be there and everyone will assume Gobber sent you!”

Astrid shook her head. “How did I get involved in all this rule-breaking with you people?”

“Maybe it was when you went after Hiccup all by yourself? Which was totally awesome, by the way,” Snotlout complimented her.

Astrid had to use all her control to restrain herself from punching Snotlout right there. “Sure. Maybe. If you’ll excuse me now, I have three weapons to steal out of the smithy.”

“Yeah!” The twins cried in unison. Astrid got up, rubbing her temples.


Fishlegs wanted nothing to do with the other kids. After just barely dragging the twins away from the cage release levers in the arena, there was no way he was getting anywhere near whatever stupidity they were planning now. But when he saw Astrid jump out of the back window of the forge with a basketful of weapons on her back… Dammit. He had to know what stupidity they were engaged in, even if he wanted none of it. “Astrid, what are all those--”

“Shh! Don’t catch the attention of any of the adults!”

Fishlegs dropped to a whisper. “Are you stealing a basket filled with weapons?”

“If I said no, would you not follow me?”

“Probably not.”

“Fine. Snotlout and the twins talked me into getting these so we can try hunting Hiccup.” As she spoke, Astrid began moving away from the forge and through the scattered houses around the village square. Fishlegs followed, if only to hear what she said.

“You’re hunting Hiccup? After what his dragon did to you last time?!”

“There’ll be more of us this time, and the situation is way worse. Than it was.”

“How is it worse?!” Fishlegs whisper-shouted, reaching normal speaking volume.

“Keep your voice down! We think Hiccup is using magic to manipulate Stoick.”

Oh no. He was so not getting involved in this because of magic. He was not a sucker for systems that you could write about and analyze on paper, and there was no way in Helheim he was going to-- “Magic?! Like magic , magic? Can I come along?”

Astrid paused and gave him a sidelong glance. Oh great Fishlegs, way to stick to your convictions of personal safety and sanit-- “Can you wield a weapon?”

“M-my dad taught me to pretty good with a hammer.”

Astrid nodded. “Fine. Let's move.”

She took off toward the sea cliffs overlooking the harbor, where Fishlegs could see Snotlout and the twins waiting.

Oh no. What had he gotten himself into?


Astrid suggested the way out of town everyone, eventually, agreed on. It was no problem to avoid being spotted together heading toward the treeline: they didn't go together. The teens split up, each heading in a random direction for a few minutes, then they all made for the treeline behind the burnt remains of Stoick’s hut. In under half an hour, they assembled just inside the trees.

“Well, Snotlout, this was your brilliant idea. How do we track them?” Astrid asked.

“Well… Uhh… First, we’ll go to where you saw them last, on the night with the confrontation and Stoick punching your dad.”

“Sure. Whatever,” Astrid said, leading the way deeper into the woods. In a matter of minutes, they broke the treeline below the rocky slope that had been the scene of such strife only a few nights ago. “Well, what now?” Astrid asked.

Snotlout began ascending the slope. Astrid followed immediately behind. After some hesitation, the rest also fell into the same pace. Snotlout reached the top edge of the slope, where it turned into a sheer cliff leading up to more of Berk’s mountains, and looked around. “Aha! There!”

“What? You spotted them just like that?” Astrid asked, incredulous.

“No, I spotted the smoke from where they set part of the forest on fire.” Snotlout pointed toward a patch of forest where, as he said, smoke rose from the canopy and disappeared before reaching very high in the sky. “I’m sure you would’ve gotten it eventually babe. I guess my really great eyesight just helped--”

Astrid growled at Snotlout, hoping he’d take the hint. He trailed off and blinked at her, uncomprehending.

“So that’s where Hiccup is hiding with his Night Fury?” Fishlegs asked.

“Cool, let's go murder him,” Tuffnut said, hefting his double-ended spear.
“Yeah, let's,” his sister agreed, hefting her own.

“Umm… Yeah. Sure,” Fishlegs muttered, loud enough that the others could hear it but not very enthusiastically.

Astrid set out, followed immediately by three of the others. With some hesitation, the fourth took up the rear.


“A toast,” Dagur shouted while hefting his mug of alcohol, “to death in battle!”

Gobber, wanting to garner more favor with his guest, joined in. “Aye. And to your father!”

His addition had more of an effect than he intended, as the rest of the room joined in with only the second part. “To Oswald!”

Dagur grimaced and sat back down without drinking to the toast. When the room quieted down, he spoke up. “Fine. Whatever. To Oswald, To Oswald, To Oswald. Blah blah blah.” He spat into his mug.

Silence filled the room. Gobber, trying to get things back on track, spoke. “Well on that cheery note, shall we sign the treaty and get to the dragon huntin’?”

“Great idea!” Dagur shouted, throwing his food dishes into the fire pit. “Let's go hunt those dragons!”

“Erm… Actually, I was thinkin’ we’d do the treaty signin’ now, and the dragon huntin’ a little later.”


Seabreath Ingerman turned to take a closer look at the treaty. “Did he say dragon’s blood?”

Stoick burst out laughing. “Don’t be ridiculous, Dagur. Your father and I haven’t signed a treaty in a dragon’s blood for years!”

“Why would that be a problem , Stoick?”

“Well, we didn’t actually… manage to kill any dragons in the last raid,” Gunnar admitted, “All we did was drive them off without our food.”

“Fant aaaa stic! So we hunt down the Night Furies, use them in your stupid ceremony to de-hypnotize your son, then use the Night Furies’ bloooood to sign the treaty!”

“Well, yes, I suppose that’d work…” Gobber muttered.

“Today! We hunt Night Furies!” Dagur shouted, drawing his sword. The visiting Berserker men broke out into raucous cheering. Without even waiting for Stoick’s approval, Dagur somersaulted clear over the fire pit and began to lead his men out the front door of the entrance hall into the noonday sunlight.

Stoick turned to Gobber and his own men. He sighed and shook his head, almost keeping over with exhaustion. He didn't, though. He couldn't afford to show weakness in the presence of the other tribe. “Let’s follow them, men.”


Astrid crouched down, bringing the group to a halt. She whispered to them barely audibly, “We’re getting close to where the smoke was. Nobody talk but me from here on out, or we’ll get heard for sure.”

Speaking at regular volume, Tuffnut responded, “So wait, why are we being quiet?”

The other kids shushed him. With a quiet voice, Astrid resumed, “We’re being quiet because getting heard is what got me caught last time. A dragon can’t look everywhere at once, but they can listen. If we make a sound, it’ll look directly at us. Then we’ve got a snowball’s chance in dragon fire of killing it.”

“Ohhh,” Tuffnut whispered loudly, “I get it.”

“Zip it!” Astrid whispered, “I’m the only one talking from here on out.”

“Jeez, bossy,” Tuffnut muttered.

“I heard that!” Astrid peered ahead into the trees. “Okay, I don’t see anything, so let's move up.”

Moving low to the ground, the group pushed through the underbrush. After maybe fifty paces, they came upon the edge of a large, circular depression in the ground. In the middle was a lake. By the lake was a spot of ground with drawings all over it. In one of the drawings, to their horror, lay three limbs in a pool of blood. Another drawing contained a fourth limb, further away.

“Thor almighty is that--” Snotlout started to whisper. Fishlegs began to whimper. Astrid covered both their mouths with her hands, then immediately regretted her decision. How can human beings produce that much saliva? It turned out to be a good idea when she noticed, off to their left under a tree root clawed halfway to Helheim…

Two black dragons lay curled around a bonfire. The bonfire was well made, almost entirely dead and dry material, explaining the paucity of smoke. Whispering as quietly as she could, Astrid handed out new orders. “Ruff, Tuff, Snotlout, go to the right around the rim of this cove. Fishlegs, you’ll go with me to the left. If you find a safe descent path into the cove, stop and we’ll meet up with you.”

Snotlout nodded and turned right, followed by the twins. Fishlegs looked like he wanted to whimper, his hammer shaking in his hand. Astrid beckoned him on and they started circling around toward the dragons.

It took them maybe ten minutes to navigate their way around the cove. Eventually, Astrid and Fishlegs passed the halfway point and met up with Snotlout and the twins by a crevice that ran into the ground, deepening as it approached the cove.

“Nice find guys,” Astrid whispered.

“Sure thing babe,” Snotlout whispered back. If their lives hadn’t depended on staying quiet right then, Astrid would’ve punched him until he lost a tooth.

“Be quiet going down here,” Astrid said, lowering herself into the crevice. With muted thumps, each teen dropped into the crevice, then slipped onto the boulders leading to the crevice entrance. Finally, they were on the cove floor behind another boulder.

“So how are we going to kill them?” Snotlout asked quietly.

Ruffnut rolled her eyes. “Pointy end of metal thing goes in dragon neck. How hard can it be?” Her brother nodded.

“We have to figure out which one is the original Night Fury first. That one will be more used to combat in a dragon body,” Astrid whispered.

“That’s easy,” Tuffnut said, “The original is missing half its tailfin.”

“How do you--” Astrid began to ask. Then she remembered the journal in her belt, all the mentions of “Toothless’” tail, and all the sketches that looked strangely asymmetrical.

“Duh, Mulch said so,” Ruffnut answered the half spoken question.

“Okay, we sneak up on the dragons, stab the one missing half its tail, then stab Hiccup. Let's go do it!” Snotlout whispered.

Astrid nodded. “Remember everyone, quiet .”

“I-I think I’ll just stay here now,” Fishlegs whispered.

The twins edged out into the open and began tiptoeing across the cove toward the dragons. Astrid and Snotlout paused. “Chickening out already Fishface?” Snotlout asked.

“W-well… Y-you’re all about to go kill Hiccup , I mean, isn’t he one of our f-friends and all that? A-and there was that- that pile of blood and limbs on the other side of the...”

Astrid’s face took on a demeanor like that of Stoick, a chiseled frown. “No friend of dragons is a friend of ours.” She broke cover and slunk silently after the twins.

“Fine, stay here Fishface. We’ll tell the village all about how you hid while we solved all of their problems,” Snotlout teased, before leaving the cover of the boulder himself. Fishlegs sat behind the boulder, afraid to move.

The other teens approached the slumbering dragons. They looked ghastly. The smaller of the two, the one practically sleeping on the fire, was covered in dried blood and dirt. The larger, missing a tailfin and on the side nearer the lake, had blood all over its chest and the folded interior of one wing.

Astrid and the twins hefted their weapons, preparing to eliminate the greater threat. Snotlout circled to the smaller dragon, hefting his ax and ready to single-handedly end the lesser threat. Through some kind of divine providence, they’d successfully snuck up on the dragons and were ready for the killing blows. Astrid steeled herself to bring her ax down--

“Okay, this is stupid. These dragons are like dead to the world,” Tuffnut said out loud.

“Shhh!” Astrid hissed… too late.


“...dragons are like dead to the world.” A male voice said near me.

Tuffnut? I asked, opening my eyes. There, above Toothless, stood Tuffnut, Ruffnut, and Ast-- They had weapons! TOOTHLESS! I roared.

Toothless snapped awake, looking directly at me. He must have seen someone behind me, too, because without saying or asking anything, he leaped across the fire with a wordless roar. He sailed just over me, knocking someone to the ground behind me. Whoever it was cried out, “Oh Thor! Find a happy place!”

Astrid and the twins, previously preparing to end Toothless’ life, were now lying in a groggy heap over a dozen wingbreadths from the fire, thrown by Toothless’ swinging tail. Their weapons only flew half as far as they did.

I tried to stand, but every inch I got further from the fire felt like a shard of ice piercing my body. I settled with rolling half on top of it to see what Toothless was doing to… Snotlout?

Toothless was about to-- Toothless, don’t!

He tried to kill you with that mountain-vein claw! Toothless snarled.

Hiccup looked. Under a pace away from the pinned Snotlout, an ax sat embedded in the ground. Just let me talk to them first.


I hadn’t quite figured that out. Better to try and fail than never have tried at all, right?

Because that worked so well for all my inventions.

Carefully forming my draconian mouth, I tried to speak Norse. “Sssnohthlouthuh? Whah in Hel’sss realm?!”

Snotlout seemed even more terrified by my speech than he was by the dragon pinning him. He whimpered and wiggled, trying to get further away from me.

I turned my head to the slowly-untangling pile of blondes. “Why areh you all hunthing ussss? Whah thith we tho thoh thesserfe thiss?”

“You befriended a dragon, Hiccup! And you used magic to try to manipulate your dad into accepting dragons into the village!” Astrid shouted.

If I still had tears, I would be on the verge of them. “I thon’th know how malik- maghic workss! All I wanthed wass thoh loh home!”

That was a mess of malformed syllables. I wasn’t sure how much they understood. Toothless gave me an odd look. Are you sure you’re speaking their language?

Shhh! I hissed, I can’t think when my head is swapping between dragon-speak and Norse!

“Stopping us doesn’t matter! The village is coming and Stoick will see through your tricks eventually!” Astrid shouted again, “We will not listen to anything you have to say!”

“Fleasse, Asthuhrih, look athuh where I’m athuh! Tho you think I wantheh any off thiss? I’fe nearly thieh innumerahfle thimes now anh my thranssfformathion means I am litherally ffreessing thoh theath!”

“Hold on,” Tuffnut asked, sitting up, “Did he say being a dragon means he’s freezing to death? Suddenly not cool anymore.”
“Yeah,” his sister agreed.

“You nearly killed my dad, though!” Snotlout shouted from under Toothless’ paw, “You burned down your dad’s house!” Toothless growled at him menacingly.

“In ssself thefensse! Thon’h thell me thah in a thoice bethween my thath anth yoursself, you woulthn’th ffick yoursself!”

“But- but that’s different!” Snotlout complained, “I’m not a dragon-loving traitor!”

“I thon’h wanh thoh be. I husth wantheh thoh gho home. I won’h tho thah iff ih meanss bethraying people who’fe fuh thrusth in me.”

“Put trust in you?! You betrayed your village, Hiccup!” Astrid’s tone could cut a scaly hide, if it were solid. “You’ve helped a dragon roam free on our island!”

“I sssaih I woulthn’h bethray feofle who fut thrusth in me. Ferk, er, Fuherk… Fub- lue- Berk hatheh me! You were frobuhably sselebrathing when you realissed I wass gone! Thoothlesss fut thrusth in me, ffirsth bhiy noh killing me, then bhiy forghiving me ffor my missthakes.”

What are you saying about me? Toothless barked. I cringed, knowing that he still didn’t fully trust me again, after finding out I was Hiccup.

“Aww jeez Hiccup, we didn’t know you had it that rough,” Tuffnut said.
“We thought we were the only ones the village would celebrate the deaths of,” Ruffnut agreed.

“Look, Hiccup, I’m sorry that your life sucks. And I’m sorry for my part in that. But you can’t run to our enemy just bec-- agh!” Snotlout’s statement was cut off as Toothless pressed down harder, raising his head and looking at a boulder near the crevice entrance to the cove.


Over there, these aren’t the only humans here.

More of them? Oh no. They had to get out of here, they-- I spotted them, or specifically, him. “Ffiss-huhlehs? Iss thah you?”

The blonde, helmeted head across the cove eeped at the sudden attention and retreated behind the rock. After a moment, he spoke up. “I’m not here to kill you Hiccup! I didn’t want to go but they said magic and I was curious and they dragged me along and OhThorPleaseDon’tKillUsAll!”

I shook my head, rubbing my chin in the ash of the fire. I’m not going to kill you Fishlegs.

“Fishlegs”? Fish… legs?

I meant to speak in Norse. Damnit. “I'm noh ghoing thoh kill you Ffiss-shlughs.” Fishlegs peeked out from behind the boulder. “I jhussth wanth thoh ghoh home withouh bethraying the only real frienh I’fe efer hah.”

“And does ‘not betraying him’ include manipulating your father with magic?!” Astrid accused.

“No! I thon’h know how maghic workss, ass I ssaid fefore! The only maghik I efer saw kame from a fook, er, buh- book, thah I thon’h have!”

“You expect me to believe Stoick actually considered a truce with dragons of his own volition?”

“Oh, fekausse ssenthing hunthing farthies afther uss iss suthh a greath thrusse.” I said, letting sarcasm color my opinion.

“That wasn’t until after you burned down his house and nearly killed his brother!”

“Whah tho you call thah nighth you athackeh uss then? You, your father, my thah? How many more were there?”

“That was…” Astrid’s voice dropped. “That was just me. I didn’t know Stoick and my dad were there.”

I raised my head in surprise, then narrowed my eyes in suspicion. “Why tho you wanh me theah so fadly? Whah thih I tho thoh you, Assthrih?”

The twins pulled away in alarm as Astrid’s always-tough demeanor shattered, her voice breaking and raw emotion shining through. “Friendship with dragons is unnatural! You’re betraying your village! You’re betraying humanity ! It’s just-- how can you act like you’re the victim here? You’re so… WRONG!”

Her shouts echoed around the cove for a few moments, punctuated by her ragged breathing and the calmer breathing of everyone else.

Toothless, let Snotlout go.

What? This human? What if he goes for his--

Let. Him. Go.

Toothless stepped away from Snotlout, growling at the tiny human all the while. Snotlout looked up at his ax, then decided against re-arming himself. He sprung to his feet and sprinted to where Astrid and the twins sat.

Toothless, whatever is about to happen, don’t hurt them.

Sapling? What are you talking about?!

“Assthrih, heh your ackss.”


I spoke slowly, emphasizing each Norse syllable as much as possible. “Geth. Your. Axs.”

“But the other dragon--”

“He won’h thry anything.” Toothless, get further away.

What in the great blue sky are you thinking of doing?! Sapling, don't you dare turn those humans against me.

I winced. He didn't trust me at all.

I- I’m trying something. It won't involve you; this is only dangerous to me.

Dangerous to you?! What are you doing? If they hurt you--

Then run. Up the root, out of the cove. You should be able to evade them easily. Just hide. Hunt. Live. I- I’m sorry I couldn't fix your flight.

Toothless took a step back, then bounded a good distance away. He turned to watch, wary of the humans. Hopefully, this will restore both the humans’ trust in me and his.

“Assthrih, your axs.” With Toothless now a much less threatening distance away, Astrid began to step cautiously toward the weapons.

Sapling! She’s going for--

I told her to.

If you’re trying to get yourself killed protecting me, I swear I will eat your carcass.

I don’t plan on dying! I reassured. Toothless was not reassured. Astrid’s hand closed around the handle of her ax.

I can’t… Why are you doing this?

You trust me for not killing you back on Outcast Island, right?

Yes, but--

And I trust you for not killing me. Both times we had the upper hand… er, claw. Wing. Talon. However the analogy works in dragon-speak.

I don’t--

I’m giving her the upper hand. She’s never held power over another’s life before, not actually.

What does--

She’ll make the connection. She’ll see that not moments ago, she could’ve been Snotlout under your claw--

Sapling! Toothless snarled.

I looked back at the teens. Astrid was standing two paces away, ax half-raised in confusion. “Klosser, Assthrih.”

Snotlout couldn’t contain himself any longer. “Astrid, Are you crazy?! He’s going to kill you!”

“If he wanted to kill me, he wouldn’t have talked down his dragon!” Astrid shot back. She took a step closer.

“That was talking?!” Snotlout asked. “It sounded like he was trying to choke the other Night Fury by choking himself!”

I rolled the rest of the way over the fire, exposing my underbelly and its smaller, less protective scales. Astrid startled backward a few steps. I took a deep breath. Thor, the air is really cold on my scales without that fire . “Assthrih, look ah me.”

Astrid looked into the one of my eyes that happened to be facing her. If the situation weren’t so dire, I’d laugh at how her face looked upside-down.

“My life iss in your hanhss righh now. You can fuh thah axs in my neck, rethurn thoh Ferk, anh fe the hero. Thoothlesss won’h thry anything.”

“But… Why would you…”

“Thraghons aren’h efil kreathures, Assthrih. This iss how I learneh ih, anh thiss iss how I hofe you will thoh.

“I thrusth you Assthrih. I’m futhing my life in your hanths thoh sshow you thiss. Fleasse, thrusth me.”

“I- I don't trust you! You- you’re a dragon! What are you trying to do to me?!”

“I’m thrying thoh sshow you the thruth. If ith iss really sso wrongh, so afhorrent to thrusth ssomething elsse, hussth onsse, then kill me righth now!”

“You’re-- you're not going to trick me into stopping this!” Astrid said, her voice dropping at the end to a snarl.

I let my head fall back onto the embers of the somewhat squashed fire. Astrid raised her ax; though I could no longer see it in my field of view, I heard her pauldrons creak as her arms lifted. I shut my eyes.

Astrid, please… I whimpered.

Toothless, now over half the cove away, roared in alarm. Sapling! By the sky and ground, you eel-breathed female human don’t you DARE!

There was a whistling sound as the ax descended toward my neck. Damni--


A Suit, a Shell

Chapter Notes

Chapter 14 : A Suit, a Shell


The dragon’s crooning whimper cut off as the ax thunked down. She collapsed to her knees, next to the handle of her ax. She gripped the immobilized shaft for support. What have I done?

Astrid watched as the dragon slowly raised its head, noticing that it was not, in fact, dead. “Are you happy now Hiccup? What… What did you do to me?”

Hiccup the Night Fury rolled over, putting his underbelly back on the flames -- more like embers at this point. “I sshoweh you real thrusth, Assthrih. The kinh neetheh thoh enh thiss war.”

The dragon further away barked out a question. From the rapid-fire barrage, it sounded like a number of unhappy, complaining questions. Hiccup replied with a vaguely happy chirp.

“Astrid… What in Helheim was that?” Snotlout asked.

“I… I don’t know. But it wasn’t magic, I don’t think,” Astrid answered.

“Ih wass thrusth,” Hiccup the Night Fury explained. His voice waxed on a little snarkiness, “Ih iss a harh thing for Fikingss thoh untherssthanh, affarenthly.”

“Did you just like not do what we came out for in the first place when he literally gave you every invitation to do it?” Tuffnut questioned.
“That was awesome ,” Ruffnut breathed. “Can I go next?!”
“Yeah, me too!” Tuff said, “I want to see what happens if you actually kill him!”

Fishlegs peeked out from behind the boulder on the opposite side of the cove. “Is it over? Is Hiccup dead?”

Dragon-Hiccup gave a series of warbles that sounded like laughter. “No, Fissshlehs, I’m noh theah.”

“Oh, thank the Gods! I really thought Astrid was going to kill you there!” Fishlegs came out from behind the boulder, then seemed to remember the dragon he was talking to. “I- I think I’ll just continue waiting over here.”

“Astrid, why didn’t you kill him?” Snotlout demanded, “I don’t get it. Just because he shows you his neck and makes it super easy, you suddenly decide to be his friend?”

“I… Snotlout, I don’t know! Okay? He just--” She sputtered wordlessly, trying to find a way to explain it. She rolled back off her knees and sat cross legged on the ground, looking anywhere but up the fire at Hiccup. “... It wasn’t battle. That- that would’ve been a slaughter. I… I guess that makes me the first Viking in three hundred years who wouldn’t kill a dragon.”

To her absolute chagrin, Hiccup resumed his burbling dragon laughter.

“What? What could possibly be funny right now?”

“You. You ssounh like I thih, fefore fekoming a thrahon.” He explained.

“Just because I didn’t kill you doesn’t mean I want to become a… a monster like you!”

He looked hurt. “It issn’h like you coulh anyway. I fekame like thiss fekausse off Alfin’ss sthufih fook.”

“Am I the only one concerned that the person who arranged our whole ‘operation-let's-kill-Hiccup just totally went over to the dragon’s side? Is that really just me?” Snotlout asked everyone, his incredulity at the group evident.

“Fire breathing,” Tuff said.
“Super strong,” Ruff said.

“What are you two talking about?!” Snotlout shouted, clearly annoyed.

“Oh, just all the ways Hiccup can screw up and destroy things now,” Tuff said, sounding bored.
“Annoying his dad,” Ruff continued.
“No fair!” Tuff complained, “He already did that as a human!”

Hiccup’s dragon, “Toothless,” warily returned to the vicinity of the fire. He growled at Astrid’s ax, buried in the ground next to the base of the fire. Hiccup crooned something at him to calm him.

Him. To a dragon that had already been a dragon. Astrid dropped her head into her palms. She didn’t kill Hiccup. She didn’t kill a damn dragon. What was wrong with her? Now she was giving them pronouns? Something had to be messing with her, this was not--

“Hey,” Hiccup said, “Assthrih.”

Astrid looked up. She was not going to cry. Now was not the time to totally break down inside her own head. “What?!” she spat, more harshly than she intended.

“I’m ssorry ffor making thingss sso comflikatheh ffor eferyone, okay? I thithn’h wanh all off… Thiss.”

“Well it’s complicated, Hiccup! You’re the chief’s son and you sided with a dragon! Now you are a dragon and I didn’t kill you! If anyone from the village saw what was going on here, I’d be exiled! All of us would!”

“I think I alreathy hafe feen. My thah musth hathe me righh now.”

The realization struck Astrid like an ax blow. The village, Hiccup’s dad, if they saw … “Hiccup! You have to leave this spot.”

“Whah? Why?”

“The Berserkers showed up in port today. They knew about your Night Fury… friend, and Dagur’s chief now. They were after Tooth… Uhh…”


“They were after his head. Stoick talked them down into a capture mission, but Dagur seemed out for blood. If he thinks he can kill one of you and get away with it with Stoick, he’ll probably do it!”

“Why iss thah a frohlem? They won’h fe afle thoh finh--”

“We found you today because of the smoke from your stupid fire. Why did you build that, anyway? Can’t you… Y’know…?”

“Now hold on, are we seriously helping him now?” Snotlout asked. “I don’t know what kind of ‘ trust ’ he’s using, but I sure as Hel herself am not getting involved with this.”

Hiccup gave him a sidelong glance. “Wanh thoh kome offer here anh ssay thah thoh my neck, with your axs?”

“H-hey, I didn’t say we should kill you, anymore. I mean, you’re clearly still Hiccup and not some evil monster version trying to kill us all.”

“Evil monster killer Hiccup… Hmm…” Ruffnut mused.
“Nah, he’s pretty much exactly what I’d imagine that being as he is now,” Tuffnut said.
“Yeah,” Ruff agreed.

“I agree with the not killing people part of any plans developed!” Fishlegs shouted across the cove.

Toothless asked something of Hiccup. Hiccup gave a long explanation over, likely catching him up on what Astrid had explained. When he finished, he turned back to Astrid, who had freed her ax from the ground and retreated from the scaly duo. “Assthrih, I ssortha can’h mofe fery muthh. Efen if I coulh, we’h enh uf fuilthing another fire.”


Hiccup ducked his head awkwardly. “The mosth imgorthanh orhan in a thrahon’s fothy thoesn’h… work, in mine.”

“You… What?”

“I can’h freathe fire or warm mysself. I’m ssortha ssthuck near heah ssourssess thoh noh… Uhh… freesse thoh theath.”

“You can’t breathe fire?” Tuff asked.
“Hah! I win!” Ruff crowed.
“Nuh uh, I just had another idea, so I’ll catch up!”
“What’s your big idea then?”

“Guys! Now is not the time,” Astrid reprimanded.

Silence fell over the group, for a few seconds. “His mere existence making diplomatic relations complicated,” Tuff whispered.
“Oh dang it. You’re right,” Ruff muttered back, “tied again.”

“So Hiccup, they’re coming for you. They’re probably on their way now. What are you going to do about it?” Astrid asked. If he thought he could fight them, she’d probably bury her ax in his neck right then and--

Hiccup looked at the embers of the fire between his forepaws, avoiding Astrid’s gaze. “I will ssthay.”

“Stay?” Astrid spat the word. “Hiccup, these are people you knew! You can't just fight--”

“I’m noh hoing thoh fighh. They wanh thoh kafthure a Nighh Fury, they kan hafe me.” He looked directly at her, determination emphasized in his gaze.

“What about Toothless? Can he fly? What’s he going to eat? If he attacks the village while you’re captured, there’ll be no stopping the others from hunting him.”

Hiccup looked back at the embers of the fire beneath him. After a moment, he slammed his forepaw down on the flames, sending a small spray of sparks cascading into the air. “I thon’h know.”

“Let him figure it out, Astrid! If the others are coming, we’ve got to get out of here!” Snotlout berated.

“I- I don’t--” Astrid stammered. What did she do? Help hide their enemy from the village… somehow? Should she turn around, go back, side with the village and kill both Hiccup and his Night Fury friend before she’s lost this opportunity?

“Look, stay here if you want. I’m going to go back to the village and totally forget about this. Getting exiled is so not on my to-do list,” Snotlout said. He stood up and began retreating toward Fishlegs and the boulder near the crevice.

“We should probably follow him,” Ruffnut advised her brother.
“Why? I wanna see what Astrid does,” Tuff complained.
“‘Seeing what she does’ might mean you get implicated, idiot. C’mon.” Ruff dragged her brother to his feet.
Tuffnut acquiesced. “Oh, right, okay.”

“C’mon Fishface,” Snotlout said as he passed, “Sticking around here is probably not the best plan.”

Hiccup watched the four depart, then turned his attention back to the defeated looking Astrid.

“I- I’m sorry. I can’t help. I…”

“You can’h fethray the fillaghe,” Hiccup muttered, the smallest amount of his distaste for the idea leaking into his voice. “I gheh ith.”

“I don’t trust you that much. You’re… You. Toothless listens to you. But the other dragons… What if you’re wrong?”

“I’m noh wrongh.”

“I can’t take that chance.”

“Then why leafe me alife?”

Astrid shook her head. She could barely comprehend it herself; she had let a dragon live. She just couldn't slaughter him in cold blood. Cold blood, like his, but morally rather than literally. “I can’t… Hiccup.”

Hiccup lay his head on the embers, looking even more defeated than she felt. “Justh… Gho, Assthrih.”



Astrid picked up all the weapons the teens left scattered around. She couldn’t deal with this anymore. Her Viking side told her that Hiccup was wrong, abhorrent, that she should have slaughtered him where he lay during his demonstration of trust. Her human part, her emotions…

As a person

That held her back. Hiccup was a person too, not some mindless beast to be slaughtered like most dragons.

How many dragons are people too? How many were once human?

Does having been human make something a person? Could born dragons be people?

How many people on both sides had died in this war?


I watched Astrid leave, the proud Viking warrior beaten out of her by reality. I had to face facts too: I was doomed. I was not much larger than I was as a human, but my unfamiliarity with my body would make climbing through the crevice difficult, if not impossible. Worse, I’d probably collapse from the cold before I even made it out of the crevice, even though it wasn’t yet winter. Knowing my luck, it’d be where Toothless couldn’t drag me out. Damn my stupid, nonfunctional furnace.

Sapling, what are we going to do? You said those humans you just let leave said other humans were coming. How do we get you away?

I lifted my chin an inch or so, then let it thump back onto the embers of the fire. I watched, mesmerized, as the sparks shot out past my snout. I won’t be going.

What?! Toothless barked, incredulous. The humans will capture you!

I lifted a paw and rubbed it over my snout, getting burning embers caught on my scales. I’m dying anyway, whether they capture me or not. If we run, I die from the cold. If they capture me, I die from the cold. What’s the use in you wasting energy dragging me along?

I’m not dragging you along! I… he ducked his head awkwardly, the action reminding me of my own embarrassment earlier. I feel…

I blinked. Toothless had been more than acerbic ever since he discovered I was Hiccup, the one who shot him down. This level of embarrassment, of opening up, I wasn't expecting it.

I don't know what I’d do without you.

What? That sounded confusingly--

I mean, I still feel mad because it was your fault I lost my tailfin but, at the same time, I never realized what a monster She was. If I hadn't been shot down I never would have. But, now that I know I don't want to be under Her service, I don't know whose to be under. I don't know how to be on my own so… I’ve been following your lead.

I laughed humorlessly. Because I’m such a great leader. Me, with no idea what I’m doing and a body that doesn’t work. Me, whose fault it is you’re bound to the ground anyway.

Toothless was silent for a moment. It wasn’t really your fault, though. he rationalized, You didn't use the weapon--

I built it. That’s worse. What does it even matter anyway? Just go, Toothless. I’m a dead man… dragon… talking. I guess.

I nearly let you get yourself killed by that female. I’m not about to let you just give up on--

Yes, you are. Bud, I don’t want to die, but I have to stop making other people suffer for my attempts to live. Hel, even saving you only prolonged your life. You’re trapped on the ground, practically as dead as I am.

Prolonged my life? Sapling, you gave me my life! I was just a slave to Her before I got shot down! If you want to take responsibility for my injury, you take responsibility for my freedom too, Toothless whined, hoping I would see his side.

Bud… Why? It seemed so irrational. Just because I saved him from one death and put him into another arguably worse one, he wanted to stay by my side?

Toothless stepped closer to the fire’s edge. They were almost snout to snout now. Stop it.

You need to go, Toothless. They could be here at any time.

I’m not leaving you again. Not around another mountain vein claw in the hands of more damnable humans.

Bud, just leave m--

The bola took Toothless off balance, closing around his wings and sending him tripping over onto the ground. I leaped to my feet, ignoring the wash of cold air over my underbelly.

Then something heavy and round collided with my head and the world went dark.


Dagur’s men fought amazingly. Dagur’s men fought too amazingly. They were Night Furies ! Two, real, live Night Furies! Yet, one of them was knocked out cold by a bola right after the attack started. The other? Tied down with sheer numbers. Three bolas and a net, then someone lying on its head to keep its mouth shut.


These were supposed to be the strongest, most mysterious dragons ever! “ Never shows itself, and never misses. ” Where was all that? Did they have to add “never bothers to attack” to Borkie’s Book of Dragons, now?

Dagur kicked at the dirt and swung his ax in a disgusted arc. He wanted the dragons to fight back! He wanted to hit one of them! He wanted so badly to make it bleed ! Why was it that he always had to do what other people wanted?

… Okay, not always. He did decide not to put that ax down last time his father said so. Last time his father said much of anything. Weakling.

Stoick “the Fat” walked up behind Dagur. “Amazing work Dagur. This attack would have been far more costly had your men--”

“Yeah, yeah,” The Berserker chieftain cut him off. “You’re so helpful, Dagur! Thank you so much, Dagur! I get it. Big deal. Can we get to the stupid ceremony where we kill one of these dragons now?”

Stoick the Fat and that fat amputee always following him shared a glance. The amputee whispered a few words to the Hairy Hooligan chief. Honestly, what an idiot! Taking advice from an amputee? It’s the advice of the people with all their limbs intact that you want.

Speaking of limbs, there was that weird pile of body parts on the other side of the cove. Probably some unlucky Berkian kid. With any luck, it'd be silly little Hiccup. Wouldn’t that be a treat! Then Stoick would probably let him kill both the Night Furies!

Dagur’s mood soured again. Let him . Being on someone else’s island was so boring ! You always had to do what they say or risk imprisonment and battle.

Battle. Gods above, he could use some of that.

Stoick the Fat and Amputee the Advisor were still having their little discussion. While they talked, Dagur walked over to the now bound, still conscious Night Fury. It lay on the ground, struggling and glaring up at him, attempting to growl through its rope muzzle.

“He’s got two Night Furies. Why in Hel’s name would he need both?” Dagur mused. The limbs by the lake, the two dragons… So odd. Perhaps more odd, where had Hiccup been on Berk? They didn’t sound like they’d captured him, but obviously, he wasn't here with the Night Furies he was apparently buddies with. What was his deal?

Stoick the Fat decided to interrupt Dagur’s musings, inconsiderately. “Dagur. Can we get your men’s assistance in carrying the dragons back to our dragon slaying arena?”

“Oh, please, lean on my assistance,” Dagur said, half sarcastically. “Berserkers! Get the dragon there off the fire and help the Berkians carry it!”

“Thank you, Dagur.”

“What else are allies to do?” Dagur asked rhetorically. He added on to that under his breath, “Apparently. Ugh.”

His men began working around the flames under the well-heated dragon, trying to roll it off the fire. The bound dragon by Dagur’s feet began to put up more of a fuss, struggling more with its restraints.

“What? What’s so special about keeping your friend over there on the fire?” Dagur asked, annoyance rising. As his men finally got the unconscious dragon off the embers and began to tie it up, the still-conscious dragon went ballistic, whimpering and struggling.

“Shut up beast.” Dagur spat out the words and followed them up with a kick to the dragon’s jaw. It served only to incense the dragon further. “I said, shut it!” Dagur raised his ax, lining it up for a killing blow along the dragon’s spine.

As his swing came down, a flash of metal appeared in his ax’s path. Stoick’s sword clanged loudly as it stopped Dagur’s blade cold.

“How dare you?” Dagur growled.

“How dare you ,” Stoick shot back. “We’re going to kill these dragons in a ceremony , in the kill ring, where dragon killing is done.”

Dagur held the older chief’s gaze. It was infuriating! He should kill the Berkian chieftain right here and right now! But… Then again… There were a lot of Berkians between his men and the docks, even if there weren’t many in the immediate vicinity. He didn’t exactly have his armada around to back him up… “Fine. To the arena,” Dagur acquiesced.

“Good.” Stoick sheathed his sword and turned to join the procession now attempting to shove the smaller, unconscious Night Fury up through the crevice. The Night Fury by Dagur’s feet was still going crazy, rocking back and forth. His men were… disinclined to approach the beast.

“Do I have to do everything myself?” Dagur asked his men. Sheathing his blade, he lifted his boot and brought it down on the writhing dragon’s snout. The impact of leather on scale jarred the young chief’s leg, but the Night Fury fell limp. Dagur turned back to his men. “Use the ropes we dropped down on to haul this dragon up. I doubt it'll fit up the crevice chief…” Surreptitiously, he checked no Berkians were in earshot. “... Stoick the Fat is using.”

His men chuckled at the joke and set to work dragging the now also unconscious dragon to the ropes the Berserkers had dropped into the cove on. It was a genius plan: ranged attacks first, then literally drop in on the enemy while they deal with untangling themselves.

Even better, jumping off cliffs with only a rope to support you seemed to be something only Berserkers were smart enough to do. With a chuckle at his own battle savvy, Dagur followed his men to the ropes.


I was on undulating ground. No, that wasn’t right. It wasn’t ground so much as it was… vines. A web of vines. A tree? Did I crash somewhere? It had to have been a bad crash to knock me unconscious… No, that couldn’t be it either. The vines were wrapped all the way around me, too taught to have been put there by a crash. There was ground, too, under the vines. Lots of little rocks, rising and falling, digging into my sides. They were cold little rocks. Cold like…

Tight vines. Mountain-vein all around. A tiny human hatchling.

My eyes flicked open. Sapling, where was he? I had to find him, make sure he was safe! The… those adult humans attacked us! Where was I now? From my limited field of view, I could see, ahead of me, a young dragon with scales covered in ashes being carried on the shoulders of a dozen humans. Just at the edge of my vision, I could see a human by my neck carrying me. I and the dragon ahead of me were both tied up…

Wait… That wasn’t just any dragon. Sapling! That was him! And his furnace must still be out, or he’d have awoken and tried to break free by now. On the backs of the humans, he had to be freezing ! How could I get to him?

I let my eyes slip closed and tried to sort out my thoughts. It was a mess, all of this. If only Sapling hadn’t tried so hard to go back to the humans, they wouldn't have found us! No, that was wishful thinking. The fire drew them, Sapling explained that. My head was such a jumble right now.

Sapling. I had to get to him and warm him up, somehow. To do that, I had to get free of my captors, then my bonds, then get over to him. Hopefully in that order. But how?

Ahead, Sapling and his carrying humans broke the treeline. We were on a gentle slope downward, headed into the complex of human tree nests.

A hill. Rolling.

If I were to suddenly throw my weight forward, I could break my captor’s grip and roll down the hill to Sapling. It wouldn't free me from my bonds, but I’d get nearer him.

One wingbeat at a time. This was two of the three things I needed, I had to try. With no warning, the moment my head broke the treeline, I threw myself forward, lifting my head up then slamming it down past the shoulder of the humans carrying my neck. The ones further back squawked in alarm as my weight suddenly shifted, then I was free. Out of control, I rolled head over tail down the hill toward the next group of humans. As my shoulders pressed into the ground, I felt my body weight slam into the stabilization spines along my spine. One of them snapped and I bit off my screech of pain.

Then I was skidding on my belly, not two wingbreadths away from Sapling. The other humans, having heard my captors’ warnings, scattered. In their wake, Sapling dropped to the ground like dead weight.

I skidded to a stop under a quarter wingbreadth away. Now what? I tried moving. My wings and back legs were still tightly bound. Around my front legs, though, the rope had come loose. It barely looped around my neck. My fin! When it snapped off, the rope must’ve slid free.

I didn’t want to watch the flying fish’s reflection, especially considering how much pain I’d pay for it with later. With a duck of my head, I freed my forelimbs and sliced through my rope muzzle with my claws. It came off cleanly.

As I let my fires fill my throat, I could hear all around me as humans drew their mountain-vein weaponry. I didn’t have time to heat the ground around Sapling gently and let it soak up into him.

I’m sorry Sapling. This will hurt.


All I knew was cold. The ice in my veins, the claws around my core, the seizing of my lungs: I couldn’t function.

I was dying.

I didn't bother trying to open my eyes, or even listen to anything. Clinging to consciousness was hard enough as every movement of the people carrying me jostled my slowly failing organs. What an irony: to be the first dragon to die on Berk that the Hairy Hooligans meant not to kill. Probably the only one ever, too , I thought. They don't want to kill me, right?

Hopefully Toothless got away, though it wasn’t like I could check. I was too busy slowly becoming less not-dead.

Suddenly sounds reached my ears, shouts. My brain sluggishly tried to make them out, but it was no use.

Then I hit the ground, as the humans under me scattered every direction. I lay there for a moment, wondering what could have caused that. Numbly, I discerned a spray of dirt hitting my flank. Then another voice, a dragon voice, invaded my thoughts.

I’m sorry Sapling. This will hurt.

I tried to move my mouth to say something back, but my lungs wouldn’t respond. No air passed over my vocal chords.

Then the plasma fire washed over my back and right side.

It was like leaving the frigid ocean from the day Snotlout nearly killed me to lying on the hot coals of the forge. Like night to day, the numb ache of my body shutting down was replaced with the stinging, agonizing pain of my body waking back up, then realizing it was on fire . Even my scales couldn’t ward off this much heat directly and I felt many cracking under the onslaught.

The heat began to spread through my body, and I began to feel more normal. Suddenly, my lungs expanded and I had air. With all the pain, I did the first thing that came to mind: I screeched aloud, expressing my agony to the world.


Stoick watched in shock as the larger Night Fury, which had somehow escaped some of the bindings the Berserkers tied over it, blasted the smaller Night Fury with a stream of fire. The smaller Night Fury’s restraints burnt away almost immediately, followed by a cracking sound like brittle metal giving way.

Then the smaller Night Fury started screaming. He was screeching his lungs out and spasming into wakefulness. He , because Stoick was almost certain the dragon under attack right now was his son.

Dagur, to Stoick’s right, leaped into action. He drew his ax and raised it to attack the fire breathing dragon. Stoick jumped forward as well, raising his own sword to block Dagur’s swing. Seeing the twin flashes of metal, the larger Night Fury ceased its attack on the smaller and ducked away, trying to escape Dagur’s weapon. Stoick blocked Dagur’s swing, again. Dagur growled in frustration.

Stoick turned to look at the smaller Night Fury, satisfied that Dagur wouldn’t try anything further. The larger Night Fury was crawling its way over on its forelegs, its hind legs and wings still ensnared by ropes. The smaller’s hind legs and right side were cracked and scorched, appearing darker than his other scales. His other scales, because that was Hiccup.

Hiccup, his restraints burnt off and his haunches figuratively (thankfully no longer literally) on fire, rolled over his back away from the larger Night Fury. The larger hummed at him, a discordant, dissonant tone. Then the smaller righted himself.

Hiccup looked around: at the Berkians, at the Berserkers, at the Night Fury that had just attacked him, at Dagur -- still seething about once again being stopped from killing something -- and at Stoick.

“Thah! Thon’h hurh him!”

Dagur let his ax fall limp at his side and took a step back. “The- the dragon talks?!”

Internally, Stoick sighed. Even as a dragon, Hiccup just had to cause him more headaches.


Ruffnut lay on the great hall table, staring up at the ceiling. She toyed with her hair. Or, she thought it was her hair. She couldn't tell the difference because her brother, with his helmet off, lay on the opposite half of the table.

They'd already bickered about who had more table space. It didn't really matter. They were both fine with splitting the table like they split everything else.

The problem was the boredom.

“Man, this sucks,” Tuff complained, “We could've been celebrated n’ stuff right now.”

“We would be if YOU hadn't started talking around the sleeping dragons!” Ruff shot back.

“Nah, it was more Astrid’s fault. I mean, come on! Hiccup was literally inviting her to kill him!”

“... Yeah, that is a bit weird.”

Tuffnut sat up, abruptly. The strand of hair Ruffnut had been knotting ripped out of her grasp. “Weird? How about crazy! I mean, really cool, don't get me wrong, but that’s our kind of crazy!”

Ruff saw her brother scoop up and equip his helmet. He dropped his chin into his hands.

“Mean of Hiccup to steal it.”

Ruff shrugged. “I guess we’ll have to get crazier, then!”

“Crazier than turning into a dragon?!” Tuff rubbed his chin. “Yeah, I’ve got nothing.”

Ruff sat up and turned to face Tuffnut, crossing her legs. “How about we…” She thought for a second. Diplomatic relations, tribal leaders… “Set Dagur’s pants on fire!”

“Set fire to the pantaloons of a visiting dignitary?!” Tuffnut exclaimed in a suddenly wildly different accent.

“Why yes dear brother! An act most treasonous and dastardly!” Ruffnut replied in kind.

“Why, we should be expelled from the tribe for sure!”

Ruff paused. That was a significant problem. “Er…”

Snotlout passed by, carrying a small platter of discarded mugs. “How about you two not do something that stupid, so I can still have friends?” Without bothering to hear the rest of the conversation, he walked off.

“Well that was a real killjoy,” Tuff complained.

“Tell me about it,” Ruff agreed.

“Alright, well, Snotlout just so happened to--”

Ruffnut punched him across the jaw. “Not literally, you idiot!”

“Fine, geez. Whatever.”

The two of them sat in silence for a long moment. Then, simultaneously, the two dropped their chins into their hands.

“This boredom we face,” Ruffnut said, “What solution doth you propose, brother?”

Tuffnut didn't bother taking on an accent. “Well, with the whole visiting tribe and Hiccup situation, our usual plans and pranks are out. Nobody’s on a schedule, and just pranking a random person is old hat, or old helmet. It’s stupid and old, whatever.”

Ruffnut gave a glance up to the rafters. “We could climb around up there again.”

Tuff shook his head. “Nah. I don't feel like it. Besides, stuff is probably going on elsewhere of which we know nothing, which in a few moments will end up coming here and providing some absolutely amazing entertainment.”

“So we wait?” Ruffnut asked.

“And so we wait!” Tuffnut declared.

In unison, the two of them turned and flopped down onto the table.

A few tables away, Astrid shook her head. “You two are crazy.”

“We know!” Ruff exclaimed.

“It’s so fun,” Tuff added.


Hiccup breathed raspily from his previous screeching; Stoick could hear the wheezing from where he stood seven paces away, by the larger, cowering Night Fury.

His son, in the form of a dragon, resumed his explanation, or defense, or whatever he was saying about the dragon that just attacked him . “Thah, he wass thrying thoh--”

“Is it referring to you as its father?” Dagur asked.

Stoick had to stop that line of thought. If Dagur realized one of the dragons was actually Hiccup , then… well… Stoick had no idea. He was certain it would be bad, though. “A talking dragon? I’m sure you’re just hearing things Dagur. It’s just been growling at us!”

As if on cue, several of the Berserkers piped up with their own opinions. “I heard it speak!” “Aye! Me too!” “It sounded like such strange speech!”

Dagur frowned, his look taking on one of consideration. Oh no. Stoick thought. “Dagur, wait, we can explain--”

Dagur turned on Stoick. “What is there to explain, exactly? That your son is a dragon? That you lied to me about why we were capturing them? You weren’t even planning to kill one of them, were you!”

“Well… Ah, no. Tha’ part was my idea,” Gobber freely admitted. Had Stoick not been in the middle of very intense discussions that could steer the future of his tribe, he’d have slapped Gobber right then and there.

“Dagur, the situation was very complicated. I didn't want you doing something we couldn’t reverse--”

“So that’s why you kept protecting the Night Furies! There wasn’t even a ceremony to turn your son back, was there?” Dagur was incensed now, swinging his ax about to punctuate his words.

“Ah… No. Also my par’ of tha deception,” Gobber said.

“Gobber!” Stoick snapped. Why in Thor’s flowing beard is he being so open about this?!

Hiccup looked like he was still several steps behind on the conversation. “Waih, you were flanning thoh kill one off uss?!”

“This is SO glorious ! Who’s the other Night Fury, then?” Dagur demanded.

Before Stoick could cut in and try to salvage the situation that Gobber had so completely fouled up, Gobber broke in again, “The larger Night Fury is actually operated by the Thorston twins! They coul’ never stay in character, though, so I soundproofed the whole interior of their beastie. They’re probably bickerin’ in there right now, tryin’ to decide whetha’ ta attack someone else!”

Wait... what? Stoick pondered this new development. Operated by the twins?

Oh. Gobber, you’re a genius.

“I would’ve preferred to get Astrid or Snotlout to operate that one, but Gobber couldn’t make that larger frame look realistic without two people,” Stoick added. Gobber nodded in what to the Berserkers looked like agreement, but to Stoick was really encouragement.

Hiccup blinked, seeming to understand. “Y-yeah, efen this smaller thing iss kintha harh thoh mofe.”

Dagur looked like a kid on Snoggletog morning. “You guys did all of this, just to play a joke on me?”

“Aye! It was Stoick’s idea. Ah, he’s a joker, tha’ Stoick,” Gobber said, playfully.

“We had to make sure you were as bloodthirsty as you claimed,” Stoick explained, “We can hardly have another Oswald the Agreeable on our hands, now can we?”

“Oh, this is amaaaaaazing ! How did you do the fire breathing?!”

“Oh… Tha’ was… Umm…” Gobber trailed off.

“Nighthmare Salifa!” Hiccup exclaimed.

Dagur suddenly looked skeptical. “And you got unlit Nightmare saliva from…?”

Gobber and Hiccup both looked lost. Stoick had an idea, though. “We keep a few live dragons cooped up in the Kill Ring for trainin’ purposes. We added a secret door to the Nightmare’s cage so we could sneak in while it’s asleep.”

Dagur’s one-track mind took over. “A Nightmare?! Can I go kill it?”

Stoick was about to say yes. Gobber looked to be about to back him up. “No!” Hiccup exclaimed.

“And why not, exactly?” Dagur questioned, mood souring at once again not being allowed to kill things.

“B-because we’ve feen hafing thifficulthy cathshing thraghonss lathely?” Hiccup said, though he sounded like he was asking rather than telling. Difficulty catching dragons? Hiccup, that's the weakest excuse I’ve ever heard out of you!

Gobber came to the rescue again. “However! The paws of these suits have little packets of dragon blood in ‘em! How about we cut one of ‘em open and sign tha’ treaty?”

Dagur looked upset but he acquiesced. “Fine. Let's take Hiccup and sign your stupid treaty. This deception thing has been fun to unravel, but I’m sure there are more interesting places to be.” With a dramatic shrug, he began to walk off toward the great hall.

Stoick turned to his scaly son, ignoring the Berserker men following their chief. His mind was a whirlwind of emotions, and he wasn’t sure which was winning out, or even which should win out. “Hiccup, we’re going to talk about your breaking character later. Make sure the twins stay with Gobber while we’re in the hall.”

“We’re brinhing Tho- them intho the hall?”

“No. That dragon is staying right there. It’s bad enough having one Night Fury around.” Stoick turned to Gobber. “Make sure the twins stay right here. I have my son’s prank to clean up.”


Toothless, things are complicated and I don’t have time to explain. You need to stay right here.

I blinked, then looked around at the wary circle of still very armed humans. Some of them were following that tall thin one with the strange mountain vein claw, but many were staying behind. Stay? Here? With armed humans? While you’re going who knows where with that tall thin one that keeps trying to kill me and the massive alpha that keeps protecting me?

Yeah. Thank you for summing that up, Sapling said. I couldn’t tell whether he was joking.

That was not summing it up! That was me pointing out all the reasons I don’t want you to go!

The fast version is, that tall thin human is a rival alpha. We’re trying to trick him into leaving so that I can negotiate with the massive alpha for our safety.

You lost my confidence at “rival alpha” and “trick,” I complained. The massive alpha barked something and Sapling looked his way with concern.

Look, I have to do this. Stay near the one-armed, one-legged human!

But what about… I trailed off. Sapling was already bounding after the massive human, looking all the world like a normal Night Fury. It was only when he caught up with and fell into step beside the massive red-furred alpha that I saw his tail shaking more than necessary for balance.

He was shivering again, already.

I whined and began to slowly follow. A human nearby to me chirped. I looked over at him, then paid more attention when I realized two of his limbs were made out of trees and stones. He came to stand between me and where Sapling disappeared over the crest of a hill, waving his upper limb(s) and humming and hissing along in human speech. I growled at him but he didn’t budge, only lifting his left appendage in a threatening manner. Said appendage resembled one of the mountain vein bludgeons that a few of the other humans encircling me carried.

I trusted Sapling. I had to trust Sapling. He’ll come back, right?

If these humans let my Sapling freeze, I will kill every single one of them.


I caught up with my dad in a matter of moments. The problem was the rest of the walk to the great hall.

The long, outdoor, agonizingly slow walk.

I tried to pass my dad, to go ahead to the great hall. He stopped me with one massive hand. “Hiccup, we shouldn’t let Dagur get too close a look at you. Hang back here.”

That would not do. I was shivering already, and we were only a quarter of the way there! I whispered to my dad, “Thah, thiss ffirefrooffing thoesn’h thraf heah fery well.”

My dad whispered back, “You’re a dragon. You can take a summer’s day of cold.”

“No, frethy sserthain I can’h.”

“Yes, you can, and you will.”

“Thah, I really think you shoulh listhen thoh me on thiss one. I really can’h thake--”

Stoick exploded, “Thor almighty son, I have enough problems to deal with without your damn complaining! About the only problem I don’t have right now is keeping my village fed!”

Dagur, ahead of us both, looked back and slowed his pace. “Well hey, sounds like this isn’t the perfect father and son relationship after all. Pretty hard having an heir so weak he can barely use a dragon-shaped contraption to gain prestige, right?”

I was thankful I didn't have skin anymore, or I’m sure the blood rushing to my cheeks (and distributing more of my precious heat to the air) would’ve given away some measure of the discomfort I felt.

Then I felt something else. As Dagur slowed to come alongside us, my dad gave me a shove forward. He wanted me to pass Dagur and go ahead to the great hall!

Forgetting about my embarrassment from a moment ago, I shot forward and swept past Dagur and his men. I burst through the doors of the great hall and jumped clear from the landing of the doors to the fire pit in the middle of the room. (I was quite proud of that.) I took up residence atop the flames in the middle of the fire pit, then met the incredulous stares of Astrid, Fishlegs, Snotlout, the twins, and -- further away in the recesses of the kitchen near the back -- Mildew.

“Uhh… Hi guysss?”


Chapter End Notes

Had to cut the title of this one because it was too long. The original title was “Chapter 14: A Suit, a Shell, a Boy in Hel”
I had no idea I'd use this animatronic deception until I did it. Literally, I got to this battle with no clue how Hiccup and Toothless would escape it.
I strolled in circles for a while thinking about all the people there, then I realized that -- while Hiccup was best equipped to come up with something like that, some of it must have rubbed off on Gobber while Hiccup was the apprentice.
Hence, Gobber came up with all that.

Ready The Ships

Chapter 15 : Ready The Ships


“Hiccup!” Astrid exploded, “Does your dad know you’re here?”

“Yess, buh ith iss ssortha comflicatheh. I thon’h hafe thime thoh eckssflain becausse he and Thahur will fe here ssoon.”

“Okay, better question, why are you in the middle of the great hall fire pit?” Snotlout asked.

“You’re kinda blocking out the light. Makes it dark in here,” Tuffnut noted.
“I like the darkness,” Ruff agreed.

“My ffurnacse iss sthill-- Oh Ghods! Hithe the thwins!”

“Do what with us?” Tuffnut asked.

“You’re suffoseth thoh be Thoothlesss righth now. Thon’h assk, husth hithe! Thon’h leth Thahur or hiss men ssee you!”

“Hiding is my specialty!” Ruffnut said.
“No, it’s my specialty. Y’know what I’m better at than hiding, though?” Tuff countered.
“What?” Ruff asked, misdirected by her brother away from an argument, for once.
“I’m better at hithing,” Tuffnut said, intentionally matching Hiccup’s mispronunciation. Then he was off, sprinting toward one of the walls and climbing a near invisible ladder in the woodwork there.
“No fair! That’s the same thing as hiding!” Ruffnut shouted, following her brother up into the rafters.

Fishlegs frowned in puzzlement. “But, wait… Dagur doesn’t live here. How would he know who the twins--”

The door to the great hall swung open with a bang as Dagur kicked through. “Alright! Let's sign this stupid treaty so I can leave these animatronic dragon contraptions behind and go after some real glory.”

Astrid looked over at me. Silently, she mouthed out a question, “ Animatronic?

I gave my best impression of a human shrug, then turned my attention back to the negotiations between Dagur and my dad.

“Of course, Dagur. Here’s the treaty and--”

Dagur snatched the treaty out of my dad’s hand and strode right up to the edge of the stone ring encircling the fire pit. “One of your hands, now.”

“Faws,” I corrected, incorrectly.

“Paws! Whatever,” Dagur complained, “Give it here already.”

Cautiously, I sat up and handed him my right forepaw. As soon as it was clear of the flames, he grabbed my arm and jerked me forward. He drew a dagger from somewhere in his belt and--


He stabbed directly down into my palm, rather than cutting across the surface as I’d expected. The blade pushed past scale, hide and flesh to slice through bone and muscle. My throat clenched with the sudden, unexpected pain. Thankfully, my automatic reaction helped me suppress the whimper that followed immediately afterward as he pulled the blade free. I plunged the bleeding paw into the fire to cauterize it.

With a quick motion, Dagur scratched his name into the paper with the dagger coated in my blood . Then he held it out handle-first for my father to do the same. Reluctantly, my dad took it and added his name.

“Great! So, now it’s signed. As the weaker tribe, you get to keep the physical evidence… Yada… Yada… I’m done here.” Dagur began walking toward the door.

“You’re departing already?” Stoick asked.

“The last two days traveling here, and today, have been total wastes on the killing things front. I’m going someplace... exciting ! Someplace that would solve a lot of problems were everything there to suddenly die violently. ” Dagur began laughing with manic excitement.

“Where, exactly?” Stoick asked.

“Why do you care? You got your treaty. Until we meet again, Stoick!” With his final words, Dagur slammed the door to the great hall.

An elderly voice squeaked from the back of the hall, “What. Just. Happened?”

Stoick turned his glare to Mildew, who was cowering behind an overturned table in the back of the hall. With a careful precision hiding a sea of barely controlled emotions, Stoick set the still dripping dagger onto the stone ring, next to the treaty.

“That. Was. Awesome!” Tuffnut crowed from the rafters.
“Dagur stabbed Hiccup and Hiccup didn't even blink!” Ruffnut added.
“Did you see how his eyes went all slit-like? So cool,” Tuffnut said.

Stoick broke his concentration to look into the rafters for the source of the calls. His attention was refocused on Mildew when the old man croaked out another question. “Tha- That beast is Hiccup?!”

“How many of you teens are in here?” Stoick asked.

“All five of us, and your son, sir,” Astrid answered.

“Mildew, you are accused of treason against Berk and the tribe of Hairy Hooligans by the hope--”

Mildew exploded. “You can’t be serious! Bringing a dragon to accuse me?!”

“What say you in your defense?” Stoick asked, stone-faced.

“This is preposterous!” Mildew cried.

“Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, was the account you gave in writing in your journal a truthful recounting of the events, as you say they occurred?”

“Yess,” I said, still trying to figure out what was going on.

“As chief of the tribe of Hairy Hooligans, I hereby exile Mildew the Menace, with five brave Vikings as my witne--”

“What in Hel’s realm? This is ridiculous Stoick!” Mildew complained.

Fishlegs counted the people in the room on his fingers. “Actually, Mildew, this is a legal Viking trial…”

Stoick’s expression became even stonier. “I won’t abide spies in my village.” I watched as he picked up the knife with my blood on it and began to approach Mildew’s makeshift table hiding spot.

“Stoick! Wait! You can’t immediately attack an exile! You’ve gotta give me time to run!”

Stoick stood over the cowering Mildew, then held out the knife, handle first. “I believe this belongs to a certain departing chieftain. If you run, you might catch up with him.”

With a yelp, Mildew took the knife and bolted for the doors of the great hall, disappearing outside. A small sheep baaed and trotted after, just barely slipping through the door. I watched him go with no small amount of trepidation. My dad was trying to solve all of his problems right now: exiling spies, finishing treaties… What was I? A problem? Or a solution?


Waiting for Sapling was agonizing, like sitting on sharp rocks. I couldn’t keep still and eventually succumbed to pacing in a circle within the bounds set by my confining guards. I’d freed myself from the rest of my restraints. A few of the guards complained as I did that, but that two-of-four limbed human calmed them down.

So now I waited. And waited.

Then, abruptly, I heard something. A high note, as faint as the wind, followed by a sound like two trees colliding. The two-real-limbed man looked away from me, down the hill, seemingly staring at the second noise, which I couldn't see.

I did spot the massive alpha human approaching up the hill. He looked… aggressive, not at all the calm human that had left with the tall thin rival-alpha person. The approaching human barked something out, loud and commanding. The other humans, already agitated, raised their weapons. No! Sapling said --

Two of the humans, ones that had previously only watched me, leaped atop my back, holding onto my remaining spines and keeping my wings folded with their weight. I tried to throw them off but -- wow -- they weighed even more than the two that attacked me first on the island of rock. Worse, my wings were at the wrong angle for snapping open.

More humans piled on and I stumbled forward onto the ground. The two-limbed human watched, seemingly surprised by his alpha’s order. Said alpha pushed him out of the way and stood over my pinned form.

What did Sapling-- What did Hiccup do? Where is he?! I growled. The alpha barked something at two-limb, who departed quickly.

The alpha looked down at me, hate in his eyes. There was something else there too, something vengeful. A promise of blood.

Sapling… What did you do?


Stoick’s head swirled with emotions. This was his son. This was a dragon. This was an ally. This was the enemy. This was a friend. This was an infiltrator.

He didn’t have room for emotions. He was a chief, he had to protect his own. A dragon, no matter its relation, was not one of his own . The question was, what was its intent?

Stoick stood at the edge of the fire pit and observed his scaly son carefully. He looked beaten, covered in layers of grime and ash. His eyes were switching between round, hopeful eyes and, whenever he glanced down at Stoick’s hands, frightened slits. Stoick looked down at his hands and saw that one of them still had a few flecks of blood on it. Hiccup’s blood.

Of all the things Stoick knew and could see, one thing stuck out to him: One bit of information the journal hadn’t covered that could mean everything. He spoke flatly, “I read your journal.”

“I know, thah. I wass flanning thoh leafe ih in the housse anyway. I fighureh thah woulh ekcssflain eferything anh… I thunno, I ghuess--”

“Did you do… This… to yourself?” Hiccup was the one who could activate the magic in Alvin’s book, Hiccup had said. If Alvin had had any others, he wouldn’t need Hiccup alive. If so, the only way a bit of magic that could have transformed him into a dragon could’ve been activated was if…

“Well, uhh… Yess anh no, I mean ih wass a comflicatheh ssithuation and… Look, they were going thoh kill Thoothlesss!”

The dragon? The dragon? “The dragon?! That’s what you were worried about? You turned yourself into a dragon to protect a dragon?!” There it was. His son had not just supported the damn beast, he’d become one to protect it. He… He’d given up his humanity for these monsters.

“Ih wassn’h like thah! I mean, ih wass, buh I thithn’h choosse my thranssfformathion. Alfin forsseh me thoh afther I failtheh on one off hiss men… Oh, thiss iss sso messseh uf.”

Stoick was hardly listening anymore. His son, his son had given up literally his human form to protect a damn dragon ! “How could you do this? To Berk? To humanity? What-- why? Why didn’t I see some sort of sign?” Frustrated and confused, Stoick began pacing before the fire pit.

Hiccup, his scale covered, traitorous son, watched his movements, seemingly frightened. “Thah, thraghonss are justh ass ssmarh ass we are, ssmarther, efen. They’re feofle thoh. Things haffeneh: I’m a thraghon now. Fuh now we hafe an offorthunithy thoh enh this war!”

“An opportunity ?” Stoick questioned the sanity of such an idea. “How many people will end up hurt or killed from this idea, Hiccup? Look at everything you’ve cost Berk so far!”

Hiccup withered under his father’s anger, but continued, voice only slightly subdued, “Thraghonss thon’h wanh thoh raih uss, thah. They tho ih fekausse they hafe thoh. There’s a thraghon on their isslanh, conthrolling them--”

Stoick caught that bit, even through his anger. “Their island?! So you’ve been to the nest?”

“Whah? No! Thoothlesss tholh me afouth ih. A fih. Fuh thah, thiss thraghon iss--”

Stoick stopped his pacing, rounding on Hiccup. “Your Night Fury friend could lead us to the nest?”

“Yess, fuh thah, this thraghon--”

Stoick turned, walking toward the door to the great hall. The teens looked on in various expressions of shock at his treatment of his son.

“Thah, where are you hoing? Thah?”

Stoick didn't answer, marching resolutely for the door. Hiccup jumped out of the fire pit, trailing ashes after his dad.

“Thah! Thiss thraghon litherally conthrols the minths of thraghonss! Ith iss like nothing you’fe efer sseen! Thah, lissthen thoh m--

Stoick turned on one foot, leading the turn with his fist. His meaty knuckles collided with his son’s scaly head, not a quarter pace behind him. The dragon was sent sprawling to the ground, stunned from the blow. “ You’re not my son. ” Stoick spat the words with venom and the scaly traitor didn’t even try to rise. Stoick looked up at the teens, minus the twins still hiding in the rafters. “Astrid, keep it here.”

Stoick turned and shouldered through the door to the outside. As the sunlight poured in, the dragon inside began a quiet, keening cry of sorrow. Stoick slammed the door loudly, cutting off the sound. He could deal with this traitor’s actions another time. For now, he finally had a way to avenge Val.

So many years he’d searched for the nest . All that remained now was capturing a flightless, surrounded Night Fury.

I’ll find that Stormcutter, Val. And I’ll tear out its Hel-fueled heart.


Stoick was mad about something, that much Gobber could tell. Well… mad was probably a bit of an understatement. He seemed almost like a Berserker on his way to settle a blood debt: speaking shortly, frowning…

Actually, come to think of it, this was pretty normal behavior for Stoick. The part that was abnormal was making all of these decisions without consulting his council first.

Gobber mused on this some more as he retrieved the dragon-carrying cart built a few months back. At the time it’d seemed like a good idea for bringing in more Deadly Nadders for training, and hopefully, it’d work on a Night Fury.

Gobber sighed as he laid eyes on the cart. Of course it’d work better than intended; it was one of Hiccup’s designs -- designs that the lad hadn’t taken credit for. Of course, all of those seemed to work just fine, and Gobber got all the praise for it. He honestly felt bad for the lad, that he’d accidentally taken so much praise away from him.

No time for that now, though. Something serious was going down, and he had a job to do. Gobber stepped into the shop and grabbed the satchel he kept of spare undies. Attaching it to his belt, he returned to the smithy’s back area. Removing the brakes, Gobber drew the cart out of the area behind the smithy and across the village square.

Gods, he hoped Stoick knew what he was doing.


Stoick led his men efficiently; I had to give him that. In the remainder of the afternoon and on into sunset, a dozen boats were filled with Vikings and the supplies for a weeklong voyage. He was taking them on a nest hunt, and this time -- now that he had Toothless to guide him -- he’d get there. Only, he had no idea what was waiting for him. Her, whatever kind of dragon She was, would rip him to shreds.

And it was all my fault.

As I watched, the fleet of ships disappeared past the northwest horizon. It didn’t take some magical power to say that most of those ships weren’t coming back. The question was whether any ships were coming back, or if my choices had indirectly doomed my dad and everyone who followed him. And Toothless.

Cold again, I pulled my head back in from the great hall entrance and crawled back to the fire pit, legs moving lethargically. Astrid watched as I slithered across the floor, her expression unreadable. I didn’t want to take care of myself. Hel, the first time I’d had my head out the doors I almost let myself lie there and freeze. Something, some masochistic need to see what happened next, brought me back to the fire and kept me alive.

Snotlout, freed from mess hall duties by the paucity of Vikings ashore on Berk, had gone home. The twins, too, disappeared, likely to cause trouble for the few Vikings remaining in their unique way. Fishlegs was sitting in a corner, reading through the dragon manual. Astrid followed her orders and watched me. She was reluctant to let me look out the doors earlier, but after I had made no move to escape, she had relaxed.

She continued to watch me as I settled in on the fire. I screwed up. I screwed up everything , I moaned to the room. Fishlegs startled out of his reading but returned to it when he saw it was only me moping.

Astrid left her seat at one of the tables and approached the fire pit. “You must feel horrible. You’ve lost everything. Your father, your tribe, your only friend…”

“Thank you, ffor ssumming thah uf,” I snarked, “I hathn’h nothicseh.” Astrid sat on the stone surrounding the fire pit, looking at me. I avoided her gaze. Why couldn’t I have just drowned when Snotlout threw me off that cliff? It would’ve been easier for everyone.

“Mind speaking in Norse? I don't have such a great understanding of growling, warbling, and humming,” Astrid snarked back.

“Oh, whah? You wanh thoh make more fun off my missery?” Astrid looked like she was about to say something, opening her mouth. I continued, cutting her off, “Fine. I wass jhusth ssaying thah ih woulth’ve feen fether for eferyone if I hah throwneh when Ssnothlouh thrieh thoh kill me!”

My rant echoed around the room, causing Fishlegs to glance up nervously from his reading material. I let my head drop back into the slowly dying fire. Funny. I mused. The things that are keeping me alive are all slowly dying themselves.

“But you didn’t. You wanted to live,” Astrid said, quietly.

“Look ah all the h- gh- ghood thah’ss thone,” I muttered. Damn everything.

Silence fell across the room for several minutes, apart from Fishlegs turning another page in the dragon manual and the cracklings of the fire. “You know, any other Viking would’ve killed that Night Fury friend of yours. Why didn’t you?” She paused, waiting for my response. When it didn't come, she asked again, “Why didn’t you?”

I chuffed, sending a shower of sparks and ashes against the stone rim of the fire pit. “I thon’h know. I coulthn’h.”

“That’s not an answer,” Astrid stated.

“Why iss thiss imforthanh thoh you all off a ssuthen?” I asked, lifting my head to meet her gaze.

“Because I want to remember what you say, right now,” Astrid emphasized her words by swinging her legs over the rock wall and into the fire pit, into what had to be uncomfortable heat, giving me her full attention.

I looked away. “Ffor the lofe off Thor-- I wass a cowarh! I wass weak! I wass ssick off ffighthing my own faththless. I woulthn’h kill a thrahon!” I glared up at her, daring her to continue the interrogation.

Astrid tilted her head. “You said wouldn’t that time.”

I dropped my head into the fire, letting the sparks shoot out from under my chin over Astrid’s feet. She quickly pulled them out of the fire pit, then swung her legs out and stepped away. I hissed wordlessly, then spoke. “Ffine! Woulthn’h! Three hunthreh yearss, sefen henerathions, anh I’m the firsth Fiking who woulthn’h kill a thrahon!”

She stared at me, frowning. “At least there was a second…” She was referencing herself, I knew, but I couldn't summon the energy to care.

“Jhusth, leafe me alone.” I whispered the request. She heard it, frowned, turned, and stalked off. I was about ready to doze off when she suddenly returned, bearing two large chunks of firewood.

I blinked up at her, and she threw the firewood at me, hitting me on the snout and neck. I whimpered. She spoke, harshly, “Hiccup, these aren't your battles anymore. Stop giving up! Stoick is out there about to get nineteen out of every twenty Berkians killed! “Toothless” is out there with them! Think of something! That’s what you do: contraptions, ideas, solutions! Solve this!”

I stood, raising my neck over the edge of the fire pit so we were face to face. “Whah tho you frofose I tho? I’m freessing , Asthrih. My fothy- fbothy- is usselesss. Whah am I suffostheh thoh tho?”

Astrid looked crestfallen. It was like she had truly hoped I could solve this. “I… I don’t know. I just thought--”

“Thoughth I coulh fress a mahic fook anh jhusth fficks eferything? Athone ffor my missthakess with suffissient efforh? Thoothlesss--” My voice cracked, even my draconic vocal chords failing me after the harrowing day, “Thoothlesss thoughth thah thoo. Look ah whah I’fe thone ffor him.” I turned around, bringing the conversation to a close. Astrid stood by the edge of the fire pit, looking lost. I ignored her, instead settling in to sleep away the night.


Stoick stared ahead toward the dark horizon. At their current speed, Gods willing, they’d make Helheim’s gate by nightfall tomorrow. They’d lay anchor a good distance from the fog, rest for the night, then move in for the assault at dawn. With any luck, the dragons wouldn’t see them coming.

Luck. When was the last time he’d had any of that? Too long ago. Far too long.

Odin, help me and my men in the coming battle. Thor, lend us your strength. Frigg--

His silent prayer was cut short as the dragon behind him rattled its chains, moaning even through its muzzle. The damn beast, it couldn't even give him peace and quiet to prepare! He looked back at it and saw that it was shaking its head, the flaps on the sides of its head held flat. It seemed to be agitated, fearful of something.

“Shut up back there, Devil,” Stoick hissed at the dragon. It quieted, but didn’t stop shaking its head as if to clear it. Stoick growled at the noises but turned back to the horizon.

I’ll get revenge for you, Val. I promise.


The Outcast medicine woman had seen nothing like this. Every few minutes she spent away from former chief Alvin, another scale appeared. One time she marked the spot where she suspected the next would appear, and when it was covered over by the scale, the mark was still there on the scale. However, unlike on human skin, a quick rub washed the mark right out. It was unbelievable.

“How’s ol’ Al’ doin’?” A gruff voice asked from the door to her hut. She sighed. It was the new chieftain, come to check in again. This man had taken over immediately after Alvin’s collapse and he was generally managing to hold the island together. Barely. Depending on one’s definition. If the medicine woman had to guess, they’d be out of food before winter even set in. Still, morale was higher than ever. She couldn’t tell if that was from the increased ration sizes or the jokes on their new chief’s name.

“No closer to dead than the last time you visited, Numbnuts.” It was hard even for her to keep a straight face when using his actual, given name, but he preferred it. Men .

“That’s excellent news, Meddie. I do really hope the old man pulls through.” Numbnuts chuckled at his own sarcasm, then turned and left.

The medicine woman shook her head to clear it of the interruption, then returned to her work. She placed her hand against Alvin’s neck, or what remained of it, then jotted down some notes.

Elapsed time: twenty-four hours.

Neck size decrease: three fingerwidths.

Leg length decrease (right): none.

Leg length decrease (left): four hand breadths.

Torso changes: rounding, movement of internal volume toward shoulders. Scales.

Arm length decrease (both): five hand breadths (each)

Prognosis: Dragon transformation. (Loss of limbs suggests Whispering Death shape? Odd, has white scales.)


The twins sat on the edge of the sea cliffs, looking out over the deserted docks as the sun rose steadily above the horizon.

“Well, we could knock down that crane they use to pull fish off the boats,” Tuffnut said, after a long period of silence.

“Where’s the fun in that? Nobody around to get upset about it,” Ruffnut complained.

“Oh. Right. That does take all the fun out of it,” Tuffnut agreed.

Ruffnut sighed, kicking her legs and dislodging a few loose stones from the cliff. Life got so boring so fast after the chief caught Hiccup.

Tuff brought up another suggestion, “Hiccup’s a dragon. We could go dump water on him or something.”

“Which would do what, exactly? He’s a Night Fury. He might not even be upset by water!”

“Why don’t we ask Fishface?”

“And listen to him blather on about dragons for an hour? Please, kill me now.” To emphasize her words, Ruff fell backward onto the grass, leaving only her legs over the cliff edge.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Tuff looking between her and the cliff. “That could be arranged…”

Ruff didn’t feel like their usual roughhousing. “Try it and I’ll grow wings, fly back up, and finish what that Terror started on your nose.”

Tuffnut sighed and returned to his dejected staring.

Suddenly, Ruffnut sat up. “Wait, Hiccup’s a dragon now, right?”

“Uhh, no duh? That’s why there are like fifteen people on the island, apart from us kids. Hiccup went all dragon-y and his dad--”

“Why is he the only one?” Ruff asked.

“Uhh…” Tuffnut trailed off, and Ruff knew he totally didn’t have an answer.

“Maybe there are other people-dragons!”

“Okay, I think that’s just stupid. Dragons aren’t people. If they were, why would they try to kill us?”

“I didn’t think of that…” Ruffnut trailed off. “Still, though… maybe it's like us and the Outcasts? They’re the Outcasts because they’re dragons! We have food, they raid us…”

“Sis, they can fly, and stun dozens of fish at a time. Why would they want our food?”

“Well… Er…” Ruffnut struggled to counter that, unwilling to let her brother win the argument. Nonetheless, there was nothing left to say. “Fine. Whatever. I guess Hiccup is the only person-dragon.”

The following silence continued for several minutes until Tuffnut broke it again. “So… what else could we do?”

“I say we go to the great hall and wait for someone else to come up with something to do.”

Tuffnut rolled his eyes and fell backward onto the ground. “Ugh. That could take ages!”

“Then we dump water on Hiccup.”

He sat up quickly. “Wait, that was my idea!”

“Was not!” Ruffnut pouted.

“Was too! I came up with that right after the crane one!”

Ruffnut leaped to her feet and began sprinting toward the great hall. “If I do it first, it’s my idea!”

“No fair!” Tuffnut shouted, his voice growing quieter as Ruffnut escaped, “That idea is mine! Don’t you dare annoy Hiccup before me!”


Snotlout kicked a bucket as he walked through the middle of town. Everything was deserted, like the people had given up and left. Berk was practically abandoned, as every battle-ready Viking (read: everyone but the sick, insane, kids, and Gothi,) had gone off to the nest. The dragon nest.

What if they didn’t come back? What if everyone died? With Hiccup a dragon, Snotlout was technically heir. He thought. Probably. Did Viking laws have clauses for that? Whatever. How could he lead a tribe of like ten decrepit Vikings and four teenagers?

And his draconian cousin.

What was the deal with that anyway? The Outcasts had magic? Magic ? Sure as kids they’d heard tales of magic in legends, but those were stories. Fiction. This- this was real.

With damaged pride, he remembered the Night Fury’s claws literally around his throat. Too real .

He saw another piece of wood in his path and kicked it. This piece, a plank of wood, was far less kind to his foot as it remained firmly in place. “Agh!”

He bounced on one foot, cursing Hiccup and his stupid friendship with a Night Fury for ruining everything. He looked at what the plank he kicked was attached to and found himself looking up the bridge to the kill ring.

“Stupid dragons! Why do you attack us? You guys just get yourselves killed over and over again!”

His shout echoed off the wall behind the kill ring, distorted by the rock face. No other sounds followed it. He looked up at the sun, now directly overhead, for some kind of guidance.

He found none. Stomping on the plank he’d previously stubbed his toe on -- for good measure -- he turned around and began stalking back toward the great hall.

Maybe the others were up to something.


Dragons, People. People, Dragons

Chapter 16 : Dragons, People. People, Dragons


Fishlegs turned another page in the dragon manual. He’d read it three times over since Hiccup burst into the hall, four since the incident -- if Astrid coming a hair’s breadth from killing Hiccup could be called that -- in the cove. He didn’t have any need to; he knew what every entry said by rote memorization. The one thing that always made him feel comfortable, though -- that never demanded anything of him -- was reading. He had books at home too, many, on topics from botany to fishing. None of those books seemed… relevant… to the present situation.

Fishlegs stole another glance up at Hiccup. He looked… beaten, worn. At that precise moment, he was asleep in the fire, looking more like a massive, unlit log than a predatorial, scaly killer.

He returned to the book.  “Night Fury. Speed: Unknown. Size: Unknown. Never engage this dragon. Your only chance: hide and pray it does not find you.”

Every entry had an “extremely dangerous; kill on sight” attached to it, almost like a back cover to each description. Why were these dragons so much more dangerous, that Vikings weren't supposed to engage them?

“Assthrih, fleasse. Thrusth me”

Cunning? Skill? Persuasion? Did Night Furies talk their victims to death? Probably not, as no one else had seen one and lived to tell the tale. They always attacked at a distance and avoided being seen.

Then again, maybe Hiccup was just different as a dragon, too. Would Hiccup turn on them, given a raid or other ample opportunity? What if he tricked Stoick into sending everyone away from Berk so--

There was a sudden splattering sound, and Fishlegs looked up from his reading material. As he watched, a second stream of something fell from the rafters of the great hall and landed on Hiccup.

Hiccup jumped up, then shook himself to dry off. With a low growl, he looked up toward the ceiling and the water’s source.

Oh no. Hiccup’s going feral! Fishlegs squeaked in terror. With a quick motion, he grabbed the dragon manual off the table and upended it, taking cover behind the meager wooden barricade.

Hiccup, on the other side of the wood somewhere, gave a roar. Fishlegs turned around awkwardly behind the table and watched through a crack. Hiccup continued to growl upward as Astrid approached him, ax drawn.

“Ruffnut! Tuffnut! Which of you was that?!” Astrid shouted, startling Hiccup. He turned and looked at her, blinking a few times as his aggression faded drastically.

“She did it!” A female voice shouted from some indeterminate location above.
“Yeah! She did!” A male voice agreed.

Hiccup began growling again, but Astrid cut him off. “I’d appreciate it if I didn’t have to tell the chief I let his son kill you two while he was away!”

Suddenly, like a switch being flicked, Hiccup swapped out of growls and into Norse. “--you thwo thoing?! I thon’h know whah I am anymore! I mighth’fe hurh you ghuys!”

Astrid blinked in surprise. “Hiccup, Norse.”

“Oh.” The scaly dragon muttered something else. Then he looked back up. “Whah were you thwo thinking?!”

“It was her idea!” Tuffnut shouted down.
“Nuh uh! You had it first!”
“Did not! You threw the first water, and you came up with all the ideas like the dragon people!”
“You came up with the prank, though, idiot!”
“I thought the first person to throw the water came up with it…”

Fishlegs was barely following any of this, but one bit caught his attention. “Wait, guys, ‘dragon people’?” He shrank back behind the table as Hiccup’s creepy green eyes locked onto him.

“Yeah! Like Hiccup but not,” Tuff explained.
“Like Hiccup, but a different person,” Ruff clarified.

Hiccup shook his head in disbelief. Astrid shrugged her shoulders in confusion. Fishlegs continued to be very confused.

Suddenly, Hiccup paused mid head-shake. “Thraghon feofle…”

“What?” Astrid asked.

Hiccup looked up at her. “I hafe an ithea!”

Fishlegs looked between them. A what? What just happened?


I looked up at Astrid and spoke. “I hafe an ithea!”

“What- what kind of idea?” she asked.

It was stupid and probably wouldn't work, but it was certainly worth a shot. It’d be nice to have someone else to talk to without sounding like I was chewing on rocks. If they agreed to help us, there might actually be a chance at ending this war before everyone from Berk ended up dead.

I doubted perfect Viking Astrid would like the idea, though, given it entailed disobeying the last order my da… er… the chief gave her before leaving.

“Thoothlesss anh I are thrahonss anh can thalk thoh one another, righh? Anh then Thoothlesss wass thalking thoh Safaghe… Think abouh ih! Whah if I can thalk thoh more thraghonss!”

“Wait… you can talk to dragons… uhh…” Tuffnut trailed off, unsure where the idea was heading.
Ruffnut’s face lit up. “You can talk to dragons! Like, make them into our friends and stuff!”
Somehow, Tuffnut caught up on the connection between dragons and friends. In a moment, he was scrambling his way toward the ladder down. “I’m going to go apologize for dumping water on Hiccup before you sis!”
Ruffnut leaped after him, grabbing his ankles and causing him to faceplant on the beam. “Don’t you dare!”

Astrid heaved an exasperated sigh. “Hiccup, the nest is two days voyage away, at least, and the adults are ahead of us! Where are we going to find more dragons?”

A grin split my scaly face, showing off two rows of toothless gums. “Thraghon thraining, anyone?”

She blanched. “The kill ring?!”

“Yeah!” I nodded. “There are ssthill thrahonss there... righh?”

Ruffnut and Tuffnut finally arrived at the fire pit’s edge. “There are dragons there… but--” Tuff began.
“We put one there!” Ruff declared proudly.
“Oh no, that one was all me. And my face.”
“Was not! I held the bucket down!”
“With your stupidly fat behind!”

“Ghuyss!” I roared. There was a metal clang as Ruffnut's fist collided with Tuffnut's helmet, sending him face-first into the fire pit’s stone ring.

“Yeah?” she asked.

“Whah wass the ‘fuh’ earlier?”

Astrid and Ruffnut shared a look. “The what?”

I let out a chuff of air. “Thuffnuh saih there were thrahonss, f- fb- buth … Whah?”

“Ohh!” Ruffnut said, “But! They probably haven’t eaten in like two days.”

I stared at her like her brother’s head was suddenly attached to her. “Thwo thayss?” I asked, incredulous.

“Yeah! Gobber is supposed to take care of that, but he was busy trying to talk the Berserkers into capturing you and out of killing you, so he sorta was busy. Then Stoick went psycho for dragon blood and Gobber had to go along with.”

Astrid threw up her hands. “So we’re back to square one. There’s no way the dragons will negotiate with us on empty stomachs.” I gave her a lidded stare, hoping she'd take that back. “What?”

“I hafen’h eathen ssinsse I hoh fack thoh Ferk.”

“Oh…” Astrid looked at me in blank silence for a few moments. “I didn’t--” I cut her off with a snort and began crawling out of the fire pit, cursing the immediate cold the whole way. “Where are you going?”

“The kill ring,” I said, before lifting one of the larger tables with my mou-- Oh gods that tastes awful . Nope. Never mind. Before lifting one of the tables on my back and heading for the door.

“But your dad said--”

I snarled, turning around from the door. The table slid across my back, the friction generating a tiny amount of heat, the momentum causing me to stumble. “My thah thithn’h ssay anything . Ffor yearss he leh me geh fullieh!   Shchief Sthoick the Fasth thisowneh me. Ffor thrying thoh frothecth ssomeone I care afouh! I thon’h ghive a thamn whah either off them hass thoh ssay.”

Then I was out the door, in the really cold outdoor air. I knew where the kill ring was; I had visited it a few times as a kid. That was back when my dad still had hopes I’d flesh out and gain some strength. Congrats dad ! I thought sarcastically, Finally grew all that muscle! Look at how proud you are.

I passed a cart on the abandoned streets, a wood one hardly big enough for a half dozen sheep. With a shrug, I upended the table from the great hall into it, then began pushing it forward toward the kill ring. With every step I was getting colder and eventually I began shoving the cart faster, breaking into an actual bounding run.

Bounding. Four legs, not two.

I hated this. Trapped in this failing body, I might as well be as frail as I was as a human. Between fires I had minutes, sometimes less if the fire wasn’t very hot. Great sense of humor, Gods. You guys know just how to cheer up someone who’s lost everything.

I was pretty sure I was about to cross the bridge to the kill ring (even though I couldn’t see straight ahead past the cart) when a loud thump sounded out. The cart almost immediately came to a stop, slowed down by whatever it hit. I slammed into the back of it, and it started rolling again more slowly.

Whatever… Er… Who ever I hit clambered to their knees inside the cart, peeking over the edge at me. “Hiccup?!” Snotlout asked.

I snorted and began shoving the cart forward again, not wanting to waste any heat engaging in conversation. After two or three shoves it began to bounce more vigorously as it reached the planks of the kill ring bridge.

“Woah, hey, where are you going?” When I didn’t respond, he continued. “Did you forget Norse or something? Hello? Could you grunt or something, so I know you can even--”

I gave the cart a harder shove and Snotlout tumbled face-first into one of the table’s legs. That shut him up, for a bit. When I reached the kill ring, I walked up and pulled the outer gate open one handed… er… one pawed . Aren’t you proud of me dad? So damn proud. I couldn't even open this as a human.

“Uhh… Hiccup? What--?” I shoved the cart forward with my tail, and Snotlout fell onto his face again. The cart merrily rolled down into the arena entryway, bumping to a stop against the inner gate.

Shoving past the cart, I lifted that gate too. With an awkward push from my tail, the cart rolled out into the arena. Now all I had to do was get Snotlout out of the cart and light it aflame. Fire. Whoops . I looked around at all the torch sconces, looking for one still burning. None were.

“Hiccup! What are you doing?” Snotlout demanded, clambering out of the cart.

There’s someone out there! Exclaimed a door on the left.

Will you remain QUIET Tinywing?! The center cage roared. Snotlout took a few steps toward me in obvious fear of whatever was inside.

It’s just some human.
Go back to sleep.
Sleep is good. Two voices echoed from the cage second to the right.

I decided that speaking up before I froze to death would probably be a good idea. Hello?

See! The Tinywing exclaimed. Someone new!

The center cage gave an exasperated chuff. I swear, if it’s another Tinywing, I will bash my head against this cage wall until my brain leaks out of my nostrils.

At the center cage’s growling, Snotlout bolted for the arena door. With barely any effort, he slammed it shut and cowered in the entryway.

I’m not a Tinywing, I said. I’m a Nigh… I mean… Shadowscale.

The center cage burst into chucking roars. After a moment, the cage to its right joined in. What’s funny?
I don’t know!

The center cage, recovering from whatever he found so hilarious, spoke. Oh Sky, this might be worse than another Tinywing. “Shadowscale,” which I doubt you are, the only Shadowscale in these lands was so deeply under Her control, he’d rather have died than be captured.

The cold was creeping very far in, and I felt like I would keel over quite soon without a heat source. I’m not him. I'm actually new to-- look, it’s complicated. Can I just get one of you to come out here and light something on fire?

The center cage burst into laughter again. How? We’re all trapped in these caves made by humans--

I can fix tha-at. Just a-gree not to attack anything out h-here on sight. I began to shiver violently, the cold affecting my speech.

If it doesn’t attack me first… The center cage acquiesced. I bounded over, stumbling from the cold and pressed the lever to open the cage. The doors burst open, admitting a Monstrous Nightmare into the arena. It growled at the stone walls and Snotlout gave a squeak of alarm. He hid behind a shield, even behind the iron gate.

The Nightmare seemed shocked by what he found. I thought you idiots said the humans attacked you whenever you were released!

They did!
It wasn’t fun!
The fat one threw water on me!
The one with two limbs made of trees!
We so wanted to set something on fire!

The Nightmare turned to look at me as I crawled back toward the wooden cart. Sky and Ground, he is a Shadowscale…

As my forepaws’ claws touched wood, I whimpered. F-fire… Please…

The Nightmare, seemingly at a loss for further words, coughed up a gob of burning saliva and lit the cart on fire. Like a moth to a flame, I clambered atop the cart as it began to burn, humming contentedly as the fire reinvigorated my body.

Flamescale? What is going on? The cage on the far right, seemingly finally awake, questioned of the Nightmare.

Hmm… What? Something’s going on? The cage on the far left asked.

The Nightmare just stared at me, incredulous. … What? If you are as you appear to be, Shadowscale, why do you need assistance to make flames? Why do you need fire?

Umm… I mentioned this was complicated, right?

The Nightmare growled at me, and I realized the severe disadvantage I had just placed myself in, exposing all my weaknesses. Explain it, It growled.

I became a Shadowscale very recently. Before that, I was a human…

I did my best to explain everything, speaking loudly enough that the dragons still in their cages could hear me. They were, frankly, awful listeners. After almost every sentence, at least one of them would burst out with a question. As the sun grew lower in the sky, Snotlout got over his fears and actually watched almost unafraid from behind the gate.

So your sire, alpha of this group of humans, just took your Shadowscale friend you call “Toothless” and went to attack Her where She lives?

I shrugged. Yep.

The Nightmare shook its head. What a fool.

I know! I exclaimed.

So… Let me understand this… The far right cage began. You were once a human? And you still remember how human things work?

I shrugged. I built most of the human tools and weapons on this island, actually. Even if there’s something I didn’t make, I’ve at least repaired it.

Can you get us out of these cages?! That cage asked again.

Yes! Yes! Free us! Take us back to Her so we may warn Her of your sire’s attack! The Tinywing sounded absolutely fanatical, frantically scampering around his cage.

Forget about him. The far left cage grumbled. I just want to get outside and sun myself somewhere that the sun actually shines, with lots of hard to melt rocks…

Let us out! Let us out!
Let us out! Let us out! The dragon(s?) in the cage second to the right chanted in unison.

Fine! Fine. Let me just get up from this fire keeping me alive and hit the levers on all your cages.

“Levers”? the Nightmare asked.

Human word, like boat and book from when I explained things earlier.

The Nightmare snorted in annoyance. I stood from the now-collapsed cart and table, walking over to the far left cage’s release lever. Before I pressed it, I was distracted by the pit-pat of retreating footfalls. I looked to the arena entrance and saw that Snotlout had disappeared.

Shrugging mentally, I pressed the release lever. As soon as the door bar was clear, the Gronckle inside slammed through the door. Sweet battle-less freedom!

I turned to the next lever and went to press it as well. Woah, hold on Shadowscale, The Nightmare grumbled.


Leave the Tinywing inside. He’s still obsessed with Her and would probably return directly to Her control as soon as he’s out.

So what’s stopping Her control now? It didn't really make sense. How did a door stop mind control?

Her control is this odd sound. Before falling under Her control, it compels you to follow it. Once you’ve found Her, it forces you to do things for Her.

I frowned. That made little sense at all. If that’s so, why are you all free of it? Why haven’t I been hearing it?

I don’t know why we here haven’t heard it for some time, but have you been outside, listening?

Now that I thought about it, I’d been inside the great hall for the past few days. Before that, I was too busy sleeping, shivering, or talking. Even here in the arena, I had been talking all the time. For a moment I stopped, listening intently. On the edge of my hearing, there was something . If I just listened a littl--

Agh! Hey! The Nightmare’s teeth snapped inches in front of my face, startling me from my thoughts.

Are you trying to fall under her spell, fool?!

Oh. Damn. That was stupid of me, to say the least.

The Gronckle, however, had a strange look on her face -- assuming I knew enough about dragon facial expressions to tell what “strange” looked like. No, listen Flamescale. The sound isn't there!

Could all of you shut up about Her and let me out?! The far right cage complained.

We would--
--let us out! The Zippleback said, the heads talking over one another and distorting one another’s words.

S-sorry, coming, I said, moving away from the Tinywing’s cage and toward theirs’.

The Gronckle watched intently as I used my chin to trigger the levers, opening the two cages. Was it that simple the whole time? Just the sticks?

Bounding back to my fire, I settled in and responded. Yeah. On the far side there’s this rock that falls down to lift the log up, then there’s this other--

“Hiccup!” A female, human shout echoed over the lip of the kill ring.

“Assthrih?” I asked, looking up and back. The other four dragons (five, counting the Zippleback as two. Should I count the Zippleback as two?) gave me quizzical glances.

Astrid and the others came up to the inner gate, looking at me and the dragons. “Are you okay, Hiccup? Snotlout said you were refusing to speak Norse earlier, then you went to let all the dragons out…”

“Whah, worrieh I hah ghone fferal?”

Fishlegs, at the back of the group, squeaked a little. “I was!”

“Huys, all I wanh thoh tho iss safe the fillaghe. I’m in no sshafe thoh tho thah, fuh these ghuys--”

Astrid shook her head. “What are dragons going to do? Hiccup, your dad is attacking the nest . won’t these dragons just turn on our friends as soon as they get there?”

“Whah? Ghuys, thih I noh eckssflain the thrahon thah minh konthrolss other thrahonss?”

The teens all shook their heads.

“Nope,” Tuffnut stated.
“Nada,” Ruffnut agreed.

“I mean, you did mention it to--” Fishlegs began.

“Doesn’t that prove Astrid’s point?” Snotlout asked, “Who cares whether it’s ‘really them,’ I mean, they’re still attacking our parents when they get there.”

I ducked my head. They were totally right, this was stupid. No matter what I did, the dragons would just be taken over by Her. I was stupid, thinking I could just waltz in there and save the day. Why can nothing just work! I moaned, dropping my head onto the embers.

The dragons shared looks. Can you talk to humans? the Preenscale asked, cocking her head.

Oh, I’m sorry, did you miss the part of my explanation where I grew up a human? I snarked. The Preenscale blinked, ducking her head in embarrassment.

The Tinywing, what I assumed had to be a Terrible Terror, shook its cage door. The Norse-male is right! We should go back to Her and attack the humans!

Now it was Hiccup’s turn to give an odd look. Ignore him, Shadowscale, The Nightmare grumbled, He is still brainwashed to believe in her control.

No, he said Norse-male. Can he… Did he just understand Norse? I took a few steps from the fire, my need for heat forgotten in my curiosity.

Norse is the human-speak, right? He probably heard some older dragon use that word and connected you to it.

Leave the fool be.
He’s too stupid for his own good.
What were you talking about earlier?

There was only one dragon I knew of that understood human concepts and was a Terrible Terror. S-Savage?

What?! The Terror squeaked in defiance. Have you got a problem with me Shadowscale? I thought I heard a puff of air as he breathed fire on his door.

“Hiccup, what’s going on?” Astrid asked, clearly concerned by my behavior.

“I think I justh founh Ssafaghe.”

“Savage ‘second-in-command-to-the-Outcasts’ Savage?” she asked, incredulous.

“I thought Savage was some Terrible Terror your Night Fury met…” Tuffnut said, scratching his head.
“Yeah. How could he be…” Ruff trailed off. “Wait, didn’t we catch a Terror?”
“Yeah! Nearly bit my nose off!” Tuff complained.

Astrid paused, noticing something. “Why didn’t you let him out earlier?”

“The other thrahonss say he iss unther Her conthrol. Ah leasth, he iss frainwassheh intho thinking he likess ih…”

“Brainwashed?” Tuffnut asked.
“Cool! Do Tuffnut next!” Ruffnut said.

Let me go back to Her! I want to hear Her beautiful voice! Let me out of here, Shadowscale!

An idea started to take form in my head. Can you not hear Her now, Savage?

Of course not! I’m in a cage!

I stepped forward and pressed his cage’s release lever, watching as the tiny door flicked open. Out came a tiny Terrible Terror, of the same color I’d seen that night with Toothless in the cove.

Oh, now you’ve done it Shadowscale. He’s going to fly right out of all the holes in this cage and go right back to…

The Nightmare trailed off as Savage turned in a circle, pausing to listen repeatedly. Where is She? Where is She?

Sky and ground… Gronckle, you’re right, I can’t hear Her! the Nightmare exclaimed, listening himself. The dragons began giving barks of joy, apart from Hiccup and Savage. The Terror decided to lie down and cry.

“Hiccup, what--”

“The minh conthrol. They can’h hear ih righh now.”

The teens shared looks as I returned to the safety and warmth of my fire.

Snotlout looked skeptical. “So… you just believe the mind controlled dragons that they’re not being mind controlled right now?”

“Look ah Safaghe. He hass feen essfousing her ghlories sinsse I ghoth here. Now he’s ufsseh fecausse he thinkss he shoulh hear Her, fuh thoesn’h.”

As if to emphasize his inability to hear Her, Savage gave a wail, using up his entire lung capacity in wordless misery.

“So… Why can’t they hear the mind control?” Fishlegs asked.

What could be different? Of all the things, around them, what changed to block Her out? What do you guys think is blocking Her? I asked of the dragons. The Stonetail and Preenscale shifted, but remained silent. They didn’t know. The Zippleback had lots of ideas, but each thought one head came up with was shot down by the other head, for various reasons.

It was the Nightmare that seemed to have a real idea. When I was at the nest, She only used the level of fanaticism used on your Tinywing friend here on dragons that stood out, that disobeyed her orders, or who spent too much time around the upper castes.

Upper castes? This was new. What upper castes? I asked.

She had a few favorites that almost never listened to Her orders! The Preenscale explained.

They always stayed near to one another, though. Any lower dragons that approached them that weren’t their Mates were either put through that brainwashing or killed outright, The Stonetail added.

I was near one once, The Flamescale said softly, The closer the upper caste kin got, the quieter Her orders became.

I looked at Savage. You don’t think this guy is an upper caste, do you?

The Nightmare shook his head vigorously. No, I think that very unlikely.

Who else then? Who could…? Me? The other dragons, excluding the moaning Tinywing, turned to look at me. What, are Night Furies not of the upper caste? At their continued blank looks, I corrected myself. Shadowscales, sorry. Are Sha--

The Nightmare shook its head. I think not. The Shadowscale we knew of was the perfect slave, always obeying her call.

So what kinds of dragons were upper caste?

The Nadder suddenly puffed out her chest and looked a lot more regal. The last of the upper caste were Preenscales!

“Last”? What happened to them?

The other dragons went quiet, as if afraid of some answer they all knew. “Hiccup, hello? Are you listening at all to us?”

I shook my head and looked over at the teens. “Noh now Snotlout, I’m in a hissthory-off-the-nesth lessson!”

“Hissthory lesson?” Tuff echoed. “Is that like history for dragons?”
“No duh!” his sister said, hitting him.

I pushed them from my thoughts, turning back to the still uncomfortable group of dragons. What happened to them?

They… the Stonetail trailed off.

She burned them to death, the Nightscale… Flamemare… (Whatever word my brain decides to use!) finished.

I stared, not noticing my jaw falling open. “Hiccup? What did they say?” Astrid asked.

If all the upper castes are dead, why can’t you hear Her?

The dragons shifted uncomfortably, unsure.

“See guys! He just gets like that, all growly and totally not listening to us,” Snotlout said, “I think he’s losing it.”

“I’m noh lossing ih Snothlouh. I jhusth…” I couldn’t find an explanation for it. The dragons couldn’t hear Her, but they couldn’t think of whatever was causing it. I had to test this. They said that getting nearer an upper caste caused Her voice to go away. If so…

I stood up, then used my snout to shove Savage back toward his cage. What are you doing Shadowscale? The Nightmare asked, confused.

Testing… I pushed Savage through the door and locked the lever. Something. Inside, Savage continued bemoaning his lot in life and his loss of “Her wonderful voice.” Okay, I need you all to listen intently. Try to find Her.

The Zippleback heads recoiled. He’s crazy.
The Shadowscale’s gone mad.

I am not getting involved in this, the Flamescale growled.

Guys, the cage will keep you from running off to Her--

Oh no. I won’t let there be even a chance of me going back there, the Stonetail complained.

That’s what this whole arena--

I won't be listening at all. Not a sound. I will tear my ears off before the thought of going back to Her even enters my mind, the Preenscale stated.

“Ghuys, gheh ouh off the enthryway anh shuh the outher ghathe.”

“Hiccup? What’s your idea?” Astrid asked.

“Thrusth me! Thiss’ll work!” The teens filed out, the twins clambering over each other to lock the outer gate. “Iss the inner ghathe unlocketh?”

Snotlout shrugged. “Yeah, it--”

I bolted out of the fire, leaving the other dragons coughing on embers. With a claw, I threw open the inner gate and slid underneath, shutting it behind me. “Lock the ghathe!”

The other dragons followed after me a few, halfhearted steps. Shadowscale, what are you doing? the Nightmare demanded.

If I’m an “upper caste” and can block Her control, we have to be sure. We can’t just go in there to--

Where’s this “we” coming from?
I agreed to nothing!

I chuffed out cold air. I really didn’t think I’d ever find someone harder to talk to than my dad, but these dragons were really competing for the position. “Assthrih, open the outher ghathe.”

She did as asked, though she questioned my request. “What are you planning, Hiccup?”

“They can’h hear Her conthrol righth now. I think thah’s fecausse off me.”

Snotlout butted in. “So you’re trying to get them mind controlled by running away?”

I blinked. That did pretty much sum up what I was doing. Hopefully, it would go away when I got back.

“I’m ghoing thoh run thoh the ghreath hall. When I gheth fack, thell me if they thrieth thoh freak ouh.”

Tuff looked confused. “How are we supposed to tell if a dragon is freaking out?”
“He means if a dragon tries to break out, stupid!”
“Ohh, okay. Sure.”

The Nightmare looked peeved, snapping at the mesh of the arena roof. Where are you going Shadowscale? Are you not going to free us as well?

Not yet! Just, let me try this. If I’m wrong, no harm done!

With that, I took off into the night, bounding toward the great hall.

Behind, I thought I heard one of them roar after me, What if you’re right?!


And Hiccup left. Just like that. Astrid kicked the outer gate shut, cursing…

Cursing something. She didn't know what. She wasn't mad at Hiccup, no. Confused, definitely.  Mad? Not as much. He was trying to do something. Clearly, he had some kind of plan forming. She wished he’d let anyone else human in on it.

“So what if Hiccup stops “her” mind control? It isn’t like the dragons will just help us kill their queen,” Snotlout openly complained. Fishlegs remained silent, watching the dragons in the pen.

“If anyone can talk dragons into being our friends, it’s that crazy Hiccup,” Tuffnut said. His sister gave him a sideways glance. “What? It’s true.”
“I know…. That’s what I find weird. I like… actually want to agree with you.”
“See? Hiccup’s totally got this!”

As if to belie his words, the dragons in the arena began whimpering. A few began shaking their heads and moving toward the gates.

“Uhh… Guys?” Fishlegs asked, concern evident.

“No way! Are they getting mind controlled?” Snotlout asked. He shoved his face up against the bars, trying to get a better look.

Astrid wanted to punch the idiot. “Snotlout, you can't see mind control! Stay back.”

“So cool!” Tuff shouted.
“Hiccup does block mind control!” His sister said, enthusiastically.

The area around the arena suddenly lit up as a ball of fire spat out, flying just past Snotlout’s side. The Nightmare that spat the fire hissed, its eyes slits. Snotlout began to scream, trying to pat out the fire on his pants.

As suddenly as the dragons’ aggression began, it ended. The Nightmare ducked and stumbled away from the gate, shaking its head.

Astrid almost threw up her hands in exasperation. “So? Hiccup stops the mind control! Why does that matter? What are we going to do with this? What does this whole experiment get us, exactly?”

The dragons continued to calm. They shook their heads a few more times, then conversed amongst themselves. Snotlout gave a melodramatic sigh of relief as his pants went out, collapsing to the ground.

The other teens turned to look at Astrid. “Oh come on, it’s true! Just because Hiccup’s presence means they don’t get told to turn against us doesn’t mean they’re at all for us! What does knowing this get us?”

Suddenly, she heard thumping of scale on wood behind her, and turned around. “Assthrih, this ghethss uss eferything.”


Learning to Fall

Chapter Notes

Chapter 17 : Learning to Fall


I growled as I saw the Shadowscale return. I wasn't mad, just… annoyed that he so easily risked our freedom.

But still… he was right . As he left, the note that had tugged on the edges of my consciousness for so long while I was stuck in the human-made cave with the moving-wall of mountain-vein had returned in full force. It had taken everything I had to avoid throwing myself at the walls of the place, to scratch and claw my way to get back to Her . I hadn't even been able to control my fires!

But the Shadowscale had returned and somehow made the note disappear. With a few words to his human friends, the Shadowscale passed back through the tiny space with the mountain-vein doors and into the wider space where we resided.

The Stonetail piped up with a complaint. Shadowscale! It was awful! The sound of Her--

My other half nearly dragged us to the cage walls to attempt an escape to Her!
Did not!
That was you!
No, that was you!

As the Shadowscale returned to his fire in the middle of the cage, the others voiced their displeasure at the experience. Me, I was more focused on the Shadowscale. He wielded a terrible amount of influence over us now, for he could sell us out at any time to Her just by leaving. So, what did he plan to do with his power? The way he always sat upon fires seemed an awful lot like Her, and I was afraid of what he might become as well.

Guys, I am really sorry I had to--

The Preenscale fired a series of spikes from her tail, which passed claw-widths over the Shadowscale’s head. I don’t care how sorry you are! Don’t do it again!

Just stop and listen to me! Okay?

We other dragons fell into a disgruntled silence, waiting for him to continue.

Okay?... Okay. So, I’ve been trying to stop this war between dragons and humans. I convinced a few of my friends that dragons aren’t evil, but now I sorta need to do the other side.

You convinced your human friends that dragons aren't evil? The Gronckle began scratching behind her ear, looking for all the world like an adorable, sickly yak. How is that not obvious to those fleshy, mountain-vein-claw-wielding cretins?

The Shadowscale dropped his head into the fire, covering his face with one paw. Then he sat up, an idea clearly forming on his face.

He barked something in human speech and bounded over to the door, almost wagging his tail in excitement. I and the other dragons watched, perplexed. After a long exchange in human, the big, burly human with black fur over his head slipped under the mountain-vein doors and stood before the Shadowscale, inside the space with us. The dark scaled dragon hissed a few more human words and the human placed a forepaw on the Shadowscale’s snout.

The other dragons were frightened, backing away and, in the case of the Stonetail, leaping into the air and hovering by the far wall. I watched, intently, as the Shadowscale began backing up toward me, bringing the human with him. The human burbled in human speak, clearly afraid of me.

Flamescale, look, can’t you see it right here?

I didn’t know exactly what “it” he referred to, but I could see a lot of things. The most important of those things was that the human he guided was not bloodthirsty; it was terrified and doing its utmost not to show it. I rumbled, appreciating the fear… Then I realized what the Shadowscale had meant. The human was afraid . This wasn't at all like the humans in the raids, bashing and slashing with mountain-vein claws.

The Shadowscale came up alongside me, the human he led taking nervous glances in my direction. I growled at it, to show it who was in control here. It yelped. The dark scaled dragon calmed him in human words. Then, when the human stared intently at the Shadowscale, that human took his forepaw from the Shadowscale’s snout and pointed it at my own.

What is this? I rumbled, confused.

This is trust. He’s out here, in the middle of an arena filled with dragons, trusting you all not to kill him. Trust him not to hurt you, and we can build a foundation to end this war.

I growled and stepped back, confused. The human flinched. Trust him how?

Just let him touch you. No combat, no fighting, just peace. Switching to human-speak, he consoled the human, who whimpered. The human, clearly terrified of the instructions given to it, slowly turned its head away from me.

It was stupid, thinking that this could somehow end the war. As long as She was alive, nothing they did would help this. Nonetheless… could getting to know a human be so bad? Cautiously, I approached the outstretched forelimb. It looked so weak, even with his burly human proportions. With a single bite, I could take it clean off. What was stopping me?

Scales met flesh, as my snout came up into his forepaw. The human gasped, turning to look at me, then giving the strangest expression. It seemed to show happiness but seemed like it should have been aggressive. His teeth were on display, bared, but not in aggression.

This was going to be a very confusing relationship.

Suddenly the Shadowscale turned away from us, leaping back into his fire. W-wait, where are you going?

My human spoke at the same time as me, and whatever the human said must have been funny because the Shadowscale began warbling with laughter. What?! I demanded. The human barked something as well.

Y-you two just asked exactly the same question, in different languages. Twice.

He swapped to human-speak and, I assume, repeated to his human friend what he’d said to me. The human barked in what sounded like indignation, and I chuckled. This might be a good way to live after all.


After seeing the Flamemare… Nightscale… Bleh. One of those words. After seeing him become friends with Snotlout, the other dragons accepted the humans I picked for them that much more readily. The Gronckle was terrified for a little while, but when Astrid discovered how much her Preenscale enjoyed scratches, said Stonetail had to try some. Fishlegs, of course, was a sucker for her “cute” face and was more than willing to help her with her itches when I explained it to him.

So… go me! I block mind control and run diplomatic conferences between warring species. What next? What next? What else could I do?

I looked up from the embers at my paws into the horizon. Over the houses of Berk, I could see the sky lightening and changing color. Fishlegs noticed it too, guiding his Stonetail over to talk to me. “Uhh… Hiccup, this is great and all, but the voyage time to Helheim’s gate is only about two days. If we don’t get there soon, I don’t think there’ll be anyone to save…”

Astrid -- who had already talked her Preenscale into letting her ride around on her neck -- came over. “Then let's fly! We can get there, show Berk dragons aren’t evil, then guide them home. On the raids Hiccup will block the queen’s mind control, we free more dragons and we take on the queen that way!”

Snotlout walked over, the Flamescale following close behind. “And that’ll work how? If Hiccup isn’t there, our dragons go back to Her, right? Hiccup can’t fly because he’ll freeze. So how do we bring him along?”

Tuffnut and Ruffnut paused in their clambering all over their Twinhead -- who enjoyed the constant attention from the two sources -- to add their opinions. “I think you guys are missing the point of dragons, ” Ruff stated confidently.
“Uhh… What point?” Tuff asked, seemingly reading the minds of those assembled by my fire.
“They’re dragons ! They carry stuff off all the time. Just carry Hiccup!” We all stared at her like she’d grown a second head. “Hiccup, c’mon, remember that one raid where you were in the hidden storehouse on the mountain? The one you got blown up by a half dozen Nadders?”
“Ohh that was awesome !” Tuffnut crowed. “Then he rode that plank down the mountain and--” Tuff stopped as his sister’s hand clapped shut in front of his face.
“Shut up Tuff. So, the Nadders carried off some of our food in a fishing net, right?”

I shrugged, disliking where this was going.

“Carry Hiccup in a net of some kind!” Tuffnut shouted, understanding lighting up his face.

“That would seem to be a good idea, but different species of dragons have…” Fishlegs continued talking, babbling on about carrying capacities. I was distracted by my newer, scalier friends.

What are they all talking about? the Flamescale grumbled.

They’re trying to figure out how to get me to Her island so we can tell my dad, the human alpha, to turn around.

How do they plan to bring you? the Stonetail asked, Certainly you can’t fly or stay warm with your furnace out?

For flying, we were thinking you all would carry me. We hadn’t gotten to keeping me warm--

The Flamescale was laughing now, disturbing the humans’ conversation. “You all”? Please, I could carry you with a single hind claw.

Okay, great. How hot can you keep yourself?

The Flamescale gave me a strange look. Flame scale, Shadowscale. I can light myself on fire.

So great! You’ll carry me on your back or tucked into your chest--

The Flamescale blanched, backing up in seeming disgust. Snotlout turned to me as he saw his dragon shying away. “Hey! What did you just say to him?”

I blinked, at a loss for words in either language. The Nightmare filled the void between us. Shadowscale! That is awfully… intimate!

The other dragons looked equally aghast.

Wh- what? Intimate? Toothless -- the Shadowscale my dad took -- and I did that sort of thing all the time.

The Flamescale took a step back. A dragon and a transformed human? Disgusting.

But it's totally okay with your hum-- I began to ask, looking pointedly at the Preenscale and Twinhead.

They’re just humans! the Preenscale complained.

I don’t see what the issue is with humans.
It’s like having hatchlings crawling around on us.
On me! There’s one of us!
But we have two heads!

I shrunk back into my fire. Sorry! Sorry, didn’t know!

“Hiccup, what are they saying?” Astrid asked.

“I- I justh saih a sthufih thing. Thon’h fanick.”

Fishlegs bounced where he stood. “Did they have any ideas for how to carry you with your hypersensitivity-to-cold-to-death problem?”

“No. I thih, fuh thah wass the sthufih thing. Iff only we hah something thoh carry a pile off furning ssthuff…”

What are they saying Shadowscale? the Preenscale asked. I almost rolled my eyes at her. Almost.

I was just wishing we had some way to carry a pile of burning stuff.

The Gronckle looked at me, perplexed. Isn’t that what those raised indentations on the trees are for?

It was my turn to look perplexed. Those what?

The other dragons were also somewhat confused. The Stonetail continued, nonetheless. The metal craters on top of the straight trees. The ones you humans lift up every raid?

Oh. The torch towers! That’ll work! Great idea Stonetail! “Ghuys! The Ssthonethail ghoh an ithea! The thorch thowerss!”

Tuffnut scratched his head. “I don’t think all the dragons working together could carry a torch tower. Aren’t they like… dug into the ground?”
“He means the bowl on top, idiot!” Ruffnut punched her brother and the Zippleback head she’d started to grow attached to snapped at him.

I bounded off the fire and over to the crates and weapon racks near the entrance to the arena. I figured one of them had to have rope and I was not disappointed.



I looked up at the rising sun, whose top edge had just risen above the skyline of Berk. “You’ll need ssomething thoh holh on with, anh with whishch thoh ghraf the thorch thower.” I think it’s time we learned to fly with our humans.


Weedborn used to be a respected name on Berk. The younger generation would hear that name and think of people just as strong and fierce as the Hoffersons or the Jorgensons.

That was many years ago. Now, Treewad Weedborn sat in his decrepit shack, looking out over the abandoned streets of Berk. The chief had taken every able-bodied man and woman on this stupid suicide run. Attacking the dragon’s nest with everyone in the village -- the fools! They were all going to die, then all that would remain would be he and a few other ancient warriors to watch over the teenagers. That generation was a sad, sad tale. Six, then five… Doubtless, fewer would remain by the time they really reached adulthood.

If any remained.

So Treewad stared out to sea, looking for some sign of returning vessels. Even if only two of the boats made it back, that might still be enough Vikings to rebuild Berk, to keep their home of many, many years.

Movement caught his eye, something much darker than the sky. He looked, and was startled to see dragons flying over the village ! Slowly, he tried to lever himself out of his old chair, planning to retrieve his sword. One… last fight.

Then the dragons did something strange. Two swooped down to a torch tower and hovered next to it for a moment, one less effectively than the other. Then, in tandem, one of the dragons by the tower and one of the dragons higher in the air pulled up, lifting the metal bowl filled with wood clean off. Their prize taken, they swept out over the docks and hovered over the sea cliffs for a moment. A dark shape, another dragon, leaped from the cliff into the bowl. A spurt of fire from one of the lifting dragons set the wood alight, then the whole group turned tail and flew northwest.

Treewad, now standing, stumbled to the edge of his shack’s porch.

With his creaky, old voice, he spoke. “Odin help us all…”


The men were uneasy -- more than uneasy, frankly. Gobber could hardly blame them after last night. As it turned out, Dagur the Deranged had led his small force of Berserkers directly to Helheim’s gate. Some of the Hooligans had spotted them entering the fog, nearly six hours’ voyage ahead. Stoick ordered that anchor be set further away than planned, a half hour’s strong wind from the fog’s edge.

Then the screaming started. Men in burning agony, their final cries echoing out of the fog intermixed with the roars of dragons.

So, in short, every person on the Berkian boats thought they were doomed. Yet, with the morning sun at their backs, they followed their chief’s orders anyway, setting course straight for the fog.

With quiet, respectful steps, Gobber passed by the Night Fury (now lying still in its restraints on the deck) and approached his chief. “So, Stoick, some of the men have been wondering -- and not me, of course -- but some have been asking… what your plan is? Or, if there even is a plan at all?”

Stoick didn't even shift his gaze from the fog bank ahead. “Find the nest, and take it.”

“O-oh. Alright. That sounds good enough. I’ll just…” Gobber took a few steps back, nervously, as the first layers of the fog engulfed the ship.

Stoick looked back at the dragon, as it suddenly awoke. He watched it intently as it stared into the passing fog. Then he moved to the back of the boat.

“Give me the till,” Stoick ordered. The Viking previously manning the station stepped away. Stoick took over. He steered the boat starboard and like a compass the dragon’s head turned to stay pointed in the same direction, now aligned with the bow of the vessel.

“Odin’s beard,” Gobber muttered. He turned around and looked port, to where the dragon hadn’t been guiding them. Suddenly, out of the fog, a rock formation loomed. “We would’a hit that!”

Stoick smiled darkly under his huge beard. “Then it’s good that we didn’t.” Turning, he shouted over the rudder to the boats behind, “Sound your positions, stay in a line and follow this ship!”

Gobber shuddered at his friend’s transformation. This- this wasn’t their chief. Gobber knew who this was, had seen this anger in these very same eyes fourteen years ago. This was a man gone mad for revenge.

Stoick, don’t do something stupid to the entire village…


Alvin awoke surrounded by metal. He thrashed, trying to break out of the strange cage, but to no avail.

“Alvin! My good friend. Finally awake, eh? You still remember me? Numbnuts? Yer ol’ pal?”

Old pal was the understatement of the century. Numbnuts had been a bitter rival for the chieftainship of the Outcasts and always looked to stir up trouble, which Alvin usually, effectively put down.

Until now.

“Don’t worry Al’! I’m takin’ great care o’ your tribe for ya! While I’m busy wid’ that, you jus’ take a nice li’l vacation ‘ere, in this cage. Forever .” Numbnuts burst out laughing, unable to contain his mirth.

The former Outcast chief roared, trying to bite through the bars of the cage.

“Have a good time Alvin! Let me know if there’s anythin’ I can do to make you more comfortable. I’m jokin’ a’ course. Noone's ever gonna worry abou’ your comfort again!” With a cackle, Numbnuts turned and left the room in which the cage sat -- a room made of a dark wood, one wall slightly curved to make the roof larger than the floor.

Alvin tried to shout, to express his anger to the world. Damn you all! Damn you Numbnuts, damn you Hiccup, and damn your STUPID magic, Heather!

The sound he produced was without meaning, a consonant-less jumble of sounds that surely no human could understand -- In all likelihood, no one could understand.

No one answered his call. He roared meaninglessly, in anger, then in pain. Then he fell silent.


I crouched down low over the flames, covering them over with my wings so the wind would not blow them out.

Said wind came from the speed at which we flew through the air. Flying .

This is so cool! I crowed.

Are you getting cold? one Twinhead head asked.
We can ask Stonetail to slow down! The Stonetail, being the slowest dragon, led the group.

No, uhh, Twinhead. That word means two different things in human-speak.

Then if you aren’t cold, what’s the other meaning? the Preenscale asked.

Amazing, awesome, really fantastic, generally pretty good, I said, my awe of being up in the sky bleeding into my voice.

“What are you saying?” Astrid shouted from atop the Preenscale, hiding behind her crown of horns to avoid the wind.

“We’re fflying! Issn’h thiss awessome?”

Fishlegs, up in front atop his Gronckle, gave a long hoot of appreciation, which was split into a number of short shouts by his dragon’s fast wingbeats. Behind him, the twins bickered over something on their Zippleback. I rode in the torch tower fire bowl, carried by ropes attached to Astrid’s Nadder and Snotlout’s Nightmare.

Odd, you’re thinking of the dragons as belonging to the humans.

I think of the humans belonging to the dragons, too .

I looked up at the Flamescale, who avoided my gaze. When we were preparing to steal the torch tower, he’d pushed past everyone to take a longer coil of rope. It was almost like he was avoiding me.

I turned to the Preenscale next to me, much closer than anybody else. Quietly, I spoke. Is the Flamescale avoiding me?

She gave me a look. Probably. It’s generally looked down upon for certain-- When-- I’m just not going to talk about this.

When what? Certain what?

You’re worse than a hatchling with a full grasp of language, sometimes!

I am really confused right now.

I cannot believe nobody explained this to you. For the crying sky-- It’s looked down upon to Mate between species, usually, and what with having been--

I blanched, ducking my head in embarrassment so hard I cut myself off, my head colliding with the fires beneath me. To m--?!

Shhh! She hissed. Nobody else picked up on our conversation. The behavior you said “Toothless” was exhibiting is reserved for close family members. Close ones.

But we just met several days ago! And why is it okay for you to let the humans ride on you?

They’re just humans. It’s like carrying around a sheep or a yak.

So either Toothless cares very much about me, or he sees me as a pet.

The Preenscale snorted her assent to my explanation. I deflated, thinking about what that could mean.

Does Toothless see me as a pet? Why does he care so much about me? Now that I’m working with other dragons, will he just move on?

I let the conversation go, focusing on protecting the flames beneath me. They felt like they were getting a little warmer, which meant I was probably letting too much air in on them. Not wanting to use up all my fuel before I got to the nest, I angled my wings lower over the flames.

Woah! Hey! The Preenscale called as she dipped in flight. Similar cries of alarm rose from the Flamescale higher up.

S-sorry! I corrected my wings, angling them upward. Too far up! The wind caught my wings and -- like I had been snatched by a massive hand -- I flew backward off the tray and rose into the air. Thor and Odin above!

“Hiccup!” Astrid shouted as I shot by. Snotlout looked down and noticed my situation.

Thor almighty please grant me a sudden and miraculous understanding of flight! I cried as I angled back downward, shooting below the tray of burning wood.

What are you doing Shadowscale?! Level out! the Preenscale snapped at me as I flew underneath her.

Hoping against hope that my instincts were right, I did what my body told me to do and held ramrod still, pointing straight ahead.

Everything slid into place. The wind passed over me in a straight line, following the contours of my body. I was flying!

I winced a bit as my right wing joint complained. Spitelout's attack from the other night was stinging, not okay with the joint’s sudden use. Nonetheless, it seemed okay.

And I was flying!

Woah guys! I’m flying!

You’re gliding!
You have to flap to fly! the Zippleback heads shouted as I slipped by underneath them.

“Woah, Hiccup’s flying on his own!” Tuff observed.
“Damnit! That’s so cool! I want to fly!” Ruffnut complained.

Fishlegs looked backward. “Where’s Hiccup?”

Angling my wings, I shot up past him, bleeding some of my forward velocity. “Hhi Fissshlehs!”

“Eep! Don’t scare me like that!”

Shadowscale! No scaring the heavy scratch-giving lump on my back!

Sorry! “Sssory!” Sorry!

“Hiccup! Get back to the fire before you get cold and fall, or worse!” Astrid shouted over the wind.

“I thon’h…” I didn’t feel cold. I didn’t feel like I was getting cold. I felt alive, free!

I felt another memory from the burning sensation coming to the surface, one more instinct I’d learned. Carefully taking aim ahead of and below myself, I opened my throat and let my gasses flow. A burst of purple light flashed out, detonating exactly where I’d thought it would. The heat of it washed over my body, lifting my wings ever so slightly. The dragons and their teens watched in awe.

Shadowscale! Your furnace is relit! the Flamescale was apparently very surprised. If he were human and not focusing on flying, I bet his jaw would have been hanging open.

“What did you just do Hiccup?” Snotlout shouted, his voice flying back to me in the face of the wind. With a start, I realized gaining altitude had put me behind the others. Wriggling my body and pressing with my wings as instinct dictated, I caught up and glided over the torch tower’s borrowed flame bowl.

“I think I ssolfeh my ffire frof… lem…” I trailed off, blinking. I could hear something ahead, far away still but nonetheless still interesting. “Whah iss thah ssounh?”

Astrid sounded concerned, but her voice was muffled over the wind. “Hiccup? What sound? Hiccup?!”

With a few flaps I pulled ahead. I wouldn’t go too far, I just had to know where that sound, that beautiful sound was coming from.


I fought my eyes open, struggling back into consciousness as the painful sensation receded from my mind. I was pressed against the sides of my cage and, as I tried to move, found my spines getting caught between the bars of metal.

It was my movement that woke up my sense of balance. The room had tilted and something cold sloshed across the floor. I ducked my head into the cold, tasting it on my tongue.

Seawater .

I was trapped in a cage, in a wooden room, and seawater was sloshing across the floor. The likely scenario? Numbnuts put me on my unfinished raiding boat and shoved me off! Tha’ backstabbing--

The room tilted further, rolling toward the curved wall behind me. Wood groaned, then the cage’s floor lost frictional contact with the floor.

The cage skidded across the room, toward the wall that was -- by all guesstimates -- underwater.

I roared in fear.


Spitelout stared out over the pebbled beach. Nearer the mountain’s face, he saw blackened rocks and strangely shaped objects. Odin, don’t let those be corpses. At the head of the boat, Stoick leaped over the bow and landed heavily on the gravel. High above on the cliff face, a red dragon head flicked away behind a rock.

“Start unloading the defenses!” Stoick ordered. The men on the ships behind gave last heaves on the oars, beaching the remaining vessels. As soon as they struck land, Vikings leaped onto the beach and began unloading and assembling catapults, whittling logs, and preparing a defensive line.

The mountain remained quiet. Spitelout remained on board the ship, more unnerved by the beach than by the dragon on board behind him. The Devil you know

In under half an hour, the Vikings had their defenses setup. Five layers of sharpened sticks pointed up the beach, protecting the boats and a line of catapults. Still, nothing emerged from the mountain. Spitelout, against his better judgment, had joined his brother and the smith at the front.

The strange black rocks were indeed corpses. Berserker corpses.

“There are only a dozen bodies ou’ here. Also, nary mast nor figurehead o’ their boats. I’s possible the rest got away, Stoick.”

Stoick glowered at the mountain above them. “Or they died the same way Val did.”

“We don’t know that, brother,” Spitelout comforted. Stoick looked higher and the two with him followed his gaze. It had to be past noon, the mountain casting a shadow over half their beachhead even through the threatening clouds above.

Stoick shrugged off his brother’s words. “We’ll hit the mountain with the catapults. One of our rocks has to strike a cave somewhere, give us an entrance. When we crack this mountain open, all Hel will break loose.”

“And my undies! Good thing I brought extras,” Gobber added. His attempt at humor -- only half joking -- fell on deaf ears.

“Are you sure about this, brother?” Spitelout asked.

“We have no choice. It’s us or them,” Stoick growled. He waved his hammer, bellowing clear across the beach to the defenders near the boats. “No matter how this ends, it ends today! Fire the catapults!”

The rocks flew, four catapults delivering stony chunks of destruction onto the mountain face. The first and second rocks did little, but the third caused a major crack to open. The fourth smashed on almost the same spot as the third, leaving a respectable opening to the inside. Chunks of rock tumbled downward from the cliff, burying the deceased Berserker crisps and leaving a jagged, smoothly graded slope.

Spitelout took a deep breath, trying to calm his jangled nerves. Stoick walked forward; Spitelout dutifully followed behind. The chief stared into the darkness within the crack in the mountain, then waved his hammer. The fifth and final catapult fired, launching a massive ball of rope lit aflame in through the hole in the mountain. Spitelout gasped as it illuminated hundreds of Deadly Nadders, Gronckles, Monstrous Nightmares, Hideous Zipplebacks, and Terrible Terrors coating every surface of the cave.

As the ball of fire flew deeper, whistling just over the heads of the dragons, not a single one moved. Even Spitelout went stock still and stopped breathing as he watched. The cavern went dark and a muffled thump echoed back as the fireball landed somewhere out of sight.

An ear-splitting roar echoed up from the depths, guttural like a Viking’s yell, but so much louder . Immediately, the dragons burst into action, flooding out of the cave in a near liquid swarm. Stoick was thrown backward by the first dragon barrelling into him and he rolled down the hill to knock over Spitelout. The two landed atop Gobber and quickly untangled themselves.

But the dragons were gone, taking flight into the sky and disappearing into the surrounding fog. In a matter of moments, Spitelout couldn’t spot a single scale.

“Is tha’ it?” Gobber asked, clearly surprised. With a shrug, he began making his way back toward the boats. A cheer went up from the Vikings, celebrating their victory.

Spitelout saw Stoick looking between the mountain and the slate gray skies, frowning. Suddenly, he looked directly at the boats. Following his gaze, the Jorgenson saw the Night Fury that Hiccup had led into their clutches fighting with its restraints, struggling to follow the other dragons away from the island.

Stoick’s eyes went wide. “This isn’t over!” he bellowed, actually struggling to be heard over the other Vikings’ jubilation. “Form your ranks, hold together!” The chieftain looked back into the cave.

The roar, from earlier, came again. Previously Spitelout had assumed it was all the dragons roaring at once. As he stood near the entrance with his brother, with not a dragon in sight, he heard -- and saw -- otherwise.

Stoick turned to the other Vikings. “Get clear!” he bellowed, jumping down the rock slope. Spitelout leaped after him, not wanting to be anywhere near that thing literally bashing its way through the mountain. Vikings male and female, young and old fled left and right as a dragon twice as large as the great hall smashed the front of the mountain apart. Spitelout saw his brother stumble to a stop, safely clear of the wreckage, to look back at the monster. Unlike his chief, his brother, the Jorgenson kept going.

They were doomed. They had lost already. If only his brother hadn’t been so bent on revenge, if only Hiccup hadn’t returned…

If only…


“Beard O’ Thor, what is that?!” Gobber shouted over the panicked cries of fleeing Vikings. Stoick shook his head, uncomprehending, as the dragon pulled one massive shoulder through the rock face, sending more stone cascading onto the pebbled beach. With another step, its front half cleared the mountain and it shook its head, roaring its fury.

“Catapults!” Stoick bellowed, glancing back at his defenses. A single catapult fired, its rock bouncing off the dragon’s six-eyed face harmlessly.

Another voice further back gave an order. “Get to the ships!” Stoick thought he saw his brother sprinting for the boats beached just ashore.

“No. No!” Stoick cried, realizing how the massive dragon would respond even before it began to. It drew in a massive breath, inhaling for almost ten seconds, then drenched the ships in foul smelling flames, utterly decimating the fleet. Men screamed, leaping from the boats into the water. When the smoke cleared, Stoick saw that one out of every sixteen Vikings he’d brought had been in or around the boats, and only three of every four of those made the water in time. Desperate, he looked around. Retreating from the blast around the boats, Stoick spotted his brother. “Spitelout! Lead the men to the far side of the island!”

Spitelout nodded. “Alright Stoick.”

Gobber came up behind Stoick. “Smar’ dragon, tha’ one.”

“Gobber, go with the men,” Stoick ordered, turning back up the beach toward the monster.

“Nah, I think I’ll stay, just in case you’re thinkin’ of doin’ somethin’ crazy.”

Gesticulating with his free hand, Stoick tried to warn his longtime friend off. “I can buy them a few minutes if I give that thing someone to hunt.”

Taking the free hand with his own, Gobber gripped Stoick’s fingers. “Then I can double that time.”

Stoick gave a sad smile, then turned to the monster up the beach. Bellowing louder than before and swinging his hammer in a show of aggression, he shouted up at the beast. “HERE!”

Gobber chuckled. “Oh no. OVER HERE!”

Giving battle cries, the two went separate directions to try to split the dragon’s attention. As the last few stragglers ran for the group escaping north, Stoick grabbed one of the sharpened logs set into the ground and lobbed it up at the monster. Growling, it dropped its head to near his level. (Near, relatively, as the top of its head was still ten times higher in the air than Stoick was tall.)

Gobber drew its attention back to himself. “Hey, you big beast! Fight me!”

As it started to peer closer at Gobber, Stoick drew its attention back. “No! Me!”

It looked between the two, seemingly recognizing their distraction tactic. As it prepared to burn them both to a crisp, it reared back onto its hind legs.

“Oh, this is i’,” Stoick thought he heard Gobber mutter.

Suddenly, the dragon paused, head snapping from the two of them up, past the ships and into the fog. Staring intently into the impenetrable haze, it let its own gasses dissipate. Stoick and Gobber shared a look of concern.

Then he heard it, what distracted the massive monster. A high pitched shrieking echoed off the sea stacks, growing closer by the second.

“Night Fury!” Stoick bellowed, ducking behind his hammer and shield arm.

“Get down!” Gobber added, leaping to the pebbled ground.

No explosion followed. A black blur skidded to a stop on the pebbles directly in front of the monster, between Stoick and Gobber, bringing the noise to a halt. It looked up at the monster and began to make noises. Very quickly the noises became more coherent, sonorous…

The Night Fury was singing to the massive monster. Then, it bowed its head, lying down on the ground before it in seeming total submission. The humongous beast bent down over the black dragon and growled.

Gobber, back to his knees and in the process of standing up, looked at the Night Fury. “Stoick!...”

Stoick didn’t need Gobber’s observation; Gobber trailed off as he realized that. There was only one Night Fury they knew of with two tailfins and heat scarring on his right flank. “Hiccup?!” Stoick roared.


Chapter End Notes

This title had to be cut for length. Original: “Learning to Fly Means Learning to Fall”

Taking Note

Chapter Notes

Chapter 18 : Taking Note


Astrid took note as Hiccup’s… she guessed they were “ear plates”... stood straight up.

“Whah iss thah ssounh?” Hiccup asked. With a flap, he’d pulled level with the twins, still bickering about flight. With another, he’d passed Fishlegs.

“Hiccup? What sound? Hiccup?!” Astrid called after him. He mustn't have heard her as he continued flying on, quickly growing smaller ahead of them.

Above her, Snotlout’s Nightmare gave a screech of alarm. “Woah, hey, watch your fangs, big scary dragon!” Snotlout complained. The Nightmare didn’t heed him, instead twisting in an attempt to claw the rope connected to the bowl below off its foot.

“Snotlout! Your dragon’s about to drop Hiccup’s--” Astrid’s admonition was cut off as the Nightmare successfully freed its leg, leaving the entire weight of the torch tower bowl to her Nadder. “Damnit!” She exclaimed harshly, leaning over from her dragon’s neck to the Nadder’s leg. The Nadder screeched as the weight of the fiery tray dragged them downward. With one hand, she tugged at the knot tying them to the dead weight. Thankfully, in what had to be a miracle, it came loose. The tray dropped into the ocean below with a splash.

“Snotlout! Your dragon could’ve seriously injured m--” Astrid would’ve continued, but the others had already pulled far ahead, their formation broken to bits. Fishlegs was the closest person to her now, his Gronckle flying madly to try to catch up with Hiccup. Under her, the Nadder flapped violently, throwing everything she had into moving forward.

Fishlegs saw her approaching. “Astrid! All the dragons, they’re scared because Hiccup…” Astrid didn’t hear him finish as she shot past, her Nadder seemingly desperate to catch up with the rest.

“Calm down girl, it isn’t like we’re trying to outrun a storm…” Astrid whispered, trailing off as the realization struck her.

Hiccup blocks the mind control, but is he protected?

Bending down to get her body out of the wind, Astrid held on tightly. “Never mind, you’re right, keep flying. We’ve have to catch up to Hiccup.”


Fishlegs sat, too terrified to speak, atop the Gronckle. Everyone had flown off, disappearing into the mists ahead. Inside he could hear dragons giving screeches of alarm, followed by flapping, followed by more screeching. It sounded terrible.

The dragon beneath him, seemingly dead to the world, fluttered right on into the mist. “Eep! Oh no! This was a terrible idea! I should never have left Berk and--”

His self-talk was cut off as the Gronckle shook himself (herself? Fishlegs wasn’t sure) and blinked hard. “Are you okay now?”

The Gronckle grunted and shook his/her head again. “Is that a yes or a no? I can’t quite--”

With a quick flutter, the dragon turned around and began flying the opposite direction. “Are you taking me home? Oh good, I was so worried that we’d get hurt and then I’d be hurt and then--”

The Gronckle shook to a stop again, then made another u-turn. “Woah, what are you doing?!”


I shook my head as the last vestiges of the note cleared. I had caught up with the Shadowscale, barely. Somehow. Looking back, I screeched as loudly as I could. Keep coming! He’s up here!

I twisted my head, looking out my other eye to spot any more sea stacks ahead. There weren’t any, but there was something else…

Out of the haze, a mountain loomed. Her mountain. In front of it… Sky and Ground! The Shadowscale got pulled in by HER!

I pulled to a hover, looking out over the destruction. A great many of the humans’ cut trees lay scattered and broken all around, especially on the shoreline. Those on the shore were aflame, the fires coating every surface of the piles of logs. What had the Shadowscale had called them… boats? On the ground, before Her, two humans stumbled to their feet. Between them, the Shadowscale lay, supplicating himself to Her. Much further to the north, a large number of humans ran away, trying to escape. The human on my back gasped, then began shouting to the humans directly below, before Her.

I looked around again, searching for anybody else. It was in vain; I was the only dragon here, apart from him and Her. If the Shadowscale is to keep his mind, I’ll have to distract Her…

I dove. My human cried out in surprise. Carefully aiming just above Her monstrous snout, I released a stream of my fire onto her scales. She screeched in pain, swinging Her head up to try to bash me out of the air. Thankfully, I expected that, and Her swing brought Her crown out of my flight path. My human chirped with success and I joined in.


Stoick looked up as a shout echoed down from the sky. “Stoick?! Listen, that dragon can take control of the minds of other dragons! Hiccup has some way to block it but, apparently, he isn’t protected. You need to distract him! Keep him away from the big one!”

He blinked, uncomprehending, as the dragon that had just shouted to him -- in flawless Norse -- cried out in surprise and made an attack run on the massive dragon, drawing its attention away from his scaly, traitorous son and into the fog-filled sky. As they banked around to attack again, he finally saw the blonde hair of the source of the voice. Astrid, astride a dragon?!

The massive dragon took a half-step backward, its footfall making the ground tremble. Stoick sprang into action. He sprinted toward his son, who Gobber was already kneeling in front of. Gobber was speaking to the dragon. “Hiccup, Hiccup, focus on me. Nah, now don’t you go lookin’ anywhere else. Focus on what’s right in front ‘o ya. C’mon, look here! I’s your ol’ boss, Gobber!”

Stoick came up behind Gobber’s shoulder, looking down on the Night Fury. His slitted eyes were wide, the pupil expanding and contracting as he tried to shake his head free of Gobber’s hand and hammer. When he saw Stoick, though, his eyes went to vertical, unchanging slits.

“Uh oh,” Gobber commented, helpfully.

The Night Fury leaped, shoving Gobber out of the way violently and landing talons-first on Stoick. Not expecting the sudden, violent assault from his own son, Stoick fell backward onto the pebbled beach, arms pinned under the dragon’s claws. The dragon drew in a breath. Stoick could see the gases coalescing in its throat. Killed by my own traitorous, draconic son. How did we go so wrong with this one, Val?

A flash of red and black shot overhead and suddenly the Night Fury was gone. A dragon screeched from some distance away, the sound followed by the loud rumbling of displaced pebbles. Stoick sat up, finding Gobber mimicking his movements.

“Who’s the guy that saved the chief? Snotlout, Snotlout, Oi Oi Oi!” the rider of a Monstrous Nightmare chanted as his dragon banked around, back toward the black dragon lying on the beach. The Night Fury leaped to its feet and recharged its gases, releasing a plasma blast directly into the Nightmare’s flight path. It detonated on the Nightmare’s underside, sending the dragon screeching to the pebbles. His rider flew a bit farther, slamming into the head of the massive mind-controlling dragon and nearly slipping over the other side.

“Snotlout!” Astrid shouted in alarm.

Gobber stood, limping his peg-legged way over toward the Night Fury. Stoick looked around, spotting Astrid coming his way. “Astrid! Get this to Snotlout!” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he threw his hammer straight up. The Nadder Astrid rode squawked in alarm and dove under it, but Astrid managed to catch it by the strap and not drop it.

Standing on the dragon’s snout, between its six pairs of eyes, Snotlout looked nervous. “What do I do now?!”

“Here, catch!” Astrid shouted, throwing Stoick’s hammer. Snotlout caught it, stumbling, then began whacking the massive monster directly in the three eyes on its right.

“I can’t miss! What’s wrong buddy, got something in your eye?”

Gobber, once again, had his hand on Hiccup and was trying to talk sense into the human-turned-beast. Stoick searched for some way to help further, given that his son apparently loathed the sight of him. His searching for purpose saved his life when he noticed the massive dragon’s left eyes fixating on something. With a bellowed roar, the mountain-sized dragon began charging toward the line of boats, aiming the right side of its head at the sea stacks beyond. Stoick leaped out of the way, narrowly avoiding one of its boat-sized feet.

The boats themselves were not so lucky.


My mind was a scattered mess, thrumming in time with Her song. My own additions, my singing, had apparently displeased Her earlier. I was not afraid, though, as I could prove my worth to Her! Humans and dragons both were attacking Her island and She would reward me for killing them!

A hand… No, forepaw entered my vision, resting on the side of my jaw. “Hiccup, Hiccup, focus on me…”

I blinked, my thoughts growing more scattered. She was angry, She was hurt! Why wasn’t I helping Her? I couldn’t look away from this human, though. He seemed so familiar, so important to me. It was as if I felt he was just as important as Her. That was impossible, though, She was all that mattered!

The human continued speaking, but I didn’t listen to him. Or I did, a part of me did, but I couldn’t focus. Nothing was clear. What I spotted was behind him, another human rising and approaching. This one I knew.

This one I hated .

I pushed the confusing human out of the way, snarling at the massive, red-furred human who dared approach. He had ignored me when I tried to warn him about…

The thought died. I blinked and snarled again. People were dead because of him! I would kill him and exact revenge for… for that place I spent a lot of my time… once.

The gases were building in my throat. Just a spark and--

I clawed at the talon wrapped around my neck as I was dragged off the human, squirming to free myself. My claws dug in and tore scales, causing the Flamescale to release me. I plummeted too suddenly to control and crashed into the rough gravel of the beach.

I watched and listened as the human on the Flamescale’s back chanted some tuneless cry, his barks swallowed up immediately by the wind.

Disgusting . A part of me thought. Only your mate and your alpha should have such unrestricted access to your neck.

The sound of the human’s chant gave me just enough cover to prepare my gases. The Flamescale did not notice until too late my incoming blast. He screeched wordlessly as the concussive projectile knocked him from the air, singeing his scales. His human flew farther from the detonation, landing atop Her.

I was about to shoot the black-furred creature off of Her when the confusing human filled my vision again. This time, I looked at him more closely. His face was partially covered by two long strands of yellow fur, the same color as the fur under his metal-vein… Mountain-metal… shiny hat atop his head.

I shook my head, violently, trying to clear it. Strange memories with forepaws of flesh and hide filled my head. Burning my hide in fires as I shaped mountain-vein, being treated by this man…

“H- gh- Ghofhfher?”

I recoiled from him as soon as the human speech was out of my mouth, the syllables tasting like eels and dirt. Nonetheless, his face lit up so brightly, so happily… so full of teeth .

Just then, She roared and began charging toward the sea stacks. I had failed! The human atop Her head was attacking Her!

Then I saw something that made the world go still. As Her foot slammed down onto a human floating tree pile, a section of platform lurched into the air. The lone occupant, a Night Fury -- no, Shadowscale,like myself but perhaps one and a half times larger -- didn’t move. Didn’t breathe. Didn’t open his eyes, even as the fire of the tree pile licked at his scales and the water spread around his tail. Then he was underwater, hidden from view.

No. No, please no. Not him, not after everything. No!

My mind snapped. Her forgotten, the confusing human forgotten, the hated human forgotten, everyone else just disappeared. I bounded for the water’s edge, one thought occupying my mind, my voice shredding as I shrieked that thought, that fear, to the world.



Tuffnut stared ahead into the fog. “You think we’re there yet?”

An echoing bellow burst forth, followed by massive thuds, like the footfalls of the Gods.

“Probably. If not there, then really, really…” His sister trailed off as the dragon the size of a mountain came into view, just ahead of them, charging for a sea stack.
“...really close,” Tuff finished.

Almost at the same time, the two spotted a lone figure jumping up and down atop the massive dragon’s skull.

“Is that Snotlout?” Ruff asked.
“Probably. If not him, then someone--” Tuffnut stopped talking when Ruffnut punched him.

“Guys! Get me off this!--” Snotlout shouted, waving his arms. His voice cut off under an incredibly loud screech echoing across the battlefield.

Tuff didn’t take the time to think. “Dragon riders, coming through!” Tuff crowed, “I’m on it!”
“I’m on it first!” His sister complained.
“Nuh, uh, I’m ahead of you!”
“Let me drive!” She angled her foot and managed to kick him in the ribs. He winced but kept his head pointing the same direction as hers.

They swooped past the mountainous dragon’s head with just paces between them and the sea stack. Snotlout jumped forward and his momentum carried him to a landing on the spot directly between the necks of the Zippleback.

“Woah, I can’t believe that worked!” Tuff commented.

Then the screeching stopped.


I dove into the water under the wreckage of a boat, not even bothering to draw in another breath. If I couldn’t get to him before my own breath ran out, what chance did he have? Thrashing, I tried to swim toward him. It took some wiggling before my instincts finally realized the transition to the underwater environment.

Aaaand… nothing. No help. Almost as if my instincts were telling me I wasn’t designed for swimming.

Toothless! I cried out, aware that I was wasting even more of my precious breath. With some effort, I tried the same motions I had for flying. The flapping propelled me too far upward but with some careful aim I came right up in front of him. I took the chain in my jaw, tugging on it. My efforts were fruitless, as he remained tightly bound to the sunken platform.

He opened his eyes, looking up at me. Seeing me struggling with his chain, he let out his own cry of alarm. I pulled harder, bracing my limbs against his cage. I had to be able to get it off! I realized, then, that I was pulling at the middle of the chain. Stupid! I released it, looking at the binding as a whole and coughing up more air to clear my throat. My eyes wouldn’t focus under the water, giving me an incredibly bad idea of what the latch looked like. Still, I saw the place where a bit of metal held two pieces of wood around Toothless’ neck. I opened my mouth, reaching for it even as my throat filled with water, then coughed. I bit down and missed the binding. I blinked, tried again, but found my body growing heavy. If I could just clear my throat with a bit more air…

A bit more air…



As he rose to his feet, Stoick thought Hel herself had come to his battlefield. An unimaginably loud shriek echoed off every surface. As he turned around, he spotted the source. The Night Fury shoved Gobber to the ground, taking off toward the line of burning ships. Stoick followed his path from his position to the boats and saw a couple of the boats being sunk by the mountainous dragon’s foot.

His Night Fury friend, Stoick’s mind whispered to him, giving him a nudge. Stumbling at first, then breaking into a run, he sprinted for the water’s edge. He watched his scaly son dive in, disappearing beneath the surf and wreckage. Then he was on the shoreline. He looked, searching with his eyes for any sign of either Night Fury. He didn’t spot them.

Save your son! A part of him whispered. Protect him!

Let those monsters drown . Another part was less forgiving. He chose his side, he’s attacked you! Protect your own, Stoick!

He brought his hands up to his head. He couldn’t tell what to do, which of the voices in his head was Val and which one was his own revenge.

“I… I’m sorry, Val.” Taking his helmet from his head, he threw it to the pebbled beach and dove beneath the waves.

Stoick spotted them almost immediately. The larger and more trapped of the two was going ballistic, shaking his head back and forth and clawing at his entrapment. The smaller, his Hiccup… he wasn’t moving.

With strong strokes, Stoick swam down, grabbing his son around his now thick neck. The larger Night Fury gave a mournful cry, watching with large, round eyes as Stoick dragged Hiccup toward the surface. Pulling the human turned Night Fury, he went slowly. Too slowly. His lungs began to burn, the effort pushing him to his limits and beyond. His arms felt heavy and a large portion of his concentration went to keeping his grip on his son. Just when he thought he would pass out, Stoick’s head broke the surface. He took a deep, shuddering breath, then dragged his son’s head and upper shoulders onto the shore.

He looked back at the shifting water. As it rippled, Stoick saw a few bubbles drifting to the surface.

You’ve saved your son, no need to risk yourself further. Focus on protecting the others of your own!

Your son’s shrieking was for that Night Fury. If that Night Fury doesn’t survive, will he ever forgive you?

Stoick jumped in again, kicking hard for where he knew the Night Fury would be. He found it drifting in the water, still bound, eyes half lidded. They opened, wide but glazing over, when the beast saw him. He watched it for a moment, some small part of him rallying against his rescue of Viking kind’s sworn enemy. Then he grabbed the lock and pulled, ripping the latch in two. Taking the dragon by the neck with both hands, Stoick began kicking for the surface.

It was too far away this time. This Night Fury was heavier, larger. He wasn’t going to make it. As he watched, a few last bubbles slipped out of the nose of the Night Fury he dragged.

Val, I’m so--


Astrid watched in horror as Snotlout rode the queen toward the sea stack. She was too far away where she was; there was no way she and the Nadder could make it in time. Out of the fog, she saw a Zippleback emerge, its heads and necks adorned with two blonde humans. Snotlout began shouting at them…

Then the screeching started. Astrid looked down immediately, searching for its source. She found it in the form of Hiccup, racing toward the burning ships.

“Pull in closer!” She shouted to her Nadder. She wasn’t sure if the Nadder understood her, or if it simply thought along the same lines. In moments, they were descending toward the spot where Hiccup disappeared beneath the waves. She pulled up short behind the chief, who in turn stopped by the water’s edge. Then he took off his helmet and dived in after his son. “Stoick!”

Her Nadder squawked a warning, just as the mountainous queen stumbled backward, her flank nearly knocking them from the air. The Nadder took them up, away from the feet and tail of the monster. Near its head, three figures on a Zippleback escaped the point of collision between one massive dragon head and one sea stack. The sea stack lost, collapsing into the ocean and sending rippling waves through the floating pile of burning wreckage.

“I need to get back down there!” Astrid shouted at the Nadder. It didn't listen, instead accelerating toward the queen’s head. With a swoop, they left another line of scorched scales across the queen’s crown. “Thanks, that’s great, but chief Stoick just--”

Stoick emerged from the water, dragging a Night Fury behind him. He set the dragon on shore then, after a moment’s hesitation, dove into the water again. “Stoick!”

The Nadder circled the queen, staying well clear of Her while Her attention was drawn to them. Between the legs of the mountain-sized dragon, Astrid saw a human figure jump into the water after Stoick.

She waited with baited breath as the Nadder rose over the mountainside, steering clear of the queen’s tail. As the section of beach came into view again, she let out a breath she didn’t even realize she’d been holding. There on the beach: two Night Furies, two humans.


My eyes were closed, every thought in my head going to keeping the last of my air inside my lungs and neck. My throat felt like it was on fire, a far different and far worse kind of fire than pushing my shot limit or swallowing ignited gases. The human dragging me upward was slowing, each kick coming later than the last. That’s it then, Sapling. Your ex-alpha and I are done for.

Then another arm grabbed on between me and the alpha. Unsteady kicks passed down my side, pulling the both of us upward. It felt like a miracle when the tip of my snout felt the air and I surged forward with every muscle in my body to fill my lungs with that blessed sky, dragging both the humans with me. We broke the surface, landing heavily on a rocky beach. The beach! The island! I looked around, uncomprehending. How was I not under Her control? Then my panicked brain caught up with me.

The navigation, the setup, the attack on the mountain, the dragons fleeing, sudden freedom of mind, Her breaking out of the mountain, the human losses, the burning ships, Sapling flying in

Sapling?! Where was he? Leaving the alpha and his two-real-limbed friend on the ground, sputtering, I leaped in a circle, looking for Sapling. I found him, on the beach just out of the water, unmoving .

Sapling! No! I bounded over, standing over him. It was exactly the same as before on the human island of rock, even though he had now changed into a dragon. I had dragged us both into the sea and he was the one getting drowned.  I’m not losing you!

The red-furred alpha and his missing-limbed friend looked on as I slammed my forepaws down on Sapling’s exposed underbelly. I had to drive the water out of him, like before. A rush of liquid spurted out of his mouth and nostrils, but he didn’t move; he didn’t breathe. Sapling! Come back, please!

There was a wet gurgle from beneath me, and I backed off, lifting my paws from his chest. With what looked like a monumental effort, Sapling curled up and began hacking up a river of water.

SAPLING! My shout wasn’t of fear, but of joy. I curled up around him, protecting him from the world as he heaved up the liquid contents of his lungs. The red-furred alpha gave a hiccuping sob, clearly joyful beyond words. His beta, for I assumed that was what the two-limbed male had to be, began to leak liquid from his eyes.

She roared, infuriated by something. I looked up and saw a Flamescale running across the ground, clearly injured and trying to get away from Her. I stood and gave a roar of my own, drawing Her attention. She turned to my small group by the shoreline, snarling. I began charging my flame, preparing to blast her smug-looking face.

… Nothing. My furnace released the gases, but they wouldn’t light. Damnit! I’m still wet!

She bared her teeth at us, clearly amused by my mistake. Why doesn't she kill us? She could’ve bathed us in her flames twice over by now.

Sapling took a deep, wheezing breath. Then he took another. Stumbling a little, he rose to his feet. Sapling, thank the Sky you’re alright. He looked at me, blinking furiously. Sapling, are you okay?

No snarky comeback, no whimpering surrender to the whims of fate, just blinking. I looked more closely at him, looking deeply into his eyes. His pupils! He looked like he was tensing every muscle in his body, trying with all his might to resist…

I looked up at Her. She snapped at us, confident in Her victory.

Sapling, fight Her! Turning back around, I tackled my new best friend -- my only friend, ever -- pinning him to the ground. He began to struggle, fighting back against me. With my forepaws, I held his ear flaps flat against his head. Rumbling, thrumming with my pleas, I begged him to fight Her. Sapling, stay with me. Don’t listen to Her.

Suddenly, Sapling went limp beneath me. I panicked, releasing my hold and stepping back. Above, She roared in pain.

A Twinhead flew past. The humans riding on its necks hooted with joy as a second explosion went off in Her face.

Well done Twinhead!

Shadowscale?! One asked, surprised.
Are you free?

I’m free, but Sapling needs help!

Who’s that?
Wait, this Shadowscale is missing a tailfin!
Are you the toothless one?

Above us, She shook her massive head, sending bits of ash cascading to the ground below. As she did so, Sapling began to rise, his eyes aggressive slits, growling at the red-furred alpha.

Oh dear!
Original Shadowscale is definitely--
Agreed! Not free!

Sapling, don’t--

A large chunk of stone descended, bashing Sapling on the head. This particular chunk of stone, unlike the smaller and sharper pieces littering the pebbled beach, was attached to a human, the missing-limbed beta. I growled at him, making him raise his hands in surrender and back away.

While Sapling was dazed, the red-furred alpha came forward and tied a woven vine around Sapling’s head, holding his ear-plates down. I growled at him too, then went to check on my Sapling.

He looked up at me, eyes wide and pupils slowly unslitting, but still unfocused. T-Toothless?

I’m here, Sapling.

You have no idea how I’ve missed that name, He muttered.

Are you okay?

His ear flaps strained against the ropes. Everything is so quiet... my head hurts.

That’s better than before. Come on, let's get you back in the air.

He struggled to his feet, clearly uncoordinated. I’m so… tired. I don’t want to--

She roared again, snapping out at a passing Preenscale and her rider. I turned back to him. We don’t have that luxury right now. I thought about it for a moment. Hop on my back, I’ll give you a boost.

He warbled a little laughter, at which I cocked my head. Shaking his head, he gave a weak hop and landed on my back. The red-furred alpha made to reach out to him, but the beta held him back. Smart beta.

I bounded forward, then gave my spine a shove to knock Sapling into the air. He didn’t take off, instead holding tightly to my back. Sapling?!

He responded immediately, to my relief. Take off yourself! I want to try something!

“Try” was not a word I liked him using. I was only marginally consoled that he used “something” rather than the previously more dangerous “this” word. Fine! Don’t make me regret it!

Unfurling my own wings, I flapped down hard, launching the two of us into the air. After a moment of flight, we started to tilt. I almost chuffed in annoyance as the world began to rotate, predictably.

Then I felt the rustle of wings above me, and Sapling’s weight changed. Before I knew it, the world was rotating back . Sapling?!

It’s working Toothless! I glanced back. He had his wings out, his tail hovering just above mine. As I made a move, he tried to copy it.

I- I’m flying! I crowed. She roared, Her confidence suddenly broken and with an actual tint of anger to her wordless call. Sapling grabbed onto me tighter, shaking. It’s going to be okay, I’m here, I consoled.


Astrid watched the two Night Furies leap into the air, gaining and (thanks to Hiccup’s complete tailfin) keeping altitude by working together. “Hiccup’s up!”

Tuffnut called back across the battlefield. “Is he up on our side or--”
“He’s not going to attack us, is he?” his sister finished.

If he’s planning that, not much we can do about it, Astrid thought. “Just drop off Snotlout with his dragon so no stray Vikings hurt it!”

“Fine!” Ruffnut complained, guiding her Zippleback head downward.
“I’m on it!” Tuffnut said, shoving his head more excitedly.
“Not this again, I’ve got this!”

“Guys! Could we not fight while riding a fire-breathing, flying, two-headed lizard?!” Snotlout shouted.

Astrid tuned them out, turning her focus instead to the queen. The monstrous dragon had a number of lines of scorched scales across Her head, courtesy of both Astrid’s Nadder and the twins’ Zippleback. As her Nadder came around to attack again, Astrid saw the queen’s eyes focusing on them. Panicked, she pulled on her Nadder’s horns. “Pull back, she knows we’re here!”

The Nadder recognized the threat and began flapping backward, bringing them to a stop. The queen opened Her mouth, slowly drawing in a massive breath. The Nadder spun, desperately accelerating away from Her. To Astrid’s deep concern, she found they were only accelerating through the air as quickly as the air accelerated toward the monster’s mouth. Astrid clung tight, praying for something, anything, to save them both.

The screech of a diving Night Fury split the air and a burst of purple light shot past. The mountain-sized dragon stopped Her intake of breath, roaring in anger. The explosion combined with the sudden concussive blast of reversed air washed over Astrid and the Nadder, sending both tumbling through the air.

Then she lost her grip.

The wind rushed past as the dragon’s back retreated, the world spinning around Astrid. She screamed, each spin showing the ground slightly larger, slightly closer, slightly more deadly.

Another rush of air joined the first, then she found herself flying upside-down, close enough to the ground to touch it. A chirp sounded above her and she looked up, finding her foot gripped by the claws of a Night Fury. The dragon looked down at her, then displayed his gums in a silly mimicry of the human smile splitting her own face.

This is trust . Astrid thought, her mind focusing irrationally on Hiccup's strange suggestions from days earlier, trying to ignore how she had just come within an arm’s reach of death.

The dragon chirped, then tossed her into the air. It-- He, caught her again a moment later, then flapped to a near hover to let her off into the pebbled beach.

The two Night Furies, for she could see the second one from where she stood on the ground, flew up into the air, taking a nearly vertical ascent.

“Go…” She whispered, knowing there was probably no way they could hear her. They could do it, though, she was sure. If any dragon or group of dragons could defeat that fire-breathing, mountain-sized monstrosity, it was those two.


I shot up into the air, guided by gentle nudges from Sapling. Even though we shared equivalent eyesight, his plans and ideas far outpaced my own; he saw things I didn’t even consider. Shooting at Her rather than grabbing the Preenscale and her human directly was one of those plans.

Toothless, She has wings! Let's see if She can use them!

I hummed in agreement, making our climb even steeper. As we began to stall out, I nudged his tail upward with my own, sending us both in a backward loop over the top of our momentum. Facing back toward the pebbled beach, I fanned my wings to stop our rotation. We fell straight down for almost a hundred wingbreadths before I fanned my midwings, the action copied by Sapling. We leveled out, coming in at nigh-unimaginable velocities. Together, we charged plasma blasts and released, the explosive shots slamming simultaneously into the side of Her head and neck. She cried out, losing Her balance and falling to the ground.

You think that did it? he asked as he shifted on my back, looking behind us. If the thump of unimaginably massive wings and guttural roar of fury were anything to go by, I assumed it worked too well. Well, She…

Sapling trailed off, shaking his head. I hummed in concern. Sapling?

I thought I heard…

I looked up at him and saw him shake his head again, his ear flaps straining against the woven-vine tied around his neck. I hummed louder. Don’t listen. Focus on me. Me and flying.

R-rig-- DIVE!

I looked ahead, just in time to see the sea stack hurtling toward us. I pulled in my wings as Sapling’s tail slammed downward onto mine and the two of us dropped underneath the stone. As we leveled out just above the water, the sea stack exploded behind us, Her head punching through with almost no effort. With synchronized flapping, we shot forward. Sapling lifted his tail and we rose through a smaller hole in the next sea stack. Not two wingbeats later, that sea stack also exploded as She slammed through.

Alright, bud, time to disappear.

What? Where? I asked, confused.

Up! He pitched us upward, flapping harder. I joined in, and we shot up toward the storm-grey clouds above.

Oh! Hide in the clouds!

The wingbeats behind us grew louder as our airspeed dropped, Her wingspan allowing her to gain on us slightly in a vertical climb. Sapling shifted around, looking behind us. HERE IT COMES! he shouted, suddenly.

Here what-- Sapling pulled in all three of his left side wings on our next downbeat, ruining our balance. We spun off our previous path, tumbling wildly as I tried to correct for whatever stupidity he’d just done. A wall of flame blasted through the space we had previously occupied. Oh.

Returning to our previous rhythm, we shot up into the clouds as She roared in anger behind us. Sapling banked us off course in the haze, then stilled my wings into a glide. Behind us, She roared again, searching for us.

We need to shoot at Her wings. If She falls from this height, She might just get hurt!

He pulled us out of our bank and flapped, accelerating us toward Her last position. As suddenly as we had entered the haze, we exited into a wide area cleared by her hovering flap. I charged my flame, firing into one of Her wings as we shot by. She hissed and snapped at us, missing us by a half dozen wingbreadths as we re-entered the clouds.

I’ll fire on the next go, Sapling said, inching a little forward on my back. I hummed at him. We turned, banking up and around to come from above. As we dove in, Sapling fired a plasma blast, striking Her wing’s membrane near the joint. We shot past, between Her body and Her wing, then pulled up and slipped back into the clouds. Okay Toothless, your turn.

We flew past again, this time from below. She roared in anger and, much to my relief, pain.

Spin, fly, attack, escape. We repeated this maybe a dozen times, alternating our shots to stay well below our limits. Nonetheless, after an indeterminate amount of time, I felt my throat beginning to itch with the edge of my shot limit. Even after all we’d done, Her wingbeats sounded as strong as ever. Sapling, I don’t--

Sapling cut me off, shouting. Watch out! Stop!

She let out a storm of flames, firing in every direction and setting the clouds aglow. The fire cut down in front of us and I dropped my tail and pulled in my wings to dive down underneath it. Sapling flared his wings, lifting his tail to try to come to a stop in place. His claws dug into my shoulders to stay attached to me and my momentum dragged both of us through the flames.

Upside: the claw marks he left on my shoulders were instantly cauterized.

Downside: screeches of pain from the both of us told Her exactly where we were.

Downside two: the woven vine around Sapling’s ear flaps caught fire.

We dropped, shooting out the other side of the cascading flames. She heard our cries of alarm and pain, spinning around and following us into the murk of the clouds. Sapling shook his head and the woven vine held on, barely.

We don’t have long now, Sapling. tell me you have an idea!

He shifted on my back again, looking back at Her looming form. That was a lot of fire…

No! He was getting distracted. I looked up. The woven-vine was still in place. Sapling, stay with me. What do we do next?

Dive! He squawked, his tail slamming down onto my own.


DIVE! He shoved my tail down, his own intact tailfins catching the air. We pitched forward, dropping like stones through the haze. As we fell, a wall of fire filled the sky above us. Spotting our escape, Her wingbeats stopped and She plunged after us.

When I say so, flip over and fire directly into Her mouth.

What good will--

Trust me. We both went quiet, the only sound between us the air whistling as we descended. I heard a rush of air, a change in the airflow as She began breathing in behind us. Hold, Toothless…

We’re dead! A part of me shouted at the rest of my mind. The moment to swerve aside has come and gone! She’ll turn us to ash!

NOW! Sapling roared. Our wings shot out every which way and we spun to face the mighty monster that had ruled the entirety of my life. I charged up my gases, ignoring my fears of Her own mouthful of fiery death.

All it takes is a spark from Her and you and Sapling both will die. I fired and immediately afterward realized Sapling’s genius. My shot detonated on the first layers of Her gas, igniting the gas from front to back. The expanding gases on the outer edge pressed the remaining gas inward, shoving Her fire back up Her own throat.

Flap your wings, let's get out of here! Sapling said, suddenly afraid. I saw that same fear echoed in Her eyes as she flared Her massive wings. The tearing sound of the holes we opened in her flight surfaces widening almost made me sick to my stomach. I complied, propelling the both of us past Her burning maw, with his tail as steering guide.

Over the rush of the wind and the burning of Her flames, I heard a tiny sound. It was something unnatural given the environment, something utterly out of place. It sounded like the snip of a claw through flesh or grass. Above me, Sapling went rigid. I chanced a glance upward, trusting him to guide us while I checked on him.

The woven-vine the red-furred alpha tied over his ear flaps was gone . As I turned my attention forward, he began keening loudly, mournfully . Sapling! Don’t listen to Her! She’s almost dead now!

She impacted with the ground, the ignited gases rushing up inside Her and detonating uncontrolled within Her furnace. An explosion ripped apart the ground around Her maw as Her skull cracked, fire racing up Her body toward us. I flapped harder, trying to stay ahead of the fatal, scale-cracking heat. Sapling, on my back, clung motionlessly.

Sapling, come on! I roared, hoping Her influence would wear off before the fire caught up. With another beat of my wings, we cleared the spines on Her back and shot upward toward Her tail.

Her tail, that swung back toward us .


He didn’t move, still keening mournfully over Her death.


I ducked my head as the tail came crashing down upon us. I slid over rough hide and scale, bouncing off without hitting any of Her tail’s spines.

Sapling was not so lucky. A spine I missed by under half a wingbreadth collided with him head on, tearing his claws from my back. I growled in pain, looking back to see if the impact knocked him back to his senses.

It hadn’t. He was out cold, falling limply toward Her dying explosion. NO!

Ignoring my own safety, I swung my wings upward hard, destroying all my upward momentum. I tumbled back down, spinning around until I faced roughly toward him. Pulling in my remaining tailfin so it wouldn’t disrupt my orientation, I pumped the air as hard as I could, trying with every muscle in my being to get to him.



Chapter End Notes

“There’s nothing left to say, now!” ~Imagine Dragons, Nothing Left To Say
Tomorrow’s chapter, Chapter 19, will be the last. After that chapter, any future postings in the Siding with Them universe will go in a separate fic.

I hope that was a little exciting for you guys!

Taking Flight

Chapter Notes

Chapter 19 : Taking Flight


The detonation of the “the big one,” as Astrid had called it, rocked the island under every Vikings’ feet, sending all but a few tumbling to the ground. Stoick, closer to the explosion than most (relatively speaking, still thousands of paces away,) was one of those many knocked off his or her feet. Shaking his head to clear it of the after effects, he brought himself to his hands and knees. Then the heat hit. In moments, the cool island air felt like the sweltering interior of a forge, in the summer, with all the ventilation blocked.

Stoick reached for his helmet, lifting it from the ground. Then he turned, facing the direction from which the blast had come. Impenetrable dust stood between him and anything else. Looking over his shoulder, he couldn’t even see Gobber and Astrid where they’d been fleeing to the crowd of Vikings assembled further north. Stoick stumbled forward, toward the epicenter. With every step he took, the heat got worse, even with the natural dissipation of the air. Thor almighty, not even a dragon could have survived that blast.

He thought back, to just before the explosion. A speck had appeared in the clouds, leaving a tiny trail of smoke as it fell. Then the queen had appeared, in all Her terrifying glory. She dove after the speck, preparing to burn it when the speck had fired a plasma blast up inside Her . There had been mere moments between the queen’s fire igniting and Her collision with the ground. Had the speck gotten away? He took a deep breath, coughing on the dust cloud. “Hiccup?” His voice was far too weak for his liking, and he took another, larger breath. “Hiccup?!”

The dust around him remained silent. Apart from his breathing, heartbeat, and stumbling, uncertain footsteps, no sound permeated the air. He continued to walk haltingly forward, stopping only when the heat itself kept him from continuing. He squinted ahead, looking for anything.

A dark shape loomed: the queen’s massive, broken head. It was upside-down now, its wide, dead eyes and cracked scales scorched various shades of black. Charred material filled the slight gap between the left and right sides of the head. Stoick reached out toward it, but approaching any closer felt like walking unprotected into a bonfire. Shading his eyes, he searched the ground for any sign of his scaly son. He found nothing; the ground between him and the head was covered only by black-scorched gravel.

Feeling his way around the heat, Stoick picked a direction and kept walking. “Hiccup?!” he called out, “Son!”

He blinked, thinking his eyes were playing a trick on him when he saw it. Ahead, propped up motionless against a rock, a Night Fury lay. “Hiccup!”

He ran forward, grateful as the heat lessened with his approach. He fell to his knees a dozen paces away. Only one. There’s only one there, and it has only one tailfin! No! Why did it have to be this one?

The Night Fury that lay before him had only one tailfin. Its wings were bent at awful angles, as if trying to protect its underside from a crash, possibly broken.

What, is this some kind of test? After everything I’ve been through -- my son’s been through -- the Gods put before me the evidence of all my mistakes?

He bowed his head, ignoring his helmet as it slipped to the ground. Behind him he heard footsteps quickly approaching, slowing to a stop as they saw the scene.

“I did this,” Stoick whispered, “I did this… I...” I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye, to say sorry… I had no chance to admit I was so, so wrong -- about everything.

The dragon drew a shuddering breath. Lifting its head slightly, it took another. Slowly, it opened its eyes. Stoick locked eyes with it, seeing the pain and exhaustion contained within its orbs. It had his son’s irises, the same shade as both before and after his son became a dragon.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” Stoick added, still at a whisper.

The Night Fury surveyed him a moment longer, then, with what looked like monumental effort, dragged open its wings. Its shoulders were bloody, claw marks raking from its upper limbs to its back. Tangled in its legs, though, lay something that restored Stoick’s hope in the world: A smaller Night Fury. It was battered, burned, bloodied, but with two tailfins on a tail wrapped around the larger’s hind legs.

Stoick ran forward, unconcerned with startling the larger dragon. There was only one dragon... person... the smaller could be. Falling to his knees next to the Night Furies now, Stoick lifted the smaller by the base of the neck from the grasp of the larger. Under his hands, Stoick felt his son’s scaly chest expand.

“He’s alive! You brought him back alive!”

Unbeknownst to Stoick, a crowd of Vikings had been gathering behind him. Hearing his exclamation, they burst into applause, cheering on the survival of their saviors. Gobber’s limping gait approached from just behind and the smith lay a supportive hand on Stoick’s shoulder. “He doesn’ look too good, though. Jus’ take a look a’ tha--”

A squeaking, terrified shout echoed down from the sky. “Chief! Gobber! Don’t! That’s Hiccup! He came to negotiate peace!”

Gobber and Stoick looked up. Gobber commented on the odd sight. “Huh, was wonderin’ when the las’ of our trainin’ dragons would show up.”

Astrid spoke up from further behind, on the edge of the crowd. “Fishlegs, Hiccup just killed the queen! Stoick isn’t hurting him, he’s helping!”

Fluttering to an awkward, bouncy landing near the crowd of Vikings, Fishlegs looked embarrassed. “Oh. I mean… Sorry. Right. I’ll just… OkayByeNow.”

Stoick held his son tightly to his chest, letting his emotions overwhelm him. An actual tear slipped out of his eye, landing on his son’s scales.

Gobber cut in, “Look, Stoick, I don't wan’ to ruin the moment or anything, but I really think tha’ wing needs lookin’ at.”

Stoick pulled back, looking at both his son and his son’s savior. With its -- his -- wings unfurled, the larger Night Fury seemed relatively uninjured. However, the right side of his underbelly had a lot of blood running down it, that appeared to come from nowhere. Looking down at Hiccup, Stoick found the source. His son’s right wing joint had a large gash in it, going concerningly deep.

The larger Night Fury noticed the gash too and crooned while waving his forelegs in a crude imitation of human gesturing. Gobber commented, unnecessarily, “I think your son’s scaly friend wants your son back.”

Reverently, Stoick placed his son back into the larger Night Fury’s outstretched limbs. The dragon pulled Stoick’s son close to his head, then began licking the wound.

“HEY--” Stoick bellowed, clambering to his feet and preparing to beat the Night Fury off. He was stopped by a small pair of hands with grips of iron latching onto his arm.

“Don’t, Stoick,” Astrid said.

“That dragon’s going to get my son’s wound infected!” Stoick shouted.

“Chief, Hiccup trusts that dragon with his life, and I trust your son.”

Astrid let go of Stoick’s arm, but the words she’d said left a much heavier deterrent behind. Trusts that dragon with his life… He hadn’t known. It only went to show how much he didn’t know about his own offspring, even after everything that happened.

Stoick deflated, letting both arms drop. Murmurs broke out in the crowd of villagers. “Ah, Stoick,” Gobber said, “you might want to help with this.”

Stoick stood, turning to the crowd of Vikings. To his surprise, he found a large number around the edges had drawn their weapons, with more arming themselves by the moment. The cause: a Monstrous Nightmare and Deadly Nadder approaching along the beach.

A commotion broke out near the center of the group. Stoick spotted his brother and his nephew in the middle of it. “Stay back here! It isn’t safe--” Spitelout began.

“Let go of me, dad!” Snotlout shouted, pulling free of his father’s grip. As soon as he was away, he began shoving his way through the crowd of Vikings, toward the approaching dragons. Astrid began pushing her way through as well. The two of them, with differing levels of experience at pushing people out of their way, arrived at the edge of the crowd at the same time. The Nightmare startled backward, the Nadder held its ground. “Woah, big… hook-fanged dragon. Just calm down, okay?”

The dragon whimpered, and Snotlout held out his hands. Slowly, the dragon leaned out and put its head into Snotlout’s hands.

“See? It'll be okay Hookfang,” Snotlout said, scratching his dragon’s snout. To Stoick’s surprise, the dragon actually started purring .

Meanwhile, Astrid’s Nadder went back to her almost immediately, the two reuniting like old friends. “It’s good to see you too girl. You didn’t get too hurt from the fall, right?”

The crowd of Vikings couldn’t contain itself anymore. A few villagers broke into angry shouting, the rest talking animatedly. Fishlegs and his Gronckle shrunk back from the crowd, edging toward Hiccup and his Night Fury.

“Chief! What’s going on here?!”
“These teenagers are friends with dragons? World’s gone mad!”
“How are we gonna get home now?”
“That monstrous dragon burned every one of our boats!”
“What are we gonna do now, chief?”

Stoick shook his head. “QUIET!” he roared. The crowd went silent. “I don’t know everything that’s happened here. From what I understand, though, that dragon--” Stoick gestured at the corpse of the queen, now visible through the dissipating dust cloud, “--was… controlling the others, forcing them to raid us.”

“That’s exactly it!” Astrid shouted over the crowd, “It's like bees in a beehive: that was their queen. They didn't have a choice but to follow her orders!”

“Dragons don’t want to fight us,” Fishlegs added, rubbing his Gronckle’s back, “They can be really great friends, see?”

“If they had no choice,” a random Viking piped up, “why’d the teenager’s dragons listen to them, instead?”

“Hiccup blocked the queen’s power, somehow. He almost got pulled in himself, though…” Astrid answered.

“None o’ this answers my question!” A Viking shouted, pushing to the front. Mulch emerged, looking far worse for wear than he had before this expedition. His beard was singed, his prosthetic hand slightly melted. “Tha’ was our whole fleet o’er there! We’ve no ships ta get home!”

Stoick frowned. That was indeed a problem, one he didn’t have an answer for. He ran through the possibilities, but couldn’t find anything viable.

“Dragon riders, coming through!” a voice shouted from the clouds. Many Vikings ducked as a Zippleback shot overhead, landing behind Hiccup and the Night Fury.
“That one again? Ugh, you’re so unoriginal,” the voice’s twin sister complained.
“Fine, maybe I’ll say… Fat sister coming through!” Tuffnut shoved at his sister, and the two began fighting atop the Zippleback’s necks. The Zippleback heads actually rolled their eyes and dropped to the ground, apparently too tired to engage in the twins’ antics.

“Tuffnut! Ruffnut! We’re trying to have a serious discussion here!” Stoick roared, bringing their fight to a standstill.

“A serious discussion?” Ruffnut asked.
“We love serious discussions!”
“That’s what got us in this mess in the first place!”
“That’s why they’re so cool!”

They turned their full attention to Stoick, actually remaining quiet for once. Stoick sighed and turned back to Mulch and the other Vikings. “You’re right, we have no ships. We’ll have to search the island, look for anything that can float--”

“No boats?” Tuff asked.
“There are plenty of boats!” Ruff said.

The Vikings stared at the two of them.

“What, didn’t you guys see all those wrecks out in the sea stacks?”
“There were, like five Berk ships and at least one or two from the Berserkers.”
“And that was with like five minutes of flying!”

“Berserker ships?” Stoick asked. “Was there anyone aboard?”

The twins shared a look.
“The ships were pretty old--”
“--like really, really old--”
“--and split in half.”

Mulch shook his head. “Half a ship is hardly any good for sailin’.”

“It’s better than no ship.” Stoick looked over the back of the crowd. “Astrid, can you teens and the dragons bring us pieces of ships?”

Astrid looked to her Nadder, then to Snotlout’s Nightmare. “We can try.”

Stoick turned back to the milling crowd of Vikings. “Men, set up camp here as best you can. Treat any wounded and don’t harm any dragons unless they attack first.”

“Don’t harm dragons?!”
“This is an outrage!”
“We should kill all the dragons now!”
“Attack while they’re weak!”

“NO!” Stoick bellowed, stilling the Vikings. “There’s been enough death here. This war ends today. Do not harm a dragon unless it attacks first. Spitelout, I want a headcount, find out who we’ve lost. Gobber, start collecting tools, we’re going to need to rebuild the ships that the teens bring in.”

“Aye Stoick.”

“Aye Stoic’.”

The Vikings jumped in surprise as air washed over them. Astrid and her Nadder took off, followed immediately by the twins on their Zippleback.

This war ends today. Stoick watched the dragons disappear into the sea stacks. You were right Val, there was another way. I was almost too blind to see it.


I lay on the surface of the humans’ floating pile of logs, clutching Sapling to my chest. Since the red-furred alpha had returned him to me, I hadn’t let go of him. When the humans put us onto this logpile, even then I held tightly. They ended up moving us both, together. My saliva had helped his blood to dry in the wound, sealing it, but Sapling had not stirred. I was almost starting to become concerned. Almost. I wasn’t, though. He was going to pull through. He had to.

The surface of trees beneath me rocked as it passed over a wave. The red-furred alpha standing next to me stumbled, holding the side of the construction for support.

We did it. She was dead, for good. Even better, the yellow-furred female that had attacked us that one night seemed to have changed opinions, doing her best to protect the small humans’ dragons from the adult humans. Both she and her Preenscale rode along on the same floating structure as we did.

The Preenscale cocked her head at me. Shadowscale, how is the smaller Shadowscale?

I growled, the sound clearly exasperation, exhaustion, and frustration, rather than aggression. No change. Still asleep.

She ruffled her crown of horns, picking up on my concern. Her human placed a paw on her snout, comforting her. The surface of trees rocked over another wave. He won’t be able to use that wing, even after it heals.

I growled again, this time, more aggressively. I know.

The Preenscale rustled her horns again, then nudged her human’s shoulder. The yellow-furred human looked back, just in time to get pulled to the ground by her dragon. The Preenscale snuggled around her, and the human awkwardly patted the dragon with a forepaw.

We did it. She was dead, we were alive, and the war with the humans was over.

Just come back to me now, Sapling .


Treewad Weedborn sat in his chair, staring out to sea. It was hopeless. Almost a week had passed since the chief set sail with nearly the whole population of the village and not a single plank of wood had drifted its sorry way back. They were dead, every one of ‘em. Had to be. He never should’ve let them go, he should’ve used his influence…

Bah, what influence? He was the last member of his family and nobody cared what a Weedborn had to say these days. Back in his day, his family had mattered! Protected the food stores with sword and shield! Now…

He sighed, deflating in his chair. He should’ve gone with them. Dying attacking the nest, even if he didn’t really contribute anything, would surely be a glorious enough death to enter the halls of Valhalla. He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. He could imagine it now…

After a moment he cracked one eye open, just to check that he hadn't actually gone to Valhalla in his daydreaming. Then he blinked hard. Impossible!

Slowly, he levered himself out of his chair. Days of inactivity had taken their toll on him, but he persevered. With stumbling steps, he made his way outside to confirm what his eyes had just told him.

Indeed, ships were approaching on the horizon, flying tattered and burnt Berkian sails.

“The chief is returning…” he whispered. Cursing his old voice, he tried again, “The chief is returning!”

Treewad hobbled his way down from the village, into the harbor. His age and exhaustion slowed him, but he reached the docks before the ships did. Only one other figure stood on the wooden planks with him: elder Gothi.

“Elder Gothi! Did they succeed?” Treewad asked, “Are the dragons finally dead?”

With her staff, the elder began scratching in the dock. She drew two numerals, the number “one” and the number “two.” Pointing at the first, she nodded. Pointing at the second, she shook her head.

Treewad looked between her and the approaching ships. It took him a while to connect the dots and to figure out that the numerals referred to the order in which he’d asked his questions. “How in Hel's name could they succeed if the dragons aren’t dead?”

The first ship slid into the docks, drifting slowly into the berth closest to him and the elder. At the bow stood Stoick the Vast, dirtied and tired, but standing on his own two feet. By his feet…

“Two Night Furies?” Behind him on the ship sat a third dragon. “A Deadly Nadder?! Chief Stoick! What is the meaning of--”

Elder Gothi whacked Treewad over the head with her staff, sending him stumbling with her surprising strength. Stoick looked down at the diminutive elder in surprise and she peered back. She nodded at the battered chief, then turned and began to hobble back up the slope from the docks.

Treewad sat on the ground, stunned by the elder’s blow, as Stoick began giving out orders to the other incoming ships. “Unload the fish! I don’t want the dragons following us sinking the remains of our fleet to get at them.”

“Where do we put ‘em Stoick?” asked the village smith from the next ship over.

Astrid Hofferson untangled herself from the Nadder’s lap to add her opinion. “If we dump fish off in the torch towers, the dragons will perch on those instead of our houses.”

“Good thinking, lass,” Stoick complimented. “You heard Astrid! Get baskets off the docks, carry the fish up to the torch towers!”

Treewad sat in stunned silence as the boats rolled in, a crowd of over two hundred dragons -- maybe over four hundred -- trailing behind in the sky for a whole league.

World’s gone mad…


Sapling, are you ever waking up?

I didn’t move. I was still so tired . It felt like all I could do was sleep. The voice, whoever it was, chuffed. I heard the scrape of scales on wood as he or she walked away, then the creak of old hinges. Really old hinges.

An indeterminate period of time later, after the creaking door had swung open and shut a few times more, it opened again, followed by the scrape of scales. The sound stopped next to me, then was replaced by a much stranger sound, like laughing mixed with choking. Immediately after, there was a wet splat as something slimy hit the floor, a few droplets splattering my face. Sapling, I brought fish. You haven’t eaten in fourteen days now -- since you were human. If you don’t eat something I really will force feed you.

I drew in a long breath through my nostrils. That fish smelled delicious , nearly unimaginably so. With lethargy born of both exhaustion and a grudging dislike of the discomfort the movement brought, I rolled off my left side and lapped up one of the fish -- fish halves, I quickly discovered -- my eyes still closed.

Sapling?! Are you awake?

No, I hummed, holding my eyes shut. A wet tongue ran up my forehead. Agh! No! Fine, I’m awake. I lifted my head and opened my eyes expecting… I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I found was certainly odd. Toothless? We’re in a house? Where are we?

Sapling! You’re awake! Thank the skies we fly through! Unable to contain his excitement, Toothless bounded around the low-ceilinged house, overturning bowls of herbs and bottles of various colored liquids.

Toothless! Toothless! Calm down bud! The damage was already done, though, bowls and bottles toppled to the floor, spilling their contents every which way. I gave a long-suffering sigh. Carefully, I stood up on my own four feet, looking at the pile of fish I had just eaten from. Toothless, tell me you didn’t just cough these fish up.

Toothless looked sheepish. I know it’s sort of acting like you’re immature, but it was easier than carrying them.

I looked down at the half-eaten pile of literally half-eaten fish, disgust filling my mind. My stomach had other ideas. Reluctantly, revolted by my own body’s tastes, I slurped up and swallowed another raw, half-eaten, saliva-covered fish half. It was delicious . Ookay, that’s disgusting.

If it didn’t preserve well I could go get one of the humans’ containers filled with fish, I mean--

No, it was fine, I’m just-- Humans don’t eat each other’s half digested food. Ever.

I… I hadn’t thought of that. Toothless ducked his head.

Shivering at the reminder of my own changes, I shook my head. Just forget about it. Where are we? Does my dad know you’re here? I began walking past the remaining fish, toward the door.

Sapling, maybe you should take things slow. That--

I pulled open the ancient wooden door with my chin, immediately regretting the action. Outside, a Flamescale flapped to a stop, looking at the door. SAPLING?! it… he roared. I pulled my head out of the way, shoving the rickety door shut with my shoulder.

Agh! I cried out as my shoulder burst into pain.

I told you to take this slow! Toothless complained, reaching me in a single bound in the confined space and dragging me away from the door with his gums on my tail.

What was-- What happened to… I trailed off when I spotted the damage. Just behind my right forelimb’s shoulder, across the right wing joint, a pile of white colored poultices signified something bad. Strangely, around the wingtip, there were also a few strange holes that were slowly healing. I tried to extend my wing out, but couldn’t. I craned my head, looking even farther back, and found my right wing was tied against my body with a rope. I could barely even strain the rope with my wing, the muscles either not responding or… or not there.

When you impacted with a spine on Her tail, an existing injury to your right wing joint tore open. Toothless looked away, embarrassed and apologetic. If I hadn’t ducked at the last moment, it would’ve hit me instead. Then you were falling toward Her fire and the only thing I could reach was that same wing and I--

Toothless… I thought back to the incident, trying to remember what had happened. There was me flying with the other dragons, then me racing to Her call, not in full control of my own mind. After that, I dove into the water after the drowning Toothless, then Toothless and I were flying against Her in the clouds, then we took that harrowing dive, then I had gone rigid and… Toothless, that wasn’t your fault. I sat back on my haunches. Gods, I couldn’t fight Her even as She died. I nearly got you-- us killed!

That gash might heal over, but you’re never going to fly on your own again.

I don’t care about flying. Toothless, you’re the only friend I’ve ever had. If I’d hurt you…

You didn’t. I got out just fine. He ducked his head again, once more embarrassed.

I blinked. So you don’t blame me for anything?

Blame you? Sapling, I blame myself.

I thrummed with barely stifled laughter and he looked up, hurt. Oh, Toothless! I’m sorry, we’re both just… It’s silly. We’re each blaming ourselves, afraid of the other’s reaction.

But you didn’t do anything wrong! I just--

Toothless, stop. Don’t blame yourself for anything.

I… Okay. He didn’t look any happier, though.

Stay here, I’m going to find out what’s going on outside. Turning back to the creaky door, I grabbed the handle with my gums and pulled it open. (It tasted surprisingly not that bad as if someone had washed it off with buckets of rosemary.) Outside, I saw ocean and sky, extending until they met at the horizon. Slowly I walked to the edge of the wooden platform set before the old cabin.

Berk was completely different. Dragons of all colors sat perched on every structure, not quite taking up all available space, but putting quite a dent in the visibility of the roofs. The torch towers were aglow, not with fire but instead with sunlight reflected off the scales of mounds of fish. I stood above it all on the edge of elder Gothi’s patio.

Footsteps approached from behind and I turned to locate their source. It was my dad huffing up the last few steps of Gothi’s trail. As he reached the top, Astrid and her Preenscale landed behind him, followed by Snotlout on his Flamescale. Stoick stopped a moment to catch his breath.

“Am I theah, thah? Iff sso, iss thiss your Hel or my Fallhalla? Or thih Hel hersself think I messseh uf sso fathly thah she mathe a realm off Helheim ffor me thoh life haffily in?”

My dad gave a hearty chuckle, stepping up beside me to look down over the village. “You’re not dead, son, but you gave it your best shot.”

Astrid dismounted from her Preenscale and walked over. “You did it Hiccup. The dragons have been living here for two days now and neither side has killed anyone.”

“I thake ih you thon’h finh feing ffrienthss with a thraghon unnathural now?” I commented.

Astrid glanced back at her Nadder, then hung her head. “I have to admit, Stormfly is a pretty… nice. Friend.”

“Ssthormffly? Thah ssounthss like ith hass a ssthory fehinh ih.”

She shook her head. “It’s stupid. Just a comment I made after you flew off under the queen’s mind control.”

I wanted to ask her what the comment was, but another figure came huffing up the path. Gobber ducked under Snotlout’s Flamescale’s neck, then stopped to take a long breath. “Why. Does Gothi. Live. So high up?” he asked, pausing for breath several times mid sentence. He took a deeper breath, held it, then released it, returning to more normal breathing. “Hiccup, I suppose you’ve noticed tha’ wing by now.”

“Kintha harh noh thoh.”

Gobber scratched behind his ear with his hook prosthetic. “I tried to come up with some kinda spring prosthetic ta fix it, but I wasn’t really sure how badly it’d be impaired given the injury, an’ the bein’ a dragon n’ all…”

“Ith’ss fine hoff-- ghopher.”

Snotlout dismounted his own dragon, coming over more nervously. “Look, uhh, Hiccup. I just wanted to…” He trailed off, and I cocked my head at him, waiting. “I’m sorry. Okay? I don’t think I ever said that. It’s all my fault you ended up all dragoney and on Outcast Island and I-- I’m sorry.”

I hadn’t expected this apology from Snotlout, and it took me off guard. “I… uhh… Thankss, Ssnothlouth.”

“That’s the only time I’m saying it, though!” he declared. I shook my head. That was the Snotlout I expected.

“Well Hiccup, you’ve changed Berk for the better,” Stoick commented, looking down at all the dragons perched in the village. “Turns out all we needed was a little bit of--”

“Thrusth,” I filled in. He trailed off like he had been going to use a different word, then shrugged.

A crash came from inside Gothi’s hut as something was knocked over. The Flamescale behind us growled, then took flight off the path. “Hookfang! Where are you going?!” Snotlout shouted after him, running off down the path. Toothless leaped out the hut’s door.

Toothless! You scared off the Flamescale!

Sorry. Got tired of waiting.

Stoick chuckled as Toothless and I shared draconic growls and chirps. “Then there’s that.”

Toothless bounded over, pushing in between me and my dad. He rubbed his head against mine, purring. You’re acting like you haven’t seen me in days, bud.

He stopped, turning to give me a look. Says the person who’s been unconscious for a half dozen days and who barely ate anything when he woke up.

Oh, what, is it always going to be like--

Gobber cut in. “No’ tha’ I’m not havin’ a lot of fun watchin’ all the family and friendship reunions, I did kinda come all the way up here to check on tha’ wing of yours.”

I sighed, switching to Norse. Toothless ducked his head as if he’d been about to do something but stopped. “Fine, fine. Ssorry my recofery ghoh in the way off your fussy thay ghoffer.”

“Fussy? Now who’re you callin’--”

“F- Bf- Bussy. Fuzshy.” I growled in exasperation. “Thiss mouth iss useless ssomethimess.”

Gobber untied the rope around my wing. Almost immediately my wing dropped to the ground, limp. Toothless looked crestfallen.

I could see the whole thing now. The poultices led from just behind my neck all the way to just past my wing joint. On the end of my wing, a semicircle of tiny holes indicated someone had bit my wing. I knew who, and why. He was looking very sad right now, very upset that this injury had happened under his care. It wasn't your fault, Toothless.

“Try an’ lift it.” the smith instructed. I did as asked, wincing as, to my utter surprise, nothing happened. Gobber took the edge of my wing in hand and lifted it himself, to twice my height. “Okay, now try pullin’ it downwa--” I flapped down with full strength, accidentally slapping him in the face with the wingtip. When the wing flopped onto the ground, it lay there -- I couldn’t pick it back up.

Another set of footsteps approached, up the path. Careful not to step on my own wing, I turned slightly to look. Elder Gothi emerged from the head of her path, limping toward the group assembled on her patio.

“Gothi! We were just checking Hiccup’s--” Gobber began. The elder thwacked him over the forehead with her staff, then began scratching in the dirt. “Fine, fine. You could just start writing before you go hittin’ me with that stick o’ yours.” He bent down over the seemingly meaningless jumble. “Okay, Gothi wants the black Nadder--” She thwacked him again. “--Agh! I mean, the Night Fury with a funny ear--” Thwack. “--Agh! Wing! Damaged wing to sell herbs.” Thwack “She means do the opposite of what she does. Right?” Gothi tapped above one of her scribbled symbols. “Aha! Gothi wants Hiccup to rotate his wing the opposite direction she does. Bu’, hold on, we just did tha’--”

Elder Gothi shoved Gobber out of the way, limping over to my wing. Dropping her staff, she lifted the leading edge of my wing over her head. Carefully, I pushed the leading edge down while leaving the trailing edge up. She frowned, lifting up the trailing edge instead. I strained against her but found that only pulling down the leading edge made the wing descend. She let my wing fall, then kneeled on top of the leading edge. I tried as hard as I could to lift it but was rewarded with absolutely nothing. She grabbed her staff, using it to rise unsteadily to her feet.

She took a step over to Gobber, who was nursing his head, and scribbled out something else. “She says Hiccup can glide on his own, but his falling will be imposs--” Gothi stabbed her staff at Gobber’s good foot. “--Oi! Flapping will be impossible. However, he has a friend who can eat his carcass?” Gothi whacked Gobber’s shins. “Agh! Fly beneath him? Is tha’ it?” I thought I saw Elder Gothi roll her eyes. “Oh, how was I supposed to figure tha’ out from a dragon drawn inside another dragon?!” Gothi scribbled a few more lines. “From context?! Wha’ context?!”

What are they all saying? I think I heard a lot of human-speak for flying... Toothless asked.

I chuffed in annoyance at their antics over something Toothless had already guessed. They’re just confirming what you already knew; I can't fly on this wing anymore.

Toothless hung his head. I guess that--

Stop. Really bud, It wasn’t your fault.

He avoided my gaze. I’m sorry anyway.

The Preenscale -- Astrid had called her Stormfly -- screeched wordlessly, drawing everyone’s attention. She continued in dragon-speak. Would you all just stop, already? It’s obvious larger Shadowscale has more than enough wingspan to lift both himself and Sapling. If you use Sapling’s tail and larger Shadowscale’s wings, then they can both fly!

Everyone stared at her, the humans in shock and confusion, Toothless and myself in dawning recognition. That would work .

Stormfly walked over to her human, nudging Astrid in the back. Come on . Let's go flying again already!

Astrid looked at me. “What is this about, Hiccup?”

I hung my head. Translating between dragons and humans was going to be a long, full-time job. “Sshe really wanthss thoh gho fflying.”

Astrid scratched Stormfly’s nose. “Sure thing girl.” She swung onto her Nadder’s back and the two of them took off down the mountainside.

I turned to my dad. “Can I gho whith them?”

Stoick glanced over at Gothi and Gobber. Gothi nodded, Gobber tried to guard every part of his body from Gothi’s staff. My dad turned back to me. “How do you plan to--”

Toothless, we’re going flying!

What, we’re going now?

I could glide on my own, Gothi said that, so without further warning I leaped over the side of the platform. Toothless roared in alarm, jumping after me. We fell next to one another, the village growing larger beneath us. At the last moment I swerved atop him, settling onto his back and steering us out of the dive. His wings snapped open, mine following by force of his’ kinetic energy, and we shot over the village’s houses at high speed. Left and right, dragons cheered our passing in all manner of voices, their roars startling the Vikings below.

We did it.


Septemb-- yeah, September 7th, year of Odin’s insane reign 1009

Look at you, Outcast Island journal! I found you! What were you doing sitting out there by the sea cliffs on that house’s roof?

Writing in you is way less fun than it used to be. Apparently, claws and nearly not-opposable-thumbs will do that. Also, the lack of a pencil. If I’m going to keep writing journal entries, I should get another one. Maybe a new journal, too.

Anyway, after flying around until the sun went down, I spotted this journal. Toothless grabbed it, I got some charcoal out of a fire, and… Journaling!

We killed the dragons’ queen, the massive evil dragon that forced all the other dragons to raid. Also, dragons have moved in on Berk. Not every Viking likes the sudden reversal in policy, but Astrid, Toothless, and I are trying to smooth things over. The torch towers are feeding bowls now. How cool is that?

Oh, raw fish tastes good. Really good. Why didn’t I try any when I was a human? Whoever reads this, if anyone, if I’m still alive and you’re a human, try some raw fish and tell me how it tastes to you. I’m really curious if it’s always tasted this good. Actually, have any other tastes changed? I should try bread. Maybe if Johann comes by I’ll buy some cheese. (Berk cheese has always been pretty awful. If dragon tastes are heightened, I do not want to find out what Berkian cheese tastes like.)

Anyway, for right now I’m not even going to try art. Writing is hard enough. I just hope eventually I find some way…

Then Toothless wouldn’t be able to fly. I couldn’t take that from him, not after all this. Maybe--

It doesn’t matter. I have to find a way to go back before I worry about what’ll happen if I do.

Also, something odd is up with Toothless. Today there were a couple moments where he looked like he wanted to say or do something, then stopped. I don’t get it. I’ll have to ask him about it later.

Finally, Snotlout’s Flamescale -- I’ve now learned Snot’ named him “Hookfang” (poor dragon) -- is avoiding me again. He avoids Toothless too, him even more than me. I have no clue what that’s all about, other than the thing Stormfly mentioned when we were flying to Her nest. That’s silly, though. Toothless clearly doesn't think of me as a pet. He was so upset at having hurt me to save me, clearly it can't be that. It has to be the other thing, where--

How would that even-- no, so not thinking about that anymore.

Actually, I don’t think I’ll put any more of that down in Norse. Since the burning sensation that filled my head after I became a dragon that gave me dragon-ey instincts didn’t give me any written language, there probably isn’t one -- for dragons. In that case… darn. I guess that creepy thought will have to live in my head.


On that note, goodnight journal. I’m going to leave you in the great hall rafters somewhere, hopefully, someplace even the twins can’t reach.

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third,Night Fury

P.S. That signature looks terrible.

P.P.S. Should I add a note to point out that I’m not human anymore? Like on my signature? If I do, should I change my initials? Maybe even drop the Haddock name? (Dad wouldn’t like that.)

Screw it, I’ll just append “Night Fury” to it. Should be straightforward enough. Just HHHIIINF

That is way too long.


Chapter End Notes

It’s over! :(
There we go, the complete HTTYD1 arc. Stuff happened, Hiccup and Toothless have it even, etcetera.
Coming up next:
# Siding with Them: Torn Wingbeats -- the animated series between HTTYD1 and HTTYD2. This will have the core of my romantic Toothcup courtship. It won't have any of the smut.
# Siding with Them 2 -- All the madness from SwT, now with Drago Bludvist, Valka Haddock, and FOUR alpha dragons. Four.
# Siding with Them: Where Fishbones Should Never Go -- An RTTE-period side piece with smut. I started the entire Siding with Them universe to hook up Hiccup and Toothless and this is where it happens.


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