The Flight Stuff Part 1
After the group had returned to Berk, Thora and her dragon, Strike, were welcomed into the community under the condition that she would keep a sharp eye on the Skrill. After the incident they had with Strike the day before, it was understandable why they would be wary about his unpredictable behavior.
Thora agreed to the terms as long as she didn't have to lock Strike up in a cage again. Fortunately, while Strike certainly had a mind of his own, he seemed to understand the weight of the situation and stayed with Thora as much as he could.
When Hiccup told Stoick what Dagur did to Osvald, the Berk Chief was both shocked and angered. Even he had never expected Dagur to commit such treachery, and against his own tribe, too. It was unforgivable!
Despite that, Stoick welcomed Thora to Berk, offering both his respectful hospitality as well as his condolences with the utmost sincerity.
As a week went by, the Berserker rogue experienced many things she couldn't quite describe. On Berk, while she still received suspicious glances from folks, mostly because Strike always walked beside her, many Berkians greeted her with courtesy. Seeing this kind of community warmed her soul, reminding her of how things used to be when her father, Osvald, was alive.
Unlike Dagur, Osvald cared for his people more than he cared about himself. He would always ask them how their day was going, he knew all of them by name, never forced them to fight unless absolutely necessary, and almost always knew how to settle an argument without violence.
Very much the opposite of how her brother managed things. All Dagur cared about was slaughtering dragons, violence, and doing anything to get what he wanted.
But that didn't matter to Thora anymore. She was out of Dagur's grasp and he couldn't reach her at all.
Berk was her new home now, and she was beginning to love it.
On the third day after the fight with the Berserkers and Outcasts, Hiccup and Astrid began training Thora and Strike, starting with teaching them how to use hand signals. Fortunately, Hiccup and Astrid soon found that both Thora and Strike were fast learners and picked up on the techniques quickly. Eventually, the lessons moved onto learning how to maneuver in the sky in tricky situations. Once Thora and Strike had mastered the aerial techniques, they began to work on establishing Thora's Dragon Call.
For a while though, Toothless and Strike would have small roaring fights, which were always eventually broken up by their riders. Thora figured that they still haven't worked out their differences, especially after that little chase the other day. However, as the days went on, the dragons' quarrels grew less and less frequent. While they still didn't trust each other completely, they at least seemed to have gained a respect for each other.
As for Thora's relationship with Strike, the bond between them began to grow with each passing day. Wherever the girl when, the Skrill would followed her. Even when Thora was doing some of the most mundane things, like standing on the edge of the village and staring out at the sea, Strike would stand by her side.
Sometimes he would give her a small shock of static, but only to get a reaction out of her or see the hair at the end of her ponytail stand up on end. While it did irritate Thora to a degree, she could tell that he was just doing it for fun. If nothing else, the small shock always kept her on her toes.
However, nothing compared to their favorite activity: flying at night during a lightning storm.
On the sixth day, a huge storm lit up the sky for miles around, making Strike eager to ride the lightning bolts again. Seeing the streaks of white fire flash across the heavens made Thora feel strangely confident and daring. She was ready to break the limits and do what no other Viking had done before.
Together, the rider and dragon soared through the sky with tremendous grace and strength, making the lightning bolts dance all around them. From the view of Berk, it was certainly a sight to behold. Nearly every Viking was watching from their opened doors or windows as Thora and Strike soared through the wind and ride the lightning bolts.
"I think I'm starting to see why she's a Berserker." Hiccup shrugged as he watched the Skrill soar through the storm from inside his house.
"It's because she's "berserk" enough to dare the impossible." Astrid smirked, secretly impressed by the scene before her.
For Thora, flying among the thundering clouds was an exhilarating sensation. The energy from the clouds wrapped all around her and gave her a sense of power she had never felt before. This was only something she and Strike could do, and they cherished every moment of it.
Thora and Strike were free.
On the eighth day, Hiccup opened up the Dragon Training Academy. Before they began class, he asked Thora if she could talk about what she knew about Skrills He asked her this because he figured that knowledge could help them against Dagur in the future. Although she was a little nervous about speaking in front of people, Thora agreed.
Pretty soon, the Berserker rogue found herself and Strike standing up in front of the other Dragon Riders.
"Wait, where's Snotlout?" Hiccup asked in a slightly irritated voice.
The other riders looked at each other and shrugged. Although being late wasn't past Snotlout's usual behavior, it was unusual for him to be this late.
"Oh, never mind." Hiccup shook his head. "We'll just start without him."
"So, what are we talking about today?" Tuffnut asked.
"Well," Hiccup cleared his throat, "as you all know, our newest member, Thora, has a Skrill as her dragon. Today, she has volunteered to give us some advice in the regards to a Skrill. So, Thora, the floor is all yours."
Taking a deep breath, the young shield-maiden stepped forward and swallowed hard, finding her voice.
"Okay," she said, "first of all; I want to thank you all for letting me into the Academy. And I promise that Strike and I will help out in any way that we can. Now, onto discussing the Skrill, what do you want to know?"
Immediately, Fishleg's raised his hand. Thora saw his action and pointed to him.
"Um, about your outfit," the studious Viking said, "why is it covered with chainmail? Isn't that dangerous to have on when riding a Skrill?"
"Normally, yes." Thora nodded. "However, my father was very interested in these dragons and studied them as much as he could when he got the chance. One of the things he did was an experiment to see what materials attracted lightning and which ones didn't. After a few experiments, he finally invented this suit. The chainmail attracts the lightning away from the person wearing it. Observe."
Thora put her hood up, looked over at the Skrill, and gave a hand signal.
"Strike, flare up!" she commanded.
The dragon obeyed the command and static ignited all over its body. Thora reached out her hand and one strand of lighting lashed out and began to jump around the metal on the girl's hand and arm. She was quite pleased when she saw the reaction she got from the crowd was one of amazement.
"Good boy, Strike," she smiled, giving him signal to stop.
The Skrill then immediately settled down and lowered himself the ground. Thora then walked over and unstrapped his saddle. She then flipped it over to reveal a slab of metal on the bottom.
"It's also best if you have a specially made saddle like this one," the Berserker explained. "The lightning is attracted to the metal plating. And underneath it is a special material that doesn't attract lightning, giving a little more security when riding a dragon like this."
"Interesting." Astrid said. "But that's quite an arsenal for wanting to ride a single dragon."
"Well, Hiccup has a special saddle for Toothless because of their handicaps, so what's your point?" Thora smirked before looking over at Hiccup. "No offense, Hiccup."
"None taken." the Berkian boy simply shrugged.
Astrid smirked and shook her head slightly.
"Besides," Thora continued, "I can't tell Strike not to flare up when I'm riding him. It's his best weapon and unique ability. It would be trying to tell someone to stop breathing."
"Hey, I've got a question." Ruffnut raised her hand.
"Okay, what is it?" Thora asked.
"Does Strike really have a nasty attitude?" the Berkian twin grinned. "Because it would be awesome to see him in total rage!"
"Yeah!" Tuffnut enthusiastically replied. "That would be totally amazing!"
The Berserker girl let out a groan and walked over to her dragon.
"Look, it is true that Skrills are aggressive," she said as she scratched behind Strike's head, who hummed contentedly. "And for a while, it was doubted that they could even be trained at all. However, if you give them respect and show them you're not a threat, then they can be quite calm and loyal."
"That kind of sounds like how one would train a Night Fury." Fishlegs pointed out, glancing at Toothless.
"I guess so," the redheaded girl shrugged. "Then again, I do believe the Skrill and Night Fury are both part of the Strike Class. So that could explain why they have a lot in common."
Thora then fixed a glare on the twins, who stepped back slightly.
"AND if you two trouble-makers even TRY to get Strike angry," her voice bordered on threatening, "then you can expect an unpleasant visit from ME if he doesn't kill you first! Do I make myself clear?!"
"Crystal clear, ma'am." Tuffnut replied, seeing that this girl wasn't joking around.
"Good." Thora nodded sharply. "Now, I'd like to move onto the subject of Dagur. After losing Strike AND having his crime exposed to the whole tribe, I'm willing to bet that he's going to be more determined than ever to take out Berk. Fortunately, I have a pretty good idea of how he thinks. First off, while he is deranged and unpredictable, he does come up with some pretty good strategies. However, his plans usually have at least one flaw in them."
"And how can we identify that flaw?" Hiccup asked.
"It's either so obvious it's overlooked," the Berserker rogue explained, "or a small but crucial detail he himself has overlooked because he's arrogant and impatient. His biggest flaw is focusing on one thing. When he was here for the Treaty signing, his main goal was to expose Berk for training dragons. Now, I bet he wants to get vengeance as well as Toothless and possibly Strike as well. However, we can use that to our advantage if we…"
Thora never finished her sentence because at that moment, Snotlout came bursting into the Academy with Hookfang and a young boy named Gustav following. The expression on the buff Viking's face was one of sheer panic.
"I'm going to kick the bucket!" he shouted.
The other riders groaned.
"Snotlout, do you mind?" Hiccup asked, irritated. "We're having a Dagur meeting."
"Dagur's here?" Tuffnut said with a slight hint of fear.
"Over the past week," Snotlout continued, "I've seen three of the five signposts to Valhalla!"
"WE KNOW!" the other riders groaned.
"You know?" the buff Viking looked as if they were offended. "And you're just standing there talking about stupid Dagur? One of your bravest and most treasured warriors is about to leave this world forever!"
"Look on the bright side," Tuffnut shrugged, "at least you'll be eternal paradise."
"So will we." Astrid sarcastically rolled her eyes.
"Joke all you want about me." Snotlout replied almost sadly. "But what about Hookfang? The thought of him without me for the rest of his life, it's just…"
"Are you done?" Thora glared.
"No," Snotlout said, "not even close. Though devastated and still in pre-mourning, Gustav has volunteered to carry on the Snotlout legacy."
"It's an honor," the little boy eagerly said.
"Please tell me he's not gonna to flying around saying "oy, oy, oy". Astrid groaned.
"That's a good idea." Snotlout said optimistically. "Gustav, make a note of that."
"Snotlout," Hiccup stepped forward, "the five signposts to Valhalla is nothing but an old wives' tale."
"Oh, yeah?" the buff Viking sneered. "Then why have I seen the flying fish, the weeping rocks, and the singing trees?"
"You probably saw a salmon spawning," Fishlegs dully said, "wet rocks on the beach, and a gust of wind."
"Besides," Thora folded her arms across her chest, "the five signposts to Valhalla are only suppose to happen to great warriors."
"Obviously," Snotlout grinned smugly, "what's your point?"
"Even if it were true, which it is not," Hiccup interjected, "you can't just pick someone to replace you."
"Well, you guys threw out my original plan."
"To bury Hookfang alive beside you?" Astrid pointed out.
"He would gladly sacrifice himself for his beloved master." Snotlout walked up to the Monstrous Nightmare.
Hookfang just glared at his rider, got up, and harshly flicked the Viking away with his tail. Snotlout practically flew across the arena and landed on his face.
"Okay," Hiccup sighed in frustration, "let's just say, for arguments sake, you've seen three of the five sign posts. It doesn't mean anything. There are still two left."
The moment Hiccup finished his sentence, something brown and feathery dropped down right in front of Snotlout. The said Viking looked up and screamed in terror and scrambled to his feet.
"Oh, no! Oh, no! The fourth signpost: the bird of death!"
"It's not the bird of death," Thora got down and examined the chicken, "it's just a dead chicken. It's not the same thing, right guys?"
"Sure it is." Ruffnut and Tuffnut replied simultaneously. "Defiantly. Bird of death."
Thora groaned and rolled her eyes. The twins were definitely NOT a big help.
"We're on the clock, little man." Snotlout knocked on Gustav's helmet. "We're starting your training immediately."
"Ugh, fine." Hiccup groaned as he mounted onto Toothless. "The rest of us need to keep an eye on Outcast Island. While we're gone, try not to take anyone else with you to "eternal paradise"."
"I make no promises," the buff Viking replied.
Thora nervously looked at the other riders mounting onto their dragons and then back at Strike. She wrung her hands together and shuffled her feet.
"Uh, Hiccup," she said timidly, "would it be alright if Strike and I stay here? We could help hold down the fort."
"You sure?" Hiccup asked. "We could really use your help."
Thora hesitated for a moment before saying, "I…just want to make sure Snotlout doesn't cause any trouble."
"Hey!" Snotlout snapped.
Hiccup looked at Thora with confusion for a moment. The girl mustered as much self-control as she could to keep her face natural. She didn't want Hiccup to even suspect her true motives.
"Okay," Hiccup finally nodded, "you can stay here and hold down the fort."
Thora lightly exhaled in relief. "Thanks. You guys just be careful, okay?"
With that said, the other Dragon Riders headed out for Outcast Island. Shortly after they left, Thora and Strike left the arena and walked out to a small cliff overlooking the sea. The Berserker rogue let out a small sigh and stared out at the horizon. After a while, the Skrill nudged her shoulder, getting her attention. Thora turned her head and looked at Strike. The dragon was looking back at her with a worried and confused expression in his eyes.
He didn't have to speak her language for her to know what he was thinking.
Why didn't she want to go with the other Dragon Riders?
"I'm sorry, Strike." Thora said in a low voice, stroking his head. "I know you wanted to go. But…I can't go back. And I don't want to risk your life, too. You saw what Dagur was capable of doing, and you just got a taste of it. I've had to LIVE with it for sixteen years. I don't want anyone to suffer that as well, especially you or my friends. I've made my mind up about this: the past is in the past."
Strike stared at his rider.
Thora then looked out over the ocean again and narrowed her eyes into a small scowl. "And I am NEVER going back!"