Chapter Fifty: Home
The war was over. Dagur had been slain. The Mother had been revived. The men stopped fighting upon the decks of their ships, too spent to continue, no reason to continue. With help from Alvin, Eret, Cauli, and Netmug, the prisoners were transported out of the bay. Everyone watched the Underground smoulder as the sun set.
"Where will you go?" Hiccup had asked her.
I fear men have not entirely realized the magic of dragons, she had replied. I will travel far beyond the adventures of your people, and live in solace with my children once the eggs hatch. It won't be long. They have been ready for quite some time… but after that, we will leave this place. It smells of death and sorrow, no fit place for me.
Fishlegs and a clutch of Berkian riders chose to stay behind to protect the Mother for the three weeks it would take for the eggs to hatch and the babies to learn to fly while the rest sailed for Berk. No one spoke but the matrons as they quietly tended to everyone in need, be it a Berserker or an Outcast or an ally. Even the dragons flew in silence above them, taking their time across the water. Once the smoke of the Underground disappeared behind the horizon, the prisoners began to realize their reality… the weighing reality of their freedom, almost unbelievable. Some wandered among the decks, looking for their loved ones. Some were reunited in bouts of jollity. Others were not.
Hiccup didn't fly Toothless home. Rather, they stayed upon an ally trading ship in the cabin. Astrid and Hiccup didn't leave the bed the entire three days of their journey home. He laid in bed, gazing down upon his daughter lovingly. Valkyrie's fingers were wrapped tightly around one of his fingers, and Hiccup smiled and laughed softly as she yawned and shook her other fist about. Astrid slept across from him, her body spent, her face peaceful. Hiccup looked up at her for a moment and leaned over Valkyrie to kiss Astrid's cheek. He rubbed the tip of his nose against her cheekbone before he leaned away, resting his head on his pillow and kissing Valkyrie's head. Toothless slept behind him on the floor, his legs in the air and his tongue hanging out.
The day they finally made it back to Berk was a day of sleeplessness. Hiccup held Valkyrie in his arms as Astrid stood in front of him, her hand holding Snowdrop's. They passed the beacons and Astrid's shoulders shook as she tried to stifle her tears. Home. She was home. The peak the Great Hall was carved into seemed so much taller than she remembered, but the smell and the cold was the same. Suddenly, all the trials and tribulations were worth it. It was worth this moment, seeing Berk tower above her once more.
When the ships had docked, only allies were permitted on Berkian soil. Hiccup opened the offer to Berserkers and Outcasts, promising them shelter if they were willing to help rebuild their houses. Some took up the offer and left their ships, handing in their swords and crested armour to the forge before they climbed the hill. But there were others who couldn't leave the boats.
Valka stood upon the solid wooden docks as Alvin stayed upon an Outcast ship. The stern and the railing separated them, but Alvin reached down to lightly touch Valka's bandages around her head.
"You can stay," Valka said gently.
Alvin shook his head slowly. "No, love. After what I've done? …I was exiled for a reason. Because I love something I can't have. And even if I give you a new name and a new life, you would never be mine… and I don't think I deserve any more of your kindness. I don't even think I deserve to live."
"Where will you go, then?" she asked.
"South, probably. I may try to re-establish some kind of village on the allied islands… a place where my people will be safe. Then I'll go and retire someplace warm, how about that?"
Valka smirked. "Sounds like a nice plan, actually."
They chuckled softly. Valka stepped back, turning slightly, ready to leave. They didn't say anything to each other after that, an awkward finality already drawn between them, separating them for the rest of time as Valka walked away.
The Berkians who stayed behind all poured out of the Great Hall, sprinting over the snowy mud and slipping and tumbling as they raced for their loved ones. The dragons filled and warmed the Hangar as tears and cries of joy echoed throughout the village.
Word spread through the village like wildfire about Valkyrie's existence, and before Astrid even felt the ground beneath her boots, Gobber had shoved through the crowd to get to the Haddock clan with Stormfly practically bowling him over. Astrid gasped and quickly handed Hiccup the baby before she raced over, jumping up and wrapping her arms around the Nadder's neck.
You made it back, Stormfly wept. Astrid nodded and refused to let go as Gobber marched straight to Hiccup.
"You have a lot of explainin' to do, young man!" Gobber fussed, placing his fist on his hip and waving around his paddle hand. He gestured to the baby. "You go ahead and become a father without me?! When were you going to tell me?"
Hiccup twisted his mouth and shrugged his shoulders. "I didn't know!" he replied. "Well, I kinda did, but then we thought we lost her and turns out we didn't, so –"
"Give her here, hurry up," Gobber muttered, shaking his head about.
"Oh, uh, okay," Hiccup muttered, amused. He stepped between them and Gobber crossed his arms gently. Hiccup rested Valkyrie in his thick arms and Gobber broke into a toothy grin. "Watch her head –"
"Don't be schooling me on babies, Hiccup, I know how to hold 'em – I practically raised you with Stoick and Val while they did important chief things, seen more of your bottom than you know!"
Hiccup snorted loudly, embarrassed, as Gobber rocked Valkyrie back and forth, singing an off-tune lullaby. "Well, aren't you a sight?" he asked lovingly.
They walked up the hill slowly, greeting the happy villagers with smiles and nods. Astrid was home, and an heir to Berk had been born. There was no end to the celebration. Weeks of feasts as the village was finally rebuilt – houses and cabins were slowly raised into the sky as the houses in the trees were stripped for supplies. There was no shortage of hands to help them as Berk was slowly restored. Happiness infected everyone, even those who had suffered for many years.
Eret had no ship to return to the sea with. Hiccup had promised him a new ship for him to sail if he wanted to. Eret accepted the offer gratefully, but something kept him tethered to the docks.
"Do you think… now that Dagur's dead, you'll stop trapping?" Ruffnut asked him, awkwardly shifting.
"After what I've seen, there's not much room left for trappers," he replied. He gazed upon Ruffnut's face, smiling a half-smile as he trailed his eyes over her bruised features. Her eye was almost swollen shut, a gash through her eyebrow sewn. He lifted a hand cautiously and hovered the tip of his finger over her purple cheekbone. Ruffnut flinched, only slightly, but she remained still as Eret touched her, the tiniest of contact, before he grinned.
"It's nice to be free now, isn't it?"
Ruffnut sighed shakily. "I still have… a really hard time. Thoughts in my head keep repeating themselves. But… it's easier to sleep knowing he can't hurt me or my friends anymore."
Eret smiled down at her. "It's a step."
But, of course, there were people who never came back. Stargazer remained in Astrid's thoughts every day, especially when she fed Valkyrie. As she rocked back and forth with Valkyrie at her breast, she pondered and remembered her mother's voice. Her father in the dreamland.
There were days when Snowdrop would remain quiet, thinking about the day Astrid had broken her back and how awful it made her feel. Ruffnut thought about trader Johann the night he was claimed by the sea.
There wasn't a day that passed where Valka wouldn't cry for Rose. Once Hiccup and Astrid had a home built for them, upon the same foundations from before, Valka realized she had nothing of Rose's. Nothing but a handful of rose petals that she kept in a jar by her bed. She planted one in the garden outside her son's house, hoping the everlasting life of the petal would sprout roots.
And Hiccup… of all things, could never forget Dagur. The way he never stopped killing, how determined he was to end his life. The memory of his fiery hands around his throat, the way his insides pulled free with the sword. The bond in the body of one so evil. But then he would think of his sister. Rose was the exact opposite of Dagur. She had the bond and used it for good, used it to give people happiness, even if it meant sacrificing herself. There were moments where Hiccup thought about their fights in the past, and how if he could go back, would change those times to be better – full of stories instead of yelling and love instead of resentment.
They changed Valkyrie's name the night of the memorial. It wasn't much to the untrained ear, but Valkyrie-Rose was writ as her full first name. Valkyrie-Rose Stargazer Haddock. A strange name when said aloud, but a beautiful name to Hiccup and Astrid. A name full of meaning and memory – and even though those memories weren't completely cheerful, they wouldn't have the name any other way.
When the sun set on a clear night, the village lined up on the cliffs, staring over the water as the first moon since the Battle of the Underground rose over the waves. Astrid held Valkyrie to her breast as everyone took a moment of silence. With no bodies of the loved ones lost, they lit the beacons instead, and the orange light danced in the distance as tears covered the faces of all, reflecting the soft firelight in their eyes and upon their cheeks.
The Saviour was no longer needed. The Harbinger had fulfilled her duty. The Valkyrie had chosen the fate of herself and her mother. And the Spirit Weaver wove Hiccup and his family a blanket of peace that they would carry on as long as they could.
Astrid reached over and slipped her fingers between Hiccup's. Despite everything… they were together. After a terrifying night in the cove six years ago, to an ordeal of an engagement, to an adventure of a wedding day… after separation and despair, dreamlands and shadows, bonds and broken bones… they remained. They had been reunited at last, and nothing – and no one – would ever take that away from them.
Five Years Later
It had taken an entire two years to restore Berk to her former glory. Rebuilding the infrastructure and expanding Berk's housing had been the top priority, and restabilising trade routes throughout the north followed closely. Treaties with the allies who had joined Hiccup in battle were writ, and the wild dragons were set free – if they wanted to return to the wilds, that is. Peace – genuine peace – graced Berk's frosty shores and filled her skies with safety and life.
Five years after the Battle of the Underground, wounds had healed and the bloodshed was but a distant memory. Eret's ship had been rebuilt, but he also built himself and his men houses by the docks, as fishermen for Berk, welcome to come and go when they please. Ruffnut's body had returned to normal, and although flashbacks of a dark, cold time came back to her now and again, her trust had healed. And even though Dagur ruined her chances for a valid Berkian marriage, it didn't prevent her from feeling love in her heart. Often times, Tuffnut would catch her staring over towards the bay, where the fish were trying to swim up the river, where the men had cast their nets, and he would snort and shake his head.
The Dragonlings were brought back, and a surge in births tore through Berk nine or ten moons after the Battle. The riders, now fully grown up with families of their own, taught them every day with assistance from Snowdrop, who, after her tenth birthday, had flourished into an adventurous soul with a fiery heart, like her sister, and finally became eligible to ride a dragon – not that her age stopped her before. It was harder to keep her off Breakfast than it was to get her to read her books.
Events and ceremonies and dragon racing and feasts took over the war halls and the arena, and even the tattered remainders of the foundations left behind from the Battle of Berk had grown over with moss. The burnt trees healed and sprouted new needles, and a hatchery was built off the Hangar, where Valka spent most of her time, only with a new mindset.
But tonight, the air was still. Dragons had grounded and refused to fly and the people stood in the frigid air with furs wrapped about them as they huddled outside the Haddock house. And within, they heard screaming.
No one was worried. They were alive with excitement, for another Haddock child was about to be born.
Astrid gasped a breath as Hiccup held her up, her legs bent and her body squatting in the corner of their bedroom over a birthing stool. Valka and Juniper held both her knees, squeezing them as Astrid gasped for another breath. Her huge, round belly relaxed for a brief moment as a contraction passed.
"You're doing great, Astrid, just a few more pushes!" Juniper cried through a large smile, pushing Astrid's nightgown up over her large belly.
Astrid hissed in and out through her teeth as Snowdrop patted a dry cloth over Astrid's sweaty brows. Hiccup held her tightly, his heart racing, as Astrid's head fell back onto Hiccup's shoulder.
"Hiccup," she wheezed.
"I'm here, you're doing great," Hiccup replied, kissing her wet cheek.
"Could we cut it out, like we did with Val?" Valka asked Juniper. "She'd just heal."
"No!" Astrid gasped. "No, I can do this –"
Another contraction choked her words, and she squeezed Hiccup's hand so hard she thought it would break. Valka and Juniper grabbed her legs, Juniper watching vigilantly. Snowdrop didn't dare take her eyes off Astrid, her world full of wonder as she looked over Juniper's shoulder.
"Come on, dear, give us a big push!" Juniper cried.
Astrid lifted her head and curled it down, pushing her chin into her chest and bearing down. Her face was beet-red, her skin hot, and she pushed and pushed, her body taking over, tearing apart, stretching, pain worse than anything she had ever imagined.
"I hate you!" she screamed to Hiccup, still pushing. "I hate you I hate you oh gods!"
Hiccup smiled and stifled a laugh as Astrid gasped for another breath.
"We can see the head, just a few more pushes and you'll be done!" Valka said, smiling so hard her face hurt.
"I can fetch a looking glass, if you want to see –"
"FUCK YOU, NO I DON'T!" Astrid shrieked. Juniper blinked and scoffed, taken aback, but not surprised at the outburst. Snowdrop giggled. Astrid squeezed Hiccup's hands again. "Don't let me go –"
"I'm right here, I wouldn't miss this for anything," Hiccup replied quickly, his voice shaking.
"Oh – oh gods –"
Astrid pushed again, another contraction already taking over. And she pushed and pushed as Juniper reached down, and Valka's face lit up like a beacon.
"The head is out, keep going!"
Astrid bore down and screamed, rocking the entire village as she pushed with all her might.
"Reach down, love, reach down!"
Astrid's eyes snapped open, her scream turning into shouts of bewilderment as she felt everything inside her fall from her all at once. She stared down as her body kept pushing, gritting her teeth as she saw her second child. She reached down and grabbed it as its shoulders emerged and pulled it forth. Astrid burst into tears as she pulled her baby against her chest, leaning back in exhaustion, as the baby twitched its fists about.
The villagers outside the house rejoiced as Stoick opened the door to announce the news, and Hiccup's eyes welled with tears as the baby rested against Astrid's chest. Snowdrop held her hands over her mouth, overcome with happiness as Astrid smiled.
"It's a little boy," Valka noted proudly. "A beautiful baby boy."
"Why isn't he crying?" Astrid asked nervously.
"He doesn't need to," Juniper murmured. "He's sleeping, he can breathe. He's safe."
Astrid sighed and gasped as the pain throbbed throughout her body, but none of that mattered. She cried as Hiccup wrapped his arms around her, holding their son together.
When they were finally able to move Astrid back into their bed after the afterbirth was born with no complications whatsoever, their son latched to her breast and she stared at him with tired eyes. Falling in love, creating a bond between mother and child all over as the sun rose over the ocean.
The door opened softly and Hiccup was there, holding Valkyrie's hand. Her long brown hair tumbled behind her back, braided messily and intertwined with dried flowers she had found the day before. Her green eyes were wide with wonder as she looked up at the bundle in her mother's arms. She dragged Hiccup across the room and clambered into the bed. She peered down at the boy as Hiccup sat next to her.
"I knew it would be a boy," she grinned. "I had a dream… what's his name?"
Astrid smiled. "The dragons call him the Phoenix," she said quietly. "I don't know what that means…"
"It's a birdy," Valkyrie-Rose replied. "It's a birdy that lives for a really long time, but never dies. When it gets old, it become fire, and then it is reborn from its own ashes."
Astrid and Hiccup both looked at their daughter as she touched the baby.
"The dragons picked it because he means peace. Peace has been reborn, and it is quiet. And after the battle, he arose from the ashes of our family, and lives again."
Hiccup wrapped an arm around Valkyrie and gave her arm a squeeze. "Did the dragons tell you that?"
"Oh, yes," Valkyrie said with another smile. "They tell me many things, daddy."
"You'll have to share your secrets with us sometime," Hiccup chuckled as he kissed the top of Valkyrie's head. Valkyrie looked up at her mother, who looked down at her son, calm.
"Who's Mikhael, mama?"
Astrid looked up, an eyebrow raised as Valkyrie stared at her.
"Have you been listening to my thoughts again, my dreamer?" she asked.
"Yes," Valkyrie replied innocently. "I feel like I know that name. I just wanted to know who it was."
Astrid licked her lips and sighed, looking out the window. "He… was a friend, back when we were in the Underground. He died… he gave the Defiler all of himself and was lost."
Valkyrie nodded slowly, furrowing her brown eyebrows, lips puckered. "He had a scar on his face. I remember now. He helped us."
"He did," Hiccup interjected.
"He said he had a family," Astrid sighed. "But he died and I have no idea where they are or who they are… I just remembered the scar. And the phoenix… Phoenix Mikhael Haddock. I'd like to call him that."
Hiccup smiled and kissed Astrid again, and Valkyrie giggled under her hand.
And outside their window, where Valka had planted the rose petal years beforehand, a stem sprouted from the cold earth, white petals blooming under the morning sun, a single white rose opening itself to the sky as Berk began another day.
The story is over. I can hardly believe it, as I finish writing this little note. Fifty chapters. Almost four-hundred pages. Almost 200,000 words (that's longer than Goblet of Fire!). Four keyboards. Over a year of writing.
And now that it's done, I am overwhelmed with emotions. To those who reiewed from day one (or read in silence), I thank you with every inch of my soul and spirit. These past few weeks, I have done nothing but write, determined to bring everyone a new chapter almost every day. And the reviews I recieved from old-timers and new-comers kept me going. I wrote one-hundred pages in a single week to bring this tale to a rest, and it would be ludicrous to say it wasn't because of people like all of you reviewers, followers, favouriters, and lurkers. I felt welcome to share this story with you.
My only hope, now that the story is done, is that you continue to draw inspiration from my words. If reading Reunion makes you want to write, please write. If it makes you want to draw, please draw. If it makes you want to reach out to me, send me a message. Also, if anyone wants me to read their story or want advice on writing, send me a message. I'd be more than happy to help, and I would like to become more involved in the FF community. Someone has already made a HTTYD music video as a dedication to some HTTYD FF writers. If you look up 'viciouslycans' on YouTube, you'll find it. :)
Now that our adventure is over, what would you like me to do next? Please tell me, so I can brainstorm over the next wee while and get back to writing.
Because I've spent a portion of my life devoted to this, I'd like to thank my little sister, who reads all my chapters (and punches me for you all), and gave me in the inspiration for our Snowdrop; and my mother, who taught me that a pen is a powerful tool.