Disclaimer: I do not own the recognizable characters, places and situations in this fic. I do not make profit from it, either.
Notes: This fic is a result of DLP's, 'Fight Club: DLP edition'. I was challenged to ... well, that will become apparent soon enough.
A Chance Encounter
"I'm still not sure about this, Elsa."
"Relax, Anna." Elsa said, rolling her eyes. Both women were dressed like the royalty they were, only that Anna wore a regal blue dress with silver trimmings, and Elsa was clad in hunting gear, with a fur coat over it, all colored white. Elsa's outfit was made for agility and sturdiness, while Anna's was for the castle hallways.
Elsa's flowing hair was blond, light enough that it could barely be distinguished from white, and pulled in a tight braid, fit for travel.
"It's not the first time I've gone." Elsa reminded her sister.
"Yes but, you're the Queen." Anna retorted, worry coloring her voice. "You can't be gone from the castle."
"The castle and the kingdom will be fine if I'm gone for a few days." Elsa replied. "We have this conversation every time I go, and every time I tell you the same thing. I have-"
"Have to go north. It just calls you." Anna recited in a drawl, glaring at her sister. "So you've said, many times."
They'd reached the courtyard of the castle. An entire squad of soldiers on horseback waited for them there, dressed in furs in preparation for the cold of the northern mountains. The trip itself was something that Elsa insisted on, and the guards were what Anna insisted on. Her overprotective streak had not diminished in the four years since Elsa's coronation. Rather, it had only grown once Elsa had settled into her duties to the kingdom of Arendelle.
"Look at all the guards coming with me. I'll be fine." Elsa assured the princess. Seeing her bite her lip to stifle another argument, she drew Anna in a hug. The princess clung to her tightly.
"Don't be so dramatic," Elsa admonished, feeling slightly embarrassed that her sister was making such a fuss over a few days' stroll.
"Just be safe, okay? No risks."
"Yes, I promise. Now will you please let me go? People are watching." That was enough for Anna to release her, a flush to her cheeks. She nodded and took a step back.
Elsa turned, climbed on the saddle of the horse prepared for her, and looked back at her sister while she took the reins.
"Don't worry." She repeated in as soothing a voice as she could. "Nothing will go wrong." To emphasize her point, she raised her hand, and ice snaked around it, growing and turning, not settling into any shape. It was a reminder of Elsa's abilities, of the danger she could pose to anyone threatening her or hers.
Nothing could go wrong.
Anna nodded. "I'll see you when you get back."
That seemed to be the signal, and the two lines of soldiers started trotting forwards, Queen Elsa in the middle of the procession.
"I'll be back in a few days." She called behind her as they left the castle, the gates closing with an ominous creaking noise, heading for the northern mountain pass.
The snowstorm was in full swing. Winds howled powerfully, carrying snow and hail, making visibility extremely low and flight extremely dangerous.
The last point was particularly relevant, considering the great beast that was flapping its wings madly, just so it wouldn't be swept away by the strong winds.
On its back, a figure was wrapped in furs, squinting through his metal helmet, trying to see what was in front and below them.
"We can't stay in this storm any longer." He yelled, leaning forward. His voice barely reached the ears of the dragon, such were the winds. A grunt was its only reply.
The rider leaned to the side, looking down. His left foot, vastly different from the right in that it was not covered with a boot, rather being an elaborate metallic prosthetic, was constantly in motion, stepping forward and backwards, directing a set of cables crisscrossing the dragon's harness. One such cable ended on the dragon's tail, directing the prosthetic tailfin in perfect synchronization with the natural one.
"Try to land in that clearing over there!" The rider yelled at the top of his voice. The dragon's head swiveled to look where its rider was pointing, and started a controlled glide towards it.
An impossibly long half hour later, the great black dragon landed on the clearing, amidst the tall trees. Thankfully, the snowstorm did not reach that deep into the forest, the tall and sturdy trees forming a barrier.
As soon as the dragon landed, the rider climbed down from its left side, prosthetic unlatching softly, and he landed in the snow. He removed the heavy fur from around him, revealing an outfit of dark brown leather, along with a set of lightweight, black, metal armor pieces.
As the dragon got familiar with their temporary shelter, the rider stood, tested the ground with his prosthetic, and looked around. His metal helmet was long, with only two narrow slits for eyes, and the whole ensemble struck quite the imposing figure.
The rider reached up and removed his helmet, revealing a head of messy brown hair, nearly reaching his shoulder. In a clearly habitual move, the man reached a gloved hand and run it through his hair, straightening it somewhat, and rolling the end of his braid between his fingers. That hair, that face, and those vivid green eyes could only belong to Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third.
"We've really done it this time, Toothless." Hiccup sighed. A low warble from the dragon replied to him.
"Hey, you're not blaming this on me!" Hiccup narrowed his eyes at his reptile companion. Toothless' form settled on one edge of the clearing, rotating slowly to pad the ground to an acceptable level. As he turned, he looked at Hiccup, face clearly annoyed and ears flat in exasperation. He snorted before returning to padding the ground.
"Okay so maybe it was my idea to head for the mountain pass, but we were so lost! Still are, I might add. It was your idea to keep flying once that storm hit. Do you deny it?"
Toothless let out a throaty, dismissive sound. A small stream of fire at the ground and he was satisfied, finally settling in and wrapping his wings around himself. He plopped his head on top of his two forepaws, and closed his eyes in contentment. He opened one eye lazily and raised his right wing just so, in invitation. Hiccup sighed.
"Yeah, yeah. But you're not off the hook yet, mister." The twenty year old threatened, waving a gloved finger menacingly. He checked the gearbags hanging on the saddle, but did not remove it. They needed to be able to take off at a moment's notice, in case they were attacked by wild beasts or the storm suddenly cleared. He didn't even remove the sheathed sword hanging on his right hip.
Toothless snorted again, both eyes closed. Hiccup settled by his side, and wrapped the furs around himself. The wing closed over him, and before he knew it, he was asleep.
"What's the holdup?" Elsa demanded. It was three days into their journey, and they had reached deep into the northern mountains. Elsa's elation at the frozen environment had not been marred yet, as her powers had been enough to protect her and her entourage from the sudden and fierce blizzard that struck the previous day. They had taken shelter for the night, and the blizzard had subsided by morning, so they were once again making their way through the snowy mountains. The weather was now cloudy, but there were no chances of further blizzards.
"Apologies, my Queen." the captain of her protection detail bowed in front of her. They had stopped thirty minutes ago, and Elsa had yet to receive an adequate explanation.
"Don't apologise, captain. Rather, tell me why we stopped, and where half of our group went."
"Yes, milady. A forward scout reported a dangerous animal an hour ago. We simply want to make sure you will be in no danger."
Elsa frowned. "An animal? What kind?"
"The scout reported a dragon, milady."
Elsa's eyebrows rose and her eyes widened. A dragon? There hadn't been a dragon in the Arendelle kingdom for generations, and the populace was thankful for that, not to mention prosperous.
"He is sure?"
"Yes, my queen. It was sleeping. I've sent my men to put it down before we proceed."
Elsa frowned again and opened her mouth to say something before she thought better of it and stopped. Dragons of legend had been terrible creatures, tearing a path of fire and destruction through their kingdom. Their reappearance could only mean bad things for her and her subjects.
She gave a curt nod and settled back in her saddle, waiting impatiently.
Hiccup awoke, his eyes snapping open but he made no other move. He felt Toothless' subtle nudge with his snout, and the way Hiccup sensed the dragon's muscles tense could only spell trouble.
"What is it, bud?" He murmured under his breath. His hand closed over the handle of his sword, and he reached for his helmet, placing it softly over his head. Toothless motioned with his snout, pointing towards the woods.
Hiccup strained his ears to listen and squinted to look at the darkness of the trees.
"I hear them." He murmured again. And he did. Faint crunches of twigs on the snow bed, the slow rustle of weapons and armor. Whoever they were, they were not being as sneaky as they thought, and not nearly as sneaky as they should have been if they thought to sneak up on a dragon. Hidden as he was under Toothless' wing, they probably had not seen him.
"Be ready." Hiccup growled, muscles tensing. Toothless let out a low rumble of agreement, and his limbs moved in preparation to rise and pounce. The grunt of exertion, and the whistle of something flying through the air were their signal. Hiccup sprang up, foot already on the stirrups and body swinging into place on the saddle. While he did this, Toothless himself sprang to his feet, quickly sidestepping to the left. Where he previously lay, a long hunting spear buried itself into the ground.
Hiccup saw the deadly projectile, and his resolve immediately steeled. Whoever they were, they did not even attempt to communicate before using lethal force. No one-no one- would kill Toothless, Hiccup would not allow it.
He looked around through the slits in his helmet, and saw several enemies springing though the trees, long spears and swords in their hands. The small clearing was a disadvantage for the dragon rider, and though Toothless would usually make short work of such mundane enemies, such a number would, sooner or later, manage to sneak a spear or sword through the dragon's defenses.
Toothless roared angrily, and the soldiers paused.
"Up, Toothless." Hiccup commanded briskly. The Night Fury unfolded his wings, and before the soldiers could do anything else, he was gone, rocketing up into the air, thankfully free of blizzards.
As they sprang from the treetops, he and Toothless levelled their flight, and Hiccup took stock of their surroundings.
"There!" He pointed out. Just over the end of the woods, another group of soldiers were huddled together, and a few of them were leading a number of horses away.
Hiccup was just about to order Toothless to fly away from those savages, when something caught his eye. Amidst the soldiers was a woman. His vision was something he was proud of, so he was able to make her out. The fact that a woman was among the soldiers was weird in and of itself, but she seemed to be dressed in all white and ... no furs? Was she insane? No fur coat in this cold?
Hiccup himself repressed a shiver. His own furs were tragically lost in the clearing.
"Take us closer bud. There's something I wanna see."
Toothless grumbled but complied, turning their flight for a pass above the second group.
The anticipation was finally broken when a terrifying roar broke the silence of the mountain. Elsa did not manage to repress a shiver that had nothing to do with the cold.
"What was that?" She asked, though she was perfectly aware of just what it was. Her captain looked just as uncertain as she felt, and he opened his mouth to reply, but nothing came out of it.
Something broke out of the treetops in the distance, a black shape that kept rising and rising, until great leathery wings stretched, and it levelled out into the air. Another roar broke the silence.
"Dragon!" Her captain yelled, and her soldiers took their formation around her for protection. They sent the horses away, for they were already on the verge of panic.
The dragon seemed to be flying away, but it suddenly changed direction and came straight towards them, losing some altitude as it did so. Each flap of its powerful wings brought it ever closer, much faster than any of them had imagined.
"It's coming this way!" One of her soldiers yelled, fear etched into his voice and features. Elsa took in the sight of the beast, black as night, with four limbs with wicked claws, bat like wings, and teeth that glinted in the morning sun. Its furious green eyes could be seen even from this distance.
She removed her gloves, fully prepared to defend herself and her subjects.
Strangely, the dragon did not go any lower than the height of the treetops, even after it had left the forest behind. It levelled again, and though it was flying towards them, Elsa doubted that it was an interception course.
"Archers!" Her captain commanded, and a third of her guards broke off from the rest of the group and rushed forward, assuming firing position and loading their arrows.
When they deemed the beast within range, the captain yelled for the archers to fire. The arrows loosed, and a rain of steel and death headed for the dragon's path.
The beast saw the danger, however, and managed at the last minute to barrel roll to the left, folding its wings on itself and then unfolding them again as it left the path of the arrows. Elsa narrowed her eyes. As the dragon was rolling, its back was visible for a split second, and she could have sworn that she'd ... seen something there. Some shape, and something glinting in the sun.
After it completed its dodge, the dragon roared in outrage and flapped its wings to gain altitude. Just as it was about to be lost into the clouds it changed direction, and almost free fell towards the ground. It was so fast! An unholy screeching filled the air, born of what, she did not know, for the dragon's mouth was closed.
Elsa saw the creature's trajectory, falling almost straight towards the group of archers, and realized what was about to happen a split second before it did.
Her magic leapt from her hands, at the same time as the ball of fire left the dragon's mouth. The magic formed a dome of ice, as resistant as she could make it at such short notice, around her soldiers. The dragon unfolded its wings, catching the wind and changing direction just as the ball of fire impacted her ice barrier.
The ground shook as her ice barrier shattered, but the fire disintegrated and her soldiers were mostly unharmed, some shards of ice unfortunately striking some of them. As the dragon passed above them, she sent a stream of frost, hoping to freeze the beast whole. The incoming threat was noticed, however, and the beast evaded, her powers only catching onto the edge of its left wing.
The dragon's head zeroed in on her, and as it was turning with difficulty and struggling to stay level with its half-frozen wing, she got a good look at its back. A gasp left her throat; there was someone there! A man was riding the dragon! And those glints that she'd thought she'd seen, had been the sun shining against the harness that was around the dragon.
She rounded on her captain. "You said it was a wild dragon." She hissed at him. "Why is there a rider on it?"
The captain looked between her and the dragon, confusion etched on his face. Elsa repressed a sigh. Maybe she shouldn't be too hard to him. The captain was good at his job, but thinking deeply was not his strong point.
"I don't know your highness, but it's coming this way!"
Indeed, the dragon had completed its turn and was flying back towards them. The frost on the edge of its wing had been broken, but Elsa had not seen how. Her eyes inspected everything she could, from the glints of metal that she spotted, to the flash of red on its tail. The rider could be seen, at least part of him. All she could see was brown, and a metallic helmet with no characteristics.
The archer group had scattered, but the dragon released another insanely fast, blue fireball towards them. She was ready though, and the ice barrier had already formed on the fire's path, stronger than the one before. In contrast to her stronger defense, the fireball seemed weaker. As if ... a distraction!
She snapped her eyes back to the dragon, and saw that it had not stopped flying towards them and that it was now almost directly above them. She saw, to her great horror, the rider. He was sitting up straight in the saddle, a bow in his hands, arrow notched and aimed directly at her.
A split second later, the arrow was released, and all Elsa could do was to throw her arms forward and release her ice magic directly in front of her, hoping it would be enough to save her. Her eyes closed reflexively.
When she opened them again, two seconds later, the dragon had flown past them, and there was an arrow, perfectly frozen in place a few centimeters in front of her nose.
The realization that she had almost died to the rider's ploy flooded her, and anger welled up inside her.
"Captain." She commanded. The man, who had been following the dragon with his eyes, turned to look at her. "Take your men and head for the trees. You will be safe there."
"My Queen, we swore to protect you."
"There is nothing you can do against this foe. Go now or I will freeze you and transport you there myself. That is an order!"
The captain gulped, but her glare and direct order silenced him from saying anything else. He nodded briskly and relayed the command to his men. They looked anxiously at their queen, but she was not looking at them. Her eyes were locked on the dragon and its rider, who were now gaining altitude, no doubt for another attack pass.
Her eyes grew as cold as the snow around her, and an aura of frost radiated from her. Ice slowly formed under her feet, and a column of ice rose from the ground, carrying her higher and higher. Frost swirled around her fists, as she glared at her attempted killer.
She was no longer seventeen and unable to control her powers. If the dragon rider thought he could take on the Snow Queen, he was in for a very cold surprise.
Hiccup realized what a bad idea it had been to head towards the group as soon as he saw the archers prepare to fire, even though Toothless had done nothing aggressive. In hindsight, he understood that they would not have been able to tell an aggressive dragon from a friendly one.
He had approached the group hoping to get a good look at the woman, and maybe even land and solve the misunderstanding. Both he and Toothless had seen the group of archers at about the same time, and Hiccup ordered "Dodge!". Toothless veered wildly to the left, rolling to present a smaller target and make his change in direction easier.
They managed to evade the volley, if barely, and Hiccup seethed. Once again, those strangers had tried to kill him and Toothless. They would not get away with it. No one killed dragons needlessly in his presence. That went double for his best friend and life companion. Those people had signed their own death warrants with this unprovoked attack.
"Toothless, attack vector."
The Night Fury grunted in agreement, and they gained altitude, as they had done countless times before. When Hiccup deemed their height acceptable, he urged Toothless downwards. The telltale sound of their signature move was music to Hiccup's ears, as they zeroed in on the offending group of archers. Toothless released his fireball and immediately opened his wings to cut their drop.
Hiccup followed the fire's trajectory with his eyes. He always watched the people he killed as they died, if he could. Not out of sadism, but to remind himself of the consequences of his actions. That killing was a choice, and a choice that he had decided to make every time, and that his victims, no matter who they were, deserved at least to have someone watch them die.
To his great surprise, he saw a stream of white head for the archer group and suddenly, ice sprung from the ground, intercepting the fireball before it got to them. The attack exploded and the barrier shattered, but it had done its job. The archers had survived. Hiccup's eyes followed the stream's path to the source, and his eyes widened when he saw the white-clad woman unleash another beam of frost, aiming at them this time!
"Go right!" He urged his friend, and Toothless complied. They managed to avoid the worst of the attack, but some of it touched Toothless' wing, which immediately froze over, tearing a painful yell from the Night Fury. Dragon and rider alike glared at the woman as they passed overhead, as Toothless fought to remain in the air with his left wing half frozen.
'Sorcery!' Hiccup cursed inwardly. He hadn't seen a magic user in quite a bit, and never one who could do something like this. To Toothless, he said "Breathe on the ice." The dragon did so, and the thin sheet of ice thawed. Toothless shook his wing to clear it of the last traces of the woman's magic.
'What would have happened if we'd been fully hit by that?' Hiccup wondered, although he knew the answer. They would have completely frozen and fallen to their deaths. The woman, the sorceress, had tried to kill them, too. She would have to die, as well. But she, unlike the soldiers, was an actual threat.
"Make another pass at the archers, and then immediately head for the sorceress. Try to give me a clear shot." Hiccup instructed his friend, and the Night Fury snorted in a distinctly positive way that the viking had years before associated with the word 'yes'. He untied his bow from where it lay on the right saddlebag, and drew an arrow from the quiver next to it.
The plan worked, for the most part. Their second pass on the archers drew another barrier from the sorceress, and though they were prepared to dodge another attack aimed at themselves, it didn't come. Hiccup's aim, perfected over years of unerring synchronization with Toothless, had been spot on. The sorceress was nevertheless saved, barely managing to freeze his arrow before it hit her. Hiccup cursed as he led Toothless away, clear of the woman's magic and seeking to gain altitude.
When they turned again, they saw that the soldiers had left the woman and headed for the cover of the trees. The woman herself was rising, standing atop an ever-growing ice column, visibly emitting an aura of frost. She seemed livid, seething.
"Be ready to dodge. We can't be hit again." He warned the dragon, and received an ear-slap in return, along with a grumble. "Just checking." He pacified his friend.
They were approaching the woman now, who had lifted herself above the treetops using only her ice. She watched them approach, and when she deemed them at close enough range, unleashed her powers. White streams of ice and frost headed straight for them and their intended path, too fast for most dragons to dodge.
Toothless was not most dragons.
With the elegance and ease associated only with the Night Fury itself, he weaved between the rivers of magic, not letting a single one graze him. After he had reached an acceptable shooting distance, he unleashed a fireball. It was not aimed at the sorceress herself, but rather, at the column beneath her feet. The ice shattered, but she had already jumped off it. Instead of a fall to her death, she stepped lightly on another pillar of ice, created almost instantly and branching off from the base of the first one, and kept up her assault.
As Toothless flew past the woman, too fast for her to freeze him, Hiccup unleashed another arrow. She was ready for it this time, and the arrow stopped, frozen in its tracks, meters away from her.
Toothless put some distance between them, still evading the beams of ice magic that rained down around them.
"Pelt her fast!" Hiccup instructed, and when Toothless turned back towards the woman, he began unleashing low powered fireballs that, while relatively weak, would still deal some damage and could be fired at regular intervals. In defense, the woman created three layers of elaborate ice barriers in front of her. When the third was about to break under the Night Fury's assault, she jumped off her ice pillar. Rather than creating another ice column to step on, she created an uneven path, sliding gracefully on as she created it in front of her and thus propelling herself wherever she wanted.
Hiccup saw the danger when he woman began creating an ice slide and headed directly towards them, unleashing more frost, and urged Toothless to turn and put distance between them.
"We have to fight her from afar. If she hits us, we're done." He warned. Toothless let out a frustrated growl, but it was more a token resistance than anything else. Again, they weaved between the sorceress' streams of ice, but this time putting distance between them was not as easy, for she was following them up in their air, using her powers to create ice on which to step and slide on.
They dodged as best they could, and managed to not get hit.
Hiccup, who had been keeping a careful eye on their surroundings, noticed the gathering clouds and the snow rising from ground level.
"Thor almighty." He swore, as the blizzard was reborn, this time summoned by the Ice Sorceress. He chanced a look behind them, and saw an experssion of fierce concentration on her pale face, dashed with just the right amount of anger. She was close enough for Hiccup to make out some details about her, such as her nearly-white blond hair, her young and beautiful face, and the small but impressive circlet on her hair.
However, this was not the time for admiring his enemy. There would be time for that later, maybe. The snowstorm was picking up, now, and their visibility was dropping. Hiccup chanced a guess that their opponent would not be hindered at all by the storm, but Toothless' flight would be impaired. Soon, she would catch up to them, and that was not good. He needed a plan.
"Hide in the clouds, bud. She provided us with a blizzard: let's use it."
Toothless grunted his assent, and then broke from the previous path, heading upwards, closer to the clouds that were spawning the snow and hail. A few seconds later, they vanished in them.
The tables had turned.
Elsa cursed under her breath when she saw the infuriating dragon vanish. Her blizzard had worked so far, in that it had slowed them down and allowed her to almost catch up to them. The snow and hail had made it harder for them to dodge her attacks, but before she could nail them with something, they had changed course and headed straight for the clouds, summoned for her snowstorm. After a brief hesitation, she followed them. The snow and hail did not touch her, and the cold never bothered her, but her visibility was just as hindered as theirs must have been.
The moment she lost sight of them, she never found them again. She flew around inside the clouds, looking for the telltale shape of the dragon. A minute later, she heard the terrifying screech again, and saw a faint flash on her left. She turned quickly, and sent a surge of magic from her hands, instantly creating a barrier of solid ice to block the incoming fireball. The fire smashed against her barrier, and she caught the briefest glimpse of the dragon's shape before it vanished back into the cover of the clouds.
She was forced to block again and again, as she was pelted with fire from every possible angle, and though it angered her that she was so cornered, she could not help but admire the dragon's speed and agility.
In the end, she realized that her blizzard was having a negative effect, and released her magic over it. The snow fell slowly to the ground, and no more followed it. The heavy, dark clouds vanished back into the air, and the sky cleared a little bit. She could see better now, but the day was still cloudy by itself, and she had no way of completely dispersing them.
Through the remaining clouds her opponents appeared, and once again she was pelted with a barrage of fireballs before she could launch her own attack. She formed her shield again, this time aiming to redirect the attacks away from her rather than blocking them directly. It seemed to do the trick, for the fireballs blasted off of her shield but didn't explode, and her shield did not shatter like the others. She was preparing to go on the offensive, when the ice beneath her feet shattered. She realized that one of the blasts must have been aimed for her foothold, but didn't think any more on this as she plummeted from the sky.
She let out a horrified cry as she fell, trying to create ice to slide on, but she was turning too fast, and was too terrified to concentrate correctly. She caught a glimpse of the dragon, and saw the flash of the rider's bow. She had the presence of mind to swing her hands, and a stream of frost along with it, which redirected the arrow's path so that instead of running her through, it merely flew an inch next to her face.
She managed to bring her fear under control and level herself as she fell, which enabled her to create ice beneath her and try to slow and redirect her fall.
It worked, for the most, and she managed to create a slide that cut enough momentum that when she crashed into the bed of snow she wasn't killed.
She picked herself off the snow, spitting it out of her mouth and wiping it out of her eyes. She was disoriented, and her stomach was weak from the fall, but she knew that she had to find the dragon, or she would soon be dead.
She rose to her feet unsteadily, and shook her head, ridding it of leftover snow and bringing the world back into focus. Her eyes scanned the sky to locate the dragon, as she rotated in place to look everywhere around her. The unholy screeching was her warning that the attack was incoming.
Ice leapt to her hands as she spotted the dragon, flying towards her from the west at full speed, its face locked in a visage of fierce determination.
She saw the fireball that left its mouth. It was bigger than any she had seen before. But she was ready, and ice was hers to command. The ground in front of her rose at her command, forming the strongest, sturdiest barrier of ice she had yet made. The blast hit her barrier, and both exploded. She had to cover her face with her hands and turn to the side from the strength of the blast, but she didn't feel anything reach her. She had done it!
She opened her eyes again and looked beyond her wrecked barrier, catching sight of the dragon as it was flying away and turning slowly, wings extended. Something was wrong. Something was ... Where is the rider? She thought frantically. The saddle on the dragon's back was empty!
She looked around wildly, trying to locate her cunning enemy. She heard a faint whistle of air, and looked to its source, eastwards. What she saw left her dumbfounded for a second, hesitation that cost her. The rider was gliding under his own power, small leathery surfaces between his extended hands and torso, and he was heading directly towards her at frightening speed. He was almost upon her!
Before she had time to even raise her hands, the gliding rider reached her. He slammed into her with the force of a boulder, and they both tumbled in the snow, falling down the side of the mountain.
Elsa was not used to physical battles of any kind, and she quickly lost her bearings at the rough tumbling. She landed harshly, and the rider landed atop her. Her head throbbed painfully, and her eyes were clenched shut from disorientation and pain. She could feel the weight of her enemy settle on top of her, pinning her hands down with one of his own, holding them together.
She felt something cold touch her neck, and only then did she open her eyes. She saw the rider's frightening helmet with no characteristic besides the slits, and she felt the knife's edge on her throat. How crazy was this man? Did he free fall out of his dragon? Who does that, any of that?
"Don't move." The rider commanded harshly. His voice was deep, and muffled by the metallic helmet. She dared not move, she dared not speak, she could hardly think.
"If I feel your ice anywhere, I will slit your throat." He threatened, and his voice got even harsher, causing Elsa to flinch.
"And even if you can freeze me before I kill you, Toothless will," he noted and nudged his head to the side. Elsa saw, through her peripheral vision, that the dragon had landed near them and was watching her carefully. She did not doubt her captor's words.
"Okay?" He asked, to make certain she understood him. Elsa absently thought that his accent was quite weird, but she could understand him perfectly. She nodded imperceptibly.
She had regained her bearings, and the pain in her head had subsided. She could fully process the situation now.
"If you plan to kill me," She told him coldly. She would not give him the satisfaction of submitting. "Do so now. I will not allow myself to be taken hostage for ransom."
"Kill you?" The rider asked, incredulity in his voice. "Are you crazy, woman? You and your people tried to kill us, we don't even know you."
"You tried to kill the archers. You tried to kill me. You have me on knife point." Elsa pointed out, her courage returning.
"The archers would have killed us if we hadn't dodged. As would you. As would your soldiers in the forest. What did we do to you? Why did you attack us?"
"You ride a dragon." She pointed out, condescension in her voice as if to a small child. "Beasts that lay waste to all they go through. My soldiers thought you a danger to me, and tried to protect me."
"Not another one." The rider said, frustration in his voice. The knife in her neck had drawn a single drop of blood by now, and she felt it slide down the side of her neck. The dragon snorted aggressively on the side, but the rider ignored it. "Dragons are not mindless beasts. This dragon did nothing to you, and you tried to kill him again and again without provocation. And you have the nerve to assume the moral high ground?"
No one had spoken like that to Elsa, ever. And what he said ... could he be telling the truth? Had they attacked unprovoked and thus only forced the dragon and rider to defend themselves?
"You seem like a reasonable sort, and I'd hate to kill you." The rider continued. His voice had softened from its steely edge, and Elsa found that it sounded almost ... pleasant. "So, do you promise to be good if I remove this knife from your throat?"
A heavy question. Elsa could feel the cold edge of the knife digging on her neck. What choice did she have? She was at his mercy, and he offered to spare her life.
Immediately the weight lifted off of her, and the knife vanished from her throat. She released the breath she didn't know she was holding, and looked up. The rider had stood, towering above her. He replaced the knife in a fold of his brown leather outfit, and reached with his right hand to remove his helmet. Underneath the featureless helmet lay a mess of long brown hair, a pleasant and slightly scarred face with a big nose, and a pair of vivid green eyes, peering at her guardedly. A scar ran from his left cheek to the center of his nose. Looking lower, she noticed that his left foot was an elaborate metallic prosthetic, but she couldn't see where prosthetic ended and where flesh began.
His free hand was extended towards her, an offer in more ways than one.
She reached for it, and the stranger hauled her to her feet, less gently than she would have liked. Hiding her scowl at the rough treatment, she stood in front of him, taking in his appearance and trying to think of something to do or say, acutely aware of the terrifying dragon standing a few feet to her left.
In lieu of saying anything else, she opted to introduce herself.
"I am Elsa, Queen of Arendelle." She said, with as much formality as she could, extending her hand as she would to a foreign dignitary. She saw surprise in his eyes, as she expected, but then she saw mirth, which she did not. A small grin appeared on the stranger's face that completely ruined his threatening posture. He caught her hand in his gloved one and shook it strongly.
"I am Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, Chief of the Vikings of Berk." He introduced himself. Elsa did not think of the strangeness of the name, too caught up in the consequences of his revelation. He was a leader too. They had attacked the chief of a Viking tribe uprovoked. She, personally, had nearly killed the leader of a Viking tribe, and perhaps even worse, had failed at her attempt.
"And this is Toothless," he said as he released the handshake, pointing with his thumb over to the dragon. Elsa followed his gaze and shivered. The dragon looked incredibly menacing and ready to pounce, and he was definitely not toothless.
"He may seem like a really dangerous beast, but he's really just a big, soft lizard that-"
He didn't finish his sentence, because the dragon had cuffed him upside the head with the end of its tail. Hiccup rubbed the sore spot, and glared at his dragon, completely ignoring Elsa for now.
He raised his hand, and shook a gloved finger at his companion. "What have I told you about interrupting me when I talk politics, you useless reptile?" He admonished.
Elsa could not help it. She burst into laughter.