Welcome back to the Berkian Eddur – the second Edda begins here. I would like to make a few things clear:
There are a number of things that this Edda will tackle. The central theme, however, is the story of Hiccup and Astrid. It was the major plot-thread left unattended in Becoming, and the most important unresolved issue in Hiccup's life.
This story will therefore contain scenes of fights, friendships, differences of opinion and love – both emotional and physical. The M rating does not mean that there will be scenes of physical love very often, but there is mention of it, and it is often on people's minds. As you can see by the very first scene, cultural norms of the time are being respected were communal baths were common – I will actually highlight the fact that Hiccup, as son of the chief, actually has privileges in privacy that many others do not have.
But this is not only a love story. As returning readers will know, I don't quite write linear plots. So of course, Hiccup and Astrid circle each other's hearts while life still happens in Berk around them. The Thing is coming up – and many, many other factors with it.
That said, I would like to stress that this is a continuation. Any new readers coming across this should know that a previous story, Becoming Lífþrasir comes first. Unfortunately, to understand the basic premise of this story, it is best to read the previous one.
Without further ado; here is …
Berkian Eddur - 2
Winter in Líf's Holt
Long Winter's Start
What good is the warmth of Summer, without the cold of Winter to give it sweetness?
― John Steinbeck
Astrid walked towards the well, her beloved nadder making sure to shield her from the rain with an extended wing. Ever since the battle that had killed the Red Death and brought Hiccup back to Berk, her nadder had been an inseparable and intrinsic part of her life. In the final moments, when she'd seen Hiccup being flung off Toothless' back, and had thrown herself off Stoick's dragon, her nadder's name had burst from her mouth.
In that moment, as she fell through the sky and watched the nadder hurtle towards her, she knew that this dragon would be her loyal battle sister for the rest of their life. It was true that the dragon had perhaps responded to her being in danger rather than instinctively knowing that Astrid had given her a name seemingly ordained by Freyr, but Astrid couldn't help thinking that Stormfly had always known her name, in the same way that Astrid had also always known it, and retained it, for fear of getting too attached to the illusion of peace between human and dragon.
Now Stormfly answered to her name in an instant, and Astrid knew she would die to protect this dragon, as Stormfly would die to protect her.
"Stormfly, darling," she called up, her dragon putting a head under her wing to look at Astrid." Can you blow some fire down that well for me? Good girl!" She was obeyed right away, and Astrid then lowered the bucket into the now-melted water at the bottom of the well. It would freeze over again in a little while, but since the advent of dragons, it truly had become a joy to wash in the Winter, where before it was one of the horrible chores that no one looked forward to.
Even if the bath at the end was always worth it. Blushing slightly, she hugged the bucket to herself and hurried home, trying to get there before the water froze in the pail. Stormfly raced after her, a wing always cocked to cover her from the freezing rain as they mounted the hill up to the Haddock hall.
The warmth engulfed her as soon as she entered the closed dragon shed. Between her nadder, Stoick's nightmare and Toothless, all now beloved companions, they had not been able to accommodate them all indoors in the main hall, but were not about to leave them out in the Winter freeze, either. The same problem had occurred with almost everyone on Berk. So most of the village had found itself scrambling with last minute construction, fighting against time as the weather had become less and less favourable for any outdoor activity. The Haddock hall had been the one leading the way; the building designs that had begun going up around Stoick's home, with Gobber giving a hand, had by far been the most efficient, and others had quickly begun copying it.
It had of course come out of Hiccup's quill. While he had been unable to help in the actual construction, and hadn't been cleared to fly yet while the construction was going on, he had put his mind to the problem with an alacrity and an efficiency that spoke of long practice in problem solving and skills acquired through experience and hard work. Thanks to him, working closely with Fishlegs and the other woodworkers including herself, they had managed to finish the shelters before the second snowfall in the third week of Autumn.
Astrid put the pail down in the dragon barn for a moment, long enough to open the heavy wooden door for her dear dragon. Stormfly gave her a hand with her snout, and then walked in, gently shutting the wooden door behind her a bat from her armoured tail. With a chin-scratch in thanks, Astrid took the last bucket of water up, passed through the door that had been cut out of the hall's side, and entered the main room with the warm, merry fire-pit, shuddering as the higher temperature of the hall's main room made her notice how cold she was.
"Alright?" Hiccup smiled from his place, looking up from the wooden plank on his lap he was using as a writing desk. Toothless, the only dragon who could pass through the door between the barn and hall, was curled up at Hiccup's feet, snoring lightly as he basked in the fire's warmth. As a fire-breathing reptile, he didn't need the warmth, but everyone in the tribe knew that Toothless was spoiled, and everyone was more or less to blame, seeing that his status as a hero alongside his rider had made him everyone's favourite. It also didn't hurt that he was the first dragon that had begun playing with the children and keeping them safe, occupying his time as his rider recovered by letting a variety of ages totter up to him, climb on and then carefully be walked squealing around in circles, spreading his wings in mock flight to cause calls and giggles.
Astrid looked fondly at the dragon before closing the barn door behind her. She knew Stormfly would make herself comfortable, and Fireworm was already curled up in sleep. The days were getting shorter, and ten hours of sunlight was all they got at the moment, so the reptiles tended to sleep and rise early with it, or even before it. She smiled back at Hiccup, who tilted his head at her.
"I'm fine," she said with a warm chuckle, putting the bucket down and taking her damp fur coat to hang on a knob to dry. "Has Toothless been out with the children again?"
Hiccup's smile widened, his eyes twinkling in the firelight. "Out with the first light, and come back covered in snow and wearing someone's yak-wool hat." He waved it around as proof, causing Astrid to snort. She came around the fire pit, moving to the tiny room beside Stoick's bed chamber. It had taken her quite a while to get used to having a separate bathing room, not when Astrid had grown up dragging the wooden tub out of its corner on washday and having everything happen within the same large room. But the chief's hall was the chief's hall, and the small perks of being the leading family on Berk were hers also, now that she had joined the clan.
Well, she said joined, but in reality…
She shook her head, emptying the last bucket into the tub. Stoick had bathed this morning already, and Astrid had dutifully emptied the bath and filled it again, though it had taken her almost all the remaining short morning. Stoick always bathed first, as head of the household, and took his weapons with him. Astrid had then used the same water to wash Stoick's linens, putting some to the boil on the fire outside. But Hiccup deserved and needed clean water, so the tub had been emptied, scrubbed, and now refilled. The fire on one side of the tiny room made it toasty, and with a bite to her lip, Astrid quickly undressed, remaining only in her long white under-linen that reached her knee. Quietly, so as not to disturb Hiccup yet, she walked into the main room, gently shaking Toothless up, and he heated the water for her with two blasts. For all the work he saved her, he was content with only a few head-scratches and cuddles as payment .
And with a blush and an uncomfortable roll of her shoulders, she couldn't put it off any longer. As soon as Toothless had pushed his way out of the main hall to go nap in his stall of the dragon barn, Astrid poked her head out of the bathing room and stalled a moment more. Hiccup was concentrating on what he was drawing, quill sliding over the parchment in smooth, inked strokes as he paused only to dip into the inkwell or to scribble something on the sides. She leaned against the door jamb, ignoring the heat escaping into the slightly-less-warm main hall room, watching his skilled fingers and the muscles of his hand and arm bunch up and relax in the firelight, lip firmly in his teeth as he consulted another piece of parchment that looked like it had calculations on it.
A glowing warmth had lodged in her chest some months ago, and it rolled with new heat every time she looked at him and discovered something new that she had come to like about him. The way his hair flapped back when he flew without his helmet, how intensely he stared at things, how he waved his hands animatedly when he spoke, and how he laughed, really, really laughed, when something funny happened to tickle his humour, like the prank Tuffnut had played on Gobber last week that ended up with the blacksmith covered in yak-milk and evading the terrors trying to lick it off him.
And now, another thing that she could dwell on and smile at later; how concentrated he got as he worked on something, forgetting everything else around him as the paper he was writing on became the his whole reality. It was a silly, dangerous trait that could get him captured our worse, but there was little chance of that, not when Stoick, Toothless and Astrid herself always made sure to have one eye on him.
Stoick and Astrid especially. They weren't about to let him disappear into thin air again.
Hiccup suddenly huffed, a frown bringing his sharp brows down as he threw his quill into the ink and groaned. "I'll have to ask Fishlegs," he said to himself in a resigned voice. Astrid moved closer, giving his work a look over his shoulder and realising he was trying to design a wooden winch large enough to lift a barn face. The warm place in her chest gave another roll; she'd heard Sven the younger huffing and puffing about how long it took to do that without the dragons, who couldn't always be coaxed to fly in a cautious enough manner. Obviously, Hiccup was trying to find a solution and make the village's life better and easier again.
"What is it?" she asked. Hiccup started slightly, but brightened when he looked at her.
"I don't know how much give this wood has, do you?"
"Pine or oak?" she asked, reaching in front of him and taking the paper.
"That's what I need to decide," he replied. It was a point of pride that Astrid was a woman and knew how to read; she had been lucky enough that Hiccup's mother had often let her play with him as a child, and he had always been generous with his knowledge. He had unknowingly taught her how to read and write, and she had been smart enough to pick it up from their play. The parchment now told her that the wood needed to have minimal give around the metal wires, as the friction would eat it away to dangerous results, but the wood that the mechanisms would be embedded in needed to be soft enough to handle.
"Go with the pine for this part," she said, pointing to his diagrams of the cogs' insertions, "and the oak for the metal wire. Oak's sturdier - but I'd still coat it in resin and wax if I were you - it will snap the wood eventually anyway."
"Thanks," he said with a warm smile. He looked up at her over his shoulder, his eyes twinkling brightly and cheeks flushed, and Astrid couldn't help smiling back and putting her hand on his shoulder. But as always on wash day, this caused him to look away and tense up, and her hand slipped off him. "I'll write that down; I'll forget which order it was you said it otherwise," he added with a chuckle, taking the paper from her hand and adding a few runes with lines pointing towards quickly squiggled drawings to keep her instructions with the rest of the design.
"We really should…" she started, thinking of the water in the next room, hoping it hadn't cooled too much, and going through all the washing supplies in her mind to make sure nothing was out of place as the usual nervousness washed over her. Her nerves had mounted higher and higher every washday, and the reason why was rather obvious.
"Very well," Hiccup replied reluctantly, standing unaided and never looking at her as he walked towards the bathing room. The glowing coals of the warm emotion Astrid had been feeling were doused by his sudden distance. This had happened for every wash day since he had awoken, and it was only getting worse.
What was sad was that Astrid had been looking forward to these moments. Her mother had always told her that she had bonded with her father over the bath tub, during the first few months of their marriage as they had begun to know each other more, and trust had been born of habit as they grew used to each other in the wash tub, learning loved and hated traits that would be lived with later with a shrug, and speaking of all and sundry until the water cooled as they washed one another.
Hiccup on the other hand seemed firm in his desire to remain as distant from Astrid as possible on all things that were not the day-to-day of living in the same hall and living in the same village. The first time washday had come around his reaction to her unclothed body had been so severe that she had never dared to be completely unclothed since, always remaining in her shift as she shared the tub with him, because he hadn't looked her in the face for the following two weeks straight.
It was made worse by the fact that it wasn't only her duty, but her utter obligation to be here. He wasn't only her betrothed but also an injured member of her family. The Goethi had been very clear that the wound, not yet completely healed despite being burned shut and sutured carefully, could by no means be wet unless it was with the healing liquids and poultices she had provided. This led to Hiccup being completely unable to bathe on his own, even if he could somehow make it in and out of the tub with his metal leg missing and the slippery stone floor of that room.
Astrid swallowed her nervousness and moved towards the bathing room, closing the door behind her and kneeling to help him remove his leg as he struggled with it, leaning against the tub. She didn't dare look up at him and smile as she had the first few times she had done this - she'd only find his face turned to the side, stubbornly refusing to look at her for the duration of the bath.
Quickly and efficiently his leg was off, and she swaddled the metal in a rug to keep it from getting wet in the room's moisture. His trousers followed, and then she rose and helped him out of the green woolen tunic while making sure to keep him steady.
The tub had been built to suit Stoick's greater size, so that it felt almost like a small pool, even with the both of them sharing it. The step inside was a large one, problem Astrid had solved ages ago by putting a log in the instep. Together, they climbed - and hopped - to the edge of the tub, where Hiccup sat down and Astrid quickly climbed in, pushing the bathing stool behind him so he could just push back onto it. He did so quickly, swinging his good leg in after he'd sat down and sinking only partially into the tub as his bad leg rested on the ledge, dry and still swaddled in bandages.
Astrid had begun to speak out of nervousness, the silence of the room otherwise suffocating as the noise of sloshing liquid became too loud and jarring.
"Ruffnut will be over later," she said with a forced chuckle as she wet his back and hair using a wad of clean wool and lye soap. "Apparently, Woodnut's decided that since she has a name now, she can soil all the undies she wants. I've been trying to tell Ruff to use more moss against that poor baby's bottoms, but more moss is for losers."
Hiccup chuckled, and it felt like a huge victory. "Let me guess, Fishlegs is backing away slowly and waiting for her to stop blowing things up before he says anything?"
"Actually, he begged me to lend a hand, which is why Ruffnut and her smelly bundle of love are going to join mum and I later, after I'm done…" No! Don't mention the current activity! "... cleaning the tub out. Honestly, I think your father let Fireworm in with him this morning." Oh Freya have mercy, she managed to dodge that.
"I think you may be right," Hiccup chuckled again as he washed his own front, and Astrid rolled the lye soap between her palms and began lathering his hair. It had grown considerably lighter and redder since he had returned, a common side-effect of the soap they used on Berk, but Astrid couldn't say she didn't enjoy the shining strands of soft hair passing through her fingers. She angled his head backwards, careful not to get any lather into his eyes, and a thrill went through her starting at the center of her chest and warming her skin outwards when he relaxed and leaned backwards. She massaged his skull with her finger pads and his eyes fell closed as he groaned.
It was only a moment, but Astrid immediately felt her heart skip and begin to beat faster as she watched him go slack under her hands. It was an unbelievable feeling, one she'd never had before even when they shared the bath, but it was a warmth beyond the bath water spreading all over her skin, like a blush traveling from her face to the tips of her toes.
Then he seemed to realise what he was doing and stiffened terribly, almost yanking his head out of her hands and pulling his own hair in the process.
"I got soap in your eyes, sorry!" Astrid said, to try to give him a valid cover and reduce the awkwardness. He stammered an accession and she quickly used the washing ladle to rinse the soap away from his face and hair. The warm feeling faded to an unsatisfying lull, like a cold cup of ale left too long on the Great Hall's counter.
His exit was quick after that, Astrid following with her sopping wet shift sticking to her skin uncomfortably. She helped him dress and put his leg on, then walked him across the slippery floor until he could find better purchase on the wooden floor of the main room.
He gave her a shy glance and a small smile over his shoulder, heading back towards the fire stiffly and showing no improvement whatsoever for all the soothing effects the hot water was supposed to have on sore and aching muscles. Astrid shut the door, turning back to the tub and entered the cooling water again, quickly washing her own hair before soaking a few of the more delicate linens in what was left of the soapy water.
She climbed out and undressed, peeling the shift off her skin and hanging it to drip and dry in front of the bathing room's fire. She wiped herself down and dressed quickly, braiding her still-wet hair with quick fingers and beginning once again the long process of emptying and cleaning the tub, gathering the wet linens and putting them up to join the shift. She opened the door and bustled into the main room, busying herself with food and gathering the clothing piles for the next half hour as she waiting for her mother to come calling.
Hiccup groaned again from his place by the fire, the shorter winter days providing little light within the thick wooden wall of the halls. He bent his parchment towards the fire, his metal leg tapping impatiently.
"What is it?" she finally asked, wishing that he'd just look to her for help more than anything. He scowled and rolled one shoulder, lips curled inwards as he scrunched his nose in annoyance at whatever was on the paper.
"I'm trying to improve the pulley-system we have on the ship sails and constructions," he sighed, scratching at a drying patch of hair that was glinting in the firelight. "But I keep coming up against the same problem of weight - I have to try to find a way to make one pulley that's able to take the weight from a sack of grain to a full fishing net. But I can't be sure how much they'll hold until I test them, and that won't be happening any time soon with …" he huffed and waved a hand towards his leg as he tapped the metal, jostling it nervously.
"Well, we can try it once you're feeling up to it," she assured, but his scowl only deepened and … ah, was that a pout? It wasn't doing good things to her insides.
"I wanted to get it done before the Thing. That way we use them while we make the temporary shelters and take them down, and maybe we'll be able to show them off on the ships." He snorted. "Thuggory will be mad as a hungry gronkle that we one-upped him on the fleet again. We already have the better oar system."
Astrid smiled, watching him speak of the fellow heir of the Meathead tribe with a rather mischievous spark in his eyes.
"Try looping the wire? It will take more weight." Hiccup looked down at the parchment for a moment, but the furious scribbling that quickly followed made her smile to see his great mind at work again. "It will be nice to see them all again," she commented as she salted some fish. "It has been almost three moons. Do you think they will all come?"
"Thuggory and Heather will, I'm sure of it," Hiccup said, "And Cami. I'm not sure about Dogsbreath - he doesn't enjoy the din of this sort of thing - but he's of that age now. I don't think his father will let him stay behind."
Astrid opened her mouth to reply, but her mother knocked, her head peeking into hall with a merry look about her.
"Ah good, you're still here!" Astrid waved her in, and Brunhilda dropped her cargo of dirty laundry, which was not as huge as it used to be in Astrid's younger years. All of her various sisters-in-law had obviously been given the wolf's share, and now her mother took the most precious or easy pieces off to join her own daughter's loads. "Has our walking disaster arrived yet?"
"Oh no, Ruffnut's late," Astrid answered with a laugh she shared with Hiccup. She went to gather her own basket of washing-up, and dragged a hand warmly across his back as she passed him. When he only smiled back at her, Astrid's chest lightened again. "Hiccup, I'll be by the river. Sorry to ask you this, but you'll watch the pot for me? It's only next to the grate so it shouldn't burn, but unlid it if it bubbles. Is that alright?"
"Do I get extra stew if I burn myself?" he asked innocently. Astrid laughed along with her mother at his blatant bribe, and Astrid punched his shoulders lightly in a way that made him pout and grumble, and caused her cheeks to colour at the sight of his slightly protruding lip.
"We'll see!" she replied with a cheeky wave, which he answered with a childish poking of his tongue. She was still laughing as she climbed down the hill with her mother, both laden with clothing, to go kidnap Ruffnut from her own personal domestic hell and take her to their corner of the river.
Fishlegs couldn't help the smile that came to his face at his daughter's high pitched squealing as she tried to reach for the toy Hiccup and Astrid had made for her. The blonde was holding it up, tilting it this way and that so that the water inside would slosh against the tiny metal sides, and the wooden handles were still slightly too big for her hands. Technically, the toy should have been too heavy for his little girl, but she was her mamma's daughter, and so of course, she had hit herself on the head with it the first time she'd tried to lift it, and began laughing.
Asgard help him when she was old enough to start reaching for things. They were going to have to tie her up to Meatlug.
To avoid further accident, Astrid was the one the one holding the toy this time, carefully flipping it so that the liquid inside made the noisiest sloshes it could, and the peals of laughter from the cot bounced around the room, causing everyone there to smile.
Or cackle. His wife and her brother only cackled.
"Thanks again for that," Ruffnut said, working on some mending and looking like she was trying to cover his entire tunic in stitches. Ruffnut had learned a great deal of things since they'd married; sewing, it looked like, was not going to be one of them. "It keeps her entertained for hooours." Ruffnut's blissful sigh made Fishlegs wonder slightly at how much hidden work was involved with caring for Woodnut. He knew his wife and their friend had just come from their washday duties, and that Woodnut had been coddled and loved all day by the Hofferson women and his wife, but his Ruff sounded exhausted, and that last stitch was so crooked it was almost straight, which was a terribly bad sign. He was also aware that he was lucky, as by the time he returned home at the end of the day, his little shield maiden was almost tuckered out, so he got quiet requests for cuddles and drowsy waving hands. But on Washday, he was here all day and could see that even after a morning of activity and attention, Woodnut didn't look like she was about to take a nap any time soon.
Hmm. Perhaps this week, his mother would watch their little one - he knew she had been itching to. If Ruffnut permitted it (as his mother tended to try to teach her manners), his wife could get a nice day of sleeping.
And maybe visiting him at the building site because she had cramps. That would be nice too.
He came back from daydreams about soft bushes and long blonde hair when he heard a squeak, and Ruffnut laughing uproariously. He blinked, and found a red-faced Astrid huffing like a bull and pointedly looking into the cradle, still waving the toy at the entertained child, Ruffnut beating her knees as tears of mirth threatened to spill, and Tuffnut… hanging against their wall, as nailed by a dagger through the collar.
"Eouph, let me down, you stupid woman!" he whined. Ruffnut wiped her eyes, giving him a vicious look before she stood and took the dagger out without warning, throwing her brother on the floor.
"Suits you, idiot," she drawled at him.
"What? I only said she was good with the kids, and that the practice would come in handy when she and my man Hiccup start getting-" Another dagger passed by his face, slicing off hair that floated to the ground sedately. Eyes wide, he shut up as Astrid kept looking down at the cradle with a thunderous expression on her face.
He exchanged a knowing glance with his wife, who nodded at him sadly before sneaking a peek towards their friend. Fishlegs had noticed that although the relationship between the betrothed had begun to grow slightly closer, there seemed to be an ever present barrier, one that neither one of them seemed able to bring down. Fishlegs had tried speaking to Hiccup, subtly, but had managed to glean nothing that could help either of them. The Hiccup he had known in his youth had been an open book, unable to hide sadness and delight and with his heart on his sleeve and offered on his hand at the drop of a hat. Evidently, that boy had grown up into a taciturn, self-sufficient man who cared just as much, but now had more difficulty expressing it.
Poor Astrid. She was going to have two Stoicks on her hands.
Still, that didn't mean that Astrid was going to be uncomfortable under his roof. Fishlegs had been lucky enough to be able to start a new hall with Ruffnut, since his family was wealthy, he was into the business of building halls anyway, and his father's was so over-crowded that there had been no hope of fitting in his new bride and family. His mother lived next-door, of course, but Astrid had often come here to find solace and some refuge from the often-quiet walls of the Haddock hall in past years. Tuffnut's long, stupid tongue was not going to take that away from their poor friend.
In fact, Tuffnut should just learn to shut up. He had a good way to make him do that, right now.
"Why are you polishing those shields anyway?" he grumbled in mock annoyance. His wife, bless her, looked at him with bright eyes - poor Ruff had been thought stupid by association, and not even Tuffnut himself was as daft as people assumed. It took smarts to come up with and plan all those lovely traps and pranks, and pretending to be dull had it's advantages. Ruffnut, of course, had realised what her husband was going to do, because it was awful and deviant, and Tuffnut deserved it. Of course, it would seem, Fishlegs was not the only one influencing the spouse in the relationship. "And why are you doing it in my house?"
"Eh, they needed polishing," Tuffnut replied noncommittally, ducking his head to hide his face behind the round sheet of wood and metal. The women could see nothing, but Fishlegs was sitting with his pipe at just the right angle to see his brother-in-law's face go up in flames.
Yes, this was going to be fun.
"Are you feeling hot, Tuff?" he asked innocently. "Ruff, I think the fire's getting to his head."
"Oh, I know what's getting to his head, and it's not the fire," Ruffnut replied, taking her cue as he gave her the opening. "He's polishing those because he wants to look good." She snickered in that fashion that was unique to her, and Fishlegs found himself biting his pipe stem to stop from smiling.
"Really?" he asked just as innocently, pointedly ignoring Tuffnut's yelped protests and threats as they spoke pretending he wasn't even there.
"Don't you know? The Thing is in a few weeks," Ruff went on, her sly grin growing wider. Fishlegs began to wonder if Astrid would take little Woodnut for the night if Ruff kept looking at her husband like that; Freya knew that Hiccup had taken his duties towards their little girl in utter seriousness, and he adored Fishlegs' daughter. "And we all know how Tuffnut the chicken destroyer has a thing for a certain Bog girl."
"I told you to leave out the middle part!" Tuffnut yelped, throwing down the shield and launching himself at his sister. Fishlegs and Astrid merely raised their legs whenever the two rolled towards them in their wrestling match. As almost always happened since Fishlegs had strung Snotlout out to dry, Tuffnut ended up tapping out with his sister twisting his arms mercilessly.
"Tuffnut the destroyer doesn't suit you," Astrid pitched in, getting her small revenge with a grin. "I think Tuffnut the chicken destroyer is more suitable."
"That's not fair!" he replied from the floor, where he stayed after Ruffnut got off him and moved to sit beside Fishlegs. "Fishlegs got an awesome adult name - I mean, not that 'the wise' inspires fear in the hearts of men or anything." Ruffnut's shoe pinged off his helmet. Fishlegs had earned that title for being the one to notice who Cattongue had really been, and keeping quiet about it until his friend had been ready to speak. "Astrid's been all 'loyal' for years." A rattle flew at him this time, and he was lucky enough to dodge this one. "Hiccup's …. yeah, not going there." Astrid had armed herself with Woodnut's dirty diaper, a threat more terrifying than any dagger in the hands of a well trained throwing arm. "Snotlout and I are feeling left out!"
"You don't have to feel left out," Ruffnut said, settling into Fishleg's side with a leer. "Just accept your adult name with pride and honour, Chicken Destroyer."
"Argh, how am I going to impress C- girls! Girls! How am I going to impress girls with a name like that! And it was one prank! Out of a gazzillion! They had to go and choose that one!"
"Your fault for making exploding chickens so memorable," Astrid snickered. Tuffnut wailed in agony, which only made them laugh harder.
"Don't say it when the Thing's happening, please," he said glumly, and Fishlegs exchanged a raised brow with both women. Since when did Tuffnut know of the existence of that word?
"Oh alright," Astrid said with a snicker.
"Eh, speak for yourself," Ruffnut replied with a wave of a hand. "I say no woman's worth my brother if she doesn't think exploding chickens are awesome."
Tuffnut gave a discontented groan, which they all laughed at again, Woodnut trying to raise her head to see what was so funny, even though she was already laughing at the mere sound of their mirth. Astrid took the child up in her arms expertly, having grown used to handling the baby by now, as well as some of her brothers' children.
"Oh cheer up," she told him with a chuckle. "From what I saw, that girl might actually help you feed the chickens herself next time."
"You think so?"he asked, too hopeful to be casual. Astrid have a chuckle that made Fishlegs frown: was he paranoid or was that a slight wry edge to it?
Tuffnut's next idiotic grin was rather too funny not to laugh at. Fishlegs chuckled along with the women as Astrid gave Woodnut to Ruffnut as the girl began fussing for a breast.
"Well, I'm off. Thank you for the hospitality, as always," she said, rising and heading for the door.
"Any time you want to come take this little monster off my hands..." Ruffnut said leadingly, even while she cuddled the child to herself and opened her tunic under her shawl.
"Not to that point quite yet!" Astrid replied cheekily as she nodded towards Ruffnut's front and opened the front door.
"Yeah, you've got to get Hiccup to do that first," Tuffnut replied as he stood up. He was once again nailed to the wall with a dagger through his fur vest, and this time nobody bothered to take him down as the door closed behind Astrid. The look he exchanged with his wife next only confirmed a certain number of his observations. He was at least sixty-three percent positive that he was going to need to speak to someone soon, but he had not decided who, as yet.
The first prologue;
To start, the clues and hints and reading between the lines: Yes, it is back. The title once again reflects the 'End of the World' myth from Norse Mythos, and as an additional 'game' of sorts, the second primary couple in this story, and foil to Hiccup and Astrid, will be Tuffnut and Cami, and there will be a 'whodunnit' little three-Mary game in it for anyone interested to play. The small epithets for each chapter are also art of the 'clue' game, but be careful – they may mean the exact opposite of what they state.
There ARE going to be errors; I apologise. I don't have time to re-read this mammoth, and I also want you all to get it as soon as possible. So some things are going to get overlooked.
Concrit is welcome. Flamers will be summarily blocked. I do not have patience for mouthing-off and passive aggression. You can peddle your wares elsewhere.
This story is going to come up all together. Because of that, I will not be able to answer all the reviews between chapters. I am also approaching my thesis deadline, so the time will be scarce for answers at all.