This chapter is dedicated to one brave person who messaged me the way I needed to be. You know who you are.

Now, where were we, you sexy sons of bitches?



Since the day Hiccup went missing, Stoick the Vast had imagined hundreds of scenarios in which his son returned to him, and the Chief was finally given the chance to bond. The scenarios started small; realistic. When Stoick first ran to the grove after hearing what Astrid found, he imagined finding Hiccup nearby – bloody and bruised, but alive. He imagined scolding the Shield-Maiden for scaring him so, before engulfing his son in his arms.

But that scenario never happened.

With the death of each of Stoick's predictions, another was born. More desperate and less realistic than the last. More accepting of the truth that his son was, in fact, dead, and more a fantasy of what Hiccup could have been with his recent success.

But even the most imaginative of Stoick's fantasies did not compare to the truth finally laid bare.

The days after Hiccup's return had unleashed a tide of revelations – washing him back and forth and threatening to drown him in unanswered questions. How did he survive the Dragon Rider? Where did he learn to fight so well? What horrors had those eyes seen?

Was he the Dragon Rider all along?

Even compared to the insanity of the previous days, that was unbelievable. Hiccup may have been a prodigy in the ring, yet even the best Vikings in Berk's history had been slain by the Night Fury, let alone seen it, or controlled the filthy beast. Savage declaring Hiccup as the Dragon Rider had hit Stoick with no force whatsoever.

The look in Hiccup's eyes changed that. It stuck Stoick like a Gronkle.

Stoick saw no surprise in Hiccup's expression at Savage's declaration. Only a swirling mass of terror and raw fury. It was the look of somebody who had been exposed.

Stoick could only watch as Hiccup and his friends charged.



Savage stood facing Hiccup, yet Hiccup did not see him.

Hiccup saw a Roman Legate – a man who once tried to take everything before his very eyes. Unlike the Legate, however, this Viking succeeded. The web of lies and cover-ups that protected him and his friends from Berk had been unwound, and like the Roman Legate, he would die painfully for it.

Hiccup's glaive left his hands in a flurry of black steel, and the razor blade sunk deep into Savage's heavily plated shoulder. The Outcast was thrown back into his own men with a gasp.

"Kill 'em!" he ground out, clutching the shoulder. The armor had been too thick for a killing blow. Exactly what Hiccup wanted.

Hiccup rolled forward, and tore the weapon out from Savage's shoulder, throwing him forward. The Outcasts behind him took the hint, and charged.

Katla was by her lover's side within an instant, spinning swords and spiked armor radiating violence. Incoming strikes were dodged and parried, before the tips of her blades found gaps in the clunky metal.

These were not Free Folk. The Vikings fought with all strength and power. None of which served any purpose if a strike could not land.

His weapon in hand, Hiccup got to work. Arcing the glaive in a sweeping stroke, he slit the throat of incoming Outcasts, before kicking their gargling corpses against the wave of more attackers.

"You want this island? You want my life?" Hiccup bellowed, his wild eyes glowing through the midnight helmet. "Then come and get it!"

Above the pair, Nina let out a cackle. This would be good.

The Hooligans of Berk had thought that they saw Hiccup in combat, back in the ring. This was different, and the furthest possible thing from the harmless, quiet boy they once knew. Most of the Vikings resumed the defence, but many could only watch in horror.

A berserker charged at Hiccup, an axe high above his head. Hiccup slashed at the gap between his thigh and shin armor, and before the man could collapse or howl in pain, Hiccup drove the weapon through his face. An unwearied Outcast then tried to bash with a worn shield, but Hiccup leapt up and backwards, using his height to cross the guard and stab deep into an unprotected neck. The armor of Vikings was made against hammers, axes and maces. Thin blades simply danced around any protection available.

"Hiccup get back!" Katla shouted over the carnage. The two of them knew they could turn the tide of the battle, but Hiccup was pushing far beyond the ranks of the Hooligans and his girlfriend's support. He was lost in his own world. Her words fell on deaf ears, and Hiccup embraced the attention of the invaders like an addict.

Lazy and sloppy strikes grazed Hiccup's armor, but no Viking was given the chance to deliver a powerful blow. Hiccup's glaive had too much range; it's wielder had too much skill and far, far too much hatred.

By now, Hiccup had pushed through the first line of the Outcast warriors and had started cleaving through a wave of archers and support fighters like a butcher. Flowing like water, Hiccup twisted and arched his body so that arrows simply bounced off.

"Kill tha' demon!" One Outcast cried. The panic rang in his voice as he shakily drew his bow back for a shot. The order became the last thing he spoke, as Hiccup fully extended his weapon in a long thrust, piercing the exposed flesh under his helmet. The Outcast gurgled his last breath and fell backwards, releasing his arrow skywards.


Hiccup turned to see the misplaced arrow soar at the blonde boy in question. Before Lodin could so much as blink, he was thrown to the side by Nina. Even over the chaos down at the docks, the thunk! of the arrowhead piercing through leather and flesh was heard.

Katla, Hiccup and Lodin watched in equal shock as the thin brunette hit the ground and kept rolling. A trail of blood followed Nina as she rolled off the cliff and fell to the docks.

"No!" Katla screamed desperately. Hiccup could only stare in horror until his head exploded in pain and he fell forwards to the ground. The Outcasts were upon him within a second, taking advantage of his distraction. Dread welled up within Hiccup's belly, and he felt his armor shake and rattle against the dozens of strikes against him.

A guttural roar pierced his helmet, and the attacks froze.

Hiccup raised his head and watched as a shimmering in the air snatched Nina from the lethal fall. The flickering blur flew over the Hooligans of Berk, and then raced around to the cliff's edge and safely lowered Nina to the grass where she was moments ago.

Viper revealed herself at last – razor teeth gnashing and bright red scales shimmering like freshly spilt blood. She roared a second time, angrier, and the hundreds of Vikings below collectively flinched.

Amongst the defending Vikings, Astrid gasped and paled. The leather saddle was unmistakable on the creature's back.

"You really, really, should not have done that, Viking," Lodin said gravely, shaking his head and slinging his bow over his shoulder. The boy cast a look to Hiccup, which was met with a single nod. The saving of Nina's life had exposed the truth – that what Savage had said was true. Perhaps if the Dragons had remained hidden, then Hiccup and his friends could have convinced Stoick that Savage was lying.

But that ship had sailed.

Hiccup watched Katla and the way her body – seemingly frozen in horror – melted into a pose of cool acceptance. Under her purple spiked helmet, she laughed darkly at Lodin's comment.

"Viper, sweetie?" Katla called out. "Get the others"

The Changewing stared at Katla, then looked to the heavens and bellowed.

The noise jolted the Outcasts back into life, and with a collective war cry, they continued the assault. Katla rushed forward with flashing blades and put an end to the Vikings atop of her boyfriend.

Hiccup scrambled to his feet and felt himself facing the oncoming Outcasts with a strange smile. He felt lighter; his shoulders less tight and readier than ever to let loose.

The truth had been laid bare before his entire ex-village. He knew that the consequences of it would be devastating, but until then he wanted to revel in the feeling of having nothing to hide.

He wanted to use that feeling to tear every Outcast apart.

A beefy yet sickly looking Outcast was next to attack Hiccup. The man raised his weapon and –

Hiccup blinked. The man was gone. It took the boy a moment to notice the screaming, and he looked to his side to see Viper over the ocean with Lodin on her back and a mangled Outcast in her claws.

Hiccup felt a laugh escape his mouth, and he loudly continued as more Outcasts fell under his blade. The fight may have been a struggle – maybe even suicide – with just his friends and the Berkians against the countless invaders. But with the Dragons, the Outcasts had sealed their own fate.

Katla joined in with laughter. Her gaze was extended out to the sea, where storm clouds were brewing and swirling towards the docks at a suspicious pace.

For what felt like the first time in an age, Hiccup summoned the courage to stare back at his father. The defenders of Berk had formed a shield wall, a dozen yards behind him. They were putting down any Outcasts who attacked but otherwise held their ground. The Vikings were staring at Hiccup and his girlfriend in the same fury which he had felt towards Savage just minutes ago.

All except Stoick. His eyes remained locked forward, staring at everything but his own son. Hiccup felt that hit him harder than any death stares from the others.

Screams of agony drew Hiccup back to the fight. The line of Outcasts in front of him was desperately tearing the armour plating off, which was soaked in a putrid looking fluid. Acid, he realised, watching Viper soar overhead.

It was Katla's turn to show no mercy, now. Taking advantage of the attackers' distraction, she charged in and tore each of them to pieces. While Hiccup's glaive was accurate enough and possessed the range to slit deep cuts in gaps between armour, Katla's blades were thick and swung with enough force to remove whole limbs. Such a performance, added with her prickly flying suit, had the Outcasts stepping back.

"Oh, don't be like that!" Katla chastised, mirth dripping in her voice. "I thought you wanted this village?" Hiccup didn't know whether to laugh or cry at how similar she sounded to Nina.

Many of the Outcasts and Beserkers were glancing back now – towards their boarding ships. The two teenagers before them were more Dragon than man at that moment. Glimmering weapons in their hands; blood dripping from their freakish armour and the corpses of their fellow raiders surrounding them.

The myths of the Dragon Rider were so far from exaggerated.

More screams rang out. This time, from far back in the thinning horde of invaders. Dozens of archers had been soaked in Viper's acid, and unlike the normal Outcast or Beserker, they were not blessed with thick armor to protect them.

Their wails only grew louder, and the Outcasts took more steps backwards. Hiccup saw the fear in each of their eyes, clearer than ever.

"It's time that we finished this" Hiccup announced, seeing the effect the Dragon's had on the Outcasts. He looked up and gave a clear nod of his head – trusting his best friend to be somewhere in the clouds and watching.

He was answered by the noise of midnight wings cutting the wet air.

It started quietly – like the whistle of wind through a poorly built house. It grew, though, until horrified recognition showed on the faces of the invaders.

"It tha..?" Hiccup hear Gobber ask.

The infamous banshee scream of a Night Fury was now unmistakable, growing deafening.

"GET DOWN" Stoick bellowed. Vikings of either side took cover, and many jumped off the docks, into the sea.

Hiccup and Katla stood tall and watched as Toothless pierced down from the clouds at speeds they didn't think possible. One of the Beserker ships which carried heavy siege and salvage equipment was engulfed in a blinding fireball, and a second later Hiccup's ears popped as a thunderous booom! tore across the ocean surface.

There were times where Hiccup forgot that Toothless did not need him to fly. He had repaired the tail fin what felt like a lifetime ago, and the Night Fury had since been rather adamant to not fly without him. Watching the carnage caused by Toothless from the ground, Hiccup felt glad that his best friend preferred them together in the air, not on the ground.

The Vikings in front and behind Hiccup clearly did not share his awe. The defenders of Berk were shuffling back up the docks, clearly remembering the hide and pray policy recommended in the Dragon Manual, while the Outcasts and Beserkers were torn between pushing forwards into the deadly teens or falling back into their exposed ships.

Katla and Hiccup stepped up, and the thinning horde of attackers lost what little coordination they possessed. The back lines had grown sick of Viper's acid breath, and made a desperate run back to their ships, while those who remained either jumped into the sea or made a final charge.

Hiccup parried a clumsy attempt at a downward swing and spun his weapon to thrust the pommel of his weapon and rid an Outcast of their teeth, before shoving the dazed attacker into his companions. Katla sheathed her right sword in a smooth motion; picking up the sword her boyfriend parried and flinging it with a grunt. The poorly made weapon did not strike blade first but struck a Beserker's skull with enough power to floor him.


Another boat far out at sea was decimated by the blast of a Night Fury. Hiccup could see the debris soaring from the wreck, hundreds of yards away. He found it hard not to be proud of his best friend. The few invaders who remained looked back at the carnage and ran to join their companions returning to the boats.

"I don't think so," Katla shook her head. Taking inspiration from her boyfriend, the purple-clad fighter raised both swords to the heavens, then pointed them towards the docked ships.

Thunder roared, and the world around them darkened as inky black clouds swirled above.

Elysia's entrance to the battle had no whistling noise to warn the Berkians and invaders. Instead, a purple blur speared through the cloud line and dove into the darkening sea. The Outcasts and Beserkers only glanced in momentary confusion, before returning to their desperate retreat. Their ignorance had Katla grinning.

Like the legendary sea serpent Jörmungandr, Elysia rose from the waters with her razor teeth bared and glowing eyes looking down at every man who wished her owner and friends suffering. Her obsidian spines dripped with murky water, and a very low, very angry growl rumbled over the dead silence which had strangled every Viking. There was no order to 'get down'. There were only screams as Elysia's body was engulfed in white sparks and her maw opened wider to reveal a power that Thor himself would envy.

The boarding boats were shredded by a blinding beam of hot, crackling lightning. Wood was turned straight into ash and as the Skrill's breath cut straight the boats, Vikings in the ocean floundered and screamed in agony. Even Hiccup flinched back at the brutality of the execution. Elysia was not playing games, and nor was she intent on subtlety.

The blinding light stopped, and Hiccup's ears popped from the instant silence. Smoke plumed from the decimated ships, obscuring the view out to sea. Another one of Toothless' fireballs resonated out in the water, and the red flash of light colored the smoke. The instant of dim light showed the few remaining ships making a retreat.

The invaders were no more. The battle was won.

A wet cough came from behind.

The invaders were almost no more.

Savage was laying on his gut, with blood pouring from his shoulder and coughs spluttering from his mouth. He had been the only man to not be killed by Hiccup, and Hiccup was more than fine with that.

"All that effort, and all that planning. Just to fail" Hiccup shook his head, twirling his weapon. His footsteps towards the man were soft; the boy wondered if this was how dragons felt when behind unsuspecting prey. He knelt and grabbed Savage by his hair, wrenching the half-lidded gaze to his own. "Tell me, how does it feel to be a dead man?"

Katla's gloved hand tapped his shoulder, and he looked up. The dock was empty.

The inhabitants of Berk had fallen back from the lowest levels of the docks and lined the higher wooden walkways to look down on the duo. Their shields formed a gleaming defensive wall, and their spears filled the gaps – pointing at them. Lightning struck and rain began to fall as Hiccup rose to his feet, and found himself staring at hundreds of betrayed eyes. They would kill him if he approached. He felt it in his heart.

A break appeared in the middle of the shield wall, and Stoick the Vast stepped forward.

The Chief was bruised and bloody from the battle, yet stared at his son with eyes that glowed with fresh, furious intensity. Hiccup held his gaze, and for moments the only noise was crackling of embers and patter of soft rain.

The wooden pier creaked as two heavy creatures landed behind him. Hiccup's neck felt hot as Toothless let out a huff of air. His best friend was undoubtedly giving the Vikings a terrifying gaze. Stoick broke the stare to cast a disgusted look at the Skrill and Night Fury behind Hiccup. For decades, the Dragons before him had been little more than myths and shadows in the night. Their presence in the air throughout the battle had been horrifying, yet somehow their calm obedience and stillness were even more so. They were terrifyingly real now, and they hungry eyes spoke of intelligence beyond the other beasts.

The chief shook his head – his wet beard swaying. "Yer not my son."

Savage gave another spluttering cough and shuffled himself onto his trembling hands and knees. Hiccup scowled at the Outcast and took a small step back. The gleaming black glaive in his hand twirled faster and faster until he brought it down in a smooth stroke.

Blood sprayed the rain-soaked wood as the Viking was split in half by the Nightshade Steel. Savage's lower and upper half fell off either sides of the dock, and Hiccup looked back up at Stoick.

"I'm not your son. I'm Hiccup"

The duo mounted their Dragons and disappeared into the smoke.


The forest that engulfed the uninhabited regions of Berk was cast in darkness. Rain splattered down in heavy, cold globules and the thick storm clouds smothered any warmth from the setting sun.

Puddles sprayed mud into the air as Toothless, Elysia and Viper landed amid the grass. Hiccup and Katla were off their saddles in an instant – running and jumping atop the red Changewing to help Nina down.

"Keep her steady. Lay her down gently. Gently" Hiccup warned, slinging her arm over his shoulder. His hands were still shaky from the fight by the docks, and his friend's shallow breathing did nothing to aid his nerves.

Hiccup's helmet landed in the mud with an unceremonious splash. Hunched over Nina, he examined the arrowhead lodged just above her stomach. "Talk to me, Nina. How do you feel?"

The brunette coughed – a horrible wet noise that grated Hiccup's ears. "I... I can't believe I missed the Chief's face when" she caught her breath. "When Toothless and Elysia a-arrived"

Katla's sobs were choked by a laugh. She threw her arms around Lodin – who wore a face of pure relief. With a response like that, she was bound to be okay.

"Tight leather vest kept me from… bleeding out" Nina breathed, staring up at the storm clouds and letting the rain shower her. "Idiots," Nina weakly gestured for Katla and Lodin to come closer. "Only have a moment before I pass out, so… listen"

"Remove the leather, no moving arrow tip," She said, her eyes drooping. "Then, arrow out. Wash clean, then Viper's breath can seal… me up"

"Uhuh, got it" Lodin nodded, grimacing.

"Oh fuck, here we g-" Nina's head rolled back. Even in the darkness, Hiccup noticed how sickly pale her face was.

"Is she out?" Katla asked.

Hiccup snapped his fingers in front of the girls' face, and gently shook her. "Seems so, yeah"

"Alright. Let's… let's just take a breather before we do this"

Hiccup pushed off his knees to stand on his feet, groaning. His arms and legs felt numb from their usage; every joint worn down to the bone. His eyes burned with a moisture that did not come from the clouds. It was all so much to take in – so many life-changing events in such a short span of time.

Smooth hands grabbed his shoulders and turned him around. Katla's helmet lay on the ground. Amber eyes that were clouded with adrenalin and bloodshot from exhaustion met his own. Her fingers brushed his cheek, and Hiccup felt himself leaning into her touch.

A shuddering sob muffled against her armour as Hiccup seized Katla in a careful but smothering hug. Katla felt tears leave her own eyes as she pulled him closer, gently shushing him. Emotion rolled off him in waves – the web of performances, lies and pretending falling free from his personality. They had all done their best to fit in, and it had only wrought destruction.

A minute passed, and Hiccup pulled himself away from his girlfriend. His eyes were puffy from the crying and the helmet had crushed his hair into an undignified mess. Katla smiled. He was adorable.

Hiccup was not lost on the faint smile she wore. "Some brave Viking I must look like, right?"

Katla rolled her eyes at the sarcasm and felt her smile split into a grin. Hiccup vibrated with small giggles until warm laughter spilt. The two were on the floor within moments, laughing until fresh tears sprang and they were soundlessly slapping the floor and gasping for air.

"We survived" Hiccup breathed heavily, wiping his eyes and letting the air return to his lungs.

"That we did. Some help those brave Berkians were" Katla rolled her eyes and took a fresh breath.

"I don't think it was cowardice that stopped them fighting" Hiccup grimaced, rubbing the back of his neck. "Stoick didn't take the news well"

"It was bound to happen, Babe. You've outgrown them"

"I know, I know" Hiccup sighed. "But having dad accept me was… nice. Something the old me wanted more than anything"

"You saw how he accepted you – the real you – when the Dragons came. The Hiccup that he saw in the days before was not the real, incredible you. They don't understand the things we have learned, or the things we have been through"

Hiccup nodded, acknowledging the truth. Stoick's pride had felt amazing in that moment – like water for a man dying of thirst – but now it felt less so. Stoick was proud of the person he was trying to be. Proud of the boy who had become a man through strength and conflict, yet unaware of the how and what.

"You should be proud of yourself, brother" Lodin interjected. The boy had finally torn his gaze from his girlfriend's body, but his eyes still looked haunted from her brush with death. "We all should. We escaped the wrath of Vikings from both sides, and still managed to prevent the raid which would have supplied the capture of the queen"

Hiccup agreed with his friend, yet spared words. Instead, he embraced Lodin in a crushing hug, which was immediately reciprocated. "We worked as a team tonight, and none of us would have made it without the other"

"That includes us" came an irritable growl. Toothless' tail swiped across the back of Hiccup's head, slapping him. "You will be the death of me, pulling stunts like that"

"I know, I know" Hiccup chuckled nervously, kneeling so that he could pull his oldest friend into a hug. "I'm an idiot, and without you three we wouldn't have survived. You made quite the entrance there, bud"

Toothless reared back, trying to puff his underbelly out. "I've still got it"

Hiccup laughed, and playfully pushed Toothless back. "Yes yes, you are a terrifying Night Fury and you always will be. I bow before your excellence"

Toothless knew his friend was being sarcastic – as always. That did not stop him basking in the praise.

Katla and Elysia were in a similar situation. The normally stiff and collected Skrill had her head bowed, carefully leaning into Katla and her embrace. The rapid rise and fall of her scaly chest spoke of unmistakable gratitude that her rider was alive.

"Alright, you two. Let's get this done" Lodin said, gathering the attention of his two friends. Lodin had not left Nina's side, and his face was one of grim determination.

Hiccup nodded. Time for relief and subsequent planning could wait. For now, he only cared about keeping the team together.



As far as pieces of wood went in age, nothing could compare to the chairs and tables within the great hall. No younger than the hall itself, the thick wood that made the furniture had seen thousands of feasts, and let mead stains run deep. Protected within the hall, they had never been destroyed and replaced so quickly as the houses and docks of Berk.

Their protection from outside no longer did them good, as local blood was spilled upon them.

The great hall was in chaos. Dozens of fighters lay on the benches and tables, where bread was once broken, with Vikings scrambling to heal their wounds. Crowds of housewives, elders and children huddled at the back of the room, still frozen with fear and uncertainty of what had happened. The familiar, homely sent of warm food and family that hung in the hall like a cloud, was swept away in place of coppery blood, cold sweat and frozen raindrops.

And yet, it was a silent chaos.

There was no yelling or hollering that their kind were so famous for. The injured Vikings writhed silently, and those who were helping shuffled about awkwardly across the wet floor. Every expectation they once had was now gone – pulled out from underneath them. And with it, their voices. It was all so much to take in – so many life changing events in such a short span of time.

"Keep tha pressure on where tha arrow dug in" Stoick instructed gruffly to a healer-in-training. He was furiously grinding herbs together with his meaty fist, and splashing salt water to make a paste which would stop infection. He palmed the mixture into a separate wound of the same Viking which had the arrow imbedded.

"Stoick" Gobber's hooked appendage tugged at his shoulder, but the chieftain shrugged it away. "Tha teens are leaving the rattled elders be, there gonna take over with fixing the wounded"

The chief kept tending to the Viking in front of him. His eyes never looked away.

"Stoick" Gobber pulled harder at his shoulder.

"We're gonna need to bandage this, so tha herbs soak in," Stoick told the healer. Another sentence was on the tip of his tongue when he was wrenched around by surprising strength, and found a metal appendage waving in his face.

"Now you listen here you," Gobber snapped, jabbing his chest. "Ah know its our style to put our heads in tha sand until problems go away, but this ain't like that. Ye know this, friend"

For a flash moment, a fire burned in Stoick's eyes at the way he was addressed. But then he deflated, and Gobber had never seen the man so tired. "I don't know anything anymore, Gobber," he said.

The blacksmith didn't know what to say. He was right – their world had been shaken to the core.

"All I know is that you need to lead us back in shape," Gobber said, gesturing to the men and women alike. "That's why I got these four here to take over"

Upon being mentioned, Ruffnut, Tuffnut, Fishlegs and Astrid approached. The twins were laden with bandages on their arms and chest, and Astrid's hair was tangled with blood, but they were otherwise okay.

"Good ta see yer all in good shape" Stoick commented, nodding. "I've got ah village to run. Keep doing what ye can with what ye got to keep our men alive"

Ruffnut and Tuffnut nodded stiffly, as did Fishlegs. Stoick knew that the three had never seen such a battle before, and were more than happy to take their minds of the carnage. Astrid mumbled something that sounded like agreement, and walked around the chief to get to work.

Stoick stopped Astrid with a firm hand on her shoulder. The Shield-Maiden's body wobbled like a thin branch under his grip, and when he met her eyes he had never seen such a swirling mix of emotion.

"A word with ye, lass" Stoick asked. Astrid nodded.

The pair walked towards the monstrous doors, and out into the storm. Neither of them seemed to care about the rain. The frozen droplets on still bloody armor felt so far away – so unimportant.

For a moment, there was silence. The two Vikings – the best of their generations – just stared off at their beaten and bruised Village.

"Chief, I…"

"Don't." Stoick interrupted. "Don't say his name, lass"

Astrid bit her lip and took a breath. She had not planned on doing so. His name felt like an insult.

"I should have seen the signs" The Chief's hands clenched into fists. "Too blinded by tha joy of his return. Never once did the boy give a full answer, and never once did I question him"

"Chief, nobody could have expected what he truly was," Astrid said. Sprays of blood and severed limbs flashed through her mind. The sound of lightning and death itself, and the blinding flash of lightning. Never in her life had the shield-maiden seen such death and destruction. Not even the stories told of such bloodshed by a single man.

Stoick shook his head. "I should'av. He was always tha odd one out, even as a babe" The Chief took another step forward, and unceremoniously sat on the top stair leading to the hall. "Fifteen Thor-forsaken years of the smallest, strangest damn boy in all the realms"

Astrid did not join her Chief. Instead, she watched as he looked up to the sky. Astrid could have sworn that the man's eyes were too wet to be from the rain only.

"And then he comes back. From the boy I knew, to tha one I wished him to be. And ah believed him. Too cowardly to question him outa fear he would leave me again, or be lyin"

Astrid's toes scrunched in her shoes. To have your own son lie to you was one thing. To have him betray everything the Chief ever stood for was another. "I guess some people never change. Destined to be that way"

"Aye lass" Stoick nodded, too tired for the anger to simmer.

The Shield-Maiden's own words bounced around her skull and made her gut knot. Destiny.

"Atop the winged demon, blacker than night" She whispered. A single laugh slipped from her throat. Never had she felt so confident that she had found the man of her prophecy. And never had knowledge left her so scared and enraged.

Astrid looked about the remnants of her Village – blanketed in darkness. Her fists joined the Chief's in a clench of tired but immortal rage.

"Some guardian of light you are, Haddock"


Thank you to everyone who messaged me. You were all right. All it took was one or two messages in the right tone to get me to do what had to be done.