Astrid's voice suddenly snaps the boy out of his fleeting trance. Without another word, he pulls on Toothless' saddle, prompting the dragon to spin around while the Monstrous Nightmare and the Nadder on either side of him spew out their bursts of flame at the Meatheads running through the funnel. The Nightfury immediately starts to spit bolt after bolt at the men charging into the encampment, sending two of them flying, but managing to miss three more as they dodge out of the way and keep running towards the group of teens.
"Astrid! Snotlout!" Hiccup yells in a panic as the three men split up to run around the cold firepit and advance upon the teens and their dragons. As his cousin and girlfriend turn their dragons around at his call, behind him he can hear the hissing of the Zippleback laying down gas and the following explosion. This one is even closer than the last, but the blast didn't feel nearly as bad, so he figures the twins used less fuel than the prior blast.
He wonders how many shots the Barf has left.
Are they out?
Steel meets steel as Snotlout swings his sword down at one of the two approaching on Hiccup's right while Hookfang snaps at the other. Astrid's axe rings against the sword held by the Meathead on his left. Turning Toothless around again, Hiccup pats him on the shoulder and the Nightfury spits out another two blasts at the approaching Meatheads. Another man is knocked down as one the bolts strike his shield, but the other five men keep coming, running at full speed and now only about forty yards away. The archers take the opportunity to fire more arrows at them, causing Hiccup to duck down. He watches with worry as one of the arrows bounce off of the Nadder's hind quarter, just a foot below Freja's backside.
Meatlug flies in close behind one of the archers to knock him down while the Zippleback buzzes in to try an pick up another, but pulls back as the man quickly fires an arrow at them. The two dragons continue to harass the bowmen, while the other men run forward.
As Toothless again spits another blast, Hiccup realizes that the man running in the lead towards them is Thuggory. The Meathead takes the shot on his shield, managing to stay on his feet while still rushing forward, hollering at the top of his lungs as he lifts his sword threateningly. On either side, Hiccup can hear the clash of sword on sword and sword on axe, along with the snarling and snapping of the two dragons as the Meatheads continue to trade blows with his girlfriend, his cousin, and their mounts. Glancing behind him across the firepit, the Hooligan Heir sees the Meatheads that Toothless knocked down are getting to their feet again.
Looking forward as Toothless fires another bolt, he sees that the Meathead Heir and his group are now less than twenty yards away from the ring of rocks. Hiccup pats Toothless once more, and the dragon spits out another blast, though the scrawny lad worries as the bolt seems maybe less luminescent than those that had come before.
Hearing battle cries shout out behind him, Hiccup once more looks over his shoulder only to see that the two recovering men are now charging at his cousin and lover.
"Astrid, Snotlout, up!" he suddenly shouts, spurring Toothless with his good foot as he tugs on the saddle. The blonde and the burly lad each take a moment to glance in surprise at the Hooligan Heir as he and Toothless start to lift off, then they kick their dragons in their sides, prompting Nadder and Nightmare to leave the ground in a burst of air from the flapping their wings.
Hiccup holds on tightly to Toothless as the dragon lurches up into the air and flies awkwardly over the cold firepit and past the far side of the rock ring, barely gliding over the heads of the surprised Meatheads who watch in surprise as the three dragons take off. Behind him, Hiccup hears the other men shouting as they clamor over the rocks behind where he and the other teens had just been. Arrows whistle by, one of them catching his pant leg and tearing it, biting into his flesh slightly while the other bouncing off of Toothless' scales.
The boy feels his heart jump into his throat as he feels a slight burn from the arrow tip and then the shaft brushes up against his skin. It scratched him badly but didn't pierce him. Reaching down, he grabs the shaft and tosses it aside.
More arrows shoot past as the Nightfury awkwardly lands in the grassy field and promptly spins about to face their foes. The Meatheads scramble through the campsite, running around either side of the firepit. The Hoolgian Heir makes eye contact with Thuggory as he rounds the large bundle of branches and sticks sitting in the center of the camp and climbs up the edge of the ring of rocks closes to him, flanked by men on either side of him.
Patting Toothless, Hiccup mutters, "now bud." He then watches as the Nightfury spits out a bolt of white light directly into the center of the large clutter of wood. The scrawny lad crouches down atop of his dragon while the bolt strikes the stack of branches and twigs, igniting with terrific effect the massive amount of oil that they had poured on it last night. The pile explodes with enough force to send men flying into the air, the ear splitting blast accented by the sound of their cries as they either hit the rocks or soar over them into the tall grass beyond. A shower of wood chips and flaming sticks then falls all over the field around the campsite while what's left of the firepit smolders, a large plume of black smoke curling up into the sky.
Glancing up, Hiccup sees all of his friends circling above, each watching intently for signs of any Meathead movement. Lowering his gaze to look around at the mess, the scrawny lad looks around at the men who are groaning in pain, lying in heaps around the campsite. Outside the ring of rocks, he sees gaps in the tall grass that tell of those who were tossed out of the rocks and now lay on the ground.
The Hooligan Heir suddenly realizes that if he can find Thuggory now, while he's as incapacitated as his men, then they might be able to find a way to stop the fighting and settle to the situation.
"Let's go bud," he quietly urges a wary Toothless, who hesitates as the boy nudges him in the sides with his feet. "We need to find where Thuggory landed…" The dragon glances back at his friend, eyeing him skeptically. "Trust me," he pleads, to which his scaly companion reluctantly grumbles in response but then moves forward slowly towards the first hole in the tall grass.
"Hiccup," he hears Astrid call down to him with concern, "what're you doing?"
Ignoring her, he leans over in the saddle to look into the grass at the first prostrate Meathead.
Inside, he sees a large man, shifting as he moans in pain, slowly working on pushing himself up. A quick glance at the red hair on this one makes it clear he is not Thuggory.
"Hiccup?!" his girlfriend calls down again, this time louder and with a hint of panic in her voice.
Frowning bitterly, he prompts Toothless to move to the next couple of gaps in the grass that are close to each other. Again, the dragon hesitates, but finally walks towards the two areas, moving up in between them. As soon as he's close enough, Hiccup peers inside the one on his right.
The man inside holds his head as he brings himself to his hands and knees, likewise groaning miserably. From the long and straggly beard, the Hooligan Heir is again certain this also is not Thuggory.
Glancing over to his left at the next hole in the tall grass, Hiccup cajoles a reluctant Nightfury to move the couple of feet towards it so he can look down inside.
When he sees the void of trampled grass empty, his breath catches in his throat.
The shout and the blur of movement from something jumping out of the grass close by on his left cause the Hooligan Heir to cry out in shock as he twists in the saddle to look, the sound of his girlfriend's scream ringing in his ears.
At the sound of the knocking, Stoic opens the door to his home. As he expected, he sees Gobber standing at his step, the light of the early dawn illuminating his best friend.
"G'mornin', Gobber," the Chief greets him. "Thanks fer comin' by so early."
"Well we've got'a long day ahead of us," he answers while his friend steps back into his house to don his mantle and grab his helmet, "might as well get an early start…"
"Aye, yer right about that," Stoic answers as he walks out of his house, closing the door.
As his friend joins him outside, the smith peers over his shoulder into the house and asks, "I don' suppose Hiccup came back last night?"
Glancing at his friend, the larger man snorts derisively, "of course not."
"Aye, that's what I thought," Gobber answers as the two start to walk down the hill towards the rest of the village. "D'ye think tha him an'Astrid are alright?" he asks cautiously, eyeing his friend intently.
After a brief pause, the Hooligan Chief shrugs. "How am I supposed t'know, Gobber?" he asks, "I kin only hope that since he, Astrid, an'the other kids are all missin', that they're keepin' each other safe."
"Well," Gobber starts to reply, "if they were followin' yer instructions, then they should be back t'morrow."
Nodding as they reach the foot of the hill and approach Vali and the group of me he stands with, Stoic agrees, "Aye. Let's hope yer right." With a heavy sigh, he adds, "fer now, we've gots enough t'worry about with findin' th'girls Mother…"
Muttering under his breath, the smith gripes, "we should jest make Thorsten tell us where he put'er."
Stoic frowns at his friend, but doesn't argue. Turning his attention to Vali, he greets his friend, "g'mornin. I take it th'men are ready t'start the search?"
Nodding, Snotlout's father answers, "Aye, Stoic. We're ready."
Lifting an eyebrow, the Chief asks, "What about Thorsten an' his men?"
"We're ready, Stoic," the man calls in answer as he and a different group of men approach the first.
Stoic turns to look at his rival, watching as he approaches. He glances over at his men and then back at their leader.
"Well then," he answers, "we shouldn't waste any time, should we?" Thorsten stops just in front of him, lifting an eyebrow as he crosses his arms. "We've got a lot o'island t'search. Let's not waste good daylight."
Nodding as he watches the Chief cautiously, Astrid's father agrees, "Indeed. I'll take my men and search the western side."
Likewise nodding, Stoic answers, "then we'll take th'east." He pauses for a moment, watching his rival in silence. "So we'll meet back here at sunset?"
With a final solemn nod, Thorsten replies, "Sunset, then."
With that, the two men lead their respective groups of men towards the boundaries of the village to venture out into the hinterlands of Berk.
Hiccup cries out and turns in shock as the large figure bursts out of the tall grass to his left.
Astrid screams her lover's name as Thuggory tackles him, the weight of the larger lad's body half pulling the Hooligan Heir from the back of the Nightfury. Toothless, crying out in surprise, spreads his wings and flaps furiously, lifting off just as the other two Meatheads around them jump to their feet at the sound of the commotion.
The jumble of the two Heirs entangled and wrestling together on the dragon's back cause the onyx creature to fly all the more awkwardly over the grassy field, moving quickly away from the rock ring. Hiccup frantically yet hopelessly struggles against the larger, older, and stronger lad, though Thuggory suddenly becomes distracted, crying out in shock when he glances past his foe to realize the ground is some ten or so yards beneath them. The two are carried unusually high in spite of the broken tail fin, thanks to how frantically Toothless flaps his leathery wings in panic.
The flight is predictably short lived, however, with the next moment seeing the three suddenly plummeting back towards Midgard. Thuggory's half-hearted expression of alarm turns into a full throated cry of terror as the ground suddenly rushes up towards him and Hiccup. The Nightfury flaps desperately to slow their descent, then ends up half rolling over onto his back as he loses what little control he had for the fleetingly short hop. Having known what was coming, Hiccup quickly hunches down into the saddle, bracing himself.
Gracelessly, the three land in heap, flattening swaths of the tall wavy grass as the Nightfury sprawls and half rolls over of the two humans.
"HICCUP!" Astrid shrieks in a panic, guiding Stormfly over to the three without any concern for anything else. Behind her, Freja looks on silently with a worried brow, while around them, the three other dragons fly in the opposite direction, towards the Meatheads that are either quickly getting to their feet or are already trying to cover the relatively short distance between the campsite and the two Viking Heirs. Snotlout guides Hookfang down in the lead, the Monstrous Nightmare spewing forth a carpet of flaming gel in front of the advancing Meatheads, causing the group to hesitate as they contemplate the likelihood that they can cross the burning strip unscathed.
"Hiccup!" Astrid cries again, jumping out of the saddle before the Nadder even finishes touching down, forcefully shrugging off her mother's arms as the woman tries in vain to warn her against her own impudence, her words falling on deaf ears. The girl lands on the ground and runs over to the Nightfury as he rights himself.
Just as she reaches the dragon, Thuggory springs to his feet out of the tall grass and swings out with his sword, sending her axe flying. She stops in shock and the Meathead Heir grabs her by the throat, lifting her off the ground.
"Got you!" he cries out in triumph, a gleeful expression on his face.
Astrid squaks in surprise, grasping his forearm with both hands as his iron grip hoists her painfully from her feet and an unsettling feeling of familiarity hits. Memories from a couple of weeks ago wash over her from when her father did the exact same thing to her, and for an instant she feels the same fear.
Rage quickly boils up in her blood, however, blending with the terror she feels at not knowing whether her lover is okay or not. She screams in fury and lashes out the only way she can. Her feet fly out, one blow striking his ribs, which he hurriedly half deflects with his free hand, while her other foot strikes true, landing square in his crotch.
The Meathead Heir cries out in pain, dropping her. Landing on her feet, the girl doesn't hesitate, punching the man in the face and then hitting him square in the chest with her shoulder, knocking him back against Toothless, who sends him flying the other way with a flex of his wing and a growl. The man is hurled several yards before he quickly falls, disappearing again into the tall grass.
Watching for a few moments to ensure he stays down, Astrid quickly returns her attention to finding her boyfriend. Her heart stops as she realizes he's not on Toothless' back.
"Hiccup?!" she cries in terror, moving quickly around the Nightfury to look for her lover on the other side of the black dragon. She finds him struggling to his hands and knees in the grass, groaning in pain as he holds his head.
"Hiccup, are you okay?" she asks, kneeling at his side and putting her hands on his back and cheek, looking over him in a panic.
Coughing a few times, he nods. "Yeah, I'm okay," he wheezes, glancing back up at her. Just as he opens his mouth to say something more, Toothless suddenly starts to growl, causing the two teens to startle in alarm as they turn their attention to what has the dragon on edge.
They see Thuggory, back on his feet, sword in his hand. He looks tired, battered, and in pain, but still ready to take action. Past him, the two lovers can see the other teens and dragons have all landed, creating a wall between the Meatheads and the drama unfolding between the two Heirs, Astrid, and the two dragons. Their friends fight with the Meatheads, dragons snarling as they snap at some of the men, while the teens each trade blows with their foes. Behind the Meatheads is the strip of fire that Hookfang laid down, clearly showing they all jumped over the flames to try and reach their Chief's Heir.
Thuggory holds his sword tightly in his hand as he confronts Hiccup and Astrid. The girl feels naked without her axe, which lays somewhere off in the tall grass. She stands, putting herself between the Meathead and her lover while she draws a dagger. With an icy blue stare, she stands ready to act, regardless of not having a proper weapon. Beside her, Toothless growls, causing their adversary to hesitate.
The angry trill of Astrid's Nadder coming from behind Thuggory makes the young man glance over his shoulder worriedly. The cobalt dragon stretches its wings wide as it lowers its head, flicking its tail up to expose the razor-sharp barbs, showing itself ready to use them at the first provocation. On the dragon's back, Astrid's mother still sits in the saddle, watching the Meathead with a wary eye, though she wields no weapon.
"Put your sword down," Astrid warns him, drawing his gaze back to her as she places a steadying hand on Toothless. She watches Thuggory with an unblinking gaze, adding, "I don't think you could take on two dragons at once…do you…?"
Beside her, Hiccup struggles to get to his feet. Without looking, she grabs him by the arm and hoists him up, keeping her eyes steadfastly locked on their adversary while she grips her dagger tightly. Hiccup stands unsteadily on his peg leg, gripping onto her shoulder for support. They both watch the Meathead Heir as he weighs his options, looking from the Nightfury to the Nadder and back again, holding his sword at the ready, looking like a coiled spring.
"So what if I do give up my sword?" he asks, his voice tight with tension, "What are you going to do with me and my men?" His grip tightens on the hilt as he watches each dragon in turn, his gaze flicking to the teens beside the onyx dragon.
At his questions, Astrid hesitates. Her mouth opens, but no sound comes out. She felt comfortable enough about every aspect of combat, from its preparation to its execution, but now that the question has started to turn to what comes next, she doesn't know what do.
"If you give up your sword," Hiccup quickly jumps in, speaking boldly with a voice that's surprisingly full of authority, "then we will talk and see what kind of settlement we can reach with you."
Both Thuggory and Astrid look at him in shock, neither having expected that answer. "What?" his girlfriend answers in disbelief. Behind the Meathead Heir, Hiccup catches a glimpse of her mother's face as she gives him a pleased look and an approving nod from her vantage point on Stormfly's back.
Ignoring his lover, Hiccup repeats himself, "if you and your men put down your arms, I promise that you won't be harmed. We won't release you until we can come to some sort of settlement, but I want to find a mutually agreeable pact to end our disagreement without any more fighting."
Behind the Meathead Heir, the sounds of battle continue as the dragons and teens continue to face off against the men. Thuggory glances over his shoulder, taking a quick stock of the situation. His jaw tightens as it becomes obvious that his forces are unlikely to break through to him. If he had his original numbers, maybe, but too many of his people are still laying all over the ground in pain, unable to contribute further.
Looking back at Hiccup, the Meathead challenges him, "and how do you propose to do that?!"
"Yes, Hiccup," Astrid whispers sharply at him through clenched teeth, making no attempt to hide her anger, "how are you planning to do that?" Her boyfriend refuses to look at her, keeping his gaze instead fixed upon his rival, but he can feel the intensity of his lover's stare. Glancing up at Freja, he takes heart in her supportive, proud gaze upon him.
"Well that all depends," he says, his gaze quickly reverting to the Meathead in front of him.
"On what?" Thuggory asks sharply.
"On what deal you struck with Thorsten," Hiccup replies, watching the other Heir intently.