Bewilderment

A/N
Everyone knows that the Snowy Bewilderbeast was killed in battle with Drago Bludvist's Muddy Bewilderbeast. We all saw it happen; everything in the canon says so; the characters' reaction to the battle reinforces this. To be honest, that part of the movie really upset me, because I liked that dragon. But we never saw the body, and even more importantly, when the Muddy Bewilderbeast raised its head after supposedly goring the Snowy to death, there was not a trace of blood on its tusks! Even if Bewilderbeast blood is white or clear, there should have been something dripping off the ends. But there was nothing.

(I suspect that the real reason for this is that Dreamworks wanted a PG rating for the movie, and too much blood would get them a PG-13. But that's irrelevant for story-telling purposes. I'm concerned with the reality of Berk, not the reality of movie-making.)

Logically, this means that the Snowy did not get gored, which means he isn't dead. But the Muddy did something to keep the Snowy out of the rest of the battle. What really happened there? This story is rated K-plus, just for safety; the language is all K.

o

The great white Alpha had fought his best fight, and his best wasn't good enough. He was as large and strong as any Bewilderbeast who had ever lived, but he couldn't match the sheer rage felt by the muddy challenger. Step by reluctant step, the Snowy gave way before his attacker, and when he made one last attempt to find victory, the Muddy turned the tables on him and rolled him over. Helpless, the Snowy closed his eyes as the enemy's huge tusks began to pierce his underbelly...

...and then, the physical pressure stopped. In its place came a mental pressure. I am the Alpha now, the Muddy rumbled in dragon speech, and the Snowy could not resist. He knew that mental pressure too well. It had sometimes been a temptation to use his own power on the smaller dragons. He had never done it, though. It took more effort to woo their hearts and minds than it took to simply enslave them, but that extra effort had always been worth it when he saw the other dragons' high regard for him. Being respected and loved was far better than being feared. But the Muddy was glad to be feared, and it used its mental power ruthlessly. Now that power was focused entirely on him.

I am the Alpha, it repeated. Your life is mine to give or to take.

You are the Alpha, the Snowy was forced to admit. I cannot resist you.

The Muddy gave his belly another shove with its tusks. The human who controls me wants me to kill you, but that would be unwise. Our kind is too rare for us to destroy each other. I have taken away your kingdom, your position, and your dragons, and for today, that is enough for me. But you are defeated, and you must stay that way. I will have no rivals.

The power bored in on his mind. You will stay here, unmoving, for three settings and three risings of the sun. Then you will hide from me, and you will spend the rest of your life hiding from me. If I ever see you again, I will fight you again, and I will defeat you like I defeated you today, and then I will kill you.

The Snowy's mind yielded. He had no choice. I will hide from you for the rest of my days. You are the Alpha. I must obey you.

I am the Alpha, the Muddy repeated, savoring its victory. I give life, and I give death. Today, I give you your life. Tomorrow... It lifted its head suddenly. It wanted to gloat some more, but the Alpha-human was giving it new orders. Drago Bludvist took a glance at the Snowy, upside-down and motionless, and decided his work here was done. The Muddy mentally rounded up all the lesser dragons, ensured their obedience, and led them away on their mission of conquest.

For three days and three nights, the Snowy lay there, upside-down, unmoving. Even an ex-Alpha had to obey the Alpha. Sea birds landed on him, thinking he was dead. One gull tried to peck at him. His great bulk began to make it difficult for him to breathe; there was a reason that his kind preferred to spend most of their lives in water. He became hungry and very thirsty. Still he remained in place. He could not move. It was forbidden to him by the Alpha.

At last, as the sun rose for the third time, the Snowy rolled over and ponderously made his way into the sea. He half-fell in with an enormous splash, and drew the first deep breath he'd managed to take since before he was defeated. It should have felt good, but his defeat hung over his head like a monstrous misplaced icicle, ready to pierce him and kill him if he made one wrong move.

Where can I go to hide from the Alpha? he asked himself. It knows where my nest is, and it will probably check here first, and then destroy it so I can't return. I have to find a place where it will not look for me, and I cannot imagine such a place. Even if I wander the seas at random, there is a chance that our paths will cross again. Where can I go to be safe? I never imagined I would have to seek safety, ever.

As he sank into the water, he caught the scent of the Muddy. It would be easy to follow the great dragon's trail, even though the trail was three days old. Of course, that would be suicidal. Or would it?

If I follow it at a great distance, I will always know where it is, so it cannot surprise me. Unless it doubles back on its trail for some reason, it will never find me. Until I think of a better plan, the Alpha's wake might be the safest place for me. He sank into the depths and began trailing his enemy, hoping never to overtake it.

He went slowly. He didn't know if the Alpha would move at top speed, or if it would be held back by the ships of the humans who traveled with it. Falling further behind his rival would be far better than catching up with it. He paused now and then to find and consume a school of fish. He remembered the joy he felt when he shared those fish with the other dragons. Eating together was a celebration! The smaller dragons gladly accepted his gifts, and they gladly accepted his rulership as well. Now they were all gone, forced to follow another dragon that had no love for them, and he was left alone.

Onward he swam. How long would he have to live like this? Years? Decades? The rest of his life? That could take... longer than he cared to think about. He could go wherever he pleased, and do whatever he wanted, as long as he continued to obey the will of the Alpha. In practice, that would mean living like a hunted animal. In just three days, he had fallen from being King of his nest... to this?

As he swam, he realized that something was missing, and he knew exactly what it was. There were no other dragons around. He was lonely. He'd always known where his dragons were, and what they were doing. He had never imagined that a day would come when there would be no dragons to keep track of. His entire life had been centered around his nest and his dragons! Even the babies who played on his face were delightful in their own way. Now he had nothing and no one to live for at all.

Desolation was something new to him. He didn't like it.

After several days, the Snowy noticed that the water was growing shallower. He was probably approaching land. What kind of land? Had he followed the Muddy into its own nest? He needed to find out before he went one foot farther. He slowly rose to the surface, knowing that if any of the Muddy's dragons were flying anywhere near here, they would see him and report his presence to their Alpha, and that would be the end of him.

He rose out of the water until his eyes broke the surface. He could see a small island about a mile away. It showed signs of being inhabited by humans. Bewilderbeast eyesight was rather poor, but he thought he could see dragons flying around the island. Of the Alpha, there was no sign. He didn't know what to make of this. If the dragons had to follow the Alpha, then why were they on this island? What was the connection to the humans? The scent trail led straight ahead; if he went around the island, he could probably pick up the scent on the other side, but that wouldn't solve the mystery that was right in front of him. Slowly, he closed the distance to the island.

He was right about one thing – the dragons flying overhead had noticed his presence, and they had informed the Alpha about this. But the Alpha on this island was not huge and white and betusked. This Alpha was surprisingly small, black, and unassuming-looking. He ran to find Hiccup.

Berk's new chief was trying to sort out a dispute between two shepherds who were both claiming the same stray sheep when Toothless ran up to him, grunting and growling for attention. "What's going on, bud?" Hiccup asked. The dragon butted his legs, trying to push him in the right direction. Rather than resisting, he sighed and climbed onto the dragon's back. "I know you won't leave me alone until I see whatever is on your mind, so let's go." The Night Fury trotted straight down to the cliffs, and once they got there, it was obvious what was on Toothless' mind. The huge Bewilderbeast was impossible to miss, even though it was still a mile away and mostly submerged.

Cloudjumper landed next to them about half a minute later. Valka sprang off and stood next to her son. She had made no attempt to take advantage of her family connection to the tribe's chief, but she'd made a point of being nearby when he was in any situation where he might need advice. He hadn't done a lot of that, but she had a feeling he soon would.

He stared out to sea at the slowly approaching Bewilderbeast. At last, he turned to his mother. "It's the Alpha. It's coming back for another try at us. We've got to get all the dragons into the air, to try and stop it before it gets to the island."

"That's not the Alpha," Valka exclaimed. "That's the King! I'd know him anywhere! His tusks are underwater so I can't see if one of them is missing, but I could never mistake the King of the dragons for anyone else."

Hiccup looked at her sharply. "There's a lot at stake here, Mom. Are you sure?"

"Completely sure," she answered.

The Bewilderbeast was beginning to rise out of the water as he entered the shallows. "Okay, then why is he here? If he finds out that Toothless is the new Alpha around here, will they fight?"

"I don't know," was all she could say. Toothless let out a low growl. People were beginning to gather on the cliffs as the word spread. They all knew what a Bewilderbeast could do to them; the ice from the Muddy's attack hadn't melted yet. Dragons were also gathering along the edges of the cliff, unsure what they ought to be doing. Their Alpha hadn't given them any orders, so they waited.

The great dragon approached the cliffs, where many beings looked back at him at eye level. Some looked in fear, some in awe, some in curiosity, and at least one was genuinely glad to see him again. Dragons and humans were intermingled at random; some of the humans rested their hands on dragons for security, and a few even rode on their backs. This was something the Snowy had never seen before. It intrigued him. He had always cherished the idea of a peaceful kingdom, and the humans and dragons of this island had created a new kind of peace with each other. It might cost him his life, but he had to know what was going on here!

Welcome to Berk, great one. That was the Night Fury speaking to him. Judging by the other dragons' attitudes, he seemed to hold an honored position here.

Do you speak for the Alpha? the Snowy asked him.

I am the Alpha, the Night Fury replied. I fought the Muddy to protect my human friend. I led the other dragons in battle, and we won. I shattered one of the Muddy's tusks. You can see it on the shore. He fled, and he will never be a threat to us again.

The Snowy considered this. Night Furies were known to be terrific fighters, but could he have taken down a full-grown Bewilderbeast? He looked to his right. Lying on the shore was a huge dirty-white spike, bound with a broad iron band. He tested his own mind... and realized that the Muddy's power over him was broken, just as that tusk was broken. The Muddy was not the Alpha anymore. The Night Fury had spoken the truth.

You are the Alpha, he said softly, and bowed his head in a sign of honor.

Rise, great one, the Night Fury answered. I accept your reverence... once.

The Snowy looked puzzled. I don't understand. If you are the Alpha, isn't it right that I acknowledge you?

I accepted the title of Alpha because I defeated the previous Alpha, not because I wanted to rule the nest, the Night Fury replied. How could I provide for these dragons and care for them? I can't even fly without my human friend. My life is completely tied up with his life. He has become the Alpha of the humans in this nest, and I will be busy helping him. Will I have time for all these dragons as well? I've seen your kingdom; I've seen how you rule. You are the Alpha that these dragons deserve. I offer you your own title back. Please take it.

But... that's not how these things are done! the Snowy exclaimed. I would have to fight you and defeat you, or the others won't respect me! Even if I thought I could win, I don't want to fight you.

The Alpha should be the best leader, not the best fighter. Toothless' voice was firm. Please take your rightful position again. All the dragons need you.

In the middle of this conversation, Hiccup turned to Valka. "Do you have any idea what they're saying to each other?"

"No idea at all," she replied. "I can usually tell their moods and their emotions, but I never could understand a word of their language. It sounds like your dragon is doing most of the talking, though."

"He's the new Alpha, so I guess that figures," Hiccup nodded. "Maybe he's explaining to the Bewilderbeast how things are done around here. I sure wish I knew what they were saying."

He got his answer a moment later. Toothless slowly lowered his head and bowed before the Snowy. Cloudjumper copied him immediately, and after a moment, all the other dragons followed his example.

"It looks like we're having a regime change," Valka commented. "If you ask me, it couldn't happen to a nicer dragon." She smiled at the huge creature and went down on one knee as she had often done, but was surprised when someone tapped her on the shoulder. It was Gobber.

"Beggin' yer pardon, me lady, but we're humans here, with human leaders. We 'ave a chief. We don't bow before dragons. Do we, Chief Hiccup?"

Chief Hiccup looked thoughtful. "I think I know what's going on here. Toothless never wanted to be the Alpha; he just got stuck with the job because he won the fight, and he accepted the title because he had to. Now he's found someone who can do the job a lot better than he can, so he's letting the best ruler rule.

"It's scary sometimes, how much the two of us are alike.

"I'm the chief of Berk now, and I won't renounce that. I can't. But I never wanted all this authority, or all this responsibility. I've seen what kind of a kingdom this dragon runs. I'll be lucky if I'm half the ruler that this Snowy is. I know he's had a lot more practice at it. Berk deserves the best ruler it can get, and I think I'm looking at him."

Gobber restrained him. "Don't do it, Hiccup! Yer the chief! Ye bow to no one!"

Hiccup shook his head. "Everybody has to bow before someone, Gobber. Men bow before chiefs, chiefs bow before greater chiefs, and the greatest chief will bow before the gods someday. A man who is too proud to bow when he should, will be forced to his knees instead. Usually, that hurts his knees." He took a deep breath. "It won't kill me to acknowledge a real king when I see one."

Valka was staring at him in awed amazement. He rested one hand on Toothless' neck; the black dragon glanced at him in surprise. Hiccup smiled back at him. "I think you got it right, bud." He lowered his head and slowly went down on one knee. Slowly, hesitantly, and with some confusion, most of the Vikings followed his example.

The Snowy's eyes went wide. Is this your human friend, the Alpha of the human nest?

Yes, he is my friend, the Night Fury answered with a touch of pride.

Does he understand what he is doing by making himself my subject?

I'm sure he knows, said the Night Fury. He is very intelligent, for a human.

For the first time in his centuries-long life, the Snowy was dumbfounded. What is happening here? I had my kingdom taken away from me, only to be given another one with my old dragons and dozens more... and a nest of humans as well? What bizarre destiny is this?

There are many ways to gain a kingdom, great one, the Night Fury answered respectfully, and not all of them require fighting. What is your first command for your new kingdom and your new subjects?

After thinking for several seconds, the Snowy let out a frozen puff of air that frosted Hiccup's hair and turned the Night Fury's face white. My first command? Show me where to find the fish in these waters. I want to feed my subjects. We need a celebration!

As the white leviathan waded and then swam out to sea, expectantly followed by every dragon on Berk except the one who stood next to Hiccup, Spitelout leaned close to his new chief. "Do you understand what you just did? You undermined your own position, and the position of every chief who will come after you! Chiefs are supposed to lead their people, but you just signed us all up to obey a dragon instead! Do you think your father would be pleased about that?"

"I've given something to Berk that my father always dreamed of, but never truly achieved," Hiccup answered. "Peace. We've got the Berserkers to the south of us, the Outcasts to the west, and who knows what other enemies are waiting over the horizon? They're all bigger than us and stronger than us, and they hate us because we've made friends with the dragons. We needed a powerful friend who wouldn't take away our freedom as the price of protection, and now we've got one. None of those other tribes will dare to mess with us now. We'll have genuine peace, not just a lull in the fighting.

"The Alpha won't make many demands on us. My mother vouches for him, and she ought to know, because she's already served him for twenty years." She smiled at that; he went on. "He'll probably want some land and some coastal waters to build his new lair; there's an uninhabited stretch on our lee shore that will be perfect for him. We don't have anything else that he wants, except our willingness to admit that he's in charge. He'll look after the dragons, and I'm sure he'll let me do the day-to-day running of the village, like a Viking chief ought to do. In the future, chiefs will come and chiefs will go; some will be good and some will be bad; but now we've got a good, wise, and powerful king who will keep things sane and peaceful long after our grandchildren's grandchildren have grown old.

"I can't think of a better gift I could give my tribe and my people. I think Dad would be pleased."

They watched as the Alpha dove under the water, then surfaced and blew hundreds of fish into the air. The dragons pounced joyfully, swooping and dancing in the sky as they rejoiced at the return of their king, and at the bounty he offered them. They were roaring and bellowing at the tops of their lungs; it sounded like they were saying the same thing over and over again.

Then the Snowy blew again, and fish were suddenly raining down on Berk by the dozen. The Vikings (and Toothless) scrambled to catch the wriggling, slippery creatures. The children began laughing and cheering, the adults couldn't help but follow their lead, and within moments, a party atmosphere took over the island. It became the biggest celebration they'd seen since Snoggletog.

Valka rested her hand on Hiccup's shoulder. "The heart of a chief and the soul of a dragon, indeed! I know you were trying to teach us something about humility, but I am proud to call you my son!"

He smiled at her, then leaped to his feet, raised his fist, and took up a shout that all the Vikings soon joined, and the island rang with their voices. He couldn't be sure, but he suspected that the Vikings and the dragons were all shouting the same thing.

"Long live the King! LONG LIVE THE KING!"

The End