All rights to Httyd belong to Cressida Cowell and DreamWorks.
Heroes - what is it that defines them? How do they choose what battles to fight and who to save, or is worth saving? What challenges must they face in order to find a hero's strength inside of them, and just what is that strength? These are all questions that one boy would eventually find the answers to, and with no lack of struggle in the process.
It was a normal day like any other on the island of Berk, the sunlight peeking in through the clouds offering little warmth to counteract the cold winds blown forth from across the ocean. The chill was biting, but to the inhabitants, Vikings, it mattered little. Vikings were tough, resilient people that were more than used to hardship and could brave anything nature threw at them, as they had since their ancestors first sailed here three centuries ago. The village that stood now after seven generations of Viking legacy was a testament to the stubborn persistence they maintained in the face of their greatest threat, the dragon scourge.
Vikings and dragons had been bitter enemies since what could be considered the dawn of time, their battles endlessly raging on in the raids that raged in the dead of night and left their little tribe in tattered ruins. Houses that would take days to build would take more days to be built again after full nights of axe-swinging, fire blasts and wayward flying bodies from every direction, and animals would be abducted by the wicked beasts and meet their doom inside their vile stomachs. The cycle of kill or be killed was one without end, yet it was something that, for whatever reason, Vikings relished in, in fact it was something they based their whole lives in even if no one would care to admit it. A dragon's blood on their blade and its death on their hands were marks of everlasting glory that every Viking could be proud of and every Viking-to-be yearned for.
Yet there was one who many believed would never know this great feeling, one whose very existence stood to defy all tradition and bring eternal shame unto their little island. And unfortunately for everyone, it was the one person who absolutely could not afford to be the shame that he was. The chief's son, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, already a boy of seven years and yet he could easily be claimed the worst Viking Berk had ever seen in all the years it had somehow managed to remain standing.
Where most Vikings were built like houses with arms as big as tree trunks, Hiccup's build could only be compared to that of a splinter, and was about the size of one, too. Even the other children his age were already capable of lifting smaller weapons over their heads, whereas he was lucky if he could lift a bludgeon off the ground. People were already calling it quits on any kind of future the boy had, and already had their bags packed for the dreaded day when the little boy would be named chief. They would sooner sail to the edge of the world than let themselves be governed by a scrap of a boy, especially one that would sooner hunt for trolls than hunt dragons.
His father, Stoick the Vast, the current chieftain, could not allow his boy to go on as he was, so around two years ago, the boy was made the apprentice to the village blacksmith. The smith in question, his longtime friend Gobber, was highly reluctant of the idea at first. The truth is, Hiccup was not only weak but clumsy as well, and in a room full of sharp, heavy, dangerous weapons as well as a smoldering hot forge, well, the possibilities of what could go wrong were endless. Stoick, stubborn as he was, insisted that this was the only way to get those silly ideas of pretend flying and pursuits of fantasy creatures that he would spend hours doing out of his little head. That, and he figured spending the whole day pounding metal would be the best way to get some muscle on his bony little limbs. Two years later, though, no luck.
In fact, it was just a few months ago when the seeds of disaster really took root. Apparently Hiccup had been getting ideas behind his father's back. He had gotten his own little spot in the back of the forge, where he started drawing out crazy and outright stupid ideas for perplexing, hazardous machines unlike anything the Vikings had seen. The first one he built, an automatic bow launcher, ended up puncturing holes through five houses, and broke through barrels of their food supplies, making the fish stored inside easy pickings for the dragons during the raid.
Everyone in the village was absolutely furious with him, and some of the particularly nasty ones pelted him with stones and rotten fruit. The angry glares, shouting and slapping over the head hurt, but not as much as those he got from his father. Hiccup swore he had never seen his father, the man he looked up to and admired so greatly, so ashamed in his entire life.
Hiccup was just watching the village from out through his window, looking at the rest of the village before him. Ever since the incident, he had been confined to the house and forbidden to leave except for working in the forge with Gobber. Especially during the raids that had come since – Stoick would just lock him inside the house and leave him alone, threatening him with severe punishment should he set even one foot outside.
Not that Hiccup was all that thrilled about leaving at the beginning, the second he did he'd be shouted at and mocked and laughed at by the other kids his age. But now, looking out at the daily on-goings of the village, of the women pushing carts filled with apples, men hammering in wood planks to repair their houses and lifting barrels of mead, and boats sailing out with nets armed to bag more fish, he was starting to get bored.
What made him most bored was looking out at the kids playing in the village square, pretending to be dragon slayers. There was the twins Ruffnut and Tuffnut, who loved chaos and destruction so much, and Fishlegs, the timid dragon expert, pretending to be the dragons, and Snotlout, Hiccup's cousin and number-one bully, and Astrid, Hiccup's old friend, as the Vikings. Ruffnut and Tuffnut would take whatever excuse they could to break things, and they were taking their play a little too far, to be honest. They were smashing into walls, taking rocks and throwing them into houses, and tackling people like there was no tomorrow while pretending to roar and breathe fire. Fishlegs was trying the same, but he was so quiet his roars came out as little more than whimpers. Snotlout had no trouble pounding him into the ground, punching him over and over in the face screaming the same curses any Viking would to an actual dragon while laughing arrogantly as he did so. Fishlegs shook his legs and kept telling Snotlout to quit it and he was done playing, but the stronger child just kept on, saying there was no mercy for dragons.
Astrid on the other hand, was being much more serious, already having pulled both the twins into painful submission. If Hiccup didn't know better, he could swear someone forgot to tell her they were only playing a game. Nonetheless, everyone else just stayed out of the way, especially their families, who were gathered around watching. They actually encouraged this kind of rough play, laughing when the 'dragons' cried out in misery. They were always saying such roughhousing was the best way to prepare them for adulthood, when they would take their parents' place on the battlefield.
Even if only just to get beat up like he always did, Hiccup wanted to play with the other kids. It wasn't his favorite game, but he was willing to forego pleasure just to have some company. He didn't know why, but something about Vikings killing dragons always bothered him, even when his dad and Gobber told him it was the greatest achievement of a Viking's life and he would be doing the world a favor by ridding it of those beasts. More than any of that though, he wanted to play with Astrid, who had been giving him the cold shoulder and ignoring him for the longest time.
"Daddy, can't I go play outside with the other kids?" Hiccup asked back to his father, who was back over at the table reading over documents stating village damage and inventories. The man appeared to have a headache the size of the mountain on the island if the irritated look on his face and the annoyed gaze he had were any clue. He had an ice block to his head, using the cold temperatures to soothe the pain. The drops of water were already falling down his face from the heat of his body to the side.
"And make a bigger mess of things?" His father angrily growled. "You'll stay put right there until I say so and not a moment sooner, am I understood, boy?" Hiccup's father, between his greater size than any other Viking on the island and his fiery red beard, had to be the most intimidating man in the world. Hiccup himself couldn't help but flinch at the tone his father used, his father had always sounded… drained before, now he seemed completely annoyed.
"But I just wanted to help you guys out." He said, sinking down into his chair by the window.
"Help?" Stoick exclaimed, narrowing his eyes while just barely glancing. "You call what you did 'help'? Do you know what your foolish little shenanigans cost us, Hiccup?"
"I said I was sorry… like a hundred-million times, to everybody." Hiccup whispered.
"'Sorry' doesn't fix all those people's homes," Stoick shot back as he rose up from his seat and glared at the boy. "'Sorry' doesn't get back all the food you let those vile creatures take that took our men days to collect. 'Sorry' doesn't make up for the fact that you made a mess of everything!" He all but shouted right into his face.
Hiccup was on the verge of crying by now, his father never yelled at him like that before. These days, it seemed like his father hated him, but Hiccup couldn't understand how it could be because of just one mistake. Plenty of people made them, even his father, and he was just a child, but when he messed up, people shouted and screamed. To say the least, he was terrified that his father, the man who popped a dragon's head right off its body when he was a child, the man who could shatter boulders with his head alone, was so harshly judging him. Especially when the only reason he did it was to help and make this very same man proud.
Hiccup tried to say something, but his breath halted while any possible answer died in his mind the second he looked back into his father's cold stare. He continued to back away slowly, hoping he could just dissolve into the wall. All he could do was look away and hope his father wouldn't see the little stray, frightened tears that threatened to spill. Vikings never cried, he always said.
Stoick failed to notice even his son's fear, instead only scoffing while he returned to his work. "I have more important thing to do than to clean up after you, Hiccup. If you're ever going to be chief of this village, you're gonna have to learn to take some responsibility for your actions."
Hiccup frowned and turned away to look out the window again, his father's hypocritical statement stuck in the recesses of his mind. How was he supposed to take responsibility when he was constantly locked up in the house not allowed to even set foot outside? He wondered for a moment if his father wanted to keep him inside just so he wouldn't have to deal with him when he went out on his rounds. His throat seized and his fingers clenched at the thought while he tried to reassure himself. His dad wouldn't do something like that, right?
He felt it was a bad idea, but he had to ask anyway. "Well, I can go out… soon right?" His voice came out as a small whisper, trembling somewhat, afraid to rouse the anger his father had already built up. It seemed he was worried for nothing though, or rather he couldn't tell, since his father ignored him and just continued to review the papers.
"Well, don' yu two look cozy?" Came a voice from the front of the house.
Stoick lifted his head while Hiccup's turned around for them both to see a man almost as large as Stoick standing through the open doorway. He had a dirty blond mustache, soot covered rags for clothes, and a stone tooth in his mouth. What would grab anyone's attention if they were to meet this man for the first time, though, was the arm and leg of his that had both been replaced by makeshift prosthetics. The leg was nothing more than a wooden peg while a rusty but still sturdy hammer was in place of his hand. He had lost them both in the wars with the dragons some time ago in his youth, and they had since been replaced while he was stuck in the forge. But slightly disabled as he was, it didn't make him any less of a fighter, or any less cheerful of a man. He supplied a happy grin looking at both father and soon with both his hammer and remaining hand at his hips.
"Hi, Gobber!" Hiccup said with as much happiness as he could muster given the scolding he received earlier. Stoick only grunted to acknowledge his presence.
"Don' get too excited, it's just your favorite blacksmith." Gobber mumbled while rolling his eyes. He went over to see the boy who was just now getting out of his seat and slowly jogging over to him. "An' how's ma favorite apprentice?"
"I'm fine, Gobber." Hiccup said a little sadly. Usually, it would be up to the parent to pick up on emotions like these, but in this case, Stoick remained true to his name and continued to read in silence. Gobber, however, was a bit more sensitive to the boy now that he had gotten some time with him in the forge and they could work on weapons together. He had to admit, the boy had a sharp mind and keen attention to detail for his age; he still had a ways to go and could still hardly carry a single weapon, but the swords he polished did come out with a nice shine to them.
"All right, what's wrong, ya little fishbone?" Gobber asked with a cocked eyebrow.
Hiccup's smile vanished instantly and he looked down to the ground with downcast eyes. "Dad says I can't go outside. He doesn't want me to cause trouble for anyone."
Instantly, Gobber's face turned serious when he turned his look to Stoick; the man in question just continued to sit there as if he was the only one in the house, just reading his papers with more focus than though possible, even tracing the strokes of the charcoal used for the writing. Gobber just stood there waiting for a response from the chief, but all he was met with was silence. Gobber had even tried clearing his throat for a response, but Stoick just grunted again. A typical Viking conversation, Gobber thought, a few noises saying it all.
"All right, Hiccup, you jest head on over to tha forge and sweep the place up. Let me have a little talk with chief bossypants over here." Gobber said while scooting Hiccup through the door with a light push to the boy's small back with his hammer.
"But-" Hiccup turned back to complain.
"Ah, the only butt you should be worried abou' is yar own if you don't scooch on over and do yer job. Trust me, I can handle this stubborn old muttonhead." Gobber said with a wink.
Hiccup's smile returned in a form almost as small as him. "Okay, Gobber. Don't worry, I'll make the place super clean by the time you get there." And with that the little boy rushed off to the forge as fast as his spindly legs could carry him.
"It better be, or else you'll be in some deep yak dung by the time I get there!" Gobber called back cheerfully. He watched Hiccup go down the steps of the small hill that lead up to the chief's house down to the village square. Before long, the boy vanished into the multitude of houses and villagers, gone from Gobber's sight. As soon as he was gone, Gobber turned back to Stoick with an irritated look, while the chief was still busy reading papers.
"All right, he's gone. You can turn yer ears on again." He deadpanned. Stoick finally looked up from the paper with a surprised expression, but quickly turned into one of confusion. Apparently, the whole 'shouting at Hiccup' thing completely passed over his head. Still, Gobber continued to give him an unimpressed look.
"What!?" Stoick asked finally.
"Oh, nuttin." Gobber replied nonchalantly folding his arms. "I'm jest wondering if yuv already got a shelf picked out for the boy, or maybe a cage. Cages are the in-season thing right now, ya know."
"What are you talking about?" Stoick tiredly asked.
"I'm talking about how you're apparently planning on making Hiccup a prisoner in his own house. At this point, all ya need to do is dip him in molten steel and make an ornament outta 'im." Gobber said.
"Don't give me tha' attitude. You saw what that infernal contraption of his did, we're lucky we managed to even hold on to one winter's worth of food!" Stoick growled getting up. "And gods know what else he might have ruined if I didn't smash that thing to pieces." Stoick still remembered the end of it clearly, how he had to repeatedly crush the thing with his hammer until barely anything was left. Hiccup, too young and inexperienced to thoroughly plan out every part of the invention, overlooked a calibration issue with the lever that controlled the firing rate when he had gotten to actually constructing it. This caused the machine to launch arrows without any kind of control. Stoick was able to destroy it, but in the process he and the rest of the village had completely ignored the still-raiding dragons. Hiccup's antics had allowed them to get away with their food and a number of their sheep, yaks, and chickens; some actually thought he had deliberately done their long-time enemies a favor.
"Right, well, it's smashed." Gobber said with a huff from his large nostrils. His eyes looked slightly saddened at the moment, remembering Hiccup's face when his machine met the heavy end of Stoick's hammer. He had been so disappointed to see his hard work destroyed in an instant, especially when he was counting on it so much, and even despite all the problems it caused. "Now how long 'till you and every other whiny baby around here sucks it up and lets it go?"
"It was an act of reckless abandon, complete disregard for his people and utter lunacy in general!" Stoick growled again. "Someone could have gotten hurt or killed!"
Gobber just gave a dull look while his limbs hung to the side. His words summed up his expression perfectly. "Really? We fight dragons for a livin', and now you're worried about somethin' like that? What happened to 'we're Vikings, it's an occupational hazard?'" He gave his best impression of Stoick at that quote. It seemed to be Stoick's go-to phrase whenever he took the men to go on their rather periodic hunts for the dragons' nest, the home of the dragons. Really, he used it for any dangerous activity the Vikings did in general.
"I'll have you know that counts as insulting yur chief, I can have you thrown in a dungeon for that." Stoick said unimpressed with his arms crossed.
"Oh, well, wouldn't want that." Gobber said in a false-worried tone, holding up his hand and hammer in mock fear and rolling his eyes as high up to the ceiling as they could go. "Plenty of winters since those rat holes got a good scrubbin'…"
"Will you just get to the point!?" Stoick asked exasperated. "I've got more important matters ta deal with then my son's little… 'hiccups!'" The word just came to him to describe the matter, and yet that one word summed it up perfectly in his mind. Such an act was something that Hiccup and only Hiccup, with his crazy ideas and overall difference, could have ever conceived.
"That right there, tha's ma point." Gobber said pointing at Stoick with his hammer hand. "It was months ago! The fishing crews have already gotten the stores fill'd up again and the cycle o' life continues over a' the pens. Exac'ly how long are yu gonna keep him here, undar lock and key?" Gobber asked.
"Till he starts acting like a real Viking!" Stoick shouted, slamming his fist on the table for emphasis.
"An' how is he sapposed ta do tha if you don' let him make mistakes and learn from them?" Gobber pointed out.
"Because when that boy makes mistakes, EVERYONE suffers for it!" Stoick said, pacing around the table and past the fireplace alight with warm bright flames until he was directly in front of Gobber. The light behind him only reaching his large backside left his face covered in shadow, giving the man an impossibly more intimidating look. "I give him room to do so, and he'll end up burning this village to the ground long before the devils get the chance! You think I haven't seen that little room of his in the back of the forge? I'm perfectly aware this is only the beginning!"
"Now, hold on-"
"No, Gobber. I put him in that forge so he could bulk up and get past this… awkward stage of his. I'm countin' on you," he jabbed his finger straight into Gobber's chest, the smith barely moving an inch despite his strength, "to make sure of it. I mean it. No. More. Mistakes." Stoick said, pushing and jabbing his finger with every last word while he fixed his glare on Gobber with all the intensity of a harsh blizzard's cold.
The room was silent for a moment, save for the crackling of the fire and the wind blowing through the thick pine trees of the forest outside. The two Vikings just kept their gazes upon each other with eyes narrowed and tempers at the very least flared. The two had always had a bumpy road in terms of their friendship, and like any Vikings they resolved them with everything from verbal arguments to brutal spars in the Kill Ring. It had always been in good nature though, and the two always found peace in the end, either coming to a mutual understanding or just dropping the subject altogether.
In the years following Stoick's ascension to chief, they had gotten much better at avoiding arguments altogether, thanks to his improved skills in diplomacy and tact. Hiccup, though, was a constantly ongoing issue that the two men could find little common ground on, were always at odds on. They both wanted what was best for the boy; at least that was what it seemed on the surface.
But sometimes Gobber had to wonder if Stoick was just trying to find ways to avoid the boy. It certainly didn't help that he was born the runt of the litter and was given the traditionally appropriate name for it. Perhaps Stoick, who once envisioned his child at the time of his birth growing up to be the greatest of all Vikings, was just trying to escape his shattered hopes and dreams for the future.
"No more mistakes…" Gobber echoed backing off from Stoick. "You don't think tha's a little much to ask of a seven year old boy?"
"You're saying as a chief I judge him too harshly?" Stoick asked with a slightly cocked eyebrow. Gobber could see the veins running on his forehead, throbbing with each second. Apparently he was getting a little tired of his roundabout play. Good, Gobber was tired of playing this game just biding his time for Stoick to catch on to the rules.
"As a chief, maybe not. As a father..." Gobber emphasized the word with as much volume as he could, afterwards only giving a simple shrug. Gobber could swear nine out of ten times in the day, Stoick flat out forgot he was Hiccup's father and Hiccup was his son. The fatherly side of Stoick barely even saw the light of day, he figured. "But fine, I'll see wha I can do." With that, he turned away from Stoick and hobbled over slowly to the door, his peg leg leaving him with his usual limp. Just before he made it out, his good hand held onto the doorway and he turned back slightly to look at Stoick.
"Jest a bit o' advice, old friend." Gobber began, catching Stoick's attention just as he was about to return to his seat. "Expect perfection, and there's little doubt you'll end up disappointed." And he left, shutting the door behind him, leaving Stoick alone in the house with only his thoughts and Gobber's words.
Stoick just growled angrily again and shut the window before returning to his seat, setting the ice block that had already melted down to two thirds of its original size back upon his head. He grabbed the papers in his hand once again and continued to read. "Expect perfection… what I expect is a worthwhile son." He muttered.
He never would have guessed that the son in question was just underneath the now closed window, having heard him word for word.
Hiccup jogged through the village making his way to the forge at an even pace, just trying to take in every part of the outdoors that he had missed as much as possible. The warm sunlight as it seemed through the heavy clouds surrounding the island, the sound of birds chirping and the ocean waves crashing against the rocky shores. The smells of forest pine, freshly cut fruit, and smoked salmon and Icelandic cod that mixed together in a strangely pleasing aroma. He couldn't remember how long it had been since he had experienced any of these things. To the impatient child it seemed as if it had been an eternity since he had set foot on both the soft grass and the rough dirt of the outside world.
Focusing back into reality, he had caught wind of all the villagers whose eyes were fixed solely on him, from the moment he came into view to the moment he passed them by. Each and every one, man and woman, young and old, had their eyes set in a harsh and furious glare that followed him every step of the way.
Hiccup cringed with each new glare he caught, turning his head left and right to see someone new silently staring daggers at him, each new one causing him to shrink down even more. He barely even registered how his walking had started to slow to the point where he was just sluggishly walking, each step only propelling him an inch or two forward.
He had just made it to the forge, arms huddled around himself in an attempt to make him smaller than he already was. Deep down, he was really hoping he could just disappear, it was a new and foreign feeling to him at that moment, that feeling of being surrounded by giants while he was as small as a speck of dust. It went against everything his father had told him when he was younger, to hold his head up high and be proud in the face of anything. He didn't feel brave or proud then, just the opposite really – he felt like… he didn't belong.
Just as he made it to the forge, he felt something hard hit him against his head, small but hard. Turning around while rubbing his head to soothe the sore spot he noticed it was a mid-sized pebble. He lifted his head up to see Snotlout tossing more pebbles in his hand with a smug look on his face. Alongside him were the twins snickering in the background, Fishlegs cowering behind Snotlout, and Astrid looking away with her arms crossed. They were all in their normal attire, just normal, beat-up, adequately sewn brown, gray, and blue tunics for each of them.
Hiccup just looked at them before a few moments before Snotlout instantly threw another rock at him, this one hitting him right in between the eyes. Hiccup yelped in pain and rubbed the sore spot before glaring back at the slightly older boy.
"What was that for?" Hiccup angrily asked.
Snotlout's smirk just grew at that moment until it reached both sides of his face. "Just wanted to get your attention." And he chucked another pebble at him, this one smacking him right in the forehead and leaving a bright red mark. Again, he yelped in pain and looked back again in anger.
"Well, I'm looking right at you, so quit throwing rocks at me!" Hiccup complained.
"'Quit throwing rocks at me!'" The twins both mocked in voices as nasally and infantile as they could possibly make them. Hiccup was as small, as whiny, and as weak as a baby compared to everyone else, even kids younger than him, so no better voice suited him. The twins just cackled and started babbling gibberish in the same voice with just the same disrespectful tone, with the occasional phrase along the lines of "I stubbed my toe, wah, wah," and "somebody change my diaper, I made a oopsie." Whatever disrespectful, childish mock complaint came into their heads came out of their mouths just as quickly. Soon the two were a jumbled mess on the ground, just continuing to cackle, even Snotlout joining in before long.
"You wanna do something about it? Just try, 'Useless!'" Snotlout called out, crossing his arms and standing tall like he was the greatest Viking alive.
Hiccup's look of anger quickly melted into one of confusion at Snotlout's insult. He wasn't too sure, but he really didn't like the sound of it, even backing away a few steps to show such. "U-Useless? What do you mean?"
"Try and pay attention here, runt, it's your new official title!" He explained with cruel excitement. "I mean, it really fits: you weren't born right, you can't lift any weapons, you made a total mess of the village with your doohickey. Really, you can't do anything right!" He just looked at his nails while emptily pointing out the list as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Around Berk, though, it might as well have been.
Every Viking, one they had completed a specific feat of greatness or daring, was awarded with their own title or moniker. This would be the name that warriors from around the world would come to know them as, the name they would go down in history with once their times had come. The title would usually reflect the deed the Viking had done in one way or another.
For example, Hiccup's father, Stoick the Vast, received his name because of his great strength and stature, as well as his influence as chief. Their first researcher in the field of dragons was named Bork the Bold because he had the courage to do what no one else did and approach each and every dragon to study them and record them for future generations to know the most effective way to kill them. As for Gobber, well he was called Gobber the Belch, but no one really knew why; at least, Hiccup didn't, Gobber never really had a problem with burping as far as he knew. Still, Hiccup had imagined his own title to be unique, special, something that commanded respect from others around him, maybe something related to his creativeness.
But Hiccup the 'Useless'? No, absolutely not, Hiccup didn't want to go down in the annals of Viking history with a title like that. He didn't want future generations of Vikings reading about him and laughing as these children were now, mocking him for being incapable or clumsy. He wouldn't be able to even show his face in public with a title like that.
"Aww, is widdle Hiccup gonna cwy?" Snotlout asked looking down to see how openly disturbed Hiccup was at the dawning of his new title. "I get it, you feel totally honored that I came up with it for you. Like I said, it suits you perfectly…" He sneered.
"No, it doesn't!" Hiccup cried out in fury, his eyes slightly red and an embarrassed shade of light crimson on his cheeks. "Take it back! I don't wanna be Hiccup the Useless!"
"Oooh, he looks mad!" Tuffnut called out, his tiny blonde braids bouncing with him as he hopped up and down. "Check it out, he's as red as a Nightmare!"
"Eew, don't say that!" His sister Ruffnut called, pushing Tuffnut to the ground. "That's like an insult to Nightmares, heh-heh!" She didn't get to say much more before Tuffnut tackled her down to the ground and they had gotten into one of their iconic fights.
"Are you really complaining? After I so generously gave you your own title?" Snotlout asked with fake hurt in his voice, holding a hand out to his chest and feigning looking as hurt as possible. Before long his expression changed to one of irritation. "You got some nerve, turning down a gift from your cousin like that…" Hiccup winced at that: in his ongoing torment at Snotlout's hands, he had actually forgotten that they were indeed related. Their fathers were brothers to one another, after all. But by all rights, Snotlout certainly didn't act like family: family doesn't hurt you or tease you, Hiccup knew that much.
Suddenly Snotlout started pounding his fist into his right hand and stalking over to Hiccup, who backed up a few more steps. The look on the older cousin's face showed he was practically in a position to kill. Hiccup's eyes darted around like flies, looking for some possible means of escape, but there was no possible way without running into one of the other kids. Before long, Snotlout had caught him and grabbed him by the collar of his green tunic, lifting him off the ground by a couple of inches.
"You know, honestly, I'm embarrassed to be related to you." Snotlout started. "Berk's a place for real Vikings, strong, tough guys like me; weaklings like you oughta just be tossed into the ocean to be shark bait."
Fishlegs, who had remained quiet the whole time for fear of getting beaten up by the arrogant Snotlout or the psychotic twins, finally perked up. He let out a sharp gasp and held his hands to his mouth, looking on in horror. "Wait, Snotlout, you're not really gonna…"
"Shut up, Fishlegs!" Snotlout cried out, barely even paying attention to Hiccup desperately trying to worm his way out of his grip with all his strength with both his arms wrapped around his hand. To Snotlout he was barely even a threat – the kid couldn't even fight his way out of a wet potato sack. "Of course I'm not gonna, as much as it disappoints me. I just wanna teach this little runt about being grateful." Snotlout flexed his knuckles, ready to deliver a good punch. Hiccup could tell as much by the sound of his knuckles cracking underneath his flabby skin.
At that point, Hiccup, turned to the other child who had remained quiet the whole time, Astrid. The girl who always stood by her side when they were little. The girl who had already shown the proper attitude and the willingness to learn, who said she was going to be the best shield-maiden Berk had ever seen.
The girl in question was just looking at him out of her peripheral vision, looking for all the world uninterested even at the sight of him about to be hurt. For the life of him Hiccup could not understand why she didn't help him immediately. Why wasn't anyone, now that he thought about it? They were out in the open where everyone could see, where an adult could easily stop this before it got too far. But no one did anything, they just went on their daily business just ignoring him; some were looking, but it almost seemed as if they were waiting for him to be hurt. To be taught 'a lesson,' as Snotlout put it.
Hiccup needed someone, anyone to help him, and he figured Astrid was his best bet. They were childhood friends, and if she still respected that, she would step in. "A-Astrid." He whimpered. "Help…"
Snotlout just cackled in arrogance. "Seriously, you need a girl to fight for you!? You can't show some muscle and do it yourself?" He asked then quickly returned to his traditional sneer. "Oh, that's right, you can't. Well then, you better get ready for a hard lesson in manners…"
Hiccup just shut his eyes as tightly as he could while Snotlout braced his fist, waiting for the inevitable blow that would leave him with a black eye or a broken nose. As much as he hated to admit it, Snotlout had a point: unless you had muscles, you couldn't do anything on the island of Berk. Physical strength was a common asset and played such a large role in everyday life, people who didn't have it were practically outsiders in their own tribe. Maybe Snotlout was right when he said that he should be known as Hiccup the Useless, Hiccup thought, as he grit his teeth and steeled himself as much as he could…
…But the punch never came, no force, no pain, no bruise, nothing. Daring to peek open an eye, Hiccup saw that Snotlout's fist had been stopped just centimeters away from his face. Another hand had caught his just in time, and upon opening his eyes further, Hiccup could see his savior in full.
Sometime in between Snotlout's gearing up and the eventual moment of impact, Astrid had run up and caught him. Her hand was wrapped around his wrist and she was glaring at him coldly, which seemed to have an effect on the young bully based on the gleam of fear in his eyes.
Snotlout just stared dumbly at her while trying to get his hand free. "What do you think you're doing?" He asked in an irritated voice.
"Stupid, you wanna get in trouble with the chief?" Astrid replied.
"Pppth!" He spat before laughing again. "Yeah, right; any second now, my uncle's gonna come running down the hill and save his little runt of a son. Get real! He doesn't care about him: I mess with Useless here all the time and he never shows up." He turned back to Hiccup and slammed him against the wall again. "Face it, your dad thinks you're nothing but trouble, a big joke, I could toss you off the cliff like I said and he wouldn't even notice."
Hiccup was completely horrified by that statement, too scared and upset to really distinguish right from wrong at that very moment. Could it be true? Could his father think so lowly of him that he'd just ignore him if his life was in some manner of great peril? No, his father loved him, all parents loved their children. He could be a good Viking and his father could be proud of him, and yet the more he tried to tell himself that, the less he found himself able to believe it.
Suddenly, Snotlout's arm was twisted back into a painful position once Astrid tightened her own grip. The larger boy yelped in pain as his arm was pulled back and he let go of Hiccup, dropping the little boy to the ground. Hiccup only curled up and watched while tears began to prick his cousin's eyes while Astrid dragged him back.
"Runt or not, he's the chief's son; he finds out about this, he won't be happy." Astrid reprimanded. "Besides, you said you wanted to be a good warrior like your father, right? If that's the case, try putting more time into practicing and less into bullying and bragging!" She then tossed him back to his original spot, next to the twins, who were snickering once again about how he had gotten shown up by a girl. Even if it was Astrid.
Snotlout just scowled at her while rubbing his arm to ease the throbbing. "Fine, but this isn't over, Useless!" He threatened before running off, with the twins and Fishlegs hot on his tail. Hiccup just watched them run away in silence, too scared to even breathe or think. Before long he snapped out of his stupor and looked up at Astrid, still there with her back turned to him. Hiccup's mind had allowed a moment of confusion to enter in next to the fear that was still present. Why wasn't she looking at him anymore? She had never acted this way before? What changed?
Still, he felt he had to say something, if only to ease the still-present tension. "U-Um, thanks for-"
But Astrid cut him off with a sharp huff, barely turning around to narrow her eyes at him. "He was right about one thing, I guess. You're nothing but trouble." Hiccup's mouth gaped as he watched her turn back around and jog off into the village.
Hiccup just swallowed the lump in his throat as he picked himself up after spending several minutes just curled up there, in that one spot. He took one look at the village, all the people just continuing to pretend nothing had happened, no bullies had come to push him down and try to make him cry. Because he knew now that they all felt the same way as Snotlout: because he tried to help and failed, people thought of him as a nuisance now. His chest tightened and he froze where he stood, depressed, scared, surrounded by people and yet all alone.
Too saddened to even remember what he had come down to do, Hiccup just decided to head home again. Maybe his father was right, maybe he should just stay in the house for the rest of his life, where he couldn't bother anyone and people wouldn't have to deal with his messes. Maybe forever, but hopefully until things blew over and everyone finally forgot about his mistake.
He slowly walked back the same path through the village, keeping his eyes fixated on the ground, not bothering to make eye contact with anyone else. The last thing he needed was anyone else reminding him of his new 'title.' He had managed to stay out of everyone's way by the time he trudged back up the steps to the front door of his house and reached the front door.
But just as he was about to open it, he heard voices from the inside, rough voices like boots crunching on gravel with thick accents. He realized that Gobber must still be in the house and was currently talking with his father. Hearing nothing but muffled snippets of the conversation, Hiccup quickly ran to the side of the house and ducked under the window, keeping his ears sharp.
"I put him in that forge so he could bulk up and get past this… awkward stage of his. I'm countin' on you to make sure of it. I mean it. No. More. Mistakes." That sounded like his father, just as angry and intimidating as when Hiccup left.
"No more mistakes… You don't think tha's a little much to ask of a seven year old boy?" This time, it was Gobber.
"You're saying as a chief I judge him too harshly?"
"As a chief, maybe not. As a father... But fine, I'll see wha I can do." Hiccup could hear Gobber's peg leg tap against the wooden boards on the floor and the door open, signaling he was just about ready to leave. Then, without warning, the tapping stopped. "Jest a bit o' advice, old friend. Expect perfection, and there's little doubt you'll end up disappointed." Hiccup was startled more by Gobber's words than the door quickly slamming shut at that moment. Was that what his father wanted from him, perfection, no mistakes, to be completely flawless? Hiccup wasn't sure if he could be that.
He heard softer footsteps then, what he guessed was his father returning to his seat. "Expect perfection… what I expect is a worthwhile son."
That was it then. The villagers, the kids, even his father – they all hated him. To his own father, Hiccup wasn't just someone who made mistakes, he was a mistake. He was no Viking, he didn't belong here at all with true warriors; he was an outcast, a freak, a nothing. He suddenly felt like he couldn't breathe at all, his heart just been shattered into a thousand pieces, he didn't know what to think or believe. All he really knew was that he had to get away. He couldn't stay in the village, not when people despised him so, just because of one mishap. Or who really knew? Maybe they had always hated him and it just took that one night filled with destruction and mishaps to give them a proper excuse for it.
Hiccup just shut his eyes to block the tears and chose a random direction to run off in. He didn't realize that he was indeed heading far outside of the village, into the woods beyond.