Sorry for a small delay in publishing the chapter. It is here now and on the longer end.
dracologistmaster: Not much... on that exact trip.
Dragonrider's Fury: You like the hatchlings? There might be just a little bit more of that here.
NezoTheNightFury: I think the "slowly developing himself" is the important part here, for Another Nightmare in general. I've seen too many fics where Hiccup leaves, there is a timeskip and suddenly he is basically a superman on every dimension. I prefer to have the character development in the story and in terms of skills and powers I don't want him to be good in everything. Actually avoiding/pushing away that led to an idea of which there are few first bits visible in this chapter.
Proofread by 3DPhantom
Toothless' claws sunk into soft moss on the green strip along the coast of a small, otherwise rocky island. Shortlcaw and Ivar landed next to them just as Hiccup was dismounting from Toothless' back. Toothless swallowed the last of the fish he had caught during the flight and turned to observe the Nightmare's first reactions. She only quickly glanced at the green coast before focusing on the rocky hillside that rose from the one beach on the island. Every other part of the coast consisted of near vertical cliffs.
'There is a small fountain of fresh water on the other side of that forest,' Toothless told Shortclaw.
'Good, but I am more interested in finding a place for a proper nest,' Shortclaw answered and directed her attention to Hiccup. 'You said there are caves?'
'Yes, a small one up there on the cliffside. It is very safe, but also small, a long crack really. It can only fit one full grown dragon with hatchlings at a time. There is another one near the fountain. Toothless barely noticed it through the vegetation.'
'Any dangers?' Shortclaw asked.
'No large animals that could threaten hatchlings,' Toothless said.
'I'm a bit worried for the cliffs until they learn to fly, but the forest seems safe,' Hiccup added.
'Is it safe from Vikings?'
'This beach is the only place people can easily sail a ship to, so you can keep an eye on it. That is best we can do anywhere near Fjoll,' Hiccup said mentally before speaking out loud. "Of course, Ivar and his father will help with keeping people away."
The other boy blinked having focused on evaluating the island during the silent conversation.
"It should be okay. I'm not aware of any ships regularly stopping here. Some might come to search for water, but even then, it would be easier for most to just come to Fjoll." Before Hiccup could tell Shortclaw anything, Ivar showed her some gestures, some of which were clearly pointing at the beach.
"You have really gotten good at that." Hiccup said.
"I've worked on it with Shortclaw and Fishlegs for half a year now. She is learning many words too, but gestures have been easier for both of us, also expressions." Ivar looked at the red dragon with wrinkles on his forehead. "I think she likes it, especially the forest."
"You can tell from looking at her?" Hiccup asked.
"I've had a lot of practice. Can't you?"
"Ummh, maybe not as well as you, except with Toothless."
"He can be pretty expressive," Ivar said. Toothless took that chance to face them and smile, letting his tongue hang out. Both boys smiled at the expression before Ivar continued. "I guess you never needed to worry about these things. You know what they think without even looking."
"Maybe that has made me miss some things," Hiccup admitted, "but not the fact that Shortclaw wants you to come with her to take a look at the cave. She doesn't think my memories of the place are enough."
"We'll go see. Hopefully there are a lot of good hiding holes for the hatchlings. I already know every one they use in the old place." Ivar ran a to catch up to Shortclaw who was already walking into the forest. Hiccup and Toothless stayed behind at the beach. Toothless walked half a circle around Hiccup and laid down next to him, yawning and enjoying the warm sunshine.
'So, it's lunch and then a nap with you isn't it?' Hiccup asked. Toothless opened one eye to glance at Hiccup and then extended his wing to pull Hiccup closer.
'Do you have better things to do while we wait for them?' Toothless asked. 'Get some of that food you packed and sit down. You didn't sleep enough last night.'
"Mother hen," Hiccup whispered out loud, but did as Toothless told him, so the dragon didn't need to actually grab him. Toothless enjoyed the moment of peace with no one but his brother around. Even after leaving from Fjoll they would be constantly surrounded by their flock. Toothless fell asleep soon after Hiccup was securely leaning against his side, pulling bread out of a detached saddlebag.
The next morning Hiccup attached much larger bags on Toothless' saddle as they prepared to leave. These actually weighed almost as much as Hiccup himself, which wasn't much as far as Toothless was concerned. He had to stop Hiccup from leaving out more than a few useful things as Hiccup worried about how much weight he was putting on Toothless' back. He had never thought to make the other dragons anything to carry things in, except Shortclaw and Meatlug. The Gronckle was standing in the other end of the forge as Fishlegs gathered his things on her back. Gerd had come to see them off and Sharpshot had jumped on her as usual. Toothless wasn't too worried anymore to see his other brother with the girl and Sharpshot was happy with her.
"Ready to go?" Hiccup asked.
"Yes," Fishlegs answered and the whole group stepped outside. Haldor the old blacksmith stayed at the door to his forge.
"Have a nice trip and come back soon. You've been good workers even with your other activities. I'll keep rest of your things safe until then."
"Thank you," Hiccup responded. Toothless turned back towards the man and stretched his face into a wide smile as his own response. He waved his tail to mimic human greeting, showing off the newest version of his tailfin in the process. This one was as black as Toothless' scales, as were the rest of his gear from the saddle to the packs Hiccup attached to it. From a distance, human eyes could barely distinguish them from Toothless' body.
Their little group walked up the village paths with an increasing number of people following them. Most of them seemed just curious or friendly to Toothless' eyes, but some made him stay on alert. After years of being young dragons' favourite target to pick fights with, it came naturally even with Hiccup's soothing touch on his mind.
'It will be relaxing to be away for a while,' Hiccup commented. 'Fjoll has become a lot like home, but it is still…'
'Unnerving,' Toothless finished the thought. 'Soon it will be just us and the Flock, and Fishlegs will be the only other human around.'
'Maybe I can sleep better then,' Hiccup thought.
'Only bears and wolfs to worry about.'
'Are you already thinking about your lunch?' Hiccup smiled.
'Good. You aren't worrying about them.'
'Unlike humans, animals are usually smart enough to stay away from a more dangerous predator.' Hiccup put his hand on Toothless' head. They stopped at the rear of the village where Hiccup had held his most recent dragon lessons. The word had spread, and a large crowd had gathered to see them off. Heather was there in the front row, as were many other people from Hiccup's lessons and even from combat training. The Chief and his wife were there also. Hiccup noted them seeming impatient. Both Ivar and Hakon were missing.
The Flock flew over the forest and landed in front of the crowd. The Nightmares were with them and Ivar rode on Shortclaw with the hatchlings and the newest example of Hiccup's genius. The saddle Hiccup had built for the Nightmare now had an extension with three leather pouches tight enough to stop the hatchlings from falling off in flight while their heads were free to peek outside. Only two of them did though. The little one who Hiccup called Moonshade had hid in her pouch when Shortclaw landed.
The other two tried to claw their way outside as soon as their mother touched the ground and Ivar had to stay in the saddle to help calm them. Hiccup had called those two dragon Thornstons once. Flamewing and Burnscale could certainly cause the same amount of damage after they grew up a bit more. At least Ivar was able to calm them. Even Hookfang gave him a grateful look, no longer hesitant to allow the human hatchling near his own hatchlings.
Eventually the tiny Nightmares calmed down and Ivar slid down from Shortclaw's neck. Moonshade finally peeked out of her hideout despite the surrounding crowd and squealed at Ivar. Ivar turned to brush the little Nightmare's head. His lips moved, but even Toothless' ears couldn't hear if he said anything. Moonshade kept her head out as Ivar walked away to join his parents. Hiccup walked to them.
"We are ready to go."
"I see that. Figured a way to take the babies with you I see," Chief Hemming said. His eyes glanced to the side towards his wife.
"As long as they stay in without Ivar keeping an eye on them. Seems even I can't tell them to stay still," Hiccup answered.
"If you expect a baby to do what you want, you've never tried to take care of one. Babies usually don't listen to anyone," Hemming's wife said and put her hand on Ivar's shoulder. What was her name again? Toothless never needed or cared to remember that. She hadn't even bothered to heal Hiccup when he most needed.
'It's Ragna.' Hiccup reminded him silently.
"Of course, babies I have taken care of never started breathing fire… Good that you are at least taking them somewhere else, away from my boy."
Ivar's face tensed as he squirmed under his mother's hand. Shortclaw raised her head, slowly to not disturb the hatchlings. Hiccup directed the discussion elsewhere.
"Are you sure you can handle the hunters?" He asked. Chief Hemming shook his head.
"I don't know how things are going to end up, but it is going to be a lot better if you aren't here." The Chief let his voice rise a bit. His tone was definitely a serious one and Toothless would have even considered it hostile. Hiccup wasn't fazed by the act, however.
"We'll stay out of your way. You aren't going to see dragons around here, at least none that fly with me."
'If Shortclaw and Hookfang can stay out of the way,' Toothless commented silently.
'Well they aren't going to fly with us very far, so I'm not actually lying even if they don't,' Hiccup answered and smiled to the people in front of him.
"I wish you luck but hope that you remember all that you have learned during this winter." Hiccup spoke loud enough for many of the people around them to hear him.
"That is something you don't have to worry about," the Chief said, forgetting his earlier harsh tone. "You… and this," the man gestured at Hiccup's flock, "are pretty unforgettable. Though it would be better if the hunters forgot. You help that by not being here." Chief Hemming tried to bring back some of the more serious tone.
"We should go then," Hiccup answered. He got on Toothless' saddle.
'Time to fly,' Toothless announced to the Flock and spread his wings. People's clothes waved in the wind as ten dragons took flight. Sharpshot was resting on Littletooth. Toothless did multiple circles after taking off so the Gronckle could catch up. Littletooth's eyes focused on Toothless as he took position at the Gronckle's side. Toothless just wanted to check on his little brother. Sharpshot raised his head, noticing his brothers nearby.
"Will Night Fury and nice Viking show us a new place now, more nice Vikings?" The excitement radiated from the little dragon.
'Actually, Windshear is going to show us,' Hiccup said and looked at maps he had gotten based on said dragon's memories. With Hiccup's power he had been able to get those memories and share them with Toothless. They knew where they were going just as well as Windshear did. Fjoll shrunk quickly as they flew in a wrong direction. Only when the village was nearly indistinguishable even to Night Fury eyes did they curve to the direction of the Nightmares' new island. They only stopped there briefly, just long enough to let the hatchlings down and remove the saddle from Shortclaw. As Hiccup stepped away one of the Nightmares bowed to Hiccup in respect.
'We wait for your return,' Hookfang said. 'This separation shall not weaken my sworn loyalty.'
'It has never wavered, but now you have more important responsibilities.' Hiccup gestured at the babies. 'We'll be back sometime during the summer. I hope to see flying hatchlings by then. Keep the saddle somewhere dry and stay safe. You know what direction you can find us.'
The group split as the Nightmare family stayed behind. Now they were really on their way. Hiccup made sure that they were heading in the right direction and checked the saddlebags one more time. He then leaned forward over Toothless' head.
'Now we can have some fun.'
Toothless didn't need any more than that. In an instant his wings slashed down with many times the force that they used before and the two brothers zoomed vertically up. Toothless started carefully with turns and small dives, but since the saddlebags held, he soon made a high-speed loop and then dove so low Hiccup could feel water droplets on his cheeks. He closed his eyes and spread his arms like wings. Toothless cherished in the happiness of his brother and focused on thinking what he could do next. He went for a low altitude barrel roll so Hiccup could really wash his face. Once Toothless got back to level flight Hiccup laughed and leaned forward to lay on the saddle over Toothless' head. They started ascending back towards the Flock.
'This is my favourite part of the day.'
'And we can have that as many times a day as we want,' Toothless responded.
'We still have a long flight ahead of us. We can play in the evening if you aren't too tired by then.'
Toothless huffed at that. 'As if.'
Toothless took their place at the front of the Flock. Hiccup, with no immediate worries, remained laying down barely awake enough to keep the tailfin under control. They continued like this for a long time.
'Hey Viking,' Stormfly called from behind. 'Hiccup.' The second call was accompanied by a weak roar. Toothless was going to return the rude gesture.
Hiccup raised his head, pressing a calming hand against Toothless' head in the process. He turned in the saddle to face the Flock. Most of it was far behind with only Stormfly keeping up with Toothless, barely it seemed.
'So, you finally noticed,' she said. 'When were you two planning to stop for rest, after the rest of us plummet to the sea?'
They were already that tired? Surely, they hadn't flown that long. Toothless definitely didn't feel like they had. Last time they flew together for so long was to save Hiccup and get back, at that time the others didn't fall behind this much. Yet even he could only barely see the dots that had to be the Gronckles at the rear of their now stretched formation.
'Toothless…' Hiccup started.
'There is an island to the left,' Toothless answered before Hiccup could think about the question. Instead he focused back on Stormfly.
'You should land there. We'll wait to make sure everyone else makes it.'
'That would have been nice a while back,' the Nadder sneered. Toothless let out a low growl despite Hiccup's calming influence.
Hovering in place was Toothless' least favourite thing about flying, but he did so until everyone caught up, which was quite a long time later. Littletooth was second to last. Sharpshot jumped off his back and onto Toothless, who then settled to glide next to Meatlug. It wasn't easy to fly that slow, but he managed.
Fishlegs' worried expression tensed as he turned his attention away from the tired dragon carrying him.
"Hiccup what were you thinking? These dragons might follow you until they fall from the sky if they have to, Meatlug almost did, but we aren't in a life and death hurry like last year. I thought you'd at least care enough about Toothless to consider his wellbeing even if you love to be flying again."
Hiccup tensed on Toothless' back and his fingers constricted, holding onto some scales.
"Of course, I care about him. I care about all of them…" Hiccup fell silent. His hand left Toothless' head as his shoulders slouched. When he spoke again his voice was much quieter. "I didn't notice. I should have worried and looked after everyone."
"Hiccup? How could you not notice, with the bond you and Toothless have?
Hiccup blinked as his thoughts checked on Toothless more carefully.
"Toothless is fine," Hiccup answered, "perhaps a little winded and as hungry as usual, but he could still fly a long time before needing a break. We didn't really think we had flown that long already."
"Not really. We all know he is the best flyer here." Hiccup started getting some of his smile back.
"Obviously, but not by that much, not even when you were in danger and not after spending most of the winter laying in the corner of a forge, or training area. If he was still growing up, then it wouldn't be too strange, but he doesn't seem to be."
"No," Hiccup answered. "This is as large as he is going to be, and I think that is just right. Any larger and he couldn't' fit into houses with me."
'Some places are already tight for the wings,' Toothless noted as his claws touched the ground as gracefully as ever. Meatlug landed with a thud next to his wingtip and Fishlegs scrambled off her back, starting to detach the saddle and everything carried with it. The rest of the Flock was sprawled next to a small stream of water, too tired to get up to drink from it. Except Barf and Belch, whose necks barely reached the water. Sharpshot jumped down before Hiccup and trotted to get a drink.
'Me know Night Fury best. Others not near.'
Hiccup slid down after the little dragon and started pulling on Toothless' saddlebags, or tried to. Toothless stepped away before he could get a good grip.
'Don't worry about those. I can carry them for a while longer.'
Hiccup nodded and stepped in the middle of the Flock.
'Everyone I… I'm sorry. I was leading us but didn't take care of you. We have different flyers here and I didn't consider that.'
'Is it true that you aren't even tired yet Toothless?' Meatlug asked.
'Not very, Hiccup and Fishlegs just talked about it.' Toothless looked over the exhausted flock around him. 'Maybe there is something to it.'
'Quite obviously,' Whiplash said and walked, almost crawled closer. 'You have gotten much stronger and faster during the winter. It is even visible if one looks carefully enough, your legs, the muscles that hold your wings…'
Toothless was distracted from listening to Whiplash as Hiccup's thoughts slithered around him, not just his mind but on some level also his physical body.
'He is right. It must have been so gradual I never noticed.'
'Are you sure?' Toothless asked.
'Toothless, your strength is what keeps me up and going during bad times, and I use your legs for pillows. I am sure and surprised I didn't notice earlier. That doesn't explain why? It doesn't sound like this is normal for dragons?'
'Not for one that spends his time sleeping in Viking houses, unless he was still growing,' Whiplash said. 'Unless you have done something to him.'
'You have the power of an Alpha. If there is someone that can change a dragon it is an Alpha,' Whiplash said.
'It isn't impossible. You still don't understand your power completely,' Toothless said.
'No,' Hiccup answered, 'I don't. I wish…' Toothless slapped Hiccup with his ear.
'It doesn't matter what caused this, and it is a good thing anyway, so don't look worried that it might be because of you.'
'It is your body. If you are okay with this… I guess it's good.' Hiccup paused for a moment and absentmindedly scratched Toothless' head. 'Are you feeling strong enough to go fishing for everyone else?'
Toothless crouched down, leaning the saddle towards Hiccup. In the end they didn't fly any further on that day. The fishing took a long time since Toothless had to make multiple trips to feed everyone and Hiccup didn't want to push them further after what had happened. Toothless laid down with Hiccup and Sharpshot. He was extra careful in how he held Hiccup after all that talk about him getting stronger. Hiccup wasn't having any of it and reached his arms around the front leg that he wasn't using for pillow to pull it closer.