Summary: She grew up living in the shadow of her clan's greatest shame. When a rare dragon is shot down in a raid and offered up to the winner of dragon training, Astrid Hofferson sees it as a chance to finally prove herself to both the village and her peers. But a chance encounter with a Deadly Nadder leads to a change of heart, throwing her life and the future of Berk into chaos. AU. Hiccstrid.
Rating: T for language, suggestive adult themes, violence, animal cruelty, etc. We are dealing with Vikings here guys—teenage Vikings at that. Fair warning, there will be hormones galore in later chapters! No lemons, but definite suggestive themes.
Disclaimer: I do not own How to Train Your Dragon, it's characters, places, folklore—nothing, nada, zip. The world of Norse mythology and Viking culture is incredibly vast and complex. I do not claim to be a historian, although I do enjoy research and history. I apologize for any historical inaccuracies or incorrectly referenced folklore/language/customs etc. that you may come across. I do try to do my research before including them and will explain how I personally understand them in my footnotes at the bottom of each chapter. That being said, I am human, and I can be wrong. If you spot inaccuracies/mistakes kindly PM me about it and I will be happy to make revisions where needed.
It was the warning bells that woke her.
Astrid Hofferson sat straight up in bed just as the first rumbles could be heard and cringed.
Her tribe, her home, was settled in the middle of the Meridian of Misery on an island called Berk. The Hairy Hooligans had called Berk their home for seven generations, yet you would never know it. Nearly every single building was new. It was not that the Vikings actually enjoyed rebuilding their structures so often. No, it was the fault of the drekar . The monstrous beasts were everywhere. For as long as Astrid could remember—Hel, as long as anyone on the island could remember—dragon raids had plagued Berk. The wicked creatures would come in the middle of the night, attack with raging fire, and leave with the tribe's food and livestock.
It appeared that tonight was one of those nights.
When the alarms sounded every able Viking was tasked with defending the village. The older, veteran Vikings fought the dragons head on. The younger, adolescent Vikings who had not yet been formally placed in dragon training were part of the Fire Brigade; someone had to keep the village from completely burning to the ground after all. The medics tended to the injured and the blacksmith sharpened weapons in the forge.
Everyone had a role, a place.
Everyone except Astrid.
That being said, Astrid was not your typical Viking. She was small, the smallest of all the other kids her age. She could hardly handle a weapon, let alone properly wield one. No one was willing to teach her. Her fellow tribesmen swore that wherever she walked, disaster followed. It was not as if she was clumsy on purpose, but accidents always seemed to happen when she was around. They had a nickname for her. A horribly mortifying nickname that she cursed Snotlout Jorgenson to the fiery depths of Helheim for making up.
But she still tried, she really did.
Unfortunately, most of the time that desperation to succeed did not work out in her favor. For example, the first time that the village put her on Fire Brigade duty with the other teens her age, she somehow managed to set more buildings on fire than the dragons did. Needless to say, that was the end of her stint with the Fire Brigade and ever since she has been forced to stay indoors, away from all the action.
It was just as well, no one wanted a Hofferson fighting anyhow.
An involuntary scowl formed on the blonde's lips as she thought about how a single dragon had ruined her family name—the Flightmare, or as Astrid and her mother called it, Hofferson's Bane. Every ten years the beast appeared in the midst of Arvendale's Fire, shining brighter than any of the colors in the sky, and wreaked havoc on the village. When she was five, Astrid watched her uncle, Fearless Finn Hofferson come face to face with it. She had always considered her uncle to be fearless, just as his name suggested. But that night, Fearless Finn Hofferson froze before his opponent. The village's master blacksmith had tried to shield her view, but he was not quick enough. She had no choice but to look on in horror as the Flightmare took the life of her beloved uncle before her very eyes .
Now, death was not exactly uncommon amongst Vikings. Their way of life was not easy. And so, at the tender age of five, it was not the first time that Astrid had experienced loss. Death was just a natural consequence of life. Everyone's time came eventually. But, even though she knew these things, Astrid felt cheated by the way that her uncle was ripped from the world. There was no glory, no honor, no justice in his death; only shame. The village unabashedly mocked his memory, changing his name from Fearless to Frozen. Her life was never the same after his passing. And furthermore, it was the start of a downward spiral that left the Hofferson clan's honor in shambles.
Ten years later, when Astrid was fifteen, the Flightmare made its reappearance. It was not long after the Fire Brigade incident and consequently, it was mutually decided by her parents that she would remain inside where it was safe. She would never forget how terrible it was to be trapped inside, unaware of what was happening outside amongst all the fighting. She could recall sitting with her back pressed firmly against the front door with her knees pulled tightly up to her chest. Her posture had remained rigid and alert throughout the night. She had strained her ears, listening to the commotion outside as she tried to pick out the voices of those that she loved.
The first clue that something was wrong came in the form of a horrific feminine scream during the wee hours of the morning. Then, a terrible silence fell. Concerned, Astrid defied the wishes of her parents and left the house, following the sounds of rising voices and more horrendous screams. The sight that she came upon in the plaza was one even more devastating than the one ten years before.
That night, the Hofferson's lost a husband, a father, and the respect of the village.
A lump formed in her throat as she remembered how her father had pressed a gentle kiss to the crown of her golden head as he and her mother left to join the fray. If she had known then that that would be the last time she would see him alive, she would have thrown her arms around him and told him that she loved him.
But she didn't.
She had just let him go.
Three years had now passed since his death and the memory of how she had felt that night only made her that much more determined to avenge her family. Astrid Hofferson was not the kind of Viking who gave up easily. She both hated and looked forward to the dragon raids. Obviously, it was bad for the village because many of their structures were destroyed and they typically lost a lot of their provisions, but the raids were her only chance to prove herself to the village. All she had to do was kill one dragon. One. If she managed to do that then the village could no longer refer to her as the village embarrassment.
Suddenly the entire house began to shake, breaking her from her internal monologue. Alarmed, the young Viking sprang into action just as the growl of a dragon came from the roof directly above her. She ran from her room, calling out her mother's name, but no one answered. Astrid frowned. Typically, her mother only went out to fight if it was desperately needed. It did not matter if she was one of the best axe wielders that Berk had to offer. No one needed the help of a Hofferson. For her mother to be out there meant that the Vikings were losing the fight, and that was certainly not a good sign considering the raid had only begun.
Then it hit her. With her mother gone, it was up to her to defend their home!
Adrenaline coursed through her veins at the thought of finally, finally proving she was capable of doing something right. Her gaze scanned the space for something that she could use to defend herself. The spot where her mother typically stored her weapons was empty, but her father's battle axe remained. Hope rose within her. She would make her father proud! But when her arms began to shake from the weight as she struggled to lift the old axe from where it hung near the hearth, Astrid hung it back on its mount. She would never forgive herself if she damaged one of the last pieces of his memory in a foolish display of bravery.
With a sigh, Astrid instead retrieved a small seax and an ornate shield, both of which were given to her by her father the Snoggletog before he was killed. The weapons were handsomely crafted. To that very day, Astrid still wondered how her father had been able to afford them. They were made of the very finest metals Berk had to offer. Elegant patterns of knots and symbols of the Gods such as Mjölnir, Thor's hammer, adorned them. Astrid had been so impressed by them that she personally complimented the master blacksmith, Gobber the Belch, on his fine work. The craftsman reacted rather oddly when she thanked him, however. Gobber insisted that he did not deserve her compliments, but would not explain why. It was almost as though he knew something that she did not.
Sadly, the fine weapons had never left the storage trunk in her bedroom. She never had the opportunity to use them—until tonight.
With the seax clutched tightly in her right hand and the shield situated on her left arm, Astrid flung open the front door only to find a Monstrous Nightmare towering over her doorstep. It gazed down at her with a pair of unblinking black eyes for a breath, before tilting its crimson scaled crown to study her with interest. For a moment, Astrid foolishly thought that based on its hesitance that it might not attack. But then smoke began to pour from its mouth, a sign that fire was building within its massive abdomen.
It only took her half of a second to react.
She screamed, slamming the door shut and held up her shield protectively in front of her just as the Nightmare released a rivulet of flames on the very spot that she had been standing just seconds prior. The heat of the blast was nearly unbearable but she stood firm, her shield covering most of her body from the flames licking at the closed door. When the heat dissipated, Astrid carefully peeked out from behind her shield to assess the damage.
Fortunately, the door was completely charred but still stood in place.
Unfortunately, the fire was spreading in earnest to the roof of her home.
Smoke pooled down from the thatched ceiling above her. It quickly began to blind her and fill her lungs. Knowing that staying inside her burning home was suicide, Astrid used her shield to knock down the charred door and stumbled out into the thick of the battle. It was every bit as bad as she imagined it would be. Dragons were everywhere. They were crawling through the village, crashing into houses, and flying through the skies with Berk's livestock clutched in their claws. Warriors rallied against them so quickly, so efficiently. It was clear that this was a village that had spent their entire lives fighting in such a manner. The main battle in the village square did not hold Astrid's interest for long, however. Her gaze quickly passed over Berk's paramount warriors and instead locked on a particularly harried scene panning out further up the peak.
A Monstrous Nightmare—perhaps the same one that had attempted to incinerate her home—was engaged in battle with a rather unusual looking Viking armed with a sword. He was tall, gangly, and wore tight-fitting red and brown leather armor. Even from a distance, Astrid could see the fierce determination, sweat, and soot that marred the young man's handsome features as he arced his sword high in the air, preparing to land a blow on the dragon's neck. She had to look away, unable to stand the sight of blood splattering across her fellow Viking's armor and face.
Weak. Hopeless. Can't even stand the sight of blood. Her internal voice berated her cowardliness. How will you ever kill a dragon acting like that?
She recognized the source of the exasperated voice and spared a tiny bit of hope that perhaps she had heard a tinge of worry there as well. Astrid glanced up as the Viking warrior ran towards her, his sharp jaw clenched with irritation. Perhaps he was not the most attractive Viking she had ever seen but he was good looking in an unconventional way. He was all arms and legs, thin and lanky, like a string bean. He had a smattering of freckles across his sharp nose, too large of eyes for his angular face, and thin pale lips. His hair was an unruly mess of dark auburn that stuck out on the sides as if it had a mind of its own and he had grown tired of trying to tame it—
Oh, who was she kidding? She definitely found him attractive.
When she caught sight of the blood on his sword, Astrid swallowed back the urge to gag. She looked away and met his narrowed green eyes instead—eyes that she often found herself drowning in whenever they graced her presence.
"Hiccup?" she choked out, more than a little bit surprised that he was speaking to her.
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, Hope and Heir of the Hairy Hooligans, rarely acknowledged her existence. When he did, it was usually accompanied with a disappointed scowl, as if the barmaid skimped the meat on his sandwich. But once upon a time, a time Hiccup had likely all but forgotten, they had been friends.
Herleva Hofferson and Valka Haddock had been very close and as such, Astrid and Hiccup were usually roped into playdates together as toddlers . She could remember back when they spent nearly every waking moment together. They had clung to one another, as neither child quite fit the mold of a standard Viking.
Their friendship only strengthened when their childhoods were irrevocably scarred by the disappearance of Hiccup's mother and the death of Astrid's uncle. They were forced to rely on each other and their families. Herleva Hofferson became a sort of surrogate mother to Hiccup, caring for him as if he were her second child while Stoick Haddock, Hiccup's father and Chief of the Hairy Hooligans, never treated the Hofferson family with the same scorn that the rest of the village did in the aftermath of Finn Hofferson's death. The two families came together as a united front and stifled most of the gossip that spread through the village like dragon fire after her uncle's passing. She and Hiccup had muddled through the pain of losing their loved ones together, forging a bond that Astrid had believed was indestructible.
She was wrong.
The Chief's son hit a growth spurt in their early teens and Stoick took it upon himself to make sure that his heir was properly trained in not only in political affairs but weaponry as well. Every moment was accounted for by his father and at the end of the day, there was no time to spare for his childhood friend. In order to make time, Astrid found room in her own schedule to see him. She would visit him in the forge, where he held an apprenticeship or sought him out in a neutral meeting place, such as the market or the Great Hall. That arrangement seemed to work out fine for a while. Then, out of nowhere, Hiccup began to act as if her presence in the forge was a bother. Then, he started making excuses for why he could not see her at the market and the Great Hall too. On one occasion, he had gone so far as to turn around and walk in the opposite direction when he saw her. She was left standing in the middle of the market with her hand still half-heartedly raised in greeting and a crushing feeling of embarrassment burning in her chest for having been snubbed by her best friend. After that incident, she did not speak to him again until the night her father died.
Instead of facing the tragedy head-on, Astrid ran from her mother and the other villagers that night. She had wanted to be alone. But as it turned out, she needed someone on that terrible, terrible night. Hiccup found her just as she collapsed against a random building near the outskirts of the village. Through continuous tears pouring down her cheeks she tried to choke out what had happened, but he gently shushed her. He already knew. He knew more than anyone what it felt like to lose a parent to a dragon, but there was little he could say to ease the pain that she felt in that grief-stricken moment. Instead, he gently rubbed her shoulders and ran his fingers through her hair as she screamed at the Gods for their injustice of taking her father away from her too. There were no words to describe how thankful she was that he found her that night. She had thought that it would be a turning point to the awkwardness that had overcome their friendship. But if anything, their relationship soured even more.
Her entire world fell apart after her father died, but Hiccup did not seem to notice how much she was struggling. After that night, he never asked how she was adjusting. He never once sought her out to make sure that she was doing okay. That had hurt. She had never felt more alone. It was a complete change from the kindness and thoughtfulness that her had shown her when he was just a young boy. Back then, he had been the only one who did not treat her as a nuisance or view her as an embarrassment. She would never forget the gangly boy with floppy auburn hair who had woven wildflowers into her hair, who held her gently as she cried when the other kid's teasing went too far, the boy who had been her only friend, her first crush—
"What are you doing out here?! You should be inside!"
Astrid was brought back to the present by Hiccup's familiar nasally voice, but it was not the soft lilt she remembered. His tone was now much harsher. It was just another painful reminder of how much things had changed in the years since they drifted apart.
Hiccup cut her off before she had the chance to explain. His eyes were trained on something behind her. "Oh Thor, Astrid! Your house is on fire!" Astrid turned with a grimace, remembering that indeed her house was on fire. The flames were spreading even further and now half of the structure was engulfed.
"It was a Monstrous Nightmare! I—"
Hiccup was not listening to her, however. He was looking around frantically for someone to help them. The attacking dragons were moving on towards the other side of the village and most of the villagers were following them. The only ones left in the general vicinity was a group of young Vikings about a hundred yards away. Hiccup brought two fingers up to his lips and whistled sharply. To her surprise, the group instantly turned and headed in their direction. As they drew nearer, Astrid recognized them as the Fire Brigade, all of whom were teens their age.
As soon as the group was within yelling distance, Hiccup began barking out orders.
"Fish, gather as much water as you can and bring it back here." This was directed at a husky looking blond boy, also known as Fishlegs Ingerman. With a silent nod, Fishlegs ran off towards a nearby well with four wooden buckets clutched in his grip. "Ruff, Tuff, you two take the North side," Hiccup continued. Ruffnut and Tuffnut Thorston were twins, nearly identical in their looks minus the gender difference. Hiccup then turned to the last figure, a short and stocky Viking named Snotlout Jorgenson. Snotlout was Hiccup's cousin and second in command despite their extreme differences in both looks and opinions. "Snot, you're with me. We'll take the South side."
Snotlout grinned, "You got it, cuz."
"Aye, Chief," Tuffnut responded with a salute.
Ruffnut punched her brother in the arm. "He's not our chief yet, idiot."
"I'm just letting the term settle," he replied with a nonchalant shrug. The punch did not even faze him.
"What about me?" Astrid asked, unable to stop herself. Immediately, she knew it was the wrong question to ask. The teens froze and exchanged uncomfortable glances before turning to Hiccup to let him give the order as their unofficial leader. From the looks on their faces, Astrid knew exactly what they were thinking.
You will only get in the way.
We do not need Hopeless Hofferson screwing things up again.
You will only succeed in burning your entire house down and then what will you do?
She turned her eyes expectantly towards Hiccup, confident that he would not brush her aside despite the indifference that he often showed her. But Hiccup said nothing. The small, hopeful smile that graced her lips slowly fell. The longer he remained silent, the more defeated Astrid felt.
Hiccup pinched the bridge of his nose, refusing to look at her as he muttered, "A-Astrid, just-uh, stand back and stay…put…there."
Fishlegs returned with the buckets before Astrid could come up with a response. The larger boy handed the buckets off to the other teens before hurrying off again to fill more. With full buckets of water in hand, the Fire Brigade sprang into action. Astrid followed Hiccup's order and stood back with her arms folded across her midsection in an attempt to fend off his painful words. It hurt to hear him disregard her presence and help. While he tended to give her exasperated glances and disappointed scowls, unlike the other Vikings he never said anything hurtful out loud. For the past three years she had told herself that he was simply too busy to care, simply did not have time notice her, and that the disappointed looks he gave her were because he knew that she could do better.
Now, she was not so sure.
He agrees with them.
That hurt more than she could put into words.
Astrid watched silently as the other teens successfully put out the fire, managing to save her house from complete destruction. A good portion of the roof and the outer walls were charred, but everything on the inside of the house was salvageable. She and her mother would get by. They would just have to double up on furs at night until they were able to make the repairs, but everything would be okay. It could have been so much worse.
Hiccup tried to approach her after everything was said and done but stopped upon seeing the scathing glare she sent in his direction. There was a tinge of guilt in his green eyes, but remorse would not change the fact that he had zero faith in her. She had expected rejection from the others, but never Hiccup. So, this time, she ignored him. She secretly hoped her silence would ignite something in him. Perhaps he would apologize, explain his actions, something. All she truly wanted was a sign that he still cared—but she would not get one. With an agitated huff, Hiccup unsheathed his sword and ran down into the village where the sounds of a lingering battle could still be heard. The others quickly followed after him.
They were leaving her behind.
"He didn't mean it."
She was so preoccupied with watching Hiccup's diminishing form that Ruffnut Thorsten's statement completely caught her off guard. Even more shocking, the other girl was regarding her with a rare display of concern. Astrid glowered at the grass beneath her boots. She did not need Ruffnut's pity. She did not need anyone's pity! Why was Ruffnut still standing with her anyways? Did she not have more important things to do than to watch her stew over Hiccup's words?
"He did," Astrid replied cynically when Ruffnut showed no signs of leaving. "Hiccup thinks I'm just as much of a screw up as the rest of you do."
"You're not a screw-up. Besides, Tuff and I think all the destruction you cause is a good thing. Berk would be so boring without it."
"What are you still doing here anyways? Don't you have an actual job to do? The raid isn't over yet."
Ruffnut shrugged, "You seemed upset."
"Why do you care?" Astrid snapped before she could stop herself.
"Because you listened to me when I needed someone to vent to about my problems. It's only fair to return the favor."
Astrid resisted the urge to groan when she realized that a moment of empathy had come back to haunt her. Two years prior, she had found herself forced into attending lessons with the matron women of the village. The lessons were a rite of passage for every young woman to learn how to provide for their future husband—no matter how unlikely that scenario was in Astrid's case. It was not as if she had any suitors lined up. Ruffnut Thorsten attended those lessons during that same time and unlike Astrid, had plenty of suitors knocking at her door.
After hitting puberty, Ruffnut went from being 'Tuffnut's twin' to 'female' in the eyes of the male adolescents of Berk. Her two most persistent pursuers were none other than Snotlout Jorgenson and Fishlegs Ingerman. Tuffnut did not appreciate the fact that his friends were suddenly drooling all over his sister—if his complaining was anything to go by—but Mr. and Mrs. Thorsten were delighted! The sons of two of the most influential families on Berk were interested in their daughter, after all. As for what Ruffnut herself thought, she vehemently denied both boys' attention at first. But overtime, one seemed to win her over more than the other. Of course, things were not that simple.
Everything came to a head the previous year when Ruffnut's parents began pressuring her into accepting a marriage contract from the Jorgenson's. It did not matter how revolting Ruffnut thought that Snotlout was, the fact of the matter was that the Jorgensons were better off than the Ingermans. Yet, Ruffnut remained firm on her answer—she would never, ever marry Snotlout Jorgenson—and that led to many, many disagreements in the Thorsten residence. Many times, Ruffnut would be so wound up over an argument with her parents that she sought out the company of only other girl her age. That girl just happened to be Astrid.
"As much as I love Tuff, he has the emotional capacity of a walnut," Ruffnut had reasoned when Astrid asked why she felt the need to open up to her of all people.
Yet, despite the fact that Ruffnut obviously trusted Astrid with her problems, Astrid had never felt that same confidence with Ruffnut. It was not that she did not trust Ruffnut, per say. Astrid just had never really felt comfortable bearing her soul to anyone, especially with things like insecurities and feelings. But now, the weight of Hiccup's rejection was nearly suffocating. She suddenly felt the need to confide in someone and since Ruffnut just so happened to be offering—
"We used to be best friends," Astrid finally mumbled. "It hurts that he has so little faith in me now."
"I think you're wrong about that," Ruffnut countered, surprising Astrid with her bold reply. "It's not that Hiccup doesn't have faith in you, he just worries about you."
Astrid snorted, "Yeah right. He has a funny way of showing it. Hiccup barely notices that I exist anymore."
"Oh yeah? So how do you explain tonight then?" When Astrid could not come up with a decent response, Ruffnut smirked. "That's what I thought. Hiccup notices more than you think," she added cryptically.
Just as Astrid was about to respond with a remark of denial, a piercing scream resonated through the sky. All concept of Hiccup and whether or not he noticed things vanished as the two blondes looked at one another in fear. It was not human scream, but rather the call of a dragon. It was a sound that they, unfortunately, were very familiar with—a Night Fury, the unholy offspring and lightning and death itself. The Night Fury was an enigma to the Hairy Hooligans and the one dragon that they feared above all others. It never stole any food and never appeared in the village. It was undoubtedly intelligent, keeping to the skies during every raid and blowing up all of Berk's defenses with its blinding blasts of violet fire. The battle was already going poorly. The arrival of such an elusive and deadly dragon would only make things worse.
"Night Fury!" An unidentified voice warned.
"Get down!" Another added.
Purple flame lit up the early morning sky. The blast struck one of Berk's catapults not far from where they were standing. Both girls screamed and instinctively raised their shields to protect themselves from shards of metal and splintered wood that exploded around them. The power of the blast desecrated the structure of the catapult, making the ground tremor beneath their feet as it crumbled to the ground. Ruffnut reached out, grabbed Astrid's hand, and began pulling her in the opposite direction of the village.
"Where are you taking me?" Astrid shrieked, barely able to keep the anxiety out of her voice from such a close call.
"Away from the village!" Ruffnut snapped. "That was too close."
Astrid attempted to loosen Ruffnut's grip. "Fine—just let go of me! I don't need your help to walk!"
With a role of her eyes, Ruffnut complied. The two Vikings continued running until they reached the edge of the village where they would be safe from the Night Fury's blasts. From their vantage point under the safety of tree-cover, they watched for the next few minutes as the mysterious dragon singlehandedly took down three more catapults in different locations around the village. One of the blasts connected with a catapult in the direction that Hiccup, Snotlout, Fishlegs, and Tuffnut had run off in. Astrid silently prayed to every God and Goddess she knew to protect them. Sparing a glance over at her improbable companion, she noted that Ruffnut also appeared nervous.
Then, something strange happened.
A wounded cry came from the sky and a shadowed mass fell down towards the earth. Shouts sounded from the village as various warriors shot nets high into the sky in an attempt to capture the wounded creature. One of the nets hit home, tangling in the dragon's expansive wings. Both cheers of celebration and screams of panic sounded as the creature crashed into the ground in the middle of the village. With a shared confused glance, Astrid and Ruffnut raced back into the village to where the creature had landed. By the time that they reached the crash site, most of the villagers had surrounded the creature and the girls had to fight their way through the gathering crowd to see. Ruffnut spotted Tuffnut and Fishlegs in front of them in the crowd and silently motioned for Astrid to follow her. Peaking around the two other teens, they were met with an unbelievable sight.
"Whoa!" Ruffnut exclaimed.
"What is it?" Astrid breathed.
Beside her, Fishlegs was almost vibrating with excitement. "It's a Night Fury!" he squeaked.
Deep impressions of broken earth forged a path through the town square leading up to a large creature with shiny black scales. It lay unmoving, tangled up in multiple nets. For a moment, Astrid thought that the creature was already dead. Looking around, she picked out the Chief's hulking form standing near the creature's head. With him was Spitelout Jorgenson, the Chief's brother-in-law and second in command, and two others; Hiccup and Snotlout. The four appeared to be in deep discussion about something but as the Chief and Spitelout had their backs to her, Astrid could really only see Hiccup and Snotlout's expressions. Snotlout appeared excited while Hiccup seemed to be—arguing perhaps? Whatever he was doing, he was gesturing wildly with his hands and he did not appear to share his cousin's excitement.
After several anxious minutes, Stoick the Vast turned to address the villagers. "Ne'er did I expect this day to come, but I for one couldn't be any prouder! Today, my son has honored the entire tribe by shooting down a Night Fury!" The crowd fell silent, all staring at the chief's lithe son in shock.
Astrid's gaze also shot to Hiccup and noted that his face was quickly turning red with embarrassment.
"N-no, no Dad," he stuttered. "I-I just shot the net. You hit him with your bola!"
"Using the bola launcher ye created!" Stoick exclaimed, pointing to an odd-looking wheel barrel contraption at the top of a hill above the village. The village oohed and awed for several moments before the Chief raised his meaty fist, signaling for quiet. "It has been decided that in the morning, the next generation of Vikings will begin dragon training. The winner will slay this devil in the Ring."
Everyone with the exception of Astrid and the teens burst into cheers. While the other teens were simply stunned by the news, Astrid felt a feeling that could only be described as dread creep into the pit of her stomach. Surely Stoick had not meant to include her in dragon training as well. It would be ridiculous to hope for such good fortune.
"Can you believe it?" Ruffnut exclaimed, delivering a well-aimed punch to the other blonde's upper arm in her eagerness. "Dragon training! We're going to learn to kill dragons!"
Astrid shook her head, her eyes falling to the ground. "Yeah, I'm sure you guys will have fun," she whispered.
Ruffnut rolled her eyes and was about to retort when the beast trapped within the nets suddenly began to move and released a pitiful moan of pain. Instantly, several Vikings sprang into action, tightening the nets and enclosing a muzzle around the dragon's maw. Astrid cringed at the wretched sound but as she spared a quick glance at her fellow peers, she seemed to be the only one affected by the dragon's cries. It was obviously hurt and despite the fact is was practically in her very nature to hate dragons, Astrid could not help but feel sorry for the distressed creature. She scanned the expanse of its body for signs of injury and was alarmed when its eyes opened, revealing a pair of bright green irises that were a shockingly similar shade to a certain russet-haired Viking. Her heart clenched painfully inside her chest. Oblivious of her own actions, Astrid shuffled forward, leaving behind the other teens and hesitantly approached the downed dragon. She was a few feet away from the bound creature when a firm hand clamped down on her shoulder.
Hiccup's voice was faintly choked. She met his burning gaze and noted that he looked deeply troubled by something. Internally, Astrid wondered if perhaps he was just as bothered by the sight at she was. But before she could question him, he masked his expression from her and averted his eyes.
"Your mother is waiting. See you tomorrow."
As the last word died on his lips, Hiccup spun on his heel and stiffly rejoined his father and the others as they began preparations to transport the dragon to the Kill Ring. Astrid was left behind staring at his retreating form, completely dumbfounded. See you tomorrow? Was that an implication that she was included in dragon training after all? Confused, Astrid turned away from the dragon and the village elders, walking sluggishly to where indeed her mother was waiting expectantly for her at the edge of the crowd.
It was a silent journey back home as both Hofferson women were lost in their own thoughts. If Herleva Hofferson was surprised by the burnt state of the house, she did not show it. They did not go back to sleep that night. Instead, Astrid and her mother spent the next few hours quietly cleaning up the damage from the fire. It was not until the first rays of light began to peek on the edge of the horizon that Astrid finally broke the silence.
"Am I supposed to go to dragon training this morning too?" Astrid asked timidly.
To Astrid's utter shock, her mother nodded. "Aye, I spoke with the chief about it a few days ago. It is time ye learn to protect yourself."
It was not as though she knew nothing of weapons—her mother was one of the best with an axe after all. From a young age, Astrid had watched her parents and studied the movements of her peers. She knew it all in theory. However, theory and execution were two very different things. Astrid could theorize strategies for days, but she did not have the training, the strength, or the experience to execute them properly. Her father had intended to begin seriously training her to fight after her fifteenth birthday. Sadly, that never came to pass. After her father's death, her mother had had too many other things on her mind to worry about training Astrid. Working to put food on the table and making sure they did not end up on the streets or in the debt of another Berkian family was her number one priority. Thus, Astrid's training had been placed on the back burner and eventually, forgotten entirely.
"Why now? What changed?"
"The raids are getting worse." Herleva paused, taking a moment to wipe some soot from her brow. "Today, the Chief and his best warriors are setting out on one last search for the dragon nest before the ice sets in. While they are gone, Gobber will be training ye and the others. Last night's events simply confirmed the Chief's fear that the raids are only going to increase in the future. We need every able body to fight or we will starve to death once winter hits."
Herleva turned from her daughter and began shuffling through a wooden chest at the foot of her bed that remained unscathed from the fire. First came a blood red leather skirt covered in spikes, which Herleva placed neatly on the bed. Then a pair of skull emblazoned shoulder guards and fur arm braces joined the skirt. Lastly, Herleva hesitated for just a moment before she finally pulled out a weapon that Astrid had never seen before. It was a double-sided axe, smaller than a typical Viking's, but it was just the perfect size for Astrid. A small smile graced Astrid's lips when she noticed the familiar pattern of knots on the wooden handle and axe head. The axe matched her shield and seax.
"It's beautiful," Astrid breathed.
"It's yers, part of the set. I believe it's time for ye to have it," Herleva replied, holding out the weapon to her daughter. "Perhaps it will bring ye luck in the Ring." With shaking hands, Astrid closed her fingers around the handle of the axe and took it from her mother's grasp. It was undoubtedly lighter than any axe Astrid had held before. She would not really be able to swing it—at least not gracefully—but she could certainly hold it without the least bit of struggle.
"And the armor?"
"It was mine when I was yer age. I want ye to wear it, to protect ye during training."
Astrid grinned, "Thank you."
With her mother's armor, she would not look so out of place and delicate. She had been secretly dreading going to training in just her plain cotton tunic, skirt, and leggings when she knew the other Viking teens would be wearing armor, not to mention it would have been dangerous. Astrid immediately changed into her mother's old clothing and was not surprised to find that it all fit almost perfectly. She might have to make some minor adjustments later, but it would all work for now. Astrid and her mother had very similar builds. The only difference was that Herleva had more strength in her pinky finger than Astrid did in her entire body. During training, however, Astrid would strive to change that. Now was the chance for her to prove herself. If she had to spend extra time training by herself in the woods with her new axe, then so be it.
When the sun fully rose over the horizon, Herleva pressed a kiss to her daughter's forehead and pushed her out of the door into the cool morning. "Make our family proud, my little Valkyrie."
The whispered words were met with silence.
Astrid was already gone.
 Dreki translates to dragon in Old Norse. The plural form is drekar.
 It is not directly stated in Fright of Passage (DreamWorks Dragons: Defenders of Berk) whether Fearless Finn Hofferson was killed by the Flightmare or simply banished from Berk for freezing and thus shaming the Hofferson name. However, according to How to Train Your Dragon wiki, he was killed by the dragon and for the purpose of this story, I am going to go with that option. Obviously, in the series, Astrid's family is not shamed nearly to the extent that I am detailing in this story, but it gives me a legitimate weakness and problem for Astrid to deal with besides just a lack of strength. Just as Hiccup struggled with getting the approval of Berk in How to Train Your Dragon, in this AU Astrid will also struggle to find approval of the village, as well as regaining her family honor.
 If anyone is curious about the meaning of Astrid's mother's name, the name Herleva is an ancient Germanic name derived from the words hari "army", era "honor", and erla "noble." As honor means so much to Astrid's family, the name was not only appropriate but also ironic as the Hofferson family has lost theirs to the Flightmare.
It is not stated in canon whether or not Astrid and Hiccup were ever friends prior to the events of How to Train Your Dragon, but I like to think that before puberty and responsibilities hit them in their early adulthood, all of the teens would have been friends. It partially explains Astrid's sudden change of heart after the Romantic Flight sequence and also why the other Viking teens were so quick to jump aboard on Hiccup's solution to saving the tribe from the Red Death.
Finally, for those who are curious of the title Drengskapr, it loosely translates into honor. As I am sure you all can already tell, honor is something that is going to play a huge role in this story. The concept of Drengskapr in Icelandic culture is highly complex and hard to translate into the English language. However, from what I found through research, it is a combination of the two Norse terms drengr (an honorable man) and -skapar (high-mindedness and courage).
Please, leave me your thoughts. But constructive criticism only, please!
I get that some of the characters (Hiccup and Astrid) may seem out of character, but that is the very backbone of this story and will change as the plot progresses. In case you have not already caught on, you could say that this story is a role reversal between Hiccup and Astrid but in other ways, it is not.
One of the main plots of this AU is to explore the damaging effect that Finn Hofferson's encounter with the Flightmare (as told in Fright of Passage from Defenders of Berk) could have had on Astrid's reputation. How would her life have been different if she did not have the status or respect of the village as she does in HTTYD1? Major plots of the first movie will be touched upon and I will be sticking to mostly to canon (i.e., everyone will keep their original dragon) but this AU takes place when the teens are older, around eighteen and nineteen, so again - our beloved character's personalities may be altered from their younger selves.
Last Revision: 6/11/2018