A/N: Behold, the update! :D Thanks to PirateElizaSparrow, who beta'd this.
Please leave a review to tell me what you think! It feeds my Monster of a Muse and keeps the Grinch on my Shoulder happy. (Not, I'm not insane, I'm just a writer.)
Alarm bells went off in Astrid's head and she shot upright. A second passed before she realized that her alarm clock was actually blowing out her eardrums and another second passed before she realized that she would have to move to turn it off.
"All right, already," she groaned, flailing one arm around until she accidentally smacked the alarm clock off her night stand and silence once again reigned in her bedroom.
It was too late. She'd woken up. Groaning, she pushed her covers off and rubbed her eyes with her fingers until she could open her eyelids.
"ASTRID, IF YOU DON'T GET OUT OF BED, YOU'RE GOING TO BE LATE!" her mom hollered, displaying the prowess of the Hofferson family's voices.
"I'm coming!" Astrid shouted back. She hurled herself out of bed and towards her door. Once she got going in the morning, there was no stopping her.
A mug of coffee awaited her at the kitchen table, wafts of steam swirling up from the inky liquid. Hoffersons drank their coffee black and refused to have it any other way. Astrid sank into her customary chair after pouring herself a bowl of cereal and guzzled the coffee down. Throwing her dishes into the dishwasher when she was finished, Astrid thundered up the stairs. She had just finished twisting her hair into a braid and throwing all of her school papers into her backpack when she noticed a dent in the wall and a tiny brass gear on the floor.
Astrid sank onto her bed, staring at them with an open mouth. How could she have forgotten what had happened the previous night?
"ASTRID!" her mother yelled again from below. "IF YOU DON'T HURRY UP, I'LL CALL THE TWINS TO COME OVER HERE AND GET YOU!"
Shaking her head, Astrid snagged her backpack and scooped up the gear before racing down the stairs. "Love you, Mom!" she called out as she slammed the front door to her house. She got her bike going down the road before she started to think of what had happened.
The gear had an explanation, she reasoned. Ruffnut had dropped it climbing in the window. The dent had also been caused by Ruffnut's less-than-graceful exit. Astrid nodded to herself. Yes, that explained everything nicely.
"Hey, Hoff!" Tuffnut appeared as if summoned by the thought of his twin. His bike zoomed by her. In true Tuffnut fashion, he was standing up on the pedals. Ruffnut also joined the group, zipping in circles around Astrid.
"Hey!" Astrid made no move to match their stunts.
"Are you ready to be the third famous person in Berk High School?" Ruffnut crowed, pumping her hands in the air and momentarily sending her bike careering to the side. She and Tuffnut sported matching coonskin caps.
"Our moment of fame has arrived!" Tuffnut rejoiced, turning his bike around to pedal directly at them. "And Snotlout didn't even wake up to welcome it!"
Astrid interrupted. "How'd the room check go?"
"Oh! There wasn't a room check," Ruffnut said. "Our uncle Eddie was actually coming for dinner and lasagna is his favorite dish. He even gave me and Tuffnut fake pairs of handcuffs! How awesome is that?!"
"Not so awesome for the person you're going to be handcuffing." Astrid swerved to avoid a head-on collision with Tuffnut. "And I warn you, your first target better not be me, or else you'll regret ever laying eyes on your uncle Eddie."
"You're no fun!" The twins continued to pull harrowing stunts on their bikes all the way to school until Astrid pumped her pedals to race past them into the school parking lot. She weaved her way in between cars, slid to a stop, and locked her bike up in the rack. Snotlout chose that moment to appear.
"Good morning, gorgeous," he cooed. "OWWWWWWW!"
Astrid dropped his arm and left him whimpering.
Ruffnut and Tuffnut were bursting, hopping from foot to foot in unison and wringing their hands. "Come on!" Ruffnut urged. "Before the bell rings!"
The quartet pushed through the school doors. Although they weren't swamped with hordes of cheers and exultation as the twins had imagined, they were not ignored.
"Hey!" Gustav, a freshman, ran up to them. "I watched your video! It was amazing! I don't see how you survived!"
"Yes, yes, we were fantastic. Here's my autograph." Snotlout grabbed Gustav's arm, whipped out a sharpie, and pulled the cap off with his teeth. He scrawled his name fancily on Gustav's arm. "I sign arms for free!"
The group pushed its way to the classroom. Almost everyone, except for Alvin and Viggo, wanted to talk to them. Questions floated around.
"Weren't you scared?"
"Did you see any ghosts?"
"Did Astrid really knock you unconscious, Snotlout?"
Snotlout ignored the last question. Mrs. Nelson, their homeroom teacher, had to raise her voice to get them to be quiet, and she was one of the quietest-voiced Vikings Astrid had ever met in her life. In between periods, Ruffnut and Tuffnut strolled through their phones, reading off with glee all of the hit statistics that were piling up on YouTube.
It was official: They were stars.
Astrid was doodling in her biology textbook and counting down the seconds until the school bell rang (1256, to be exact) when the intercom buzzed and the principal's secretary's voice crackled to life.
"Ruffnut Thorsen, Tuffnut Thorsen, Snotlout Jorgenson, and Astrid Hofferson to the principal's office, please." She repeated the command before the intercom turned off. Whispers flew around the room. Astrid's name was rarely connected with the twin's names in a call to the principal's office. Well, whatever he wanted, it couldn't be bad. Astrid Hofferson had never gotten into trouble at school in her life.
Astrid sat in the waiting room a good ten minutes, and the twins and Snotlout never showed up. Eventually, the secretary just told Astrid to go into the office without them. Astrid pushed open the door.
"Come in, Miss Hofferson. Have a seat." Principal Drago's tone was neither welcoming nor icy.
Astrid obeyed, keeping on the edge of the chair, which felt like it was designed to be the most uncomfortable in the world. Astrid's eyes flicked to the rows of college football uniforms in frames hung up on the wall, and then to the personal trophies.
"You are wondering why you are here." Drago began, his great chest rumbling with his own bass voice. He was the only principal who could pull off dreadlocks and still intimidate students.
Drago messed with his computer mouse and clicked on something. "You were a participant in the day-long ghost camp out?" he asked.
Astrid nodded again. "Yes, I was."
Dragon steepled his fingers. "Trespassing is illegal." He was never one to waste words.
"Everyone does it," Astrid told him. "Viggo and Alvin camped out too, recently. It's practically a rite of passage for all teens in Berk!"
"Due to a lack of respect for private property among the youth of Berk, I am suspending you, Ruffnut, and Tuffnut for three weeks."
"Three weeks!" Astrid exploded. "You can't do that! I'm the captain of the track team!"
"Effective immediately. You may bike home. I will call your mother to inform her, and if you put up any more argument, it will be four weeks." Drago dismissed her.
Astrid stood. "I didn't do anything wrong! You can't punish me for something hundreds of other people have done!"
"That is all, Miss Hofferson."
Astrid stormed out of the principal's office and out of the school. How could she have been...suspended?! The word sounded sour in her mind. For crying out loud, she hadn't done anything wrong! She wrenched her bike out of the rack, bending the rusty lock on it.
Suspended. Principal Drago was probably speaking with her mother at the moment. Her mother would be furious, for it was unheard of for a Hofferson to get suspended.
Suspended. Her bike's gears protested as she pounded her feet into the pedals. Angrily, she pushed herself harder, although she had no idea why she wanted to get home to sure punishment. For a while, the only sound she heard was the scratch of bike tires on pavement. She was concentrating so hard that she was two streets past her house before she realized the error.
With hot, angry trepidation, she threw her bike onto the lawn, breaking the sprinkler and sending spurts of water into her face. Wiping the water out of her eyes and in an even worse mood, she stomped up the brick steps to her house and tripped over an ornamental cactus pot. She yanked the thorns out of her skin, prickling tears threatening to escape her eyes from the sting. Thank goodness the water from the sprinklers camouflaged them. The key to the house, of course, snapped when she accidentally tried to turn it the wrong way and she had to dig around the thorny rosebushes that she had kicked the remains of the cactus pot into.
Her arm came out with the key, thorn scratches, and a green garden snake attached to it. The poor snake survived with only a concussion when Astrid sent it hurdling into the brick side of her house. When the key worked, silence greeted her instead of the stern tone of her mother's voice.
Astrid hit her forehead with a fist, propping her elbow up on the palm of her other hand. Her mother had a job and wouldn't be home in the middle of the day.
"Why me?" she groaned to the air. "Why not Snotlout?" Snotlout was probably in the bathroom, preening like a peacock in front of the mirror, instead of being chewed out by the principal like he deserved. She dragged her heavy backpack up the stairs, the books thumping on each individual step.
After the first ten minutes of moping and worrying about what her mother was going to say when she got home, Astrid discovered a beautiful thing.
A revolutionary, terrifying thing.
But a beautiful thing, nonetheless.
If she didn't have school for three weeks, she could do whatever she wanted.
Warranted, she would be punished accordingly, but past that, she would have unlimited free time! This thought entertained Astrid for a few moments before she realized that her parents' version of punishment was scrubbing all the floors in the house with only a piper cleaner. Viking ancestors came with Viking-tough consequences. Worse thing yet: She would get holes in her pants, and the last time she'd tired to darn anything, she'd sewed herself to her bed.
Moodiness filled her. "The whole thing is unjust!" she exclaimed, slamming her fist on her desk, where she had taken up position. Her pens jumped and rattled to new bearings. Staring at the pens, an idea began to form itself.
She quickly pulled out her laptop and booted it up. Fingers flying madly, she found a website that distinguished and labeled all plots of land in the city of Berk. From it, she could tell who really owned Raven's Mansion and whether or not she had actually trespassed. A couple of minutes later, she found what she was looking for.
Raven's Mansion wasn't owned by anyone, not even the public or government. No deed title had been given to anyone.
In fact, no taxes had been paid on the land in a long time. If anyone was in trouble, it was the city of Berk for not noticing the infraction. How could a whole mansion escape the town's notice? Well, she didn't care about that part and the school certainly wouldn't, but it would save her from three weeks of embarrassment and ridicule. And scrubbing all the floors in the house with a pipe cleaner.
"Aha!" she cried, jabbing her cursor on the print button twice. She wouldn't have to mend her jeans from the holes sure to come from scrubbing! She would fight the suspension!
Eagerly, she scanned the papers she had printed out and set them carefully aside. She would show them to her mother when she returned from work. Astrid was no longer scared at what punishment would be coming. She had a plan.