Toothless looked around at the familiar trees, the familiar severed vines that formerly entwined his legs and wings, and the familiar land-strider pinned to a rock under his paw.

He let out a long exhale and turned to saunter off. The land-strider hurried to his feet and scurried after.

{I can take a hint, Toothless. No more stories about you. Let me tell you a story about somebody else.

Toothless gave Firefly a flat stare.

{This is a very sad story about the death of a land-strider named Firefly.

When Toothless looked ahead to continue walking along, he noticed they were no longer in the forest but in the land-strider nest. Wooden caves surrounded them and land-striders moved about, always ready to slay a dragon with their shiny claws, but nobody seemed to notice either Toothless.

{Firefly is quite a boring fellow. He has a job that demands nothing of his mind, and every shiny claw he sharpens so that others can kill dragons is a reminder of the inconsequential nature of his existence.}

Toothless saw Firefly standing in front of some sort of unnaturally round stone. A stream of sparks flew as he pressed the edge of a shiny claw against the stone. It was actually quite mesmerizing to watch a land-strider shoot fire in this manner, though his fire appeared to be mostly harmless.

A question came to mind that he never considered before. Well, several questions. How could Firefly attach a shiny claw to himself, remove it, and attach another one? Did it hurt? Where did the shiny claws come from? It must hurt the way he was flaming the base of the shiny claw. Toothless knew from experience that there is no pain in the world akin to that of getting a little nick at the base of his own claws, where there were actual nerves.

{Look at Firefly there, sharpening shiny claws, doing exactly what he's told to do. Now he's straightening a bent claw. Now, he's getting a sound beating for being weak. Now, he's going home.

{In a place where killing a dragon is the only measure of one's worth, Firefly wants only to capture a dragon and befriend it and pet it, maybe even teach it to sit and eat fish out of his hand. Consequently, he is seen by all as nothing more than a rotten fish.

{One might even feel sorry for him, except that he's chosen this life.

Various land-striders swiped up Firefly's newly straightened and sharpened claws and they were all suddenly in the middle of a dragon raid in the dead of night.

{But in his mind, ah, in his mind he can go on fantastic adventures. In his mind, Firefly dreamed of wild expeditions into the unknown, fantastic discoveries of new lands! It was wonderful!

{And each day that he returned to his daily drudgery was a reminder that none of it would ever happen to him. Dragons and land-striders would perpetually kill each other. Nobody would accomplish anything and everybody would lose everything. Forever. And everyone appeared to be quite happy with this arrangement. Well, at least, they weren't willing to change their ways in the slightest.

The raid had ended. The bodies of dead and dying land-striders and dragon littered the ground. Firefly went back to work, straightening shiny claws and sharpening them on the round stone.

{And so Firefly began to fantasize about what it would be like to be bigger. To be stronger. To have the power to make them change, to effect some sort of change for the better instead of being trodden upon at the slightest protestation.

{Then he shot down a dragon from the sky, and for a moment, he realized that he was on a bad path toward becoming like the others. He realized he didn't want power over others. He didn't want control. He wanted… well, he had no clue.

{Still, the very notion that he could either kill or free the dragon he shot down excited him terribly! At last! Choice!

Toothless watched as Firefly was now stooped over something wide, flat and made of wood, scratching shapes onto scraps of hide, just like he had done when drawing Toothless with the stick in the sand. The lines made no sense to Toothless, but he knew they represented the various ways Firefly tried to compensate for being a runt. At first, it was all ideas on how to capture dragons. Then all of that was abandoned in favor of pictures of Toothless and his tailfin. Something Firefly created from these lines knocked the dragon out of the sky and tore that tailfin off. He was hoping to figure out which lines would allow him to restore the tailfin and put the dragon back in the air.

{So, when Toothless studied his drawing in the sand and even tried to mimic it, Firefly was dumbfounded. Here was someone actually taking an interest in what he was doing! It didn't matter that this someone was a dragon. The feeling was intoxicating to such a degree that he felt like he almost fainted or his brain caught on fire.

{As he began wandering through this fantasy world, going on adventures with Toothless, he began to fill it with many possible paths and destinations. Down one path lay an enormous cavern with a mind-controlling crystal, and down another was a path that led to the edge of the world, and down another was a very peaceful beach.

{And he called it the Toothless Parable.

{It was such a wonderful fantasy, and so in his head, he relived it again and again. And then again, and again, and again, over and over, wishing beyond hope that it would never end, that he might always feel this free.

{Surely, there's an answer down some new path! Mustn't there be? Sure, it often ended in heartbreak and sadness, but if he just did this just one more time…}

Toothless saw the scenery change to a depression in the ground. Unnaturally smooth walls encircled them all around. A dragon, a blue spike-tailed biped, or a deadly adder as the land-striders called her kind, leaped through and over and around wooden walls, hunting down some young land-striders in a murderous rampage.

Except she wasn't, really, and Firefly knew it. He even risked his life to test his conclusion, that she wasn's actually trying to kill the land-striders. They were told that dragons always go for the kill. This deadly adder, though, was only making it look that way, just like the rock-eating dragon that almost killed Firefly the previous day.

{But there is no answer. How could there possibly be? In reality, all he's doing is watching his only friend, who happened to be the most hated enemy of every other land-strider, slowly starve to death. Nothing has changed. The longer he spends here, the more invested he gets, the more he forgets which life is the real one.

{He will have to go back to the other land-striders to be reminded of how worthless he is in a place that is not well-equipped to deal with reality. He will continue to passively observe the madness around him, absolutely impotent to effect any change.

{And then he dies on the inside, at night before going to sleep. And then he gets up the next day to be reminded of how pointless his life is. And then he dies again. And then he dies again. And then he dies again. And then he dies again.}


Blackness, and a rising chill of uncertainty. Was it over?

Toothless opened his eyes and took a step back and looked around.

He could see the tail-end of the fish he regurgitated to thank Firefly for thinking to feed a lonely and trapped dragon. He could see, behind Firefly, the drawing the land-strider had made of the dragon, and the much less impressive drawing Toothless made in imitation of the land-strider. If he strained his eyes, he could make out the shape of the shiny claw under the water of the pond that Firefly had discarded in the assurance of his peaceful intents.

Toothless stared at the land-strider who pulled him down from the sky to show him a kindness and compassion he never knew before.

Dragons have always assumed that land-striders were fairly stupid creatures. Beyond the passive hum of primal emotions, their only thought projections came out whenever they thought with their lips. It was muddy and chaotic, so dragons always assumed the mind and thoughts within were likewise.

However, that was not so. When Toothless first made contact with this land-strider, they were connected much more intimately, like when a dragon swimming underwater surfaces to more clearly hear the droning of insects and the chirping and huffing of wildlife nearby. When Toothless pressed his snout into Firefly's hand, he could actually hear the details in Firefly's projected thoughts and passive hum that he initially assumed to be pure chaos and disorder.

That land-strider had voices in his head!

The chaos observed from afar blossomed into intricacies within complexity, a web of webs formerly seen only as a single thread of spider silk. Stars exploded from nothingness and everything wrapped itself up into a single speck. Infinity collapsed into nothing, which collapsed into everything.

Such was the chaos of a land-strider's mind. But it wasn't chaos. It was… something else… something derived from nothing… the ability to create new thoughts.

Dragons were masters of memory and logic. They could remember every single impression from the moment they gained consciousness and cracked their egg. When hunting, they could easily predict exactly how an animal would respond based purely on instinct and past observations. Firefly, though, could create thoughts from nothing. He could feel things he never touched, see things he never saw, know things he never knew, and create things that never existed before. Such a concept was so foreign to Toothless.

The dragon recoiled back and hunched down, willing his headache to pass. Such a glimpse into Firefly's projected thoughts was quite the shock.

He noticed Firefly also bowed his knees to the grass below and gripped his head as if to ensure that it wouldn't fly away. Such a glimpse into a dragon's thoughts must have been quite the shock. He may very well have been the first land-strider to ever touch a dragon like this and hear him.

Or… could Firefly even hear a dragon? Land-striders have always been deaf to dragons, but maybe… just maybe…

Toothless pressed his snout against the hand again. {Firefly, can you hear me? Can you understand me? Make a sign. Do something. Think with your lips. Stomp your foot. Show me that you understand me.}

The land-strider stared with unblinking awe and a distinct lack of understanding. He heard nothing from the dragon, that much was clear.

It also meant that everything that land-strider had projected, every detail of the adventures he imagined in the span of a single breath, was all created within his own mind, created from nothing in an instant. He knew the dragons were being controlled. He knew they all shared the same island as their nest. He knew about… well, not the queen, but he knew something was controlling the dragons and that destroying that something would free them all.

Together, Toothless dared to hope that they could make a choice and change the world forever.

For now, though, he sauntered back to the lake to dip his tail into the cold water. The gash where his left tailfin had been torn off was hurting again.

As Firefly departed for concern of being alone in the woods in the coming night, with the promise of more fish with the rising sun, Toothless realized none of this mattered to him. For it was not knowledge or even power that he had been seeking, but happiness.

Perhaps his goal had not been to understand, but to let go.

No longer would anyone tell him where to go, what to do, or how to feel. Whatever life he lives, it will be his.

And that was all he needed to know. It was, perhaps, the only thing worth knowing.

Toothless looked up at Firefly's departing form at the lip of the cove. He felt the cool breeze upon his scaly hide, the feeling of liberation, the immense possibility of the new path before him.

This was exactly the way, right now, that things were meant to happen.

And Toothless was happy.


A/N:
Thanks for reading! I dunno why, but I just had to write something crazy like this. Of the 18 different endings in The Stanley Parable, these are the only four I could fit into the HTTYD universe and even these involved bending things a lot to make it all fit. I really do regret that I couldn't come up with a way to incorporate the broom closet ending. The broom closet ending was my favorite! My friends find this concerning.

Back on the path of normality, enough people have said, "Hey, do a HTTYD 2 story but with your crazy telepathy shenanigans," so I think I'll do that. In a few weeks.