Courage & Kindness

Chapter One - Meet Selby

. . .

She was so quiet, so shy—Selby Sigrid Thorston was like no other in her clan.

Rather than maces or axes, Selby kept herself a colossal collection of books. Time could pass in the blink of an eye as she filled her head with the knowledge of medicine.

Selby could spend hours in her tranquil herb garden, picking and planting. Sage made for a soothing tea, Thyme worked wonders for the skin and Feverfew could ease many kinds of pains.

This cautious young lady was an outcast within her own family. Her mother and father have never been pleased with their daughter's failure to assert herself. And her relatives have expressed their abhorrence for such a spineless member of the clan.

Selby's 19th birthday was around the corner and with that would come the Induction Trials. So, to hopefully toughen her up beforehand, her parents would be taking her to Berk to stay with her cousins, Ruffnut and Tuffnut. It was not a decision Selby was happy with as those two frightened her quite a bit. She had not been to Berk since she was small, but from what she could recall it was quite the crowded village. Just the thought of such a thing made her stomach churn.

It was a long voyage to Berk: for five days, she mostly kept to herself below deck, either flipping through the pages of a book or mending her clothes. She had grown completely numb to the sense of the water below her feet. Then abruptly, the sound of her mother's voice snapped her out of her musings.

"We've arrived."

Oh, good, I nearly forgot the reason for being stuck on this damn ship.

Selby packed up and heaved a long, deep breath before taking her first steps into Berk. It was a bright, sunny afternoon and the streets were quite packed. But that was not the only thing that got her pulse pumping: wandering around with the Vikings were the same winged beasts that once devastated this village. Though she had been informed of the peace made with the Dragons, this was far from what she was expecting.

A shadow was cast overhead and her heart skipped a beat, looking up to discover a Hideous Zippleback descending upon the docks. Then her jaw dropped: seated upon the necks of the two-headed creature were Ruffnut and Tuffnut. Who knew that anything could possibly make those two scarier?

They leapt from their saddles and greeted their cousin.

"There's our Sellie-girl," said Ruffnut, her voice as shrill as ever.

"Good to see you, kiddo," said Tuffnut, pulling Selby into a hug and patting her back rather hard.

"Hi, guys," stammered Selby. "It feels like an eternity since the last I saw you."

"Tell me about it. Get over here, you!" exclaimed Ruff, seizing her turn at a hug, this one more constricting than her brother's.

"Aunt Brenna, Uncle Bjorn, don't you guys worry about a thing," said Tuff, slinging an arm over Selby's shoulder. "Your pretty little daughter will be shaped up in no time."

"We trust you both will prepare her for the Induction Trials," Bjorn said.

"You guys aren't staying?" asked Selby.

"No, sweetheart. If you want to earn your place in this family, you have to learn to live without management," said Brenna.

Selby grimaced. "You don't even want to stay for dinner?"

"Can't," Bjorn replied. "This is your growing process, starting right now. We'll be back on your birthday."

Her father leaned forward, kissing her head. Her mother kissed her cheek. And the girl hugged both her parents with hardly the chance to express her love for them before they pushed her away. Nothing unfamiliar from them but it still broke her heart, watching them walk away.

"You want to go for a ride?" asked Ruffnut. "I'm sure Barf and Belch can handle one more person."

The horrid hydra got dreadfully close and the girl's misty brown orbs enlarged as they snuffled at her with interest. "Uh, no-no thank you. It was a real lengthy trip and I'd love to stretch my legs."

Selby solidified with fear as she followed the twins through the crowd. The beat of her heart wracked her entire body. The Dragons sniffed her and the Vikings surveyed her. It was all too much! Hiding her face under her bangs, Selby quickened her step, squeezing herself between her cousins.

"Home-sweet-home!" Tuffnut suddenly announced.

Standing at the front door were Selby's Aunt Hertha and Uncle Buffnut. Aunt Hertha was more muscular than she recalled and Uncle Buff was blonder.

"Selby, how was your voyage?" asked Hertha, her gruff voice no different than the last time they met.

"It was long," Selby responded, smoothing those bangs aside.

"Tell me about it," said Buffnut, "you wouldn't believe how much these two have been blathering on about you."

He pulled his kids into a couple of playful headlocks and Selby gave a slight side-smile: it must be nice to have folks you got along with.

While the twins took Barf and Belch to the stables, Hertha and Buffnut showed their niece to the spare bedroom. It was quite nice: a bed by the window, a desk by the fireplace and a roomy closet. Selby removed her boots and busied herself with unpacking. Unfortunately, the silence could not last: upstairs, sound of the twins roughhousing with their father echoed throughout the house.

Oh, Thor, just strike me down now . . .

The sun was only beginning to set but Selby was more than ready to slip into a hot bath and hit the sack.

"Get yourself cleaned up, Selbs." Hollered Ruffnut, outside the bedroom door. "We're going out."

You have got to be kidding! Can't a frail young lady have one last day of peace before you break her spirit?

She brushed her hair, parting it on the side and took a wet washcloth to her face and neck. She changed from her slack maroon tunic and bearskin vest to her form-fitting foggy blue dress with the garnet trim. Finally, she laid the straps of her satchel over her shoulder and had one last look in the mirror.

Yep, probably shouldn't fuss any further with your looks. Thor knows what those two have planned for tonight.

"You ready to go, Sellie?" Hollered Tuffnut.

Ready as I'll ever be.