To say that the time leading up to the Summit wasn't nerve-wracking would be wrong, for everyone in Berk felt the ramifications of what could happen at this Summit and how our lives could change. For better, or worse, the Summit was merely two weeks away and its implications would control the future of the Archipelago for years to come. Would we band together and expel the Trappers, their ideologies and ways from our waters? Would we be able to live in harmony with our neighbors and the dragons that had attempted to coexist with us for years? Would we be forced to make a decision between the dragons and ourselves, the future of us as a people and the future of dragon-kind? How could we even make such a decision, none of us could even fathom what was going through Hiccup's mind at the moment, not even me.
We hadn't stopped our efforts against the trappers since he returned, though since then I had kept him closer than before. Our nights were filled with connection and physical affection while our days were filled with the weight of our duties and responsibilities. We still hadn't told anyone about our planned wedding date and though I now had a date, it didn't change how awkward certain conversations could get. Gobber and Valka were among the worst, constantly nagging for us to be married in often very public settings. Each time making my heart skip a beat as I glanced at Hiccup for comfort and solace in his eyes. His gaze would always find mine amid the uncomfortable conversations. I think that we both wanted to come out and announce it to the island, but with the Summit looming overhead, we didn't want to distract the people from the importance of it.
That being said, even now, knowing that our marriage was on the horizon was enough to both excite and terrorize me. I understand why we wouldn't want to broadcast it yet as it was all I could think about even with the Summit looming. Of course, only Hiccup knew how it made me feel; I didn't keep anything from him anymore. Not since the incident with Heather and the Hunters, I still remember the sting I felt seeing the disappointment in his eyes. Sometimes, you want those you love to yell or scream, to be angry at a decision you make. Then, at least, you can challenge their anger but the feeling that you didn't anger them and instead disappointed them stung worse than any verbal sparring match could have.
It was also something to note that these thoughts from our past kept flooding in, even more after he and I made the secret pact to wed on the Vernal Equinox. The time of Spring when nature sees rebirth and renewal. A time when we too would see renewal and rebirth as not a betrothed couple but instead a married one. Just the thought of it was enough to warm my heart, it made the problems we faced seem like obstacles, something to be overcome. Which they were, but the Summit, the Trappers and the fate and freedom of Dragonkind was ultimately more important than our marriage. I knew that, but at the same time, to me, it wasn't.
"You seem distracted, m'dear." Valka's voice breaks my train of thought and I suddenly realize where we are. Sitting in the Great Hall after another day of Dragon Races. I shake my head and smile, glancing around. I can see Hiccup in a far corner of the room talking with Fishlegs who seems overzealous in whatever he is explaining; if I had to guess it was about Heather. Heather had since had to return to Berserker Island but I saw the Terror Mails that had been being sent, and the promise when she left that she'd be there more often.
"Sorry, just thinking about things." I answer honestly though vaguely as the dissatisfied mother shakes her head.
"No, that simply will not due. Talk. We're alone enough, you can be frank, Astrid." Valka says and as I look to her, I can see her eyes bearing down on me like she was fishing for some shred of information, some inch of confirmation to her suspicions.
"This summit is huge, it's only a couple weeks away. We still have trapper hideouts to hit. There are still dragons in danger. Then, whatever comes with this summit. It'll change the face of the Archipelago for good. I can't even fathom what is going through Hiccup's head about this; what it could all mean." I say, muttering. I feel like I am blabbering, trying hard not to mention the marriage date or anything and instead turning the direction to the dangers we face. For my part, my distraction seems to work.
"Oh, aye. I've no doubt he is stressed, but he's hiding it well enough. He doesn't talk to you at night?" She asks rather pointedly, and I nod.
"No, he does. I mean, I know what the stakes are; he's shouldering so much of it. He tries not to burden me with any of it, even though it isn't a burden." I say softly before turning further to look at Valka. "What do you know about the summits of old?" I ask as she sighs.
"It is no easy thing, a summit between tribes. Often times, tribes don't mix well; often enemies or in between wars. This one will be no different; what with the Outcasts, Berserkers and Mongrel Tribes alone there, that's three past enemies. The Mongrels have bad blood with many tribes, the Hysterics are viewed as savages. There is a good chance nothing will get done until a common ground is reached; and that common ground is usually had at the behest of the Chief of Chiefs." She explains and I furrow my brow and take a drink. There was that calling again, was that his future?
"And, how does one become the Chief of Chiefs?" I ask softly, my voice trailing as I glance over to Hiccup and Fishlegs who have since been joined by Snotlout, all still laughing and talking.
"Traditionally, one of two things. The strongest military power and a vote among the chiefs." She says, pausing and glancing to Hiccup with me then back to me. "And I can say with some certainty that while we don't have the largest fleet; Toothless and the dragons well make up for it. With his relationship with the other tribes, I'd be surprised if Hiccup wasn't named such." She adds and my heart sinks. Of course, it would be a great honor and a great responsibility but it's something he wouldn't accept unless he had too. "Have you talked to him about it?" Valka asks and I shrug.
"Not specifically that, not since he returned. I am quite sure that if it were to be a vote, at least four tribes would vote his way." I admit solemnly
"It is a great honor." Valka adds softly as I feel her hand rest on my shoulder.
"Yes, it is." I admit, taking a drink and sighing.
"Something else troubles you, dear." Valka says softly and as I glance at her with a raised eyebrow she shrugs. "I'm a mother, I can see these things." She states and I shake my head.
"Yes, but its better kept between he and I, I'm sure you understand." I suggest and her face softens as she smiles and nods. No words that she offered would help me at the moment, and by pestering it only fed my unease. Valka was no fool and a perceptive person, she knew as much. Instead, she sat with me while I watched the trio of boys talk about whatever it was they were talking about. Seeing them talk, laugh and move together brough a soft smile to my lips. Eventually, Hiccup's eyes caught mine and he smiles while patting Fishlegs on the shoulder before making his way to me. Somewhere during his walk, Valka moved further away from me to give us space without me noticing; though my eyes were connected to his, studying that smile. When he sat next to me, I quickly felt his arms wrap around me and tug me against him and I went with it, my own arms wrapping around him and I felt like melting in his chest as I felt his breath his warmth.
"You okay?" He asks softly and I nod.
"Just a lot on my mind; the summit is right around the corner and the Equinox is not long after that." I admit softly and his face softens and he smiles, nodding.
"One thing I dread, the other I can hardly wait for. Fortunately, the Summit is soon and then we can look onto brighter things when that issue is dealt with." He answers softly and I sigh, closing my eyes and nodding.
"I certainly can hardly wait for the Equinox and the resolution the summit brings. Honestly, I've grown tired of using dragons as beasts of war. I want to coexist with them… to focus on just… being with you." I answer quietly and I feel his grip tighten.
"I want nothing more than to reach that end. We'll get there, together." He answers and every time he does, I smile. His words, I believe him. I believe in him, I have for years, since he first showed me Toothless and we saw the Red Death. I had grown to trust him in that one flight, to believe him. I've believed in him since; with the Hunters, the Flyers; when he was dropped in a pit by the Defenders. No matter what, I would be there for him, and we'd reach that goal together.
The winds were changing, there was a change in the tide and the sea, the sky and the clouds. We were moving outside of our comfort zones. It was on a new scale, though. I mean, I had been used to making decisions that affected the fates of those around me for years, being at the Edge. A part of me thinks that is why my dad was so willing to let me go; it served as a time to groom me for his retirement; a retirement he never got to see because I was selfish. My selfishness found my mother, ended Drago but lost my father and ultimately, I know I could've made different decisions where he'd still be alive.
Astrid was subject to the changes too; while she wasn't changing, I could see it work like a gear in her eyes when our eyes connected. She had been talking to my mother, but her soft gaze was on me while I talked to Fishlegs and Snotlout. It was her gaze that pulled me away from them and towards her; and as I closed I saw my mother move away but didn't mind. She was giving us space, I knew, something was eating at Astrid.
We've since left the Great Hall and the dark, clear sky was beautiful and littered with stars. There was still snow on the side of the ground and we walked to the house, our dragons in tow. A midnight flight would do us both well, but first, I wanted to talk to her. I knew something was bothering her, something she wouldn't say out in the Great Hall. The warmth of the house was a welcome feeling from the ambient heat of the firepit. While she settled the fire pit and had it lit by Stormfly, I fetched us a couple mugs before we nestled together under a blanket. I trace her long, blonde hair with my fingers while she sits partly on my lap and just stares at the fire. I wouldn't force her to talk, but fortunately I wouldn't need too.
"What do you know about the Chief of Chiefs for the Summit?" She asks softly, her voice breaking against the cracks of the fire. I sigh and kiss her shoulder before resting my chin on it and closing my eyes.
"I know that I am somewhat expected to be it. Mala, Atali, gods, Even Dagur have all said they would recommend such. Alvin would probably vote my way too and if I had to guess, so would Audun and Kari." I explain as she shifts and glances at me.
"Kari? Audun?" She asks with a raised eyebrow and I nod.
"Oh, yeah. Audun the Intimidating of the Shivering Shores tribe, and Kari Solveig of the Hymir Tribe. Audun knew my father and seemed to like me. His intimidating title is a bit off, at least with me, he was like another Alvin." I explain. "Kari on the other hand is the Chieftess of the Hymir Tribe. Not unlike the Defenders; full of acrobatics and stuff with weird ways of weeding out friends or foe." I say with a sigh as Astrid blinks.
"Meaning?" She asks and I shrug.
"Well, I almost left the Hymir Tribe and rescinded my offer because at one point during my visit, and don't get mad; but she offered for her and I to wed. When I declined, she pressed the issue further as a secret, at which point I said I would rescind my offer." I explain cautiously. I could see Astrid's face tighten as she sighs and shakes her head.
"I trust you." She says simply and rests her head on my chest, closing her eyes.
"Turns out, it was a test. If I had said yes, I would've been attacked. Apparently, they do that often to weed out people who lack honor. Made me uncomfortable." I admit and Astrid smiles, shaking her head.
"Yeah, if I meet this Kari, I'll pretend I didn't know. But" She pauses and looks at me. "You're all mine." She finishes softly and kisses me, her full lips encompassing mine as her eyes close. I feel her tongue trace my lips and soon our tongues are entwined as my grip slinks around her side and presses her body against mine. As we part, recovering our breath with flushed faces and a smile, I nod.
"I'd want it no other way." I say softly as she nuzzles into my shoulder. "So, speaking to all of that… I'm sure if it needs to happen that I'll be one of the ones targeted for the position." I finish.
"You'd be perfect for it." Astrid says softly as I shake my head.
"I don't want it, I've never wanted to be a Chief or leader. It's just not me." I mutter and she nods.
"I know, Hiccup." She says calmly. "But you do it so well, without regard to personal gain or power. That is why it has to be you. You will put the people, the dragons first over yourself. Think of all the good you could do." Astrid says confidently and I can't help but smile and hold her tighter.
"With you, Astrid, I feel like I can do anything." I admit and feel her press closer to me.
"You can, we can. Like you said, Together." Astrid answers. I smile, leaning in and kissing her forehead while stroking her hair. We lay like that in comfortable warmth and silence for a long while before I nudge her.
"Midnight ride?" I ask softly and she shifts, looking up and me and smiling.
"I thought you'd never ask. Stormfly! Come're girl!" Astrid says, standing up and taking me up with her as I beckon to Toothless.
"Come on, bud, let's go for a ride." I say, climbing up and patting Toothless on the side as he coos.
Together, we take off from the large ceiling window and fly straight up. We're soon side by side in the clear night and our dragons are encircling each other. I reach my hand out as we circle as Astrid does, and our hands briefly connect and hold amid the cold wind. Stormfly and Toothless had grown so accustomed to flying together like this it was a near synchronous maneuver that had been practiced since our time on the Edge. It was these flights that we had together, were we didn't have to think about anything but the flight itself but being near each other; the song we made for each other amid the skies. Glancing to Astrid, I smile.
"I'll fly and ride all day and night, without a need for stopping." I say as our heads near each other in our circle, a hum-like whistle following as we fly prompting Astrid to glance at me and smile.
"And gladly soar along in life, if you will soar besides me." She continues our next pass, her voice trailing as she so very rarely sung. I couldn't fathom why, as I loved the sound of her voice.
"No gusting win, nor freezing cold will stop me on my longest flight." I sing on the next pass as I reach up and feel her fingers glaze past mine. "If you will promise me your heart and love me for eternity." I finish.
"My dearest one, my darling dear, your offer sounds so tempting." She continues and I am filled with warmth at the memory of my father and mother dancing to a near similar song. "For I would only soar all day and night if you were soaring with me." She adds when we close, our fingertips grazing each other's again.
"Up upon the clouds so high, I feel your arms around me." I continue smiling, gazing at her from the back of Toothless while we soar.
"Oh, I will show you a world in flight and love you for eternity." She answers in tune
"And I will catch you if you fall and wrap my arms around thee." I hum in tune with her on the next circle.
"That is all I wish form thee." She finishes as we close together.
"To love, to kiss, to sweetly hold through the soaring and the mysteries." We say in unison, "To feel your arms around me, amid the sorrows and the blessings, I will travel through the stars all night to keep you safe besides me." We continue. "Through all of life's mysteries, there's only one thing that I know" We add before tugging on our dragons to pull us as close as possible, to where we can reach up for the slightest of pecks on the lips. "And it's that I'll love you for eternity." We finish as we pull our dragons back and level off, now gliding next to each other.
"It's a rush to do that in the sky." Astrid remarks with a laugh, her eyes not leaving mine as I nod.
"Got to thank our good sporting dragons too, good job you two." I say, patting Toothless on the side as he coos and smiles.
"You too, girl!" Astrid remarks, patting Stormfly as I hear the Nadder squawk.
We fly like that together for awhile longer and as I glance to Astrid, I can see her mind is relatively at peace, the smile the rides her face is a true one as she gazes out over the dark horizon. What had been plaguing her thoughts has been wrestled away and she seemed more at peace. Which was good, I need her, I rely on her and I need her to be able to rely on me. Her sharp eye caught me looking at her as she laughs and glances to me.
"What?" She says with a smile and I just shrug.
"I love you." I say simply and her face softens even amid the cold wind.
"I love you, too." Astrid answers with a smile as she then pulls ahead and leads us back to the house. It was cold and the house was warm, even the dragons felt their wings grow stiff as we flew inside and closed the latch. Toothless quickly heated his rock and nestled in as Astrid and I found our way into bed. Our bodies naked and cold, though it didn't matter as they pressed against each other, there was only warmth and comfort that I felt. The summit looming, the marriage not long after, the trappers still to contend with and the safety of dragonkind in the balance; and this woman that lay beside me gave me the strength to shoulder it all.