~The Buffa-Norse Chief~

Author's Note:

I think this might be the episode I'm most disappointed in all of Race to the Edge. The first time I saw it I felt that using Astrid as, yet again, a damsel in distress was a cheap ploy, and they would have had a much more poignant story if Hiccup was the one to fall victim. I know he gets in plenty of predicaments later in the show, but...meh, I wrote this anyway.

I'm aware that I am not the first person to rewrite this episode. However, I was never satisfied with the rewrites I did read, so I'm doing my own version.

Some dialogue was taken from the show for sake of consistency.

I do not own this franchise.

(Update 5-29: fixed formatting)

It wasn't as though it was the first hunter ship Hiccup had seen in an odd place, but it was the first one he'd seen adrift in this condition. He and Toothless had done a short reconnaissance sweep, expecting to see either a crew or some sort of activity when they first spotted it – but there was none. A second fly-by revealed no visible damage to the ship either. The sails were intact, the hull didn't appear to have sustained any sort of damage….it was...disconcerting. Perhaps the crew were below deck, eating?

"Come on Toothless, we better check it out," Hiccup sighed, patting his friend on the neck. He hoped this would be a quick trip – he had some experiments he wanted to try back at the Edge.

They glided down close to the water's surface and approached the ship from behind, just in case. Toothless alighted as noiselessly as possible, and Hiccup was careful when he dismounted. It looked like just a fishing vessel, but he wasn't about to take first impressions at face value. He hummed and Toothless let out a low trill in response.

Hiccup grabbed his sword from Toothless's saddle and stalked down the stairs from the quarter deck to the main, pausing near the entrance to the bowels of the ship. No sounds of activity at all. Toothless sniffed a few times and gave a low rumble.

"You detect somethin' bud?" Hiccup whispered, desperately hoping this ship was empty. Maybe it had become unmoored accidentally and drifted out to sea. That would explain the lack of weapons – it hadn't been outfitted yet. A sneaky plan was starting to form in his mind...using the ship as a disguise to sneak into the dragon hunter stronghold. If they could find it, but this was- this was fantastic! They could sail right in an-

"Mmmwwrrrrrbbbb" Toothless rumbled. Hiccup side-glanced back at him.

"Yep, getting distracted again," he said. "Come on, this might be useful."

The two of them tiptoed down into the ship's shadowed innards, or tip-squeaked rather. Hiccup was miserable at tip-toeing considering he didn't have enough to tip on, and Toothless, well…he was a dragon.

A horrible smell assaulted Hiccup's nose, and he fought the urge to gag. Toothless growled and then snorted. Hiccup could just see the disdainful look on the dragon's face, even in the dark. The dark – he really needed to grab a torch, or something. There was no way anyone was on board, they would've heard that draconic snort and made a ruckus. Or left a lantern burning or something.

"Gimme a slow burn Bud, I'm gonna find a torch," Hiccup said, still quietly. Toothless obliged, and Hiccup turned a corner-

-and fell flat on his face. He must've caught his prosthetic on a warped floorboard. He grumbled against the rough wood and went to push himself up, hearing the whine of Toothless's fire lighting the room.

A green, sweaty face stared at him inches away- eyeballs unseeing and bloodshot, mouth propped open. Hiccup reared back with a yelp and scrambled to get away. He brushed up against something sharp in the process and tripped again, but backwards. His eyes bugged wide open as he took in a whole room full of horrible, reeking, decaying bodies. A soft moan grabbed his attention, and he snapped his gaze to the floor.

A hand- a moving hand, reaching for his boot.

Forget the Trojan plan- it was probably just a rumor anyway…

"Let's get out of here!" Hiccup hollered, his voice rising in panic. Toothless obliged immediately and bounded after his human.

Hiccup paused to catch his breath once he was back on the main deck, leaning on his knees. Toothless watched him take a few breaths before making a questioning purr.

"I'm alright bud. That was a close one."

'Close' wasn't necessarily the right word for it – it was like walking into a living version of one of Gobber's old campfire stories.

Toothless whuffed in agreement, but glanced back at the entrance.

"I don't think we can help them," Hiccup muttered, wondering if he should be thinking compassionately about this particular lot. They were Dragon Hunters. "Let's go home. I told Fishlegs I'd show him those new glasses after we got back."

Hiccup and Toothless took off.

The hand on the ship went limp.

Astrid wasn't quite sure she was comfortable with Hiccup patrolling on his own, but he needed to feel useful after the fiasco with Viggo. He had moped for weeks and she was sick of stalking him to make sure he wouldn't sneak off on his own. Even Fishlegs felt Hiccup could use with some purpose-filled flying. After all, there was only so much distracted inventing their base could take. The number of explosions per week had gone up drastically, and Astrid could swear she saw some sketches pop up that were suspiciously similar to that horrid contraption Hiccup had dove off a cliff to test.

So they, as a group, came up with a compromise. Hiccup would take afternoon reconnaissance once every other day, and be back before sunset. He was originally irritated, muttering something about mothers and curfews and over-protective fathers being a catching illness, but Astrid cornered him and helped him see the group's (her) point of view. Without too much violence. (He really was a stubborn yak and just wouldn't admit it) He was off-balance and distracted. He didn't want to be checked up on and spied on? Go take a recon shift, but have an expected arrival time. He'd have something to do besides blowing up his hut, and more importantly, she'd have more peace of mind.

It was when she made the last point that he'd finally relented.

So when it came to be nearing sunset, as Snotlout was begrudgingly bringing water for boiling, Astrid gave a small sigh of relief when she saw that distinct shadow gliding in for a landing. He'd stuck with the agreement – this time.

Fishlegs was chopping up some fish, and Astrid dumped her pile of firewood into the central hearth when she heard the clank-scuff enter the clubhouse.

"Oh hey T," Tuffnut muttered, absorbed in stacking fish eyes on the table. He didn't even notice it was Hiccup and not Toothless.

"Tuffnut, can you at least help?" Astrid huffed, looking at the mutilated fish heads lying around the twin.

"Don't bother him Astrid, he's conducting an essential experiment!" Ruffnut groused from the gutting station. Astrid rolled her eyes.

"Did you find anything Hiccup?" Fishlegs asked, a little absently as he set the meat on the fire.

"I did, actually," Hiccup said, sitting at the table. He stared into the fire, not giving any further explanation.

"And? That's all you're gonna tell us?" Snotlout exclaimed, coming over to the table. Fishlegs knotted his eyebrows.

"It-" Hiccup began.

"No no wait! Let me guess!" Tuffnut interrupted, stroking his chin, getting nasty fish-eye goop on his face. "Was it bigger than a yak box?"

Hiccup sighed. "It was a ship, Tuffnut."

Astrid's senses went on high alert, something wasn't right. Hiccup seemed subdued. Tuffnut started to complain, but Hiccup continued before he could say anything.

"There were bodies in the hold. They...died from the Scourge of Odin."

A gasp went up around the room. Fishlegs started to squeal in panic.

"You're sure?" Astrid asked, frowning.

"I'm sure," Hiccup said, frowning. "There was no mistaking that green complexion."

He glanced up. "We might want to send a Terror Mail to Berk to let my father know, but I don't think there's any danger."

"From the Scourge of Odin!?" Snotlout exclaimed. "You're kidding, right? You do know that it-"

"Yes, Snotlout, I know," Hiccup placated, his hands out. "But Toothless and I got out of there pretty fast, and I didn't touch any of the victims."

"Pretty close though," he muttered. Astrid raised a concerned eyebrow.

"I- d'I tripped, okay? I landed right in front of one, but I didn't touch him. We're fine. The Scourge of Odin didn't get off that ship."

"You're fine?" Astrid asked, pointedly.

"I'm fine," Hiccup reassured, returning her gaze. He turned to Fishlegs. "I'll send off that Terror Mail before dinner, and then afterward I can show you those amber glasses I was working on…"

Fishlegs happily agreed, the riders radiating relief, and dinner went as normal.

Astrid sighed contentedly from her bed, snuggling as much as she could into the hard frame. It was a relief knowing Hiccup had gotten out of the ship in time, and that the disease wouldn't be able to spread further. Snotlout was supposed to go back in the morning and set the ship alight just to be sure. Nothing disastrous had happened (as she always worried when Hiccup went out alone) and they had plans to deal with the problem. She could rest easy tonight.

That was when her door banged open and Stormfly let out a startled squawk. Astrid shot up out of bed to see Toothless pacing her floor, growling and whining. She grabbed her axe and ran after him. Stormfly followed.

They ended up at the clubhouse. Fishlegs was standing in the middle of the room with a very distressed look on his face, half-holding what looked like an unconscious Hiccup. Various tools and parts were scattered on the table, and a pair of funny-looking glasses were on the floor.

"What happened?" Astrid barked. She heard some commotion coming from the other huts. Likely Toothless woke the other riders.

"I- I don't know!" Fishlegs stammered. "He was showing me how he fit the sockets for the lenses and just…"

"Let me go Fishlegs, I'm fine," Hiccup mumbled, squirming weakly in Fishleg's grip. Fishlegs looked down, startled, and let Hiccup go. Hiccup went to the table, half-staggering his way there and started rummaging for something on the table.

"Where'd-? Where'd you put the glasses Fishlegs?" Hiccup said, a strange rasp in his voice.


Astrid glanced at the glasses on the floor. Footsteps pounded into the room behind her.

"What happened?" a groggy Tuffnut demanded. A strange, home-made stuffed...creature...sat on top of his helmet. Ruffnut had some weird smudges under her eyes.

"Wha- hey, how'd you guys get here before me?" Snotlout said, coming into the room. Oddly enough he seemed quite alert.

"I just, got dizzy for a second. I think I stood up too fast," Hiccup said as nonchalantly as possible.

"But you weren't sitting," Fishlegs pointed out.

"I'm fine." Hiccup glared at him, then at the glasses on the floor. He frowned. A cough suddenly spat from his lungs.

"Hiccup, you'd better sit down," Astrid ordered, leading him to a bench. Snotlout's eyes widened. Fishlegs started drumming his fingers together, brow furrowed in worry. Hiccup had the decency not to protest.

"This is bad," she said, pacing in Hiccup's hut. Hiccup coughed roughly on the other side of the room from his bed, which they'd dragged down from the loft. Toothless mewled beside him.

It was early the next morning, and any hope that Hiccup simply had a poorly-timed cold was decidedly dashed to pieces. He'd just gotten worse and worse as the night went on, and they'd tried every single herbal tea they had the ingredients to make. Somehow, he didn't get out as unscathed as he thought. They'd found a tiny scratch on his hand just under his sleeve, all red and nasty.

Fishlegs didn't have many notes on the Scourge of Odin, only that it worked impossibly fast, was curable...but only with a "green solution" from the extinct Buffalord dragon. They'd sent Snotlout to Berk for advice from Gothi, and to tell the Chief.

Stoick was going to be furious. Astrid knew Hiccup shouldn't have been going out alone, but she'd gotten complacent and given in to her own selfishness. She knew logically it wasn't her fault, but as she gazed at the heir of Berk, she couldn't shake the feeling she was responsible.

This wasn't just her friend who was sick – it was the future Chief.

A thump sounded on the ramp outside. Tuffnut was sitting on a crate just inside the door. Ruffnut looked up from the book she was reading. Ruffnut reading. It had been a strange, stressful night.

Astrid walked over and peeked out to see Snotlout dismounting Hookfang, clutching a little parchment so tightly his fingers were white.

"Is he any better?" he asked, coming to the door. There was no trace of mockery in his voice.

"No." Tuffnut answered for her. No jokes, no trickery. The twins knew when things were serious, as much as Astrid didn't want to admit it. And this was serious.

Snotlout's shoulders slumped at the news. He entered the hut quietly, and Fishlegs came over to read the parchment.

"Yup. A green solution from the saliva of a Buffalord dragon," he said dejectedly.

"How did Stoick take it?" Astrid asked, not wanting to think about the Buffalord.

"He said he had to wrap up some things, but he pretty much dropped his axe and started packing," Snotlout stated, looking at the floor. "The rumor mill has already started working. The whole village knows. They're already planning funeral arrangements."

Something nasty rose in Astrid's throat-

"He's not dead!" Fishlegs exclaimed, before softly adding, "...yet."

Astrid was about to say something when a nasally voice wafted across the room.

"I can hear you guys talking," Hiccup called from the pile of blankets they had buried him in.

"Great! Because we're talking about the cure-" Astrid began, striding to her friend's side.

"There is no cure, Astrid, not anymore," he interrupted, gazing intently into her eyes. "I know about the Buffalord."

His face was flushed and sweaty and his complexion was already starting to look greenish. A coughing fit broke the moment, so violent that Astrid helped sit him up and patted his back. Toothless wasn't any help, nosing his way into Hiccup's face and repeatedly licking him with that slobbery tongue. Astrid's gut twisted at the gesture and Hiccup flopped back into the bed, fumbling with one of the blankets.

"We're not going to just give up Hiccup! You can't just give up!"

He blinked at her with a strange expression on his face – Astrid did not like it. She was suddenly aware all the other riders had come over as well.

"I'm...glad you guys are here," Hiccup whispered, nodding off to sleep right in front of them. Toothless made a panicked noise and gently nudged Hiccup's head.

"No Toothless, let him sleep," Astrid gently rebuked. Toothless settled for plopping his head down in the unoccupied bed-space and mewling some more. His ears drooped so far they might've touched the floor.

The Riders decided to let the sleeping viking be and put some distance between themselves and the pair.

"We're gonna need to start figuring out who'll take care of Toothless," Fishlegs said in a low voice, glancing over at the duo.

"As if he'll let anyone else take care of him," Ruffnut commented. Normally Snotlout would've rolled his eyes in agreement.

Astrid really didn't like where this was going.

"Snotlout, do you think you're gonna have to start training with Stoick?" Tuffnut asked.

Snotlout's eyes bugged wide open, and so did his mouth. "Uhh…"

"I mean, you are Hiccup's cousin," Tuffnut pointed out. Astrid couldn't take any more of this.

"Guys, he's not gone yet!" she nearly shouted.

"There's no cure Astrid!" Fishlegs exploded. "The Buffalord dragon was hunted to extinction at the last outbreak! We have the recipe but no ingredients!"

"We have to try! He would do the same thing for us if one of us got sick!" she retaliated. "He wouldn't assume there's nothing we can do! There's got to be something we're missing..."

She grabbed the parchment from Fishlegs and stormed out of the hut.

"Astrid what could we possibly have missed?" Fishlegs called after her. The other riders filed out of the door as well.

"I don't know, but the point is we have to look and see," she retorted. She then stopped in her tracks and whirled, jabbing a finger at Fishlegs, who'd followed her.

"You know Hiccup's got the best chance of defeating Viggo and the hunters, without him dragon-kind will just continue to be endangered!"

"We do have the A-team now too Astrid," Fishlegs reminded her.

"Do you really think we have what it takes to out-think Viggo? It was always Hiccup's plans that got us out of scrapes-"

"And got us into scrapes," Snotlout muttered from the side, looking away.

"-defeated Dagur, he's the one who figured out the Dragon Eye! We can try to function without him and Toothless, but…" Astrid trailed off for a moment.

"...he's our leader," she finished, softening a bit. "We can't just give up. It's gonna be hard figuring this out without him, but we have to at least try. We can't assume there's no solution. Hiccup wouldn't."

The riders seemed stunned for a moment, and it was Tuffnut who finally broke the daze with his usual enthusiasm.

"I'll go get the Dragon Eye!" he exclaimed, running away with his finger pointed in the air.

"Wait, we don't have-" Fishlegs began, eyes following the crazed viking. He sighed.

"Just forget it Fishface," Snotlout interrupted. "What do we know about this dragon?"

They set up shop in the Clubhouse and scoured Fishleg's notes for information. The twins actually sat down and read, much to Astrid's amazement – once they reminded Tuffnut that Viggo now had the dragon eye. One of them would occasionally go check on Hiccup, but no one really spoke until a few hours later, around noon.

"Fishlegs, I can't read half the stuff you write," Snotlout grumbled, tossing his scrap of paper onto the table. "Maybe we should get Thor Bonecrusher to help."

A resounding "NO!" sprang up around the table.

"I'm just saying, he always knew what to do," Snotlout tried placating. "How are we supposed to get anything out of this?"

"We know the Buffalord is large, has ram-like horns, and it lives on the plains," Fishlegs stated.

"...and not much else," Astrid sighed. She looked up at the twins, noses buried deep in some books. Frankly, she was surprised at how seriously they were taking this. "Are...you guys finding anything? The lines are starting to blur in front of me."

Snotlout interrupted before the twins could answer.

"How am I supposed to find anything when what I'm looking at isn't even writing?" he groused. The twins looked up from their books at his scrap of paper. A series of lines, dots and blotches randomly spattered the parchment.

"This is crazy," Snotlout exclaimed, getting up from the table and pacing the room. Astrid rubbed her eyes and tried looking at the parchment in front of her, finding it to be almost as gobbedly-gook as Snotlout claimed. An idea finally sprang to mind.

"If it lives on the plains, that rules out a lot of islands," she pointed out, pulling out a map. She pointed to several island clusters. "All of these are mostly rocky or too steep."

"There are still too many left to visit-"

"Let's just keep looking," Astrid sighed, picking up another parchment, and frowning. "You know I hate to agree with Snotlout, Fishlegs, but your writing is terrible."

Fishlegs winced.

"Gobbedlygook!" Snotlout exclaimed from the far corner of the room.

"No it's not," Tuffnut said casually.

"Thank you, Tuffnut!" Fishlegs beamed.

"No, no, your writing is gobbedly gook, but this isn't," Tuffnut replied casually, pushing Snotlout's parchment toward the other riders.

"Can't you tell a map when you see one?" Ruffnut added. Astrid couldn't believe her ears.

A map...

A sudden flurry of activity happened at the table as everyone slid their benches, crowding around the twins' discovery. Ruffnut and Tuffnut expertly arranged a few other "gobbedly-gook" parchments together.

"See? These squiggles are water, that big nose is an island...those slashes are sea stacks," Tuffnut explained, pointing at the various features.

"And that-"

"-is the Buffalord," Astrid breathed, hardly believing what she saw. A senseless blotch was now an obvious image of a dragon. They...had a chance now. Hiccup had a chance now.

"How did you guys do that?" Snotlout murmured, his mouth hanging open.

"We're experts at interpreting abstract images," Ruffnut proudly stated.

"A.k.a, Fishleg's writing," Tuffnut added. Fishlegs rolled his eyes.

"If you two would like to take over over copying-" Fishlegs started.

"Guys-" Astrid cut in, but she didn't get to finish either.

A heavy thump on the outside landing platform caught the Riders' attention. Stoick and Skullcrusher. The riders left the table and headed to the door. Gothi was coming in for a landing as well, still a ways away. The chief rushed to the entrance.

"Where's Hiccup?" he asked roughly.

"In his hut," Astrid supplied. "The twins just found a map to the Buffalord."

Stoick's eyes widened a little at the discovery, and who found it.

"Just give us a few minutes to pack up and we'll head out," Astrid continued.

"I want you all to catch a few winks before you go," Stoick said, pointing at the group. A few eyebrows went up.

"But-" Snotlout began.

"If my son's fate is depending on you, you need to be at your best out there," the Chief reprimanded. "Yeh' can't do that on so little sleep."

The Riders looked around at one another. Ruffnut still had those odd smudges under her eyes, and Fishlegs tried to bite back a yawn. No arguing then. Astrid chastised herself internally, Stoick was right. They couldn't help Hiccup if they were barely awake.

"I'll wake ye after a short time," Stoick added, walking back to his dragon for a satchel.

The Riders nodded and dispersed to their huts. Surprisingly, they did manage to fall asleep, and the sun hadn't moved much by the time Toothless banged his nose on their doors. Stoick must've sent him. The group gathered their things and met back in Hiccup's hut again. They wanted to make sure to say goodbye...just in case.

A fire crackled in the corner, and Stoick was sitting in a chair beside Hiccup's bed. Gothi stood at a nearby table, mixing some concoction. Toothless laid on the floor, curled protectively around the bedframe. Stoick didn't seem to pay any attention to the riders when they came in. Hiccup appeared to be sleeping.

"He woke up a while ago, wanting to know what you kids were up to," Stoick commented, apparently aware of their presence.

"Any improvement?" Astrid asked Gothi. The elder turned and shook her head, a quiet graveness about her.

"She said he has about one, maybe two nights left."

Stoick's voice sounded so defeated, it scared Astrid to her very bones. His helmet was discarded on the floor, revealing a few more gray hairs than when Astrid had last seen him. First his wife was stolen in a dragon raid, and now his son was going to-

Astrid cut off that train of thought.

The auburn-haired form in the bed stirred slightly, and blinked his eyes open. A puzzled expression fell over Hiccup's pale face.

"We're gonna go find that dragon, and we're gonna bring back it's spit if it's the last thing we do," Snotlout asserted, punching a fist into his other hand. Some clarity wove it's way into Hiccup's eyes.

"The twins found a map!" Fishlegs added, excitement coloring his voice.

"Just..," Hiccup rasped, pausing as another coughing fit took over him. Fishlegs immediately lost his enthusiasm. Toothless peered up over the bed to look at Hiccup. Stoick slid his chair back and made room for the group to come closer.

"Just promise me if you don't find it, you won't come near me," Hiccup said, his voice barely above a whisper. "I don't want any of you to catch this. See if you can convince my dad of the same thing. The village needs him – I have Toothless. I won't be alone."

"Sorry Hiccup," Astrid corrected, cutting Hiccup off before he could spout any more self-sacrificial talk. "You're not gonna be able to keep us away."

The other Riders nodded behind her.

Hiccup gave a small smile, seemingly both warmed and disappointed. The Riders started shuffling, readying to leave. Something nagged at Astrid and she decided to voice it.

"The village needs more than just your dad, Hiccup."

Hiccup's eyes widened a little. At that, Astrid turned and left the hut. The other Riders gave a look, nod or a small wave before following her. Their dragons still sat on the landing platform waiting patiently, and the Riders mounted up.

It was already nearing evening by the time the group finally reached Buffalord Island. It was just far enough away to be a problem, but not impossible. It was actually quite a beautiful place, with lots of rolling plateaus and gentle slopes. Forest peppered the island around the base of a small mountain in the center of the island. The Riders alighted for a short break and devised a search pattern.

"Alright Fishlegs, you know the most out of all of us, where do we start?" Astrid asked, handing the reigns of the operation over to him.

"We have to keep in mind because it was hunted so heavily, it's likely to be wary of us, and could get defensive," Fishlegs warned, his finger in the air. "Try to seem disinterested as you fly. If you spot something let out a dragon call."

Fishlegs sent the Riders off in various directions, and then joined the search himself. Astrid was glad Hiccup wasn't the only one without a lot of dragon knowledge, although they could sure use his expertise. Go figure.

She was grateful they at least had a lead to follow. But as the hours dragged on with no sign of anything, she started to wonder if it was a wild goosechase.

Stormfly squawked, seeming to know her rider was getting lost in thought and sleepy. Astrid patted her dragon's neck.

"Thanks girl," she smiled. "We gotta stay awake."

She decided to stretch a little in the saddle, and ended up letting out a giant yawn. Stormfly perked up.

"I didn't think I was that loud," she muttered. Then she gasped. "Dragon call!"

All the Riders raced to the twins' quadrant of the island, just as the sun finished setting below the ocean.

Ruffnut and Tuffnut were circling a suspicious pile of something when Astrid found them. She could see Fishlegs and Snotlout coming from their respective areas as well. Stormfly landed gently, not minding her rider prematurely dismounting in haste. Tuffnut sat down on the ground next to the heap.

"Hmm...a very distinctive bouquet," Tuffnut mused, sniffing and sticking his hand into the pile. "Sort of herbal...It's quite nice!"

He held up a piece of the green gunk. Fishlegs and Snotlout walked over.

"This is what you called us here for? A pile of green goop?" Snotlout asked, bewildered. Fishlegs stepped closer to the pile.

"Not just any green goop – dragon droppings!" Fishlegs said in a rush of excitement. "And these don't match any species I know."

He picked up a chunk as well, and sniffed it.

"Ew," Snotlout protested. Tuffnut sniffed his chunk again, twice.

"Double ew," Snotlout added.

"Do you think...this, is the green solution?" Astrid asked nervously. Fishlegs raised his eyebrows. Snotlout recoiled in horror.

"I'm not sure, the instructions aren't specific, but we could take a sample just in case," he said. "But I still think we should look for the dragon. These droppings are fresh – this is proof it's here! And seems to be entirely vegetarian..."

Astrid felt some hope glimmer again. Fishlegs produced a corked jar and collected a sample.

"No way! We're gonna feed Hiccup dragon poop?" Ruffnut snickered.

"Let's just make sure this is the last thing we try," Astrid said, eyeing the pile with some disgust.

"Let's spread out and look for tracks," Fishlegs suggested.

Trekking across the ghostly moonlit plains, following the bread-crumb trail of tracks of a thought-extinct dragon, in hopes of obtaining quite possibly the rarest cure on Midgard...there was a strange beauty in the Riders' quest. If it wasn't such dire circumstances, Astrid might enjoy it a little more. But as it were, two nights were already passing. They didn't have much time to find this dragon. If they didn't find it soon, they might have to scrap the quest and hope the green droppings would be the cure.

And now the tracks had vanished. A gentle breeze fingered the wisping blades of grass around the Riders' feet. Fishlegs hummed and examined the ground more closely. He let out a gasp, picking something up.

"Dragon scale!" he cried, holding up something small and thin. Astrid felt her breath catch.

"Come on!" Fishlegs gestured, sprinting toward a gentle rise. The sky was noticeably lighter. The Riders crested the slope and-

There! Bathed in the glory of the sunrise, the salvation of their quest swished a stocky brown tail and...mooed?

"A Buffalord...alive!" Snotlout exclaimed with relief.

Astrid glanced over at the other Riders – they seemed to all be gaping in awe, Fishlegs especially. She let her gaze trail back to the bulbous dragon. Fishlegs spoke softly.

"Alright. No sudden movements, no loud noises. We know nothing about this dragon."

Fishlegs motioned for the group to move down closer to the beast but for their dragons to stay back. Astrid hung a little further back from the rest of the group, grabbing a cup from Stormfly's saddlebags. She crept down the slope after the rest of the group.

The Buffalord was fairly large, and covered in currently-flattened barbs. A strange striped pattern ran from head to tail. It turned a little and revealed three heavy horns protruding from its blunt head – one on each side, and one on top. The dragon tore a gulp of grass from the plains and started chewing. Astrid blinked. Funny, but the beast reminded her of some of Berk's brown yaks. It didn't look particularly aggressive, and it didn't seem to mind them coming closer. In fact, it didn't seem to care at all.

Then it squinted at Fishlegs, Snotlout and the twins. They froze.

The dragon yawned.

"AAAhh! Retreaat!" Astrid rolled her eyes as she watched her friends scream and sprint away from the dragon. It continued to chew.

"Muttonheads," she muttered. She edged closer to the dragon, keeping her hands visible and body language relaxed. The Buffalord glanced at her and huffed, but made no other reaction. On a hunch, Astrid reached out and gently put a palm on it's upper neck. It kept chewing. Astrid heard the other Riders returning through the shuffling of grass.

"Aww, he's kind of cute," Ruffnut remarked, her arms folded.

The leathery skin under Astrid's palm felt warm and soothing. She started to rub it gently. The Buffalord just kept on eating. Astrid smiled.

"It's remarkably docile," Fishlegs commented. "Almost yak-like."

"No wonder it was so easily hunted," Snotlout added, gesturing with his hand. "You gotta toughen up there, Buff."

"Can we keep him? I promise I'll walk him and feed him and-" Tuffnut began.

"We're not here to get a pet," Astrid admonished.

"Uh guys? We have a problem," Ruffnut interrupted. The group turned to her.

"What do you mean?" Fishlegs asked.

"Didn't it say a 'green' solution from the saliva?" she replied. "Look at it's drool – it's clear."

Gothi really needed to keep more specific instructions. Astrid groaned.

"I guess we'll just take another sample?" Fishlegs suggested, unsure.

"We need to know what we're doing," Astrid stated. "Let's just, think for a second."

She walked away from the Buffalord to join the rest of the group. Several thuds and swooshes sounded behind her. She and the rest of the group whirled-

-to see Viggo stalking triumphantly across the plain, and the Buffalord completely encased in netting. Ryker and a handful of hunters accompanied him, all wearing smug grins.

"You!" Astrid growled, wishing her axe wasn't still on her saddle.

"Dragon Riders!" Viggo saluted with a feral grin, spreading his hands wide. "What a wonderful gift! Thank you ever so much."

He paused, eyes raking over the Riders while the hunters secured the Buffalord. An astonished expression came over the man's face.

"Surely- Fortune has smiled upon me this day," Viggo chuckled, a large, sickening smile parting his lips. "I had no idea you were so careless as to let your leader go on patrol by himself! Do apologize to Hiccup for me on your behalf."

"You...knew the Scourge was floating around in the ocean!?" Astrid exclaimed in disbelief. Stormfly came to her side, tail ready for brandishing.

"I'm a business man! I needed to generate the demand for the Buffalord to make it worth my while," Viggo oiled. "Tell Hiccup I will miss his sportsmanship – he was a most worthy opponent."

As if Astrid's blood could boil any more. It rushed in her ears.

"You're a monster!" Fishlegs bellowed.

"Fishlegs, I'm shocked." Viggo chided, mockingly. "I'd have thought you were above name calling. Monster? N'hooo...Savvy businessman, indeed! A most fortunate one in fact. I've managed to kill two terrors with one stone."

"You're not going anywhere with that dragon!" Snotlout shouted, having mounted Hookfang during Viggo's jeering. Hookfang added his support by bursting into flame as he hovered.

"Oh no?" Viggo mocked. "Ryker!"

Ryker's signature cleaver aimed, and sliced toward the Buffalord's head-

"NO!" Fishlegs exclaimed.

"I would think twice about your actions, Snotlout," Viggo warned.

"And your profits?" Astrid sneered, clenching her fists.

"Like I've said, 'business is business'. G'oh, it's a loss I'm willing to incur," Viggo taunted, waving a hand. "Question is, are you?"

Viggo found the burning rage in the shield-maiden's eyes terribly satisfying. Astrid made to grab her axe and charge, but the Snotlout spoke first, stopping her.

"Alright Viggo, take the stupid dragon," Snotlout acquiesced, a strange note of authority coloring his voice. "But I am not leaving here without it's spit! You are not getting me roped into the chiefing business!"

Viggo raised an eyebrow in genuine surprise, and he looked Snotlout up and down. Astrid found herself rather nonplussed as well. Snotlout had a noble bone in his body? The Jorgenson continued to stare down Viggo, unflinching...if steaming a little from Hookfang's heat.

"Deal? Or are we all leaving here with nothing but smoke?"

Ruffnut ooohed silently at Snotlout's threat.

"Very well," Viggo obliged, signalling Ryker to back off. Snotlout stayed on his fiery perch and gave Fishlegs the evil eye. The larger boy grabbed a cup and approached the Buffalord, glancing at the hunters with a scowl. He bent and collected a large drop of saliva.

"Fishlegs, don't look so morose, takes all the fun out of it," Viggo criticised. Fishlegs stood from the Buffalord and walked back to the Riders, lancing his scowl at Viggo. Viggo shrugged and spread his hands.

"All's well that ends well, hm?" he soothed, before turning to get his party moving. "Do tell Hiccup our contest was a pleasure."

Viggo and the hunters crested the ridge. The twins balled their hands into fists.

"He won't get far, let's go after him!" Tuffnut exclaimed. Ruffnut eagerly nodded.

"I'm sick of that smug slug-sucker too," Snotlout added with less vitriol. "But we gotta get this back to Hiccup."

Astrid levelled another glare across the plains toward Viggo – who didn't see it – before huffing and mounting Stormfly. The twins and Fishlegs mounted their dragons, though Fishlegs took a little more care. The group took to the skies a moment later.

Silence reigned for the first few hours as they bee-lined to the Edge.

"At least we got the antidote," Fishlegs said, trying to console the group. Astrid sighed.

"You're right Fishlegs," she said, trying to breathe out her brimming anger. "We can always go after Viggo later."

"And...at least we got to see the Buffalord, right?" Fishlegs continued, trying to stay positive. He glanced down in the precious cup. "We proved it- WHAT!?"

"What? What's wrong?" Astrid demanded along with the other Riders. The dragons stopped to hover and Tuffnut adjusted his helmet. Fishlegs had gone deathly pale.

"It's….empty," he whispered.


"No, that can't be!" Astrid panicked. "We saw you collect a huge glop!"

"I did! It's just not here! It must've dried up!" Fishlegs shrilled, starting to hyperventilate. Snotlout's face froze into a frightful glare. Ruffnut and Tuffnut just gaped.

"We have to go back!" Astrid shouted, turning Stormfly abruptly.

"We've already come over halfway!" Fishlegs trembled. "It's too late…"

"No…" Astrid quavered, frozen in her saddle.

The Riders didn't have the gusto to push their dragons the rest of the way back, but the dragons hurried without prompting. Their hopes no longer followed the cresting sun. Now was a race against time to gather what scraps fate had left for them to find.

However, confusion settled once the Edge came into sight. Ships congested the bay, and more dotted the horizon. The Riders peered over their dragons as they glided closer, squinting and shading their eyes.

Vikings absolutely clotted the gangplanks and ramps, disembarking from the ships or laughing as they told grotesque tales to one another. Even dragons were clung to the masts and the sides of the cliffs, or roaming with their riders about the plateaus of the Edge.

"What in Thor's-?" Snotlout muttered. "Is that...all of Berk!?"

"Sure looks like it," Fishlegs agreed in amazedment.

The group spotted Gobber directing things down by the Dome, and flew down to him.

"Ah yer' back!" he greeted cheerily, before sobering. "Why're yeh' stoppin' down here?"

"What's with all...everybody?" Snotlout asked.

"Oh," Gobber grunted. "Folks heard about Hiccup and wanted to make sure he got a proper funeral! Started sailin' the minute Stoick left."

Astrid's stomach might as well have plummeted to the underworld.

"We're too late?" she gasped. Gobber glanced up toward Hiccup's hut and squinted.

"No, woulda' heard somethin' if yeh' were," he assured them, before frowning. "You better get up ther'."

They took off right away. Astrid gripped her saddle tight enough to creak the leather. She wasn't ready for this.

The dragons landed on Hiccup's platform once more, still quite alert but obviously relieved to be done flying. The Riders dismounted in silence. Fishlegs pulled his pack off Meatlug, and was the last one to trudge to the door.

Things looked much like they had when the gang left. Stoick was still sitting in the chair, the fire still crackling. Toothless sat next to the other side of the bed, intently gazing into the blankets. Gothi was nowhere to be seen, but her bottles, mortars and pestles were strewn about the table with various ingredients lying about. Once again, Stoick didn't seem to notice the Riders' arrival, but Toothless flicked his head up, eyes wide with anticipation. He trilled. Stoick turned slowly, the bags under his eyes even more pronounced.

"Did'jye get it?" he asked gruffly. Fishlegs knotted his hands together. The Riders collectively shook their heads in silence, some looking at the floor. Stoick rubbed his lips together and motioned for them to come over. Fishlegs slung his pack on the chair by the table.

If Hiccup looked worse before, he positively looked like death now. He wasn't much greener, but his facial features were starkly highlighted with flushed, red skin, and he lay very, very still. Toothless came around to sniff at the group, either not understanding their answer or refusing to. When none of the Riders produced an antidote he warbled. He looked at Astrid.

"I'm sorry Toothless," Astrid choked, her voice cracking. Toothless warbled again, louder and more desperate, pawing the floor.

"I'm sorry," she repeated, closing her eyes and laying her head against the great dragon. She reached a hand up to stroke him. A tear slipped down her eye. Toothless snuffed. "We tried."

"Toothl-" a weak voice called. The dragon bounded around back to his side of the bed, and everyone turned their attention to the voice.

"Th-re y- are, bud," Hiccup barely managed to whisper. He reached out a shaking hand to pet Toothless's snout and smiled a little. Toothless made up the distance and trilled.

"Yer' friends are back," Stoick quietly told his son. Hiccup's eyes flicked to the group.

"We found the Buffalord," Fishlegs informed softly, feeling uneasy. "It still exists."

"Y' did?" Hiccup breathed, his eyes momentarily brightening.

"We didn't get the cure," Astrid murmured, unable to look away from Hiccup's gaze. "It...dried up before we got here."

Hiccup's expression didn't change much. Resignation looked so wrong on him. Astrid felt another lump form in her throat and vaguely heard someone shuffle through the door. She decided to sit down on the bed by his feet.

"Th' Scourge-" Hiccup sputtered, trying to squirm away. Astrid picked up his free hand in both her own.

"I don't care Hiccup," she said. He didn't move to pull away.

"What'd it look like?" he finally asked.

Astrid slowly started describing the Buffalord to Hiccup, and the other Riders soon joined in. They gave him as detailed a description as possible, from the stripes and spots to the curvature of the horns. They described the island as well – the rolling fields and following the tracks under the moonlight… Viggo was left out. Stoick sat through their story, watching Hiccup the entire time. Gothi came over with something mid-way through their tale for Hiccup to drink, a bit more excitedly than Astrid felt appropriate, but they continued their tale. Eventually Hiccup's eyelids fluttered closed, falling asleep to their words. Astrid unclasped his hand and stood up again, slowly so as not to wake him.

"Yeh' better wash yer' hands, lass," Stoick urged, solemnly.

The Riders could have gone back to their huts and awaited...the news, but none of them had the heart to. The least they could do was stay with Hiccup. The hours ticked by, each one waiting for the shuddering rise and fall of the blankets to stop. Toothless kept his head on the bedside with his nose under Hiccup's hand, blinking an eye open every so often. Eventually, the gang fell asleep from exhaustion in a huddle around Hiccup's bed. Stoick too, succumbed, nodding off in his chair.

Mmm...it was warm and comfortable, a cocoon the likes of which Hiccup often dreamt about before he met Toothless. He could stay here forever... An abrupt snort shattered the air. Well, there went dreamy paradise. Hiccup blinked his eyes open to a very strange sight.

Fishlegs, Snotlout, the twins and Astrid were all slumped up against the end of his bed, snoring in various degrees. Their mouths were open, some drooling, and they were draped over one another like so many blankets. Toothless was asleep too, his head still underneath Hiccup's hand. Huh?

An especially specific rumble came from Hiccup's left, and he glanced over to see his father snoring in a chair right next to him. Hiccup was too curious – but he was definitely gonna make a sketch of this later.

"What are you guys doing?" he gawked.

"What are you guys doing?"

Oh no, she was dreaming about Hiccup. The feelings in these dreams always confused her. Fortunately they didn't happen very often. She'd see him from far away flying on Toothless, or right in front of her like the first flight he took, no, kidnapped her on. But now she was hearing him?

She was hearing him?

Astrid's eyes flew open and she jerked out of a very stiff position, whirling around with her hands grasping the footboard of the bed to see-


At that, the rest of the riders jerked awake, flailing their appendages, ramming each other's faces and generally being a knot of chaos- there was also a VERY loud snort and thump.

The six of em' – Fishlegs, Snotlout, the twins and Astrid, Stoick as well as Toothless, all stared at Hiccup, who blinked back at them from the bed with equally wide eyes.

"Son!" Stoick roared, crushing Hiccup in an embrace. Toothless jumped his front legs onto the bed, eager for his turn. Hiccup let out a hoarse yelp, and Stoick immediately loosened his grip. Toothless promptly smothered his friend in a lick.

"Wha- What are-" Hiccup coughed, something breaking loose in his lungs. "What are you guys doing here?"

"What are you doing here!?" Ruffnut gaped.

Hiccup hadn't expected that.

"Uh…this is my hut?"

The Riders just gaped at him like he'd regrown his leg. The last time he'd woken like this he'd lost it. Did he actually...?

"Hiccup, don't you remember last night?" Astrid asked, genuinely confused.

Last night? What was, oh. He had been dying from the Scourge. The memories came back in a flood – horrible sensations, feeling Death crawling in his veins, his father ruffling his hair, Toothless's company, and falling asleep surrounded by his friends who told him a hazy, warm tale of the Buffalord and it's enchanting island.

He'd enjoyed that.

Wait a second...

"I thought you guys said you didn't get the cure," he frowned. How was he still alive? Last night...he shouldn't have woken up again.

"We didn't," Astrid confirmed, still stunned.

The obvious question hung in the air, just in time for Gothi to enter the hut. She sauntered over to her patient in such a joyful manner it was disturbing and thumbed at Hiccup's eyelids, investigating with a pleased look. She then nodded with a silent harrumph and moved over to a shallow tray of sand in the corner.

Hiccup tried to sit up but found his limbs most uncooperative. Toothless nosed his head underneath his friend and gently eased him up. Hiccup held onto Toothless's head for support. Gothi began scribbling in the sand tray. Stoick translated, an eyebrow raised.

"She says you're recovering well – the antidote did it's job."

"How? We didn't bring the antidote," Fishlegs protested. "We collected a cup of Buffalord saliva but it dried up before we got here! And even if we had it wasn't green."

"He's right," Snotlout interjected.

Now it was Gothi's turn to be stunned, and she stared for a moment before scribbling again.

"Then what was the green stuff in the jar in yer' pack?"

No. Way.

Uncontrollable laughter burst from the Riders. Snotlout and the twins were rolling on the floor, pounding it, themselves and the air. Fishlegs plunked down backwards, bracing himself on his arms and laughing. Astrid found herself sliding onto the floor as well in a fit of hysteria. A small part of her felt embarrassed, but Astrid was too relieved to care, and the irony of the situation was ghastly. They shrieked for what felt like hours.

"What the- What is wrong with you?" Hiccup creaked, incredulous. His friends had lost their sanity. A quick glance told him his father thought the same thing. Gothi jumped up onto the corner table, clutching her staff. Even Toothless's eyes were wide with shock.

"What'd she give me!?" Hiccup demanded as the laughter devolved into breathlessness.

"Nobody tell him!" Tuffnut exhorted. A new wave of laughter swelled.

"What!? WHAT?!" Hiccup croaked, his voice refusing to work at increased decibels. By now the laughter had decreased to sporadic giggle fits, and the Riders began working themselves up off the floor. Astrid was the first to sway to her feet.

"You don't wanna know," she chuckled, putting a hand on her hip.

"Oh I don't?" Hiccup sassed, a little irritated. Stoick stood up and scowled at the Riders. Ruffnut leaned up and whispered what happened into his ear. Stoick's eyebrows shot up and he suppressed his own chuckle.

"It's best this way, Son," Stoick agreed, a tiny, sly grin hiding under his beard. Toothless warbled in confusion. Stoick motioned for Fishlegs to inform the dragon.

"Oh, he gets to know?" Hiccup complained, voice still raspy. Fishlegs whispered into the dragon's ear. Toothless promptly snorted, ears going ramrod straight. He gave a suspicious side-eye to Hiccup. Astrid covered a giggle with her hand. She'd never seen Hiccup look so pouty and frustrated.

"Well, I guess I better alert the others there won't be a funeral," Stoick announced, changing the subject with great satisfaction.

"Others?" Hiccup questioned, stopping Stoick from leaving.

"Almost the entire village came," Astrid emphasized. She grinned. "Gobber's here too."

She could tell Hiccup was pretty stunned by this news, given how he gaped. Vikings tended to not be sentimental, and were pretty used to death. The fact that half of Berk sailed (or flew) to the Edge at the drop of a hat for Hiccup said a lot.

Funny how a few years later they would do it again.

Hiccup squirmed again, trying to get out of bed so he could see the crowd. Gothi rushed over and gently bonked him on the head. She wagged her finger at him.

"Easy Son," Stoicked warned. "Have somethin' to eat first."

They all ate breakfast together in Hiccup's hut, which ended up being pretty fun. Gobber joined them, all too happy to hear Hiccup had cheated death once again. Meatlug managed to sneak in at some point – which was pretty impressive – and Hookfang stuck his head in through a window. Barf and Belch wanted in on the action too and a little scuffle for window privileges broke out. Skullcrusher got curious too, but had to be chased away after he nearly brought the whole hut down.

Things turned a little more solemn again when the Riders filled Hiccup in on the details they'd left out the night before concerning Viggo. Hiccup didn't give much of a reaction, simply frowning and staring off at nothing, which Astrid found a little worrying. Stoick barely kept himself contained and ended up pacing the floor and giving a spectacular rant.

Eventually he calmed somewhat and decided the villagers needed to know they wouldn't be attending a funeral. Hiccup stopped him, a serious, pleading look in his eyes.

"Everyone came all this way...and we never dealt with that Hunter ship," he intoned with grave expression. "They...deserve a proper burial. It's the least we can do."

Stoick smiled and nodded. A few sneaky tears glazed his eyes but he blinked them away.

That evening found the Dragon Riders, Stoick, Gobber, and the rest of the vikings gathered together on the cliffs of the Edge. Astrid and the other Riders had gone to find the diseased ship and tow it back to the Edge. They left it far from the bay, away from the Berkians' ships. By then, stars were visible and a brisk breeze rolled in from the sea.

The villagers gathered bore torches and a rare, solemn silence. They were packed so tight together there was barely any elbow room. Some had to watch from the ships. Dragons peppered the crowd and cliffsides, all intently watching the lone ship floating far in the bay. The Riders hovered, ready with bows and flaming arrows. Hiccup and Toothless were in the center. Fishlegs recited a common burial prayer.

"There do I see my father…

My mother, and my brothers and my sisters.

They bid me take my place among them in the halls of Valhalla,

Where the brave shall live forever."

Hiccup drew his bow, struggling slightly with shaky arms, and loosed his arrow. Whether it was from the Scourge, or being so close to the same fate as the ship's crew, he wasn't sure. The Riders followed suit. The arrows blazed, arcing toward their target and thunking into the deck. The ship was thick with flames only a short time later.

They watched the blaze on into the night, until the ship faltered and began taking on water. The crowd began to disperse and the other Riders left to help them set up for the night. Astrid glanced over at Hiccup with some concern. He looked a little too serious.

"What are you thinkin' about?" she asked lightly.

"Oh, just how Viggo apparently has access to the Scourge and the ability to turn it loose when he pleases," Hiccup answered, still staring at the ship. "And how he found the Buffalord on his own. You don't think he unlocked the Dragon Eye do you?"

"How? He doesn't have a Snow Wraith key," Astrid said, shrugging.

Hiccup turned to her.

"He needs to go down."

"I know," she answered. "We do have a pretty big advantage now, though.

Hiccup raised an eyebrow and turned to his friend.

"He thinks you're dead," She explained. Hiccup's eyes flicked down to Toothless's saddle.

"Astrid, I...you guys saved my life. I don't know how to thank you," he said, a little embarrassed.

"Hiccup it's no big deal. You would've done the same," Astrid assured him. She grinned and gave a short laugh. "You should've seen Snotlout stand up to Viggo. He said he wouldn't let Viggo rope him into the chiefing business."

"Snotlout said that?" Hiccup exclaimed, a sly grin creeping onto his face.

"I'm sure he'll deny it to his grave if you ask him," Astrid smirked, letting her gaze travel out to the sinking ship once more.

"I can't believe half the village came all the way out here," Hiccup murmured, following Astrid's gaze. She looked back at him.

"I told you the village needs more than just your dad."

Hiccup stayed silent for a moment.

"Y'know what else you could tell me?"

Astrid was immediately suspicious. He was leading up to something...

"What?" she asked innocently.

"What that stuff was Gothi gave me," he answered, looking at her with a sharp eye.

Astrid felt an evil grin part her lips.


Admittedly, I let my fantasies get away from me regarding the villagers arriving at the Edge for Hiccup's funeral. But the idea gave me such fuzzy feelings I couldn't think of a separate ending. The animated show in general downplays physical injuries, and while it has plenty of tender and dramatic moments, it never shows the proper scale of those things. I don't fault the creators of the show for this at all – they were on a budget and had limited time. It's easy for me to fill in the gaps with my imagination.

I made some executive decisions to cut some of the interaction with the Buffalord for the sake of pacing. Things were really dragging for me and I didn't feel highlighting the Buffalord's escape from Viggo was terribly essential. We all know what happened.

I may make revisions and improvements as they come to mind - I'm aware the tone of the piece isn't as consistent as I'd like, but I'm still pretty pleased with it. Especially considering I didn't think I was going to be able to write it. Any constructive criticism is appreciated. Thanks for reading!