Hey, welcome back to another chapter of The Dragon Manual!
Folks, I don't think I can apologize enough for the delay in this chapter. I had an intense case of Writer's Block when trying to come up with this one, and it was finally broken. I'm still not entirely happy with how it came out, but I do feel that it's good enough to be presentable. Again, though, as much as I possibly can, I'd like to apologize profusely for the delay in this chapter.
That being said, from the very bottom of my heart, I'd like to give a heart-felt THANK YOU to everyone who has read, reviewed, favorited, and/or subscribed to this story. In a very short amount of time, you guys have made this the most popular out of all my eight stories published on this site. I can't tell you how inspiring it was; there was a definite possibility that this story would've gone unfinished if it weren't for the sheer amount of people I knew were waiting for it to continue. So yes...thank you to all of you. You make it all worth it :-)!
One more thing--as this section of has grown, so have the number of AMAZING stories in it. I'll try and highlight a few of the ones I'm currently enjoying; this time, it's Enchantable's "By Land or Sea," and Freightrain's "While You Were Out." Be sure to check them out if you haven't already; they're both pretty damn good!
All right...on with the chapter! Again, I own nothing except the storyline of the story. I hope it was worth the wait!
One of the longest of the known dragons, the Hideous Zippleback is also one of the most unpredictable. Two heads makes it twice as deadly; one head shoots out gas, while the other one lights it, creating massively destructive explosions. Its teeth also secrete venom, used to digest its food quickly. Extremely dangerous; kill on sight.
It should go without saying that you can't live your entire life being very nearly tied to the hip with someone like Tuffnut Thorston without being a bit crazy for it. Ruffnut Thorston, Tuffnut's twin sister, would agree whole-heartedly to the sentiment, and no one who knew her would say otherwise. The teenaged Viking girl was a bit of an adrenaline junkie, to say the least, and she was always on the lookout to find something else to prove her fearlessness. Of course, Ruffnut wasn't bullheaded enough to actually seek out dangerous stunts to pull off, but if one presented itself, she would probably be the first one to tackle it.
Such was the case today. It wasn't that the idea had suddenly popped into her head and she decided to try it...well, actually, that's exactly what had happened, but it came about at the end of a long thought train, one that began with Ruffnut's twin brother. She hadn't seen too much of him lately, surprisingly enough. He had been spending all his time with his newly acquired Terrible Terror, showing him around town and showing him off to all of his friends. It was a strange period for Ruffnut; with her brother out and about all the time, she found herself a bit...lonely. Not that she would ever admit it even under extreme torture, but as much as Tuffnut infuriated her (every day, all the time), he was Ruffnut's closest companion. They did everything together apart from taking baths (and considering that Tuffnut did that about once a month by Ruffnut's estimate, that was hardly an issue). Their names were called out together in almost every instance, and whenever there was mischief on Berk, it was almost always caused by the Thorston Twins, not simply one or the other.
It'd been that way for Ruffnut since was about 13, about the time she and her former best friend started drifting apart. And it wasn't that they grew to be radically different--both were fairly reckless, decidedly tomboyish, and able to compete with (and beat, in most cases) any of the boys their age. It's just that when they became teenagers, Ruffnut more-or-less stayed the same, while Astrid focused on honing her skills as a future dragon slayer. Whenever Ruffnut would suggest that they get into some shenanigans, Astrid would turn her down, saying that she had to practice and train and become better and become perfect. The respect of the village was everything to her, and while Ruffnut understood, she didn't enjoy losing touch with the only other girl in the village her age. Astrid hadn't changed much at all in the following years, and it hurt Ruffnut to watch Astrid strive to be the best; not because she was jealous of the girl, but because it was her perfectionism that had dissolved their friendship. And while she still had a great amount of respect for the beautiful young Viking, Ruffnut couldn't help but scoff whenever Astrid would beat herself up for making the smallest mistakes, and she couldn't help but smirk whenever Astrid lost at something. Yet in spite of all the slightly bitter feelings, she wondered if there would ever be a day when the two could rekindle their relationship, especially now that killing dragons was definitely NOT the focus of the tribe. Perhaps one day, maybe even one day soon...but that day had not yet come, and without her ever-present twin, who had become her de-facto best friend since she and Astrid drifted apart, Ruffnut found herself uncharacteristically longing for companionship.
It wasn't just her social life that had been suffering, either. Without Tuffnut, Ruffnut was grounded. The Hideous Zippleback that the two shared required two riders, one for each of its heads. And while the Zippleback was perfectly free to fly on its own, even it didn't feel quite right anymore without humans on its backs. It had been a few days since she had flown, and each day it became progressively harder for Ruffnut to deal with as she saw her peers take to the skies, each on their own dragon, free to do whatever they liked up there. She loved the absolute lack of control one had in the sky--the tiniest unforeseen gust of wind could make you lose control and plummet to your doom. The teen was beginning to go crazy...she needed to feel the rush of flying on the back of huge, fire-breathing dragon again. Too bad the one she had needed two riders to control....
...Or DID it?
Ruffnut couldn't believe she hadn't thought of it before: If she couldn't have her usual co-pilot helping her out, why not try and fly the dragon herself? It seemed like a crazy enough idea to try, and if nothing else, she'll at least get to get off the ground again. She strolled up to the Zippleback resting behind her house and pitched the idea to both heads.
"So listen...I just had the most insane idea in the history of insane ideas. We're gonna go flying, just us two...I mean, just us three...I mean...ugh! You know what I mean! Since Doofnut isn't here right now, I'm going to ride you by myself."
The two heads of the dragon looked at each other warily. They had learned to trust the twins implicitly whenever they rode upon the beast, and even though it hadn't forgotten how to fly without riders, they counted on both of them to control each head while in the air. The heads couldn't tell how having one rider would affect their flight, but neither side could foresee a positive outcome from the experiment. Ruffnut, on the other hand, saw herself as the envy of the village, able to control both heads of the Zippleback at the same time as the other Vikings watched in awe and wonder...one in particular, but enough about that.
The only problem was how to go about finding the right spot from which to fly the dragon. 'Guess a little trial and error couldn't hurt', she thought to herself. 'Well...actually, it could hurt a lot, but that's all the more reason to go for it'.
The dragon lowered its heads as Ruffnut climbed onto one of them, attaching the saddle in proper fashion. She decided to simply try to control the dragon from the right head, leaving the left head without a rider. Once she found a comfortable position right at the front of the neck behind its skull, the twin girl signaled to the Zippleback to take off. The dragon complied; it spread its wings, stretched out its extremely long necks, and with a few heavy flaps, felt its feet lift off the ground. As they rose above the trees behind the Thorston house, Ruffnut couldn't help but think that this particular piloting method probably wouldn't work out for too long; the uncontrolled head was looking about to and fro, not paying its full attention to where Ruffnut was trying to guide it. Not only that, but because the weight was distributed unevenly on the dragon's front end (with Ruffnut adding an extra 9 stones or so of weight to only the right side), the left head had to compensate by pulling away from the right side in order to stay straight. Unfortunately, its neck couldn't handle the strain of this compensation for too long into the flight, and it wasn't too long after takeoff that Ruffnut found her dragon veering off to the right...and then eventually pointing downward.
'Crash and burn, here I come...hope this thing doesn't roll over on me', she thought as the ground rushed up to meet her. Fortunately, she managed to keep her balance on top of the Zippleback's neck as it hit the dirt and dug out a trench before coming to rest near the forest's edge, and the dragon itself wasn't hurt much at all thanks to its thick hide. Ruffnut was a tad bit shaken, though--the adrenaline rushing through her body was still pumping fast, and she found that her hands were shaking. It wasn't a bad feeling, however; as a matter of fact, she felt more like a kid getting off of a rollercoaster.
"That was great! Let's do it again!"
Ruffnut jumped off of the Zippleback's head and landed on the ground, eager to get back up in the air. She would have to go about this a bit differently; she wanted to stay near the front, but she had to keep in the middle, which obviously couldn't happen if there was air there. And that's when she remembered one of the special characteristics of the Zippleback: it could "zip" its heads together to form one long neck! Ruffnut could simply sit in the middle of the zipped-together heads, and perhaps maintain better control of the reptile that way. She pitched the idea to her dragon, and though it once again looked wary, the Zippleback ultimately agreed to the plan. Ruffnut left the saddle behind this time as she climbed upon the now-single neck of the dragon. Once she was settled comfortably (or as comfortable as one could be while riding on the combined necks of a dragon), Ruffnut gave the signal, and they took off towards the clouds.
The heads undulated in unison as Ruffnut rode on top of them higher and higher in the sky. She couldn't believe it; it was working! Now that her weight was distributed evenly, there was hardly any struggle to keep it straight, and unlike last time, she had to do very little work to make sure they didn't nosedive. The blonde girl pumped her fists in the air.
"I'm doing it! I'm actually riding this two-headed thing myself! I can't believe it!" Ruffnut screamed into the wind as she basked in the glory of triumph. Too bad she celebrated too soon....
There was a reason why Zipplebacks usually didn't fly with their heads zipped together. Being that close to each other, the two heads feel uncomfortable with the other invading their personal space, and eventually begin fighting for control of the flight; inevitably, they split apart and begin fighting each other physically. This happens even if there's someone flying on top of them, as Ruffnut was quick to find out.
The cheering and celebrating came to an abrupt halt once Ruffnut noticed the dirty looks that the heads were giving each other. She almost knew exactly what was going to happen before it actually happened: the heads began growling and nipping at each other, and eventually they began biting at each other's throats...which meant that they unzipped. Which meant that, not a second after feeling victorious about single-handedly flying a multi-headed dragon, Ruffnut was very suddenly floating on air between the now-split-apart necks of the dragon, with nothing but the ground far beneath her.
"Spoke too sooooooooon!" she screamed as she began to plummet back to Earth. She was certain she was about to die…and suddenly, inexplicably, she saw her brother, annoying as ever, but always by her side; she saw Astrid, at one point as close as a sister to her; she saw Hiccup and Fishlegs, misunderstood, but perhaps the truest Vikings she'd ever known; she saw Snotlout, and she felt her heart beating faster....
Ruffnut landed hard, and it hurt a bit. But...she could still feel pain, which meant she was alive. And it wasn't even too much pain. And the ground was strangely mobile, and awfully scaly....
Ruffnut shook the daze from her head. Once she got her senses about her, she realized that she was once again riding on the dragon (it had apparently noticed that she was no longer on its back, and immediately nosedove underneath and caught her), only this time she was positioned on the body, right where the necks met. Right where Snotlout had landed when he leapt blindly off Gigantor. Now, there was one insane stunt. She couldn't believe he had even attempted it, but not only was he successful, he had then played off the daring feat with a simple exclamation: "I can't believe that actually worked." Before that, Ruffnut thought he was all talk and no walk; however, after seeing how he had fought on top of the huge beast, and then took a leap of faith bigger than any ever attempted in the history of Vikingdom, she had come to the conclusion that Snotlout might've been slightly crazy...and she liked it. More than she cared to admit, even. And after the Final Death, her crush on him had only grown, especially since it seemed like he had finally taken his sights off of Astrid (realizing she was all but taken nowadays), and had lately focused more on impressing her.
Ruffnut sighed. She definitely didn't mind the attention at all...in fact, it was refreshing. She sometimes felt that the rest of their group forgot that, while she was the twin sister of a notorious prankster, and did crazy things simply for the sake of doing them, and was never afraid to get down and dirty, she was still a girl, after all. Sometimes she herself forgot about the fact, but the attention she received from Snotlout reminded her quite well that she was slightly prone to being wooed. It might've disgusted her, actually, if it didn't feel so nice....
The dragon began descending towards the Thorston household. Ruffnut didn't mind; one near-death experience per day was enough (sometimes). And while she couldn't actually control the dragon from where she was sitting, she did enjoy the solitary flight. She hardly ever got a chance to do things alone, and never had she gone up in the air by herself. It was an interesting experience; perhaps she'd recommend her brother try it.
Said brother was actually in their backyard awaiting their landing, his Terrible Terror sleeping on his shoulder. The Zippleback touched down lightly, and Ruffnut dismounted. She wobbled a bit as a result of her freefall as Tuffnut walked over to her.
"Well, if it isn't the stunt devil. I sat here and watched you free fall from hundreds of feet above the ground. I give it an eight-point-five; you need to work on your twists."
"How about I work on twisting your neck!" Ruffnut retorted, ready to duke it out with her twin. Tuffnut held up his hands in defense.
"Whoa, whoa, slow down. I also saw you riding that thing by yourself. Looked pretty awesome; you'll definitely have to show me how you managed that one."
Ruffnut let slip a small smile. She also sometimes forgot that Tuffnut, while being the most obnoxious, nauseating, and annoyingly infuriating person she ever had the displeasure of being born three minutes after, was also the only person that had always made her feel that everything she did had merit, and that she was perfectly fine just as she was, no matter how ruff around the edges she happened to be.
"Yeah...maybe I'll show you some of my secret techniques," she said with a smirk.
"Cool...but if you do, you'll definitely have to show me how not to fall to my doom like you nearly did. I don't want my face to hit the ground from a hundred feet up and come out looking like yours." Tuffnut retorted with a smug look. Ruffnut fumed; he was DEFINITELY the most obnoxious, nauseating and annoyingly infuriating person she had ever met.
"That's it, you're done!" She screamed as Tuffnut turned tail and ran, laughing all the while. As Ruffnut gave chase, the two heads of the Zippleback looked at each other, puzzled. They would probably never understand the behavior of their humans, getting along one second, then wanting to kill each other the next. At least THEY didn't act that way.
Their puzzled looks turned to confused stares, which turned into threatening glares. Well...not all the time, at least....
And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed it!
I can't believe how long these last two chapters were in comparison with the first two; it makes me feel like the first two weren't developed enough. I really wanted to dive into the character of each twin separately, because they were the least developed teens in the movie, character-wise (IMO). I hope the relationships between Ruffnut and the others were believable (I actually kinda want to flesh out Astrid and Ruffnut's history, but probably won't. If anyone else wants to, feel free!). The Ruffnut/Snotlout bit actually came about because when I first saw the movie, I thought it was Ruffnut who yelled out, "Yeah! You're the Viking!" while Snotlout was smashing eyeballs (I realized it was Astrid after watching it a couple more times). Still, I like the pairing; I figure if Ruffnut couldn't have Hiccup and Snotlout couldn't have Astrid, they'd have each other :-). And in case you're wondering, in terms of weight, a stone = 14 lbs. (6 or so kg)...so 9 stones would be about 119 lbs., which is somewhere in the ballpark of how much I think Ruffnut weighs.
Random interjection: if you haven't checked out the little vignettes on the main website (howtotrainyourdragon.c0m), you really ought to. There's three sets: the introduction of each dragon as the students take them on individually (which is actually all in one video), little snippets about each dragon in the form of someone reading their information from the Dragon Manual, and the Viking-Dragon Winter Games, which investigates the origins of such noble Olympic events as Bobsledding, Snowboarding and Ski-Jumping. The latter set, in particular, is hilarious; be sure to check them out, yeah?
Please review if you'd like...I accept all forms of comments, compliments, complaints, criticisms and cruelty ;-). Next dragon up is...a bit of a surprise, actually (hint--it's not one of the six main dragons). Hopefully it won't take nearly as long to put up as this chapter did, but I won't make any promises :-P. See you next time!