...So, sorry for being gone for so long. I did say that I would finish this story, I apologize that it wasn't in a timelier manner. For some, this chapter might be a bit of a letdown, as you've all been waiting so patiently for the last chapter, maybe hoping for something mind boggling and awesome. While I'll try to make this as awesome as I can, please remember that this story was only supposed to be three chapters, or at least that was the most I ever planned out and I've been playing it by ear ever since the original idea grew so out of hand and stomped all over my hopes of this being a short fic. At least it's just (really) late and not ever? I appreciate all of the support. I thank every reviewer, good and bad, and even those that are luke-warm, for sticking with me, helping me with your critiques, and of course for still reading the story. So without further ado, let's wrap this bad boy up, y/y? Merry Christmas (or whichever holiday is important to you at this time of year!) (also this is the last chapter with an Epilogue that I will post on Tuesday if you guys ask for it?)
Thank you to SkyHighFan for pointing out an error on my part.
Chapter 15: In the Presence of the Sun
It has been said that sometimes there is a moment in your life that defines everything you are and everything that you will ever be. Some experience it and won't shut up about said experience. Some experience it and will never mention it to anyone, instead choosing to hold it covetously to their breast and away from the rest of the world. Those that haven't experienced it, yearn for the moment when it happens to them. That moment that they can look at, turn this way and that like a piece of ice in the sun and cast little prisms of dawning recognition and snippets of wisdom.
I have felt a moment like that, not very long ago, still fresh enough in my mind's eye to remember it as though it were yesterday. The moment that I realized that not only had I done something that no one else had ever done, but that I was also standing at the precipice of a choice that would change the way my world functioned. Sure, did I know that allowing one Night Fury to live would change practically every miniscule inch of my life and the lives of those around me? No, but I could feel the impact it might have in a distant sort of way and I could sense the intensity of the situation. I could feel it deep in my bones, like the way one can sense a good strong blizzard coming it, the sense of something looming and it raised the hairs on the back of a neck and sent shivers down your spine.
Perhaps I was a lucky boy to have so many of these defining moments. Well, scratch that, I knew I was a lucky boy. Whether it was good luck or bad luck seemed to be the question of the day and the whim of the Gods. I certainly at this point could say that while I felt that my good luck outweighed my bad luck, I certainly had paid dearly for some of the things that I had. The death of my mother was still something painful. It had happened so long ago, but it was one of those aches that never quite left you. It was an ache that seemed to reverberate with a deep numbing sort of anguish. I had never understood what some of the other villagers meant by "phantom pains" the pains of limbs that had long since been missing from their bodies. I didn't understand it until I woke up one morning nearly crying in agony at this painful sensation in my foot, despite the fact that said foot was no longer there. The death of my mother...she was a phantom pain, a piece of my heart had been cut out and would never completely heal nor close, because that was her spot.
It was like the metal foot that I had now, while it was perfectly useful and expertly made, it was still not my original foot and would never be my original foot. That didn't mean that I hadn't come to appreciate it in wholly different ways. This foot couldn't feel pain, I could walk over all sorts of surfaces and not have to stop, and that was how Toothless was to me. He couldn't feel the hole left behind from my mother, but he certainly could fill up the empty lonely spots and ease the pain.
Besides, deciding to allow Toothless to live, I'd also had a moment of clarity when I fought the Queen. The moment when everything else bled away except for the pounding of my own blood in my ears and my heart jack rabbit beating in my throat, but I had known what had to be done and the defining moment had been to do exactly what I knew had to be done. I hadn't given more than a passing thought to whether or not I would live, because at that time (and even now) I didn't believe that my life could ever be worth more than those of my relatives and friends. I couldn't spend more than just an instant on whether or not the plan would result in my potential death because the idea of losing everything was too strong and overwhelming to think of anything but the plan.
Now, with the whole world reduced to a rolling endless ocean of blue, I could almost feel the apprehension that weighed more heavily than the skull we were transporting. It was an almost tangible feeling, like the feeling of spidersilk on your face or the mist of the morning, light enough to be smoke but just barely heavy enough to leave moisture on your cheeks.
We were flying back blind, without a single idea of what state the Gather would be in, whether or not there was anybody alive to even care that we had returned with proof.
I was aback one of the most wonderful dragons, the wind blowing past my ears and through my hair, and all I could focus on was the sour taste of anxiety and the nervousness that poured off the others in waves. It was too difficult to attempt conversation verbally in the air, the wind was a force that snatched away all words, but I could see the way some of my companions curled about themeselves, their white knuckled grips on their saddles or their reins had little to do with being so high off the ground and everything to do with the state of our tribes.
Gritting my teeth, I clenched my hands around the saddle pack and felt more than heard the rumbling answer from Toothless. I patted the smooth scaled hide of his shoulder and tried to ignore the clenching of my stomach and the way my calves tightened to the point of aching.
We flew on and my eyes saw only the endless blue.
The assassin had failed, not that Gaggar was overtly shocked. It had been such a long shot to begin with and however unsavory it had been to try and use an assassin was overshadowed by the even more unsavory taste of utter failure.
The tall man was not a fool and had not put all his hopes into the assassin succeeding, he'd really only wanted a distraction and it could have been any of the snotty brats at this sorry excuse for a Gather, but it seemed Stoick's thin frail boy was a perfect target.
"Who knew his cousin actually cared?" He spoke this aloud as he casually leaned against a gnarled tree trunk, as though there wasn't a small civil war taking place before his eyes. The sharp green of his eyes seemed to almost gleam in the gloom of the shade, watching those in his field of vision. Like little mindless sheep, those sympathetic to their side followed without question and with very little grumbling.
It was not as though Gaggar had wanted to start a civil war…okay maybe he did, the Vikings of this age seemed to forget who they were, too much "caring" and too much "coddling" in his opinion. He wasn't even that old for Odin's sake! But in the space of his 32 summers, he'd seen nothing but what he believed to be the erosion of Viking culture. Where was the ruthlessness? Where was the blood thirsty desire to rule all they came across? To push and expand their lands? All the other tribe leaders were too soft, too engrossed in child making and living fat while they grew older and softer, not leaner and meaner.
The man swept his eyes across the field and caught the sight of his own spawn edging about on the invisible line between the two sides; which was ridiculous as there should be no line, either you fell in line or you fell to his blade and there was no in between. But there were four leaders gone from the tribe and no amount of pushing would budge those who were still considering themselves neutral.
That little eyesore should have been killed the second he came from his mother's womb making such ungodly shrieks that no human should be able to possess. From the second Gaggar saw the babe open its eyes, he knew it should be put to the sword and given back to Odin. Most children that had light eyes when they were born had an almost milky blue, which he most certainly did have, but the babe's eyes seemed to have an unnatural look to them, unholy and inhuman. He agreed to the Gyoja to allow the babe his first year, for he had no outward defects and yet, his eyes never lost that startling clarity, nor did they settle down into a normal blue, if anything, they became even more unnatural, settling into the color of frozen water in a stream or the sky in early winter before snow and just as bright.
Still he was not permitted to give the child back, he was forbade by the Elders who were not about to let a child go when their clan had so few child births. Yes, they noted his unusual eyes, but were certain that this only meant he was blessed and therefore would be kept safe.
Gaggar hadn't wanted a thing to do with the child, but he was a traditionalist if nothing else and at three began to train the boy as his father had done with him. It was so strange to see the boy pick up on movements so easily, how with such balance and natural grace he managed to swing his blade. It further enforced the idea that he was not something that would be permitted to live.
He was a quiet babe and an even quieter boy, who made few noises and spoke nothing at all. When he turned four, he had at least gained Gaggar's grudging acknowledgement. The boy was a natural with a blade and he was powerful with it. That at least, wasn't so unusual; there were plenty of mighty warriors in the past that had started off as though they were born with a sword in their hand. And just as Gaggar decided that he could tolerate the boy as long as he obeyed and fought for their tribe, the hammer dropped and it was discovered the boy had no voice.
Gaggar gritted his teeth and snarled at the boy, who didn't notice his father's venomous glare. That day he'd almost ended the boy, but the meddling, dear Odin the meddling. How was he to do his job as a proper Viking if he continued to let the Elders make such unsound decisions?
No matter, there was several ways a boy could die on this particular battlefield, and it would be a pleasure to end his mistake.
He pushed off the tree with an ease that seemed almost graceful for a man of his height and reached behind his head to unsheathe his sword. He snarled to Balli as he past the larger brutish man, "That's it, no more waiting, they are either with us or against us, but either way those of the village of Berk will not live past tonight.
Balli seemed rather stunned by the sudden vitriol from the normally quiet man. The black haired man shrugged carelessly, "If you seem so sure, you go ahead first. Some of the other tribes may have no opinion on the matter of Berk, but you can be sure that it won't be just Berk you'll be up against. Aoalvaldr may be as bloodthirsty as you, but he's a stickler for tradition. Huh, kind of like you usually are…
Gaggar snapped at him and crowded close to the other man. Despite being only have the other's size, his presence felt enormous. The two stared each other down for a moment, Balli's eyes flickered ever so briefly away, but it was a concession and Gaggar turned away back toward the direction the villagers of Berk were staying. "We'll see who will come to their aid won't we?"
For once, Gloa was not arguing with her brother and for once, he was not attempting to glare daggers at her. Their attention was trained on the village of Berk. Part in shock, because holy Odin, they'd heard rumors that they were in league with dragons but to see it… and also and part because, fuck there were dragons sitting over there!
They had arrived in multitude, their wings all beating together and creating a hurricane of wind. The steady beat of those wings a counter-point to their nervous squawks as they searched for their individual riders. Squawks of worry and joy at seeing one another created a cacophony of noises. The villagers of Berk were both overjoyed and dismayed. Having their dragons here was amazing, a stopping point in case the other villages decided to get them off guard, but the idea of their dragons being slayed along with them was a depressing thought. At the very least the children could be saved by flying away on their dragons.
The dragons themselves had become fed up with waiting about the island; many of them arrived with Terrible Terrors aboard their back, or dragons that couldn't make the long distances. Seeing the Night Fury leave, then the heads of the hierarchy of the dragons on the island leave after that caused many of those left behind to panic and follow behind. Worried that despite their human's assurances that they were being left behind and that thought was almost as terrible as going back to the Queen.
Gloa had thought she was going to pass out from shock and fear when she saw nearly four hundred dragons or more come winging down from the sky. She had thought as first that she was going to be attacked but when they made straight for those from Berk and seeing the over joyed reaction from the villagers she felt something yawning up from deep inside her. That she was witnessing something powerful and amazing and honest to Odin true.
That had been a few hours ago and she still couldn't stop staring, taking only comfort in that she at least wasn't the only one. Each dragon found their respective human except for the few that had lost their owner on the sunken ship during the journey, or the two men that had died so far in the skirmish.
That perhaps had been the most amazing thing to see for Gloa, to watch the Nightmare shriek as though she were being killed in the most violent way possible before falling to a huddled wreck near the cold covered body waiting to be buried.
Then she watched in amazement as all the dragons lifted their heads as one and sang in such a way that she felt like crying. It was words, but the way all of them let out such soft roars that seemed to be almost moans of sorrow… she felt as though they were wrapping around her and she shuddered.
Glumr couldn't quite decide for himself what he felt at that moment. Jealously was what shocked him the most, the shock and awe was one thing, but when he saw the first child a few years younger than him clamber onto a scaly back and take off into the sky, swooping only a little bit before landing again, it was something that he wanted. Something that he didn't even know he'd wanted.
He managed to finally tear his gaze away from the multitude of bright colorful dragons, to catch sight of Gaggar the Hound not too far away, his gaze brutal and violent. Glumr shivered at the rage that boiled inside those green irises.
He was just about to open his mouth; to warn off his sister when from behind the two of them his ears caught a noise that sent panic shooting up his spine. That was the sound of a blade unsheathing. He shoved his sister away, ignoring her squawk of indignation and dove the opposite way, the sharp edge of the blade slicing through a few strands of his hair.
He didn't know the boy, well young man, but he knew he was from Gaggar's tribe from the snarling dog emblem that raised up from the hilt of the sword as though it were about to bite its wielder's hand. "What are you doing?" His sister cried in outrage and jumped to her feet, her own sword coming out of its sheath.
She snarled at the man, "This is still a Gather and though there has been a few skirmishes, we aren't even part of the tribe that is part of this," she gestured wildly at the dragons behind her that were beginning to grow anxious, picking up their heads and sniffing at the air, as though their sharp noses could catch the scent of dissent among the humans.
The man paused briefly, "Do you agree with Gaggar and agree to follow us into battle against those who throw away their values as Vikings?"
Glumr felt his mouth drop open in shock, "What are you talking-," he was cut off as the blade swung past him and if he hadn't leaned back it would have swiped his brow.
"Yes or no."
Gloa jumped at the man, her sword aimed at his throat, "How about you fuck off! No one tries to kill my brother but me!"
The two began to clash and Glumr felt his breath catch in his throat as he saw Gaggar's tribe and Balli's tribe had begun to move slowly but surely toward them. His blood rushed up into his ears, like he was swallowed by the ocean. Yesornoyesornoyesorno-
"NO!" He jumped back a little and drew his sword before charging to help his sister.
Gudrek was nearly beside himself as the shaky peace began to break down. He'd been caught off guard by some of the villagers against Berk and had been terrified (not that he'd ever admit it) that they were going to kill him. He felt compelled to escape though and with all of the chaos, something about 400 dragons turning up, his "guards" had left him unattended.
It hurt, the ropes at his wrists, the way the coarse material dug into the flesh. He couldn't do nothing though, he was a Viking. Sure he was only a boy Viking, but if Hiccup could manage to save his entire village, surely he could keep escape and attept to keep the peace between all of them long enough for his father to return. From the grim look on his Uncle Spitelout's face from earlier though, he didn't feel very reassured.
It had taken sheer will power and the fear of failure to make the boy finally loosen his bonds enough to get his hands free, the blood was everywhere and his wounds stung horrible from the sweat and dirt, but he had managed at least that much. Taking much less time then before, he managed to make his shaking hands untie the tight knots around his ankles.
The boy wasn't sure what their plans had been for him. Surely even with such high tensions they wouldn't have been planning to kill him? Well, whatever they had been thinking, Gudrek wasn't going to be here to find out. He had to get back outside, back to the fight. He started to the door, but paused abruptly when a chill crept up his spine.
Panic and adrenaline spiked up though him, where was his sister? Had they captured her as well? His mother was perfectly capable of looking after herself, but his sister was seven and while she could handle her seaxe, she was no match against a full grown Viking. The idea that someone he was eating with a few days ago would strike down a child was enough to make him gag.
Shoving the door open, he with pain but hobbled quickly out into the open. Thank Odin they hadn't taken his weapon, maybe they figured he'd never have managed to escape. His eyes searched franically for any sight of his sister.
He caught a flash of her white hair in the distance, near the huge crowd of dragons that had arrived a few hours ago. Her fascination with dragons might be a saving grace at this moment. She was as safe, well dragons, as she could be at the moment. Even as he prepared himself for battle, readying his weapons, he felt himself go breathless as the dragons of Berk began to roar in warning at the approaching army. Old instincts began to kick in as Nightmares, Dervishes, Zipplebacks took the front positions, flaring their wings and roaring battle cries that shook the ground. They stood in defiance, stood to defend their humans even if it meant from other humans that wished them harm.
Okay, he was free and he had his weapon. Now all he had to do was-
It was only instinct, honed from years of battle training that made him suddenly jump to the side, to see an axe blade slice down in an arc that would have cleaved off his shoulder. He gasped in shock as he saw Vrangi poised behind him for another swing. The lanky boy looked more and more unsure with each blade swing, but there was a certain amount of resolution gleaming in his cold eyes.
"Vrangi?! What are you doing? I know that we've never gotten along, but-," he gasped and hopped back to dodge another swing. The boy seemed to not have even heard him, "Vrangi stop!"
The boy paused and looked hesitantly behind him. Gudrek followed his line of vision and had to stop the cry of sorrow from his mouth as he saw a boy a year older than him from his village be cut down. Vrangi looked back at Gudrek, his eyes ever more resolute, "I'm sorry Gudrek, you're right. We may squabble, but I am not going to die over you." And he surged forward again.
Gudrek blocked, his stomach rolled and tied itself into knots. Yes, he'd killed others before, but that was in battle against people that weren't Vikings, people that weren't his people. He may dislike Vrangi, he may have fought violently with the other boy, but could he kill him?
For a long moment neither of them moved and everything felt like it had slowed to a crawl. The others about them were no longer even something he could focus on, Gudrek could only focus on the now. The way Vrangi's pale throat swallowed with each of his gasps, the way the boy held his sword reluctantly. The way the very grass on their battlefield was trampled by their restless feet.
He didn't want to, but he wasn't going to die here and leave his sister to fend for herself. Gudrek swung back.
What started as 11 separate tribes dissolved into a simple battle of them vs. us. Gaggar, Balli, and Grimi were putting pressure on those that had wanted to wait on the side. They sliced into a few men and that caused outrage among some of those that had family ties and it turned into a free for all. Casualties were minor, considered that the main bulk hadn't met yet, but both sides were closing in on each other. Some tribes were, and the Gods help them for saying such a thing, only thankful that the dragons that did show up really were on the Berkians side.
This, some cried out, should be enough proof for those that didn't believe. This was proof that dragons could and did accept human riders and that both could live in peace. But hatred ran too deep for some and seeing the sight of dragons side by side with fellow Vikings only enraged them.
Gaggar faced up against Banki, he could see the rage and pain in the other man's eyes. At Banki's side was Spitelout, Gobber, and Eyvi. The youth looked more pale than usual and he shaking despite his stance, fighting his father for the right to lead was one thing, apparently it was another to face down a war.
"Stop this now Gaggar. It isn't too late," Spitelout spoke quietly, heard even above the yells and shouts from both sides.
"We will purge you. You are not Vikings, you are men that once were Vikings and it will be a mercy for us to kill you now. A mercy to kill your children now and hope that Hel and Odin will take pity on them for having such weak willed parents!" Balli spat but it lacked conviction and he didn't meet his twin brother's pleading eyes. He didn't need to see the question in their depths, the question of why he was doing such a thing. But when he didn't answer he felt what he could only describe as a break in chest.
"I cannot just accept that dragons were being controlled. Even if they can be tamed, too many have been lost…"
Banki shook his head, "This is not the answer, you say that you can't accept the dragons because they have killed too many of us, but you are about to raise a sword against your own family? How will killing all of us bring back those that are lost?"
"If you kill us, you'll be no better than th' dragons, boy," Gobber shook his head, his eyes dead serious.
Balli felt his resolve weaken slightly; the throb in his chest was distracting. Ever since they were children, he'd always been aware of his brother, they were twins, two from one. He started to lower his weapon. Grimi growled from his side, "You put your sword back up and get ready to fight, because if it's not against them it's going to be against me!"
Before anyone could respond an enormous white skull fell from the sky with a resounding crash. It scents and the memories it brought with it was enough to send the dragons into a squalling screaming mess. Stomping the ground with rage and fear the dragons reared and their riders struggled to calm them.
The dust that skull disrupted when it hit the ground began to settle and there was complete silence before Gobber coughed, "Good, you brought it back…well most of it."
I knew it. The instant that I arrived over the island I could feel it in my bones that something terrible had gone wrong. And it wasn't just the way that the thick clouds hung about us in such thick clinging masses. My uncle gasped and without even thinking about it, managed to urge the Nightmare to go faster. This created the problem of one dragon from the back trying to cross ropes with those in front of her and within a few minutes the dragons from the pens, not used to flying in formation, tried to break ranks. Ugh, now's he done it, I understood his desire to hurry, but this was only going to slow us up.
We managed to hover awkwardly, but it was in vain. I felt Toothless strain to handle the sudden uneven weight. "Just a little further Toothless, you can do it!"
I heard the others follow my lead and plead with their dragons, to encourage them to try to make it a little farther along. I wanted to put the skull in the Gather field, it would show them all-
I gasped in horror and had to blink my eyes shut briefly against the sight of all the tribes facing off. I could see from my vantage a few fighting and even the brilliant red of life giving blood spilt, I could only hope that there weren't many casualties. I heard my uncle and father roar as one and Toothless dipped even further. "Drop it Toothless, drop it!"
He valiantly managed the glide the rest of the way and began to claw frantically at the ropes. I saw Astrid even take out her seaxe and begin to saw back and forth furiously at the rope that she could reach.
Within a few seconds I felt the ropes give way and watched breathlessly as it dropped to the ground. The silence left it the wake of it hitting the ground was louder than anything I'd ever heard before.
I clenched the saddle in helpless frustration, if we'd been back a little sooner…
I angled Toothless down and felt more than saw the others do the same. Before we had even touched the ground my father was off the Nightmare and not too far behind him was Shield. The sighs and gasps of relief was a testimony to how just having the other leaders back was enough to settle many.
"What is going on here!?" My dad yelled in fury.
I flinched at the sound of rage in my father's voice. I hadn't heard that tone in such a long time, not since he'd nearly disowned me…
For a long moment, no one answered him before Gaggar stood tall and brought his chin up. "I will not let this go. I will not make peace with those beasts."
Shield pushed passed his brother, every inch of him rippling with the struggle to control his temper. I could only imagine him as a dragon, and wow maybe it was time to re-think exactly how much time I spent with the winged creatures, but he looked every inch a Nightmare as he faced Gaggar.
"You! You dare?! You dare insult my family; you dare insult the very Gods by inciting such a battle upon ground declared a place of peace for our clans? And then you stand there and lecture us about abandoning our values as Vikings? Do you see me pointing a blade at my kin?"
I was worried for my uncle, his face was so red with rage that it was close to turning purple and I didn't know how Gaggar could stand so unflinching in front of such a force. They didn't call my father the Vast and his brother Shield for no reason at all, those two were built like moving boulders.
A new cry of anger and anguish came from our right. I turned to see Vakr looking despondently at a body lying on the ground not too far from him. He scrambled to the man and dropped to his knees beside it, rolling the man over to see his face, "Eirik? Eirik answer me!"
I looked down at my mismatched feet unable to continue looking at the sad sight, because Eirik was one of Vakr's shield brothers, those that he had fought with and had taken wounds in battle for. I heard that those two had been friends and brothers in everything but actual blood.
Vakr heaved himself up from the ground and his sudden wrath seemed even greater than that of my father and uncle's combined. His sword was out of its sheath before I could blink and he was clashing with Gaggar a half an instant later. "I'll kill you! I swear it on Skadi!"
The two met in a fury of blades before my father grabbed Gaggar and my uncle grabbed Vakr, "Vakr, calm down, he's not dead!"
I blinked and gazed over at the man who was being already carried away by Gyoja. They must have deemed it safe enough to enter the battlefield with so many leaders now returned.
My father glared down darkly at Gaggar who grimaced back at him. "That is certainly enough! I have had enough of this squabbling."
I watched as my uncle stepped forward and spoke in what I had termed "the leader is speaking now" voice. "What has become of us? This is a Gather, a time of peace and relaxation amongst our tribes. You wanted proof? We brought proof. Now is the time to stop our squabbling. As always, our blades should only be raise to our enemies and not our kin and friends."
"You are neither!" Grimi spat, apparently the man had found his voice after getting over the shock of such a huge dragons (half) skull dropping in so suddenly.
I couldn't stand it, I moved forward and drew his attention, "We are not your enemies, and we have never been your enemies. I know how crazy it is," I felt my lips twitch into a bitter smile, "believe me, but please, we are ripping ourselves apart! You ask why we didn't come to you before now. Here is your answer," I spread my arms wide to gesture to the field. The tables were smashed and destroyed. The wounded were being picked up but their blood remained pooled behind. Games and that were setting out were upturned and the whole scene looked like some macabre scene from a nightmare.
"I didn't mean for all of this to happen, when I saved Toothless, but I'm glad! Glad I saved him. We defeated the Queen that was putting pressure on the other dragons to hunt so often and because of her death not only is every Viking that much safer, but the dragons have been invaluable and part of our family. I'm not asking you to live with them; I'm not asking you to even like them. I know that there is bad blood between us. I am one of those that have lost someone to an attack," I felt my eyes slip close at the memory of my mother but a nudge at my side made me open them. And green met green. I felt that tight feeling that had been gripping my heart ease a little, I breathed a little more easily and I smiled at Toothless, "Thanks Buddy."
I looked up again, gathering my courage, because here was that moment that I had felt earlier. Here was where I was defined by my actions. I drew myself up to my full height, "I haven't forgotten my mother. She was someone that I will always hold close and look up to," I felt my eyes slide to my father and he seemed almost misty eyed but nodded, "I will always hold her memory close. But she used to say I was a lot like her, so I can't imagine that she would be against having dragons and if I can forgive, than so can you."
I hesitated a little now; faltering and I couldn't help but glanced at my friends, to Astrid's pretty face, her fierce determination shining through her incredible eyes. To Snotlout's sturdy stance, his unshakable trust in me and his easy strength. To Fishlegs, who clenched his fists with conviction. Tuffnut was looking back at me when our eyes met and he grinned enjoying both the show and the speech. His sister smacked him upside the head but gave me her own encouraging smile, her eyes shining with hope that I could pull us through. And finally my gaze connected with Toothless, my brave partner that hadn't let me down yet.
"Please, no more fighting. Even if we are separate tribes, we are all Vikings and we are all family. Even above dragon fighting the Vikings have one main rule and it's that family is the most important."
I saw many shaking their heads in agreement. Others who looked stern but had no more interest in fighting then the next, most just looked relieved. The Gather was starting to find a semblance of balance.
Grimi looked at me closely, "So you're the one that started this then? You and that Night Fury?"
I smiled, glad that I was getting through to him, "Yeah I was."
I was so shocked by his sudden lurch that I could only put my arms up in defense. My father yelled my name but was still too far away holding Gaggar and my uncle couldn't get to me in time. The gasps of shock and disbelief were drowned out by Toothless as he roared so violently that I felt my bones shake. He leapt in front of me and his claws raked at Grimi who screamed in pain and it through his thrust off, the man's sword clanked off his hard scales. The sword's tip scraped and scrabbled along the hard scale until in found a weak point near where the leg connected to the shoulder and sank in.
The man may have been dying or already dead but I felt my vision go red and would you believe it? It took a dragon, my dragon, getting injured to throw me into a Viking blood rage. I don't even remember drawing my blade until my vision was clearing and I was sitting on Grimi's body, the sharp edge an inch from his left eye.
Toothless was crooning reassuringly at me and it was in that moment that I could feel every eye at the Gather on me. I was wrong, the moment from earlier? That was not my defining moment, this was. I hissed at Grimi. "You listen to me right now. I don't care if you're older than me. I don't care if you are a leader or not. I only care about what the next answer is out of your mouth. Will you give up? Will you stop trying to make war between us?"
The man nearly spoke without even a moment's hesitation, but the sharp point of my axe was hovering too close and the nearly sub-vocal growls that Toothless was making made him re-think his options. It felt like an eternity before he finally looked away, a snarl on his lips, "Yes, I'll stop I won't attack you again."
I glared at him as I rocked back off of him, watching him carefully. I wasn't about to trust him a second time and as I stepped back, Uncle Spitelout came up swiftly and grasped the man securely so he wouldn't be getting away, if he lived from the raking he got from Toothless' claws. I wouldn't kill him, but I also wasn't going to pray for his good health either.
I watched my Uncle Shield stand tall and with a booming voice, address the whole crowd. "Please, sheath your weapons, this matter will be taken care of, but now is the time to calm our heads and try to mend our bonds," he looked away, his careful mask of calm cracking to show his true grief, "if we can."
I won't lie and say it was exactly what I wanted, but it was more than I'd hoped for when I saw that many families were gathering to make sense of what had happened in the past few days. It wasn't going to be pretty, but it would work because I saw more faces look relieved than I saw of anger or resentment. It had to work because I couldn't imagine our lives if it didn't work.
I didn't have much time to think about it because I was busy trying to staunch the flow of blood that Toothless was losing from his wound. I wasn't as deep as I thought it was, but it was going to require stitches and some pretty words of coaxing to get Toothless to let the Gyoja tend to his wounds.
I had seen my father and what remained of the leader haul Gaggar, Grimi, and Balli away, most likely they would be in talks for the rest of the day. For good reason too, even though Gaggar wasn't particularly loved by his tribe, there was no better as of right now to take over. And Grimi was even liked mostly by his tribe, but you can bet that he trying to take a slash at me had caused him to slip a few notches. Not because of me specifically, but trying to kill an unarmed and unaware child was something that only the lowest of scum would do (apparently) and it would not take too much pushing from the other leaders to force the second in command to take leadership until Gromr was old enough or proved to be unfit to lead.
I studied those that I recognized and could see as I held Toothless, soothing him as a woman with quick skillful hands sewed up his wound. Vrangi was slinking around, his normal group that followed him like duckling had been told off moments ago before my eyes and now the boy was making his way over to a sturdy tree before he collapsed on the ground and leaned against it.
From the direction he came I saw my cousin limp toward his sister where she fretted over a slash wound on his chest. It must not have been deep, because the healer looked at it for only for a few seconds before she shooed him off with some of the numbing paste she'd been slathering on a man with a stab wound.
I was so engrossed by my people watching that I didn't even notice when Gromr walked up to me, his entire body bent as though his shame had physical weight. Toothless smacked me with the back of his tail and I turned to huff at him when I saw the other boy.
I felt bad for him, I maybe not have been in the same situation, but I knew what deep shame felt like. The kind of shame that made you wish you could bury yourself somewhere and never come back out. I gave him my best smile and it was genuine, it wasn't his fault that his father had chosen to do what he did. "Hey Gromr, sit with me?"
The boy looked flat out shocked, but accepted a seat beside me. "Hiccup-," he began, but stopped floundering helplessly.
I patted his knee even as my other hand scratched at Toothless on the head, the huge dragon stretching out like a huge cat and if he could purr he'd have been doing so.
Toothless opened one sleepy eye and gurgled at me, reprimanding me for waking him from his doze. "Oh don't lie, you were awake the whole time."
The dragon huffed but tilted an ear to listen. "What do we do to people who blame themselves for things they can't control?"
The coal black dragon gave me a sly look even as the tip of his tail rose up and smacked Gromr in the back of the head, "Ouch!" he cried looking incredulously at the dragon.
Before he even thought about it, he reached out and whacked Toothless back, which I'm sure the lazy beast couldn't feel through his tough armor of scales, but he pretended like he was dying and I couldn't help but laugh at Gromr's distressed face, "It's okay, he's only joking." I poked his side and the dragon huffed but went back to trying to nap.
I leaned back and gazed at the sky, "I'm sorry Gromr, and I don't know what's going to happen to your father. If he'll live or if he won't and I'm sorry that I can't say I'm sorry that he's injured. But if you want, you can always come visit us in Berk, if you ever need to get away for a while."
I smiled at him, feeling for him and understanding. The plain boy looked back and nodded before he stood up, brushed himself off and walked away.
I dropped one hand down to the smooth head of Toothless, "You doing okay Buddy?"
The dragon gurgled reassuringly at me and nuzzled my leg, "You saved me again." I felt both happy that he cared so much but also so useless, but before I could sink further into such thoughts, he smacked me with his tail again. "Hey, what was that for? Oh…"
He pointed his tail at him, between the two of us before pointedly looking down at his tail fin. We both stared at it before he looked at me, willing me to understand, "…I saved you?"
He gave me that grin that made the last of the aching in my heart ease and I grinned back, "Yeah, we'll be okay won't we?"
And would be. I felt like a fool grinning so broadly, but as Astrid walked over I couldn't help as my joy bubbled over. She gave me that smirk, crossing her arms and cocking a hip, "Did it again, didn't you Dragon Boy?"
"I guess we did, right Toothless?" A snore was all that answered me. She came closer and sat down close to me, her body warmth seeping into my aching muscles and between her and Toothless I began to feel a little drowsy myself. She leaned her head on my shoulder and I thought my face was going to break, because seriously a few years ago I could only dream about this. No wait, that wasn't entirely true, my dreams never came close to how crazy but great my life was. It had its bad times, but with Astrid at my side, a great dragon on my other side, and my friends slowly making their way over to me I could appreciate the good times.
Exile or learn to deal with dragons. Those were the only two options for those being held. While Gaggar, Grimi, and Balli had not made all the blows that had injured and even killed some of the other people from the other tribes, they were the leaders and considered the instigators. However, leniency was only on terms that the three would make reparations to the families they'd injured by the fight as well as swearing an oath that they would not bring any more harm against the tribes in response to the majority decision to allow Berk to remain one of the tribes. Some of the tribes were even willing to attempt to keep a few dragons, but Stoick was sure that a few would turn into "we're overrun" soon enough.
As expected Balli relented and asked for the second option, he knew he'd injured the bond between him and his brother as well as their tribes, but hopefully he could attempt to repair the damage. He had been so furious and had let his rage get to him, he still wasn't happy about the dragons, but if it meant being exiled he would always choose to remain with his family.
The question was what to do with Grimi and Gaggar. Gaggar was most certainly the ringleader even if Stoick couldn't prove it, but Grimi had tried to take the life of his son and that was usually punishable by death. The Gyoja had done what they could but the claws had gone deep and it was unsure if he would live. It wouldn't do to kill him now though, because Hiccup who had every right to kill the man, had shown him mercy, which considering his track record Stoick wasn't even surprised anymore. Which means that Shield felt obligated to at least try to make sure the man received adequate care. That left banishment and exile. It was a tough thing to swallow, banishing and exiling two leaders, no matter how disliked or liked they were, but when asked what they chose stony silence was all he got.
So, exile then. They would remain here for the night and in the morning he would have Gaggar trussed up and thrown on the back of a dragon to be dropped off somewhere far away. Grimi would recover, or he wouldn't and then he would face his punishment as well. Shield sighed as he went to get Gaggar's immediate family. There were some things that he hated about his job as a leader and this was pretty much at the top.
-Gallin and his mom-
Gallin wasn't afraid as they brought him in. He had fought against his own tribe and he knew that this wasn't the reason he was being taken to the main hall. He knew it was because of the Leader. He knew this because his mother was with him, her face sunken from pain and weariness. She felt his eyes on her and sighed, she stopped in the hall and looked down at her son, her mouth set in a firm line, but her eyes were gentler.
"Gallin, my son, when we go in there, whatever he say, know that while I have not always been the best mother I could have been, I would never let him kill you."
Gallin blinked, because this was strange. His mother had never outright hurt him, or ignored him, but she had never been necessarily warm either. He couldn't understand the shift, but he flinched slightly when he felt her hand rest lightly on her shoulder.
He heard her intake of breath and the soft sound of a sob, "Frigga will punish me for not being a better mother to you Gallin, but I made sure he never killed you…"
He didn't know what she wanted of him, but he reached up and put a hand over hers. She looked down at him through her tears, "I'm sorry Gallin, I'm so sorry."
He smiled at her awkwardly, not sure of whether or not this was the correct response and when she reached out and drew him to her, he panicked slightly. But when he realized she was not going to hurt him, he felt something inside him give a little; he'd always wanted her to hold him like this, the way other mother's held their children…
The hug didn't last long, perhaps she sensed that her son was unsure and uncomfortable with her sudden touch and she cursed herself even more. She'd tried so hard to take the abuse off of him, to make it seem like she cared the same for him as Gaggar did. To be there when her husband was in a rage to shield the boy from him, to plead with the Elders for her son's protection. But she would change this, as soon as that man was sent packing the better. Her son would not go another day without him knowing that she cared for him. She swore to Odin and Frigga that she would be better, that she would do better.
As Gallin stood in front of his leader, the man wouldn't even meet his eyes. He glared at his wife, at the slim and almost skeletal hand she had on his shoulder, "Whore, I should have let you die in your village."
She ignored him and his words, she merely bowed her head and in a monotone voice she spoke, "Thank you for your service, may you go with Odin, my husband." But her eyes were dead as she spoke it, no warmth or any genuine prayer to be had for the vile man in front of her.
Then Gaggar finally looked at the boy and Gallin jumped at his hateful glare. "You, I should have killed you years ago," the man whispered, "Unholy spawn touched by Skaldi." He turned his eyes away and said nothing more.
Stoick looked at the two sadly; Shield shook his head and sighed. Some people…they would never learn.
Gallin felt his mother touch his back and again he jumped, but only slightly this time. He felt her gently push at him to leave the room and with each step that took him away from the man that he had once longed to call father the feeling of hate died more and more. But he knew he'd never be fully free of that man, because Gallin wasn't a stupid boy.
-end of chapter-
Skaldi: the God of winter and of the hunt. She is the Goddess of Justice, Vengeance, and Righteous Anger. Called on once for vengeance, but again because of her icy colors.
Frigga: Odin's wife and considered mother to all. She is the protectoress of children which is why Gallin's mother is prayer for both her forgiveness and her rightful punishment.
Alright, epilogue in a few days, I promise promise promise. I want to get this done before my birthday so you can all have a present from me. A complete story! If you see any big errors let me know. Again, I'm sorry if some people felt that this fell flat, I really tried to make it the best I could. Thank you so much for being there! It would mean a lot if you would tell me what you thought of this chapter and what you'd like to see in the epilogue… again so sorry for the long wait!