Thank you for all the lovely reviews, I read every one of them with a smile. I have had a few questions, which I've tried to answer in PM's but one question was if the second HTTYD movie would impact this story. The answer to that is, maybe. I don't see why anything from the movie will make it into this story, except maybe taking points from the more grown up characters and displaying that maturity to a boy who has lived by himself in exile, but for the most part, this story will remain separated from the new movie. I wanted to have this story done by the new movie but, uh yeah probably not going to happen.
No interesting tidbits today, enjoy the story.
Edit 5/27/14: Someone was kind enough to bring to my attention an inconsistency in this chapter about Astrid knowing of Toothless. I fixed it so it should make sense now and tweaked a few more sentences at the end. Hopefully, it's more consistent now. Thank you for bearing with me!
Chapter 8 Rain Rain
Hiccup didn't panic. In fact, he was surprised by how little emotion he felt at the idea that a boat from Berk was on his shores. It was possible that he was just in shock from seeing a boat so suddenly. Hiccup would be willing to put a bet on that, but for now, he blinked carefully against the sun before looking back down at Toothless.
"What do you think Bud?"
Toothless glared down at the boat, hovering near the tree line before gracefully arching away and darting back into the forest, "Well okay, if that's how you feel," Hiccup murmured with a small smirk.
It wasn't that Toothless was running, he wasn't afraid of a few Vikings and certainly not any from his human's home, but Vikings were strangely skittish beings, especially when confronted by dragons.
Said dragons were currently flying a little off behind Hiccup, looking to him instinctively for direction. It was a strange idea, looking toward a human and Night Fury for guidance, but Night Furies were naturally powerful and commanded a certain amount of respect, even one that allowed a human to ride on its back.
Certainly if it had been a human like the other Vikings, the dragons would have killed him, Night Fury protector or not, but the human had been nothing like their past experiences. It had brought them food, helped build them shelters, cared for injuries, and seemed genuinely concerned for their wellbeing, just like an alpha of a flock should.
Dragons, while some breeds could be quite loners, generally were flock creatures. Lately, most flocks were fragmented, mostly due to the Queen, but these few dragons had found this island, and with it they had found a home.
This flock was, strange would be the best way to describe it. Most wild flocks had a certain homogeneity to them, being maybe all one breed, or at least all a similar size. This flock had two Nightmares, one Timberjack, one Night Fury, three Terrors, one Zippleback, and one Deadly Nadder, and of course one scrawny man-child.
Hiccup gazed behind the gathered dragons as Toothless gracefully slipped between trees, "Alright everyone, back to the home trees, we'll keep out of sight, I'm sure the boat will be gone by tomorrow."
The dragons didn't seem particularly pleased, but neither were they upset. Some alphas would charge the beach at the sight of invaders and some preferred to hide away avoiding conflict due to low numbers. The two Nightmares snapped at one another as they flew side by side. A pair of sisters Hiccup had noted when they'd first showed up to the island. He smiled because sometimes they reminded him of human siblings constantly bickering and trying to outdo the other, but Toothless was less amused by them because of the noise they could make when they were truly up in arms over the other. They had nearly burned down a fourth of the forest when they had both flamed up over a few pieces of fish.
He also just seemed to not be in the mood to deal with them now and snarled once at them, turning his head to show his mouth already full of blue fire if they decided to keep pressing his limited patience. The two females let out awkward squawks and parted when the Timberjack flew up to separate the two and neither wanted to get on the bad side of those deadly crippling wings.
The Timberjack was the oldest dragon of the group though still considered to be in the prime of his life and was one of the calmest dragons Hiccup had ever seen. He was most at home sleeping amongst the boughs of trees, and seemed genuinely distressed whenever the other dragons spat fire, after all Timberjacks made their homes in forests.
The island was not all forest, though it became very dense in the middle. There were also high cliffs to one side that Hiccup liked to dive off with Toothless catching him at the last minute, the few seconds of free fall were exhilarating.
The three terrors were essentially like the babies of the group, even if they weren't that young. They acted like they shared one brain between them and were constantly getting into trouble.
Hiccup liked them, despite all the trouble, because there was something soothing about the little dragons curling up in his laps for naps during a sunny day. They also varied in color, one being yellow with tinges of blue and the other two being red orange. It was amusing when they all ended up in one sleeping ball and their colors blended like a sunset.
The Nadder was one of the most recent editions and still a bit touchy about living near a human, normally a sworn enemy. Hiccup paid her careful attention and as such, maintained a flock of chickens for her to eat. He had been surprised to see while chickens on the island, but it wasn't as though this island had never been used. Humans had been here and Hiccup suspected that much of their livestock may have escaped. And though Hiccup didn't like the idea of it, the other dragons always seemed willing to go in search of other islands to raid for livestock.
This gesture of good will had pleased the Nadder greatly, because while she could stomach fish, chicken was a preferred meal and easier to digest. She was confused by how such an eclectic group of dragons could co-exist, but it was almost nice to have a place to belong again, even if it meant she had to kowtow to a Night Fury and his pet human.
The Zippleback, was well, not exactly the brightest dragon to fly the skies. Hiccup supposed that was a bit unfair since there were two heads, but in this case they were not better than one as the two heads bickered constantly with one another. Hiccup wasn't sure if that was a thing among all Zipplebacks, but he couldn't imagine it was because how else would the breed still be alive if they couldn't get along for even a little while? Either way, they were easy enough to maintain and seemed to really respect Toothless, both heads seemed to compete for his attention…much to his chagrin.
Hiccup wouldn't admit that sigh of relief he gave when his hut came into view. Though hut may be a bit of an understatement. It was a cross between a hut and a house, perhaps a cabin might be a better example. It was large, the main part of the house was where Hiccup and Toothless slept, but the rest of the structure branched out upwards and side to side where the other dragons denned. Construction really did go much faster when you were friends with a Timberjack.
The other dragons were happy enough to return to their dens and nap, which Hiccup had decided was a favorite past time of any breed. He climbed down from Toothless' back and checked their current supplies. One could never be sure of the weather on the island and he had kept stores of both dried and fresh fish for the dragons in case of storms too strong for them to fly in. There was ample of both and it really was a blessing from the Gods that the caves nearby kept raw fish fresh due to their chill.
The animals on the island had really flourished here without any predators and because of that, Hiccup had never worried about starving. There was a wild pig population, wild chickens, even rabbits, all Hiccup could only imagine must have been from other humans that had lived here in the past. A multitude of birds also inhabited the island, including seabirds that lived on the cliffs. He felt guilty, but their eggs were delicious fresh and warm from the nest. Sometimes he swallowed some of them raw, a delicacy, but he often stored them for cooking over the fire.
Lastly was the ocean itself, a bounty of food for anyone that cared to try and harvest from it. Clams from the beach that could be dug out if their depressions in the sand were noticed, oysters in the shallows that could be spotted in the clear waters and pried from the sandy beds for consumption straight from the water or for later in stews and soups. Seaweed, while not the most appetizing, could be dried and eaten, and then you had the fish. So many different types of fish, but Hiccup only stuck to those he could easily identify and of course cod for Toothless.
The peace from the beach was receding, leaving behind a feeling of jittery anticipation. Hiccup felt tingly and on edge, he caught himself gritting his teeth over the next hour as he paced restlessly. Each stride past the lounging Night Fury would earn him a baleful glare or an amused one depending on the face Hiccup was making.
Hiccup didn't know why he was so concerned, after all, he was where he'd been told to go right? Well, maybe he wasn't because of what passed for a map these days, but he was on an island without his tribe so that was close enough to exile wasn't it?
Hiccup went rigid at that thought, a sinking feeling in his heart. What if he hadn't gone to the right island? What if Berk thought he'd attempted to escape and now was here to bring him back and really execute him this time? He was worried for himself, of course, but he couldn't help the panic that knifed though him at the thought of what they would do to his little flock of dragons.
And yes, they were HIS dragons thank you very much. Dragons didn't care if you weren't "normal", dragons didn't care if you didn't want to be a muscle bound rock head, dragons didn't care if you just wanted to co-exist. Well, most of them he'd ran into didn't.
Hiccup hadn't realized he'd been gripping the doorway to his dwelling until he felt the gentle nudge of Toothless behind him, silently offering his comfort.
Releasing a pent up breath, Hiccup forced his aching fingers to uncurl from the wood and then laid it softly on the top of Toothless' head. "I should go back shouldn't I?"
Toothless gave him "the look", the one that he always gave him when he'd asked a stupid question. Sometimes Hiccup really wondered why people thought dragons were dumb. Sure, they couldn't speak like humans could, but that didn't mean they were stupid.
A raucous fit of squalling swelled up from his right and Hiccup was running out into the filtered sunlight, glancing around wildly for danger, only to see the three Terrors tumbling against one another. Okay, so not all dragons were smart, but neither was every human.
"Hey!" he hissed at the three dragons, pleased when they comically paused in the middle of their scuffle, eyes wide like little children caught with their hands in a pie.
"If you're going to try and rip each others eyes out, do so quietly, we are trying not to attract attention, yeah?"
They blinked, Hiccup blinked, and they blinked again. For a pause there was nothing, then they went right back to their loud battle over Odin knows what.
"Toothless, if you'd be so kind?" was all he muttered as he went to the edge of the deck, looking once again out toward the beach.
The indignant squawks behind him brought a smile to his face that died before it reached his eyes, what was he going to do?
Astrid was five minutes away from killing her companions and sailing back to Berk herself. She'd just tell them that they went overboard and were eaten by something nasty. Or she could tell the chief that they'd killed one another over the last honey roll. He'd believe her, she was sure of it.
The mission had been simple, go and make sure Hiccup was truly in exile. While it had seemed an unsual request, he was the Chief's son, and Astrid could understand the desire to know if he'd at least made it to the island. Still, she conjured her last known memory of Hiccup, as he walked away from the village, he was so...frail, she decided. He was lanky, pale, no real muscle to speak off. He was soft hearted, soft handed, and soft footed. The idea of him surviving in the wild, even if dragons listened to him, seemed laughable.
She didn't dislike him, not like she had when he'd began to show her up in training when he hadn't even been a part of the group. No one deserved what had happened to him, even if he'd never been her favorite person. On the one hand, killing dragons were what they were raised to do, a way of life. Hiccup had not just questioned their way of life, which wasn't a crime, but the ideas that he stood for were dangerous in the way they challenged the laws. Laws given by the gods and by the elders that had served as a guide though life for hundreds of years.
"Umghf," was currently face down in the dirt, the twins grappling one another as they tried to unlock their helmets and ridiculously long hair again.
She sat up in a rage, "That is enough! Can't you two shut up and be serious for even a minute?"
She normally wasn't so verbal, opting to ignore them which usually seemed to do the trick.
"Yeah guys," Snotlout commented before looking at her and winking, "Sorry Astrid, not everyone can be as mature as us."
'Odin, Frigg please grant me patience.'
Killing her companions would not look good for her future responsibilities. She glanced at the sky, clear when they'd landed, but if she squinted she made out a darkening on the horizon. She hoped it was just her imagination, that they still had a few more days. She'd just have to make the search quick.
Headache mounting, she adjusted her battle axe and started away from the beach. This was the third and last island they'd check. It wasn't unheard of for someone exiled to end up on either of them. As long as Hiccup was here then all would be well; unless he was dead.
She felt a pang at that thought, not very strong because she'd only barely knew him, but the idea of someone that she'd known being killed by himself in the middle of no where far from home was a sad thought.
She was relieved when she heard the others fall into step behind her, thankful that Fishlegs had moored the boat to an outcropping of sturdy boulders in the surf. At least one of her companions had an inkling of foresight.
The sand made way to brush that thrived in the loose sand, before giving away again to thickets. By the time they'd made way through the thickets they were starting to advance into a dense forest. As the walked the very air seemed to go quiet. It made her uneasy and she stopped several times to carefully survey the space around them, every inch of her on edge.
Astrid couldn't even begin to explain why, but she felt like there were eyes on them, watching them from all directions. The further she walked into the forest, the more overbearing the feeling became. The others seemed to sense it to, quieting down till only their breath could be heard, bunching together to protect one another's back.
They had completed their training, they had the right knowledge and for all of their fooling about, Astrid was certain that they could handle at least a few dragons if push came to shove.
A blond hair escaped her head band and brushed against her neck, sweat was beginning to collect at her brow from the oppressive feeling. The very brown bark of the trees around them seemed to be hostile, forcing them into tighter quarters, cutting off paths.
It was strange, to see a forest so thick, a testament to the fact that not many humans had inhabited the island. It was not only disorienting to not see smoke curling from homes, but also to see almost no signs of humanity. As they had moved inward, she found herself missing the sky as in became blocked from view.
Astrid nearly smacked herself, as it was she gave herself a very stern mental shake. She was almost 15 for Odin's sake. She had faced down Nightmares that breathed very real flames and she'd be damned if she cowered as shadowed imaginary threats that lurked beneath thick foliage.
The quiet march continued and Astrid began to really search for signs of life, the feeling of dread fluttering inside her stomach. What was she going to tell Stoick, "Sorry sir, your son is dead at best and at worst he escaped from his sentence to exile?
Yeah, there was a reason there was a proverb about "not shooting the messenger."
And honestly, it just seemed to be a shame. Hiccup was young, perhaps with a few years, he could have been brought around and became a proper Viking.
She peered though the gloom of the forest, they were close to the center she was almost certain. The trees, the plants, even the air felt older. A small childish thought of whether or not fairies lived at the heart of this island brushed across her mind before she once again shook herself.
She felt a tap at her shoulder and it took every once of self control not to scream. Snotlout ignored her heated glare, merely nodding his head in the direction of the twins, no not the twins, something darker than even shadows crouched beneath branches.
She sucked in a breath, hardly anyone could blame her. Quick as a flash she'd unstrapped her axe and twirled it expertly, balancing it carefully in front of her. The others at her side were just as quick, she was relieved to see them slip so easily into battle mode, it was a comfort.
But before they could attack, there was a strange shing sound, like a sword being unsheathed from their left. And to her horror, and amazement, there was another shape. Just as shadowy as the first, but there were two lines of what seemed to be steel glinting in the dim filtered sunlight.
Growls sounded behind them and Astrid cursed, spinning easily to see two dragons, Monstrous Nightmares, not even bothering to hide themselves. They were curiously not already on fire, but Astrid felt the heat of them all the same.
She was conjuring up battle plans in her head. Snotlout was strong enough to take on the first dragon, the twins could easily handle a second. Fishlegs could cover her if she darted forward-
Astrid shifted her weight, preparing for a dash when from above a boy tumbled, no tumbled wasn't really the right word. He fell with too much grace and landed with precision, a flip would be more accurate.
He stood up, his back rigidly straight, and Astrid didn't bother to hide her gasp this time, because an echo of breaths behind her signaled that she wasn't the only one.
Tall, lithely muscled, and wild, but it was still Hiccup, even with that strange glint in his eyes. Astrid could hardly believe her eyes, was this what exile did to people? Turn them into something half way competent? Maybe she should sign up for it.
But even as she thought that, she wanted to hit herself. She'd seen the look of pain and terror in Hiccup's eyes when he'd left. The look of someone that was going to their death. To make light of that was, well it wasn't something she would be proud to admit.
The air grew tense, almost crackling with nervous energy. The dragons, she could see them clearly now as they all took the barest step forward, were ready for a fight if need be. Her own people were as well, weapons drawn and just a breath from launching forward.
"Alright boys and girls, let's settle down," The tone was so familiar that Astrid couldn't even begin to explain the way her shoulders relaxed. The voice though, it was so different. Gruff from disuse, or perhaps from being forced to speak above a whisper. It wasn't the voice she remembered and she felt slightly unbalanced because this was Hiccup.
She turned slightly, to see the others staring back at her. Ruffnut and Tuffnut both looking like they might charge anyway, but Snotlout was waiting for her decision, as was Fishlegs.
Loathe as she was to do it, she gave her axe a twirl and then strapped it to her back once more. "Hiccup, we were sent to confirm that you were still in exile."
Hiccup eyed them, before slouching ever so slightly, just enough that the other dragons relaxed. From behind him a black shadow loomed, but before Astrid could warn him, she felt her voice die in her throat. It was a Night Fury! An honest to Odin, Night Fury! Panic flooded her but Hiccup held up a hand fending off her almost instinctive reaction to attack.
"Well, as you can see I'm still alive," his lips quirked in a strange self-deprecating smile, "I know how much regret that might bring to some, but you can leave. Now."
It wasn't as though Hiccup wasn't happy to see them, even if they hadn't been really what one might call friends. They were still the first humans he'd seen in four months and Odin knows that even with Toothless that had been slightly lonely.
Astrid was as lovely as ever, all scowl and flashing blue eyes, a small part of him would probably never lose that little flutter he got when he saw her.
Behind her Snotlout seemed to ease back, his own eyes staring at him in curiosity and dark hair mussed from the walk. He didn't seem disappointed in not finding his cousin dead, in fact, Hiccup's sharp eyes even caught the slight muscles around the others eyes relaxing in relief?
Fishlegs hadn't gotten any smaller, but his bulk seemed more solid and less flabby. His stance was neutral, but he couldn't hide the delight as he stared at the Timberjack with open regard.
Ruffnut was actually prettier then he remembered, or perhaps he was able to see her past his huge crush on Astrid. She didn't make his palms sweat the way the other blonde did, but she actually seemed to be the happiest to see him, grinning wildly in disbelief, "Hey Tuff, look he's actually still alive!"
Hiccup didn't feel the expected sting at the comment, because hey, he was pretty surprised sometimes he was still alive himself.
Her twin Tuffnut seemed ambivalent about his continued existence, nodding briefly at his sisters comment and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. "Yeah, you owe me five coins."
Ruffnut huffed and shoved him off balance. He just happened to fall in Hiccup's direction, and was rightfully horrified when three small Terrors leapt at him from the undergrowth with a vengeance.
It was like a dam breaking, the others began to laugh and even Astrid chuckled.
Hiccup felt a sharp edge in his heart ease away, a warmth filling him even as he strode forward to pull the Terrors off Tuffnut's face.
It wasn't easy with how the four of them were squirming, kicking up leaves and dirt, but Hiccup managed to get a hand on two, pulling them off and Ruffnut took pity on her brother even as she taunted him about losing to a bunch of pint sized dragons.
Said pint sized dragon attempted to light her hair on fire in response.
There was a bit more chaos, mostly from Ruffnut as she dropped the small dragon with an angry yelp and hopped around avoiding the small flame balls while Tuffnut forgot the scratches on his face screeching laughter at his sister's plight.
It took only another minute to get every settled down again before Hiccup turned back to Astrid. "I wasn't joking," he began, able to make eye contact with her for the first time in years. "I'm alive and you all should probably leave since you know I'm alive and where I should be," and damn if there wasn't a hint of bitterness in that sentence.
He didn't want them to leave, but they couldn't stay. Not only because of the dragons that lived with him, but because he didn't want someone to claim that he'd been helped while in exile and thus making his sentence even longer. Hiccup hadn't thought about what going back would mean, still too hurt to really want to think about it, but he knew that these five would only hinder rather than help.
Astrid straightened, eyeing the forest again. It was difficult to really see how much light they had, but there should be enough to make it back to the boat.
She cleared her throat, it was dry for some reason, "Yes, we'll be on our way," much to the displeasure of her companions. She raised an eyebrow and repressed a giggle at Tuffnut and Ruffnut glaring at the terrors, Fishlegs was making eyes at the dragons fingers twitching with a desire to draw and measure. Snotlout was sizing up one of the Nightmares, who snorted with feigned disinterest as his challenge. But no, she had to be the responsible one if no one else would be.
"Come on guys, we're wasting daylight. Let's get back to the boat before the storms hit."
It was the right season for them, the deadly squalls called up by Aegir, which Thor matched lighting bolt for lighting bolt. From her mental calculations earlier she guessed that there would be enough time to get underway and out of the storms reach if they left now.
As if in answer, the skys seemed to split open and the clouds hidden by green burst and the torrent of rain managed to reach the ground even through the braches thick with leaves. The sky had been clear when they landed but that meant nothing to Thor.
Hiccup seemed strangely as displeased about it as she was and his tone was snarky, "Well I guess that means you're staying the night then."
He turned his head and pinned them all with a hard look, and it was just so strange, four months had instilled so much confidence. "Let's be clear, none of you are to touch the dragons in any way but self defense, or you can sleep on the beach, are we clear?"
And what was she supposed to say, "No we can always just sleep in the boat?"
Still the other option was staying the night with a bunch of dragons. The beasts they were trained to kill. Still, they seemed to at least mind Hiccup and she knew they couldn't possibly stay in the boat with a true storm. The beach was even a less likely prospect.
She sighed, "Let's just get going." The rain was already making her miserable, the wet making her clothes itchy and heavy.
After a moment of hesitation, because there was a Night Fury and a slew of other dragons, the others began shoving one another out of the way in their haste to follow Hiccup, dragons included, which turned into a pell mell battle of who could shove the other out of the way faster.
Odin help her because she was going to survive the night even if it meant throwing every last one of them to the sea serpents.
And end chapter. Hope you all enjoyed it. If you see a mistake let me know. Really quickly:
Aegir- god of the sea
Frigg/Frigga- Wife of Odin, Goddess of motherhood (there is an argument on whether or not Frigga and Freya are the same goddess, but for this sake we'll go with the twin theory.
Some of the dragons introduced are not present when the two groups meet up, that is because they were instructed to stay behind and guard the dens. The terrors didn't listen and that's why they came out late.
No Hiccup is not so chummy with them just like that, but he craves human contact so he's willing to put up with them. No the others aren't happy about staying with the dragons and vice versa but they're willing to settle for a night. Expect lots of tension in the next chapter because of this.
and a happy birthday to one of my reviewers who asked for an update as their gift, Crystela7