A/N the first: Many, many thanks go to my darling friend for listening to me babble about how mean my muses are and for giving me pokes with sticks when I needed them.

If there is but one thing that should be remembered when facing the beasts known as dragons it should be this; never turn your back to a dragon.

"You have a choice now, young Hiccup." Wispy strands of white hair floated gently in the breeze as tired eyes looked over the sight that the young man before her made. Sighing as he fiddled with the singed and bloody edges of his green tunic, she stepped forward until his eyes met her own. "We stand at a crossroads with one path leading to destruction and the other leading to salvation. The path is not without strife but you were acknowledged as Stoick's heir for a reason."

"I never asked you to do that."

Nodding her head at the bitter tone, she shuffled to sit atop the charred remains of one of the fire pit stumps. "You are correct in that you never asked for such but it wasn't yours to ask for. For good or ill, you have been marked as a favorite of the Gods Hiccup but you have also been marked as our chief's heir and with that come certain responsibilities. We have been attacked and now the choice becomes… what will you do?" Digging her cane into the ashes, she wrapped her hands tightly around the knob of it as Hiccup turned away to begin his way through the ruined village, her eyes closing as her forehead came to rest on her hands. "Valhallarama is this what you saw on the day of his birth?"

The sounds of the longhouse doors creaking open was muffled by the multitude of raised voices each striving to be heard over the other. Grimacing as the noise seemed to reach a crescendo Hiccup pushed his way through the crowd until he reached the table. Arms straining he threw the weapons he had gathered onto the tabletop and waited for the crowd to quiet before speaking. "Berk has never housed traders, raiders or slavers. Berk has always prided itself on the strength needed to fight dragons and that strength has always been held in respect by those of other villages. But that was then and things have changed." Leaning forward to lift one of the swords into the light Hiccup frowned as the crudely etched symbol of Canberk became visible. "Canberk requested that we sacrifice those that we consider to be our own and when we refused they showed the honor that can be expected of a slaver's village. This raid wasn't a raid. We've children that were murdered in their beds and families that will never be whole again and now I find myself wondering what my father would do."

"We're with you Hiccup." Gobber's hand rested warm and heavy on Hiccup's slender shoulder, the young man staring down at the sword in his hand with an inscrutable look in his eyes. "Stoick would agree with your decision, whatever it is, were he here and not in the healer's lodge."

Dark lashes fanned across pale cheeks before opening to show hardened green eyes as Hiccup let the sword in his hand fall to the table with a loud clatter. "I want any aerials capable of flight up in the air keeping patrol switching off in four hour shifts. Those still able to will remain here and begin the process of clearing the land so that we can rebuild. Astrid, Snotlout, Fishlegs, Tuffnut and Ruffnut are with me."

"Where are we going?"

"We're going to go pay Canberk a visit to buy us the time to recover."

"Then we're with you."

Hiccup fought the urge to fidget as the teens separated from the crowd to flank him as he leaned against the table his palms moving to rest flat on the rough wooden surface. Breathing in deeply and slowly he noted absently the pallor of his skin hidden underneath the dark smears of drying blood and the lighter smears of ash across his hands and arms. His lips chapped and broken pulled into a frown at the sight of his arms still so lean compared to the impressive musculature that his father boasted. Three years training with Toothless had given him more muscle tone than he'd had before but it was still pathetic compared to what everyone else had. Absorbed in his thoughts Hiccup missed the silence that had fallen over the crowd as the elder stepped through the open doors and quietly gave the order for them to leave.

"Your mother came from the tribes that settled in Trondheim. Many thought your father bewitched when he came back with her as his bride." The elder spoke once the doors of the longhouse were closed behind the departing crowd. "She always spoke of how harsh life was in Berk compared to her life in Trondheim. Her tribesmen were far smaller in stature than the men of Berk—."

"They couldn't have been that much smaller if half of her breastplate could be used to make a helm." Hiccup said sarcastically as his fingers idly pulled splinters of the table. "I'm sure that being a midget compared to everyone here is just so normal in Trondheim."

"For Odin's sake you are not a child but if you persist then I will treat you as one." Hissing the swear as she picked up her cane she swung it sharply against his legs glaring as the youth yelped in pain. "Your mother was no higher than a youth ready for the training grounds. Stupid child your father knew that you would have her stature so when she passed he kept safe the pieces of her breastplate that were not used for his helm so that you would have her protection when the time came." Face twisted in anger she lifted her cane again to begin poking him in the chest with it ignoring the indignant squawks that resulted. "Think you that these are the actions of a man who does not care for his child? Your father has loved you dearly and he would fight the Gods themselves to keep you safe even if it meant his damnation would be the result. You are not a dragon fighter Hiccup and never has he wanted for you to be one even as he's lamented your lack of skill in that area."

"I know I'm not a dragon fighter! Thor's teeth do we have to keep dragging out all of my inadequacies or was it just announced 'Let's tell Hiccup how pathetic and insignificant he is day'? Cause if it is then I don't want any part of this."

"I will tell you this once and only once so be sure to listen child because never will it be said again." Words forced through gritted teeth as the elder twisted the hot flood of anger pouring through her into submission. "Your mother died to protect you as a babe because she knew that you would bring about a change that Berk has long needed. Valhallarama loved you more than any being she ever knew and for that, your father has adored and protected you far more than any youth in this village. You were well past the age of training Hiccup and yet you were apprenticed to a blacksmith." Frail gnarled hands clasped tightly to the cane as she leaned her weight on it pausing for breath. "You honored every hope and dream that they prayed for as they kept you safe when you became the first to enter into a partnership with a dragon. Your dragon is the being born of the unnatural mating of lightning and death and you are the offspring of the fires of Berk and the mists of Trondheim. This melancholy does nothing but to bring shame and dishonor to your tribe and I will tell you now that it must stop. Your father holds you dear as did your mother so let that stay your tongue when ill temper tightens its hold on you."

If you aim to strike a dragon without stealth on your side then let this simple advice guide you through the no doubt painful death you will face; make certain that the village will care for your family in the wake of your abject stupidity.

- This is actually really good advice cause sneaking up on a dragon is hard but running at it screaming? They breathe fire people. Fire.

The cold air whipping about his cheeks should have bothered him but it didn't. The uncomfortable press of his harness digging in his skin should have made him flinch in pain but he didn't. Seeing the grim looks painted on the faces of those he'd grown up with should have bothered him and it did. This was different from the last time they'd left the village on a mission that in all statistical probabilities (and listening to Fishlegs babble the numbers afterwards was in no way comforting) shouldn't have ended well. With the mother dragon (Green Death his mind whispered insistently), they'd been fighting against a dragon that had allowed itself to lose the dignity that held dragon kind apart from the mindless beasts created by the Gods.

This wasn't going to be a fight though, his mind retorted sharply as his body leaned into the twists and turns of the flight, because he didn't mean to leave them a chance to fight.

Hours later and his hands were shaking violently from the cold that seemed to settle in his bones. Far too pale with dark circles lining his eyes he squinted against the glare of weak light reflecting up from the calm ocean waters that refused to reflect any of the turmoil hidden inside. It wasn't fair that it could be this beautiful outside while inside he felt anything but with screams (and memories of blood so red that it stained the ground black as it poured through his hands like the finest silks) and pleas reverberating through his thoughts. Soft noises slipped through his mouth as he clenched and ground his teeth together to fight away the screams of his own that wanted to join the eerie melody of his memories and thoughts.

Murmuring softly in apology at the questioning whine from the dragon below him he allowed himself to sink into the mindless pleasure that was flying; the twists, dives and turns pulling his mind further from darker thoughts that threatened to drown him in a pool of madness that he would never escape from. Landing in the village, he unlatched the riggings and slid down to the ground on legs so numb that they threatened to collapse beneath him. Clutching gratefully onto the warm (warm, warm, warm so unlike the coldness that wrapped him) hands that guided him to a soft bed that he sank into with a moan of exhaustion before he was pulled back up and a warm cup was pressed into his hands. The soothing taste of herbs hit his tongue as he sipped from the cup until it was pulled away and he was pushed back into bed with pleas for him to rest. Dull green eyes swept the entirety of the small room to find his friends already lost to the siren's call of a dreamless sleep brought by the concoction of herbs prepared by the healers. Lying back and letting weary eyes close the tension ebbed from his body at the sound of purring coming from the foot of his bed as warm wings spread themselves in sleep.

Shadows crept along the floor as the sun moved through the sky and calloused roughened hands smoothed back hair from painfully young faces chasing away nightmares as they slept. Movements pained as the man moved from bed to bed, tucking covers in more securely as he kept silent guard over the youngest of their tribe. Energy spent the large man fell into a chair far too small to hold his bulk comfortably as tangled red hair spilled over broad shoulders with the movement of the man pressing his face into hands. "Gods please. Please don't ask this of me." Prayers slipped from the man's lips as he struggled with the embarrassing burning of his eyes. "He's not meant to be a Viking. Please don't do this."

"He is her son, Stoick and while it may be not what you have wished for him it was what she saw."

"He's my son too." Stoick growled as he forced his voice to remain low whirling up from his chair to face the hunched form of the tiny elder. "I won't let them take him from me. I was helpless to save her but Thor help me I will save my son."

"And if he doesn't need saving?"

"Are you mad woman? Do you not see the world around you?" Gaping incredulously at the old woman standing before him with her back bent from age and not submission Stoick ran his hands through his hair in frustration. "Canberk has declared war on us with this act of treachery and it will only get worse when they call upon the alliance for aid. We'll be fighting from the land and the air to keep our tribe safe. Hiccup has not the heart for war and to ask this of him is a cruelty wrought by Gods I trusted to keep him safe."

"You hold so little faith in everyone that is not you Stoick and I find it to be an oddity in one that is supposed to be our tribe's chieftain." The elder spoke softly each word sliding from her tongue almost absently as she met the anguished eyes of the man she'd seen chosen as the chieftain's heir forty long years ago. "He is partnered with a dragon that would not leave his side and was only stopped from killing you when Hiccup's pleas reached his ears. The dragon will be there to watch over him in your stead."

"And if he doesn't?"

"Then it will be because the dragon has already fallen in defense of that which is dear to it."

A/N the second: Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated okay so maybe not so exaggerated. I adore the reviews, story alerts and favorites and I've been a horribly mean little authoress in not replying to all of them but I promise that I will reply to each review left. Thanks for reading!