"How To Train Your Dragon" (c) DreamWorks Animation Studios and author Cressida Cowell
Toothless's Emotional Precipice
What was a human?
Or, a more pondering question, what was a human to a dragon? Like twigs to a tsunami, that's what. They were ignorant, violent, covered with peachy flesh and full of delicious scarlet wine. (Though it was rare that dragons drank blood from humans.) They made brash decisions, based entirely on instinct and instinct alone, and were merciless in killing my kind. Using our skin for rugs and clothing. Our teeth and claws for jewelry and utensils. Our eyeballs for trophies.
Humans were dreadful creatures, whose goal in life was to kill us and use our gifts for common items found around the house. They used us to teach their children their militant ways of life. And most of the time, the children followed their abnormally-muscled footsteps without objection.
Except one. My Hiccup.
He had been the one to capture, free, train, and befriend me. And what a sight he was: thin as wire, limbs like wet twigs, crooked teeth, a mop of brownish-red hair that fell into his intelligent grassy eyes. Yet equipped with a touch so gentle it was like a caress from a cloud. Yes, he had been the one to look me in the eyes that fateful day. And after giving me back my blessing of flight, our bond grew thicker than iron.
In his mind, I was his. But in reality, he was mine. Sure, dragons were naturally protective of our possessions; but my Hiccup cost more than any jewel or silk or coin. His mind was how he has managed not to be killed over his lifetime. Surely not his feeble stature. He was much more advanced than the other Vikings in his village of Berk. He created instead of destroying. He examined instead of smashing.
I was very aware of the things that could take my Hiccup away from me: other dragons, other humans, nature, his own balance issues. And I could fight three of the four, while the last one I handled by just being there for my human in his time of stumbling. Most of the time, he needed me to walk; and I needed him to fly. Of course, that's not only what I thought of him; he was my human, my friend, my rider.
But…just because I was his dragon didn't mean I was his servant.
Would I help my Hiccup walk around the village? Absolutely. Be there when he cried, regardless of it being of joy or pain? Without hesitation. When he was in danger? In a quarter heartbeat. But I was not my human's pet; I was his companion . And he treated me as a companion. (I don't count the wonderful rubs he gives me; I ask for those.)
But I was a Night Fury. The unholy offspring of Lightning and Death itself. I have dignity, and other dragons gaze at me with fearful respect. And that was how it should be; was I not the rarest species of dragon? I was still lethal, deadly, and I could snap at any moment.
My breaking point reached its precipice one day.
We—my Hiccup and I—had been taking a lovely flight during the breaking of dawn. Rosy streaks, followed by ones of topaz and violet, laced the sky as it rumbled gray. A storm would be occurring soon. My human was aware of this, and he told me in his adolescent voice, "C'mon, bud, it's gonna start raining soon. We'd better get back to Berk." I nodded agreement and turned to fly back to the village.
I halted in surprise to see another dragon hovering a few yards away.
It was the one species of dragon humans hadn't learned of yet: the Dreadful Dreary. A thin, icy blue dragon with thorns on its head and wings the color of snow. Blue fire, great wingspan, long icicles that can shoot from under its wings, sharp eyesight, and can blend in with clouds and storms. Extremely merciless.
My human tensed from above me, gripping the reigns tighter. This was not a species he'd tamed yet. The Dreary hadn't felt his magical touch.
"What's this?" said the Dreary. "Night Fury? And a HUMAN?"
"Allow me to explain myself," I replied in Dragonese smoothly, which were mere growls in my human's eardrums. "This human and I are companions. He offers no danger to you, this I can reassure."(As if my Hiccup could even be a threat.) "We are just passing. Now, if you wouldn't mind…"
The Dreary snorted. "A meat puppet and a Night Fury companions. That's like a blade of grass and an inferno joining forces. Why do you not kill him? Too easy for a mighty one as yourself?" He grinned wickedly. "Would you desire me to do it for you? I could always use another toothpick in my collection."
The snarl that escaped my throat made my human yelp. "He is MINE, Dreary. If you have any intentions to harm merely a wisp of hair, I will tear out your throat so quickly the Gods themselves will be startled."
This did not faze him. "You're willing to protect your pet? How heartwarming. I've never seen a bond so strong. Normally, dragons will just hord their humans in caves or volcanoes. You walk him out in the open."
"Toothless," said my human quietly in my ear. "What is it? I've never seen this kind of dragon before. What are you saying to it?"
"Toothless?" The Dreary began to guffaw. "I see it now! YOU are the pet, and HE is the owner! HE is walking YOU!"
"What in the name of Odin's ghost?" muttered my human. "Is it…laughing?"
My face was burning. "How dare you! I am no one's 'pet'! This human is MY pet!"
"Toothless, buddy, I think we should leave. It's not really offering a fight, so…"
Not now, I thought grimly.
My human pushed his foot back to make me turn, and we began down back to Berk through the clouds.
The Dreary was coughing loud, barking laughs. "Enjoy the rest of your walk, oh mighty Night Fury! Oops, I mean—TOOTHLESS!"
The shame roasted my face to ash as we descend down to Berk, the Dreary's tantalizing laughter following like a never-ending curse.
My human docked us in our Cove.
This place was sacred, for it was ours. Of course, the female human—Astrid, was her name? I could never really remember—had been here before, but not for the connection Hiccup and I made. He took us here normally to relax on lazy afternoons and to escape the watching eyes in Berk.
But as my human dismounted, his eyebrows were furrowed with worry. He stared at me and said, "What happened up there, bud? What was that thing?"
I glared at the ground. The Dreary's words had imprinted a reminder in my mind: I. Was. Not. A. Pet. I was dragon—a Night Fury, a deadly demon of the thunderous skies, striking in darkness, unseen by poor, unworthy eyes. I had grace, dignity, and I strike terror into the hearts of hundreds—no, thousands.
I was my human's friend and flying partner. But I was not his "pet."
"Bud?" My Hiccup strolled over to me, limping from his prosthetic, and began to scratch the place behind my left ear. "You okay? Ya look deep in thought." He rewarded me with a toothy grin. "Which is abnormal for you. Thinking about dinner? Tonight's cod."
I hated how my stomach growled at the mention of the succulent fish. Hiccup was not to feed me, I could feed myself, like I had long before he caught me. A simple swoop to the surface of the ocean got me breakfast, lunch, dinner, and the occasional take-out snack.
The realization shot through me like self-inserted venom. The feeding. The name. The fact that I had a favorite place for him to scratch me.
Was I really becoming his pet?
Oh, Thor, I was, wasn't I? But I could not help it! Those soft, emerald eyes, like leaves in the summer, like a bed of moss, like circular glowworms in the dead of twilight. I could not conquer them.
If I made it obvious to my human that I did not appreciate begin treated like a common house cat, instead of the sleek, majestic creature that I was—even though I did enjoy the "tummy-rubs"—then perhaps he'd stop. Experimentally, I trotted away from his adoring hand and made my face serious.
"Toothless?" His eyes—oh, those adorable green eyes—agh, stop it!—were questioning.
I shook my head and put my claw on my ear.
"Does your ear hurt?"
I rolled my eyes. Of course, this is the assumption he makes.
My human reached out to rub my snout, and I backed away.
"Toothless? What's wrong? Does something hurt? Well, c'mon, tell me!" Oh, boy, he's becoming impatient. I put one claw on my snout and the other on my ear and shake my head no.
He blinked, and something dawned on him. "You…don't want me to scratch you? Is that it?"
I smiled crookedly and nodded.
"Uh…but why, bud? I thought you liked it when I scratch you."
Oh, I do, Hiccup, but I must maintain my dignity in the eyes of other dragons! (Sure, they enjoyed the same things I did, but I was—ahem—better than them.) I shrugged.
Suddenly, my human was grinning mischievously. He approached me and, in a surprise attack, began to tickle my stomach, my ears, under my chin and around my neck. I was on my back in an instant, laughing in harmony with my human—
Laughing. The sound of the Dreary's taunting laughter appeared again, making my heart pound with rage. I swung my legs over to get back on my feet and glare at my human.
My razor claws came in contact with something warm and extremely fragile. My human cried out in pain, which made my eyes flash to him immediately.
Horror took root in my soul and grew its limbs through my body.
My human was clutching his face, blood trickling down his fingers and sleeves. Gasps of pain lingered on his lips, low so that I would not hear, but I do hear—I hear with perfect clarity.
My eyes were preparing to pop from the sockets and roll down to the grass. I did it. I'd clawed my Hiccup. The blood staining the minty floor was of my doing. Not some other dragon, like I'd always feared. I'd done it.
I was quavering from head to toe, the vibrations trembling my bones and threatening to shake off my nightly scales. How could this have happened?! I'd just wanted to…I didn't mean to…I'd never…
But what hit home was the emotion glowing in my human's eyes, like fiery embers in the hearth.
My human, my sweet, innocent Hiccup, was afraid of me. I'd harmed him after all, an action I'd vowed to NEVER do. The whole incident had me so vexed that I slowly backpedaled, and before I was aware of it, I was running away, away from my poor human.
And to my perplexity, he was calling me back.
I stormed through the dark forest, not giving a damn as of where I was going—as long as it was away from Berk.
Surely, Hiccup had alerted his father, the Chief of Berk, of the accident, and he'd sent a search party, commanding they not return without my head. But where could I go now? What could I do? Maybe stay out here? But hurting my Hiccup had jarred me beyond mending. I was still shaking as I broke down branches and anything else in my path of forestry destruction.
Without my Hiccup, I realized with a sinking heart, I had no reason to live.
I could not fly, I could not relate to anyone else. He and I were just so alike. Broken, foolish, alone. Needing each other to travel. Needing each other in general.
I came to a moonlit clearing. Panting heavily, I lay down, gazing up at the stars and shimmery full moon.
I missed my human.
If all truths had come together to form the ultimate truth, that would be it. My chest heaved and ached with loneliness. I wanted my Hiccup back so badly. The remorse was agonizing. Why had I let that Gods-damn Dreary get to me? If I had just not let his jeers penetrate my scales, Hiccup wouldn't be hurt. And I would be by his side, helping him into bed, anxious to hear the soft sighs coming from him as he drifts off to dreamland.
Oh, how I missed him so.
My ears perked at the calling of my name. The voice was faint, familiar—
It couldn't be.
I stood and listened more intently. Yes. It was true. It was my human, searching for me.
I had just gotten time to shatter the paralyzing effect when I heard him stumble. I was through the bushes and weeds before I could blink, following his voice, memorizing where his body heat is. And then I was bursting over a hill and halting in front of him.
Hiccup was on his knees, wiping his hands together and grimacing. He was also mumbling curses to Odin on how amazingly clumsy he was. Then he glanced up, and our eyes locked.
I'd never felt so much shame. His right cheek had four long, nasty red claw marks, going from his chin to the corner of his eye. I whimpered in anguish and went to him, licking the tender wound as best I could. He started chuckling weakly and telling me how much he missed me.
"Toothless," he said after I started licking the fresh scrapes on his palms and the bump on his forehead, the first from stumbling and the second probably from getting smacked with a refracting tree branch. "I'm fine, calm down. Sheesh, you're not my mother."
Although, honestly, I thought I could possibly consider my Hiccup a younger hatchling.
"Toothless." He took my snout in his hands and forced us to make eye contact. "I know you're upset about what happened in the Cove earlier."
More than "upset," I thought bitterly. More like traumatized.
"But it was an accident," he continued. "And accidents happen. I'm fine. See? Just the daily scrapes. And they're my own fault. I can't stand for three moments without falling over and bringing something with me." Sheepishly, he held up a thin twig of a branch. "I pulled this right off while coming out here." He flexed and smirked. "It must be my raw Viking-ness finally shining through, huh?"
We were soaring through the starlit sky before I knew it, and I was laughing and rolling my eyes.
"Hey!" he objected as we flew home. "Can't a guy dream?"
We skulked through his room window and he collapsed in his bed. "Man, I'm beat. I'll patch this up tomorrow."
I couldn't help it. I curled up next to him, wrapping my tail around his tiny waist, and snuggled next to his mop of rawny hair.
Hiccup sighed contently. "Night, bud. Don't let the bed-dragons bite."
I crooned a farewell—temporarily, of course—and shut my eyes, making sure my human is nice and warm tonight.
Oh, how I had truly missed this bliss.
Me and my Hiccup.
Yes, you heard me correctly. He was still mine.
Just thought I would make it crystal-clear.