How to Housebreak Your Son's Dragon
Chapter 1: Show Some Respect
With all their warships burned, the Vikings of Berk faced quite a dilemma after the battle with the Green Death. It soon became evident that they were all going to have to follow Hiccup's example, and hitch a ride on the back of a dragon, if any of them were ever going to get back to their sturdy little village. The dragons were remarkably accommodating, and it wasn't long before small groups of Vikings were taking to the skies, bound for home.
Only four souls remained on the dragon's island by the end of the day. One was the unconscious boy. Another was Stoick, who refused to leave his son's side, and the third was Gobber, who refused to leave Stoick's. The fourth was the boy's dragon. Stoick would have risked flying home on one of the creatures himself, his son in his arms, if it hadn't been for Toothless. After everything the dragon had done for his son, Stoick was determined to honor the bond between them. Hiccup and Toothless would return to the village together, or not at all.
Patting his old friend on the shoulder, Gobber hobbled off in search of firewood. The thick curtain of night was closing in, and there was already a whisper of the impending winter in the air. It would be several hours before their fastest fishing boat, with Astrid serving as an aerial guide aboard her Deadly Nadder, would be able to reach the fog-bound isle.
"There we go," Gobber sighed, heaving a satisfactory armful of branches and half-burnt timbers onto the ground between Stoick and the Night Fury. "Should last us until the ship gets here, at least." He dropped to his knees and began stacking the wood into a pyramid.
Toothless, who had a horrible headache and had been drifting in-and-out of consciousness for a while, suddenly seemed to revive. He lifted his head off the ground, eyes fixed on what Gobber was doing. He had seen Hiccup arrange sticks in a similar fashion plenty of times, and knew what it meant.
Gobber noticed the dragon's interest and shrugged at him with the mallet he was currently using for a hand. "Heh. Wonder if we can't persuade him to light it for us."
It hadn't been a serious comment. It was more intended to get a smile, or at least a blink, out of the stone-faced Stoick. But with a throaty hiss that gave Gobber quite a start, Toothless spat a tiny blue streak of flame into the heart of the wood pile, creating an instant bonfire.
The flames reflected in Stoick's eyes as his gaze met the dragon's. "Wait a minute…" Stoick muttered. "Do you… understand our speech?" Toothless gazed back at him, the very picture of innocence, until at last the Viking chief averted his eyes. "No…" he grumbled. "No, of course not. Foolish of me."
Gobber looked impressed. "Hiccup must've taught him to do that," he remarked, settling down beside Stoick so he could get another look at burnt stump of Hiccup's leg. "Quite a useful trick, if you lose your flint or your tinder gets wet."
"…How did he do it, Gobber?" Stoick breathed, looking Toothless over from head to tail and back again. "How did he…tame it?"
"I've no idea," Gobber replied with good-natured abruptness. "But, you can bet that'll be the first thing I ask him, when he wakes up."
Stoick's eyes changed shape as Gobber's optimism brought a smile to his weathered face. It wasn't the sort of smile that managed to show through his beard, but it was a smile, nonetheless.
Gobber was quick to see it steal across his old friend's face.
Toothless saw it too, but was feeling too tired and miserable to return it with a smile of his own.
When the rescue ship finally reached the island, late that night, Toothless followed the Vikings aboard. Astrid landed her squawking Nadder on the deck beside them, a satchel of bandages and other emergency supplies slung over her shoulder. She stood bravely next to Toothless, patting his head, while Gobber and Stoick lit torches and got down to the dreadful business of properly amputating the unsalvageable bits of Hiccup's leg. Toothless, for his part, wasn't entirely comfortable with whatever the two large humans were doing to his boy, but he trusted Astrid's behavior enough to refrain from intervening.
Finally the task was done. As Vikings, they'd seen plenty of severed limbs, and Hiccup's was a little better off than some, since it had been partially cauterized already. Stoick took a deep breath, standing back and looking his son over, satisfied by the sight of the cleanly bandaged stump. But then he realized that Hiccup's face was bluish grey, and a hand to the boy's forehead confirmed his fears.
"What is it?" Gobber asked worriedly. "Has he got a fever?"
"The opposite," Stoick rumbled. "Skin's cold. He's in shock. His body's…shutting down."
"Well, I can hardly blame 'im," Gobber remarked. He watched in puzzlement as the chief took off his bearskin cape, and wrapped it around the boy. "You know, Stoick, one thing about dragons…"
"I don't want to encourage it to breathe fire aboard the ship, if that's what you're thinking," Stoick warned.
"No, no, not that," Gobber insisted. "It's just, when you're around them often enough, you can't help but noticing…"
"Of course," Astrid said suddenly, her eyes lighting up as she caught on to Gobber's idea. "Dragons are always warm. Give him to Toothless."
The dragon's ears perked up at the sound of his name, and with rounded eyes he looked back and forth between the humans, hoping to understand what they wanted from him.
Willing to try anything, Stoick gathered Hiccup in his arms and carried him towards the soot-black dragon. Toothless tipped his head to the side a little to try and get a better look at the unconscious boy as the Viking chief approached.
"…Here," Stoick said to the dragon, his voice catching hoarsely in his throat. "Hold on to him. Keep him warm. Please."
The dragon narrowed his eyes.
"Call him by name," Astrid suggested.
"…Toothless," Stoick muttered at last, not liking the misleading name at all but determined to gain the creature's cooperation. Toothless gave a low rumble of response, watching placidly as Stoick knelt on the deck beside him and reached for the leading edge of one of his great wings. Their eyes locked, Toothless allowed the human to touch his wing, and when Stoick began to lift it up, Toothless helpfully raised it the rest of the way.
Stoick eyed the Night Fury's clumsy forelegs with their wicked-looking black claws. Then he gently placed his son right back where he'd found him, entrusting the boy's life to the dragon's care once again.
This action seemed to be of considerable significance to the dragon, for he gazed into the chief's eyes for a long and solemn moment before riveting his full attention on the boy. With a worried purr, Toothless wrapped his limbs around the boy's scrawny body and hugged him to his chest, and then folded a wing around him, blanket-like, for added protection from the wind.
The rest of the trip back to Berk was uneventful, with Toothless dozing on the deck, occasionally opening one eye just a slit in order to peek at the boy under his wing. Stoick crouched silently next to the dragon for the entire voyage, and though his outward composure was like that of a calm sea, his mind was a whirling storm of thoughts and resolutions. His village, his tribe, would have to change. It would all be different now. As the chief, his people would be looking to him to lead the way.
It was obvious to Stoick that his own tolerance of the Night Fury beside him was going to be the key to the future of Berk's relationship with dragons. He would have to befriend the creature, just as his son had done. That would be the way to set the proper example for the tribe. Hopefully, the devil would cooperate.
It was nearly dawn when the watch fires of the village appeared on the horizon like a pair of burning eyes. By the time they reached the docks, the entire tribe had gathered to welcome home their hero and his already-famous dragon.
Toothless eyed the assembled crowds with obvious distrust, but when Astrid, Gobber and Stoick leapt ashore, Toothless knew he had to follow them. Unable to fly, and with no idea how long Hiccup would need the care of his own kind, Toothless had resolved to endure the humans for as long as necessary. He was a dragon, after all, and had an ancient capacity for patience, no matter how little he liked to use it.
Disembarking the ship with his boy still clutched to his chest presented something of a challenge. Toothless couldn't jump ashore using his hind legs alone, and any combination of wings and hind legs that he tried to use just seemed like an even greater recipe for disaster. So, after teetering uncertainly on the edge of the ship for a moment or two, Toothless changed tactics. He laid Hiccup down on the deck, and then picked him up with his mouth (teeth retracted, of course) as if the boy were nothing more than a big bony fish.
There was a gasp from the crowd at the sight of the boy in the dragon's mouth, but Stoick was quick to silence them.
"It's all right, it's all right," Stoick boomed to settle them, and then looked over his shoulder at the dragon. "At least, it had better be," he muttered.
"Rrrrh," Toothless said around his mouthful of scrawny Viking teen. He leapt off the ship with the grace of a leopard, deposited the boy at his father's feet, and then immediately hacked up a stray bit of bear fur. "Gyagh," Toothless remarked, shaking his head in the universal reaction to something that had tasted horrible.
Stoick took a deep breath. This was it. "Hear me now," he addressed the crowd. "This dragon-" he indicated Toothless with a dramatic sweep of his hand. "-is now a member of my family. And from this day on, any dragon that is willing to accept our hospitality will be welcomed here as a part of the tribe. The war is over. Dragons are no longer our enemies."
The crowd broke into murmurs of reaction and discussion, most of which sounded positive. The definition of Viking 'hospitality' seemed to be up for debate, but Stoick decided he would worry about providing clarification later. Stoick glanced down at Toothless, who had ignored the speech entirely and was busily gnawing on one of the frayed ends of his harness.
"Come on," Stoick rumbled. "Let's go home." He bent down to pick up his son, but at that, Toothless forgot about his harness and bared his teeth at the chief, growling a warning. Stoick froze, and a sudden hush swept over the crowd, as they waited to see what their chief would do.
It was a tense moment. Stoick was unused to backing down when a dragon presumed to threaten him. But all it took was a glance at the still-unconscious Hiccup to remind him that everything was different now. Slowly, deliberately, Stoick stepped back, and then turned and strode purposefully away.
Toothless cocked his head to one side and considered this turn of events, and then without a second thought, he scooped Hiccup up in his mouth again and trotted after the chief.
The Vikings of Berk had enough sense to clear the way, and this was how Hiccup the Hero made his triumphant return to his village: carried in his dragon's jaws, rolled up in his father's bearskin cape, with only his tousled red hair visible from one end and one lone boot protruding from the other.
When they reached the chief's hut at the top of the hill, Stoick swung open the door and stood aside. Toothless, however, was not familiar with the concept of going into and out of buildings yet, and so when the chief stopped, so did he.
"Gh," Stoick harrumphed, motioning with a stiff nod of his head that he wanted Toothless to go in.
"Gh?" Toothless mimicked as best he could, eyes wide.
"Get in there," Stoick muttered, conscious that the eyes of the entire village were still on them.
"Ghhnhrrr," Toothless rumbled, playing along. When Stoick didn't move or do anything else, Toothless sat down on his haunches, right there in front of the door.
Thankfully, Gobber seemed to understand what the problem was. Clearing his throat, he stepped around the seated Night Fury and hobbled into the house. Toothless watched the man disappear into the dark confines of the structure with only mild curiosity, but when Astrid patted his neck and then followed Gobber inside, the light came on.
Without another second's delay, Toothless darted through the door, his hind end wriggling as one of his wings didn't quite clear the frame. Stoick watched as the black tail with its missing fin swished across the threshold and then vanished inside the house.
Heaving a mighty sigh which sent his helmet sliding off to the side a bit, Stoick followed his newly-declared family member into the house, and closed the door.
...to be continued...
Author's note: hang in there, everybody. The fun stuff is coming up next! :D