To Soar Into the Sunset: Being the Memoirs of a Rather Irregular Night Fury
(a.k.a "How to Train Your Dragon with a Robert Heinlein Plot Twist")
Author´s Notes: (More Like Author's Encylopedia Britanica Volume I Nerd Edition Version 2.5, but just for this chapter): When I saw "How to Train Your Dragon" I could not get it out of my head how much Hiccup's nararation sounded like what you would read from a character in a Robert Heinlein novel- funny, sarcastic but also very thought provoking, too. I then thought it could be fun to write the movie novelization as though Robert Heinlein had written it (since he did write a lot of science fiction for young adults). I wrote it from Toothless' point of view. (It gives a chance to view us humans as an alien species, and we can be really weird.) First off: I can imitate Heinlein's style in a basic way, but it is just a poor imitation. If you can grab one of his books, do so. It's worth it. He´s influenced a lot of what we know about sci fi and even some fantasy novels today. And he had a great sense of humor that actually is timeless, so you´ll hopefully get a good laugh, too. Just keep in mind, he's a product of his time- some of his views can seem backwards to modern sensibilities, such as concerning women- but for his time, he was one of the first SF writers to portray women as smart, independent and competent. Second: I love Heinlein´s writing style, but I am not from a military or engineering background, so I am sorry that this is not "Starship Troopers." It's more like his "low tech", sociological and time travel novels like "Glory Road," "Job: A Comedy of Justice", "Stranger in a Strange Land" or, yes, "To Sail Beyond the Sunset (Being the Memoirs of a Somewhat Irregular Lady)." This is a PG rated version of Heinlein, so it is hopefully family friendly, just with the T rating (Life in 11th century Northern Europe was pretty tough, violent and grimy). Also: there is a bit of history tampering in this, so if you see it, keep an eye on it... it could because of a mistake on my part, but it could also be a part of the plot... :-)
Disclaimers: Cressida Cowell and Dreamworks own the rights to the HTTYD universe, and the rest of us are grateful to them. (A moment of bowing and respect to these good folks). Also, all quotes at the beginning of each chapter are from Robert Heinlein.
So, Read and Review. It's my first Fan Fiction and I am sure I am older than many people on this site, but I am always open to learning new things...
Chapter 1: The Ground is a Harsh Mistress
"A society that gets rid of all its troublemakers goes downhill."- "The Notebooks of Lazarus Long"
Author Note: The People (dragons) have their own way of measuring time, but to make it simpler, I have used the human measurements (days, months, hours, etc.)
When I woke up this morning I was lying in a most uncomfortable cord-vine and stone body trap with a lynx, a downed dragon and, some distance away, a brutally mangled tree. The smell of crushed plants and broken branches filled the air and there were some nasty blood stains on the rope trap.
This, I thought to myself, was not a good way to begin the day.
I may be young, but my line of work so far has put me in some weird circumstances. I've shared sleeping quarters with a wandering phoenix, a horse who thought it was a dragon and, one time, a troll men's choir. I've just never been in a situation where I have awakened as a prisoner.
The lynx I have seen before. We have a very genial relationship where we ignore each other. The tree I knew nothing about, except the poor thing had already been dead before it had been mangled. The dragon I know on a very intimate basis since, I am ashamed to say, I am that dragon.
And, yes, I am ashamed, because I should never, ever, have gotten myself into this position. My people have never been captured-or even seen for that matter- by these Birch Island Firemakers. The Lightning People are the top of the food chain, the one every other creature fears. Even the other dragon folk have a healthy respect for us because of our firepower and excellent aim.
The elderly lynx snarled ferociously and I, remembering my manners, gave an equally threatening and tooth bearing snarl. Pleasantries aside, she proceeded to walk around me, checking out the damage. When she came back to me her eyes were sad. She was quite confounded by this cord-vine trap. It seemed the Firemaker who had designed it had made sure I was not going anywhere. The lynx folded back her furry ears as we both heard the bushes above us crash. Something clumsy slid down the hill and then we were both confronted by...
... more lynx! (Oh, rapturous joy). This was a young mother and her two cubs on a hunting/learning expedition. The kids were awfully cute and if I were not tied up and in terrible pain I would have enjoyed seeing their tumbling antics. As it was, the mother gathered them together and gazed at me with as much surprise as the older lynx by my side.
Then the young mother began explaining to her cubs about how I, one of the mighty Lighting People, had been captured in this trap by the evil Firemakers. If something as powerful as I could be caught, then what could a lynx expect? Therefore... stay away from Firemakers! They can make all sort of evil things appear out of their front paws that hurt wild creatures, things of fire and metal teeth and even these vines with stones. You don't want to be like that silly Lightning Person, do you, kids?
I snarled softly. I have nothing against home schooling (I was home schooled myself, actually), but I resent it when parents have to make everything into a Life Lesson!
So I immediately began radiating images of casual coolness. I had intended this all along and the new cord contraption was a relaxing way to enjoy a nice, sunny morning. It enhanced the experience with its sleek lines and stylish design. I was in absolutely no danger.
The mother lynx snorted and growled at me, not buying it. Her cubs did, and that is what matters. She led them off, the smallest one asking his mother why they could not get a cool rope contraption like I was wearing. Please?
Even if the vine trap makes it impossible for me to get enough air in to shoot a flame, I still could try to have dignity.
The older lynx ducked her head to me in polite respect and touched her nose to me. She understood my position and was worried for me. Her people get caught in traps and sometimes wait for days to be found by Firemakers. Sometimes the lynx chews off a foot to get free, accepting freedom for a slower death as a result of the amputation. The Firemakers of this birch tree island have some compassion (at least for lynxes) and give a quick end with a heartfelt prayer of sorrow and a song of gratitude to the lynx for its life giving pelt. The end will be quick for me, too, she hopes. She bounds off into the bushes, wishing the gods to help me.
Ha, ha. She is a lynx, someone the horned Firemakers revere as a powerful nature spirit. I am a dragon, the essence of their trickster god on earth. They hate my kind. Worse, I am a Lightning Person, what they call a Nightfurygetdown, the most hated of the People. And they've never even seen me in the flesh! At the very least they will take my hide and my head. At the worst, they will keep me alive as a prisoner for their younglings to play with and learn how to kill my kind, poking their iron sticks into me as I eventually die of mistreatment.
I shuddered against my bindings. It's so ironic, really. How is it that I, one of the most agile of my species, one assigned to this difficult Signaler sector in spite of my youth, get knocked out of the sky this way? The first of my people to be captured!
I, a powerful adolescent male...
Errggh. Okay. I just answered my own question.
Admit it, buddy. You got where you were because you were right where you should not have been. Showing off, as usual. I should have just been an observer, lending some fire power here and there at the upper sweep of the invading force. My first directive is to be a signal coordinator on an island close to this one, relaying directions to my People flying through the area so they stay away from dangerous rock terrain and do not stray off their course into the dangerous sea. My second directive is as an undercover agent, scoping out why these People in this westernmost quadrant of the North Atlantic Sector (the Hebrides Island/South Iceland sector, if you want to be specific) have such unusual behavior. A primal directive of our kind is that we never steal food from Firemakers. It just complicates things that are already complicated between our species. These People have been doing it for hundreds of years, raiding the Firemakers of Birch Island and no one knows why. The horned Firemakers never move away. My People keep coming back on a more and more frequent basis. It's reached a stalemate and, honestly, something is going to come to loggerheads here and both species will destroy each other. My predecessor in this job died trying to find the answer to this question. As did the Lightning Person before him.
Looks like I will be the next one on the list, but I only have myself too blame. I got too much into my role. I have always been very good at hitting every target. It's part of my personal code that I do not shoot to kill Firemakers, but it is fun to scare them a little. I also loved their ant-like work ethic. I could knock down their adorable flaming torches and those sweet chunky command towers. Within a week, they would have nicely built them back up for me to shoot them down again, this time trying a different angle to add some extra challenge. The thrill of the dive, the wind against my wings, the the challenge of hitting a tower at a particularly awkward angle, the sound of the fire rising in my throat like a screaming ghost, that beautiful blast of indigo plasma that hits so clean... these are things that make life worth living! And being able to rise back into the clouds with no one seeing me, hearing behind me the invigorating cry of NIGHTFURYGETDOWN! Life just does not get more perfect than this.
I considered Target Practice one of the job perks of my spy mission. I had some fun, I helped protect my People while gathering some useful intelligence on their behavior... and I gave the Firemakers a healthy workout and a useful purpose in their lives to build new towers for me to shoot down.
Tonight should have been more fun than most. The Night Lady had opened her eye wide, and we had a full moon. Even better, we were able to rouse the Firemakers from their sleep, giving us a great advantage. They sometimes sense us coming first, so are ready for us. The element of surprise means my colleagues were able to catch a few more sheep and ponies than usual before the flaming towers went up and I went into action. I was relieved to see that no Firemaker children were taken tonight, though a Lava Person got awfully close to blasting one weedy Firemaker youngling who was weaving a path into the main area of the village. It looked around with an insane look of wonder. The only thing that saved it was the alpha male leader of the tribe grabbed it by the scruff of its neck and threw it to safety. (Ahhh, the old scruff of the neck strangle. It brings back fond memories of my kittenhood, it does!)
I like to pretend I am tough, but it sickens me when the Firemaker's children get carried off by my People. Some of my People even seem to enjoy it, a totally unnatural instinct for us. It does not escape me that most of these Birch Island Firemakers are big and stocky, and there is a reason not many are small and slender.
All the People were out tonight, and they all had those strange glazed eyes that creep me out. They seemed grateful I am here, but no one noticed me when I bailed him or her out of a difficult postion with my plasma bolts. I was taking mental recordings of their actions, hoping for a clue of why they were doing this thievery. When they invaded, sometimes only the Self Burners came (hell, they always come first and leave last). But if everyone comes to the celebration, then you know there is something serious in the works. Tonight I saw the usual nasty Self Burner (a queen this time; probably the Firemaker Alpha Male and she will come to blows tonight). I also saw a flock of persnickety Magnesium People trying to bring down a herd of sheep. They are small like me, but their fire power keeps them having to hunt in packs. My plasma flame is very intense and is better for hunting alone. I saw Lava People uprooting fish-drying racks . They are my personal favorites of the people of this group- they may not have my sleek looks, but their honesty and loyalty is something I appreciate. The two headed Folk are here tonight as well, setting dwellings on fire in their Strike One, Strike Two gas and spark strategy. And, amazingly enough, we even have the most dangerous (except for me) of the People, the tiny Sticky Fire People. They can do some nasty damage with that propane flare of theirs. Firemakers fear them and rightly so.
I flew high overhead, lending cover where I could, and laughing in joy when I got in a particularly good strike at a Firemaker installation. It collapsed in a beautiful way, one where the blue fire and red met in a nice braided display. It takes some good shooting power to get that kind of destruction. My mind recorded this image and I hoped I would impress a lovely lady at the next Lightning Person Convocation.
I heard the fear filled chant of NIGHTFURYGETDOWN and let out a whoop of joy, somersaulting backwards just for the fun of it. (If you happen to have wings, try a backward somersault sometime. I bet you'll like it.)
::Show off! :: one of the Magnesium People snorted at me. Like most Magnesium people she seemed to have a tail quill lodged into her body the wrong way, giving her a nasty attitude. Most of the Magnesium People consider me useless because I do not go for stealing the sheep or trying to kill Firemakers. And I hunt alone, and I am the only one of my kind, and blah blah blah. Oh, and I have freckles. That's a weird offense, but one I have tallied up to sheer jealousy since the Magnesium People are a bit on the vain side. They have every marking under the sun, but not freckles. Therefore I have committed some horrific crime.
::Why can't you grow up? This is serious business here!:: She added another angry mental blast.
::Thank you, that is the nicest thing anyone has ever told me. I will treasure your kind words. :: I executed a perfect bow from the air. ::If you'll excuse me, I'll go off and do some growing up now. Hopefully molting does not bother you? Or do you prefer the cocoon method?::
She blasted a magnesium bolt at me which, of course, I evaded, and I went invisible, using my naturally dark (and freckled) hide to blend in with the clear starry night.
So, all was well on this lovely, starry night. I soared down and planned my next move.
::Give me something to shoot at. Give me something to shoot at.::
I sighted the western tower, Perhaps this time I could go down doing a shot under my left shoulder to make it a bit harder. I pulled in my teeth to give the plasma bolt a clean shot, and I was just about to dive down when the most amazing thing happened.
There was not a cloud in the sky, but I got hit by a bolt of lightning.
I'm usually the one making the lightning, not getting hit by it, so I am just guessing that was how it would feel. My memories go a little cattywhompus here, but I there was a nasty CRACK! sound and then some hideous hissing as a heavy vine web of some sort clamped down on me. Suddenly I was falling, my wings pressed to my side, and my breath choking off until it was too constricting to shoot fire. I used my remaining full breath to roar in anger, a totally useless gesture.
Then I was falling towards the tree canopy, rolling over and over until I lost all sense of direction. I remember hitting against a big pine tree and felt it break in two. I felt my tail catch in the crack where the tree broke in the middle. The rest of me kept falling. I felt a sudden sharp pain, but gravity helped make sure my back half fell from that tree...with a nasty tearing sound. Then I was on the ground, skidding, gravity dragging me down a hill, carving a ditch with my dragging body, and then smashing up against a rock that bordered the edge of a deep canyon. Stars danced against my eyes for a moment and then all went dark.
And then, I woke up lying on my right side, very dizzy, with a lynx, a dead tree and me. And now you know why I am here and not up in the air where I should be.
The elderly lynx was now gone. A mist had settled around into the canyon, but the day was otherwise getting warmer. I realized I had never been on the ground this long in my life. I am a creature of the air. Whenever I am not flying, I am sleeping in caves located high above the ground. Even if there is no cave, then I try to sit on the highest rock formation I can find, but never the ground! I felt trapped by the canopy of trees covering the sky, almost strangled. Where was the sun? The clouds? How can anyone live in this perpetual green semi- darkness! Disgusting slimy grubs crawled beneath me. Insects flew onto my body, licking at the blood from the cords digging into my hide. I was also aware of dried blood crusting my tail and hindquarters from having my back half ripped down from the tree. A lot of it. Probably explains why I was so dizzy. Lovely. I could imagine no clearer way to invite wild predators to the all you could eat buffet than the way I lay just now.
Luckily, I was left at peace, hearing the sound of insects chirring and frogs croaking. Exhaustion kicked in and I found myself drifting to sleep. I'd need my strength to hold off night predators so I should be happy for the mercy.
A slight weight pressing in on my exposed left shoulder wakened me! I heard an unfamiliar growl in a language of no forest creature, something threatening but also tinged with fear. I flinched and let out a roar of shock. The pressure on my shoulder shifted and I heard a crashing of branches and leaves as the terrifying predator pulled its foot off my shoulder and righted itself. The powerful iron and fire smell of a Firemaker filled my nose. Dizzy, stunned, I opened my eyes and looked right into the face of the hideous, evil, terrifying, ferocious, murderous Firemaker who had come to claim my hide and head.
A thought crashed through my fevered mind:
:: Arrrrrgggggh! The gods have a sense of humor!::
The Firemakers had sent the village runt to kill me. I moaned. This was, indeed, the worst day of my life.
The runty Firemaker was posed above me, breathing hard, so thin that I could have sneezed and sent it to the moon. I could have had pity on it and remembered I used to be that thin, too, but I was not feeling too kindly at the moment. I could have considered, too, that it had been just coming out of a fight where it had been surrounded by ash and fire. Who knows, doubtful as it is, it might have been part of the fighting force? Then it had gone right out of its home territory in search of me and been traipsing all over the toolies, pushing through brambles, splashing through swamps and slipping down mossy hills. Covered with soot and ash, muddy, sweaty, insect bitten and scratched up on its face and front paws, it was a right royal mess. Just like me.
But you'll have to forgive me. My manners were not my best at the moment. And I don't think it was in the best mood either. What can I say? I think both of us felt hate at first sight!
The runty Firemaker stank of iron and fear-sweat and sheep and the skins of the animals it wore over its unwashed body (I thought its hide coverings were some blend of sheep wool, bear pelt, and elk and aurochs). Its greasy, shaggy and colorless head fur hung down into its eyes, hiding its gaze from me. What I could see of its eyes had a mad, feral glint in the pupils. I was actually amazed it did not have horns like most of its brethren. Probably because it was a mutant. Yuck. Oh, just yuck.
I still did not understand the language of these people very well, so whatever incantations it was saying over me were confusing. It held a rather businesslike little iron tooth in its shaking paws over my chest and chanted something in that gruff, growling, hissing, sing song language these horned Firemakers have. The only thing I caught was something that sounded like:
"'Ek er víkingr! EK ER VÍKINGR!"
Then I caught the final realization, the one that completely broke my spirit. I could pick up, under the mud and sweat the actual scent of the Firemaker. It matched the scent coming from the rope trap on me.
This young Firemaker had been the one to bring me down! This was not their village idiot. This was their most cunning warrior, the one whose front paws were strong enough to knock me out of the sky. I should have known. My people are the most feared and we are small and sleek. Why should it not be the same for the Firemakers? I just hoped it did not want to torture me slowly but would kill me quickly.
Filled with terror and fear, I moaned and closed my eyes, dropping my head to the ground. I offered my neck in the hope of a clean sacrifice.
::Do as you will:: I told it.
And... nothing happened. The Firemaker stopped chanting and then gave a little sob like breath. It said something that sounded like it was disappointed- "Ek gerði þetta."
I heard it walk away from me. It seemed to be debating with itself.
Oh, please don't leave me here to die like this!
Soft steps back to my side. Then a strange sense of release as the rope sprang loose from my side.
I opened my eyes, dizzily focusing back to reality. The Firemaker was actually using its magical front paws and the iron tooth to cut me loose of its trap! It muttered something I did not understand as it did this. And then I was... free!
Never one to waste an opportunity, my hunting instincts kicked in, and suddenly I was on my feet. I knocked the Firemaker's hind paws out from beneath it, and it fell back against the moss covered stone behind it. My move must have knocked the breath from it, because it started choking in terror under my front paw, the way I had just been gasping in the vine trap.
::How does it feel?:: I thought-sent back to it, willing it to feel every bit of pain and humiliation it had given me. :: Look in my eyes and tell me how YOU like being imprisoned!::
It did not understand me, and I did not expect it too, but it did understand my intent. It bleated a bit in fear, but it did not scream or struggle for its life. Instead, shaking in terror, it looked up to me and stared me right back.
I almost swear it was telling me: Do as you will.
I ignored that and debated the best way to put it out of my misery. Bite its head off? Tear out its throat with my claws? Blast it with my plasma? But, first, maybe let's tear the eyes out of its head.
Its eyes... its eyes... its eyes. Oh, great Sky Mother... it has eyes just like mine!
I was not expecting that. I am not from this part of this world, and in my journey here I have seen many Firemakers. Most Firemakers have brown eyes. The people of the region where I grew up have gold or gray eyes. The ones of this region have blue or grey eyes. This was the first Firemaker I had ever met who had green eyes, like I have.
It was unsettling. Except for the terrifying round pupils that Firemakers have that makes them look so demonic, I could have been looking into my own eyes.
And then there was that damn conscience of mine nudging in, right where it was not wanted! How could I kill someone who had freed me when I was helpless? And now I am going to kill it when it is helpless? This was not at all how I was brought up, and it is not the code of my mission.
And then that Firemaker has the bloody nerve to look back at me out of my own eyes?
Ah, scorch it all! Freezing hell!
I sucked in my breath and then sent it out in a roar where I delivered every foul, nasty, filthy insult possible. I ended it with a curse that the Firemaker was a pain in my tail and then launched myself away. The Firemaker's eyes rolled back in its face and it slid down the rock, probably fainting. Tempting as it was to gloat over the Firemaker, I instead made a dramatic exit. I launched off into flight...
...only to fall back to the ground as something pulled me off balance and then downwards. Snarling, I tried again, launched myself as far as I could, only to now hover over the lip of the canyon on the other side of me. I fell into the canyon and down to the bottom.
Huh! I got up, shook myself off and launched myself up again. It should have worked, but something pulled me back down again to thud against the walls of the canyon. I scratched against the walls, but they were so slick that I instead slithered back to the canyon floor
I was trapped now in this canyon! Trapped!
Howling in anger and using words for which my mother would have smacked me with her ear, I summed up the last of my strength and launched myself upwards. I almost made it over the canyon lip, but then I felt myself fly out of balance. My head cracked against a rock on the side of the canyon and I felt myself topple back into the canyon. Dizzy, bleeding from my nose and the rope cuts I raised my head and looked over my shoulder to my hindquarters.
My tail had curled around my hips in my fall and I could see the problem right away. My left aileron was gone. It had been probably been sliced away in the fall when I crashed through the pine tree.
I was not able to fly out of this canyon. I could get up in the air but not sustain myself in a level position before gravity pulled too much to the left and made me fall. Ah, gravity. It's such a hard thing to get over.
That Firemaker had freed me just to give me a slower and more painful death in this canyon. That Firemaker was smarter than I had ever guessed. I promised if I would ever meet that Firemaker again, I would finish the job this time.
With a moan of disbelief I stood up to try one last attempt, but all the delightful experiences of the day caught up with me. Like the crazy little Firemaker had, I felt my legs wobble, my eyes roll back in my head and I passed out into blissful insanity.