There is logic to everything, a sequence of steps that may happen and of those that must happen, a tree of possibilities branching out of a present.
The fact was that the inner conflict in Berk had to come to an end. Everybody wanted that. Everybody needed that.
The outcome of this fact was a very special event seen extremely rarely on the island of Berk, truly a privilege to witness.
It was a fight to the death between the village Chieftain and his brother.
Stoick stepped to his right, avoiding a terrible slash to his head while Spitelout twirled the reddish sword and stabbed, only to be blocked by his sibling's shield. The contender grunted as he strained to attack again. The toll of injury was visible on him, his head still bandaged. Stoick stood his ground, barely out of breath, not attacking with his hammer. He shielded himself from another slash. The gathered mob watched in silence. The Kill Ring's surroundings were filled to its limits. Adults watched the melee with blank faces, children and teenagers clung to the chains serving for a roof to have a place to watch their leaders fight to their last breath, equally silent.
Hiccup supported his head on the palm of his hand and watched the spectacle with an uninterested gaze.
There could have been many endings to this fight and even more that could shape the future. Hiccup saw only one outcome, one way, one will shaping and conjuring it into existence. It was his.
Two days. Only two days passed since he had gotten Toothless back or more accurately, he was allowed to have him back.
It did not change his life much. He felt a bit better with both his mind and body although nothing ground breaking happened concerning the dragon.
It started innocently enough, only two days before with a small child knocking weakly on the door to his house.
Hiccup leaned on his cane before the red-faced girl that appeared to be barely in her young teens. The one thing that made the shy girl very different from any other child in Berk was that she wore clothes of grey-dyed leather. It was the colour of the Elder's clan, the only recognised clan not based on blood relationships between its members. Berk had a surplus of warriors and it had also another big surplus.
An excess of orphans.
Since the establishment of Berk, women clad in grey ran the biggest and only orphanage on the island. From there the Elder selected a successor at the appropriate time.
The girl standing before Hiccup was possibly a house-helper judging from the relatively smooth skin on her fingers; a future apprentice, another prophet for their tribe, a gateway to the thoughts of their Gods.
"Fóstra would like to see you," the girl spoke meekly. She did everything she could to avoid the unmoving, drilling gaze of the young man. The Fury sitting behind him did not help to ease the tension either.
Hiccup tilted his head as if not understanding what was said.
"Of course," he said evenly as the pressure of silence became unbearable. "Please wait as I will get ready. Would you—"
"No! That's fine! I'll stay outside while you get...ready. All right?" The girl blurted suddenly.
Hiccup nodded and closed the door.
Her chest deflated as she let out a huff of stress-filled steam. "Thor's goat droppings, that was scary," she said to herself.
Hiccup made his way towards the house of the village Elder, riding on top of the most dangerous dragon known to Vikings. The same Vikings parted as the silent girl led the way, the Fury following in slow thuds through the shallow snow. Silent that was until she spoke.
"So...this is your dragon?" The Elder's apprentice asked mostly to start any conversation as the village hero preferred to ride without uttering anything. The accusing and nervous stares they were getting raised the hairs on the back of her neck.
"Yes," was the short answer.
"He's rather well-trained if you don't mind me saying," she barely replied as the well-trained dragon turned his head towards her faster than she could blink. A pair of luminous and strangely-shaped eyes projected menace.
Hiccup placed his hand softly atop the creature's head. The unusually-shaped pupils relaxed and the angry glare disappeared immediately while the dragon stepped forward as if nothing happened.
People they passed were eerily silent. Their eyes spoke volumes of what they felt seeing a human and a dragon together. Those who feared the image currently strolling down one of the main streets of the village quickly made themselves scarce. Those who were indifferent returned to their activities. Those villagers in favour of the new arrangement remained silent, not wishing to make their opinion known. Only a few greeted Chieftain's son. Those who hated the view, glared and spat muttering "traitor" but did nothing else. Hiccup showed them their place last evening.
The girl however, felt the pressure of each and every stare.
"They won't do anything. Don't worry."
It startled her to hear Hiccup speak so clearly behind her.
"I am not worried," she replied calmly.
The young man tilted his head. "You are not?" He asked, not surprised, not curious, just indifferent.
The girl took a deep breath. Her foot lingered in the middle of stepping forward before she turned back sharply and walked to Hiccup, stopping right by the dragon's side.
"I am not afraid," she whispered to him. Hiccup leaned down, removing his hood. "I am angry. You will bring destruction to us," the girl breathed out as if she could not keep it in any longer.
"How?" The male asked, sincerely intrigued at the sudden change of the topic.
Her eyes dropped ever so slightly.
"That's what amma says," she replied. "You have eyes that do not stop for anything, the eyes of a dragon."
She bit her lip, obviously pretending to be brave at that point.
"What's your name?" Hiccup asked while straightening on the saddle.
"Hilda," the grey-clad child answered confidently.
"Thank you Hilda," Hiccup spoke with a slight nod and almost-natural smile. "I am sure the Elder will discuss this point along with others today. It's not everyday anyone is given permission to enter her household. Please, lead the way Hilda," he said with a sense of finality, the corner of his lips slightly raised.
"You really are creepy," the girl muttered rudely before turning on her heel to continue her trek.
Toothless snorted as if amused by her comment while he strolled calmly behind her.
Children greeted the newcomers, young and even younger faces at first terrified, changing to laughs and unrestricted grins, free from how society and parents expected them to think and how to act. The hated dragon who Hiccup patted along the short, scaly neck was considered now as no different as a new and amazing toy or a pet. Toothless was soon surrounded by a boisterous crowd of little humans whilst Hiccup entered the three storeys-high building. It was large, with a distinctive dome for a roof and massive, elegantly decorated two-winged doors.
A woman emerged as the doors swung outward. Everything in her posture and movement spoke of modesty. She wore the same grey-dyed winter coat as Hilda but only larger. She bowed her head demurely in greeting and wordlessly gestured with her hand for Hiccup to follow her. He did not look back even once to check on Toothless as the door clanged heavily as they closed.
Children circled the beast speaking in hushed and excited whispers, giggles. A few braver souls approached to touch the scaled hide. Toothless did not move or seemed to notice the little humans surrounding him, his gaze intent on the closed doors.
The stifling, almost suffocating scent of herbal fragrances and stagnant, pungent air assaulted Hiccup's nose as he passed the leather curtain. The living space the Elder occupied was dark, without any visible light source beside the wide, tallow candles lit on the round table in puddles of old wax. Pieces of animal bone and rune-filled parchments lay around the table with some hanging precariously over the table's edge. He stood at the entrance, waiting.
"Sit, young Haddock," a raspy, elderly voice came from near the table as dry and dusty as the air inside the room.
Hiccup sat in the only empty, simple-looking chair he could find, leaning his cane against the armrest and took off his hood.
"It is an honour to visit you, Vǫlur," he said throatily, fighting to get the air out of his lungs against the dusty air.
The wood of the sorceress' staff glimmered briefly as she leaned toward the candles. She looked different.
A blue mantle over her head and shoulders, glassy beads hung on strings from her neck and a hood of lambskin finished with ermine concealed her eyes. Her wrinkled, thin lips he saw very clearly.
"How d' ya feel?" They spoke.
"Strong, Seeress," Hiccup answered as he bowed his head.
The Elder smiled, as much as her aged muscles allowed.
"Strong...yes...yes," she said as if agreeing. "Ye must b' wonderin why ye came 'ere for."
"It is tradition for every male of the ruling clan after reaching adulthood to come here and receive a personal prophecy," Hiccup stated.
"Yes...yes," the Elder mumbled, agreeing again. "All previous rulin' men received one, all of them. It's a tradition...yes. An' if there's anthin' ye' showed us is t' break it. Hiccup, I have a prophecy for ye, right after ye was born. I have it now…I can't reveal it t' ye."
"If it's your wish," Hiccup nodded his head again, "recent events forced me to reconsider the ideology of fate and destiny. Unfortunately I believe that I weave my own destiny as degrading as it sounds to your Gods."
The Elder's smile fell.
"Yes...I was told by th' Gods ye lost yer faith. I can only hope ye'll soon be back to th' right path," she said solemnly.
Hiccup dipped his head without a word.
"As we ar' 'ere, young Haddock ye can speak ye mind. Ere' we ar' equals," the Elder spoke soothingly with a wave of her bony hand over the table.
Hiccup looked down at the old table and picked up a piece of bone.
"Is it a dragon's?" He asked.
"Boar," the aged woman corrected, an interest sparkling in her eyes.
The young man lifted a small, ceramic dish filled with a dark liquid. He smelled it for the briefest of moments before putting it back, repulsed.
"Blood," he spoke.
"Blood," the Elder agreed.
"I see more bones on your side of the table. Are they boar's as well?" Hiccup asked.
The sorceress answered. "Some ar', some ar' not."
"Is it really necessary?" Hiccup asked. "All of this magic? Is it really necessary for all of these morbid decorations? Blood and bones? I am sure there are some jars with alcohol and intestines and organs of various creatures in it. Is it true some prophecies can be done only with the blood of a dragon, or blood of a virgin? Why a dragon's, or human's. Why blood at all? Why not water with powdered red algae in it. Would it make such a difference? Do the Gods really care about what type of fluid you use?"
"It is not fer' us t' decide. It's wha' I was taught by my predecessor an' what she wa' taught by her predecessor. Do ye kno' how th' next Seeress is selected?" The Elder asked.
Hiccup thought briefly.
"From what I've heard, you select candidates from the girls at the orphanage that show a certain...gift."
"Most of th' time, yes," the woman agreed, "only once did th' Elder come from outside these walls. Elga th' Knowing. Only th' second who earned th' title of Seeress. All because we fallow th' old teachings. Such is a power of tradition," the wrinkled head moved to the side, taking hold of a thin, but sizable book. Without a word she handed it to Hiccup.
He accepted, wiping the dust from the brown, leathery cover before he looked back up.
"Open it," the Elder ordered.
He did. There were no words. There was no need. What was there he understood more clearly.
The book or more precisely, the art book was filled from the first to the last page with beautiful, colourful drawings.
There was a picture of a cliff by perilous water, furious waves foaming. Warriors on horses fought against another army. The ones by the cliff were losing, heavily outnumbered. Behind them ships sailed away. The warrior's intent was clear. They were not meant to survive, but to secure the departure of the ships.
"It's th' history of our people," the Elder spoke from the veil of darkness. "More than three centuries ago th' last remnants of Clan of Vanguard, one of th' less powerful clans in Scotland, was purged out of th' lands. Th' King was merciless in his endeavour. All because th' Vanguards were remnants of what others called Viking. Th' King had a cause, t' unite all the clans and form a strong army. An army against a dark an' unstoppable enemy tha' was coming from the Far East. All the clans wanted t' join th' unification, except one."
Hiccup looked at the drawing. He could almost hear the Vikings laugh as they were dying, seeing their shiny, joy-filled eyes. It was a mad march towards destruction.
"That's th' price we paid fo' our transgression. Instead of accepting the King's pledge, our leader schemed against him. Hatred fo' other clans poisoned our leader's heart an' started a war, a short-lived struggle. Some managed t' escape. Even less survived th' journey t' see their new homes," the woman continued her tale.
Hiccup turned the page. Monstrous waves, a dark, deep night and the sky being pierced with lightning. As tiny dots against the waves, drakkars filled with people fought for survival. There were so many of them. So many would die.
"A storm. They called it a storm of the millennium as no one ha' ever seen one as harsh as tha' one. The fleet was scattered, thrown at th' mercy of th' sea. Only a handful of drakkars and one knar survived. There was barely any water left t' drink an' even less food t' eat. Weather an' illness killed th' weak an' most of th' young. If anythin' was prayed fo' at tha' time it was fo' a merciful death. People needed hope an' needed guidance. Th' Gods listened an' they received one," the Elder gestured for the boy to turn the page.
Hiccup's breath stilled and his hand trembled.
An ivory dragon with crimson eyes stared back at him, its outline blurred. The whole art piece appeared to be drawn hazily as if the artist was in a hurry to memorise it.
"Th' very first Vǫlva. It's what she saw in her first vision. A white dragon did not say anythin' bu' brought her comfort she never felt before. Soon after, th' Gods begun speaking t' her."
"This dragon," Hiccup interjected quickly, "is there any other information about this dragon?"
The Elder looked carefully at the teen before answering.
"Nothin's written 'bout th' dragon ever again an' ya won't read or hear any of our history before arriving to this island. That was th' price th' Gods demanded. For our life they wanted fo' us t' forget our past. T' start anew," she mentioned, motioning for Hiccup to turn the page.
Two following pages were blank. A tiny word was written at the bottom of the first page.
"Then why do you tell me this?" Hiccup asked.
"Because it's th' Gods will."
He turned the page.
"We found th' island an' as promised we forgot who we once were, as much as we could. We became Berkians. Just Berkians. Vikings from nowhere. Th' first years were harsh for us. Many, oh so many did not survive. Bu' we did survive an' we grew. We learned how t' live in our new home. How to respect it and in return it respected us back. As a strict mother it would make her children pay fo' any mistake, bu' would show kindness an' love if the children would follow her rules."
The page was turned. Hues of orange and red dominated. Dragons attacked.
"It was more than sixty years after we arrived to th' island when dragons began their raids. We had t' adjust once more. Afterwards, our existence became somewhat stable. There were dragons an' there wa' a shortage of food each year. Leadership changed its clan a couple of times. Despite all of th' problems, we were still on th' island. As if absolutely nothing could move us from 'ere. We never raised our blades against each other or against any other human. 'Till one leader changed it all."
Some pages were brittle and glued together with age. Hiccup looked through the drawings, noticing the changing style. A new hand created them as a new Elder took over the duty of taking care of the village journal. Most of the pages pictured dragons, their raids or soaring above the waters. There was a sacrificial altar, bathed in blood. Whose blood it was impossible to tell. The first mine, first large shipyard, another smithy, the Mead Hall built and then finished, the Kill Ring, the first Christian missionaries. A lone boat amidst the hiding sun, sailing peacefully towards it as it burned. History rustled beneath his fingers as he moved forward through time.
It was not what the Elder wanted him to see.
There was no blood on this page, no carnage as Hiccup expected.
Another style hit his eyes. A bit inattentive to the contours, enough to show the scene perfectly clear.
Warriors, girdled with the same, green cloaks sat in the Mead Hall. That was all there was to an inexperienced eye. Hiccup saw more. They were all clad in chainmail and iron plates. They did not don metal armour to kill dragons but used it when fighting other humans. Green mantles were meant to discern them in the heat of battle. Green was Haddock's clan colour.
Berkians had been readying for war and they had won.
"Ye' grandfather dreamt of greatness," the Elder said dryly. "The years before th' war were unforgiving. Winter struck again with its white talons an' sowed despair in people's hearts. Tha' very despair bred acceptance amongst th' people t' seek resources in th' nearby tribes. Relations between us an' others were tense, for reasons nobody cares t' remember now or does not want t' remember. The Gods did not allow tha' war. I did not allow it. "
Her bony hand tightened and twisted against her staff. Hiccup waited, not knowing for what. What the Elder spoke of was common knowledge, if one was curious enough to ask around. Hiccup wasn't however Gobber was one. He was a great story teller and there was not a day he did not speak of silly adventure, his undies or of the horrid and shameful period of their tribe's history.
"Th' conflict we ignited took over th' Archipelago, forcin' all th' Tribes t' join. We were victorious but at a price. Two out of the seven known Tribes ceased t' exist. The Bog-Burglars, our closest ally, broke all diplomatic relations with us. Others paid their price in sheep, gold, salt and spices, in amber an' iron...an' in blood. Do ya remember th' names of those we destroyed?"
"The Berserker Tribe and the Hysteria Tribe," Hiccup answered.
The Elder nodded. "Yes... poor Hysteria clan. Their home was an island t' th' south, first on th' trading route merchants took from th' Mainland. They were traders...farmers an' scholars, even if unorthodox ones. Rarely plagued with dragons, war did not visit them. They were peaceful, they were resourceful an' content. Tha' made them an excellent target. Bu', before swords an' arrows hacked them, words destroyed them," her eyes grew distant, to different times.
"Benchsnap Horrendous Haddock, ye' grandfather. He, an' those who supported him at th' time started a rumour. Hysterics had riches, unimaginable riches, food an' materials we so desperately needed. They knew 'bout us an' still refused t' help! Wha' scoundrels, they said! They had everything, drunk on milk an' honey whilst our daughters an' sons froze an' starved. An' so th' tribe sailed t' take what was rightfully theirs."
"With all due respect, Seeress, I am aware of this," Hiccup said gently.
The wrinkled fingers eased their grip on the cane.
"There's a plan t' everything, young one. Nothin' is without purpose, without its destiny. It's the world Gods created. We were victorious, decreased in number although victorious nevertheless. We had it easy, drunk on stolen treasures as a leech on a dead body, we celebrated. But th' Gods see everything and they d' not forgive. We were punished for our-their insolence. During the Summer Yule we were reminded why the Gods desires cannot be ignored!"
Her voice quieted slowly in Hiccup's head. They gazed into each other eyes. It all came together, why he was summoned here. He smiled thinly. The wrinkled digits squeezed the wood harder.
"It reminds me of something I experienced quite recently, oh reverent Vǫlva. You speak about a plan, divine Hnefatafl the greatest ones play with us. How insignificant we must be in their eyes. Little, insignificant bags of meat and in their infinite wisdom they would judge our tiny, insignificant wars. Their wisdom and yours is something worth bowing to," he nodded his head deeply.
"Their punishment was swift and just. That was when our tribe lost many of their children and it was when I lost my mother. Truly, vengeance of the greatest of the great was justified and it is all the wisest should see. However, I, a person with a much smaller experience of life had no choice but to see a different vision of the past. Such are the mistakes of youth. Please, I will share with you my mad babbles so you may rectify my limited comprehension unto the right path."
Hiccup still smiled.
"I see the reason it happened, a human reason. Only those who survived from the Berserker clan were those who were not on the island when it happened. Plagued with guilt and hatred they chose the best moment to attack. Twelve days in both winter and summer Yule are holy times, as the Gods desired and during those days the spilling of blood is forbidden. Those who murdered my mother preferred to become Níð than to obey oaths. Nobody expected an attack, and as you, the great oracle said, we paid the price for our lack of insight. Unfortunately I fail to see a hand of the Gods in it. I see the effect of the politics of a power-hungry man and the desperation of the masses. I see their choices and their choices alone."
"Yer point, child?" The Elder asked. Hiccup did not smile anymore.
"We create our own life through the choices we make. To believe something else is making choices for you is to give away the freedom you have and surrender control over your life," he spoke.
The woman leaned, her face a rigid mask.
"Ye cannot question t' freedom of somethin' tha' never belonged t' ya in th' first place. Life is not somethin' tha' belongs t' ya. It belongs t' th' Gods. Ye' might question it, struggle against it, bu' there's nothin' ya can do. It's easier t' accept it," a hard note rung at the end of her declaration.
"It's easier...yes," Hiccup said softly. He still saw it, in front of his eyes. The being made of light, the crushing insignificance, suffocating nothingness to be forgotten against the unforgiving passage of time, the destiny all things will share. Why did it matter? Indeed, why did anything matter?
He felt the answer; the calming, serene presence of Toothless. That was why it mattered.
"Respectful Seeress, would you mind answering me a question, if you will?"
The blue mantle nodded.
"If you would meet the Gods, if you met a being more powerful than you, would you bow to it?" He asked, his penetrating, green eyes held their gaze.
"Without question," was the answer as thin, colourless lips rose in a patronising smirk. Hiccup answered the facial contortion in kind.
This room made him feel sick. He wanted to leave.
"And if...it...asked for you to sacrifice what you hold dearest. What if it would ask you to kill who you love the most, would you bow to its wishes?" He asked, completely unnecessarily.
"Child," the Elder said quietly, "there's nothin' I would not do t' appease the Gods. The will of th' Gods is absolute. Only a madman would go against them. No, not even a madman, bu' an utter fool, an' yer not a fool, ar' ye', Hiccup?"
"Of course...," the fool said, wiping his suddenly sweating forehead. "Of course, Seeress, you are right...you are absolutely right."
The air was too dry. It was too warm. The room was too small. Everything smelled of stagnation, of dust and rot. This place stopped in time too long ago.
Death was what the Gods wanted, what they relished in. Go forth and die! Die with a smile on your face! Live in fear and try to justify life in constant misery and pain! If life had a reason so did death.
He quelled a groan as his chest flashed in phantom pain as if a claw ripped his heart. This time, however, he was not alone. The presence of Toothless immediately strengthened and ripped away the awful sensation. Hiccup massaged his chest, calming himself in three, practiced breaths.
The place was still suffocating.
"Great Vǫlva. My mother died because of a sum of human decisions made before her. She was also a part of the path that led to the final, tragic outcome. She participated in the war as well, but I can't blame her. Do you know why?"
The Elder's eyes narrowed.
"Because I do not know who my mother really was. I see her clearly, her image burned into my mind. Those few moments before her death...I will never forget them. I loved her as a child would. I idolised her. I cherished every second I spent by her side. To me, she was one of the Gods you speak of. But, I did not KNOW her as I should. And I never will. She is dead and there is nothing I can do about it."
That is a lie, he thought. You could've brought her back to life, but you rejected an offer to bring her back. You killed her again and you know it.
The room was strangling him slowly, seeping away his strength, yet for some reason, he smiled.
"I do not hate those who did it. Not anymore. Lately, I had a lot of time to think about...everything. I put all I knew and all I was in perspective. Just as I hated dragons, all emotions, all ideas, instincts which spawned them, they are here," he pointed to his head. "I am the master of my own mind. Can you comprehend this incoherent babble of an inferior mind, great Seeress? The Gods never mentioned that dragons were not inherently evil. They were horrific beasts from the underworld, bringing destructions, heralds of the last dawn, and the end of days. This was a view which you supported and your ancestors did, just as mine. However, I do not blame you, just as I do not blame my family or my father or mother. I only blame myself," he stated calmly.
"I blame myself that I believed in such a destructive set of values and such a confining ideology. I opened my mind and heart to a creature we were supposed to hate and kill. I risked everything, but my act would've been seen as an act of treason, a weakness, a dangerous anomaly. It ended with me losing everything I had. My identity, my dream, and the shreds of connection I had with my father. My act spawned a change. A change in rigid, self-destructive ideology built on death and carnage. I want...I need to change the dogma that shackles our society before we destroy ourselves," he turned the page to the beginning, a sight of battle, people being chased away into the sea.
"I will never support actions or ideas that bring unnecessary death," he spoke, his words colder than the world outside. He momentarily lost composure as he wiped sweat from his forehead again.
He had to get out.
"Is it wise, youn' Haddock?" The Elder's voice asked from darkness as cold as his own. "Opposin' th' Gods? Opposin' me?"
Hiccup straightened in his seat, on his face a very natural smile.
"As you said, Seeress," he answered without any hesitation. "Only a madman would oppose the Gods. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to get back to my house. I have a meeting with Gobber and about my prophecy... I do not need it, great Oracle. I will weave my own destiny.
Their gazes locked, they remained silent for a while longer the Elder nodded.
He stood up and waited respectfully for a permission to leave.
"Ye'll make a fine leader, Hiccup. I sincerely hope yer determination will not be extinguished in th' future." The boy might have seen the faintest of smiles, lightened for a moment with a waving of a candle flame. "May th' Gods protect ye'."
Hiccup bowed and left without a word, the clutter of his steps leaving was the only response.
A wrinkled hand took a book atop the pile and placed it carefully amidst the table. She opened it to the first drawing, one she had made this very morning.
The island was burning. High flames seemed to reach the sky as Berk burned. Before it, a ship and standing behind its balustrade, a lonely figure looked back at the inferno. Next to the figure sat another, the unmistakeable silhouette of a Night Fury.
"May th' Gods protect us all."
Take one drop of greenish liquid from flask number six before every meal.
Hiccup read the note left by Seven again as he poured the medicine with the consistency of mud and a similar taste slowly onto the wooden spoon.
Behind him Toothless snorted and wrinkled his scaled nose in disgust. Hiccup ignored him.
"What is the probability that Seven left me these all-important medicines in regular, fragile containers?" He asked as he looked at the corked bottle made out of smooth, uniformly black something.
He swallowed the concoction and without a shred of hesitation he grabbed the flask by its smooth neck and smashed it against the edge of the table.
Chips of wood flew from the aged, innocent furniture as his hand recoiled, the precious medicine intact.
"None," he stated.
The dragonoid snorted. The young human put down the bottle and took another, one with a turquoise line running around its neck. To keep the blood flowing through your crazy brain, Seven's letter said. A letter on each flask also specified their purpose from –
Your new favourite wound dressing.
For the best sleep. Ever.
All ended with a small note.
If Hiccup learned anything about his mysterious guest it was that she liked to push her way into his life with her white boots and leave a deep mark. If anything, he was annoyed as he ever was since she left.
He grabbed the empty lamb shank he had for lunch and threw it above his head. He heard a whine behind him which he paid no mind.
Hiccup was annoyed because of a certain development he learned of on his way back home, eavesdropped by accident from talking villagers.
Spitelout regained consciousness and was up and busy since very early morning.
This was not in his plans.
He threw another bone above himself. Toothless whined again, not receiving anything.
However, plans could be adjusted. Gobber was surely in the Mead Hall, enjoying the mead, company and service to his father. No…to the Haddock clan.
Stoick also left two guards by the door from which he had escaped thanks to Toothless. His father was overly protective; he only had a little stroke last night.
It was a minor haemorrhage. You need anticonvulsants along with a dozen other specifics. All the time you are guided or forced to cooperate as a lamb on a harness led to the slaughter house, said a small, highly amused voice in his head.
He threw another bone in the air and rubbed his forehead tiredly. Being in the "right" or "righter" mind did not serve him well. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and vulnerability did not help. He would have not taken his medications if Seven did not clearly state in her letter that therapy must be done using all instructions.
Like a lamb led to a slaughter house. Powerless and naïve, even missing-
"That's enough of resting for today," Hiccup said out loud, standing up and hissing at the pain emanating from his stump. Pain. He was more receptive to pain. His clothes irritated his skin. The cold prickled his exposed half-leg. Fatigue demanded for him to lie down.
Was this how weak he felt before? Why was it so important for Seven to cure him? He did not want to feel so much, to be so empathic, sensitive. It only...
It only brought pain.
He strapped his 'Most Stylish Peg Leg in the World' according to Gobber and threw the last bone above himself. This time he followed its path with his eyes. Suddenly the pink interior of a maw materialised out of thin air and swallowed the bone, disappearing with a quiet hiss of electric sparks.
A supervised, powerless lamb…
He turned back to Toothless who looked back at him with unhidden hurt in his grey eyes.
"Come on. We need to escape the guards again."
The former Night Fury did not move.
"I will get you something to eat later. Salmon if you want."
They escaped the guards without a problem.
He entered the Council Hall without the accompaniment of elevated gasps and whispers. In fact, it seemed nobody noticed his entrance. Hiccup adjusted his grip on the walking stick and with his finger, pointed up without looking behind. A gust of wind swept his back as a hobbled Toothless was balancing on support beams above him.
It was quite silent for a place filled to its brim with people. One of them spoke, with a restrained, rhythmic and sharp voice.
Behind the fire, Spitelout's eyes locked on Hiccup's, glimmering with mad intensity. His outstretched hands seemed to encompass the whole room. Or was it the shadow behind him rendered by the flames? Visible bandages on his head and neck and those not visible did nothing to diminish the sincerity and majesty of the speech.
The grey orbs of the speaker looked elsewhere and Hiccup remembered to take a breath. Not out of fear, he was fascinated by the certainty how that stare made him feel.
Without any doubt, his uncle wanted him dead.
Unknowingly to him, Hiccup smiled, walked forth and guided himself around the centralised mass of bodies, listening. The wood above him whined softly.
"In every war, what's most important my brothers an' sisters?" Spitelout yelled hoarsely. "What is most important fo' a warrior? Pride? Glory? Wealth? I tell ya, NONE of those things! A warrior always fights fo' the victory! Victors ar' th' one who write th' history, th' ones tha' ar' not asked 'bout their motives an' actions. Victors ar' always just an' always right!"
The already heated crowd clapped, a few whistled. The leader calmed them with a casual wave of his hand, downed some mead and glanced at the hourglass by his side.
"My fellow warriors. Wha' does it mean t' win? It means t' pass a test! Stronger is th' one who survives! Stronger is th' one that stands before th' fallen enemy! Tha' is how this world was set up by th' Gods! Life's t' struggle, life's t' fight! Only those who follow th' teaching of our songs know th' way! We live t' die in battle! We live t' win an' prosper so our offspring an' theirs may follow th' same, glorious way! Death t' th' enemies of Berk! An' if Gods permit, death t' us in battle!"
His shout was drowned in the thunder of clapping and a chant, drowning all thoughts from Hiccup's mind. Whatever people shouted he heard one word.
The word reverberated inside Hiccup's numb body, echoing within his bones, draining heat from his muscles. The mugs, filled with alcohol, rose into the air. The collective voice drilled and penetrated without mercy.
Hiccup bit his lip so hard his tooth cut through. Slowly, he lifted his eyes. The ash-coloured gaze with the strength of steel gazed back into him. Spitelout was looking at him, expressionless. There was no superiority in his eyes, but there was one emotion in them, one which promised the very idea which was currently celebrated. He was looking only at him and him alone for the briefest of moments.
The screams finally, finally quieted as Spitelout raised his fist.
"Using th' last of my remainin' time, I appel t' ya, people of Berk! Th' victory requires payment in blood! It is our way, it is th' way of th' Gods an' it's th' ONLY way! Some of us have...mistaken an' misinterpreted our teachings. We must wage on th' war until th' enemy's destroyed. Utterly an' absolutely! It's against the Gods' will t' not destroy tha' threatens our ways of life an' our existence! Anythin' tha' wants t' change our ways must b' destroyed before it destroys us! We hav' been harbourin' an enemy in our very village. Amongst us, a traitorous snake has seeped poison into our thoughts, bu' NO…MORE! Th' votin' will decide our future. We cannot continue t' be in dispute any longer, we cannot anger th' Gods with our indecisiveness, we cannot turn our back from our teachings. Th' only right teachings! Death in glory!"
The chant began again. One single day after Hiccup had his speech. He felt cold, he felt numb. He felt powerless. He faced the Red Death, he faced himself. He thought he understood. He thought the obvious idea of persevering life would be easily accepted. As he watched, jaws opened in a primal expression of domination, white teeth glistened, fangs showed.
Why? Why are they doing this? Why?
It was the cliff, the same Berkian precursors fell into with smile on their face. A march towards self-destruction.
He lived in a war-driven society. He lived with people who had lost their closest ones to war whether by dragons or humans. It was a society where death was seen by the majority as a joyous occasion, mandated by honour, validated by hatred. Conflict was not even a necessity; it was a requirement, a sign of life as breathing itself. It might have been true.
He had forgotten that he himself danced with Death itself, hand in hand in circles while others waited for his turn to swirl in the last figure and then disappear from the scene.
He had to win. He had to or the possibility to accept dragons would perish permanently. Could he function then in the village, with people who rejected something new to preserve their destructive routine?
"Thank ye', my fellow warriors! However," Spitelout's voice boomed, "my son's decision t' publicly support my brother's actions cannot be taken back!"
Hiccup looked around, searching for Snotlout. He was nowhere to be seen.
"I cannot take my son's words back. I can only promise tha' his words did NOT reflect my beliefs or my family's ideas! I already took th' necessary steps t' educate my son properly in th' matter of dragons." His eyes glistened dangerously. "Therefore, from this day forth I forbid my son from takin' part in Council matters as long as I live!"
Hiccup frantically sought for his cousin amidst the announcement. Words spoken like that had a lot of power. What would that mean to Snotlout? What would happen to him now?
The teen turned his gaze to Toothless who looked down at him in worry.
"Leave, wait outside," Hiccup mouthed silently.
The dragonoid's pupils dilated in surprise and the boy felt resistance and opposition emanating from Toothless' mind. Hiccup crushed those feelings instantly. The scaled head recoiled in shock and after a brief staring contest the beast left as silently as he came.
Hiccup averted his eyes away from the leather screen covering the portal as the dragonoid exited.
It was not a place anymore for any creature other than human amongst the crazed mob, not only for Toothless, but for the village as well. He would have to think now of special provisions to hide his...friend more, creating a routine for them to meet in peace. He needed Toothless. With him around Hiccup felt more at ease. He needed him to function properly.
Everyone quieted as the Elder stood up and walked slowly to the front of the table she sat at. She did not make any gestures, she did not say anything. She merely turned the hourglass and nodded to the previous speaker, her small silhouette leaned against the cane. She was silent for a long time until people began whispering between each other.
"I'm 'ere t' deliver a message," the Elder croaked, without power and without pompous gesticulation. Everyone listened. The most respected citizen of the island almost never spoke to the people, only when the situation was dire.
"Th' Gods spoke t' me last night. There's one thing they want from us. One they demand fo' their continuous protection an' guidance!"
Hiccup leaned harder against his cane. What did she mean? Was it a ploy against him, against the dragons? Was it vengeance against him, the unspoken threat of going against her and the Gods?
She spoke quickly as if the quicker the message would be uttered, the easier it would be.
"We have lost the Gods' protection! T' regain it we must leave this island! Leave an' travel west before th' ice sets in. We ar' no longer welcome 'ere! We. Are. Exiled from th' island!"
Hiccup's eyes widened. No comment was made by anyone due to the shock the statement carried. The words still reverberated around the room, perhaps people whispered words they heard in disbelief or it was all in Hiccup's mind.
Leave the island
No longer welcome
They were exiled. This was not how it was supposed to be. The war ended, peace loomed ahead.
This was not how it was supposed to be.
"Why? Why ar' we no longer welcome in our home? Wha' hav' we done t' anger th' Gods?" A single voice cut through the void of silence. Spitelout asked a very legitimate question. He arose from his seat, ignoring formal protocol and raised his finger, a triumphant grin on his face.
"It is because of th' dragons! Peace with th' dragons is somethin' tha' disgusts them. To ally with th' destroyers of worlds! Abominations seeping away th' strength of Yggdrasill! Those abominations must b' destroyed before they destroy us!"
The Elder raised her cane and slammed it forcefully against the cobblestone floor. She was silent for a long time, much longer than it took to deliver her message and Spitelout's subsequent outburst.
Hiccup was terrified of what was about to be said. If...if that fragile-looking old woman decided that the Gods decision was caused by their developing a relationship with dragons then it was over. It was all over. People would never accept dragons, not even consider such ideas again.
He was powerless. There was nothing he could do.
He was weak.
His eyes narrowed and he took a steadying breath. If he were to use his Tagma again he could influence the Elder, somehow.
He steadied himself and something pricked his neck violently causing his muscles to spasm as he was about to try it. He had never felt this sensation before. He would have recalled the gentle shock.
He looked up, ready to defend himself. Yellow eyes looked down at him threateningly. Balerdargur's lips widened to show fangs in full display before she disappeared again.
He turned back, sweat coning his forehead. The Elder opened her eyes and searched for somebody among the villagers' faces. She found who she looked for as Hiccup stared back. He could not see the Seeress' face correctly from afar. He was almost certain he saw a thin smile on her face.
He lost and would have the privilege of seeing his dream shattered in a few words.
The Elder straightened herself and addressed the crowd.
"It's th' Gods wish and desire fo' us t' do everythin' in our power t' welcome dragons as our friends an' join them fo' our quest to th' west!"
Hiccup was stunned. His mouth foolishly agape, he stood like that as people suddenly rushed past him in a cacophony of sounds to get closer to the Elder.
It was not what he had expected or anyone else.
Hiccup tried to get to the Elder like the remaining mass of warriors. He would have succeeded if he was not interrupted when suddenly somebody grasped his arm and pulled him away from his objective.
"What?!" He erupted, angry.
"Don't what me Haddock. What did you do to Ruffnut?" A beautiful blonde with intense, narrowed blue eyes shot back. Hiccup flinched, his face became neutral and his mouth opened but no words came forth.
"As...Astrid," he said as if he needed time to remember her name. "Wha-what are you...I don't know what are you talking about," he turned back to see the Elder being swamped by petitors. He swallowed a raising irritation only for it to return with double strength as Astrid pulled him back to face her.
"I heard about today. She stormed out of your house and was close to crying!" The blonde she-warrior yelled.
She looked for anything on Hiccup's face, any sign of regret, guilt, or fear of what she might find out what he really did with Ruffnut behind closed doors. There must have been a good reason for Ruffnut to visit Hiccup alone; there was no ulterior motive there. There must not have been. It was about her friend. Her best friend and a boy with whom she had no idea what type of relation she had. Or she thought she knew exactly what type of relation she had with him.
She tried hard to convince herself it was about Ruffnut.
"I must go. We will talk later," Hiccup spoke as he looked back at The Elder and seeing what Spitelout was up to. The Seeress talked to each and every person with a calm smile. Spitelout had his head low, resting on the top of his intertwined fingers, contemplating. Hiccup still had time to act and punch the Elder's decision harder into some thick skulls.
"NO! I want to know what is going on!"
For a brief moment she was sure he would hit her, as Hiccup's head was snapped back to Astrid. There was such an intense green fury in his eyes. For a brief moment the shield maiden was genuinely scared of him. Then, his eyes softened and his face became an unreadable, frigid mask.
Another person asked him what happened. How could anyone understand what he went through, how could anyone relate? He did not have time for this. He had to help his people avoid unnecessary bloodshed.
He had to.
"Astrid, you will let go of my hand now and you will let me continue doing my duty. Is that understood?"
He did not even have to ask. His friend-to-be-girlfriend was too shocked too react. His hand slipped away from her numbed fingers. Hiccup's reddish head disappeared into the swarm of bodies as she felt a shiver running up her spine.
What just happened?
In one short exchange a boy who she considered more than a friend was able to distance himself from her with an impenetrable wall. She felt awful and weak in her knees. She wanted to leave Hiccup alone after angrily demonstrating how upset she was with his rude treatment.
He did not deserve her, a part of her screamed.
Another part made her stay because Hiccup was a strange boy and strange things happened around him.
And she would be damned if she would leave her friend simply because of one conversation. She would get to the bottom of this and make it right because clearly something was wrong. He needed her, more than usual. She would try her best, for him.
Her eyes hardened. And then she would make him pay for dismissing her in that way.
Hiccup left the Hall satisfied. It was deep into the night as the Mead Hall's fire was extinguished and people decided to go home and rest. He would have done the same if not for the pulling sensation he felt from Toothless who was perched on the Hall's roof. His companion needed something from him.
He bid his father a good night saying that he needed to take care of something and that it involved his bigger 'friend'. Stoick looked worried before slapping his son's shoulder with the strength of an ox. He walked home while the two assigned guards gave him a cross look, still trying to figure out how he managed to escape them.
When the light of the torches they carried was finally extinguished he exhaled towards the starry sky, feeling a waft of warm air behind him. Only then did he smile.
Seven was correct once more, being close to Toothless made him better.
He looked down at his hand squeezing his fingers.
He knew this feeling, the inability to think of anything else. It was this single-mindedness, one of his qualities which did not seem to change. It was if he became addicted to an idea.
An idea to kill a dragon to make his father forgive him for being a part of his mother's death.
An idea to protect the friendship between him and Toothless.
He was going to find Seven. He did not need any incentive to have his leg restored. He had no doubt it was within her ability to do so.
He turned back. The dragonoid waited patiently. Without any word necessary Hiccup rested his hand on Toothless' head, the creature sighing in content and closing his eyes. Beneath the ice-cold exterior of the scaly skin exposed to hours of snow and frost, Toothless' body was warm as it always was. It was distantly familiar.
The creature's mind became disturbed and Hiccup withdrew his hand. It was some time before he heard a flutter of wings and saw a dragon only when it landed.
A Terror, judging from the dark outline, walked hastily to Toothless and dropped something from his jaws before him. Hiccup walked closer as the little messenger departed.
It looked like an ordinary rock. However, it was something more than that.
"It's a summoning stone," Hiccup spoke. The dark head rose, looking intently at him before the eyes lowered themselves briefly as the dragonoid nodded.
"Whoever's smell is embedded on it, it must be returned to. I am guessing Aeon wants something," Hiccup commented as Toothless sniffed the stone, nodding again. "Then it is better not to make him wait."
Without saying anything more, Hiccup turned and walked away. Achromatic pupils shrunk into pinpricks as Toothless watched his human intently. Then, he took the rock in his mouth and silently flew off.
There was a knock on a door.
"Inntrig," Braedan called in Gaelic.
It was one of his sailors. The trader was about to ask why he was disturbed when the seaman gestured with his richly tattooed hand in a mock gesture and a green-cloaked figure entered, supported by a cane.
"Hiccup!" Braedan switched effortlessly to Norse, waving off the crewman. The door closed.
"Tráthnóna maith," Hiccup greeted per tradition in Gaelic.
"Tráthnóna maith... tráthnóna maith," the moustached man answered with a touch of negligence in his exotic accent. "What do I owe your visitation so late at night?"
"I apologise for disturbing you at this hour. However, I could not help but wonder if you found out anything out about the package I received from Seven," Hiccup explained.
"That question must be asked to Radzik as he is the one more experienced with technology."
"I thought you're most knowledgeable with it of us all?" the Viking remarked.
"Oh no, m'boy," Braedan shook his head. "I only know what to press or pull. Knowing how to use something and understand it are two completely different things."
Hiccup nodded his head in agreement.
"And that brings us to the second thing you wanted to discuss," Braedan said. Hiccup's face became unreadable.
"I would like to start my Tagma training, please", he said evenly.
The weapon merchant inhaled deeply, his forehead wrinkled in thought.
"I can't do that."
Hiccup's mouth opened in protest.
"Not yet," Braedan elaborated. "Seven said that you can't start training as long as you are on her medications. They make your mind unstable."
"Why is that such a problem?" Hiccup asked calmly.
"Tagma as you might've guessed is controlled by the mind. Any attempt at practical training will surely kill you, and this time it would not end with a nosebleed, or a seizure." Braedan raised his eyebrow as he watched the boy's green eyes move to the side, thinking. They moved back into position almost instantly as Hiccup smiled, almost naturally.
"You spoke about practical training. How about theoretical?"
Braedan's moustache wobbled as he clenched his jaw. They measured each other with their eyes for a bit longer.
"I will not teach you that."
Hiccup's feeble smile did not diminish in slightest.
"You will, Sir," he spoke as calmly as before. "You said you sailed here due to the promise you made, to serve a Keeper. Seven might've been the one to teach me, but with her gone I do not believe she left without making sure I will learn how to control this...ability. She wants me alive, consistently proving so. She would never trust me to simply stop experimenting with Tagma on my own and that leaves only one option. Make me learn from somebody before I kill myself trying to master it, or it kills me. Were you not the one who said that Keepers make you a cog in the machine?" He asked, smiling.
He did not see Braedan move, there was a gust of wind and he looked into furious brown eyes although his voice was calm, bored even.
"You must know, Viking. Insulting me is not a way to make me cooperate."
Hiccup had to crane his neck up to face the wrathful gaze. He did so with the same weird smile etched on his facade.
"Around the world people experiment with steam power and even electricity, gather knowledge in libraries, educate their young. And I am stuck on an island in the middle of nowhere with primitives whose only knowledge is which side of the sword to swing and how to cut. Most of you still delight in killing dragons, creatures you never cared to understand. You live to kill, you live to destroy. Dragons, other villages, your own kin. There's no difference to you, no forgiveness for not agreeing with tradition, even if it is based on carnage and senseless, utterly mindless nonsense," Braedan did not shout although his voice had to be controlled.
Hiccup responded. "And yet, you honoured your promise. You came here, you helped us. You should know that each year I looked forward for you to come. Whenever I saw folded white sails sticking out from the roofs outside my house, I rushed to the Mead Hall where I knew you would be sooner or later. And you would, as always, shake my hand in a strong grip, looking foreign and refined. You would talk to me, listening to my newest ideas, inventions and designs. You always seemed curious and attentive. You made me feel like a grown up, as if your belief in my tinkering would end with success. My desire to kill a dragon was a repulsive idea even if I didn't know better at that time, but your short visits always made me happy. I thank you for entertaining that young boy and making him feel a little bit better," his smile rose slightly. "I also cannot thank you enough for giving that boy faulty contraptions so he never was able to kill a dragon."
Braedan's wrathful expression disappeared completely in the middle of Hiccup's speech. Now, he appeared confused.
"How did you know?"
Hiccup tilted his head. "You have a dragon whom you respect, a partner, a family, a friend as you said it. You saw danger in my inventions and you thwarted them. At least I think so."
Braedan snorted and turned around walking back to his captain desk.
"Always sharp. Since when did you know?" He asked.
"Since yesterday as I looked at the place where Balerdargur was," Hiccup explained. When Braedan took out a flask from the drawer, removing a cork from the spout and drank without answering while Hiccup continued. "That's why I know you will do as Seven asked. We Vikings call people such as you 'honour bound'. Even if in reality you despise our way of life and the way we think, it is one thing we can connect with."
Braedan did not look at him. He looked somewhere else, at some other time.
"He knew that I would promise. Somehow he knew, at first glance he and I both knew that I would answer 'yes'. And he knew I would keep my promise."
"Who's he?" Hiccup asked, interested.
Braedan looked at Hiccup, then down at the half-finished flask. He took one last gulp and hid the alcohol back in the drawer.
"My first and only Teacher, Hiccup. Let's go meet Radzik. He will show you what the package you got from Seven does. I am sure you will find it interesting," he spoke with his usual cheerfulness.
Hiccup was certain the attitude was fabricated, but he appreciated the effect.
He kept on smiling and followed Braedan outside.
The rock disappeared beneath the snow as Toothless dropped it from his mouth, looked down, and crouched low. He heard snow crackling close to his head.
"What made you feel perturbed, Engar?" The First-Speaker asked as he took in the submissive creature's scent. Only then did Toothless raise his head.
"He is suffering," the dragonoid answered. His nose wrinkled as a pungent stench assaulted his senses.
The Nadder held his eyes low as he focused on the bone protruding from orange and scaled skin before sniffing the injury. The Eska held his position stiff in front of Aeon.
"Aren't we all?" He replied with a sigh at the sight of the damage.
The dragonoid to which the bone belonged whimpered.
Aeon crooned, calming the hurt Nightmare.
"The tendon here was cut clean in half. This youngling will unlikely be able to use this leg again...what do you think happened, Engar?"
Toothless was allowed to answer. He sniffed the air again, taking in the scent of blood, salt, water and fish.
"Eska was hunting," he concluded after looking at the Nightmare briefly. "The injury has sea sand in it. Eska misguided the depth of the water and crashed against the rocks below the surface."
The Nadder was busy chewing some bark he had lying next to him along with some herbs and a pile of mud.
"Correct...impressive," he sung between chewing. He then bent over the Nightmare's muzzle and spat the ball of wooden shavings before it. He nuzzled the medicine gently towards the maw. Obediently, the Nightmare bit the ball and swallowed it down.
"And why do you think it happened?" Aeon continued his questioning, positioning himself before the injury again.
"Because, Eska is a weak flier and even worse hunter. It lacks any intelligence to determine the depth of water before diving in," Toothless sung with contempt.
"Correct again, Engar. Yet...so disappointing," his teacher hissed as he lifted his leg. A flex of a muscle allowed his talons to curve. The Nightmare looked at it without any emotion or sound.
"Your reasoning is shadowed with emotions, one of your more...difficult traits. This Eska might not speak and be worthy of a name, but he is of my Athet, one I must protect and aid as best as I can. Not because I feel much for this Eska, but only because of what I am as First-Speaker. Without hesitation I would trust Eska with my life," he said as he looked back.
Obediently, Toothless lowered his gaze.
The Nadder cut through the skin and tissue with his claw as soon as he focused on the injury. The Nightmare roared in pain as his jaws moved towards the healer.
Toothless' heart beat rose when he saw that, believing the Nightmare would surely attack Aeon. It was not the most painful part of the procedure. Toothless knew from his own experience.
As he was about to rise to his feet and snarl at the youngling, the Nadder's head twisted in a blur towards him and he was snarled at instead. Immediately he backed away.
"You really are not a dragon now if you don't understand how we act," Aeon spoke as the Nightmare's jaw snapped and his body trembled. "Eska won't attack me because he knows I will help him. He does not need to know me, he does not need to trust me or fear me. His motivation does not come from emotion. It is something more basic, more pure. An instinct to obey, without question, without rationalised motivation," his claws wrapped around the leg and the tip of his wing lifted the bleeding leg upwards. The Nightmare was louder now, still not attacking. "I enjoy the being of Eska; without emotion, without consciousness, without soul. He reminds me of the simplicity of such an existence, the purity of it, blissful serenity. I miss it sometimes."
With one, single move he swung his leg to the side in precise movement. The shattered bone disappeared beneath the wall of muscle and the Nightmare gasped, his jaw biting snow, sending it spraying.
"Unfortunately, instincts are naive. They are simple constructs as Eska does not expect me to kill him or make him worse. I could cut the leg off and it would be as readily accepted as if I extinguished his life or scratched his hide as a treatment. You were right by saying that Eska is a weak flier as all his kind are. However, they are excellent hunters. They should be. This one cannot provide for himself because no one taught him how to hunt better and he is not intelligent or even self-aware because nobody helped him to Ascend."
He finished the rest of the work quickly. The chewed paste of grass, spider webs, herbs and certain moss Toothless could not identify quickly landed on the Nightmare's wound. How the First-Speaker was able to locate the ingredients and gather them especially in this weather was beyond his understanding. Aeon pressed his tongue to the leg, checking the correct alignment of the bone. Lastly, he clad the leg in what appeared to be pale grey mud and then breathed gentle flame on it until it congealed and hardened.
The Nadder pressed the tip of his snout to the top of the injured dragon's neck, ordering him to stay and then walked away with Toothless by his side.
"You are going to nurture this Eska back to health. I cannot have a nearly dying member of my Athet. It's inefficient and it's a problem. I don't like problems," Aeon spoke.
The dragonoid's chest widened as he took a sudden breath. There was no need for them to get into an argument or for Toothless to voice his disagreement. It was not a human dispute. One look at his leader was enough to know that the matter was not up for debate. It was done for the greater good. Good for the Athet and Toothless understandably did not feel a part of it.
"Here is good," the Nadder sung suddenly as he came to a stop.
They were in an even, snow-covered field surrounded by trees.
"Since you have trouble with your new body I decided to begin teaching you Lund ė Winr."
Toothless' ear frills twitched as he thought, trying to remember the meaning of those words. 'Patch of the Storm'? No, it was 'Way of'...he did not know, his knowledge of the Old Tongue was limited.
"Way of the Wind," Aeon supplied as he saw his hesitation. He lifted his wings, appearing to be in a battle stance of some sort. Legs widened slightly, one wing forward and the other to a side with the upper half bent up. It was awkward to see something like this on a dragon. It. It was more fitting to see this from a human. As Toothless suspected, he was right.
"It is one of the ways that humans fight in close-quarters," Aeon said and jumped quickly kicking forward two, three times in lightning-quick motions. As soon as his clawed feet touched the ground he spun, his outstretched leg following in tandem with a wing. He stopped and his leg rose above his head and with a blur, dropped it on the ground. The spot beneath the Nadder was cleared from snow as the air pressure behind the strike blew it all away.
Toothless shook the snow off himself where it landed, growling. Aeon smirked and relaxed his pose.
"Of course, those techniques are ill-suited for us as our anatomy and physiology differ too much. However you share one similarity with human-based styles."
The dragonoid tilted his head as a silent question.
"Driving a fist- a hit with the upper appendage for a human, or a kick- the same with the lower limb- is basically the most efficient use of energy to a maximum effect. Humans, as primitive as they are, do not understand the concept of energy and its way of transfer. Luckily, we do," Aeon snorted a proper battle stance for his bipedal kind, weight shifted to his left, forward leg, slightly crouched, his tail lower towards the ground used for balance, wings half-way out to use them to fly if necessary although not all the way out to centralise the balance point.
"Energy is borrowed, so to speak. It cannot be kept. It cannot be destroyed. It can only be passed. What differs is the medium we borrow it from. Humans, without Tagma assistance, can only harness it from the earth. As you probably guessed by now, 'Way of the Wind' harnesses energy from the air itself. Observe."
His wings unfolded and he lifted himself off the field in a flurry gust. Toothless tried not to blink amidst the dragon generated snowy wind. The Nadder appeared to be off the ground without beating his wings. They seemed still, stiffly raised. The dragonoid looked closer. The wind Aeon generated was powerful. It pulsed. It was rhythmic. Was it a...buzz?
Grey pupils widened as he witnessed it. The wings were beating after all, only they were doing it so fast he could not see it. For a blink of an eye the upper wing halves blurred as a mirage, appearing motionless again before the cycle repeated.
"Mastery of this mobility system will let you change your position quicker," Aeon spoke. To prove his point, his wings fluttered. Toothless looked at the empty meadow. He looked up, barely in time to avoid another dragon landing roughly just where he was. His heartbeat quickened considerably.
"You did not see me moving, did you?" The Nadder asked with blatant superiority.
Toothless snorted and bared his fangs, lowering his stance and unfolding his wings half-way, his tail lower towards the ground for balance.
The Master cracked his neck and mimicked the position.
"I know you want to pay me back dearly for hurting your Scalgertar during their training." The dragonoid growled, an unnatural blue glow shining between his fangs. Aeon's pupils shrunk into pinpricks, "Now is your chance. Go ahead…Fight me, Engar."
He received a short growl as an only warning. He watched the blue glow inside Toothless' mouth grow in brightness
Akil switch to Observation Mode, Aeon commanded, Seven would like very much data about second-born's battle capabilities
The persona bowed.
The price? It asked.
Three, Akil replied.
A blue plasmoid with a vibrant red core streamed to where the dragon was a split second before. Aeon watched the fireball amidst his tumble in the air as, to him, the bolt slowly sailed above the snow, enclosed in the transparent cone of hyper-charged air. Electricity inside it danced in an almost blinding azure hue yet its centre looked almost as a flame. A red flame. Most unusual.
Toothless saw the swing of Aeon's leg but his body simply did not react in time. A kick, appearing almost lazy and negligent caught the side of his temple and sent him rolling like a ragged doll. He got up almost instantly and saw the Nadder dancing around and huffing at a particle of snow.
Toothless knew the First-Speaker could not use Tagma. Unfortunately it did not make the fight even. The dragonoid wanted nothing more than to sink his fangs into the arrogant dragon's throat. Yet, the purpose of this fight was clear. He was getting a lesson and he would pay attention.
He paid enough attention to see his adversary change into an elongated blue-white blur. It moved right above him as a clawed appendage was already sweeping at his head.
Toothless panicked, rolling away unharmed before jumping back, all this time observing the Nadder as he changed from a twister of limbs to a moving shadow soaring after him faster than a human arrow.
He barely avoided another sweep, this time of a wing as Aeon hung upside down for a flash before he swung his wings and disappeared from Toothless' field of vision. What the dragonoid did next was to crash against the snow as he felt a radiating pain between his wings. He retaliated as fast as he could, bouncing back and twisting in the air, trying to hit his opponent back. Naturally, he did not hit anything. Still mid-air he pumped his wings down, propelling himself away and as he landed he ran toward the trees.
A mass of blue scales stood before him, blocking the path. Toothless jumped back.
"Well thought. The high density of trees would make it harder for me to position myself and use the technique effectively. You don't think I would allow you to run in there, did you?" Aeon smiled, showing his pointy fangs.
Toothless shot a fire bolt as his response. Before his maw closed, the Nadder's tail whipped and the bony quill collided with the fireball, right before Toothless' dumbfounded snout. A bright, electric blue shockwave hurled his body away. His smoking form fell back, creating a few snow-free spots before stopping and laying still.
That caught the Nadder's attention. He squawked, lowering his head and sniffed the air. After a moment of tense stillness he snorted and walked closer, sighing.
"Younglings these d-"
He never finished the sentence as blood spurted out of his brutally slashed chest. The black silhouette was a vicious beast that moved with lightning speed, curved talons preparing for another strike.
The Nadder grinned and stood still, his glistening eyes following every movement as a flock of dismantled and blood-spotted blue scales flew away, twisting sluggishly away from his injury. A rigid black paw struck, with unyielding precision and merciless strength.
He regained consciousness fairly quickly. Only a miniscule layer of white fluff covered his skin. He stood up groggily beneath the light of the half-moon. Next to him, the Nadder sat.
"It was a good thought, Engar, it really was," Aeon sung, looking up the sky. Toothless automatically read his body language as non-threatening and lay next to him, touching his side. "Controlling your heartbeat and breathing to convince me you were unconscious and lure me to within attacking range...why didn't you try to cut a vital point? Of all places you decided to cut was to go after my most armoured one."
Toothless glanced at the damage he had done. Blood trailed down the cuts in dark red lines. Much less than he hoped for, he put all his strength behind that swing as well as all the Tagma assistance he could muster.
"There was no reason to cripple or kill you," the dragonoid reasoned, quite calmly for somebody who was soundly beaten just moments ago. "I don't feel it any longer. I no longer feel the constant anger motivating my every move or the need for retribution. You hurt my Scalgertar and it pains me to know he suffered. But he survived and now you will protect him with your life. Of all the outcomes I could choose, keeping you alive to help me protect him is something that resonates with my desires," Toothless sung, calming his heart after the fight. Aeon looked at the sky as both creatures simply lay there, not minding the chilled air as it did not affect them. They accepted the darkness as they were familiar with it as most friends or a lover would.
"Your human is suffering although it is in human nature to suffer," the First-Speaker suddenly broke the silence. Toothless listened as he continued. "It is also in their nature to try and balance themselves back to a state devoid of suffering. It is a necessity for humans to learn from anguish, to learn the balance of things. It is natural to reject pain before it destroys them. It is natural to want a life without it. Your Scalgertar is not one of those people. He found his balance…in suffering."
"Suffering is lack of balance. It is the state of an unhealthy mind or body! Who would desire that?" He barked sharply.
The Nadder's pupils dilated, his gaze softening as if in pity. His eyes darted briefly to a side as if seeing something Toothless could not.
"Indeed, who would?" He asked one of those questions which were forbidden from answering. He looked last time at the sky and stood up swiftly. "There is still a lot you do not know about your Scalgertar. If you do not understand why your human needs to suffer, you truly do not understand him at all."
Toothless stood up as well.
"How can you understand human nature so well?" He queried the old drake.
"Because I am just…so…smart," the Nadder said with full confidence. "Now, it is time to start teaching you Tagma techniques you never learned but should have. I assume you are aware that you cannot duplicate the Way of the Wind. Can you tell me why?"
"My wings are too weak...my whole body is too weak. Perhaps if I could somehow expend Tagma more efficiently I would be able to use it. However, you didn't use Tagma. You are currently incapable of using it as I would have felt it. Being so strong should have been impossible without it," Toothless concluded.
"Correct." Aeon stated, "There is a limit to each body's strength which regular training can achieve. Tagma helps break those limits. In most basic concepts, Tagma can be used in two ways, externally and internally. Manifesting Tagma outside one's body is the sign of a Master. In order to achieve it, a student must first be proficient in some of the internal techniques. To affect one's body using Tagma is easier because we all are most familiar with it. There is the Ich, or self, the physical boundaries of the mind. Your mind is your body and your body is mind. To neglect one is to neglect all. A strong body can house a strong mind whereas a weak one would be condemned with a fragile psyche. For dragons, a body is a reflection of our mind. Ich is a state and a goal in one. Dragon Ich is used to create a perfect balance between the mind and the body."
"What is a human Ich?" Toothless asked, interrupting. The Nadder most graciously overlooked the disturbance in his speech.
"Human balance relies less on the body and more on the mind. For them, to achieve Ich is to balance the mind. To conquer one's own mind is to conquer anything...as they would say," the Nadder snapped his tail, returning to the original topic.
"One of the benefits of having a Scalgertar is better development in Tagma-based techniques and procedures. One of the sections of the Internal School is Bodily Enhancements and one of the subsections is Tagma-Assisted-or TA- Soft Tissue modifications and a sub-subsection is TA Muscle Modification and then there's a cluster of sub-sub-subsections such as: TA Induced Myogenesis, TA Myofibril Modifications...but that also needs TA Peripheral Neuron Modifications...dioxygen modifications would be in order to augment cellular respiration although it is TA Molecular Modifications that would need a subject to control his liver first," the Nadder mused, muttering to himself, disregarding the confused and glazed stare Toothless was giving him.
Your plan is of no use if the second-born does not possess such organs as a liver anymore…
The blue-scaled drake ceased his babble and turned his pupils towards the hovering image of a dead man.
The canonic system might not be compatible with his physiology, obviously. Establish the parameters first.
The Nadder's tail began waving with irritation. Akil had a point, a very good one in fact.
"Engarg, I might have gotten ahead of myself. Last night I asked you to meditate and check your new body. Did you find any...irregularities?" He asked carefully.
Toothless' left ear antenna twitched as he thought.
"My body seems perfectly healthy, healthier than ever before. No signs of broken bones, or sprained joints. It seems...new, weaker though, and I have problem with mind-control techniques and using Tagma-."
"This is not what I am asking about. I ask if you have the usual things inside your body." Toothless tilted his head at the question so hard he almost snapped his neck. "Two kidneys, a liver, some lungs, do you still eat one way and it comes out the other, do you get tired, do you need sleep?" He asked aggressively.
The dragonoid blinked.
"Yes, nothing changed," he concluded with blatant simplicity.
The Nadder queried the avatar.
It is not unusual for a second-born to appear as something else. Akil explained in his calm, superior-sounding voice. A physical form for them is merely an expression of their mind. The subject projects himself as...how the locals call him, a Night Fury, and associates himself as a dragon. His mind's subconscious chose this form as its system appears most stable and has a well-known organisational pattern, naturally. It would be most prudent to not reveal to the subject this information as he would attempt to experiment with his material programming. Our Tagma teaching programme for dragons can be taught only to dragons as the name states...obviously. Ergo, he should remain one. I remind you that this information is classified under Second Article.
Toothless did not like the prolonged look his Life-Teacher was giving him. It was cold, calculating and human.
Recommendations? Aeon asked, looking straight at the younger creature who avoided his eyes.
I should be the one to train the subject at the beginning and determine the differential value between him and a normal dragon. It might require inventing new techniques and only my core is powerful enough to create those on relatively short notice. You have no choice but to comply, the A.I. stated.
I have a choice to make you shut up, Aeon answered, his gums showing in a feral snarl. Toothless was close to leaving, preferably by running as quickly as possible.
A feeble threat, Akil replied in a bored tone. I monitor your brain chemistry as well as all your body functions. You are currently frustrated but the logic segment of your brain remains most active. You will let me take over your body and teach the subject. You do not want to disappoint Mother after all, he finished smugly.
"Her name is Seven you parent-deprived piece of scrambled metal!" He roared into the night. Toothless took a step back, carefully. "Don't even think about leaving!"! Aeon snarled at the dark dragonoid who halted instantly.
Akil's image smiled, Mother created me, hence she is to be named one. Isn't that what humans do, to revere their creators?
His living host opened his maw to counter his logic and point out that humans have a pair of working lungs to start, but then closed it quickly. The entity was far more intelligent and knowledgeable than he was. And it was right. It was much more qualified than he to deal with whatever Toothless was and with a more...science-y way of thinking.
"Engarg, I want you to meet somebody," the horned one sung. "Whatever happens, do not run away as I would have to track you down, beat you and then drag you back to continue any training and that's a problem. I don't like problems."
Toothless understood. He did not want to be a problem in those yellow eyes. It would surely involve pummelling him some more.
Remember, crude simulation, that with Seven's new failsafe mechanism I can end your possession at any time. I am the one in control, understood?
The image of a dead man smiled, showing his bloodied teeth and gums.
It is called arrogation and yes, you've been more than generous with your ego-stroking exclamations of a newly found sense of self-integrity.
"Just do what you are meant to do, you useless scrap of metal," the Nadder retorted.
The human-like image nodded, I always do everything in my power to make Mother proud.
Toothless saw his Teacher close his eyes. He then started convulsing as if electrocuted by something, not uttering any sound. As quickly as it began it stopped, the Nadder opened his eyes and his body slowly began to tilt. The dragonoid could only watch as the azure-scaled body stiffly slammed into the snow.
"That felt good!" The Nadder exclaimed, eating a bit of snow in the process. "That was such a wonderful feeling!"
Toothless' grey eyes were wide as saucers as the respectable and powerful drake started rolling in the snow with great abandon. After a while, as if noticing him for the first time, the drake's lips smiled in a too-wide smile.
"Greetings, Subject!" He sung with a volume loud enough to scare away birds from a nearby cliff. "I apologise for my unruly behaviour. I shall join you momentarily," he spoke cheerily and stood up. At least he attempted to. As soon as he made his first step he stumbled and planted his snout into the snow, without any visible attempts to break the fall.
"Ah pain! How delightful!" His cries were muffled from beneath a layer of snow and dirt. When the Nadder's head emerged he saw a dark figure galloping away from him, post haste.
"Subject! Subject! Please come back!" He cried after the disappearing student.
Toothless had enough craziness for one night. He was about to unfold his wings and return to Hiccup when he felt a gust of wind on his side. Aeon appeared in front of him, twirling momentarily before landing gracefully on one leg.
"Perhaps we should start again," the insane one started with a genuine smile across his muzzle. "My name is Akil, first-generation Singularity. It is a privilege to meet you, Subject. I did not mean to scare you, I simply enjoy having a body too much and the excitement is hard to control sometimes."
Toothless blinked and ran the opposite way, only to almost run into Aeon again.
"Please halt. Escaping me is impossible. I control this body now with full assistance of my systems. Curtail your movement to a minimum, Subject...please," the drake sung gently with a sunny smile.
The ebony dragonoid lowered his stance. A deadly hiss stopped him.
"I shall slash tendons on your legs if you don't comply. See if you will be able to run then."
The quill-covered tail was raised with one of the projectiles outstretched, ready to was no hesitance in the dragon's stance, pupils as thin as the edge of a claw. His grin evaporated, replaced by an enraged expression. Akil would have done as he said, Toothless was absolutely sure of it. He bowed down, a well-known shiver running down his spine. He did not need any proof to believe that something in control of Aeon's body was not him.
"Now, that wasn't too hard, was it?" Akil sung soothingly. The smile returned as quickly as it disappeared.
"I shall be quick with explanations so we may determine the most efficient training system. I do not like to waste my time on redundant and lengthy speeches. You are proficient with some of the basics of the Internal school, such as inducing cell division, moving specific cells from one part of the injury to another which is an internal type of telekinesis. Secondarily, mind-control are techniques affecting your body without usage of Tagma as taking control of autonomous nervous system and making unconscious bodily function conscious and therefore controlled by will such as breathing, heart rate, digestion, papillary dilation and so forth. Are you agreeing with what I spoke about so far?" Akil asked cheerily.
"I do," Toothless answered, quicker than he had to.
The smile widened. "Excellent! I hope you will be pleased with the results of this training, but first," his smile widened to impossible proportions, "we need to run some tests." His pupils shrunk dangerously. "Do you agree with me so far, Subject?"
Toothless did a quick recount of what he could do in his current situation. He looked down.
Hiccup did not know exactly what was he looking at. It was something that looked like a chest, a lidded container with what inside appeared to be the same transparent liquid he received from Seven.
"Put your hand in it," Braedan encouraged. He was occupied with a sleek, metallic, finger-long device in his wrinkled digits Hiccup had never seen before. The trader slid its tip into his pipe as it cracked with electricity, igniting the tobacco. He inhaled the smoke and let go of the apparathus which stayed in the air, hovering for the moment and then dissolved into nothingness, leaving wavering air for a moment where it once was.
Braedan gestured to the container impatiently, not bothering to explain anything as Hiccup observed the unusual display instead of doing as he was told.
Hiccup placed his hand in the substance.
It felt as nothing. His hand penetrated the liquid's surface. He was sure of that. It had no temperature and no texture he could sense. The thing gave off a slight tangy smell as he lifted his hand to his eyes, sparkling with fascination. While the substance did not drip off his fingers, it moved down in ribbons. It transformed, suddenly changed when a thin layer was left on his skin. He clearly saw tiny hexagons, visibly outlined by black lines formed along the surface.
"What is this?" Hiccup asked, observing the rest of his gift fall, leaving nothing on his skin.
"It is something you will wash your clothes in," Braedan stated mysteriously. Without warning he grabbed a leather bag off the table and threw it to the teen. Hiccup did not react in time as it bounced off his stomach to the ground. "Seven played with us again. She left me some special clothes which were meant to be used for a special occasion."
Hiccup leaned down, took the sack and opened it. He saw white garments, extremely familiar to the ones he wore in Seven's compound; long-sleeve tunic and trousers.
Hiccup nodded. Braedan obviously would not share anything else with him and it was late. Even hospitality had its limits.
"Just put those clothes into the liquid?" Hiccup asked.
"And leave it for a night," the trader answered, inhaling cherry-smelling tobacco fumes.
The dragon tamer closed the chest and took it under his arm, hobbling towards the exit.
He had to stop before leaving. He just had to. He had to ask.
"Are you going to teach me?"
A subtle orange glow lightened Braedan tired features for a moment as he sucked on the end of the pipe.
"I always keep my promises, Viking. As soon as you are medication-free, I will fulfil my end of the bargain. Until that time, get off my ship."
Hiccup lay in the biggest bed in the house, the same he occupied since he had lost a leg. It was the biggest, most comfortable bed in the house and most possibly in Berk for that matter. The covers were soft; the fire cracked soothingly, a steady fire-glow danced in lighting the living room. It was perfect, it was calm. It was very late.
He could not sleep.
After returning from the ship he had to meet his father and the wrath only a worried parent can produce. After Hiccup promised he would not wander around and go straight home after dark and continue meeting with a healer daily did Stoick concur. They ate together and after a strong hug and night toilet ritual the teen was supposed to sleep.
The coffer-thing with his new clothes sat at the bottom of his bed, waiting to be opened in the morning. He had his sleeping medication, a purple flask with the number two on its neck lying along with others in a chest cushioned with dried hay. He wanted to avoid medication unless absolutely necessary. Number two was not necessary, yet.
His mind raced. He felt tired and his body ached, unused to any exertion greater than walking and faster breathing.
Deciding against meditating and continuing to uselessly lie in bed, he took a spot in front of the fireplace, cloaked in blankets and watched the flames, brooding.
He thought about the village and the shock of the people after hearing the Elder's message from the Gods; the fear, the disbelief. Still, it was progress, an enormous leap for his cause, to let the dragons live together with humans, to see them in a different light.
Dragons would change everything. Change every one, of that he was sure. So far, only handful of people knew that dragons were something more than simple beasts. Wasn't that for the best? How would people react if they knew the truth? Dragons were very much capable of very human emotions and desires.
An example would be making one's life a conquest of murder and revenge.
It would be the end of their peaceful relations. A pet did not kill anyone in anger, but out of instinct. It did not calculate, it did not need revenge. It did not kill for pleasure. If Vikings would think of dragons as pets they could not hate them so easily. They could hate dragons as an idea, but not as an individual.
Hiccup suddenly inhaled sharply as he felt his mind slipping into another vision without any warning. He saw images before his eyes, the same scenes he could not free himself of. Alien sounds begun as a sinister whisper, scene of his room flickered to something else. He leaned towards the coffin with medicine. Too late. As his fingers brushed the flask he was no longer in his room, his form slumped on the floor.
A pair of merciless, predatory eyes stared down at the mass of defenceless Nightmare younglings who, overpowered by their innocent curiosity, began approaching the Fury, sniffing the air. The murderer did not come here to play. One hatchling approached, a small thing that moved closer than the others, crawling on its small brown-striped wings. His head tilted gently and his tail begun to swing gently in excitement, open to whatever the newcomer would do.
A paw with wickedly curved and sharp claws rose as an executioner's axe. The hatchling followed the movement with his innocent, full eyes, intrigued to the very last moment.
Their blood was real. They did not die quietly. They never did.
The killer was not experienced dealing in death yet. The hatchling was one of the more fortunate ones to die quickly that night.
Hiccup sat in front of the fire, he did not know how long, clutching his head in his hands, rocking slowly on the creaking, old stool. The cries of those killed raged as a wild fire in his head, unstoppable, insatiable. The claws glistened with red. He did not want to open his eyes, afraid of seeing his hands stained in blood which he did not spill. His chest hurt as if an enormous claw crushed his ribcage.
Those were not his memories, it was not his pain. It was not the pain he wanted to carry. It was easier before, before medications that is. He might have felt detached, but it did not hurt so much. How was this treatment? How was it supposed to make him feel better? What was Seven thinking?
Hiccup raised his head slowly and looked aside with bloodshot but focused eyes. Sluggishly, he put on winter clothes and slowly walked towards the back door, taking a dagger which hung on the wall.
The door opened and a white flurry attacked his skin; cold bit. He felt none of it. He strolled between the trees, guided by another presence in his mind, he travelled with purpose.
A dragon waited for him, sitting patiently in the snow that contrasted with his dark hide. Hiccup strolled close, the short blade shining.
"Why did you do it?" The boy asked.
The dragon did not answer, he remained expressionless. Even the eyes were dull above the bloodied nose. Hiccup did not pity the battered state of the monster.
"Why...Why?!" He shouted, woods echoed. It changed the murderer's expression.
Toothless shuddered as the human's emotion rippled through him as an enormous wave ready to crush and drown him. Hiccup was close, he had a sharp piece of metal and the eyes of a killer with centuries of experience. "ANSWER ME!"
The dragonoid's body shivered, this time visibly, the anger and hate were like claws digging into his throat, taking away his breath, demanding obedience. The human's silhouette reflected in Toothless' eyes, brimming with pride. His claw sliced the snow.
YOU UNDERSTAND ME AS I UNDERSTAND YOU
YOU UNDERSTAND WHY
Human eyes could not decipher runes in the murky light. Noticing this, a bright blue orb with a crimson centre escaped from Toothless' mouth and hovered above them, illuminating everything in a pulsating aura.
Hiccup saw the words. He understood with crystalline, merciless precision. The dagger shook as he took deep breaths after the outburst.
"How can you understand me?!" He yelled croakily, as much as his weak throat allowed. Toothless did react to the weapon right before his muzzle. "You do not feel mercy. You spared me out of instinct you couldn't control. If not for it, you would've slashed my throat and moved on. Right?" Toothless hesitated. "RIGHT?"
"And yet you say you understand me? How can you do that if you don't understand yourself? Do you even know what you are? I, as Hel, do not know!" Hiccup breathed out before lowering the dagger.
Toothless wiped the runes in one swipe and wrote an answer.
I AM WHAT I AM
The runes clearly stood in the blinking light.
I AM ALSO WHAT YOU WANT
Hiccup's eyes were dark as they levelled with Toothless'.
"What I want? You are everything I do not want...I may not know what you are but I know who you really are."
Toothless wrote quickly, with draconic dexterity.
I UNDERSTAND YOUR LONELINESS AND DESIRE TO FEEL THE COMFORT OF ANOTHER
I UNDERSTAND YOUR LACK OF MOTIVATION OF FINDING THIS COMFORT IN ANOTHER HUMAN
YOU BEFRIENDED ME OUT OF GUILT AND OUT OF AN INSTINCT YOU COULD NOT CONTROL
The dagger's tip fell, for a moment.
"It is true I befriended you. It is true I was lonely. But it was not an instinct. It was a choice," Hiccup rebutted.
Toothless shook his head as a human would.
YOU DESIRED KINSHIP
TO REPAIR WRONG DEED
IT IS WHY YOU BEFRIENDED ME
IT IS NOT WHY YOU STARTED LOVING ME
"Don't use words you do not understand!" Hiccup barked aggressively. Toothless winced, but kept writing.
I CANNOT FEEL LOVE AS YOU DO BUT I UNDERSTAND IT NOW
WHEN YOU EXPERIENCED MY MEMORIES I EXPERIENCED YOURS
Hiccup calmed at the explanation, the anger became a slowly brewing pot of melted iron in his chest. He wanted to hear it, how well the dragon could understand him. It was Toothless' chance for redemption, to show they could still connect on some level, somehow.
"Tell me then, beast, what you understand."
Toothless straightened himself and answered.
YOU DO NOT DESIRE COMPANIONSHIP FROM ME
YOU DESIRED A SUBSTITUTE TO NOURISH A DESIRE YOU COULD NOT CONTROL
YOU WANTED A REPLACEMENT FOR YOUR MOTHER
IT IS WHAT I AM TO YOU. A WAY TO SATISFY YOUR NEED FOR A MOTHER YOU COULD NOT CONTROL
Hiccup's face was impassive.
WHENEVER YOU SLEPT NEXT TO ME YOU SEARCHED FOR WARMTH ONCE LOST
TO REDEEM THE PAST THROUGH ME
WRAPPED IN WARMTH AND DARK NEXT TO A BEATING HEART NAKED AND DEFENCELESS
IT IS WHEN YOU FELT MOST AT PEACE
The young man only needed one glance to hide the dagger and to never use it against Toothless again as if he would have used it in the first place. Hiccup smiled. It was a bitter, sorrowful smile.
It was easier to accept who his scaled companion was when he was outside his body. Back, in the real word, or as real as it could be, he felt anger, an ever-blooming rage to the point of hatred. He was not free from instincts in his body. There were forces in his body he could not control; he could only deal with outcomes with his will. His body wanted him to hate. Hate his people for worshiping a cult of death, hate the ideology, and hate the narrow-mindedness. Hate Toothless.
He could not do it. No matter how much it hurt to admit it, he loved that beast. That was why Hiccup reached into the black water in search for his friend despite everything. Everything.
"I didn't know that," he said, looking up at the written runes, "I did not know that even though I thought I knew everything what there was to know about myself and that I knew everything about you. Maybe you are right; maybe I do indeed need you as substitute for my mother. I don't...I don't know. I do not understand myself so well. I am afraid of becoming something else. Perhaps I already became something different. And it terrifies me."
He looked up to the sky. Toothless did the same.
"We are both fools. Not understanding ourselves, we try to understand each other."
The orb of light disappeared in a shower of sparks.
Hiccup face hardened in determination.
"I am going to teach you, Toothless," he looked straight into glowing, enormous grey eyes." I am going to teach you the right from wrong. I won't let you follow the path of destruction again. Never again."
Hiccup smiled. A wonderful natural smile which made Toothless feel joy he did not feel for a very long time.
Human looked to the sky, exhaled deeply.
"I miss flying."
One of them said what the other thought.
They flew into the night, carefully and slowly, taking their time. There was no need to hurry. A full moon shone bright above the clouds. They were there to see it.
AN: Sorry for the looong wait! Thank you to Eyes Wide Open 2010 for edits, read his stuff!
Nothing much to say this time. Oh, go see HTTYD2. It is better than the original in my humble opinion.
Comments, as always, are greatly appreciated. See you around.