Author's Note: Well hello again. I should tell you now, when I say erratic update, I mean erratic. xD Not all chapters will come as quickly as this one, though some might. The plot bunny just wouldn't stop gnawing. I had some interesting theories and questions posed just with the release of the prologue, and while I make it my policy to try and not give anything away that's important to the story, I will say this now: Toothless is male, and not anyone's mother. It was an interesting guess though! As for everyone else's assumptions... it might be what you're thinking... but then again, it might not. You'll just have to wait and see!
Disclaimer: Yet again, HTTYD is the property of Dreamworks and Cressida Cowell. I own nothing; I'm just playing with it for a while.
Winters in Berk were always cold. What could you expect when you lived in a village so far north that you were lucky to make it to the ripe old age of two years old with all of your toes untouched by frostbite? Even with blazing fire pits in the houses, wool and bear fur clothing and blankets, there were still some mornings it wasn't that surprising to wake up with your eyelashes coated with a fine dusting of frost. Which, in retrospect, was probably why it was still difficult to get used to waking up to the hot, smelly breath of a dragon every morning.
If it were even possible to get used to Toothless' fish breath, that is. A soft rumble, accompanied by a prodding, warm nose forced Hiccup into awareness; if for nothing else than to make sure that the black dragon didn't break his bed with the force of his bouncing on it. There was another fishy breath blown into his face, and the unmistakable wet slurp as his dragon decided to rearrange his hair for the morning with the ever-fashionable dragon-induced cowlick.
"Alright, Toothless, I'm up, I'm up," the auburn haired teen said with a laugh, shoving his dragon's nose away from his face as he sat up and stretched, peering around at the inside of his room to see what might have been broken this time. Fortunately, everything seemed to be in one piece, including the prosthetic leg that lay just within his reach beside the bed. Er, make that just outside of his reach, Hiccup realized, as he edged his good leg over the side of the bed and attempted to reach for it.
Realizing that his Rider wouldn't reach his leg without falling, Toothless moved from his position of taking up most of the bed (it was a wonder that it didn't break), and stepped across the room, nudging the spring-loaded mechanism towards the bed until Hiccup could pick it up and strap it into place – but not before the teenage Viking realized that there were several scratches on the metal and the clear signs of chew-marks from small teeth on the wood.
"Not again," he grumbled once it was in place, finishing getting dressed as quickly as possible before hobbling downstairs, an anxious Toothless following him, ready to snag him from behind if he tripped. "Dad! Dad!" The teenager yelped, and was rewarded with the sight of his father stoking the house's fire pit, a tiny form of red and gold sitting beside him, launching fireballs at the wood to increase the size of the flames.
Finished with his task, Stoick looked up just in time to see his son get down to the bottom of the stairs, stumbling just a bit into the support of Toothless, who seemed to believe that he was now and forever meant to be Hiccup's crutch whenever necessary. Though he'd never breathe a word of it out loud, privately Stoick was rather grateful. "Aye son? What is it?" For it didn't take a highly intelligent Viking chieftain to realize his son wasn't just wishing to say good morning. In response, the auburn-haired boy gestured to the squawking, grumbling Terrible Terror that was climbing up onto Stoick's shoulder in order to avoid the low, annoyed growl that the grumpy Night Fury sent in his direction.
"Pest was chewing on my leg again last night," Hiccup said flatly, while the Terror licked his eyeball and tried to look innocent. Toothless growled again, a clear sign that heknew the miniature dragon was as innocent as a fox in a henhouse, which was to say not in the least. Both Vikings shot the tiny dragon a glance and then looked at each other, Hiccup trying to hide an exasperated but amused smile, and Stoick simply shaking his head in surrender.
"Didn't damage anythin', did he?" The taller Viking asked, casting a worried glance at the wood and metal contraption that took the place of his son's left leg. Hiccup shook his head and moved around the fire pit, just a bit of a limp to his step as he reached up to scratch Pest's head. Toothless gave a jealous moan while the Terror uttered a purr of delight, leaning into the scratching before falling off of Stoick's shoulder, knocked out in blissful oblivion.
"Not anything that I wasn't planning on tweaking this morning," the teenager said, catching the falling Terror and passing him to his dad, who took the semi-conscious, purring dragon cautiously, as though it might decide to chew on his fingers while it was out – despite having bonded a bit with the Terror, old instincts and reactions were ingrained into Stoick so much that he couldn't help but be wary. Another lick from Toothless and a nudge toward the door set Hiccup in motion, limping across the room to open the great front door – only to close it a moment later against a rush of wind and snow that blew out the blaze in the fire pit.
"But... I suppose that can wait for another day," Hiccup continued with a sheepish shrug, realizing that neither he nor his dragon, his father or Pest were going to be going anywhere until the worst of this blizzard passed. Beside him, Toothless full-body shuddered and let out a grumble of amusement. "Yes, yes, laugh it up, you overgrown lizard," the teenager said, taking a hobbling step back towards the stairs when Toothless caught him by the back of his shirt and tugged him down into a sitting position before curling around him with a contented purr.
Apparently they were going to stay downstairs by the fire for a little while, seeing as Toothless had quite thoroughly managed to wrap Hiccup to the point of immobility, and was now purring contently as Stoick proceeded to relight the fire, Pest having woken up and offering his overly-enthusiastic help in the task once again. Hiccup watched with an amused smile ass the Terror scrambled around the fire, poking at a twig here, prodding at another there, before diving right into the middle of the firewood to fetch out something shiny that he had spotted buried in the ashes.
Of all of the dragons that now resided in Berk, the last one Hiccup had ever thought would have grown attached to his father (or visa versa) was a Terrible Terror. Small, annoying, and gawky, there seemed to be no logical reason at all why Pest would have been drawn to Stoick the Vast himself, who everyone had felt that, if he were to tolerate the presence of a dragon besides his son's at all, would only accept a Monstrous Nightmare. But the way Pest had wriggled his Terrible self into the family was every bit as fitting as his name: the tiny dragon had a habit of following the warriors around, sticking his head into their helmets during the moments they had them off, as if he expected to find a fish or his reflection within them.
One day, after a particularly loud night of celebrating (and having his fill and more of mead), Stoick had woken up to find his helmet, the only piece he had left of his wife, attached to the face of a Terrible Terror who had somehow managed to get himself stuck inside of it. It wasn't love at first sight by any means, but the Terror seemed infatuated with the human who had rescued him from his self induced prison, and nothing Stoick could do would keep the pest away for long, and eventually he just stopped trying, realizing that the little creature had its useful points after all – when he wasn't living up to his name and chewing on anything that remotely caught his interest, like Hiccup's prosthetic. Or like the shiny object he was tugging out of the fire pit now.
"Hey, what have you got there, you Pest?" Stoick asked, reaching down to grab the small dragon with one hand and the item he was trying to swallow with the other, resulting in a small tug-of-war between human and tiny dragon, which Stoic won within moments. Toothless glanced at his rider and twitched one of his head nodes with a huff, and Hiccup freed an arm to scratch the Night Fury's head with an amused smile.
"Don't think you're that much better, bud - if that were a fish you would have gone after it too." The Night Fury grumbled, but laid his head down in acknowledgment. The human was right, because Toothless could never turn down a tasty fish. "Look at it this way; he's not digging out an eel," Hiccup added, prompting a cringe and – dare he describe it this way – a squeak of terror from the black dragon. He still hadn't figured out just what it was that made all dragons so terrified of eels, but it wasn't something he was going to question. Instead, he turned his focus back to his father and the terror that had now scrambled up to the top of Stoick's helmet and was preoccupied with gnawing on it, which the large Viking didn't seem to notice.
His gaze remained solely on the gleaming blade that had been pulled from the fire, its oddly bronze metal decorated with dragons and setting off warning bells in Hiccup's head – however, nothing that he could really admit to understanding. There was sorrow in the redheaded man's gaze as he cradled the item far more gently than most would have thought him capable of, stroking the blade lightly with one finger and shadowed eyes that made him seem older than he truly was. "How did this get in the fire...?" He wondered to himself, prompting a worried glance from his son and a quietly curious glance from his son's dragon.
"Dad?" Hiccup asked, something tingling on the edge of his memory. "Dad, is that – is that something of Mom's?" His question was quiet, and barely heard over the roar of the blizzard and the crackle of the fire. Still, at least some of what he said must have broken through Stoick's reverie, because as the teenager watched, the man snapped to attention as if he had never been reminiscing at all and strode away from the fire, placing the weapon on a shelf out of Hiccup's reach and out of easy view for the Terrible Terror who would steal the shiny blade, like as not.
"Of – of course it isn't, son! I'd never let something of your mother's wind up in the ashes of our fire pit!" The chieftain blustered, and it was then that Hiccup realized that, for all of his father's amazing skills, both battle-wise and leadership-wise, he was a terrible liar. This merely made the teenager wonder why his father was lying to him, and he frowned thoughtfully before nudging at Toothless to let him up. With a low rumble of discontent, the black dragon did so, and helped to nudge his rider to unsteady feet.
"Right, then, Dad," Hiccup said, looking anywhere but at his father. "I'm just going to – uh – go upstairs for... a while. Maybe, uh, design something or – okay see you later dad!" And he hobbled back up the stairs as quickly as he could, Stoick staring after him for a moment before shaking his head, having long ago given up on understanding the behavior of his son.
Some time later, when the fury of the winter winds had died down and Hiccup had heard the familiar thud of his father closing the door as he went outside to check on everyone – one of the many duties of being chief was to make sure that the village had gotten through the storm safely, and to make sure that the food was intact, and a million other things that Hiccup was pretty sure he was supposed to know but never actually bothered with – the teenager came back downstairs, Toothless trailing him, intent on finding that blade and getting a closer look at it, just like his father hadn't wanted him to do.
However, it wasn't where the man had left it – even looking from Toothless' shoulders hadn't revealed the weapon's location, and Pest was curled up asleep somewhere, so it meant that Stoick had either taken it with him, or suspected that his son was going to seek it out as curiously as the Terror had earlier. Either of which was entirely possible, Hiccup thought, as he slid off of Toothless' shoulder and blew his bangs out of his face.
"This is going to be harder than I thought," he said, and Toothless rumbled sympathetically, licking the side of his face before wheeling toward the suddenly open door, growling under his breath at the intruder before flopping down onto the floor, a pile of dragon-mush from having his sweet spot scratched in just the right way.
"What's going to be harder?" Astrid Hofferson asked once the dragon was down, blue eyes curious and wary at the same time. "You're not thinking of doing something stupid in the middle of winter, are you?" She asked, moving one hand to her axe just in case she felt the need to knock some sense into the auburn-haired boy before her. Dressed in heavy winter clothing, the blonde's slender frame was concealed under layers of wool and bear-fur, her braid fastened more loosely than usual in order to cover her ears with the fine yellow filaments.
As usual when he was grounded and didn't have something else important to focus on, Hiccup immediately found himself tongue-tied around the blonde. "Oh- hi – hi Astrid. Er – what are... what are you doing here? In, uh, in my house?" The girl's only immediate response was an amused (and slightly predatory-looking) smile, which made Hiccup gulp and blush furiously all the way out to his ears, while Toothless continued to lie on the floor, a happy pile of dragon-mush. "Uh – Astrid, Toothless and I – we're not doing any – anything stupid or anything... particularly interesting, why would we – erk!" He yelped as the female Viking grabbed his shirt collar and pulled him to her.
"Hiccup, I know you, and I know Toothless. You're always doing something stupid," Astrid said, her eyes appearing to be cold and hard for a split second, before they softened and she kissed him on the cheek. "So why not tell me what it is now and save yourself the pain you'll get for lying to me?" Hiccup squeaked, and swallowed roughly for a moment before grinning sheepishly and shrugging, rocking his weight onto his good foot.
"Heh... there's not a third option, is there?"
"Hiccup," Astrid repeated, and this time there was some irritation in her voice, enough of it that it pulled Toothless out of his stupor and caused him to look curiously up at the two Vikings, wondering what sort of fight was going to break out this time. "You're up to something; just tell me what it is," the blonde said, blue eyes locking onto Hiccup's green. "It's either you tell me, or I wait here until Chief Stoick gets back and ask him instead."
That got the effect that Astrid had hoped for – Hiccup nearly fell over, his green eyes going wide with panic.
"Ah, we don't need to involve my Dad, Astrid! Really, it's nothing as big as hiding Toothless was," the boy said, earning himself a huff and a grumpy glance from his dragon, because Toothless felt he hadn't needed to be hidden – he was, after all, a powerful dragon and could take any Viking that tried to hurt him, Hiccup's father or not. "I know buddy," Hiccup said, patting his head and sharing an amused smile with Astrid over the dragon's actions. Turning all of his attention back to the blonde, Hiccup shrugged and gestured around the room. "We were just looking for something my Dad had earlier... I think it was something that had been my Mom's but he wouldn't show me."
"You mean the 'breasthat'?" Astrid asked, a smirk pulling across her lips as the auburn haired boy flinched violently and flailed, eyes going wide.
"No no no no, notthe breasthat. No. Not that. ...Why did I even mention that to you before? This was... well, it looked like a dagger, kind of," Hiccup said, his gaze turning thoughtful as he rubbed at his chin, trying to recall what the item had looked like in the brief moment he'd seen it. "But the blade wasn't iron, and it had engravings all over it."
"Not something you could use in battle, then," Astrid said, her own gaze equally thoughtful. "But why would he hide it from you? You don't really have anything from your Mom except for the bre –"
"Don't say it," Hiccup interrupted with a hiss, his face flame-red under his freckles. "But yeah, I don't have anything from her; it's almost like she was never here..." He trailed off for a moment, trying to keep the lingering sadness at bay, but then shrugged and shook his head, smiling ruefully. "Not like I could have expected her to, with how often things burn around here." As if on cue, Pest showed up from whatever corner he had taken refuge in and burped a small fireball that would have set the floor on fire if Toothless hadn't quickly stomped on the small flame, shooting a dirty look at the Terror.
During his rant, Astrid fell quiet and let Hiccup talk himself out, but then smiled as if she knew something Hiccup didn't. "You know, Hiccup, your birthday's coming up in a few days – maybe he wants to give it to you then," she said, a look of surprise spreading across her features as she took in the dead shock that rested on the auburn-haired teen's face for a split-second, before he managed to compose himself and shook his head.
"That can't be it – no offense Astrid, but the last birthday I remember celebrating was when my Mom was still alive. I don't think my Dad even remembers when it is any more," Hiccup said, the teens turning toward the door at the sound of voices calling from outside. Astrid reached over to him and squeezed his shoulder, offering Hiccup a smile.
"I've got to get going; my parents think I'm checking on the Nadders," Astrid said, leaning in close to whisper in Hiccup's ear, "Don't give up on him, Hiccup. He might just surprise you – the way you surprised us." Before Hiccup could reply she was out the door and gone, leaving him to fall back against Toothless with a thump as he stared at the spot she'd last stood. Toothless nudged his rider in concern when the boy didn't move soon enough to please him, and Pest flew over to wrap around Hiccups legs, trying to chew on the prosthetic. Brought out of his daze by the sound of gnawing, Hiccup frowned and grabbed the tiny dragon up and away from his fake foot, turning Pest to look at him.
"No – no; bad Pest. No chewing on my foot. I need my foot, do you understand?"
Pest's response was to burp in his face, leaving the teenager to cough out the smoke as the Terrible Terror wriggled out of his grasp and flew across the room, curling up beside the fire with a contented purr. Still coughing, Hiccup turned to Toothless and exchanged an exasperated look with him. "Sometimes I really wonder why we keep him around," he said, Toothless echoing him by dropping one ear-nodule, his eyes halfway to slits, before darting his gaze over to the fire pit and pointedly shooting a tiny plasma burst at it with an exasperated huff.
"Yeah, that's what I think too."
The next day proved to be a nice respite from the stormy weather that the winter season tended to bring, and Toothless had woken Hiccup up extra early for a morning flight. Breakfast and dressing had been taken care of quickly, and the dragon and rider were in the air long before anyone else woke, flying farther and higher than anyone else was capable of, letting Toothless stretch his wings out for the first time since the winter season had set in fully.
"Come on bud, you can fly faster than this," Hiccup called teasingly to his dragon as they flew out over the water. "Or have you gotten fat on all the good fish I've been giving you?" Responding to the tease with an irritated flap of his long ear nodes, Toothless huffed and picked up speed, racing through the chilly morning at a pace no other dragon could hope to match. Then, just to get a little bit of sweet vengeance, he banked into a dive, pulling up just in time to avoid crashing into the ocean, yet late enough that he sent a shower of sparkling droplets scattering everywhere, more than a few landing on Hiccup in various places. The human shivered a little and laughed, patting Toothless' shoulder fondly.
"Alright, you're not fat, Toothless. You remain the king of the sky, oh great and powerful Night Fury." Even though Hiccup's tone carried a slight amount of sarcastic teasing with it, Toothless was having a good time and let this comment pass without incident. Soon enough, however, the flight became a little less enjoyable. The cold weather of winter was proving to be horrible for Hiccup, causing his bad leg to flare up with phantom pains at unpredictable times; pains that sometimes lasted for hours. One such flare up occurred just after the pair had completed a series of spins that would have made anyone but Hiccup and Toothless dizzy.
Clinging to his dragon a bit tighter than was truly necessary, Hiccup bit back a hiss of discomfort and tried to focus on the flight instead of the pain from a limb that wasn't there anymore. Toothless, however, wasn't having any of that and made for the nearest clearing, shooting off a fire ball to clear the snow away before landing, turning his head to look up at his rider and giving a croon of concern. Hiccup shook his head, refusing to get down from the dragon's back, and drew in a shaky breath.
"I'm okay, Toothless. Really. You didn't need to land," the teenager said, only to be given a disbelieving bark in response. Biting his lip, the boy rolled his eyes and resisted the urge to reach down and rub the aching, not-really-there limb. "Okay, okay, you win. It does hurt, but it's not like either of us can do anything about it, so we might as well get back up in the sky and enjoy ourselves while the weather holds," Hiccup said, hoping to persuade his dragon in this manner. But instead all that happened was Toothless letting out a pathetic moan. Instinctively realizing that the dragon was upset, Hiccup unclipped himself from the harness and dismounted, hobbling around until he was face-to-nose with his dragon.
"Toothless," he said, and had to repeat himself when the dragon let out another low moan and nudged at his prosthesis, eyes mournful as he looked up at his rider. "Toothless, it's not your fault," Hiccup said, balancing himself carefully on his good leg as he reached up to pat the Night Fury's nose. "You saved my life, buddy; that's more than enough. So what if I lost my leg?" And if his voice shook on that sentence, there wasn't anyone around who would tell on either of them. "Think of it this way, Toothless, we're even now." Another mournful moan echoed from the dragon, and Hiccup was almost convinced that he would have to keep arguing with the dragon about it until the snow started to fall again when the dragon pounced on him and knocked him to the ground, covering his face in licks.
"Ugh, Toothless, no! No, Toothless, guh – fish breath... you're suffocating me!"
This proved to be just the distraction Hiccup and Toothless both needed.
A short time later, both were back in the sky, heading in the general direction of Berk while at the same time resuming the earlier in-flight antics. When they got close, however, Hiccup could see that there was some kind of gathering going on at the main hall, people and dragons heading that direction from all over the village. "What's going on?" The Viking teen murmured, coaxing Toothless into a slow dive so that they could figure out just what was happening below.
They landed right in the middle of the village, Hiccup sliding off of Toothless' back and allowing the dragon to steady him as he peered around at the villagers. Toothless watched one man carrying off a basket of fish and started to follow him, only to hesitate when his rider didn't move. Instead, Hiccup was watching what were clearly the preparations for a feast of some sort. Now, feasts weren't all the uncommon in Berk, especially now that there was enough food to go around and no chance of a dragon raid interrupting the party while everyone was half-drunk on mead, but somehow the teen could tell that this feast was going to be something a little bit different.
"Mornin', Hiccup," called a passing Viking; Hoark, Hiccup realized as the man tossed a fish in the air, where it was immediately caught and swallowed by Toothless before a handful of Terrors pinged off his snout in their own attempt to grab the treat. Hiccup offered a weak wave and a 'good morning' of his own to the man, and limped in the direction of the Hall. He was more grateful than ever to have Toothless as a willing crutch as he headed up the hills and walkways to get to the bustling building.
He nearly crashed into Fishlegs before he got anywhere near the door. "Oh! Hi, Hiccup," the large blonde said, hiding a small wicker basket behind his back when he caught sight of the chief's son. "Um, don't go in the hall!" He blurted out, and squeaked, dropping the basket he held as he clapped his hands to his mouth, breathing rapidly until an elbow hit him sharply in the gut as Ruffnut and Tuffnut came up, followed by Snotlout and Astrid. The teens formed a semicircle around Hiccup and Toothless, both of whom stared at them curiously.
"What 'legs means to say," Ruffnut drawled, her brother picking up the other half of her sentence, "is that he needs you to go check on his Gronkle. It's acting stupider than usual," Tuff said, snickering along with Ruff. "Bashing its head into the wall and licking the dirt." Fishlegs nodded, blushing sheepishly.
"I think Horrorcow ate something she didn't like," he said, as the group herded the dragon and rider back, away from the Great Hall. Tuff snickered.
"Yeah, like what's left of Ruff's brain!"
"You mean your brain, you know I'm the smart one!"
"Yes I am; everyone knows women are smarter than men!"
"Like you're a woman!"
And off the twins went on another bickering match, pausing only to look at Hiccup briefly, while Snotlout mentioned that Hiccup might want to look at Fireworm after he'd checked over Horrorcow, the Monstrous Nightmare trying to set him on fire for some reason and he couldn't get her to stop. Hiccup glanced over to Astrid and she shrugged.
"Just come with us, Hiccup," she said, and was echoed by Snotlout crying a "Yeah, don't think about the feast that's being set up at the Great Hall for y-" and Snotlout was quickly silenced by a punch to the nose that left him with a fountain of red flowing down his face. Hiccup smirked and looked between Astrid and Toothless, his green eyes glinting with amusement.
"Well, this isn't suspicious at all," he said dryly, earning his own smack from Astrid for his comment. Nevertheless he went along quite amicably, figuring out that someone had slipped diced pieces of eel into Horrorcow's breakfast (Toothless winced sympathetically), and that Fireworm was just trying to show off for her rider to get more of his attention. Both of these problems were taken care of fairly quickly; first by giving Horrorcow a few sniffs of leftover dragon grass and then a fresh cod to get the taste of eel out of her mouth, and then by convincing Fireworm that no, setting her rider on fire just wasn't going to work because Vikings were not impervious to flames, no matter how much she wanted to share a flame bath with him.
Once the two problems were taken care of, there was still too much left to be done up at the Great Hall for the celebration that had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Hiccup (according to the other teens; and though it was obviously a lie the boy went along with it), and everyone had scattered, allowing Hiccup and Toothless to make their way back to the house to relax for a little while. Together, the two of them made their way upstairs, and Hiccup paused to open his window so that he could look outside before heading to his bed and undoing the straps that held his prosthetic leg on.
Toothless let out a low moan and nudged gently at what was left of his rider's leg, and Hiccup scratched him on the head reassuringly. "Hey, it's okay bud. Just sore." In response, the Night Fury licked at the limb, and Hiccup had to push him away reluctantly. "No, that's – that's not gonna help," but at the pathetic keen from the dragon, Hiccup gave up and let Toothless give him a dragon healing massage or – whatever it was the silly reptile thought he was doing.
Together, rider and dragon lounged about for a while, simply enjoying being together and having nothing important to do. It wasn't often that Hiccup relished in being lazy, but when he did he couldn't deny that it really did feel good to indulge in that sort of doing-nothing that meant nothing important was going on – or going wrong, for that matter. The moment didn't last long, however, as a Terrible Terror careened its way in through the open window and dropped onto Hiccup's bed. It wasn't Pest, or any of the Terrors that Hiccup had seen around the village – or, at least he didn't' think so. Terrible Terrors were everywhere, and keeping track of them was next to impossible. Something tied to the Terror's tail caught his attention more than its sudden appearance, and Hiccup sat up, eyes narrowing curiously.
"Whoa, where did you come from? And... what have you got there?" He asked, easing his hand toward the dragon's tail, moving slowly so as not to startle it. It didn't put up a fuss as he untied what appeared to be a rolled sheet of vellum, and instead chirred happily before flying back out of the window, its task apparently complete. "Hey, wait! What –" Hiccup cut himself off as Toothless nudged at the parchment, giving a low rumble of curiosity. Knowing his dragon was right and that chasing after the Terror was useless, Hiccup went about the more interesting task and unrolled the vellum sheet.
He read what was written there twice before comprehending a word of it, and a third before his eyes rolled up into his head and he fainted, causing Toothless to prod at him with nose and forelegs, worried about his rider. A few moments later and the teenager regained consciousness, and after woozily reassuring Toothless that yes, he was okay and no he wasn't going to pass out again, he once again picked up the scrap of vellum and read over the words that were written on it. "It can't be," he murmured softly, pain straining his voice and causing Toothless to croon in concern. "It can't be – you're dead, how did you write this?" Hiccup asked no one in particular, his hands tightening around the note, and then read it aloud as if doing so would make it more real.
"My dearest and only son, Hiccup,
You are almost to your sixteenth birthday this winter, and I can hardly believe so much time has gone past since I have last seen you. Would that I had been able to be there to see you grow, but it seems fate had other plans for both of us. News has reached me of how you brought an end to the war between Vikings and Dragons, and though you may not remember, I can still recall you as a toddler, declaring that you would do that very thing. Words cannot express how very proud I am of you, my son.
But I digress. This letter has more purpose to it than to simply tell you how much I love you. As I said, your birthday is coming up, and while that is a great thing in and of itself, our bloodline – yes, son, my side of the family, not your father's – brings with it a great amount more to deal with than what most young Vikings have to face. You will begin to notice initial changes in the next few weeks, though fortunately they are minor.
I ask that you try not to be alarmed (though I know from experience that's a hard thing to ask), and to seek me out when winter has ended. Travel isn't safe until the spring, and I cannot come to you – nor can Stoick be allowed to discover that I am still among the living. It pains me to say this, but son, you cannot tell anyone about this letter or about myself. You would be endangering more than you know.
When the thaw comes, the Terror that delivered this will return to you with another note that provides directions to my location. I stress again that you are to tell no one, for reasons that are better explained in person than through runes on vellum. Also, you might provide Freefall – the Terror – with a fish as a reward the next time that she comes, as apparently delivering things is a very stressful business and a reward would make things easier for everyone. There's your first lesson, son; dragons, especially Terrible Terrors, tend to be greedy creature; as if flying a note is truly that difficult!
Remember, Hiccup. When the thaw comes, seek me out. May Odin watch over you, and may the winds remain at your back to speed you on your way.
Valhallarama." Hiccup finished reading the letter unaware of the look of surprise on Toothless' face as he waved the note around, flailing a bit. "This is impossible! Toothless, my Mom's dead; she's been dead for over ten years, and now a letter pops up from her? I don't believe it – I can't believe it," he added, long-held pain soaking his voice as he rolled the note back up and stowed it under his bed. "This has to be some kind of a joke, right bud?" He asked, trying to nudge away his dragon, who was now sniffing closely at him, his eyes narrowed with focus. "It's just some kind of a horrible prank, that's all it is," Hiccup added, though privately, he wasn't so sure.
From the look Toothless shot him, it was clear the dragon thought it wasn't a joke – either that or he thought Hiccup needed to bathe with the way he was wrinkling his snout. Either one was possible. Deciding to forget about it for the moment, Hiccup laughed dryly and shook his head, scooting over on the bed to allow Toothless to climb up. The wooden frame creaked threateningly, but didn't give, and Hiccup stroked Toothless' head as the Night Fury rested it in his lap, his gaze thoughtful as he put his mind to the far more interesting and less disturbing thought pattern of coming up with some new tweaks for his prosthetic leg.
There were better things to be doing than to wonder about such a strange, half-insane sounding letter, after all. One of which involved coming up with a way to get rid of Toothless' fish breath!
=To Be Continued=