This story is the second of four shorts, followed by a novella and all of which revolve around the same arc: The Horizons Saga.
The Horizons Saga
Part Two of Four
The sun was unusually hot in the sky that summer morning. Astrid shifted and settled further onto the shoulders of her female Deadly Nadder, the dragon's glistening scales shining brightly in the daylight. The young Viking warrior squeezed her legs against the Nadder's withers and she tittered docilely in reply, taking to the skies without another word.
Astrid's pack was deceivingly light upon her side, the tan-skinned pouch nestled comfortably at the juncture of her hip and thigh. She risked her grip on her makeshift saddle, one of the first Gobber-made prototypes based off of Hiccup's newfound designs, and made sure that the clasp was still intact. It was crucial that her precious cargo arrived safe and sound.
Within fifteen minutes she was in sight of her village, the island of Berk jutting up obstinately against the horizon. She pressed herself closer to the dragon's vibrant scales and urged the eager Nadder onwards, remaining silent the rest of the way.
They landed in the middle of the village square amidst a bedlam of motion, with dragons flying this way and that and panicking villagers scampering in their demented wake. She hopped off of her steed and petted the bright dragon fondly, finding that sensitive spot beneath her chin with relative ease. The beast cooed blissfully and followed her young rider up the steepest of the slopes in the village; Astrid had only one particular destination in mind.
She had become quickly acquainted with the female healer that had been entrusted to Hiccup and met up with her and her newly acquired apprentice about halfway up the crag. The practitioner was one of the only experienced ones that still remained and hung on after the battle of the Red Death, and she was being stretched long beyond her tolerance due to their decimated numbers. But here she was, standing with her hands on her armoured hips and her apprentice standing sentinel at her side, the diminutive helper looking even more emancipated in comparison to the mountainous woman that was Róta, in all her ferocious glory.
Astrid smiled as she neared the great woman, eager to hand over the herbs she had plucked from an island about two days away, providing you used customary travel. She rested her palm on the Nadder's nose and rubbed it gently; dragons were starting to become far more useful than one would have initially believed.
Róta took the bundle of herbs in her outstretched fingers and examined the large parcel carefully, bringing the flowers to her nose and breathing in deeply. She smiled approvingly and paced her hand on the young Viking's shoulder, a warm gesture from which she felt great appreciation. Astrid smiled inwardly, beaming over the clever find – if it would make Hiccup better that much faster, she would do just about anything.
They settled at the top of the hill and sat at the crest of the chief's home, resting their tired legs upon the house's wooden steps. Róta's apprentice drew a mortar and pestle from the round pack that she carried and handed it to her master, readily waiting for her next orders. Róta nodded and began listing off a series of ingredients that she would need for her poultice, loosing Astrid in her complex list of sages and thymes. She looked on curiously, eager to see what the healer would do next.
Róta took one set of herbs and began to steep them in spring water, tying their thorned stems together with twine. She stirred them frequently, dying the water until it turned a bright evergreen. She removed the bundle from the bowl and had her apprentice dry the stalks with a woven cloth before plucking each saturated leaf from its stem one by one. She tossed them into the wooden mortar as Róta continued plucking leaves from other herbs and shaving stems so that only the tender hearts remained. Finally, the slender apprentice began to grind the herbs together with the heavy pestle, pulverizing them into a smooth liquid mixture so that no lumps remained.
"Gísla, the friggheidrun please," Róta said, breaking the peaceful silence as her apprentice handed over the cluster of rare blooms carefully in their bundle. The healer gently peeled the cloth from the delicate flowers and set them on her lap in front of her to examine.
"Well chosen," she declared boisterously, glancing over towards Astrid, "These are at their ripest, perfect for what we need."
"Thank you," the young rider replied, fighting to keep the blush from showing on her features, "I'd do it again, no problem."
The healer saw right through her words and grinned, "Of course you would."
Róta began to pick the petals off of the largest of the lilies, studying them carefully, "The petals are poisonous, you see. It's the hearts of the styles you want, the ovaries or what have you."
Astrid turned up her nose, "They smell horrible!"
Róta laughed, "They're just starting to rot. This is good."
"Rot?" Astrid grimaced, "Since when has mould been a good thing?"
"Since some idiot discovered it!" Róta began peeling the style away, grasping the fragile filaments between her thumb and forefinger, "It fights the infection almost instantly. I've been giving it to him in the honey but it's not taking to him as well as I would like. Placing the mould right on the wounds will be one Hel of a shock to the system but it'll be better than having him fight it off on his own."
"So he is getting worse then…"
Róta was sympathetic, "Of course he is. It always gets worse before it gets better."
"Or it doesn't get better at all," Astrid murmured in reply.
"Hmmf," the healer pursed her lips, "He wasn't supposed to make it past three hours, let alone six days. Have some faith in the boy; the gods must have some plan for him to have him live for this long, after that no less."
Astrid turned her head away as if she were ashamed, "I just wish he'd wake up."
"I know," Róta placed her great hand upon her shoulder, "So do I. So do all of us."
The middle ages was the first time that the use of penicillin as an antibiotic treatment was recorded, and I can only assume that the practice was founded long before that because really, people in the middle ages were idiots. And Astrid's dragon remains unnamed for a reason - everyone makes such a big deal about it! There's one author out there who bust her nuts over the name of her dragon and damn...it was a little crazy. So name her whatever you so desire!