This is the new-and-improved first chapter of I Hear Him Scream! It sorely needed some rewriting.
To new readers: this story has multiple POVS, usually between Hiccup and Toothless. I do my best to make it obvious if a pagebreak signifies a scene change or POV change. You can just assume that if something defining to the character (terminology, physical position, or a name, for instance) isn't stated within the first few paragraphs, the narrator is the same as the one before the pagebreak.
I will be rewriting every chapter that I believe should be—so keep your eyes peeled for that! Enjoy!
The raids were the worst part of it all.
Living near humans—Vikings, as the Queen calls them—is dangerous enough as it is. They are naturally destructive creatures, after all. They kill for sport even during the bountiful summer season, they tear apart the land and carve into the very mountains to fit their needs, and they hold grudges that are rather impressive even to a dragon such as myself.
The Vikings are dangerous. Every dragon recognizes this simple truth. Yet, almost on a nightly basis, we find ourselves heading out to their islands in a desperate search for food, always trying to sate the Queen's appetite.
I have seen dragons gored before my very eyes, their heads bludgeoned off in a single swift strike, their fire leaving their body for the last time. I have seen the celebration that ensues, the yammering in human tongue and congratulations for the first kill, or a good kill, or just any kill. I have seen helpless youths cornered and slaughtered just for the sake of killing a dragon, their bodies deemed unworthy of trophies of victory and tossed into the ocean where the gods cannot find them.
I have taken in the scent of blood, fear, and rotting meat on the battle field. The choking, chalky thickness of ash and smoke. The alarming smell of death ever-present during battle.
I have heard the nest mourning its numerous losses, the Queen rising from below to address us and tell us pretty little lies about sacrifices and honey-coated nonsense. I have heard the screams of terror and wails for mercy, the laughter that would surely follow. The sudden silence.
Indeed, the raids were truly the worst part of it all.
Although it really was hard to beat living through everything as the only sane dragon around.
The Queen appeared one day on the horizon, looking for all the world like a moving island. She took the nest by force, picking their minds apart with the strongest weapon a dragon had at their disposal: magic. So powerful was hers that she could steal a dragon's identity and personality, forcing them to become nothing more than little helpless leaves clinging to a sturdy branch, claiming it as necessary and proper.
I was the only one who was unaffected. I have always known the reason why, of course. As a Shadow-Blender, the strongest of magic-wielders and relatively rare in the far north, I had a distinct advantage over my brethren. I had the magic to fight back, to make sure that the Queen did not control me. Rest assured, I never allowed this to slip past anyone…although I always wondered what would happen…
My best guess is that I would be forced to flee from my death. Dragons who gain enough magic, either through simple aging or learning from their elders, will often disappear if they start to question too much. The Queen can't have some nay-sayers, now, can she? It isn't like the thousands of other dragons who look to her with adoration and love aren't enough.
It was with that exact attitude she had enforced on our nest that she so easily took it over, as silent and swift as death. The Queen was so loving, the Queen was so kind, the Queen was so wise—the least we can do is hunt for her, to follow her orders so we may live! And in doing so, in following that 'law', our nest was plummeted into famine. The Queen had about as big an appetite as anyone would expect, and by the Dragoness of the Moon, did she enforce it.
I still remember the first time she ate a dragon. As a 'sacrifice' so that the nest may continue to survive through that unforgiving winter.
It didn't take long for humans to begin settling islands further and further north (or south, by the nest's location). It took and equal amount of time for the Queen to get a bright idea: steal from the humans to keep their population under control, so that they may never hunt dragons to extinction, and keep the nest well-fed in the process. Thus, the raids were born in all of their splendid glory.
Come to think of it, it's almost funny. The gods must have had some sort of vendetta against me, as I do not recall what I could have possibly done to earn a fate like mine, as the only dragon not afflicted by mass mind-control in a nest of thousands. For the longest time I believed that this was a test, that it was my duty as a Shadow-Blender to take down the Queen and free my nestmates! But that time had long passed, and I had come to the harsh realization that some things were simply out of my control.
And so the raids continued, and I was left alone with my thoughts, the only dragon with any power to save the others but never possessing enough strength.
On a gloomy, clouded night, I burdened myself with the task of leading a raid to one of the southern islands. It was not that I wanted to—in fact, I would rather throw myself into the ocean! But the Queen demanded a daily food offering from each dragon, and my tribemates and I had waited long enough to fulfill the wonderful little status quo.
I led the formation at its front with an admittedly inferior group of dragons—it was overly filled with both elderly and young, and most of the latter did not understand basic flight structures. Which meant that it didn't take long for the pinpoint, neat design that I had started with to muddle up into a tactless pod of dragons, creating drag for the unlucky ones in the back.
I glanced over my wing at the hulking cluster that had once branched out from me in two straight lines and sighed. See, this was why I liked smaller groups. The dragon who had been on my direct right as the second-strongest dragon and faithfully stuck to my side, an ancient Two-Walker, noticed right away.
"What is the matter, Shadow-Blender?" She asked, tipping her head aside. "Are you worried we will not find enough food for the Queen?"
"Like she even needs it…" I mumbled, only to clam up when the Two-Walker bristled and bared her teeth despite her lower status (as a Shadow-Blender, I am the highest dragon, after all!). "What I meant to say is, I am worried that she will refuse the offerings we bring back to her and force us to eat them?" Oh, how the words burned.
The Two-Walker considered this and clucked her tongue. "I would not fear, Shadow-Blender. With you here, there is not much that can go wrong."
I nodded and turned my attention forward, silently cheering to myself for such a believable lie thought up on the spot. It was one of many qualities of mine that had helped me survive "under the Queen's control". Dragon of the Sun, was I lucky that I had an amazing straight face.
Our flare passed on in silence for about a few more seconds, tops. Then a squabble arose from behind, making me groan in frustration. I shot a glare over my shoulder at such a display of disrespect in a Shadow-Blender's presence—especially if said Shadow-Blender was the leader!
Luckily for me, a Flame-Skin had already taken it upon himself to intervene between the two opponents. He pushed himself between a Two-Head and a posse of Little-Biters and snarled, "Do not fight over worthless causes! You must save your energy for the island!"
The elderly, gray-scaled Two-Head snorted. "Bold words for one so young," one head said with an upturned snout.
With an exaggerated eyeroll, I opened my wings and let myself fall back until I was just above the group. "It would do you well to listen to what he says." I stared down my nose at both the Two-Head and the much more guilty Little-Biters. "There are times when you need to know your place. But if someone beneath you has to correct your actions, you should feel nothing but shame."
Leaving the stricken Two-Head behind, I pulled myself back to my rightful spot in the front, the Flame-Skin close behind.
"Shadow-Blender," he scolded. "I had the situation handled. It is expected of you not to meddle with lower affairs. Remind yourself that I am superior to you in age and magical ability—I did not need your assistance."
Oh, ouch. And to think that I had once considered him my friend. Scrunching up my face, I hissed, "It is I who is leading this flare—not you." That certainly put him in his place, and he bowed his head just a little bit before opening his wings and taking his position behind me.
The argument had taken up more time than I had intended; the familiar shape of the island had come into sight. I rose in altitudes and shouted, "We're about to arrive! Elders, engage the Vikings and protect the young! The young must steal food while the humans are distracted! Those in between, choose which job will aid the nest the most! I will be above—if you need anything, call for me!" Spinning into a hover to face them, I said, "Understood?"
"Understood!" Came the roar of dozens melted into one voice. Smirking, I began pumping my wings to rise in altitude, taking myself high over the flare and the island. Below me, a group of elders led by a wrinkled Hum-Wing banked away. The young separated into two groups: one for the fields where the humans hoarded their sheep, and one for the humans' nest. Each was governed by a Flame-Skin, and they each flew over to their respective spots and pulled into hovers.
For a moment, I closed my eyes and took in the peace, inhaling the sweet late spring air and just enjoying being under the Dragoness of the Moon. I flipped over, tucking my wings and legs in, and let the sound of the wind rushing past fill my ears.
Below, the elders launched the attack.
As I sheathed my teeth and filtered gas into my throat, giving off the banshee scream that was unique to a Shadow-Blender's fire, any humans outside immediately ducked for cover like the insects they were. A large tower used to light the sky and give away where my fellow dragons were came into view, already being attacked by a Flame-Skin. With a flick of my igniter, a ball of plasma lit up the sky in a blinding blue-white starburst. A human—the King of this tribe of Vikings—screamed an order to his inferiors, jumping straight off of the tower I'd just hit.
I swerved out of sight and climbed through the air. Just off to my left, there was a group of young dragons that had somehow found themselves without any experienced dragons around to protect them. They were cornered, and needed help fast!
Luckily for them, I was just the dragon for that kind of speed.
I forced gas into my mouth, grinning at the obligatory "nightfury get down!", and sent the explosive blast into the wooden structure. The young dragons took off after me, calling out their gratitude before flying off to a hopefully safer place.
The town was now alit with fire and chaos, allowing me to use the updraft to gain altitude. A quick scan showed that the raid was going to be one of the fast ones; those that had food were flying off, and the only ones who stayed behind were the few unfortunate dragons that had been captured. I drooped at the sight, but knew that to go down and help them would insure my own death. Some sacrifices, it turned out, were necessary.
Still, I wanted to spite those awful creatures for daring to capture a dragon like a wild animal. I was forbidden to participate directly in raids—the Queen thought myself too valuable to risk being killed at the claws of a Viking—so I flung my eyes back and forth for a target. "Come on, gimme something to shoot at, gimme something to shoot at…ah!" My target came to me as a tower positioned on a small, secluded cliff cast in shadow. Nobody was around to see the destruction, though. Oh well.
I swung down hard and used up my third shot on the tower, banking in front of the fire to admire my handiwork—
The sound was accompanied by the terrifying sensation of a coiled serpent tightening itself around my entire body, digging into my limbs! It wrestled with my wings and clamped them down, sending me plummeting! I could do nothing but roar in terror and confusion as the snake bit down, scraping at my torso and wings and legs, and dragged us to the island!
I hit the ground chest first and blacked out. Blinking rapidly moments later, I gained my senses only to be greeted with the sight of the remains of a structure that had once been made of unnaturally-carved wood. The snake pulled us down into it and the world erupted in agony as thick splinters and sharpened branches dug into every single scale!
That wasn't enough for the snake, though; with one more vengeful hiss it took us over a hill, where I rocketed into the ground and skidded deep into the soil, mercifully coming to a stop in the center of an open area in the humans' nest.
My entire world came to an earth-shattering halt.
I had fallen.
All things considered, I was having a pretty good day.
I mean, really, I'm not sure what puts a spring in my step more than an early morning dragon raid where I, oh, I dunno, shoot down a Night Fury!
Nothing could keep the grin off of my face as I jumped for joy, whooping, "I hit it! Yes, I hit it!" Spinning to face Berk, I shouted, "Did anyone see that?!"
A torrent of warm air nearly scalded my backside, followed by a low growl that was more of a bone-shaking rumble than anything else. Spinning on my heel, I was faced with the sight of…a Monstrous Nightmare. Lowering my eyelids, I said, "Except for you."
The dragon bared its teeth and snapped, barely giving me time to jump out of the way! I yelped and sprinted towards the village, screaming all the while. The stupid lizard followed right at my heels, and when I looked over my shoulder, it shot a stream of molten lava right at me! Even with my sort-of fast speed and sort-of clumsy dodge out of the way, the heat alone carved a small burn into any of my skin that was exposed.
I shrieked again in a desperate attempt to gain someone's attention, wondering where the hell they all were! We were in the middle of a dragon raid, it's not like they decided to take a break to get a snack! I couldn't outrun a dragon forever!
The answer to my desperate question came as a large group of people huddled around something in town center. Apparently whatever rock they were looking at was a lot more important than some teenager about to be eaten by a dragon.
"Hey!" I shouted, gaining the attention of a few of them. "A little help would be nice—ah!" My cry for help halted when foot decided to catch on something at literally the worst moment possible and I was sent sprawling to the ground. Rolling onto my back, I stared up at the bared fangs of the Nightmare, the disgusting saliva dripping down onto my cheek and neck, the big gaping hole that was slowly lighting up with fire—!
A brownish blur, a loud grunt, and a mighty force struck the Nightmare clean off the ground! It stumbled away and rose to its feet, roaring at no one other than…my father.
Oh, man. I was so grounded. I could just see it on his face. It had slightly more disappointment than usual.
The dragon pawed at the ground, scraping deep gouges into the soft earth, and shot a tiny flame at my savior. Dad sidestepped it with ease, the terrible heat not even fazing him. With a sneer he held up his hammer and flung it with all his strength, hitting the Nightmare right in its forehead! The dragon fell to the ground like a sack of coal, eyes fluttering. It didn't stay down for long; snorting, it climbed onto its hind legs, spread its wings out wide, and its entire body erupted into flames as it thundered in rage!
Dad's response was to throw a handy-dandy wagon at it.
The dragon fell over from both shock and force, its fire extinguishing and now significantly more bloodied. It spat another stream of lava at Dad that didn't cover nearly as much ground as the previous, and a look of surprise seemed to settle in its horrible face. With a final snap of its jaws, it thrust itself into the air and flew away, leaving me on the ground and Dad standing off to the side.
Dad turned and pinned me with his special scowl that he reserved just for me. I gave a nervous laugh. "Yeah, well, I hit a Night Fury!"
"Hiccup!" Dad snapped, marching over and lifting me to my feet. "What have I told you about going out during dragon raids?!"
"I know, I know!" I said, holding my hands up. "But this time was different! It wasn't like the others—I actually got it!"
Dad sighed, putting a hand on his forehead. "Hiccup, for the last time—"
"Eh, Stoick?" A one-legged, one-armed man interrupted us from the crowd, sauntering over and placing a hook on his shoulder. "Ye might want ta see this."
I beamed up at my mentor. "Gobber—you must've seen it, right? I told you it was a mild calibration issue." Gobber merely rolled his eyes with a sly grin, pulling his reluctant childhood friend behind with him. The crowd part for them, and I just barely saw a still form lying in the center of the group. A very large, very rope-covered form.
Jogging to the gap, I couldn't help but sigh in relief as my eyes met with the most beautiful sight I had ever seen: a downed Night Fury, all bundled up like a present. My very salvation was sitting there right in front of me. No more Hiccup the Embarrassment or Hiccup the Useless. No more being the black sheep. No more being made fun of by my peers and having people give my father sympathetic looks while they thought I wasn't looking. In fact, maybe I could finally get a date now…
Dad and Gobber both stood at my sides, the former gaping down at the offspring of lightning and death itself that was now completely immobile under the hands of his son. He was having a tough time believing it, judging by his pale face and wide eyes—but then again, I was still having trouble with it, and I was the one who captured the darn thing!
Gobber smirked. "It was the darndest thing. You'd think that Thor himself had been caught, from all the screamin' this thing was makin'. It just fell outta the sky wrapped in bolas. Saw it happen with my own eyes."
"And I used a bola-throwing machine!" I interrupted quickly, poking a finger in the air. "I hit it right after it hit the third tower. It flew in front of the fire, and that's when I got it."
The crowd mumbled a bit, and someone stated, "That's exactly when it came down here."
Dad stared down at the unconscious dragon, with its irregular breathing and fresh wounds. He faced me and put a hand on my shoulder, disbelief coating his features. "Is it true?"
I nodded vigorously.
With a chuckle, Dad shook his head and mumbled, "And to think that the first Viking to shoot down a dragon was someone like…this."
"You just gestured to all of me." I rolled my eyes, and Dad laughed—he actually laughed!—and gave me what he probably thought was an affectionate punch but was really actually painful and probably bruised me. "So you…believe me?" I asked, rubbing my arm and giving him a hesitant grin.
"Well, unless anyone else thinks that it wasn't Hiccup," Dad announced to the crowd, staring into each and every person's eyes. Nobody spoke, everyone just as shocked as Dad was, and a wide grin settled across his jaw. Clapping a hand on my back, Dad led me towards the Night Fury and praised, "Well done, son. I knew you had it in you! And to think that I thought you were being irrational all these years!" His voice rose in excitement with each sentence, something that quickly rubbed off on me.
"I know, I told you they were great ideas!" I said, drawing a chuckle from him. We stood over the downed dragon together, the first Vikings to ever see a Night Fury and survive. I just grinned down at it, all of the doubts and feelings of guilt and inadequacy falling away, leaving me light and ready to take on the world.
Dad unsheathed his sword and handed it to me, an expectant and proud glimmer in his eyes. "You do the honors, son."
I almost flinched away from the weapon. "Uh, what?"
Dad pressed the heavy thing into my arms, ignoring that I nearly dropped it. "Go on! Kill your first dragon! You were the one who brought it down, after all."
"Oh! Well, if you say so…" My heart skipped a beat. Struggling to pull the sword's handle into my hands, I stepped over to the beast's vulnerable, exposed neck. For a second I felt pity…but no! I am a Viking! Vikings do not feel guilty over killing dragons.
I raised the sword. The Night Fury's eyes snapped open.
Great Dragon of the Sun, you had to be kidding me.
There was no way this…this fishbone was the one responsible for the snake that had flung me to the earth! How was it possible that he could control a creature so powerful?!
I had only translated some of the conversation—but it was enough to know that it was truly this puny, disgraceful slime that had dishonored me, that had shamed me! The weak runt gasped loudly under my paw after I'd pinned him and cried out for the King, but I wouldn't let him get away so easily. I spun towards the demon and shot half a fireblast right into his midsection. Then I used the other half on the approaching humans, successfully keeping them at bay but also using up another full shot. I would either half to use more half-shots, or be very conservative.
It was just me and this idiotic human now. There was a precious moment that I had grasped in my claws…where I could do anything I wanted.
I full-toothed grin settled on my jaw. Of course, I could always kill the devil and put it out of its misery. Buuut, then again, he had done the honors of bringing down a Shadow-Blender. He deserved a reward, no? A little something to be remembered by?
After all, nothing hurt a human's pride more than taking their source of honor away. What's more, nothing turned a human's life into a failed wreck more than guaranteeing that they suffered. I knew just the trick to fulfill both.
The magic that I called forth wasn't exactly forbidden—just discouraged, as such a feat would usually kill the dragon attempting it. I was a Shadow-Blender, however; I had the magic reserves to perform the spell, and since I had wisely held my magic in all night, I had plenty to draw from. Taking a moment to draw in a deep breath, I closed my eyes.
Then opened them and slammed my paws on the human's chest.
The magic poured from my legs into his body, the concentrated mass of power scalding everything—the human's fake fur, his skin, even my fire-resistant scales. It poured right into the human's chest, infiltrating deep until it came upon his soul. I clucked, baring my teeth in a wide-open grin, and forced it to change.
The human didn't scramble and fight like I'd expected. No, he just stopped moving altogether, his mouth open wide and gaping, yet no sounds could escape from deep within. His eyes became distant and glassy. Nothing else happened. Narrowing my eyes, I forced more magic away from his soul and to his body itself, deciding that it was much faster that way. I didn't have all night, after all!
To my deepest approval, the change was immediate. The Viking wailed with an unending misery that I had never heard before, flinging his body back and forth under my strong grip. He clawed at my scales as his furless skin began to crack, splinter…grow…
His entire form shuddered and I watched on in fascination, the draining of my magic becoming secondhand. Scales were not growing—no, they were forming in likely the most painful way possible, his skin tightening in clumps in some places, leaving bloody rips where it had been drawn away and fresh flesh filling those little rivers of red. His teeth fell out all at once, dyed crimson on the edges, and his real fur popped right off of his head as if some dragon had come over and yanked it out.
His entire form began to bulge in odd places, muscles growing out of sync with each other and protruding into the open, some ripping through skin and others finding resistance against newly-formed scales that stubbornly held them inside his frail frame. The familiar sound of bones snapping—the groaning, then sudden SNAP!—punctuated the air with jolting frequency, and the screams just continued coming and coming.
The human's fake fur tore off his body when he'd outgrown them, revealing a mesh of blood, reddened skin, and shimmering scales beneath. His face contorted as the bones within rearranged themselves, becoming more angular and streamline, and the bones of horns and his new ears burst out like a sea-dragon breaching the ocean.
A loud, grinding crack splintered the air, and all at once bones burst from his shoulders and hind end, spraying blood and muscles creeping from his body to meet up after them. They quaked and hardened with scales, and from the creases of his newly-born wing bones, membranes rushed forth like a tidal wave. His now-thrashing tail received the same fate, bones pulsing out from the edges and quickly overtaken by the required flesh necessary for tailfins.
You are being quite cruel, I thought all of the sudden, but shook it off. This human deserved this treatment!
The transformation was near-complete. The not-so-human's legs migrated down to their respective positions, and he grew just a little bit more…and it was done. My magic reserves were all but gone, but thank the gods, I had done it! I had completed the impossible spell!
I stepped off of him, swaying in dizziness and glancing around with a proud smirk. Unsurprisingly, the large majority of the crowd had fled for their lives, although a group of smaller Vikings close to the human's age were standing nearby. I was ecstatic to see that the King was one of those who stayed behind; he was standing right where I'd last seen him, his puny weapon discarded on the ground, eyes glossy with tears.
"That's right," I said to him, flicking my eyes down at the barely-conscious Shadow-Blender I had created. For a second I studied him, frowning; he was supposed to be black like me, not brown with freckles still on his face. Shrugging in dismissal, I stated, "I can do anything I want. Never forget this."
With that, I rose into the air, pushing my exhausted wings…
I almost buckled under my own weight when I hit the center of the passageway a distance away from the King. I felt tired enough after that spell already. I suppose I overestimated my own strength. But now was not the time for that; I had to get back to the nest!
Off I went again, flapping my wings as fast as I could force them. I rose up and up and—gah! It felt like something had smacked me right in the side, knocking me over midair! I was forced to fall to the ground again.
Pain settled across my body as I stood there, panting. Most of it was concentrated on my tail.
"Oh, Dragoness of the Moon," I choked. I swung my tail over and saw that…oh, gods…oh no!
I was missing a tailfin!
I almost broke down right there in the center of the humans' nest—but I was a calm, rational dragon, and kept the hyperventilating to a minimum. Spinning in a tight circle, I located where the nearest forest was and sprinted.
The unnatural structures gave way to the equally uncomfortable cover of the pines, masking the open sky where I belonged, but I ran and ran until I could no longer hear the humans or the fires. The flare had already left by now—if it hadn't, someone would have gone down and helped me when I crashlanded. I was on my own.
So I ran, setting my mind on one task: I was going to find that human, and make him regret the day he ever laid his venomous eyes on me.