Hello, everyone! Hope your summers are going well! I've got some good news: the next chapter is currently being edited. So hopefully the wait won't be as long! I'm aiming to finish this entire story before the next semester starts. As always, thanks go to my awesome beta!

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The sky was black under the shadow of the monster, little flecks of color like dying embers giving the only hints that there were dragons about. My feet rooted to the deck and I stared with wide eyes, gazing up at the sky in wonder. Had it not been so dangerous, it would have been a beautiful sight—like watching a thunderstorm roil miles off the coast, too far out for landfall.

One ship in front of ours, Hiccup reared up on his hind legs and held his head against his father's chest, as if checking for a heartbeat. The Night Fury watched with anxiety, its ears pressed against its skull. After a brief bout of grunts and barks, and a final look at the Chief, the two pulled themselves into the darkening sky.

I felt like I couldn't even process it. There had been that lingering doubt that Hiccup had been lying, that his confinement and use as a hostage had been justified. I had wanted it to be justified. If it wasn't—if Hiccup had spoken the truth…

…Well, then that meant that I'd only been just another blow in a long series of agonizing events. I wasn't okay with that. I still wasn't—and probably wouldn't be for as long as I lived. The past was in the past, though; we had to look forward.

I had a lot of amends to make.

Still, Hiccup had been the cause of a lot of our problems, too. First and foremost, the loss of our warrior apprenticeships. He had hurt so many people escaping the Ring during the tournament. While he felt like he had perfectly good reasons for doing so, the simple fact was that he had stolen precious food supplies numerous times. He wasn't a saint. I wasn't going to apologize if he refused to acknowledge that he needed to as well.

Everything had felt like a trap, that we'd been led to our deaths. Seeing that horde of dragons had been the third-most terrifying moment of my life. Quickly followed by the second-most, when all of them suddenly turned to stones in the air, dropping like dead birds and then flinging themselves away from the water as Hiccup howled in a voice filled with rage.

The gigantic monster that shouldn't even exist, however, was what made me freeze in my tracks. It wasn't until I saw Hiccup and his friend get to work that I realized that I'd been wasting precious time. I spun to face towards the others—towards our catapults. We had been assigned two, and by Thor were we going to make good use of them.

Fishlegs and Tuffnut, of all people, were giving out orders to our group. Fishlegs, it was a no-brainer that he knew what to do. Tuffnut was much more of a shock. Here and there I'd heard him talk about catapults, but I'd had no idea just how much he knew about them; he recognized the name of every contraption, the mechanisms of every rope. A faint memory of Ruffnut yelling at her twin about stealing catapult models came to mind, back during one of our meetings in the cove Hiccup had resided in, but it really wasn't that important right now.

"What do you need me to do?" I asked both of my friends. Glancing over, I saw Tuffnut's father manning the ship, gritting his teeth as he tried to avoid a crash. The other warriors were assisting us, but were mostly preparing themselves for the real battle—when the ships sailed into the mist of dragons. Tuffnut and Fishlegs would be the authority figures for now, it seemed.

"Get that oil on there," Tuffnut rushed, pointing at the gigantic rock in question. "We gotta light it. It's gonna be wicked!"

"I hope it explodes!" Ruffnut shouted from the other end of the ship, where the second catapult had been placed. Fishlegs was struggling to get a stone up onto it, knees shaking under the weight. Snotlout jumped over from his position besides Tuffnut and helped lift it into its proper place before it crushed the poor guy.

The monster—the Queen, apparently—let loose a roar loud enough to send the deck vibrating. All activity stopped for just a second, and the fleet was silenced.

In the absence of orders, the Chief's voice lifted through the air, burdened with sorrow and regret.

"We were wrong all along."

I began to spread the oil across the stone as fast as I could. Tuffnut pulled some ropes and levers, and the whole machine shifted as it was prepped for battle.

"Aim for the wings," I reminded him.

Tuffnut rolled his eyes and scoffed. "Duuuh." Then he changed the aim again, clearly having been aiming for something else. Ruffnut smacked him and tried to take control of the catapult. I finished slicking the black, slimy stuff over the stone and spun around to take in the battle.

The Queen drew closer, an army at her sides and six bloodshot eyes focused on two small, vulnerable figures in the sky. They led their twelve followers behind them, rapidly closing the gap of safety in between the two opposing sides.

A few seconds later, and everything burst into chaos.

"Flame-Skins and Hum-Wings, aim for her wings! Two-Walkers and Two-Heads, help keep those still under the Queen's control away from the rest of us! The Shadow-Blender and I will take care of the Queen!"

Hiccup was quick to add, "And make sure you fly low, so that the Vikings can get some shots in on the Queen without risking getting hit!"

"Understood!" Came the call of our followers.

I glanced over at my friend. "Can you free them again?"

He narrowed his eyes in concentration. "I'm trying, but I—ugh, I can't! It's difficult enough as it is to keep everyone free." He bared his teeth in frustration.

That…complicated things. "Don't worry about it. We should be fine," I said.

The Queen's slaves hit the newly-freed dragons before we did. The resulting clash of fire and explosions gave rise to what seemed to be a continuous fire, fuelled with fear and hatred.

"You cannot win!" Roared the voice of the Queen. It was almost unrecognizable, and it took me several moments to realize why: she was speaking. Before, she had been but a thought invading our minds, but now that Hiccup had broken the spell, she could no longer whisper her poisons inside our thoughts. "I will forgive your grievous actions if you stand down! Spare us the pain of this battle and return, my children!"

We dove underneath the central battle, and dozens of slaves swooped down to meet us. I corkscrewed up and over an elderly Flame-Skin, grabbed his scruff in my claws, and threw him aside. Somewhere off to my right Hiccup gave a loud grunt and pushed a Hum-Wing away from him, which was quickly overtaken by the young Flame-Skin and sent fleeing. A Two-Walker in our flare rose and then dove heavy onto a dragon ready to overtake the young hatchling, saving the unobservant idiot's life.

A Two-Walker opened their wings wide before me and held their talons out like a bird of prey. I braced myself, rearing up, only to be interrupt when a Two-Head I barely recognized barreled into him from above and shouted, "Quickly, Shadow-Blenders! Before they overtake you!"

Another dragon, channeling magic to fly as swift as a Shadow-Blender, hurtled down from above as if it were trying to prove a point. The elder Hum-Wing in our group growled loud enough to be heard over the roar of battle, and a second later a white-blazed fireball struck the threat right out of the sky. With a screech the dragon tumbled backwards, smacking into two others and sending them off-course.

The entire ball of warring dragons was losing more and more altitude, as all dragons focused on one task: kill the Shadow-Blenders, or defend the Shadow-Blenders. Glancing up at the cloud of color and fire above me, I couldn't help but wonder how we were going to employ our plan fast enough! There was simply no time!

"Keep going!" Hiccup shouted, panting slightly as he ducked and weaved around the Queen's puppets, having abandoned fighting them off. "Keep them low!"

Right on cue, something that looked like a flaming sun hurtled across the sky, barely skimming over the battle and flying directly into the Queen's chest. Not a single wingbeat was off-rhythm, and she swept through the resulting cloud as if it were mist.

Lips raised, the Queen growled, "Your intentions will lead you and your beloved ones to the afterlife. Shadow-Blenders, you are more intelligent than this—put this madness to rest!"

"That's what we're going to do!" I hurtled back, pumping magic into my wings to gain speed. The dragons above were coming down too fast—they were closing in on us and would pin us to the ocean from all sides!

"This is your last chance, lost ones. I must protect my children, even if I am forced to pay a heavy sacrifice!"

I looked over my shoulder at Hiccup, whose snarl made him very unlike himself. "I'd like to see you try!" He taunted at the Queen, pulling a grin that all but screamed, 'Hit me first!'

Another flaming sun swept overhead, accompanied by two more in its wake. Only one met its mark against the Queen's shoulder, leaving behind no indication of any injury. I knew they were from the humans' ships, but it was still baffling to see such devastating weapons not even leave behind a scratch. It was downright unfair!

The hole that we had been speeding towards closed in, the slaves dropping from above and taking with them our only escape route. We weren't going to make it!

"Magic! Now!" I ordered, opening my reserves and letting my power sweep through my limbs. The world jolted around me and the wind screeched against my wings, reducing everything to a blur of color. I reached the exit path just a second too late and gasped as a dragon managed to reach out and tear spines across my torso, spilling blood!

In a panic I twisted to see what was left behind, my heart sinking when the gap was nonexistent.

Hiccup had not made it out.

"No!" I screeched, building gas in my throat—

A huge burst of flame and a heat wave that filled my wings sent me tumbling head over tail backwards. I managed to right myself just in time to see the elder Hum-Wing zip out first, closely followed by the young Flame-Skin and the others. Hiccup was the last to exit, his scales smoking and a noticeable burn over his shoulder.

"Thank the Dragoness of the Moon," I said, giving the injuries my companions had received a worried assessment. "Don't ever do that again!"

Hiccup looked up at me. His eyes widened.

I ducked just as a horde of Little-Biters shot past. Their wings too weak and small to recover, they all gave screeches of anger as they flew out of reach.

"This isn't over yet!" The elder Hum-Wing growled, zipping past and reminding me that going into a hover would likely result in my death. I pulled myself in front of her, and she continued, "Save the lecture for later!"

"Or never!" The Two-Walker who had harassed Hiccup in the cove said.

"I'm okay with that!" Hiccup piped up.

A new voice snarled, "And so am I!"

I had just a second to look up and see an enormous Two-Head descending on us, her scales as gray as old ash. She opened her jaw wide and blew choking, superheated gas upon our entire flare!

"Look out!" I screamed, desperately throwing myself down. It took only a second to twist my body sideways and thrust half of one wing into the frigid water, sending shivers down my spine. The membranes of my wing filled with water, and before the Two-Head could puzzle out what I was doing I strained every muscle in my chest and back to pull me into a violent spin, flinging the water up, up, up!

The miniature wave hit the Two-Head dead on, and her eyes widened in fury. The head responsible for the spark sputtered and snapped, but the damage had been done!

"Hah!" I cried as I righted myself again and we shot past it. "No fire for you—argh!"

Hiccup grabbed my scruff and pulled me aside just as the elder flung its full body weight upon me, missing by less than a winglength! The Two-Head , having aimed to push me into the ocean, howled in fear and anger as she smacked into the surface and sunk.

"That was way too close!" The young Flame-Skin said pointlessly. Perking up, he said, "At least the worst part is over!"

He was wrong. That Two-Head had been one of the slower dragons, it seemed, as the sky was almost completely devoid of dragons before us now. The Queen calmly beat her wings and looked down on us with a cruel grin. For us, it would take at least a minute to reach her, but I doubted it would last more than a quarter of that time before she reached us.

"We have to get her closer to the ships!" Hiccup shouted. "Their aim is off at this distance! We're completely defenseless out here!" As an accentuation, a fireball flew right past the Queen and met its end under the roiling waves. A quick glance over my shoulder showed a large portion of the freed dragons struggling to trap the Queen's army inside their ranks.

"I see that you have betrayed you brothers and sisters, you misguided fools," The Queen said. "Especially you, Shadow-Blender. And after I gifted you so much freedom!"

I bared my teeth, holding my wings wide and forcing us to fly perpendicular to the Queen. "You liar!" I snarled. "You never had control over me!"

The demon chuckled. "Oh, we all know that is a lie. Am I not correct, Hiccup?"

I grunted and glanced over at my friend, waiting for his defense.

The expression of hatred set firmly over his face nearly made my limbs freeze where they were. "Toothless," he murmured. The rest of our posse bore pitiful expressions.

My jaw worked up and down, and the Queen rumbled, "I am afraid to inform you that were never a free dragon. Why, without my guidance, you would have killed your friend many times over. But I saw potential, and encouraged friendship…"

"No…" I hissed, shaking my head to try and keep the venom from seeping any further into my ears.

"Without me, you would have died alone and frightened upon that island, burdened with a lifetime's filling of regret. Without me, you would have never formed your very first friendship, lonely Shadow-Blender from the south, he who fled his land from the pain it caused him."

"What?" Hiccup asked. Turning to the Queen, he ordered, "That's enough! Leave him alone!"

I ignored him with wide eyes, and I unsheathed every tooth and claw to their fullest. "I left home because I had nothing left!" I shrieked.

"You had plenty, and yet your heart was nothing but a vacuum of darkness. Your mother's death was such a trauma, was it not? You were lost until your brother found you, and then what?"

I envisioned the face of a dragon I had not seen in centuries, furious and tearful. A blast of fire. Wings turned to blurs, gone forever.

I hadn't told a soul about that; it had been too shameful! How did she know?! The only way she could would be…if…

Squeezing my eyes shut, I screamed, "Stop it!"

"I healed your broken soul, you shortsighted hatchling. And when I found a dragon that you would finally open up to, a dragon that would finally make you feel loved and love once more, to soothe your wounded heart, I insured that you would succeed."

Rage consuming every scale of my body, I demanded, "ENOUGH!" Filing my wings with magic, I pushed myself to my limits, gaining altitude fast enough to make my head spin and drown out the cries of my friends below. I reached the Queen's eye level just to see the malice in her eyes, the feral grin set upon her maw.

A Viking's flaming sun shot past, making a heavy impact with the Queen's throat. I filled a fireblast with as much magic as I could spare and thrust it into the same mark with a loud CRACK!

The Queen's smile fell away and she flapped several times in a fluster. The smoke cleared from her scales and revealed a bleeding wound, seeping black blood and decorated with an array of cracked scales. There was a screech of a Shadow-Blender's fire, and then another ball of blue flame struck the Queen's temple.

It didn't even leave a mark. Hiccup's gasp of horror could be heard even as he swooped out of the Queen's bite range.

With a roar the Queen opened her maw wide, a gas cloud the size of several dragons filling the back of her throat. I snapped my wings to my sides in a steep dive just as she let loose her fire, the heat of it leaving my scales burned regardless of how far away I was from the actual blast.

"My children!" The Queen declared. "The goal of the Shadow-Blenders is an assassination! Aid me, so that our way of life can remain! Break free of their conspirators!"

Those still under her control all but went into a savage frenzy, redoubling their efforts to break free. Even though they vastly outnumbered the slaves, our allies couldn't hold them back! Like a raindrop bursting on the ground they spilled out of the dragon-made cage, ripping through the air towards the Queen.


Another fireball flew into the Queen, this time making contact with a wing. The membranes bruised, gigantic blood vessels breaking on contact. Impossibly enough, it didn't tear!

"Follow me!" I shouted, continuing my dive below the Queen. My team scrambled to stay on my tail as I led us below and around the Queen. "Our fire and the Vikings can't do damage individually! We need to hit her together!"

We managed to get a glimpse of the Queen's defenseless back and wings. She spun with the agility of a creature several times smaller, spread her wings to their fullest extent, and pulled them down with the strength of a god.

The water directly underneath her flung up as if struck by fire, and a second later a torrent tore away at us! I screamed as my wings strained against the pressure, threatening to rip out of socket! Twisting around, I faced the direction the wind was flinging us and shot far off into the distance! "Arrgh! Damn it!"

"Change of plans! Above!" Hiccup gasped as he spun past, desperately trying to maintain a stable flight path. The others weren't faring much better, sans the elder Hum-Wing.

Another ball of fire smacked into the Queen from behind, making its mark the back of her neck. She narrowed her eyes slightly. Then, heaving in a great breath, she swept a cascade of fire down onto us!

I flew straight up, eyes widening when the fire lifted to follow me. The updraft from the intense heat threatened to fill my wings and throw me backwards, right down into the flames! Filling magic into my wings, I went further and further up, pulling myself into the pitch-black dustcloud above. The second the air cooled I curved down again, swerving around the surprised demon and catching sight of a slightly blackened section of her scales. Filling even more magic into my throat, I thrust another full blast into it.

The Queen roared, likely feeling physical pain for the first time in centuries. I smirked, a low chuckle ripping from my throat.

A loud screech— then Hiccup was there, shooting a fireball at the Queen's wing in her moment of weakness. A deep bruise formed in his wake. The young Flame-Skin followed in his path, set ablaze, and hurtled right into the same spot, where he clawed and bit away at the damaged skin! He was going to get himself killed, the moron! Tucking my wings in, I dropped until I landed atop the Queen's brow, the scales burning my paws on contact.

One set of three eyes widened, then squeezed shut tight as I sunk my claws and teeth in. The Queen shook her head to and fro, but I gripped my claws further into her eyes, even as liquid seeped into my mouth! The wind picked up, threatening to fill my wings and fling me away, but all she managed was to send my body sliding along her scales. I clawed and tore and shredded as much as I could, reaching out as far as my limbs would allow to get every eye!

The Queen flung her head with a massive snap, and finally I lost my grip. I yelped as I fell, wasting all of my reaction time, and twisted around to try to level myself out.

A wing the size of the nest smacked into me full-force, sending my ears ringing and my vision doubling. Not a second later a blue dragon smacked into me, angrily tearing at my wounded chest and biting at my neck!

"Get off!" I growled, smacking the ravenous puppet's muzzle away. It was not dissuaded, and as we spiraled closer and closer to our doom, dread filled my body from nose to tailtip!

There was a deafening snarl, and something tumbled right into the dragon, tearing it away and finally freeing me! I opened my wings just above the ocean, panting from both fear and exertion.

"Are you alright?!" Hiccup said, sparing precious seconds to fly over and check for injuries.

"I'm fine! Thanks! Look out!" I rushed, looping away just as another dragon tried to dive into us! Hiccup was at my side, having mimicked me to avoid the unseen danger, and together we rose, dodging all dragons that came at us. The world was a frenzy of color and fire. Dragons presumably on our side matched our pace, only breaking free of us to ward off a slave.

In the confusion of color I managed to catch a glimpse of the Queen, slowly but surely becoming encompassed by her own personal guard. She swatted at a Two-Head whom I did not recognize, and I could do nothing but watch as I saw the bones jut out of the chest and wings upon impact, their torso crumple, and their body go limp as they dropped to the ocean. A much larger Two-Head gave a shriek and tried to catch up with their fallen comrade, but was stopped in their tracks when two other dragons launched into them. The Two-Head sunk into the ocean, and after a brief bout of bubbling and rippling, the water gave no indication that they had ever been there.

Gritting my teeth at the sudden spike of dread tearing through my heart, I said, "We have to weaken her! Try to free the others again!"

"I told you, I can't!" Frustration laced through his voice. "It's hard enough to keep her from getting the others again—I had help that first time!"

"Help?" I repeated. A dragon lunged from below and I spun midair and smacked the side of their head with a wing, disorientating them enough to get them off our tails. We breached the smokecloud, giving us a few seconds of cover from any other dragons.

"Yeah, I—" Hiccup stopped short, eyes widening. "I know what to do! Distract her!" And before I could say anything, he was swooping back down.

With a somewhat aggravated grunt I followed, tucking my wings tight against my body. Hiccup was in the same position, aiming right for…the Queen?! What was he thinking?!

My eyes widened as realization dawned on me. The Queen caught sight of us, grinned, and spat a stream of flame as wide as a Viking nest onto us.

I swerved around and launched my third fireblast into the set of scarred and bloody eyes I'd thrown myself upon, smirking when the Queen's fire cut off with an abrupt screech. Her eyes only opened halfway, blood seeping both into the irises and outside, and settled on me.

Her jaw snapped just out of the way, the gush of hot air from her nostrils flinging me back. I ducked under and around, taunting, "You know, for some reason I thought you'd be faster than that!" The Queen's jaw wrinkled just a bit, and again she snapped at me, only to miss by quite a margin. I cackled at her distain, saying, "What's the matter, you excuse for a Queen? Can't see me?"

"You foolish little Shadow-Blender. Do you truly believe that you can conquer me with nothing but a small rebellion? You are nothing but a hatchling protesting to its elders—doomed to failure." She opened her jaw wide, but instead of gas building in her throat, she began to deeply inhale. I had a second to realize what she was doing and desperately try to flip away, but she was too strong! I was getting sucked in!

A gray blur, a boom, and the Queen recoiled, her neck bloodied. The elder Hum-Wing hovered before me and cried, "Quickly! That was my last shot!"

We ducked away just before a horde of slaves closed in on us. A sharp whistling came from above—the sound of a Shadow-Blender in a steep dive, and I twisted around fast enough to make my stomach lurch.

Hiccup launched atop the Queen's forehead, hammering dead center. A Viking fireball launched into her nose and she reeled back in disorientation, eyes unfocused.

The Queen screamed.

When you try to extinguish a fire, you don't throw water on the top of it; instead, you aim all of your resources at the base, so that the flames lose their ground and disappear into the air like ghosts.

The shadow—The Queen's magic—know exactly what I was doing. She knew exactly what I was intending, she knew exactly how increasingly difficult it had been for me to hold her back for this long, and she knew exactly how desperate I was to keep the dragons free.

She also knew that she was losing to me.

Fear and despair, panic and the heart-pounding rush of adrenaline all exploded from the shadow as I homed in on its base in the center of the Queen's forehead, leeched into her mind, and found the ball of energy so much like my own. The emotions only grew in strength as I tried to lock it away in a cage of my own magic. I dimly heard the Queen shrieking in agony, and the rushing of wind and tension in my claws meant that she was doing her damndest to shake me off.

I kept my eyes shut in concentration, forehead pressed against hers. Toothless had tried to blind her, but I knew that she could feel and see the thoughts of every dragon, could hear every word they heard. As long as she had that, she would know any plan we developed right as the words left our mouths.

The shadow was condensing with its roots being overtaken. I imagined a sphere of my own magic enveloping over hers, beginning at the bottom and crawling to the top. It fought and bit and writhed. It tried to leap across the gap and invade my own mind, turn my power into my downfall, but I wouldn't allow it! If the Queen remained in control of any of the dragons, we would fight a losing battle.

The sphere crept further and further, and the darkness in her mind started to die off. I saw beneath it something terrible, something too horrendous to look at for too long; if I paid any more attention to it, it would drive me insane. I turned away from it.

The Queen was powerful. But she was shaken. She had just lost half of her "children" to us. She was being attacked by a large majority of it now, was bleeding for the first time in centuries, had a gaping wound in her neck that was causing her a lot more pain and difficulty breathing than she was letting on, and was facing Vikings who had no other target but her. As wise of a leader as she thought she was, she was merely a coward who stayed behind to call the shots, unable to take to the front lines without freezing in combat.

The shadow wavered; for the first time, it seemed to doubt. I pounced on it just as she would have in the past, pulling all of my reserves and strength into a single blow. The sphere enclosed fully on her own with a SNAP! and the shadow dispersed, leaving behind a memory imprinted deep into her mind:

"You…you monstrous dragon! Why would you do this to me?!"

"To make you superior to all and to grant you a better life, my love. Human lives are so fleeting, after all—a dragon's suits you scores better. Why, I didn't know you had it in you, to try to defy someone like me!"

"My children! Oh, gods, my beloved children! Why?! Why punish them?! Why not only me?"

"Merely distractions. You'll have more someday, I promise you. Take this as your first lesson as one of us. As the superior species."

I ripped my magic back and reared up like a spooked horse, shrieking! My bad leg gave out and I tumbled down the Queen's muzzle, catching a glimpse of a wide, tearful eye before I smacked into a spine, sending me tumbling into the open sky. All around me dragons were falling, glazed eyes clearing, but when I tried to reach out to them my head filled with such pain that I saw white!

There was a deep, anguished roar from above. My vision cleared with just enough time to see a gaping maw close towards me, the teeth filling my vision.

Something rammed into me with the force of a hurricane, and an angry, blue-white ball of fire flung itself deep inside the Queen's mouth. It exploded within and tore away at her inner throat, and I just managed to see the delicate membranes gushing sickly-black blood like a waterfall before I was pulled away!

Toothless didn't let go until we were far out of her range, although there was no need to; the Queen coughed and spat like someone who had accidentally inhaled their water, wheezing and throwing huge globs of blood from her throat. A catapult from the ships, almost directly in front of the Queen now, headed straight for the Queen's wing.

And cut right through, leaving a cauterized hole in its wake.

My jaw dropped. Toothless gasped. The Vikings roared in excitement. The now-freed dragons echoed them and, without needing any further explanation, came down. The Vikings doubled their catapult efforts, hurtling stone after stone at the Queen, each aimed for her wings.

A lit Flame-Skin burst through her wing membrane like they were flying through a fog, dispersing it with ease. Hum-Wings spat fireballs down on the Queen, leaving behind bloody wounds that seeped her lifeblood and gave her the appearance of leaking some form of poison from her veins. The Queen threw her head and screeched, eyes clenched, and my eyes almost deceived me into thinking that a tear was shed from her good eyes.

"You did it!" Toothless said. He laughed, butting his head against my neck. "It's over! She doesn't have control of them anymore! We did it—!"

The Queen twisted with all her might, dragging a single wing out and pulling every dragon in her immediate vicinity underneath her. With an unearthly howl she rose above them and spat her flames onto all the falling dragons below, the fire writhing and wild. It lasted for a full ten or so seconds and when she finally stopped, what was left behind were only the reddened, skeletal husks of our friends, motionless as they plunked into the ocean like stones.

I couldn't breathe, staring at the spot where at least thirty dragons had just been. The Queen reeled her head back, agony and shock adorning her features in a heavy grimace. She threw her head back and gave a bellow so deafening that the world because fuzzy with disorientation. Those near her took a hasty retreat, and even the Vikings stopped with their bomb-throwing. "B-but…"

In the silence, I heard Astrid's outraged command, "What are you waiting for?! Fire again!" Glancing down, I caught sight of Fishlegs and Ruffnut working a catapult and Astrid, Snotlout, and Tuffnut another.

The two fireballs swept across the sky. The Queen snarled at them and swung a paw, batting them back at the ship! I had only a chance to give a wordless screech, and the stones barreled through the ship, ripping a hole right through it! Opening her wings to their fullest again, the Queen forced them down and launched a blast of air at the ocean, sending a tidal wave upon the fleet.

One ship capsized, the Vikings aboard all jumping ship—some even managing to land onto another one. The water below rippled and churned, and for a brief second I saw something in the water.

The world snapped back into place. "All of you, over there!" I shouted, motioning in the general direction of a large group of dragons. "Go over there and get any Vikings in the water back on a ship!" Turning to another pocket of dragons hovering and awaiting instruction, I barked, "Elders—I've put a block on her magic, but I'll need your help to strengthen it! Her magic is located at her forehead—if you can reach there safely, put a layer of your own magic on top of mine! Keep her locked away!"

"Understood!" Several dragons cried, flinging themselves upwards in preparation of diving upon the Queen.

"The rest of you—attack!" Toothless shouted. Battle cries ripped the air apart, and the entire sky filled with the sound of battle once more.

I waited to make sure the rescue party did as it was told, unable to bear the thought of Astrid, Snotlout, and the others drowning in the chaos. A Nightmare pulled its neon-yellow wings in and dove right underwater, emerging with two humans in its talons. More dragons followed its lead, until finally…

Astrid hopped to her feet, glanced at the dragon that had just saved her life, and shouted an order at them whilst pointing at the Queen. She jogged over to the vacant catapult station on the ship—the entire deck was heartbreakingly abandoned, actually—and was quickly joined by the rest of her friends as they parkoured right on over.

The Two-Walker spread its wings and shouted, "We must show the humans where to shoot, so that they do not waste their shots! Follow me!" And in a flurry of wings they were leading a flare of their own.

Satisfied, I pulled myself up into the air, preparing to launch my own attack on the Queen. Toothless swept down to fly parallel to me with ease, casting a glance down at the behemoth as other dragons circled around her. Already I could feel the strain on my magic lessen; as I had thought before, I had been the only one to be able to lock the Queen away. But that didn't mean that other dragons couldn't add onto what was, essentially, a guideline. With my magic in place, all they had to do was coat their own magic over it, and so on and so forth until the shadow was permanently locked away.

"This isn't going to work!" Toothless shouted. "We can't just keep shooting at her and hope she goes down!"

"What should we do, then?!" I said. "We're doing everything we can!" I watched the Nadder from before howl , jerk its head at the Queen's temple, and dive. Seconds later a fireball smacked into her, and her bloodied eyes went blank for a precious few seconds to allow the others to send their fury onto her vulnerable form.

Toothless stared down at the Queen, and his eyes widened. "Look," he said, pointing at the membranes of the Queen's wings. She regained her wits and flung them down, scattering her assailants, but I could see it from a mile away.

The sight was sickeningly familiar, bringing me back to our escape from the Kill Ring. Suddenly I was watching the hole in Toothless' wing expand with every wingbeat, unable to do anything to help. The Queen wasn't in nearly as much trouble, but the holes were there. If I focused just enough, I could almost imagine them growing in size.

"Stall her until she falls?" I thought aloud. "No, that'll take forever."

"You're right," Toothless said. "We need to find a way to open those, forcefully. If we can drag her down..."

Something below caught my eye—an elderly Zippleback was spinning all the way around the Queen, shooting a stream of fire upon her. The fire was odd; it almost looked like a steady stream of water, it was filled with so much magic. It stayed lit for much longer than usual, and the charred path it left behind gave proof of its searing heat. The Queen snapped at the dragon, and they pulled their wings in and let themselves fall to avoid turning into dinner.

Another wordless call from a dragon that had gone down to the ships, and several fireballs smashed into the malicious creature's head and neck. Even as high as we were, I could hear Snotlout and Tuffnut whoop as their target hit their mark.

The Queen wheezed, shaking her head and blinking rapidly. She coughed up another mass of burnt flesh and blood. She narrowed her good eyes, a snarl ripping from her chest.

I squinted, frowning. That wound in her throat should have been cauterized when she'd released her fire; why was it only getting worse?

"What if, instead of dragging her down…we stop her in her tracks?" I said. At Toothless' raised eyebrow, I said, "Her throat's still hurt inside from when you hit her—she's choking! If we can get her to overexert herself—"

"—If we get her to shoot fire more!" Toothless interrupted, grinning. "What you did to her…you blocked all of her magic—she can't heal herself! That's why we're able to draw blood now! If we're able to get her to keep using her fire, she'll strangle herself!"

"That…that might actually work!" I said. "Let's go!"


I stopped short, giving Toothless a quizzical look.

"I…" Toothless took a deep breath. "Hiccup, this is—this isn't something I expect to come out of completely free of casualties. Especially now. So I want you to know that—that—you're family. And I don't think I'll ever be able to live without you. I mean, not like a mate! But, what I'm trying to say is, I've never had someone as important to me as you before and, and…" He cringed away, avoiding eye contact. "Do you…understand…?"

I smiled, the link bursting to life between us. "I love you too, Toothless."

He returned my smile, ducking his head like a shy fledgling. "Alright. Now let's go overthrow a dictator!" And down he went.

"Woo, so much fun," I drawled, although I couldn't keep the grin off my face. Tucking my wings in, I let gravity do all the work and quickly caught up with my friend.

The Queen heard the sharp whistle of our dive and raised her head, teeth bared. She rose to meet us, and we swooped out of the way towards her blind side, quickly coming around from the front.

"What's wrong, you excuse for a Queen?" Toothless taunted. He spun around her and sent a powerful fireball into her wing, leaving a massive hole in his wake. At the same time, several dragons clawed away at her, and a stone went sailing through her wing. "What, can't see us? I wonder why? Woah!" Toothless ducked just as she swung her head around, swooping up on her other side. "I'm impressed! You almost got me!"

Her attention on Toothless, I tucked my wings against my body and poured magic into my throat. My head felt as though it had been crushed; I was using far too much magic then I should have, and the caging of the Queen's magic had taken its toll despite the extra help. Still I shot a super-powered fireball into the Queen's forehead, resulting in an animalistic shriek that sent the heavens scurrying.

"Gotcha," I whispered, swinging around again.

"Oh, no! He got you!" Toothless laughed, darting back and forth in front of the Queen. She continued to jerk her head around, desperate to locate him. "Looks like you were wrong all along, Your Majesty! I wonder how it must feel, knowing that your children would want to kill you the second they have the opportunity? Knowing that the only reason they loved you was because it was forced?"

The Queen's eyes flew open, veins popping, caked in blood. My heart dropped to my stomach.

And, for a moment, I only felt pity.

Toothless didn't know it, but he had gone too far with that statement. The Queen seemed to lose all sentience, opening her wings wide and screaming. Sickly-green gas filled her swollen and frothing mouth and she spewed fire everywhere, twisting her body in every direction she possibly could and surrounding herself in a waterfall of flames!

The wall of fire filled my entire vision in a swath of overheated reds and oranges. I pumped my wings to go above it and follow it, wincing as it seared at my scales and underside. I followed it up and up until I shot right past it, where I corkscrewed back down.

"Toothless!" I cried, eyes darting back and forth. "Where are you?!"

I caught sight of a black figure, flames trailing behind it, and felt the world around me shatter. I pulled myself down towards him as fast as I could, desperate to catch him—!

Toothless looked up past me, eyes wide. He seemed fixated on the skies above and murmured, "I understand."

In his claws was a small ball of flame, trailing a thin stream of embers behind it. I almost backpedaled away when I caught sight of his spinal scales—they were glowing! I mean, they were literally bright neon blue!

Toothless looked into my eyes and I forced the link forward. Flashes of what happened filled my mind:

An unavoidable death sentence, the resulting horror and dread, the sky and moon suddenly bright above, and the wordless voices carrying a memory—no, an ability—from the past, the crushing realization that legends could be wrong, that they had been manipulated in his mind from years of slavery.

"Shadow-Blender. As trained in magic as you are, you have been long deceived. The magic you face now is the result of its birth, native to its own kind, and impossible for any of your species to develop as you may have believed.

"We grant you this: not a spell for the talented or unique, but of any dragon, regardless of magic. It is connected to a dragon's soul, a dragon's fire. It is true mental magic, long forbidden from the chaos it has caused."

And suddenly it felt as though something had clicked, like a fletchling figuring out how to angle their tailfins properly for the first time and forever having the gift of flight. The fire spreading at the speed of lightning transformed from a feral killer into a malleable substance, easily cupped inside his paws.

"We expect that you will not abuse it, as your ancestors have in the past, lest it be taken away once again. Use it sparingly, for it will exhaust you. Use it thoughtfully, for to make it commonplace will reduce your soul to nothing. Use it wisely, for to fling it about with reckless abandon will hinder its effect, as the soul knows only truth."

For a brief moment a brown Shadow-Blender filled his mind—and then the vision dispersed.

I glanced up and saw the moon and sun side-by-side, each as bright as the other. They seemed to be directly over Toothless.

"Pass this knowledge on!" Toothless commanded, sending over his memory of how he manipulated the flames like clay in his claws. I felt the same course of magic, the way he focused it within the fire, the way he understood that it was the Queen's and mine abilities were a weak form of mental magic, and that this was its true and full glory—something long-forgotten, after the gods decided that Sphere was too dangerous.

"Wha—how?" I stammered, still in shock at the memories—at what their implications were. Mental magic, long forbidden? So mine and the Queen's were…completely unique? Our own brand of mental magic?

"I know you can have the same control over us as the Queen," Toothless drew me back to reality. "I felt it when you freed them the first time. If you can speak to us as the Queen did, then you can show them how to do this!"

My heart dropped. I looked down at the Queen, who had yet to locate us and was furiously batting away at both catapult stones and dragons. I wasn't like her! I couldn't be like her! We may have more similarities than previously thought—but this was pushing it. This was stepping into a river with a strong current and expecting not to be swept away by it.

"Toothless, I—there's something about her you don't know, and it's really kinda important—"

The Queen inhaled deeply and swept her flame upon the ocean's surface, trailing it over any dragon in her strike range.

The Viking ships, now far too close, caught fire. A few in the back escaped the Queen's wrath—but that was little comfort. I choked, envisioning my father engulfed in the flames, Snotlout and Astrid and the others diving onto another ship for cover only to be just as doomed as before.

My magic snapped out like a whip, reaching out to all the dragons that I had freed and kept safe from the shadow. There were some additions—not as much as before, but enough to make me pause and clench my eyes shut at the sudden spike of pain their presence caused. With grit teeth I took Toothless' memory and brought it upon them, showing them what to do—and how to do it.

As uncoordinated as we were right now, we had no chance; but if we all attacked at once…

The message passed on and I pulled away with revulsion, shaking my head at the disorientation. "Ugh…did it work?"

One dragon nearby breathed a slow, steady stream of fire, eyes squeezed in concentration, and flew above it to intercept. They sunk their claws into it like it was solid and twisted, and their dorsal scales lit to life in a faint reddish glow reflecting their fire. The flames obediently followed beneath them. Another dragon followed suit, and another, and another…

Below us, others were flitting above the Viking ships, taking in the destruction. I dropped in the air, eyes darting back and forth. Dragons were diving upon the Vikings, plucking them from the water and carrying them over to the undamaged ships. I banked over as fast as I could, pulling into a hover over the large crowd clustered onto the few vessels that had been lucky enough to avoid the Queen.

My eyes met those of the same color, and I almost stumbled out of the air in relief.

"Go, Hiccup!" Dad shouted. "A little fire won't hurt us!"

"Don't I know it!" I shot back, grinning. Sparing one last glance at my father, I twisted around and sped off, condensing gas into my throat and flicking my igniter. A stream of fire spewed from my mouth ahead of me.

The magic was…odd. It struggled against my will at first, but grudgingly complied once I focused. Then, like diving into cold water, it was easy. A chill went up my spine as I pulled my fire in, and I turned around to see a faint bluish glow adorning my spines. It wasn't nearly as bright as the other dragons'—but it was there. To be honest, it looked pretty badass. With a proud smile I pedaled my wings, flinging myself up and towards the others. While I had only detoured for less than a minute, almost all of the dragons in the air were holding flames in their claws, eyes reflecting the sparks, spines giving off impossible light.

The Queen paused, appalled. She swept her head back and forth, doing her best to take in what was happening around her with her damaged eyesight. Fear began to bloom across her face, and she rose higher into the air, baring her teeth and growling defensively. "You dare bring forth soulfire in battle?!" She roared. "Do you wish to destroy yourselves?! It is futile, and hidden by the gods for a reason! It is not to be trifled with! It is sin to be weaponized!"

"Have you realized your defeat?" Toothless shouted from off to my right. "Your reign is over! You're going right back where you belong—the Prebirth!" He nodded at me and rose to catch up with the Queen, dragging his fire out behind him like a ribbon. I flung myself up after him, looking down at the path of fire left behind in my wake, how it curled in the air for long seconds before dispersing. Side-by-side, we began to bank around the Queen, our fires merging into one.

The young Flame-Skin bolted to my right, beaming like it was his birthday. Then the elder Hum-Wing joined Toothless' side, and the rest of the Hum-Wings, and then the Two-Heads and Two-Walkers, until all fourteen dragons of our flare had joined together to form a thick blanket of fire behind us. More and more dragons joined, spinning around and around the Queen at random intervals from each other.

The heat was unlike any other I'd seen, and my vision filled with flames. The others, being fireproof and not half-fireproof as I was, had no problem sweeping into other trails of fire to close the gaps, and I had to force myself to stay put instead of fleeing. The burn on my shoulder flared to life, sending agony rocketing down my arm. My limbs began to quake, and my body seemed to gain an entire mountain's worth of weight all at once. The use of the magic was already taking its toll!

The Queen growled at swung a wing out into the egg-shaped wall of fire in an attempt to disperse it, only to gasp and recoil.

The last of the dragons joined the attack, and the Queen was engulfed in a sphere of fire. She wheezed and croaked, twisting and turning in an attempt to find a way out and meeting only the hateful stares of her "children" and the fire they had trapped her within. She tried to bring in air for her fire—air that was suddenly thin and impossible to breathe in—and managed to spit out a tiny, pitiful flame that dispersed before it even got a winglength ahead of her.

The Queen stumbled midair, losing her altitude in a sudden drop and eyes fluttering. She couldn't breathe, I realized!


Toothless broke off into the sphere, spines dimming back to normal, and I was right at his side. Releasing the magic left me as tired as the gods had stated. The inside was more scalding than the interior of the nest, and in the distorted air of the heat I saw burns rippling across the Queen's scales like colonies of insects. It took less than five seconds to pull into hovers in front of the Queen, yet already it was difficult to breathe; I knew if I stayed within the sphere for too much longer, I'd pass out.

"Please, I have only loved you. My children—"

"We are not your children." Toothless' voice was small compared to the fire, but still carried as if he'd been screaming. He opened his jaw wide, green gas emerging within.

"And we never replaced yours," I finished.

Together we shot two unaided plasma blasts at the Queen's forehead. The heavenly-white fires merged into one and exploded with enough strength to nearly send me reeling.

Inside the cage I had placed it in, the shadow writhed and flailed. The Queen pulled her wings down with all her might, desperate to disperse the flames surrounding her.

The sound of ripping flesh that followed would not soon leave me. Toothless and I met her eyes as they widened, pupils slitting. She looked down at the holes, finally realizing how plentiful they were, how they peppered her wings with large and small openings alike.

In her distraction Toothless and I swooped low, steadying our flames. The combined fireball hit the Queen's forehead right where it had last time.

For the briefest moment, the shadow disappeared. A high-pitched wheeze flew from the Queen's throat, her body tilted, and she pawed uselessly at the air. Eyes fluttering, her wings stopped altogether.

She plummeted.

In that single moment, everything is perfect.

Time stops around me, and it almost feels as if I'm the only one still aging while the rest of the world remains stuck in place. I watch from the outside, an observer instead of a participant in reality. I swing my head, confused. Even Hiccup seems to have shifted into a statue.

I turn away from him, unable to bear the sight. The Queen is falling like the dethroned tyrant she is, facing a death under the ocean—a place no god can reach her soul, where she would soon suffer an eternity of pain. The soulfire is still present around us, pulsing with the life of every dragon of the nest, with the rage and determination to put this tragedy to an end. The Vikings below, despite having half of their floating trees destroyed, are still as stubborn and alive as usual. Despite all of the chaos, it seems almost harmonic.

I look up as the egg-like sphere breaks open after what seems to be years, although I know it merely took a few seconds. My eyes meet the sight of the sun and moon directly above.

With a soft smile I offer up a grateful, tired prayer. The gods really were on our side—it took them long enough to intervene, but better late than never, I suppose. All that matters now is that it's over. After all these years, after all of this manipulation and pain, it's finally over. Hiccup and I would finally, finally live peaceful lives, free of suffering and fear. It would be a difficult road, of course, but not nearly as strenuous as what we had just finished. Nothing could overcome that.

It is then that I am the happiest I have ever been. The battle wounds and burns and soreness of my entire being, a side-effect of the rediscovered soul-magic, are afterthoughts. What are a few scratches here and there? A quick nap will have me feeling as refreshed as ever. I have nothing but a life with Hiccup—a life with family — to look forward to. I wouldn't dare ask for more. I wouldn't want more.

I close my eyes in bliss. My weary soul finds itself resting, no longer burdened with regret and sorrow and loneliness, after years of bearing a heavy heart.

And all of that crumbles to pieces when I hear him scream.

My guard had dropped.

I had allowed a grin to slide across my face for just a second before the shadow reawakened, striking out at me with all its might. With a gasp I clutched my head, squinting down to see the sphere broken, cracked, as the enormous monster fell through. The Queen held her wings out uselessly, the holes growing so rapidly I thought there'd be none left.

Her eyes met mine. The shadow pulsed with violent energy, and with a twist so fast she became a blur, the Queen rolled midair, holding a wing out straight—!

The impact was as painful as the one I had experienced with the sea dragon. I all but felt my chest compress, my air leaving me, and for a moment the world blackened. An agonized scream ripped from my throat—I heard Toothless fire his last shot—felt the wind rushing past me—

"You too, my child," the Queen whispered. "Our kind leaves this world together." Her voice was startlingly close. I managed to clear my sight enough to see that I was falling beside the Queen, to see her wings reduced to nothing but bones with tattered membranes flapping in the wind.

With a jolt I straightened myself out, opening my wings to fly away. I managed to catch an updraft and twist around, glimpsing Toothless in a dive above, his eyes wide with terror. He opened his mouth and screamed something.

The world collapsed into agony.

It stemmed from my crippled leg, bolts of lightning finding purchase in my veins and using them to pulse throughout my body. I felt as though my blood had been set aflame, melting my flesh and organs from the inside out. I screeched and pumped my wings despite the feeling that they were not there, but I couldn't stop falling! My body swung violently to the side, and just as I heard something massive hit water I realized:

The Queen was dragging me down.

The ocean closed in on me, bringing with it the view of the murky depths, of the creatures within that swirled around us. The fire burned at my heart, ate away at my body! The shadow rammed and rammed at the cage, and with a final, titanic burst it broke through not only my magic but those of the elders, sending long needles piercing through my head. It completely enclosed itself on my magic and fled back to its source.

I felt my scales ripping away, felt my bones snapping. My wings flapped uselessly at the water as they shriveled up like dying plants under the glaring sun, the bone and flesh crumpling into little balls that seared as though I were being cooked alive. I floundered uselessly at the water in a desperate struggle, watching the scales of my legs bulge like boils and then shrivel, watching my claws crack like shattered glass, watching as bones in my wrist and elbow literally snapped, leaving bulges in their wake.

I screamed again, thrashing in a wild attempt to be set free, to end the torment! I could feel the organs shifting in my torso in rapid jerks, the way my appendages felt as though they were being compressed into balls, how my body bent and twisted as though it was made of clay!

A loud ringing filled my ears. All of my strength fled me, leaving me with limp limbs that refused to move. I managed to twitch a front leg, and something unfamiliar drifted in front of me—something not the color of scales but simply dotted with them, something much smaller.

And right past the horrible, world-shattering sight were eyes. Hundreds of eyes stared back at me. My oxygen-deprived mind, so caught up on trying to figure out what that thing where my paw should be was, couldn't figure out what exactly that meant.

The water rushed past in a flurry of bubbles, and the Queen jerked below me. Once more pain ripped through my lower body, but this time it was distant.

Everything seemed to just…fade away. I dragged my head back and forth until I saw a figure standing far off to the side. He was a human, short and skinny. He stood atop something that looked like glass cracked in the exact shape of a jigsaw puzzle, each piece snug against the other. Confused, I glanced down and was startled by the sight of the pieces below me, as well.

When I swung my head up again, the human was replaced by two blood-red canines whose eyes shimmered with the light of heavenly bodies. They each lifted a paw—one the left, the other the right—and stomped them against the puzzle. The pieces withered and shifted, falling into the abyss below. I could only gasp as the ground below gave out.

I looked up to the sky for guidance, so far above me, and still managed to see the dim figures of the sun and moon. Their images rippled and distorted, something flew towards me in the water, and in the confusion and flurry of bubbles the lime green eyes stretched wide, filling my vision with emotion and memories and pleas as the world dimmed and detached itself from me until I saw a deep, endless darkness, and then nothing at all.

I clutched him to my heart and held on with all of my might.

The sea dragon, still struggling to hold that filthy wretch down, glanced up at me with his many eyes. With agonizingly slow movements he lifted a fin and brought it underneath us, lifting us up. The speed through the water we were moving was almost painful, but it still wasn't fast enough!

We breached the surface and I gave a huge gasp for air. Hiccup did not.

"Oh, gods. Oh, Dragoness of the Moon! Hiccup? Hiccup!" I gave as gentle a shake as I could, so afraid that the slightest nudge would break him. It had been over a full season's turn since I had seen him like this; it didn't seem real. This creature before me couldn't be Hiccup. Hiccup was a Shadow-Blender!

The limp human in my arms was enough to prove me wrong. "Hiccup, please!"

He remained as white as death. His little chest barely rose up and down, and his thin eyelids didn't so much as twitch. His eyes were half-open, but unfocused and dim. The sight of his left leg gushing blood like nothing I'd ever seen sent my head buzzing with terror.

Gripping him to my chest, I lifted my sore wings and launched myself into the air. I couldn't help but shoot an accusing glare up at the sun and moon, which were now moving apart from each other. They had promised me victory. They had told me that the Queen's tyranny must end.

They had not told me that there would be a price. I would have never accepted their gift if they had.

I looked down at the limp, tiny form of my friend in my embrace and clenched my eyes shut. "Never," I whispered.

The humans' contraptions were almost completely wiped out—it was only through sheer luck that the Queen's wrath hadn't reached all of them. I swooped over the crowded floating-trees, casting my eyes over every occupant before landing as gently as I could, standing on three legs and cradling Hiccup in my right leg. The crowd parted, and a more bitter part of me wished that they had shown the kind of respect a Shadow-Blender deserves before all of this had happened.

"Out of my way!" The King roared, knocking all who dared to block his path aside. I reared up on my hind legs and handed Hiccup into his paws as carefully as I could. The King's eyes widened as he took in the state of his son—and now I saw that scars marred his entire body, fresh burns from this battle and those previous, including the huge burn across his shoulder. Even his ribcage was jutting out in a harsh shadow across his skin, despite him having been a healthy—albeit skinny—dragon before. "Give me a fire!"

Before I could process what he meant, someone had handed him a piece of dead wood with a flame attached to it. The King held up what was left of Hiccup's leg and pressed the fire into it.

The sound of his skin and muscle sizzling and popping under the cauterization was agonizing to hear. Hiccup didn't so much as flinch. The King threw aside the fire, leaving behind a horribly-burned stump that, thank the gods, wasn't bleeding anymore. He shook Hiccup as I had, running his paws over his face before his skin turned a color almost identical to his son's.

"What are you waiting for?!" I demanded. "Do something!" I glanced down at Hiccup. His chest was barely rising now. If I strained my hearing, I could hear his heart beat with the frailty of insect wings. But it wouldn't last!

If Hiccup's father understood my words, he did not react to them. He held the pale, fragile, thin little creature that was Hiccup in his arms and stared. He stared and stared. His green eyes, so much like Hiccup's, were trained on his face, with its half-open eyes, messy fur, and blue lips. And he stared. And stared.

And he did. Nothing.

"Do something!" I howled, rising up on my back legs and slamming my front feet into the "ground". The wood below me splintered, and for a split second I feared we would sink. But nobody stirred after my pathetic temper tantrum, nobody seemed to be able to look me in the eye, nobody moved to help him at all. I scanned the crowd, found a familiar face, turned to him. "Snotlout, please!"

His eyes were locked on his kin. His friends, including 'Astrid', were at his side with similarly devastated expressions. They, too, followed their idiotic leader's example and stayed right where they were.

"No," I whispered, shaking my head and backing up. This wasn't happening. This couldn't be happening! We had defeated the Queen! We had freed all of the dragons of the region from their slavemaster! We had convinced the humans to trust us, to lead the way down a peaceful path!

I swung my head up to the sun and moon. "Is this what you want?!" I shrieked. "Is this what we deserve? What he deserves?! The Queen was your fault! You could have stopped her at any time you desired!" I unsheathed my teeth to their fullest and screamed, "Is this some divine punishment?! Take all I have! All of it! But don't punish him!"

If there was an answer, I couldn't see it. The dragons hovering above shrunk away. The young Flame-Skin was the only one who bothered to come down and land beside me. He held his forehead to my neck, giving off a sad rumble.

You know what? Fine! I didn't need help from the humans. I didn't need the traitorous gods, either. I would use their fake "gift" against them, to show them just how much of a folly they had enacted. Shrugging the Flame-Skin off, I stepped towards Hiccup and his father. The King met my eyes, and despite having seen him just before the battle, he seemed to have aged decades.

I gestured with my head at the wood, tapping it with my paw. It took him a second, but the King set Hiccup down and backed up, eying me warily. I placed a paw on his chest, in the exact place I had when I'd transformed him, took in a deep breath, and concentrated.

The soul-magic would not come. Those awful deities had told me that it was connected to fire, but I didn't realize they'd meant it literally! The last thing I was going to do was burn him more than he already was!

I had little of my normal magic to spare, but I didn't care. I would choose forever-sleep if I had to. Terrified and frustrated and betrayed all at once, I pulled all of the magic from my reserves and pumped it straight into Hiccup's heart, begging his body to accept it! I felt the magic swirl and the little organ gave a tiny flutter, but that was it. Nothing else.

"Gods damnit!" I sobbed, flinging energy I didn't have into his body. It wasn't working. Gods, it wasn't working! I didn't have enough magic left! I'd used it all in the battle!

"Let me help!" The Flame-Skin yelped. He must have bounded forward, because suddenly the air around me became tense and the humans in my peripherals raised their weapons. Honestly, as appreciated as the help was, I doubted there was anything he could do without causing more harm.

Revival magic was…delicate…

A hint of doubt awoke in my heart, and with as soft growl I ripped it to shreds. No! I thought. I'm not giving up!

Again I searched through every vein, every muscle, every particle of my body for a stray hint of magic. What came up was heartbreakingly small, but I pushed it forward with all of my might, fuelling it with emotion to strengthen it. Beat, I commanded! You will not die today!

My head spun, my vision became blurred and unfocused. I felt the world sway underneath me and my legs turn rickety, sending me collapsing to the ground. In the distortion I managed to make out the King, stooping down and pressing his ear to his son's chest.

My own felt hollow. I had never tried to channel magic through something that couldn't act as a receptor—but I didn't have to in order to know what it felt like. I had heard tales from other dragons in the aftermath of particularly lethal battles and heartbreaking accidents. The King raised his head and met my eyes, and I felt everything I knew come apart, as if a stray stick had been pulled from a fragile bird's nest and sent it falling in pieces to the earth below.

"I'm sorry," I wept as consciousness faded, as the forever-sleep took its hold of me. Already I could feel my limbs growing numb, my body struck with an internal earthquake, the slowing of my own heart; it would be over soon. "Oh, Dragoness of the Moon, I'm so sorry."

The darkness began to close in, but before it completely overtook me I caught a glimpse of the horror before me. Hiccup, my brother, my one reasonto look forward to a tomorrow, was held by his mourning father. His skin was the color of fresh-fallen snow, his lips that of sapphire, his eyes coated in a gentle fog. He lay still.