Chapter 1: The new world
It was actually warm out, considering the time of year. Between spending all afternoon over his new forge and the lengthening spring days, he'd warmed up enough to hang his brown fur vest on a nail and work only in his habitual green tunic and trousers.
He held a short metal rod up to the sun's westerly light and examined it. It was as pure as promised, at least to his apprentice's eye. If there were any impurities within, they were either tiny or hidden from sight. He'd have to be careful. He had more than a few small scars on his arms and chest from heated metal popping and throwing sparks. The worst one he'd gotten was the first one, along the right side of his chin. It was the reward he'd earned for stupidly sticking his head too close to his teacher's forge. He'd been told it was the best kind of lesson; one that didn't kill him but left him a reminder he couldn't forget. In his short life there had been far too many such lessons.
At least he had learned. The forge he stood before was proof of that. He'd designed it himself but had asked his teacher to construct it for him. The older man had shaken his head and called his project 'a waste of time', but had gone along with his request.
This forge was unlike anything the village had ever seen. To be honest, they'd only seen one and it belonged to the blacksmith, his teacher. That didn't stop everyone from expressing puzzlement and doubt about its worth.
Even so, it had been built and placed beside his house in the small shed constructed to protect it. He looked around at the cramped and sparsely filled smithy that was now his own. Soon enough, he thought, I'll get them turned around. They'll see.
He placed the rod within the forge, which was entirely cold. He stepped back and looked behind him. There, lying in grass that had been hidden by snow only two weeks before was his companion. Large yellowish green eyes watched him patiently.
"Alright, buddy. Let's give it another try."
His friend's powerful form shifted and moved closer, peering into the small enclosed space of the new forge. The sleek, wide head turned to regard him. He laid a hand on the rounded shoulder and smiled. "Just like last time, slow and steady until it's really red, OK?" His companion gave a single nod.
Putting on a leather apron and grabbing his hammer and tongs, he moved several steps away, getting behind his friend's considerable girth. This wasn't just to protect his hide. It was also to protect his eyes. He'd learned the hard way that it was a bad idea to stare directly at the intense blue flames.
Toothless' flat black head dipped over the opening in Hiccup's special forge. He eyed the piece of metal that lay within, gauging how hard to blow. A slight hiss drifted up from his throat and a faint fog built at the back of his open mouth. He instinctively channeled the blue flame over the desired spot. It took very little effort on his part to bring the metal rod to a brilliant red glow.
With practiced steps, Toothless moved aside and Hiccup stepped forward. He flinched at the heat that bathed his face, feeling his cheeks tighten and his lips get hot. Before he did anything, he eyed the pattern of scorch marks inside his brand new forge. As he had hoped, his dragon's fiery breath had rolled over the center of the forge, curled up the curved back of the enclosed space and been directed back down to the center by the special angled deflector he'd designed into the top. The metal had been hit by the flames not once, but twice. It was nicely efficient and got the metal hotter faster.
With a grin that pulled at his parching lips, Hiccup grabbed the rod with his tongs and moved it to his small anvil. Tiny sparks flew from the glowing metal. The first stroke of his hammer sent many more flying across the sanded floor.
As he worked, Hiccup felt a sense of peace that was all too rare. Work the metal, put it in the forge for Toothless to reheat, then work it some more. The rhythm of the work was soothing and helped clear his mind. His dragon seemed to enjoy the activity as well, and the two friends soon had a new, experimental knife blade for their effort.
Hiccup quenched the small blade and laid it on the anvil. He looked it over carefully, trying to see if using dragon fire to heat the metal had made any visible difference to it. He scrutinized it thoroughly but could not see anything unusual about the blade's appearance. The fact that the sun was setting didn't help. There might be some subtle difference that the weak light wouldn't let him see.
Just as he decided to call it a day, a shadow passed over him as something crossed between the forge and the reddish orange sunset. He looked up to see Jaspin astride his Nadder, Bitequick. They were obviously coming down to land.
Hiccup suppressed a sigh of disappointment. He'd hoped to be left alone for the evening to do his work. It wasn't as if there weren't enough new and interesting things to do in Berk now. But since he was considered the first dragon rider he was also considered the primary dragon trainer, and anyone who needed help in that area inevitably wound up coming to him.
As Bitequick landed, Jaspin called out, "Hiccup! There you are! What are you doing? Are you making something for Toothless?" He jumped off his dragon's back and practically ran up to the forge. At 14 years old, he was the youngest rider in the village. His energy and enthusiasm was thankfully balanced with a surprising amount of patience when it came to dealing with Bitequick. Otherwise he would have been utterly unsuited for riding.
With his usual wide eyed, curious expression, Jaspin stuck his head into the opening of Hiccup's new forge. "Wow," he exclaimed, his voice distorted by the enclosed brick space. "It smells like dragon breath in here." He pulled his head out and noticed the unfinished knife on Hiccup's anvil. Without a thought as to the possibility it might be hot, he picked it up and looked it over. "Did you make this? How come you don't have any coals in your forge? Are you gonna start making swords soon?"
"Hi, Jaspin. How are you and Nailbiter doing today?"
The unfinished knife dropped to the anvil with a dull ring as a scowl of disapproval flashed across the young man's face. He glared at Hiccup a moment before noticing the sly smile that one was wearing. His offense at the remark vanished as quickly as it had come. "Oh, we're doing just great, Twigs."
Hiccup grinned at the use of his childhood nickname. It was a small price to pay to get Jaspin to calm down and perhaps get to the point of his visit. He picked up the half finished knife and put it on his workbench, along with his hammer and his leather apron. Despite Jaspin's curiosity about his work, he wasn't willing to share the ideas he had about his experimental metal smithing just yet. He wanted to know if it was worth offering to his teacher and he had a lot of work to do before he reached that point.
"Does she like the new saddle padding I made? It should chafe a lot less."
Jaspin nodded. "Oh yeah, she likes it a lot. I don't have to bribe her with extra fish to get her to stand still anymore." The younger male turned his eyes toward his colorful yet spiky companion.
Bitequick had settled next to Toothless, and the two were rumbling and purring to each other. Their riders watched them for a moment. Hiccup paid close attention to the two dragons, watching their eyes, their calm demeanor. He felt another idea tickling the back of his mind. That idea was momentarily overcome by surprise as the two dragons suddenly stopped making noise and turned as one to regard their riders. He still had trouble reading the expression on Nadder's faces, but Toothless was once again giving him a look that he'd have sworn was quiet expectation. It was as if his companion was waiting for him to realize something that was painfully obvious.
"Oh, I was gonna ask you if you were coming to the launching tomorrow. Ingifast said you and Toothless should be there."
Hiccup winced slightly as a whole host of uncomfortable feelings washed over him. Some had to do with his father, some to do with the villagers of Berk, and some to do with the dragons that now inhabited the Viking's island.
Normally launching a new ship meant the village could do more fishing, more exploring. It was usually a time to celebrate the village's ability to conquer the hardships of life by creating something that would make life easier. Since most of their ships now lay as charred timbers on the shores of Red Death Island, the launching of the first new ship built since that battle meant they were one step further away from starving.
"I don't know," he hedged. "I was hoping to do some exploring with Toothless. We haven't been able to ride for months and we both miss it." The winter weather had proven too cold and rainy for riding dragons. While Vikings were hearty folk who scoffed at weakness, they found that moving at the speed of a flying dragon in the cold air would quickly freeze a rider's flesh. The dragons themselves didn't seem to mind, apparently as impervious to the cold as they were to heat.
"Ah, you can do that anytime," Jaspin said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "You don't want to miss the launch of this ship. It's going to be special!"
Hiccup was surprised at the excitement in Jaspin's voice. The kid was certainly excitable but he doubted the launching of a new ship would really get him worked up. "Special?" He scoffed lightly at the idea. "Why would it be special?"
"But...but this is the first ship since..." The boy's eyes widened as he mentioned what he'd not witnessed firsthand but had heard related many times over winter cooking fires. "...since the battle."
'The battle.' That was all anyone called it now. It was almost as if there had never been a battle of any kind before it and could never be another like it. Truthfully, there really hadn't been a battle like it, but Viking lore was filled with countless battles where mighty Norse warriors had taken on foes without consideration of their size or strength. 'The battle,' as Jaspin and everyone else called it, had certainly been a different kind of fight than anyone had ever seen, against a dragon unlike anything they had ever seen. But it was still just a fight. A costly one, at that.
Once again the tide of emotions rolled over Hiccup, leaving him with a slight frown on his face and a faint throb below his left knee. So much had changed that day.
"Besides," Jaspin added anxiously, "you have to come."
The stress in the kid's voice jarred Hiccup and got him wondering. "Oh?" he muttered as he took his furred vest from its nail and slid it on. "Why's that?"
Jaspin's mouth opened and shut a few times as he struggled with what he wanted to say. Finally he ended his imitation of an Icelandic Cod with, "It's a secret!"
That certainly caught Hiccup's attention. He turned to his young friend, intending to ask what could be a secret about something the whole village knew. Before he could utter a word, he heard a now familiar sound coming from outside. It was a deep throated retching sound that ended in a wet splat. More curious about what was happening outside, he stepped around Jaspin to gaze at the two dragons sitting nearby.
All he saw was the tail fin of a real Icelandic Cod as it disappeared down Toothless' wide gullet. The Night Fury licked his lips and purred to Bitequick. The Nadder was shaking her head slightly, a thin line of drool hanging from her mouth.
It wasn't the first time he'd seen it happen. Except that he hadn't actually seen it happen. He never did. It was as if the dragons were trying not to be obvious about it. But Hiccup was more and more convinced the other dragons in Berk were bringing fish to Toothless.
This was yet another puzzling thing he'd learned over the winter months. If he'd had half as many answers as he had questions, he felt sure he'd be as smart as the Freygerd, the village elder.
Pushing aside the newest distraction, Hiccup turned back to his friend. "So, what's this about a secret, huh?"
At first Hiccup was surprised to find Stoick at home when he arrived. His father had been out with the fishing crews, looking for better places to drop their nets. Then he realized the village leader would naturally be at the launching of the newest ship in Berk's tiny fleet.
He wondered how long his father would stay. His time at home never seemed to last more than a few days anymore. Of course it was expected that the best fishermen and hunters would all be out trying to find food. With only a few ships remaining after 'the battle' it was much harder to gather enough fish and other game to feed everyone.
Hiccup suspected, however, that Stoick was trying to stay away from the village as much as he was trying to feed it.
The apprentice blacksmith held the door of his home open for his dragon, but Toothless simply walked off into the thickening darkness. He looked inside to the large figure beside the central hearth. Stoick was stirring something in a pot that swung gently over the fire. He sighed, glancing once more at the retreating form of the Night Fury. He could only make out the bright red shape of his friend's artificial tail fin in the gloom, and that only for a moment before it was gone as well. He went inside and pushed the door closed behind him.
Even in the warmth of their house, with its space filled with rich red light from the fire, the problems that weighed on Hiccup's mind crowded him. It didn't help that the air was undeniably marked with the faint scent of dragon hide, a smell he could only describe as dusty blood. Even the wild onions and pepper Stoick had liberally added to the stewpot couldn't mask the new odor that permeated their home. Hiccup had gotten used to it months ago, but he had to believe his father would consider it a constant reminder of the shape of the new world in which they lived.
Stoick's glanced briefly at his son's entrance. "Hiccup. Just in time."
"Hey dad," he answered. He sniffed deeply as he moved to the other side of the fire. "Smells good."
"We had a good catch. More salmon in the nets than I've seen in a long time." He picked up a wooden bowl and raised the ladle from the pot.
"Wow, that's great." Hiccup took the bowl his father offered him, drew in another deep breath from the steam rising off the stew. "Fresh salmon always smells so good."
"And no tooth marks on them, either."
Wincing, the younger man picked up his spoon, the first thing he'd ever made for himself in Gobber's forge. He sat down and occupied himself with his meal, trying to think of something to say. The only obvious thing that came to him was the fish he was currently eating.
"How far out did you have to go this time?"
"Ten days south. Skirted a storm coming in but made it back without trouble."
Hiccup stared at his father, trying to figure out what was going on inside his head. He wasn't quite as pensive as usual but there was no denying there was tension on his face, in his voice.
Of course he knew that things were hard for his father now. The man was living in a world he didn't see as his own, despite the fact that everything in it was practically the same as it had been six months ago. And he wasn't the only one. Most of the village seemed to have developed the same quiet moodiness his father displayed. Hiccup felt certain he understood where a lot of the problems were coming from, but he was at a complete loss as to how to solve them.
Suddenly he remembered Jaspin and his secret.
He ate a few more spoonfuls of the thick stew before he could figure out how to bring up the subject. Talking to his father was never the easiest thing, but now it seemed even harder. Hiccup's new status in the village and in their house was once something for which he would have literally killed dragons. Now, with all that had happened and the way things had gone, he felt just as trapped and confused as he imagined his father did.
"Have you seen the new hull Ingifast is putting in the water tomorrow? Jaspin was telling me about it."
Stoick nodded. "Aye. Saw it as we came in."
When nothing else was said, Hiccup was forced to ask bluntly, "Did you hear what he wants to call it?"
Stoick's wooden spoon stopped halfway to his lips. He stared blankly into the fire a moment before answering. "Aye. I did."
"Does it..." He laid his own spoon into his half-empty bowl, certain he'd not be using it for a while. "...do you think it's a... a good idea?"
With a soft sigh, his father let the spoon fall back into his bowl. "Ingifast is the shipwright. He has the right to name the ships he builds as he pleases."
"But, do... do you think it's really a good idea to name a ship..." Hiccup set his bowl in his lap. "I mean, most of the people aren't going to like having another tradition taken away from them. It's just-"
"He asked me."
Hiccup froze, surprised by what that implied.
"He asked Freygerd, too. We both agreed." Still his eyes stayed locked on the writhing flames before him. "It's a fine name for a ship. Strong and proud."
That's it then, he realized. The first new ship built since 'the battle' was going to be named 'The Night Fury'.
Thunder rumbled softly. The storm that had chased the fleet home had arrived.
Grey skies and soft ground were all that was left of the storm by the next afternoon. As Hiccup watched from a distance, a few dozen villagers and dragons made their way off the stony beach and toward Berk itself. The rest of his dragon training class and their scaled companions were all there, of course. A tiny handful of other, mostly younger folks from the tribe had come, including Jaspin. There were, in fact, more dragons in attendance than people. Yet there had been enough present to push the mostly completed wooden hull of 'The Night Fury' from its timber cradle into the water. The effort provided by the dragons made up for the scarcity of villagers.
Hiccup was getting tired of feeling conflicted so often. While Ingifast had done Toothless and him a real honor by naming the new ship as he had, he was still worried. He'd just watched a ship named after a dragon being launched by both villagers and dragons. Six months ago he would have seen it as amazing progress. One year ago he would have considered it unthinkable and unnatural. But the fact that the last launching, a year ago, had been attended by nearly every person in Berk made what had happened this cold spring afternoon seem strange and unrecognizable. Even the presence of his father, making the traditional sacrifices of food and mead to protect the new ship, seemed wrong, out of shape. And it wasn't just the presence of creatures they'd once considered deadly pests.
He hadn't been able to take it. The launching ceremony wasn't terribly long, but as soon as he felt he could he'd mounted Toothless and left. He hadn't gone far, only over the first ridge. There he'd landed and watched as the rest finished up and eventually left. Once they'd gone, he sat on a convenient boulder and reflected on his concerns.
He wondered how his father handled the immense burden of responsibility. The decisions Stoick made were always meant to be for the betterment of the tribe as a whole. But when a decision of his didn't work out well, it was understood that he still had the whole village's interests at heart. The decisions Hiccup had made which ultimately led to the end of fighting between Vikings and dragons had been made, he knew, in ignorance. He'd only done what he thought was best at the time for himself and later for his friend Toothless.
He'd never meant for so many things to change so much, only the things he felt were important. But those things had turned out to be at the root of everyday life in Berk. Only a few people in the village hadn't been directly affected by the things Hiccup had done. And even they were left as his father was, as he was; living in a new world they didn't recognize or fully understand. It wasn't that his tribe didn't appreciate an end to the war that they had been fighting for so long. His friend Fishlegs had told him only a week ago that he thought of him as a hero because he'd fixed the biggest problem between dragons and Vikings. It seemed to him, however, that things were just as broken as they'd always been.
For Hiccup, the worst part was the questions. He had so many questions filling his head now he sometimes thought he would go crazy. It made him long for the feeling he'd had before he'd met Toothless, when he felt sure all the knowledge he needed to live his life could be gotten by laying his hands on metal and wood and leather. If he could touch it, he could understand it.
Now he often felt like he didn't understand any more than his father did. Stoick at least had the excuse of having lived his life completely at odds with dragons, hating their very existence. His old way of thinking had been good enough to let him lead the village, to help him understand the world and all that was in it. Changing from that to the new way of things would be hard for any self-respecting Viking.
Without thinking, Hiccup laid his hand on Toothless' neck, just behind the frill. He gently rubbed the dark, pebbly skin. A soft purring growl filled his ears as his companion responded to his touch.
A sudden flash of guilt stopped his movement. He glanced, wide eyed, at his friend.
Could he really want that? Could he possibly want a return to ignorance and fighting? To living with the words 'kill on sight' burned into every thought that concerned dragons? Could he actually be that selfish?
Toothless' calm eyes turned to him, the expression on that reptilian face so familiar. He could almost hear his friend thinking, "I know you better than that. You should, too."
Feeling humbled, he placed his hand very gently on the broad nose before him. Toothless sniffed deeply, taking in his scent.
"Come on, buddy. Let's go home."
They walked. It was a short distance and he still needed to practice using his new leg. By the time he reached his home and the new smithy beside it, his limp was pronounced. He wondered yet again how Gobber managed with two limbs gone. It never seemed to feel natural, like a real leg. Any prolonged effort at walking eventually left him in pain.
Sighing, he sat down on the edge of his new forge. At least he had one success to his credit, though he wanted more time to experiment with it. He looked around at the few tools he'd been given by his teacher and the couple of pieces of raw stock he could use. He couldn't help smiling. There was a lot of potential here, especially with his companion by his side. There were some interesting days ahead, he felt certain.
Then he noticed the puddle on his workbench. The roof of his smithy hadn't been fully waterproof and had leaked. In the center of the puddle was the knife blank he'd been working with Toothless the previous day. He groaned, wishing he'd brought it inside the house before it had rained. He picked it up, expecting a solid coat of rust to have turned the metal an ugly brown.
It was as unblemished as it had been the moment he'd pulled it from the forge, heated by dragon breath. There wasn't a speck of rust on it.
"How to train your dragon" and all attendant characters are copyright
Dreamworks Animation and used without permission
First, I'd like to make it clear that I've been going by the name Wirewolf for a very long time. However, since that username has been taken here, I will be posting under the name Athenaeum.
Second, I've been writing a very long time. I have a few dozen stories on another site, but I've been suffering a serious decline in my writing for almost 8 years now. What finally brought my interest in writing back was "How to train your dragon." It has seized my imagination and will not let go, not until I've finished this story. This will likely be my only HTTYD fanfic, and once it's done I hope to go back to writing my unfinished stories.
Third, after I decided to write "Broken", I made numerous notes, sketched out a variety of scenes and worked out an overall story arc. Then I found and the HTTYD stories posted here. I realized I could post my own work here, but wanted to know what kind of submissions had already been put forth. I read many stories and to my dismay, found almost all the ideas I had come up with on my own already represented in many different works posted. I want readers to know that, although you may find bits of my story to be a match for other submissions, I did actually come up with the ideas on my own and did not try to steal anyone's work.
Fourth, I've only seen the movie. The characters in it that are not given names (such as the village elder and various dragons adopted by the dragon training class) I named using internet reference sites. They may not match what many other authors (including Cressida Cowell) have used, but I think there's something to be said for using one's own creativity to fill in blank spots for a fanfic.
Last, I'm expecting this story to run 8 to 10 chapters. It may go a bit longer, depending on how things turn out.