In spite of her admittedly many personality flaws, Ruffnut was not a liar. Lying was bad, dishonest, and generally against the notion of keeping together a community. Whatever a Viking did for good or for bad should be acknowledged, all consequences taken with dignity. A Viking was not a coward, and all liars were cowards. She had learned this early on and had taken it to heart. She had always tried to be the good girl that way: if she were going to destroy her mother's garden or set fire to a roof, she was going to own up to it. Aside from the occasional white lies that came from everyone, she did not lie.
The truth was far too much fun.
She blamed her mother for it. The woman was the town gossip, blessed by the gods with an ear for every remotely interesting incident that went on in Berk. Since a good Viking never lied, one could be certain that the news that reached her ears contained at least a nugget of truth. Ruffnut and her brother were never of course meant to hear any of it, as went their mother's precursor to everything she told their father, but, well, blood was blood and Ruffnut apparently had the same ears.
Ruffnut did not consider herself a gossip. She didn't much have the attention span or the desire to stand around with a bunch of silly old ladies pouring out so much news with the laundry suds. She'd rather be killing something or nearly getting herself killed.
But the good stuff, the really good stuff, was something she could hardly be expected to avoid. She should be thanked for keeping her tongue silent about everything she heard. She deserved to mention a few things here and there.
Most things were forgiven. Like when she was seven and let it be known Tuffnut was in like of some water creature from a story. Or when she was twelve and mentioned it to more than a few that Astrid's signature knife of the time was much lighter than she claimed. People put up with her. In fact, as long as the story did not happen to be about them, everyone loved her stories.
After all, she was a pretty amusing girl. Sure, she was obnoxious, but she could get people laughing. Stories, pranks, other bits of mischief… they all managed to keep her somewhat unhated.
"I still don't get what we're doing here." Fishlegs twisted his thick fingers together, his voice fighting against the higher octave of reluctant disobedience. "More specifically, I don't get what I'm going here. I mean, this is pretty much like you, so…"
Ruff sighed and set down her basket of eggs next to the two Fishlegs had carried. "I already told you. For fun. Particularly, my fun."
"Obviously. Because this isn't fun. It's cold and it's dark and I really don't think we're supposed to be up here."
"Meade Hall is a perfectly acceptable public place, Fishlegs." Though it was getting dark, no argument there. The ocean spread around the island like tar, not a star pushed past the clouds, and hardly a late-night fire could be seen. She hadn't considered making Fishlegs bring up a torch. Apparently she just wasn't meant to be practical, and the result was that finding just the right spots for optimum egg-leaving was hard. It was one thing to blindly climb an entire building by touch, it was quite another to actually need eyes.
"Perfectly acceptable on the inside," he muttered. "Why aren't you making your brother help?"
Ah. A particularly smooth surface. A good rainstorm was only hours away and the right amount of water would send rotten eggs all over the village, if the winds were right and Loki were on her side. She set to work. "Broken leg. Remember? You were there."
"Yeah, but it was your fault."
Ruff just laughed. The incident which had led to Tuffnut's broken leg was already local legend among the younger children of the village. Yes, Tuff would have been perfect for this save for the fact he couldn't carry up as many rotten eggs as Fishlegs. For that the big oaf was perfect. And so easy to convince. Nice guys tended to be so.
If only he weren't such a stick-in-the-mud.
Fishlegs mumbled something under his breath. Ah, a touch of anger, maybe a hint of that legendary berserking.
So many eggs, and he just stood there thinking more whiney thoughts. Ridiculous. She hadn't spent months sneaking an egg or two every now and then to spend an entire night lining them up by herself. "Y'know, Fishlegs, the faster we get this done, the faster you can get down and forget all about this."
"I'm not going to forget about it when there is rotten egg smell everywhere. Like a giant—"
"Giant fart. Giant wet soaking fart stinking up the entire village." Yeah, she did speak with a little too much glee, but it was a prank that had come to her in a dream and she was not going to let it die. "Get over it or get a cold in time."
"I'm going to get a cold from being up here this late."
"Eggs, Fishlegs. Now. Pick up an egg, and put it in a place where it will be most likely to fall off the roof during a horrible rainstorm."
He sighed deeply, but moved to pick up an arm load of eggs. "It's high up here. And dark."
Priceless. Big huge Viking scared. "Please don't tell me you're afraid of heights and the dark."
"I'm not afraid of heights!" His voice was echoing enough to wake the entire island, and Ruff froze.
No one moved in the houses below. She let out the breath she had held. "Gods, you're loud."
"Sorry." He crouched next to her, carefully and much too slowly setting down an egg.
"So you're afraid of the dark, then?"
"I am not!" Even with a hissing whisper he could be loud.
"Because you could have said no."
"No, I could not have."
She smiled. That was true. "You're far too eager to please."
His frown was visible even in the dark. "I didn't think you would be doing this when you said you needed help. I figured, wow, she never needs help. This has to be serious."
"This is serious, Fishlegs. Extremely serious."
"We are going to get in so much trouble."
"Oh, come on. You know they're going to blame me. Not you."
"I can't believe I'm helping you with this." He was fighting panic now. "We'll just go… quick."
Once Fishlegs bother to help the mission went seamlessly. A quick, hand-felt survey to make sure the eggs were in prime spots, a glance skyward for weather, and they were done.
Fishlegs didn't speak again until they were climbing from the Hall's roof. "I guess that wasn't so bad."
"Oh, but it will be bad. And you'll have the satisfaction of knowing all you did—" She nearly screamed.
There was a torch.
Fishlegs actually did scream, a short one before she stepped on his foot.
The torch moved closer, a bumbling light, before two sets of eyes appeared, bright with firelight.
Ruff put a hand to her heart and breathed deep. Kids. Of all the stupid things to scare her. She didn't recognize them. Just a couple of children, a sample from the many in the village. Two little boys, a line of fish draped over one's shoulder.
"What are you doing out?" Fishlegs demanded.
Was the answer not obvious? Night fishing, probably looking for the monster that Gobber said inhabited the water. Every kid in Berk had done it. Some sort of childhood initiation. Every kid except Fishlegs, apparently.
The boys didn't answer that.
"We heard noises," one said, eyes wide and voice far too happy.
"And we want to know what you were doing," followed his friend, jutting a finger toward the roof of the hall. "Up there."
"A secret," Ruff replied. Stupid kids.
"No, you weren't."
"We were fixing the roof," said Fishlegs.
Ooh, even better than a secret.
The first kid laughed. "No, you weren't. My brother says that anytime anyone goes to the roof they're doing something else."
Both kids burst into giggles, phrases of "kissing" making their ways through.
Fishlegs gave a deep groan. "Go. Home."
A simple enough command. The kids trotted off, still giggling, and Fishlegs groaned again. "I'm going home, too."
Ruff supposed he deserved that. "All right. Thanks."
He paused before walking off. "I hope those kids don't say anything tomorrow."
"About us being on the roof? If they do, I'll kick them. Besides, what are they going to say? They're going to forget all about it."
All right, opening chapter, more to come. Comments, critiques, and advice always welcome!