AN: Set in an Alternate Universe. Having learned the company is making a third installment to the film and that the television series will be darker and deeper in storyline compared to other spin-off franchises by DreamWorks, I felt like celebrating with an idea that I've been toying with to tie together the books and film. I apologize as well to my HTTYD readers for not having written anything in a long while. Hope this is enjoyable.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own How to Train Your Dragon and the characters within.
When Stars Scream
The night he had shot the beast down was an event to be documented, celebrated even, though Hiccup knew no one would believe him if he ran into the village screaming he'd shot a Night Fury. Licking his lips nervously, the young lad heads down back to Berk, having narrowly escaped the Monstrous Nightmare from turning him into a meal that night as well. Snack, more likely—he probably wouldn't have been much; not even a decent toothpick.
It's been a few days since then; anxiety swells within him with the rise and fall of the glittering halcyon orb, coyly touching the horizon's sharp edge. Each day is wrought with new apprehension and it fills his thoughts, mind at war: it'll remark how smart he was for not becoming the village idiot again and another part will coldly tell him he was an even bigger fool for not saying anything.
Hiccup continues into the village, picking up a bucket to fill with water from the crude well nearby for the trough the sheep use. Lowering it into the dark depths, he wonders absentmindedly about how similar the black resembled the impeccable shade of sable that had whisked past him in the night, blocking out the iridescent light of hot stars with such brevity he had thought his mind was tricking him, wishing desperately for that one slim chance…
…and he had done it. Should he have told his people that he'd accomplished the most impossible feat? The few times he'd done so were terrible mistakes; the first and second time he had really caught nothing. The third, he'd captured a bird. Since he had broken the wing of the creature and the bird would not have been particularly good game, they bludgeoned its head in with one harsh blow, effectively putting it out of its flightless, hopeless misery.
He had been eleven, his first personal sighting of what a kill was. He had felt horribly ill, watching crimson stain the green blades at his feet, watched pink flesh and soft downy feathers cling to the mace in sticky red globs of goo. He had almost doubled over to wretch right there but he managed to remain standing despite the sight, despite the feeling of guilt that twanged into his heart. No one in the village quite knew how to mend appendages that weren't mammalian but he could have tried to save it—it had been an innocent bystander that was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. It died because he had made a mistake.
Gobber had patted his shoulder, "A downed dragon is a dead dragon; it applies to birds as well, lad."
Stoick had been standing by his son, proud a little that his boy had not fainted from the coiling stench and sight of blood. He ruffled the young boy's deep auburn locks, chuckled sympathetically, "You get used to it." After that, the men left, one villager carrying the remains to feed the Terrors cooped up in their dark pens. After that comment, Hiccup bent over and vomited, not from the event finally having rooted itself into his head, but at the frightening thought that killing would become easier.
How can something so brutal possibly become simpler? How can a life, eventually, mean nothing?
He cannot deny that he felt a strange exhilaration from it. The cloying scent, the red that marred his vision, the quickening beat of his heart in his frail chest—it all made his delirious from fascination. His mind is one of an innovator, an artist, filled to the brim with ideas and processed every sense of the body within its mechanical workings, creating something no one around him could possibly comprehend. Gods, he had been intrigued…
Promptly, he emptied his stomach once more, disgusted, this time, with himself.
Hiccup shakes his head, breaking from the distant past, and heaves the bucket up. Placing it on the edge of the well, he grips the handle and heads to the trough in the sheep pen, pouring it out. They bray and push each other, drinking noisily. Leaning against the fence that holds the animals in, the tips of his fingers skim the soft wool atop one's head. Briefly it breaks from its quest to quench its thirst, nuzzles his palm, and resumes. Hiccup stares at them, murmurs, "You're lucky. You don't have much to deal with—everything is handed to you." Until you die, of course, he adds to himself. Even when he was little, he never lets those words escape his lips; everyone believes the animals don't understand what they're saying but he had this innate desire to keep quiet so they won't attempt to escape. He would be blamed for telling their few sources of food the truth of why they were fed and offered water every day.
"Oh, look, if it isn't our leader's fearless son!"
The obnoxious voice caused Hiccup to cringe, sigh; he refused to look at them.
"Guess he doesn't want to look at you today," says another. He can never tell if that is Ruffnut or not—she speaks so low.
"Well, y'know, Snot's pretty ugly," comments Tuffnut. That voice can be placed easily—not because of the different vocal pattern but the harsh whack of bone upon bone that normally follows every time he opens his mouth to speak.
Hiccup is suddenly grabbed by the shoulder of his fur vest and deftly turned around, staring into the squinty, blue eyes of his cousin. The two boys never address the other as blood relations—Snotlout because he doesn't like the fact a relative of his is so weak it's ludicrous; Hiccup because… that was obvious to even a blind man. But it went further than that—he didn't like his older, brawnier cousin's lack of thought. Vikings were known to be ruthless killers, ending lives first than asking questions, but they were smart when it came to certain aspects of life. Snotlout didn't have the intelligence it appeared to balance it out: all stupid brute force.
But Snotlout was approved by all because he was strong. One can have tactical wit and strength, withal, when it comes down to it, being able to wield a weapon is more desirable in a Viking.
Hiccup does not have that.
"You can't just ignore me, runt," says Snotlout, folding muscular arms over his broad chest.
"I can try and it worked till your face got up in mine," Hiccup remarks, remembering too late that will receive a smack.
Ruffnut and Tuffnut howl and jeer, "Are you gonna let 'im talk to you like that, Snot?"
Snotlout pulls back an arm, about to ram it with full force into the scrawny shoulder blade when a voice barks out for him to knock it off. Hiccup groans quietly as Gobber comes hobbling up to them.
"Why don't the three of you scamper off and make yourselves useful?"
Snotlout snorts, "Just teaching Hiccup here how to fend for himself."
"Of course ye were," replies Gobber, raising a brow. Glancing at the smaller teenager, he nonchalantly questions where he had gone off to earlier.
"Just walking about," says Hiccup, turning back around to look at the moving mass of white in the pen.
"That so?" Gobber states, "From the very time the sun comes out?"
Hiccups nods, glances at the blacksmith, and resumes pretending to be bored; he could tell Gobber, he knows he can. Gobber, though not particularly encouraging or patient, often listens to him when he has something to say. It was worth a shot.
Gobber unknowingly gives him an opening, "Your machine in the shop. It looks like it was recently used,"
"Yeah, um, the night the dragons came. I used it then…"
Snotlout and the twins had not left as Gobber told them to and they laugh. "Ya catch somethin'?"
Normally he remains quiet; normally he lets them trample upon his words till they're dust in his mouth; inside, a part of him snaps, and he whirls on them, "As a matter of fact I did catch something that."
This causes the four to fall silent, not having believed he would reply.
Gobber walks a little forward, "You didn't tell us about this Hiccup. Was it another bird?"
Hiccup recalls the red, the failure, the guilt; he feels the little nudge, the same little nudge that's been with him since birth. To belong. It shatters forth from his lips, free-falls, relieved and frightened that he was taking a chance. A real chance. "No. It was a Night Fury."
The quiet that subdues the quartet is almost tangible; then the grating, mocking laughter from his fellow teenagers. Gobber only stares, "And you had not mentioned this because…?"
Hiccup pointedly looks over his shoulder then at the ground. Gobber nods, "Did you go look for it?"
The young man shakes his head, "It wasn't a fluke though."
Snotlout steps forward to Hiccup, throwing a beefy arm around the slender frame, gripping his cousin's head in a tight, choking lock, "You didn't want us to see yer prize or somethin'?"
Hiccup, annoyed, waves him offhandedly, wanting the boy to let him go. "It's in the woods. I could not exactly go off on my own to retrieve it since it's likely to be massive."
Gobber continues to keep his gaze on the boy. Then, the miracle, "We can go to search for it, if it has not escaped from the netting by now."
Hiccup can't help the relief and bright glee that is threatening to wash his face. This was it! This was the chance he had been praying for. Even if his father does not believe and come to look, he only needs a few witnesses.
He longed for this. He internally prepares himself to head into the forest and prays that, indeed, the dragon did not escape the trappings.
Assembled together, including him made this the smallest investigation group made. Of course Snotlout and the twins came along to laugh at him if it wound up not being true. He knows he caught a Night Fury—the black blur that painted the canvas of inky blue and white dots had to be a Night Fury. He'd never seen any type of dragon that looked like that. He could only assume it was the Night Fury.
Hiccup had also assumed that the dragon could not have fallen far, but that was also when it was pitch black outside and the creature resembling a falling lump of coal into the wood does not help pinpointing the location. Listening to the grumbling of the teenagers was putting his nerves on edge. What if it was gone? If his inner tug of war had given it the key to flee?
He holds back the scream of frustration that pinched his throat. Instead, he scribbles furiously in his notebook of all the possible places that it could have landed.
Gobber settles down upon a log, "Are ye sure that ye know where it may be?"
Hiccup sighs, "Not exactly. It couldn't have been far off."
Tuffnut scowls, picking his ear, "Really? How come we haven't found it yet?"
Snotlout concurs, not wanting his voice to be unnoticed, "Exactly. I'm thinking you probably lied about it so you can make yourself look good."
Hiccup continues ahead by himself, clenching his hands into fists till his knuckles are stark white. "Look: it was here somewhere!" he shouts, more to himself than them. "How can I lose an entire dragon?" he questions the frigid air, smacking a branch aside. It rams back into his face. The laughter at his pain is drowned out by the ringing in his ears from the hit; the rapid pulse of his heart when he sees overturned earth, branches strewn, and a tree trunk is ripped in two from its middle, each side bent low to the ground in submission, a soldier that never knew what hit it.
Carefully, Hiccup steps over the fallen bramble, treads the moist earth, and peers over the log in front of him only to kneel down quickly. His heart rams inside him, mind in disbelief; he licks his lips, heavy sandpaper upon cracked ridges. He hears the footfalls behind him and he motions for them to slow down, kneel silently beside him. He rises; he quivers, breathes.
Laying before him is a horrible mass of shadow, darkness manifested in tangible form, angular wings jutting out awkwardly and he thinks of the bird. But this was different. This is on purpose; this is his dream come true; this is when he is to prove he is truly of Viking blood and flesh—this time, he has to kill a life.
His fingers gently touched the handle of his knife, an oddly familiar acquaintance.
"I can't believe it. The twerp actually did it," breathes Snotlout, transfixed.
Gobber prods Hiccup forward on legs of stone. Hiccup is able to approach the black terror, this dark demon from unknown depths of man's and gods' imagination. And finds himself suddenly staring into pools of viridian, intense, hard, and this is yet another difference—this being is very much aware that its life is a tiny insignificant thread that can be cut at any moment. The bird had no clue.
Within those beryl jewels, something glittered. It not only knew what was transpiring, it was resigned to its fate.
Hiccup knew then and there he could never do it. Ashamed, sick from the thought of what the others were about to witness, knowing that their words will be the worst he'll ever live to hear, his mind spun. It spun to find a way to save it; to have it live.
"I don't want to kill it," and before they can question his idiocy he says, "I want to take it back to the village."
They still inquire, they still wonder why not kill the thing, and he simply says, "So we can know more about it. Who knows how many there actually are." And with this deft, analytical precision, his wit outshines their brutality.
As the teens head back so they can gather men to carry the dragon back, Hiccup glances down at the beast and suddenly feels sorrier than ever, even sorrier than the bird he unknowingly cut the life short of. He just sentenced this creature to something worse than death—a living death sentence, forever chained to the unforgiving ground.
Yes, Hiccup felt worse than awful.
And within those gems, he saw that the demon knew this too; and it would never, ever, let him forget it.