Caution: these contain spoilers for the second film. And are mostly on Pern.
7.1 (6.12 continued)
"Well, this is... different, to how we do things on Berk," Stoic mused, rubbing oil into Blitsif's neck scales.
I was fully grown on Berk, Blitsif replied. And Skrill are tougher than mountains, eat ironsand and spit filings.
"Guess that makes sense. Suppose that's something we have in common – I was an adult too, of course." Stoic felt her mind brush against his, and smiled again at the reminder of the still-new mental bond. "Wonder how this was for my son."
Oh, that's right, Mnementh said he was here before, didn't he? Blitsif leaned into Stoic's hands, eyes whirling blue-green contentment. Ohhh, that feels so much better.
When did Hiccup first come here? Thornado asked, waiting his turn. Compared to me, I mean, I know it was before you met Blitz.
"Well..." Stoic paused, then kept working at a complaint from Blitsif. "Sorry. And... I don't know, actually. What happened the first time for you?"
Hm... Thornado frowned, and lay down next to Stoic's side. It's a little hard to remember the specifics... Hiccup had Toothless, of course.
"Aye, the only time that's ever changed that I know was when Toothless had Hiccup instead." At a look from both dragons, Stoic shrugged. "Long story."
Right. Well, let's see. Hiccup had only one leg, I think? The other one was made of metal. And Toothless had a red tail fin.
Thornado shrugged his wings. I didn't really understand it all at the time.
"No, that helps." Stoic frowned. "That's how I remember it going the first time... don't know how often it happened after that, though."
And- Thornado stopped, his mental tone suddenly becoming quite sombre. I left to help raise some other Thunderdrums, and when I came back... you were dead.
Blitsif flinched, nearly knocking the oil out of Stoic's hands. What?
"Aye," Stoic said, slowly. He resumed rubbing Blitsif, and didn't keep speaking until she settled back down a bit. "You recall that black-horned alpha – the one who tried to freeze you?"
"Well, Drago Bludvist used it to force Toothless to..." Stoic's voice caught. "To kill Hiccup. I got in the way."
Both dragons' eyes whirled angry red-orange. They exchanged a glance.
He dies, Thornado announced.
Already handled it once, Blitsif assured him. I intend to repeat that as often as possible, though.
"And... Hiccup told me, once." Stoic finally finished with Blitsif, and motioned Thornado to move over into her place. "He's never let that happen again, not when he's Awake. So it must have been what he calls the baseline."
The baseline, Thornado repeated, eyes returning to safer hues. So – that means before they went anywhere?
"That's right," Stoic confirmed, rubbing oil into the cracked area between Thornado's wing shoulders.
I don't believe it. How? Thornado's head snaked around to look up at Stoic from below. How could those two not have Impressed by then? They flew like one being!
"I-" Stoic considered that. "I actually don't know. Guess I never thought about it."
I thought we did alright, Blitsif muttered.
"Oh, we did," Stoic said, patting her with his free hand. "But – well, Thornado knows, but I'll explain it to you. Back then, the first time, Toothless lost his left tail fin when he and Hiccup met." He delicately skipped over the question of how. "Hiccup rigged up a false fin, and controlled it wih a little pedal."
Blitsif stared. What.
"I know." Stoic shook his head, smiling broadly. "I'm so proud of him, it hurts."
"How much food do you two eat?" Stoic asked, hands on knees.
The two dragons didn't answer him for several seconds, as they devoured the wherry he'd hauled over from the table.
A lot, Thornado eventually said, sounding a little sorry. I'm used to fish, and it's been a long time since I was a hatchling.
Blitsif looked down at herself, licking her lips. And I don't think I ever grew this fast.
"Aye, well." Stoic shrugged. "At least you're large enough I don't have to feed you any more. You nearly took my fingers off."
We weren't that bad, were we? Thornado asked, hurt.
"Pretty close." Stoic looked down at what was left of the wherry. "Do you want more?"
Hm... Blitsif gave the question careful consideration. Ask me again in an hour.
L'ren, the boy who'd partnered with Norith at the hatching, shot Stoic a glance. "You know, St'ick, if anyone's going to complain about your having two dragons, just remind them that means double the workload."
Stoic nodded, wincing slightly at the reminder of what Pernese rider name contraction had done to his name.
It was probably some kind of cosmic payback, really. After all, his son was named Hiccup.
At least the dragons hadn't bothered naming themselves Thornadoth and Blitsith. It just sounded silly.
"Right, your turn, Blitz." Stoic and Thornado stood back from her. "Twenty times each."
I know how to fly, Stoic, Blitsif replied huffily, stretching her green wings out to their full span.
"And the point is, you don't fly yet," Stoic repeated patiently. "You're still young, remember – not strong enough to fly. The whole point is to build flight muscle."
She looked contrite. Right. Sorry. I'm just – new to this. Being young again.
Tell me about it, Thornado replied, looking at his own wings. I built up my own flight muscles by swimming, the first time.
Right, let's see. The green raised her wings, then brought them down in a sweep which blew a little sand from the floor.
Okay, yeah, this does hurt. It's like I've not used them in months or years.
"You haven't," Stoic pointed out. "They're, er, new."
Two. Three. Strange-four-way of looking-five-at it.
Once she was done, Blitsif winced, and looked down at her chest as she carefully folded the wings in again. That aches.
We'll get stronger, her brother informed her. My turn.
Stoic walked over and began rubbing her flight muscles. "Good start."
Thank you. They watched as the blue beat his own wings, with a slower time than she had.
This is actually quite easy, Thornado commented. No, wait, ow, stitch!
"This could take a while," Stoic muttered.
In the pre-dawn light, a blue shape moved across the north bowl of the Weyr.
Thornado crept through the night, occasionally sniffing the air to make sure he was headed in the right direction. Straight for the lakelet at one side of the bowl, fed by a stream.
In the opinion of the once-and-future-thunderdrum, learning to fly was tedious and boring. Learning to fly when you already knew how was even more so – there wasn't even any actual learning to go with the rote exercise.
But learning to fly by swimming, now, that was fun. Any Thunderdrum knew that.
So, before the others had awoken, he had snuck out of their weyr. Stoic was snoring away, and Blitsif had barely murmured as he slipped through the door.
If a swim was good, a swim in the dim light of an early morning was great fun. The fish were still drowsy themselves, and easy targets.
Reaching the water, Thornado dipped a foreleg into it. Cold, but he'd swum in worse.
Then he took a taste. Fresh. Oh well – salt was better, but he'd swum in glacial lakes before. The only difference was that it was a little easier to dive, a little harder to swim up, and the fish were different – and usually smaller.
So he paced in. First simply enjoying floating there, blowing bubbles through his nostrils and snapping up a few curious fish, then sculling out into the deeper water near the centre of the lake.
Thornado looked down, at the cool blueness of the deepest spot. This should be a good start.
So he thrashed his forelegs, rising half out of the water with the impulse, then dove, exhaling to help him sink deeper.
About half his own length down, he finally stopped descending, and spread his wings. Then, he began to swim.
Tried to begin to swim.
A cloud of bubbles erupted from his nose as he looked back, at his wings, to see what was wrong. And, at that moment, he came to a belated realization.
As a Thunderdrum, his wings were built for swimming. They were designed to bodily push the water, easily able to move tonnes of water with every stroke.
But as a Pernese blue... he wasn't. He was built for pure flight. He was stuck underwater, unable to swim.
Had he been thinking clearly, he would have quickly realized that he could simply use his legs to swim. But Thornado was not thinking clearly.
He was shocked – by not having really come to terms with the difference in his body now from before. He was still not very strong, and already he felt a tightness in his chest from lack of air.
And – he was still a very young dragon.
Stoic sat up, throwing his furs off. "Thornado!"
I heard it too, Blitsif informed him, coming to her feet in an instant. Quick!
She pelted for the door. Stoic followed, summoning Mjolnir from his pocket to use to reach Thornado faster. Secrecy be damned.
As they ran, the sounds of other waking dragons and riders began to come from other weyrs around Benden. Then there was a roar, and Thornado's shouts for help cut off instantly.
By the time they were outside, the drama had played out. The little blue was lying, shivering and covered in slush, on warm sand just near the Weyr exit.
Over him stood Mnementh, with F'lar disembarking from his back, and Canth and F'nor winging in to land nearby.
"Thornado!" Stoic called, kneeling next to him. "Are you alright?"
Blitsif lay down next to her clutchmate, pressing her warmer body against him. What happened?
"Young Thornado went swimming, is what happened," F'lar said, removing his riding gloves. "Ah – Mirrim. Get the healer, please."
A young woman nodded, and took to her heels.
"But – what happened?" Stoic repeated, now rubbing Thornado's chest. Water issued from his mouth, and he coughed and sputtered.
"Near as we can tell, he dove into the water and discovered he couldn't swim. In that order." F'lar bent down, and spoke more softly. "I heard he was some kind of water dragon?"
I was, Thornado confirmed, his mental tone a little weak. Stoic and Blitsif exchanged a glad look, then got back to warming him up.
Back home, I'm – a Thunderdrum. I didn't realize until – you're right, I'm used to being able to swim. But I'm... different, here. Thornado coughed again, more heartily this time. I panicked, and started swallowing water, and...
"By the time Mnementh and I got to him, he was in a bad way," F'lar told Stoic. "We had to get him out of the water quickly, so Mnementh grabbed him and then we jumped Between straight away."
Which was very, very cold, Thornado thought sullenly.
"Well, normally we're not absolutely covered in water," F'lar replied tartly, then looked up. "Ah, Mirrim's on her way back. And – uh oh."
Stoic looked up at the Weyrleader. "What?"
Lessa is coming, Mnementh informed him. At least she has blankets.
"My lovely wife has something of a difficult streak," F'lar explained.
I have decided that I like Klah, Thornado informed them, some hours later. Especially that much of it.
"Thor, I-" Stoic paused, not knowing what to say. "Please don't do that to me again."
Or me, Blitsif added. She half-extended her wings, then drew them in again. I... do not like feeling helpless.
I don't like drowning, Thornado said. I'll try not to again. He paused, and took another gulp of the hot, spicy Klah with careful movements of his muzzle. Is that what Between is like?
"Yep," Stoic confirmed. "I've only been through wet a few times, though, and that was with both warning and wearing several layers."
Only once for me, Blitsif weighed in. I didn't quite understand the warnings Toothless and Hiccup were giving, but it certainly beat flying for thirty hours.
I just wish I'd remembered to hold my breath. Thornado mused, finishing the Klah. Mnementh said that I could have held it for five minutes even at my age.
Well, once you get better – and in the afternoon, Blitsif gave Thornado a pointed look, then maybe you can teach me to swim. I'm terrible at it.Skrill hate water – we short circuit.
"And yet she flies in thunderstorms," Stoic commented.
That's different, she told him loftily.
I'd be glad to, Thornado answered. I look forward to it.
"This is a big day, everyone," F'nor announced to the gathered dragons and riders. "For the last couple of months, everyone's been doing exercises – I hope?" he added, sternly, to general nodding. "Good. That should have allowed your dragons' flight muscles to build up to the point they can fly."
His eyes rested on Stoic and his pair a moment, before moving on. "Dragons have flight instincts, but remember – they still have to learn how to fly. What we're doing today is just the first step of that – first getting into the air."
He nodded to the circling trio of blue dragons overhead. "M'shal and his wing are overhead, in case anyone has accidents. Still take care, though. Now, which way is best for takeoff?"
L'ren raised a hand, and F'nor called on him. "That way, Brown rider. Upwind."
"That's right. Because the air is already moving, your dragons don't need to be moving as fast over the ground to get into the air. Now, let's see. Roleth first."
The indicated brown and his rider nodded, stepping upwind a bit.
"Spread your wings, Roleth," F'nor rapped out. "Keep them spread... little higher... that's it. Now, start moving into the wind... feel the breeze... and, run! Flap those wings as fast as you can, Roleth!"
The brown accelerated, wings sweeping up and down against the air. Four beats... five... six, and his feet left the ground for a moment... seven, and he didn't come back down again.
Canth tracked the young brown, broadcasting further commands. Relayed back to the riders by their dragons, everyone got a running commentary.
Hold your wings out steady now, Roleth. A little lower... that's right. Keep them stiff and against the wind. Very good. Now, angle them back slightly, and you go up. Good.
Now, you need to curve your wings. Let the front bit go level with the ground, keep the rear part down a little...
The rest of the class watched as Roleth slowly descended.
Be ready to start running again when you land, you're still going fast. Down a little more... and... now!
Roleth stumbled a bit as he landed, but recovered well. His rider, D'ren, ran over whooping with laughter.
"Excellent display from Roleth there. Next – what about your two, rider St'ick."
Bet I'll be first up, Blitsif said promptly.
Stoic sighed, then walked out to stand between them.
Neither Blitsif nor Thornado bothered to do what they were told. The moment they were at full speed, both began the kind of slamming, energy-intensive wingbeats they had learned on Berk and shot up into the air.
Once in the sky, Blitsif let out a roar of joy at her return to her element. She essayed a quick wing roll, then a wingover, and circled Stoic once before landing next to him as light as thistledown.
Thornado, on the other hand, went up. He climbed like a homesick meteor, waved to the trio of safety blues as he went past, and then went into a dive which concluded in a four-point landing, sending grass everywhere.
Oh, come on, Canth said, very quietly. And only to the loopers. Show offs.
Yeah? Toothless looked up.
"I built another new dragon training tool.
Yay. The dragon lay back down. What is it?
Hiccup held it up proudly. "A lasgun!"
"No, seriously." Hiccup tapped the stock. "I set it up so it uses a tiny amount of energy per second, rather than being... well, as powerful as it usually is. Which means..."
He pointed it at the rock wall, and pulled the trigger.
A small, bright yellow dot formed on the wall.
Oooooh. Toothless watched it dance around. Shiny.
Hiccup released the trigger. "Yep. Heard Leman make one too many jokes about Guard troopers being issued flashlights, and so..."
Thornado skimmed low over the herdbeasts, roaring and snarling at them. The herd's stampede continued, heading towards a low rise in the terrain.
Blitsif beat her wings twice, rose over the hillock at a fair speed, banked her turn as the herdbeasts began to scatter, and matched speed with one for long enough to drop it with her talons.
Nice work, windbag, she sent, amusement robbing the epithet of any heat.
Not bad yourself, sparkbreath, Thornado replied, backwinging to land next to her. Want the front half this time?
Sure, she replied.
"They're growing quite well. You should be proud."
"Aye, that I am," Stoic said, looking up to see F'nor. "I wondered how they'd get on, at first."
"I must admit, so did I," F'nor agreed. "We've had multiple fire lizard impressions without so much as a blip – Menolly regularly has ten – but two full dragon companions at once is new."
Stoic nodded his understanding. "Well, it worked out. Must have helped that Hiccup helped train them both."
"Yes, he's a fine lad." F'nor shrugged, grinning. "Listen to me – he's older than me!"
"There is that." Stoic's brow furrowed. "Still makes me confused, though... how many other loopers are there here?"
"Well, not all of them are Awake. The harpers aren't." F'nor sat down, patting the ground next to him, and Stoic followed suit. "Let's see... me, my brother, his wife. She's not Awake this time either." F'nor tapped his chin. "Brekke is, Mirrim is, and Jaxom is. I think that's everyone..."
The brown rider then shrugged. "And their dragons, too, of course. No, wait, there's..."
You somehow forgot about R'ton, Canth supplied.
"No I didn't," F'nor replied, in tones of long suffering. "He's not R'ton this time, and he's not Awake either. He's a Harper – the Master Harper."
After the five loops in a row he rode bronze Zair, he will never be anything other than a Benden rider to me, Canth stated solemnly.
Seeing Stoic looking lost, F'nor waved a hand. "Don't worry about it. Local loop history."
"And, between you and me, I'm pretty sure I've forgotten a few. Mind like a sieve, you know how it goes." He snapped his fingers. "F'lessan, that's one I did forget. He's my nephew – or, will be."
I can think of at least one other you missed, Canth added. Consider it a memory test.
Stoic put his head in his hands. "I think I'm gettin' a headache."
F'nor stifled laughter. "Wait until you hear about timing it. I'm reliably informed that our admin would be pulling his hair out if he had any, because of that headache."
Canth stiffened, looking skywards.
"What?" F'nor stood, pulling his gloves back on. "Canth, what's up?"
Wirenth. Canth crouched, and launched himself skywards – without his rider. Excuse me, off to go continue an unbroken post-Awakening streak of seriously annoying bronze dragons.
"Well." F'nor followed Canth's flight path, until the brown winked between. "Excuse me, I need to go shower."
Stoic watched him leave. "Wonder what that was in aid of..."
His speculation was cut short by the arrival of Thornado and Blitsif.
Hi! they said, their mental voices overlapping. We caught another one!
On the hoof, this time, Blitsif added. I'm sure we could carry you now, what's the wait?
"Dunno," Stoic admitted. "Cost of making harnesses?"
Could be, Thornado admitted, looking down at his body – by now clearly pulling ahead of Blitsif in the size stakes. They've got to start some time, though.
"I'll ask," Stoic promised. "Well, when I get the chance, anyway..."
This feels weird, Thornado complained.
"I'm doing the best I can," Stoic replied, fiddling with buckles. "Hiccup does this much better."
I don't think it's a problem with your work, Blitsif said, testing her own range of movement. Mine feels fine.
Well... you're used to a harness like this, Thornado replied, scratching where one strap was chafing. Loosen that, please... and a single rope was always all I had.
Ah, the simplest form of saddle, Blitsif snarked. A rope.
"You know, I could always just tie meself to your belly," Stoic muttered. "You'd have to land upside down, mind, but it might be less hassle."
On consideration, I think I'll endure the harness, Thornado said loftily. Bit tighter on the left wing arch, please.
Stoic duly pulled on the indicated strap. "That better?"
"We'll have to do it all again in a month," he warned.
Yeah, but a month is a month. And at least we're finally going to be flying properly. With you and everything.
Stoic smiled warmly at the simple love those words held. "Aye. I've been away from the sky too long as well."
Who gets to go up first? Blitsif asked. I'm smaller, but...
Flip a coin? Thornado suggested.
You mean a mark, Blitsif responded. And we don't have hands.
"Fine, fine, I'll flip your mark." Stoic clipped one final buckle in place, and rummaged in his pouch. "Lemos or half?"
Half! Thornado called.
Just bad luck, that's all, Blitsif repeated to the blue. Besides, you'll get your turn today.
Thornado grumbled something.
"None of that," Stoic said, tone of voice erasing the sting. "She's right, you'll get your turn. Though why you're looking forward to carrying my weight, I don't know."
You're not that big, Blitsif assured him. And dragons can carry whatever they want to carry.
"Tell that to Toothless," Stoic replied. "Never stopped grumbling about me."
Well, that's sort of an exception, Thornado said, looking up. Weren't you almost as big as he was?
Not quite, Blitsif corrected. Half, easily.
Easy, now, Stoic sent to both of them. This isn't about my weight.
You're the one who brought it up, Thornado pointed out innocently.
And I'm the one who's going to lift it up. Blitsif crouched. Okay, loudmouth, be ready to catch us if something goes wrong.
Right, enough waiting. The green raised her wings, jumped, and slammed them down with all her might in the same instant.
O! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, she broadcast, as they gained height. And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings-
What's that? Stoic asked, as Thornado leapt into the air below them. I don't recognize it.
Canth taught me, Blitsif replied. He likes it.
"Well, it fits," Stoic agreed, as they climbed past the shadow of the bowl and into sunlight. "Hel's teeth, but I've missed this."
There's nothing quite like it, she said. Now – where is Canth? I wanted to show him we were up.
"Didn't you hear?" Stoic asked. "Apparently he and... Brekke? One of the other loopers... they're sorting out a move to take over High Reaches."
Really? But Brekke is a queenrider, why- oh. Blitsif's mental tone tinged with embarrassment. That explains where he went.
Thornado reached their altitude, and pulled up into a wingtip-to-wingtip formation. Canth, right? He's been smug ever since.
"Should I understand this?" Stoic checked.
Probably, Thornado replied, without elaborating. Okay, you're doing alright, sparky. Now, give me a moment to get into catching position, and let's try manoeuvres.
Stoic glanced down, seeing Thornado slip down and sideways in the air. Ready?
Blitsif banked, leaning into the turn. Now, I can't decide. Rolls, loops or spins first?
"I'm glad I've not had lunch yet," Stoic observed.
This is going to be so cool, Thornado said.
"This is going to get me killed," Stoic corrected. "How did you talk me into this again?"
You're a Viking, Thornado pointed out, explaining everything.
"True. Okay..." Blitz? You ready?
Ready when you are. Blitsif slowed slightly. Okay, now!
For about two seconds, he fell, air rushing through his hair and tugging at his clothes-
and then he landed on the diving Blitsif.
Perfect! Thornado announced.
"Whoo!" Stoic shouted, clipping himself to the Green's back. "Yes! It worked!"
Anyone would think you never were nervous, Blitsif said innocently.
"Of course I was nervous," Stoic denied. "What's the point of doing something like that if you don't feel nervous about it?"
He's got a point, Thornado said. Okay, I'm starting to feel tired.
Me too, Blitsif agreed. Let's go eat.
"Just make sure to drop me off before you go hunting," Stoic asked. He then felt some communication between the two dragons – but not what they were saying. "What's up?"
Thornado dove slightly, angling in below them. Blitsif turned her head to look back at him, and winked.
That was all the warning he got.
The green dragon abruptly rolled over in the air, wings still spread but with her belly to the skies and her back to Pern.
Stoic grabbed desperately at her back ridge and harness, as the world turned upside down. What in blazes-
You did ask to be dropped off, Blitsif pointed out.
Oh, you're very funny. Stoic glanced down, seeing Thornado below them, ready to catch – just in case. Now, put me back the right way up again.
So, this is firestone. Blitsif looked the dull rock over, and sniffed it. It certainly smells bad. Like rotten fish.
"I'm glad the smell isn't bad enough that I'm noticing," Stoic said. "What's keeping you?"
I'm nervous, okay? She prodded the firestone. I've never breathed fire before.
I have, Thornado contributed, chewing with a steady gravel crunch. Not something I do often, but I have.
He swallowed. Well, I can't say it tastes nice, but I'm not eating it for the taste.
Stoic touched Blitsif's wing shoulder. "I know – but, well... it's another new thing. Like all the new things we've done here."
You're right. I just – I miss lightning. Nothing is quite like riding a thunderbolt. Blitsif picked up a rock in her jaws, flipped it into her mouth, and began chewing. Erf, this is dry. Like eating... I don't know, stale bread.
After a few minutes, she swallowed. Ugh.
"Right." F'nor, now wearing his new High Reaches Weyrleader's knots, was still taking their class – after all, he could do what he wanted. "Everyone eaten their firestone?"
Nods all round.
"Good. Dragons take a while to digest firestone, so it's the job of the rider to keep them well stocked during threadfall. Now, I'm sure you've seen dragons flame before, but let's just remind ourselves." He gestured up at Canth, who was still looking insufferably smug. "Canth, if you could demonstrate?"
The brown nodded, head snaking around to point well into the air and away from anyone, and exhaled a stream of rippling orange-yellow fire. There was very little smoke.
But what struck all three of the newcomers from Berk was just how much there was. It didn't have the sticky quality of a Nightmare's fire, or the intensity of a Nadder, and it certainly wasn't as all-around destructive as a Night Fury produced. But it was over two hundred feet long, spreading to ten wide at the apex, and went on and on for several rolling seconds.
"Canth is a big dragon, but I hope you all see the point," F'nor went on, as the stream finally subsided. "There's so much flame that it's quite dangerous – so make sure to aim where no-one will be hurt if you misjudge the distance."
After that sobering reminder, he smiled. "But you're here for practice. Let's start with just flaming – in threes, since there's enough space over on the bare patch for three dragons side-by-side. The aim is to produce a good stream – it ignites automatically, so don't worry about that."
Thornado ended up in the third set of dragons to practice. His first few blasts were short, punctuated by coughs and hiccups, and entirely unsatisfactory – not until he calmed down and stopped trying to breathe like a Thunderdrum did he manage a successful fire-stream.
Blitsif was in the fourth set. Having seen the blue make his mistake, she instead resolved to ensure that she did not run out of flame early – resulting in the opposite, a cascade of flame which was long-lasting but entirely too thin.
Like him, her final attempt did pass muster, but it took them the longest of any hatchlings to click.
"Suppose you must have been trying to breathe lightning," Stoic said, as she walked – panting, but happy – back over to the others.
Yes, that's it exactly. When I breathe lightning, the blast happens so quickly it uses up all that I'd prepared for it in moments – so I try to make it happen slower. Blitsif's eyes briefly went yellow-orange, and she coughed up a pile of ash. Ughh... that tasted worse coming up than it did going down.
She grimaced her way through another dose of firestone, and they watched the remaining young dragons practice.
Wait a sec, Thunderdrum said suddenly. I think you might not need to have all that much of it – if you really don't want to.
Blitsif looked up. Oh?
Yes. Well – if we need Stoic to supply us, and there's two of us, then only one of us can fly to fight Thread with him.
That's true, yes, Blitsif said, nodding slowly in realization. But – I do want to help. Just... this stuff tastes horrible.
"What about that thing Toothless did to get you home?" Stoic asked, frowning. "Do they need that here?"
Good point. I'll ask.
"Between?" Mirrim frowned, then nodded. "Okay, sure. I'll teach you. But – Path hasn't turned up yet. My green dragon," she elaborated, at the polite confusion of all three. "I'll do it if you'll consent to giving me a lift now and then – I'd like to see Brekke, and of course she's moved away."
"Why didn't you go with her?" Stoic asked.
"I have to be sure I'll be here when Path hatches," Mirrim explained. "It's both inconvenient and painful to try to manage otherwise. Don't worry, it won't be often."
"Blitsif?" Stoic asked, glancing over to her. "It'd most likely be you..."
I don't mind. Blitsif shrugged her head. If you don't, I'm game.
"Looks like it's a yes, here," Stoic informed her.
"Right." Mirrim looked out at the sky overhead. "Well, it's still light... shall we start now?"
There was general agreement that they may as well.
"Okay!" Mirrim shouted over the sound of wingbeats. "Going Between is something that's mainly the work of the dragon, but the rider can help them out! The first step is to have a mental picture of where you want to go – the clearer the better, but don't imagine a specific time!"
"Why not?" Stoic shouted back.
"Because they can go there, and it just gets confusing! Right," Mirrim broke off for a moment, and checked the straps holding her to Blitsif. "Okay, I'm sending a picture to Blitsif, she should be able to pick it up!"
I have it, Blitsif announced. That looks lovely.
Can I see? Thornado asked, then: Okay, thanks. You're right, it does look nice. Where is it?
"It's a cove on the southern continent! It's where I picked up Reppa, Lok and Tolly, my fire lizards! Okay, you've got the picture in your mind – now, go there!"
"What's that supposed to-" Stoic began, and then Blitsif vanished.
Stoic blinked. "Where'd they go?"
Stoic, Thornado said, strain in his mental tone. I... can't do it.
"You can't?" Stoic repeated. "Why not?"
I'm... This time, the mental voice was full of disgust. Scared. I tried, and then – all I could think of was water, and cold, and... I'm terrified, and I shouldn't be.
Overhead, Blitsif rematerialized.
Are you guys alright? she asked, worried. What kept you?
Should I tell her? Stoic asked, privately.
Sure. Bitterness tinged Thornado's tone. She needs to know.
Blitz – Thornado can't help but remember what happened the first time he was taken between, Stoic summarized. I don't know what to do.
There was silence for several seconds.
I think I have a plan, the green said eventually. Give me a moment to drop Mirrim off, and I'll be back.
Listen carefully, Thornado, Blitsif told him, some minutes later. Do you trust me?
Thornado blinked. Of course.
"And do you trust me?" Stoic added.
Blitsif rose to match their altitude. Okay. Now, here's what I want you to do. Close your eyes, and fly straight and true. Stoic will let you know where to go.
Obediently, Thornado's eyes closed. He held his wings out straight, beat them as regularly as he could, and flew steadily east.
"Up a bit," Stoic told him. "You're tilting down a bit."
Thornado's eyes slipped open to check.
Keep them closed! Blitsif admonished him. Good.
She beat her wings several times, building speed, then half-furled them. Near-silently, she sped up to Thornado, and made contact between her back and his belly.
-and, with a rush of cold air, they materialized two miles up.
Thornado! Blitsif said, dropping away again and opening her wings fully once more.
Stoic patted the blue's neck ridges, feeling the dragon's chest heaving under him as he hyperventilated. "It's okay, Thornado. We're here."
We are? Thornado's eyelids cracked open. Then opened fully, and he gazed around him in wonder.
A blazing sun beat down on them, cool this high due to the thinner air but still warmer than Benden.
This can't be near sunset, Thornado commented, his breathing slowing. Did we actually time travel like Mirrim said we could?
No, this is further to the west, Blitsif explained. It's about three or four hours earlier here, because sunset takes a while to travel.
I see, Thornado paused. And -thank you.
Blitsif soared back up to their height. Sorry, by the way.
No, you had to do something, Thornado replied. I... I knew, in my head, that it was only as bad as it was because I was drowning and soaked, but in my heart... He shook his head. Now, I think, I know better.
He tilted down and banked slightly, beginning a slow descent spiral. Tell you what. Let's go swimming. The water down there looks lovely.
"I still don't know how you did this," Hiccup muttered.
What? Toothless beamed, wagging his tail. It's called subcontracting. Sharpshot was easy, you know Sharpshot.
The small Terror on Hiccup's head made a satisfied noise, lay down, and started snoring.
And Torch was almost as easy.
Hiccup glanced down, past his saddle and past the straps securing it to Toothless, to the back of the Zippleback they'd saved.
Toothless' own feet were gripping loops attached to Torch's necks, belly and tail.
"Yeah, okay, I get that. But to have the whole thing riding on the Green Death?"
I put a dragon on your dragon, so you can dragon while you dragon. Then I got on the dragon, and got a dragon on you when you got on your dragon. Toothless shrugged. If you would only use that morphing cube, I think we can officially make this recursive.
Blitsif dipped a toe in the water as the wave swashed up to her.
Oh, come on in! Thornado told her, sculling happily about with his legs. The water's lovely!
I'm sure, Blitsif replied. I'm still a little dubious, though. I mean – we're creatures of air and fire. Water is kind of the opposite.
Do I need to pull you in? Thornado splashed, then dove, and came up in a cascade of bubbles and air.
I... suppose not. Blitsif stepped slowly forwards into the surf, putting down one foot at a time, and making sure she was stably supported by the sand at every step.
"You know," Stoic mused, lying back on the shore. "It's certainly warmer here than Berk. There's that to recommend it."
It was about this warm at the island Hiccup and Toothless finally caught me on, Blitsif contributed. Maybe a little cooler. Ooh... yes, that does feel toasty warm once I'm past the breakers.
She raised her head over a small wave as it rushed up to her, then looked more closely at it. Hey, there's fish in here.
There's fish in the water everywhere, Thornado reminded her. One of the main plusses. Food just swims past.
He waved a wing. Come on! I know I kind of messed things up first time I tried here, but swimming really is great fun.
Last time I went into water, I had to be very careful to avoid getting my spines wet, Blitsif said a little tartly. The time before that, I believe there was a small explosion.
Oh, that's right, Thornado said, nodding. Sorry, I keep forgetting you're usually a skrill. But Pernese greens don't do that, any more than Pernese blues do. Shards, we can hold our breaths for about a quarter of an hour right now!
Usually meaning one life out of two... Blitsif observed. But point taken.
She slowly lowered her stance, and the waves splashed against her until one broke over.
There. Better? Thornado looked at her anxiously.
...yes, thank you. Blitsif took a breath, then lifted her legs entirely and began to clumsily swim out into the bay.
Try moving opposite pairs of legs together, Thornado instructed her. It should prevent you wiggling back and forth.
Stoic just sat in the sun, thinking.
This was, what, the third time he'd had an unusual loop. Once he was a dragon – now that had been strange. Once he'd been Thor, though he hadn't actually felt or looked different, just been elsewhere – which Hiccup assured him was pretty much normal for fused loops.
And then there was this one. Where he'd become a teenager.
He actually looked not a lot different from how he had as a teen back on Berk, and even the relatively short time he'd been here so far had been long enough that he'd really started to bulk out.
Something made him snigger. Was he going from St'ick to Br'anch?
Loud splashing issued from the bay. Stoic looked up, and saw his pair of dragons were now splashing one another, laughing like children.
Which they are, he thought silently to himself. Here, anyway.
Even if, all too soon, they'd be deployed to war.
He yawned sleepily, and lay back on the soft sand of the beach. It was, after all, getting on for full night at Benden.
A nap couldn't hurt.
With a wash of spray, Thornado landed in the water again.
It's really more comfortable than a land landing, he explained. Less difficult, anyway – you don't have to shed as much speed, and you can do the flare at a higher speed.
I know that much, Blitsif replied with a sigh. I'm not stupid, I've done it in emergencies. But – what about when there's waves? And how do I take off?
Well, when there's waves, you'll be aiming to come along with them, Thornado said. Since the water moves in the same direction the wind does, if you do a normal against-the-wind landing you can end up smacking into a wave at high speed. Doing it with the wind is what I've always found more comfortable. But – try it out both ways.
He frowned, considering. When there's really big waves... er, aim to land on one? That way, you've got a few seconds before the next one hits you.
I see. Blitsif absorbed that. And takeoff?
Myself, I think this one's easier against, unless there's really big waves. You sort of... use your wings to do all the moving, and try to get into the air as much as possible. Though I sometimes do this.
Thornado took a breath, and dove, leaving a few bubbles and then nothing.
Blitsif looked down into the water, looking for the Blue – but couldn't see him against the blue of the water. Thornado?
The male dragon erupted from the water, going at least four feet higher than the tops of the waves. His wings snapped out-up-down, capitalizing on his upwards momentum, and a few more wingbeats – and a cloud of spray – left him climbing out of the water and into the air.
...okay, that was undeniably cool, Blitsif agreed.
I'm kind of proud of it, Thornado admitted, circling. Let's see, what's deep enough for a dive landing – hello, what are these?
What? Blitsif craned to look.
I think they're dolphins. They sometimes come as far north as Berk.
One of the dolphins jumped out of the water, chattering. Another peered up at the circling Blue. Where's Berk?
Blitsif gaped. Did that dolphin just...
Yep! The dolphin did a loop underwater, and swam up to her. Hello! My name's Teres, what's yours?
Blitsif, Blitsif answered automatically.
That's a funny name. It doesn't have th on the end. Teres poked her with her bottle-nose. Are you sure you're not just pretending to be a dragon?
I am a dragon! Blitsif insisted, thoroughly confused. I've got wings and everything.
Could just be seaweed, another dolphin said, nodding sagely. I'm John, strange not-a-dragon.
But... Blitsif looked up at Thornado for help. What can I even say to them?
You could say hello, Teres said, chattering laughter. It's only polite.
They have a point, Thornado agreed, splashing down a safe distance away and swimming over. I must admit, though, I didn't know about the telepathic dolphins they have here.
By now, the whole pod was clamouring around Blitsif, swapping jokes and asking questions.
Help, Blitsif pleaded. I feel like I'm being mobbed by Terrors.
Thornado just started laughing.
Stoic reached into the panniers, pulled free a lump of firestone, and supplied it to Thornado. Here.
Thanks. Thornado crunched it down, and trimmed his wings slightly to maintain formation on Norith and Roleth. When is it going to-
There! Stoic pointed at the falling clumps.
Good spot. Thornado relayed the position to the rest of the wing, and followed as L'ren and Norith climbed to engage. I have the left clump.
Confirmed, Norith sent back, which Thornado relayed to Stoic.
Stoic's eyes were constantly in motion, watching the whole sky while his dragon was focused on the clump. It was part of his job, to free Thornado to-
Gouts of flame issued from Norith, then the browns flanking him, and finally from the blues forming the fringes of the wing. There was a moment of light and heat, and then black ash blew over them.
"Good work!" K'net called, his bronze dropping down to fly just above them. "Those ratty old fishing nets won't be troubling Pern again."
A few of the riders stifled laughter.
"Well, that's the last training session. Thread falls over Bitra tomorrow – your wing is assigned to my section," he added. "I'm sure you'll do well."
To his surprise, Stoic found himself looking forward to it.
Okay, just how bloody much of a Viking am I? He asked himself. One year of peace and quiet and I'm champing at the bit to go incinerate death-pasta from space...
Peace and quiet is another word for boredom, Thornado volunteered.
At that point, K'net's bronze, Piaynth, folded in one wing and dove like a brick.
What's- Thornado craned his head down to watch, banking slightly to allow Stoic to watch. He's going to hit the ground if he doesn't pull out!
Stoic suddenly realized what might be going on. But either way... Blitsif! Can you catch him?
Almost instantly, the former Skrill burst into being alongside the falling Piyanth. A moment's motion, and both dragons vanished.
Shouting and confusion broke out among the riders overhead.
Barely two seconds later, they erupted back into the real – just over the shallow lake, and going slowly and horizontally. Blitsif soared up and away, and Piyanth kissed the water with a splash before spreading his wings once more and ascending with powerful wingbeats.
It was a test, Blitsif said, sounding hurt. K'net and Piyanth wanted to see if I really could catch them.
Well, you did, Stoic sent back. Nice work.
Thanks, and now Blitsif sounded a little mollified.
"Nice work from your green, there, St'ick," K'net confirmed, rising back to their altitude. "Might be an idea to have a few other greens trained to do that as well – saving dragons is near as important as fighting Thread, and greens have less endurance than the other breeds anyway."
He flew a little closer to Stoic, and spoke more quietly. "Timing it is okay to make the catch, but tell her to be careful about it – and don't time it on the drop. There's too much of a risk of being in the same place twice."
"I'll tell her," Stoic replied, nodding. "Is the lake a good place?"
May as well, Thornado muttered. It's not like it's hard to land there.
"Should be," K'net allowed. "A few healers can set up there."
Stoic closed his eyes, as ash blew over them.
Left! Thornado warned, giving his rider just enough time to brace himself before hauling around in a brutally tight turn and flaming a clump of Thread.
A spout of coordinated flame from one of the wings further down incinerated a sheet of falling... space stuff, Stoic mentally labelled it. The remnants dropped a little lower, before being caught by a green riding sweeper.
This is taking bloody ages, Stoic grumbled. How long have we been up here, two hours?
Nearly. Thornado rejoined L'ren's wing, and they climbed hard for another sheet. Halfway there.
"Oh, sod this for a game of Romans." Stoic took the most important object in his Pocket, and raised it. "Fly straight, would you?"
Er... Thornado eyed the hammer. What's that?
"Mjolnir," Stoic informed him, and with a crack-THOOOOM, bolts of lightning blazed skywards. They hit the oncoming Thread, raced up it in an instant, and reduced it to blackened ash.
Mjolnir continued to crackle, and Stoic tapped Thornado's flank. "Higher!"
The blue answered obediently to the instruction, head tilted sideways to watch the fireworks.
As each wave of Thread came down, Mjolnir hummed and struck it from the continuum. Higher and higher they rose, up past the rest of the fighting wings, and into thinner air.
Well, the Benden dragons have got their act together, Blitsif reported from below. They're catching what you miss.
Glad to hear it, Stoic sent back.
And I really like what you're doing with the lightning. I kind of miss lightning-blasts now...
Mnementh materialized next to them. F'lar waved from his back, and they kept prudently out of the line of fire. "Finally got too much for you, did it?" the Weyrleader called.
"Aye!" Stoic replied, and Mjolnir hummed as it launched another bolt.
"Well..." F'lar considered. "We'll pass it off as Thornado doing it, or something. Dragons can do mysterious stuff sometimes."
I can lift things with my mind, Mnementh announced. And, you know, time travel and suchlike.
"Glad to hear it," Stoic said, spotting a number of Threads still unravelling from their space-travelling pods. A spin of Mjolnir, and he aimed for them. "Okay, let's-"
The sky lit up with a trail of lightning, spreading up and drawing a line of crackling blue into the heavens as far as the eye could see.
"Huh," F'lar said, squinting. "Mnementh?" He paused, then went on. "You seem to have got... all of them."
"...pardon?" Stoic lowered the hammer, panting, and then stowed it. "How does that work?"
"Something about superconductivity, I think." F'lar banked Mnementh. "Dear one, do tell everyone they can go home now."
Mnementh rumbled agreement.
Is that actually possible? Blitsif asked. I mean, if Mnementh can move things with his mind, and all dragons here are telepathic, shouldn't it be possible to do lightning?
"That's a pretty big should," Felessan replied. (Officially, the ten-year-old was being kept busy by St'ick and his dragons while his parents were in a conference.) "I mean, Golanth and I have probably done the most experiments about this kind of thing – Dad's too busy most of the time, and we discovered it anyway – and we haven't found electricity."
But have you looked? Blitsif pressed.
"Well, not really..."
Right. Blitsif nodded. Then that's what I'm going to try and find out.
"Fair enough." Felessan sat back, leaning against Thornado's back. "Man, it's good to have visitors sometimes. Uncle F'nor is just... weird, Jaxom's busy with learning Hold stuff, and none of the Harpers are Awake."
"F'nor?" Stoic repeated. "I quite liked him. Reminded me a bit of Gobber, for some reason."
"Oh, that's right, you're from the place H'cup and Toothleth from." Felessan snapped his fingers together. "Those two are cool. Jaxom, Ruth, Golly and I have been to Berk, a couple of times." He sniggered. "We had great fun messing with the chief. What was his name..."
"Stoic," Stoic said severely. "How exactly did you 'mess with' me?"
Felessan blinked, then turned red. "Oh, shards..."
"Don't worry!" Stoic started to chuckle. "I just wanted to see your face. But – really, what did you do?"
Felessan stared at the floor. "Um, set your house on fire, then had a dragon fire brigade turn up?"
"Dragon... fire brigade?" Stoic repeated. "How'd you do that? Scauldron? Big buckets?"
"Ruth went Between and dumped freezing cold water on your house. And, er, on you. Three times." By now Felessan's voice was almost a squeak. "And he got all the Terrors to help, too. All of them. Within a hundred miles."
Can I see what that looked like? Thornado asked, curious.
"Okay." Felessan frowned in concentration.
Thornado started giggling. You looked like a drowned rat, Stoic!
Ooh, can I see? Blitsif asked, then started laughing as well. At a silent request from Stoic, she sent him the image.
"Right." Stoic stood up, towering over the young rider-to-be. "Fair enough."
Felessan coughed. "Pardon?" he asked, incredulously.
"Well, I was a bit of a tosser before my son straightened me out." Stoic sighed. "I probably did deserve it." A thought occurred to him. "Actually, speaking of sons... how does that work, exactly?"
Felessan looked up. "How does what work?"
"Well, I've been told that this start for your loop was later than normal. Actually, from what F'lar said, it was before you were born. So... er... how does that work? You're a looper, your mother is a looper, your father's an Anchor, and the loop starts before you were born."
Felessan made an ah of understanding. "Right, I see what you mean. As I understand it, loopers can only have children if they had them in the baseline, and they basically always do when appropriate. No children in the baseline... no children."
"Right, I... see." Stoic took a moment to absorb the implications of that.
That meant that, no matter what happened in the future of the loops, Hiccup was the only child he'd ever have.
Not quite, Blitsif pointed out. Him and Toothless. Like twins born to different species.
...okay, have you been reading poetry? Thornado asked, incredulously. I mean, you're supposed to be a Skrill. You know, the ones who live for killing.
"That's whisperin' death," Stoic corrected. "Skrill aren't quite that nasty."
Blitsif stuck her tongue out. No, I haven't been reading poetry. I've been listening to it. I want to improve my image.
Felessan laughed, relieved. "Shells... Hiccup must have had quite an effect on you."
"He did that," Stoic confirmed.
Near the end of the second decade of the Ninth Pass, Stoic was relaxing in his room with Blitsif (Thornado was out swimming) when a litany of curses began to approach through the door.
The curses strengthened, then stopped, and someone knocked on the door.
"It's open," he called.
With a soft creak, the door swung open. A dark-haired young man came in, wearing riding leathers.
He actually looked surprisingly like Hiccup, in a way – though there were undeniable differences, as well.
"Sharding paperwork, sharding Lytol, and damn F'nor," the young man said, evidently concluding his litany of oaths from before. "Sorry. I'd have come to see you turns ago, but..." He dropped his gloves on a shelf, and sat down. "For some reason, whenever F'nor becomes weyrleader of High Reaches, my free time evaporates until I'm nearly twenty."
"...should I know you?" Stoic asked.
"Oh, sorry. Jaxom, Lord Holder of Ruatha."
"Ah, I remember." Stoic nodded. "The one who Impressed Ruth? And a looper, I recall."
"That's correct. May Ruth come in?"
Blitsif shifted off her place to allow Ruth to land, and the white did so gracefully.
"I know you've met all the other loopers some time ago. I'd have come, but – like I say." He shrugged helplessly. "At least we don't have to save that queen egg when this happens..."
"I have the feeling your life is... complicated," Stoic said, delicately.
"You do not know the half of it," Jaxom confirmed with feeling. "Anyway, enough about my troubles, they're old news. What I wanted to ask is – how's Hiccup?"
Stoic began to respond, then chided himself. Of course most of the loopers here would know his son well.
So, considering that, he spent a while thinking about how to answer.
"I think... well," he said, eventually. "He's never spoken about it, but I think my looping has taken a weight off his shoulders. The impression I get is... he was always guilty, he and Toothless both, about what happened with Drago – you do know about that?" he checked, and Jaxom nodded.
"Yes, I do. I still remember when he came here straight after a loop where Toothless wasn't awake, he messed up, and it happened again." Jaxom winced. "He... wasn't happy."
Toothless was nearly inconsolable over it, Ruth put in. It still ranks as the worst moment of his life, I think.
"Aye." Stoic's voice wobbled slightly, and he swallowed. "Aye. Anyway, he seems happy now, so I can only assume that means he's better."
He spent quite a long time trying to find a dragon for Stoic, as I understand it, Blitsif said. I was the final option.
"And the blue?" Jaxom asked.
Baseline. She tossed her head. He's alright, I suppose.
"Huh." Jaxom considered that, then shrugged. "Fair enough, then." He then looked over to Stoic again. "And how have you been dealing with looping? Especially here, on Pern?"
"It's a help, certainly," Stoic nodded. "Quite apart from not dying, I can reconcile with my wife earlier, avoid making so many mistakes with Hiccup... aye, my life has gone better. And as for Pern..." He smiled, slightly distant. "It's allowed me to truly talk to Thornado and Blitsif, and that's beyond price. And you've all helped, where you could, as well."
"Well, glad to hear it." Jaxom looked slightly uncomfortable. "Er – if you've been having problems when... was it Blitsith?"
Blitsif, she corrected him. Blitz is lightning, Sif is the wife of Thor.
"Right. Anyway... you have been coping when she rises, right?" Jaxom pursed his lips, trying to find the words. "To mate."
Stoic blinked. "Never thought about that, to be honest. And now that I do, I don't think she has. Risen, I mean."
Not once, she confirmed.
"But... er..." Jaxom looked thoroughly confused. "I mean, Ruth doesn't get involved in that sort of thing because he's technically a sport, but-"
Oh, I see. Blitsif flipped her tail. No, not interested. None of the dragons here interest me – too large, for the most part; not nearly purple enough; no spines; and not one of them can manage a decent lightning bolt.
Jaxom digested that.
"Oh, I see now," Stoic said. "You're only attracted to Skrill, right?"
Yes, that's it exactly. Why should my preferences change just because my shape does? I mean, if I already was in love with someone, that might change, but as it is?
"A fair point indeed," Jaxom agreed. "Now, I did manage to get a few hours free from my interminable meetings and tuition, so I think we've got enough time for me to tell you about your son's time here."
"That sounds perfect," Stoic said, with a smile. "I missed so much of what was important to him... even hearing about it would be enough."
I'll ask Thornado to pick up some wineskins on the way up, Blitsif volunteered.
"I alone rule the dragons!" Drago stated, swinging his spear. He stepped forward-
And the painted cloth he stepped on gave way, resulting in what could only be termed a plummet.
"Yes!" Hiccup said, punching the air. Toothless keened triumph beside him.
With no-one else Looping, Hiccup had pulled an old prank – and an old set of measurements – out of storage. The night before, they had crept down to the beach near his mother's sanctuary and dug a hole.
A very small hole. A very deep hole. A hole which was precisely sized to fit one (1) Drago Bludvist.
And a hole placed exactly where Drago would step, if everything went baseline up to that precise moment.
Worth losing my tail fin for, right there, Toothless declared, sauntering over to the hole and kicking a stone into it.
An echoing "Ow!" was his reward.
Ah, the morning after the night before, Hiccup sent to Toothless, sawing some planks. The day we repair everything that your lot broke in the village.
I seem to recall you weren't entirely without fault, Toothless replied, sunning himself on a branch half a mile into the forest. I mean, you did pick a terrible place to hide from that Nightmare. Again.
I know, I know. Hiccup passed another plank over to Astrid, who hammered in the nails for it with a sure, fluid motion.
"Thanks, babe. Looks like the next one we need is... two feet long, four inches wide."
"Coming up." Hiccup resumed sawing. "Wonder when Gobber's going to notice his dragons are all missing?"
"Never," Snotlout assured him. "Saw him using that Terror of his as a lighter when he thought no-one was looking. He's Awake too."
"Well, so are the twins, and Fishlegs... huh." Hiccup passed the next plank to Astrid. "Looks like everyone except Dad is Awake."
A low boom interrupted their conversation.
"What was that?" Snotlout asked, half-turning and reaching for something. "I don't remember this happening before."
"Sounded like a Thunderdrum," Hiccup supplied. "Fish?"
Fishlegs hurried over, trailed by the twins. "Yes, definitely a Thunderdrum. Male, slightly immature, a bit on the small size, and carrying a heavy load."
"Okay, see," Snotlout pointed. "This is what creeps me out sometimes. How the Hel can you tell all that from one bang noise?"
"Timbre, reverberation, and duration," Fishlegs ticked off. "In this case, I can also-"
Another low boom.
"Yep, it's getting closer," Fishlegs confirmed. "And it's coming from... there!"
Most of Berk were listening by now, and they all turned to look.
There was a crackle of lightning, and a crash of thunder. Out of the flash appeared two huge shapes – one squat and blue, the other long, graceful, and a purple so dark it was nearly black.
And, hanging between them, was a seat.
In that seat, holding a large hammer, was Stoic the Vast. Chief of the Hairy Hooligans of Berk.
"What in the name of Nidhoggr..." Astrid breathed, a sentiment echoed in general by everyone in earshot. "Did I miss something when I Woke up yesterday?"
"Nope," Hiccup replied. "Nothing unusual I can remember either."
"Then what is your dad doing in that?"
While they spoke, the accumulation had swept closer. It slowed, the two dragons beating their wings in time, and then settled to the ground, the ropes going slack.
Stoic stepped forward, and raised his hammer.
"Morning!" he said, cheerfully. "Meet my new friends, Thornado and Blitsif. They're both softies, really."
Toothless? Hiccup sent, suddenly filled with a wild surmise.
Already in the air, Toothless replied. And – yep. Both of them.
"Dad!" Hiccup said, aloud. "Seriously?Both of them?"
"Yep," Stoic replied, addressing him directly now. "Oh – Jaxom sends his regards, by the way."
"Oh, you lucky bastard." Hiccup shook his head, advancing into the – large – clear space around his father and his dragons. "What were they?"
Blue and green, Thornado informed him. I'll let you guess which one was which.
With a windrush, Toothless alighted in the cleared space. I'm not being left out of this one. Hi, Blitsif. Nice to meet you properly, Thornado.
He gestured over his shoulder, to where other dragons were appearing – Stormfly, Hookfang, Barf and Belch and Meatlug. I'm sure they'll all want to meet you too.
Ah, Berk, Thornado mused. It's good to be home.
"Just give us time to build special houses, okay?" Hiccup asked. "Toothless can just about fit, but we're going to need to either build a basement or fit an extra storey on top."
Can it be both? Thornado asked. I'd like a pool.
Ooh, if we're asking, can I have a lightning rod? Blitsif requested.
"Always the same." Hiccup rolled his eyes, grinning from ear to ear. "The world gets turned upside down by dragons, and I'm still cutting wood at the end of it."
We could always hire a Timberjack, Toothless suggested. I hear they have excellent work rates.
"Well, that's that," Loki said, with a satisfied smile.
His eldest son looked up. "How so?"
"Oh, just checking on the results of a couple of fused loops. Took a lot of energy, but it was entirely worth it." He pointed. "Here, one from your loop with a certain Anchor who got his start with your lot. Here, three of mine to Pern. And here, one of your lupine brother's Anchors and that place which Hel dotes on."
Sleipnir nodded. "I understand the last two. But the other one?"
Loki winked. "Give me a few secrets."
"What about Jorm? Are you involving him in this?"
"Oh..." Loki shrugged. "I had certain plans. Well, his code is usually involved with Pern anyway... but, anyway, I made him known to a certain research project, project 3325."
"...I have no idea what that's supposed to imply, Dad," Sleipnir informed him. "As usual."
The door banged open, and Jormugandr slithered in. "DAD!"
"But I'm about to," Sleipnir added, more positively.
"Why did you give that lot my résumé?" Jormugandr asked, pleadingly. "You know as well as I do that the 'Jormugandr solution' is just assigning me to fix all the chaos caused by time travel until I work out a code fix pattern!"
Loki smirked. "Well, you did say you were bored."
"Once! Fifteen hundred iterations ago!" Jormugandr brought his tail around, and nibbled on it nervously. "Rrrgh... I'm going to be fixing anomalies until I eat myself, I swear."
"...nope, still no idea of the specifics," Sleipnir announced.
Loki clapped him on a shoulder. "Learning's half the fun."
7.1: This just kept growing, I swear. Partly to explore Stoic, Thornado and Blitsif, partly to explore Pern as a place with loopers. (Canth emits medically unsafe levels of smug.)
7.2: Meanwhile On Berk 1: Imperial standard-issue flashlights!
7.3: Meanwhile On Berk 2: Yo Dragon.
7.4: Meanwhile On Berk 3: It's the little things which make it all worthwhile. Like the expression on Drago's face.
7.5: Triumphal Return. (Additional: all very secretive. But now you know why Stoic has two.)