Inked Scales

Constructive criticism is welcome. So are flames, actually.

This was a bit longer originally, but it is dragging on and on so I'm just splitting it into shorter parts.

(he different languages—and yeah, there will be a few—were run through Google Translate. FFn has an issue with that and decided to take out a few spaces between words.

If anybody has clicked this only for HTTYD or SOK, please, go watch the other. Both movies are gorgeous.

The Secret of Kells © Cartoon Saloon; How To Train Your Dragon © DreamWorks

(adrift)

The Northman held Aidan's life's work in huge, graceless hands. It flipped through the pages slowly, deliberately, coldly analyzing the beautiful patterns and bright inks. Unfathomable speech spilled from its mouth.

"En gyllene bok. Bra gjort ... bättre än de från ön, kanske."

"Vi kommer att ta den?" the one on the left growled. The growl was far different from the standard blood- or gold-lusting roars. It almost seemed to carry a tone of deference.

And Aidan realized that he was standing directly in front of the leader.

He flinched back, then felt Brendan's grip tighten on his cloak. The two Vikings that flanked them drew closer.

He wanted to reassure his apprentice, whisper that everything would be alright, that they would escape, all would be fine…but he couldn't. He was too terrified to form the simplest words, so he simply held him closer, hoping to give even the smallest comfort.

"Ja.Samtensom gjorde det." The ruler of the monsters who had destroyed nearly everything he held dear turned to stare directly at him. He shrank back uselessly, holding Brendan tighter.

Aidan let out a frightened shout as he was abruptly picked up by his hood. He hung limply in the left Viking's grip, too stunned to struggle. It swung him in front of the massive chief for inspection.

It watched him impassively for a few moments. It glanced back at the Book, then nodded. "Ta honom." Its tone made it clear what the words meant: "Take him."

"No!" Brendan launched himself at the Viking's towering form, only to be snatched up easily by the one on the right.

Aidan could only watch in horror as Brendan was easily subdued, arms twisted nearly behind his back. The boy howled and kicked to no avail, and the Viking snarled and prepared to throw

The massive leader raised a hand and let out a nightmarish laugh. "Det lilla barnet har en del kämpaglöd. Ta honom också."

Aidan was dropped onto his feet and nearly overbalanced. Brendan was dumped beside him.

The leader rumbled, "Det är nästan tid… Binder dem samman. Vi vill inte ha demigång." Aidan watched helplessly as it shoved the Book into its cloak.

The one beside Brendan pulled a rope from a hidden pouch and yanked the boy's arm out. The one on Aidan's side did the same to him, ignoring his cringe. More deftly than seemed possible with such massive hands, it tied the rope around their wrists, easily ignoring Brendan's wild struggles.

"Vi går. Resten kommer att ske snart och följa." The Viking leader turned towards Kells and let out a thunderous cry. It seemed to nod to itself and began to lumber away from the ruined village. With a thrill of horror, Aidan realized that the Viking was calling the others back.

Heedless of the two monks' terror, the Viking on the left held the end of the rope and pulled. Brendan instinctively dug his feet into the snow to stop, Aidan following his lead. The Viking merely snarled and jerked the rope forward, nearly pulling the two monks over, not bothering to pause. The message was clear: if they wouldn't walk on their own, they'd be dragged. And the Viking was strong enough to do so effortlessly.

The Vikings did not waste time and despite their massive size, they moved quickly. Aidan and Brendan had to strain their legs to keep up.

The rope was short enough that Aidan could see dozens of deliberately carved notches on its right horn, even with his failing eyesight. He tried to shift away, but the notch-horned Viking only pulled him closer. He shuddered when his arm brushed against its fur cloak, and didn't dare try to move away again.

-/-/-/-/-

At least a dozen of Aisling's wolves were dead.

The rest were running wounded, including her. A long gash ran from her right side down her back leg, and with every footfall, she lost more blood.

"Vänster. Fånga den." One of her pursuers stepped out of the darkness in front of her, angling its sword at her throat.

The Viking swung just a fraction of an inch too far to the right and missed. She whirled to the left to run—a tangle of bushes that she could vanish off to was only a few feet away—

(She almost escaped.)

—but then a Viking burst from the underbrush and swung its heavy axe. In a way, she was lucky; the blunt edge struck the side of her skull.

Her head rang. A mad pattern of red and white stars exploded in front of her eyes, and she was engulfed by black.

-/-/-/-/-

Brendan's breath hitched as Aidan stumbled for the third time in an hour.

Every time, Brendan expected the Viking that held the rope to turn and shove its sword through his mentor's throat. It never looked back, though the increasingly harsh tugs on the rope made is clear that it was getting more and more irritated.

Aidan spoke for the first time since they'd been taken. "I'm sorry, Brendan...I just—I don't know if I can keep up for much l-longer..." His voice lacked inflection, and his eyes were glazed over.

"Of course you can!" Brendan hissed back, frightened. Did he hit his head? he wondered, remembering the Viking tossing his mentor aside like a broken quill.

Brendan lowered his voice. "Look, we can wait until there's somewhere else to run—I can get these ropes loose—" (he didn't know that, but he wouldn't give up hope) "—and then we can run."

Aidan didn't seem to hear.

Snow was no longer falling from the sky, but the wind increased as the trees thinned. The freezing powder slapped into the procession. The Vikings shrugged it off easily in their thick fur cloaks, but Brendan felt the sting of every flake on his exposed feet, face, and hands.

Pangur was hidden in his hood, so he at least had a small source of heat on the small of his back. It was troubling, being unable to pull it up and block the cold, but he wouldn't let her suffer through the cold by her tiny self.

He didn't know if Aidan was feeling anything at all; he was visibly shivering, and his feet were nearing the color of his robes, but he wasn't favoring the leg that kept causing the stumbling. His eyes were pointed to the ground, and he was unresponsive to everything. Even the many (Brendan counted to nearly thirty until their matching cloaks threw him off) Northmen that were catching up didn't cause a reaction.

The sound of the massive beings stepping through the snow in perfect sync, of the howling wind, of the crows screaming above their heads drowned out his voice when he tried to speak to Aidan again.

The Viking at the head of the crowd had no such problems. "De material kommer att halv och hälften." It turned to their captor and growled "Fast inte slavarna. De kommer att vara kvar ombord med färre människor."

Both monks stumbled as the trees broke away completely. The Viking yanked the rope hard, but Brendan's attention was pulled away when he caught sight of their destination.

Was it the river that he and Aisling had crossed so many times before? It didn't seem possible. It was hugely wide, wide enough for the pair of ships resting on the water. The Vikings' ships. They were dead black, from the bodies to the oars to the sails. The prows had the heads of bizarre dragons carved from the wood, and the water shook them gently, giving them an illusion of being alive.

There were a few Vikings already in the dragon-ships. They called out to the ones on the shore and shifted the boats closer to the makeshift dock, made of fallen trees.

The Viking that had ordered their capture stepped on first.

"Vi fångade en varg med en ovanlig päls," one of the steering Vikings told it in rumbling tones. The lead Viking merely nodded, motioning to the one that held the rope, then to the ship opposite.

Before Brendan could react, the Viking that had kept to their right lifted two monks with hardly an effort, easily stepping onto the right ship.

Still holding them high, it called over, "Var ska de förvaras?"

The leader rumbled dismissively, "De är leveranser, där tror du de går?" and turned away, apparently absorbed in what the crewmembers were speaking of—but not before Brendan noticed something. Gleaming off-center of its chest was...

He'd seen it so many times, he didn't understand why he hadn't realized what it was before. His uncle's symbol of authority in Kells: his lunula.

Every emotion, every memory, every thought about Kells that he'd been holding back rushed to the forefront of his mind.

His eyes misted over as he thought of his uncle's body lying prone in the snow. How had he fallen? He was the Abbot. He was Uncle. He'd saved Brendan from the Vikings when he was less than a year old, killing three of the monsters in the process—though he wasn't supposed to know that, the Brothers talked...He couldn't have died. He couldn't.

And the Brothers... the fire...were the people in the church alright? The doors were strong—but the gates were much stronger—there was nothing in the church. Nothing but the wooden cross and the people. There was no reason—

'The Northmen left no one on Iona, they will leave no one in Kells!'

He was suddenly shoved to the planking, Aidan dragged down as well. The Vikings began to drop supplies around them, forcing the two monks to shrink back keep from being struck. They're making a wall, Brendan thought semi-hysterically.

And they were making a wall, though he didn't quite know why. Maybe so we don't know which way is home...even though there's no home left.

Everything plundered from Kells barricaded them in until he couldn't see any of the Vikings, or the trees, or the snow blowing in the wind. A robe caught in the wind and blew over them, concealing the sky.

...Uncle...Brother Leonardo...Brother Square...everyone...

Everything he had ever known had been torn away like a loose piece of paper.

Everyone is dead.

Brendan buried his face in his arms and cried.

-/-/-/-/-

Aidan had seen Iona's destruction, yes, but he didn't remember it.

In Kells, he had no time to think of that horrific night—he had the Book, and Brendan, and even the Wall (though he knew in his heart that it wouldn't hold the Vikings back, he still desperately hoped that Cellach was right) to worry about. Even his nightmares were vague—burning buildings, running, screaming. Nothing specific.

But the Northmen had found them and had shattered the walls, and Aidan had led Brendan and the Book right to them.

(He was in Iona, watching the church go up in flames with his Brothers still alive inside, screaming in agony as they burned. He saw those that ran before him fall with axes in their skulls and arrows through their chests.)

Brendan was going to die or worse due to his folly, and the only memory of Iona and his Brothers he let be torn from his hands.

(Woman and children took sanctuary in Iona—not as many as in Kells, but they were there. He saw the Vikings cut them down as well, throwing some of the weaker back into the burning buildings without care.)

There was no way out.

(A few of the strongest monks and woman and older children were herded onto their ships, though the number of taken was nothing compared to the number of bodies that littered the ground.)

no stop it stop it stop it stop it please

Brendan had been wrong—Aidan knew that he was surrounded by Northmen. He could feel the melting snow on his feet—

(He was running to the docks, but he had to race through blood to get there—his sandals were covered with gore by the time he stepped into the docks—)

Reality and memory were too much alike; one sparked off another horrible sensation or realization about the other.

(He saw one slide out a knife after throwing a trio of screaming children into the burning kitchens and carve a tiny notch into its horn. This horror was a contest to them, nothing but a game—)

Aidan wasn't a coward, but he was terrified beyond rationality; everything was falling out of focus and he couldn't get it back—

-/-/-/-/-

They weren't given much food—a shred of bread here, a bit of fish there, carelessly shoved into the tiny space. Brendan had to scramble to catch whatever it was so it didn't hit the filthy-smelling deck.

Usually it was barely enough for one person, let alone two and a cat. Pangur would wriggle through the small spaces between the supplies in deepest night, bringing scraps back to share.

Aidan did little. Nothing outside of his head registered; not cold, not hunger, not Pangur, not Brendan, nothing.

Brendan did his best to take care of his broken mentor, keeping his thoughts on that and nothing else. He made sure to keep their cloaks over each other and kept close to him so neither would freeze.

Sometimes Aidan sank far enough into the haze that Brendan had to force the food and water down his throat. Those were some of the worst moments, but he wouldn't let himself fall apart. Because Aidan—Aidan had endured so much before. He just needed a little time to readjust, that was all.

Brendan shivered and curled up just a little closer to his empty eyed-mentor. "You'll wake up someday," he whispered earnestly. "I know it."

...I know it.