A/N: I don't own anything of Dreamworks. Yet. This was a Halloween one-shot I wrote for a contest. Details at the bottom. Enjoy!
...If you dare.
The Tale of the Dragon's Wrath
"Toothless! Toothless stop!"
Laughter disrupted Hiccup's protests to strip away much of their authority. Toothless had the boy pinned on the dewed grass of their cove. Something about the returning spring had put the dragon in a very playful mood.
"What is with you, you deranged reptile?" Hiccup asked with affection. His hands fought to keep the dragon at bay as the beast licked and nuzzled his face.
Hiccup hated a fresh coating of fish-saturated saliva as much as the next Viking, but nothing could dampen his mood on such a beautiful day. The thaw had come early that year; the trees had already budded and the air tasted sweet and warm. Birds returned to the cove after a winter's absence and danced overhead, echoing Hiccup's laughter with chirps of their own.
"Toothless stop—" Hiccup said again. Toothless did not heed his command. The dragon's teeth had extracted—though Hiccup would be hard pressed to recall when that had happened—and the dragon pushed against Hiccup's feeble defense with greater intensity.
"Toothless—" The muzzle continued to descend on him and Hiccup continued to push the mouth away, the teeth away, but they loomed and grew, inescapable.
Saliva dripped from the pointed ivory and fell onto the leg of his pants. The fabric hissed and steamed. Fire ate away at threads in a corrosive, moving ripple. More saliva fell, in drops and in streams—touching his arm, his chest, his shoulders—searing at each point of contact with a caustic bite.
Hiccup screamed and began to flail—kicking, hitting, anything to get the dragon off of him.
"TOOTHLESS! TOOTHLESS STOP—!"
Fire encased him, blistering and cutting. He was falling and reaching all at once.
The jaws were impossibly wide now, a mouth so big it was no longer recognizable as Toothless'. Hiccup squeezed his eyes shut just as the maw closed around him and he heard it: the crunch within the darkness—
Hiccup awoke with a short cry. His hands went to his arms and desperately patted his body to quell a burning that was no longer there. His sleep shirt felt damp and the hair on the back of his neck clung to his skin in clumps. Hiccup had to take a moment to focus on his breathing, to gather his bearings and to reaffirm his surroundings—the dark, small loft of the chieftain's house. The hour was late, as told by the silence in and out of his home.
Just as Hiccup's heart rate began to slow Toothless' head emerged from the darkness.
"AHHHH!" Hiccup screamed and scrambled back into the bed's headboard. Toothless reacted in alarm as well; he released a short cry and sprung up onto an overhead rafter. The aged wood creaked under the weight.
"No—no—Toothless, it's okay. I'm sorry," Hiccup gasped. He needed to get control of himself and the dragon. "I'm sorry. It—it was just a bad dream. You scared me..."
Luminous, green eyes flashed forgiveness from the shadows. Hiccup heard Toothless drop to the ground a moment later. The Night Fury approached close enough for Hiccup to see the cocked head and dilated pupils.
Hiccup wondered how he could have ever been afraid of such a face.
A curious warble arose from Toothless' throat.
"It's fine buddy," Hiccup responded. "Here, come up on the bed."
The human scooted to one edge of his bed and patted the meager space he left for the dragon. Toothless' tongue lolled out of his mouth and without any further prompting hopped onto the bedding. There wasn't enough width for a mostly-grown Night Fury and a half-grown human boy to fit comfortably side-by-side, so Toothless settled a portion of his weight on top of his rider.
Hiccup allowed it, knowing his father would kill him if he ever caught the dragon on any furniture. His dragon's presence was a comfort, the night terror of moments past had all but left his memory, and it was with just the slightest physical discomfort that Hiccup relapsed into slumber.
"Och! Lad—watch yourself!"
"I got it!" Hiccup groused back at his master, matching the tenacity. The young man lifted the mallet onto an overhead hook, all the while trying to keep his grunt of exertion from reaching Gobber's ears. He then made a show of wiping his hands together. "See? Effortless!"
Gobber rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah...a regular Hotshot you are."
Hiccup ignored the barb and crossed the smithy to return to his workstation. He had a collection of twisted harness buckles and saddle stirrups that only seemed to build as more and more Vikings mistreated their riding equipment. It didn't help that Gobber refused to deal with any smithing projects smaller than his hand.
A rhythmic squeak sounded within the room as Hiccup moved.
"Oi!" Gobber barked. "I thought I told yeh tae get on that spring yesterday!"
That entire afternoon Gobber had growled and complained about the noise his apprentice made with every step.
"Oh," Hiccup said blankly. "Yeah, I forgot about that."
"Yeh had all day."
Gobber shook his head in disapproval. "Yeh need tae wake up Hiccup. Yeh were half asleep at th' bellow earlier. Go tae bed earlier tonight; don't stay out all night flyin', 'n' oil that damned leg!"
Hiccup banged a buckle back on the worktable.
"First of all, it's not my fault Toothless is nocturnal. Second of all, I went to bed early last night. I just...didn't sleep well. Actually, I had really disturbing nightmares. I can't really remember what they were about..." A peculiar look crossed Hiccup's face and he mumbled to himself, "Weird...I never have nightmares."
Gobber shrugged and pulled a sword from the hearth that had finished heating.
"Well, that can sometimes happens after some physical trauma," the smith said. He raised his hammer appendage and brought it down on the white-hot iron. Sparks flared from the contact.
Hiccup looked up from his project, alarmed.
"What physical trauma?"
"Don't yeh remember?" Gobber asked without breaking stride in his hammering. "When yer dad stopped by yesterday 'n' knocked down that fuller? It hit yer leg...that's probably why yeh didn't go out flyin'' last night. I can't believe yeh forgot; yeh nearly blacked out from th' pain. Despite what yeh might think, it is still healin'."
"Oh yeah..." Hiccup mumbled. He glanced down at his left leg. He had forgotten about that incident, just as he had forgotten the details of the nightmare. The stump had been bothering him all day but it was nothing he couldn't push through. "Well it's fine now. No harm done."
Gobber scoffed and hit the thermal sword with twice the vigor.
"Right, which is why I can't figure why yer still talkin' 'n' nae workin'."
The clubbed tail crushed them with the ferocity of a warship. Hiccup felt his ribs crack but he had no air left to scream; the vortex of fire sucked it up until he had nothing but heat to breathe.
Suddenly Toothless was no longer beneath him but far, far above—swooping and concentrated and desperately trying to close their distance. Hiccup reached for him; he could see his own hands wavering in his vision.
The dragon neared with every powerful beat of his wings—so close!—he was going to make it. They were going to make it. Hiccup could get back on Toothless and...and do something because together they could do anything.
The dragon was so close, so close, just a little closer and Hiccup could reach up and grab a shoulder-strap of the saddle.
Toothless' mouth opened in a scream, his teeth still out and eyes bulging with his intent. He twisted, his neck extended away from Hiccup's hand, the harness falling out of reach once more—
Agony erupted in Hiccup's leg and his body shook from a moving pressure against his shoulder.
"Wuh—?" Hiccup jerked into wakefulness. He noted the aching in his leg before he acknowledged the overhead presence laying a shadow across his face. The sun cast the figure in a silhouette; it took a moment for Hiccup find enough focus to realize it was Astrid who looked over him with concern.
"You were having a fit," the blonde said, helping him to sit up. "Are you alright?"
Hiccup leaned forward and rubbed the heel of his palms into his eyes. Maybe if he pressed hard enough he could rub out those last images.
"Ah—yeah...yes. I'm...I was just remembering..." Remembering what? Had that even happened?
Astrid's hand was still on his back. Her touched burned him like the flames of his dream and he wanted to lean away. He didn't want to associate her with those visions.
As though sensing these thoughts, Astrid moved her hand and took a loose hold of Hiccup's arm.
"Come on," she said in an unusually soft voice. "Let's get you back to your house."
Hiccup didn't respond to the gentle tug on his arm.
"Ah, no..." He pulled his hands away from his face and allowed his eyes some time to adjust to the light. The sky was cloudless and the sun merciless in warming the village. He must have fallen asleep on the hillside next to Astrid. They were just talking...why had he fallen asleep? Gods, he hoped she wasn't offended.
He turned to face his tentative girlfriend. Astrid was crouched beside him; she watched him with a perturbation he had never before seen on her face. Even in the most trying hours of mastering his new leg she had not let such a face escape her control.
"I'm fine—really. Sorry for falling asleep. I need to get back to Gobber's. I didn't finish all my work today..."
Astrid didn't so much as lean away from him. Her hand remained wrapped around his bicep.
"Have you been having nightmares a lot?" she prodded lightly.
"What?" Hiccup asked with the corner of his mouth tugging in a half-smile. Astrid didn't return it. Her focus remained on his pallor and exhaustion.
"You don't look very good," she stated.
"Thank you," Hiccup drawled. He found it hard to keep up the happy pretense—not when the last scenes of his unbearable nightmare continued to replay in the recess of his mind. His skin still felt hot, his leg still felt the echoes of agony, and there was something about these dreams that disturbed him like none other—a niggling truth that crawled up his back and down his throat.
Astrid's frown deepened. "You clearly haven't been sleeping. If you're not sleeping you could get sick. It's still cold—"
"Thanks, but I'm not that weak," Hiccup said, suddenly irritable. "Nor am I fragile."
As if to prove the point he shrugged off the arm she offered for his help and stood of his own power. His leg continued to ache straight to the bone. He wanted to hit something, to find a release for all the hurtful energy building in his mind and lingering below his knee.
His aggression, though miniscule, shocked Astrid.
"I didn't say you were—"
"But you implied it," Hiccup said strongly. He heard these implications his entire life. It was only after his accident that they were delivered kindly. "I'm not getting sick just because I had an nightmare—you wouldn't think to suggest that to anyone else with nightmares!"
"Maybe I wouldn't care if anyone else had nightmares," Astrid snapped. She stood as well, now at eye level with him.
"Because they aren't as weak as me?" His leg gave another angry throb. What was wrong with it? He'd been walking on it for months at this point; one little accident shouldn't have affected it this much.
"No! Because...because—" Astrid's face had gone very red and with her features set in such anger Hiccup was sure she would hit him. He braced himself when her hands. He would welcome her belligerence this time, if only for the distraction from his leg.
Astrid, however, didn't strike him. Instead, she took a step back.
"You know what? Fine. Go walk yourself back to the forge. I'm out of here."
She turned, her braid whipping over her shoulder, and marched back to the Kill Ring, where the other kids were likely weapons training.
Hiccup watched her go. The anger, the aggression, even the pain had left him. Yet he felt worse than ever.
"Well are yeh goin' tae stand there 'n' watch me work or are yeh goin' tae fire up that hearth?"
Hiccup jerked and the wrench he held slipped from his slack grip. He had been standing in front of the cracked shield for an unmentionable amount of time and the bolts weren't any tighter.
"Uh—oh, sorry! Sorry..."
The apology slid right past Gobber's ears.
"What is with yeh, lad? This is th' third day in a row yeh came in here without yer wits."
Hiccup didn't move towards the furnace as Gobber suggested. His eyes narrowed as he formed his thoughts into words with slow deliberation.
"I think...I think I woke up at some point when I fell."
Gobber looked at him with the left side of his monobrow lifted in question. "Eh?"
"When I fell from Toothless," Hiccup clarified. "When battling the Death."
The Death was what the village had taken to calling it. Some called it Green—others Red—but all could agree that the monster embodied Hel herself.
"'N' that's why yeh thought ye'd be more productive staring at my hammer?"
Hiccup sighed and braced his hands on the workbench. He wouldn't get anything done until he put his mind at ease.
"I thought..." Hiccup started with some difficulty. "I don't know...these dreams just seem so real. And they're repeating themselves—I swear it has to be a memory. I used to think I had been knocked out when the Death's tail hit me and then I woke up in my home. But now I'm getting such vivid memories of me falling. I think...I think I was dazed and..." He now had Gobber's full stare. Hiccup shook his head. "It sounds stupid, I know—"
"Nay, nay," Gobber waved off. "It was trauma, lad. Yeh could be rememberin' things yer mind blocked. Happens tae a lot with serious war injuries. Why...when I lost me arm it took me weeks until I recalled the exact dragon that took it. Fer some reason that detail had bin lost tae me directly after th' incident. In fact, it didn't come back tae me until I punched ol' Ack with th' wrong hand. I was still used tae me right-handed swing, yeh see."
"I don't even know if it's real," Hiccup pointed out quietly. He hoped it wasn't real. Something about those dreams left him feeling sick.
"Same one you had th' other day?"
"Ah, kinda, yeah...more detailed."
"Likely is lad, if you're having repeated dreams," Gobber said, managing to dash Hiccup's cautious hopes with those words. Gobber may have had the intelligence of an average Viking but his wisdom was that of a veteran.
"So… so I really woke up," Hiccup murmured, contemplative. "And then I must have passed out again."
"Is it a problem that yeh did?"
"No," Hiccup said quickly, with an assurance he felt was more for himself.
The Death had turned into nothing more than red and smoke. Fire mushroomed around him in a terrible prison that clawed and choked.
This was Hel. Muspelheim. The heat was unbearable, unbreathable, and everlasting. His skin prickled and seared and he just wanted out. He'd take the ground, he'd take death, anything to end this torture.
And then Toothless was there—his savior, his best friend—so near that Hiccup would have sobbed with relief had he the strength. All of his effort went into reaching for the saddle; he just needed to connect with Toothless and everything would be okay. Just one more flap of the wings and his fingertips would brush the cracked leather, leather he crusted, coated, and cut.
Toothless was now so close that Hiccup could see something red flare around those slitted pupils—either a reflection of the surrounding flames or a different power within.
His fingers closed around nothing when his dragon drew back. Hiccup had no time to question what had happened or wonder at the new distance. He could only watch in muted horror as Toothless re-aimed those open jaws and clamp down with savage intent.
Pain blinded him—so fresh and so extreme that Hiccup continued to scream long after he woke.
"Hey...would you say dragons are forgiving?"
Hiccup asked the question Gobber hit the peak of his swing. The flat head of the hammer hit the anvil just shy of its intended target.
Gobber laughed, uncaring for the blunder.
"Dragons?" he repeated. "Yer yankin' me boy!"
The blacksmith continued to laugh until the weight of Hiccup's stare lingered a little too long. The gravity set in his apprentice's face took some of the mirth out of Gobber's. He shook his head.
"Look—yeh might like tae see dragons as misunderstood and helpful...but they're still dragons. No lad, dragons are nae forgivin'."
"But..." Hiccup floundered for a moment. "Look at what they've done for us—with us. We've been capable of so much with them by our sides and this is after a war with them. That has to count for something."
Gobber sniffed and wiped his nose on the back of his hand. Changing seasons always aggravated his sinuses.
"They'll tolerate us, I suspect. Anyone would be better off without Vikings tryin' tae kill 'em; they're smart enough tae recognize that much at least. But they ain't like you 'n' me. They aren't capable o' things like forgiveness. It's just nae in them. They're selfish things, dragons are."
Something struck Hiccup hard; the uncontrollable impulse to defend his dragon, because when he thought of forgiveness, he thought of Toothless.
"Toothless saved us!" he pointed out. "He helped free the dragons from the Death."
Gobber shook his head again. "He helped free 'imself, more like. He was just as much in danger o' the rest o' them. That dragon had number one on th' mind—I can guarantee it."
'But Toothless would never be free.' Hiccup thought with a sinking sensation. 'He would forever be bound to a human.'
Gobber went on, cheery as could be. "He probably saw yeh as an opportunity tae—"
"Stop it," Hiccup sighed. He hated the "old timer" talk; the voice of the generation that still spoke of their war horror stories and all that dragons represented. "It wasn't like that."
Gobber lifted up his hands to show his objectivity.
"Say whit yeh will about them, but I've known dragons longer than you have. Maybe nae in th' same way, but just as strongly. It was th' same dragon that got me arm and leg, yeh know. The very same." Gobber waved the hammer-ended arm around in the air a bit. "I got that devil a good one, right down the eye—blinded it—'n' he remembered me. He remembered 'n' he came back for me leg. Had tae even it out, see?"
"No," Hiccup said shortly, not liking the distinct discomfort he felt at the revelation. "I don't see. He took your arm first—that's not even."
Why Gobber had never told him this? Why did this affect him so much?
A rueful smile spread beneath Gobber's mustache and the smith turned back to his work.
"It's th' fact that I had th' nerve tae attack him in th' first place. Didn't matter who swung first."
Hiccup's eyes fell to his prosthetic of their own accord.
"Wrath," Gobber stated, taking up his hammering once more. "Dragon are full o' wrath 'n' vanity. Do well tae remember it.
Hiccup lowered himself into his father's large, bear-hide armchair and began to loosen the straps of his prosthetic. Two seasons had passed since he lost his leg; the cup felt too snug, it cut into the flesh below his knee and pinched with every step. He'd have to get it re-sized, and he'd have to do so again and again until he stopped growing. Even then it would still break, still need maintenance...
What he wouldn't give to feel pain in his real foot again. To be able to leap out of bed without needing to attach a fake leg. To be able to run at a moment's notice; to sprint and jump and climb. How he wished his body would grow naturally.
Hiccup took a breath—he learned long ago not to think like that; it would only upset him—held either side of his prosthetic, and yanked the tight contraption off of the recently tenderized stump. His flesh screamed, air rushed into lungs in a sudden gasp, and something flashed in his mind's eye.
The fire, the teeth—their eyes met—Toothless so close and then—he pulled away. He sunk his teeth into Hiccup's left shin—
Hiccup's hands dropped the prostatic to spasm around the explosive sting of his leg. A small whimper escaped his throat and he bit his lip to keep from crying out. The prosthetic clattered against the floor.
The noise caught Toothless' attention, who had curled on the sharkskin run for a nap. He roused, peaking an eye open and shifting the tail covering part of his face—a blatant exposure of the one fin.
Vanity. Dragons are vain creatures.
Hiccup drew in a shuddering breath. His leg would not stop burning. His fingers would not ease their iron grip around the nerveless, puckered flesh.
"Toothless...?" his prompt was soft and winded.
Hiccup knew he had the dragon's full attention when the tail slid further to reveal more of Toothless' face. Their eyes met and something twisted within Hiccup's throat—something harsh and terrible to squeeze his heart.
His leg gave another painful throb.
"I..." Hiccup didn't know how to phrase this. He didn't know if he could. "When I was falling...I woke up, didn't I?"
Toothless continued to stare at him—not in confusion but with a patience used in waiting for someone to work through a problem on his own.
Hiccup swallowed dry and wet his lips.
"I've been remembering," he admitted quietly. "I came to and I reached for you..."
He couldn't meet those clear, green eyes anymore so Hiccup stared at his leg. He stared at the stump that would never extend any further beyond his knee, the handicap that robbed him of spontaneous mobility.
"I thought..." He thought everything would be okay. For one moment, despite imminent death rushing up from the ground to greet him, he actually believed...
Hiccup spared another look towards Toothless. The Night Fury was calm, almost amused, as he struggled with his words. And it was this calmness that made it all clear to Hiccup; it was the profound understanding between dragon and rider that relieved Hiccup of the denial that had been keeping him from speaking the truth.
"You did this on purpose."
He said it as a statement because that's what it was. Perhaps Toothless had been waiting for the right moment, the moment where he could prove dragons capable of living along side humans and still be forgiven. It was strategic.
Toothless rested his head on crossed paws and continued to stare at Hiccup with eyes as big and as innocent as he always used for his boy. There was no denial to be read, no remorse. The dragon was completely unrepentant. There was nothing to repent.
Dragons are full of wrath.
They were even.
Eeeee...disturbing! This isn't how I actually think things went down, of course, but I saw this as a unique and fun opportunity to explore dragon mentality using elements from the books.
This was my entry for the Httyd-fanarts groups' Valhalloween contest...which I won! I put the link at the very bottom of my profile so you can still go to the poll and read the other entrees. There are some really good ones and a nice variety of "scary stories" to cater to your individual preferences. It's a nice tribute to Halloween :)
So what did you think? Good Halloween vibe? Or did I ruin Toothless for you forever? I wasn't even sure if I should bother putting this up here but, after spending a day building a haunted house, I was in the spirit to spread some chilling cheer.