ENTER THE NIGHTMARE

A HTTYD STORY BY CROWNFLAME/CHEESEFRITTERS

I have never eaten a human.

For some reason we Monstrous Nightmares have a bad reputation for that sort of thing. I can't imagine why. Sure, we're opportunistic hunters. We've got big mouths. We've got to take what fortune gives us. It's not like we go looking to eat the little Vikings or anything. But, I mean, if you're starving to death, and this little helpless human just happens to be tottering around all on his lonesome, and you could so easily just reach out and gobble him up, well… wouldn't you?

I mean, let's face it. Humans are clever creatures. They don't really like to be eaten. Most have the brains not to give us the opportunity. If, by some rare chance, one does, he's probably sick and insane and has got it coming anyway.

Honestly, what kind of stupid human goes out all by himself while we're raiding, and makes a huge attention-grabbing racket, clanging and howling at the top of his lungs? Especially when he happens to be weaponless and tiny and perfectly bite-sized?

If that isn't asking for it, I don't know what is.

…All right, all right, so I'm still a little bitter.

Honestly, I don't think about it much anymore. I don't. I'm considerably more well-fed now than I was back when we had to raid, and the humans just don't seem like they'd be all that tasty to me anymore. I mean, really. Bony. And why eat them when they're all-too-happy to fill up your belly with as many fish as you care to eat?

But I must confess, when my stomach gets a little empty, and I'm in one of my moods, I can't help wondering what it would be like when I see that little bite-sized one again.

The little one. You know the one. Clanks when he walks, speaks gently and softly, brings the freshest fish, knows precisely where to scratch under your neck…

He still occasionally makes a racket.

I know it's silly. I mean, I know he's just about as bony as a human could probably be. And I have to admit, he's not as stupid as I thought he was. He knows exactly what we need when all the other Vikings are scratching their tiny heads. I really would genuinely miss him if he were to actually be eaten up.

But there are still times when he just seems so downright delicious to me. I mean, sure, he's not particularly meaty, but meat isn't everything.

I suppose you wouldn't understand. It's kind of a Nightmare thing.

It's just… he's so little, I could swallow him alive.

Even if he struggled, it would be easy. Squealing and squiggling all the way down

Ohhh, just thinking about it makes me shiver.

But it's not worth thinking about. I really do need him. Unlike the others, he always remembers when I need to be fed, and he can put the saddle on me so that it doesn't pinch. The one who's supposed to be in charge of me isn't so good at either.

And anyway, there's also that Night Fury he keeps nearby. I don't think that dragon likes me. He sees me looking at his human, and he snarls at me. I think sometimes he knows what I'm thinking about.

I don't know why he gets so mad at me. I don't think he's as innocent as everyone believes he is, either.

Honestly— I really think there's something funny going on with that dragon. Him and that human. Sometimes, when the little human comes to tend to me, he smells funny. I mean, usually he smells really good, soothingly of ash and smoke and sweat and leather, but then there are times when he has this sort of sweetish fishiness to him. It's an old smell I recognize from the food my mother would regurgitate from her belly-basket for me when I was a hatchling. It's the smell of the inside of a dragon's crop.

You don't get to smell that way just by being affectionately licked.

But no one else seems to notice. The human sometimes acts a little odd with his dragon on those days, but otherwise seems perfectly okay. If something is happening, it must not scare him, since he and the Night Fury are practically inseparable.

But I know what's happening.

Maybe the little thing wouldn't mind if I had a turn, too.

But how would I ever get the opportunity…?

Today, the Nightmare had a toothache.

I don't know what was with everyone today up at the Dragon Ring, really. It just got better and better. The Zippleback kept biting herselves, the Terrors are still gnawing off bedposts, and I had to work for about two hours to settle down a Gronckle with a head cold.

Have you ever seen a Gronckle with a head cold? It's not fun.

It's been rough lately up there. Right now, everyone's dragon-issues fall on me, and it's not exactly easy to be the only thing standing between everyone's dragons and all hell breaking loose.

I wish I had help.

Anyway… look at these pages. Gobber has been telling me for ages that paper and dragons don't mix. Maybe one of these days I'll actually listen.

(Yeah— I just kind of… tried to let it air out for a while— I know it's sort of sticky, but I can't really be bothered to bind a new book right now. I'm getting a little sick of all my documents smelling like digested fish, though.)

Anyway... How did I ruin yet another notebook? Guess.

Yes. Eaten. Again.

By the Nightmare, actually, this time.

Yeah, Thor just thought I would appreciate even more hands-on experience in dragon biology. Lucky me. I swear, all this better be earning me a top bunk or something in Valhalla.

I think it's Snotlout's fault, really. I've been trying to teach him to pay closer attention and learn how to read his dragon, but he tends to flake out and avoid her if she seems upset. By the time I got around to her, she was pretty irritable and running on an empty stomach.

Yeah, Snotlout. Let's NOT feed the creature with the reputation for man-eating.

Of course, at the time I wasn't too worried. I had a lot on my mind.

Sure, Hookfang and I have had a shaky past— but I don't think it's her fault, really. Now that I've worked with her for a while, she's usually very cooperative. She, like all the other dragons, seems to know that I'll fix whatever's wrong with her, so I suppose I've come to trust to a certain extent that she's not going to hurt me. I guess I assumed I was finally off the menu for her.

Well, you know what they say about assumptions.

My stomach growled when I saw him.

The Night Fury got all uppity, but I swear I wasn't actually thinking about eating that human at the time.

I had a lot of other things on my mind. Like how horribly my teeth hurt, and how devastatingly hungry I was, and how mad I was that nobody had fed me, and how scared I was that I wouldn't be able to eat anyway, and why on earth I was back here in that horrible Dragon Ring where the little Vikings once tried to chase me around and poke me with little sticks.

I snorted grumpily at the Night Fury. I was starving. I told him I could just as easily make a meal of a little black dragon. My stomach wouldn't mind.

He growled at me and bared his teeth.

His master told him to calm down. He shut up.

I tried to smile. It was probably more of a grimace. Not that anyone would know the difference.

The Night Fury glared at me, and then reluctantly followed his master, eyes narrowed at me suspiciously. I settled my head on my talons, groaning in agony.

I didn't want my teeth to hurt. I AM my teeth. I need them. For grabbing things. Especially little wiggly things.

I watched the little human closely. He spoke to my rider. Kind of scolded him, actually.

My rider's big and stupid like all the other Vikings. He always needs the little one to help him take care of me. I think my rider is scared of me. But the Night Fury's small master isn't— not anymore. Or he doesn't show me he is.

I moaned unhappily. I didn't understand why they were standing there on their wonky back legs chattering when I was right here writhing in agony. I wanted the little one to fix my teeth. I knew he could. He can fix everything.

I raised my aching head, and thrust my snout in between them, snorting grumpily. They leaped back from me in surprise. The Night Fury snarled and snapped at me. I hissed.

The tiny human gently put his paw on my snout and spoke softly to me. The Night Fury settled down, but still rumbled ominously deep in his throat. I subsided into a moan, and then a whine, and then I let my head drop to the ground, shutting my eyes.

I didn't feel good.

The thing about the Monstrous Nightmares is they know exactly what they want.

Hookfang did not hesitate in the slightest to show me what the problem was. She came down near me and opened her jaws wide.

It was surreal. The mouth of a Nightmare is simply massive, and here I was staring right into it— with her, in all her wild carnivorousness, patiently waiting for me to make the next move, her long flat tongue twitching irritably down in the pit of her shovel-like jaw.

Of course, the capabilities of such a mouth should be pretty self-evident. A ridiculous number of huge, sharp teeth, all longer than my forearm, jut from a jaw longer than the bunk where I sleep at night. The hot breath she gasped onto me was thick, rank, and sticky, smelling of the deaths of thousands of unfortunate animals.

It all sort of served as a gentle reminder that I had nearly met my end in that mouth at least once.

Toothless pushed his head up under my hand and growled deeply. I don't think he's forgiven Hookfang yet. Whenever I work with her, he gets so uptight. It's really unusual for him, actually— he's friendly with all the other dragons. He licks gently at the Nadder's face and plays the most incredible chasing games with the Zippleback— but around Hookfang, he goes tense and gets really overprotective.

He might as well be Dad. I know he's trying to be helpful, but he can be quite a nuisance when he's trying to keep his body between me and the dragon I'm trying to work on.

I pushed gently on his snout to reassure him, and stepped forward to get a better look at the Nightmare's teeth.

I suspected that she probably just had a toothache. I explained this to Snotlout. He was puzzled.

Of course, I couldn't blame him. I've only just begun investigating the care of a dragon's mouth myself. Come to think of it, that's probably what's been getting me in so much trouble lately…

You see, being in captivity seems to cause some problems for dragons— I'm pretty sure they don't get things like toothaches in the wild. There must be something about the change of diet and habit that gets to them. Lately, I've been trying to figure out exactly what.

I put my hand carefully on Hookfang's snout, took a deep breath, and peered inside. I felt Toothless' nose on my shoulder, puffing nervously. I didn't immediately see anything wrong, but I was sure if it was one of the teeth, it would be a back one. I took a rag from my pocket and gently touched one of her front fangs. She jerked away nervously, so I waited. I was going to start by wiping off her front teeth, which would hopefully warm her up to the idea of me poking around deeper in her mouth.

Toothless actually enjoys this—having his teeth polished. When he gets overexcited, he forgets to retract his teeth when he breathes fire, which results in him getting this tacky black stuff all over them. If it's left to sit, it makes his gums all red and puffy, so he likes to make me wash it off.

Of course, a Monstrous Nightmare's fire works quite a bit differently than a Night Fury's, so it doesn't leave residue like that (otherwise, we'd probably have Nightmares with retractable teeth!)—but I figured if she liked having her teeth polished as much as Toothless did, then she would be much more cooperative.

(Coincidentally, I've tried this on myself few times as well. While I don't quite understand why it makes Toothless purr, it does seem to make my gums and teeth feel better—sort of smoother—particularly after eating something that gets tends to get stuck in between.)

He tried to touch my tooth.

I wasn't so sure if I wanted him to. I mean, I wanted to be fixed, but I'm not used to little creatures like him wanting to be near my teeth. And it was the wrong tooth, anyway.

I gurgled curiously, narrowing my eyes down at him, puffing him with hot air so his fur blew back.

He looked so very small.

He blinked, and spoke softly to me and held the rag up, waiting for me to settle my head down close again.

I glanced at the Night Fury. He was looking at the rag and working his mouth contemplatively. He blinked back at me. He thought I was being silly. I narrowed my eyes at him and jerked my head back down, bumping the little human in the knees with my lower jaw. The Night Fury nipped his master's coat to keep him from falling over, and bared a few of his teeth at me.

I ignored him and opened my mouth wider so all he could see was how much bigger my teeth were than his.

The small Viking touched my tooth again—the very tip, so I could barely feel it. He wrapped the rag around it and rubbed all the way up to my gums—I twitched. It tickled. That was weird. I moaned, puzzled. He moved to the tooth next to that, and the one next to that, and then started doing some of the bottom ones too. It felt really bizarre, but not bad. It was even kind of nice, near the gums like that.

I reached with the tip of my tongue and poked curiously at my teeth. They seemed smoother where he had touched them. I licked at his salty hand, trying to feel what he was doing. He tensed a little, but kept going, gently rubbing up and around each tooth. The Night Fury growled softly, practically attached to his master's shoulder.

The smallish Viking looked down, very focused on what he was doing. His other hand rode gently along my snout as he moved down the row of teeth. As he did this, he spoke evenly to my rider, who hung back a few paces. My rider looked somewhere between horrified and clueless, which is sort of what he looks like all the time.

I wonder why my rider doesn't clean my teeth like this, because it's a good idea.

The small human clanked gently as he paced gradually toward the back of my mouth, where it was achy. I squinted my eyes and twitched away from him a little, making a disgruntled noise. He slowed down, ducking to peer into my mouth again. With his little fingers, he loosened a bit of meat stuck there between my teeth, then wiped it out with the rag. He found some more between the next two teeth.

I jerked when he touched between the next pair—vibrant, throbbing PAIN. I moaned and twisted out from under his hand.

He sighed and chattered at my rider.

Snotlout had fed Hookfang sheep. On an astonishingly regular basis.

It's a good thing everyone else didn't think along these lines, or we'd be having the economical equivalent of dragon raids again. We'd be going from the dragons taking all of our food… to the dragons being FED all of our food. Rather counterproductive.

And of course a dragon will happily eat whatever it gets. Toothless will gorge himself on fish until I run out, even if he gets so full he's too swollen to fly. A Nadder will even gnaw on the feeding trough.

A few sheep, I'm sure, was a welcome treat for the Nightmare.

Anyway, Snotlout's confusion was understandable. It seems like it would make sense. During the old dragon raids, the bigger dragons like the Nightmare would carry off or eat sheep all the time. But then, you have to remember, they were also supposed to be out to feed a bigger dragon at the time. Chances are they were grabbing what they could get.

Big dragons need big food, right?

Well, not necessarily bigger, so much as more.

Most of the dragons of our Archipelago seem to be built to hunt and subsist almost entirely on fish—something we could actually use to our own advantage when it comes to gathering food. They have large pelican-like lower jaws for dipping fish from the sea while flying, as well as teeth similar to aquatic predators like dolphins and whales. These teeth are good at grabbing, gripping, and spearing floppy fish, as well as snapping off quick easy-to-swallow chunks, but they're not built for prolonged gnawing on large, tough hunks of, oh, I don't know, say, mutton.

It's amazing how big a hunk of meat has to be to get stuck between the back teeth of a Monstrous Nightmare. She even had a couple bones neatly wedged back there. Those couldn't be comfortable—she jerked away when I thought about touching them. Ouch.

In the wild, if something like this happens, the dragon will chew on a tree branch or a bit of wood to get the food loose. Toothless did this a lot the time he'd caught a deer.

(Yeah. As it turns out, dragons actually do need toothpicks—and I'm much more efficient than a tree.)

Still, it wouldn't hurt to keep some branches handy for the dragons up at the Dragon Ring.

I tried to talk Hookfang back down to me. I could get the bones out, but it wasn't going to be easy. She snorted threateningly at me, but I stood my ground and just offered the now-damp rag again. She narrowed her eyes at me, and sighing, presented the teeth.

Toothless hung close to my elbow. I pushed him away, scolding him a little this time. He was sort of becoming a nuisance.

I started again a few teeth forward and slowly worked my way back, making sure she was ready for me. She trembled and whined, puffing nervously, but she closed her eyes and held still. I started at the very tip, gently working my way up to the rather impressive hunk of meat and bone stuck there. The flesh looked to be padding it out. Very carefully, I tugged it away, bit by little bit, until all that was left was mostly bone and gristle. It was wedged pretty tight, right between, like it was trying to be a tooth itself. Ouch.

I left it the way it was for the moment, and proceeded to clean the rest of her mouth. Most of the rest was just easily removable hunks of flesh, but she did have a couple more bones like this, on both sides of her jaw. Utterly stuck fast. It made the Nightmare nervous when I was near them, and they wouldn't so much as wiggle when I first touched them.

I sighed deeply and put the rag away. This was going to be fun.

Hookfang whined and lapped curiously around the bones stuck in her poor teeth, evidently wondering why I hadn't cleaned THEM out yet. I reached reluctantly and petted her greasy tongue, cupping my hand around and pulling it towards me. For some reason, dragons like having their tongues touched. She would need some reassurance, and if her tongue was poking on this side of those massive teeth, she'd think twice about snapping down on me.

Her saliva was HOT and tingly—sort of oily, and it took me a minute to work up the stomach to tolerate it. Ugh. I looked away and tried not to think about it, absently squeezing my fingers into the soft, oozy rough flesh. After a while, her moans lost their shrill edge, and she seemed to be lapping back into my palm. Good.

Very, very carefully, I raised my other hand and slid my fingertips into the gaps around the first bone, searching for a way to grip it. Once I could work my fingers around it, I gave it a steady, even pressure. Hookfang went tense and whined—and then it popped loose. Phew. I gave her tongue a good rub and proceeded to the next one.

It was a relatively easy procedure. Hookfang didn't like it much, but she behaved, and for the first two or three bones, it went quite smoothly. By the time I got to the last one, she was lapping at my hand appreciatively, and I had the process down to a near mechanical precision, already thinking about what I was going to go home and have for dinner. Mutton didn't seem particularly good anymore, though I had pulled enough out of Hookfang's teeth to make stew for a week.

(Maybe I'll just have bread tonight. There's something unsettling about eating another animal after I've been eaten myself...)

I sighed and fumbled gently at the last bone, searching for finger holds.

There weren't any.

I frowned. Hookfang's lip twitched uncomfortably. I double-checked. I triple-checked. On this side, there was no gap small enough to get a finger in edgewise. The bone might as well have been mortar between the two teeth. I winced, then hesitantly tapped at it, to see if I could loosen it at all. Hookfang yowled in pain, and I withdrew completely as she chopped her jaw in irritation.

I hid my hands under my coat, to show her I wasn't going to touch anything, and talked her down again. Puffing irritably, she opened her jaws for me. Her teeth were so long that it was still really difficult to see inside. I had to move toward the front of her mouth to find a gap wide enough to peer through.

I swallowed hard and ducked my head into her maw, my neck hovering between two rows of gigantic, closely-spaced snaggly teeth. The rank, sulfurous breath slapped into my face at full force, making my eyes water, and I had to spend a moment blinking.

Toothless hated it. He grabbed me by the back of the coat, ready to tug me away.

I swallowed my lunch again determinedly, and took a look at the bone from the inside. There was actually a gap from this side—practically a handhold, just jammed up into the roof of Hookfang's mouth.

I withdrew hastily, rubbing at my neck. I could get it, if I could just grab it from behind. Confidently, I paced back to the bone again.

I couldn't do it. The gap between the two teeth was so narrow I couldn't get two fingers through. Even at the bottom, I could get through where the tips of the teeth separated, but then I couldn't reach. I tried the gaps on either side as well, to no avail. The teeth were just so long that at the back of her mouth, they overlapped, and I couldn't get past them.

There was just no reaching this thing. Unless…

I took off my coat.

Snotlout and Toothless gave me matching looks of shock. Hookfang snorted curiously. I paced around to the front of her mouth, where it was the most open, and took a few deep breaths.

Snotlout asked me what I was doing.

I told him I was going to go in and get that bone.

He asked me if I was crazy.

I asked him if he would like to do it himself. It is his dragon, after all.

He shut his mouth.

I glanced up at Hookfang, staring hard, trying to deduce the intentions behind her yellow eyes.

She gurgled softly, fading into a mournful whine. Her tongue sloshed against her poor tooth, and she blinked away from me, submissive, her jaws opening wider in acceptance.

It seemed all right.

I rubbed at her snout, and reached awkwardly between her teeth to rub at her tongue.

Taking a deep breath, I began to climb inside.

Toothless made a sound of surprise, grabbed me by the back of the shirt, and pulled me away. It took me some doing, clinging to him, to get balanced again. Everyone forgets I've only got one leg to work with now, and they can't just fling me around all the time like they used to.

I pushed his nose away, speaking softly to reassure him. He made a low, skeptical rumble.

When he had calmed down a bit, I approached Hookfang to try again.

And again, Toothless grabbed my shoulder and yanked me away, snarling. Hookfang lurched back, snapping in surprise, and Toothless barked at her, his wings tensed, putting himself between her and me.

I touched his flank and tried to explain to him that everything was going to be all right. He puffed nervously, blocking me when I tried to approach the Nightmare again.

I pushed at him as hard as I could, but he, trembling, stood strong, rumbling deep in his throat.

Hookfang licked at her teeth and made a small mournful sound. I sighed.

This wasn't going to work. I took Toothless by the harness and walked him out of the arena. I apologized. He licked at me meekly, nuzzling at my arm.

I bit my lip. I didn't want to have to separate him—he only wanted to protect me. But I had work to do, and he wasn't helping me any by making Hookfang nervous.

I put Snotlout's hands on the harness and told him to shut the gate when I went back in.

Needless to say, Toothless did not like that at all. He lunged at the portcullis, snapping and clawing. I winced, hearing the clanging of his teeth on the metal.

I turned and shouted for him to stop.

He stopped. Mournfully, he moaned and relented, ears drooping. I reached through a gap and touched his puffing snout, telling him that I would be all right.

I told Snotlout to walk Toothless around outside of the arena for a little while, just so Toothless wouldn't be able to watch what I was doing.

Neither of them seemed to like that idea much.

I informed Toothless that we wouldn't be flying for a week if he wasn't good. He believed it. For some reason he always does, as if I'd like to go without flying any more than he would. His ears drooped, and he pushed up under Snotlout's hand, ready to go.

I told Snotlout that I didn't think Toothless would spontaneously rip his arms off, now. He didn't seem convinced.

I reminded him what sort of a favor I was doing him here, and that he was still welcome to take care of his own dragon. Reluctantly, he left. Toothless paced meekly along after him, glancing longingly back at me every few steps.

I made sure they were out of sight, and then turned to Hookfang. She crooned curiously, blinking at me, clutching at her sore jaw with her three-foot-long talons.

I rolled up my sleeves, and shivering just a little, I asked her to open up again.

As I approached her toothy mouth, a stupid thought hit me. I had never been in the mouth of a Nightmare before, and I didn't know when I would get the opportunity again.

Naturally, I thought it might be a fabulous idea to bring my notebook to get a few sketches. I mean, Snotlout and Toothless were sure to be gone for enough time for me to at least get a good look at the back of her throat.

I was right. A really good look.

Hookfang thrummed curiously as I dug through my coat for my notebook and slipped it down the front of my shirt. I showed her my hands again, so she knew I wasn't picking up anything to hurt her with.

It's always awe-inspiring to be alone in the presence of such a gigantic beast—just it and you. It was like her strength electrified the air and the heat rose from her body in waves, her gentle rumbles seeming to shake the entire space around me.

But somehow even a massive, unstoppable creature like herself needed skinny, one-legged little me to rid her of her pain. Funny how things work out.

I put my hands on her snout again. She stared at me contemplatively, puffing so strongly that my hair blew back on the hot, moist gusts. Her tongue sloshed idly there, deep in her mouth. I smiled less-than-suavely and told her I was ready. She snorted, and I felt her upper jaw rise under my hands.

I took a few deep breaths of cool fresh air, and then ducked in under the teeth.

It was Nightmarish, to say the least. I gasped deeply for a while to try to get myself accustomed to the dizzying full force of the rank, sort of fiery stench of her hot mouth. It made me feel kind of woozy, but I forced myself to fill my lungs with it—I'd have to get my stomach settled before I could do anything else. I was sure Hookfang wouldn't appreciate it if I threw up on her tongue.

I choked a little, but determinedly swallowed the acid at the back of my throat, and forced myself to press on. Slowly, I eased one leg between her teeth, and then carefully heaved the rest of myself inside, twisting to avoid the sharp fangs. Trembling from the effort, I slowly lowered myself down on top of her piping-hot, greasy tongue, perching gingerly on my knees.

I was in the gigantic mouth of a Monstrous Nightmare.

Oh, man, if Astrid could've seen me then! Not every run-of-the-mill Viking has got the guts (or… stature) to just climb right into the jaws of Berk's fiercest predator like that. I must've looked like a proper Viking hero.

And, now that I think of it, Hookfang probably wouldn't have pulled any funny business if there had been someone around to watch.

Especially if it was Astrid.

That would be something to remember, if I ever get stuck doing this sort of thing again in the future. Which I undoubtedly will.

Before I could grow accustomed to the bizarre environment of her mouth, Hookfang's huge flat tongue shifted curiously underneath me, and I fell forward, trying to catch myself with my hands. I slipped, flopping face-first into the sticky wet surface. Brilliant. I gasped, spitting as I jerked away—her oily saliva was almost unbearably hot and tingly where it clung to my skin, sort of sour-salty tasting, like old meat and sweat. I squeezed my mouth shut and covered it with my sleeve, my stomach twisting. It was perfectly disgusting.

So much for keeping the stuff off of my clothes.

Hookfang murmured curiously, shifting again, and I flung my hands out to the sides to steady myself on the slightly less slippery teeth. I found myself panting, my heart fluttering against my ribs. I hoped she wouldn't notice. It's a lot easier to seem relaxed when the dragon can't feel how worried your insides are. This was a strange dragon, and I wasn't so sure how she would react to having something very small and very aware of what could happen to him shivering on her tongue.

I buried my fingers in the massive, oozing muscle beneath me and kneaded it, speaking softly to her as if she was the one needing reassurance. Nervous habit, I guess. I always seem to feel a little bit more at ease when my hands are moving. Even better if my mouth is, too.

As I worked, I peered up at the mouth around me. I swallowed hard. Everything was red. The long terrible teeth jutted up around me like the bars of a cage, their dripping edges gleaming bright yellow where the sunlight shone through them.

Hookfang moaned, her long tongue swaying impatiently underneath me. I fumbled to stay balanced, and reluctantly began to crawl forward, trying to avoid the deep pool of viscous saliva sloshing beneath.

Dragon saliva is odd. It's clingy, takes a long time to evaporate, and does not dilute quickly in water, so there is always a good sticky layer of it coating the dragon's mouth. This is important, because there seems to be some substance in it that serves to protect the soft tissues from any stray sparks or sputters of flame that fail to escape the dragon's jaws.

It's also incredibly difficult to get out of clothing. Dad's been looking at me funny all evening, since I'm still trying to soak out my shirt. I told him he should take a bath or wash his clothes once in a while—he might like it.

Just wait. It'll catch on.

It must be hard to keep your tongue still when someone's crawling on it. I'm sure my leg wasn't helping things any. Her tongue pulsed and twitched underneath me, and once I was far enough back, it doubled up on itself and flicked curiously at my feet.

I carefully sat down in the back of her mouth, gently pushing her probing tongue away. The space was a little wider across here, but the palate was much lower. I winced, feeling the heat against the back of my head, greasy slime smearing into my hair. My favorite.

The flat of the tongue swayed beneath me gently, like the sea. Precariously, I perched on the edge of it, and gazed at the bone stuck between the long teeth, finally within reach. My eyes drifted, and curiously, I ducked my head around and peered into her very throat. It was wide enough that I could see straight inside, right to the very back.

I might've grinned like an idiot and fished down the front of my shirt.

There's probably a good reason Vikings and science don't mix very well.

Hookfang mumbled uncomfortably, her tongue tips flicking ticklishly up my back as she tried to deduce what I was doing. I pushed her gently away with my elbow, telling her I was almost ready, flipping the book open on my lap and snatching up my pencil, all one-handed. The other hand I raised to the roof of her mouth, right next to the bone, mostly to steady myself, but also to make her think I was getting started on my job. Occasionally I twitched and shifted my fingers, to make it more convincing.

Her tongue traced skeptically up my arm, but I ignored it. I spoke reassuringly to her, scratching the roof of her mouth as I scribbled down a quick sketch.

You can tell a lot about a dragon by looking at the back of her throat. Not that many Vikings get the opportunity. Even less live to tell the tale.

I'm probably the only one who thinks to sit there taking sketches.

Her throat wavered nervously, the entrance easily wide enough to swallow a small Viking whole.

I mean, if it wasn't obvious.

It gave me quite a clear view of the little slit from which she sprays her burning oil. It's not much longer than my hand. I suppose this would concentrate the oil into a narrow, focused stream with enough momentum to clear her jaws. The fire-hole is surrounded by a wide patch of flesh the slightly transparent pearly color of a blister. I can't tell if it's a quality of the flesh itself, or a substance sitting on the skin, but I'm sure it's there to protect her throat from drips of sizzling oil. Maybe even extinguish it completely, before it slips too far down her gullet. I craned my neck, but I couldn't see how deeply it ended.

I was quickly drawing it all out when a fat drop of slime splattered onto the page, reminding me that I was pushing my luck. I did my best to wipe it off with my damp sleeve, pointless as that was, and slid the book back into my shirt, giving Hookfang's silky tongue a friendly squeeze as it prodded me impatiently.

Glowing giddily with some small feeling of accomplishment, I turned my attention to the stuck bone.

I felt him move suddenly and reach up to my aching tooth.

I knew this one was going to be hard. He had taken a long time to figure it out.

I twitched my tongue, moaning nervously. That tooth was so achy. I didn't want him to touch it. But he had to touch it to fix it. I felt his little salty paw rubbing gently on the edge of my tongue, and I could hear him chirping softly to me.

He's such a good boy. He wasn't going to hurt me. He was going to make me feel better— I knew he was.

Still, I was nervous.

Seeking solace, I wrapped the tip of my tongue around his soft thin tummy, whining. I don't think he liked that very much. His fingers tightened, and he tried to push me away, but he quickly gave up. I felt his little body swell with a deep breath and then go flat again.

He raised his paws again to work on my tooth.

I felt his fingers touch very gently. It stung. I whined, wriggling my tongue more snugly against his sides.

Wrapped around, I could feel his tiny breaths shuddering deep inside him. I could feel his little muscles working, rippling over his tiny, delicate ribs.

And as my tongue began to soak through the musty roughness of his shirt, I realized I could detect something else, too.

A sweet, salty, smokiness.

I blinked.

—OWWWWWW!

In one swift, sudden movement, he wrenched the obstruction from my teeth. I yanked him flat against my tongue in shock, hearing a sickening click as my teeth popped back into place.

I sputtered in surprise.

So did he. He pushed uncomfortably at my tongue until I, dazed, let him up.

I worked my jaw open and shut a few times. It was still a tiny bit sore, but it was fixed. I licked my teeth in amazement. The discomfort had just disappeared, all at once.

This kid… This kid was good.

I pitched the tip of my tongue up and lapped at him gently in adoration, cradling him in my mouth. He was so tiny and perfect, his whole body just seemed to fit right inside.

He laughed and scrubbed my tongue with his tiny claws for a little while. It felt so funny. I thrummed, happy. I felt so much better! My teeth didn't hurt, my head didn't hurt, I could think straight…

I was back to my old self again.

Adoringly, I licked and licked more intently at his tiny, squirming body. He felt so interesting on my tongue—he squeaked and squealed and made the sweetest little sounds.

After a while, though, he began to chirp, trying to push my tongue away. I think the poor little thing was getting tired and he kind of wanted me to stop.

I kind of didn't want to, though.

As I was licking him, getting him wet, I became aware again of that sweet, salty smokiness I had tasted before. It was rich and yummy—a little fishy, but not like fish; really sheepy, but not like sheep; salty like sweat and the sea, sweet like a freshwater trout, ashy and smoky and floury and good.

It was him. He tasted like that.

I'd never tasted a human before.

My mouth watering, I wrapped my tongue all over him, wanting more.

He waskind of delicious.

Before I knew what was happening, I found myself entirely encased by Hookfang's happy, wriggling tongue. It was completely bizarre. She deftly twisted around and around me, gently turning me, flipping me, manipulating my body, not leaving a single inch of me untouched or unslimed. It was hard to even find space to breathe, as I was squished adoringly against her palate, her hot thick saliva gushing over me in torrents.

Ugh. I think I know exactly how Gobber's false tooth must feel, now.

I pushed at her tongue, to try to pry it off of me, but it was so incredibly strong. Tongues are surprisingly powerful. Toothless is a smaller dragon, and I can't even win arm-wrestling with his (not… that that's any real indicator of strength, I guess, but worth noting nonetheless). The muscular tongue of a big dragon, like Hookfang's, could probably easily kill me—just smash me flat like a ripe blackberry.

I was getting a little worried. I began to push more insistently, speaking firmly to try to get her attention. Sometimes a dragon will get over-excited and just need to be reminded to be gentle when she's playing with a human.

But Hookfang didn't listen to me.

Her purring was so loud, she may not have even heard me.

I swallowed hard. This was more than just a little affectionate licking, now.

She was tasting me.

And if her happy rumbles were any judge, she liked the way I tasted. A lot.

I've learned quite a bit about myself these past few months. Working with the dragons has brought out qualities in me that I never knew I had. I am stubborn in my convictions. I have the guts to do things greater Vikings than I have never attempted. I am resourceful in a pinch, and adapt quickly to change.

I also happen to be incredibly delicious.

Or at least, Toothless—and now, HOOKFANG, really seem to think so.

And judging by how often I've been chased by ravenous monsters in the past, I think I'll assume that this is a… universal sentiment. Maybe that's unscientific, but I don't think anyone will blame me if I'd rather not conduct further experimentation on the matter.

Really.

Though I do wonder exactly what it is that would make me so tasty. Is it something I eat? Is it what I touch and taste and breathe every day that gets into my blood, or was I born this way?

Can't I, you know, do something about it?

Oh, he was so delicious!

He was so YUMMY!

I couldn't really help it—I cuddled him greedily, working the forks of my tongue over every contour of his body I could find, his little arms and skinny legs and lithe middle and smooth face and sticky hair. My mouth gushed, and I drooled, and he chirped and sputtered and squirmed deliciously, pushing against my tongue. Once, I found the edge of his shirt, and I went underneath and tasted his smooth bare belly, so creamy-salty in my mouth.

Oh, my stomach growled.

I knew it wouldn't be very nice of me, after he had done me a favor and fixed me, but I swore, if only I could, that I would just tip my head back and gobble him up right that instant. He was so delicious I could barely stand it.

Oh, if only I could.

I wouldn't hurt him—not after he'd been so kind and brave and made me better. If I crunched him up and killed him and made him my supper, who would pick his bones from my teeth? But I DID so, so, SO want to know what it would be like to swallow him. I had thought about it for ages…

If only I could…!

Why… couldn't I?

Why couldn't I?

I blinked.

The arena was empty.

Completely empty.

There was no one watching me.

No one around to scream at me and cut me open with a terrible axe. No silly Night Fury to snarl at me and try to rip out my throat. And if I let the poor thing go later, no one need ever miss him at all.

I blinked again.

This was my chance.

When Hookfang's tongue finally unfurled around me, I only had the strength to lie there limply, gasping, with this unshakable feeling that the fun for me had only just begun.

To be honest, I was pretty terrified.

Dragons are very instinctual. They almost always act on whims and impulses. Once a dragon has its mind set on something, any number of well-spoken orders and commands couldn't stop it.

Or at least you shouldn't count on it.

It's one thing to be playfully nibbled by a dragon like Toothless, whose motivations and behaviors I know inside and out (perhaps more literally than I would like to admit). It was quite another to be sprawled, powerless, across the tongue of a strange dragon who has already nearly killed and eaten me at least once. For all I knew, Hookfang had full intention to kill me right then and there.

I had no idea. I just really hoped she wasn't thinking what I THOUGHT she was thinking.

The slow, gentle, backward tilt of her head said otherwise.

It's not a comfortable feeling, knowing you're about to be swallowed whole. My guts sort of melted, my limbs went tense and numb, and I found myself more or less babbling as I tried politely to negotiate some sort of alternative.

Her mouth shut over me.

I howled. Less politely.

Pushing on the roof of her mouth, I twisted on her tongue. There was really no point in it. She loved it. I probably felt just like a floppy, oversized salmon. But in my defense, I really wasn't thinking too hard about that at the time.

I went very, very slowly, wanting to savor him as much as I could. I didn't think I would get another chance like this anytime soon.

The poor thing didn't like it very much. He wiggled unhappily on my tongue, and chirped loud and shrill, and tried to push my mouth open with his little arms. I could feel his tiny heart fluttering. I had no idea a creature's heart could beat so fast.

He was scared of me! He thought I was going to put him in my belly and make him my supper. It was so cute! And it felt so good!

I purred.

Oh, he was so silly! I wasn't going to hurt him. He knew what a crop was! I squeezed him happily, slowly tipping back my head, guiding him gradually, effortlessly, down to my throat.

I held back until I couldn't take it any longer-

And then I swallowed him up.

One gulp.

That's all it took for her to swallow me whole, iron and all. It was pretty impressive.

Toothless usually needs at least three.

To her, it was so easy. I wasn't even a mouthful.

Ugh, I don't even like to think about it. It's not a nice sensation, being swallowed in one gulp. Her tongue pitched, my heart stopped—there was this horrible, powerful kneading movement from my head to my toes, and then my body was roughly forced along down the slippery stomach-melting spine-tingling vertigo of her hungry throat, leaving my mind reeling somewhere up by her tonsils.

I regret to say it was a little too dark for me to make any kind of scientific observation on my way down to her belly. I was kind of out of my head at the moment, regardless. And by out of my head, I mean every fiber of my being was hysterically screaming, THOR ALMIGHTY—HELP!

The feeling I had in my gut was not unlike that of free-falling to my doom. I guess being swallowed whole isn't that different, really.

My grandfather always used to say that the only real difference between a full-blooded Viking and a big fish was that one was hairy and talked too much. It certainly doesn't seem so far-fetched when you happen to be a Horrendous Haddock sliding far-too-easily down the gullet of a hungry dragon.

It was a long way down. Her hot throat squeezed and kneaded around me, but it didn't take much more than gravity to force me along. Her neck is narrow, but her gullet itself is a fair bit wider than Toothless', and I slid down quite easily.

I squirmed to try to slow my progress. It was a wild, mindless effort of my whole body, not really unlike a fish. Silly, I know, but at the time, I was a little concerned. Was she going to kill me? Was I on my way down into the fiery pit of her stomach, to be boiled alive and slowly digested into Haddock stew?

It didn't make sense.

I firmly believe that dragons have a sense of gratitude. They are intelligent, thinking creatures, and they can tell when they have been done a favor. If they weren't this way, I would be dead. Simple as that.

So why had Hookfang suddenly decided to gobble me up, after what I'd just done for her? I could only hope that she was being overly affectionate, and just playing—just like Toothless does. In any case, I was about to find out. Feeling resistance at my feet, I tensed and held my breath.

There are far worse ways to die than being swallowed alive by a dragon. Once you slip into her boiling stomach, it's the sheer heat that does it—your body is shocked and you pass out, probably before you can feel much of anything.

Probably.

I've felt the fish stop flopping inside Toothless. It's pretty quick. So I figured it could be worse.

Probably.

Mmm, he wriggled all the way down. He was skinny and so easy to swallow, but bigger than most of the other wiggly meals I get to eat. He stretched out my throat like a good hunk of mutton, but he was so floppy and squirmy and alive.

It felt so good. I purred.

He made a funny little wiggly lump in my neck. I cocked my head and watched him disappear down into my chest.

Then I shut my eyes and licked my teeth, concentrating on his tiny movements inside. I didn't want to lose him and accidently cook him up for supper! The bones of warm animals like him make my tummy hurt.

And he is mostly bones.

I didn't want him to stop moving, either. I liked it when he moved.

Carefully, I shifted my insides, getting ready to catch him and hold him in my crop. I trembled, eager and nervous. What would it be like to have a human in my tummy?

I heard him yelp as he slid down inside.

The insides of a Monstrous Nightmare are incredibly hot. Even as insides go.

I felt the heat searing up through my toes, even through my left leg to the base of my knee— and for a long, horrifying moment, I really thought I was going to splash into her fiery stomach.

Thoughts rushed wildly through my head—when Snotlout came back, it would be obvious that Hookfang had eaten me; the others would be quick to kill her—but by the time they opened up her boiling belly and found me digesting inside, I'd already be cooked through and falling apart.

If Hookfang ended up brutally killing me, what would Dad do to the other dragons we'd brought into the village? I couldn't bear thinking about it. I tried to pull up my feet, pushing out my arms, yelling for release, but it was already too late.

I gasped as I suddenly fumbled down into the pit.

It was really hot.

My entire body sort of exploded into this tingling discomfort, light flickering behind my eyes—my head swam, my senses sort of on overload—I felt faint and sick and lost. I flopped around, shouting mindlessly, feeling the endless shifting, scalding, squishy surfaces and sloshing fluids of a dragon's belly all around me.

As much as we all joke around, I really didn't want to be a dragon's dinner.

Hookfang crooned affectionately, and everything squeezed in on me for a moment, squashing me flat and forcing my face into the firm wet wall. It was hot enough to burn my tongue.

Shuddering under the gentle pressure, I could only lay there panting. So I did.

Like a too-hot bath (which I should be getting to again here in a bit—my hair's still sticky…), this weird environment was quite uncomfortable, but my body was slowly adjusting to it. I was not being boiled alive. I was not about to be soup. A bit scalded, maybe. I hid my hands in my sleeves and laid my face on my arms, and if I kept twisting a little, it was almost tolerable.

I sighed in relief. I was inside of her crop, a relatively safe, sensitive, voluntary stomach dragons have for storing food for short periods of time. It's possible the dragons even use the crop to protect and nurture their young. This certainly supported the theory that she would rather keep me around a while.

It was actually quite roomy— given, my only real point of reference is Toothless, whose crop is smaller than a fish basket even when he's stretched tight and full.

I was lying flat on my stomach on an oozing, squishy surface, with the ceiling sort of draped on top of me. In many ways, it was not unlike being wrapped in a lot of good heavy blankets —or, rather, being sandwiched between two huge, soft pillows; all slightly curved and tilted a bit so that my head was higher than my feet. My knees had settled in the very bottom in a puddle of hot fluid, and in the slipperiness, my feet had been folded up behind me.

Gently, I pushed with my right foot and tried to straighten out my legs, feeling soft curious rumbles all around me. It took some doing, especially as I avoided jabbing Hookfang's sensitive insides with my leg, but finally I was stretched out completely, carefully supporting myself on my toes. Her crop was long enough to easily accommodate my full height.

Curiously, my hand still wrapped in my sleeve, I wormed my fist up between the layers of ripply crop. The top entrance seemed to be out of reach, and I couldn't find it. However, the sides were all pretty close by, and I couldn't stretch my arm out much further than my elbow before meeting opposition.

So, from what I could gather, her crop was this sort of long, flat tunnel, all loose and wrinkly around me because I wasn't filling enough to even stretch it. I imagine stretched full, she could probably keep at least three whole sheep in there and still squeeze me in comfortably on the side.

Not that she should really be eating sheep.

Or me.

She really seemed to like having me inside, though. Especially when I moved. Her innards vibrated with loud purrs, and the walls rippled affectionately around me. I sighed, and idly began to rub at her sticky insides, much to her trembling, gurgling delight.

At least it meant that she wasn't thinking of pushing me along to her next stomach and having me for supper. For now.

Her hungry crop kneaded me gently, thinking I was a big, unruly fish, and I winced, feeling new pre-digestive juices slowly oozing out around me, making everything even more slippery. The crop-slime seems to have some sort of substance in it that shocks fish and stops them from flopping around, probably so the dragon's insides don't get as cut up from the fins.

Her crop twisted, trying to coat every inch of me nice and thick in the clingy stuff, making sure I would be easy to digest later, if I ended up in her belly.

In theory, anyway. Really, I can always sort of feel it tingling on my skin, but it doesn't seem to do anything to me. Maybe because I don't have gills. Evidently mammals like me, finding themselves inside a dragon, are free to wreak all the havoc they please.

Sighing, I kneaded dutifully at her guts, her purrs growing louder and louder.

Yep. Havoc.

Oh, it felt so good!

What was he doing? How was he doing that?

He wasn't just wiggling. He was doing something—something very tiny, but it grew all fluttery and tickly behind my heart and made my whole chest feel so nice I could barely stand it.

I went all limp and let myself lay flat and just purred, helplessly.

He kept at it. It felt so very odd, as if he were exploring every corner of my crop. He didn't flop wildly like a fish—at least not for very long. It was like he was moving like this on purpose. Humans are smarter than fishes. I think maybe he knew he was not my supper, and that he was in my belly-basket. His Night Fury had shown him what a belly-basket was, so he wasn't scared any more.

I bet my crop is much cozier for him than that Night Fury's. Mine is big. The little human had lots of room to move in there.

He started to scratch inside my tummy, like he does on my outsides sometimes. I burbled in delight—it felt so good inside it made me squirm. I wanted him to do that all over. I flopped around and twisted and rolled onto my back, wrapping my wings happily around my chest.

Oh, I had waited for this for such a long long time…

I went about my buttering-up as I usually do. When you're inside a dragon, inches away from an empty, boiling stomach, it's kind of a good idea to maintain a friendly relationship.

As Hookfang writhed and thrashed and rolled joyfully around me, throwing me from side to side, I happened to open my eyes and make an astonishing discovery.

In my thankfully limited experience, it's always been quite dark in the belly of a dragon. Light can never make its way in to me through Toothless' black hide, even though the outside is never more than a few inches away.

But, somehow, buried deep inside the Monstrous Nightmare's massive body, I could see.

Well, I guess it depends on how you define "see". But sure enough—squinting through the velvety darkness, I could make out the shadow of my own hand pressed into the wall beneath me, on a background of dimly glowing red.

I wiggled the fingers. Definitely mine.

I was amazed. Just a very faint light. It was nothing spectacular in and of itself—it wouldn't have made much of a light to write by—but just the fact I could see at all down in the guts of a monster was completely spectacular.

Surely sunlight couldn't get in this deep? I hadn't really made myself a map of the Monstrous Nightmare's insides yet, but a dragon's crop seems to be buried somewhere deep inside its chest. I knew there were layers and layers of dragon pressing in on me from every side. If the light was beneath me, though, there was no way it was sun.

I looked closely. The glow had a sort of fluid quality to it, sort of rippling and churning and squeezing like everything else around me. I couldn't tell if it was the glow itself, or the wrinkled gut wall I was viewing it through.

I flipped onto my back and stared at the ceiling. It was dark.

I rolled back over and pawed around, trying to find the edges of the glow. They weren't exact. Everything inside Hookfang was mixing and pulsing and twisting. I came to realize that this glowing, vaguely oval shape was probably one of her organs.

No wonder it was so hot inside her! I think that's where she keeps her fire-oil, nice and red-hot so it's ready to ignite on contact with the air. The Nightmare must have some very tough insides to be able to put up with such heat—and to be able to insulate it so effectively from me.

I prodded the surface curiously. While I was here, I wanted to learn more about her strange anatomy—but Hookfang had twisted so much, I had no idea if she was upside down or right-side up. All I knew was this hot light was underneath me now.

I went completely still for a moment, shut my eyes, and just listened. That's all the reference I really had, I'm afraid—so that's why the sketches are probably a bit off.

Her heartbeat was close above me, which probably meant she was on her back, if her insides are anything like Toothless'. Her lungs puffed and swelled above and on either side of me, so close that the chest-wise surfaces of her crop gently rose and fell with them. Everything around me pulsed with life. At my feet, I could feel the slightly more intense heat and vibrations of her empty stomach, and even deeper, I could hear her guts noisily rumbling and bubbling.

Beneath me, towards her spine, was her fire-organ. I assume it's attached to some other accessory organs, but I wouldn't know what to even begin to look for.

That fire-organ seems to be a fair bit smaller than her crop. No wonder she has limited fire. I wonder what it looks like inside when she spits oil—does the oil-pouch squeeze in all at once, or just from the bottom? And once she's all out—how quickly does it fill back up again?

Where does the oil come from in the first place? Does her body make it from something she eats? Gronckles eat stones—Nadders have an odd affinity for pine branches… so what does a Monstrous Nightmare need?

How am I going to even begin to know any of that stuff unless I end up inside a Nightmare again?

…Which I'd really rather not do?

What a conundrum.

I have no idea what he was doing in there, but it felt weird. His movements slowed down a lot, and he only rolled occasionally from side to side and twitched.

It didn't feel as good as his scratches. When he wasn't moving, it was like he disappeared.

I didn't like that.

I gave him some time for him to remember what he was supposed to be doing, but he forgot. So I whined and shook him up.

He didn't like that very much. He chattered at me.

It is weird to have a tiny little voice squeaking at you inside your chest. It was kind of funny.

I liked it.

Only a human could make such adorable little unhappy noises inside me like that. And move like that. And taste like warm animals and fish all at once.

I think humans are good. Very good. I think I do like to eat them. Or at least that little one, anyway. Because he's small and easy to catch, and he's yummy, and I can swallow him up in one quick gulp, and he can't hurt my first-tummy even if he kicks and kicks and kicks.

Does this mean I'm a man-eater now?

Maybe…

I don't know, though. Are all humans this yummy?

I wanted my Little Supper to make more noise. I shook him some more. He squealed and pushed out against my insides in tiny pokes. I couldn't really feel those, either. I pulled my tummy in closer around him to try to make his wiggles feel stronger.

He didn't like that at all. He mewled unhappily and started rubbing my insides again.

There's a good boy. Panting a little from shaking so much, I settled myself comfortably once more and sank into deep, happy purrs.

I wanted to keep him inside my tummy for a long long time…

It didn't seem like Hookfang could feel me if I wasn't moving around. When I went still, to try to memorize the locations of her innards to draw later, she fumbled worriedly for me as if she'd lost me.

I hadn't thought about that. When I'm folded up inside Toothless' cramped first-stomach, even the slightest move I make excites his heartbeat and changes the rhythm of his breathing. Even if I hold absolutely still, he seems to focus himself completely around me, breathing shallowly so that he can feel my breaths.

But Toothless is a much smaller dragon, and his stomachs are much smaller, too. It's actually quite tight inside of him, and he can never truly ignore me when I'm in there squishing his insides, much as he pretends he can.

Whereas, inside Hookfang…

I realized how small and helpless I was in comparison. She couldn't even feel my weight in her guts, and if I stopped moving, I was lost. Inside such a gigantic beast, I was next to nothing.

It was actually rather unsettling, when I thought about it.

Practically drowning in the luxuriant folds of Hookfang's insides, I actually found myself wishing for the closeness and security of Toothless' crop.

Yeah, I know. I thought I'd never see the day. But, I guess Toothless is my best friend. I will always be important to him, no matter what, even when I'm stuffed in behind his ribs as… pseudo-lunch. It would never be the same inside a strange dragon, no matter how innocent its intentions.

At least Hookfang didn't seem to think of me as food—otherwise, I might've been forgotten about completely. Instead, she whined and coddled over me, worried, when she couldn't find me. Maybe she understood what kind of trouble she'd be in if I was missing.

I suddenly remembered that I really, really needed to get her to vomit me out soon, or else.

Locked gate. Happy dragon. No sign of the insane tonsil-diving Viking. It wouldn't be hard for even Snotlout to put two and two together. (Figuratively, of course.)

I didn't even want to think about what might happen then.

For a moment, I nearly panicked. Getting out of the dragon is not nearly as easy as the going-in part. Sometimes it takes me hours to beg Toothless to let me free. As happy— and as bossy-natured— as Hookfang was, I had a feeling she wasn't going to be much different.

Of course, I already knew one thing that would upset her.

I instantly went utterly limp and still.

The little human stopped moving completely.

Why did he stop moving?

At first I thought I'd somehow killed him. It was definitely possible—it'd be so easy. My heart stopped, and I fumbled gently for his tiny body, worried. I didn't want him to be dead. Oh, I hadn't meant to kill him—he was just so small and delicate, and I'm clumsy…

My stomach growled. Dead human could be tender meat for supper.

I whined. My stomach is bad.

If the little Viking was dead, then who would help my rider? Or feed me right? Or pick my teeth?

Or massage my insides so nicely?

I flipped back onto my front and began to cry. I hadn't meant to hurt him. Now he was all gone and I couldn't even feel him! It was like he disappeared.

Then I heard him chirping. He chirped loud.

I started. He was alive.

He chattered at me, but he wouldn't move. I didn't understand why he wouldn't move. I didn't like not being able to feel him. I tried to shake him up again, but he only made small shuddery noises and held still. I told him he needed to move, but he wouldn't listen.

He didn't want me to feel him.

I didn't think that was very nice. I decided that if he wasn't going to move, I was going to find him myself.

It is never too late to use the "play dead" tactic. Obviously, when a dragon has you inside for the sole purpose of feeling you wiggle around, it annoys them to no end when you refuse to provide.

Needless to say, Hookfang was not happy.

I held my breath and tried to remove myself from my body, staying limp. It was pretty difficult, especially because the hot wet surfaces around me were slipping and sloshing, sliding and rippling, throwing me from side to side, trying to force me to squirm. All I would do is ask her politely to let me go. Not that that would really do anything, I guess. At least it focused her attention on me and let her know I was still alive.

I waited patiently for her to get frustrated enough to vomit me up.

She was stubborn. She growled at me and shook me, but I wouldn't respond. Big dragons are used to getting what they want, so the fact that I was flat-out refusing her was probably quite baffling to her.

Finally, absolutely annoyed with me, she started in with the squeezing.

Oh, Odin, the squeezing. My favorite.

The sticky crop walls I was sandwiched between began to suck in tight around me, above and below, cramming my face into the wall so that I was forced to turn my head to breathe. Aside from that I resolutely held my position, even as the scalding hot walls started to touch on either side of me, enveloping me completely.

I tried asking her to stop. It worked about as well as I expected it to—not at all. She wouldn't—she kept squeezing, tighter and tighter—it came to a point where I couldn't have moved if I had wanted to, and still she kept going, evidently unaware of her own strength.

I suddenly remembered that I was not inside Toothless, and that Hookfang probably had enough muscle to actually crush me to death. I was sure she didn't mean to hurt me, but it was getting pretty obvious that things would not end well if she didn't stop soon. Already it was difficult to breathe, and what breathing-room I had was rapidly closing up around me, my body pressed flat, my ribs threatening to crack.

Unable and afraid to try to move, I drew in the biggest breath I possibly could, just as the air around me vanished completely. I knew I had to do something QUICK, or I'd be crushed.

But what?

There was no time to think. I just did the first thing that popped into my mind.

I belted out the Berk national anthem at the top of my lungs.

What on earth…? I jumped in surprise, letting go of him immediately and looking down at my chest in astonishment.

Deep down inside me, he was making the strangest sound I had ever heard any creature make, living or dying. Sort of long, drawn-out human noises. It sounded funny.

Not bad. Just funny. And interesting.

It actually worked.

I was just as surprised as she was.

Just happy I wasn't dead as she loosened up around me, I choked my way to the end of the first verse and sputtered to a stop, gratefully gasping now that Hookfang was letting me fill my lungs again. It had not been the most rousing rendition I'd ever heard sung, but I guess you have to consider the circumstances.

I panted hard, deeply appreciating each and every steamy, rotten, slime-laced breath I managed to suck in. I definitely could've been killed. I mean, sure, I've almost died before. Several times. Loads of times. Even so, it's not really something you ever get used to. At least I hadn't fainted. Or thrown up. The old standbys.

Still, I was so buzzed up with sheer relief that I barely noticed how Hookfang had begun to pout and nudge at me. Insistently.

I remained utterly limp—not even just to spite her anymore. The sweltering heat was sort of getting to me by then, and I was getting pretty shaken up from so many thrills and chills. I hadn't fainted yet, but that didn't mean it wasn't still a possibility.

When I didn't immediately react, she didn't even hesitate; she started right back in squeezing again.

Really.

After such a close call already, I was terrified—I protested, shouted, even gave in and let her feel me squirm, all to no effect whatsoever. It wasn't what she wanted. Gradually, as the walls grew tighter and tighter, I realized that she really wasn't going to stop squishing me, squeezing me, unless…

Yep.

I enthusiastically broke into verse two.

Instantly, she crooned and loosened again around me. This just got better and better. I've heard of singing for your supper, but singing… supper? It was ridiculous.

Patiently, I howled the next stanza at a perfectly horrible volume, if only to be heard loud and clear through the layers of her body. I'm sure I'm going to be hoarse for a week.

Unfortunately enough for me, Monstrous Nightmares are pretty sharp, and Hookfang was already eagerly squeezing at me for the third verse before the last notes of the second had even left my mouth.

I was baffled. She seemed to be completely enamored with the sound of my singing, which I suppose goes to show you how deep the artistic standards of a dragon are.

I probably shouldn't have been surprised. Dragons don't have any concept of music. Once, when I had been trying to get Toothless desensitized to the idea of me carrying my knife, I had carved him a sort of crude flute with it. Whenever I played it, he would be so amazed that he would stop what he was doing, go completely still, and just blink. Music dazzles them.

I reluctantly proceeded to pick my way through the third verse. It was tricky. You know verse three. The whole "defend the homeland" spiel. It's kind of obsolete, now that we're friends with the dragons, and the imagery isn't exactly subtle, so I tried to tactfully hum through the parts about beheading the reptilian horrors and bathing in their blood out of respect to my audience. Trouble is, that meant I was humming through a lot.

There are things you just don't talk about around a dragon. Especially when you're practically inside her stomach as it is.

I really need to talk to Dad about changing that verse...

The little human started to mess up his sounds for some reason, so it got all soft and I couldn't hear it very well. I told him it didn't sound very good like that, but he wouldn't fix it.

I tried to make the sounds along with him, to make him do it right again. It a lot was harder than I thought it would be. I'd never tried to make a human-noise before. I tried to move my voice up and down like he did, and I twisted my tongue, trying to say the things he said. My tongue felt so clumsy.

I must've been very good at it, though, because it wasn't long before the little human dropped out to listen to me sing by myself. I think it's because he knew I was better at howling than he was. He can't make sounds nearly as loudly as I can.

I tried to imitate his call, but he wasn't helping me anymore, and I forgot the right sounds to make. So I made up my own.

Human noises are very fun. I can't make them very well, but they tickle my tongue in the strangest way.

Once, I had taught a Night Fury to make art. Now, I have taught a Monstrous Nightmare to sing.

I swear, if I keep it up at this rate, we'll have the Gronckles basket-weaving and the Nadders playing simple percussion by the end of the spring.

Hookfang was about as good at hitting notes as Toothless is at drawing a straight line. If that's what she thought I sounded like, remind me never to sing in public. Ever. I would've happily switched dragons with any recently-swallowed fish on Berk. Hookfang was being so mind-numbingly loud with her high, clumsy moans that her insides vibrated, making my teeth chatter. There was no escaping it—covering my ears was completely useless. She was having so much fun, she couldn't even hear me scolding her as I helplessly rode the gleeful heaves and swells of her lungs. She seemed to take great pride in how loud she could be.

This was bad. Not only was I probably going to be deaf from the head-splitting noise, but there was also no way that such unusual, incredibly loud sounds would go unnoticed—the whole island could probably hear them. Somebody was going to come up to the arena to see what was happening right that moment, and here I was still stuck inside the first-stomach of a "man-eating" dragon.

That could be a little difficult to explain.

What could I do about it? She was a gigantic dragon, and I was basically the equivalent of a minnow squirming enthusiastically on her insides—she couldn't even feel me through her own booming, shaking bellows. How was I supposed to stop an entire dragon from the inside?

Well, I did have one idea. It was a terrible one, but at this point I didn't really have much choice.

The standard fall-back plan for this particular situation:

I gave her the hiccups.

(Yeah, I know.)

In a dragon, these actually seem to be relatively easy to induce, especially if you happen to have a metal rod for a leg. I'm not sure why it works, but if you slide down to the very back of the crop and give a few sharp jabs to the upper—back wall, in just the right spot roughly toward the tips of the lungs, something makes the whole dragon seize up.

I'd discovered this little trick when Toothless refused to let me out once. It's a bit difficult to land an effective kick inside the body of a dragon (the combination of the slipperiness and the squishiness, and, in Toothless' case, the limited space, makes it pretty difficult to maneuver, if you can imagine)— Toothless actually loves to feel it when I try. I guess it's sort of like a nice massage to him. So I had been shoving at his lungs, trying anything I could to make him even a little uncomfortable, when all of a sudden he had started to jerk and make really odd noises.

Suffice it to say, Toothless hadn't liked that one bit. That was one of very few times I've been able to escape his innards on my own terms—and even stay outside of him entirely for several weeks afterward.

Now, I was just hoping that Hookfang wouldn't like it much, either.

It was a bit difficult to navigate her strange anatomy to find the exact analogous area inside. Not that it's all that easy to locate it in my usual space—there are still times when I just absolutely can't seem to find it. All I could really do was just sort of guess, jabbing away desperately at the wall, hoping something would happen.

And soon, somehow, by the hand of Thor, something did.

I jammed my metal toe once more into the flesh, and suddenly I heard her make an awkward squeak as her insides all simultaneously tensed up.

Needless to say, the singing stopped.

What-the-?

Hic-cup-!

The little human kicked me. Normally, I barely feel it, and it doesn't even hurt— but his time, my body suddenly sort of squeezed up, and I coughed fire as the air was suddenly forced right out of me, making me make a funny noise.

I'd never felt anything like that before! It was AWFUL.

I licked my lips and went quiet. Maybe the little human didn't like my noises very much, after all.

But then—it happened AGAIN!

I growled. I didn't like that at all! What was wrong with me? How did that tiny human make me do that?

Hic-cup!

I growled louder, and told the little human that he needed to stop, RIGHT NOW—but all he did was kick me again!

I shook him up hard. He was not allowed to kick anymore! Not if his kicks made me-

Hic-cup!

AUGH! Why wouldn't he STOP IT!

He prodded my insides with his tiny feet, not quite kicking. He was making a funny noise. The nerve of him! I think he was laughing at me!

I grumbled and hefted myself to my feet, arching my neck. If he was going to be that way, he wasn't allowed to be in my tummy anymore. I was going to make him get out so he had to stop it.

I hope anyone who ends up reading this never has my rotten luck and finds himself becoming vomit. Obviously it's kind of hard on your ego to be eaten in the first place, but despite the natural relief that comes with the idea of being released, there's something about being violently rejected from someone's stomach that almost stings even worse. It's like, what, I'm not even good enough to stay your lunch?

Though there's no arguing that it's far and away more preferable than the alternative. I sort of like being alive, in mostly one piece, and completely undigested, thanks.

Her crop snapped shut all at once, seizing every part of me in its sudden eagerness to reject me. Then wretched, nauseating pulses began—the first two only shoved at my feet, pushing me forward and allowing me to slide back down uselessly, but then, laboring and wheezing, she built up momentum, shoving me over and over again, and soon she was full-on pumping me along against gravity as fast as she could.

She was squeezing and smashing me in her haste to get me out, and despite the fact that I was being practically crushed by each and every gurgly pulse of her gullet, I couldn't help but smile to myself.

I had once asked Gobber what he thought might be the cause of hiccups. He had answered, "A man, a woman, a late night, and a flagon or two of good mead. Mostly the mead."

Let it be known that it's usually a bad idea to approach Gobber with a serious scientific question.

Still, at least to the dragons, I guess it holds a grain of truth. To them, hiccups really are a rare and unpleasant malady, the single cause of which seems to be the attempted consumption of that clumsy (and perhaps poisonous) little funny-named Viking that occasionally brings them fish.

Life has this way of being so stupidly ARTISTIC sometimes.

Suddenly, there was an unbearable squeeze, and my heart leapt as I saw my first snippet of light, a dabbling of incredibly brilliant stars peeking in at me through the gaps in Hookfang's teeth.

(I didn't get a great look at the anatomy of her throat coming up, either. I guess it's hard to really see it in pitch darkness, when your face is smashed up against it.)

There is, undeniably, a positive side to being vomit: the sort of primal realization that you are about to be released, and see the light of day again, and not spend one more sweaty second there swaddled up in dark, deadly cramped dragon stomach. That very first breath of cool fresh air that slaps you across the face as you fumble out into the waiting tongue—and the indescribably sweet, delicious taste of that air chasing the stale fishiness of the dragon's breath from your body.

For just a moment, you remember what miracles space and light and air really are.

And then, gradually, you remember again that you are vomit.

And you need to take a bath. Desperately.

Hookfang grunted, jerking her head and letting me fumble out of her jaws to splatter unceremoniously onto the stone-by some random stroke of luck, just moments before Snotlout and Toothless appeared at the gate.

If she had been much slower about it, I don't know what would've happened.

There. Now that bad little boy couldn't bother me anymore.

I rumbled, nosing his weak little body gently. He looked so funny all sopping wet with my tummy juices. All his fuzz had flattened down and he looked even tinier, his eyes all squinty like a newly-hatched baby-thing.

He was so cute I almost thought about nombling him up again.

But then my body jerked-!

HIC-CUP-!

I drew away from him hastily. He had BUSTED my insides!

I stared at him, horrified. What did he DO to me? Would my insides leap around like this FOREVER, even if he wasn't kicking me in there anymore?

I started, hiccupping in shock as I heard a sound. It was my rider and the Night Fury coming back into the ring.

The Night Fury barked and bounded right over to the Little Supper. It was funny to watch him step into the puddle of clear craw-vomit; all his spiny-things stiffened in surprise, his nose twitching at the sharp sickly-sweet crop-smell.

He heard me hiccup and looked up, his pupils thin with disbelief.

Apparently he knew what that sound meant.

I smiled at him, batting my eyelids innocently and licking my lips. I told him that his human-thing had been absolutely delicious, a delight to feel wriggling around down in my stomach.

I thanked him politely for sharing his tiny human with me.

Ohhhh, that made him MAD!

He really wanted to come bite me, but his human sat up and grabbed his harness-thing and told him no. So he just jumped around and barked and snarled at me.

That Night Fury is so silly.

Snotlout approached me hesitantly (he kept his distance, probably dissuaded by the ever-so-pleasant-smelling slop clinging to me, as well as my near-berserk dragon) and tried to ask me how it had gone— and why I was so slimy and gross, exactly.

I squinted irritably in the bright sunlight, asking what he had expected. I had been working in the dragon's mouth, and she had been curious, and given me a bit of an examination with her tongue. Dragon mouths are kind of slimy, after all.

As far as I was concerned, there was absolutely no need to elaborate any further than that.

I craned my neck to see past Toothless, who had put himself protectively between me and Hookfang, an ominous snarl rumbling in his throat.

She watched us warily, eyes narrowed, her great tongue working in her mouth. Occasionally her whole body would quake with a hiccup.

I smiled tiredly and asked her if she felt better now.

Hookfang grumbled at me, dodging my gaze. Clearly she wasn't enjoying my signature gift of gut spasms. Eventually though, she let out a high moan, hesitated, and then sheepishly dipped her snout in to give me a hasty thank-you kiss on the back of the head.

Dragons do have a sense of gratitude. They just don't much like to admit it.

Toothless didn't exactly approve of this monster's snout anywhere near my business. His sides were shaking so violently it was like I was practically holding back an explosion with my fingertips.

Hookfang squinted mischievously at Toothless, and then quickly retreated to whine and bother Snotlout, touching him with her tongue and nipping curiously at his clothes.

Poor Snotlout balked from her curious affections, evidently still not knowing an eager-to-be-fed dragon when he saw one.

Still blinking blankly into the dazzling light outside, I suggested that he go get something DECENT for his dragon to eat.

Toothless punctuated this rather aptly with a pointed bark and ominous snarl.

Hookfang purred, gazing past her master at us with her conniving yellow eyes. She appreciated me—but she had definitely learned her lesson, still quietly choking on remnants of those darned irritating hiccups.

I grinned.

She won't forget that one for a while.

If I'm lucky.

Ha, lucky…

Snotlout watched us, giving me an odd look. He clearly had quite a few more questions for me, but he held his tongue and hastily stumbled off and mounted his Monstrous Nightmare to go find her some fish.

As I let my rider get ready to fly with me, I turned my gaze back one last time to look at the poor little human, all soaked and gooey with what I had done with him.

I hiccupped.

He grinned, baring his tiny square teeth in that odd way humans do.

That horrible little bug had messed up my insides somehow, and he knew it.

I shivered and turned away from him, lowering my head down to my rider and nuzzling him appreciatively. I like my rider. He is stupid, so he's not very tricksy.

Not like that tiny human is tricksy.

He's also big, so he's fun to play with. He's still scared of me, but sometimes he likes to try to wrestle me, if I let him. It's funny to let him think he can beat me.

If my rider fills my tummy with something good— ANYTHING but hiccuppy-human— I think I'll let him wrestle me.

I might even let him win.

I was so happy to take off and leave that bad Little Supper far behind me.

Flying isn't very smooth when you have the hiccups.

Little human is fun to eat; soft and tender and nice and wriggly all the way down the throat and into the belly—but I don't think I'm a man-eater. I don't think I want to ever eat a human ever again.

The Night Fury only does it because he's stupid.

Humans can break your insides.

I sighed in relief as I watched Hookfang disappear with Snotlout into the sky, the breeze of her wing beats sending shivers through my soaked body.

Now it was just me and Toothless.

Before I could suck in another breath, I found myself possessively wrapped in Night Fury paws, being given a stern, abrasive and very thorough dragon-bath with Toothless' rough tongue. He was NOT happy to find me in this state, with Nightmare-scent all over me, and he would not be satisfied until he'd dragged every inch of her thick gut-slime off and replaced it with his own fishy slobber.

Dragons can be really disgusting sometimes.

First he fussed over me, chattering worriedly and nosing me all over, checking for wounds. When I explained to him that I was perfectly fine and that the Nightmare had been careful with me, he snarled and began to scold me instead as his clingy tongue wrapped and rasped and viciously tugged me clean— gods FORBID I take such treatment from a strange dragon so casually!

Evidently the right to bully me around is HIS and HIS alone.

He seemed so infuriated by this infringement of his property and territory, that for a long, horrified few minutes, I honestly thought that all this licking of his could only be his way of preparing me for another descent, this time into HIS tight belly, to soak in HIS juices and be gnawed and squeezed and vividly reminded that I was HIS special food and no one else's.

I asked him not to eat me, please. Once is more than enough for one day. I happen to like things like "air" and "blood in my toes."

He gave me a hurt look and a low sound, apparently highly offended that I would accuse him of even considering such a farfetched thing. Only BAD dragons like that stupid NIGHTMARE would EVER do something BARBARIC like that to poor helpless little me, after all!

It's only his favorite way to bully me around.

He only does it like, all the time.

Ha ha. We'll see if he remembers this goody-goody act the next time we have an argument he wants to win.

He licked and licked and licked me, scrubbing my hands and hair and cheeks and tugging pleadingly at my clothes until my body was warm and glowing from the constant scrubbing, and then finally drawing away and purring in satisfaction.

Finally, I was HIS again.

I smiled sickly. It wasn't really much of an improvement. I'd graduated from Vomit to Chew Toy.

Toothless gurgled softly and pushed his huge hot head against my middle, letting me grab on so he could pull me to my feet. He steadied me for a moment, then let me stand on my own, making a small concerned sound.

I thanked him, scratching at his eyelid. I was all right.

I guess there are definitely worse things than being this guy's chew toy.

Wryly, as I recovered my coat and made to exit the arena through the doors, I asked him why everyone liked to eat me so much.

His pupils shifted curiously as he followed me, and with an amused rumble, he gave me a sort of demeaning lap up the face, taking great pleasure in smacking and sucking my taste off his tongue as it retreated into his sloppy mouth.

I sighed and smiled, disgustedly trying to wipe my hair off on my wet sleeve. That good, huh?

He clucked apologetically—he could only describe it as slurp-slurp-slurp.

I told him I didn't really like being tasty.

He play-snarled and gum-nibbled my arm possessively. HE liked me to be tasty.

He prodded me again and again with his snout, nipping me teasingly. Tasty, tasty, you're TASTY!

I countered, play-snarling myself as I scrubbed my nails vigorously all over his forehead and neck and ears. His hot breath tickled, and he was purring in delight as he nibbled playfully at my arms and belly and hair and legs, pretending to gobble me up head to toe.

Suddenly he stiffened and jerked away from the game, his ears dipping a little in guilt.

I was about to ask him what was wrong when I heard what he was hearing.

Astrid.

She'd probably heard Hookfang's beautiful singing from down in the village, and had come up to investigate, calling around the arena to see if anyone was there.

All-too-suddenly, she appeared at the door of the hallway to the arena floor, calling curiously for me.

Horrified, I leaped to be out of sight beyond the doorway of the arena, stumbled, and barely managed to grab a handful of Toothless' harness before I fell over completely. My toes shuffled and clattered and squealed in a stupid sort of highland dance as I fought desperately to regain my footing on that stone floor with my wet boot.

Smooth. Really smooth.

At least no one can ever accuse me of having two left feet, now.

Astrid heard everything. I heard her footsteps starting down the hall, heard her ask if I was all right—

What was I supposed to say if she saw me?

I felt a wonderful surge of relief as I felt Toothless' neck shove roughly into my middle, scooping me up onto his shoulders. It was like he'd read my mind. I wasn't sure how I'd ever be able to explain how I'd come to be dripping wet, slipping around in my own personal puddle of dragon vomit and smelling like I'd been dragged through some place where fish go to die.

Thank Thor I wouldn't have to.

After a few seconds of panicked fumbling at the stirrups and leather cords, we vanished into the sky, Astrid's last cry of surprise as she burst into the Dragon Ring choked out by the rush of wind in my ears.

Having a pair of wings at your disposal is mighty useful.

By the time I arrived back home, I was reasonably dried off from flying, and at least presentable enough that I could explain away my tousled state and smell to Dad as an accident I'd had while out fishing.

He seems to buy it.

He's not nearly as suspicious as Astrid is. I fully expect her to come by later and chew me out, but thankfully she's given me some time to try to wash my clothes, take a couple of baths, take a few notes down before I forget, and come up with a brand new story to tell her.

Now I just hope the charcoal doesn't smear TOO much before these pages dry.

Anyway, in conclusion:

Issue: Dragons think I'm delicious.

There's no writing it off as one of Toothless' oddities after today. What if Hookfang spreads the word, and everyone else's dragon tries to swallow me, too?

I guess it would be good for science, provided none of them try to digest me.

But honestly I'd rather not risk it.

Ultimately, I need to find out what about me is so delicious, and see what I can do about it.

For now, I'll have to resort to a temporary solution.

It turns out that those belly-leaping things go away when you drink lots of water.

That little human hadn't broken my innards at all! He had tricked me. Of course a little human can't hurt a big dragon's insides! What had I been thinking?

I can eat up a human if I darn well want to, and as long as I drink lots of water, he won't be able to break my insides!

My rider listens to the little human and gives me lots of fresh wriggly fish to eat now. I feel them squiggle and squirm down my long throat and all through my crop and stomach. They feel so yummy inside, but not quite as yummy as a little human feels inside when he rubs and scratches. I want to feel a little human rubbing and scratching in my belly again. It feels so good

I think a lot about how a human tastes on my tongue. They taste wriggly and soft and oddly salty, with a wonderful warm-meat flavor. They don't taste like anything I've ever gobbled up before. Only humans taste like that.

I still don't think I am a man eater.

But I really want to catch and taste and hold a little human in my crop again. Just for a little while.

No wonder that lucky Night Fury does it so much. It just feels so GOOD!

I thought about eating my rider. I tried licking him and nibbling him and trying to hold part of him in my mouth. But he didn't like that very much. After I did that, he didn't come by later to feed me. I think he's too scared of me right now. I could eat him maybe if I wanted to, but maybe then he'd be so upset he would NEVER come back to feed me real food.

How does that stupid Night Fury make his Little Supper not scared?

I like to tease my rider, but I don't want to scare him so badly. I'll try later, when he's less afraid of me.

For now, I have to wait until I get some more alone time with the Little Supper.

It's been weeks, though. I'm tired of waiting.

I told my rider I was sick today. Sick in the belly. I lay on my side all sick-like, and snarled dangerously whenever anyone came near, even if they brought me fresh meat and fish.

Most humans are stupid, so it worked really well. It took a while for them to spread the word enough, but now they've finally sent the Little Supper to come see me.

I raise my head curiously. The little human has been a good boy and has come all by himself, with only a basket of fish. He looks so skinny and tiny and fuzzy, and he greets me with a shrill little human chirp as he sets the fish down beside him.

He looks so deliciously adorable. I remember wrapping my tongue around his warm thin bare tummy, and the feel of his bony knees and fuzzy head in my mouth and especially his skinny body squirming around in my stomach. I watch him place his steps carefully. He is such a perfect, tasty little thing.

Warily, I look around, sniffing the air. Surely the Night Fury is nearby. Or the boy's big scary father.

The Little Supper's father doesn't like it very much when dragons try to eat his son. And the Little Supper's father can punch really hard.

But I don't smell anybody. Only fish.

I can play with the little human however I want, now!

I straighten up and smile at him. He stiffens and cranes his neck to look all the way up at me. He smiles too, a nervous tiny square-toothed smile, and he chirrups and offers me a fish.

I narrow my eyes. I want a really BIG fish!

I'm unable to hold it back any longer— I strike at him. He howls in surprise as I knock him over, and carefully cage him in with my big talons. His tiny chest swells and shrinks over and over as he gasps in shock, and he looks so cute trapped there under my paw, clinging uncertainly to my claws.

Purring happily, I lean in close and tell him that I am going to eat him up again.

I don't think he understands me very well. He makes an unhappy face. Not a particularly frightened face. Just unhappy. He sighs and closes his eyes really tight.

Oddly I almost think I see him smile a little, too, just as I open up to CHOMP him, but it makes so little sense that I think little of it. I'm just so happy that I get to have little human for supper again! Eagerly, I lift him up and flip him backward into my mouth, catching him deftly with my tongue and wrapping him up for a good long tasting.

Mmm! He's just so squirmy! He wriggles, grunting with discomfort as I roll him around in my mouth and savor his rich meaty taste. Oh, I've missed this so much! He yowls as I bury my tongue underneath his outer layers of fur to taste his smooth salty-creamy hide underneath, and he squirms in the most lovely way, wrestling back at my tongue, frantically rubbing and scratching at it, as if he thinks that will fix my appetite for him.

I purr pleasantly, beginning to tilt my head back. Poor little thing! My appetite for him won't be satisfied until I feel him pushing and kicking and rubbing and scratching like that deep down against my innards!

My throat is HUNGRY for him, hungry to feel his tiny weight and wriggliness stretching it as I swallow him downinto my empty crop—

Eagerly, I toss my head back in my haste to swallow him down—

And then I taste it. Something rubbery, oily, slimy, writhing on my tongue— a taste so bitter, so venomous, so AWFUL, filling my mouth entirely, that I stop completely dead before I am able to swallow.

My stomach lurches, and I gag.

Eel? Why on earth do I taste— EEL?

END