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Chapter 10

Adla stared back at the enemy forest eerily. Chills went right up Hiccup's spine. Adla hadn't lost his touch. Hiccup instinctively put his hand to his sword. He needed something to hold that would make him feel confident.

"He's scary good," Svartur said. "We can't beat that,"

"Then we'll just have to win every other match," Hiccup said still staring at his eventual opponent and fellow heir. "Make his wins count for nothing,"

Even though trees stood in the way Adla still managed to pierce the forest with his stare and it was aimed right at Hiccup. His gaze was plain but it said something. It said "This will be you."

Hiccup was even more scared.

What if he carries this feeling back to Midgard?

With Loki

Thor proudly gazed at Heimdall. Adla's victory surely would shut Heimdall up and numb his comments.

"I can't say I'm surprised," Thor said.

"He did his best and won four times," Heimdall said showing no concern at all. "To ask for five would be too much. You're still down by as many wins,"

Thor was silenced again.

The champions appeared.

"My, what great fights," Odin said. "Good work especially to Stolt who proved himself a noble warrior with four victories. You are all given a reprieve for the day,"

The champions were dismissed. They all headed back to the barracks.

Thor's team didn't want to talk much about the fights so Rurik decided he would start bragging about something else.

"I am by far the fastest Viking in my village," he boasted. "Maybe the fastest Viking ever,"

"I would really beg to differ," Svartur murmured.

"What was that witch?" Krig asked angrily.

Hiccup turned at the insult and had his sword at Krig's throat.

"What did I say about that name?" Hiccup said through clenched teeth.

"Put it down," Lofn said resting her own spear on Hiccup's throat.

"All of you stop acting like children," Adla commanded. Because pointing weapons at each other's throats is what Viking children did.

No one really wanted to argue after his display today. They all just dropped their arms.

"Now what was it that you said Svartur?" Adla asked calmly.

"I disagreed with Rurik," Svartur said. "I think I'm faster than him,"

"Well then why don't we just find out?" Adla said.

"Yes!" Loki said as he appeared. "You guys are making your own challenges!" he exclaimed as he grabbed Krig by the tunic and shook him. "I'm so proud! Isn't this great?!"

Loki had a crazed look in his eye and all Krig could do was nervously smile and nod.

"You gotta lighten up Chuckles," Loki said as he released Krig. "Okay a normal foot race is boring. But for some reason it's the coolest thing over in Greece,"

"Where?" Skytt asked.

"Doesn't matter," Loki said waving off the question. "I have a much more exciting plan." He snapped his finger and a trail started to grow from where he stood into a field. The trail spanned about two hundred yards. And then other things appeared. Trees shot out of the ground and then fell right onto the path creating an obstacle.

Next a few yards after them the ground sank in and filled with water. The only way across were large angled stones on each side of the pool. Each one separated from each other.

Then came a pit with spikes at the bottom. The only way across were long poles with a flat top that made a path to the other side.

"That looks…" Rurik started nervously.

"Fun!" Svartur exclaimed.

"Excellent," Loki said. "Take your places,"

Rurik and Svartur took their places in a starting position.

Loki stood between them.

"On your mark," he said. "Get set… Goat!" both lurched forward "Ha! Gotcha both!"

"Really?!" Rurik said.

"Grow a sense of humor," Loki said. "This is why I don't like Thor. He has lame friends." Loki began again. "On your mark… Get set… GO!"

The two shot off for the trail.

With Astrid

Both she and Snotlout decided that staying with Hiccup was just taking its toll on their psyches so they decided today they would give themselves a break.

Astrid spent the day with Ruffnut. The two looked for things to do. They settled on relaxing on the docks. Astrid looked out on the endless sea.

"Hey that ship looks like it's sinking," Ruffnut said.

Sure enough out at sea a merchant ship had struck a rock and looked ready to sink. Astrid finally had something to do. She bolted to her feet and turned to run to get Stormfly just as she landed right in front of her.

Landing next to her was Tuff on the Zippleback. "We saw it from the cliffs," he said. Just then Snot and Fish flew over head rushing to the ship. "Let's go!"

Asrtrid jumped right up onto her Nadder and Ruffnut onto her head of the Zippleback. They took to the sky and rushed to sea.

With Hiccup

To say they both shot off on the trail would be an exaggeration. Rurik shot off and hit Svartur to the ground in the process.

Well Svartur was pissed off and got right back up and began a sprint to catch the jerk.

He made it to the trees and slowed down. He started picking his way through the branches that were still attached to the tree that lay in the path.

Size really sucks sometimes.

Svartur barely broke stride. She hurled herself at the branches and climbed through them effortlessly. Then she jumped from the one downed tree to the next and then the next. Rurik was barely over the first.

Next Svartur sprinted for the pond with the rocks. She reached it just as Rurik made it out of the trees. He found himself in shock. He couldn't believe she was moving so fast. He began to try and catch up.

It was useless.

She hit the rocks and bounced off them flawlessly. She flipped and spun and made it look as graceful as a Nadder flying.

She landed on the other side of the pond and continued running toward the next obstacle.

Rurik jumped to the first stone and clung to it. Then he jumped to the next. He couldn't move anywhere near as fast as she had through the obstacle.

Svartur hit the next obstacle running. She jumped one footed past three of the poles and then dove for the fourth. She landed on her hands and brought the rest of her body above her ending in a handstand facing the direction she came from.

"What's wrong Rruik?" she shouted. "Can't keep up?"

Rurik was infuriated by the taunt.

He finished the second obstacle and sprinted for the third.

Svartur righted herself and made for the end of the obstacle. She lightened her pace and relaxed her body.

Rurik made it to the next obstacle. He jumped to each pole one by one. He stopped to balance himself on each. He jumped nervously and nearly missed the end. He had to pull himself out of the pit and run to try and catch Svartur who was running significantly slower.

Rurik was breathing heavy but he saw that he could beat the girl. She must've burned up all that energy on those snotty flips and fancy running.

"Looks like all those tricks don't mean anything in the end," he shouted catching up to her.

Without even turning she said: "No, they don't. I just wanted it to be close,"

Suddenly Svartur broke into a sprint that Rurik never thought possible by any person. She moved over the landscape like the shadow of a bird.

She reached the end and started breathing heavily but enjoyed her victory. Rurik made it in about twenty seconds later panting like a dog in the sun.

Loki's team celebrated Svartur.

Five up for Loki.

With Astrid

Astrid and the others rushed atop their dragons for the ship.

"Okay," Snotlout yelled over the wind. "Everyone go for the ships and pick whoever you can,"

"What?!" Astrid yelled. "We need a plan,"

"That is a plan," Snotlout yelled back.

"A crappy one!"

"Who asked you?!"

"Any reasonable minded person!"

"Enough!" Fishlegs yelled. "Astrid! Secure a perimeter and make sure there isn't anyone who drifted away from the boat! Ruff! Tuff! Take care of the crew on and around the boat! Your dragon is the largest! Snot! Support the Thorstons! Anyone they can't take you take! I'll round up the ones drifting away from the center!"

No one moved. Everyone was shocked at how Fish of all people took initiative.

"Well?" Fish said with urgency. "Go!"

Shaking themselves out of their shock the gnag bolted into action. Astrid shot off to circle about two miles around the ship. The Thorstons and Snot aimed right for the boat. Fish went in right behind them.

Fish had to take the initiative because this was a boat sinking. These were sailors like him. He couldn't let them drown.

Especially since he wanted to know what happened.

The dragon war was over, this far out there were no rocks, and it was a clear day. Something was really up.

With Hiccup

"That was awesome Svartur," Hiccup said. "Where'd you learn to do that?"

"The forge was your escape," she replied. "The forest was mine,"

They were back in the barracks and relaxing after today's events. Hiccup saw her point. Outcasts had a way of coping with loneliness. They became good at something.

For Hiccup it was learning to make weapons and for Svartur it was running.

"Svartur," Adla said approaching the two. "That was amazing,"

"Thanks," she said.

"How'd you become so surefooted?" he asked.

"I ran at night when no one was around. I would run until I had to go home and collapse,"

"Wow," Adla said impressed.

"It kept me in good shape," Svartur said. "But it had its downfalls," She became slightly solemn.

"Like what?" Hiccup asked.

"Ever wonder why people assume I'm a witch?" Svartur asked. "People would look out their windows at night and see me running by into the forest. People always make assumptions,"

She turned away from them.

"Assumptions are stupid Svartur," Hiccup said. "Things will change soon. I promise,"

"Thanks Hic," she said feeling slight comfort in Hiccup's confident assurance.

He was always such a good friend.

With the gods

"You can give this up now Thor," Loki said.

"I'm not going to give you that satisfaction," Thor said angrily.

"What satisfaction?" Loki returned.

The two were alone. A few miles from Valhalla.

"I want our fighting to end Brother," Loki continued. "Not out of my own selfish desire for victory but out of concern and awareness that we can both be happy,"

"You still hold onto that idea that Ragnarok won't come to pass," Thor said with a smile. "Something so epic and legendary will not be prevented by some scrawny child that killed some monster,"

"That was a major event that has the potential to change Midgard as a whole,"

"Midgard!" Thor exclaimed. "This is Asgard. What do the events of humans have to do with us gods?"

"If that's how you feel then why is it so important for Hiccup to die? Why can't he be a champion? Why do you hate him so much if you claim not to care for Midgard?"

Thor had no response. This whole fight was based on the fact the Thor hated what Hiccup had done to the balance.

"If you think Midgard doesn't affect us," Loki continued. "Then why was your initial argument for Hiccup's execution because he had disrupted the balance? It doesn't add up Thor!"

"All that has to add up are my victories," Thor said coldly. "All I have to prove is that I am still the mightier brother,"

"Thor…"

"No!" he said. "This is your power grab to take Asgard! Try and make me into the villain! Win favor and then strike down everyone! Well I won't let you and your… your…brood of little monsters end us! The only change in the story of Ragnarok is that I will kill Jorgamundr, I will save Father from Fenrir and after all is done I will take the head of your daughter Loki. I will take it and hang it in Valhalla. Hang it as a warning to all who stand against the reign of the gods. But you…you don't get death. I will leave you tied back up to your stone to rot again. But added to your torture will be the knowledge that your children be dead and you could not save them."

Loki was a cold, manipulative, and cunning god but at this moment he had no words for what his brother had just said.

"Well what do you think of that?" Thor asked. He wanted the fear. He wanted his brother to show that he was intimidated.

Loki regained himself.

"In this world and all the worlds there will always exist violence and hatred. That cannot be changed unfortunately. Two differing opinions will cause tension which will cause resent which leads to hurt which leads to violence and then annihilation. Or a being or group will vie for power and ultimately cause a family to be ripped to shreds. But what is the worst about this is that even when an option of peace is presented one side is so set at war they can't see the alternative. So instead of letting a grudge and a prophecy guide your decisions you should look inward and realize that there is an option of peace being presented to you. I hope that you don't throw it away."

With that Loki turned and left Thor who stood without argument.

Loki thought though as he left. Thor's cold threats lingered in his ears. He pictured his serpent son struck down by lightning and beaten to death by Thor's hammer. He envisioned his wolf son being given no more mercy and being killed by the combined power of Odin and Thor. He finally thought of Thor mounting the severed head of his daughter, who even now was trying to live a better life, in the Great Hall and all the gods smiling about it.

Loki let all this fill his head and for the first time in a long, long time he cried. Even when he had been tortured he had not let out a tear but now the God of Trickery was reduced to tears thinking about the fate of his children at the hands of his brother.

To him that was much more torturous.