My friends! It is time! Part Three is here!
Now, I'm really going to have to rush to stick to my two-week update schedule this semester, so please be reasonable and patient if things don't always arrive on time!
Aside from that, I think I'll just do a quick recap of the story so far. By the way, anyone who's here and hasn't read first The Traitor and then Reconciliation should leave immediately and go to those (just find them through my profile) or risk epic spoilers!
In Part One, Astrid was training in the woods one day, when she almost attacked Hiccup by accident while the boy was on his way to..well, she had no idea, but the young woman followed him to find out.
Astrid then discovered his secret - a Night Fury, that Hiccup had somehow befriended.
Wild with jealousy at the boy's newfound talents at dealing with dragons, Astrid ratted Hiccup out to his own father, and Stoick then banished Hiccup from the village.
Astrid, however, was beginning to see that perhaps what she had done was not in everyone's best interests, and was plagued by guilt and regret for the next seven years...
In Part Two, based seven years later, tensions with the other villagers, and, in particular, her parents cause Astrid to snap and leave to hunt down Hiccup alone, convinced that he is the only one who can repair the rifts developing between the village members, and perhaps even bring peace to humans and dragons in Berk.
However, upon finding him, Astrid finds out the hard way that the boy is no longer the weak fishbone of their childhood, and is almost killed by him - only to have Toothless pull Hiccup back from the brink just in time.
In the castle of an ancient race that was once friends with the dragons, Astrid convinces Hiccup to return with her to Berk to sort out the various issues there, but now begins to question her own motives for doing so.
Flying with Toothless, who has stayed by Hiccup's side and kept him safe for the past seven years, the two humans arrive back at Berk, only to discover that Stoick has take the majority of the fit and able to attack the Dragon's Nest, having recently discovered its location.
Hiccup knows what the warriors of Berk will be facing, but Astrid pulls everyone together to fly to Berk with their old, dragon enemies and destroy the Red Death. Many lives are saved as Hiccup and Toothless duel the Dragon King high in the sky, but upon the monster's fall, Hiccup is badly burned, and his leg must be amputated.
With a tentative truce in place between humans and dragons, the Vikings return with Hicucp to berk, and the boy sleeps for a week, cared for all the while by a confused and increasingly devoted Astrid.
Upon waking, he has no memories of any events past his last memories of the Hollow Bastion far to the west, but Astrid's touch gives him back his mind, and the pair go outside to meet the rest of the village, now living in harmony with the dragons.
A tired Hiccup is greeted and welcomed back to Berk as a hero. Toothless reflects awhile upon the various humans with with whom Hiccup has a relationship of some kind, and decides that things might just work out...
And now, the conlusion - boy, that's cliché, isn't it?
Chapter One: Change
"Hiccup? Hiccup, are you alright?" But Hiccup was most certainly not alright.
The boy's weight had suddenly fallen heavy upon Toothless' neck, and the Night Fury knew immediately that his rider's moment of reunion with the villagers of Berk was now well and truly over.
"Hiccup, please, answer me. Do you feel pain? What do you need?" Hiccup was now tiring visibly, and the black dragon could tell from the startled and suddenly fearful looks on the other Vikings' faces that the young hero with his arm around the Night Fury's neck was hardly acting the way a healthy man should.
"Hiccup, I really think –"
"Rest." The answer was soft and gentle, and even though the two were still communicating by merely more than the mental link, Toothless could feel that it was laden with weariness.
"I...I just need to rest. Toothless, help me back inside...I feel as though I'm going to pass out any minute." That was all Toothless needed to know.
The Night Fury had been quietly enjoying his moment of inner satisfaction at the sudden surge of admiration he was receiving, observing the countless humans and dragons around him in a respectful yet somewhat aloof manner.
Try as he might, Toothless could not help but look down upon the throng which had assembled to greet the two heroes of Berk.
After all these years, so many generations, battles fought and lost, and uncountable death and grieving on both sides, it had come down to a pair of recluse washouts to bring an end to the horrific warring of the two races.
Toothless' bitter and spiteful feelings towards the Vikings of Berk may have begun to drift away, having been released from their moorings by the steady, implacable hands of true, apologetic remorse, but the Night Fury's frustration and intolerance of other dragons had only grown over the years.
And now the ropes securing this vessel to the docks had been so knotted and tangled by the flowing tides of time's passage, that only the pure hands of one who had already sailed aboard such a ship could set it free.
That someone, Toothless felt, was clearly Hiccup.
Consciously destroying this tortured metaphor with a single thought, the black dragon brought his racing mind back to the present, to deal with matters far more pressing.
"Let's go." Toothless turned slowly to face the chieftain's house, Hiccup's shivering arms wrapped tightly around the Night Fury's neck.
The black dragon turned briefly to look at the boy's father, but Stoick gave him a simple, understanding nod, before turning to face the assembled crowd of Vikings and dragons.
"Alright, all ye Vikings and dragons, listen up! Hiccup and Toothless have been through much more than anyone could have asked of them, and deserve their rest as such. I would appreciate it if we could keep the noise in the village to a minimum for the next few days at least." The Vast man glanced over his shoulder at the quietly exiting forms of Toothless and his master.
"Come to think of it, let's not have any ruckus or shenanigans for the rest of the week!"
The chief was still talking, his huge voice booming over the throng for everyone to hear, but Toothless was no longer listening.
His mind had, once again, shifted back to more pressing concerns, specifically his master's health.
As the two of them made their way through the thinning crowd of Vikings and dragons and back up the stone step to chieftain's high residence at the summit of the village hill, Toothless noticed out of the corner of his eye that they had picked up a straggler, and was not at all pleased.
Although the rest of the village had now realised that their hero need merely rest without interruption, and was perfectly willing to give the boy just that, here was a Viking who was caring to the point of being frustratingly difficult to turn away.
Astrid Hofferson would not be put off so easily.
As dragon and rider reached the door, Toothless nudged it open with his scaly snout, noticing that Hiccup had now lost all sense of conscious perception.
He had, quite simply passed out on his feet, one arm still draped over his friend's neck.
The black dragon retracted his teeth, reached around and took the boy's body in his powerful jaws, supporting him carefully so that he would not slump in an awkward way.
But just as Toothless slunk inside and turned to shut the wooden frame behind him, he felt a soft hand upon his back and realised that Astrid was now standing in the doorway, looking worried to say the least.
"Toothless, is he alright? Can I help at all –?" But the Night Fury gave her a menacing growl; Astrid was no longer welcome in Hiccup's house while the boy was still recovering...she would only be a distraction.
Even so, the black dragon could not help but feel a tiny nudge of guilt in the pit of his stomach as he watched the young woman turn away in dismay.
If anyone had earned an apology from the Night Fury and now deserved his trust and respect, it was her.
As soon as Toothless had taken his rider upstairs and put him gently back to bed, the tired dragon found himself wandering back down to the door of the chief's house.
He had awoken barely five minutes ago to find that both Hiccup and Astrid, who had both been present as he had last gone to sleep, were nowhere to be seen.
He had presumed that they had gone outside to meet with the rest of the village, and had followed the sounds of laughter and merriment in spite of his exhausted state of mind.
His guess had been proven right shortly afterwards.
Pausing only to drain the pot of water which Astrid had left for him every morning by the door, Toothless nudged the door open and crept outside once more, into the balmy breeze and midday sun.
The village was busy once again, bustling with Vikings and dragons doing their stuff – whatever it happened to be.
Far off in the distance, in the skies over Raven's Point, he just make out the faint silhouettes of a flight of dragons circling over the pine-forest slopes.
How the Night Fury wished he could be out there with them, riding the great currents of the endless blue sky.
He could try to convince one of the more accepting and courageous Vikings to learn to operate his harness – but then there was the issue of there no longer being a harness.
The carefully crafted flying rig had been burned to ashes and warped beyond recognition in the fires of the Red Death's destruction, along with the beloved tail-fin which had allowed to fly the past seven years.
He could nag the blacksmith to smelt him a new one – from the stories Hiccup had told him of Gobber the Belch, Toothless didn't doubt that the man had the skill or patience to recreate such a mechanical marvel.
But then there was the issue of plans and diagrams – Hiccup had not brought those with him upon his exile from Berk all those years ago, despite having packed everything else in preparation for their departure.
He could get Astrid to try and find them amongst Hiccup's belongings – but the Night Fury did not feel that he could communicate with the young woman to that degree just yet.
Cutting off his chaotic train of thought right there, the black dragon sighed inwardly, accepting the cold reality and awful finality of what the defeat of the Dragon King had really cost them both.
Toothless would have to wait for Hiccup to be ready to fly again.
Quite out of nowhere, the Night Fury suddenly found himself thinking about his new position among his own kind, and how the other dragons' attitudes towards him had changed so much.
He had once been a sad, lonely dragon, derided and shunned by the others of the hive, and mocked by the King himself.
Although his power and skill as a warrior of the great flight had helped save the lives of countless dragons during their frequent raids on Berk, the fact that he was the only Night Fury among thousands of dragons had earned him nothing but mocking sneers and cold indifference.
It hardly helped that, among his own kind, he was utterly repulsive to look at – as ugly as a dragon could possibly be.
"But look at me now," he thought viciously, little bubbles of anger welling up in his mind and bursting on the surface of his conscious thoughts.
Toothless felt like roaring, screaming his inner anger to wind and letting them all know how very wrong they'd been about him.
But all of a sudden, the Night Fury was hit by a realisation so profound that it shook him to the core.
It had occurred to him long ago that he and Hiccup had a very similar past, having both grown up under the strain of simply being different, but being persecuted for it.
But it was the humans, those stubborn, unrelenting, hostile humans who had been the first ones to apologise truly to the son of their village and accept his forgiveness with open, bleeding hearts.
The dragons may have accepted that they now had a place living alongside the Vikings of Berk, but...
They had yet to show the same kind of regret to Toothless for their treatment of him in the past.
Sure, they had all done their very best to make sure he had been properly looked to in the aftermath of the Battle of the Nest, but that was as far as their caring nature had extended.
Even the Nadder who had so openly proclaimed herself to be "Astrid's Nadder" and tried to blend in to the Viking village as much as possible had yet to approach Toothless and engage him in any kind of meaningful conversation.
Toothless snorted, laughing inwardly at the way young Spineless had pranced around in front of everyone upon being honoured with a human-given name...
Blinking sleepily in the sudden glare of the sun as it emerged from behind the last wisps of highest cloud, Toothless opened his mouth in a colossal yawn and peered around once more at the jumble of villagers and dragons who moved to and fro, completely at ease in each other's company.
Whatever the case, not even the downhearted Night Fury could deny that a marvellous thing had been achieved in the unification of these two races.
Even he had been surprised by the rapid acceptance and tolerance that each side had gained in the company of the other...
It was wondrous indeed that little Hiccup and his dragon Toothless could bring together these two warring parties in peace and harmony, and a relationship which would hopefully last long into the future.
"What? What do you want now?" Toothless had been letting his mind wander aimlessly for quite some time, and was surprised to feel the sudden touch of a human hand upon his flanks.
He was, however, far less surprised to find that it was Astrid who had been trying gently to get his attention.
But the young woman recoiled almost instantly as the pure thoughts slammed into her mind with awful bluntness.
She had obviously not been expecting to be able to communicate directly with another human's dragon, and staggered back in shock, removing her hand from Toothless' side.
Although the Night Fury was exhausted to the point of dazing off and falling asleep where he stood, he somehow managed to whip his tail around to support the stumbling Astrid, who promptly sat down upon the leathery seat, blinking in shock.
Turning around to look at the blond Viking, Toothless kept his tail still to support the dazed young woman and cocked his head, trilling faintly.
He did not even feel angry at her interruption of his hazy daydreaming – just a little amused.
"Astrid, what do you want?"
Astrid took a deep breath, and tilted her head back to stare into the Night Fury's eyes, now only a few feet from her own.
"Wow," she spoke at length, opting to put a voice to her thoughts instead of trying to place them directly into the dragon's mind "I can honestly say that I didn't think the link existed between anyone other than a human and their...well, their dragon companion." Toothless warbled in amusement.
"A false conclusion, to say the least," he replied gently. "Suffice to say that, given enough mutual trust and understanding between a dragon and a human, they may communicate as we do now. This is my experience, anyway." Astrid smiled, and opened her mouth, but stopped upon noticing the way Toothless was now looking at her.
The Night Fury was examining her intently, suddenly intrigued by this young human who had been instrumental in the fall of the Dragon King and the unification of their two races.
From the outside, she appeared to be an ordinary Viking woman, albeit a very beautiful one – it was becoming clear why Hiccup was somewhat infatuated by her.
But Toothless could tell that, on the inside, there were secrets hidden away which defined Astrid as an individual, made her who she was, and pushed her to make the decisions she did.
"What?" Astrid asked curiously, somewhat perturbed by the dragon's intense gaze.
Toothless had rarely bothered to glance at her in the past, too caught up in his hatred for the Vikings of Berk.
But now that this animosity was beginning to unravel from around the Night Fury's heart and fall away like tangled yarn from a loom, he suddenly found himself strangely curious about this young Viking.
What had really caused her to come in search of Hiccup, in spite of the dangers and the uncertainty in the outcome of her quest?
"You," replied Toothless after a moment's thought, "are an interesting little human. Yes, indeed you are." And before Astrid could respond, he leaned forward and nudged her forehead with his snout ever so gently – and was intrigued to find that she recoiled in pain from even his most soothing touch.
"Ouch! Toothless, what do you mean by –?"
"That scar –" the Night Fury cut in, "– Is it a dragon's bite?" Astrid sniffed, giving him an irritable look.
"Yes, it is. There was a – a raid on Berk several days before I found you and Hiccup up at the castle, and I got bitten by an Icebolt – why?" Toothless shook his head.
"I'm not entirely sure, but I believe that the Icebolt's fangs are venomous – to humans, anyway." Astrid's face fell and for a moment she looked quite horrified.
"I had – I'd suspected that they were. I've had this nasty ache which has been coming and going this past week. Runa, that's the village healer by the way, says that it looks fine –" But Toothless cut clean across her ramblings.
"I'll do a deal with you," he thought clearly, and watched in amusement as Astrid's face changed from worry and anxiety through to confusion and finally to intrigue and a little suspicion.
"I will let you go up and sit with Hiccup, as long as you promise me three things." Toothless couldn't help but bark out loud with laughter as the young woman's face leapt with joy and eagerness.
"What are they?" she practically cried, and the black dragon closed his eyes for a moment, lest he break down in laughter from the overjoyed look on the blond Viking face.
"Firstly," Toothless started off, now quite serious, "I want you to go and see this Runa sometime later today and ask her to treat that bite of yours as she would wound from the fangs of a Terrible Terror." Astrid nodded, her face alight with expectation.
This was evidently rather a small bother to her in comparison to her being allowed to stay with Hiccup.
She hopefully understood that the request was for her own good, anyway.
"Secondly," he continued, "I want you to find time to speak with your parents and repair your relationship with them." Astrid opened her mouth in surprise at this request, but Toothless growled in gentle warning.
"I've seen enough over this last week to know that something happened before you came in search of Hiccup that created a rift between you and your mother and father – this is one of my conditions. Take it or leave it." Astrid nodded speechlessly, now looking a little worried at the apparently fearful prospect of having a serious conversation with her alienated parents.
"And thirdly," Toothless finished off with a cheeky trill, "I want to have a serious, philosophical conversation with you sometime in the near future." The young Viking was completely taken aback.
"Philo-what-ical? And about what? What do you –?" But the Night Fury cut her off one last time.
"Just promise me these things, and you can go in and see Hiccup. Can you do that? Am I really asking so much? All of these things are for you own benefit, you know – I hope you can see that."
There was silence for a few seconds, while Astrid stared at the dragon, her face impassive.
"Alright then," she replied finally, voice toneless and flat.
"But what does – philophosical mean?" Toothless barked with laughter.
"Never mind – now go on! I'm sure Hiccup would love to see you – well, perhaps not, as he's fast asleep – but go on in anyway." Astrid stood up to leave, her face once more alight with happiness.
Just as she turned to go, however, Toothless whipped back around to grab her with his tail, bringing his snout up to touch her nose, glaring straight into her bright blue eyes.
"And one more thing. I'm sure I don't need to make you promise this one, but take good care of Hiccup!" Astrid smiled uncertainly, but relaxed as the Night Fury whuffled in dragonesque amusement.
Toothless now simply stood there, crouched on the great stone steps which led up to Hiccup's house, watching as Astrid opened the door and slipped inside noiselessly, gifting the exhausted dragon with one last little smile.
The Night Fury shook his head, chuckling to himself, and set off in the opposite direction down the hill and into the village of berk.
Humans, he reflected, were funny creatures.
Well, next chapter in two weeks' time, as ever, reviews and comments welcomed and encouraged, and I'll try to answer any specific questions people have at the end of chapters if I can't PM them.
Yes, you are going to find out what happened to Hiccup in the seven year gap - that's already planned as the second sequel - I would do it as the first, but I have something specific in mind which doesn't work there, a setting that I want to use. Part Three will be dealing mostly with relationships between humans and humans, humans and dragons, and even some dragons and dragons.
Two weeks, people!