To Be God-Touched
By Celestra (El S)
Author's Notes: Hey guys, sorry for the long wait between chapters - I had a blast working on the archaeological dig in Spain, and since I've returned home, life has been hectic - the store where I work has changed management so there's been a lot of work transitioning managerial styles and renovating the store. Thanks to those who have been sticking with this story and leaving such lovely reviews :)
Astrid could tell that Stoick was struggling mightily with the concept of Hiccup and Toothless merging - not that she could exactly blame him. The burly Chief had searched high and low throughout the village seeking the bodily presence of his son, and he was just as disbelieving when Gudrunir the Village Elder had corroborated what little Astrid knew.
Stoick had forced Gudrunir to cast runestones for him again and again, phrasing his queries differently each time; each interpretation left him unsatisfied in turn.
"Where is my son?!"
Gudrunir threw the stones and squinted at which runes landed face-up within her allotted area. 'Look to the beast.'
"Is Hiccup still alive?!"
Another rattle of the runic stones. 'A twice-life, once divided.'
"Is Hiccup still on Berk?!"
The runestones landed with a clatter. 'In spirit, till it takes flight.'
"Are yeh going out of yer way to sound mystical and obscure?!" Stoick fairly growled at Gudrunir, the red hairs of his beard rustling with his seething.
Gudrunir quirked a grey eyebrow at him. "The stones have many interpretations; divination and omens have never been known for their clarity."
Looking suitably chastened and close to finally conceding defeat, Stoick attempted one last question.
"Is it true? Are Hiccup and the Night Fury one creature now?"
The runestones clacked onto the flat rock Gudrunir was using as a makeshift table in a telltale sign of affirmation that even Stoick could not deny.
At this point, Astrid had to turn away; seeing the sadness and bewilderment ravaging Stoick's face made her feel uncomfortably hollow.
Gudrunir wordlessly led Stoick away from the damaged part of Berk towards her little cottage, presumably to confer with him privately on what she felt could be done, and perhaps also to comfort him away from the hungry eyes of the rest of the village, most of whom had been out of earshot and had no idea what had transpired. Gobber trailed after them, uncharacteristically silent.
Astrid saw that the runestones had momentarily been forgotten, and in an instant of reckless abandonment, she swept them into their rough linen pouch and pocketed them before traipsing off in the direction Toothless-and-Hiccup had gone. Her clear blue eyes swept back and forth across the smouldering buildings and occasional prone bodies left by the Plagueling - that single behemoth had wrought more devastation in a single day than any multiple-dragon raids had ever done in the past.
Toothless-and-Hiccup were a short distance away, crooning to the many assorted dragons that appeared to be swarming them. As Astrid approached, the Night Fury noticed her and bounded towards her with his tongue extended in a sloppy grin, apparently excited to see that she was unharmed. Astrid wondered whether Toothless had warmed to her or whether Hiccup had simply hijacked control of the body in his exuberance. The Night Fury's eyes were still glimmering between different shades of green in a most peculiar fashion.
Astrid slid her hand beneath the dragon's bridle and tugged gently.
"Let's walk," she suggested quietly.
To her great surprise, the Night Fury trotted obediently beside her. 'I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but it's worth a shot, whatever it is,' Astrid thought to herself with equal parts trepidation and determination.
They strolled for a bit in a silence that was attempting hard to be amiable but was still very much awkward. As they passed by Toebeard the Bright's homestead, Astrid was suddenly struck by inspiration and dashed inside, rummaging around for a few minutes before seizing a rune dictionary. She fervently hoped she would have it returned before Toebeard, Dagmar, or any of her pesky Terrible Terrors noticed it was missing.
They had soon left the smoking village behind; no one seemed to be paying them very much attention as most people were preoccupied with assessing the damage caused by the Plagueling. They settled in a wooded clearing that seemed relatively untouched by the Plagueling's corrosive breath.
Astrid turned about to face the dragon.
"You still in there, Hiccup?" she asked, just in case.
The dragon nodded his head solemnly. His eyes were shifting less and less, and it seemed to Astrid that when they retained their almost-feline jade hue, Toothless was in charge, while when they flickered to a darker emerald, Hiccup's presence was poking through. The jade appeared to be more and more persistent.
Astrid fingered the runestone pouch, the coarse dark linen rough against her touch. She was not usually one for casting runes and seeking signs, but she was hoping the carved stones might help her interpret Toothless-and-Hiccup - somehow she doubted the boy's presence in the Night Fury's body had materialized any human vocal cords.
Astrid drew a rough circle in the dirt with a stick, facing north. She closed her eyes and concentrated hard, holding the question in her mind before speaking it aloud.
"Is it hurting Hiccup to be inside Toothless?"
Astrid thrust her hand into the pouch, seizing a handful of stones at random and tossing them into her circle. Some of them bounced out. She studied the ones that remained and noted which runes were face-up, consulting the dictionary ponderously until she thought she could make out the answer (either "a bodiless spirit cannot ache" or "observe the majestic duck" depending on how she tilted her head; she did not quite have the knack of it yet).
Toothless-and-Hiccup watched her with interest, cranial fins twitching. They thrummed slightly at her reading.
Astrid cast the stones again. "Is it possible for Hiccup to be released?"
It took Astrid a long time to find an answer this time; the stones seemed to be inconclusive. She gritted her teeth and was about to try again, but Toothless-and-Hiccup batted at the stones in a very purposeful manner and growled when she tried to remove them.
Astrid referred to the dictionary, her brow furrowed. The formation left by Toothless-and-Hiccup's motion spoke of a positive mental and physical state, and she took this to mean that they were enjoying this union. She drummed her fingers on the ground and cast the stones again.
"Who has the most control?"
Astrid was not terribly surprised to see that the stones gave "the beast" as the answer; the Night Fury's eyes were taking on Hiccup's emerald sheen less and less. She supposed it made sense that the hosting creature's body would have more clout, but she was becoming increasingly worried about what that would mean for Hiccup.
In fact, Astrid was stunned to find how distressed she felt that she might never see Hiccup again outside a scaly, winged body. She would never hear his voice again, raised in excitement as he enthused about some new invention or other, or lowered bashfully as he delivered one of his backwards-but-sweet compliments, or brimming with snark in a bout of sarcasm. She would never see how a betrothal or a marriage panned out. She was disturbed to find how much these 'nevers' hurt.
"Can't you let him go?" she exclaimed in resentful frustration.
Toothless - Astrid was sure it was Toothless and not Hiccup from the feral flash of the eyes - pawed at the runestones again, and her reading spelled out a message of powerful possession and reluctance.
Astrid took a deep breath, wondering how much Hiccup's presence in Toothless' body allowed the dragon to understand Norse.
"I don't know how much control you have over keeping Hiccup inside you, or whether him being in there lets you understand me at all. And I know we've had our differences, but...can't we both have him? I know I've pushed him away and scorned the idea of a betrothal - if you even know what that is, I don't know if dragons have those - but the thing is...without him around, we'll never know if we would be okay together. We have to make our own mistakes. Maybe it's selfish of me to ask and he's better off like this, with you. But for all I know, we could grow to love each other...but we'll never know unless you let him go. You have to let him go so he can live his own life...and I want to be in it, if he'll let me. Please, please - if there's the remotest chance he might want this, if you know how, please, let him go."
It was about the most sentimental thing Astrid had ever dared to mutter out loud, and she had spouted it to a dragon. She had certainly never envisioned such a scenario in even her most fantastical of idle musings.
Toothless seemed to be listening, however. His eyes were quite alert and he was rustling his wings uncomfortably like her words were weighing on him after all.
Astrid licked her lips nervously, wondering if her little outburst was having an effect and whether Hiccup himself was present enough to have heard it.
She held the dragon's eyes steadily, willing the jade to flicker back to emerald.
Nightshade's body was at war with itself.
Normally the Night Fury was fairly impassive about this fiery golden-haired twolegs. He knew Deftclaw was fond of her but was not entirely sure why, especially given how he had detected animosity wafting from her at their first encounter. But Deftclaw's presence in his body was making his thoughts towards her confusingly and uncomfortably primal and he did not like it, while at the same time Deftclaw's influence made him like it, and her, very much indeed.
This influence seemed relatively subconscious, however - Deftclaw's existence in his mind felt comfortable but quiet, as though the boy was happy to let Nightshade make executive decisions in piloting the body now that the threat of the Plagueling was no longer demanding their entire focus. It was almost as though Deftclaw was drowsing, pricking up tendrils of consciousness and control occasionally to keep in practice.
The golden-haired twolegs - Nightshade seemed to recall that Deftclaw called her 'Astrid' - would probably be surprised to know that he was able to understand her little rant in Norse, more or less. The Norse words filtered through Deftclaw's presence in his mind so that he was able to grasp their meanings, albeit in a slow trickle of dawning comprehension rather than the flashes of insight he got from communicating with Deftclaw directly.
Nightshade snorted once he got the gist of what 'Astrid' was asking. How could he convey to her how much he liked being united with Deftclaw? He felt physically and emotionally calmed to have his best friend's presence constantly at hand and he was sore to give that up.
And yet her words irked him. Was it wrong of him to want to keep Deftclaw nestled in his body and force him to give up the full life of friends, family, and love that lurked just out of sight in the future? The thought gave him pause. Certainly Deftclaw seemed ecstatic to be joined with him now, but what about in ten years? Twenty? Would Deftclaw become nostalgic for the human life he had left behind and turn bitter towards him?
Deftclaw stirred at 'Astrid's' outburst.
'Do you think she really means all that?'
Nightshade flicked their shared tail anxiously. Although Deftclaw sounded awed, he also sounded awfully hazy, almost like there was a wall between them.
'Sounding far away,' Nightshade groused.
'Sorry, hold on-'
There was silence, and then Deftclaw's voice came through much more clearly. 'Do you really think she meant all that? I've never heard her sound so emotional before, I don't even know what to say.'
'Why more clear now?' Nightshade asked, ignoring Deftclaw's enthusiasm for 'Astrid.'
'Okay, well don't freak out, but if I don't focus, I feel myself spreading too thin, like my mind wants to dissolve entirely into yours. It's not a big deal, I just have to pay attention and it stops.'
This sounded like quite a big deal to Nightshade, who knew very well that Deftclaw sometimes had the attention span of a sparrow. More significantly, Nightshade did not much like the idea that Deftclaw's mind joining with his would be so literal if the boy did not pay attention. If Deftclaw fused with him to the point where the boy lost the distinct qualities that had made Nightshade love him like a brother in the first place, then Nightshade was not sure he was on board with this union. He liked being Nightshade-and-Deftclaw, but he did not think he wanted to be NightshadeandDeftclaw.
Nightshade hissed silently, cursing the Norns for their backwards and verbatim gift of 'knowing each other's minds.' He narrowed his jade eyes at 'Astrid' - it looked as though she might get her wish after all.
'Keep focusing, Hicclaw,' Nightshade murmured affectionately, spreading his leathery wings and almost knocking 'Astrid' to the ground with his takeoff. She shrank to a pinprick beneath his powerfully beating wings. 'Will fix this.'
'Hmm?' Deftclaw said sleepily, and Nightshade was alarmed at the flat quality of his voice and how he did not rush to participate in flying the way he had when they were facing the Plagueling - he was ceding his control again, and now Nightshade knew it was symptomatic of him lapsing in concentration and spreading too thin.
'Where are we going?' Deftclaw asked, slightly more alert this time. At the back of Nightshade's mind, the Night Fury could literally feel the tendrils of Deftclaw's consciousness knitting themselves back together.
'Back to Yggdrasil,' Nightshade said tensely, soaring over the ocean to a point deep enough to summon the Gateswimmer.
Nightshade sensed waves of vexation radiating from the Gateswimmer when he eventually surfaced, no doubt because Nightshade had now summoned him twice in one day. Fortunately, the immense Scauldron did not deny him the undersea passage that was a requisite in reaching the secret place where the World Tree touched Earth. The journey started to feel familiar, but it seemed insufferably long compared to the last time he made the trip because of his great desire for speed.
When the Gateswimmer finally deposited Nightshade at Yggdrasil's hidden underwater entrance, the Night Fury galloped down the passage with nary a thank-you, his cranial fins flush against the back of his skull in his haste. He soon detected the faint silvery-mauve glow of Yggdrasil's bark forming the far wall of the vastly tall cavern.
The startled cawing of Odin's ravens, Hugin and Mugin, exploded in Nightshade's hearing unexpectedly. He bared his teeth and swatted with a foreclaw, resulting in a fresh burst of squawking and inky black feathers flying everywhere.
"What, are those winged menaces lurking about Yggdrasil again? Don't Odin's birds have anything better to do?" came the familiarly shrill and scratchy voice of Nightshade's least favourite Norn, the old crone Urd. She loomed out of the darkness, her cobwebby clothing making a faint whispering noise as it slithered over the stony ground with her movements.
"We have reason," sulked Hugin, his beady black eyes flashing.
"Yes, if every dragon that crawls and slinks on the earth thinks they can visit the Midgard's sacred places on such frequent whims, it is Odin's business and so ours," Mugin agreed, puffing out his black feathered chest importantly.
The ethereally beautiful Verdandi appeared next, her copper curls a halo around her face and her bright scarves almost - but not quite - serving to lighten the darkness.
"I'm sure Nightshade has a reason to visit again so soon," Verdandi said kindly, always one to give the benefit of the doubt.
"Even so, he transgresses - Odin will know about this!" both ravens shrieked. Urd casually threw a stone at them - with surprising agility for such an old lady - and they scattered.
"Here to thank us for our gift of knowledge? That's proper good manners, that is," Urd said to Nightshade with a grin that had entirely too many pointed teeth in it.
'Do not like this gift. Do not want Deftclaw - Hiccup - to lose himself to gain my mind.'
A tiny furrow grew in Verdandi's lovely brow.
"This is what was asked for," the Maiden Norn said delicately, but not unkindly.
'The cost of his body was already exacted. Not his self too, please.'
The last and most enigmatic Norn finally made her appearance - cryptic Skuld in her gauzy patterned veil. Nightshade could not see her eyes but he could tell that she was regarding him sternly.
"You cannot know the mind of another creature without losing some of your own, you must know that mortals have their limitations," said Skuld. Her tone was difficult to make out - not quite scathing, not quite pedantic, not quite sympathetic, but smatterings of all those things were certainly present.
"Yes, what did you expect?!" Urd cackled.
Nightshade was considering blasting the crone with a plasma bolt, but suddenly his whole body began tingling, and even Deftclaw's consciousness prickled with wonder and concern. A very tall figure was materializing out of the mauve and ivory striations of Yggdrasil's bark, the wood stretching taut and expanding until the figure broke free like a burst soap bubble and strode towards them with grim purpose. Although Nightshade had never met him personally, he knew with absolute certainty that the one-eyed, grey-bearded man in front of him with the fierce expression was Odin All-Father.
Odin was much taller than any of the Vikings Nightshade had ever encountered - he could tell at a glance that the god dwarfed even Stoick the Vast. His skin had an unearthly glow, a sort of opalescent shimmering quality such as when mother-of-pearl catches the light. While he wore the standard garb of a warrior, Nightshade could see that it was richly embellished, and the deep violets, rich indigos, and saturated crimsons were beyond the skill of mortal men. His one good eye - the other covered by an eye-patch trimmed in gold - was dizzying to behold. It looked as though a whole spinning planet, complete with scudding clouds and billowing waters, had taken the place of a regular iris, and there was no pupil. It was a truly unsettling gaze.
When he spoke, Odin's voice was deep and commanding, and there was a ringing quality to it that made it difficult to resist.
"You really must stop forgetting that Hugin and Mugin are my eyes and ears," Odin rumbled at Urd. "When you insult them, it gets back to me sooner than you think."
"They're interfering wretches, is what they are," Urd whined, but with rather less heart once Odin fixed his mystic eye on her.
Nightshade stood transfixed as Odin's eye roved onto him in turn.
"And you, Night Fury - I know why you have come, and I am not impressed. Yggdrasil is a place for seeking wisdom, not asking favours. You have chosen to be touched by the gods, a difficult fate, but of your own seeking. It is not something to be renegotiated. You must sleep in the bed you have made."
'We sought knowledge of minds, not dissolution of selves,' Nightshade countered, his desire to protect Deftclaw lending his voice rather more fire than he probably should be directing towards the Lord of the Aesir.
"From what I observed through Hugin and Mugin - do not forget they were present when you and the boy partook of Yggdrasil's gifts and Mimir's Well - the boy's essential goal was to know your mind, and he shall know it intimately and infinitely. He pays the price to be touched by the gods. He cannot have ultimate knowledge and self." Odin's voice was firm and intractable, and his planetary eye looked as though steely storms were taking over.
Nightshade recalled 'Astrid's' earnest plea to him and tried to rouse that same courage in himself to beg a favour from a literal god.
'As one who is part of this union, I would have this price unpaid. It can be a fine thing to be touched by the gods, but the touch of his friendship has also meant much to me. I never thought one could "bond" with these humans. In earlier days, I would have wished something different from the gods: to see my dam and sire returned, or more recently, to fly whole again. But the return of his life-force is what I seek now. We are better as two. If it is to be a question of seeking wisdom, let it be that I have the wisdom to know that now, and I return it back to the Tree. Or if not that exchange, then give me the wisdom to learn how to be strong enough to live and love him without consuming him. I would rather be blind to his mind and have him beside me than lose his essence within me.'
Odin looked pensive, the clouds in his eye coiling and uncoiling nonstop as though reflecting the motion of his inner thoughts.
"And what you would you do to un-pay this price?" the god queried, only the vaguest tint of interest marring his voice as though the whole matter was beneath him.
Nightshade's cranial fins twitched as he contemplated silently what a god could possibly want of him, and moreover, what was in his power to give. Odin seemed as though he was about to dismiss the matter when Nightshade finally spoke.
'In exchange for lifting the gift of mind knowledge from Hiccup, I pledge that if I live still, I and all the Night Furies I can persuade will fight on your side at Ragnarok, instead of joining Nidhoggr and my kin in the gathering of corpses.'
Odin stroked his silver beard thoughtfully. "You know, of course, that the Aesir do not win at Ragnarok. It has been foretold. You would willingly join the losing side at some indeterminate date in the future just to preserve this mortal boy's self?"
Deftclaw's consciousness tingled weakly and Nightshade's resolve strengthened, his jade eyes smouldering fiercely. 'Yes.'
Odin laughed, but there was very little joy behind it. "Very well then. I agree to rescind the gift and all its side effects. But know this - I will be most peeved if I find you seeking Yggdrasil with mortals again, until it is your time to feed the Tree's roots. A god's touch is never light and thus should not be frequent."
The god nodded at Skuld, who pursed her lips beneath the veil but acquiesced. She lifted the veil from around her face and unwrapped it from her shoulders, her movements graceful and fluid. Despite himself, Nightshade peered at her, attempting to catch a glimpse of her hidden features. Before he could blink, however, Skuld made an elegant motion with her long white hands and the veil rippled through the air and enshrouded him.
Nightshade thrashed but the gauzy grey fabric encapsulated him totally. He could feel the shimmering patterns of the veil burning his hide with its forms, but when he twisted and turned he could see nothing physically marking his scales. He was aware of a painful ripping sensation zipping up his spine and climaxing at the back of his skull, and he roared in agony. He could hear Deftclaw yelling, and then more worrisomely, he ceased to hear him at all. His chest felt hollow and ached as though something precious and essential had been surgically removed. Small white stars flashed at the corners of his vision, expanding until eventually all he saw was white before losing consciousness.
The last thing Nightshade heard before passing out completely was Urd's triumphant voice.
"I knew they'd recant - you owe me five pieces of silver, Verdandi!"
Hiccup could not stop flexing and curling his fingers. Although a couple of weeks had passed since Toothless had braved the wrath of Odin and the Norns and demanded that they rescind their gift, Hiccup still sometimes marvelled at the difference between his deft human hands and the dragon claws he had once possessed. More than that, he felt lucky that he was self-aware enough to appreciate his hands at all.
Hiccup's memories of the journey back to Yggdrasil had been foggy, but he had heard most of the exchange between Toothless and the Norns, and later, Odin himself. He was lucky indeed, and Toothless' defiance towards them on his behalf gave him an indescribable feeling of admiration, appreciation, and affection for his closest friend. The sacrifice of Toothless' future for the sake of Hiccup's present was a gift that Hiccup took far more seriously than what the Norns had initially granted.
Truth be told, Hiccup did occasionally miss the warm and embracing sensation of being melded with the Night Fury, and he especially missed their mind-to-mind conversations. After having tasted that bright and lightning-quick form of communication, going back to the way they were before felt like being struck deaf, dumb, and blind. But Hiccup had learned at great cost that some things were worth doing regardless of their difficulty, and he had painstakingly begun to reassemble a pictographic lexicon so he and Toothless could carry on where they left off before.
Some days the going felt torturously slow - like swimming in mud again - because they both knew exactly what they were missing, but some days were quite rewarding indeed, and their prior knowledge of each other's minds seemed to make some lessons stick even better than before.
"Remember this, bud? It's one of the original pages - the fish one," Hiccup grinned crookedly.
Toothless thrummed in assent and made the warbling fish noise.
They were sitting in the cove near to sunset, and in some ways it felt as though nothing had changed in their routines since before the Yggdrasil incident. Berk had changed, however - in fact it had not stopped changing since that fateful first day Hiccup had found the downed Night Fury in that very spot.
For instance, he and Astrid were in some state of reconciliation now, and in the preliminary stages of working out a betrothal. Astrid's unadulterated joy when Toothless finally returned from Yggdrasil with Hiccup's prone naked body slung across the saddle was matched only by that of Stoick himself. Astrid's attentions had been so fervent that Hiccup was even roused to consciousness briefly, though his body had still been in sore need of repair and was visibly struggling to re-materialize.
Berk's dynamic was altering as well. Many of the villagers who had been on the fence regarding the integration of dragons into everyday village life had been thoroughly converted by the dragons' defence against the Plagueling. Even some of the instigators of the mutiny had changed their tune.
Of course, there were some diehard Berkians whose loathing of dragons was too deep-seated to be persuaded away, and some of them elected to leave Berk and join the tribes of Alvin the Treacherous or Dagur the Deranged, to the great chagrin of their former neighbours. Gerd the Bitter, Mudknob the Butcher, Torkel, and Svenja the Swift all opted to leave, the latter breaking Loaf's heart. Though he loved Svenja, he could not follow her when his conscience differed from hers so strongly.
Holmgeirr the Broad had decided to exile himself for a year while he decided what his true sentiments were, though Stoick did not permit him to leave until he swore a blood oath to take up no arms against Berk or join with enemy tribes during this year, on pain of death.
Mildew stayed in his ramshackle cottage on Berk. This initially caused most people to believe he had come around in favour of dragons, but he continued to complain just as much as before, and now most people believed his attitude had not changed but he was simply too lazy to be bothered to pick up and move.
Hiccup shook his head quickly - he needed to stop his attention from wandering, and his time was better spent with Toothless than musing about Mildew, of all people. He and Toothless were making slow but steady progress with their old style of communication, and for that matter, he and Astrid were making slow but steady progress as well. Soon they would probably be able to hold hands in public without blushing.
Hiccup idly scratched Toothless in the hollow spot under his jaw that always made the Night Fury go limp in ecstasy. The cove was bathed in the beautiful golden light that sunset bestows as its gift to the world before it dies for the day.
Hiccup had his best friend, he had a realistic chance of actually winning the girl, and he had a real body of his own. Life was good, even without being god-touched.
Grid, Rog, and Puck had gone wandering while their mistress Dagmar was collecting herbs to make into ink. The feisty Terrible Terrors had gotten much farther than they supposed, to the other side of the island in fact. They were very much surprised to come across the corpse of the Screaming Death, and Rog had almost fled shrieking before Puck and Grid convinced him that the great she-beast was dead.
Even so, the vibe of the clearing gave all three Terrible Terrors a sense of unease and dread. When they found the clutch of eggs, they fairly scrabbled up some nearby trees in fright, for the eggs still had vestiges of Plagueling scent to them.
'You know what we should do?' Puck said excitedly when her initial terror subsided somewhat.
'What?' Rog said nervously. He tended to hate the electric green Terror's plans.
'We should get rid of those eggs, and tell Nightshade. He will be so proud of us!'
'Sounds like you have a crush on Nightshade,' Grid teased her younger sister.
'Shut up! No I don't! But these eggs do smell kind of evil. We should do it. It will be so heroic!'
'It would be heroic if we waited till the eggs hatched and grew and fought them then,' Rog said testily.
Nonetheless, all three Terrible Terrors worked together to roll the eggs towards the cliff, and with only minor misgivings, they nudged them over the edge, feeling quite proud of themselves.
Most of the eggs were dashed against some rocks jutting from the sea. A few hit the water with resounding splashes, and were surprisingly buoyant despite their heavy appearance. Of course, it is unlikely this buoyancy came to much, for dragon eggs often need tending in order to stay viable. But who is to say what happens to sturdy dragon eggs when they float aloft to the far-off dens of Bewilderbeasts, or strange lands where men wear cloaks of dragon skin...
Author's note: Wow, I can't believe this story is finally finished...or that it took me so long to do so *guilty look* I do hope that you lovely readers who have stuck with it enjoyed it :)