Alaia Skyhawk: Ok, I'm going to give up on update estimates. I keep getting side-tracked by Guild Wars 2 at the moment... whoops.
Disclaimer: I don't own Rise of the Guardians, the Guardians of Childhood, or any related characters etc. This story is written purely for entertainment purposes.
Chapter 108: Opened to Wonder
It was some two weeks later that found Jack descending from the sky towards Berk. Sveldreki had been keeping an eye on things, and had reported Hiccup had made good his word and flown around the Odin Archipelago to spread word of the things Jack had asked him to. That report received, the Spirit of Winter had sent his Lieutenant straight back to tell the young Viking to prepare for a trip for several days.
That said, perhaps that message should also have included word that packing more than basics wasn't necessary.
Jack had to smother laughter when he found Hiccup waiting out the back of his house. The young man had a huge backpack of gear and supplies.
Jack landed near him, chuckling.
Hiccup, who had been sat on his bag with Toothless alongside, leapt to his feet.
"You're here! You really came!"
Jack shook his head at that.
"Of course I came, I said I would." He pointed to the bag. "Also, you can put that back in your house. When I said 'prepare', I only meant to tell people you'd be gone a few days. You don't need to bring anything with you except a change of clothing."
The Spirit of Winter now glanced at the nearby dragon. "Also sorry, Toothless. Some of the places may visit, you'd stand out way too much and freak people out besides. You can come along some other time, I promise."
By now Hiccup had hauled his bag back into the house, and came out a minute later with a much smaller one slung across his torso. He paused to pet Toothless on the nose, wistful.
"I'll see you when I get back."
It was now that Jack conjured a cloud of frostdust, it's power carefully reined in so it couldn't give the young Viking a fit of giggles, and then sat cross-legged on top of it. At his gesture, Hiccup tentatively climbed up to sit beside him only to yelp in surprise a moment later. When the cloud glided into motion and soared upwards much faster than a dragon could.
Hiccup clamped his hands onto the misty edges of the obvious hand-holds Jack made for him. His face had blanched white.
"Is this safe?"
Jack chuckled, reaching with his power to conjure an ice-mirror up ahead.
"Completely. Even if you did somehow manage to fall, I'd catch you. There's no need to worry."
The large mirror shimmered with blue light as they approached, showing an expanse of clearer skies when here over Berk it was cloudy. They passed through it and the mirror then crumbled away, but Hiccup didn't notice. No, his wide-eyed gaze was entirely fixed on the expanse of coastline in front of and below him in the mid-distance. It was more land than he'd ever seen in his life.
Jack nodded with a small smile.
"The coast of Norway; the 'mainland' as you know it. Your ancestors would have come from another country further south from here, heading north along the shore. But this is about the area they'd have sailed to before heading out across the sea to your islands."
"Wow... It's huge." He craned his head to look towards the horizon either side, unable to see where the land ended. "You could put all our islands together and it wouldn't add up to this much."
He didn't seem to notice the motion this time, as Jack sent the cloud of frostdust descending towards the towering sides of the fjords. He then set it into a glide just off-shore, drifting south-west along it so Hiccup could continue to look and gape in amazement.
It was about an hour, and about a hundred-and-fifty miles later, that the young Viking spotted something new.
"Is that a ship? It's huge!"
Jack, who had been laid back with his eyes shut listening to Hiccup's wondering monologue of thoughts, opened them again and sat up. He looked to where Hiccup was pointing, and immediately sent the frostdust cloud soaring upwards to a safer altitude.
He then chuckled awkwardly.
"Whoops, forgot about that. Wouldn't want for you to be spotted. Chances are no one on that ship would see me, but they'd see you apparently floating in mid-air on nothing."
Hiccup peered carefully over the edge of the cloud at the huge white vessel.
"So what kind of ship is that?"
"Cruise ship. They sail around lots of places in the world, carrying tourists... people who want to spend some time seeing other places in the world for fun... around certain parts of it. The people on that one are here to see the fjords, the ocean paths between the mountains of the shoreline. You have to admit the lands here are awe-inspiring."
"Definitely." Hiccup was still peering over the edge. "What is that ship made of? Wood?"
"Steel, among several other metals." Jack gave him a nudge, to get Hiccup to sit straight again and pay attention. "This is the point where I should warn you, that a lot of the rest of the world things are very very different from your islands. You're a bit of an inventor, so I know you can appreciate this when I say that people out there have been inventing lots of things. Things you've never imagined to be possible, or could have dreamed of seeing. It's probably best if you don't talk about them too much once you get back."
"You mean you won't allow me to?"
"No, I mean chances are your people won't believe you, or you'll completely confuse them." Jack glanced at him speculatively. "Although I admit to being curious about something. I've heard your people using Old Norse sometimes, and you use the Norse alphabet, but your everyday language and spelling are in almost modern English. How did that happen? I mean, how did you guys even learn the word 'dentist', and some of the others I've heard you use?"
Hiccup blinked at him, surprised for a moment, before he shook himself and answered.
"Odin did it. Over the centuries, he dropped off messages that needed to be translated, and the books and things needed to work out what they said. As time went by, when he spoke to any of us he started using only this language as well. My ancestors had to learn it if we wanted to understand him. Our old language is only used for special occasions now, and for talking among our families in private."
Jack looked moderately surprised to learn Odin had done such a thing. Had he planned for possible contact with the outside world? Or was it just because 'English' was spoken by most of the Tribes of Myth? Most immortals and Tribes knew the base language actually came from the Golden Age, and that Bunnymund had guided certain receptive groups of humans into 'developing' it. In fact what he'd done was a more subtle version of what Odin had done.
"And the more modern terms, such as 'dentist'?"
"Same thing. Odin leaves books every so often, filled with new words that are useful for us, and descriptions of what they mean. Although the last one he left was before I was born, I think."
Jack nodded, mulling it over until his expression switched to a smile.
"That answers a few things, but let's get back to why we're out here. I think you've seen enough of this coastline now. It's time I introduced you to some friends."
Jack conjured a new mirror, and this time when they passed through they arrived at the depths of Siberia. Above a village surrounded by a magical forest.
Hiccup almost choked, eyes widening in initial fright when he realised that he couldn't see the sea anywhere in any direction for the first time in his life. But then the awe kicked in again, and when they reached the ground he stepped off the cloud of frostdust almost reverently.
Jack had set them outside the forest, so the young Viking could experience the trees opening the path for them. Admittedly he also wanted to see Hiccup's reaction when the trees moved.
It was as amusing as he'd hoped, because Hiccup actually yelped and turned on his heel to run away several strides when the first of the trees swept their branches and surface roots out of the way. He then looked half-heartedly offended when Jack doubled over with laughter at the reaction.
Hiccup rejoined him at the start of the newly-opened path.
"I see, very funny. You could have warned me."
Jack continued to chuckled.
"Now where would the fun be in that?" He waved for him to follow. "Come on, it's not that far from here but it's still a bit of a walk. And it's much later in the day here than it was at Norway."
Hiccup followed, frowning in confusion.
"How can it be later in the day?"
"Here's a new thing for you to get your head around. The world might look flat to us when we're down here, but it's actually round; a huge ball floating around the sun in a massive airless space. So the side that faces the sun is daytime, while the side facing away from it is night-time. Ombric can explain it better than me, and he has a model of the solar system in his home that he can show you."
Hiccup looked baffled.
They kept walking, the hush of the forest making Hiccup relax. Were it not for the fact none of these trees were coniferous, he could have been back home in the forest on his island. But that illusion could only hold until the pair reached the wall of thorny vines that surrounded the village proper, and Jack guided him to one of the openings in it.
The Spirit of Winter then gestured to the whimsically-built village that lay within.
"Welcome to Santoff Claussen... Prepare yourself for the rabble."
Even as he said it, a chorus of joyous shouting started up. One of the village children had spotted Jack, and their gleeful exclamation brought every other child in earshot running in his direction. Yet when they saw he had a guest with him, they stopped at at respectful distance and waited for him to speak, barely suppressing their questions.
Jack smiled at them.
"Everyone, this is my new friend, Hiccup. He's a Viking, from a newly discovered Tribe of Myth. Why don't you show him around, and show him some of your inventions, while I go talk to Ombric and Katherine. But make sure you bring him to Big Root in time for supper, ok?"
Almost instantly a certain startled Viking was dragged away by the group of eight children, leaving Jack to whistle to himself and head for Big Root.
Ombric was waiting for him on the top step by the door, wearing a smile of knowing amusement. This visit had been pre-planned with him, and he could guess where their guest was.
"You handed him over to the children."
Jack laughed, smiling as the two of them went inside and sat at the table and chairs that rose up out of the floor for them.
"Best place for him, and it's the reason I brought him here before anywhere else." A mug of hot chocolate, cooled to the temperature he preferred, floated down and he took hold of it. "He's going to face culture-shock at some point, or several points. Where else better to get him used to that, than here? Nice rustic, non-modern village, but filled to the brim with mechanical and magical gizmos and gimmicks. Add in a pack of enthusiastic child inventors, and you have the perfect recipe for desensitising him."
Ombric chuckled in agreement.
"Indeed, and it is what Santoff Claussen exists for. As a place for people to learn that all things are possible, and to let their imagination and dreams run free." Both of them sipped from their drinks before the wizard continued. "Where do you plan to take him next?"
Jack sighed contentedly, slouched in his seat with his hot chocolate.
"The Workshop. I want to introduce him to North's weapon-smiths, what with Hiccup being a smith and inventor himself. I've asked Sandy to pay a visit too, although Bunny is keeping a tactful distance, and Tooth doesn't know about the visit. She's just a bit too hyper to meet Hiccup at this point in time. The Workshop is going to be surprise enough for him to deal with, without a hyper humming-bird lady and a giant bunny."
The following morning found Hiccup entrenched at one side of the village clearing, surrounded by children and with tools in his hands as he helped one of them fix a clockwork dog. The previous evening, Jack had literally had to come looking for him to drag him to Big Root for supper and sleep. While a complete stranger to clockwork mechanisms, although not the concepts and uses of gears and cogs, the Viking had been so fascinated by the subject he'd proved a more than willing student for the enthusiastic children. As evidenced now, in his smile as his careful fixing of one cog allowed the 'dog' to be wound up and sent bouncing around the clearing. Mechanical barking ringing out along with the cheers and laughter of the children.
Watching the children dash after it, even as Jack came to stand beside him, Hiccup sighed wistfully.
"I wish I could build one of those for back home, except the first person who saw it would scream 'demon!' and smash it with an axe or something." He sighed again. "Any chance I could come back here sometime? There's so much I could learn here."
Jack smiled, patting him on the shoulder.
"I'll arrange something, and I know Ombric would be more than happy to have you come back to visit. Teaching those who wish to learn, is one of his greatest pleasures in life."
Hiccup stood, glancing at the Spirit of Winter.
"Time to go?"
"Yeah, although you can come here again before you go back to Berk. The kids will never forgive me if they don't get the chance to give you something to take home with you." He raised his voice, shouting towards the children. "Hiccup and I have to go now, but we'll be back in a few days. Make him something fun to take home with him!"
The childrens' reaction to that was eager, as they excitedly followed the pair towards the annexe beside Big Root. Having seen and gone through two of them now, the ice-mirrors located inside it didn't surprise Hiccup. Instead he glanced curiously towards the odd view visible through the one opposite that to which Jack was guiding him.
"Where does that one go?"
Jack took hold of him by the shoulders and steered him through the Workshop portal.
"Trust me, you're not ready to see the view from up there."
They emerged into a quiet room, or as quiet as it could be with the sounds of hammers etc being audible through the wooden walls and door. And while the sounds caught Hiccup's curiosity, it was the view he spotted through the window that drew him towards it immediately.
Mountains and plateaus, all coated with thick layers of snow, stretched towards the horizon before his eyes.
"Whoa. Where are we?"
Jack joined him by the window.
"A few hundred miles south of the North Pole. In the depths of Northern Winter, the sun doesn't rise here at all, just as it doesn't rise at my home during the middle parts of Southern Winter."
After last night's crash course about the Earth and the local solar system, and Jack's added comments about the way the Seasons worked north and south of the equator, Hiccup nodded in moderate understanding. Naturally his knowledge was still basic, and he was still getting used to the ideas, but he saw the logic in the reasons why those things were the way they were.
"Seeing Ombric's model of our world makes me realise how small we all are, and yet you can shape the weather over those huge distances. I can't begin to imagine how you manage it."
Jack shrugged, still gazing out the window.
"By the time I fully understood just how big the world really was, I'd already been doing my job as the Spirit of Winter for years. I didn't have my mirrors back then, but I can fly place-to-place so fast that it didn't matter. When you can fly from one side of the world to the other in less than half-an-hour, it doesn't seem like as big a place as it is, and I was still very much a colonial backwoods shepherd in my way of seeing things. Seeing things from an immortal's perspective, takes a decade or so before it starts to sink in."
Hiccup glanced at him in surprise.
"You were a shepherd?"
"Over three-hundred years ago. When I was a child, the place I grew up in wasn't really all that different from Berk. Sure the culture was different, and we didn't have dragons to deal with, but the day-to-day things were the same. Tending the herds, growing crops, gathering firewood for the winter. Things have changed a lot since then. I've barely begun to show you it."
"Easing me into it, eh?" Hiccup grinned wryly. "Shall we get going? Nice as the view is, I'm starting to wonder what all that noise is."
Jack returned the grin and strode to the door, waiting for Hiccup to catch up before grandly swinging it open and pushing him out onto the balcony area beyond. The Globe of Belief suspended just above, flying toys of all kinds sailing through the air around it, and all about the various visible levels yetis worked diligently at making gifts for the world's children.
The expression of utter wonder on Hiccup's face made Jack's smile widen, for seeing that was almost like reliving these moments for the first time himself. To show another the simple yet incredible things of this world, and see them again for himself through fresh eyes.
When both Sandy and North made their appearances, as Hiccup was being shown around the forges on the lower level by one of the Russian's top smiths, they too wore a similar smile. Hiccup's enthusiasm was far too great for it not to inspire such a reaction.
And by the time the day was over, and the trio watched Phil tuck Hiccup into bed in one of the Workshop guest-rooms, they were still smiling. This time at the dreamsand over the young Viking's head, which was shaped by his mind into a dream of him showing his dragon all the things he'd seen.
Alaia Skyhawk: Hiccup meets modern-world and Bennetts next chapter :)