1st - 26. Dragon and Rider

The summary of the next few days as Hiccup gets over his first kill and a general calming down of the Viking's rumours. With the dragon's death Gobber's schedule was slightly changed, but the next battle has several Vikings watching it. Since the past few days Toothless and Hiccup 'played' around, Hiccup is not as afraid of facing dragons as he was and does relatively well, though he only dodges and never swings his axe. (This fight is against the gronckle again).

A section here about how during one of the games where Hiccup jumps on Toothless' back and tries to hang on while Toothless tries to buckle him leads to Hiccup wondering if he can be the one to control the fin from Toothless' back as no other plans have worked out so far. Toothless agrees to this when asked.

Toothless POV

Hiccup makes the saddle and goes to visit toothless.

Toothless gets saddled up + initial tests + no dragonnip episode?

1st - 27. Halcyon Days

Basically the cover of their adventures while trying to get the fin working + Hiccup's increasing fame in the dragon ring (multiple battles with other dragons)

As hiccup and toothless warm up to each other they begin to 'play' around which acts as more or less of training for him (dodging toothless' tail, attempting to stay seated on his back without the saddle, etc)

Possibly add in a cut/injury that Toothless heals with his mind on Hiccup. (move to later chapters)

Definitely the part with them sitting after the fall into the lake with Hiccup heating up against a fire and talking about his life

1st - 28. We Fly as One

The chapter based on the test flight – covers the flight + the fall + the race through the smoke stacks.

This is when they truly begin to understand each other (as in talk to each other)

NOTE: when toothless and hiccup fly try and put in a point that as they near the rock stacks – 'their minds became one and Hiccup's vision seemed to sharpen and move forward.' – Later on he discovers that he saw through Toothless' eyes

Second note: Hiccup can at the end speak (or at least hear Toothless speak) with dragons.

It was then that he understood – truly understood – why dragons would kill themselves once they found out they were crippled enough to not be able to fly. After all, if he – a human – felt like his life would simply not be the same if he could not fly again (and that was after one flight!), then how must it feel for a dragon?

1st - 29. Long Awated Confrontations

Toothless and Hiccup speak, Toothless tells hiccup just what is going on (as much as he knows). Hiccup is shocked to find out that all dragons are intelligent, and is horrified when he realizes that not only did he kill a dragon, but that that dragon was actually self-aware. After some talking/angst Hiccup asks if Toothless has really forgiven him for shooting him down, to which Toothless replies of course, since by doing that he is now free of the darkness; and it isn't like Hiccup hasn't given him back the ability to fly.

Hiccup decides to talk to the other dragons in the ring + following conversations and his discovery of the fallen dragon (one-wing)

Astrid confronts Hiccup about him suddenly getting better at fighting dragons.

1st - 30. Astrid

A semi-short chapter focusing on astrid and her feelings about Hiccup. Cumulates with a battle at dragon training told from her pov, Gobber informing them that the next battle is going to be against the demon and watched by the elder, with warnings to take this battle seriously – as in really seriously.

End chapter with Astrid walking into the ring, elbowing Hiccup and hissing 'im winning this thing'.

1st - 31. Doubts

A sectioned chapter focusing on hiccup's, gobber's, astrid's and perhaps several others thoughts on tomorrow – the battle with the insane dragon.

Part of the chapter is Hiccup's visit to see Toothless and the conversation about facing an actual Naaine. Toothless convinces Hiccup to put the dragon down, as that would only be doing it a favour. Hiccup is still not sure at the end and has doubts about it, but he does understand where Toothless is coming from.

1st - 32. The One-Winged NaaiNe

The actual battle against the insane dragon.

Key points: Tuffnut dies, Hiccup saves Astrid from dying. Hiccup is the one who actually kills the demon (something that even previous generations of trainees did not succeed in).

Possibly told from the POV of the NaaiNe with sections in 3rd person view of the younglings.

The actual killing part of the demon will be done in 1st person view from Hiccup (possibly, if it works out)

The trial for the place of who gets to kill the MN – hiccup considers it to be a no win situation due to him wanting to have his father proud of him and yet at the same time does not want to kill dragons. Connect that with the part in the second cycle where he finds toothless dead - it does not matter if he shoots T down or not; T will die in either case.

Hiccup is thus chosen to be the one to fight the Nightmare, but the situation is marred by Tuffnut's (he) death.

1st - 33. Endless Chasms

The next morning Hiccup spots Ruffnut wandering aimlessly around and has a sort of awkward conversation with her. Ends with something like 'you know, I never really looked down on you as much as you probably thought I did – I always found it amazing that you could handle everyone around you seeing you as a failure. I doubt I could have fared half as well as you did in your place, I am just not strong enough – ' she tapped at his chest lightly and Hiccup felt a hint of a blush appearing 'at least not inside where it truly matters'

Stoick comes back to find his son has become the champion + all the fallout of that.

Part of the story is Hiccup talking to the other nadder in the ring about him having killed the insane dragon, and later having a similar conversation with Toothless.

When he comes back from the cave it is to find out that Ruffnut threw herself off the cliff overlooking the docks, apparently incapable of living without her sibling/twin. Slight hint here about their similarity to a zippleback, tying in with the entire theory of souls.

1st - 34. Crossed Lines of Fate

Astrid follows Hiccup into the cove, spots the dragon, gets captured and taken on the flight. Follow up with the meeting with IT (partially done in a sort of dream sequence where reality and the dream can not be distinguished).

1st - 35. Champion's Burden

Hiccup's fight against the nightmare, followed by Toothless' appearance and his subsequent capture.

Hiccup's talk / argument with his father, along with the realization by Stoick that only a dragon can find the island. More or less the same as in the movie, just with addition of 'You killed two dragons already! How could you possibly be in league with them!' etc.

1st - 36. Choices we Make

Hiccup watches the ships prepare to leave and sail away, all the while talking to Toothless over their connection. Even when the distance proves too far and their connection breaks (with proper final words between them), he continues to stare at the disappearing ships, taking his life away with them.

Astrid comes by, revitalizes Hiccup after which they go to the kill ring and saddle the dragons before flying off to catch up with the Vikings. Part of the chapter focuses on the conversation between Hiccup and the elder Nadder, and how the elder warns him that the influence of the darkness might be too strong. Hiccup throws caution to the wind and exclaims that it isn't as if there is any other choice.

The chapter ends as they fly away with the elder telling Hiccup that she hopes he knows what he is doing, and Hiccup replying 'so do I, so do I.'

1st Cycle ~ Part III: Vulneratorum

'A soothsayer once told me that I would have to make a choice between death and eternal life, and that no matter which choice I made I would hate myself for making it. At the time I laughed at her and said that of course I would hate it if I lost out on the chance at eternal life, and once I did pick eternal life I would literally have all eternity to get to regret that decision.

It isn't until now that I realize just how right the both of us were.

NEED TO REWRITE VIRTUALLY EVERYTHING

MAJOR CHANGES:

Align everything to fit with the story happened until now (parts 1&2)

Change chapters to 4-5k word range

For god's sake change the gods-dreams chapter (it is simply not right at the moment, now that the backstory has changed so drastically) – probably to the previous looper (she) passing on the array of the world (gaia/pattern) to hiccup, thus resulting in the start of his loops (as opposed to hers) – real world is a shadow of the pattern which is formed when it shifts the world around to 'create' itself from an unchangeable soul.

1st - 37. Paying My Dues

A segmented chapter providing flashes of thought by Toothless as he is taken to guide the Vikings to the island, is saved by Hiccup and the events that follow.

Ends with him remembering how Hiccup had given him back the ability to fly, and even though he was also the one who originally took it away it does not matter. Note on the 'how ironic it is that the time for me to put my life on the line would be when my flight is taken away once more. Well… everyone has to pay their dues at some point – either before or after their return to the abyss. For me, that moment is now'

Rephrase.

Note – very important – do not provide a firm knowledge of Toothless' death. Leave it as an unknown until the next few chapters.

1st - 38. Those Who Are Left – 2032w

With the constant dragon raids and the burning houses most Vikings have long since gotten used to the feeling of burning ash in the air and the waves of heat let off from the flames, but nothing could have prepared them for this. Glowing red embers danced in the air as white burned out ash fell slowly to the ground looking almost like snow. The air around them felt like a steam house, and yet there was a kind of smothering silence around them that was completely out of place with the battle that was just fought here.

The air reeked of burned flesh as the charred remains of the draconic monster they tried to fight against littered the battlefield. Wreckages of what were once the biggest catapults the Vikings could make and bring with them were slowly burning wherever they had fallen after the monster's tail swiped them to the side, but were only visible due to the glow they released. The dust and ash that filled the air made it impossible to see further than your own outstretched hand.

Overall the group of Vikings standing together in this nightmarish world did not know whether they had survived what could only be called a battle if your only experiences with fighting was beating up small children, or if they were instantly killed during the fighting by one of the flame attacks or flailing tail swings they were desperately trying to avoid – and were now experiencing firsthand what the entrance to Hel – after all they doubted that their panicked yelling and attempts at avoiding being slaughtered could possibly land them in Valhalla.

It started out as such a perfect plan. Sure, there were some complications like the son of the chief being found to be a disgraceful traitor siding with the dragons and who was most likely attempting to free the dragons within the kill ring before Stoick and the other Vikings apprehended both him and that Nightfury of his; however that all played in their hands when Stoick discovered that his traitorous son had already been to the dragons' nest before and even better, that the Nightfury they captured could be used to lead them all there.

The expedition to the dragons' nest was the largest ever undertaken and yet took half the time to prepare than the others before it. No wonder really, everyone knew that THIS time there would be no mistake. THIS time they knew where they were going. THIS time they would take care of the dragon problem once and for all.

The gods sure do have a cynical sense of humour…

It was only a few minutes after Hiccup entered the kill ring for his coming of age battle against the monstrous Nightmare that he went from being hailed as a prodigy of dragon killing to being discovered as a traitor. In much the same way it only took a few minutes since the first catapult launched its load at the wall of the dragons' nest that the elation that everyone felt for finally finishing the threat to their village changed to terror and a dawning realization that they were not getting off this island alive when the real monster was revealed.

Everything changed again when only a few minutes into the mad scramble for survival the battle turned into that the fates turned again as the younglings, not even Vikings yet as you only became a Viking upon your fist kill, flew in on dragons to save their lives. There should really be a limit to the number of shocks a Viking be allowed to experience in a day, because the continuation of the battle that went from Viking slaughter to Dragon versus Dragon death match was surreal enough that most Vikings could do little more than stand around and watch the continuing fight. Thus it was that only when the huge monstrosity crashed and exploded in a giant fireball not even a hundred paces away from them and the heat wave passed through the still frozen Vikings that they were able to restart at least some of their cognitive functions.

In the end, no one really knew what to think or do. They have fought against dragons for three generations and KNEW that Hiccup had forsaken them for the beasts; and yet here they were with their lives owed to both the dragons and Hiccup that have decided to fight for them against the monstrosity that lived in the nest they foolishly cracked even though they banished him from their tribe. Thus most of them simply decided to follow Stoick's lead in this, at least as soon as the ash settled down enough to enable them to see. After all as the chief of the tribe he had to be in better control of the situation than they were.

. . .

Stoick was at that moment in a state of panic. Even with the ash around him preventing him from seeing properly he stumbled further towards the epicenter of destruction while desperately yelling for his son. It took several seconds for the ash to settle down enough to enable him to explore the place with a bit more confidence, although he still managed to stumble over the rocks, wood, and burned flesh that littered the ground. He really did not pay any mind to that though, for him only one thing was worth thinking about – one thing covered him in all consuming worry. Hiccup, oh gods please, Hiccup…

Son…

Stoick's increasingly shallow and rapid breathing hitched upon spotting the dragon. The black body of the Nightfury lay amidst the broken rocks and what looked like the burning remains of one of the ships pulverised into toothpicks behind it. It was still too far away for him to see anything more than a general outline, and even that was only visible due to the air around it glowing an eerie red as the ashes in the air dissipated the light from the fires.

He had to get closer.

"Hiccup…"

If there was any chance of his son surviving the fall from that height then it would have been on the Nightfury. Speaking of which…

The dragon was lying in an awkward position on its side with the wings curled around its belly and legs. The dragon's head was strangely enough also curled under its wings and its tail was propped up in the air by the rocks surrounding it. Stoick's eyes were drawn to the tailfins that were gently swaying with the wind, and widened when he noticed that only one side had a tailfin, the other was adorned with a scar where the second one should have been. He knew it was impossible for any dragon to fly with a damaged tail, and yet the Nightfury was definitely flying only a few minutes ago – while the scar seemed quite old. Probably something Hiccup has done…

Hiccup!

Now that he was close enough, Stoick saw a glimpse of the saddle where his son strapped himself before launching into battle. His heart spiked painfully when he saw the state it was in: The saddle was nothing more than strips of leather, likely ripped apart during the fall. The dragon was unnaturally still and Stoick's composure was rapidly deteriorating as he continued his franctic searches to find his son.

Hiccup was nowhere to be found. No… It's not possible…

Stoick felt the last remains of his strength shatter at that. Please, this just can't be real… His legs felt like jelly and unable to support his weight buckled beneath him. With a heavy thud he fell to his knees in front of the Nightfury.

It was entirely his fault. If only he had listened instead of storming off.

Dad... For once in your life would you please just listen to me!

Listen…

Why didn't he just listen; for once just listened to his son? There is no way this would have ever happened if he…

Just.

Listened.

Unbidden thoughts of his wife and how he found her cooling body under a Nadder many winters ago came up and he could not help but compare the two; both of them had given up their lives for their family. His wife, valiantly defending their house with their son inside; and his son going off to fight the monster that none of their weapons could do anything to with only his pet dragon at his side.

War is never about those who are right; it's about those who are left… His wife's favourite phrase came unbidden to his mind. She came from a distant tribe to the west and thus was not used to fighting against dragons. Her tribe fought against other Vikings instead. Although a virtual demon on the battlefield, outside of it she was quite soft; and whenever he was in one of his moods after sending off yet more Vikings to Valhala to rave on about the evilness of dragons and how they must have been created with no other purpose than to inflict pain upon Vikings, she would always say it… War is never about who is right, it's about who is left. Perhaps with her experience at fighting other humans she was able to see just how –human– the dragons behaved.

Stoick however, could never understand her; of course the Vikings were right! It was the damn dragons that attacked them for no other reason than to cause them pain and make life harder that were in the wrong. And yet… she would always smile at him sadly and reply that she prayed for him to never realize the truth of those words. He never did understand that either.

They are not what we think they are…

Standing there in front of the body of the downed Nightfury he finally, for the first time in his life, truly understood those words; and cursed himself, as he now knew why Valhalarama wished for him to never gain that knowledge.

His son was right all along, the dragons were forced to raid them because if they didn't then they would be eaten instead. While the dragons have killed hundreds of Vikings, they themselves were not as clean of blood as they thought – they have killed thousands of dragons themselves. How could either side be considered righteous within this conflict?

Dad, please… I promise you can't win this one…

And yet the war was finally over. Even though it was a fool's wish for dragons and Vikings to coexist together as too much blood had been spilt between them, they would at least no longer be at each other's throats and perhaps the next generation without the blood on their hands would be able to slowly bridge the gap between the two races.

However this all came at a price. A price I would have never paid had I known of it.

His son was dead.

The last part of his family, the last reminder of his life with Valhalarama, their son that he promised her he would protect with his dying breath was now gone.

He knew that almost half the Vikings that came to the island following his foolish plan were now lying dead; that even if they all somehow managed to return back to Berk a large part of the population had lost someone as well. All of that simply did not matter to him at the moment. His son was all that was important. To others it would be their loved ones that would never return that would be the most important losses accrued in this mission, but to him, it was his son. What a terrible chief I am… Hundreds dead due to my decisions and yet all I care about is my son… he knew that if given the choice he would gladly sacrifice the rest if that would bring him back his son – and that terrified him.

He never noticed the other Vikings crowding in around him or Astrid approaching the Nightfury. He just continued to stare unseeingly in front of him.

The war was over…

…But was it really worth it?

1st - 39. One Life For Another – 2232w

Astrid followed the general movement of the other Vikings through the fog like ash towards the chief. While at first it seemed rather stupid to blunder around with zero visibility, it turned out for the best as by the time the ash started to settle they were able to see the figure of Stoick in front of them.

Moving closer she could see that Stoick was standing before an outline of a dragon. Thank god we found them a small smile appeared on her face. If the chief had found Toothless, then it was obvious that Hiccup would be nearby. She knew that Toothless would give his life to save Hiccup if necessary, and that Hiccup would do the same in return if he could. The actions in the kill ring half a day ago proved that; still… was it really only half a day ago? To her it seemed like almost a lifetime.

Then Stoick fell down on his knees.

Astrid's heart skipped a beat and all the contentment at finding the chief and Toothless fell to the bottom of her stomach transmuting itself into lead. No, it could not be.

She just could not believe what her mind was telling her.

Willing herself to move forward Astrid prayed that she was wrong. The other Vikings have stopped a respectful distance away from their Chief and even the other dragons did not seem willing to approach; almost as if the five pace area around the downed dragon was sacred Or perhaps they all just don't want to be too close to death – NO! Stop thinking that way! They are alright. They simply must be alright… Oh gods please let them be alive…

With the setting dust and the shrinking distance between her and Toothless she was able to notice more and more details about the scene in front of her. A shiver ran up her spine as she gazed at the magnificent being that only a day ago given her the best experience of her life; the dragon that had just a few moments ago fought bravely with Hiccup to save them all from the foolishness of the older generation.

Toothless was now lying in front of her, long gashes visible in the sleek black scale covered body; even worse, his neck was bent into an unnatural curve and tucked in behind the miraculously undamaged wings. The fall must have been completely vertical causing Toothless to land head first. It may have saved his wings from getting damaged, but it's not like that meant anything – he was already dead before stopped moving… She paled – now even her own mind was against her. Youre wrong! There is still a chance that he is alive! But her own tears betrayed her. Delusions, that's all that her hopes were – just delusions spawned from hopelessness.

Toothless was dead; and although she could not find him, it was likely that Hiccup was as well.

Soft crooning distracted her from the scene in front of her and Astrid glanced back to see what could possibly make such heart wrenching sounds. Her eyes widened when she realized that they were coming from the four dragons that helped out with fighting against the queen. Wiping the tears out of her eyes to help her see them better Astrid could not stop herself from staring.

It seemed as if all the sorrow that she felt was also felt by the other dragons; and unlike her whose tears were falling in sadness, they voiced their feelings and poured all the sorrow they felt into their song.

Looking back at Toothless Astrid could not help but think that Toothless looked so uncomfortable with his neck twisted in such an unnatural way. The least she could do was make him comfortable in death.

It took all of her strength to lift Toothless' head out of the folds of his wings and place it down in a more natural position along the floor; in fact she was so intent on it that she did not notice that her movements caused his wings to unfurl with the lower one falling limply to the floor, thus revealing the underside of his body.

Softly placing his head down on the ground Astrid stood back up. There, at least he does not look contorted this way. Strangely enough, Toothless had his eyes closed and the edges of his mouth twisted in such a way that extruded a sense of contentment.

Somehow… Astrid thought as she looked at Toothless' expression … he looks completely peaceful.

Hearing a gasp from the crowd of Vikings she turned towards them. Noticing they were all looking at Toothless she turned back to see what they were surprised about. Astrid could not stop herself from gasping and covering her gaping mouth with her hands, for cuddled in Toothless' legs was Hiccup. She was so shocked that she did nothing but stare at him until her view was blocked by Stoick who had rushed towards his son the second he saw him.

. . .

Stoick just could not believe it. Just when he had lost all hope for ever seeing his son alive again, Astrid disturbed the dragon's body and as its wings fell down to the floor he spotted Hiccup cradled in the dragon's legs. It was probably the fastest he had ever moved in his life as he sprang up from the floor and rushed towards his son. Oh gods, please! Not wasting any more time he quickly glanced at Hiccup for any visible injuries and then pressed his ear to his son's chest in the hopes that he was still alive.

One beat… then a second one…

As he heard the slow beating of his son's heart, Stoick could feel his own heart skip one as relief washed over him. Thank you, whoever granted my wish, thank you…

"Alive! He is alive!"

He was so elated from the discovery that he did not even notice as Gobber came up to him and started checking Hiccup for any injuries that he had sustained due to the fall. Stoick lost some of his elation when he heard from Gobber that his son would need to have his left leg removed as it has been mangled beyond repair, but even that was better than losing him entirely.

. . .

Astrid could not believe it. Hiccup was alive! She had already mostly given up on his survival what with Toothless' death and all; but it seemed that sometime during the fall Toothless managed to grab hold of Hiccup and shelter him with his body and wings from the crash. Yes! Of course! It makes so much sense – that's why Toothless has such a satisfied expression on his face… Toothless… Her elation evaporated as she remembered the Nightfury and she noted bitterly that the dragons have not stopped their song. In a moment of clarity she understood that just as she had thought, the two of them would have given their lives for the other; however Toothless was the one who was first given the choice of saving Hiccup even with the likelihood of his own death – and he accepted it.

The dragon's song did not change, but she could now hear that it was not composed completely of sadness – it was slightly tinged with pride and acceptance. Did they know that Hiccup was alive before we found him? Impossible, and yet… Astrid could not help but feel that the song was their way of paying their respects to the death of one of their heroes along with his sacrifice for the one who meant the world to him. Perhaps that's how they cry… – Wait, where did that thought come from? – Guess it doesn't really matter…

Hearing the song intermingle with the relieved cries of the Vikings Astrid wondered how long it would take Stoick and the other Vikings to understand that although Hiccup was alive, there were two heroes responsible for the death of the queen, survival of the Vikings, and the end of the war.

How long until they understood that one of the heroes was still lying on the ground dead – and nothing could change that. Somehow, I doubt that they will ever consider Toothless' death as anything truly noteworthy. I just hope that Hiccup will be able to handle it when he wakes up…

. . .

Dragons are creatures of the flame.

When their eggs are first laid, the parents alternate to keep them bathed in fire for the several days it takes before they hatch, for the eggs will not hatch unless they are continuously heated with a dragon's flame.

They live with an eternal flame within their bodies. It is from there that dragons draw their strength from; it is the eternal flame that allows them to breathe fire. It is due to the flame burning inside them dragons can survive any temperatures; it is the eternal flame that makes them immune to fire. The flame is born with the dragon, and only goes out when the dragon dies.

Finally in death dragons return to the flame, burning up until there is nothing left but a small black sphere – a condensed and crystalized representation of themselves.

It is widely believed by the dragon races that the eternal flame within them is a representation of their soul. It slowly enters their body when the flames of their parents caress the egg, and leaves the body with the final flames. In an almost eerie way the ceremony for honoring death is remarkably similar between dragons and Vikings.

As Stoick picked up Hiccup and cradled him in his arms while Gobber checked him over for injuries the four dragons approached the fallen body of one of their saviors. Still continuing their song in the honour of his sacrifice and their sadness at his passing they gently pushed Astrid and the others away from Toothless and surrounded the downed dragon.

The Vikings were started when the four dragons started to breathe their flames in a circle around the Nightfury, slowly closing the circle and moving the flames towards the dragon lying in the middle. For almost a minute the four dragons poured fire within that circle before stopping and moving away until they were several paces from the outer edge of the circle. Then they restarted their song. By now the Vikings understood what was going on and the exclamations of happiness over Hiccup's survival have been replaced by silence. Even though it was the death of a dragon, the Vikings knew what it was like to lose someone important to them, and if nothing else the sorrow present in the crooning of the four dragons paying their respects to their fallen hero made them realize that dragons could experience emotional pain as well. It was just too bad that such thoughts could be forgotten all too quickly.

The ground around Toothless glowed red and the air blurred around the dragon from the heat; however no flames were visible. The draconic song slowly increased in volume and tears came unbidden to the Vikings' eyes as a red mist started to form around the fallen dragon. Suddenly, wisps of flame appeared following the perimeter of the burned circle; and within seconds a pillar of flame sprang into the sky. The fire was bright enough that everyone had to squint their eyes to see, and those that looked directly into the circle could notice the black figure of the Nightfury as it slowly lifted up in the air – twisting in a remarkably lifelike fashion to look almost as if he was flying up within the column of fire, with his wings curved down under him as if after a powerful stroke.

Starting from the tail which was positioned the closest to the ground, the scales along the dragon's body seemed to flake off and fall, burning up before traveling too far. At the same time the now scale less but still black flesh turned to ash which almost gracefully fell to the floor in a spiral and scattered to the edges of the fire; where they were picked up by the crackling flames and thrown far into the air, dispersing far and wide – almost like a final testament to the wanderlust of the nightfuries.

It took less than a minute for Toothless' body to dissolve into ash, but combined with the dragons' song it seemed to last an eternity for those watching.

Everything ended abruptly as the song was cut off mid-note and the fire imploded in on itself, becoming a bright red beam stretching up from the center of the circle into the air before it seemed to break apart and disappear. The Vikings blinked in stupor before they realised where exactly they were. Those that noticed the tears streaking down their faces quickly wiped them off; but most did not even notice the tears they have shed and continued to stare at the circle where the Nightfury once lay. The haze from the heat was no longer there and most of the circle was now a burned out black color.

All that was left was a much smaller but still red hot circle in the center where Toothless once lay and a single obsidian like marble the size of a fist lying amidst a small pile of ash.

A/N

Just wanted to mention, the 'monster' that controls the other dragons is male (or at least was born male, after getting that big he is more of neutral and incapable of mating) however to Stoick and most Vikings he appears as just a monster / monstrosity while Astrid had the idea that it was the 'queen' and thus calls it that. The other dragons call him IT (why will be explained later)

1st - 40. Gods And Dreams – 2630w

Hiccup woke up lying on his back with what looked like white snow falling from the sky; it was so thick that he could not see further than a single hand in front of him. For some reason the place felt empty, but more than that – like the emptiness was somehow more real than everything else around him. That and there was a strange tinge of… he couldn't quite place it but something about it was making him slightly nervous.

Shrugging off the strange feeling of emptiness Hiccup groaned as he sat up, wrinkled his nose at the smell of burned flesh in the air and felt the uncomfortable heat around him. Casting his mind back to try and understand how he ended up here he frowned as he drew a blank. One would think I would remember how I got into this mess – it seems slightly worse that the regular kind of trouble I usually get in… The last thing he remembered was watching the ships leave with Toothless. No, wait – something happened afterwards as well. He remembered meeting with Astrid, gathering the others, then the preparations and flight towards the dragons' nest. So that's where I am – there was an awful lot of fog there so I may have accidentally fallen of? But then why does it smell like burning flesh? Then the memories came crashing down.

. . .

He was flying on the deadly Nadder together with Astrid. Spotting the approaching horde of dragons he yelled out for the others to dive down as he did the same…

Hearing the Vikings' yells and feeling the roars of the dragon beast he knew that the battle had already started – his father had already unleashed the demon…

Jumping off onto the burning boat he spared a second to yell for the others to go on without him. Turning around towards his friend he unleashed all of his raw and barely contained Vikingness on the wooden frame holding Toothless in place…

The water swallowing them both as he realized in dawning horror that it was not enough – there was simply nothing he could no. But he would keep trying until his last breath left his body, just like Toothless had done when he faced off the monstrous Nightmare and the horde of dragons to protect him. Then, someone grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and he saw with his dimming vision Toothless disappearing into the deep waters…

He remembered jumping on his friend's back and soaring upwards, just in time to save Astrid. Just like always their hearts beat as one and he could almost feel Toothless' wings beating as if they were a part of him – they were one. No matter how many times they flew, there was always that exhilarating feeling of freedom – he knew that Toothless would not survive long without flight; and now neither could he. Bracing themselves they fell into a steep dive and let loose a plasma bolt directly at the demon…

They hid in the clouds, shooting at the demon as it tried to find them. The feeling of satisfaction at slowly damaging its wings – and then the dawning horror as it released a burst of flame in a fit of rage that although completely random managed to hit them…

The flight downwards, both of them drawing strength from the other as they waited for the last possible moment to shoot. Shooting too early would render the entire plan useless; while shooting too late… Well, it was impossible to shoot too late as if they waited too long they would not get a chance to shoot – being roasted alive kind of prevented that. Neither of them thought that Toothless could probably survive the blast – after the first true flight where they became one they knew that neither of them could live without the other…

Wait for it… "Hold Toothless, Hold just a bit longer" Wait for it…

…NOW!

The last thing he remembered was getting thrown off of Toothless when they hit the spiked tail of the monstrous dragon and seeing Toothless desperately attempting to catch him as they fell into the oncoming fire-blast before he blacked out from the mind-numbing pain in his leg. Well, at least they won…

…Then he woke up here, in this strange mist covered world.

. . .

Looking around him Hiccup noticed that the ash had slowly started to settle down which allowed him to see a bit clearer than before. He was surrounded by jagged rocks and the mangled remains of either a catapult or one of the boats that was smashed into toothpicks by the dragon's tail.

So, apparently he was on the ground after the battle. Guess that means I survived. No idea how, seeing as Toothless isn't around – perhaps he saved me and seeing me knocked out decided to find the others?

Noticing a distinct lack of pain from his body – and he knew that even if he had a perfect landing he would still should be in quite a lot of pain due to an unfortunate mishap with that spiked tail – he could not help but wonder why he was not hurt?

"Ah, there you are."

Hickup felt his heart jump and lodge itself in his throat as he whirled around to look for whoever spoke. Unfortunately for him this was done too fast so he managed to unbalance himself and fall backwards.

"Well, that was an interesting response, most of the people I get to meet respond with questions like 'where am I' or 'who are you' instead of performing such an interesting martial arts maneuver. Pity you tripped there at the end"

Being slightly disoriented did not prevent Hiccup from turning his head and glancing at whoever was talking to him. His eyes took in the tall but slim body of the woman who continued to look at him with amusement. She was dressed in a long dark red dress that covered her all the way to her legs and trailed a bit further behind her. Over her shoulders hung a deep orange cloak which was clasped together at her neck with a silver brooch exquisitely carved in the shape of a human skull. Her face gave off a feeling of royalty, however half of it was hidden away by a silver face mask that had indents forming a natural pattern but strangely without a hole for the eye. A small golden tiara sat on her golden hair which hung down to the belt in two braids, flowing down the front of her body with one to the left and one to the right of her neck. I don't remember her, besides which she is most definitely not a Viking – So… What is she doing on this island?

Then he looked at her single visible eye and felt prickles along his spine. It looked completely black, and by that he meant completely – as in there was no pupil, iris or sclera visible – almost as if the eye was not there in the first place – as if the eye socket was filled with impenetrable darkness instead... No… She is definitely not a Viking… Just who – or what – is she?

"Stunned by my beauty aren't you? Don't worry, that can happen sometimes. Besides which I did make sure to put on a formal dress for our meeting"

Forcibly tearing his eyes away from the strange ladies single visible eye Hiccup could not prevent himself from shuddering. It was true that the strange lady's body was beautiful; but there was something wrong about her eye. Just looking into it made him feel uneasy, and yet it was almost impossible to look away from it.

Shaking his head he tried to get his mind back on track, after all he still did not know why his leg was apparently healed or where Toothless was – perhaps this lady had seen him around.

"Ah! Sorry, but before anything, have you seen Toothless?"

"It's just us here"

"Right, you probably don't know who I am talking about. Um… have you seen a Nightfury? … Or a black dragon if you don't know what a Nightfury is?"

For some reason she found his explanation funny and let off a chuckle before replying. "No, I mean that there is no one else here besides you and me. Neither Toothless or your father Stoick are here; just us"

Hiccup glanced around again. For some reason the feeling of emptiness he got when he first regained consciousness returned and he could not help but shiver. The place seriously gives me the creeps – and what was that about Toothless and dad not being here? – Better yet, how does she know Stoick? Perhaps he was wrong about his initial estimation of where he was.

"Would you mind if I ask where exactly we are and wha – I mean who you are?" Somehow Hiccup felt that asking what the woman was more important, but that would be extremely impolite. Hopefully she did not notice his slip.

The woman strode regally to a nearby rock and sat down before motioning for Hiccup to sit on one of the rocks opposite to hers. Hiccup just then noticed that he was still sprawled on the ground, so he hurriedly stood up and took the offered place.

"I guess that answering your questions would be a good place to start. Very well, we are currently in your dream. You have fallen unconscious during your battle against IT and I drew your consciousness into the dream world so I could meet you…"

"IT?" Hiccup could not help but ask.

"Oh, that's what we call the dragon like creature you fought against. After he took over the clan he was part of by force and made them all his slaves he cast away his given birth name as he considered himself above other dragons. As he gradually became larger due to the manipulations he did on his body he stopped being a dragon as well. Thus the others called him IT to show that he is no longer a dragon and does not even have – or deserve – a name. As for IT, well IT was amused and went with it…"

Trailing off for a few seconds the lady sighed and continued her original explanation

"Anyway, continuing on to your next question; you can call me Hel" she stopped there to give Hiccup enough time to take that in.

What?

"Wait, you mean the goddess Hel who governs Helheim the land of the dead?" Hiccup asked disbelievingly. It wasn't every day that he got to meet an actual god, so he thought the amount of scepticism he was showing was perfectly reasonable. Still, he could not help but add "And does that mean that I am dead?" to the end of his question.

The lady just chuckled again at his question. To be perfectly honest Hiccup could understand that, after all if she was really Hel then it was most likely that anyone who saw her would ask the same question as well. And yet he could not shake off the feeling that there was something off about her amusement, somehow it sounded almost… hollow? It took all of his willpower not to glance into her eye again – he was almost completely sure that her laughter would not be reflected in her eyes.

Then she reached towards her face and removed the mask covering its left side. Hiccup could not stop himself from recoiling as he saw that the covered half of her face lost its flesh and was composed of only her skeleton; with an eerie white glow emanating from the empty eye socket. The lady did not seem to notice his reaction, or perhaps she was used to it by now. Placing the mask back in place she continued.

"Yes Hiccup, you can consider me as the goddess Hel, governor of the land of the dead. As to your death, I am happy to say that Toothless managed to save your life so our meeting has nothing to do with what you probably consider my 'official' function"

Even though Hiccup was still unnerved from seeing her without the mask, he could not stop himself from smiling at her reply. He was correct about owing his continued life to the actions of Toothless; and being a dragon who Hiccup knew had survived a worse fall when he shot him down meant that Toothless was alive and well as well. With a lighter heart he asked his next question.

"So why are you meeting with me then?"

"Before I answer that, how about I explain exactly what you accomplished by killing IT…" She seemed a bit nervous at that question but Hiccup could not see why, after all why would any god be nervous in front of a mortal.

"You see, out of all the races that live on Midgard only the humans and the dragons have souls. Because of that they are both capable of feeling emotions and realize their own existence. It was Odin that granted the humans life while Hoenir gave them souls. I believed that having only one race of conscious beings on Midgard may lead to problems as the humans would consider themselves superior to everything else. Thus I brought up my worries to Hoenir and together we decided to give birth to a second race that would balance the race of humans on Midgard. We went together to this world and I fashioned the bodies for dragons out of fire while Hoenir granted them souls."

The one called Hel paused for a moment, likely expecting some questions – after all it is not every day a human gets told even a part of the world's creation – but Hiccup was too much focused on the story and did not seem to want to pause it for anything.

"Anyway, more recently IT was born to the clan of dragons living near Berk and took over their minds. What you do not know is that as he grew his powers also expanded and he was able to snatch any dragons that got too close to the nest and incorporate them into his ranks. Even though I consider dragons as my own creations and thus try and watch out for their wellbeing, in this case it was another dragon that was causing problems and I could not do anything too direct. Still, I was worried and went to ask the three sisters of fate for guidance. Together we foresaw that if things did not change then IT's range would expand and soon the entire world would be caught up in a battle between dragons and humans. Thus we made a plan to prevent that."

She paused her story again and smiled at Hiccup. He could not help but squirm in his place on a rock as it dawned on him that he must have played a vital role in preventing what could have become Ragnarok. Thus he had to ask:

"So I was born with a weak body and fated to never become a real Viking because you needed some hero to kill off that dragon and prevent the war from spreading?"

She chuckled again and hiccup felt annoyance rise in him; Ok, so it sounds stupid when I say it that way, but still… He really hoped she was not going to laugh at every at every one of his questions. Still it was a good idea to never show annoyance at gods; you never knew when they might find it offensive and it was generally detrimental to your overall health. Crossing his arms and trying to look as if the constant chuckles did not annoy him Hiccup waited for Hel to continue.

"Sorry, it's just that that was the original plan, but it was never meant to be you."

1st - 41. Dreams And Wishes – 2574w

As Hiccup listened to Hel's explanation as to the origins of humans and dragons; and later the real reason behind the senseless war between dragons and Vikings he gradually understood where this was going. There had been times when he felt that his meeting with Toothless was fated, after all what dragon would let the person that robbed them of their flight go instead of killing them? And not just let them go, but accept them as a friend. Besides which, her entire story seemed to be leading up to the grand reveal of how his life had been orchestrated from the start.

Thus Hiccup was completely unsurprised when she paused after mentioning a plan for taking down the monstrous dragon controlling the others. Most likely the pause was there to give him time to process what she had already told him as well as to allow her to plan out the best way to break it to him that his friendship was planned by the gods instead of something they build themselves. It's not like I did not have some suspicions about this after meeting Toothless, but still… Well, I might as well get this over with – doesn't look like she will continue any time soon without my input.

So it was with a heavy heart that Hiccup asked the next question, already knowing the answer.

"So I was born with a weak body and fated to never become a real Viking because you needed some hero to kill off that dragon and prevent the war from spreading." After all, if they did that then they also forced the bond between him and Toothless, and it would hurt too much to ask her that directly.

Hiccup frowned as the lady chuckled. This was after all an important moment for him, why was she laughing at his realization that his life had been planned with the death of the monstrous dragon as the objective!?

"Sorry, it's just that that was the original plan, but it was never meant to be you."

Hiccup dropped his jaw in surprise. Ok, that was completely unexpected – what are the chances that they come up with a plan that works out without their input completely by accident? Fortunately she was not looking at him at the moment and he was able to pick up his jaw before she noticed and found something else to laugh at.

"You see, we just decided on a plan to prevent IT from spreading through allowing a human that Odin would select to be bonded to a dragon that I would select that would then be capable of fighting It, but just as we were selecting the parents to whom they would be born we felt IT's death. It was actually quite a surprise for us to find out that you accomplished all of this relying on nothing else than luck."

Hiccup did not know what to think. On the one hand it was gratifying to know that all of his success in life, what with shooting down a Nightfury (although he sort of hated himself to doing that), befriending it, defeating the monster that controlled the other dragons and finally bringing an end to the bloodshed were not all orchestrated by the gods; on the other hand that meant that there was still no one he could blame for his life before meeting Toothless, nor the elder's words when she proclaimed that he would never be a true Viking.

Grudgingly he accepted that the elder was right about his future, after all to be a true Viking you had to kill dragons, and that was not something he could ever do (IT did not count since apparently it stopped being a dragon some time ago); still it would have felt good to know that his horrible early life was just a lead towards greatness, not that it was pure chance that his life got as good as it did.

Somehow the idea that she was lying to him never entered his thoughts.

The lady gave Hiccup some time to process what she had told him, before breaking him out of his musings.

"Anyway, to answer your original question of why I decided to meet with you… We have a single wish that we were planning to use to start the bond between the selected human and dragon, but now that IT has been defeated without requiring our plan it was decided to pass the wish on to you. In simple terms, you can have anything you want granted to you. Think of it as a gift from the gods in return for taking care of IT before we intervened"

This was the last straw for Hiccup. There was only so much he could take in before his mind stopped functioning, so just as after meeting Toothless, releasing him, and not being killed in turn; Hiccup would only reply "What?" before the world darkened and he fell unconscious.

The one called Hel was not in a good mood. She did not have much time, for even with her powers she could only keep Hiccup in this world for so long. Time passed much faster in the dream world than at the real world meaning that even though it seemed that they were talking for at most half an hour; three days have already passed in the real world. Already Hiccup's body was fading away as he attempted to leave the dream world and wake up back in reality. Letting off a sigh of annoyance she reached towards Hiccup's prone body and pulled at him to bring him back to the dream world. She highly doubted that she would be able to bring him back to this dream if he snapped the connection between them completely. After all, if the Vikings were even halfway competent they would have taken him off the island by now.

. . .

Hiccup slowly opened his eyes. The world around him was blurry and there was an annoying buzzing in his ears preventing him from properly hearing. Turning his head to the side he noticed someone's blurred outline and his body responded with a fiery wave of pain that almost made him pass out again.

"Who?" he tried to say, but his vocal cords did not want to listen so he just groaned. Whoever was next to him bolted up and leaned over him with excitement.

"…Hi…Son!"

But for some reason his eyelids felt like they were made from lead and it felt like someone put hooks into his brain and started pulling on it as if expecting it to phase through his skull.

Everything went black again.

. . .

Hiccup woke up to someone shaking him. Opening his eyes he saw Hel in front of him. He was no longer lying somewhere, his body responded to his commands and he did not feel like he was on fire. Seeing that Hiccup was clearly disoriented she moved away and gave him some time to sort himself out. After around a minute Hiccup felt better and turned back to her who by this time had moved back to her rock seeing that Hiccup no longer required her to hold him up.

"So… do you remember what we were talking about before you fell unconscious? Or I guess I should say before you woke up as this is the dream world" she hoped that his rapid exit and entrance out of and back into the dream world did not cause him to lose track of their conversation – there wasn't enough time to start all over and she would have to change her plans if it did.

Hiccup focused. "If I remember correctly you were talking about some wish…"

"Ah, good. So you do remember. Well, we really do not have enough time as you do have to wake up soon; so let's do this quick".

Hel reached into the left arm cuff of her robe and withdrew a black glass ball the size of a fist. She then offered it to Hiccup who gently cradled it in his hands. It looked like someone somehow managed to crystalize flame and place it within this sphere. Somehow when he rotated it the flame almost seemed like it was dancing around. Beautiful… and yet – there is something off about it… It felt the same as that strange tinge he experienced upon waking up – and in much the same way it was making him nervous. Still, it's probably just some property of a wish – it's not like I have ever seen a wish before. Hiccup tore his eyes from the sphere and looked back towards Hel.

The question in his eyes must have been obvious since she took that moment to explain how it worked. "Well its quite simple. The fire is the actual wish, with the glass sphere being there to protect it. The wish itself can grant you anything you want, but to prevent it from picking up any wishes that may be uttered by the one holding it a glass sphere was placed around it."

At this point the one called Hel reached out and touched the glass sphere with her index finger. Hiccup involuntarily let out a gasp of surprise as the sphere seemed to become more liquid and dripped down his arms uncovering the flame that was in its center. He stared in wonder as the portions of the crystalized flame that were uncovered began to move around and burn. No way… That's an actual flame! As the last droplets of what looked like liquid black glass dripped off Hiccup's hands the flame seemed to glow slightly brighter while hovering over his hands.

It was like no fire he had ever seen; it was red, but instead of turning orange towards the center it darkened into the darkest shade of black he had ever seen. Once again he could not stop himself from shivering. Perhaps it was the otherworldly appearance of the flame, but it was just… No, I just can't place it. Something about is off, and I know it – but I just can't describe it… He shook his head. It probably had something to do with gods anyway, he rationalized – perhaps their flames were always like this, or its just some property of these wishes…

"And there is the actual wish. Do be careful, whatever you say next will count as your wish so watch what you say"

Hiccup nodded again. It seemed simple, and it wasn't like he did not have an abundance of wishes he wanted granted…

Hiccup's mind paused there as he did not know what he wanted anymore. If he was asked to make a wish that would definitely come true during his early life, he would wish for his father to be proud of him. For several years after his mother's death he would wish for her to be alive again, but he was older now and knew that that would not be possible – besides which his mom was likely happy with her family so he did not want to rip her out of her new life just to see her again. At around the time he started with his inventions and focused more and more on the Nightfury as the only way for his father to acknowledge him his wish would have been to down a Nightfury. However he then did the impossible and shot down a Nightfury, and it turned out to be the best/worst decision of his life. He finally had a friend; however the fall caused Toothless to lose a tail fin.

Ever since then Hiccup was obsessed with granting his only friend the ability to fly again. Then, when he succeeded and they flew together in the sky for the first time he was ecstatic. It left like a heavy load was lifted from him! And yet… He could see that even with all the flights he could fit into his days it wasn't enough for Toothless. Of course the dragon hid it, but Hiccup had long ago learned to spot things that many others just glanced over. It was then that an icy weight formed within him – would Toothless have ever allowed him to ride him if he could fly without help? It was then that Hiccup made up his mind to build an artificial tailfin that Toothless could use by himself. Then, if – no! When – Toothless allowed Hiccup to fly together with him even when he could fly unaided Hiccup would know that the friendship they shared was more than a symbiotic relationship.

And if it was…

Hiccup could accept that too. It would destroy him, but he would understand. After all, as his mother had told him once, if you love something – let it go – if it does not come back, then it is happier that way. In any case, he was the one who crippled Toothless in the first place so if Toothless left then it would be no more than what he deserved.

Of course this was all just a day before Astrid found them; they discovered the dragon layer, and the complete mess-up that the final day of dragon training had become…

Still, now that everything was over and he was granted a single wish, perhaps he did not need to build an artificial tailfin. He could just wish for his friend's tail to be healed.

Hiccup highly doubted that healing the tail fin would in any way be too much for a wish, so he grinned and turned to Hel.

"I wish for Toothless to have his tailfin back, so that he would be able to fly without my help like he did before I shot him down."

There was a sharp feeling of foreboding and Hiccup could feel the tinge in the air that he could not describe gathered and concentrated around him.

The fire in his hands suddenly darkened until it was completely dark and burst outwards until it was almost as high as him, and Hiccup let out a yelp as he felt his hands burning. He tried to instinctively move his arms away from the fire, but found that they were glued to the center of the flame which did not budge an inch. His eyes caught sight of the strange eye Hel had, and while his mind was trying to process the pain from his arms, were drawn towards it. His frantic attempts to remove his hands from the fire stilled as he gazed into the dark abyss that filled her eye that seemed to stoically gaze back at him.

Well, at least I was right – there is not a shred of feeling in those eyes; neither humour, anger, nor compassion.

He was wrong though, although he did not see it there was a satisfied look within her eyes – he just could not recognise it because it was distinctly not human.

It wasn't dragon either – for after his life with Toothless he would have recognised it – Instead it was something else…

The world seemed to close in on him as his vision dimmed until he could only see the darker than black abyss of her eyes. His arms no longer felt like they were burning away, in fact he could no longer feel them at all. Strangely Hiccup could not bring it in him to care.

The last thing he remembered was a blinding flash of pain in his head, and then blissful darkness.

1st - 42. Results of Pride – 1759w

The calm wind, calm waters and bright red setting sun of this peaceful day were a sharp contrast to the Vikings crowded around on the docks. It had long been a tradition to launch the final voyages at sunset, no one really knew when that tradition started, but somehow it had always seemed appropriate.

It had taken two days to repair the boats that were still salvageable after the proverbial last battle against the dragons and ferry all of the survivors back to Berk. It had taken another day to prepare for the sacrificial longboat that would carry those lost to Valhala. Funeral processions were not unknown to the Vikings, after all with dragon raids occurring every several months or so losses became socially if not emotionally accepted as a part of everyday life with a funeral procession given a few days after each dragon raid to honor those lost; while those who were lost on hunting expeditions were also given one, just without their bodies which were usually impossible to recover.

Yet, this was the first time in the village's memory that four long boats were required to hold those who were lost and the possessions they would take with them; and not just the small pyres that were usually used so as to preserve materials, these were full long boats as were used for the expedition just a few days ago. For the first time all Vikings gathered together to send off the fallen not just to honor them and provide support for those who lost their close ones, but because the numbers lost in battle this time were so high that every Viking lost someone close to them – and in many cases more than one.

Stoick stood at the beginning of the longest pier of the docks alongside the elder, looking towards the group of Vikings gathered on the docks. To both sides of him stood the two pairs of longboats housing the Vikings who died in battle and the few possessions they would carry with them – the clothes on their backs and a single weapon, for a Viking does not need anything else in their next life. For the first and last time the long boats will house only two Vikings on their departure from Berk, for once the course was set the pilots would swim back to the docks where the archers would light the boats which would proceed onwards towards their final destination, taking their passengers with them.

The elder looked around at the gathered crowd, sighed and spoke in a quiet, raspy voice that never the less gathered and held the attention of the gathered crowd.

"We are all gathered here today to see to the passing of those lost in battle towards their destination. Many of us have already sent off those close to us before, be they fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, friends, or others; and yet it can never prepare us for the time when it happens again."

She paused for a moment to gaze over those gathered and solemnly noted the tears that were streaking down the faces of many of those gathered in remembrance of those lost now and before. Gathering her thoughts she continued her speech

"And yet, not only are we here again, but worse still we are here to say the final goodbyes to over two hundred of our kin who have not returned from this latest and largest hunt for the dragon nest. However their deaths were not in vain as our war with the dragons has finally come to an end."

"Let us now say goodbye to Dera who many among those gathered have fought alongside for over ten summers against the dragon raids, who had lost her sister, the last of her family six winters ago. Even though Dera never married, she was a dear friend for many of us and has saved the lives of several here. May she find her way to Valhalla."

"Let us also wish safe passage for Varen, whose body may not have been found, but whose spirit we will honor this day. He was considered a brother by many of us and continued to lend a helping hand during battle when his other one was burned off…"

As the elder's words washed over the gathered crowd, many remembered the moments gone by that they shared together that they will never be able to repeat any longer. Death has long been an occupational hazard for Vikings, but it is only in moments like these that people realize it as more than a witty saying and grasp the truly cynical meaning behind it.

Many would later wonder how the elder managed to get through the entire speech without at least a list of names; for she continued in the same quiet and raspy voice for hours, giving a few moments for each soul lost, outlining their achievements and giving condolences to their families and friends. The sun had already set when she paused for the longest time in her speech and wiped her own eyes before continuing.

"Thus let the ashes of the fallen blow far and wide in this world, returning them back to the earth from which we came as their souls pass onwards. Let Valhala welcome these brave warriors that must now leave us."

And with a glance and nod from Stoick those in charge of the boats unhitched them and slowly set sail from the harbour. The skies were clear of clouds and moonlight provided more than enough light to see while also providing an almost ethereal glow to the waters. In a few minutes several splashes were heard as the pilots jumped off and began swimming to shore.

'It's time' thought Stoick before turning towards the group of archers.

"Light the arrows and fire"

Following these words five streaks of fire flew through the air towards each boat, and mere minutes later four pyres of fire could be seen slowly floating further and further away from the island. It took half an hour for the flames to start to subside, and just like before not a sound was heard except for the sea and the far off crackling of fire. It wasn't until several hours have passed and the last flames started to burn out that those gathered turned away and silently went off to their homes. Perhaps tomorrow they would raise their cups in honor of those that left them, but not today.

. . .

Stoick looked over the silently dispersing crowd. Their village was a tightly knit community; after all there was nothing better than fighting for survival to bring people together. He himself had personally been friends or at least close acquaintances with over half of the Vikings that sailed off to the dragon nest, and the rest he at least knew by name. He knew that no one would blame this on him, after all finding the dragon nest and destroying it has been a goal to strive towards since long before he took over as chief of the village. Still…

He flinched and whirled around as he felt someone pull at his hand. The elder had not moved to leave like the rest did and was instead looking at him.

"It's not your fault you know. No one could have ever expected what happened to occur."

No… no, no! Dad – no! Please, it's not what you think! You don't know what you are up against – it's like nothing you've ever seen…

Funny how the elder had always seemed to know what was on his mind, and yet this time her words were hammering at him – berating him for the decisions he made with respect to his son.

"Ever since the dragons started attacking the village chief tried to find the nest and stop the raids. You could not have possibly known what you would find there, or how badly the battle would go."

It's a dragon like you've never seen… …Dad please! I promise you: You can't win this one!

Stoick flinched away from the elder. He never did tell her the full conversation – if you could call it that – which he had with Hiccup before the expedition, and now the words she unknowingly uttered to try and calm him down sounded almost as if she was accusing him of causing everything. And in a way, she would have been right.

"Sorry… I just need to… I mean, I… I need to go check up on Hiccup"

He just could not stand it. Turning around to stop himself from seeing the confusion and sadness in the elder's eyes he sprinted away to put distance between them. He would probably completely break down if she uttered anything more. Thus he did not hear the elder calling him or see her shake her head and move slowly towards her house.

. . .

Rushing into his house Stoick slammed the door to put even more distance between himself and the rest of the village. In the state he was in now, he doubted he could possibly deal with anyone. Moving through the house he took out some flint to light the fire in the fire pit that was situated in the middle of the house to provide light and warmth. Letting his knees buckle he tried to get the fire going. As always the wood had already been prepared earlier that day so all that was left was to provide the sparks necessary; however his hands shook badly and it took him seven tries to get it started.

He knew that he was better off than most of the other Vikings, after all his son survived the battle – even if he did lose a leg and still hasn't woken up – while many of the other Vikings had seen their family leave for the last time this evening. But no one else had to live with the knowledge that they were the ones responsible for this tragedy.

Tomorrow he would wake up ready to face his village, ready to take lead once again and guide it forward once again. He would, just as he had done after every failed expedition where he lost many comrades, take all his feelings for himself and bury them. After all, a Viking chief could not be anything but self-assured strong. But for the remainder of this day, he would allow the hatred and loathing for himself to flow through him.

After all, if he had just listened – for once in his life, just listened – he could have prevented all this from occurring.

Somehow, he knew that he would not get a moment of sleep tonight.

1st - 43. End of Innocence – 2404w

Hiccup groaned as he slowly surfaced from unconsciousness. As the aches of his body assaulted him he knew that this time he was awake for real. Opening his eyes he noticed that he was apparently in his house on the bed in the main room. Trying to sit up was apparently not too good of an idea as the unused muscles flared in protest making him involuntarily groan in pain. Still, he was not a stranger to pain and his protesting body was nowhere near the amount of pain that burning hands would be. That thought made him frown and raise his hands to look at them, an action that took a surprising amount of effort to complete.

Looking at his hands he noticed that besides scratches and minor burns they were fine, which was strange as he clearly remembered them nearly burning off him before he blacked out. It took him a few moments until his memory started working again and allowed him to remember the battle as well as the strange dream he had. Steeling himself for the inevitable wave of pain from his muscles he looked around the room, noting that he was alone. It seemed that if he wanted to get some answers, he would first need to get up and find someone.

Taking a deep breath to prepare himself and hoping that his body would be able to handle a short walk Hiccup removed the bed covers and was already making the motions to swing his body off the bed when he noticed his leg.

For a few moments Hiccup's mind refused to process what his eyes were telling him, after all it is not every day that you wake up with your left leg replaced by a chunk of wood and a metal plate. Reaching out his while folding his leg closer to himself he grabbed the metal plate and flinched. Due to the construction of the new leg his mind was stubbornly informing him that both his leg and his hand were occupying the same space – not a very soothing feeling.

Releasing the metal plate Hiccup softly traced the side of his new leg with his fingertips. He could not prevent himself from flinching again when the wood stopped and his fingers reached his flesh and he could feel his fingers on his leg. Smiling sadly he could not help but compare himself to Gobber; like master, like apprentice apparently. Now he as well could not walk without a contraption strapped to his body, just like Toothless could not fly without the tailfin he built for him…

Toothless!

Hiccup's eyes widened as he remembered his friend and he could not help but berate himself for forgetting him this long. Where was Toothless? What happened during however many days he was out?

With his mind now focused on the Nightfury Hiccup quickly moved his legs off the bed and stood up, not even noticing the aches from his body. Looking around he noticed his jacket on the edge of the bed and strode purposefully towards it, intent on getting out of the house and finding the answers to his questions.

At least, that was the plan before he put his full weight on his left leg, which responded to that idea with a blinding flash of pain, and felt it buckle under him.

Sprawling on the floor Hiccup sighed as he remembered too late that he no longer had two fully functioning legs. If this had happened before he met Toothless he would have been content to just lie there in horror as to his loss, but now it was no more than a minor setback for him. Ever since meeting Toothless he had put his life second after the Nightfury. It wasn't really a conscious decision, but gradually this feeling deepened until the moment in the water with debris sinking around him and his hands clenched tightly on Toothless' cage when he realised that he would attempt to free Toothless right up until his last breath left his body. Thus it should be no wonder that his lost leg would not stop him from finding Toothless or at least some Viking who could tell him where the Nightfury is.

Hiccup's face broke into a large smile as he remembered the wish he made in the dream. If it was true, then he would finally have paid back in full for crippling his only friend. Thus all that was left was to find the dragon.

With the help of the side of the bed Hiccup stood back up and hobbled over to the door while grabbing his vest off the foot of the bed along the way. The process of crossing the room was much more difficult than before and took more time, but he did not let that get him down. Opening the door and stumbling outside he squinted his eyes as he looked around.

"Hiccup!"

"It's Hiccup! He is awake!"

"Three cheers for our hero!"

Apparently others have already noticed him leaning on the doorframe. Not exactly used to being in the center of attention, even with after his short stint as the proverbial champion of dragon training, Hiccup lost his train of thought and just stared numbly at the steadily increasing semi-circle of Vikings around him.

. . .

Stoick was just coming back from the meeting at the Meade hall after a long discussion about the loss of over half their fleet of ships and the strain it would put on their fishing expeditions when he heard some of the other Vikings yelling out his son's name. Sprinting off towards his house he broke into a smile upon seeing Hiccup standing just outside the door for a second before his view was blocked by the rush of Vikings congratulating Hiccup for his role during the battle as well as his quick return back to health.

"Hiccup! You're up!"

The gathered Vikings quieted down upon hearing Stoick's yell and cleared a path for him. Stoick slowed down and stopped before his son who seemed to be slightly shell shocked from the almost literal wall of questions, congratulations and exclamations of Vikings that mobbed him the second he left his house.

"Good to see you awake; and look at you! Already up and walking around! Always knew you healed faster than us mortal men!"

A slightly awkward silence was experienced by those gathered as Stoick waited for Hiccup to say something while Hiccup on the other hand was not yet in the right mind to continue the conversation. Feeling the situation getting more awkward by the second Stoick cleared his throat and tried to mitigate the situation.

"So… How are you doing? I mean the elder told me yesterday that you were mostly healed up and just needed rest…"

That was apparently enough to break through the daze Hiccup was in as he replied sarcastically:

"Oh, I'm perfectly fine! After all I still got my arms in place, head in one piece, no major organs missing and both legs still capable of… oh wait."

Stoick flinched slightly at that. He really should have expected that answer, after all Hiccup would not be himself without those witty remarks of his.

"Ah, yes, well… Besides that" he silently cursed himself. Why was it so difficult to talk about that damn leg? He could almost hear the crashing and burning of his plan for how the conversation was supposed to go between them. It was precisely for this reason that he typically did not allow Hiccup any arguments in their discussions – Hiccup just had a way of pushing any conversation into the uncharted territory of 'here be dragons', not that they were not already there.

"Why am I missing a leg in any case?" Hiccup was definitely not dropping that topic any time soon.

"Well, you might not remember, but when we found you unconscious after the battle it was pretty managed up. Looked like someone took a hammer to it several times. There was really nothing else we could do except to remove it. Still, it could have been worse; you might have lost both legs or even your life."

"So I am supposed to feel glad for the loss of my leg?"

Ouch – Hiccup and his sarcastically witty remarks strike again. Still, hopefully it was not too late to take the reins of their conversation. "That's not exactly what I meant… Anyway, having just woken up you shouldn't push yourself too hard. Why don't I help you back to bed…"

Seeing Hiccup about to say something Stoick hastily added "if not to sleep then to sit down – you really should not stress your new leg too much yet"

For a second Hiccup looked ready to argue, but to Stoick's relief Hiccup decided against it and with a shrug turned around to limp back inside. Stoick hurried up a bit to take his place at his son's side while gesturing for Hiccup to lean on his side to provide support for the leg. He could not help but break into a smile when Hiccup accepted his offer; even with everything that happened between them, during moments such as these they truly felt like family.

"By the way dad, I just remembered what I wanted to ask you – Do you know where Toothless is?"

Stoick frowned in thought. He remembered hearing that name somewhere…

"Who's Toothless?"

"The Nightfury dad… You know; the dragon that led you to the island, the one that I later flew with into battle?" With another roll of his eyes Hiccup replied in an exasperated tone.

And the peaceful moment that they shared was shattered as Stoick understood who Hiccup was asking about. Stoick franticly searched for some possible way to tell his son that the Nightfury was dead; preferably in a gentle way.

"It's dead"

As Hiccup stiffened against him Stoick cursed all the gods he knew and some that he made up on the spot for his lack of tact. While most of the situations he encountered as chief of the tribe required bluntness this was most definitely not one of them. Still, all things considered Hiccup took the loss of his leg quite well, so the loss of his pet should not affect him too much. Perhaps it really was better to just explain the entire situation to him and console him for his combined loss. After all, that was what fathers did, right?

"What happened?" Hiccup's responded in a monotone voice that was unnaturally quiet for him, so much so that Stoick barely heard him. With a deep breath he launched into an explanation."

"From what we saw you managed to shoot down that demonic beast and tried to get away. We are not exactly sure what happened, but the last view we had of you was when you flew off the Nightfury and were falling into the oncoming explosion. After that the shockwave passed us and filled the air with ash. Fearing for your life I rushed in to find you and stumbled upon the dragon. As for you, we found you cradled between the Nightfury's legs and covered with its wings. We believe that it caught you on the way down and shielded you from the fall. Unfortunately it did not survive the fall."

The silence around them was deafening as Stoick gazed with worry at his son who had not moved a muscle throughout his explanation. He started to reach out his hand but stopped and instead tried to fill the silence around them before it drowned them.

"Still, good job training the beast – you really do have a way with them; never thought I would see one give his life for the life of a Viking. Not many pets would do that for their master, means you did something right"

Interpreting the shudder from Hiccup as proof that he was doing something right, Stoick continued.

"Anyway, it's just a dragon; a well-trained one but still…" said Stoick uncomprehendingly.

"… I mean I understand that he was the only Nightfury we ever saw, but still – just train a different dragon if you must. Just keep it a secret, even with the dragon raids probably over with there is no way to know how the others would react to seeing another dragon in or around the village." He ended with a chuckle.

Out of all the things he could have said, that was most definitely the worst one. Hiccup pushed himself away from his fath – no, from Stoick; and stumbling around glared at the Viking in front of him. In a way, he always knew that he and his father have never understood each other, however this was too much. How could Stoick ever say that to him! It would be like someone suggesting to Stoick to just forget about Valhalarama and just get another wife to replace her! Possibly even worse than that; as their bond was deeper than that. Hiccup felt that he couldn't live without the Nightfury, and even though he did not know what Toothless felt for him, considering that the dragon gave his life for him he would bet that Toothless also felt the same. When Stoick so casually suggested Hiccup just replace Toothless, he could not stand it; couldn't stand being near this person.

Stoick knew that he probably said something wrong when Hiccup flinched away from him and stumbled. He was about to move closer to try and steady his son when he was pierced by the shear hatred in the gaze his son had leveled upon him. He could not prevent himself from stepping back at the intensity of those emotions.

"Leave. Just, please… Get out of my sight…"

Perhaps it was the knowledge that he had said something wrong, or the way his son looked at him, but Stoick stumbled back another step before turning around and almost running out the door. Blindly pushing his way through the group of Vikings still gathered around the doorway his mid did not even process any of the questions they asked him. It wasn't until he was several blocks away from his house that he regained his composure. Ruffling his own hair he tried to understand what could possibly have caused such a reaction from his son. It was just a dragon after all…

1st - 44. Hollow Victory – 2839w

Astrid was a mix of conflicting emotions as she stood before the closed door to Stoick's house. When she first noticed the group of Vikings milling around the door her spirits lifted. There was really no reason for them to be standing around that house unless something happened with Hiccup, and since she was there when the elder informed Stoick that Hiccup would be waking up any day now Astrid knew that that was what had most likely occurred. When she got to the group and started pushing her way to the front her thoughts were confirmed when she heard the others discussing Hiccup's health and blasé attitude towards his missing leg. That was when apprehension crawled into her mind. If what they were saying was true, then Hiccup had mostly disregarded his crippling injury – but somehow she knew that he would not take the loss of Toothless the same way. She remembered clearly that he was willing to go against the monstrous Nightmare and against three generations of Viking knowledge to try and prevent someone from killing Toothless if or when they discovered him. Somehow she doubted that after everything that has happened between the two of them that Hiccup would accept the loss.

She was probably the only one in the village that actually understood the depth of the friendship shared between them; after that flight she was unwillingly kidnapped for she thought about it and realised that it took their synchronised movements to enable them to fly – thus it required a kind of unconditional trust that was almost impossible to find. It was like being asked to jump off a cliff with the assurances that the other would not allow you to die; it was just something that she would not do no matter who asked it of her. Yet she knew that if Toothless could talk and asked that of Hiccup, he would make that jump without a second thought.

Hesitantly Astrid approached the doorway, now being the center of attention of the gathered Vikings as she gathered enough courage to step inside. Fortunately for her she was still far enough from it that when it slammed open and Stoick rushed out he did not trample over her.

Her apprehension grew exponentially as she noted the partially confused, terrified, and blindly shocked look adorning Stoick's face that she caught a glimpse of as he ran past. Judging by the way he was forcing his way through the gathered group she highly doubted that he would have even noticed running over her if she had the misfortune to have stood in his path. Shuddering she turned towards the now ajar door and stepped through it.

The moment she entered the house she felt prickles on her skin. There was something wrong with the air inside; an almost tangible feeling of anger, sadness and loathing. And amidst all that there stood Hiccup, looking at her with glassy eyes that told her that even though his gaze was directed in her direction, he did not see her.

Apparently Stoick informed Hiccup of Toothless' demise and that talk did not go over well. Slowly, step by step, she approached Hiccup and when she was close enough laid a hand on his shoulder and gently shook him. She could feel a stab of pain from her heart when she saw him flinch and snap his head in her direction, finally noticing that he was no longer alone. Pain wretched further into her heart when she saw the pain and anguish reflected in his eyes. She barely grabbed him in time as his legs gave way beneath him.

Grabbing hold of Hiccup Astrid dragged him towards the nearby bed and got him to sit on it, which he did in a slouched down manner with his hands on his legs and his head handing down staring unperceptively at the floor. He was worse off than she had ever seen him; even worse than when she brought him food after his father left him in the Meade hall and publicly proclaimed that the person known as Hiccup (for he was no longer his son) was forevermore banished from the village. But that was only to be expected, at least then he still knew that Toothless was still alive. The only time when he possibly looked the way he did now was after his mother's death. She never saw him then; they weren't exactly close, besides which he hid out in his house for over a month. But considering how she felt when she was informed several winters ago that her father was not coming back from his last dragon hunting expedition, she thought that was an accurate comparison.

Not being able to look at him in this state for much longer she let herself collapse next to him, sitting in much the same pose and staring at the floor in front of her. She felt like she had to say something – anything really, just like at the docks when the expedition sailed away with Toothless… But that was the key difference; that time there was a change of everything turning out alright – there was no such change now.

"I won't say that I understand how you feel – after all I myself hated others telling me that when I found out that my dad was not coming back; but you can't keep killing yourself over this."

She had braced herself for Hiccup to explode over her; for him to yell about her 'not getting it' – she did that often enough after her own loss – but Hiccup remained motionless, almost as if he did not even hear her, which somehow made it worse.

Sighing she continued. "Just remember that Toothless had already put his life on the line to save you from that monstrous Nightmare that almost killed you in the ring. It's just that this time when he saved you from the fall things turned out worse."

No response.

"Just think about how he would act if he ever saw you in this state. After all he gave his life to save you, I'm pretty sure he would not want you to just waste away like this."

"I will never find out what he wanted – after all, he is dead now isn't he!" well, at least Hiccup responded this time – even if it was by blindingly lashing out against her.

"No, you will not. But that does not mean that he would have wanted to see you like this." She replied.

The anger disappeared from Hiccup, leaving behind a void. She was right after all, Toothless would have hated seeing him like this – would have probably hated himself if he knew that his death caused Hiccup to be like this. But that did not matter to him – like a man dying of thirst he latched on to the only source of companionship the first chance he got, even if it was from a dragon. He never quite noticed it, but over time Toothless became the only thing keeping him sane. He had long acknowledged deep down that his father would never respect him, that he would never fit in with the others – so much so that he felt nothing when his father denied him as his son – for he had long ago come to accept the relationship between him and Stoick as nothing more than that between child and unwilling guardian. And now his only support was lost. He was like a boat drifting aimlessly in the ocean – without a destination, and without purpose. In a way, he had died with Toothless, all that was left of him was a shell.

Still…

"What about the war between Vikings and dragons?" he had to know if their deaths were worth something in the end.

Astrid sighed in relief. She considered it a positive sign that Hiccup could think about something other than Toothless' death. Still, the new topic was not much better than the previous one, and she did not like the way he referred to Vikings as if he did not count himself as one.

"Some things are just not that simple…" now how best to word this…

"… The war between us and dragons is over, but they killed hundreds of us, and that is not something that the older generation can just forget."

No… they wouldn't…

"Are they still killing dragons?"

"No, but that could be because the dragons have left – most just hope that they will never return. The only dragons that followed us back to Berk were those we flew on into battle, and even those only stayed for a day before Galal tried to attack the Gronckle – 'because it deserved it' – they left that very night. I would have like for Stormfly – that's what I decided to call the Nadder – to stay, but she would have probably been attacked as well so it's probably for the best…"

So, in the end all that they managed to accomplish was to stop the war from actively continuing. Hiccup hoped that the dragon clan would not try and get revenge for all the dragons killed, but even if that was the case the Vikings were still likely kill any dragons that came to the island and spark the war to start again. Hiccup just didn't want to think about it anymore.

"What else happened these past few days while I was lying around impersonating a high maintenance plank?"

"Nothing much, it took a couple of days to get the ships seaworthy and ferry everyone back to Berk. After that there was that incident with the Gronckle, and a few days later we lit the funeral pyres for those lost."

"How many died?" Hiccup really did not want to know, but the words slipped unbidden through his lips.

"We lost two hundred and thirteen Vikings along with all the catapults and over two thirds of the ships. The ships and catapults can be rebuilt but those killed…" Astrid decided not to add Toothless to that list. Somehow she doubted that the mention of the Nightfury's death would go over well at the moment.

"So many?" Hiccup knew that the casualties would be high, he could vividly remember the path of carnage that the monster carved through the Viking ranks with its fire and tail – but still, that was almost half of the village capable of fighting.

Astrid lowered her head even lower. She really did not like to talk about any of this, but the least she could do was provide some answers to him. "The battle took a heavy toll on us; we needed three long boats to send them off properly, and even then everything was quite cramped – we just could not spare any more boats otherwise there may have been six or eight.

"What about Toothless?"

And they were back to that topic…

"What about him?" Astrid was almost certain what Hiccup wanted to know, but decided to confirm her suspicions.

"What happened to his… body – did they just leave it lying on the beach?"

That confirmed it. Astrid just hoped that Hiccup would not react badly to this… "When we took you from Toothless' body the other dragons sent him off."

Hiccup remained silent, and she took that as a sign to continue. "They gathered around him and flamed a circle in the ground with him in the center. Then it was almost as if the circle caught on fire and he burned up. It was probably what they do whenever dragons die, just like we send our dead off on funeral pyres. Oh, and they sort of sang while doing it." She ended lamely. There really was no way to describe the crooning of the dragons that made up the song, for any description would be unable to convey the feelings imbued in it.

Hiccup did not know what to think. On the one hand, Toothless was now completely gone. He couldn't even say his goodbye properly since even his body was gone. However perhaps it was for the best, at least his body was not just decomposing on the beach. He had no illusions that the Vikings would have just left Toothless there without a second thought. Perhaps he was too cynical at the moment, but he wouldn't put it past them to cut off some of the dragon's skin just as a sort of souvenir – perhaps a claw or two as well.

He was brought out of his thoughts when he felt a weight settle down on his legs. Opening his eyes that he probably closed some time during the conversation he looked down at the strange fist sized and surprisingly smooth black marble.

"It was lying in the ashes after Toothless burned up. Stormfly picked it up after the fires died down and gave it to me while nodding in your direction – I think that they wanted you to have it."

Hiccup picked it up and cradled it with both of his hands. The stone was surprisingly warm, which surprised him. In a way though, it made sense – Toothless was a being of fire after all.

"It was warm when I was given it, and it has remained that way ever since – not sure why exactly" apparently Astrid noticed his surprise, or perhaps she just anticipated his question. Hiccup though did not hear her, his attention was completely on the marble – the last reminder of the Nightfury who had become the focus of his life.

"Can you go, please? I just want to be alone for a while" his voice sounded hollow even to himself, and yet he could not bring himself to care.

"I'm not sure I should leave you alone like this…" Astrid highly doubted that leaving Hiccup while he was in this state was the best idea.

"I just need some rest." He replied as he fell backwards onto the bed and turned away from her; still clutching the black marble as if afraid it would disappear.

Well, that was a lie if she ever heard one, but there was nothing much she could do… Perhaps it would be better if she left and tried again tomorrow…

. . .

Hiccup did not move as she made her way out of the house, and it was only after he heard the door softly close behind her that Hiccup crawled to the center of the bed and turned to lie on his side, the marble cradled tightly close to his face as he gazed at it with such intensity that had it been made of any lesser material it would have already had a hole drilled through it.

When he first saw it in his lap, it looked like it was made out of obsidian that was somehow perfectly molded into a sphere. On closer look though, Hiccup noticed that it wasn't completely opaque. Turning around to lie on his back he placed the marble so it was between him and the cut out in the ceiling for the smoke from the fire pit. Looking through the sphere he saw what looked almost like a crystalized flame frozen in time in the center. It would have been mesmerizingly beautiful if he did not know that the marble represented the finality of Toothless' death.

With a sigh Hiccup cradled the marble close to the nook of his neck and curled up around it – as if to shield it from the world.

Perhaps tomorrow he would wake up to find that this was all nothing but a nightmare. It didn't even matter if only Toothless' death was a dream or if he dreamt up everything from shooting down the Nightfury – after all how surreal was it for him (the failure, the walking disaster) to have brought down that mighty beast…

Even if everything was just a dream, if their friendship never happened, he would still be content knowing that the Nightfury was alive…

With those thoughts sleep welcomed him into her gentle embrace.

Hours passed and Stoick returned, but Hiccup did not hear him.

Throughout the night Hiccup was completely still except for the steady rise and fall of his chest.

Even as the thunderstorm boomed overhead and rain fell in sheets against the roof of the house he remained motionless.

It was only a few hours before Stoick woke up that a change came over Hiccup…

Slowly Hiccup's breathing slowed and his heart begun to beat fainter and fainter. With a last sigh, so soft that one would have to have his ear almost pressed to him to hear it, his heart stopped forever.

Perhaps it was for the best, for they have lived their entire lives together and died together – after all even though their bodies were alive, they were dead until the moment they found each other – and when one of them died, so did the other.

Thus it happened that the two of them were united once more…

If not in this world then the next…

1st - 45. And the Skies Cry – 2117w

Stoick came back home late and completely drunk. After leaving or perhaps retreating – he would never admit that he ran away – from his son, he blundered his way into the Meade hall where he found Gobber. Naturally Gobber was quite interested in how Hiccup was doing and why Stoick was not at his side, but he was stubbornly refusing to say anything more than a "he is fine" on that topic. After the third attempt at getting something out of him failed Gobber finally admitted defeat and instead brought over some ale.

The conversation then touched on yesterday's funeral procession, lack of long boats necessary to restock on fish for the winter, the questionable disappearance of dragons, and many other topics – generally getting shallower and unfocused as the total number of mugs of ale drunk passed into the double digits. Stoick would never admit to it, but he was very much hoping that by coming back home late he would find Hiccup already asleep and be able to avoid another confrontation. Thus the sun was already setting down on the horizon when the two of them stumbled along the road toward Gobber's forge where they parted ways.

Stoick's attempt at silently opening the door failed spectacularly when instead of grabbing the handle he managed to nearly fall onto the door which slammed against the doorway shattering the silence that permeated the darkened house. Holding his breath and freezing on the spot – or at least putting effort into not swaying as badly – he listened for any movements from inside the house. Fortunately for him the restored silence remained in place and he released his breath with a sigh.

Trying to move closer to the bed Stoick managed to stumble only twice before his hand steadied himself on its corner. Even in the rapidly encroaching darkness and his own muddled eyesight he managed to get a glimpse of Hiccup curled up in the middle of the bed. Somehow the thought that he should cover his son managed to pass through his waterlogged mind and shortly thereafter he proceeded to grab the fur lined cover sheets hanging off the side of the bed and fold them over Hiccup.

Well, that went better than he thought. Hiccup was asleep and would hopefully be feeling better enough in the morning that they could talk. For the moment though, he needed to get to his own bed. Following that thought Stoick moved purposefully towards the staircase and his own much needed rest.

. . .

It was still dark when Stoick woke up. Still, considering his somewhat sizable headache it would be nearly impossible to get back to sleep. With a grunt he flipped himself off the bed and held onto its corner as the world spun for a moment before righting itself. His stomach growled loudly reminding him that he had not eaten anything since the morning of the previous day – copious amounts of ale naturally did not count as food. Thus getting something to eat went up to first place in the order of things to do for the day.

Walking to the kitchen of his house was much easier than getting up to bed yesterday was, and Stoick silently thanked the gods for making Vikings capable of consuming staggering amounts of spirits with nothing more than a slight headache the next day – although considering his own headache was worse than he ever remembered having before meant that he must have drunk almost his own body weight in ale; and even though that was an exaggeration it was still surprisingly close.

The flash of lighting visible through the smoke hole in the ceiling followed by a crack of lighting brought to his attention the current weather conditions on Berk. Recognising the perpetual repetitive sounds outside as an especially heavy downpour of rain Stoick finally realised that it was not quite as early as he expected. Still, the horrible weather meant that it was highly unlikely that his presence would be required today – most Vikings would just spend their time either at home or in the main hall during thunder storms and any major construction or repairs would be put off for a day.

Rummaging through the pantry he scowled at seeing half a loaf of bread as the only thing there. Making a note to himself to stop by the marketplace near the docks to restock on bread and smoked fish which was also unfortunately lacking at the moment he grabbed the half-loaf of bread and tore into it like a dragon in a frenzy. Having inhaled the bread, the worst pangs of hunger have left him and Stoick could once again focus on more important matters.

Like for example, Hiccup.

Leaving the kitchen he walked over to the bed upon which his son lay and looked at him. From the hazy flashes he remembered of last night Hiccup had not moved at all from his position of being curled up in the center. Still, he understood that Hiccup had had a trying day yesterday. After all waking up only to discover that you have lost a leg is bad enough and is usually enough to send a Viking into gloom for a day or two as they realize that it will severely cramp their dragon killing style. Hiccup however also found out about the death of that dragon of his. Not that Stoick understood what the big deal about that was. He himself had kept an eagle once in his youth which was indispensable during hunting expeditions after he trained it to go after a deer's eyes; but one day it mistimed its assault on a young elk and got gutted on the horns. Sure he was sad, but it's not like he let that get him down – he would certainly not consider its loss as worse than losing your leg!

He was planning to wake Hiccup up and offer him something to eat – the boy hasn't eaten any solid food during the five days of his coma, and somehow he doubted that his son got anything to eat yesterday either; even worse, it was unlikely that he ate anything before leaving for the dragon nest as well, meaning that Hiccup had already went a week without solid food! Unfortunately Stoick had eaten the last remainder of sustenance in the house and had nothing to offer his son. The last few days were hectic so he could be forgiven for not maintaining his food stores, but now he would pay for that by going to the market through the pouring rain to restock.

On the positive side, at least Hiccup would get another few hours to rest. 'In fact' Stoick decided 'why don't I get some fish along the way and prepare it – at least Hiccup would get a warm meal for the first time in a while.'

Having decided on a course of action Stoick walked away from his son towards the hooks near the door upon which the coats and cloaks hung. Grabbing a nice thick coat to protect him from the bucket loads of rain falling outside he donned it and clasped a fur lined cloak over it, covering his head with its hood. Opening the door he shivered when he saw how bad the rain really was at the moment. Still, there was nothing he could do about it. Wrapping the cloak tighter around himself he stepped out and proceeded towards the docks. It was unlikely that the marketplace would be open in this weather, but knowing where everyone on Berk lived had its perks; all he needed to do was get to their houses and ask to buy their wares directly.

The recently vacated house returned to its silent state as the only living Viking in it left.

. . .

Stoick was not happy. Not only did he have to drag himself through the heavy rain from his house to the docks, but the first two houses he tried were empty as their owners have likely holed themselves up at the Meade hall. With there only being three merchant families living in Berk Stoick honestly hoped that the last merchant would be at home instead of with the others in the Meade hall – otherwise he would have to forgo the bread and smoked salmon and bring back just the pair of raw cod he already grabbed from the village storehouses.

Fortunately the third family stayed put in their house and answered the door when he hammered at it with his fist. Getting the food was relatively easy however, and they were even hospitable enough to offer him some herbal tea to heat him up before he braved the storm outside again. Considering that a few more hours of sleep would not be detrimental for Hiccup (and perhaps the blasted rain would stop), Stoick graciously accepted the offer and spend quite some time with the merchant's family in front of their fire.

The rain did not even think about abating when he finally left for home and Stoick once again arrived at the doorway with a waterlogged cape that must have at least tripled in weight. Throwing it off his shoulders with relief he hung it up to dry along with the coat. Striding towards the pile of firewood at the side he expertly picked up a large stack and returned to the fire pit in the center of the house. With fast experienced motions he got the fire set up and lit. With the few minutes necessary for the fire to reach its proper size available to him, he quickly changed out of his pants that were just as waterlogged as the cape. Having done that, he expertly cleaned and gutted the two cods before thrusting them through the skewers and placing them against the fire.

When the fish was approximately halfway cooked he decided to wake up Hiccup.

"Hiccup! Wake up! You are probably hungry, so I prepared some cod for you!" this strangely enough did not elicit the kind of response he was hoping for. More precisely, there was no detectable movement from the bed.

"Oi! Hiccup!" the lack of response was starting to worry Stoick as he stood up and approached the bed.

"Come on Hiccup, wake up already." He growled while gently shaking his son by his shoulder. When that did not help Stoick reached out with his hand to pat Hiccup on the cheek. His hand froze upon contact with the cold skin of his son.

'no…'

"Hiccup?"

'no… no… No…'

"Hiccup? Son?"

Subconsciously he already knew what happened as unbidden tears welled up in his eyes.

'no, no, no, no, no, no…'

His hand moved unbidden towards Hiccup's throat before jerking away as if burned…

There was no pulse.

'This wasn't happening. No, It was not possible, No. No. No. No. NO…'

Grabbing Hiccup with both his hands he was surprised that they slightly resisted his motions. Not to be denied he forced his son out of the curled up position and put his ear to Hiccup's chest. Only silence greeted him.

'NO NO NO NO…'

Not even aware of the futility of his actions he grabbed his son by the shoulders and started to violently shake him.

"NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!" As his eyes stung from tears Stoick did not even notice that he was now yelling at the top of his lungs.

Franticly looking around as if to find something that would help him in this situation Stoick saw the strange black marble that Astrid had always carried with her since that forsaken battle. His yell was chocked back in his throat as he just stared at it for a second.

It was broken into two along the center, the rough texture of the break a sharp contrast to the smoothness of the sphere.

Destroyed

Broken

DEAD

Just like his son.

With a yell Stoick pushed himself away from the bed, away from his late son's body. Shaking his head in denial he turned around and sprinted outside, not even bothering to put a cloak on. He doubted that he could stand to look at his son's 'no – he can't be dead – it's impossible…' body for even a second longer. He had to get out. Away from here – away from this nightmare.

Stopping, Stoick stared up at the rain pouring down upon him and intermingling with his own tears. His hopes that it would wash away at least some of his hopelessness have long since shattered.

"Gods, please! This can't be happening! Il give anything… Just… please…" breaking down Stoick fell on his knees.

The heavens just continued to rain down.

There was no reply.

1st - 46. Ashes to Ashes – 3236w

It was the greatest shock of Gobber's life when he saw Stoick on his knees with his head pointing up at the sky and his arms sprawled uselessly at his sides. Just moments ago he heard a heart retching yell through the storm and with his curiosity piqued went out to investigate. He had seen much in his life, after all as a veteran of countless dragon raids as well as all of Hiccup's attempts at dragon killing he could say he lived an 'interesting' life – and that was not counting the surrealism experienced at that god forsaken volcanic island of a dragon nest. But that all paled at the sight of his best friend, a brother in all but name, collapsed in front of him. Hesitantly he approached him.

"Sto - Stoick?" He could not prevent his voice from cracking halfway through – something about the scene in front of him terrified him.

Stoick rolled his head to the side towards Gobber which incidentally allowed them to see each other's faces

Nothing could have prepared him for the sheer hopelessness and horror imprinted in Stoick's face – but worst of all were the eyes. Gobber could not prevent himself from stumbling several steps back and falling on his back, it was only an automatic response of his hands that prevented him from completely collapsing.

Those eyes…

They were bloodshot and had some crazed look about them, but that paled in comparison to the feelings churning within their depths.

Eyes like that should never adorn a person's face – saying that there was sorrow in them would be like saying fire was somewhat warm. The almost tangible abyss of darkness visible within them conveyed so much pain and anguish that it was almost a wonder that they have not started bleeding to release those feelings.

These were the eyes of someone who has slowly lost everything in his life; someone who has watched his reasons for existence be stripped away from him bit by bit, all the while imperceptibly cracking with each loss until all of a sudden he just cannot take it anymore and shatters completely.

Gobber did not need to hear any explanations from Stoick, for his tears have already added themselves to the downpour. There was only one thing that could have resulted in the broken man in front of him.

The first cracks have appeared when Stoick's father, Herald the Unmovable – the previous chief of the tribe – was lost at sea along with his mother during one of the ill-fated searches for the dragon's nest.

The next cracks came too soon after when he was selected as chief of the tribe over his brother who in a fit of rage broke ties between them – they managed to make up later on, but the cracks remained; the cracks never heal.

Then he met Valhalarama, and all seemed good; that was until Hiccup was born. The largest cracks yet appeared when he was informed that his son would never become a Viking – never become one of them. With every failure of communication between them, with every action that his son did that showed the truth of the elder's words the cracks widened and spread.

And then, five winters ago Valhalarama was killed by a deadly Nadder. The cracks were now dangerously close to overcoming Stoick, and it was just his duty as chief that stopped his collapse. That, and his promise to Valhalarama to keep Hiccup safe.

Hiccup's bond with the Nightfury finally broke him, having banished his son from the tribe the only thing that he continued to stand for was the hope of stopping the dragon attacks once and for all with the decisive strike now that the island was accessible.

Everyone knows how that went; but one good thing came from it – Stoick and Hiccup managed to mostly reconcile with each other allowing Stoick to pick up the shattered pieces of his life and slowly start piecing them back together.

Thus there was only one thing that could forever shatter whatever remnants of Stoick's life he managed to piece together and scatter the shards without any hope of return:

Hiccup's death.

Perhaps Hiccup's skin-and-bones body simply could not handle the amputation of his leg or perhaps there were complications and he did not survive.

Or possibly he just lost hope in living after discovering his loss – it has occurred before, and Stoick did not want to talk about how Hiccup acted when he woke up the night before.

"Why Gobber? Why? He was getting better – he woke up just a day ago and was healthy enough to walk around… I just – I even roasted some cod over a fire for him – but he was already gone…. I failed her you know? – It was her single wish for me to protect him and I couldn't… I couldn't even do that…" Stoick knew he was babbling, but couldn't bring it within him to care.

Gobber did not reply, for there was nothing to say. Instead he slowly got up, approached Stoick, and knelt next to his long-time friend. He then let Stoick cry on his shoulder – he could not do anything more for him, but this at least he was capable of.

The rain continued to pour down on them, even harder than before – but neither of them noticed it.

. . .

It was sunset as always when the Vikings gathered up again on the docks. Once more they were here to say farewell and honor a member of their village as he sailed away on his final journey; never to return back to Berk again.

Just a day ago they were informed as to his passing. He who saved them from the demonic monster and who was now lying peacefully on the pyre floating in the waters.

Just two days ago they were celebrating Hiccup's awakening from five days in a coma after battle. There was precious little to celebrate, so everyone gathered to at least try and raise their own spirits with the single high note in a long while.

Just three days ago they mourned the passing of over two hundred of their brethren as they set off towards Valhala in a fleet of long boats.

And it was just six days ago that they fought (or more precisely, ran) for their lives against the demonic monster at the volcanic island where the dragons made their nest.

Now, just three days after they sent off the warriors lost in that battle they were gathered to send off the one Viking who saved them from the monster; the one Viking that ended (or at least delayed as many believed) the dragon raids.

Once again the Vikings gathered on the docks and stared at the village chief and elder standing on one of the piers. To their side stood a small wooden pyre upon which Hiccup lay. As per custom he would take with him the clothing on his back and a weapon – ironically enough the small dagger he always carried; the one blade that came closer to ending the life of the only Nightfury Berk has ever seen than the rest of the Viking weapons combined. That was not the only things he would take with him though – Gobber had brought the smiting hammer Hiccup had always used and the tiny black notebook he always wrote in, and had laid them next to him, glaring at the other Vikings all the while as if daring them to say anything.

No one did.

The weather was drastically different from the calm of three days ago. The sun was almost invisible in the clouds and the winds howled with unrestrained rage. The waves crashed against the rocks and rolled both under and over the pier; water sprayed over the group but no one paid it any attention – that was reserved for the chief, elder, and the lonely pyre violently rocking in the waters.

Stoick was no longer the chief he was before. Anyone who glanced at him could not see the solid strength that he always exhibited, the iron will with which he led them. In front of them was just a broken old man. Somehow in the dim light his hair seemed whiter than usual and his face covered in wrinkles. As to his eyes… No one who glanced at them once could bring themselves to look at them again… There was just something… Wrong with them…

The elder glanced around the gathered Vikings and took a breath.

"Wait!"

Everyone turned towards the disturbance and shuffled out of the way allowing Astrid to get through. In normal circumstances she would have blushed at all the attention now focused on her, but this was not the time.

"I just have to give these back to him – again" she reached out to show two half's of the black marble.

"He would have wanted to take them with him as well…" Astrid tried to explain her actions, even if the explanation was unnecessary – no one tried to stop her as she hesitantly approached the edge of the pier and jumped aboard the violently shaking pyre where she placed the two hemispheres under hiccup's hand with one on top of the other. Somehow the two parts fit together seamlessly giving an illusion of a whole marble without any imperfections – she couldn't even see the crack were they were joined. Not that it really mattered…

Tears flowed down her cheeks as she bent down and lightly punched him in the shoulder. "That's for dying on me…" and then leaning in kissed him. "… and that's for – you know – everything else…" Somehow no one was surprised at her actions and all acted as if they did not notice anything as she rapidly made her way along through the crowd. She would listen to the speech and then climb on one of the houses to watch the send-off with the rest of the teens.

The elder waited another moment in case anyone else wanted to interrupt before starting her speech in the eternally quiet and raspy voice.

"We are all gathered here today to see to the passing of a fellow Viking. Now Hiccup was not like the others, he was unique amongst us – for he strode forward using his brilliant mind. He was a wonderful blacksmith, and even though we never realized it many of the things he built were extremely complex…" she sighed before continuing

"… Perhaps too complex, for few worked as he would have liked and we ostracised him for it. And here lied our failing, for we focused too much on the failures of a nine year old child instead of on the qualities he possessed that could have been nurtured into something great – or I should say greater than he managed by himself."

No one could say anything, for they all knew it was true. Many were only now realizing what they have done.

"Hiccup was born with strength and creativity – while you may grudgingly agree about his creativity I can see you all shaking your head about my proclamations about his strength. Let me be clear, I am not talking about physical strength which he unfortunately lacked – but of spiritual strength. No matter the number of times you put him down, no matter how many times his designs failed, no matter that his own father never looked at him with pride; he still stood up. He still persisted."

More and more people had their heads hanging down in guilt as they could remember what they said to him in his moments of weakness whenever his contraption failed, whenever he was rescued from dragons, and whenever he was hurt.

"How many of you here could say that if they lived the same life as Hiccup did that you would be able to stand up again and try over and over until you succeed – even as everyone around you expects nothing but failures from you?"

No one spoke up, for not a single one of those gathered could positively say that about themselves.

"And yet he rose back up and tried again uncountable number of times. Before coming here I talked with some of the other younglings about Hiccup, for even I did not truly know him. Who amongst you here knew that during the last dragon raid his contraption actually worked? That when he exclaimed in front of the entire village that he shot down a Nightfury he was telling the truth; and yes, it was that same Nightfury that he later flew into battle with to save you all."

Quiet murmurs passed through the crowd for not a single one of them truly thought that Hiccup had ever succeeded with his designs. And yet, that explained perfectly where he got the Nightfury from – after all it did not suddenly appear ready for him to ride it…

"And finally there are his qualities of courage and compassion. There is no need to frame the next parts into a question, for I know that none of you would ever see a downed dragon and let it go as I believe Hiccup did. None of you would willingly drop down your weapons and shields before a dragon. Did you really think that his actions against the monstrous Nightmare in the kill ring were the first time he did it? Nay – the first time he did that was face to face with a Nightfury with no proof to show that it was not a mindless killing machine other than the fact that he wasn't dead yet."

A pin-drop could be heard in the silence that followed, or at least it would have been if it wasn't for the terrible winds, roar of the ocean, and the distant rumbles of thunder. No one really thought about how Hiccup ever got to the point of riding a Nightfury, and from the stories of the other younglings they knew that the younglings at least got on the dragon rather quick – but then again, that was with Hiccup already knowing what to do…

"But that's enough about his qualities, for his achievements are just as numerous and just as disregarded. Besides the already stated matter of taming the Nightfury he was also the one who saved you all when you faced the demon of the nest. It was then that he took on that demon by himself to protect those still alive from its fire, claws, and fangs. It was in that battle that he lost his leg and his dragon."

Silently everyone thanked Hiccup for coming when he did. No one begrudged him for not coming sooner and perhaps saving more – after all he put his life on the line, and near the end was almost asked to pay with it.

"Even though he did not die during the battle, the wounds he accrued there – be they physical or emotional – were what finally brought about his end. Thus he finally paid the ultimate price for saving us. Hiccup really was a true Viking – nay, he was something greater."

Stoick sighed. It was ironic that it was only when he was already lying on his funeral pyre that the elder proved her own words wrong, calling his son for the first time as a true Viking. How cynical the world was that all of his actions and attempts at bringing about his son's Vikingness were doomed to failure, while it was his compassion and courage that he never noticed that ended up turning him into a true Viking.

"Thus let the ashes of the fallen blow far and wide in this world, returning him back to the earth from which we came as his soul passes onwards. Let Valhala welcome the brave warrior that must now leave us."

An uncomfortable silence spread as everyone glanced at Stoick who seemed to wither even more under their gaze. He knew what they were all waiting for; even though everyone knew that a new chief would soon be selected to replace him, at the moment he was still the chief of the tribe – and with the position came responsibilities.

Stoick tried to move but his muscles did not respond. 'Come on, move!' He shouted in his mind, but his body refused to listen. 'All you need to do is nod! Just do it and it will all be over…' and yet there was no response.

"Launch the pyre."

Stoick jerked and whirled around to look at the elder who has spoken. Although the chief usually gave the orders to set the pyres adrift, it was originally the elder's job that was relegated to the chief to make him aware that he is in part responsible for the lives of his men. But still, the elder's words were law here – the pyre was unhitched and slowly floated out the harbour. The waters were too wild to allow anyone aboard to steer, so it was just sent off with a locked rudder.

Everyone remained silent as they waited for the chief to complete the ceremony. All that was left was to order the archers to fire and it would all be over.

The pyre was already approaching the limits that the Viking bows could shoot, and yet Stoick did not say anything. He knew that he was must tell the archers to fire, but he could not find his voice – the words would simply not come out.

The village elder glanced again at him and with a soft sigh and a shake of her head turned towards the archers.

"Light the arrows and fire"

The archers shared a look between each other. It wasn't her duty to say that and they should wait for the chief, but if they waited any longer then they would not be able to hit the pyre – and there was no worse fate for a Viking (except perhaps banishment) than to be sent off in death on an unlit pyre – those that were, were said to wander between worlds never to find their way either forward or back. Stoick meanwhile could not even bring himself to nod his head in agreement towards them – he just could not accept that his son was dead.

"Light the arrows and fire" The elder repeated in an iron voice that just dared them to ignore her.

And so they fired. Out of ten flaming arrows only three landed on the pyre while the others veering off course following the violent winds.

Still, that was enough.

The pyre flared to life, the flames licking its sides and burning brightly in the darkness. Even the wind seemed incapable of drowning out the fire – strangely enough the flames rose higher, as if to prove that nothing would put them out.

The drizzle of rain intensified and it was almost impossible to see the pyre through the sheets of rain. And yet the fire increased in brightness, steadily becoming more and more visible even as it floated further away from Berk. The flames now reached so high into the sky that they looked more like a red pillar, a column of flame – instead of a burning pyre it was.

And then, with a brilliant flash the column compressed into a thin line reaching into the heavens before shattering into a thousand shards which burned out before they could even begin to fall…

A/N

I set up Hiccup as 10.5 years old based on the books since I could not find how old he was in the movie (which I consider to be somewhere in july – just to have a frame of reference). Thus when he was 6 years old (during the winter) his mother died (my own idea, could not find any info on her) which was five winters ago (one winter ago is the current winter that has just passed; when he was 10).

By the way, I am just assuming that Hiccup had told Astrid at least some of the story of how he befriended Toothless in the time before the FUBAR situation that happened in the kill ring – I know that if someone I knew got a dragon and let me ride it I would not stop until that someone spilled the beans as to how that happened. Considering how curious Astrid is, I doubt that she would not do that as well.

2nd Cycle ~ Part I: Sacrificium

If you truly love someone, set them free of their gilded cage. If they return, then you know that they chose this. If they do not – then you at least know that they are happier for it. Funny isn't it how the age old saying takes no account of what you feel when you see them gone – the heart wrenching knowledge that YES, they do believe they are better off without you.

What could possibly be worse than that feeling, except for the both of you to later find out that they had been wrong.

2nd - 1. intermediate non-chapter placeholder

Stoick sat in front of the fire pit in his house staring at the neat stack of wood as it slowly burned to ashes. It was late in the evening with all the work required of him as chief of the village complete. The last dragon raid was beaten off with very little damage to the village as compared to what usually happened and he could afford a little time to just relax, stroke the fire, and not think about the problems that the village faced with the combined strength of the dragons and his son Hiccup.

For a moment he reflected on the multiple failings of his son and wondered what the gods were thinking to have given him a son that was...

Was like…

Well, you really could only describe Hiccup as being like Hiccup as there was nothing to compare him to.

Still, Hiccup was his and Valhallarama's son. He was duty bound to protect him…

As the fire crackled and embers floated up Stoick let his musings cease and lowering the fire poker to the floor allowed himself to be lost to the mesmerizing movements of the flame. As time continued to pass unnoticed and unheeded he reflected idly that it is almost as if the world itself stopped existing beyond the whiskers of flames burning in front of him.

. . .

Several chapters dedicated to the second cycle

Hiccup wakes up to on the day of the attack, discovers that he is in the past

Cant bring himself to shoot down toothless

Decides to just stay with gobber for the duration of the attack – after all, its not like he could kill or shoot down any dragons after what he had lived through

Regular life, with Hiccup not being in the dragon training (Stoick and Gobber conversation differs)

Hiccup decides to free the nadder from dragon training and begs it to free toothless from the darkness as he can not because he fears that his hands can only bring death to Toothless.

Gradually increasing depression with nibbing from the others (they are in dragon training and he is not) combined with the sharp pain from not having Toothless with him. Part of the time is spent training what little of mind arts he had been taught by the nadder and Toothless in 1st cycle – part 2.

Note – the nadder and Hiccup agree to meet in the cove to talk / for the nadder to teach him (can be seen as a replacement for Toothless-Hiccup interaction)

Several chapters will be in the Nadder's POV

Mention about how Hiccup sees the nadder as a mentor – almost like Gobber. However nothing can replace the feeling of belonging that he shared with Toothless in the 1st cycle.

Parts of the tutelage focus on the concept of soul and how there is no difference between a human soul and a dragon's one – it's the minds that differ. As an example comes how certain things are similar between people, be they human or dragon – the comparison of the Thorston twins to a Zippleback, Snotlout to a Nightmare, and Astrid to a nadder. Perhaps some addition of how Hiccup himself is very much like a nightfury – much like the proverbal hermits of the dragon race Hiccup cannot find a spot for himself within the Viking community and is vastly different from the others. Some foreboding here about how his life will be later on – how Toothless and Hiccup will lead a life of basically being alone for countless Cycles.

Several weeks before Stoick comes back the nadder disappears, the last thing Hiccup heard from her was that she said she needed to scout out the old nest and perhaps find out if they could do anything about the abomination there. Possibly the end of the nadder told in 1st person, although the idea of just leaving it off with a 'that was the last he had ever seen her' is enticing.

2nd Cycle ~ Part II: Inventus et Perdidit

One thing I have learned in the infinite lives I have lived is that it is pointless to make any grand plans because something will always go wrong. It matters not if that something is as large as your entire navy being wiped out by a freak storm or as minor as a chip in your blade before the final confrontation against your equal on the opposite side –

Take it from someone who's been there – something WILL always go wrong.

2nd - 2. intermediate – non-chapter placeholder

The fight against the one-wing demon occurs, hiccup watches from the sidelines as the same person dies once more, along with Astrid. Note about how before this he thought that without him there dragon training would be better.

Perhaps a single line of 'the next day they found the one wing devil dead, its body completely unmarred by wounds except for a single dagger stuck deeply through its heart.'

Stoick comes back from the expedition. By now hiccup realizes that his decision to beg the nadder to try and save Toothless had led to her death.

Stoick talks with Gobber and decides that they need to take down the Nightfury if it's the last thing they do – its been over 10 years and they simply cant handle the amount of damage it does to them – decide to try and shoot it down when it attacks one of the towers again, gathering bolas in every tower.

Another dragon raid occurs, this time Toothless gets too close to the towers and the Vikings (stoick) manage to capture it with a hand thrown bola.

Toothless crashes inside the village.

Hiccup hears the other Vikings cheering for the capture of the Nightfury.

Hiccup runs in panic in the direction the others are gathering and comes just in time to see Stoick kill toothless. Note that this part will be told in three perspectives – Stoicks as he kills the nightfury (comparison to the same thing in chapter 1-3); Hiccups as he watches his father kill the nightfury (comparison to the memory of his dream in chapter 1-15 when he himself kills it); Toothless' as he wakes up from the darkness on the floor of the village and experiences his death (comparison to the other dragon's thoughts in chapter 1-3, also part where he looks over at Hiccup right before the end after he accepts death and his eyes widen as he realizes just who that is the moment his body dies – the last thoughts he sends off to hiccup as his mind falls being something like – '… hiccup' (perhaps something better)

Hiccup's thoughts (if there is a next time he would attempt to shoot down toothless so as to prevent his death, even if it costs him the tail fin) afterwards, spiraling into hopelessness as he realizes that not only did Toothless die, he did not even get a moment of freedom from the darkness that he had during the first cycle.

Stoick wakes up the next day and halfway through the day is informed by Gobber that Hiccup never arrived at the forge for his days work.

Stoick finds Hiccup's body in his bed – he is not breathing. (note that this time there should be a comparison with how Hiccup actually did this to himself instead of accidentally, as in the entire part about – 'I let my heart slow down and closing my eyes…')

Elder notes that there is no reason for his death, most likely he just lost his will to live.

Funeral #2 for Hiccup (an entire chapter, an interesting comparison to the previous one) – partially combined with the Vikings lost during the raid (unlike the first funeral where he died afterwards and got his very own)

3rd Cycle ~ Part I: Ego Complenderit Alis Tuis

I cannot remember the amount of times I have heard it said that love is the greatest power of them all; and in some ways, I agree. It is however when they proclaim love to be inherently good that I turn away in disgust. Love is neither inherently good nor evil; while I have seen people save the lives of hundreds because of it, I have also seen the inverse happen as well. After all, the horrors committed in anger and hate are quite mellow in comparison to the atrocities committed in the name of love.

I, more than anyone else, know the truth of that.

3rd - 3. Encore – 1322w

Stoick sat in front of the fire pit in his house staring at the neat stack of wood as it slowly burned to ashes. It was late in the evening with all the work required of him as chief of the village complete. The last dragon raid was beaten off with very little damage to the village as compared to what usually happened and he could afford a little time to just relax, stroke the fire, and not think about the problems that the village faced with the combined strength of the dragons and his son Hiccup.

For a moment he reflected on the multiple failings of his son and wondered what the gods were thinking to have given him a son that was...

Was like…

Well, you really could only describe Hiccup as being like Hiccup as there was nothing to compare him to.

Still, Hiccup was his and Valhalarama's son. He was duty bound to protect him…

As the fire crackled and embers floated up Stoick let his musings cease and lowering the fire poker to the floor allowed himself to be lost to the mesmerizing movements of the flame. As time continued to pass unnoticed and unheeded he reflected idly that it is almost as if the world itself stopped existing beyond the whiskers of flames burning in front of him.

. . .

It was the sounds of creaking wood and movement upstairs that roused Stoick from the hypnotic flames. By now the fire has almost completely burned down, leaving only the red hot coals behind with occasional wisps of fire dancing between them. The low red glow they emitted could barely provide enough light for him to see, and even that was only due to his eyes having gradually adjusted while he was sitting around.

For a moment he blinked and stared uncomprehendingly in front of him as his memory refused to listen when he tried to find out what he was doing before, and it took a few seconds for his mind to get back to the current events. Glancing at the coals Stoick was surprised that he had allowed himself to sit around for several hours based on the state of the fire.

As the loud banging from upstairs told him that Hiccup had most likely left his room and was now coming down Stoick sighed softly and turned around to see Hiccup coming down the stairs two at a time looking as if he was in a hurry to get somewhere. As with all the moments when Stoick saw Hiccup in a hurry to get somewhere, apprehension settled in and he could not shake off the feeling that there were more trials awaiting him and possibly his village in the near future. He frowned when he saw Hiccup come to a stop and their gazes met. There was just something off about the look in his son's eyes today, but he could not pin point it.

"Hey Stoi- dad, I just wanted to know – About dragon training? Well… you know" Hiccup asked pausing at the end of the stairs when he saw Stoick in front of the fire.

Stoick sighed. Apparently his hopes that Hiccup understood from the last few times they talked about this that there really was no way he could succeed, or even survive (though he tried not to mention those fears to his son) dragon training. As he told Gobber many times over ale, he was more likely than not to die before the first dragon was let out of its cage.

"Hiccup…" Stoick sighed again and hoped that Hiccup would take this better than the last times and just accept his decision. "I already told you several times that it just would not work out for you… You know that I worry about you, and you do not have the best –ahem- 'experience' of fighting dragons during the raids"

Experience was a very stretched term in this case, as half of the raids resulted in further damage to both the village and Vikings due to his contraptions; while the other half of the time they resulted in Hiccup running around the village dodging dragon fire and screaming with others (Stoick or Gobber mostly) having to rescue him.

"Ah… I… That is… I just wanted to see if you changed your mind lately, that's it." Replied Hiccup awkwardly while scratching his neck. "In any case, I have to get over to Gobber's now, so don't wait up for me"

"I thought that you were already finished working with Gobber for the day?" Stoick was frowning as he asked this; it was not like Hiccup to just drop the idea of dragon training after a single denial. In fact most such confrontations resulted in Stoick exasperatedly informing Hiccup that if he wanted to join dragon training, he would need to act like a proper Viking and stop being… well… him.

"Well… uh- dad, I was just lying around upstairs and suddenly felt that I should help out Gobber in the forge – you never know when the dragons will attack next right?" Replied Hiccup without even glancing at him as he hurriedly put on his boots and dashed out the door. This naturally left Stoick even more worried than before as he highly doubted that Hiccup was interested in helping Gobber and was more likely to have gotten another idea to help fight off dragons – Which based on Stoick's experience meant that the next dragon raid would be significantly harder than the last one.

Leaving a mental note to get Gobber to keep both eyes on Hiccup when the next raid occurred so as to mitigate the damage, Stoick turned back to the fire and stroked the coals. He wasn't foolish enough to believe that even that could stop Hiccup, but it might help prevent excessive damage to his village and perhaps even save Hiccup's life; although he very much doubted the second point, if anything his son had a strange ability of coming out of the most dangerous situations with only minor wounds. Whenever Stoick thought about that and his son's natural clumsiness he could not but wonder at the irony of Hiccup managing to get injured more during the few peaceful days the village enjoyed than during a dragon raid.

"Well, at least he is happy about something" noted Stoick to himself and shuddered while asking himself the rhetorical question of why it did nothing to ease his worries. He frowned again when he thought about the way his son acted towards him. He knew that the relationship between the two of them was strained, but still if it was at the point where his son instinctively tried to call him 'Stoick' instead of 'dad'… Perhaps it was worse off than he had thought…

Turning back to the glowing coals in the fire pit he tried to calm down his anxiety by focusing on the few flickering flames, but it did not seem to have even a fraction of the effect the fire had on him just a few hours ago. Besides, having Hiccup running around the village with a new plan to show himself off as the great dragon killer he wanted to be would have prevented him from relaxing in any case.

Deciding to at least do one more walk through the village before getting some sleep Stoick pushed himself off the floor and nearly fell when he realized that his legs were asleep from sitting too long in one position before the fire. As he stumbled around the room trying to get his legs to listen to him he noticed the dull red glow of the coals reflecting off of his battle hammer, and picking it up moved in the direction of the doorway. Behind him the coals within the fire pit continued to glow dark red as the fire inside them gradually burned down to nothing.

3rd - 4. New Plans – 2159w

As always Hiccup woke up lying on his back in his bed. It was already quite dark outside and he idly wondered if there was something prophetic about waking up in the dark; almost as if from a nightmare, just without being covered sweat and the wind darting eyes trying to find what is no longer there.

'If only I was that lucky' he thought darkly to himself: 'After all, it has long ago been established that the gods hate me… I mean really! It is almost like they go out of their way to spite me at every turn!'

It was at around that moment that he noticed the absence of pain in his left leg. After what happened several days ago he knew that it should still be hurting, and yet it almost felt as if it was fine again…

It took several moments until he felt brave enough to curl up on the bed and reach with his hands towards his leg. His eyes widened when he could no longer feel any pain in his left leg….

Apparently it healed completely while he was asleep.

Slowly a grin started to appear on Hiccup's face along with a look of relief. Apparently the gods did not hate him as much as he assumed before. An even wider grin appeared on his face as he remembered the dream he had just before he woke up. He now had a plan to turn his life around and knew that he needed to get to Gobber!

Getting off of his bed Hiccup looked around taking in his own room not at all surprised that due to the moonlight outside he could see around quite well or the general untidiness of the place. Grabbing his vest off the floor where he threw it when he returned from Gobber's forge (yesterday?) along with the sketchpad beside the bed with all of his somewhat new and mostly brilliant ideas for dragon killing weapons. Quickly flipping through to the last sketches which apparently were of the bola launcher he called The Mangler and confirming that his plan could really work out he dashed off to find his pants while quickly putting on the vest and stuffing the sketchpad in his pocket.

It took a bit longer to find his pants than his vest, but Hiccup managed to locate them on the edge of the bed. Mentally berating himself for not spotting them sooner he quickly slammed the door open and rushed down the stairs. Noticing Stoick in front of the fire pit he paused and asked him about dragon training. Getting the now expected answer and yelling out some answer to his father's questions he quickly put on his boots and bolted out the door towards Gobber's forge: He had some late night testing and calibrations to make for his bola launcher.

. . .

It should not surprise anyone to know that Vikings lived a harsh life. Stuck in a location with unforgiving storms, harsh temperatures and difficult to transverse landscapes it is a wonder that anyone could survive long enough to set up a stable community; and all that was before you took into account the dragon threats. In an interesting twist of fate dragons were actually not the most dangerous parts of a Viking's existence; the raids usually occurred only once every several months, and were more focused on stealing sheep and other available food rather than on killing Vikings. Most deaths actually occurred during expeditions to look for the dragon nest, and those were mostly due to the dangerous waters of Hellheim's-Gate combined with the perpetual mist rather than direct dragon attacks. Even then, a Viking life was anything but safe and there were more than enough Vikings who died on fishing or hunting expeditions, due to illnesses, or accidents.

Gobber's history was much alike other Vikings at Berk; having gotten a rude awakening to the realities of life when he lost his parents many winters back during an ill-fated expedition to find the dragon's nest that also claimed the previous chief and resulted in Stoick being named chief of the tribe, Gobber understood that death is a distinct possibility for Vikings (which is something he knew but did not subconsciously acknowledge before). This lead to some serious training and caused many others to consider him as one of the best fighters in the village. It was at this stage in his life that Gobber gained a family. As with many Vikings the family only lasted for a short time seeing as his wife died during an especially terrible winter partially due to her not being from Berk and thus unused to the climate.

This left Gobber with his son Eagleeye who proved his namesake by becoming invaluable during hunting expeditions due to his skills with the bow. It was during one such hunting expedition that he grabbed at an oncoming enraged boar to try and bring it down and succeeded only in plunging both of them off a cliff. It didn't kill him though – his Viking constitution and fortunately landing on top the boar resulted in nothing more than bruises.

No, that honor was reserved to the winter storms. With the cliff too icy to climb Eagleeye was left alone to transverse back to camp. With a few parting words between father and son he departed.

No one saw him again – the treacherous landscape covered in ice and snow prevented anyone from going out to help, and by the time spring came around there was no point in searching.

By this time Gobber had already lost his arm in a dragon raid and relied on Eagleeye to provide help in the forge so the loss also doubled the work load he had to handle. Hiccup was really a god send to the tired veteran as he reminded Gobber of his son, who had been almost as good a blacksmith as Hiccup.

Currently Gobber was working on sharpening the remainder of the weapons blunted from the last dragon raid. While it has been defended against with very few destroyed houses and other damages, meaning fewer headaches to Stoick and less rebuilding for the other Vikings; Gobber still had the same amount of broken and blunted weapons to sharpen and repair. Before loosing his arm he could handle all the repairs by himself, but afterwards the added necessity of replacing his attachments to go between the different hammers, tongs and other equipment meant that without an apprentice he would have a huge backlog of work. Fortunately after Eagleeye's death Stoick provided him with Hiccup to help out, although Gobber knew that it was as much to help him with the work load as to try and mitigate any problems Hiccup could cause by decreasing Hiccup's free time.

At first Gobber was apprehensive about Hiccup, after all putting a naturally clumsy person in a location with molten steel, sharp blades and heavy equipment was akin to begging the gods for a disaster. However after a few months it became apparent that Hiccup was a turning out to be a good blacksmith, almost as if he managed to leave his bad luck at the front door of the forge. Thus over time the amount of supervision that Gobber did over Hiccup decreased and Gobber once more managed to be on top of the required work. Unfortunately this did not mean that the second (and unspoken) reason for having Hiccup as his apprentice worked out; as Hickup managed to find the time to not only get into trouble even with all the work he did for Gobber; but also use the forge to craft even more complex and frankly dangerous things that attempted to use against dragons – thus increasing the overall damage he could and did cause to the village during the dragon raids as he attempted to use them.

Having just about finished sharpening the axe he was working on Gobber took the axe off of the grinder to check if there was anything else that needed to be done and noticing several imperfections returned it to the grinder to continue sharpening it. It was around then that he noticed with the corner of his eye someone rushing into the forge.

Taking the axe off of the grinder again and throwing it on the work bench at the side Gobber turned around to check who was in such a hurry to get into the forge and was somewhat surprised to see Hiccup skid to a stop next to his latest contraption. While it was very rare to have anyone else coming directly into the forge without at least a greeting, it was the first time that Hiccup ever came in this late – especially since Gobber had already sent him off home after a long day of hammering and sharpening swords back to usable conditions.

Noticing that Hiccup appeared to have come in to work on the latest contraption of his - he did not quite know what it was supposed to do, and was frankly (although he would deny it to anyone who asked) afraid of coming close to it in case it was anything like the design a few months ago that was supposed to swing an axe, which it did with quite some force and it was only the fact that a dragon got to his right arm first that prevented it from taking his arm.

"Hey there Hiccup, didn't expect to see you here so late in the day" he yelled out in welcome as he tried to understand why Hickup would come to the forge at this time, especially since he just left to go back home a few hours ago. "I expected you to already be asleep, what with the amount of repairs that we had to do today. I mean you left here a few hours ago barely stumbling out from exhaustion and yet here you are again"

"Yes Gobber" replied Hiccup while barely preventing himself from rolling his eyes, "it's just that I got a great idea to make the Mangler even better than it currently is. The next time dragons attack I will definitely bag one myself!"

There was a moment of silence as Gobber tried to process what Hiccup just said and could not stop himself from asking: "The Mangler?"

This time Hickup rolled his eyes as he gestured to the strange contraption that looked like a chest on wheels at the back of the forge. Ever since Hiccup got it into his head that he will need some 'help' to defeat a dragon and started building his contraptions Gobber has quarantined the back of the forge for Hiccup and instructed him to keep it clean, mostly so he did not have to focus too much on what Hiccup did there.

'Its too late for this' Thought Gobber as he looked at Hiccup and the contraption apparently aptly named The Mangler, 'Probably due to it being able to mangle any unsuspecting Vikings that would be caught in the vicinity when Hiccup decided to try it'

"… This time it will definitely work and I will bag myself a dragon. Personally I will be aiming for the Night Fury. All I need is a good shot and there you go. Instant glory!" Apparently Hiccup did not notice that he got lost in thought about the naming conventions of Hiccup's contraptions.

Forcing himself back into the conversation and slightly worrying that the past failures have caused Hiccup to aim too high (possibly making the new designs even more dangerous than before) Gobber tried to bring Hiccup back to reality. Or at least closer to it than he was at the moment.

"Really? Planning to take on the one dragon that we have never managed to capture are you? Maybe you should go for an easier prey instead"

For some reason Hiccup's grin widened at his reply and Gobber barely held back a groan. Apparently his attempt only managed to make Hiccup more determined.

"Maybe after I try out the mangler. If it does not work then I may see about trying some smaller – or at least more common – targets. Well, in any case, I have to get out and do some tests with it to fix any calibration errors it may have, so I will not be taking up any of your time Gobber. See you tomorrow!"

Hiccup could see the exasperated look on Gobber's face and decided that it would be better to leave before Gobber either tried to get him to do some work around the forge in the hopes he would forget about his contraption or (even worse) decided to rant about what a proper Viking should and should not do. Thus grabbing the mangler like a wheelbarrow Hiccup quickly left the forge while Gobber was still thinking about what to do with him.

"Hey! Hiccup, Wait up!" yelled out Gobber but by then it was too late.

'Well, at least with him trying out that thing on a night like this with no one around will mean less damage to the village' thought Gobber, and after a couple seconds decided to pray to Odin just in case; such that this latest test run would result in less injuries and burned down houses than the infamous dragon fire redirection shield that was fortunately melted after the first use, but not before burning no less than five Vikings and setting two houses on fire.

3rd - 5. Late Night Wonderings – 1038w

If the other Vikings were ever asked to describe Astrid the impression given was that of an upcoming Viking warrior that always accomplished the tasks assigned to her during the raids and was considered the most likely to be the best Viking trainee of the current generation. Very few would ever compare her to Hiccup since they were almost completely opposite of each other – although if one was trying to find similarities they would have to notice that they both were quite skinny for their age and roughly the same height. Then again the Thorston twins Ruffnut and Tuffnut were also comparatively skinny so the similarities between Astrid and Hiccup could only be noticed if they were compared to someone like Snotlout or Fishlegs.

It is possible that Hiccup was considered as a walking disaster after his mother's death due to some accidents and father-son communication problems and thus convinced himself that he was not strong enough to be a Viking, which lead him in the direction of trying to compensate for that with his contraptions. Astrid on the other hand was pushed from the early age to better herself through training and encouraged by her parents along the way, which led her on the path towards what Vikings considered to be Vikings. As time passed by Hiccup's failed contraptions convinced everyone around that they were correct to label him a walking disaster, and Astrid's strength and accuracy with the axe when seen by others made her be considered a prodigy among their generation.

Astrid was never one to show off her skills, or at least not wanting others to see her gaining them as they were quire horrible before she trained them up, which meant that most of her training was done in the woods across the chasm to the east of the village. This reflected to many other activities that she thought vital to being a Viking including balance practice and stretching. It was also the reason that she was sitting alone with a candle in the Meade hall this late at night re-reading the dragon manual in the hopes that it may someday help her exceed in killing them.

Astrid stared blankly at the last page of the dragon manual where someone had recently added in a new entry. Labeled the "Night Fury" and including one of the worst explanations of all the dragons in the book with just a blurb about how nothing was known about it except that the only way to survive against it is (unlike all the other dragons in the manual) to hide and pray. She could not shake off a strange feeling that there should be more written about it than just that, a picture at the very least would do wonders.

'It wasn't like it hasn't attacked them enough times' she thought trying to rationalize the feeling to herself.

Looking around and seeing that no one was there to notice her virtually falling asleep over a book (which did not fit well with her idea of a Viking) she quickly decided that she has spent too long studying and should really be getting to bed. Her parents were accustomed to her training until she could barely see her own axe and would thus not care how late she was, but she still had to get up early on for more training so she could really not afford to skive off sleep.

Putting the dragon manual back to its place along the side of the Meade hall and with the strange feeling completely forgotten about Astrid quickly blew out the candle and exited the Meade hall.

. . .

It was one of the few cloudless nights in Berk, what with the rain season lasting most of the year and the snow season taking up the rest; and Astrid could not help herself as she slowed down and gazed at the starts clearly visible in the sky. It was quite peaceful, something that could not often be said about the village due to the constant fear of dragon attacks but the decreased number of Viking lookouts since the last dragon raid was only a few weeks ago and it was quite early for another one, combined with the windless air and cloudless sky made for at least an illusion of peace rarely afforded to Vikings.

"… Hiccup!..." she heard from the direction of Gobber's forge and the illusion of peace was shattered as she once again took in the fact that she was in the middle of a Viking village that was anything but peaceful.

Sighing quietly to herself Astrid tried to spot what was going on and heard more than saw someone who she assumed to be Hiccup wheeling something around.

'Quite fortunate' she thought to herself 'that he is not coming anywhere in my direction.'

Still, she wondered what he was doing out this late at night; especially considering that based on the direction of the noise he had to be going towards the edge of the cliff near the docks.

Well, she was not going to let something like Hickup prevent her from getting some well needed rest; and with that Astrid decided to ignore Hiccup as long as he and whatever he was dragging were far away from her house (she still shuddered as she remembered how one of his contraptions burned down several houses), and picked up the pace towards her house and more importantly in this case, bed.

As any self-respecting Viking will tell you, skills are very important along with strength and speed, however your survival depends most on those urges and feelings that you get during battle that push you to do something – as they are your own body's methods of getting you out of danger that you subconsciously noticed at the edge of your vision, or due to the sounds around you. Thus when Astrid got a strange itching in her neck and an urge to turn around she followed through with it and started scanning around for what could possibly be causing it during a night like tonight.

There was a sinking feeling in her stomach as she noticed some of the stars disappear as if there was something moving in the sky. The sound of a single low note cutting through the air as the watchmen sounded the alarms confirmed her fears;

The dragons were back.

3rd - 6. Into Battle, Again – 2320w

One thing you could say about Vikings, they were quick on the uptake. It did not even take a minute for most of them to be outside with weapons at the ready and half the fire towers lit and in position. This was actually quite a feat if you consider that most of them were in bed when the alarms horns blew. Having lived on Berk for seven generations and repelled five generations of dragon attacks most Vikings got used to sleeping with one eye open, axe under the pillow, not the mention in clothing that would not look out of place on a battlefield; in fact if seen from above the village it would be nearly impossible to not compare them to a disturbed anthill as they poured out of their houses ready to defend their village.

Stoick cursed as mentally listed out the food stores within their village based on ease of access for dragons and their location based on proximity to him. As fate would have it his wonderings through the village left him at the docks when the alarms were sounded, meaning that not only was he close to the fish stores which were very rarely raided by dragons due to their inability to quickly take a lot of fish at the same time, but also too far away from the sheep pens that were the biggest focus of the dragon attacks due to the weight of food that could be taken by grabbing just one sheep.

Quickly deciding that the fish stores could be left alone for a few more minutes and promising himself to direct some Vikings that he saw along the way towards them Stoick sprinted uphill towards the sheep pens. He was just leaving the docks when he stumbled across the first few Vikings.

"Stoick! What's happening!"

"Don't ask questions that you know the answers to! Don't know why the blasted creatures decided to attack early, but there is nothing we can do. I am running off to take command at the sheep pens; I want you three to cover the fish stores."

"Fine Chief, send some of those monsters to hel for us" Naturally they were a bit put out at having what accounted for glorified guard duty – the only times when the dragons attacked the fish stores was when no one was guarding them – but still orders from the Chief were never questioned during a raid, there was never enough time for such things then.

Leaving the three Vikings to run off towards the docks Stoick continued running towards his destination. By now most Vikings were already outside running off to their prescribed locations while the first wave of dragons has already descended upon the sheep and were being beaten off by the few Vikings who managed to get to the sheep pens fast enough.

Spotting a deadly Nadder setting one of the houses on fire Stoick angled himself towards it without breaking stride and slammed his fist into its jaw. Briefly considering the perks of being the strongest Viking in the village as the Nadder flew off to the side from the force of his punch. It attempted to scramble back on its feet; however the punch managed to scramble its head enough that it could do little other than thrash on the floor.

"Throw a net over it and keep it down!" Taking only a second to see that the first threat he had come upon during this raid was effectively neutralized, Stoick yelled off to the closest Vikings before proceeding onward. Behind him one of the Vikings slammed his hammer against the head of the Nadder to knock it out before throwing a net over it and tying it down. This of course went unnoticed by Stoick as he had already put the confrontation from his mind assuming that the others will follow his orders; much more pressing was the situation in front of him where a monstrous Nightmare had Hork pinned down under it and was getting ready to finish him off. Cursing yet again when he noticed that everyone else in the vicinity was too busy to provide help in the chaotic melee within the village that this battle had quickly become Stoick heaved his axe behind him and threw it with a yell at the dragon hoping to either scare it off or for his axe to reach it in time to prevent yet another death.

The axe was halfway to its destination when the monstrous Nightmare released its flames at the unfortunate Viking. The Nightmare's flames stopped abruptly only half a second later as the axe buried itself between the dragon's eyes, but Stoick knew from experience that there was nothing that could save Hork as the liquid fire of the monstrous Nightmare was almost impossible to put out. He could only pray that Hork would at least be granted a fast path to Valhalla instead of having to experience any more pain, but as the dragon stumbled in its last moments before death and fell to the side he could hear the screams and smell of burning flesh – he knew that even that was not to be. The screams ended abruptly as the dragon fell down dead on the body and Stoick knew that at least one warrior will be joining others in Valhalla this raid.

The rest of the run to the sheep pens was much less dramatic as Stoick did not meet any more dragons besides those flying above him. He smiled grimly as he could see in the distance that the fire towers were already fully lit and some of the catapults were already firing which meant that his second in command Spitelout was already in the thick of the battle, most likely on one of the two working catapults. With him here and Stoick ready to take over command things were finally looking up.

"What have we got?" He asked spotting a group of Vikings that by the looks of things just finished fighting off several Gronckles and Nadders without, he was happy to see, any casualties. Not waiting for a reply he grabbed one of the broken carts at the side that looked as if a Gronckle used it for target practice and threw it at an incoming Nadder. Inwardly smiling at hitting the dragon in mid-air he hoped that he at the very least broke its wings.

"Gronckles, Nadders, Zipplebacks, oh and Hork saw a monstrous Nightmare"

Stoick barely suppressed a wince when he heard them mention Hork since he had just seen his unfortunate demise no more than a minute ago. Still, there would be enough time to mourn later.

Dragons usually followed a given pattern, with deadly Nadders approaching in the first wave to attack the sheep followed by Gronckles intent on scavenging whatever food was left hanging outside houses while at the same time forcing the Vikings to spread their forces from the sheep pens and into the village. The third wave was made up of hideous Zipplebacks that assaulted the houses directly which meant that groups of Vikings had to break off from the battle and concentrate on preventing the fires from spreading. Finally the last wave was composed of monstrous terrors that focused on taking down the catapults, fire towers, and other Viking defenses. Naturally each wave was not made up of only one type of dragon, but the majority usually attacked in this pattern.

At some point during Stoick's chiefdom the nightfuries were added to the raids, though fortunately they usually came quite late during the battle and from the looks of it were a very small force. This of course did not mean that they did not do a lot of damage, as with their contribution the amount of defenses that required repairs after a raid nearly doubled. Although Stoick cursed the beasts, he still thanked the gods that no more nightfuries joined the raids as any more could possibly result in the end of the village. Speaking of which…

"Any nightfuries?"

"None so far"

"Good" Even with the explosions echoing nearby Stoick could not help but feel elated at that. Considering that the last two fire towers were being lit and all the catapults were operational this was the point when nightfuries usually appeared. What with the raid occurring earlier than usual it was possible that the nightfuries would not join in this time. Still, this was not the time to lose focus.

"Good; get some of the younglings to keep the fires constrained. As for all of you here, I want you all to move to the lower defenses"

"Aye"

"Try and counter attack with the Catapults."

Stoick turned to follow the others towards one of the catapults when he realized that he had yet to hear about Hiccup during this raid. This was quite unusual considering that it was almost tradition now for Hiccup to be messing about during a dragon raid; all the other Vikings had an unspoken agreement to inform the chief as soon as they saw him outside in the hopes that his father could do something before he caused any more problems. Remembering that Hiccup planned to go to Gobber's forge before the raid started Stoick turned around once again and sprinted in the direction of the forge hoping that the other's lack of information about Hiccup meant that he was helping out Gobber with the quick repairs necessary during battle instead of running around somewhere (or even worse, dead).

. . .

Gobber was currently extremely busy. Without Hiccup there to help him he was barely able to sharpen an axe before having to give it up to someone and picking up another five mangled weapons from the others who all wanted a quick replacement. Fortunately he had many extras for situations such as these; considering how fast swords got blunted during raids its really no wonder that within his hut and the forge there were enough weapons to equip the entire village three times over. Naturally a good two thirds of that stockpile required fixing and sharpening after each dragon raid, but that was the price you had to pay for fighting against creatures with natural armors, after all even though dragons had weak points where the scales were soft enough to allow fast kills – they usually did everything to deny access to them; this lead to most Vikings taking the simpler approach to battle – just hammer away with whatever weapon you have in your hands until it stops moving.

Gobber actually found it sad that the Vikings plan for killing dragons revolved about such simple methods; Perhaps it was the fact that one of his great grandfathers was the one who wrote the dragon manual and came up with the style of fighting revolving around weak points, but Gobber felt pride in being one of the last Vikings that have trained and fought against dragons with more than just strength – he still remembered the hours he spent memorizing all the various kill spots on all the different dragon types he was ever likely to encounter, and training himself to take advantage of usual their usual attack patterns to be able to quickly get in close to a dragon and kill them with a single attack. It was this ability of his that made him one of the best dragon killers in the village, at least before he lost his arm by trying the same maneuvers on a strange monstrous Nightmare like dragon that was white instead of red. Funny how it even acted like a monstrous Nightmare which allowed him to get in close enough to aim for the soft spot on the bottom of its jaw, it was a rather rude surprise when he found the underside of this dragon's jaw coated in ice and his attack did little more than place his hand within chomping distance for the dragon.

Still, after the loss of his hand even Gobber had to grudgingly agree that the idea of swinging something heavy or sharp in the general direction of the dragon until you hit it and then repeating the process until it was dead worked remarkably well, especially when one had to replace the finesse of short swords in your hands for a large axe tied to the remains of your arm. Of course with the loss of his leg he was more often than not forced to mind the forge and weapon storage during the raids.

"Well, at least it gives me some time to think about my lot in life" considered Gobber before being forced out of his musings by the arrival of Stoick.

"Gobber! Please tell me that Hiccup is with you in the forge"

"Sorry Stoick; he came in several minutes before the dragon raid and left with that new contraption of his. Said he wanted to work on it or something…" Gobber frowned at Stoick's question "…In fact, I thought that you would know more about his location what with the others calling you at the first sign of him"

"For Odin's sake…" Stoick paled slightly and ran a hand through his beard while trying to come up with a plan to find Hiccup, hopefully before something happened.

"Very well then, I want you to stay around, but if the raid gets any worse you have my permission to join the fight. As for me, I will help out with the catapults – if I have any luck today then I might spot or hear my son from there"

Plan made Stoick was about to leave the forge when he heard the unmistakable screech. Even though they could not actually see it both Stoick and Gobber did not need to look outside or to hear the confirmation from the other Vikings to know what was going on.

"NIGHT FURY!"

"GET DOWN!"

And then one of the catapult towers exploded in blue flames.

3rd - 7. Small Changes

"Hey! Hiccup, Wait up!"

Upon hearing these words behind him Hiccup picked up the pace just in case Gobber decided to chase after him. Pausing for a second after taking a turn off the main road he paused and listened to check if anyone, or more specifically Gobber, was following him. Not hearing the distinctive sounds of Gobber hobbling after him Hiccup let off a sigh and started pushing the mangler at a more sedate pace towards one of the cliffs overlooking the harbour.

Hickup's attack on toothless, toothless fall. POV of hiccup and toothless

3rd - 8. Some Major Deja-vu

Hickup run from dragons. (same monst. Nightmare) Stoick saves hiccup. Dejavu moment for stoick as dragons escape + Stoick's attempts to clean the mess up

3rd - 9. They Never Listen

Gobber takes hiccup home. Standard conversation hiccup and gobber (he never listens)

3rd - 10. Searches and Fallouts

Hickup runs off to find toothless. Notice of blood on the floor of the forest as he gets closer (foreboding)

3rd - 11. You can not defend them forever

Gobber and Stoick talk – something is off about hiccup and his perfect timing. Agree to talk to him when he comes back. Agree on dragon training

3rd Cycle ~ Part II: Perdita Quaesisse Atque Invenisse

Possis dimittimus me

Sed non possum meipsum dimittimus

Post omnes

Tu et draconi

Et ego homo sum.

3rd - 12. It All Comes Tumbling Down, Tumbling Down, Tumbling Down…

Hickup finds toothless. Notice of ripped off wing

3rd - 13. Mercy for the living

Hickup moral dilemma + Hiccup kills toothless

3rd - 14. Death for the dead

Hiccup remembers what he was told about toothless' funeral before. He stumbles away from toothless looking for wood and falls down into the cove.

Last thoughts as he falls about how the cove does not show signs of use + right before he dies 'Well, its fine this way as well…'

3rd - 15. Chasms between fathers and sons

Stoick waits for hiccup. Cant find him. Remembers that hiccup said something about downed dragon

3rd - 16. Where their bodies lie

Stoick checks hiccup room – sees map of island with cove (interested in that the map is more detailed than available). Stoick sets out to find hiccup – finds dead dragon and dead son

3rd - 17. Sonless fathers

Stoick's reaction to finding hiccup; later he brings Hiccup back to village – stumbles across gobber. Stoick and gobber talk (dead hiccup + dead dragon + dead gobbers son)

3rd - 18. Precious is that which is lost

Village reaction to hiccups death

3rd - 19. And still the sun rises

Hiccups funeral procession #3 + note about dead dragon

+ stoick "If only I wake up tomorrow to find out that this entire day is just a terrible nightmare"

4th Cycle ~ Amplexus

Though you may forgive me for what I have done, it makes no difference; for I will never be capable of forgiving myself for these actions that you so casually toss aside.

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4th - 20. My Bloodstained Hands – 500w+

Stoick sat in front of the fire pit in his house staring at the neat stack of wood as it slowly burned to ashes. It was late in the evening with all the work required of him as chief of the village complete. The last dragon raid was beaten off with very little damage to the village as compared to what usually happened and he could afford a little time to just relax, stroke the fire, and not think about the problems that the village faced with the combined strength of the dragons and his son Hiccup.

For a moment he reflected on the multiple failings of his son and wondered what the gods were thinking to have given him a son that was...

Was like…

Well, you really could only describe Hiccup as being like Hiccup as there was nothing to compare him to.

Still, Hiccup was his and Valhallarama's son. He was duty bound to protect him…

As the fire crackled and embers floated up Stoick let his musings cease and lowering the fire poker to the floor allowed himself to be lost to the mesmerizing movements of the flame. As time continued to pass unnoticed and unheeded he reflected idly that it is almost as if the world itself stopped existing beyond the whiskers of flames burning in front of him.

. . .

Hiccup pov (he wakes up and remembers what he did – looks at his hands and sees blood – remembers his death. It was not enough to wash away his sins)

. . .

Hiccup pov (dragon attack, he stays in bed and house burns around him)

4th - 21. And Once again, the final goodbyes

Stoick finds the burned hut and dead hiccup. Another funeral (#4)+ stoick cant help but feel that this is not the first time he is saying goodbye to his son

5th Cycle ~ Ferus et Litore Distans

Whoever said that it is not the destination but the journey that you take that is important must have never stood under the pouring rain watching the last ferry leave without him.

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5th - 22. Of Dreams and nightmares

Final chapter, hiccup wakes up again and prepares to die again (the pain is not enough). Someone besides the bed asks if he is happy with his wish – talk with the 'god'. *Mention the black chasms that are the eyes, eerie smile, etc. Proof that the wish is not quite the blessing it was 'meant' to be. "It is the unfortunate fact of life that some dreams do come true, and when they do there are no take backs"

Something along the lines of "I do not know how long I've spent in this hell, and am thankful that I can no longer remember most of it except for the beginning. One thing does stand out amongst the rest though…

+ Part when Hiccup and Toothless reunite – something along the lines of you know who I am, but what about you? What should I call you? – Nightwing? What a beautiful name…

Words From The Author – 1775w

Well, I hope you guys enjoyed the story.

Here is a bit of information about how it came about, some deleted scenes and my own recommendations for HTTYD fanfiction.

. . .

I personally love the How to Train your Dragon movie. (I have read the books trying to sate my desire for more after watching the film seven times over the course of three days, but did not find them interesting. And I am serious, I actually watched the film several times where I reached the end and went back to the beginning to watch it again without pause several times.)

While trying to find some other interesting takes on the HTTYD world I stumbled upon the fanfiction world. Now, personally, I really prefer the stories with some plot. Thus most of the fics focusing on love between Hiccup and Astrid, or Hiccup and Toothless were really not my style. Although there have been some very good hiccup+toothless that I found, though they were along the lines of Hiccup gets turned into a dragon and has to cope with it instead of M rated fics full of smut.

. . .

For my own story, I read the HTTYD loops by Saphroneth (he also has some excellent naruto and pokemon fanfics; highly recommend you read some of his works) and was stuck by the following line:

"At first he had tried not shooting down the Nightfury, but had been so tearingly alone for the entire loop that he could not bring himself to again. Them he'd tried firing to merely trap the dragon, but it seemed that any shot that hit at all resulted in the loss of the tail fin, or one of the second-wings, or – one terrible time – the entire right wing."

And I thought to myself, how would Hiccup react to seeing his best friend bleeding out with one of his wings missing due to Hiccup's own actions at trying to make things BETTER? It actually stuck in my mind for three days before I simply had to write the idea down; it just would not leave my mind! I would find myself going to class and spending most of it thinking up text to describe the feeling of dawning horror as Hiccup finds Toothless in such a state.

Naturally at the beginning I tied to write the story as if Hiccup had been in the loops for quite a long time, but the story just did not work until I stumbled across this interpretation. After that everything fell into place. At least that's what I thought. My entire first cycle grew from a general overview of 5,000 words into almost a saga of three parts.

Then I decided that hiccup could not possibly act so calm as I made him out during the third cycle (which was halfway written before I started on anything else as I considered it as the 'main' story) and could not quite connect a Hiccup that would do anything for Toothless and deathly afraid of hurting him with the Hiccup who brings the bola launcher to the site before the raid and shoots him down right after the first plasma bolt.

Thus I decided to add in the entire second cycle as a kind of explanation as to why Hiccup would do that, focusing on how he decided to not shoot down toothless and the consequences of that. Once again it grew from a short explanation into the saga it is now.

What can I say? The characters would not let me write a different story

. . .

Finally, if anyone is interested, I would personally recommend the following HTTYD stories as being some of the best I found:

. . .

Also, did anyone notice that the arc names come from the song names from a movie? Never actually watched it, but the music from it is one of my favourites – I started to play on the piano just to be able to play some of those songs (Big my secret, Heart asks for pleasure first, etc.)

. . .

You know, I am actually quite interested as to how many people actually read this rant of mine. I kind of do not like it when other fanfics have half of the chapter devoted to talking with the readers or discussing reviews, so I just dumped it all (except for the few explanations at the ends of the chapters that I felt were needed) here.

If you read this all the way to the end, review. After all, you have already used up your time to read my ramblings, you can spend some time to leave a review as well (just make sure its not all about this author note – I am more interested in your thoughts on the story)