Chapter 40: Touched by Fire
All Hiccup could remember was the fire and the pain, then oblivion. He didn't know how long he spent in that dark nothingness, as time had lost all meaning. All he knew was that he wasn't there anymore.
Not that he knew where here was at the moment.
Hiccup stood in a vast emptiness made of grey, swirling fog. It seemed to go on infinitely in every direction, even down. Despite this, Hiccup felt like he was standing on solid ground and felt no fear of falling. Hiccup took a few moments to look around, failing to find anyone or anything in the great emptiness.
"Hello?" Hiccup called out. The air was still for a moment before Hiccup's voice suddenly came echoing back. At first it was whisper soft but grew and grew into a thunderous noise, almost as if a hundred different voices were calling out to him at a hundred different volumes. Hiccup cringed and covered his years, trying to keep the deafening noise out. Then, as suddenly as it had started, the voices all stopped, prompting Hiccup to lower his hands and look around in confusion.
"Hello," a voice said from behind Hiccup, causing the young man to jump in surprise. Spinning around, Hiccup was surprised by what he saw. Floating in front of him was a floating, twisting ball of orange and red flame twice as big as he was, though the ball seemed to expand and shrink from moment to moment. Tongues of flame circled the ball and licked at the grey fog that surrounded it.
Hiccup gasped in surprise as he stumbled back, almost tripping over his own feet.
"No need to be frightened," a cultured voice emanating from the ball of flame said, "I'm not going to hurt you."
"W-What are you?" Hiccup questioned in shock and fear.
"I am a spirit," the fireball replied, turning slightly, similar to a person cocking their head, "You are familiar with the term, yes?"
"Yes," Hiccup answered, nodding dumbly, "I've seen wisps before."
"I'm afraid that wisps are entirely different sort of animal compared to me, Hiccup," the fireball answered with an ethereal chuckle.
"You…you know me name?" Hiccup questioned, surprised.
"Oh yes, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third," the fireball answered, "I know all your names. The old and the new."
"What do you mean, all my names?" Hiccup asked in confusion.
"There are those who used to call you Hiccup the Useless, did they not?" the spirit questioned. Hiccup nodded sadly in reply.
"Worry not, that name is dead and will soon be lost to the mists of time," the spirit stated sympathetically, "I know other names as well. Son says your father, little fish said the Demon Bear, Siegfriedson said the Red Death. And there is quite the fetching creature that calls you Hic for short."
Hiccup smiled at the thought of Merida and the compliment the spirit had paid her.
"I can see what they will call you as well," the spirits went on, "Bearslayer, Nightflyer, Hiccup Dragonrider."
"You seem to know a lot about me," Hiccup observed, "Can't say I know a lot about you. What's your name, spirit?"
"I too have many names," the spirit said with a chuckle before it became a stream of fire that danced around Hiccup.
"The Ancients called me Prometheus, Bringer of Fire" the spirit explained, his voice changing, laced with an accent Hiccup didn't recognize as the fire condensed into a human shape. It was a man, tall and muscular but slim, with bronze skin and short, red curly hair. He wore an orange colored toga wrapped around him, the ends of which trailed flames. He held a hand out and a flame appeared in his palm.
"The Great Empire called me Vulcan, Smith of the Gods!" the spirit declared boisterously, his voice deep and raspy as he changed shape again. He now appeared as a giant stout, hairy man with a tangled red beard and wild red hair. He wore a black apron and stood before an anvil, beating on a sword with a large blacksmith's hammer, sparks flying all around him.
"Far to the east, I am called Agni, the Link Between the Worlds," the spirit said in a different accent as his form changed yet again. Now he appeared as a handsome young man with bright red skin and long black hair, dressed in a orange vest with no shirt and loose fitting pants. He had four arms, in one he held a sword, in the other a scroll, while the remaining two hands held a flickering flame between them.
"But you, Hiccup Dragonrider," the spirit said as it became a swirling ball of flame once more, slowly taking another human shape, "You know me by a different name."
In a flash, the flames stopped moving and a man stood before Hiccup. He was tall and slim, similar to Hiccup with pale white skin and bright red hair that he wore swept back from his face. He wore a black colored tunic under dark orange coat that hung to the back of his calves. The coat had red lining and the ends of it trailed tongues of flame. In addition, wore red pants and dark leather boots. He smirked at Hiccup, mischief in his gold colored eyes.
"Loki," Hiccup whispered in shock.
"I see my reputation precedes me," the spirit, Loki, said with a chuckle.
"Y-You're not a spirit," Hiccup accused, "You're a god!"
"Call me what you wish, Hiccup Dragonrider," Loki said with bemusement, "It was your kind that bestowed such titles on my brethren and I. We made no such claims."
"Brethren?" Hiccup asked in confusion.
"Surely if you name me a god, you name others as well?" Loki said, before flinging his hands to the side, causing flames to appear before him which quickly took the shape of a roaring, muscular man with long hair and wielding a hammer, "You know my brother, Thor."
"Of course," Hiccup agreed.
"Well the Ancients use to call him Zeus," Loki explained as the image shifted to a roaring muscular man dressed in a toga wielding a lightning bolt.
"While in the east, he is known as Raiden," Loki continued, the image changing again to a roaring muscular man wearing a wide brimmed hat and shooting lightning from his fingers.
"So, all these different gods in all these different cultures," Hiccup surmised, "They're just all worshipping the same spirits?"
"Precisely," Loki replied as he dismissed the fire image, "Such a keen mind, one of the many things I like about you."
"What do you mean, one of the things?" Hiccup questioned.
"I've been watching you for some time now, Bearslayer," Loki explained as he began to circle Hiccup, "I may not be a god, but I still pay attention to those who pray to me."
Loki stopped in front of Hiccup, crouching down so he rested his elbows on his knees, steepling his hands in front of his face.
"Imagine my surprise when I found you, years ago," Loki stated, "You had just lost your mother I believe, and you had started as a blacksmith's apprentice. They told you not to pray to me, but you wanted to anyway. I was the god of blacksmith's after all, and you wanted to be good at something for once."
"Did you make me good at it?" Hiccup questioned.
"No," Loki replied with a snort, "Don't doubt your own skill, Nightflyer. You were going to be a great blacksmith whether I listened to you or not."
Loki smiled and straightened up before continuing.
"What gave me pause was the other reason you came to me," Loki explained, "Do you remember?"
"No…I can't say that I do," Hiccup replied, scratching the back of his head as he looked up at Loki.
"You thought I was lonely," Loki said, a bemused smile on his face, "Here you are, this little speck of a boy on this tiny island in the vast world, and you come to speak to me, who you think is a god, because you think I am lonesome."
Loki reached down and cupped Hiccup's chin, smiling down at the young man.
"Here was a boy from a warrior culture, descended from a great king of old, and instead of being a brash and foolish, he was thoughtful and intelligent. If that's not something special, I don't know what is," Loki said with a chuckle before he crossed his arms behind his back and began to pace around Hiccup again, "So, I watched you and helped where I could. A well stoked fire here, a dash of inspiration there and suddenly you were riding dragons and getting engaged to princesses."
"You speak as if you had a small amount of power in the world," Hiccup observed.
"Because we do," Loki replied with a shrug, "At least, not as much power as your kind like to ascribe to us."
"Why not?" Hiccup questioned, "Why would everyone know about you if you're not that powerful?"
"Once upon a time, we were that powerful," Loki explained, a faraway look in his golden eyes, "We shaped the very fabric of your world and bent it to our whims."
"What happened?" Hiccup asked, intrigued.
"One of our kind proved…less agreeable than the rest of us," Loki elaborated, "He was also one of the most powerful. It took everything we had to just seal him away, and in doing so, we cut ourselves off from the material world. That is why I must speak with you here."
"I've been meaning to ask you that," Hiccup said, looking around at the swirling gray mass of fog, "Where is here, exactly?"
"Here," Loki stated as he placed a finger against his temple, "Is in here."
"We're inside my head?" Hiccup questioned in confusion.
"We are inside the mind of everyone and everything," Loki explained, "This is the Great Collective Unconscious."
"What is that?" Hiccup asked, lifting his arm to run his hand through some of the grey fog.
"The culmination of life's thoughts, memories, dreams…" Loki trailed off, peering into the fog, prompting Hiccup to follow his gaze, seeing something move through the swirling cloud for the briefest of moments, "…And fears."
"We should not linger in this place," Loki stated, looking slightly worried.
"But I just got here," Hiccup argued.
"It may seem like that to you but your body has been asleep for days," Loki explained.
"What!?" Hiccup shouted in shock, "Days!?"
"Indeed," Loki answered with a nod, "And the body does not care to dwell so long without the mind."
Looking around, Hiccup noticed the fog around them was beginning to swirl and shift, seeming to spin around them.
"What's happening!?" Hiccup shouted as a strange wind began to howl as the fog swirled faster and faster.
"You're waking up," Loki surmised as he observed the swirling fog around them, apparently undaunted by what he saw, "Our time together grows short."
Turning to Hiccup, he grabbed the young man's shoulder to bring the Viking's attention to him.
"Heed my words, Hiccup, Son of Stoick," Loki said seriously, Hiccup's attention entirely focused on the spirit before him, "A shadow rises in the east. My dark cousin seeks release as he did a thousand years ago and a thousand years before that. Do you remember how I told you my brethren were cut off from the material world?"
Hiccup nodded his head, squinting his eyes and holding up his hands to shield himself against the whipping winds. A strange tingling began to encompass his left foot.
"There is one who still walks the Mortal Plane," Loki explained, "He is the youngest of us and came into being after the rest of us were shunted from your world."
"Why are you telling me all this?" Hiccup questioned, his beginning to sting with pain.
"The spirits of light and dark plan against one another and the young spirit is the key to the shadow's plans," Loki elaborated, smirking "He thinks he sees all the pieces of this game in front of him, but he doesn't. There's one he doesn't see."
"What's that!?" Hiccup asked, his leg now searing with pain.
"You," Loki said simply.
Hiccup let out a cry of anguish as he collapsed to his knees, gripping his left leg.
"What's happening!?" Hiccup begged, tears of pain stinging his eyes.
"Let me help you!" Loki said, holding out his left hand to Hiccup. Reaching out, Hiccup grabbed it with his right hand, allowing Loki to pull him closer, grasping Hiccup's shoulder with his other hand. Suddenly, a burning sensation came from Hiccup's arm, almost as painful as the one from his leg. Looking down, he saw flames licking the air around Loki's hands.
"What are you doing!?" Hiccup demanded before crying out in pain from the flames, the winds and fog swirling around them like a hurricane.
"I'm sorry, Hiccup Dragonrider!" Loki shouted as everything began to fade for Hiccup, the spirit's voice sounding further and further away, "But one does not become touched by fire without being burnt!"
Everything faded to black and Hiccup found himself laying down on something soft, the feel of something laying against his shoulder becoming prominent as the burning pain faded. All at once, Hiccup became aware of his surroundings and snapped his eyes open, gasping as he shot into a sitting position in his bed. A surprised shriek immediately caught his attention and he found Merida straddling his waist, the two looking at each other in wide eyed shock for a moment. Hiccup was vaguely aware of Toothless sticking his head over the end of the bed.
"…Hi," Hiccup said after a moment which seemed to snap Merida back to reality.
"Hiccup!" Merida shouted happily, wrapping her arms around Hiccup and embracing him while pulling him into a kiss.
"Whoa, gently, Mer," Hiccup quickly said as Merida pulled away for a second, only to be silenced as she kissed him again.
"'At's all ye can say after all this?" Merida said as she continued to kiss him, "Gently?"
As Merida fumbled to touch Hiccup as much as she could, she grabbed onto his right shoulder causing the young man to squeak in pain.
"Gently," Hiccup whimpered as Merida froze before releasing him, allowing Hiccup to fall back onto his bed.
"Sorry," Merida apologized as she cringed. Grunting, Hiccup pushed himself up onto his shoulder before lifting the sleeve of his tunic to look at his right arm. The entirety of his arm and hand was covered in bandages. Reaching down, he grabbed the end wrapped around his right hand and began to unravel it.
"Hic, Ah daenae…" Merida said with concern as she watched him undo the bandages.
"It's okay," Hiccup assured you as the linen wrappings piled into his lap, "I need to see this."
After a few more moments, he had the entirety of the bandage off, the sight of Hiccup's skin causing Merida to gasp in surprise. A long brown burn ran from Hiccup's shoulder to the palm of his hand. What surprised them though was the shape the burn took. It resembled two serpentine dragons entwine with each other down the length of his arm. In the palm of Hiccup's hand the two heads met, looking at one another with jaws open, a flame suspended between them.
"Sun above," Merida whispered as she gently took Hiccup's arm to look at the burn, "How did this happen? This isnae natural."
"No one can be touched by fire without being burnt," Hiccup mused.
"Whit?" Merida asked, giving Hiccup a confused look, "Whit dae ye mean?"
"N-Nothing," Hiccup replied, shaking his head, "I'll tell you later."
Reaching up with his burnt hand, he cupped Merida's face, prompting the girl to smile and sigh at him.
"Your hair," Hiccup said, noticing for the first time, "You…You changed it."
"Aye," Merida replied, touching her hair self-consciously, "Most o' it got burnt off in th' fire. Ruff fixed it up th' best she cud, but Ah know Ah-"
"You look good," Hiccup interrupted with a smile, prompting Merida to blush and smile back at him "It looks good on you."
"Thanks," Merida replied as she bit her lip and giggled, "Still, Ah prefer it long, sae daenae expect this tae last too long."
"The way you wear your hair is completely up to you, Mer," Hiccup stated, "I'm pretty sure you'd be beautiful bald."
In response, Merida leaned forward and captured his lips again, holding the kiss for a few moments before pulling away, flushed.
"Ah missed ye," Merida said with a glowing smile.
"How long was I gone?" Hiccup questioned.
"Near a week," Merida answered, causing Hiccup to pale.
"Wow," Hiccup whispered, before smiling at Merida, "Well, it's good to be back."
"We shud tell everyane," Merida said as she hopped off the bed and began putting her boots on.
"Right," Hiccup agreed as he moved to join her before a look of confusion and surprise crossed his face, "Mer?"
"Aye?" Merida asked as she balanced on one foot while pulling her boot on.
"Why…why can't I feel my left foot?" Hiccup questioned hesitantly. The question seemed to shock Merida, who let go of her booted foot, which hit the ground with a thud.
"Oh Hic," Merida moaned, clasping her hands together in nervousness, "Ah…In all th' excitement Ah completely fergot…"
Grabbing his blanket, Hiccup quickly tossed it off, the sight of what lay beneath causing his breath to catch in his throat. While his right leg was fine, his left leg now ended just below the knee, his shin and foot having been replaced with a stump covered in burns and stitches.
"What…" Hiccup struggled to say, his lower lip trembling as he turned so his legs hung off the bed, "What…"
"Th' fire burnt it sae bad…" Merida tried to explain, trying to fight tears, "If they didnae take it…it…it was sae bad…if they…oh, Ah'm sae sorry Hiccup!"
Merida ran over, still only wearing on boot, and embraced Hiccup, burying her face in his shoulder as she held him close. Still in shock, Hiccup wrapped his arm around Merida and gripped her tightly, leaning his head against her shoulder, trying not to hyperventilate as he felt her sob.
Looking over, Hiccup saw Toothless wander over and lay his head on the bed next to the young man. Hiccup reached out and patted Toothless on the head, smiling weakly at the Night Fury.
"Hey, bud," Hiccup greeted quietly, "I'm guessing I have you to thank for saving us. Too bad you couldn't save all of me. Guess we're even now."
Toothless whined sadly at Hiccup, who bit his lip as tears began to well up in his eyes. He took a breath, trying to fight the urge to cry, but his breath caught in his throat and a few tears rolled down his cheeks.
"It's okay, Hic," Merida whispered, gripping him tighter, "It's okay tae cry."
Hiccup did just that, breaking down and burying his head into the crook of Merida's neck as tears streaming from his eyes and soaking her shoulder. They stayed like that for a few moments, Merida gripping Hiccup tightly as he sobbed against her while Toothless looked on sadly. After a few minutes, Hiccup pulled away, his breath calming as he wiped the remaining tears from his eyes.
"Are ye okay?" Merida asked with concern.
"No," Hiccup replied, sighing and shaking his head, "But I'm getting closer."
"Alright," Merida replied with a nod as she stepped away.
Hiccup looked down at his legs before burying his face in his hands and groaned.
"How am I supposed to…" Hiccup began to ask before his voice trailed off into another groan.
"Here," Merida said as she walked into the corner of the room and retrieved something before returning and giving it to Hiccup, "Gobber made this fer ye."
Hiccup took the prosthetic leg and laid it in his lap, looking down at it. After a few moments he nodded his head and moved to put it on.
"Here, let me help ye," Merida said as she stepped forward and took the prosthetic, helping him to slide it over his stump. Securing it with the straps, Hiccup bent his knee experimentally, testing the wait of the mechanical foot.
"Alright," Hiccup said with a nod, "Here goes nothing."
Pushing himself off the bed, Hiccup stood up, wobbling for a moment as he tried to find his balance. After a moment, he stood a little wobbly before trying to take his first step. Almost immediately, his left leg buckled underneath him and he stumbled. Merida let out a scared yelp, but before she could grab him, Toothless had moved to his side, catching Hiccup and helping the young man back to his feet.
"Thanks bud," Hiccup said, patting Toothless on his head. Walking over, Merida offered Hiccup her arm, which he gladly took. With both Toothless' and Merida's help, Hiccup managed to half walk, half stumble to the door. Merida opened the door and the trio stepped out, allowing Hiccup to get a look at the village, the sight of which nearly knocked him over again. All over the village were dragons, flying in every direction, perched on rooftops or just walking through the streets. Hiccup saw the villagers as well as the visiting Highlanders interacting with dragons peacefully, and he couldn't fight the smile that came to his face.
"Ye did it, Hic," Merida said, pecking him on the cheek, "Ye changed everythin' fer th' better."
"I couldn't have done it without you two," Hiccup replied to the girl and the dragon.
"It wasnae just us," Merida stated.
"You're right," Hiccup agreed with a grin and a nod, "Speaking of which, where is-"
"Hiccup!" Fishlegs shouted as he came running up the street, the other teens, both Vikings and Highlanders, following behind with their dragons, "Hiccup you're alright!"
Before Hiccup could react, Fishlegs barreled into him, wrapping his arms around his best friend and picking him up into the air, much to the amusement of the others.
"I'm so glad you're alright!" Fishlegs declared happily.
"Me too, pal," Hiccup replied awkwardly, "You know, it's great to see you and all, Fish, but can you put me down now?"
"Oh yeah, sure," Fishlegs replied with an awkward chuckle as he set Hiccup down, making sure he stayed steady on his wobbling feet.
"How's the…how's the leg?" Fishlegs asked awkwardly.
"It's…it's alright," Hiccup replied with a sigh, "I just found out about it…it's going to take some getting used to."
"You can do it," Tuff said encouragingly, Ruff nodding in agreement.
"Yeah cuz," Snotlout agreed, "If you can train a Night Fury, learning to walk with a metal foot should be a easy."
"Thanks guys," Hiccup said with a smile.
"We're just glad you're okay," Astrid stated.
"Aye," Will concurred, "It's good tae hae ye back, laddie. Was getting borin' withoot ye around."
Andra muttered something with a large smile on his face. Everyone looked at him for a moment before turning their attentions to Will for a translation. Will looked like a frightened deer for a moment before chuckling.
"Andra said he's happy ye're feelin' better," Will said, ignoring the glare Andra was giving him, clearly indicating that was not, in fact, what the young man had said. Andra began to say something but was interrupted as Will elbowed him in the stomach, causing the young lord to cough in pain.
As the others watched the scene before them in bemusement, Boyd stepped forward, looking Hiccup over with his usual vacant gaze. After a few moments, Hiccup began to feel uncomfortable.
"Can I help you with something, Boyd?" Hiccup questioned.
"Ah told ye 'at ye cud manage," Boyd said simply.
"What?" Hiccup asked in confusion.
"Th' leg," Boyd elaborated, "Ah told ye 'at ye cud manage withoot ane back in th' arena. Remember? When we fought?"
Hiccup did remember, but that day when Merida and the other Highlanders first came to Berk seemed like a lifetime ago. It was hard to even recognize the person he had been those months past.
"Boyd!" Merida snapped, glaring at her friend. Her glare quickly faltered when Hiccup began chuckling.
"I do remember that," Hiccup snickered, "Looks like you were right after all, Boyd!"
Hiccup began to laugh, Boyd quickly joining in with a goofy smile on his face. The other teens looked on in confusion as Hiccup and Boyd continued to laugh, Hiccup resting his hand on Boyd's shoulder as the young lord began to tear up from laughter.
"What's happening?" Ruff questioned as she leaned over to Will.
"Haenae th' foggiest," Will replied, equally dumbfounded.
Eventually, Hiccup and Boyd's laughter calmed, Boyd wiping a mirthful tear from his eye.
"Thanks, Boyd," Hiccup said with a giggle, patting the young lord on the shoulder, "I needed that."
"Ah daenae really know whot just happened," Merida said, smiling as she shook her head in disbelief, "But it's damn good tae hear ye laugh, Hic."
Hiccup looked like he was about to say something, but stopped when he saw his father coming up the hill. Hiccup smiled as he watched his father rush towards him and kneel down to embrace him.
"Hiccup, thank the gods you're alright, son," Stoick said as he pulled away, beaming at Hiccup. Looking behind his father, Hiccup saw Fergus and Elinor hovering nearby.
"It's good tae see ye on yer feet, lad," Fergus said with a grin.
"Ye gave us quite th' scare, young man," Elinor stated, trying to look stern but failing as a smile broke through, "We're so happy ye're alright."
"Thanks," Hiccup replied before looking around, a questioning look on his face, "Hey, where are-"
"Hiccup!" three simultaneous shouts interrupted Hiccup as the triplets slammed into him, almost knocking the already wobbly young man to the ground. Barely finding his balance, Hiccup held the three boys in his arms before putting them down on the ground.
"We were sae worried aboot ye!" one declared.
"We thought ye were ne'er gaein' tae wake up!" a second shouted.
"Ne'er!" the third added.
"Did ye really kill Mor'du?" the first questioned.
"Da was sae jealous when he told us," the second said with a smile.
"Ah was nae!" Fergus declared huffily.
"Were too," the triplets replied, giggling.
"Hey, ye hae a foot made o' metal now," the first pointed out.
"Did ye make it?" the third asked.
"Nae," Gobber spoke up as he wandered up, Maudie following behind him, "Ah made 'at, thank ye very much."
"Hey, Gobber," Hiccup greeted with a smile.
"How are ye, lad?" Gobber greeted before his tone turned somber, "Ah…Ah hope th' leg's alright. Had tae make it on short notice an' all."
"It works great, thanks," Hiccup replied, a little more subdued that he had been before.
"Ye know, it's hard at first but ye'll get through it," Gobber stated, "Ye're a strong lad."
"Strong as they come," Stoick agreed, before his face fell, "I'm so sorry, Hiccup. About everything. This was all my fault. If I had just listened to you, none of this would have happened."
Stoick paused, sighing as he looked Hiccup in the eye.
"I'll never forgive myself for what I said to you back in the Great Hall," Stoick stated sadly.
"It's okay, Dad," Hiccup assured his father, "I forgive you for the both of us."
Stoick smiled as he clasped his hands on Hiccup's shoulders.
"You will always be my son," Stoick stated, his voice full of emotion, "And I am so proud of you."
His eyes growing watery, Hiccup stepped forward and embraced Stoick again, the gathered group smiling at the display.
"Gods," Stoick said as he pulled away, "What are we all doing standing around here?"
Grasping Hiccup, he hoisted the young man up onto his shoulders as he turned to address the crowd that had gathered.
"The Demon Bear is dead!" Stoick declared, "The Red Death is dead, and my son is alive! We have been grieving and fretting for a week and I say no more! Today, we revel in our victory! Today, we rejoice in our new found alliances with Highlander and dragon alike! Today, we celebrate!"
The crowd roared in approval as Stoick began making his way into the village, the gathered crowd following, slowly growing as more villagers joined in. Hiccup looked around, a beaming smile on his face as he let out a whoop of joy.
Night had fallen across the village of Berk, but the darkness did not dampen the celebratory mood of the villagers and their guests. The Great Hall was packed with Vikings, Highlanders and dragons, all drinking and eating with one another, sharing stories and laughing uproariously, one Highlander playing a fiddle somewhere in the crowd. Some dragons had already bonded with Vikings and Highlanders, who were treating the creatures like favored pets. In one corner an intoxicated Viking woman lay against an equally intoxicated Gronckle, the burnt remains of a table standing testament to what happened when one got a dragon drunk.
In a more secluded corner of the Great Hall, Hiccup, Merida and their dragons sat with Gothi, Helga and the large Viking known only as Bucket.
"And that's everything he said to you?" Gothi questioned gravelly.
"Every word," Hiccup replied with a nod, "What does it mean?"
"Grave tidings, I am afraid," Gothi stated, "I will need to look into this matter, both on this rising shadow and this godling stranded in the material world."
"Perhaps Hilde knows saemethin'," Merida said hopefully.
"But she's dead," Helga pointed out in confusion.
"Aye, but Ah'm sure she must hae written things down over th' years," Merida explained before turning her attention to the crow sitting on her shoulder, "Right?"
The crow cawed and nodded affirmatively, prompting Merida to smile and pet him on the head.
"Hilde was very auld an' very wise," Merida stated as she turned back towards the others, "Ah'm sure she knew saemethin' 'at cud help us."
"It is agreed then," Gothi said with a nod, "We will all look further into this issue and relate what we find."
"I'm not very good at reading," Bucket complained, earning a chuckle from the others.
"Don't worry, Bucket," Helga said kindly as she patted the large man on his arm, "We'll find some other way for you to help."
"Should we tell our parents?" Hiccup asked.
"We will," Gothi stated with a nod, "But not tonight. Tonight is a night for celebration."
Hiccup smiled and nodded in agreement.
"Now," Gothi said, holding her hand out to the young man, "Let me see that arm of yours."
Hiccup gave Gothi his right arm, the elder rolling up his sleeve to get a better look at the intricate burn mark. She muttered to herself for a few moments, going over every inch of the burn before nodding her head and looking back to Hiccup.
"It is a blessing," Hilde declared.
"A blessin'?" Merida questioned, "Whit kind o' blessin'?"
"I'm not sure," Gothi replied with a shrug, "I have only seen a few blessings in my time. Never one from the God of Fire."
"He said he wasn't a god," Hiccup replied, "Just a spirit."
"Words are air, Hiccup," Gothi stated knowingly, "They have whatever meaning you choose to give them."
"You sound like you've heard this all before, Elder," Helga pointed out.
"Those who spend their time studying the way of the gods understand these things," Gothi explained, "Years ago, I once had a long conversation with a handsome, young priest of Soliel were we concluded that his god and our Odin were likely one and the same."
"Ma friend, Rapunzel, used tae be blessed by Lord Soliel," Merida stated, "She had th' power tae heal people."
Gothi chuckled at that.
"Whit?" Merida asked in confusion.
"Your friend still has that blessing," Gothi explained, "The blessing of a god never truly leaves a person."
Merida continued to look at Gothi in confusion as the old woman chuckled some more.
"So, it probably has something to do with fire," Hiccup commented as he looked at the mark, "That should be helpful."
"As long as you can control it," Gothi agreed before sighing, "I grow weary of such grim talk. Let us return to the celebration, shall we?"
The others agreed with smiles and nods as they stood up. Tuning to Bucket, Helga held her arms out to him, prompting the large man to bend down and scoop her up, placing her upon his shoulders.
Rejoining the party, Merida and Hiccup walked hand in hand, the Highlander princess slowing her pace so the limping Hiccup could keep up while Toothless and Boudica went scampering off into the crowd. As they walked, Astrid called out to Merida from across the room, beckoning the redhead to join her. Merida hesitated, looking at Hiccup with worry.
"Go on," Hiccup replied with a smile and a shrug, "I'll be fine."
Merida smiled at him and quickly kissed him before turning and walking through the party towards Astrid. Hiccup sighed and smiled as he watched the young woman before almost being knocked to the ground as a large hand slammed against his back.
"Oops, sorry lad," Fergus apologized as Hiccup managed to catch himself, "Fergot ye were still findin' yer legs."
"Yeah," Hiccup replied, fixing his vest as he looked up at Fergus, "Was it this hard for you?"
"Aye, it was tough," Fergus answered as he took a drink from the tankard of ale he was carrying, "But ye'll get through it. Soon enough, ye'll be daein' all th' things ye used tae dae an' ye wonae even notice it."
"Will the feeling ever go away?" Hiccup questioned, looking a little downcast.
"Whit feeling is 'at?" Fergus asked, crooking an eyebrow at the young man.
"The feeling that part of you is gone?" Hiccup elaborated morosely.
"Nae," Fergus replied with a grimace and a shake of his head, "'At ne'er gaes away."
Hiccup sighs and looked down at the floor. The feeling of Fergus placing his hand on Hiccup's shoulder brought the young man's attention back up to the Highlander king.
"But ye dae learn tae live with it," Fergus assured him, a smile spreading across his face, "Now, stop bein' sae sullen. Cheer up! Hae a bloody drink!"
Fergus let out a bellowing laugh, prompting Hiccup to let out a small laugh of his own as the Bear King patted him on the shoulder again and wandered away. Turning, Hiccup's smile grew as he saw Gobber approaching him through the crowd, wearing his tankard prosthetic while holding another tankard in his good hand.
"Hiccup!" Gobber greeted happily, "Ye look like ye need a drink!"
"No thanks Gobber, I-" Hiccup began to say but was interrupted as the blacksmith shoved the tankard into Hiccup's belly, forcing the young man to take it as some ale spilled on the ground.
"Nonsense!" Gobber declared as he led Hiccup over to one of the long tables, "Come, sit an' talk with me awhile."
Sitting down, Gobber took a moment to take a swig of ale, prompting Hiccup to do the same, the young man letting out a cough as the strong liquid flowed down his throat.
"A little strong fer ye, lad?" Gobber questioned with a snort.
"Just a little," Hiccup replied with another cough as he set the tankard down on the table, "So, I hear you're a Macintosh clansman now."
"Always was, as it were," Gobber answered with a smile.
"That's pretty great, Gobber," Hiccup commented as he took another sip of his drink, "You ever think of going back?"
"Ah hae in fact," Gobber answered, "Ah'm leavin' taemorrow."
Hiccup chocked and spit out his drink before turning to look at Gobber in shock.
"Tomorrow!?" Hiccup questioned in surprise.
"Aye," Gobber affirmed, "Th' Highlanders will be shippin' oot taemorrow an' Ah'm gaein' with them. Th' queen will be makin' th' announcement taenight."
Hiccup looked completely lost at the news.
"Oh, daenae give me 'at look," Gobber grumbled, "Ah'm comin' back. Ah'm just gaein' fer th' winter is all."
Hiccup sighed in relief, smiling at Gobber before a thought came to him.
"Who's going to watch the shop while you're gone?" Hiccup asked.
"Well, generally 'at's a task 'at falls tae th' apprentice," Gobber elaborated, eyeing Hiccup knowingly, "With winter comin' an' nae more dragons tae fight, ye wonae hae 'at much work tae dae but it's still a lot o' responsibility. Ye feel up fer it, lad?"
"I'd be honored, Gobber," Hiccup answered with a smile.
"'At's good tae hear," Gobber said proudly before a thought occurred to him, "Ye know, Ah'll probably hae tae find a new apprentice now."
"Why's that?" Hiccup asked, feeling a little hurt by the comment.
"Because now 'at ye're th' big hero, ye'll probably be followin' in yer father's footsteps instead o' mine," Gobber explained, "Ah'm gaein' tae need tae find saemeane tae pass th' shop ontae after Ah'm gone."
"Well, whoever you find, I'll help train them too," Hiccup stated with a nod.
"With th' two o' us teachin' him, we'll make th' best smith th' North has ever seen," Gobber declared happily as he took another drink of his ale.
Suddenly, the sound of a cup banging loudly against a wooden table sounded through the Hall, drawing everyone's attention to the raised dais were the families of the chief and the visiting royals sat. As the crowd quieted, Stoick stopped banging his cup.
"Thank ye, Stoick," Elinor said as she stood up, nodding her head to the village chief, before turning her attention to the gathered people, "People o' Berk an' ma fellow Highlanders, Ah hope ye are all enjoyin' taenight's revelry!"
The crowd roared in response, earning a smile from the queen.
"'At is good tae hear," Elinor stated with a nod, "It fills ma heart with happiness tae see bonds o' friendship an' brotherhood form between our peoples where there was ance only animosity an' bloodshed. But alas, ma people's time on this island must come tae a close."
The crowd groaned in disapproval like disappointed children.
"Ah know, Ah know," Elinor stated with an apologetic tone, "Wud 'at we cud stay. But winter fast approaches an' home beckons. We will leave tomorrow, with th' wind at our backs an' happiness in our hearts. But we shall return, fer it has been decided 'at yer Hiccup will marry our daughter Merida come th' spring!"
Reaching down, she picked up the cup she had been drinking from and raised it above her head.
"A toast tae our brave warriors, both livin' an' fallen!" Elinor declared, prompting the others to raise their tankards before drinking as well.
"An' another toast," a Highlander declared, standing up, "Tae th' hero o' th' battle! Tae Hiccup Bearslayer!"
"No!" a Viking shouted him down, "To Hiccup the Useful!"
"Nae!" another Highlander bellowed, "Tae Hiccup Nightflyer!"
"Nae!" Merida shouted from the other side of the room, stepping up onto a table and holding a tankard of ale above her head looking Hiccup right in the eye, "Tae mm beloved, Hiccup Dragonrider!"
"To Hiccup Dragonrider!" the hall roared agreement as Gobber patted Hiccup on the back before standing up.
"Now lads, let's nae give Hiccup all th' credit," Gobber declared, "He had plenty o' help. Especially from ane person in particular. Tae Princess Merida!"
"No!" Fishguts shouted from his seat, holding a laughing Ribbon in his lap, "She's no princess anymore! She's one of us! To Merida Deathsbane!"
"No!" Bertha yelled from near Merida, "To Merida the Red!"
"No!" Hiccup declared, standing shakily on his two feet, "To the lady of my heart and the girl of my dreams, Merida the Brave!"
"To Merida the Brave!" the crowd agreed as they all took swigs of their drinks.
"When did ye become such a charmer?" Gobber questioned as Hiccup sat back down next to him, watching as Merida smiled at him through half-lidded eyes.
"It becomes pretty easy when you know they love you back," Hiccup replied with a shrug.
"A song!" one of the Vikings drunkenly declared from somewhere in the room, "This feast needs a song!"
"Indeed," Stoick agreed as he stood up, smiling at the people in the hall, "I must confess, I don't know many songs to fit the occasion. Who will lead us in a song?"
The room fell silent, every person looking at their neighbor, all except Merida, who continued to look at Hiccup from across the room.
"Anyone?" Stoick questioned, scanning the room, "Who will give us a song?"
"Though Ah may speak saeme tongue o' auld," Merida sung, her voice echoing through the hall, "Or even spit oot saeme holy word."
"Ah hae nae strength with which tae speak," Merida continued as she stepped off the table and began to walk towards Hiccup, the crowd parting to allow her to pass, "When ye sit me doon an' see Ah'm weak."
The fiddler picked up from somewhere in the crowd, his instrument belting out a jaunty tune that prompted Merida to do a few steps and twirls as she approached Hiccup, her skirt spinning around her as she danced.
"We will run an' scream!" Merida sang as she reached down and grabbed Hiccup's hands before pulling him to his feet, "Ye will dance with me! We'll fulfill our dreams an' we'll be free!"
With that, Merida led Hiccup in a simple dance, the two circling one another with their eyes locked and their shoulders touching, and changing direction every few seconds.
Fergus watched the scene with a smile on his face for a few seconds before turning his attention towards his wife and holding out his hand. Elinor smiled at her husband, taking his hand, allowing him to lead her to the center of the hall and join their daughter in the dance.
As the two couples danced, Maudie walked over and sat down next to Gobber, who was watching the display with a smile on his face.
"Oh, 'at's adorable," Maudie commented with a grin of her own.
"Aye," Gobber agreed before looking at Maudie slyly, "Ye know, despite th' leg, Ah'm quite th' dancer."
"Are ye now?" Maudie questioned, quirking an eyebrow at Gobber.
"Aye, here," Gobber said, quickly standing up and taking Maudie's hand, "Let me show ye!"
Maudie let out a shriek of surprise which quickly became laughter as Gobber pulled her out onto the dance floor with the others. Seeing this, Will smirked before walking over to where Ruff was sitting with her brother.
"May Ah hae this dance?" Will asked, offering Ruff his hand with a charming smile.
"Oh, you can have whatever you'd like," Ruff replied as she took his hand, earning a groan from her brother as Will led her to where the others were dancing.
Seeing the other's dancing, Astrid smiled before turning to where Fishlegs was standing near her and grabbing his arm.
"Come on, Fishlegs!" Astrid said as she dragged him out to the floor, the young man stumbling in surprise, "Come dance with me!"
As the four other couples began to circle around them, Merida and Hiccup continued to circle one another, their eyes locked.
"We will run an' scream!" Merida continued to sing, the Highlanders in the crowd joining in on the song, "Ye will dance with me! We'll fulfill our dreams an' we'll be free!"
"We will be who we are an' now heal our scars!" Merida continued as she reached out and took Hiccup's hands in her leading him threw a few simple steps that the other four couples began to copy, "An' this will be far away!"
The music picked up as the Merida began a few stomping steps, the other's following their suit, filling the hall with their sound of their feet slamming against the floor of the Great Hall. The music slowed again and the dancers began circling each other once more.
"Sae Ah had done wrong tae prove me right," Merida continued to sing, looking lovingly at Hiccup, "My judgment burned in th' black o' night."
"When Ah gave less than Ah take," Merida sang, holding her hand up between them, Hiccup copying and entwining their fingers, "It is ma fault ma own mistake!"
"We will run an' scream!" the hall sang together, "Ye will dance with me! We'll fulfill our dreams an' we'll be free!"
"We will be who we are an' now heal our scars!" Merida sung as she leaned forward, touching her forehead to Hiccup's, "An' this will be far away!"
As the song continued, the other couples began the stomping dance again as the music picked once more. Merida and Hiccup however continued to circle each other. Leaning forward they captured each other's lips, closing their eyes as they did. As the music slowed, Hiccup and Merida turned and embraced each other deepening their kiss. Slowly, everything seemed to fade away, leaving the two teens experiencing nothing but one another.
"Is that it?" the young boy questioned, the ship creaking around him as he looked up at his grandfather.
"'At's it fer this story, aye," the grandfather replied with a shrug.
"But…But there's so much more left!" the boy exclaimed, his icy blue eyes wide as he stood up, the rocking of the ship failing to bother him, "They have to get married! And…And what about what Loki said!? About the shadow!?"
"All stories fer another time," the grandfather said as he stood up, "All stories must come tae an end, lad. Besides, Ah believe we shud be reachin' our destination soon."
"Really?" the boy asked in surprise, "We're there already?"
"Time flies, huh?" the grandfather questioned with a smile, "Come on, let's gae above deck. It will be a sight tae see."
The boy nodded with a smile before laughing as his grandfather reached down and scooped him before placing him on his shoulders, the boy having to duck to avoid the low ceiling of the ship. Together, the boy and his grandfather made their way up the stairs onto the top deck. The sails of the longship fluttered in the breeze as the oars cut through the waves of the sea. All around them, sailors were running about the deck, performing their decks. Before the longship, an island rose out the waters and thrust towards the sky, the peaks of its large central mountain towering over the ship.
"There it is!" the boy declared excitedly as he pointed at the island.
"Aye, ye excited?" his grandfather questioned.
"Yeah, Mom and Dad have told me so much about it," the boy replied, looking at the island in wonder.
"Hiccup Horrendous Haddock th' Fourth!" a stern voice declared, prompting the boy to look in the direction the voice had come in. Marching across the deck was an older woman with long gray hair and wrinkled features. She wore a long, purple dress and regarded the boy with fierce brown eyes.
"Hi, Granma," the boy, Hiccup, greeted the woman as his grandfather set him down.
"Dae nae 'hi' me, young man," his grandmother said, planting her hands on her hips as she looked down at her grandson, "Ah hae been lookin' all over fer ye. Where hae ye been, Hic?"
"Relax, Elinor," the grandfather replied with a chuckle, "He was with me this whole time."
"Granda was telling me a story to keep me from getting seasick," Hic explained.
"Oh, were ye now, Fergus?" Elinor questioned, raising an eyebrow at her husband before turning her attention back to Hiccup, "What did I tell you about listening to your grandfather's stories."
"That Granda's a braggart prone to exaggeration," Hicc replied automatically with a sigh.
"Oi!" Fergus exclaimed with annoyance as he shot his wife an angry look, "Whit hae ye been tellin' th' boy?"
"Only th' truth," Elinor replied with a smirk before turning her attention to Hic, "Come along now, Hic, ye're mother's been wonderin' where ye've been fer th' last few hours."
Turning, Elinor led them to the front of the ship. There they found an older Merida who had grown taller and filled out. Her long, curly red hair was held back in a loose pony tail by a green ribbon. She wore a brown fur vest over a light blue tunic and a kilt. Armored leather gloves covered her hands and knee high leather boots protected her feet. Her bow was slung around her shoulders and a crow perched on the railing next to her.
Scurrying around Merida's feet were three little girls, each of them almost indistinguishable from one another. Each of them had mops of curly hair similar to Merida's but theirs was auburn in color along with mischievous green eyes. They were dressed in identical tunics and pants, except that they were individually colored red, blue and green. A trio of Terrible Terrors scampered around with them, each in a color that matched one of the girls' tunics.
As they played around Merida's legs, one of the girls tripped and almost went tumbling over the side of the railing. Merida quickly reached out and grabbed the girl before pulling her back in and planting her on the deck next to her sisters, giving the triplets a stern look.
"Maggie, Maise, Moira!" Merida snapped, "Whit did Ah tell ye lot aboot horsing around up here? Ye've got tae be more careful. If ane o' ye goes tumblin' intae th' sea, Ah ain't fishin' ye back oot."
"Sorry, Mommy," the girls apologized, earning a small smile from Merida. Turning she saw her parents approaching with Hic.
"There ye are, Hic," Merida stated with a larger smile, "Ah was wonderin' where ye'd run off too. How's yer belly treatin' ye?"
"Better Mom, thanks," Hic replied before glancing around, "Where's Dad?"
"He's scoutin' ahead with Toothless, ye know how he is," Merida replied with a chuckle.
"Look, Hic, look!" one of the girls said pointing up at the island, "Look, it's Berk!"
"Yeah, I saw," Hic stated with a chuckle.
"Do you think you'll find a dragon to ride here?" another girl asked.
"That's what Dad said," Hicanswered, "He says Berk has the best dragons in the whole world."
"Speakin' o' yer father," Merida said as she looked up, prompting the others to follow her gaze. As the group looked up at the sun, a shadow went streaking across it before shooting down towards the longship. Quickly righting himself, Toothless flapped his wings to slow his descent before landing.
An older Hiccup slid off Toothless' back, removing the spiked mask and helmet he had been wearing. His hair had grown shaggier and he wore a few braids in it. A short beard covered his smiling face. He was taller and more muscular, dressed in dark brown leather armor.
"Daddy!" the girls declared as they rush towards him, hugging his legs.
"Whoa girls!" Hiccup said with a laugh turning his attention to the others, "You'd think I'd been gone for months!"
"Well, ye know how they are," Merida said as she wandered over and gave Hiccup a kiss, causing the girls to make disgusted noises. Smiling, Hiccup spotted his son and made his way over to him.
"How's it going, pal?" Hiccup questioned, kneeling down and placing a hand on his son's shoulder, "You feeling any better."
"Yeah, lots," Hic answered.
"I'm getting the feeling boats aren't your thing," Hiccup surmised, "How about we try a little flying?"
"Really!?" Hic asked excitedly.
"You bet," Hiccup answered as he stood up, "After all, one of the reasons we came is to find you a dragon to ride. What do you say?"
"Yeah!" Hic exclaimed as he rushed over to Toothless and began trying to pull himself onto the Night Fury's back, the dragon chuckling as he watched the boy struggle. Walking over, Hiccup picked his son up before planting him in the saddle before swinging on behind him.
"Here," Hiccup said as he placed his helmet on his son's head, "Wear this for protection and hold on tight."
"Be careful!" Merida said.
"You know me!" Hiccup replied with a chuckle.
"Aye, exactly," Merida stated with a smile of her own.
Hiccup laughed before urging Toothless up, Hic letting out a whoop of joy as the Night Fury shot into the sky. As they approached the island, Hic could make out the village that had come to dominate a large part of the island. But what caught his eye most was the hundreds of dragons that filled the air, flying in every direction around the island.
"Let me tell you a few things about Berk, son," Hiccup said as they flew over the island, villagers turning to point as a few dragons began to follow them, "It snows nine months of the year and hails the other three. Any food that grows here is tough and tasteless. The people who grow here are even more so. The upside are the pets. While other places have ponies and parrots, we have…"
Hiccup paused as they flew over the main part of the island, prompting dozens of dragons to come flying out of the woods below them. As Hic looked around him, a look of excitement and wonder on his face as he observed the creatures that filled the air, one thought was on his mind and he let it out in a whisper.
A/N: The end! That's a wrap folks. End of the line. You don't have to go home but you can't stay here. All kidding aside, I wanted to thank each and every one of you for sticking with me for the last eighteen months or so since I started in the story. When I first started writing this story it was on the heels of having just finished Heaven's Light which had earned the spot of my most successful story, being the first time I broke two hundred reviews. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe this story would blow it out of the water so completely, sitting ready to break thirteen hundred reviews. Once again, I have to say thank you to all of you, you are the best fans I could have hoped for and I appreciate you all having taken the time to visit my little corner of the internet and read my little story.
One of the big questions on everyone's mind, bolstered by the fact this story is ending not long after the second How to Train Your Dragon movie has come out, is whether I am doing a sequel. The answer is a definite yes. In fact I have a whole series planned out which those of you that have taken a peek at my profile know I am calling A Song of Sun and Shadow, though that's subject to change if I or someone else can come up with a better name. Currently, I plan on finishing the small inbetween story I've been writing on the side, Seven Days in Corona, first before I continue on with the story. From there, there will be about three short stories before I give you two bigger ones comparable to this one along with another smaller story before wrapping everything up in a final big story. I hope you guys like what I have planned for the future, and I will tell you right now, in addition to the cast of characters I have now, I will be bringing three other movies into my little universe. Good luck guessing which ones! In addition, I am going to report that the next story in the series will be called "When the Cold Winds are a Callin'", hope you enjoy. Also, for sticking with me this long, I've decided to add a little stinger of sorts after these notes, hope you like it! That's about it from me folks, so once again, thank you for reading my story and for one last time I'd like to remind you all that feedback and critiques are always welcome, so please review! Later!
Thick blankets of fog covered the desolate island known only as the Nest. Soon that name would be forgotten as all the dragons had fled the island, traveling to Berk with the Vikings and Highlanders. Nothing was left on this barren speck of land.
Nothing but the corpses and the Vendal.
The Vendal had suffered a heavy loss from the battle and the disastrous destruction of the mountain that had followed. Less than have of the savages remained, picking their way across the island, lost and forlorn. Many gathered around the body of their fallen leader, keeping scavengers from the Demon Bear's corpse. Above them, the ruins of the Red Death sat on the new crown of the mountain, hot magma pooling around the dragons, its body quickly withering away so that barely more than a skeleton remained.
One Vendal stood at the edge of the group, searching among the rocks for crabs or other things to eat. As he looked, the sound of someone walking across the stony shore caught his attention. Looking into the fog, the Vendal saw nothing for a few moments before a figure began to emerge from the mist. Grunting, the Vendal brought the approaching figure to the attention to the others, who all quickly moved to grab weapons and turn to face the possible threat. Grunting again, one of the Vendal pointed at the figure, causing it to stop and hold up its hands.
"Peace friends, peace," a male, sly voice urged, "I mean you know harm."
The Vendal did not lower their weapons but did not move to attack either.
"I have come to offer my condolences," the man stated, indicating to Mor'du's body, "It is not often one loses a leader and a god in the same day along with your home and half of your people. Truly, these are sad tidings."
The Vendal looked downcast, letting out a few grunts to one another.
"But fear not," the man reassured them, "For I have come to help."
The Vendal grunted in confusion.
"You see, I too have reason to hate those upon Berk," the man explained, "And I plan on making them pay. Them, along with everyone else. I have plans you see, plans that will change the world."
The Vendal continued to grunt in confusion, though many seemed interested in what the man had to say.
"You can be part of these plans if you wish, many others already are," the figure explained as more figures appeared in the fog, dozens and dozens of them, "We all strive for the same cause, and we'd be honored if you'd join our growing family."
Stepping forward, the man emerged from the fog, allowing the Vendal to see him clearly. He was tall and gaunt with hollow features and a long nose. He had black hair and a thin black mustache grew under his nose. He wore a black cloak with the hood pulled up, under which he wore a dark brown leather jerkin and grey pants along with brown leather boots. Where his left hand should have been instead was a stump that continued on in a long skinny blade. From behind his back, the hilt of a bastard sword stuck out.
"After all," he said charmingly, grinning as he spoke, "Are we not all Outcasts?"