Chapter Forty Two

"Morrrrnin' sleepy 'eads."

The next time Hiccup wakes, it's to Alvin's cold, cruel sneering voice, and it's the last thing on Earth Hiccup would have ever wanted to wake up to. Ever. Even the time Toothless had dumped a whole baskets worth of fish over his bed and warbled loudly in his ear until he'd woken up and attempted to eat the Thor-forsaken slimy, raw fish, had been better than this, Odin dammit.

"Wakey, Wakey."

The sound of Alvin's voice jolts right through his whole body and Hiccup begins to force himself to crack open his heavy eyelids. He can't understand why he's so tired. His whole body just feels so heavy. All the same, at the sound of the voice, beneath the bone-weary tiredness, horror and fear surge up in his gut and, as the boy opens his eyes, what he sees makes him feel like someone's doused his whole body in icy cold water, stealing his breath away and tightening his chest. Alvin stands there, on the other side of the bars with a wild, mangy grin amongst his wild tangle of beard and his eyes cold, beetle-like and dark; the shiny silver gleam of an axe hoisted casually over one shoulder.

Hiccup groans loudly at him, rolling over to hide the look of panic that flits across his face; his movements slow and careful as to try not to pull at his aching wounds. The tiredness is deep and onset and Hiccup barely feels like he could successfully lift his head off the dirt floor at the moment, let alone deal with Alvin the bloody Treacherous. He tries his best to ignore how his heart is racing is his chest and how he has to squeeze his eyes tightly to keep them closed. He's also definitely not shaking. No, definitely not.

"I'm tired o' waitin' 'Hicccup." There's a silent pause, then; "yeh are alive aren't yeh?" Comes the Outcast's next hissed almost sing-song sneer, and Hiccup can almost tangibly feel the scrutiny of his gaze upon him. Impossible to ignore any longer. The boy's eyes finally manage force themselves open.

It's obviously stupidly early in the morning; in fact, it's still cruelly dark outside of the confines of their prison cell. Hiccup drags his weary body into a sitting position, smiling slightly to himself as he notices Shadow moving to help him. Its obvious Flameclaw is awake as well by now, as she huffs and stamps a little in her own cage; obviously riled up and downright scared by the sight of her tormentor - Alvin.

The dragon is huffing angrily and padding her forepaws nervously up and down on the dirt before her; her gaze fixed on Alvin. Hiccup notices the long, thin tendril of grey smoke that snakes its way out of Flameclaw's wide nostrils with a huff; her glowing eyes narrowed from big yellow orbs, to cold, thin slits of amber rage. She was looking at the man who had starved her, imprisoned her, hurt her. The smoke certified it for Hiccup; the dragon's inner fires were alight with rage, burning once more and the coils of smoke mingle with agitated sparks as she breathes heavily. The food and care the pseudo brothers had shown her had paid off, the dragon rider smiles slightly; Flameclaw was stronger now, harder in a way, her gift of fire quickly returning to her. Hiccup was now certain the threat of the cold bite of Alvin's whip would no longer tame her, Flameclaw the Feisty bristles against her bars at the mere sight of the man, but perhaps, he considers, their kind words and actions might be able to train her.

And training dragons, after all, is what Hiccup does best.

Hiccup, still sprawled in the gritty dirt, stretches out his limbs, pulling and twisting and noting the way they ache and pull in painful places as Alvin continues to scrutinise him with those cold, black eyes.

"Yer lookin' better" Hiccup can't tell whether Alvin sounds pleased about this or not, but surprisingly enough Hiccup notes he does feel a bit better than he has for a while, and although his injuries ache constantly and pull painfully when he moves, the fierce burning of the whip marks has faded to a dull throbbing that pulsates in time to his own heartbeat.

"Hmmm..." comes Alvin's sneer, and Hiccup feels Shadow shift a little closer to him, laying a protective hand on the boy's forearm. Hiccup matches the comforting action by mirroring it; placing his own reassuring hand on Shadow's arm and giving the young Ex-Outcast a tight smile.

He's sore and weak, but he can take whatever Alvin throws at him.

Probably.

A dangerous glint appears in the Outcast Chieftain's eyes and he hollers out an "Oi! Ulf! Come 'ere yeh stupid lumbering imbecile" behind him into the darkness. "Call yerself an Outcast, yeh great blubbering pile of Dragon..."

"Why Alvin," Hiccup pulls up a grin, tilting his head weakly towards the man and hiding the trembling in his fingers behind his bravado "I had no idea you knew such long words. Bit advanced for you don't you think? Don't you think you should..." But then a dark shape lumbers out of the blackness and the words die in his throat.

Now, Ulf the Unclean was neither the brightest nor the smartest Outcast in the tribe. He often forgot to wear socks and left his matted beard as unkempt as Vikingly possible, but really, he was only trying to look fierce. Alvin was fierce. And Ulf respected that. He liked that.

He'd like to be like Alvin.

Ulf is, of course, tall and bulky and menacing, and he's managed the huge bushy beard no problem. The bulging biceps and bristle of ever-present weaponry isn't the problem either. He's got the charming Outcast demeanour down to a piece, having perfected axe throwing, gurning, and the fine, masterful art of yelling. His head is shaped delightfully like a large, knobbly spotted potato; all lumpy and smooth in strange places, and the mud on his features and smeared across the bridge of his nose only adds to the pulled-freshly-from-the-ground look that he's got going for him. He wore all of the standard Viking gear over a lumpy green tunic that gave him the look of a large, mossy boulder and he casually hefted his gleaming axe over his shoulder as if it weighted no more than a terrible terror hatchling.

For you see, the problem is, Ulf the Unclean (or Ulf the Terribly, Odin-Awfully Unclean, Get-him-away-from-me-oh-Great-Thor-What-Is-That-Smell, May he be banished for his Great and Terrible Uncleanliness, Ugh Ugh (which by Viking standards, such a title was really quite something, communal daily wash or no) as some know him), though thoroughly proficient in fighting and yelling and other honourable Viking mannerisms, was really, quite, well, just a little bit thick.

He'd been outcast from the Visithug tribe and their island, on account of his idiotic ways and his god-awful smell and had to settle on Outcast Island where Alvin had accepted him as a henchman.

Ulf towers over the captives, and the boy, Hiccup just stares up at him open mouthed. Good. He must look big and fierce and intimidating. Good.

There's the scrape of a key in the lock and Hiccup's heart flutters pitifully like a little quivering bird inside the cage of his chest cavity as Alvin pushes the door a little ajar with a loud creak and peers around the bars. Hiccup exchanges a look with Shadow, but in both their hearts they know neither of them is strong enough to get past Alvin and make a straight run for it. They'd not even get close to escaping the arena like that, Hiccup frowns then winces when the action pulls at the lash wound on his face.

"Right, 'Iccup," Alvin leers at him "We're gonna try this again, all nice like. Right? Right. UIf, yeh idiot," The Outcast leader turns to his hulking companion "Git in there an' grab..." here he pauses, little black beetle eyes squinting in the darkness, looking between the two Vikings in the cage. Hiccup's breath catches in his throat, his whole body flinching away from the towering Outcast's big, meaty hands as Ulf lumbers through the door into the cell. "Ulf, grab Sha'dow."

"Sorry 'bout this mate" Ulf grunts, lunging out with surprising speed and wrapping his fingers tightly around Shadow's thin, bony forearm. "No 'ard feelings?"

Shadow doesn't dignify this with a reply, opting to glare defiantly at the much larger man, his steely grey eyes cold and dark.

The surprising thing though, was the moment Ulf touched Shadow, Flameclaw had begun to growl, low and smoky in her throat, her eyes fixed, not on Alvin, her tormentor, but on Ulf. The towering man, oblivious to the hulking, smoking dragon, peers close at Shadow's dirtied, bruised face and gives his arm a hard shake, jerking the man from side to side under the unconscious force of it.

Flameclaw rears up, sparks flying and colossal lungs bellowing out in a great, powerful roar. Ulf cries out, a loud, deep bellow right from deep in his chest and, with quick, large strides, drags Shadow right out of the cell, away from Hiccup, and thrusts him into Alvin's clutches. Ulf keeps his eyes fixed on the dragon with a faint look of terror, who spits and roars and flames flicker at the edge of her nostrils. Hiccup is torn between leaping up and trying to comfort her, and his fear of Alvin's reaction. If Alvin thinks he's trained the dragon it could spell bad things for he, Shadow and Flameclaw herself. But if he does nothing he's afraid Alvin will have her whipped.

He's halfway to his feet when his full-flesh and blood leg gives out, leaving him to topple back over with a cry of pain, fingers clutching desperately at his wounds, and his face torn in agony.

Alvin has the good grace to snort disdainfully at him.

Somewhere far away-sounding, as if Hiccup is listening to the world from the other end of a very long, pain-filled tunnel, he hears Shadow shout his name and Flameclaw roar out angrily. His senses are too scrambled for him to formulate a coherent reply.

He lies there, gasping for air in painful, stabbing breaths, his wounds lines of agony that rip through him.

Slowly, coherent returns and he becomes aware of hands on his upper forearms, dragging him all-but-carefully along the gravelly dirt floor. It feels like his hands are tied together in front of him with a length of thick, hemp rope that bites tightly into his flesh. He thinks he voices his complaints, but he's not sure his mouth is working quite right. The hands let go and he slumps down into the black sandy grit, scuffing his palms as he attempts to gain some sort of purchase on the loose, scrabbly soil with his palms bound so tightly together.

He opens his eyes, unsure of when he closed them, and finds his cheek pressed against the dirt in the middle of the Arena, his hands unable to stop his fall. His eyes slowly focus in the dim, not-yet-morning light.

They focus on Alvin.

Holding a blade to Shadow's neck.

"Release thuh Dragon!" Cries Alvin and Hiccup hears a muffled roar, whipping his head around so fast that his neck aches painfully, to where Ulf cowers behind a metal cage door that has been thrown wide open. Flameclaw, every inch the Monstrous Nightmare she is, talons bared, and her dirty grey skin just flickering with the ghost of flame stands in the doorway of her cage. Her yellow, fiery eyes are narrowed menacingly at them as she begins to prowl across the arena; stalking out of the cage, snarling and puffing great, spark filled clouds of ash from her nostrils. Her teeth are jagged, off-white needles of bone, snapping and snarling within the constraints of her scaly lips.

She fixes her heated, angry glare on the back of Alvin's head, who doesn't seem to have noticed the exact direction of her gaze, and she roars out a muted, angry cry, filled with the terror and pain of her captivity at Alvin's dirty hands. She doesn't seem to have noticed Shadow, clutched painfully in his huge hands, her eyes angry and focused on one thing, and one thing only; revenge.

"Right, 'Iccup! Yew tame this 'ere dragon, or yer little friend is gonna be the one who suffers!" Alvin calls out with a dark grin, and Hiccup starts to haul himself to his feet, his eyes flitting between the Outcast holding Shadow and the Monstrous Nightmare herself.

Hiccup, small and swaying on his feet, looks up into Flameclaw's yellow, rolling eyes and swallows thickly. He has no choice. No choice at all.

If he doesn't do something, not only Shadow, but Flameclaw too is in danger. Her anger at Alvin is too great, she'll cut him down without even seeing Shadow there; and if she doesn't manage that Alvin will most likely kill Shadow anyway. He needs to at least try to do something. Flameclaw might listen to him...

But perhaps he can use this to his own advantage, rather than Alvin's.

A tenuous, half-a-plan forms at the edge of his mind.

Slowly, he raises both his bound hands in front on him, scraped palms outstretched, silently pleading every god in Asgard he can think of that this will work.

"Flameclaw!" his voice rings out. "Flameclaw!"

The great dragon stops in her tracks. Her slitted, irate rolling eyes swivel in their sockets.

To lock directly with Hiccup's wide green ones.

Here goes nothing. Hiccup thinks with a grimace.

"Flameclaw!"

...

A.N: I promise you I am not dead! Look, here's a new chapter and everything!

It's might be a little shaky towards the end of this one because it's late here and Lenle is tired, but I really wanted to get another chapter up asap. I'll try to update a little faster next time :)

Thanks for reading this, you're all stars. If you liked it, why not drop me a review? They can be really motivated.

*hugs to all*

Thanks for putting up with me being a bit slow sometimes!

- Lenle G

Edit: I've just realised the number of reviews this has! oh my god you guys I love you you're all amazing and it's 1am here and I don't care because ahhhhh. Tell you what if we get to 1000, the 1000th reviewer can have a the biggest virtual cookie known to man and I shall even stop Glaze from charring it for you and hugs shall be awarded and ahhhh its 1am ahhhhhh