Chapter Forty Eight
Feeling pleasantly like his luck is finally changing, Hiccup stumbles up the beach behind Shadow. The little, softly familiar lean-to of Shadow's small house sits atop the crest of the hill, and they make their way towards it, seeking shelter and supplies and the means to build a boat.
They'd left Flameclaw asleep on the beach, all curled into the hot black sand and Hiccup really hopes she doesn't wake before they return, as he's unsure what the dragon would do upon discovering they'd been parted. He doesn't really want to find out either. She was out pretty solidly when they'd left, and with how exhausted she'd been, Hiccup doesn't imagine she'll be up any time soon; but all the same, worry speeds his heart and legs over the monochrome of the volcanic earth.
Shadow's hut has a washroom and clean clothing for both of them, which they quickly tug on over their heads and up around their waists. They decide they probably don't have the chance to wash the blood from their hair, but they manage other ablutions.
Hiccup, breathing a tired sigh of relief, feels so much better after scrubbing his hands clean and watching soft pink skin re-emerge from under the layers of dark, cloying dirt. He washes his face too, careful around the lash markings, and takes a long drink of water, gulping thirstily, until he's feeling much more like himself. The young Hooligan does his best to check his wounds while he's at it, fumbling over roughly-bandaged skin, and there's a funny, warm sensation as he realises just how good a job Shadow has done to keep him in one piece.
Speaking of Shadow, in the mean time the Ex-Outcast has dug out some flatbread and a thin, watery soup of some kind. Viking grub never much consists of more than that, but to Hiccup, who is starving; it's the greatest thing in the world. It takes only a few moments of heating the liquid over a small, crackling fire before both boys are quickly filling their bellies, the heat seeping comfortably into their bones.
"Don't eat too fast." Shadow hypocritically chastises the younger boy, who is sat tucked up against his side like a dragon hatchling seeking the comfort of its kin. He watches deliberately as, after a moment, Hiccup begins to take slower, more definite bites of the bread he's dunking eagerly into the soup.
Shadow smiles and nods in encouraging appreciation as Hiccup looks up; he doesn't want the boy making himself ill again.
Having finished his own soup before he could quite control himself though, Shadow begins to pack bread and any other food supplies he can find into a leather bag; half so that they'll have supplies and half to make it looks like he's doing things other than staring at Hiccup. He's trying not to be obvious about it, but he's not much succeeding.
The lad's looking a lot better though. He's still pale and drawn, but freedom's given the young Viking a light in his eyes and a bounce to his wobbly little step. Hiccup is still heavily favouring his left arm, the right, broken one is still bound tightly, but with enough freedom that he can now use the splinted limb for menial tasks; he's currently balancing the bowl on his right and eating with his left. Shadow is no great healer, but thinks that it's a good sign that he's getting better if he can do so with minimal pain. The whip lashes are looking better too; the short while out in fresh air has sealed them, and while they still appear to be causing the boy pain as he moves, it seems to be aches and stinging only.
It's odd how the sight of the boy healing pulls at something soft and warm in his chest.
Shadow gets broken from his stupor, as with a satisfied sigh of relief, Hiccup sets his bowl down and starts looking around Shadow's hut for things he can use for his great boat scheme.
Shadow, on the other hand, is a little dubious of the plan. He doesn't see much alternative, but neither of them are exactly boat builders, even with as clever as little Hiccup is.
He's come to hope the kid will surprise him once again, and of course, he does;
"We'll take the planks, and use this rope to lash them beside each other. We can place a row on top of them, in a criss-cross pattern. You know, so they're facing opposite directions at right angles?" Hiccup decides, beginning to unlace the ropes that hold his walls together. It's not like they'll ever be coming back. Shadow has very little idea what a right angle is, but he imagines Hiccup's got his ideas under control, and so the elder of the two decides to just bustle about, packing the things he imagines' they'll need and the things he doesn't wish to leave behind.
Once he's done that, staring down at the depressingly small pile of clothing, food and bandages, Shadow moves to help little Hiccup take apart his walls. He's thankful, not for the first time, that he lives so far away from the other Outcast's on the Island.
It probably says something that he's always been an outcast, even to the Outcasts themselves.
Together the two manage to disassemble Shadow's house surprisingly quickly. The ease in which it's taken down is a testament to its ramshackle nature and, for Shadow, a reminder that, on some level, this had never been a permanent fixture.
They take bed sheets of light cloth to fashion sails out of and Hiccup commandeers some barrels of drinking water, which, as he empties six of them (to Shadow's utmost horror), he explains they're going to use them as buoyancy aids.
It's then mostly a matter of betting them back to the beach, and assembled.
"You've got to be kidding me." Shadow stares down at the little raft they've created as it floats haphazardly, listing to one side in the water. The planks they've lashed together don't seem tight enough together and the whole thing looks rickety and like it's going to split apart at any given moment. Dread is heavy in his stomach. This isn't going to work. It's not got a chance. They've not got a chance. So much for a Hiccup-miracle, they'll get eaten by the first shark worm they come across, like this.
It might just be better to take their chances with Alvin.
Hiccup, however, sounds honest-to-Odin excited about the concept;
"Let's name it!" The boy is all but bouncing on his heels, pacing the shoreline and mumbling what are probably calculations involving Flameclaw's weight but mostly sound like gibberish to Shadow.
"You've got to be kidding." The Ex-Outcast stares. "It hardly looks as if it'll float, let alone carry us; we've got bigger problems that giving it a name."
"It's a boat!" Hiccup cries as if it's the most obvious thing in the world, which rather it is, only not a good one. "We've got to name it!" He sounds frankly scandalised at the idea that they might not give the floating death-trap they've created a name. With a sigh, Shadow weights up their chances with the Outcasts, and concedes.
"Fine," He sighs heavily, still eyeing the way the planks are trying to drift apart. "I suppose you want us to give it a proper ceremonial launch too?"
"No time," Hiccup's small hand flip flops dismissively at him, completely missing the deadpan sarcasm. "I'll just say, ummm... May this boat, the, uh... The Hopeful Puffin, carry us safely through the waters and uh..."
"Not sink." Shadow finishes for him, frowning. "I really hope she doesn't sink on our way back to Berk."