The sounds that they made were unique to this occasion. The pure, unadulterated joy had been waiting dormant through rain, hurt, blood, and death for months so long they seemed like years. Now, it broke through in a gigantic, beaming whoop of excitement so loud even the wind couldn't snatch it away. Toothless' dragonese roar gave a pubescent crack of excitement, but even if he had heard himself, he wouldn't have bothered to care. In that moment, it was just Toothless, his wings, his human, and the wide, open, beautiful sky.
They dove and turned and spun and turned some more as if they'd never missed a day in the saddle together. They banked against the gales, brushing the clouds into misty patterns and chasing waves until the water scurried to catch up behind them. They twirled and leaped and cheered and dove some more, roared at the air and called it to celebrate with them.
In the years to come, these moments of fun and freedom were the few moments in life when Hiccup and Toothless would never communicate through Dragonese. Like now, they would only need the link of the saddle between them and their knowledge of each other; they would communicate by touch, sight, and that immaterial language that they'd developed over the years without ever having planned it. Some would call it telepathy. In all his life, Hiccup would never know what to call it, but he knew it anchored itself somewhere deep in his heart.
Down on the ship's deck, Stoick, Astrid, Ru, and Rædwit watched with faces infected with the duo's joy. Rædwit looked almost teary-eyed, or as teary-eyed as a dragon can look. He confided to Ru and Astrid that he'd thought he'd never get to see his nephew fly again. Toothless had been the very best, most daring flier in all the weyr, and Rædwit had taught him all he to teach before Toothless had passed the age of seven. And now, crippled as he was, he was even better that Rædwit remembered.
The fact that Hiccup must have helped teach Toothless went unsaid for a while. Then, Toothless came up from a steep dive and swirled straight up into the clouds, wings tucked. He stalled mid-air, turned his back to the sea, and fell. Rædwit stiffed fearfully, as did Ru. But then Hiccup straightened his back like a sentinel from the saddle, body inverted, face turned toward the sea as they plummeted downward, eyes spotting what Toothless couldn't see. At the last moment, he called to his dragon, and Toothless whirled around just in time to send a high-waved wake trailing across the water.
"Well what do you know," Rædwit said quietly in shaken astonishment, "Upside down. You found your flying partner after all." Then, as an afterthought, he shook his head ruefully. "Show-off."
Stoick was left out of this Dragonese conversation and thus couldn't express to Rædwit his sentiments on the scene unfolding above. He couldn't communicate how he wouldn't ever really worry about his son being a show-off, only that his son was far too daring and far too small to be tossing himself about like that. How he wasn't sure where he got it from (except that he actually did and didn't like thinking about it), but the boy really ought to be more careful, and damn that night fury but he'd better look after his boy. How he worried about Hiccup flying more often than he cared to admit and only just refrained from complaining because when Hiccup smiled like that, well, it had to be worth it.
Language barriers aside, even if Stoick had tried to say all that in one breath (Norse or Dragonese), no one would have understood him. Knowing this, he only shook his head fondly, made himself turn his eyes away from the death-defying stunts, and tended the fire. Hiccup hollered happily from above, Toothless' wings casting flickering shadows between the ship and the afternoon sun.
Eventually, once they'd gotten out the most whiplash bouts of energy, the two slowed down and began to trace lazy patterns in the sky, drifting and coasting, Hiccup tossing his hands out to the sky to pretend he had wings of his own. Rædwit joined them for a bit, enjoying the chance to fly with his nephew and play tag in the air. Still, for all his commanding presence and fury in battle, the older fury was exhausted from his imprisonment, and went back down to the ship before Toothless and Hiccup did. The two flew on, talking privately with each other up in the air.
"I've missed this," Toothless breathed, and Hiccup couldn't blame him.
"I imagine you have – I'm sorry it's taken so long." He patted the fury's neck.
"And what could you have done, Gicpa? Don't apologize for something only fate has control over. Besides," Toothless' voice took on a more serious tone, a tone that Hiccup remembered form nights spent on the roof, talking about their future of stupid things, "For all my grumbling… six short months is a speck in a lifetime. And important speck, at any rate. I'll always remember this and treasure it, in its own way."
"And how is that?"
"I'm not sure yet. But when I find out exactly how, I'll tell you." Toothless glanced up and around at his rider and smiled. "Because I can do that, now," he said merrily. Hiccup smiled back. He leaned forward to press himself flat against Toothless' neck, arms hugged around him as far as they could reach.
"Ic lufe Þe, Toðléas," Hiccup said. He felt Toothless' deep hum through his cheek.
"Ic lufe Þe efenwel, broðor."
There was a long, quiet, peaceful pause. Then, Hiccup said thoughtfully: "But no more bewearftes, alright? I'm not sure I'm ready for any more dramatics from you."
Toothless only laughed and agreed. They flew on largely in silence, enjoying each other's presence and the feel of the air they'd missed so dearly. They did not speak about how they were all stuck out on the ocean with limited food, nor did they discuss how they might get back home. For the time being, they only rested and glided and watched the water wave mesmerizing reflections back at the orange sun. The wind was mild and cool, brushing through Toothless' wings and Hiccup's hair in a teasing, lulling fashion. Hiccup actually dozed off for a bit against Toothless neck, his face squashed behind the dragon's skull, ear frills tickling his face. When he realized he was about to fall truly asleep, he made himself open his eyes. When he did, what he saw made him jerk instantly awake.
"What is that?" He said. His Norse was muffled by his position, and Toothless hummed in confusion.
"What's that?" the dragon asked curiously.
"No," Hiccup straightened in the saddle, "What's that?" He pointed.
They were several hundred yards off the ship's stern, so there was only open water beneath them. It was hard to see because of the light games the sun was playing with the water's surface, but between the intermittent blue and orange reflections, Hiccup could see something beneath the water. A massive, black, wiggling thing, that grew larger and larger with time, as if it were approaching the surface.
Toothless made a strangled noise, turned tail suddenly, and cursed.
"Toothless!" Hiccup cried as he tried to correct the tail. "Toothless, what is that?"
"Oh, it's really not worth saying," the dragon sounded uneasy, "uhm, let's get back to the ship, shall we?"
"No! I want to find out what that-" Hiccup twisted in his saddle, trying to get a better look at the mystery thing. "thing is! It's like a big, great… wait a minute," Hiccup turned back around to glare down at his steed in astonishment. "Toothless, is that what I think it is?"
"Probably not," the night fury said too quickly. Hiccup thinned his lips and continued to glare at the back of the dragon's skull. Toothless held out for a few moments before: "…Maybe," He admitted.
"Turn around, turn around!" Hiccup said, bouncing in the saddle like an overexcited child.
"No. No, no, no, and no," Toothless fought him with every muscle he had as Hiccup slammed on the steering pedal to turn them back around. Gods, what a traitor. "Hiccup, we've talked about this, I told you very explicitly that I would turn tail and head in the opposite direction if you even tried to make me-"
"But Toothless," Hiccup whined, "It's right there!"
"Yes I noticed that, that's why we're going away from 'right there' right now!"
Hiccup twisted his neck and looked back at it. It was heading straight for their ship. He smiled. "Oh, fine!" He yelled at Toothless, and let the dragon steer them back toward the ship. "But I'm still making you say hello!"
Getting the sea serpent's attention was hardly a problem. It was headed straight for the ship, and slowed to a halt right as it came portside along the hull. It was probably stupid or at least very naive of him, but Hiccup didn't feel the slightest bit of fear toward the massive sea giant, despite the fact that it's shadow alone was twice as long as the ship, which was hardly a dingy.
So optimistic was he that, when Hiccup landed on deck and explained to Stoick and Astrid what he'd seen, he was actually a bit confused when his father turned an astonishing shade of white and had to sit down. Astrid's eyebrows shot up and she could hardly say anything. Rædwit hissed reflexively, Ru grimaced, Toothless looked embarrassed to know him, and all the dragons left sitting on deck either growled and ducked or scurried to find somewhere else to be below deck. All in all, Hiccup was the only person on deck who actually looked happy about the whole event. A great rumbling emitted from over the portside, and huge bubbles made the deck wobble gently. Hiccup leaned over the side and watched in fascination as the sea serpent made its final ascent to the surface. He backed away to a safe distance when its head finally broke through the water and hovered over the ship's deck.
It was massive. No, not massive, the word massive was itself not massive enough for this thing. It was gargantuan. It's nostrils were bigger than one of Toothless' wings, and the fin-laden spines along its brow were each longer than Ru's entire body. Years of algae clung to its rough, scarred scales, along with barnacles, sea moss, and other things whose identity Hiccup could not guess. Behind all the foliage, Hiccup could see dark grey scales, and jewel-like flickers of brilliant blue. It had translucent, winglike fins running down its spine and along the ridges of its skull where its ears probably were. They flexed up and down, sensing the air. Each breath it heaved (it must've had lungs as well as the gills he spotted, Hiccup marveled) was like a small gale force in and of itself.
Hiccup got a long time to look at the thing as it took in its bearings, dripping seawater onto the deck, tilting its head in a curious way. The dragons on deck hissed in a mixture of disgust, fear, and anger, and Stoick looked like he might just have a heart attack. Hiccup watched with open-mouthed awe. The sea serpent didn't seem to have seen any of them yet. It took its time, rolling its leviathanic head around on its neck in an almost leisurely way, until Hiccup finally saw one of its massive, ancient eyes and the pupil focused on him.
Then, in at an incredibly deep pitch but surprisingly normal volume, it said, "Oh, hello there."
Hiccup blinked. He wasn't sure what he would have expected upon meeting a sea serpet. Dragonese was a nice start. He glanced back at the dragons, who looked like they would rather be just about anywhere else. Toothless had his lip curled in a particularly human fashion, and Hiccup smiled at him. "Told you so," He said. Toothless's eyelids drooped in chagrin and he narrowly resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Hiccup returned his attention to the visitor.
"Hello," Hiccup said back at it. The serpent looked pleasantly taken by surprise.
"Oh ho! The land crabs speak? Pardon me, little master, I had no idea your kind could speak at all."
Hiccup actually laughed. "We all can – just not always in your language. I've only recently been taught how – by my friends here," He gestured behind himself to Toothless and Ru, and the sea serpent eyed them politely, ignoring the way they hissed and growled.
"Oh I see," he said, "Well, you've made a good job of it. Well done, master land crab. That is, er… what is your name, small one?"
"I am Gicpa."
"Gicpa!" The serpent gave a small nod, "Well, it is a pleasure to meet you, Gicpa of the land crabs who speaks in the Mother Tongue. I am Séaspidehwagborabenorþan." He paused to see Hiccup's look of complete incomprehension, and added kindly, "you may call me Benor, if you like."
"Well, Benor," Hiccup said, nodding back, "It is a pleasure to meet you as well." He glanced back at Toothless, and felt a bit miffed at the dragon. How on earth could he hate someone like Benor? He was very polite, and well spoken. Sea serpent or no, it was rude to dislike him because he lived in the sea. "These are my friends," Hiccup gestured back, "The other humans – er, land crabs, that is, are my father, Stoick, and my friend Astrid. And these are my dragon friends who taught me to speak your language: Toðléas, Ru, and Rædwit."
"A pleasure," Benor said pleasantly.
Hiccup gestured to Toothless. "Come on, Toothless, come say hello."
And because Toothless could not hiss at his friend without the serpent understanding, he glared as many daggers as he could muster though Hiccup's skull as he stepped begrudgingly forward. "….hello," he said flatly. Hiccup smiled.
"Oh, it's so exciting, I've never met a sky serpent before," Benor said enthusiastically.
"What did you call me?" Toothless burst.
"A sky serpent, of course. My kind are far too big to fly through the air, but it's such fun watching you all from below. You're quite the acrobats, I don't know how you do it."
Toothless rode the line between polite composure and insulted rage very awkwardly. "Um… thank you," he said. Hiccup had mercy and interjected at this point.
"Um, Benor," he said considerately, "I do not wish to interrupt, but… um, is there a particular reason why you've come up to see us?"
Benor took a moment to process this. "What? Oh! Oh yes, you see, a few hours ago there was the most horrible ruckus coming from the surface, and I'd been sleeping so I had no idea what it was. But then there was all this rubble floating down, and many bodies, too – rest their poor souls. Quite a few sky serpents among them, I came to make sure that whoever had killed them wasn't going to keep killing them for the fun of it, or something. Horrible sport, truly, but…" He paused and peered around the ship. "The floating land crab caves do have a habit of doing that, from time to time." he said sadly. "But you all seem to be getting along swimmingly up here. You are all alright, I take?"
Hiccup was now unable to stop smiling. A gentleman sea serpent. A polite, concerned, well-spoken, friendly neighborhood sea serpent. "Yes, we're all fine up here. I apologize for the ruckus. The leader of this ship – er, floating cave – was a very bad person who was, in fact, imprisoning sky serpents for the fun of it. He's dead, now."
"Oh my," said Benor, looking a bit struck, "Well now that's an adventure. And this was his cave?" He glanced around at the ship.
"Yes," Hiccup said, "But we're going to need to use it so we can get back home, to the land where we live."
"It will float you all the way there?" Benor asked in curiosity.
"Well…" Hiccup looked around the stationary ship and suddenly had an epiphany. Surely, it was wrong to take advantage of someone so nice, but… "Actually, we're a bit stuck. That's why we haven't moved since all the ruckus. The thing that makes the cave float in a specific direction is broken, and we can't seem to fix it. We're stranded out here."
"Oh my!" Benor said, "How dreadful. Is there… that is, if you like, would I be able to help you in any way?"
"Well," Hiccup cast an eye over at Toothless, who was watching in begrudging curiosity, and then further back at Astrid, who'd been following along and was now nodding her head emphatically. "Well," he said again, more confidently than before, "If you don't mind, you just might be able to help. Do you think you'd be able to pull this cave across the water?" Hiccup asked uncertainly, knowing it was a massive weight. Benor looked the ship up and down.
"What, this lump?" he said incredulously, "I've wrestled squid bigger than this. Of course I can pull it across the water."
Hiccup's eyes bulged and he tried very hard to forget about the squid comment before he condemned himself to nightmares. "Er, right. Well, if you can, that is, if you'd be willing, could you…?"
Benor laughed, a grating sort of sound that somehow sounded happy. "Just toss me a line, master Gicpa, and tell me where to go."
And so, for the next several hours, they cruised through the water toward land and home, their speedy pace courtesy of a very considerate sea serpent named Benor. Hiccup leaned over the bow of the ship the entire time, watching the massive shadow hover beneath the ship, fascinated by how the creature moved. Benor was very kind in letting Hiccup draw him, and answered all of Hiccup's questions very politely, whether they be about himself or about sea serpents in general. By the end of the trip, they were good friends.
Toothless looked absolutely mortified that his friend would fraternize with 'the enemy', but Hiccup only swatted the dragon on the nose and told him off for being prejudiced. Ru eventually came over to say hello, but left after a short, polite conversation. Apparently it was the smell that really put them off. Dragons weren't meant for deep seas, Ru told Hiccup in an aside. Hiccup only shrugged, and carried on drawing.
It wasn't until sunrise the next morning that they finally reached land, but when they did, Benor looked as though he had hardly broken a sweat – well, if sea serpents had an equivalent to sweat, anyway. He pushed the massive ship right up onto shore of a small island, which unintentionally punched a massive hole in the hull. He apologized profusely for the trouble, but Hiccup assured him it was for the best. Hiccup thanked him for his help, Benor complimented Hiccup again on his mastery of the mother tongue, bid a good day to Toothless, Ru, Rædwit, and all their remarkable acrobat sky serpent friends, slipped beneath the waves, and disappeared.
"Oh, come on," Hiccup nudged Toothless in the shoulder. "He was great! You've been upset all this time over nothing."
Toothless said nothing until he grunted out, "He still smells weird," and turned away.
Below deck, with water flooding in from the imploded hull, the imprisoned guards were all fairly certain they were destined to drown. Until Stoick appeared in the doorway, that is, at which point they began begging for mercy and some started crying. The chief only rolled his eyes and hauled them out by the armful, muttering under his breath about overdramatic continentals. Astrid helped bring them above deck by taking two at a time by their ears, reminding them that they really shouldn't be crying, what on earth would their mothers think?
After all of Lech's former henchmen were suitably traumatized and on shore, Stoick left them with a crate or two of food and a completely useless, monstrous, sinking ship, alone on the island. Before the vikings left with the dragons, Stoick made it clear that should the mercenaries ever got off the island, they should tell anyone they met that selling dragons was a bad idea and stealing dragons was a worse one.
Then they flew up high in the sky, and let Stoick get his navigator's bearings back. Eventually, the chief gave a noise of triumph and pointed. "There!" He said, "Berk is that way, not a day's ride." Astrid, Hiccup, and Toothless cheered. Stoick looked around at their massive posse of dragons, and directed Ru, whom he was riding with Astrid, to fly alongside Toothless and Hiccup. "Land there a moment," He told the others, pointing down at a small island below, "Hiccup, I'm going to need you to translate."
They convened and explained to the freed dragons that they were heading on a course for Berk, where the humans and Toothless all lived. Through Hiccup, Stoick offered a new home to any dragon that wanted one. Berk had plenty of dragons, but, well… there was always a little more room. Some of them took him up on the offer, and came to stand by him. These were the dragons too far from home to return, lost, or abandoned. Still, many others, now that they had their bearings, were ready to fly home to their own weyres. So, one by one, they consulted Hiccup for more precise directions on where they were, bid him good luck and goodbye, and took off.
Eventually, the only dragon left who hadn't said where he was going was Rædwit. Quietly, the fury approached the group, looking somewhat awkward – but, if anything, awkward in an expected way. Goodbyes were always awkward, after all.
"I don't suppose you'll consider coming with me, then?" He asked Toothless, almost jokingly. Still, when Toothless shook his head sadly, the other looked a bit hurt. "I expected not. …What would you like me to tell them?"
Toothless glanced back at Hiccup a moment, and then told his uncle, "Everything. My story, all that I told you. All that has happened. Tell them about Gicpa, about how we are dracahoertan together." He paused, and added, "tell them that I miss them, that I love them, that I am sorry. We will go there, to visit, when I am ready."
Rædwit's expression softened. "I will tell them. Only… isn't your story yours to tell, nephew?"
Toothless gave a dragon's shrug. "And I will tell all that you cannot when I see you again. But for now… they deserve to know."
Rædwit nodded somberly. "Of course." He turned to Hiccup, and came right up to the boy's face. He was much bigger than Toothless, and had to bend down a bit to nudge Hiccup's forehead with his nose. "Thank you, Æðelin," he said. "Until I next see you, fair skies."
Hiccup smiled, and pet the dragon's snout. "You as well. Fly safe."
And after he bid farewell to them all and gave Toothless a loving nudge, Rædwit took to the skies and turned his tail east.
Hiccup sighed heavily and came to stand over by Toothless, who was watching his uncle disappear on the horizon. "We'll get there eventually," he promised Toothless. "Together. Don't forget, we've got a world of stupid things to cover."
"The sea serpent is covered."
Hiccup laughed. "For now it is!" he kidded. "But don't you worry, we'll find our way back to your weyr eventually."
"Yes," Toothless said with a content sort of sigh, "eventually. When I'm ready. But for now, Gicpa, let's go home."
Hiccup smiled, and put his foot in the stirrup. "You got it, bud."
As they approached Berk, dragons and vikings alike spotted them on the horizon and cheered. The dragons flew out to meet them – many of them with friends and family on their backs. The dragons' cheers reached their ears first: "Æðelin! Æðelin is back!" they shouted. Hiccup wasn't sure if they meant him, or Toothless, or both, but he smiled. With a triumphant roar, Toothless surged forward ahead of Ru and the rest to fly towards home and their welcoming tribe.
Behind, Astrid laughed and shook her head at their enthusiasm. "There they go, off to change the world," she said. Stoick chuckled.
"Not quite yet," Ru said, watching the pair with wise, knowing eyes. Ru was not a prophet, and he'd never profess to be. But just then, watching Toðléas and Gicpa flying together again, he almost felt like one. "But it's a start," he said, modestly, "It's definitely a start."
Æðelin soared home, both cheering as much as the other, for where they'd been and for everywhere they planned to go.
A/N: Wow. Well, that's it, folks! We're finally finished. Thank you so much for your reviews and support, and I hope you had as much fun reading as I did with writing this fiction!
I also want to tell you: There will not be a proper epilogue posted on this story. There will, however, be a oneshot sequel to this story posted sometime soon. I'm posting it separately because it will contain HtTYD2 spoilers, and I don't want to spring that on any unsuspecting readers who don't read ANs or warnings. I don't know when exactly that will go up, but expect it!
Finally, the last translations:
"Ic lufe Þe, Toðléas," - "I love you, Toothless."
"Ic lufe Þe efenwel, broðor." - I love you as well, brother."
Séaspidehwagborabenorþan – The serpent who lives in the water under the Northern sea ("Benor" is part of the word for "northern")