How Is It Done? Chapter 1

"Astrid, it's out of the question and you know it," her mother snapped. "Viking girls are supposed to marry between the ages of twelve and fifteen; it's tradition. You're fourteen, and it's time to accept your responsibilities as a growing young woman. You owe it to the village! You've accepted Hiccup's proposal, we've made the arrangements with Stoick, and the date is settled. If you try to delay it, people will wonder what's wrong with you."

"Mama, I feel like I hardly know him," Astrid replied. "I feel like I hardly even know myself! I've just started living, I've just started fighting, I've just started learning how to be a woman, and now I suddenly have to wear the keys and have babies? I don't even know how!"

"Good thing," her mother said. Then her manner softened. "Astrid, Hiccup is a wonderful young man. He's the hero of the village, he's kind, he's clever, he's the son of the chief... you couldn't do better. Some girls have their marriages arranged for them; most of them have to settle for whoever chooses them. You're one of the lucky few who get to marry for love. Don't you know how happy this will make your father and me?"

"I'm glad my happiness is so high on your list of priorities," she retorted. "I just don't feel like I'm ready. I don't know anything about babies, or husbands, or... or anything like that. I barely even know how to cook!"

"You'll learn," her mother said. "I had to learn cooking at first, but look at your father now; I'm not starving him. You'll learn all those things. That's part of the joy of marriage – you learn together."

"But what about the babies, and... that other stuff? How am I supposed to learn that?"

Mrs. Hofferson turned red and faced away from her daughter, hoping that Astrid wouldn't see. "Uhhh... you'll learn that from your husband. Somehow they seem to know those things already."

Astrid couldn't accept that. Hiccup had many virtues, but that kind of common sense was probably not one of them. She stepped out of the house; she had to clear her mind, and a walk in the cold night air sometimes helped.

Husbands... babies... how did that stuff work? She hated to admit it, but she was a little bit afraid. Astrid, the mighty warrior maiden, the dragon trainer, afraid of something? Yes, she was afraid. That stuff was important, it was unknown, and it was very secret and mysterious. No one would give her the facts! If she didn't get some answers, she was sure to do something horribly wrong on her wedding night, and Hiccup would either laugh at her or run away screaming.

Her mother was no help at all. Her father's answer was always "Ask your mother." Her other female relatives had nothing to add to that. Who else could she talk to? It had to be someone with some experience in the world, but also someone who would be willing to talk to her and then keep her mouth shut about it. It wouldn't be good if word got out that Astrid, the mighty warrior maiden, was asking questions like that. Had she looked upward while she was thinking, she might have seen a black shape against the black sky, but her mind was elsewhere.

"Maybe Ruffnut will know," she thought out loud.