The Heather Channel Chapter 1

A/N Heather is back, this time as a result of tragedy. The results of that tragedy might result in the unthinkable – Heather marrying Hiccup! Or is it all another deceitful game of hers?

Just to make things interesting, I've sprinkled the story with references to other movies, including Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, The Little Mermaid, The Princess Bride, and Titanic.

WARNING: this story, and this chapter in particular, contains a female character dealing with the after-effects of an attack of a very personal kind. The attack itself is not described. I don't want to blindside any readers who might be upset or affected by this. I don't usually write about dark stuff like this, but I couldn't think of any other way to set up the story I wanted to tell. That, and some other adult themes, is the reason for the T rating. The language is all K.

o

Five assorted dragons skimmed the ocean off the coasts of Berk, their riders indulging in a real live joyride. This wasn't one of Hiccup's training exercises, and they weren't responding to any emergency. They were just looking for Trader Johann. He was due to arrive at Berk any day now, and each teen hoped to be the first to spot him, just for the fun of it. Of course, they didn't know for a fact that he was within fifty miles of them. He always arrived when he got there, and not a moment before. Still, it was fun to get away from the chores of the Dragon Training Academy and just fly!

The formation sorted itself out the way it usually did. At the front, Toothless and Stormfly contended for the lead, with Hiccup slightly in front and Astrid slightly irritated by this. Behind them, Hookfang and Barf and Belch flew side by side so their riders could exchange insults. Meatlug brought up the rear, but flew above the others – Fishlegs had figured out that he could see further from higher up, which helped offset his dragon's slower speed in the air.

Astrid saw the ship first, probably because Hiccup had turned away at that moment to gloat. They all changed course to close in on it.

"That ship looks different," Astrid noticed.

"I don't think that's Trader Johann," Fishlegs called down.

"Let's fly by and say hello anyway," suggested Hiccup.

Their first clue was that Johann never trailed a jolly-boat behind his ship. The second clue was that Johann's crew consisted entirely of Johann, while this ship had about twelve men on board. The real clue was when those men threw a cluster of spears at the dragons as they sailed by.

Their targets were Toothless and Stormfly, both of whom were agile enough to spin and dodge the attack. Everyone pulled up and away before the sailors could throw spears at the more ponderous dragons. They formed their conference circle.

"I say we fire at will!" Ruffnut suggested.

"Sounds good! Which one of them is Will?" her brother wondered.

"We can't just flame people because they're scared of dragons!" Astrid said. "Not everybody knows about Berk and our peaceful dragons."

"Actually, I think Ruff is almost right," Hiccup replied. "Look in the stern of that ship; there's a man and a woman tied up. I think that's a pirate ship. Here's the plan..."

A minute later, Hookfang approached the hostile ship from the front. A squirt of flame set both the mast and the sail on fire. A moment later, Toothless dove and blasted the deck right where the mast joined it. The burning mast slowly toppled forward, covering the entire front of the ship with the flaming sail. The men in the front quickly jumped overboard, followed by the men in back, who realized their entire ship would soon be a cauldron of flames.

Now Stormfly swooped in and plucked the tied-up man off the deck. Meatlug, right behind them, lifted off with the woman. Barf now covered the ship with the smoky ingredients for a final blast.

"I love the smell of green gas in the morning!" Tuffnut crowed. "It smells like... Vikingness!" Belch sparked, and when the smoke cleared, the splintered remains of the ship were sinking into the depths.

The pirates swam for their jolly-boat, cut the painter before the sinking ship dragged it down, and climbed in. Astrid glided by at low altitude. "You guys should find another line of work," she taunted them. "Piracy isn't working out for you!" Their response was unprintable.

"Hey, that's no way to talk to a lady!" Snotlout shouted. His dragon banked and dove at the boat.

"No fires, Lout! No fires!" Hiccup called desperately.

"Well, what are we going to do? Let them get away?"

"No." Hiccup's eyes narrowed. "No, we're not letting them get away. Lout, why don't you grab that tow rope and bring them back to Berk with us? Nice and fast?"

"Oh, ho ho! You got it, Hiccup!" Hookfang caught the boat's painter with a back claw and took off at very low altitude. Until the invention of the speedboat nearly 1500 years later, no boat would bounce across the waves as fast as that jolly-boat. It is doubtful if any boat's crew was ever more terrified of the ride than this crew was. They held on for dear life and cursed the day they'd taken up piracy.

Back in Berk, the pirates were tied and led off to an empty warehouse, where they were kept under guard until Stoick could convene a proper trial. The man and woman were gently lowered to the cliffs near the Academy ring, where volunteers untied them and helped them stand. The dragon riders landed and took a look at the people they'd rescued.

"Don't I know you?" Hiccup asked.

"Did you see any sign of another ship while you were up there?" the man asked anxiously.

"No, we didn't, but..."

Astrid cut in. "You're Heather's parents, aren't you?"

The mother stepped up to Hiccup. "They left her behind on our ship when they attacked us! They drilled holes in the hull – it's either sinking or already sunk! Please, can you fly out and try to find her?"

Hiccup thought fast. "Ruff, Tuff, you fly back the way we were going when we found that pirate ship, and keep searching to the west. Lout, fly south; Legs, search to the southwest. Astrid, you've got the northwest. I'll fly north."

"Hiccup, are you sure you want to go alone?" Astrid wondered. "Remember what happened the last time you and Heather spent any time together?"

"I remember," he nodded ruefully. "But we have to split up so we can cover all that ocean in a hurry. If I do find her, I don't think I'll have much time to make a fool of myself again, not if she's on a sinking ship."

After about twenty minutes of flying, Hiccup spotted the ship . It was a typical Viking coastal ship, except that the waves were nearly level with the deck, and its crew consisted of one motionless girl.

"Toothless, if you land on that ship, you'll sink it," Hiccup said. "I'll drop onto the deck." The dragon slowly flew over the sinking ship and Hiccup slid off his saddle, making the short drop to the deck below. His metal leg landed on a wet spot and he fell flat, scrambling to recover his balance. Toothless flew in circles, waiting for a command from Hiccup.

He approached the one crew. She was kneeling on the deck, doubled over, oblivious to her rescuer or the state of her ship. Slowly, she looked up at him. Her face showed several bruises.

"You again?" she asked softly. Her eyes were filled with such pain, Hiccup was almost knocked back at the sight of them.

"I need to get you out of here," he said, trying not to sound too harsh. "Maybe you haven't noticed, but this ship is going to join Ægir's forever-fleet in a few minutes."

She shook her head. "Please, just let me die."

After a long pause, he asked, "Heather, what happened?"

She looked down at the deck again. "The pirates came... they took my parents away onto their ship... then four of them came back for me..." She broke off, sobbing. "There were four of them!"

Hiccup's breath caught in his throat. For almost a minute, he said nothing.

"I have to get you back to Berk," he finally said. "Your parents are waiting for you."

That brought her head up. "They're still alive?"

"Alive and well, and worried sick about you. Toothless and I will bring you back." As he called his dragon in, he rested a hand on Heather's shoulder.

She pulled away. "Hiccup, please... don't touch me."

They flew home in dismal silence.

o

A/N
Ægir – the Norse sea god