Worth the Risk
The sun was almost high in the sky as Toothless stopped at the edge of the village and looked out to the horizon. Usually, he would be with Hiccup as the young boy did his work at the Academy or at Gobber's workshop, but right now the Night Fury wanted some time alone.
Just a few hours ago, he was engaged in a battle with Dagur once again, only this time the Berserker had a Skrill at his control. Toothless was just lucky his rider, Hiccup, was smarter than that lunatic of a Viking. Together along with the Twins and their dragon, they managed to defeat Dagur, freeze the Skrill in a block of ice, and prevent an armada of ships from attacking Berk.
Despite the glory of their success, Toothless wasn't feeling joyful at all.
Ever since Dagur attacked on Dragon Island, only one thought lingered in Toothless's mind and ate away at him like a parasite every time he saw that madman.
The Night Fury is seen as a prize to Dagur, and anyone close to Toothless will most likely get hurt…or worse.
Toothless remembered how he felt the time he almost lost Hiccup after their fight with the Red Death. For three days, the young Viking would just lay in that bed, not showing any signs of moving or waking up. His heartbeat was so faint that Toothless has to get close to the boy in order hear it.
For those three days Toothless never left his side. He just stayed there, anxiously waiting for any sign of life. An eye opening. A wince. A groan. Something.
Those three days were the scariest moments in Toothless's life. Even more terrifying than getting tackled by Vikings, getting chained to the deck of a ship, or going head-to-head with the Red Death.
For three days, Toothless was afraid of losing someone whom he had come to see as family.
Toothless blinked as those memories suddenly drifted to the subject that he was a Night Fury. Normally, Toothless never really thought much about what kind of dragon he was, but the events of that day seemed to be some kind of reminder, and a painful one at that.
While Toothless was proud to be what he was, there was always something that haunted him about being a Night Fury: he was the only one in these parts if not the only Night Fury in the entire world.
It wasn't the loneliness or the idea of being the only one that disturbed him, it was the consequences that came with it.
Even before he met Hiccup, Toothless was always hunted. Since he was such an elusive creature, it caught the attention of the humans. And now that humans have seen him, and that he was the only Night Fury on Berk, he knew perfectly well that he was just seen as a prize to Vikings like Alvin and Dagur.
Thinking of this made Toothless growl in distressed anger and claw at the ground.
"Toothless?" A familiar deep voice came from behind.
The Night Fury turned around sharply. He relaxed when he saw that it was Stoick's dragon.
The Thunder Drum walked up next to Toothless and looked out over the sea.
"I heard about the fight with Dagur." Thornado said. "I must say I'm proud of you. Night Furies do have the reputation of being able to go head-to-head with a Skrill."
"It wasn't just me, you know." Toothless grumbled.
Thornado caught Toothless's tone, but pretended not to have noticed, at least not yet.
"Of course." he simply said. "Your rider and the Zippleback with its riders also helped. Going up against three adversaries isn't easy, but you all managed somehow."
Toothless didn't respond, he just stared out at the sea with an unexpressive face.
"Alright, young one." Thornado finally said, his tone turning to demanding. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing." Toothless growled.
"C'mon, I can tell when something's troubling you." Thornado narrowed his eyes at the younger dragon. "So you might as well tell me now because I'll find out eventually. Besides, I have a feeling it has something to do with Dagur."
Toothless glanced at the Thunder Drum with an annoyed look. Thornado just glared back with unblinking eyes.
Finally giving in, Toothless let out a frustrated grunt.
"Okay, fine. You got me. It is about Dagur. But I'm not afraid of him."
"But you are afraid of something." Thornado replied in a gentler tone.
Feeling a little embarrassed, Toothless stiffly nodded.
"And what would that something be?" the Thunder Drum asked.
Toothless hesitated for a moment before stating:
"How far he's willing to go to hunt me down."
Thornado's eyes widened a bit in surprise. But what Toothless said next would really give him a jolt of disbelief.
"It's those thoughts that make me regret throwing away the tail that allowed me to fly on my own."
"What?!" Thornado sharply whipped around to look at the Night Fury. "You mean you would abandon your rider to save your own skin?!"
"Of course not!" Toothless snarled at the accusation as he scowled at the Thunder Drum. "It's not my life I'm worried about!"
Upon hearing those words, Thornado's face greatly softened.
"Oh, I see." he gently said. "It's Hiccup you're worried about. My apologies; I should've known better."
"Apology accepted." Toothless shrugged, still feeling a sting of bitterness.
"But you think that running away would keep Dagur away from Hiccup because he would be too busy chasing you?" Thornado asked with a slight hint of confrontation in his voice.
"I wouldn't run away." Toothless glared out to the sea. "I'd fight Dagur myself."
"And you really think that would keep Hiccup safe?" the Thunder Drum asked, sounding unconvinced.
"At least I wouldn't have to worry about him getting hurt." Toothless looked away with slight anguish. "I almost lost him once, and I vowed to never let it happen again. I'm the one Dagur really wants and Hiccup was almost killed trying to stop him. That's a price too high to pay. I won't take that risk again."
After the confession, Toothless dropped his gaze and inwardly kicked himself for feeling like a coward.
"Toothless," the elder dragon turned toward the Night Fury, "you have good intentions and your heart is in the right place, but you're thinking about this the wrong way."
Toothless turned his head to look at Thornado with slightly widened eyes.
"I understand you want to protect your rider." the Thunder Drum said, sincere. "But the problem is that you're putting too much on yourself. Even if you had a way to fly on your own, that little Viking would still try to find a way to help you even if you didn't want him to. He's done it more than once."
Toothless narrowed his eyes and looked at the ground as he remembered his fight about a month ago with his nemesis, the Whispering Death. Despite the Night Fury not wanting Hiccup to help, the boy eventually found a way to get on his back and together they succeeded in defeating the Whispering Death.
"Hiccup is a part of you, and you are a part of him." Thornado continued. "If anything, the best place for you to be is WITH him when you face Dagur again."
Once again, Toothless didn't respond, he just stared at the elder dragon with a subtle surprised expression.
"I know I am strong on my own." Thornado turned to look out at the sea. "And I know you're strong even with your handicap."
The Night Fury looked back at his prosthetic tail as Stoick's dragon continued with his speech.
"But if there's one thing I've learned from living in Berk, it's that dragons who do have riders seem to be even stronger than on their own. And I know you know that better than anyone else."
There was a long pause for a moment. All that could be heard was the waves lapping against the rocks and the wind gently blowing across the mountians.
Finally, Thornado took a deep breath and concluded with:
"Instead of making it your sole duty to protect Hiccup, let him protect you as well. Protect each other like the brothers you are."
With that, Thornado turned around and walked away.
Toothless looked back out over the ocean and up into the sky as he thought about what Thornado had told him. Somehow, that Thunder Drum always knew what to say and when to say it. And while he can admit when he's wrong, he seems to have more wisdom than folly.
The Night Fury let out a huff of air and nodded. Thornado was right. As much as Toothless wanted to protect Hiccup from someone like Dagur, he knew he couldn't face that guy alone, damaged tail or not.
"Okay, then." the dragon said in low whisper.
The Night Fury turned around and saw Hiccup running toward him. Happy to see his rider, Toothless ran halfway to meet the boy. He welcomed the boy with a tender nudge on the face and Hiccup hugged him around the neck.
"Hey, bud." Hiccup smiled, stroking the dragon's head. "You doing okay? You seemed distressed earlier."
Toothless purred in response and licked the young Viking's hand, trying to assure him that he was okay now. Hiccup chuckled and scratched Toothless under the chin, relieved to see his buddy was doing fine.
"Well, c'mon." the boy said. "What do you say we do a lap around the island before lunch?"
Toothless hummed in a deep voice as if to say "yes".
Hiccup then mounted up onto Toothless. Activating the prosthetic tail, the two friends took off into the sky. Gliding on the wind, they flew around the island, perfectly synchronized in their flight.
"Protect each other like the brothers you are."
Those words floated back into the forefront of Toothless's mind as they dipped down and flew just above the surface of the water.
As the two friends climbed higher into the sky, feeling the rush of the wind and the thrill of the freedom of flight, Toothless grinned and thought to himself: