Chapter 9: Speed Unknown, Size Unknown
Chapter 9: Speed Unknown, Size Unknown
Chapter 9: Speed Unknown, Size Unknown

24th Sep 2012, 6:16 PM

by inhonoredglory

"Dad, Dad, you just can't do this to me. Come on, have a little sympathy for a guy, can't you?"

Hiccup had barely scrambled up to catch up with his father when Stoick shushed him with a big hand. "It's only for a couple nights, Hiccup."

"Well, any nights are going to be murder." He paced hurriedly beside his father, as they virtually raced down the stairs of the Great Hall on their way to the Haddock House. Hiccup glanced back, saw Heather and her Council thankfully delayed up at the top of the steps, Astrid and the rest of them unseen somewhere in the milling masses of tribesmen still talking into the night as the party came to a close. Hiccup turned back to his father, put out his hands desperately. "Dad, you know what's between Astrid and me. I can't just let some strange girl sleep at our house, especially Heather. I just don't feel comfortable with her. Like, at all."

Toothless suddenly bounded up alongside them, hummed a low growl at Stoick.

"Hiccup," his father said, heavily, "you're gonna have to let go of petty little reasons like that. It's got no place in a future chief's life."

"Dad--" He didn't like the sound of where this was going.

"I think Heather is a great example for you, and I'm delighted she suggested we take her in for the night. She wants to get to know you. Isn't that wonderful?"

Hiccup shook his head rigidly. "No, Dad, it is not." Hiccup looked back briefly as they crossed the grass and started for the stone path to their house. "I don't want to get to know her more. It's bad enough as it is. Astrid thinks--"

Stoick sighed exasperatedly. "What does Astrid think?"

"Dad, you know, she's getting ideas like, like I like Heather or something…"

"Well, if she's so jealous why don't you two do something about it? When I was about your age, I'd already taken your mother for mine."

"Oh come on, Dad, we're different, I just don't feel--"

"Hiccup!" his father snapped suddenly, reaching the front step of the house and bending down to look at Hiccup. He put out a hand, bobbing it pointedly in front of him. "Just pay attention to this Heather woman. You could learn a lot from her, and you and her could go a long, long ways towards reconciling and uniting our two tribes."

What? Hiccup crossed his brows and halted in front of his father, Toothless swirling around him, his black shape like a shadow in the night.

His father gestured him to come forward. "You don't think about those things, son, the way a chief can't just think about himself in matters like this. He's got to think of the good of the tribe, and its future."

"Aaand…" Hiccup leaned up closer to his father's bushy beard, "what does that exactly mean, for me?"

"It means, Hiccup, that maybe you should try seeing if you do enjoy Heather's company. You never know, our tribes might even get united by marriage." He opened the front door and stepped inside. Hiccup rolled on his heels suddenly, caught his balance on Toothless, who seemed to suddenly be right behind him. The dragon purred with concern and Hiccup stared at him, wide-eyed. He swallowed tightly. "Okay, Toothless, I think I just deciphered what Dad was trying to say." He'd heard of political weddings before, but Dad would never pull one of those on him. Would he? Man, he hoped not. He looked out over the landscape, saw Heather wave goodbye to her Council, begin to make her way up the steps to the house. Things were definitely not looking so hot right now. He stepped forward into the house, clapping the door shut behind him. "Dad?" he started, then noticed Gobber and Mulch fumbling around near the stairs to his room, a huge wooden something stretched out between them.

"Just git over to the right, Mulch, over, move!" Gobber was screaming, and the wooden thing jolted, almost tripping them. Hiccup looked at the thing again, saw a headboard, a post, the flat wooden surface. "Oh no…" He found his father standing cross-armed, pleased by the fire, looking up at the wooden bed getting hauled up to Hiccup's loft.

"Let me guess, Dad. She's sleeping in my room."

"Well, of course. You don't expect me to have her down here." He let out an easy laugh.

"The day just keeps getting better doesn't it?" Hiccup sighed. "Listen, Dad, you can't just throw her in there with me. It's not-- I mean, it's my room." He stepped up to his father, tried to look authoritative in some way. "Doesn't that count for anything?"

"Yes, it means you should welcome her."

Hiccup rolled his eyes. His father started moving off towards the stairway, and Toothless jumped towards the door, hissing gently. That was it. Heather was close. Hiccup turned to his father, gave it one more shot. "Dad, I just don't feel comfortable with her. And it would be, would be, uh, wrong to her." Yeah, that was a good one. "So, please, she can have my room. I-- I'll sleep outside with Toothless. It'll be fun!"

His father heaved another frustrated breath. "Hiccup, stop making this such a big deal. You have a responsibility."

"To her?"

"To me." Stoick took a deep breath, bent down suddenly and spoke much quieter. "This is a lot, well, deeper than I think I've made you think." He cleared his throat hoarsely, leaned down and whispered. "I wronged Rune once."

"I thought it was the other way, uh, around?" Hiccup pursed his lips, wondered how his father would react knowing he knew. But apparently his father wasn't quite listening. His eyes had moved over to the front door, which was slowly creaking open and the girl walking in. "This might be my last chance to make it up to him," Stoick said in a quick breath and then stepped forward towards the slim figure. "Heather!" he said warmly.

Hiccup sighed, watched his father be quite hospitable to the Skirra Véllite girl. There definitely was something more to the Story than he figured.
_______

Hiccup cleared his throat carefully and stepped up the stairs to his room. Toothless swept up ahead of him, turned around by Hiccup's bed and swirled to face the door, his eyes narrowing and his snout curved into an insulted sniff. "Toothless," Hiccup put a hand out towards him. "Shh." He didn't want any more conflict here. It was enough to have the strange girl in his room.

Of course, it's not like it was going to be another Torch incident. He chuckled at the memory. It's just that he hoped Toothless and the girl wouldn't keep him up all night. Toothless didn't look like he was ready either to just let this happen. The dragon was just a bit protective and while he really wished Toothless could do something to get this girl out of his room, Dad wanted him to be nice and he had to play along. Maybe it wasn't going to be that bad.

Hopefully.

So long as Astrid didn't find out and get crazy ideas in her head.
_______

Heather followed the thin kid -- no, she had to start using his name. Hiccup. She followed this Hiccup up to his room, a lovely loft of a place with the edge of the floor cut away to reveal the main part of the house down below. She was about to step up to the main floor of the loft when that black dragon he owned suddenly huffed to a halt in front of her. His bared teeth flashed white in the semi-darkness, and she gasped, lashed her sword out quickly.

"Stop!" the boy screeched and she halted, turned to him and saw his small silhouette against the backdrop of faint golden light. The dragon hissed at her and she kept her sword aloft, stared the wild beast in the eyes. She wasn't about to let this scrawny nothing tell her what to do. She was her own boss, her own--

She put the sword down suddenly. This wasn't home, she whispered under her breath. She had a mission here. She looked up at Hiccup, the look of worry in his eyes, and then at the black dragon, its scales glinting in the candlelight around the room, heaving to every breath of that beast. She suddenly realized how beautiful this dragon was, how stupendous it was that it was standing here in front of her, semi-tamed, and that she could, if she wanted to, almost reach out and touch it. What a prize dragon it was.

It would be quite a prize when they subjugate Berk.

"When does he go outside?" she said finally, trying to keep to a minimum in her mind the fact that a killer of a creature was standing there in front of her, teeth bared. It was almost a help, in a way, to keep herself from thinking too much of the task at hand. She found it hard to think about the assassination without her nerves reacting somehow, especially now, so close to the time, and she couldn't afford that. The dragon distracted her, and she let it, stepping up into the room, skirting the dragon's snout and his fierce glare. The Night Fury growled at her, its green eyes hot and wild. She looked at Hiccup, but the kid was gazing down at his dragon, a mix of amusement and concern in his eyes.

"Umm," Hiccup stammered, "Toothless?" He walked up to the black beast and stroked its forehead, glanced up at her once. "Heather's just gonna be, uh, spending the night here," he told the black creature. "You understand that." The dragon sniffed, jolted his head sharply and eyed her through narrow glowing eyes. "Listen, Toothless, you got to understand that."

The dragon hissed, snapped his head at her. She smarted, wanted to whip out her sword again, but hesitated. The boy was trying desperately to soothe the creature. "Just put him outside." She stepped back, found her back against the short table by the little wooden bed. She whipped her sword around into its sheath.

Hiccup finally turned around to see her. The dragon slinked up to an incredibly wide, flat slab of rock in the opposite corner of the room.

"Are you getting rid of that thing?" she asked sharply, watching the black wings fold delicately around its body, the round smooth head snuggle into its feet, and the eyes, the eyes that kept staring at her.

"What thing?" Hiccup asked.

"That dragon." She eyed the beast hard, tried not to be afraid, looked, stared and burrowed, into its eyes.

"Toothless is not a thing," Hiccup's voice interrupted her stare and she sensed something convicted in it. She looked at him, found a pair of hard eyes looking at her.

She raised a brow and rose her frame slightly. "When will he leave?"

"He doesn't leave. He sleeps here with me."

She stepped back, saw the hiss in that dragon's eyes. "So you sleep… with a dragon?"

"Exactly." There was that conviction again. She peered at him, at his thin frame in the candlelight, the glint in his eyes from the golden light, the shadows sharply crossing his body.

She'd have to get that dragon out of here, somehow.
_______

Hiccup turned away from the girl, frustrated with the whole situation. Now she was scared of Toothless, and Toothless was mad at her. Who exactly did Dad think was going to be sleeping tonight? He flopped himself on the bed, the wood smacking him. He peered up at her, the soft glow of the light playing off her gentle features and he suddenly felt incredibly uncomfortable. He jumped up and walked over to the slanted table on the other end of the room. He looked at the happy scattered mess of papers on the surface, the blueprints for that metal ship he'd been building, the never-ending stack of designs for Toothless' tail and rigging. He was still trying to find a way to consolidate the idea of metal and wing. The lightweight new metal was just too tempting to go unused in new and--

"What's this?"

He whirled. The girl, looking down at the parchments curiously, her finger lightly moving over a piece of the paper.

"Uh," Hiccup pushed the papers around. He cleared his throat. "Designs."

She picked up the ship blueprint, peered closely at the cross-section of a strange new ship, laden with masts and sails, and with a tapered hull much thinner than their ordinary Viking ships. The bow, so much thinner, cutting into the waves sharply. She looked up at him from above the paper. "I didn't know you invent."

He shrugged. "It gets boring around here."

She was not amused and continued to rifle through the papers on his desk. "This is incredible," she said, quite taken by the hastily-sketched designs and brainstorms he had. She took another of Toothless' stirrup and peered at its intricate working, drawing her hand over the paper.

"I-- I'm trying to design a new tail for him," he said, figuring he'd better make conversation, "with metal panels."

She put the papers down and got a thoughtful look in her eye. "You don't suppose I could borrow these at some point. I really want to show my father." She leaned up to look at him, the angle sending her face into a shadow, an odd sharp shadow.

If Hiccup were superstitious, he might have taken it as an omen. As it was, he just smiled awkwardly and bobbed his head once. "Sure, why not?"
_______

Heather's bed had been placed to the left of Hiccup's in the back end of the room, next to the table with the blueprints. She took off her mantle carefully and unhooked the sword from her waist, laying them on the foot and posts of the bed. The kid was already in the blanket of his bed, burying his head in a book, trying to look busy, but clearly distracted. She could read through that kind of expression any day.

"What book is that?" she asked.

"The Book of Dragons," he said, not looking at her.

"Oh, then I guess this dragon is in there." She looked over at the Night Fury -- which was still gazing at her dangerously. She hissed back in her mind, willing the creature to sleep or maybe leave. She turned back to Hiccup. "Could I see that page?" She walked up to the side of his bed, stopped and looked down at him. He took his eyes off the book, seemed to cringe at her gaze. He flipped the book, stopped on one spot near the end of it. "Here." He handed the book up and Heather took it, observed the drawings and the detailed notes on its behavior.

Faster than any dragon.

Fire more powerful than any species.

Great maneuverability -- keep yourself strapped in.

Loyal, extremely loyal.

She put the book down, looked over at the beast, the hot killer eyes still gazing at her. The plan was to kill the prize dragon, with the tribe defeated. A beautiful species it was. Such a shame to… kill it. If they could just harness that power…

But just the same, its head would look beautiful mounted on the walls of their Hall like so many other dragons. The Night Fury suddenly put his head up and hissed at her. She turned down to Hiccup, handed him the book. "How did you ever tame this creature?"

His eyes perked suddenly, and he looked over at the dragon with a look she could only describe as love. Love. She looked back at the dragon, its eyes hot on her. Hate. She gazed down at the kid, as he happily described his meeting this Toothless creature, a whole horrid conflict with his tribe and keeping secrets, a rite of passage and a great huge dragon that eventually caused his physical handicap, but, more importantly, he said, the peace of the tribe and of Viking and dragon.

But this time, she had sat on the edge of the bed, and he was sitting up, legs bent upward, arms around them and head resting on his knees. He was totally lost to the world right now, consumed in this fascinating, she had to admit, story about him and his dragon. "So, is he still… very protective?" she asked cautiously, watching the burning eyes of the creature.

"Sure he is. I wouldn't still be here talking to you if it weren't for him."

Her brow perked. "So there's no chance he's going outside, then, is there?"

"Huh?"

She jolted back slightly, realized what a mistake she'd almost made. She swung her legs up on his bed suddenly, to distract him, and put her chin in her knees. There was still a confused look on his face and she was getting sick of it very quickly. "Does he sleep?" she asked, getting desperate to get this charade over with.

He was still looking at her, now resting on the edge of his bed. "Uh," he stammered, "sure he sleeps. I just… don't know about tonight. He seems kind of… nervous." He avoided her eyes and started to slip into the covers. "You want to sleep now?" he asked, muffled as he rubbed his nose.

She turned back to look at the dragon, and it suddenly stepped up from its rock bed and slid down onto the floorboards. She watched it carefully, seeing something of intent in its eyes, but not knowing what it was. The dragon hissed lightly and walked up to her. She edged further into the bed. What was the thing trying to do? The dragon growled, brought his snout up behind her. She slid closer to Hiccup and the kid leaned up out of the covers suddenly. The dragon made another move and she pushed herself up against him. "Hey," Hiccup squeaked and flipped himself off the bed, getting to his feet quickly. The dragon nodded once and hummed threateningly to her.

"Toothless, what are you trying to do?" Hiccup moved around the bed, was kneeling by the dragon now. The dragon purred at him, lashed a hard eye on her and hissed. "Toothless, you got to calm down." He looked at her. "I-- I'm sorry he frightened you."

She stood up, not wanting to admit what really was quite true. "Will he ever go to sleep?" She stared down at the dragon. "He needs to go to sleep."

Hiccup got to his feet, led the creature over to its slab of a bed and spoke to it in hushed and gentle tones. She stepped over to her own bed, sat down on it with hot curses in her head. She looked over at the case of her sword hanging patiently on the bed post. The boy was still talking to the dragon. She slipped the sword out, the thin voice of metal slicing metal, and lay the curved implement on her lap. She pressed her palm around its hilt. The boy sounded like he was coming to bed now. She moved the sword over quickly, under her pillow. The moment that dragon was asleep…
_______

Hiccup stared up at the roof, at the angle of the blue moonlight on the ceiling. He calculated it might have been around three hours now, ever since they made a sort of truce and him and the Heather person settled down to sleep. He looked over at Toothless again, saw that he still hadn't slept. Go to sleep, Toothless, at least someone should rest tonight. He turned over to his right side, peeked through one eye at Heather. Both his eyes popped open suddenly to find her staring pointedly at him, the thin spark in her eye muddled by the shadows.

"Hi," he said, very small, and brought his hand out to do some little wave.

She smirked and rolled over on her other side. He whispered a mumble that didn't quite make sense to him, just something to express his frustration. He waited another hour, and looked at Toothless again. The dragon was still breathing heavily. Hiccup turned to look at Heather. Her body was heaving gently in a regular pattern. Perhaps she was asleep?

He slipped out of the covers carefully, let his feet, slowly, slowly onto the ground. Toothless perked his head suddenly and Hiccup brought a finger to his lips. Toothless nudged his head up, his eyes alive in the night, and slid silently off the rock slab. Hiccup pressed his boot gently on the floorboards, tried to keep his metal prosthetic from making too much of a smack against the wood. Toothless nudged up against him, his eyes wide and pleased. He started to hum contentedly. "Shh, bud," Hiccup whispered, putting a hand to the dragon's mouth. Toothless blinked and slinked lower, jumping on ahead of him down the narrow flight of stairs, his wings and tail lifting tentatively to avoid any loud obstacles. Hiccup followed after him, and stepped on ahead of him to open the door. Toothless leaped out quickly into the night. Hiccup looked back briefly, at the far end of the house, at the dark shadow that was snoring away happily. This whole Heather mess certainly had him distracted from Induction preparation, didn't it? "Hm," Hiccup hummed, got an idea in his head. He closed the door gently and caught up with Toothless, who was sitting on his haunches on the stone steps, waiting for him. "Want to hitch a ride on your namesake, Toothless?" He patted the dragon gently, and Toothless hummed and nudged his head into Hiccup's chest. "Let's go. I could use the practice."
_______

Heather felt the dragon -- and the boy -- leave the room. She turned over when she felt the soft patter of steps descend the flight of stairs. So much for tonight, she hissed, slipped out of the bed and patted to the stairs, watched the boy and dragon step out of the house and close the door behind them. She went back, grabbed her sword and mantle and slipped down the stairs.
_______

"Man to port! Double the speed, get a move on, people, we need this ship to move, I said move. Get those paddles running, open the sails, let this water run wild in our wake. Let--"

Hiccup stopped shouting suddenly, slumped down on the deck of his metal ship, The Night Fury. He'd been screaming his head off for the past half-hour, to the empty rowing benches in front of him and the vacant deck populated only by an insomniac seagull and stray puddles of ocean.

"Toothless, do you think I'm doing any better?" He glanced up at the dragon, who was balancing precariously on the third mast's horizontal beam. "You know you should have just stayed on the shore, instead of fighting it up there?" Toothless, barely visible against the still-dark sky, squealed an objection and continued fighting his balance on the mast, his tail wrapped and wound tightly around the vertical pole for more leverage. Hiccup stroked the black tailfin beside him.

"Thank goodness you aren't frightened by my ship. Is it because it's so different from the drakkars?" Toothless hummed, caught his balance again and opened his wings out to the early morning breezes, squawking deeply. The ship heaved forward, catching the wind, and Hiccup put a foot out to keep from falling. "No, I think because you were there helping me build it from the ground up." He smiled, looked out over the ocean.

They were already quite a distance from Berk, the island now only a black silhouette to their left, made blacker by the very faint, almost indiscernible light increasing along the margin of the horizon to their right. Gentle black water lapped around the boat and into infinity on either side. It was still late summer, but the nip of autumn already teased its way up Hiccup's ears and fingertips and crawled through his coat into his chest and up his arms. He shivered, looked at Toothless still finding his place on the mast.

"Thanks for coming along, buddy. I couldn't stand another minute in that room."

Toothless hummed approvingly, looked fondly down at him. Hiccup patted Toothless' tail, then faced the empty benches again.

"Back to business," Hiccup sighed, half-heartedly, and bent down to grab the heavy sword lying on the deck. He mustered it up vertically, both hands gripping it, and started yelling at the top of his lungs across the water. The echoes swept clear across the waves, and he cringed. "This is such a stupid way to wage a war." He dropped the sword and waved his arm towards Toothless. "I mean, come on, the enemy will hear you clear to Valhalla. Shouldn't we try stealth for a change?" He sighed, looked at Toothless. "Not that I'm interested in starting any wars anytime soon anyway." He flopped on the deck, leaned his back against the mast. Toothless cocked his head, peered down at him in amusement.

"Okay, so now you're entertained." Hiccup feigned hurt, stuck his nose up at the gummy grin of the dragon. "Well I for one have to endure this humiliation tomorrow morning for this Induction nonsense in front of my entire tribe plus a whole other tribe and chief who just happened to show up in time. I'm gonna be leading Dad's Council on a ship screaming this stupid war cry, so you better stop laughing!"

But the dragon went right on grinning and gurgling noises at him, his eyes perking alive with play. The light around was beginning to rise and a peachy glow came over the amused creature. Hiccup smirked, started laughing. Toothless nudged his head forward, gurgled a smile at him again. Something ridiculous and happy played inside Hiccup all of a sudden and he laughed a pure, delighted carefree laugh, the dragon humming and gurgling and flapping his tail from side to side. Toothless gave him a grin and he wiped his eyes on his sleeve, still smiling uncontrollably. "Toothless, what am I gonna do?" he said, a laugh escaping him again. "I'm gonna burst out laughing tomorrow and that will really be great in front of Dad. I can see it now." He waved his hand, pumped his chest and lowered his voice. "Son, you're just what this Council needed. I'm so proud of you."

He laughed again, shook his head and brought a hand over his face, smiling in that hurt way that happens when you're too happy.

His hand stopped over his face suddenly. He slipped his palm down quickly and leaned back against the mast. "Why is it always like this, eh, Toothless? Why do I suck at just what he wants me to be good at? To be great at? Best at? When you're part of the War Council, Toothless, you can't just be average -- you're supposed to be the best." He looked up at Toothless, found a puzzled expression.

"I wish I could just be average."

Toothless hummed, purred softly. Hiccup glanced up, saw the dragon lifting his wings in the breeze and nudging his tail towards him. The red prosthetic tail. Hiccup looked at it, smiled.

"Thanks bud. You think very highly of me." He grinned up at him. "I suppose if I could befriend you, nearly anything's possible." Toothless yapped at him excitedly, rocking the boat.

"Whoa, now you keep still. I don't want to overturn this thing, and you wouldn't want your namesake at the bottom of the sea, right?" Toothless hummed quieter, finally settled his position on the mast to watch him.

Hiccup again lifted the unwieldy sword, opened a book lying on the deck and started reading commands and orders from it as he brandished the weapon. He bellowed and motioned towards the empty seats in front of him, imagining for a moment his father's Council there, watching him and hopefully heeding his numbing screams. Maybe Spitelout or Phlegma. They were the top ones in the Council, the toughest, most daring and bold, the quickest and fiercest. The ones he was supposed to lead tomorrow.

Training a deadly, man-eating dragon seemed a lot easier right now.

At least, that's what he told Astrid when she tried to give him pointers on how to deal with her mother, Phlegma, Phlegma the Fierce. That said it all. Ferocity and perfection, those two were hard to live up to. Now he knew how Astrid became, well, Astrid.

Not to mention Snotlout, who was happily trying to sell him his knowledge about his father Spitelout's tricks and preferences, though he could already guess what they were. Be tough. Show no mercy. Hiccup wrinkled his nose. Yeah, he'll show me no mercy tomorrow morning, that's for sure.

He sighed, bent down and read another of the string of phrases in the page-eaten book Gobber had given him. It had originally been his Dad's, the same one he had studied for his own Induction Day. Hiccup squinted down at the phrase at hand, ready to bellow it out, but it wasn't a command or an order this time. He looked closer, read it aloud.

"A chief and commander puts the good of his tribe first and foremost. To give great sacrifices, to give up what he treasures more than anything, may be the key to his victory. He must always do what is necessary."

Hiccup rose up from the page. "So this book is handing me advice too." He turned to Toothless. "What's that supposed to mean, do what is necessary? These books are awfully vague…" His voice trailed off suddenly, as he realized the presence of an unreal flickering glow around the ship and then the faint growl of creatures and the lilting splash of water, of movement, in the sea. He jolted up. The glow was rising out of the water, from underneath the waves everywhere in every direction. Beautiful, shimmering, wavering, yellow and white and green glowing dots like constellations crowding up from the depths of the sea, flickering, undulating auroras in the sea. A creature splashed out of the water, its long reptilian snout gurgling in the waves. It descended into the lights, glowing itself, growling and adding to the song that hummed from the waves.

Water dragons. Hundreds, thousands, of them, stretching as far as the eye could see. He dropped the sword, jumped forward and grabbed the metal right side of the ship. Hiccup let out a low whistle. Toothless was yelping above and behind him, and the little ship leaned starboard as the dragon leaned forward towards the vision.

The water dragons were beginning to crowd around the ship, lapping up to it curiously and sending the glow of their golden green eyes flashing over the metal. Their numbers were stupendous; they must have intersected the migratory path of these creatures. The boat was pretty far out to sea. It made sense. He'd never seen such large numbers of water dragons, perhaps because they migrated at night, in the early hours like now, rather than in the day. In fact, until the other night during the storm and today, he had barely saw a dozen at a time of these dragons at all. And today, he was much closer to them than ever before.

His eye caught graceful, flying motions ahead of him. He squinted in the darkness, kept his eye on the unearthly motion of the glowing orbs leaping through the air in front of him. He could make out thin wings, sharp wings, cutting through the air for a few seconds and then sailing back into the black waters, then back sailing again in the air. These dragons seemed to leap from crest to crest, never able to truly fly but only skim the water. Flyfish.

He glanced down, his gaze riveted suddenly on a quieter species swimming deftly besides the boat. He started back, stared closer. Some were totally blanketed in barnacles, but under the debris, the real creature awed him. Their wings were totally transparent, their bodies, milky translucent. He could see multitudes of these dragons through each other until the darkness engulfed them in the dark beyond. Their whitish organs were visible even from his vantage point. He could make out several glowing parts, the glow apparently ebbing with the dragon's mood. One large long organ lining the bottoms of their bellies was jet black, and he noticed black fluid oozing out of their mouths from between their teeth and staining the waters all around the ship and behind their paths of travel. Wonder what that liquid does for them, he mused, made mental note again.

A smaller school of dragons curved themselves around an adult version of their kind, the little dragons spry and happy and yapping in that unique way of offspring to their parents. The two species were beginning to crowd the ship, little baby dragons eyeing him widely and yapping back at their mothers, staring at him curiously. "Hey fellas," he said, leaning over and putting a hand out cautiously to them, "what are you staring at?" They eyed him even more fixedly, some of them glowing brighter as they swam closer. The singing in the sea changed pitch suddenly and grew more lyrical. He hummed the faint melody back, and the dragons by the ship started yelping and yammering sounds to him. He smiled. "Aaah, well, I'm not sure what I'm saying, so forgive any misunderstandings, all right?" He chuckled and hummed some more, kept talking and humming as the dragons continued singing, humming, and playing in the water next to the ship.

A blast rocked the boat suddenly. "Whoa!" Hiccup screeched as his back hit the deck. A column of water shot out to the right like a geyser raining down on the ship. Hiccup could faintly hear Toothless yelp as cold, raw water slapped Hiccup in the face and soaked into him, prompting a chilled gasp from him. He wiped his eyes and inhaled the air sharply again, his eyes locked at the emerging figure before him.

The Great Dragon.

A vast island of a head rose and towered out from the receding crash of water. A knobby, barnacled head teeming with glowing tendrils, filaments with shimmering orbs, like many layers of seaweed covering his body like shiny hair. The water-soaked mane of glowing tendrils sweeping over its great eye of a burning sun, taller than trees, sliced through with a black pupil in the center. A great eye.

Hiccup stumbled up, heard Toothless above him, screeching, humming even more excitedly than the first time he met the Great Dragon. He looked up at Toothless, saw the dragon leaning forward in the ship, looking into the great eye of the huge dragon, yapping, yapping like the little baby dragons to their parents. Hiccup leaned back, listened to this foreign sound come out of Toothless, this unmistakeable sound that he remembered last Snoggletog, when a hundred baby dragons dug the sound into his head and kept the whole village awake into the night, yapping at their mothers and fathers.

And now Toothless… He looked at the Great Dragon, humming at Toothless, the great buzz in his throat sending vibrations over the water and shivering the boat from side to side. Toothless yapped again, shook his head playfully at the huge water creature.

His naturalism couldn't be wrong. But if it wasn't, then that would mean the Great Dragon was somehow Toothless' parent? Something wasn't right with the picture. Unless… Maybe Toothless lost his parents? And this Great Dragon…?

He had to think about this a while. He suddenly realized how little he actually knew of his friend's past.
_______

Toothless hummed excitedly at Ormarr and the Great Dragon throated a greeting laden with a poignant happiness.

The migration, Toothless hummed largely from his delicate post on the mast, where is it going?

The Great Dragon eyed Toothless' pose questioningly and sent curious, yellow light basking over the Night Fury. Sure that's a good place you have there, uh, Toothless?

Sure it is, Toothless growled, slipping again and catching his place. Trust me.

Ormarr throated a chuckle, and Toothless yelped at him, suddenly found himself in the old days, when Ormarr helped him recover from his father's death that time long ago. The little arguments they had and the fun they shared. Toothless suddenly noticed miniature versions of the sea dragon swimming besides his vast body, their trunk-like tails slapping the water and sending screaming pockets of water flying airborne and spraying Toothless.

So you brought the family. He hummed an exhilarated hum to Ormarr, then yelped to Hiccup to get his attention. Toothless almost laughed at himself for trying; Hiccup was already engrossed in leaning over the edge and watching the young sea dragons frolicking besides their parent, each one in itself the length of a Viking ship.

But the great dragon rumbled more heavily as he heaved besides the boat, like a massive ship scraping abreast a tiny one. His big eye engulfed The Night Fury in yellowing light so intense that Toothless had to turn his head away. Ormarr grumbled low. The truth is, he hummed, seriously this time, I'm leaving this area. I have to go back to the island. Skari followed me here -- to find you.

Me?

He's not forgotten the feud. He actually asked me just yesterday how he could find you.


Toothless shot his ear flaps up and swiveled back to face the yellow eye, a growl muttering low from deep in his throat. Tell him to get lost.

The Great Dragon rumbled. Already tried that. The burning eye flickered faster. Skrills aren't the most persuadable type -- especially Skari. And after the load of insults you both exchanged two nights ago. If I hadn't butted in--

I know. Toothless sniffed, growled at him. I couldn't help it, I was so mad. Toothless wrinkled his nose, saw Hiccup staring at him weirdly, stepping away from the vision on the edge of the ship and stepping up to the mast and putting a hand on Toothless' tail, stroking the fin that drooped down to the deck. Toothless could see that Hiccup had sensed something up, something wrong, between him and the Great Dragon, and the boy's words confirmed it. "Toothless, what's the matter?"

Toothless hummed, tried to be reassuring, shifted his eyes away from the boy, concentrated back to the great dragon. So I wasn't on my best behavior. I know, trying to have one out with Skari would not do us any good. Putting Hiccup's life in danger like that…

Ormarr's slitted pupil glanced down at the boy, back to Toothless. Not to mention your own life.

Toothless fluttered his wings in exasperation and shifted his footing on the horizontal beam. He didn't care that the boat rocked right now. Why would Skari still want to kill me after all this time? I hid in that volcano for sixty odd summers to get away from Skari and his ilk -- I thought he'd have died or something by now… He grumbled, hissing.

Ormarr hummed. Well, that's another little thing he told me. Apparently when you disappeared from the island, he even flew across the Great Sea to the Cold Lands to find you. The great dragon paused for a moment and settled deeper in the waters as Toothless's eyes opened wider at him.

The Cold Lands. Toothless looked out over the water, opposite the rising sun, where the horizon was still dark and cold. It'd been so long since he was there, that old place he used to call home, beyond Berk, beyond the whole archipelago, beyond the Great Sea, where his mother had died in the snows and the unending freeze.

He shivered.

Are there still Night Furies there? Toothless hummed to the great dragon. He could feel Hiccup's hand on his tail, a gentle, tense little hand that quivered as the great dragon hummed largely alongside the boat.

Ormarr gathered his breath again, growled and hummed, his eye strong on Toothless and yellow. According to Skari, yes. He swore you all should return and die there, like he almost did. Oh yes -- the ice is still thickening deeper and deeper in the winters like you told me. It's even worse now. White land all around where water should be. Skari couldn't even blast through the ice when he got himself trapped there looking for you. Only the sleep saved him all those years ago -- and he slept a bit too long in his opinion. Forty, fifty winters, he's not sure anymore. The thing is, he blames you for all his miserable life's ills and now he's out to return the favor on you and your family. The Great Dragon huffed, growled something sharp and frustrated.

Toothless slapped his tail against the mast. Of all the idiotic ideas. It's not like only Skari's parents died -- his did as well. So what was he thinking to get revenge on? He slapped his tail against the mast, suddenly heard Hiccup yelp. Toothless glanced down, moaned to see that he'd slapped Hiccup unintentionally. He leaped down and fell in front of the boy, who was rubbing his cheek. He moaned and licked the spot, nuzzling his hair.

"That's okay, buddy," he said, petting him, then looking up at Ormarr. Toothless could see Hiccup's nerves unfurl as his small green human eyes stared up at the Great Dragon. "What's with it with you two?" Hiccup whispered, and Toothless hummed something frustrated and short, wishing he could explain something, anything about what was going on. Hiccup's eyes shot wider suddenly and he leaned on Toothless. The water was rolling widely, and Toothless looked out, saw that Ormarr was now lumbering on ahead of the boat, the fleet of water dragons schooling around him and traveling on ahead. Suddenly something entered Toothless' mind, on you and your family. What family? Toothless jumped to the side of the ship, leaned out, roared. Ormarr! You told him I had no family, didn't you?

The Great Dragon paused, swirled the water in great waves as he turned to face Toothless again. Well, it might have come out, I don't know. Why?

Toothless inhaled, huffed a breath. I just hope he's not thinking of taking this out on-- Toothless looked back, at the puzzled face behind him, the red hair still wet from salty sea water and the eyes still locked to the huge creature before them.

Ormarr growled, the vibrations in his voice deep and heavy. He did mention something about a rider.

Toothless leaned back. So Skari did take note of Hiccup when they met in the storm two nights ago. And him and his ridiculous idea of revenge… Why? Did he have no more things to kill? He had to take it out on people, too? For no reason at all! What kind of a maniac was that. What kind--

Ormarr was suddenly closer again, the blinding yellow light in his eye glaring down at him and on the lilting little boat. You have bigger things to worry about than, than-- The eyes turned greener suddenly.

Toothless followed his huge gaze, found the light directed on the scrawny Viking huddling on the deck of the ship, back against the mast, shielding his eyes desperately from the intense and suddenly tangibly warm green glare.

What? Toothless bristled, unnerved that Ormarr could even conceive of belittling Hiccup.

The Skrills have already killed off enough of your species in the feud. Don't you remember your father? The light in his eye burned with green fire. I don't want to hear you screaming in the Spiral like he did. I won't be around to help you next time. You have to stop Skari or he'll be the end of you.

Ormarr heaved a roar, sent his offspring diving under the waves, his great tail hitting hard against the water and sending the boat surging upward upon a vast wave. Hiccup let out a yelp and Toothless swung back to steady him. Ormarr's low grumble reverberated from below the surface as the glow from his eye died under the waves. I don't know how long it'll be til Skari figures out you're on Berk. Take my advice and leave that place. Go back to the Cold Lands. You can find a warmer place in the South, I've heard. The swoosh of water swirled him in, as the morning light picked its way across the edge of the waves. Just go somewhere Skari won't find you.

Toothless growled, hissed. I can't just leave Berk. I can only fly with Hiccup for one thing--

Then take him along.

And that's the other thing. I belong here, with him, on Berk. I'm not running away.

Ormarr's form could barely be seen now, as the once-happy glow of thousands of water dragons swirled around into oblivion down in the depth of the sea.

Just don't let him get in your way, Dagr. Skari is smart; he'll use that boy against you.

Toothless stared at Ormarr's vanishing form, growled hotly and hissed. The last rumble faded under the waters; the shimmering specks lining the great body fading as the immense island sank under the sea. Toothless craned his head down, tried seeing the shape growing darker below the vortex of water that sucked the boat into a swirl.

The name's Toothless, he spat, but he knew the great dragon was too far to hear.
_______

Even she, in her travels so far and wide across the archipelago and into that continent to the south, even she in all this hadn't seen the wonder that was this sight before her. The glowing vision of water dragons, those lights under the sea. Heather paused in her rowing, let herself be awed for a minute, and let herself go speechless as the one great dragon lumbered and lilted above the water, like a rolling island on the surface of the waves. The vision passed as the school of lights disappeared to the north. She sighed, refreshed to see the loveliness, the great power and beauty, of those creatures.

She took up the oars again, pushed on towards the north. She was sure she'd seen them go in this direction, but that ship of Hiccup's, it moved fast. The sails, so many of them, propelled the thing at a stunning speed even without a host of rowers manning the oars. It was incredible, she had to admit, and she repeated to herself to take those blueprints. Somehow she felt they would come extremely handy in the coming war.

She'd been thinking and thinking hard on how to accomplish her mission with the added complexity of this ever-present dragon. She could read people, and if this dragon was anything like that, she could tell that this beast was not going to leave Hiccup alone. The book did say "loyalty" was one of its better traits. She had to think about this in a different way.

In the early morning blackness, in the growing blushes of light, rowing across the water to find Hiccup's ship, the lap of water against her oar, she figured it out.

She spotted his ship finally, and she stopped rowing, let her little boat ease onwards gently. The silhouettes were clear, and sure enough, the dragon was there, jumping now onto the furled mast and Hiccup, looking up at him, his hands out in a sort of questioning gesture and the dragon, pacing the horizontal beam and rocking the little ship from side to side. She removed her mantle and lay it on the floor of the boat. She unhooked her sword and carefully placed it on top of the mantle. She stood up and tied her hair behind her, put her hands together and inhaled, jumped into the sea.

The water shot her through with a thrill of coldness. She crossed the hundred yards in a short time, pleased at her rate. Dad would have been proud. He'd held the record at Berk for swimming, he'd told her once, back when he was still part of the tribe.

She gave herself one more burst of speed, saw the hull of the metal ship up ahead, lunged upward and burst out of the water with a relieved gasp. She grabbed the edge of the ship.

"Heather--"

She blinked and swept her hair behind her. It was time to put her game face on. She looked up at the kid, Hiccup, gaping down at her, no doubt taken off guard. The dragon jumped down from the mast and leaned over the edge of the ship. She wiped the stray wet strands away from her face.

"Heather, what are you, uh, doing…?"

"Swimming, you mean?" she answered cooly, floating her legs over near the top of the water. "I figured I'd better catch you and get started on those flying lessons." Her nerves started sparking again, and she bit her lip, turned and looked up at the dragon, who was leaning over, staring at her with an iciness again. That was also getting old.

"You want me to help you up?" Hiccup spoke again, his voice clear in the early morning stillness, with only the lap of her waves against the hull. She didn't answer, inhaled and put a hand up to the black dragon. "I want to be his friend," she said, and kept that hand in motion towards the dragon's snout.

The dragon opened his eyes wide and pulled away, hissing, rocking the boat in the opposite direction and lifting her up the side of the ship.

"Hey, Toothless, it's all right," the boy soothed, and Heather curled over the side of the ship, landed on the deck. He came over to her, offered a hand. She took it, and he pulled her up. "Sorry about that," he said, glancing at Toothless. "But… you've decided to be friends with him?" Hiccup turned around and smiled at Toothless. "Hey, buddy, she wants to be friends. That's a good thing, right, buddy?"

Toothless hissed, still didn't seem to be buying the idea. Don't worry, she told herself, this is the Dragon Whisperer. He'll make that dragon like her, and then he'll be comfortable enough to leave Hiccup and her alone.

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