Chapter 10: A Score Settled, Part 2
Chapter 10: A Score Settled, Part 2
Chapter 10: A Score Settled, Part 2

8th Oct 2012, 10:06 PM

by inhonoredglory

(continued from Part 1 of Chapter 10: A Score Settled)

She rose, tentatively, quietly, the swish of the blankets off of her hushed and gentle. She barely even wanted to breath, and her eyes were locked open. At last Toothless was asleep. Comfortable enough, thanks to Hiccup, to stay asleep while she was here. She watched the black shape's form breathing steadily on the block of stone, the scales glinting like obsidian in the moonlight streaming from the window. She inhaled quietly, listened at the silence and the quiet beat of Stoick's snoring down below. She slipped the sword from under her pillow, looked at its curved and shimmering case. She unsheathed it, watched the blue light play off the blade.

In all her eighteen years, she'd never killed a man in cold blood before. Only once, as the man was attacking her, on one of the less fortunate raiding expeditions they had in the past few months. But only once. Neither did she have the reason she had now to do so. So she told herself.

She inhaled again, and for a moment she imagined that her breathing was as loud as cracking icicles on the eaves. She blinked and slanted her eyes at the boy on the bed to her left. She rose, took the sword, and reached under her pillow again for the note, the note she'd written three days before, on the ship with her father. She opened the paper and read the words again. She hadn't wanted to be explicit. Stoick would figure it out anyway.

"Okay," she breathed quietly and stepped forward, grasping the sword tightly. The moonlight cast an unreal glow over the room, and shed a shaft of gentle light on the sleeping kid in the middle of it, with drifts of that ash floating around her, like enchanted dust in an unreal world. She reached the edge of the bed. The boy's arms were on either side of him, resting on top of the wool, his head to one side, eyes shut, and his legs, only one of them ending in a sloping single peak at the foot of the bed. The thin blanket seemed so intrusive suddenly, like it was a shield on him.

She placed the sword in front of her. It would be quick and painless. Quick and quiet. She'd done it with animals before, so this-- She took a breath. --this would, should be no problem. She closed her eyes.

Suddenly the kid moaned. She jolted, shot her eyes open. But he wasn't awake, wasn't looking at her. Her mouth went dry with relief. He was still asleep, the big round eyes were still closed, but they were, were…

He moaned again, opened his mouth and mumbled something. She could have sworn it was the dragon's name. Toothless. "Take this out on me, Dad, just don't…" He fell quiet again, heaved an uneven breath.

She backed away slightly, and she suddenly realized the sword in her hand. No, it couldn't be happening. She was unnerved. Unnerved, she repeated in her mind. She stepped up to the boy again, close enough to could hear his heartbeat. She watched the eyes, the face, the delicate strain of pain in them, pain from some faraway memory locked in his head. She watched it, her mind suddenly emptying, just watching him, the small rise and fall of his chest to his breathing, the twitch in his fingers, the flicker of his eyes under the closed lids. She didn't know how long she stood there, just watching him. She turned around suddenly, sat on the the edge of her bed. She had to compose herself, try again one more time before the night was through. She drew her finger over the edge of her sword, the blade by her side. One more time.
_______

He awoke with a jolt suddenly, gasping. The voice, his voice, still reverberated in his head. No, Dad, don't hurt him. His fingers found their way around his blanket, and he swallowed tightly. It's just a dream, just… Your tribe, your best friend. He rose quickly out of bed, shook his head violently. "Get out of here," he whispered hoarsely. He exhaled, gave himself a pause, just breathed.

He stiffened suddenly, sensing someone watching him. He turned sharply to his right. Her eyes were so large and alert there, locked on him. He blinked. "Uh…hi."

She didn't answer back.

He cleared his throat. "Did I get you up?"

She was silent still, for a moment, then her composure softened and she looked at Toothless, the dragon sleeping soundly on the slab of rock, the quiet heave of his breathing audible in the quiet night. She looked at him. "I need to talk with you," she said, a strange hesitancy in her voice.

"Me?" She seemed almost troubled. "What is it?" he whispered, so as not to wake Toothless.

A slant of blue light shafted across her face from the window above his head, revealed her round face, the thin brows, curved gently in concern. She looked up at the window, down at Toothless again. "I, uh, need to show you something…" She rose, "…at the Great Hall."

The Great Hall? "Why?"

She walked softly past Toothless, turned briefly at the foot of his bed. "Please… Hiccup." Her soft black hair swept low across her shoulder, glinting faintly in the shaft of blue light. She put a hand on the post of his bed, opened her mouth unsurely, looked away from him, her brows getting tighter together, before she exhaled gently and eased them flat.

Hiccup swallowed. "Are you okay?" She sure didn't look it. He leaned up and swung his good foot over the side of the bed, carefully brought his prosthetic down on the wooden floor.

"No, I-- I guess not." Her voice was small, very small, but the last word sparked with something almost… what was it? It was hard to place, in such a small whisper. Impatience? Anger? "Umm," he started, getting close to her and whispering, not wanting to wake up Toothless. "Maybe I can help?"

She put a hand on her forehead, looked down at the floor, shivered lightly.

"Uhh…" He brought a hand up cautiously, patted her back. "Everything's gonna be okay, I guess…"

She inhaled briskly, let out the breath with a sigh. Her shivering stopped. "I can do this," she whispered, barely audible, the words broken and brittle from her lips. She looked up, turned quickly and looked at Toothless behind her. "He finally went to sleep, didn't he?" she said, quietly, with a faint smile.

Hiccup looked at Toothless, sleeping there, pleasantly, the soft glow of his scales like sparkles of water in the sheen of light. One of his ear flaps shivered suddenly, as if he were sensing something in his slumber. "I slept outside with him once, you know," he rambled suddenly, remembering that time he woke up with dragon wings for his blanket. He smiled, glad she could see the simple beauty in his friend. He looked at her but she avoided his eyes, stepped around him, and told him to follow her to the Hall. "We won't be long," she hummed.

He inhaled, stepped down the stairs after her, looked back at Toothless. The dragon nudged his head in his little feet, hummed pleasant sleeping noises.
_______

She was quiet, very quiet on the walk over to the Great Hall, up the stone steps, the thin film of rain and ash floating down on them. He grimaced up at the sky, thought he heard thunder out somewhere. The stuff was getting sticky at this point, and as he reached the last half of the steps, he swore the rain was getting heavier.

She opened the door for him, and he sprinted in. "Man, is that rain getting heavy," he laughed, rubbing his hair and slapping the murky droplets from his fingers. A peal of thunder rolled as he heard her step in and close the door behind her. He rubbed his arm inadvertently, turned back to see her let go of the door, let it fall almost into place, the wide wooden planks never landing snugly into the frame. She seemed so quiet, and she lingered by the door for a moment.

"Hey, Heather…" He walked over to her, quietly, cleared his throat. "What, uh, did you want to show me?"

He watched her inhale deeply, her back rising and falling with the length of the breath. She whirled suddenly around to face him, and he caught a momentary vision of dark black eyes, livid suddenly and cold, before he felt her push into him, hands suddenly on his torso, pushing him, slapping him, down onto the stone floor of the Hall. His head hit the stone and he grunted. "Hey, what are you--" He looked up at her, couldn't understand what was going on. He tried to get to his feet, but she kicked him down again, hissing something he couldn't hear.

"Heather, what are you doing?" he gasped, scooting away again, back snapping suddenly against the fire pit walls. She jumped, threw a foot into his hip, making him buckle over to the side. He clamored up, something grabbed the back of his fur vest, his heart raced over a beat. She threw him on the ground, and he flinched, the hard stone smacking into his bones. He whirled to face her, tried to scoot away again, but she threw herself down on him, suddenly, grabbed the string ties of his tunic, lurched him upward violently. He gasped, grabbed the hand that held him and pushed, tried to pull it off. Those eyes looked at him suddenly, hot and angry now, in the heat of the fight, furious and livid, all the passions she kept inside now pouring out in a wave of vengeance. "Heather--" he gasped, tried desperately to-- She lunged her hand aside suddenly, slapping his right hand and arm onto the stone floor. Her right hand flashed towards her waist, emerged with a shimmering metal, a curved blade that twinkled in the faint moonlight. Hiccup let the other hand go, latched onto the weaponed arm. "What-- why are you--" he gasped, tried to find some explanation in her eyes.

"Trying-- to" she breathed, fighting against his hand on her, "kill-- you." She pushed his arm down, stepped on it with the foot of her bent leg. "Aaargh," he hissed, the pressure making his fingers, his teeth clench. Why?

Why?

He tried to gasp out something, but words weren't going to do anything right now. She brought the sword up suddenly, latched a hand into his tunic again, twisting the fabric into her fingers. He got his left hand out, pushed her leg, rolled himself to his left. She clawed him again, a hand clasping the back of his tunic and forcing him on his back again. She straddled him, knees on his arms, slapped the fist of her sword hand on his neck, pushing up his chin, the blade cool and brushing his shoulder. He gasped for air, felt the other hand finger his chest again. "Why are you doing this--" he gasped, tensely, the words small and squeaked. A chilled throb ran through his heart. The hand let up the pressure on his throat and he jerked his left leg up, hit her from behind. She lurched forward, her one hand jabbing down into his chest for support, the other fist digging into his throat. His vision wavered suddenly, and he jabbed again, his knees hitting something. She whirled, let up her hands, and he gasped desperately for air. His throat hurt and quivered, trying to recover. He couldn't close his eyes, stared at her, the sword coming down suddenly from above someplace. "No--" he gasped and tried desperately to roll, somewhere, anywhere, to his right, and then--

White hot, burning, stunned. A pressing sensation in his throat as something loud and desperate tried to force its way out, the choking feeling as it just… couldn't. That white fire in his shoulder, his left side -- his vision sparked of white suddenly, and he blinked, felt himself trying to breath, failing. Another pressure left him suddenly, the one on his arms, and he felt his arms go limp in the freedom. His head rolled to the left vaguely and he inhaled. It was black all around, a swash of blue light far away, golden glow somewhere in the image, and the color, black, he saw black, but he knew it was red. He breathed finally, gasped, his lips shaking. He felt something again, hard to distinguish from the shards of fire pumping through him, soft fingers on his chest, a rustling thing, dry and thin, pushed into his collar, resting at the base of his neck.

He couldn't even see her, he blinked, but somehow his vision failed him. He felt the steps, as they moved from him, and the wash of light and the creak, and then everything went quiet and black, blue and orange, and quiet.

_______

Toothless flicked his tail, peered open one eye towards Hiccup's bed. He knew it -- the boy was gone. He had heard a slight pattering through his dream, flying, Hiccup striking the stirrup high and them diving into the clouds below. He hadn't wanted to leave it, but something in the air, the feeling of the pattering. He could always sense Hiccup's mood in the pattern of the metal footfalls. Concern this time. Toothless shook his head over the thick slab of stone, spied Heather's bed. Empty, the blankets thrown neatly aside. His mind jolted awake. Both, gone. He didn't hear them downstairs, either.

He crept over the edge, down the stairs. Carefully laid his claws on the wood. An easy, breathing snoring assured him Hiccup's father didn't hear. He slipped to the door, nudged it open, leapt quietly into the drizzly rain and slipped on the trail leading down to the plaza. Sticky droplets, droplets mixed with ash under a brooding, moonless sky. Dark fragments of cloud below the main cloud ceiling, drifting by the sea. Glinting pools, quiet droplets singing, coating every surface with stickiness. But no sign of Hiccup.

He neared his snout to the ground, wrinkled his nose as no familiar scent presented itself. The rain. It's been washed away. He shook his body, vibrated his wings as the sticky coating itched him and filmed over his scales. The boy wouldn't just wander out into the night, not unless they'd go flying. This wasn't that kind of night.

The blacksmith shop lay right ahead, its eaves glistening in the drizzle. If anywhere, Hiccup would be there. But there was no light. Toothless turned left towards a house, a new scent wafting in that direction. That scent . . . his head jerked backwards, his eyes widening and his nostrils flaring. Blood. Not human.

The smell intoxicated his senses, sent his body trembling in horror and some primeval excitement. He licked his teeth, then vigorously shook his head. Stop it. He yelped at himself suddenly, forcibly standing still. This is not prey.

It's dragon blood.

He leapt towards the scent, towards the dark house, turned behind it. Upon the wet grass of the cliff edge lay a silent form of multicolored speckles -- a Monstrous Nightmare, still curled in sleep. Crownfire.

Crownfire, wake up. Toothless edged close to his head, nudged the jaws. Limp. Cold. No gentle heaving breath. He yapped into his ears, his eyes searching over the motionless body. No cuts, not even bruises. The chest. He stuck his snout close to the Nightmare's scaled skin. The smell of blood overwhelmed him -- he withdrew his head, lest he go crazy. A thick stream of black fluid was glistening down the Nightmare's chest. He backed away from the body. A wound to the heart.

Dead.

He jerked his head up, riveted his eyes to the back of the next house over. Another dragon, a brown Nadder, lying perfectly still, sleeping without a sound. But her back -- it didn't heave with her breathing.

Suddenly a jabbing pain hit him in the chest. Shot into his heart, his wings, his legs, his head. A strangled yelp escaped him. He lashed out his tail at whatever it was, but only hit air. The flash of pain vanished. As he heaved breath, he knew his chest was fine, it wasn't real. No new scent of blood entered the air, and not a grass blade stirred except from his swishing tail. No one, absolutely no one, was here. His mind flashed. He'd had these pains before, had sudden pains when he was alone. Always later, he'd find Hiccup, bruised from falling, cut from some blacksmithing. But this pain was nothing like those.

Hiccup!

He growled, jerked backwards, cutting back from the confined corner behind the house, his breaths racing and his eyes scanning everywhere at once. He leapt out from behind the house, skidding on the plaza, his thoughts and his throat screaming as one.

Hiccup!

His eyes caught a quick movement by the Great Hall. A slim dark figure. He dashed towards it. Not Hiccup. Heather. His pace sagged instinctively, then set in purpose. She can help. He raced towards her, noticed her little head shaking slightly, her back heaving, her hand pushing into her face. Hot eyes, but wet streaks under them. Those eyes bulged wide open as he approached her.

A gurgled hum rose from his throat as he reached her, nudged his face into hers, lifting her head up. He never liked her, had a bad instinct about her, a double-sidedness he loathed, but the tears. Honest tears. Why you're crying? We don't have time for this. He throated, hummed, looked into her eyes. Those dark eyes gazed back into his, so wide-eyed they were almost perfectly round orbs. Her throat choked, her voice sucking at her breath savagely. "Half of it's over," she muttered, repeated. Her little hand stroked the side of his head. "Toothless, I -- I'm glad you're here. I need a friend."

He wrinkled his nose, stared at her, disturbed by her strange emotion. What are you talking about? She was clearly distressed and consumed in her own problems. He hated to force the issue, and he'd much prefer being with somebody else, but she was the nearest human to help him. He yelped at her, trying to make her understand. Something's happening out here. Hiccup's hurt -- can't you feel it? I need to find him! A faint smell in her clothing sparked his senses -- too faint, disturbingly faint. The sticky rain falling, making it fainter every moment. He shook his head. No time to waste. He started moving away from her, but her hand touched him suddenly, got his head whirling back to face her. "Toothless, don't go." Her eyes were desperate. Then something crept in them, something narrow that confused him. Her voice steadied. "Hiccup's been… captured. He's hurt, he's been taken to the ships. I tried, but--" Her hand waved vaguely out to sea.

What? His eyes tried to decipher where her finger was pointing. He stared back at the girl, not quite sure if this wasn't some incoherent idea from her distress. Wait. Maybe that's why she's upset.

Then let's not stand around! He haunched his legs to take off, but halted in mid-motion. He flapped his tail, turned his head, looked at her.

Heather's eyes were unblinking, just staring at him, unbelieving.

He hit his tail again on the plaza stone. Please.

"You really can hear me," she whispered. Her demeanor changed, a sure spark in her legs as she sprinted towards Hiccup's house. "Follow me." Toothless bolted after her, skidded as she halted at the side overhang of the house, held still as she grabbed the saddle and old stirrup hanging there and latched the leather straps and saddle tightly around his body. He was breathing fast; she was breathing fast. He could smell sheets of sweat over her body, her face, feel her tense legs as she lifted herself over him, feel her tense body as it settled into the saddle, feel her tense hands as she grabbed the handle touching the scales of his neck. Suddenly he realized his own body was shivering, trembling, hesitating, as her feet slipped into the stirrups.

Could she fly him? She'd sat on his back all morning. He could feel her observing him, observing the stirrup and Hiccup's motions. But riding him alone?

Don't hesitate. Hiccup's depending on me. He spread his wings, bunched his hind legs under him, shot himself into the raining black sky. The stirrup flicked with his beating wings as he climbed over the sea.
_______

Slowly, the realization dawned on him. I'm bleeding to death right now. He closed his eyes, tried to ignore the pain a moment.

I'm not, not… not to death.

Toothless. He tried to say it through his clenched teeth. "Toothless?" he gasped, and the effort almost made him scream, the white torture in his arm. If the dragon was outside, he would feel it, Toothless could always feel his pain, know if he needed help.

But Toothless didn't come. He groaned, let out an exasperated breath. "Astrid," he said, too small to be heard. Dad? They wouldn't be around, no. He closed his eyes, tried to think of the possibility of getting to his feet and-- argh. The arm spasmed again, clenching him. The warm red river ebbed again, and his vision wavered suddenly as he brought his good arm up, over his chest, to touch the viscous flow. Something papery met the skin of his hands and he paused, inhaled, the process of thinking almost too much. The thing she put on him… His fingers grappled the paper-- it was paper. He looked at it, gasped again as some squeezing sensation hit his arm, clenched his fist and heard the white blur in his ears. He wanted to scream, and then it passed, the pain consistent now, pressing itself into him, thick and constant. He inhaled, breathed, tried to make it steady.

He brought his right hand up, watched the moonlight fall through the paper, making the words hard to read. The paper crinkled in his hand and he gasped a breath, felt a fresh flow of warmth cover him, brought the paper low so he could see it, this paper, this death note.

"Stoick," it read, in a shaky handwriting, "you should have killed him when you had the chance."

His hand dropped limp onto his chest. He inhaled a pained breath, tried to make conscious words to express his own confusion. He looked out at the moonlight, the sky outside now wholly black and evil, the dusty rain heavy and slow now, dreary, pelting down, down, down onto the stone steps, flicking on the rocks, quiet, constant, almost peaceful. "Dad," he hissed, "what's going on?" A spasm hit him suddenly and he gasped a scream, shut his eyes tight.

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