Chapter 19: A Special Dragon
Chapter 19: A Special Dragon
Chapter 19: A Special Dragon

29th Dec 2012, 7:23 PM

by inhonoredglory

Hiccup was tired. Maybe not so much physically but mentally. The thick forest of cages, like a prison of metal -- and the fact that Toothless was still not among them. . . . How many cages were there? How much time would it take? There were so many dragons, bound and trapped behind those makeshift, dented, bent bars. Hiccup felt a gasp of disgust and horror fight its way in his throat, and he battled the urge to run up to each lock and free the captives.

But he couldn't do anything like that now. He needed to keep his cover. For his father and for his tribe -- and for Toothless.

He hadn't wanted to think about him. He hadn't wanted to think about the reason he was here. It was weird, and it didn't make sense. Maybe it was self defense. That was a word he heard from Gobber in that training that seemed so long ago, a word he heard from his father when he talked about war. It was something he knew could refer to people and, and to fear.

Self defense. It was why he filled his head with worrying about the kids, about the understandably tricky situation surrounding the loving stupidity that was this mission of his.

But now as he was walking past dragons, finally within reach of the dragon he loved -- it all came crashing back to him, rushing into his heart and mind like a flood, with an intensity of longing greater than that time he and Toothless were separated that winter a year ago, the three days of separation after he gave Toothless his freedom. It didn't make it any easier that now he'd given his best friend his captivity.

Hiccup smarted under the idea of his own thoughts. If he could change time, if he could relive that flight in the storm on Toothless, or the sunset before Induction, days that seemed so normal, so ordinary, and yet so precious. Toothless' smooth scales under him, the weight and throb of his body, the thrilling force of his wings, the hum of love from his throat, and the eyes that said so much, that spoke to him like nothing or no one had spoken to him in all his years of life on Berk.

Hiccup looked out at the foreign dragons around him, the dark foreign eyes, the spikes and colors, the folded, trapped wings and the blood that trickled down from where someone pulled too hard at a leash that was not built for comfort.

Toothless was special.

Toothless was . . . his. Hiccup shut his eyes, tried to remember the life in those eyes, cursed himself to think that the skill he taught these people may snuff out the life of not only his best friend but his tribe. He ran a hand through his hair suddenly, looked out and let his eyes focus in the semi-darkness again. He had to stop the plan these people were having, whatever it was, he was in a place to do something now.

He looked around. Focus, Hiccup. . . Astrid played those words on him before, always with a sort of happy teasing from the old days. She was there, somewhere in the shadows. Tilda was there, and her brother. The so-called date.

She was crazy. He'd figured that out a while ago, and early on he could feel Astrid hovering over them, no doubt wanting to come out and spit in the girl's face. She was a little forward. But Hiccup was almost amused by it all. He wasn't going to take it seriously, but he wasn't going to give her slack, either. He was here for Toothless, and none of this was going to change his focus.

Tilda waved her hand at him suddenly, gestured at the Timberjacks squirming behind her. "Sooooo." Her lips were pursed together and she stared up at him obnoxiously. 'We've had our tour of the dragons." She peeked at him, suggestively.

He pulled back slightly, wary.

"Hey, I like the silent type, but you're the silent type--"

"Umm--"

She slapped an arm over his shoulder, pulled him forward. "Hey--" Hiccup winced, didn't want to screech at the pain of his shoulder, which was quite justified in smarting to her sudden grasp.

"But quiet is cool," she continued, blissfully oblivious. "This way I don't get interrupted, like it is with certain individuals." She leaned forward and glared at her brother. Hiccup huffed a breath, the pressure turning his shoulder.

"Bull." Her brother was suddenly next to him, branding his fist in a mock threatening way.

"Bull on you, bro." She swept Hiccup forward. "I'm thinking of heading over to my place. This dragon tour is getting boring. You wanna come?"

Hiccup narrowed his eyes at her, didn't dare look out for Astrid somewhere in the corners and cervices between the cages. If she was there, she'd be a fool to step out now, for whatever reason. They didn't dare break cover, and she'd have to trust him that he wasn't going to do something stupid. But trust wasn't exactly something he had in large quantities when it came to Astrid. He could imagine her stepping out now, making a scene of some sort, saving him from this jam. He needed to act, and he needed to act now.

"Tilda--" He grabbed her hand and stepped forward, left foot forward into the dirt. "I saw an interesting dragon this way." He made a turn around one of the cages, headed for some random cage that was nestled in a dark corner behind a row of metal. The hiss of dragons smacked in his ears, the lash of hate from these captive creatures. He kept dragging her hand forward, looking into the scared, angry, desperate eyes that were flashing gold and black and red on him. Hate, hate for everything, for their lot and the people who put them there and who could blame them? His hand got clammy and he pulled on. Somehow she was laughing there behind him. He could hardly pay attention.

"Hey where the boy's takin' ya?" Her brother was panting at his side.

"I don't know -- some dragon he's so interested in." Tilda snorted, laughed again. "What's it this time, a Night Fury?"

Hiccup's heart stopped.

He released her and stared in at the cage, held the bar. Waited.

Waited for her to clarify that.

"And this is it?" she hummed casually, holding the bar next to him. "Just a stupid Gronckle in here."

He turned to her. He couldn't look too serious. Don't look too serious. "What do you mean Night Fury?"

"You mean you don't know Night Furies? And I thought you were a dragon enthusiast." She scoffed, flickered her eyes at him.

He swallowed. "I know about Night Furies. But, why would you think of mentioning that one specifically, out of--" Boy, this was coming out wrong. He was raising suspicion. He looked at her, carefully. She was giving him a disgusting confused expression that he figured even the most rude Viking warrior would not have the facial muscles to create.

"Sis, you're gonna creep out the dude," her brother giggled.

Hiccup glanced at him, the tall teen laughing into his open palms.

"Olaf, shut your trap." Her face returned to a semblance of normalcy and she snapped a look at her brother. "Yes, you. You obsessed-with-dragons you." She stepped away from Hiccup now and was sticking her face into her brother's.

"You're always criticizing my hobbies," Olaf gave his innocence look.

"Because you're always making them into something -- bigger than they are!!!" Her arms were all over the place now.

"What -- bigger than a dragon? Tilda, don't make me laugh."

Hiccup cringed, tried to shrink away.

She stuck her fists to her hips. "Don't get cute with me. You know what I'm talking about. You think these, these pests are more important than the real stuff in life."

"Oh yeah? I'm going to be a warrior one day and I'm going to ride one of those beauties."

Ride?

"Oh yeah. You think it's so easy, just like that, eh? I could--" She snapped her fingers and suddenly cut herself short, her eye catching sight of Hiccup. Hiccup stood taller, her eye curious on him, like she forgot he was there. "Eh, sorry Pretty Face. The brother here's a nut about dragons. Thinks he can take one of those beasts home, like a stupid dog."

Hiccup felt his heart hum with something hot.

"Personally--" She leaned towards him, a leery grin on her lips. "All that fire is flashy and the flying might be cool, but those dragons are just mindless brutes. Eat, sleep, kill you if you get in the way."

Hiccup felt his pulse quicken, his fists clench.

"They can all drop dead if you ask me." She spat on the ground, eyed her brother heavily.

The fire in Hiccup's heart tingled down his arms, and he hissed. "Dragons are not killers," he said, his voice calm and clear and laced with conviction, into the night air.

She turned to look at him, raised a scruffy brow. "Oh, what are they? House pets?"

Her brother rolled his eyes.

"They can be friends -- if you treat them right." Hiccup stared at her, and he realized his tone was something a bit beyond your average passing Skirra Véllite teen. He cleared his throat and looked a ways down the alley between the dragon cages, squinted his eyes in the dim lights from torches burning intermittently around the town.

"Treat them right?" She leaned back, glared at the lump of a Gronckle that was sitting densely in the cage in front of them. "And how exactly would you treat one of those things?"

It was the thing he'd be teaching at home for two years, the small amazing thing that changed everything about how dragons and humans interacted. When it came down to it, it wasn't that extraordinary. "With respect."

She leaned back, raised a brow. The brother peered at him, a sudden innocence in his eye. Hiccup blinked, realized this wasn't Berk, and these people might not be keen on upsetting any status quo about dragons. They killed them, but then again -- they did want to train them now, and he'd taught them a lot about how to, how to . . . use them. Apparently, in the war against his Dad.

"You got some strange beliefs, Pretty."

Hiccup looked up, saw Tilda staring him down with that contorted look on her face. He was getting queasy suddenly, and he just wanted to get out of here, out from these wacky kids. The dragon tour didn't do him much good, but he did get a lay of the land by now. He couldn't pretend anymore, he just wanted to be himself and get Toothless out. All the mess of everything was getting to him, and he just wanted to let it go a moment. Be with Toothless. He needed him right now, to make things better again.

"I got to go, guys," he said, pushed past them and didn't look back. "Thanks for the tour."

"Pretty Face-- you call that a date?"

He stopped, turned slightly back. "Maybe it wasn't a date after all. See you around, okay?" There was a weight in his voice, something he hadn't expected out of himself. Hopefully she wouldn't follow him. He turned a corner, another one, realized Skirra Véllites -- the enemy -- were all around him, milling in and out with swords in their hands, the hum of blood and war on their lips, movements heavy and threatening, and the taunting laugh that when he looked, saw that they were directed at the captured creatures he would give anything to free.

And they think they could train dragons?

:: ::

He wanted to escape, really. Escape from this all. Toothless wasn't in the cages outside, and if a Night Fury meant so much to them that they'd make a special hunt for him, he wasn't about to believe they'd stick him with the others. He got this formal vibe out of the Skirra Véllites, and when he saw the great shadow of their Great Hall, he knew these people would do something special with their prize dragons. The tall jagged walls of the structure, hewn from the mountain's edge, the dark volcanic rock, jagged and cut with unnatural marks made with rough, uneven hands. And the opening that was barred and blocked with wood.

It somehow sickened him. Why?

Men, warriors passed him, their shadows dark in the stark lights from the torches lining the town. Even their laughs seemed foreign, and he stood there, on the edge of the main path, watched the flood of bodies and faces, looked at them, the individuals, even the women, some of the faces concerned, others exuberant, and some curious. And they always looked at the dragons, their demeanor almost disgusted by the presence of these creatures.

A heavy huff of breath burst out of him, and he turned away, kicked the grimy ground underneath his feet, his metal leg.

"Hey, you're kind of young for that."

Hiccup whirled, the voice -- the youthful, childlike voice -- surprising him.

"Over here!"

Hiccup squinted in the darkness, turned to his right and let the light adjust to the row of posts and the canvas of wood bars across them. And the kid -- he was just a small child, looking up at him from behind the bars, behind this fenced-in area, squatting on the ground, rolling on his heels, a wide, toothy smile on his little face. Hiccup bent down, lower. "Uh--"

"Yeah that was me, I was talking to you!"

"Me?" Hiccup looked closer. Spiky red hair, a ridiculous grin, tattered clothing, behind the bars and so many more shadowed figures behind him, still and curious looking out in his direction. They were all waiting, sitting around without a purpose it seemed, and the faces -- he knew a foreigner when he saw one, and here behind this fence, he could almost swear they all were foreign. A slow horror grew inside of him. He'd never seen something like this at home, even in other Viking tribes. Not in this quantity, not with this many people. And children, never with children, but here -- this one kid in front of him, so-- so happy. The dark shape on the side of the kid's head confirmed what he feared to admit. That this was a slave's pen and that these people were destined for a life of captivity.

He caught his breath, almost stepped away from the bars.

The kid squinted at him, made a face that would have been endearing were it not for the fact that it was ironic in this horrific circumstance.

"Aren't you going to ask me what's the matter? Or why I called you out?" The child's voice was so peppy.

Hiccup cleared his throat, awkwardly. "You're not . . . scared?"

"Scared? Of what?" The kid was almost laughing.

A sorrow weighed down his chest suddenly. Did the kid even know what was going on? Hiccup licked his lips, suddenly dry -- he needed to drink or maybe he was getting nervous here in the midst of such a moral calamity.

"I said you're way too young for losing a leg." The little red-haired boy jostled his stubby finger down around Hiccup's left leg. "You don't have a beard yet." He grinned again.

Hiccup tried to smile, knew it was coming off wrong.

The boy made a face. "You look sick." He stepped back, poked a finger in his cheek and held his chin up.

Hiccup cleared his throat. "I feel sick."

"Got a cold?" The boy raised a brow. "I hope not, because I don't got no remedies for you, not my specialty."

Hiccup shook his head. "No, not that kind of sick." He bit his lip, opened his mouth to say something, wondered how to put it to a child so small, someone he suddenly felt a little responsible for. He missed Toothless -- desperately, but this kid, these slaves, it made him sick and he . . . Astrid would say drop it, he had enough of the impossible to do already, he had to find Toothless and then get back and help his father.

He moved slowly, knelt down in the dirt. The child looked at him, perked his eyes and popped down to the ground, his face pressed into the wooden bars, staring at Hiccup. "What is it with people and sitting on the ground? Everybody does it with me." He grinned again. Hiccup tried to offer one back. "You, uh, have a name?"

"Everybody has a name." He rolled his eyes.

"Yeah, that's true, I mean . . . what's your name?" Hiccup smiled, looked down at the kid, tried to see suddenly if he was -- all right, if he was in good health. He knew bad things happened to slaves, that they weren't treated like citizens, or even human. And with this mere child . . . . The thought scared him, honestly.

"Weeeeeell, since you're asking." The kid slid lower down the ground, peeked up at Hiccup from behind his oily frock of hair. "The name's Iggy. I'd call you pegleg, but I got someone already named that over in the flock of folks yonder. So what can I call ya? I got perfect memory." He tapped the wooden bar, humming something brokenly.

Hiccup shrugged. He wasn't exactly home at the moment, and as much as he wanted to be frank with this child, this kid named Iggy . . . But how could a little kid do any harm? Who would ask him for the whereabouts of one murdered heir?

He swallowed. "I'm Hiccup," he whispered, cautiously reaching out and tapping the boy's little hand.

"Oh." Iggy stared down at his hand, smiled and patted it back. He frowned up at him suddenly. "Gee, those are bad. I heard that means you're a runt of some sort. Whatcha do? Rob somebody?" Iggy blinked at him, lips pursed.

Hiccup smiled. "No, no it's something else. It's . . ." He thought back, the way he parted from Dad, that revelation, the fact that he'd gotten that name because he was truly unwanted, unloved. "It's a long story, Iggy."

"I get that a lot." He rolled his eyes, tapped his head suddenly. "People think I'm a little kid, you know a little, tiny kid. But!" He sighed. "If you won't tell that, at least you can tell me . . . how'd you get your leg busted?" He leered at the metal appendage, in a mock revulsion.

"Oh this?" Hiccup bent his foot around, sat under his crossed legs. He didn't really talk about it much, everybody knew what happened, and whenever it had to be discussed, his Dad always had the pleasure of bragging over his son's heroics. And they always got into some mock spat over how much credit Toothless got in the great battle.

"You're smiling!!"

Hiccup snapped out of his thought. "Huh?"

"I caught you smiling. Could you do more of that? You look like a pretty gloomy person." His eyes clouded with disapproval. He smiled and started humming, tracing his finger in the ground.

Hiccup crossed his brows, let out a small, pensive grin. It was a strange feeling, to smile again. What had this thing done to him? He was always the positive person, the guy who believed things were doable when chances seemed otherwise. He took risks, took chances, and came out successful -- at least some of the time, as Gobber might contend. And now, despite the fact that he might have messed up, might not have done things in the cleanest way, he couldn't give up now. And this little kid -- look at him. Trapped in a life that he didn't deserve, and he was smiling, he was telling someone else to keep his chin up.

He turned his head slightly, looked down at the dirt where Iggy was drawing. "What's that?" he said, pleasantly.

"Dragon," the boy sighed, boredom in his lilting voice.

"There's been a lot of those going around here," Hiccup hummed, pulling his legs in closer.

"Did a dragon bite off your leg?" The boy peeked at him, his muddy finger paused over the smudgy drawing.

Hiccup shook his head. He didn't really know how it happened -- no one knew. Except Toothless. He'd looked at the stump of his leg before, wondered if it was Toothless who mangled it beyond repair. His mouth dried and he flicked his hand off his leg, suddenly realizing it was resting there. "Iggy, I need to ask you something."

"Finally!" The boy swung over, smudged out his drawing in the dirt and looked at Hiccup, mouth agape and eyes alive.

How are you so happy? Hiccup almost asked, smiling just to see the kid act like this. "I'm looking for a dragon, a really black dragon." Hiccup leaned closer to him, a hum of anticipation and excitement in his voice. He traced in the dirt the shape of Toothless, bit his lip as he finished it, saw the subtle shape in the brown moist earth.

Iggy contorted his torso, awed at the drawing. "Oooh."

"You've seen it?"

"Nope."

Hiccup sighed. Well, it was--

"No, wait, I have. That's a, a-- it had a name. I heard it. But I only heard it once." Iggy scrunched his eyes. "I need to hear something like two times to really remember it. Then I can use my perfect memory." He hummed and popped his lips. "Ah, gee."

Hiccup laughed, a laugh that came out like relief. "Maybe Night Fury rings a bell?"

Iggy raised a finger. "That's it!"

Hiccup heaved a breath, leaned close to the boy. "Where'd they bring this dragon?"

"Over at the mountain thing." Iggy pointed, his finger wagging over towards the Great Hall of the Skirra Véllites. Hiccup squinted, could see the lights edging the structure afar, the shape of the Hall. "They took him . . . inside?"

"Yeah, they say there's a ginormous cage thing in there and they kill dragons."

Hiccup squinted his eyes and looked at Iggy. The kid said it so lightly, that horrific fact. Iggy was nodding, open-eyed at the distance. It was time to go into action.

Though he hated to leave this child. He didn't want anything to happen to him. If he got Toothless out, then what? Did his father know what slaves were kept here? Would it be possible to do something about this?

:: ::

War. It was hard, it was tough, and it was necessary. It was the only way.

Heather flinched as she put a hand to her father's face.

"Get away from me--" the old man panted, slapped her hand away.

Battle did that to him, but not every battle. Just the ones he was losing. She gritted her teeth, took the moist cloth up in her hand and stepped away from the bed he was resting on. Shafts of shadows dug around him as she rose, warm light slicing through in daggers around him, from the candles in the other side of the room and on the bed stand. She backed away, the light changing, the glow hitting his face and the wrinkles that plagued his cheeks and eyes. She knew he was weak, knew that he wasn't the same strong warrior he still believed he was. . . .

And this?

Another attack of the mind. She slapped the wet cloth into the bucket on the floor, didn't react when the water splashed up and soaked her boots and legs. If her father really believed what he was saying, that they were winning this thing -- he wouldn't be this way right now. Battle always cleared his mind, opened his airways in a way that nothing else did -- took his mind off the losses in his life, the pain of Valla, and the torture of his brother. But she'd killed Hiccup, didn't that mean anything, changed anything, released him from at least some of his pain?

She looked down at her hands suddenly, rolled them over in the orange glow.

It would take a while, and maybe it was his brother he wanted most of all. She bent down and collected the wet cloth from the bucket again, squeezed it out tightly and listened to the liquid clap, suck, and clap into the water again.

"Heather--" The voice was soft, cracked. She turned, brought a hand up instinctively to push her hair away, the water dripping down her arm and cool, almost cold on her face. "Dad," she said, quietly.

He groaned, and in the darkness she could feel him try to lean up on the cushions, and having a hard time of it. She walked slowly to his side, observed him for a moment. He was frail right now, just like every time he had one of his attacks -- which was why this room had no windows, had the door bolted.

She leaned down and touched his arm, testing for something, some sign that this was over for today. There was a war, not to mention the dragon raid they had to get back to. And the injured Night Fury. With the dragon raid and his sudden mental attack, she had neglected checking on the dragon all day. An unwise neglect to leave that dragon wounded and uncared for. Toothless needed to be in top condition. She felt her hand tense, almost came out and said "I need to go now," but she looked at his eyes, that weary exhaustion. . . . She knew of course she was the only person even remotely capable of healing him in this time of terrors.

She bent down and ran her fingers across his moist, sweaty arm. "We'll win against him, don't worry," she whispered, her voice suddenly dry. She cleared her throat, wiped her mouth and breathed out a weak smile.

He considered her briefly, the stare almost blank. He blinked slowly, and she patted his arm. That was the beginning of the return -- that detachment he had now. It was ending. She rose gently, walked to the door and slipped off the bolt. "How are you feeling?" She didn't turn around, felt him pause and mull over the question.

"Heather?"

She edged her head backwards, caught the golden glint of candlelight in the corner of her eye, his dark shape slowly rising, fumbling with the covers on the bed. He cleared his throat gruffly, muttered something she couldn't hear. A small smile flickered on his lips. He was coming to, she was sure of it now.

At least in the mind. His body was still weak. An easy rhythm of breathing broke from the darkness over the bed, the covered form now quiet. His head lay still and fallen to the side, the tired, strong hands settling on either side of the pain-numbed body. Sleep sometimes was good to him.

She had to take care of the war for him, assure him that all preparations continued as planned, especially the dragon training. He still didn't want it, she could feel that. But things had to change. The Hooligans -- for all the traitors that they were -- they may have stumbled upon the right idea. And even if they didn't, they had to fight the war on their terms, dragons against dragons. She wasn't stupid enough to think that pushing the same old strategy was going to work, not with the losses at Berk already. In war, there are often no second chances, and even less chances for using the enemy's best weapons for your own.

And in this case she did possess the most formidable weapon of Berk. Legend had long since praised the power of the Night Fury. The kind that leveled armies and incinerated fleets in one blast, that struck without missing and killed unseen. Vikings down the ages had feared him above all other dragons. With such a beast trained, he could be the deciding factor in the final defeat of that cursed tribe.

It only needed to be trained, only needed to find a connection in her the way he'd found a connection with his previous rider. But the most important fact remained, that the Night Fury was hers. All other factors could be adjusted around that.

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