Chapter 28: How to Train Your Dragon
Chapter 28: How to Train Your Dragon
Chapter 28: How to Train Your Dragon

24th May 2013, 6:21 PM

by inhonoredglory

It's a strange feeling to know that more than likely you won't be seeing your best friend again. He'd told his friend to leave him, he'd told him not to come back, when he got away. And he prayed with all his heart that Toothless would follow that wish, he was counting on Toothless' trust to save that dragon's life. But did it count as hopelessness? Was he being weak to act like this? Was this surrender? Daylight was breaking and thin hums of light drifted from the sun, behind those clouds that scuttled thin and gray over the horizon, the coming storm and the hum of thunder out there, of war and of weather. Somehow the rays of light were full of hope, as if they knew something he didn't know. Hiccup let his head down, as Rune led him forward to the shore. He just didn't know anymore, what he was doing, what was going to happen. He tried to tell himself that it was a brave thing he'd done. Sometimes the only hero you can be is the kind to step back and let someone else do what you thought you were powerful enough to do yourself. Maybe sometimes it is better to fail when fighting only would harm the ones you tried to save.

His heart ripped inside of him, shattered by a fear he never felt before. It was the fear and terror that comes when you decide to step cold and knowingly into a quiet death without a struggle and without fanfare. He knew it was going to be the end of him once he refused to train their dragons. If Rune only gave him until the end of day, anyway, was there no scruples against something sooner? He wanted desperately to be with Toothless, to face this suicide at least with someone, anyone, instead of alone. But that was the point wasn't it? He couldn't have anyone, least of all the ones closest to him. This was something he had to do by himself.

Rune didn't lead him to the Kill Ring, instead brought him down to the shore, where the ships were heaving off from the docks. There was so much activity here, dragons and warriors passing him as if they were an everyday thing. Rune's hand on his leash was gentle, as he stopped on the rocky shores where the water lapped up to Hiccup's boot and metal leg, and where the slap of water against hulls of ships was sharp, near, and dangerous. Hiccup stared down at the gravel below him, the hints of morning light playing like a child on the wet stone faces, the glistening clear liquid alive with happiness, the smell of fresh sea water, salt and wind, that smell of a thunderstorm in the distance, coming near, to blot out the sun as soon as it saw fit. Hiccup closed his eyes, breathed it in, exhaled through his trembling lips. He could feel something in the air, it was familiar, it was dusty and warm. That irritation in his lungs-- he looked up and his eyes shot to the horizon, where the storm was still brewing. He felt it in the air, that churn of dust and even in his feet, a rumble that was so faint that he figured he could only tell it was there because his senses were suddenly keen and fragile in this constant fear. It was volcanic ash, and it reminded him of the past few days ago, the mining at Dragon Island, the breath of smoke from that mountain, the rockslide and the threat of lava. It was so long ago, it seemed, and yet time did not stop for that mountain, even as his own life was shattered between the mountain's first warm breath and now. He felt so small suddenly, here in the middle of the enemy, in a windy vacancy where lightning and thunder edged the sky, and beneath him, nature threatening to unleash its own violent assault. That feeling of sheer terror grabbed his heart suddenly, and he locked his jaw, looked up and searched for Toothless. He just needed to see him flying, to see him free. He looked up again, took a breath long and deep and pushed confidence into his heart.

Everything was going to be okay.

The sound and hiss of dragons met his ears and he looked up, saw dragons flapping past him, over the sea, some riding back, bloody and shot, scraped by arrows and their riders, yelling with the whoop of victory or stiffly breathing through injuries. There were dragons who were taking pleasure in the flight, some he saw were still angry and restless, their flying uneven and jagged, crashing to the ground and rearing with a passion of still-tethered hatred. It didn't make sense to Hiccup -- he'd trained those dragons. Each one of them he remembered, and he spoke with each, heard how they breathed and felt the cool smoothness of their scales. He left them in peace and now they were here with hatred, abused, with violence returning violence, from man and beast.

And then he heard a scream -- a dragon's scream, and suddenly he knew what had happened with his dragons. Tethered to a metal pole by the shore, dragons chained and whipped, their riders shouting at them, yelling for them to behave, to follow orders. He could feel the dragons' fear, their yelps of pain, and then the anger and the unfathomable enmity of the suppression of beautiful, powerful creatures. He couldn't watch the beating, but his eyes were locked on the injustice, a screaming desire to tell them to stop and a plaintive desperation knowing that the next step would be to tell them just how to train those dragons, and he had promised himself he would not give them any more of his knowledge. If they didn't use love now, would they ever learn?

"You need to tend to these dragons, they're unruly." Rune's voice came quiet and sharp above him. "I thought you had them trained." He leered down at Hiccup, a critical lisp in his eye.

The surge of disgust in Hiccup's throat almost made him choke. "You don't know the first thing about dragons," he snapped.

"I don't pretend to. But go on--" Rune pulled at the leash. "I have a war to lead. Get those dragons in the air again."

"I won't," Hiccup whispered, unsure if Rune heard, the last of his words drifting into silence as he remembered he had to keep stalling until Toothless was in the air. I won't, he breathed, wincing shut his eyes and lisping something sharp and senseless between his lips.

Rune grunted in clear irritation, and Hiccup wondered what was going through that man's mind now. He hadn't killed him right then for a reason, but he felt different than Heather, he felt so fragile, so weak in his desperation. There was something there, in his heart that Hiccup thought, as he gazed up at the man now, with the light of the sun fading over and breathing upon his face, he thought maybe if he could just talk with the man, he could reason with him, erode the violence and pride of revenge, or the senselessness of hatred. He inhaled through his parched lips, knew it wasn't exactly something reasonable to hope for, but then again, was escaping the enemy working? Maybe he had to face it head on, force his hands into the fire.

He shoved his left foot firmly into the gravel, the bend still there in the metal. Rune walked forward, towards the dragons, halted when Hiccup forced his neck against the pull of the clasp around his throat. "Can I just talk with you, reasonably?" he said, and firmed his frame, as best he could, his hands still strained and viciously aching in the bonds behind his back. "Without the shoving, without the sword, without the-- threats." He caught his breath, as Rune turned to face him, that expression edging on disgust. "I'm not bargaining for my life," Hiccup gasped quickly, "I'm not even fighting. Just let me speak once, hear me out."

A gust of wind swirled around them suddenly, made Hiccup feel like it was just him and Rune there on the docks, the rush of warriors a faceless texture around them, the cool storm air chilling his core. Rune reached him finally, his frame lording over the boy, and that face locked into a hard, judging confusion. "What are you trying to gain? Who do you even think you are?" Rune was suddenly close to him, shaking his head. "You don't know what it's like to lose the love of your life."

"Does that it make it right to kill me?"

"I thought you weren't bargaining for your life."

"I'm not . . ." Hiccup let out a breath, his frame sinking. Maybe Rune was right, of course he was. But if he could just put truth into the madman's mind, he had a chance. He had to throw out all the man's defenses, make him focus on what he was doing, not on the threats or the act of battle. This was bigger than bloodshed, bigger than the momentum of revenge. "Listen, I expect to die," he said, because one half of himself believed it was true. "You're going to try to kill me, whether it's the right thing to do or not. Just-- how would ending my life fix anything for you?" A sudden adrenaline shoved through his weak frame. "It won't change the fact that Valla is dead. Maybe lashing out at someone would make you feel good for a while, but putting out violence doesn't put anything back into your heart." He had talked fast, and Rune had been quiet, strangely. Hiccup inhaled, waited for the backlash, the yanked collar or the sword to his chest. But it didn't come, and Hiccup looked up to Rune, saw the face contorted, shaking his head, suddenly like a child, a fear and an anger in his eyes.

"What do you think my father went through?" Hiccup pressed.

"He cheated me." The words were hot, fast.

"Maybe because he loved her too. But then why didn't he kill me then, if I were to blame, if ending my life would solve anything?"

"My brother is weak." The chain trembled, and thunder afar vibrated the air. Someone shouted, and Hiccup heard the slap of a whip against dragon scales again. Hiccup shook his head, looked up into Rune's face, which was suddenly weary and old, contemplative, waves of denial and sorrow, suppressed anger in him. A shove of pity moved through Hiccup's heart. The man was so confused, the sorrow of loss wracking him into this madness. He just couldn't let go, he'd made it his life so long he forgot what reason was, what right and wrong were, even what Valla would want out of this. "You don't have to do this," Hiccup breathed, his voice shaking.

Rune looked up, suddenly, towards the horizon and the sun that was shielded by clouds. The storm was coming near, and a fierce wind clawed through the thick, graying beard of Rune, while his eyes remained unmoved, staring, those eyes full of emotion. He shook his head, solemnly. "I won't know if I don't try," he said, grasping Hiccup's chain tighter. His voice was vulnerable, almost frail, and Hiccup realized it was a fear that kept Rune going. "Someone has to die for Valla," Rune whispered.

:: ::

It had taken Fishlegs a whole half a day to gather the courage to leave the relative safety of the forest and enter the town. That was last noon, and a night had already passed since he last saw Hiccup and Astrid. He was shaking for hours after that incident with the Skrill and Toothless and the Skirra VĂ©llites, running in the dark, trying to get somewhere. He hadn't slept that night, and he was sure they were captured, the whole lot of them. He hated being the bastion of hope, but it seemed he was the last man outside the lines of capture.

It sucked in major ways. He wasn't as brave as he thought he was, especially when people's lives depended on him. But check the statistics-- Astrid took on the bad guys with her bare hands, Ruff and Tuff stashed themselves inside grass baskets, Hiccup walked into a den full of his own murderers to save Toothless. Yeah, and where did all that bravery get them?

It was morning now, he'd slept under someone's eaves the night before, found himself scared out by chickens and dogs as the owner found out there was something snoring by his house. His plan? He couldn't get himself caught, he calculated that much. If he was taken then no one would be there to help anyone. The day before he'd poked around, afraid to voice the name of Hiccup anywhere in this place. He roamed the town, went among the people, felt the urge of war in the air, the laugh of warriors who suddenly had trained dragons by their side, alongside the dirty, tired people those same warriors shoved around and commanded. Fishlegs swallowed, feeling sorry for the poor slaves. He hadn't eaten for hours and at last it got the better of him, and he flagged down a tall, lanky boy tearing at a loaf of bread. He didn't look too scary like the others and maybe he would share. He was tailed by a pale-haired girl, who tagged behind him humming a native tune.

"Hey!" Fishlegs waved, "um . . . Could you spare a scrap of that?" He pointed at the bread.

The boy raised a brow, tucked his bread in closer to himself. The girl peeked her head around the tall boy, raised her brow in a different way, a fast excitement in her eyes. "Hey!! It's a straggler. What, your parents threw you out? Or are you joining the war?"

Fishlegs stepped back. "Ah, no, I just been . . . busy, and I couldn't get a bite to eat."

"Give him a stab of that, Olaf," the girl hummed, slinking towards him. She looked slimy to him suddenly and Fishlegs leaned back from her. "You look a little chubby for being a warrior. But then my brother here is going into battle, with his excuse of a dragon, so if he can, anybody could."

"Hey!! My dragon's a good dragon. Get your facts, Tilda."

The girl stuck her tongue at him, and slapped her fists on her hips. "Anything for the chief and his daughter."

Fishlegs rolled his eyes. He didn't have time for this. Just the talk about dragons made his stomach churn in its emptiness. He missed home so bad, and he just wanted to get his friends out of here. Can I do just that much?

The boy, Olaf, pinched the girl. "You know how much this war means to them. We all gotta pitch in."

"Hey, if you can't spare something--" Fishlegs started, still staring at the bread. His stomach had other ideas about what to do now. After all, he did need strength to do any sort of fighting or scheming.

Olaf ripped off a piece, shoved it into Fishlegs' open hand. "Hey I have huge respect for our leaders. Why are you always so rebellious?"

Tilda rolled her eyes. "Who was cheering when they captured Hiccup, eh?"

Fishlegs almost choked on his bread.

"I guess you got over him quickly enough."

Tilda flipped the bread from Olaf's hand and shoved a finger in his face. "Hey, I know when to flirt and when to get down to business. This war is tough stuff, and I got as much in me as you when it comes to fighting. Besides, I didn't know he was a Hooligan."

Fishlegs' insides were all wrapped inside of him. The bread was having a hard time going down his throat. Just hearing that Hiccup was caught gave him jitters. Gosh, this was the enemy. He was scared, of the unknown, of Hiccup and what might have happened to him. At least they didn't say he was dead. He whispered a prayer that it would stay that way.

Olaf pouted at her, stared at his bread on the floor. "Look what you did, sis."

"Softie."

Fishlegs swallowed. He wasn't wasting any more time now. These people didn't look too scary, or suspicious. At least they weren't warriors with swords and axes in their waists. He handed his bread to Olaf. "Thanks for the bite." He looked to the girl. "I need to know where Hiccup is."

"So you're looking for the dragon boy?" Tilda lisped, her fingers curling around her hair. "Pretty little liar," she spat and Fishlegs blinked, her demeanor making him nervous. She pointed her hand up the town, towards a hill on the far side. "Up there with his new master, the chief and his daughter."

"Master?" Fishlegs gasped, forgetting to keep his cover. His brain was moving fast. Master meant slaves were involved, and chief -- daughter?

The girl rattled on. "Heather did him in, and good thing too. The creep thought he could get away in a place like this. Stupid idiot."

The brother snickered and Tilda shoved a hand in his arm. "He was still a pretty boy, don't laugh."

Olaf pursed his lips, backed away teasingly.

Fishlegs couldn't believe this was happening. He expected Hiccup was caught, but a slave? That was worse than mere chains on your wrists, if his travels around the Archipelago told him anything. What if they'd done that to Astrid, or the twins? Or Snotlout even? He shivered. He still didn't have the slightest idea what was going on but it was bad, bad, bad. He was going to freak out if these people didn't stop talking about Hiccup so flippantly. "Just tell me where he is!" he demanded, putting all caution to the wind. This was serious business, and if he didn't see either Hiccup or Astrid in the next ten minutes, he was going to just lose it.

"Hey, hey, hey, calm down, okay? What's your hurry?" Tilda leaned into him and nudged him. "You got something against him too?"

Fishlegs' jaw dropped open.

She remained ignorant. "The kid's training dragons. They got him busy. Heard rumors about his style. Like I said--" She jabbed a hand to her brother. "Pretty boy's got strange ideas about dragons."

"Might not be so strange," her brother nodded without looking at her, kicking a rock with his boot. "They might actually work."

"Humph, yeah . . ." She clapped a hand on Fishlegs' shoulder and tapped his chin to close his still-open mouth. "Olaf here's been trying to train dragons the Hooligan way. Makes me sick. Just yell at them, I'd say." She laughed and Fishlegs squirmed out of her hands. He was going to be sick. This whole mess, talking to these people, the way they talked about his friends. He balled his fist and Tilda finally noticed something up. "Got a problem, Cutie?"

"Don't call me Cutie." Fishlegs' voice got low and he narrowed his eyes at her.

"Whoa, it's getting dark around here." She looked up and down him, motioned to her brother. "Let's leave this one, looks like he's volatile." She tripped away, laughing, her brother tailing her, slowly.

Fishlegs kept staring at them, his blood boiling and hot. He looked up to the hill the girl pointed out, saw the shape of a house up there, between the trees, its face lighted by the morning sun. His mother always said to say a prayer before doing something impossible. He whispered something desperate now and headed for the hill.

:: ::

Rune left Hiccup with a warrior, who pulled him to the unruly dragons lining the docks. Their scales were lined with red, the lashes of sharp whips and the hisses seething from their jaws was deep and thick, breathing heavy and the hate tangible. Pain weighed down on Hiccup's chest, and the warrior who was leading him suddenly got his big hands behind Hiccup, worked on the thick rope that kept his wrists together. Hiccup looked up, took in the faces that swarmed thick around him. They were faces, individuals, some men with beards, others clean-shaven and fresh and naive. There were middle-aged veterans, swords and axes hanging off their waists, and some younger men not much older than he was, laughing nervously, swinging their weapons as if they used them much before. He could smell sweat in the air, alcohol and the tar of the hulls, the salt of the sea. Sometimes they looked at him, and at the warrior besides him, their eyes going from interest to either disgust, arrogance, or indifference. Sometimes a slave hurried by, carrying fresh weapons, tending to wounded men, hauling in ships. They were always plainer, wore clothes not adorned with weapons or elaborate furs and cloaks. They glanced at him and came to the same opinion as their masters, or so he took it, judging by the shaking heads and sorry glances at him when they took in his identity. Hiccup glanced down and took a breath. But this wasn't about his reputation. It was about Toothless, about his Dad, his tribe, about Astrid and the kids. He was the one the enemy wanted, and once he was gone there was no one they could threaten, no one they could use against him and the ones he loved. He tried to talk to Rune. It was his last move, and he gave it his best shot. You can't blame a guy for trying. But how much can one reason with someone so lost and confused?

A familiar voice broke the stillness in Hiccup's mind, and the warrior behind Hiccup paused as he undid the last knot of Hiccup's bonds. He clasped the boy's hands in his own big ones, asked gruffly, "What do you want, slave?"

Hiccup looked up, squinted in the sudden ashy wind. "Hervi?" It was the old slave chief, in front of him, a soft wool coat thrown over his threaded gray tunic, looking at the warrior behind him and gesturing with his hands. "I've asked the Master, and he said I could talk with him." He didn't even look down at Hiccup, kept his gaze firm and confident on the warrior behind the boy.

"The chief?" The warrior's voice was skeptical and his hands got tighter around Hiccup's wrists and forearm. Hiccup bit his lip, the socket of his left arm reacting to the pressure.

Hervi nodded slowly, in submission. "I asked his permission."

The warrior hummed. "Say what you need to say then."

Hervi looked down, at Hiccup gently, those eyes still softly deceiving as he looked back up to the warrior. "I'll lead him to the dragons. I can talk to him then."

Hiccup winced at the suggestion. He hated to start towards those creatures, wasn't sure how he'd stall, or what he'd say when the time came to finally be able to deny them the right to force him to do this. He tried to look up, for Toothless, but the warrior was coming forward suddenly, having released his grip on Hiccup's hands, pulling his arms forward, denying them the burning need to stretch and ease themselves of the painful relief of freedom. His hands were looped together in the ropes, the bonds now going loosely from one wrist to another. He could hold his arms to his sides now, and he took the opportunity gratefully. The warrior handed the leash to Hervi and stepped back, still close behind them, watching them. "Get it over with," he commanded, and Hervi nodded, put his hand on Hiccup's upper back and gently urged him forward. Hiccup glanced up at the older man, his eyes pressing in, questioning. He knew Hervi had been trying to speak to him all the night before, with Astrid holding him back. Hiccup glanced up at the man quickly. "Is Astrid okay?" he whispered, barely wanting to be heard. They didn't need to kill her, but still, if something had happened to her while he was away . . .

Hervi leaned down to Hiccup. "It was Astrid who asked me to find you."

Hiccup jerked his head up. "Why?" Fear pulsed through him.

Hervi shook his head, patted Hiccup's back. "No need to be afraid. She's a strong girl, but she needs to know that you're still alive and safe. . . . and I need to know." He looked down at Hiccup with a heavy sincerity, words behind those aged, but strong dark eyes, a tenseness in his wrinkled lips. But pain slit through Hiccup's soul, and he opened his mouth to say something, shook his head. He just couldn't tell her what he really intended . . . She wouldn't understand, she'd want to do something, and she'd end up far worse than him. He wouldn't be responsible for that, not for Astrid. He needed her alive, and he needed her safe. "Tell her I'm okay, and . . . tell her to take care of herself," he said, his voice thick with control.

Hervi creased his brows, as if he knew he was lying. Hiccup turned away, breathed in carefully. "Hiccup," Hervi said, slowly, "I want to apologize." The words were faint, but spoken with a depth that made Hiccup look up at the man, the sorrow that darkened his face. "I could have warned you of their plan, before this all happened."

Hiccup swallowed, remembered now how Hervi wanted to tell him something back at Berk, a few days ago, a long time ago. "I was afraid," the old man breathed, and his hand on Hiccup's back balled into a light fist suddenly, a tenseness, a regret in that motion. He looked away from Hiccup, at the dragons they had almost reached. The crowd was thinning, as warriors cast off in the ships, voices beginning to become distinguishable in the mass. Hiccup inhaled. "I guess under these people, it's hard not to be afraid." He let his heart breath out its own subtle fear, raised his lower lip in regret and shrugged, looked back up to the old slave chief. "Is that what you wanted to tell me, that you knew?"

"About the assassination, yes."

Hiccup swallowed. He really didn't feel bitter against the old man. Maybe it was too late for things like that. He looked down vaguely, at his hands and the wrists that were tender, raw and red where the ropes had been wound earlier that day. He stretched them to the side, as far as the rope between would go.

"I want to help." Hervi's voice was fast, earnest. Hiccup stopped moving, but didn't look at him, side glanced the man. He was taking a chance talking to him like this. Why? "I have to do something," the old man continued, whispering. "I just-- can't see you go through this. It's not justice, and maybe I've spent too long in the shadows." He exhaled, as if he'd released something that was weighing down on him for ages.

But Hiccup shook his head, let his arms relax to his side. It was a little late for heroics. His own moment of decision was coming sooner than Hervi would have expected. "What can you do?" he asked, not a question really. His voice was barely above a whisper, fearing the warrior walking lazily behind them was going to notice soon. "Are you willing to fight? Do you have that much power over them? Do you think they'll make it that easy to help me get away?" Hiccup inhaled, his breath tense and frustrated. "And is there even enough time?" He could feel Hervi waver, the old man thinking thoughts that were many and deep. The old chief let his hand off Hiccup's back, rubbed the chain leash that hung between his fingers. Hiccup pursed his lips.

"He's going to kill you after this, isn't he?" Hervi's voice was almost inaudible.

Hiccup looked up, at the dragons a few feet from him, their scaly tails wafting across the dirt and by his feet. "Yeah I guess so," he sighed, tired of being afraid, even as that fear colored the back of his mind, like a laughing ghost in his soul. He looked ahead, at a Nightmare and his owner, who curled the whip around in his hands, staring at the dragon with a wrath and hatred that Hiccup could almost believe was hopeless to erase from that face. The warrior glanced up, and then Hiccup saw the scarred face, pink and charred by burns, smooth with realization when their eyes met. Ragnar. Hiccup lashed his head down, could almost feel the whip and taste the end and how it would come. He looked up to Hervi again, quickly. They didn't guard her as much as they did him, he knew already she had a chance, if she just left and didn't look back-- "Would you tell Astrid to get out of here?" he gasped, and realized how desperate he sounded.

Hervi shot his eyes down at him, confusion in them, and a dawning knowledge. "You're going to let them do this to you?" he whispered, incredulous.

Hiccup swallowed. "I don't have a choice." His voice was barely audible, and he wondered if Hervi could even hear his fast words now. "I fight back and they kill me or my friends, I give in and they'll still kill me and take my tribe down with them. I've done enough damage already, maybe even killed people I know out there." He sucked in a careful breath, his heart wrapped up in a sudden clutch of pain. "I know the war is coming here, and I'll give my Dad a chance if I stop now. My tribe has dragons, and maybe now because of me the numbers are even between us and them. I can't tip that balance." He looked at Hervi, a sudden gasp of strength in his soul. Hervi's eyes took on a sudden gravity, and he reached out, put his old, wrinkled hand on Hiccup's shoulder. Hiccup looked at him, tried to decipher those eyes, the expression of sorrow and hope in the old chief's face. "You're a strong man, Hiccup," Hervi whispered, finally, his brows creasing. "You'd have made a great chief for your people."

Hiccup's heart heaved inside of him, and he suddenly wanted to speak with his father, make a better goodbye than the one he'd given him at home. "If you see my Dad," he said, breathlessly, "would you tell him--" His voice cracked on him and he looked down, breathed. Hervi nodded his head quickly, took the boy's shoulders gently in his hands and turned Hiccup to face him. "I know," he mouthed, and looked behind them, where the warrior was finally getting impatient. Hiccup firmed his frame and nudged his head towards the dragons waiting for him. "Guess I better go. Don't forget about Astrid. Make her leave." He stepped away from Hervi's hands, as the warrior behind them came up to him and looked between him and Hervi. "You've talked a long while," he said, gruffly.

"Slave conditions are a lot to complain about." Hiccup smirked.

The warrior narrowed his eyes at him, and Hiccup half-expected some retribution for his snark when a child's voice broke through the hum of warriors around them. Hiccup whirled, knew who it was before seeing the small form. He didn't belong here, how did he--?

Iggy was on his hands and knees, underneath the flapping, wide tail of a Nightmare latched to the pole. There was something wriggling in his arms and Hiccup was suddenly caught up in the sheer innocence of that round face, the way he struggled with his little living bundle and then when he spoke, the high, child-like pitch in his voice. "You guys are cruel to the poor dragons," he piped, "as much as I don't like them." The small child flapped forward as the creature in his arms -- a green Terrible Terror -- popped out and scampered away from him, towards Hiccup and the warrior, and Hervi, who stepped towards the child, mumbling, "You don't belong here, Iggy, how did you get out?"

"Oh shucks it was easy peasy," Iggy squeaked, rolling onto his knees and diving into the tiny dragon. "That guard is not so scary, not for old Ignazio. Ha!" He scooped up the dragon then looked up to Hiccup, the child only a couple feet from him now, still on his knees with the squiggling dragon in his arms. Their eyes met and Iggy sniffed. "I wanted to find you," he said, his wide eyes bright.

"Me?" Hiccup stared at him.

"They said you had to train dragons." Iggy stretched his arms out, the dragon squealing in his grip. "Would you train him for me?"

Hiccup took a breath, blinked. He knelt down on one knee, looked at the dragon which turned its eyes on him suddenly, as if it sensed a presence of authority. Maybe it was Hiccup's own mind creating sensations which were not true, but it seemed that the sound of war faded as Hiccup reached out and took the Terror in his hands, settled it on his raised knee. Those big eyes blinked, in question, in a kind of innocence like the child who captured it. Hiccup stroked the dragon's back, soothed him with words and soft hums. He felt a tap on his shoulder, and when he turned up, he saw Ragnar, the harsh burns on his face, the leather whip in his hands. "You're supposed to fix our dragons, boy."

Hiccup looked down to the whip, its long thin length and black body, stained with dragon's blood. There were others behind him, the olive fabric of their clothing dark in the sky that was gray and flat with clouds above them. He turned away from them all, turned his eyes upward, to the darkening sky, the windy, stormy sky and looked for Toothless. And then he saw him -- that shape, the wide black wings which shocked him suddenly, because he hadn't really seen such a sight in the air since he first flew that beautiful creature: the noble, calmed flight of a Night Fury, sailing into the storms the species so loved. But this wasn't just any Night Fury. This was that dragon which was a part of him, the part he was tearing out from his own soul, and he suddenly realized, in this moment watching him fly there, alone and without him in the sky, Hiccup realized how far he would actually go for the safety of the one who gave him a place in this world, for the dragon who was by his side faithfully in good times and bad, for the creature who was more human to him, who understood him more than most of the people he grew up with, and for the friend who loved him without condition and without regret. He'd give his own left arm for that friend, he'd give his sanity, his freedom. He'd even given his knowledge, risked the life of his father and his tribe for the safety of that dragon.

But he was free now, and that was all Hiccup needed to know to press on.

He turned away, looked into Ragnar's face, breathed in the cool and salty wind into his lungs, felt the gravel knobby and rough under his knee. "Let me show you," Hiccup said, and turned away, looked back at the Terror on his knee. "Dragons need respect." His voice rose, because what he was going to say was not just for Ragnar, it was for everyone there, and maybe to some it would mean something, more than just dragons or training or warfare. "Every dragon is unique, like his rider, an individual, like you and I." Hiccup felt a tension in the air around him, but he kept that strength in his voice, the strength which was gushing out of his heart now, and he bent down, let the Terrible Terror on the ground, smoothed its back with his hand. "You can only really train a dragon by getting to know that creature which is flying under you. He's got a personality, he's got needs, and he's got fears, like you and me." He looked into the eyes of the crowd, and to the faces which had turned to him, warriors and slaves still hauling war materiel to the shore. They weren't whipping the dragons anymore, they were listening to him. Maybe it was the way he said it, he himself felt different, like something unreal was pulsing through him, and perhaps it was because the struggle would end at last, and he was free. "To train a dragon, you can't just yell at him, you can't just make him happy with food or force him into submission with whips or axes. A dragon is not a slave, and a dragon has no master. You can't take vengeance on a dragon. He'd only come back and return it to you, because training a dragon is not about your will or his. It's about the bond between you, that you both can put aside the violence that defines each of us, and be one with that creature." Hiccup looked down, to the rocks under him, moved his palm deftly over that little dragon on the shore, felt the soft, warm breathing in his body. "Dragons are loyal creatures," he said, through tense lips, "if you give them that chance, and one day--" He inhaled. "One day, you'll realize that you'd do anything for that dragon, and he would do anything for you." He swallowed and looked up, saw that the black shape was gone now, somewhere in the clouds and the ash. "And . . . that's how to train your dragon," he said, his voice a whisper now. He looked down from the sky, to Iggy, who was staring at him with eyes full of awe.

"My Dad never told me that," he said, his voice small and grateful.

Hiccup smiled gently, almost laughed. "Mine didn't either."

Someone grabbed Hiccup's arms suddenly, hauled him to his feet but Hiccup was not surprised, kept his eyes on the little child who was jumping to his feet now, yelping as the man behind Hiccup yanked his head back by his hair, holding Hiccup down with a fierce grip around the back of his throat. "What was that all about, slave? Huh?!" It was Ragnar's voice.

Hiccup breathed fast through an open mouth, felt the tiny arms of Iggy wrap around his bum leg and his sharp squeak yelling out, "Hey that's not nice."

"Iggy--" Hervi's voice came near. "Get away from there."

"No!"

Ragnar yanked Hiccup's head father back, and Hiccup tried to wheeze in a breath, stifled as his neck bent backwards, Ragnar's thick hand choking him. He could feel Iggy getting to his feet now, and he brushed by Hiccup's legs. "Hey, big guy, pick on someone your own size, won't you?" The little Terror squeaked and he felt Hervi come near and grab Iggy, yelling in his own older voice, "You can't punish Hiccup for telling you truth."

"Hey let me go!" Iggy yelped.

"I can do anything I want, slave," Ragnar spat, and let his hands off Hiccup's head, shoved the boy to the gravel. Hiccup caught the ground desperately, the gravel spitting around him, and his throat choking with saliva. He coughed and caught his breath.

"So you think we just need love," Ragnar lisped, spitting on the ground. He unrolled his whip and Hiccup braced himself, shoved his knees up to his abdomen. The lash came fast and quick and Hiccup felt the fresh blood across his face, over his knee and on the edge of his neck. He kept his mouth shut as Ragnar leaned down to him, curled the whip around his hand. "Now get up and train those dragons, boy."

Hiccup smirked. "Not today," he whispered and leaned out from his knees, stared close into Ragnar's face. "I've told you everything you need to know."

:: ::

Rebellion was a force that was freeing somehow, to pour this hatred into a fire that was free to burn in the heart and in the soul. Toothless felt his body curl with that freedom, and even with that Heather upon his back, he felt in control. He felt it in the dragons around him, many more than he expected that took up his call of freedom. He could hear the bitterness around him, shouting into the air from dragons throughout the island. He heard them cry out that this was the motivation they needed, that they only wanted a leader in their hatred, a plan against the foes to organize their violence. He listened to the shouts of his fellow kind, felt sympathy even unity in it, a thrilling guttural sense of belonging. In their captivity some had forgotten their leader, hummed out the traitor's name with a praise to his deception. For often loyalty has no place in the heart of a desperate revolution. Others still looked upon him with contempt, borne of a deception of its own kind, Skari's lies.

But the Night Fury didn't care. He cared nothing for these taunters and the cruel hearts who greeted him when he first was brought captive to this island. The same greeting sixty summers ago, on this same land in this same storm, when he was young and his father was weary. It was an evil time then, and an evil time now. Except today, the evil lay in human hearts. As much as he hated Skari, in this case, he was right. Humanity was an evil kind, it was heartless, it was cruel, it killed its own for no reason at all. He thought about his Hiccup, that simple boy, with a simple heart, with no blood on his hands. He deserved to be avenged, he deserved the gushing heat of hatred that spilled out from his soul and hissed out into the air through his throat. What did they gain from hurting him? Or from chaining these dragons like himself? What gain, but to war upon one another? To destroy themselves, and bring the innocent with them.

But he, a dragon, was better than this scum. His mind was consumed with the one thought, with the one image, the red-haired boy with the voice that gave him comfort and with the heart that would never abandon him. They had ruined him, and they would pay with their lives. The conviction screamed hot and terrible in his heart, with a passion that had never before devoured him. An old feeling of revenge thrilled through his soul, that delicious sensation of deceiving and delivering upon the violence in a soul. No more would they hurt him, no more would they have the arrogance to believe they could tame a wild creature like himself. He would have no mercy. And though he did not speak openly of it, he could feel the tenseness in Skari, because he had something that even that Skrill did not. He had first hand knowledge of how the human species worked, and if those two years with Hiccup told him anything, it was that humanity was a malleable breed, and now was the time to use that power of dragon intelligence, to give back to them what they gave to him.

He looked at the dragons, their eyes narrow and their bodies heaving in the passion of this new goal. He'd given them hope in the darkness, a purpose in the pain, and he could hear rumors even from up here, through the screams and shouts of dragons throughout the island, that they would organize themselves and attack in force, at once, upon all. Deception gave them a will, and the taste of impending human blood gave them a drive to fight and not merely survive.

His words were having an influence on the dragons around him, he could feel it, even if the ones close to Skari would not admit it. But they listened to him for simple self-preservation, for an instinct so simple as that. But to him, this rebellion was about Hiccup, and what they had done. He let Heather soothe him, let her hands stroke him, and didn't fight back when she replaced his muzzle with a complicated one that kept his jaws together when she held the leather straps taut. He was cold to her, his anger boiling under the surface. He would follow the words of the one he loved, but only so far as his hatred would let him.

The dawn was red around him, as the dark blue turbulence of thunderclouds and the unmistakable scent of ash wafted through the air, dusting Toothless' skin in that film he knew all too well from life inside the molten mountain, the tremors he felt faint in the ground as only a creature could feel them. They were far, but they were there, like the deep foreboding of an earth somehow aware of the darkness descending on the land and the sea. She cooed at him, jolted his stirrup in that way Hiccup would, a tenderness in her step, a lilt in her voice. His mind dazed in a trance as she raised herself on his back, cradled her arms around his neck. Her hands released that metal collar and let the heavy chain clatter to the ground. Her fingers soothed over the rash on his throat where the metal had been, her voice was kind as he was free.

But it was a sick gift. She was a thief, but a poor one. She tried to steal his heart, but could she ever conceive just how unfathomably far she had fallen short of her goal?

The Night Fury leapt into the air now, the open space of the roofless pen suddenly alive with the downbeat of his wings in the power of takeoff. The dragons, the pen, the hillside -- all fell quickly into miniature below and behind. His shoulder wound, half-forgotten in the confinement of captivity, now sliced into his core with every wingbeat. But it was a pain he could endure. After all these days chained and chased, days being done to and hurt by and forced to watch the one he loved broken down, he was finally in the air. He wasn't helpless anymore. He flew with her into the subtle falling of ash and dust that stretched far over the sea, that clouded the distance where man and beast met with war at the horizon. His was a battle much bigger than war, between him and this rider who thought it was a mere calculation to replace herself with the one thing that mattered in this dragon's life.

:: ::

Heather would have felt elated were it not for the sting of her father's words in her heart. He was right, that killer had changed her. Hiccup, the boy who wouldn't die, had affected her somehow. What was this inside of her that stopped her hand? Was it conscience?

But she was doing the right thing, wasn't she? So what did conscience have to do with anything?

The dragon's body was cool and smooth under her, and she let her hands smooth over his scales, cooing to him and letting the fast, hot wind wrap around her face and sift through her stained cloak. She knew that her father had tried to kill Hiccup already, that he was doing what she had done -- trying to rid him of his life, but not from his own hands. The boy was unkillable. She knew it like she knew the sun was going to rise tomorrow. She had a feeling even now that Hiccup would somehow get away with his life. She almost laughed and she looked up to the sky, the lightning afar and the clouds, scuttled and fast in the atmosphere now, the coming sun making a beautiful mess of the sky. "What irony are you playing on us?" she whispered, and looked back down to the dragon, inhaling. That Hiccup had ruined their lives, and he was now still doing it. Who was he, why? It burned her, that question. Maybe her father was right, that she believed in fate. So where was fate taking them now? What was it trying to say?

She adjusted her foot on the pedal, remembered the training Hiccup had given her at Berk. Whatever happened to the boy, at least his dragon had company. As much as the creature had tried to kill her, she still wanted him. He was dangerous, beautiful. She felt the dragon's body rise up, into the sky, unexpectedly, suddenly, and she pulled back on the harness, wondering what the dragon was up to. The Night Fury rose, going higher and higher above, and a pang of worry jabbed into her heart. This didn't feel right. "Toothless," she shouted, "stop--" But the creature kept rising. She jabbed the stirrups but then she heard it -- the vicious growl of that creature, the sharp, stinging hiss from between its jaws and in its throat. Fear yelled through her bones, and she looked down, saw the water so far below her. The dragon turned his head to look at her, and even someone who was never this close to a Night Fury could read murder in those eyes. She gasped, released her hands from Toothless, as the dragon lost all direction in the air.

:: ::

Heather could make him turn to the right or to the left; she could direct him up or down; but she couldn't stop him from falling.

And the Night Fury fell far and fast. A pure, unadulterated freefall into the sea. The dive began just short of the ships and the war, the island already distant. He could feel the close presence of people he knew, dragons from Berk he knew. He smelled the smoke of war, the scent of fabric and ship hulls burning, and of dragon's fire filling the air. In one corner he saw someone familiar, that great blue dragon that slept under the eaves of his own home. He was growling something, fast and harried, but Toothless chose not to listen. He had other business today. His wings tucked into the free fall, and his body stiffened hard. And when the sea's face rushed to meet him, he didn't sweep his wings wide and brake the horrific speed; there would be no dilution of maximum impact. The water slapped him hard and he expected that it hit that girl even harder. At this speed he knew it hurt the hardest.

His own mind stunned black, his lungs screaming at the cold influx biting into his nose. Blackness and water were everywhere. He was still plowing down at two-thirds the speed, his legs instinctually tossing in the murkiness, but that weight on his back was still attached, struggling fingers grabbing his neck skin and a muffled scream bubbling near his ear.

He thought the impact would knock Heather off. An impact had done that once before, with a great club of a monster dragon's tail and to a boy far worthier than the loss he took that day. When he dived into that fire and opened his jaws fast and wide and desperate to save, he never thought the consequences would be permanent.

But this time, there was no mistake, and there would be no salvation. Fire lit the dragon's soul as he twisted in the water now, his eyes blinking in the liquid light, searching swiftly, rabidly. The surface glimmered far and bleak above, the belly of the sea swallowing the light into darkness. He felt the fast flail of her body against his, the sudden fear in her harried movements, the helplessness. And suddenly, his ancient instinct sparked alive in beat with hatred, fusing as one, bursting out in a roar thundering underwater. Life pulsed in his muscles, shocked into his jaws. Her muffled cry increased, fear turned to panic. He lashed his neck against the pull of the reins, felt her feet fighting to get out of the stirrups. As if she thought evasion was possible, as if she could escape the penalty of her evil. Did Hiccup ever find rest under her eyes, was his suffering ever stayed or his heart healed from its bleeding? Was he dirt to you, Heather?

His snarl found her foot, the freed one floating into his vision. A single leg, snapping hard and urgent and upward in the froth of the disturbed sea. A boot small, delicate, but kicking and vile. His head snapped one more time, and the reins loosed, swept free in the water. His jaws flew open.

His teeth made contact just below the kneecap. There was a sudden jump in her body, a jerk of that boot into the roof of his mouth, and he knew his grip was keen. He turned his head to twist, his intentions burning, his eyes locked on the frightened lash of the body at the mercy of his power. Suddenly that body buckled down to him, the face briefly there and staring, struggling, stark white in a frozen horrified determination aflame in her eyes and moving on her lips.

Her fingers shoved into the corners of his eyes. The move was sudden, sharp, and effective. The dragon lashed in agony and almost screamed, air escaping his lungs, his face smarting in a grimace and his jaws releasing. His eyes shut on reflex, but he could feel her foot escaping, knew the swish of water rushing up him as her body broke free. A pained roar snapped through his clenched teeth. His legs hit the water, his wings slapped down and his body rose up. The frantic figure was reaching for the sky, darkest black against the surface light, her legs kicking, his limbs kicking, a race of life and death. But vengeance feeds stamina and it was easy to climb the dense depths despite the hurt in his lungs.

Riotous splashing broke above him, the girl reaching air, and her shouts punctured through the crash of waves. She had every right to be desperate, for she was alone, stranded in the sea. He rose up beneath her, swift, close, a black shadow below the waves, one intention coursing through his veins, a purpose unstoppable. A shudder slashed through him now, struck hard in his mind as his jaws clamped over her thrashing body. He brought her down, far and under again into the cold wet darkness. One arm was pinned inside his mouth, the other smashed into his face, squirming, fingers grabbing his nose, but he was unmoved. Her frame felt small and incredibly fragile between the fury of his teeth. He felt terror in her chest, pain heaving across her ribs. And there was no one to tell him to stop, no mediator to plead mercy. He felt hot despite the dark chill, delirious from the lack of air, and suddenly he knew the taste permeating his mouth, the salty red warmth pungent on his tongue. It was horrible. The body writhed as he choked on the taste, his mind sparking, his heart balking. He hurried to steel himself, shake off that feeling as his head tossed and he felt her limbs move in the black watery world. He couldn't see anymore, couldn't feel, but something was breaking. His fevered head flashed with images, with sequences of memory painful and specific. It was the cove at dusk and he was trying to sleep but he smelled that boy, saw him in the dirt afar and had to know what it was, because he never saw it before. The lines in the dirt, it looked like his father, and by extension, himself. He . . . never saw himself before, not like that. And it dawned on him, and he had to try, and the boy was right there, waiting, uncertain, cautious in his joy. It was beautiful.

And then that boy touched him and taught him to love this species called humanity.

The image cracked into darkness as a cold tremor snaked into his core, a coldness not from hate but horror. His anger wrapped into that horror, struggled in the dark and screamed in the suffocating loneliness of the sea depths. But she had to die. Hiccup deserved this. He couldn't let the impostor get away. He was a dragon, he was a killer, even if he was never this cold before.

The body was limp now, and Toothless let it go. It hovered gently in front of his eyes, his sight aware of the form, but his mind unbelieving. He didn't perform the usual predatory rituals, the sniffing and the nudging meant to detect life and snuff it out with certainty. Rather, he fled. The violent stroke of his wings and the pump of his hind legs propelled him upward, broke the surface with a wild gasp of air and a shuddering chill in the face of the unrelenting wind. The storm had come, the sky vibrating with thunder as the great drops of rain mingled with the ash and scattered across the ocean. Lightning split above him, and death cried below. The dragon heard the call of ships, a strong pounding voice above the weather. It sounded strangely like Stoick's, like voices from Berk. But his bewildered mind had nothing for Berk, or the ships, or freedom. Hiccup had wanted him to escape, but he didn't tell him where. He struck off into the ocean, just pounding the waves, let the water collapse and break upon his back, never looking back, just rushing, thrashing, letting that flavor of blood from his mouth wash away into the tasteless sea.

comments


1st Jun 2013, 4:44 PM

Servantatheart1

WHAT!? HEATHER IS DEAD?!?! *gasp*
#not yelling at you, yelling at the sky @ my general surroundings in surprise xD
Sorry for starting at the end XD
Well, I did not see that one coming!(There goes most of my end predictions lol xD)

Ok, back to the beginning:
This chapter was chock full of things I loved/verymuch enjoyed :).
#1 Thematic win! That's all I have to say. Love. it.
#2 Wow, the second paragraph really got me. It describes exactly what I would do for someone I loved in a situation like this. Facing his suicide alone for the sake of Toothless. So tender and beautiful.

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1st Jun 2013, 6:34 PM

inhonoredglory

Don't worry, dear, there are still surprises in this story! Thank you so much for seeing the depth of theme in this and the beautiful selflessness of Hiccup.

end of message

1st Jun 2013, 4:50 PM

Servantatheart1

3. The conversation between Hiccup and Rune surprised me in that Rune wasn't angry at Hiccup for what he said. I finally fully understood Rune's inner conflict then. Man, Rune's got more on his hands than what he bargained for, like you said :) (I'm still on pins and needles about the execution. Aaah!)

4. Yay for Fishlegs again! I saw some of the "gem of a different color" Fishlegs come out there. I like it. I like Olaf too... There's hope for him learning about dragons. *crosses fingers* Please SOMEONE in Herjka with a kind(er) heart understand!

5. I knew the volcano would come back! I knew it! Hahahahaha. Even nature is building up pressure/intensity to a climax.

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1st Jun 2013, 6:36 PM

inhonoredglory

Wow I'm delighted you caught onto Rune's inner conflict. These are no mere ruthless villains, they're doing what they do because of serious emotional trauma. As evil as they are, they think they are saving themselves and their sanity.
And yes Fishlegs!!! We needed him to come back and make an appearance. Nature is not going to be left out of the excitement LOL!

end of message

1st Jun 2013, 4:57 PM

Servantatheart1

Character limit...gah :p

Cont.
6. Oncoming storm = foreshadowing methinks ;) (& the oncoming storm in the painting is beautimous! - I left my "review" of the image on Tumbr :) It just builds and builds each chapter. This is so fun to see come together!

7. The whole Hervi/Hiccup conversation surprised me too. When Hervi was trying to talk to Hiccup in the shack, I thought he wanted to say something really important about the Skrill and Nightfuries or something, but what it turned out to be was an apology, which was a pleasant surprise. Hervi's chiefness coming out again, I hope. (Anticipating help from slaves soon. *There I go making predictions again lol*)

8. "Slave conditions are a lot to complain about" Oh Hiccup, still sarcastic in the face of the enemy xD. "Love it" (intended pun).

end of message

1st Jun 2013, 6:40 PM

inhonoredglory

Haha you're predictions are fascinating! Stay tuned! And Hervi definitely would feel guilty about not stopping Heather from carrying out her plan.
And I couldn't wait to get Hiccup's sarcasm back!! He's a strong character and he would laugh in the face of death when he knows he's doing the right thing, whether it means he'd die or not.

end of message

1st Jun 2013, 6:56 PM

inhonoredglory

Gosh Iggy yeah. I adore him and when I started writing him up, a smile just slapped on my face, despite the heartbreak in this chapter. He's a light if there ever was one! And you're absolutely right -- I nabbed him from a GotNF kid. ;) And it's true: the slaves would understand Hiccup more than the Skirra Vellites would, if merely for the fact that they don't have the pride the Herkja people have.

Gosh, I just love seeing Hiccup so strong and selfless here. He's strong when he knows he is doing the right thing.

And yes, the unfortunate truth is that we should be shocked at Toothless. I think at this point justice became violence, and Toothless, like all our heroes here, is being driven to something not quite like him because of the circumstances (particularly because of the evil the villains themselves have put upon them).

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1st Jun 2013, 5:01 PM

Servantatheart1

9. Any chapter with Iggy is just <3 <3 (BTW,I think I found the design you used for him in the image many many chapters ago. He was one of the children in the crowd in GoTNF)

10. Along with Iggy, I think that hints that the slaves could understand Hiccup's method of training dragons. Most Herjkans are well, hopeless.

10. Ragnar...so cruel :( Hiccup standing up to him--So strong in his "final moments" <3

11. Wow, Toothless. A Night FURY indeed! I wanted Heather to pay for what she did...but the ferocity, and just...
Ok, when he bit her right below the kneecap, I thought, "Oh! She's going to have to walk around on one leg like Hiccup! But then Toothless actually. *Reeling inwardly from shock.* I felt so sorry for Toothy though :(
Excellent job! I'll look forward to the next update.

end of message

1st Jun 2013, 5:06 PM

Servantatheart1

I was rambling and I know it. Sorry. (I blame it on the ending of this chapter! xD).
I've actually been looking at some other HTTYD fanfics, but none of them really compare to you and your sister's webnovel here. Not to bash the other ones, but the others lack the authenticity of the actual character. You care about the characters, themes, message, and quality. It really sets it apart from the others :)
Keep up the good work!

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1st Jun 2013, 7:15 PM

inhonoredglory

I love your rambles dear!! From such a wonderful friend and an insightful reader they're like jewels for us. :)
I myself have not read a lot of fanfics, so I don't know how ours compared to others. But gosh, thank you for saying that ours has something different. I'm really humbled.

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13th Jun 2013, 6:58 PM

Nick D.

Hi, I started reading your comic a couple of days ago and I must say im impressed. At first I thought it was going to be a comic Image/bubble speech, but even if I was disapointed at first, I fell in love with your comic. Its brilliant, you and your sister (or the otherway around) are master writters and I hope you keep it working, because I can't simply get enough of it. Thank you for reviving my love in reading true stories, without images, without visual aid.

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24th Jun 2013, 12:27 AM

inhonoredglory

Hey wow! Yeah I totally nabbed this layout from the comic site and just using the site for hosting a more typical text story. XD
I'm terribly honored it's revived your love for "true" stories though! There's a lot of good writing out there. :)
Again, thanks for reading and commenting!

end of message
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