Hiccup crept as quietly as he could through the bushes, knees bent in a crouch. He wished the sound of his heart pounding wasn’t so loud in his head: it would be beneficial for him if he could hear someone before they approached.
It had seemed safest for him to snatch a dagger. His stealth and speed wouldn’t be ruined by such a small weapon, whereas an axe or a sword would have given him away in an instant.
Footsteps! He whipped his head in the direction of the sound, emerald green eyes coming in contact with two large men about a dozen feet away, both armored and carrying devilish-looking war hammers. He slipped his thin frame behind a nearby tree, deciding that it would be best to avoid them. He didn’t want to take the chance of losing a fight, especially since it would draw attention and cause a commotion. Then this whole idea of escape would be useless.
He admitted that it was a ridiculous, desperate idea, as he had tried escaping two times now, but he hoped that this time the gods were with him.
Hiccup carefully peered around the tree, watching with shallow breaths as the two soldiers disappeared into the darkness. He had picked a night where the moon was only a tiny, waning crescent. Light would have been just as helpful to him as harmful. He didn’t want to be seen.
When the coast was clear, he moved on, wondering when he would come upon some familiar ground. He was moved every time he escaped, and was only allowed to be transported through the camp once a nasty smelling sack had been put over his head and his hands were securely bound behind his back. This caused him to have no idea where he was going, and no way of knowing how to leave the camp.
He was glad that he was in the right physical state for an escape. Most prisoners of the Berserkers and the Dragon Hunters weren’t treated as kindly. He received two meals a day, sometimes three if they were feeling generous, plenty of water, a blanket for sleeping (thin as it was,) and manhandling and beating had been ordered to be kept at a minimum. Really, they were only aiding in his escape, maintaining the strength he would need for such a task.
Hiccup put the dagger through his belt and dropped to his hands and knees as he saw orange light flickering up ahead. Perhaps it would be better for him to continue at a crawl. Hopefully no one would see him if he was near to the ground.
Or maybe I’m going the wrong way and should go in a different direction. He stopped to think in a thick patch of undergrowth that was just off the main path. If there’s light, that means more people, and that’s the last thing I want.
Making up his mind, he turned and crawled in another direction. He didn’t make it very far before the undergrowth turned into impassible webs of bramble.
Great. Now what do I do?
He stood and studied the mass of thorns in front of him. It was too dark to see if there was a way around and looking would make too much noise.
Maybe if I go through the brambles. They wouldn’t expect that.
Hiccup was about to find a way through it, hands first, when he realized that it would just make the path he had taken clearer to pursuers. It would leave an obvious hole in the canvas of the forest and make him bleed, which would make him easy to follow.
Sighing, Hiccup turned and surveyed the shadows around him. He hadn’t realized it would take him this long to get out of the camp. It made his stomach clench. He hadn’t made much progress for being out for so long; they would notice him missing soon, or they already had.
Time to say goodbye to the lovely “Prisoner’s Inn,” I guess. Certainly his treatment would be worse if they caught him this time. Hopefully he wasn’t back yet…
No, no. Can’t think about that.
But Hiccup wasn’t giving up just yet. He was stubborn and would fight until his last breath. Scratch that: he would probably keep kicking his one good foot and his metal one for a few seconds after that.
Hiccup decided that his only choice was to go back the way he had come. This obviously wasn’t the right direction and he would have to try another one.
He didn’t run into any trouble on his way back to his starting point. Although, he wasn’t surprised when he found a group of soldiers with weapons and torches milling around outside the makeshift hut that he had been locked in. They were scrutinizing the ground, looking for his tracks.
Hopefully they stepped over all of them by now and covered them.
Hiccup took shallow breaths as he drew his dagger and knelt behind a tree, keeping the weapon low and out of the light’s range. A reflection off of the metal would give him away.
He tried blocking out the sound of his heartbeat to listen to the soldiers. Maybe they would say something that could be valuable to him.
For a moment, all his ears picked up were mumbles and grumbling, but the longer he listened, the more words he was able to distinguish.
“How do you think he escaped?”
“What makes you think I know? The little runt probably slipped through the bars or something.”
Hiccup frowned and looked down at himself. Sure, he was small by Viking standards, but he wasn’t small enough to do that. Besides, there had been spikes on the barred door keeping him in. He would have been shredded if he had tried that.
“Should we tell him?”
“And make him angry? Are you kidding?! I’d like to keep my head for a few more years! Is that alright with you?”
So he’s back from his little excursion.
Hiccup’s stomach was doing flips and sweat glistened at his temples. He clenched his fists, trying not to let this information drive him into a panic. He didn’t need to listen anymore. The only good thing he had learned was that they hadn’t alerted anybody yet.
But where do I go?
He dared to take a look around the tree. The group had spread out more in search of clues to where he had gone, but there was no way he could get past them without them noticing. He was trapped. He couldn’t go back the other way, as it seemed to lead to the main part of the camp, but he couldn’t go forward either.
He pulled his head back and pressed it against the tree, clutching the dagger tightly in his left hand. He closed his eyes and tried to steady his breathing and his heart rate. He had to think. There had to be a way out of this and he just hadn’t found it yet.
Frustrated tears stung at his eyes as he tried to form a map of the camp in his mind and failed at each attempt. His captors had successfully confused him and made him almost completely unaware of his surroundings.
I wish I had Toothless.
That thought brought a longing ache to his chest, but at least he knew that Toothless was safe. No one else had been captured with him. That was the only comforting knowledge he had.
“Are you sure we shouldn’t tell him? What we could find of his tracks show that he’s been gone for about half an hour already.”
Hiccup flinched and nearly gasped. That voice came right from the other side of his tree. He managed to cup a hand to his mouth before any surprised exclamation could come out.
“The chief will only know about this little stroll of his when we present Hiccup to him to be punished. Let ’im take his anger out on the boy. Le’s see how long he lasts.”
Though he was sweating and adrenaline was heating his body, a shiver slithered up Hiccup’s spine. He slowly removed his hand from his mouth, his breathing heavier than he wanted it to be. He’d failed. He had wanted to be gone before his return, but now he was certainly going to be caught and… He couldn’t think about it. No. He had to get away.
“Alright,” the voice on the other side of the tree said. “Just as long as we find him soon.”
Frantic thoughts were racing through his head. Should he crawl away and risk the chance of being spotted? Maybe he should just abandon all caution and run for it. Certainly he was faster than these bulky men.
A better idea popped into his head, a way to run and make sure that he had the jump on them. Well, he hoped it was a better idea.
Adjusting his grip on the dagger, Hiccup twisted himself out from behind the tree and stabbed blindly at the man that stood so close to him. He felt it connect with flesh and there was a pained and angered bellow, and then the big man dropped to one knee. He had gotten his leg, just as he had intended.
The man raised his axe, (obviously forgetting that they’d been ordered not to kill or injure him,) but Hiccup was fast. He darted to his feet, dodged, and quickly scanned the area. The rest of the soldiers had turned on him and they were drawing nearer, weapons ready, beginning to surround him. Knowing that the dagger really wouldn’t help him now, he threw it, aiming for an eye, but the small weapon was thrown aside into the dirt by a bigger blade. Eyes wide, he whipped around and ran.
Or he would have, but the injured man on the ground released his axe, lunged forward, and grabbed his right foot. He crashed to the ground, scraping his palms as he braced himself, pain jolting through his leg for a quick second. He desperately tried to wriggle his foot out of his boot to get himself free, but there was a commotion and there were rough hands on his shoulders, clutching him tight and hauling him up.
Hiccup thrashed and struggled, shouting desperately and wordlessly. His hands were yanked behind his back and quickly tied up. He shook himself in every way he could, trying to make it hard for them to hold him. He had to get out of here!
“I’m so fed up with you, Haddock!” one man yelled. He grabbed the bottom of Hiccup’s tunic in one of his meaty hands and tore at it. He had only a moment to wonder what it was for before the strip was placed over his eyes and tied in the back of his head, properly blinding him.
“Now we can let ’im know,” one man said approvingly.
Hiccup lost his breath as he was suddenly taken off the ground and hefted over an armored shoulder like a sack. He kicked and squirmed like mad, panic setting in, but his toes only came in contact with the breastplate of whoever was holding him, and an arm wrapped tight around his body, keeping him in place.
“Time for an audience with the chief, little Hiccup,” the man holding him announced. “Let’s see if you survive it.”
If only that was what I was worried about.