Nightfall, Part Twenty
Always before Stoick has fought off raids and killed dragons and defended his people with the face of his wife and the thought of his son held before his eyes, driving him to protect their memories and all that they mean to him, everything he has ever fought for.
And now dragons have taken even that from him, just as they have taken everything else. Now the image of Valka has a human shadow cast over her and blood across her face, now the baby has grown up into a dragon himself, and instead Stoick can see the furious flash of those green eyes every time he swings his warhammer and makes contact with dragon-scales, because every strike is one more reason his own son would hate him.
He fights on, because there is nothing else he can do, but there is no longer any joy in it. Now there are only the hard dry bones of necessity. He must protect his people, he must keep them alive through one more winter, and he will not let dragons steal that from them as they have taken everything else from him.
Thieves, thieves! Stoick rages coldly as his hammer shudders in his hands against a Gronkle’s thick ribs. It reels backwards, nearly rolling over on its stubby legs, and the Viking chief hammers at it as if he can rebuild his life and his world with its shattered bones. Thieves of food and lives and children and all that had ever made sense in his world!
He cannot give up or stop or surrender – there are too many people depending on him. But for the first time in his life Stoick is losing the desire to fight.
All he has left is hatred, and even that is dull and cold, just like hammer blows. There is fire all around him, but he is frozen inside with the ice that had filled his soul when he saw love and belonging in his son’s eyes and it was directed at a dragon.
But beyond the fire and outside the ice there are people depending on him. There are children who have learned all their short lives that they will grow up to fight dragons and defend the village just like their parents, and they have not run from the fight or the cold or the hunger, they have stayed and been loyal. Those parents have never wavered, and they look to Stoick with faith that he will lead them even against overwhelming odds and raids that never stop coming and only get worse.
So how could he ever even consider surrender?
Filling his other hand with an axe that someone has dropped – there is blood on the haft as well as the blade, and he cannot spare the time to wonder who it had belonged to and if that warrior still lives – Stoick roars back at the beasts that plague his village and his life and chops into the nearest foot full of dragon-claws, which lift and swipe at him in the smoke. Nadder, part of him notes, just like the creature that Astrid had been playing with in the pit.
Astrid, of all people! Playing with dragons! Have they taken her from him as well? Now even she is inextricably linked with the beasts in his mind, and every thought of dragons hurts because how can he endure in a world where dragon has come to evoke son and son means only never? Nowhere is safe from them, and nothing.
“No!” Stoick shouts at the blue-purple, smoke-smeared dragon, which thinks better of trying to bite him when his hammer slams into its large nose. He hurls his denial – of it, of everything it represents – after it as it flees.
He will not give up hope even if they have taken everything else. He still has people to protect and enemies to kill; he has pride in those people who never give up.
Stoick will not be the first chief in three hundred years of war to lose Berk to dragons because he was too weak to survive the loss of a child.
But still they come, again and again.
A strange thing had happened some time ago – Stoick does not know how long, but it had been in what should have been the cold clear hours long after midnight but well before sunrise, and through the smoke it might be almost morning now. For a moment the battle had stopped, dragons had stopped fighting back and had taken off into the sky, circling and crying out in their many discordant voices.
Was it possible? Stoick had wondered at the time. Had they given up so easily?
“Something’s wrong,” Astrid had said, looking up at them with puzzlement. “They’re scared. Confused.”
He is not entirely pleased that she has gotten to know dragons so well. What business does she have caring about what they think or do? They are the enemy – the Vikings know what dragons do. They raid, they steal, they burn, they kill – why would they be afraid now when they never have been before? The Vikings certainly hadn’t done anything different, they were only barely holding their ground, and if it’s not something they can use, does it matter?
The raiding dragons had faltered and almost broken, hovering uncertainly. Some of them had winged away, but then they had turned around and come back, and whatever had changed evidently didn’t change enough, because the raiders had dived back at the village, screaming.
They had sounded almost frightened, almost desperate, and the attack had suddenly gotten more unpredictable and much worse.
The Vikings understand dragon attacks. Dragons steal food. But these aren’t doing that anymore.
Oh, they are snatching anything they can get their claws or jaws on, but they are also smashing through buildings that don’t have any food in them, burning the empty ground and the sky, screaming at Vikings without attacking and then flying away only to return and hover and flail at nothing.
It was almost like a battle with another tribe that Stoick had once fought in, when they had been fighting each other for days over a ship both sides wanted, and then a fire arrow had gone astray and the thing had burned to the waterline anyway. But they had been fighting for so long that they didn’t care anymore, they didn’t know what else they were supposed to be doing, so they had just pounded at each other until they were exhausted.
The dragons are acting like that. They take mouthfuls of fish and kill sheep and then carry them off into the sky and stay there, hovering and screaming in anger or confusion or whatever it is that dragons think about. They knock people over and then run straight past them.
Has every bloody dragon in the world gone completely mad?
And does Stoick care?
That they won’t retreat just gives his people more of a chance to kill as many dragons as they can so that there will be fewer to plague them in the future.
It’s not a raid anymore, he notes grimly as the sky begins to lighten at last.
It’s a siege. It’s a fight to the death.
So be it, and Stoick roars a battle cry and charges with his people behind him.
If they cannot find the nest to kill the dragons, then let the nest come to them!
He sees Gobber trying to aim that cursed catapult, and half-hopes that dragons will burn it to the ground before it brings any more chaos into his life. But they won’t go near it, and Gobber is using the gap in the fighting to make further modifications to it even as he fights, switching out complex smith’s tools for battle-axe from moment to moment.
A number of his Vikings have cornered a Zippleback, and even a dragon with two heads cannot bite at them all at once. An explosion of poison gas knocks them away, but it is only a small blast, and the creature must be almost out of fire, because its attackers are up on their feet and closing in on it again, and it cannot back away and cannot take off because Snotlout’s oversized sword has pinned one wing to the ground. The arrogant young warrior makes a dramatic jump for the sword hilt, dragging it down and cutting a bigger gash in the wing than before, and one of his friends throws a hammer at the closest head when it screams and tries to bite him.
Astrid goes down for a moment under the weight of a Gronkle, but she twists away and slams her axe into the side of its face, making it shake its head. It has her pinned, though, and even though she is continuing to attack it, the stocky dragon does not do the sensible thing and flee – but it does not burn her to ashes, either.
Across the village, an older woman whose name he could remember if her features weren’t hidden in a war helmet covered in blood looses an arrow that punches into a Nadder that is hovering uncertainly, as if it does not know what to do with the struggling sheep in its claws. The pain makes it drop the animal, which flees for its unexpectedly spared life.
The whole village reeks of blood and fire and the smoke being blown around in the wind, of dragon-scales and human sweat and fear.
This is all going wrong. Usually dragons strike and flee with what they can find. What is wrong with these creatures? It’s as if they don’t know what they’re doing anymore.
“Someone fetch more bows!” Stoick commands as the sun continues to come up and it gets easier to see their targets. Any Vikings not currently locked in combat run to obey his bellowed orders. “Make sure everyone has arrows or can get to them!”
He squints up at the brightening sky. Even that is not driving the dragons away.
So be it. They will continue to fight.
“We fight for as long as it takes!” the chief roars to his battered people. “Courage! And victory!”
When over a hundred throats shout Victory! back to him he takes courage from them. Dragons cannot take his people’s bravery and resolve from them, so Stoick will not let them take that resolve from him.
Then the sky darkens anew.
Along with every other head in the war-torn village, Stoick’s eyes turn upwards again. What he sees almost destroys that reclaimed courage.
The sky over Berk is filled with dragons, fresh and new to the fight.
“No…” Stoick breathes, but no one can hear his despair over the screams of the monsters in the sky, which fold their wings and plunge towards the battlefield, descending on Vikings and wrenching weapons from their hands. It is such a strange thing for dragons to do that the humans are not ready for it, and a number of them are disarmed and being screamed at before they know what is going on.
Does anyone know what is going on? Stoick doesn’t. Nothing makes sense, and he cannot even decide which order he should shout, even if anyone could hear him.
Dragons are shrieking and crying out and roaring as if they are going to bring down Berk with noise alone, at each other and at Vikings and possibly at the sky, a deafening cacophony of hateful dragon noises and animal rage.
But then, staring upward, Stoick hears none of it.
His world focuses down to the creature right before his eyes, and for a moment he does not believe it is real. Surely not. It cannot be.
Not after all this time.
He has truly never forgotten the flat-nosed dragon with the wide ruff and the four wings and the lethal claws that had wrapped around Valka and his son and taken them away from Stoick forever. He has dreamed of the firelight in its golden eyes and the snarl of its fangs.
And here it is at last, hovering above and snarling at the more familiar dragons, all its wings spread and its body exposed and vulnerable in the breaking sunlight.
Stoick forgets everything else. This is what he has waited twenty years for, the hope of this chance is what he has staunched his wounds with, and the fire of hatred is what has kept him warm in nights that are too cold and too long and too empty.
The beast that took his wife to her death and nurtured his son’s madness, the dragon he hates more than anything, is here. Nothing will make him miss this chance for revenge.
Coldly, focused and determined, Stoick reaches out and catches a woman who is running past him with a bow in her hands. It’s a longbow not quite as tall as she is, and she has already gotten an arrow half-notched to the string.
It is not as thick a bolt as a crossbow would fire, but it will be sharp enough to at least bring the beast down.
Perhaps she sees the look in his eyes, perhaps she can hear the deafening hatred that is roaring through Stoick’s skull, drowning out everything – the screams of dragons from above and all around, the shouts of his people, the waves and the wind, the hungry crackle of fires still burning, even the painful memory of joy in a feral child’s eyes and voice – but she surrenders the bow and arrow to him and backs away.
None of it matters. Nothing but the arrow, and the taut string between his fingers, and the tension in it as he draws the arrow back to his cheek and narrows his eyes to aim.
Gods, give him only this. Let him avenge his family’s blood against this creature and he will never ask for anything again.
He lets the arrow fly, carrying all his rage and loss and grief with it to poison the beast from within – let it suffer as he has all these years! – and the song of the bowstring is almost as clear and sweet as the one in his heart as the sounds of his world return to him.
The arrow will fly true – he can see that it will even as he fires – and he snarls a terrible smile as he watches it shriek towards the red-gold dragon.
And then something else shrieks over Stoick’s head, an inhuman and familiar noise that cuts through everything else, sound and chaos and confusion and rage alike.
Something dark and swift streaks after the arrow, like night slicing through the morning sky.
Stoick barely has time to feel his jaw drop – whether to shout or just to stare he does not know, and what he might have said he knows even less – before the Night Fury twists around to look back at the dumb-struck archer, snapping to an impossible midair halt moments before it would have collided with the four-winged dragon, which only now turns its attention to it – and to its rider, who Stoick likewise cannot take his eyes off, seeing that rider as never before.
On the black dragon’s back, high above but close enough to see, Hiccup brandishes the captured arrow in one dragon-clawed hand and screams, a dragon’s sound, furious and exhilarated. There is blood on his face and a brighter red both; there are ashes on his skin but fire in his eyes, and he and the Fury move as if he belongs in the air as much as the dragon and more.
The Night Fury roars with him, both of them together defiant and triumphant at once.
The Viking chieftain cannot breathe with the shock of it, the surprise of seeing a son he never expected to see again, and never like this.
He remembers an infant born too soon, small enough to be held in a single hand as it cried so weakly; he remembers a large-eyed baby that stared at him and through him in bafflement; he remembers the dream-child he had constructed from his people’s children and his own wishes; he remembers a figure with his mother’s face and a dragon’s voice, with frightened and furious eyes full of hatred.
And now there is this.
This is no scared child, no grounded castaway, no lost soul.
This is a warrior in his own right and in his own element, faster than an arrow and fearless as a dragon.
As his father watches in absolute disbelief, Hiccup throws his head back and roars.
When the dragons all around him take up the sound, Stoick cannot tell his voice from the others.
In an instant, on some cue the chief cannot see, the Night Fury folds its wings and slices its tail through the air, and the pair dart away, disappearing into the scrimmage of dragons above, cutting and diving and dodging easily through them all with perfect confidence.
Stoick blinks, remembers to close his mouth, and looks again at the dragons all around.
The newcomers, unfamiliar and strange and exotic, are fighting the raiders.
They roar at the attacking dragons and strike muzzles and bodies with wings and tails, pushing the ones that can fly away from the ground and those that can’t because of wounds away from the Vikings. But at the same time other strangers dive to the island and shove Vikings away from dragons. They snatch weapons from humans, flying the stolen blades and bows and bola up into the sky and dropping them into the ocean or onto cliffs. They are quick, and the Vikings are so surprised by this new strategy and the unfamiliar opponents that they never learned to fight that the dragons are taking quite a lot of warriors out of the battle – without doing much harm at all.
Looking for that black shadow as he is, and completely forgetting to track the red-gold thief that has disappeared in the chaos in the sky anyway, Stoick turns to follow it as it bowls over the Gronkle still locked in combat with Astrid, separating the fighters, and thinks he can hear dragon and rider scream together at both Viking woman and dragon before taking off into the sky again.
Similar scenes are taking place across the village. The newcomers haven’t joined the fight. They are breaking it up.
As dragons scream at dragons but do not attack, fight them off but do no harm, as Vikings lower weapons in puzzlement rather than having them wrenched from their hands, as strange dragons separate lifelong enemies, as everything changes, the raid is coming to a halt.
One way or another, this fight is over.
“Enough!” Stoick finally finds his voice. “Weapons down! Stand down!” His people are looking at him for guidance, but for once in his life he has none to give, and he can only shake his head. Any control he had over this situation has been taken from his hands, and he is at the mercy of the newcomers as much as anyone else.
Baffled, confused, lost, his warriors, his people, obey. They gather around their chief as if they are going to be attacked again at any moment and they will have to make a final stand, the sort of thing that is triumphant in songs and stories but is, Stoick realizes, incredibly horrifying in real life. All he can do is shake his head whenever someone tries to ask him what’s going on, and eventually people stop asking. The remaining weapons bristle outward and the light of battle-madness still flickers in some eyes; they are still besieged even if the besiegers have changed, but they remain warriors in defense of their home.
Silently, Astrid makes her way to his side, looking up at him in confusion. He has no answers for her, but they will protect their people together.
Above, dragons are still arguing with each other, but it no longer looks like a war. The strangers are all mixed together with the dragons the humans have been fighting all their lives, snarling and gesturing with their claws and glaring. It’s a tangled and meaningless racket, but whatever it is must be very important.
And then they go almost quiet, screams dying away and dragons hovering in midair, holding their positions, the newcomers staying between humans and raiders as if keeping them apart.
One dives from the sky, bounding to a landing in an open space in the center of the village.
The Night Fury stalks towards the massed Vikings, tail lashing and head high, teeth showing just a bit, just enough to remind them that it bites quite hard despite the name its rider calls it.
Its rider, whose eyes are fixed on Stoick as they approach together, is still holding the arrow he snatched from the air to protect a dragon.
He has everyone’s attention, and he knows it. His eyes are as hard as the dragon’s and as full of the exhilaration of battle, his head as high. There is blood smeared across his face, some of it dark dragon blood and some of it dried from a gash in his overlong hair, which is windswept and tangled. There are stripes of red – is it paint? – across his skin and the dragon’s scales alike. They look as if they have been through a war, and won it.
The black dragon stops out of reach of any weapons, and father and son stare at each other. The space between them might as well be an ocean, and only the flapping of dragon wings and the sound of the wind and the waves from the sunlit harbor below can be heard – Stoick thinks the people behind him might be holding their breath, waiting to see what he will do.
Then Hiccup holds out the arrow in both hands, parallel to the ground.
Finally, finally, Hiccup has a human word where all the sounds come naturally, that he can say perfectly clearly.
“Stop!” he cries, and snaps the arrow in two.
The sound of it is echoed by what sounds like the whole village gasping at once. Stoick thinks he might have been among them.
The dragon rider spreads his clawed hands and drops the two halves of the arrow, which clatter to the trampled-hard earth. “Drakkkn chfff dead,” he says brokenly. “Stop.”
Before Stoick can even begin to figure out what that means, the Night Fury rears to its hind legs, wings flaring out, and they scream together at the dragons all around.
Was there silence? Stoick can no longer remember silence in the face of what must be an entire flock of dragons roaring all at once. Are they repeating the same thing?
In response, the familiar raiders cry out back at them, bowing heads and closing eyes even as they fly.
And as the strangers scatter, parting to let them pass, they dive, settling to the ground all around the village, roosting on the cliffs and on top of whatever buildings and ramps are still standing unburned, out of the reach of Vikings but not attacking.
Looking back from this unbelievable sight, Stoick sees the look in his impossible son’s eyes – and the identical expression in those of the dragon he loves so dearly.
Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Astrid follow his gaze.
“It’s over,” she breathes. “Oh my gods, chief…the war. It’s over. They won.”
Hiccup is watching all the fighting not going on as dragons and Vikings look at each other suspiciously and doubtfully, but at the sound of her voice he looks around and meets her eyes.
She recoils just a little at the intensity in that dragon-green gaze.
And then he shrieks with what is clearly laughter, and dragon and rider leap into the air, banking for a moment above Berk and its people and then scorching around the entire place through confused dragons and above equally confused humans who are spreading out from their besieged cluster, starting to tend wounds and put out fires despite the dragons all around.
They fly together unbelievably fast and tumbling through the air with clear exhilaration.
No – they do so in celebration.
Astrid is numb with shock and shaking with the rush of battle and the strangeness of what has just happened – what has happened? She’s still not sure. She knows that the sky had filled with dragons – she had heard them even if she didn’t have time to look – and then the Gronkle she’d been trying to fight off had been abruptly knocked away from her.
She’d looked up from the ground to find her vision filled with familiar dark scales, and part of her had registered Toothless?
Looking past him to keep track of her enemy, she had seen the Gronkle rolling back to its feet and crouching submissively under the gaze of the black dragon – and his rider, who had glanced back at her and screamed something incomprehensible and angry, almost as if he had been scolding her, but Toothless had been making the same sounds at the stocky smaller dragon.
What in Hel’s forsaken realm were they doing here? It made no sense. Hiccup had fled, he had escaped them and left them behind, he had refused to help them and rejected humans utterly.
No sooner had Astrid tried to get to her feet than they were gone again, buffeting her in the downdraft from Toothless’ wide-spread wings as they leapt and disappeared into the sky.
Only then had she seen the new dragons breaking up the battle. It was made ever stranger by the fact that breaking up fights is so often Astrid’s job around here, so she recognized exactly what they were doing.
And now, as a war that has lasted three hundred blood-soaked and starving years ends at the command of a man who is mostly a dragon, she tries to run after them, at least to keep them in sight, not caring who sees her do so because all the rules have changed today. She watches with amazement as they dive and flip and soar effortlessly, crying out that delighted laughter for all the sky to hear. This is what had been missing from Hiccup’s eyes as he cowered on that beach, ignoring her and fearing her, this is what he had been waiting to regain while she pestered him.
Flight, and freedom, and now they are fearless together. She had seen them powerless and frightened; now she sees them alive.
For a minute they fly aimlessly, joyously, and then something catches their attention, and they go from playing in the sky to a midair charge as swift and sure as any arrow.
Somewhere up the cliffs on the edges of the village, there’s an explosion, repeated several times.
Heads snap up and look around at the noise, and all across the village shoulders drop and hands go to weapons as eyes go wide – has everything started all over again?
But Astrid has kept her eyes on the rejoicing pair, and she tracks the sound to the dragon pit, and the cloud of dragons now flying out of the smoke rising from it and into the air, shrieking down the slope to join the wild ones, chattering and purring and crooning and crying out in what might be amazement at their newfound freedom.
“It’s all right!” Astrid tries to assure her people even if she is not sure of that herself, as even more dragons fill Berk. “It’s all right! No weapons! Leave them alone!”
She would say more, but then something bowls into her and sends her flying. She has the wit and the reflexes to drop her axe before she cuts her own head off with it, tumbling and trying to bring her fall under control.
A dizzying second later, she’s flat on her back on the ground and staring up into blue scales and golden eyes.
Stormfly tips her head to one side to get the Viking woman out of her blind spot and chatters excitedly, cheerfully, and makes no attempt to bite or claw at her.
Astrid gapes, then feels her face decide to start smiling without asking her mind about it. “Hello,” she says, reaching up a hand to pet the dragon’s nose. “Let me up?” She gestures the same command, a series of small pushes away from herself, and to her amazement Stormfly backs up and lets her get to her feet. But the moment she’s there the blue dragon pokes her overlarge nose into Astrid’s body, nuzzling at her and still chattering.
Petting the happy dragon and at the same time encouraging the people who look to her that everything is under control even though none of it is under her control, Astrid looks around at the sound of a particular set of wings.
Toothless alights in an open space as dragons move away to let him land, and the man on his shoulders stares at her directly as he had always been reluctant to do before, meeting her eyes with confidence and a clear challenge in that gaze.
“Wow,” says Astrid, for lack of anything else to say. “You came back. Look at you!”
Hiccup grins at her, an expression with too many teeth to be entirely a smile.
“What’s all this?” she asks, spreading her hands to indicate the chaos of a human village filled with dragons and none of them fighting each other at the moment. Stormfly objects to the removal of the petting hand and pursues it, bumping the hand with her nose until Astrid relents and decides to only use one hand for gestures in the future. “You brought more dragons? Why?”
How much of that he understands she’s not sure, but the dragon rider raises a clawed hand and points down into the harbor, shrieking out a proud and fearless cry.
Once again, the other dragons follow his lead, and all attention turns to the harbor, where –
Something is moving. Waves are rolling up and flooding the docks, and ships toss and buck at anchor and fight their moorings as water parts and something too big to contemplate emerges from the sea.
It is a mountain, it is a giant; it is a leviathan of dragons, with deep-set eyes that are almost a human blue and two long and lethal tusks with scratches etched into the bone. A great white frill behind its head makes its face even bigger and when it raises that head and opens its mouth to roar it isn’t even a sound; it is a physical thing that strikes them all, human and dragon, like a blow, like the voice of the god of thunder made manifest.
The leviathan rises from the harbor and places one paw that might fit into the whole destroyed dragon pit on one of the cliffs leading up to the village, leaning on it to look down at Berk.
Huge does not even begin to describe it. The creature fills the world, like a glacier that has come to visit.
Beside her, Hiccup says “Drakkkn chfff,” quite happily, with loyalty and satisfaction in his voice.
When Astrid can tear her eyes away from the colossus towering over them, she sees rider and dragon bowing together, a single movement that should look awkward but is not because they do it completely as one, heads down and eyes closing, crouching before the chief of dragons.
But she can still see that triumphant half-smirk on Hiccup’s face. He may not even know he is doing so, she realizes, but this is his doing and he is very pleased with it.
All across the village, dragons do likewise, bowing and crouching in submission; beside her, Stormfly lowers her head, half-closes her eyes, and burbles softly. The Viking woman is half-tempted to do the same, because this is not something they could ever fight. It could wipe the village from the island with a single blow.
Still, from somewhere among the shattered buildings, she can hear Gobber say, quite clearly, “I’m goin’ ta need a bigger axe.”
She desperately hopes he is joking.
The chief of dragons fixes its eyes on the dragons scattered around the village and calls to them, a low but enormous sound that shakes buildings and teeth and souls. It’s not the all-powerful roar of before, but it is still overwhelming.
Strangers and former raiders alike take off from their perches, swarming into the air and spiraling around the leviathan’s head in a single flock, crying out to it in their many voices.
“Uh strrrtt,” Hiccup says in his broken Norse. She turns away from the impossible sight to see him watching her.
“Drakkkn kkko chfff.”
“They’re going away?” she asks incredulously, getting used to his odd pronunciation all over again. “They’re going with your chief?”
He thinks over her words, head tipped to one side as he works through them, and then nods. “Isss.”
Astrid is at a loss for words. “Gods of fire and thunder,” she says, just until she can think of something else. “You did it. You actually did it.”
In the harbor, the great leviathan, the chief of dragons, backs away, retreating out to sea – not because it is afraid, she can tell, but because it is easier to be there. It sinks to a crouch that more than fills the harbor, tail flipping out of the deeper waves every so often, and patiently looks up at the dragons that fly around it, seemingly content just to wait and watch.
The Vikings are not in control of this situation at all. That is.
But then it’s done more in a few minutes than they’ve achieved in three hundred years, so Astrid finds that she doesn’t mind at all.
She misses Hiccup and Toothless’ departure because it’s then that her people start coming to her again, wondering what’s going on and desperate for answers and reassurance.
The sun is much, much higher in the sky once she finishes explaining over and over again, to people who have been fighting dragons all their lives and who expected to die fighting dragons, that it’s all right, that the war is over, that the dragons aren’t going to raid anymore, they’re going to go with the chief of dragons, that no it’s not dangerous and really what could they do about it if it was?
That for the first time in forever it’s going to be all right.
Dragons fly out to perch on the chief of dragons and talk at it, and some of them fly back to the island and some of them fly away back the way that dragons have always fled, maybe back to the nest. Stormfly returns to follow Astrid around, clucking accompaniment whenever she says something, so that the Viking woman reassures her people with a dragon echoing her.
And of course the Terrible Terrors pick now to swarm in and join the fun now that there is no more screaming going on except for what might be hundreds of dragons all talking to each other and the humans beginning to realize that this is something to celebrate even though it’s new and unheard of and very, very strange, so Astrid finds herself called on to calm that down as well. She’s not sure she really achieves much more than scaring Terrors into the air, where they fly around and scream happily just because everyone else is happy.
Confused, and a little lost, but not fighting for their lives right at this moment, so it’ll do.
It’s probably an hour or so before she finds Hiccup again, and she’s quite amused when she does so.
And it has nothing to do with the bit of argument she’d overheard as she searched for him.
“Hey,” Tuffnut is pestering Snotlout, “you said he was ten feet tall.”
“And could breathe fire,” his twin is backing him up. “Why isn’t he breathing fire? That would be awesome. I want to breathe fire!”
The twins sometimes have annoyingly good memories for people who don’t understand that jumping off something might have something to do with hitting the ground immediately afterwards, which is sometimes quite fun to watch from a safe distance when they’re not her problem. And Snotlout clearly hates them both all over again as they call him out on his bragging, but that’s nothing new.
And then there’s Gobber, who stops her to say, “Ye may not want to e’er mention to Stoick tha’ when Berk was finally conquered by dragons, t’was his own son leadin’ the charge.”
Eventually she runs into Fishlegs. He’s sitting on the wreckage of a destroyed building with his copy of the Book of Dragons in his lap and charcoal all over his hands and face as he tries to write down everything about all the new dragons he can see, especially the giant just offshore, scribbling furiously and talking to himself excitedly, tripping over his own words and writing in every blank space he can find. Fortunately, he’d added some more pages while they were trying to work with the pit dragons, because they kept finding more and more things that the original Book of Dragons had just gotten wrong, and Fishlegs is trying to draw all the new species filling their sky in those empty pages.
“Having fun?” she asks with a grin.
He looks up at her with absolute delight, practically glowing, like Valkyries have turned up to take him to Valhalla and personally present him with a special Book of Dragons. “Look at that thing! Just look at it!” he says enthusiastically. “I don’t even have a class for that! It is all tens! I’m going to need more numbers! …or change all the old ones, I suppose…”
As he flips through pages to see which ones he would have to renumber, a movement from the rubble behind him catches Astrid’s eye.
There’s a cross-beam that originally belonged to the roof of the building extending behind and above Fishlegs’ head, and as Astrid watches, Hiccup edges out onto it, looking with fascination at the papers full of drawings in the young Viking’s hands.
He still moves tentatively, but it’s not so much fear now as the tension and interest of a predator stalking prey, shoulders hunched with attention and eyes wide, lips parted in what might be an amazed smile.
Astrid is tempted to laugh, but doesn’t – part of her still thinks he’ll bolt if she breathes at him wrong. Still, after a moment, Fishlegs notices the look on her face.
“No, really!” he insists. “It’s not funny! We’ve been wrong about so – what?”
“Whatever you do,” she warns him, “don’t move.”
He freezes obediently. “Is there a dragon behind me?”
“Uh…you might say so. Okay – turn around slowly.”
Fishlegs looks over his shoulder and then up. His eyes go big enough to roll away.
“Hello,” he says, voice thin and high with excitement. “What are you doing up there?”
Astrid elbows him. “I told you, he likes to draw. He’s looking at your book full of dragon pictures.”
She will have to think much better of Fishlegs in the future – he looks at his precious copy of the Book of Dragons, stares up at the dragonish creature perched above him with as much interest as Hiccup is directing at the papers, and then holds it out to him.
“Want to see?” Fishlegs asks.
Hiccup’s head goes up with surprise and he makes that chattering hunting sound, reaching down for the book but clearly reluctant to take it from human hands – he keeps pulling back and trying again.
“Put it down,” Astrid suggests as several Terrors fly overhead, being chased by a pack of children, but everyone involved seems to be having fun.
“Oh, right.” Fishlegs clambers over to a neutral spot in the rubble, leaves the papers somewhere Hiccup can get to, and then retreats back to the ground.
To his delight, the dragon rider leaps for it like it’s going to get away, sending debris flying but keeping his balance effortlessly, snatching up the papers.
He figures it out in no time flat, opening it upside-down at first but then reversing it so that the dragons are the right way up, investigating the binding that sews the pages together, and pulling off one clawed glove with his teeth and holding it there so he can turn the pages without damaging them, making crooning noises of delight through that mouthful of leather as he curls up to look at it.
Astrid can see Fishlegs’ fingers twitching, clearly dying to take notes on the whole new kind of dragon right before him, but to his credit he manages not to shout. Or maybe he’s just choking on all the questions he has and not knowing which to ask first because asking any of them would mean he’s not asking all the others.
Fairly soon Hiccup comes across the picture of the Night Fury that Fishlegs had adapted into the book from one of the dragon rider’s own drawings, and he lights up anew and drops the glove to cry, “Tt-th-ss!” He turns the page towards them and grins a dragon’s grin, showing teeth and purring, before returning to his examination of it.
“Wow, wow, wow,” Fishlegs mutters, amazed. Astrid wonders if she’s going to have to grab him to stop him from climbing up there and interrogating Hiccup, who probably would not like that. She also waves off some villagers who have spotted more free entertainment and have come to watch.
But instead he calls out, “Hiccup? Right?”
Hiccup peeks over the top of the book at the sound of his name.
“You keep it.”
He tips his head to one side again in confusion – he may not recognize the words.
But he’s interacting with actual humans beyond Astrid, so she has to encourage this, even if she’s amazed that Fishlegs would be willing to give up his favorite possession. Other Vikings have axes and fishing spears – Fishlegs has a book.
“You’ll have to show him,” she tells Fishlegs. “He really doesn’t talk very well.”
“Oh. Okay. Um…” Fishlegs thinks about it. He points to the book, then at Hiccup. Then he closes his fists and hides them behind his back.
The dragon rider startles, movements still more dragon than human. He looks at the book in his hands, one dragon-clawed and one not, and makes that chattering noise again.
But then he pulls the stray gauntlet back on, picks up the book, and leaps back to the half-burnt rafter, where he shakes his head no and drops the pages so that Fishlegs can get them back without having to get too close.
“Why not?” Fishlegs asks him, and Hiccup probably understands the curious note in his voice.
Perched on the beam, Hiccup grimaces, thinking, then gestures at the papers, says “ffsssh” and makes a fairly good imitation of water splashing, says “drakkkn” and then makes noises like breathing fire.
“Oh! I get it! It would get ruined. Right.”
But something else catches Hiccup’s attention and he turns away, scrambling across the destroyed building and vanishing behind it for a brief moment, only to reappear momentarily on Toothless’ back as they take off and fly somewhere else.
Astrid slaps Fishlegs on the back in a congratulatory fashion. “Nice work,” she says, and it’s not sarcastic at all.
He turns to her with a humongous smile, Book of Dragons cradled in his hands. “That was the greatest thing ever!”
“You,” Stoick says, his voice betraying the ice locked up inside him.
His people have all wandered off and are beginning to celebrate, but the presence of the red-gold dragon thief is like rot in grain – it poisons the entire barrel.
It is perched on one of the battle torches, burned out now, broad-finned tail wrapped around the pole and its wide head looking out to sea where that colossus – a chief of dragons, he has heard Astrid telling people now – is lurking and calling the dragons to it.
At his challenge, its head rotates almost all the way around to look over its shoulder and down at the coldly furious Viking chief, the only human in sight.
“You took Valka from me,” he snarls. “You took my son from me.”
It flares its ruff and wings and hisses at him, spinning its head back around. Stoick will climb up there himself – or chop it down at the base, more likely – if he has to, but before he can do so the creature comes swarming down headfirst, using the claws on the ends of its wings to grip the torch and make its way to the ground.
Once there, it rears up, spreading those wings and hissing a rattling, hostile sound, glaring at Stoick balefully and then lowering itself to the ground as if to stalk him.
But he refuses to be intimidated – the only dragon that has ever frightened Stoick was the one in the eyes of his own son, and this thing owes him blood for that too. “My wife – my Val – is dead because of you!” he growls.
He has put his hammer down for the moment with no battle going on and people to reassure and debris to clear away, but right here and now he feels as if he doesn’t need the weapon. He will take this thing down with his bare hands if he has to. He has fought dragons empty-handed before, and he has won, and he did not hate those nearly as much as he does this one.
“I could have protected her!” he shouts. “I could have protected him! I would have raised my son to be a good man and not a wild thing! I loved my wife as the best of us all that she was, and she would still be here if you hadn’t taken Valka from her home, from her people, from me! You took her off into the wilds to die! You killed her!”
The dragon recoils, and maybe it had understood that, because it screams back at him.
It has no right to have so much pain in its voice, and Stoick moves on it with his fists clenched and his teeth bared. He knows that he could restart the whole war with a single punch, but here and now his pain is too great for reason.
He doesn’t get close enough to strike before a shadow dives between the two of them from the roof of a nearby building.
The Night Fury slews around and spreads its wings to separate Viking and dragon, snarling at Stoick. From its back, the man who should have been Stoick’s son and not a dragon growls with it, slicing a gauntleted hand through the air.
“Nuh!” Hiccup commands in his garbled Norse. He clicks and whistles the unintelligible sound that must be the dragon’s name, and adds a noise that might mean “good” somewhere in there – Stoick can hear the uudt part of it, and that Hiccup reinforces it with “nuh bad!” all but confirms it.
The Viking chief is left standing with his hands balled into fists and rage trying to melt the ice in his heart and only managing to flood him with hatred. “Hiccup,” he growls, “that creature got your mother – my Valka – killed.”
From his place on the black dragon’s shoulders, those green eyes go wide and horrified. “Nuh!” he objects, shaking his head wildly and making his hair fly. “uh-uffff mama! (click)-shhh-prrr mama hrrt! Pfikingr mama dead.”
The reminder hurts almost as much as the presence of the thief Stoick has hated for twenty years. “No,” he denies in his turn.
Hiccup glares at his father – as stubborn, Stoick realizes painfully, as his mother.
Mutely, he flicks at the riding harness on the Night Fury, freeing himself, and on some wordless signal Stoick cannot see, the black dragon retreats a few steps, closer to the thief they are protecting. The creature finally looks away from the Viking threatening it and turns its face down to look at the pair.
The almost-human rider reaches up his clawed hands, meeting its eyes.
It lowers one of those claws on the end of its wings to him, and he leaps to the proffered limb, climbing readily and easily across the living dragon to end up on its shoulder, crouched and poised to pounce in its defense. He turns to it and rubs their faces together affectionately, making an audibly happy purring sound, before returning his attention to his father and preparing to spring, purr seamlessly becoming a growl. The Night Fury sits down beside them and bares its teeth, tail lashing.
For an endless moment, Stoick is trapped between choices. He can avenge his wife’s death on the dragon that stole her from him, which is what he has dreamed of for so many years. But it is a dragon his son loves and protects, and he will probably restart a war even as he alienates his only child forever.
Or he can lower his fists and set aside his vengeance.
For years, Stoick has asked himself what Valka would do. Now he can no longer remember – when did he stop doing that?
In the end, the look in his son’s eyes, as hard as flint and with as much potential fire in them, gives him no choice.
Unclenching his fists feels like letting a weapon fall to the ground in the face of all his enemies, but Stoick bows his head before what he knows Valka would have wanted – a better way.
Here, at the end of the war, he surrenders. It is enough. He is tired.
With no one to see, for the first time in his life, he gives in.
On his knees before the dragons and his own son, empty hands spread out before him, he mourns for his wife, because he cannot even avenge her now.
No dragon fangs tear into him, no fire blasts him, and no claws rip him open.
Instead, he feels the lightest of touches on the palm of one hand.
Very, very slowly, Stoick looks up…
…into green eyes, tipped just a bit onto one side with curiosity and what could almost be compassion, over a leather glove held in his teeth.
Valka’s son is crouched before him, balanced lightly and ready to spring away if he needs to, but with bare human fingers resting on his father’s hand.
Hiccup purrs ever so slightly at him before retreating to his beloved dragon-companion, which nuzzles at him reassuringly – or perhaps he is reassuring the dragon – before they, and Valka’s thief, fly away, leaving Stoick with his grief, but with a crack broken in it by just a little bit of hope.
Perhaps his son is not completely lost to him after all.
By about noon or so, things have started to calm down somewhat, and Astrid is glad of it. Battle they know how to do; war they know how to do – living in a world where dragons dodge between houses and lurk on the edges of the village before flying back out to the leviathan in their bay rather than attacking? Going about their lives with dragon shadows all around? That’s harder, especially as Stoick is walking around with a frozen look of shock in his eyes, hearing only part of what people say to him, so the Vikings keep coming to her instead.
She has soothed fears and promised that the dragons will leave, although she suspects that some of them will stay.
And to her surprise Astrid doesn’t actually mind that. As long as they’re not attacking her people, they can do what they want.
Although she’ll never admit to anyone that she might miss the Terrors. The children certainly would.
It’s been a weird day, and Astrid could do with a break from Vikings. Stormfly has clearly had enough of them already, too. The Nadder is perched on the roof of Astrid’s house, resting. Besides, as she looks around for the next fire to put out – real or imagined – a flicker of movement from one of the cliffs overlooking the village catches her eye.
When she looks a little closer she can see a long black tail flicking back and forth, draped over the edge of the cliff face.
Despite the mob of strange dragons everywhere, there’s still only one jet-black one around, so Astrid ducks away from celebrating people – they have decided to treat this as a victory even though it’s not so much winning as having their war taken away from them like troublesome children, and she thinks they’re not wrong to do so – and makes her way up to that ledge.
She has something she needs to say.
Toothless and Hiccup are curled up together on the overhang, one of the ones the Vikings haven’t built ramps to, although she thinks that this is actually one of the ones that should have a ramp but it’s been burnt down since and not yet replaced. Still, Astrid can get to it. She’s just going to have to climb.
Neither dragon nor dragon-man – she truly can no longer think of him as a child, not with that light in his eyes and the blood and red paint still smeared across his face and the fact that he has shaken up her entire world – make any move to help her get there, but then they don’t try to stop her, either. They simply watch her together as she scrambles from rock to rock. This is her home, her village. Anywhere they go here she can at least try to follow.
“You look pleased with yourself,” she comments to Hiccup when she has her feet on somewhat more solid ground at last.
He really does; she’s often seen him hide beneath Toothless’ wing or curl up against the dragon’s side, but now he’s just leaning against his companion, lying on the ground in almost the same pose as the dragon, gauntleted hands loose and open on the rock before him. The black wing is wrapped around him like an arm around a comrade’s shoulders, but he’s not hiding anymore. They are both watching the village below, heads raised as if to smell the strong sea wind or listen to the calling of dragons swarming around their chief. Even from here it’s enormous. Astrid just can’t imagine something that big, even though she’s looking right at it. It’s like a moving, living island.
But while their bodies are relaxed, Astrid can see the fire in their eyes. They are happy; they are free; they have won a battle she didn’t even know they were fighting, and she knows very well indeed the rush of a victory.
Astrid dares to sit down on the ground almost in arm’s reach of them, and waits until she has their attention. It doesn’t take long.
“I know you didn’t do it for us,” she says, honestly. With Hiccup, she doesn’t have to pretend to have all the answers. “But thank you.”
Out of habit, she reaches out a hand to him, but remembers and drops it, pulling away. “Sorry,” she says, smiling slightly.
But to her surprise he sits up, reaches out, and snatches at that hand, catching it. It’s awkward and rough and she almost feels like her hand is imprisoned in those claws, but he’s being careful not to scratch her even though he clearly has no idea how to hold a human hand, and he’s trying. He’s confident enough in who he is and the protection and love of the dragon and their freedom to fly together – and perhaps whatever story is behind a garbled proclamation that a dragon chief was dead – that she’s no longer a threat.
When he lets her go after only a moment and settles back into the dragon’s embrace Astrid doesn’t think she’ll ever stop grinning.
“Stay,” she says, impulsively. “Don’t go. Stay with us.”
Astrid doesn’t know what’s gotten into her.
“Your father wants you to stay – he really does love you, you know, even though you confuse him. And we could be friends. If you wanted. You can tell any dragons that want to stay too that they can as long as they don’t attack us.” She knows that’s too many words for him, can see the confusion in his eyes and that he’s now watching her rather than listening, but she can’t stop talking. “You could stay. You’re human.”
Hiccup laughs, a short mocking huff of breath, not the raucous exhilaration of triumph, at this last bit, and shakes his head no.
“Yes, you are.” The last time she’d pushed this issue she’d gotten a permanent scar under her eye, but she thinks he’s in too good a mood this time to take it out on her.
Dragons must roll their eyes quite often, because Hiccup has certainly learned to do that expression quite well.
He sits up again, although he’d clearly much prefer to keep lying on the ground, pulls off his gloves and shows her his calloused and scarred hands.
“Oooo-mn,” he hums.
No, he indicates again, and taps two bare fingers between his eyes, over that deliberate line of red paint like blood, and then places the same hand on his chest over his heart. “Drakkkn,” he tells her.
“Oh,” says Astrid, moved quite against her will. Because Vikings can argue with anything, but how can she argue with that?
“I see. You’re only human on the outside. You have a dragon’s mind, and a dragon’s heart.”
This he understands, and his face lights up in a laugh. “Drakkknhrrt,” he agrees, putting the two words together to make something new as he pulls the gauntlets back on.
Then, to her surprise, he rises to his feet properly – he really is taller than she’d thought – and lifts his face to the sky, letting the strong sea breeze blow his hair off his face, smiling that dragon-smile in pure joy.
And then he dashes past her, a couple of quick steps, and dives from the cliff.
Astrid screams involuntarily, scrambling for the edge to look for him, shocked and frightened for him –
Except he can fly.
She has seen the folds of leather on the back of his armor and has assumed that they were a cloak, for warmth or to keep predators from grabbing him by giving them mouthfuls of something other than skin to tear into.
But they’re not anything quite so human and rational: they’re wings, and Astrid bursts into genuine laughter at the sight.
Human? Barely at all. His silhouette against the sky is that of the dragon he’d once drawn in the sand for her to see, with wings of his own and that fin on his back and claws spread out as if to catch the wind. He can ride the sea air like any dragon, and does so, embracing the sky with those wings and gliding, circling and diving and spinning. She thinks she can hear him laughing too, if it’s not just the echo of her own.
The only reason she tears her eyes away from him as he soars is that she hears Toothless sigh heavily. When Astrid looks around at him, she laughs all over again in amusement rather than amazement at the black dragon’s eye-rolling look of exasperation.
She can almost hear him thinking showoff.
They belong together, the dragon and the dragon-man, and Toothless follows him into the sky as easily as a child running down stairs, so that they are flying as a pair over Berk again, diving and soaring and playing in the air, flying for the sheer joy of flight and being together.
From below, Astrid can clearly hear Stoick roar, “What –” He’s briefly interrupted by a dragon’s shriek, but when it stops she catches the rest of the sentence as “– is that?”
Oh, this is the strangest day of Astrid’s life, and she hasn’t had so much actual fun in years.
“That’s your son, Chief!” she yells back to him.
“And I hope you’re proud of him,” she adds, but only to herself. And if by some mad chance he isn’t, she will be for him.
All across the village below, she can see faces turn up to the flyers, and mouths open in surprise. She can’t blame them. It’s quite a sight, impossible and unbelievable even in the face of everything else that has happened today.
Eventually they reunite in midair, rider catching dragon-harness and slipping easily onto the black dragon’s back, at which point Toothless beats his wings strongly and takes them back up.
When they land on the ledge next to her they are both grinning with the joy of it, and she smiles back, amazed beyond words.
Hiccup throws his arms out, showing those wings for what they are, and shrieks happily.
“Free,” Astrid translates.
The way he repeats it, a sound that is pure dragon, makes it as much a feeling as a word, and it’s the best feeling in the world.
That evening, as it begins to get dark, the great leviathan off their coast rises to its feet, lifting its head and calling out.
All across the village, dragons lift into the air to follow its summons. Some do not.
Some flee into the woods or away from the island entirely; a few remain in the village. That tame Nadder of Astrid’s is one of them, Stoick sees quite clearly as the woman joins him at his vigil, although it stays a safe distance away from him.
He is watching the black dragon now perched on the roof of the Great Hall, where it – where they – have been for some time now, ever since that incredible stunt earlier. He can still taste the shock in his throat from when he realized that the little dragon gliding over the village was actually Hiccup, borne aloft on his own wings. Gobber has been keeping him company for most of the time, although he has mercifully refrained from trying to cheer his friend up with some joke or sarcastic observation.
“They’re really all goin’ to go?” Gobber asks Astrid now.
She shrugs. “I don’t know. Enough of them, I think, that we’ll never have to fight them again the way we have before. Some of them, maybe – look! There they go.”
The strange dragons – his son’s flock, his son’s family – are taking off as well, escorting the former raiders to their chief’s side and away in a flurry of wings and much rattling of claws and calling to each other, as the leviathan dives beneath the water and disappears from sight, even its wake fading.
Stoick is not particularly surprised that several people who have already been celebrating quite hard, dancing and singing and drinking and in some cases napping themselves into a better mood, have climbed up to the rooftops to wave goodbye-and-good-riddance to the dragons. One of them is bound to fall off any minute now, and he’ll have to deal with that.
It’s such a simple problem, with such a simple solution. Part of him is numbly surprised that such an ordinary thing could exist anymore.
When he hears the sound of wings much closer he realizes that he has taken his eyes off the Night Fury.
But it has come to him, and Hiccup is as always on its shoulders, and now they have alighted on a ramp overlooking the ocean and are watching the three Vikings. The dragon’s wings are still spread, and they are ready to fly away.
“Do you think he would stay?” Stoick asks his best friend and his trusted deputy. “If I asked? If he knew –”
“Nae, Stoick,” Gobber replies, as gently as he ever does. “Let ‘im go. T’was the right thing t’ do before, and it still is now. Let ‘im fly.”
“Besides,” adds Astrid, “I already asked.”
“What did he say?”
“You saw his response.”
Overhead, dragons call and wheel through the air, and Hiccup and Toothless both look up at the sound and the movement, away from the Vikings.
But even though it is getting dark, Stoick can see the smile that spreads across his son’s face as his eyes close and he pets a still-clawed hand across the Night Fury’s scales, see the way the black dragon tilts its head and smiles in its own right at his touch. It’s not the battle-fired grin, not the defensive snarl, not the triumphant smirk.
It’s simple and pure and real, and utterly human.
In a single leap, they are gone, joining the dragons vanishing into the growing darkness of the northern sky.
“Goodbye,” says Stoick.
They almost certainly do not hear him, and if Astrid or Gobber hear the whisper they are sensible enough to keep it to themselves.
Instead, Gobber asks her, “So now wha’ do we do?”
She actually smiles, and Stoick is proud of her answer. It’s not that she’s going to be a great leader someday. She already is one.
“Now we do what we always do. We rebuild. But let’s get everything this time – from the ground up.” Astrid looks around, and notes, “…which will be much easier if the twins don’t burn the whole place down first, so I should probably go get them away from helping to build a bonfire and throw them in the well instead. No, no, there’s no need to help me,” she waves Gobber off, grinning. “I’m quite looking forward to it.”
“Cannae no’ at least watch?” Gobber demands, pursuing her as she strides off into the village to protect Vikings from themselves and twins alike.
As the night closes in and the villagers light fires of their own, human fires to warm them against the cold rather than dragon-fire to burn the place to ashes, Stoick wishes, even though he knows it is a wish that will never be granted, that Valka was still here. He doesn’t know what they’re going to make of Berk now that everything has changed, but he suspects his Val might have liked it.
And he thinks that she, too, would be very proud of their son.
Travelling in the north is difficult, and it’s easy to get lost. There are endless tiny islands, and from the ocean one often looks much like another. Landing on the wrong one is dangerous; landing on the right one unpredictable. The weather makes it risky, and the inhabitants make it even worse.
If you survive that trip, and are lucky, you may encounter a volcano inhabited by dragons, but no longer imprisoned by endless mist.
If your luck holds out, you may find an island of humans where not everyone rides dragons, and not everyone likes them, but a couple of the younger or crazier Vikings are willing to give it a try with the tamer ones, and Terrible Terrors get everywhere.
If you go even further north and have the luck of the gods themselves, you may find an island ringed in ice ruled over by a Bewilderbeast that learned a few useful things about fighting dominant dragons and put that experience to good use, winning its fight against a rival and scuttling completely the ambitions of a madman. There are even more dragons on the king’s island than usual these days, many of them with scars.
But no matter how lucky you are, you may not find a clever black dragon with a partner who was born human but is now, as far as he or anyone else is concerned, a dragon himself.
It is entirely possible that Hiccup and Toothless have wandered off, together as always, again.