"He who is skilled in attack flashes forth from the topmost heights of heaven."
Sun Tzu's The Art of War
"Dad please, I promise you, you can't win this one!"
Hiccup watched in horror as Stoick strode towards the door. Everything had spiraled so horribly out of control since the debacle in the arena: the village thought him a freak again, his best friend was in chains, and now his dad was walking towards certain death. It had all gone so very, very wrong...and Stoick was still walking.
"Dad, no...!" He hesitated, then ran up and tried to grab at his father's arm. "For once in your life, would you please just listen to me?"
Stoick turned and shoved his son back, tossing him to the floor. Hiccup looked up as he began to go through the door. Then he paused, and turned to face Hiccup. His face was severe, and his voice even more so.
"You've thrown your lot in with them. You're not a Viking..."
He shook his head.
"You're not my son."
Stoick didn't wait to see the look on Hiccup's face before finally leaving.
"Ready the ships!"
As he hollered the order out to the village, though, he stopped, as the bitter words he had just uttered caught up to him. For a second he stood there, wondering if he'd gone too far...but he took a deep breath, and continued down to the docks.
Hiccup waited for him to leave, then ran down to the ships along his own path.
"Come on, get the weapons down here!"
The docks bustled with activity as boat after boat cast into the harbor, their furled sails waiting to be opened.
"Careful." Stoick warned as the Night Fury was roped into place. The dragon put up a tough fight, but was simply overpowered by all the men around it. With its mouth buckled shut with a strap of tough leather, the creature also couldn't use its fire, making it perfectly manageable - with a team effort, of course. "Get the collar on it, now!"
Two men grabbed a large wooden collar, chained to the board that the Night Fury sat on, and began trying to clamp it around the dragon's neck.
"Just do it fast, then it won't-"
Stoick turned and saw Hiccup charging down the dock, wielding an axe that must have weighed as much as he did. The boy's face was twisted in a desperate, yet fierce cry as he raced towards the dragon.
"Hiccup! What are you-"
He swung the axe down, prompting the men holding down the Night Fury to jerk away, and sliced one of the ropes in two. The dragon quickly recoiled from the collar being held up to it, and the boy scrambled up into the saddle.
"Hiccup, wait!" Stoick saw what was about to happen. "Wait, don't!"
It was too late. There was a whoosh as the wings opened and beat down, already propelling the two high into the air.
"No no no, don't shoot!" He saw some men aiming their crossbows. "You'll hit Hiccup!"
Stoick was powerless to watch as his son flew away.
Hiccup's rage quickly cooled, despite his attempt to keep it stoked, and he found himself staring back at Berk as it slowly shrank behind him.
A muffled groan from Toothless caught his attention.
"Sorry bud, hold on." With great caution, he managed to slip the leather buckle from the dragon's head. He was about to let it fall, but realized it could be useful later.
After all, I'm not going to be back in Berk any time soon.
The truth slowly gripped him, and his breath came heavier and heavier. After this little stunt, any hope of a normal life on the isle was gone, and for that matter any kind of life. Surely they would all despise him, revile him. The boy who actually freed a dragon - it was tantamount to treason! Even if they didn't kill him on sight, he would be shunned as the maniac who thought there could be peace, the kid with the Night Fury...he would never be Hiccup again.
Oh, too bad. Because being Hiccup was just so much fun, wasn't it?
And with that came a flood of unpleasant memories of humiliation, fifteen years worth of it. He tried his best to blot it out - and only ended up thinking about it more. He growled and shook his head.
Toothless looked back, concerned about his human. He could tell something was troubling the boy...
Hiccup finally sighed. "Don't worry, I'm fine." He patted the top of the dragon's head. "I'll be fine, let's just...let's do some flying practice, that always gets us into higher spirits. Ready?" He shifted the tailfin, and the two dived towards the ocean. The wind whistled in Hiccup's ears as they plummeted, then leveled out. They skimmed just above the water's surface, the rolling sea forming melting hills and drifting valleys below them. Toothless followed the contours of the ocean, rising or falling with the waves, and Hiccup's stomach followed.
For a short glorious time, they were one. United. Not two separate creatures, but a single being that cooperated with itself flawlessly. The rushing speed, the climbing and dipping of the flight, the occasional playful plunge into the water - it was unreal, and into this unreality Hiccup escaped.
The sun sank lower in the sky the more they flew, and soon it was dusk, the sky turning a shade of brilliant orange.
"We better start thinking about dinner," Hiccup said, half to himself. "Come on, let's go fishing."
After several startlingly cold dives into the ocean, the two were sitting atop a large stone stack, with a small fire blazing courtesy of Toothless. A large pile of fish sat nearby, also courtesy of Toothless, who of course spared a couple for Hiccup, thankfully without swallowing and regurgitating them first. The boy only accepted a single one, however. He didn't feel very hungry.
As Hiccup roasted his fish over the fire, his mind again couldn't help but drift back to those times in Berk. He mulled over now-distant memories, where he'd been cooking his dinner around an open pit, with everyone crowded around him, and also talking around him. And what joyous conversations they were, always "Who killed the biggest dragon?" or "What's the best axe to throw to kill a dragon?" or "Which body parts did you lose to a dragon as you tried to kill it?" It seemed that that was all Berk knew how to do, kill dragons. No wonder his plan had failed so spectacularly! Couldn't ask for deafer ears for-
In his introspection, Hiccup hadn't noticed his fish dipping closer and closer towards the flame, where it had finally caught fire and burned to his fingertips. Now the animal lay in the fire, its silvery scales blackening as it burned. Toothless saw what had happened, took another of his own fish in his teeth, and tossed it over.
"Thanks bud." He skewered the second fish, this time keeping a closer eye on it. The dragon went back to his own dinner. "I guess I just have so much going through my mind right now. I was..." He shook his head. "I don't know what I was trying to do, trying to change seven generations of dragon slaying. I mean, no one even liked me! I don't know why I thought they'd listen to me. I guess it was just a stupid, crazy idea." He suddenly chuckled. "Yeah, get ready to be dragged into a lot of those with me."
Toothless paused long enough from eating to cast a soft look at Hiccup, purring contentedly. Night had fallen, but the warm flicker of the fire illuminated the dragon more than well enough. Hiccup smiled back.
"I guess the only thing I'll really miss is Astrid. I mean, we got to her! She wasn't afraid of you in the end, and she actually began to treat me like...well, like I existed. If only we could somehow convince everyone like we did with her...but I guess we can't drop all villagers into treetops, can we? I just...she would have been perfect." He stared wistfully into the fire, and mostly kept his silence after that.
Both finally finished their meals, and in the dying light of the fading embers, Hiccup laid down on the grassy, yet hard surface of the stack. Toothless came over and wrapped his tail around the boy to keep him warm.
"Thanks." Silence for a moment. "You know, if I had to choose between my old life and you-" If I had to? As if I haven't already? "-I'm glad I chose you."
With that, Hiccup closed his eyes and tried to rest. But all night, his mind kept returning to Berk. He was coming back, and voices jeered from every corner.
Where did Hiccup go wrong?
He showed up!
He didn't get eaten!
Well, I can show my face in public again!
They'll see you as sick or insane and go after the more Viking-like teens instead.
Oh great, who let him in?
You're not a Viking.
You're not my son.