The air inside the circle whipped around Hiccup violently, like a vortex. Grandmamma watches as Hiccup's clothing slowly started to morph and bend. Tentacles of darkness crept from his chest and started to wrap around his body. His expression softened and his body leveled vertically.
When the darkness suddenly dissolved, Grandmamma released a clipped cry as Hiccup was now wearing an entire ensemble of black with a red cape, and a green gem poised at the center of his chest.
There was a surge, like an explosion, sending a wave of air rushing over the hilltop and along the village. The air swirled up toward the sky, in the same moment, it broke within the circle and was sucked up into the blackness above.
While the sky was still black, there was a moment of unnerving silence, the crackling of the fire reducing on its sown. Disintegrating down, consuming itself until it was as harmless as a dying fire in a hearth.
When Grandmamma looked back, Hiccup was gone.
Astrid landed Stormfly next to Meatlug, and hopping off she hurried over to Stoick who was still holding a bucket filled with water.
"What happened?" she asked.
"Everything just, stopped." Fishlegs answers.
"Does that mean Hiccup's, done?" Stoick asks.
Suddenly a thunderclap startled everyone.
"I wouldn't be too sure about that." Gobber said.
Their eyes followed to hover in the Plaza. Toothless started to snarl and hiss as hushed whispers started to voice around the village.
"What is that?" Snotlout nervously asks.
"Stoick!" a voice calls
Turning, Stoick watches as Grandmamma rushes toward the, and urgency and fear mixing on her wrinkled features.
"Grandma, what's happened?" Stoick asks as he helps her catch her breath.
"It's . . . Hiccup." She spoke between gasps of breath. "He, changed. Something's gone wrong. I think he's in trouble."
"What do you mean?" Astrid asks.
On cue, a knife of blue lightning slices the sky and suddenly they're looking at the back of Hiccup's body. His hair and red cape stuttering in the sudden gales that picked up in a blink. He was bathed in a haze of golden light.
"My boy." Stoick whispered.
Hiccup's head perked up, like he had heard him. And he slowly turned to face the group.
They nearly collapsed or gasped in unison at the sight of Hiccup's eyes. Two black-coin sized pit of darkness. His hair whipping at his face, Hiccup raised his arms above his head, toward the heavens. Lightning streaked across the sky, it exploded into flames, nearly striking Stoick, Astrid and Grandmamma.
"The chief, the slut, and the witch." Hiccup's voice spoke.
His voice was different, it had a melodic tone to it that was all too familiar to everyone. Combined with his normal tone, it sounded as though he was speaking through a thin layer of static.
He is no longer the quiet and brooding boy who once captivated her, but a dark fore powerful and malevolent.
"No," Astrid whispered.
"Oh yes." Hiccup replied. "I told you I'd win, and I have."
When he laughed, a feminine voice overpowered it and shivered Astrid to her core.
"Jolene." She snarled. Hiccup looked to her, and despite the fear his bottomless pit of eyes, she forced herself to speak. "What have you done with Hiccup?!"
"Let's just say he's occupied with a slight pediment having to do with his sleeping quarters." Jolene's voice spoke through Hiccup's lips. "So I've taken on the opportunity to see how well his powers can serve in the capable hands."
Without another word, Hiccup's body raised up his hands, and glowing a sickly green color, shot two beacons of light toward the ground. Upon impact, the ground vibrated and cracked wide open, crawling toward Stoick and the others. Leaping out of the way, they all just missed at least thirty clawed hands bursting from below, reaching to snag their clothing and tear at their skin.
Jolene laughed again and soon startled shooting bolts of gold light toward houses, manipulating the fire so that it danced along the roofs, searing along the cobblestone and consuming anything in its path.
Stoick and Gobber fought off the demons that emerged from the ground while Hookfang and Meatlug tried to stop Hiccup from ruining the village. Noble villagers started to fight alongside them, while others guided mothers and children to the Hall.
Anger welled inside Astrid's chest, with nowhere to go. Feeling it eating away at her, Astrid knew if she didn't find a way to release it, it would destroy her. Shooting a glance at Stormfly who hissed at the hands that tried to claw at her.
"Fishlegs!" She screams. "Stall them, I have a plan!"
"Wait, where are you going?!" Fishlegs questions.
"To get Hiccup!" Astrid sprinted and catapulted her way onto Stormfly. "Come on girl!"
They flew off to the mountaintop, and Astrid was relieved to find the spellbook still there on the podium. But as she spotted it, in her peripheral vision, she saw a shadow hurdling toward it. She swooped Stormfly down and managed to snatch the book, just as the podium was gobbled up by a swell of land.
The wind had nearly ripped out all the pages. She flipped through the pages until she found the spell that Grandmamma had chanted to send Hiccup to the dreamworld. She flew Stormfly back to the Plaza, and finding Grandmamma near Gobber's blacksmith shop, she swooped and leaped off.
"Grandmamma!" she howled over the roar of the chaos. "I need you to say this spell and get me to Hiccup!"
"Are you insane girl?! Do you know what could happen? It's too dangerous!" Grandmamma protested.
"Grandmamma please!" Astrid pleaded. "We don't have too many options. She says she's trapped Hiccup somewhere, maybe I can reach him."
Astrid ducked them both inside as a fireball plowed into the chimney of the shop.
They ran into Hiccup's backroom in the rear of the shop. Pushing aside the curtain severing the area and the shop, a brief snippet of longing and mourning stabs Astrid's heart as she sees Hiccup's sketches and old journal entries.
"Look," Astrid started. "she's trapped Hiccup somewhere, apparently somewhere he can't get out. I need to help him. Now that she's taken control of his body, she'll destroy the entire village! Please Grandmamma I need to get in there to help him."
Grandmamma doesn't have time to ponder as the blacksmith shop's foundation shakes.
With an irritated sigh, she says. "Alright. But this is to be quick! You go in, find him, release him, and get out! This isn't your fight, so don't get involved!" she nearly shouts.
Astrid gapes at her, slightly shocked, but nods her head. Grandmamma then snatches the book and flips through the book's pages.
"Wait, why don't you just say the spell you used for Hiccup?" she asks.
"Because you're not a Valkyrie." Grandmamma snaps. "You'll only be in there for a short time, so you'll need a spell that will bring you back the moment the time's up."
"How long will I have?" she asks.
"The best I can give is an hour. But it'll feel like days in the dreamworld. Which reminds, me," she yanks on Astrid's shirt, bringing her down to her level. "Do not trust anything you see in there, it's all an illusion Jolene will set up to stall you. Don't fall for it. Stay focused on your mission. Then get your tuchus right back here when you're done!"
"Alright." Grandmamma says, releasing her shirt. "Now I'll need to get you close enough to strike both of you in unison."
"I can do that." Astrid confirms.
"Remember, time limit."
The two then headed back outside, and Astrid sprinting past Stoick and Gobber, she headed straight for Hiccup.
"Astrid!" Stoick yelled after her. "What are you doing?!"
Gobber flicks his gaze from Astrid to Grandmamma as she readies herself, the spellbook in her hand.
Astrid skids to a stop three yards from Hiccup's possessed body. She peers back at Grandmamma, and when she sees a thumbs up, Astrid turn back.
"Hey Jolene!" she howls.
Hiccup's head immediately jerks and snarls at the sight of her. Instantly, Grandmamma chanted the spell, touching the pages with her hand, she shouted the spell. "Crour Pectoris Mei!"
Lightning struck both Jolene and Astrid. Astrid felt the electricity course through her body and relaxed into it. Briefly accepting the quick thought that if she died, at least she'd be with Hiccup.
The noises of the chaos and the burning slowly faded off. Drifting father and father in the distance. Astrid risked opening her eyes, and when she did, she saw that it was only her and Hiccup's body, standing or rather floating, in complete black nothingness.
Her body felt stiff, paralyzed in place, yet her eyes cloud look all around. When her gaze settled on Hiccup, she felt a sudden pinch of electric sensation course through her arms and up her spine until they all met up at the back of her head.
She looked into Hiccup's eyes, wide with shock and a hint of confusion, as frozen as a statue. Peering closer, she could see the forest green orbs pained with misery and longing. As he narrowed on the bridge of his nose, she looked in surprise as a small glint of light sparked at the base of his forehead, just before it bloomed into a vortex of silver light and streaming murk of darkness.
Her body levitated and traveled into the vortex, she gasped as her body passed beyond what felt like an invisible screen of static electricity. Her limbs became numb. Then as she neared the light of an undeniably bright star, she closed her eyes and waited to crash to ground. But instead, she opened her eyes again and found herself standing in a passageway with damp walls and a tripod torch that burned off an orange and yellow glow.
Glancing around, she tried to make sense of her surroundings. Then suddenly Grandmamma's voice echoed in her head.
Stepping around the torch, Astrid sidled up and pressed her hands flat against the stone wall. She passed her fingers over the groves and guided herself blindly through.
Back in reality, the kids tried to keep the demons at bay while Astrid and Jolene, encased in Hiccup's body, stared one another down, both frozen in place, a glassy gaze masking Astrid's eyes. The storm and lightning have calmed and reduced to a drizzle.
"Are you sure she's all right?" Stoick asked.
"She'll be fine as long as we don't move her body." Grandmamma instructed.
Stoick turns to Gobber. "Gobber let's help the kids, and keep Astrid guarded."
Nodding to his orders, Gobber went to guard Astrid while Stoick mounts Thornado.
Despite her instincts telling her to be cautious, Astrid barreled down the passageway, regardless of anything that would possibly leap out and lacerate her throat.
The passageway ahead grew colder, narrower, and more mazelike. Her breath clouded in front of her, visible even in the fading light.
She listened for signs of life, anything, but only heard whispers. They seeped through the walls. Astrid slowed her run and pressed closer to the damp stone, her fingers trailing along as she strained to hear. The voices seemed to be moving along beside her, through whatever room lay on the other side.
This time a new sound, muffled and distant, assaulted her ears. It had come from an entirely different direction. Someone shouting – screaming. It was a sound of pure terror, and it slashed through her mind like a lance.
"Hello?" she croaked.
All at once, the screams started again. Muffled, long howls of anguish grew louder, accompanied this time by a barrage of brutal banging. Her heartbeat tripling, Astrid looked in the direction of the hellish racket. It was coming from the next passageway up ahead. For a moment, despite its rawness, she thought she recognized the voice, and it spread a sick dread through her.
"Hiccup?" she called.
Another scream, louder but still muffled, poured like scalding liquid through the passageway. Astrid scanned the stone-walled corridor ahead of her, trying to determine from which direction the yelling had come. She was sure it had echoed to her from the right, opposite the way she had entered.
"Hiccup!" she cried. Oh gods, she thought, they're killing him.
She started her run again toward the direction of the screaming, which came now between bursts of a pounding sound like someone beating their fists against a bolted door. Around her, Hiccup's screams continued, building in volume, curdling into a crescendo of utter terror. Astrid struggled to concentrate on her thoughts with the sound of Hiccup's anguished shrieks echoing in her ears.
Astrid hurried along the passageway, struggling to keep up with the lingering sound of a long, low moan, one that had issued from the midst of the hissing snickers and low cackles. One she knew belonged to Hiccup. She rounded the next bend, suddenly finding herself within a large circular room. Dark doorways lined the walls, each like the gaping mouth of a monster. Knowing there was no time to deliberate, she took one on her left, a tunnel-like entrance. This snaking pathway of stone, mortar, and dampness seemed to take her down and down. So far that she whispers and groaning faded. Along the walls and clinging to the stone overhands, Astrid could make out the edges of a crystallized white substance. She hesitated, wondering if she should turn back, if she'd take the right way. Was there a right way?
She pressed forward, lured through the blindfold of darkness by the promise of an uneven glimmering, uneven light that danced against a portion of the stone wall far ahead. Shoulders hunched against the damp and cold, she passed one hand along the gritted wall to guide her. Something hard crunched under her feet, and Astrid willed herself not to look, not even imagine what sort of matter covered the floor.
She stepped into the pocket of dim light, which illuminated a bridgelike portion of the passageway, one that overhung a vast and open vault of catacombs. Her eyes followed the orange-yellow flickering to its meager source – a torch. There, far below, a man worked in solitude. Divested of cloak and coat, a trowel in one hand, he busied himself in laying a brick wall across a gaping black archway.
A clanking echoed from within the hole, as though from chains. A tingling of bells issued forth and Astrid froze, her eyes widening with the realization that there was someone inside the recess. The man working to wall up the hole paused, a brick in one hand. Slowly he turned his head until his eyes met with hers. She fell back with a gasp, then plunged headlong down the darkened path.
She ran, the floor snapping and popping underfoot.
Around the next corner, at the end of the long corridor, Astrid saw a shaft of soft blue light. It streamed through an open archway, and she sped toward it. Through the stain glass windows, outside, gray ash coated the ground of a silent cemetery. Flecks of white sifted from the purple sky, falling through the arid atmosphere to gather atop the countless crooked tombstones. Stone angels and grim, robed figures wept and grieved at the sides of aboveground tombs, while in between it all stood several of the same thin black trees as from the woodlands. Beyond the cemetery, the jagged edge of a cliff split the sky from the ground, stretching in a serrated rift spread as far as she could see.
The view was all stillness and quiet, like come creepy charcoal etching brought to life.
Astrid kept crept closer to the crypt, keeping steady feet as she noticed the carving atop the tomb. As she approached, she felt a scream clawing at the back of her throat as she took in the paleness of his skin, the violet ribbon binding his hands to a bouquet of white lilies.
Her heart jarred at the sight of it, fear tightening her chest.
"No," she uttered, raising a shaky hand to touch the figure. "Hiccup."
A shout arose from within, followed by the clatter of more knocking.
Astrid squealed as she jumped back startled.
"Let me out!" Hiccup shouted.
Another anguished cry for help came from inside the tomb, and now she was certain. It was Hiccup inside that tomb.
He was still alive.
Astrid drew a sharp breath, her heart pounding so hard that it started a ringing in her ears.
"Hiccup!" She cried.
"Astrid?!" Hiccup answered, shock and relief in his tone. "Is that you?!"
"It's me!" she answered through a shaky laugh. "I'm here!"
She pressed her palms flat against the marble lid.
"How?" Hiccup said, his voice calmer than before, but still on the edge of hysteria.
"I had some help." She answered. "Just hang in there, I'm going to get you out!"
"Please!" Hiccup shrieked, banging again, scratching.
Astrid felt around her waist, only to realize she left her axe back on Berk, and given she's on a time limit, she didn't possess the ability to conjure up items like Hiccup could. She searched around the tomb and managed to find a mound of dirt prickled by the spade ends of several shovels. Their handles like needles, like needles in a pincushion.
She ran forward, and snatched up one of the shovels.
"Hang on Hiccup!" she said.
She stepped up to the side of the tomb, and after a brief moment of hesitation upon gazing at the beautiful carving of him on the lid, she stabbed the tip of the shovel, wedging it between the crevice that divided the top from the bottom.
"Stop her!" an acidic voice rang out.
Astrid turned back to find demons drifting into view. She counted six of them altogether. They weren't detailed like Hadrian, but mere black shadows with beady colored eyes, each a different shade to show individuality.
Astrid yanked the shovel tip free and charged forward. The demons lunged, teeth bared in hatred. Brandishing it like a club, she swung the shovel blade-first into the back of one of the unsuspecting demons.
The shovel hit its mark – and kept going. The blade swiped cleanly through him, carving his body with a crash. The creature shrieked before toppling into the marble, where he burst apart against the stone floor.
A collective howl arose from the other demons. In turn, each of them loosened into their purple-smoke selves, reforming into the shapes of maddened birds. Astrid swung freely amid the frenzy of feathers and wild flapping. The murder of crows screeched and caws. She batted at them blindly. Panicked, they scattered. Astrid twirled, raising the shovel again.
Somewhere in the distance, a bell tower began to chime the hour. Loud, brazen bongs ricocheted through the crypt. It was a sound that gripped her, wrung her with its meaning. An hourglass appeared to her left and she no less than a minute before the sand had completely slid into the bottom glass.
"Help!" came a raw and gurgle from the marble box beside her.
Astrid whirled. She climbed atop the tomb, and ignoring the carving, she started to slam the shovel into the lid. With all her strength and a pure rush of adrenaline, she chipped through the carving, its face looking more and more miserable as he chiseled away its features.
The deep chimes of the hour continued to ring, and there was no way to know how many remained to be announced. Astrid pounded harder at the stone tomb, which had grown silent.
"Hiccup!" She yelled. Once she had pounded through the hollow skull of the figure, the rest of it seemed to fall apart easily, she pulled at the rocks, and it cracked apart in bits and chunks.
She took the shovel and leaping off the top she drove the blade against the side of the tomb. The stone cracked, but not enough. She tried again.
She hacked the blade against the stone again, and this time a portion of one corner splintered off. Astrid dropped the shovel. She shoved her hands into the hole and pulled upward. The tomb lid came slowly. She conjured up all her strength, pulling until at last the lid came free, clattering and shattering to the floor just as the bell tower's final chime bonged through the cemetery.
Inside the tomb, Hiccup lay silent and shaking, his eyes fixed heavenward. He was dressed exactly the way she had seen in him back in Berk.
"Hiccup," she whimpered. She reached for him, but her hands swept cleanly through, as though she was a ghost.
"Hiccup!" she shouted.
His shaking slowed and his eyes blinked, as if coming out of self-induced trance.
"A-Asrtid?" he murmured. His eyes stared right at her, but it appeared his focus was on something else.
She tried grasping for him again, but once more her arms ghosted straight through him.
Hiccup jolted upward, his body in perfect condition. He appeared fine and unharmed. He stared straight at her and extended his hand. Oddly enough, but to her pleasure, she felt his hand caress her cheek. She pressed into it and let the relief flood into her veins like a pleasurable poison, reliving her with warmth she only could feel when with Hiccup.
"I'm glad you're okay." She said as her eyes watered.
"What about you?" he asked, panic on his face.
"I'll be fine." she answered. "All I cared about is getting to you. Jolene's taken over your body. You need to stop her. Good luck!"
With that Astrid's entire form had dissipated, leaving Hiccup alone once again in the crypt. He looked around and only found the remains of the demons Astrid had vanquished.
Astrid flew through a swirling vortex of multicolor, pulled by a force she couldn't see. As she increased in speed, she soon crashed through what felt like a small wall of lightning. She spotted her body staring at Jolene, and the other Vikings huddled around her as the demons swirled and flew around the village.
Diving headlong in, she felt her crash into herself. Her eyes blinked, and she quickly leaped back out of range as Hiccup's range as they both snapped out of their trance.
Hiccup blinked a couple times, and he suddenly clutched his heart and began to slowly descend in small drops. His breathing became ragged. The demons had long since retreated back to the dwellings they came from.
"What . . . what did you do?!" Jolene seethed.
"I set Hiccup free!" Astrid answered. "Now you'll have to deal with him!"
"You fool! Do you know the consequences for what you've done?!"
Astrid only cucked her axe in answer, knowing Jolene was only trying to screw with her. If it was dangerous to Hiccup Grandmamma would've stopped her right on the spot.
Jolene had flown out of range and high above the village. She was still gripping the area over her heart and turning paler than normal. "No," she whispered more to herself than anyone. "I can't lose!"
Suddenly she craned her head back and unleashed an ungodly scream, and two beacons of blood red burst from Hiccup's eyes and aimed toward the sky. A third escaped his mouth.
The gales picked up and the ground cracked along the village.
"What's happening?!" Stoick shouted over the roar of the wind.
"It's Hiccup and Jolene!" Grandmamma answered. "They're fighting for control over his body!"
"Stoick, we need to get to the Great Hall!" Gobber shouted. "The storm is too strong!"
"We're not leaving Hiccup!"
"What can we do?!" Gobber retaliated. "It's a mental battle! All we can do it take shelter!"
Stoick looked to Hiccup's body as lightning flashed around it, the winds whipping his cape and hair around. The ground cracking like a fragile porcelain vase.
"Everyone to the Great Hall!" Stoick ordered, and the Vikings rushed to stone steps of the hall.
They all filed in as the weather worsened. Stoick and Gobber were about to close the door when a burst of wind blew the open, as if refusing them to shut him out.
There was a power surge, a wave of force that nearly drove everyone to the back of the hall. They shut the doors anyway, locking in the frame with a bang.
Hiccup climbed out of the tomb, and as soon as his foot set on the stairs, the entire thing startled to rattle. Pebbles and dirt rained down on him. He looked back towards the front entrance of the crypt and saw the rocks collapse, trapping him in. his instincts finally told him to move. Hiccup frantically searched for another way.
His eyes found a back entryway and as he sprinted towards it, the archway caved in on itself. Hiccup skittered to a stop. "No!"
"You will die here!" a feminine voce whispered.
Hiccup looked all around for the source of the voice and just saw Jolene's reflection in the stain-glass window before she slid to the side, out of sight.
As the walls crumbled, they worked in a way that baffled Hiccup. They were torturing him by crumpling at the head of the crypt, and working their way towards him. Hiccup looked all around but his mind started to panic. He couldn't see anything.
"Hadri-" his voice caught in his throat, remembering he could no longer help him.
Hiccup shut his eyes and willed for the crypt to have an exit. He imagined a crawlspace just the size in front of him. Opening his eyes, Hiccup saw a perfectly shaped square leading out to the graveyard. Hiccup rushed and dropped, sliding through it as the rocks finally caved in inside the crypt.
Now standing outside in the graveyard, Hiccup recognized the tombstones and mausoleums. He closed his eyes and grasped the hamsa. "Where do I find Jolene?"
Opening his eyes, he stared down at the ash coated ground and watched as elegant lettering started trailing through the substance in a delicate styles.
"Where's the alter?" he asked.
The handwriting vanished, leaving a clean slate of ash for a second before it wrote again. Where you want it to be.
Hiccup sighed and tried to picture a palace alter in his mind. But he caught himself just before he could finish the picture.
"Where you want it to be." He whispered.
Instead of a castle with a runner carpet and candles, he imagined he was in the Square of Berk. The houses abandoned, no lights in the windows, a Pentagon chiseled into the cobblestone, and Jolene facing him head on.
A breeze stirred his hair and when Hiccup opened his eyes, he as there. Jolene stood opposite of him, her eyes blazing with fury despite the pitch-black bottomless wells. Her beauty no longer held Hiccup the way it had before. He only saw her now as a demon and nothing more. She was no different than the rest.
"I tried to make you mine." She spoke. "We could've been so happy together."
"You only want to use me for your own purposes. I refuse to let you torture anyone any longer." Hiccup seethed.
"You can't eliminate me." Lilith retorted. "I've been around for generations."
"Don't doubt me. It's like you said, I'm different than the others." Hiccup snarled.
Jolene stiffens and Hiccup claws his hand and chucks a fireball at her. She disperses and the murk rushes Hiccup. He waves his hand in front of him and a blue shield surrounds him. The wisps crash into the shield and Hiccup fists his hand. The shield immediately distorted and stretched to trap Jolene by the waist.
"You don't know me at all." Hiccup spoke darkly.
Jolene screeched and her hair haloed her head. It levitated and suddenly rushed forward, the tendrils coiling around Hiccup's throat. His grip on her released, but she stayed suspended in the air and lifted Hiccup like a ragdoll.
Hiccup thought quickly and clawed his hands, sparks of lightning twinkling in his hands. He gripped Jolene's hair and they traveled along the ebony strands until they connected to her head. She screamed in pain and released Hiccup.
Keeping himself afloat, his eyes glowed white as he raised his arms above his head, a glowing ball of white light emanating between his hands. Chucking it at Jolene, it crashed to the ground, sending a vibrant burst of light against the violet sky. Heat burned through Hiccup's veins where there should have been blood. The anger welled inside him, with nowhere to go.
An image of Hadrian's face cracking wide, his eyes reducing to plain sockets.
The rage began to well up more, the wind whipping up around them, swirling and churning like emotions.
As Jolene screeched like a banshee, her hair lashed out and Hiccup phased into the ground. Through the dirt and grit, he sprang up from behind her and blasted her with a charge of pure energy. Ripping the sky open, Hiccup directed a bolt of lightning toward Jolene, but it phased right through and in turn she knelt and pressed her palms to the ground. Puddles of darkness churned before two demons clawed forth.
The rain poured down and lightning sliced through the smoke. Hiccup hovered in the epicenter, eyes squeezed shut, teeth grit in pain. The rain battered down upon him. The winds kicked up, beginning to quell the flames. Black smoke was billowing up behind him, the fire still spitting as it swallowed up what was left of a house.
Astrid peeked through the crevice of the door, watching as chaos swirled around Hiccup, his face registering a pain she could never imagine physically. The Great Hall's foundation shook as a clap of thunder erupted outside.
Astrid angrily sighed. "He's in trouble out there! We need to go help him!"
"There's nothing we can do, Astrid." Fishlegs gently said. "Hiccup's in a mental battle. How can we help him physically?"
"I don't care, I just need to get out there!" she snapped back while grabbing her axe.
Suddenly a meaty hand grabbed her shoulder. Peering back, she found Gobber. "Astrid, you can't even get close to him. If you're going to get out there, we need a plan."
Stoick walks up and gently reached out and touched Astrid's shoulder. "Astrid, no one wants to help Hiccup more than me." Astrid' face softened at his words. "But there is, nothing we can do. Hiccup's stronger than we both think, in more ways than one."
The Great Hall shook once more. People quickly regained their balance and Fishlegs stopped a candle from falling off the table.
"He'll be okay." Stoick said, but as Astrid looked to his eyes, she stiffened as she's saw something in his stare that she'd never seen in a chief before.
Astrid tried to reassure him as she stared back out at the chaos, and at Hiccup. Her heart pounds in her chest, dread pooling through her as she stares at the boy who defied tradition. The boy who had captured her heart with his indifference, now at the mercy of an ancient evil, draped in veils of white; watching, challenging her for Hiccup's affections.
Now it seems, her greatest love will also be her greatest adversary.
The head of a demons crashed to the ground as Hiccup's sword slashed through its throat. His sword whistled in the air as he stabbed it through the chest of the second, the pleasing sound of glass braking ringing in his ears. Raising his arms, he fisted his hand and sent it crashing through its hollow skull. It shattered at his feet, and he flipped his sword as he faced Jolene.
"It's going to take more than your pathetic demons to save you!" Hiccup seethed with hatred.
Jolene gave him a smile that sent a chill running down his spine. The back of his neck, his hair stood on end. "I know."
She lowered her hand, fingers spread out like a fan, palm facing the ground. She clawed her fingers, and the ground vibrated. A small crack jerked the cobblestone, and Hiccup watched as a small root poked out from between the cracks. Then it burst forth, pulling with it a giant root made from smaller ones bound together.
Hiccup nearly dropped his sword and a choking sob clawing at his throat.
The thorn ropes of ivy wrapped and coiled around him, binding to him like a prisoner in a jail cell. They wrapped round his throat, his muscled torso and his feet disappeared inside the giant root. Head down, his jet black hair stirred ever so slightly in the wind. With hands bound above his head, completely pieced together, even the gaping hole in his cheek was gone.
His skin was flawless, smooth and polished like a brand new porcelain vase.
"Hadrian," Hiccup whispered.
Jolene wafted her hand forward and the vine levitated forward. Despite the millions of alarms ringing in his head, Hiccup dropped the sword and bolted forward, meeting it halfway.
He paused, breathing slightly heavy. He flipped his hair out of his face as he reached forward to caress Hadrian's face. His hand touched the cheek where the gaping hole once was, and only felt smoothness.
"Hadrian." He softly spoke.
Hadrian's eyes fluttered. He slowly raised his head, and they came face-to-face. Their eyes locked. His green eyes so wounded.
"Hiccup." He croaked.
An intangible and unnamable charge electrified the space between them, and at first neither of them said anything. Another breeze rustled past, whipping through their hair.
Hiccup would've laughed, cried even, but just as he opened his mouth, Hadrian was jerked back out of Hiccup's grip and floated behind Jolene.
Hiccup's face contorted to a sinister snarl and a jagged sword materialized in his hands.
"Ah, ah, ah," Jolene spoke, her finger ticking back and forth as if it were a metronome. "Not so fast. Destroy me, and I destroy him."
Hiccup froze instantly. He lowered his arm, shaking with frustration as he glares at Jolene.
"Hiccup!" Hadrian yelled.
Hiccup's gaze flicked to Hadrian, but instantly, leaves unraveled and clamped over his mouth, muffling his words.
"Just give me your power, Hiccup. And I'll let him go." Jolene wagered. "He can give your family and friends the news afterwards."
Hiccup's gaze flicked to Hadrian who only shook his head.
She's trying to pull you into the dark. He practically heard Hadrian say.
Now Hiccup was at war with not only Hadrian, but himself as well. If he stayed, and let Hadrian go, at least everyone back on Berk would have some form of him still there. It wouldn't' be the same, but it was better than nothing.
Hiccup looked up to Hadrian. His face perfectly proportioned. The similarities between them only slight. Stoick would never accept him as his son, only a mere knockoff to the original. It'll take everyone some getting used to. Hiccup's not even sure if anyone will spare him a glance for the first few, however long it'll take everyone to get used to it.
No matter which way Hiccup spun it, if he broke it down, Stoick still lost his son, and Toothless had lost a friend.
Even if Hiccup had granted Hadrian the freedom and life he always wanted, he would only be trading one prison for another.
They'd never accept me. He heard Hadrian's voice.
"But you're a piece of me. At least they'll have something of me to look at, to touch if I don't-"
Stop! You're not doing this. I'll kill myself if you dare chose me over yourself.
"You've done more than prove yourself to me, and to my family and friends."
It doesn't matter. You can't let her win!
The familiar words rang in Hiccup's ears. He blinked, his focus snapping into place. He looked to Jolene.
"Well?" she asked.
Hiccup looked to Hadrian. Then to Jolene. "I'm never going to sell my soul. No matter what, I can't be bought or sold."
Jolene's face slowly scowls.
"I'd rather rot alone, than spend a minute with you!"
Immediately after, he chucked three daggers at Jolene. She dodged and screeched like a banshee. An ungodly scream that made her jaw unhinge. Her eyes shrunk back and her whole body transformed into the hideous creature he had seen in the foyer.
He heard an unbearable howl of pain and he looked to find Hadrian screaming. The vines went from a green to slowly fading to black. The color seeing to the vines binding him like veins infused with black poison. Then Hiccup watched in horror as violet veins bulged out of Hadrian's cheeks, slowly crawling their way over his face. Reaching his eyes, the green slowly faded away as if the color was being sucked out. They went completely white, his features gaunt and haunted.
And with a final scream in agony, Hiccup watched as he disintegrated into ash. Him and the vine with him.
Hiccup felt tears sting his eyes before running down his cheeks, but he didn't scream in horror. He only felt the rage consume him as he looked to Jolene. She only smiled as Hiccup charged, a sword materializing in his hands. A deadly howl escaping his lips.
He swung and Jolene dodged as expected. Then he whirled around and slashed it through her neck. She screamed, but didn't shatter like the others. Instead, Hiccup leaped back and watched as the slash simply seeped inward, connecting everything back as it once was.
Jolene throws Hiccup to the ground, but Hiccup kicks her legs out from beneath her, and scrabbles across her, that terrible scream still ripping its way out of his throat as he punches, kicks, and tries to stab Jolene with a knife he gathered out of thin air. Hiccup takes Jolene's blows like they're nothing. Digging his nails into her skin as if she's a wall he has to climb, he claws his way up Jolene's body. He slams the hilt of his knife into Jolene's forehead, rendering her nearly senseless, and then flips his weapon around and drives the blade toward her throat.
A gust knocks him off to the side before the blade finds skin, and Hiccup sprawls on the ground, his knife skittering. Hiccup pushes himself up on wobbly knees.
Something feral tears through him, obliterating teamwork, mercy, the kind of boy Hiccup thought he'd once dreamed he'd be again, and every cautious word Stoick ever spoke, leaving nothing but pure, scorching bloodlust in their wake.
Jolene hisses and thrusts a fireball in his direction. Hiccup raises his hands and a wall of earth rises just as the ball was about to obliterate him. He punches the wall and watches as miniature boulders hurdle towards Jolene. She dodges every one with such grace, and driving her hands into the ground, she jerks it upward and sends little pebbles – with as much punch as a Viking – towards Hiccup.
The wall shatters and Hiccup bounces backwards. His reflexes bring him to a back handspring, sliding to a stop. Looking, he sees Jolene in the sky. Hiccup sprints forward and pushes off his feet, taking off into a speed flight. His eyes, pits of rage and misery.
Meeting Jolene's altitude level, Hiccup fists his hands and raises them above his head. Fanning them out until they're at shoulder level, small orbs glimmered above his head before stretching into shards. Hiccup plowed his hands forward and the shards charged. They ricochet as Jolene made a shield glowing in pure white.
In turn, she claws her fingers, and punching it forward, her nails shoot out. Hiccup flies out of the way, one nicking him in the shoulder, but he doesn't feel the pain. The roar of his pulse pounding in his ears. As Hiccup blinks, an oozy liquid smears his vision, only to find a gash on his forehead. But Hiccup doesn't stop the blood. He lets it stream down his face, drip to his chin and his collar.
Hiccup tried to calm down, knowing he'd get nowhere if he just attacked out of pure rage and hatred. It's what she wanted.
But Hiccup's distractions cost him and he's tackled to the ground, crashing into the ash and dirt. He coughs and rolls to the side as a javelin catches Hiccup's cloak and tears into it, but he doesn't slow down.
Driving his boot onto his wrist, Hiccup grinds the small bones together. Jolene screams, and Hiccup takes her by the collar of her veils and rolls on the ground until he has her pinned underneath him. He raises a dagger, but Jolene punches her hands palm open and on either side of her, slabs of earth thrust forward and jab Hiccup off. He manages to tuck and roll as he blindly spins onto the ground.
"This has gone on far enough!" Jolene screeches.
As Hiccup pushes to his hands and knees, the winds suddenly whipped around them, they sped toward and around Jolene, her hideous form smiling for ear to ear. She spread her arms out to the side and suddenly a funnel of blue light bloomed from her chest like a blossom, and a trio of streams hurdled toward Hiccup.
Pushing to his feet, Hiccup grasped the hamsa around his neck and envisioned a shield protecting him. The beams bounced off, and for a moment, Hiccup felt safe, until he saw the shield start to crack. A fissure starting at the center.
As Hiccup grasped the hamsa, that was when the thought hit him. The answer came to him in a flash, and suddenly it made all the sense in the world. It was all there. The answer to stopping Jolene/Lilith – he held it in his very hand.
Lilith, too, seemed to see the light of realization in Hiccup, because she stared through him with those hole-black eyes. She snarled and pushes harder on her beams. The crack increased.
In his mind, Hiccup imagined the future. A future void of the creature before him. He pictured himself safe at home. Sitting at his desk, he filled the pages of the Book of Dragons by candlelight. His black charcoal writing packed the crisp buttery-yellow sheaves of parchment. In the company of his beloved Night Fury, his soft, feathery drawings, those lines would be his last farewell to her.
About how, furthermore, he would continue to drift on the wings of his dreams – dreams now free of the ghouls and demons that had once haunted and stalked his mind. Finally, in this small way, she would be his only love.
This was still his dream, even if it meant he went with it when it ended.
With a newfound confidence, Hiccup kept his hold on the hamsa, and started to walk forward. Jolene growled as he approached. The shield was holding well, but the cracks kept spreading from the center. The sound of the beams permeating the shield started a ringing in his ears.
"Give it up Jolene!" Hiccup shouts over the ring. "You can't hurt me!"
Jolene only pushed the beams harder against his shield. The cracks spread father, it was only moments before it would shatter. Hiccup clutched the hamsa in his hand, ripping it from his neck.
The shield shattered.
The beams penetrated Hiccup's body. He could feel the beams lacerate his heart like knives infused with the poison of a Scauldron. A sensation of pain coursed through his body like something he'd never felt before. He felt his eyes burning, and everywhere he looked, he saw a haze of golden light.
At first, Hiccup focused the heat in his chest. Guided by her mind, it traveled into his arms and then burst into flames over his hands. He felt the hamsa shift in his hands. The iridescent opal stretched smoothly in his hand, forming into a blade. The fingers curled into a hilt, the thumbs smoothly stretching into the crossguard.
Finally the flames coursed along his arms to the blade.
With a primal howl of finest, Hiccup drove the blade through Jolene's heart.
She screamed. White heat engulfed her, consumed her. Her skin peeled off and fissures spread from her eyes across her cheeks. The dagger glowed brighter and Hiccup stumbled back as it sank into her heart.
The fire had caught Hiccup on his wrist, ran its tongue up his arm and kissed along his neck. He was grateful not to feel the pain. A gift perhaps from his subconscious to his conscious? Like a hallucination, vision of the white, black-eyed figure dropped away. The blue and white flames grew brighter.
Hiccup looked down to see the fire course the length of his legs. It danced over his hands, and he watched the gloves of his outfit curl and turn from black to orange-lined to brown and black again - taking on all the hues of autumn.
Everything died in the fall.
Hiccup watched as the fire snuffed into blackness and with it, the world. It around him, crumbling like the stones of an avalanche. Hiccup floated for a brief moment before he felt himself plummet into the oblivion.
It might have been his imagination, but he saw his reflection in the darkness. His forest green eyes faded, the color seeping out of them before his skin turned completely pale.
The rain began to fall, and their blurred vision sharpened until they could see the sheets of rain hitting the smoking oaks, the fields, the thickets, and houses. The winds had died down enough to normality. The villagers filed out one by one down the steps towards Hiccup's body.
The last they saw him, he was clean and cut. Now, Hiccup's pale skin is smudged with blood and what looks like ash. His cloak is torn and battered, small splatter of blood ruining the cloak even more. His tattered garment whipping at the wind, bloodstained and covered in ashen grit.
Shock punched little frissons of panic through them. His eyes were still squeezed tight, but suddenly, it relaxed for a snippet of a second. Then a visible wave of light, illumines as the halo of a moon, spread out from Hiccup's forehead and hurdled everyone back.
The moment it dissipated, everything was calm. The storm was gone, though the sky was still grey. Astrid looked up and watched as Hiccup's face relaxed, and he fell toward the ground.
"Stormfly!" she screamed.
The Nadder immediately flew and grabbed Hiccup in her talons. She landed gently, placing Hiccup in Stoick's arms. Slowly he guided Hiccup to the ground.
"Did, did he win?" Fishlegs asked in a shaky voice.
Astrid leaned in, gently patting Hiccup's face. "Hiccup? Hiccup."
She fumbled for his hands, and her heart dropped.
His skin was ice.
"No," she whispered.
Slowly, Hiccup's skin hued until it was pale. She came undone.
"No, no, no, no, no." she begged. "He's not breathing!"
Stoick leaned in, taking Hiccup's head in one of his hands. "Son." Tears stung his eyes. "Somebody get Goathi!" he screamed in terror.
"Fishlegs get Grandmamma!" Gobber ordered.
"Hiccup!" Astrid screamed, shrugging his shoulders. "Hiccup please!"
Tears streamed down her face and she was moaning and weeping desperately
"Come on son!" Stoick yelled as he gripped Hiccup's hands tighter.
"He's not breathing!" Astrid wept.
She brought her hands to her face, trembling and her eyes soaking with tears.
"He's not breathing!"