"Another one?" Gobber asked.
"Looks like it," my dad said to him.
Being flying creatures, the dragons around Berk had decided the rooftops were excellent perches. They were, except for one thing. A standard rooftop was never going to be able to hold anything larger than Toothless. Several roofs around the village had dragon-shaped holes in them. I thought it was kinda humorous, seeing these rough caricatures embedded in rooftops.
"All right, but the more I've got to fix, the longer it'll take," Gobber said back. "I think I'll need your help on this one, Hiccup."
"Um," I started. "You'd better recruit a whole lot more than us two."
"And why is that?" he asked.
"It looks like we're getting rain tonight."
"How can you tell?" my dad asked.
"Look west," I said matter-of-factly. There was a dark, ominous cloud in the distance. Normally, these storms were slow-moving beasts, which was both good and bad. Good because they took a long time to get here. Bad because once they got here, they stayed for a while.
"If you can hear me, meet in the plaza right now!" my dad shouted to the entire village. Within a minute or so, several doors opened and people came filing out toward us. Being chief meant you had some influence, even if it was on a whim. People murmured as they crowded around Gobber, me and my dad. "Everyone, please listen because we don't have a lot of time. We're all going to help in this. Get all the supplies you can find and help us patch these roofs. We need to get this done by sunset."
There was a general murmur of consent as the crowd dispersed. Most people began looking for supplies, which included boards, hammers, nails and pitch. And, as usual, there was a minority who didn't want to help. Because their houses weren't touched. They stood there in defiance, looking at my dad. And by "they," I meant just one person. Mildew. He was irritating enough to everyone in Berk that we forced him to live on the outskirts of town. Where he had plenty of company with himself.
"I'm not moving, Stoick," he said defiantly with a guttural rasp. Even the sound of his voice was irritating to me. I couldn't stand a thing about him. Every group of people had one of these yay-hoos. The kind of person you just want to hit because he'd look better with an unrecognizable face. Yeah, that was Mildew. A bona fide louse.
"Oh, good!" I said before my dad could do anything. My dad and Mildew looked at me quizzically, which is exactly what I wanted. Mildew's attention where it shouldn't have been. I waited for a brief second, trying to time it just right. "Well, if you're not gonna move yourself, the wood he’s carrying will do it for you." I glanced to my left.
"Huh?" Mildew asked, like a half-asleep yak. Just as he turned his head to his right, Gobber rammed into him with a long plank at walking speed. Mildew grunted in pain as the wood Gobber was carrying threw his balance, causing him to fall.
"Mildew, if you're not gonna do anything, just leave!" Gobber shouted.
"I believe I will," he said with a groan as he got up, which made his voice sound even more irritating. "But you know you're just going to have to fix all these roofs again in the future." He slowly turned like he was five hundred years old and limped back toward his home, his dumb pet sheep, Fungus, in tow.
After he got out of earshot, I turned to my dad. "Can we please ship him somewhere other than here?" I begged.
My dad sighed. "No. I don't like him any more than you do, Hiccup."
"Seriously, how does he earn his keep here?" I asked.
"Cabbage," Gobber said matter-of-factly as he continued walking. That was something I could always count on from him - being literal.
"All he ever does is try to get Toothless killed," I said as if Gobber hadn't even mentioned anything. "And nobody does a thing about it. I think he makes a hobby of taking all of his anger out on me. Just because I'm Hiccup, the little runt who had a stupid idea one day..."
"All right, Hiccup, I get it," my dad said, turning toward me. I stopped immediately, knowing I had stepped across a line I shouldn't even have approached. "Just get over there and help Gobber." He had that tone in his voice that said his patience was wearing dangerously thin.
I sighed as I trudged over to Gobber's house. He already had a wooden ladder up to his roof, so I scaled it and began hammering boards over a large, roughly Gronckle-shaped hole. I knew if my frustration with Mildew got to my hands, I'd be repairing Gobber's roof by myself. So I took my time, trying to let the anger dissolve. After the boards were in place, I grabbed a bucket of pitch. Since I was the youngest person on this roof, Gobber asked me to apply the pitch, which translated to kneeling and bending down for a while. Something he couldn't do as well.
For what it was worth, I always felt coating a patch was the hardest part of fixing a roof. Because if you had one leak, all the water from a rainstorm would find that hole. I looked at the sky, noticing we had a few hours of daylight left. Should be okay.
I got down off of Gobber's roof and looked around the village. Houses were in different stages of being fixed, some complete and others just barely getting started. But it looked like we were gonna finish in time for a downpour. They happened a handful of times during the summers. Most of the time, the rain was accompanied by lightning, and we had storms run the gamut. Some had only one small flash somewhere in the clouds. Others gave a four-hour-long light show that made it look like daylight outside. We just had to see what this storm had in store for us.
"Well, it'll do for tonight," my dad said. He was sitting at our table with me and Gobber. Toothless was chowing down on a basket full of fish. I figured being in the chief's family kinda helped keep our house untouched. Because we were a good way from the plaza, where most of the dragons in Berk knew they could find food, our house generally stayed intact.
"Stoick, we can't just keep repairing the roofs. If this keeps up, we'll be out of supplies." It took him a long time to say those two sentences, so I guessed he didn't want to admit Mildew was right.
Outside, a light patter started, telling us the rain was here. Right on time. There was a low rumble in the distance, which wasn't Toothless because he was eating. The only other possibility was thunder. And I had a sinking feeling about it. Just something here wasn't quite right.
"Oh!" I shouted. And dashed toward the door. Opened it and saw only the occasional raindrop. While fixing roofs today, I had forgotten about our own. It wasn't broken, but I had forgotten to cover the skylight above my bed.
"Where are you going, son?" my dad asked. Toothless paused eating and looked at me curiously.
"Gotta-cover-the-skylight-be-right-back!" I said quickly, dashing outside. I slammed the door behind me and tore into the armory. Grabbed a large sheet of thick leather and a bucket of pitch. I knew it wasn't going to be a sure seal, but it would do in a pinch.
I got back home to find Gobber already on our roof. My dad was on the ground, waiting for my return. I heaved the leather in my dad's direction and watched as it fell miserably short. It was like throwing a piece of parchment without balling it up first. "Oh, come on," I mumbled. My dad grabbed the leather and climbed the ladder, where Gobber helped him hold the sheet in place. They had gotten the leather over the square hole in our roof when I reached them. I slathered pitch over each side, and we pressed the leather for about a minute to make sure it was going to hold for at least some time.
There was another thunderclap, this time much closer. Instead of a rumble, it sounded like a distant explosion. A muffled roar came from inside our house. Toothless was worried because we had inexplicably left him alone when a storm was approaching. Not good. I figured he was going to tear this house down if we left him for too long.
Thankfully, Gobber noticed Toothless also. "Go take care of your dragon," he said. "I'll take the bucket and ladder back to the armory." Without saying a word, I nodded and nearly jumped to the ground, barely touching the ladder. Dashed around to the front door and paused. Slowly opened the door, trying to avoid startling Toothless. Cautiously peeked inside, seeing my dragon's worried eyes. I opened the door a little wider and walked in. Closed it behind me quietly and walked over to Toothless.
"It's okay, bud," I said, stroking him underneath his chin. He gratefully closed his eyes with a low murmur. His way of saying thanks.
My dad and Gobber walked in a few minutes later. "Oh, good," my dad said. "Toothless didn't burn the place d-."
A loud thunderclap sounded, masking my dad's last word. Like it was an explosion at close range. Toothless shrieked and ran upstairs. This was his first thunderstorm with me, so I was feeling it out, trying to get a handle on how he was going to react.
I followed him up the stairs and found him on his rock, shivering in fright. His eyes were wide in panic, unable to focus on anything for more than a second or two. There wasn't a whole lot I could do about the thunder, but I could at least keep him company. I sat down next to Toothless, and he edged closer to me, putting his head in my lap. He was quivering with an occasional sound each time he exhaled. Toothless was so scared he had almost no control over his breathing.
"It's gonna be fine, buddy," I said quietly. I stroked his head, making sure to tell him I was gonna stay here and protect him. And above all, I couldn't show any worry.
"HICCUP!" Gobber shouted from downstairs.
I looked at Toothless reassuringly, then peeked over the rafters at Gobber. He had the door open and was staring anxiously at something through the wall of water that had begun to crash down on Berk. "What!?" I shouted back over the din.
He motioned me toward the door. I walked downstairs to see what he was so interested in. Looked through the doorway to find a lone Deadly Nadder stumbling around. It was maybe twenty feet away and looked eerily similar to Stormfly.
"Isn't that Stormfly?" he asked. The dragon had a light blue back, just like Stormfly did. I caught sight of one of its eyes. The only word I could have described it with was "panic." Complete, gripping panic. If it was Stormfly, I wondered where Astrid was. Next to me, she was the Viking who was the most protective of her dragon. Surely she wouldn't let her dragon wander around during a rainstorm like this.
"I've gotta get her inside!" I shouted. But my voice was muffled by a dull flash and a moderately loud thunderclap. The lightning had probably hit somewhere on the island, but wasn't too close to the village.
Stormfly reared up slightly and roared at the top of her lungs as I ran outside, shouting her name. No response from her. She wasn't going to pay attention to anyone, at least not for now. Not when she was immobilized by fear. Stormfly wandered to her right in stupor just as another flash appeared with a thunderclap not a second later. My ears were ringing slightly after that explosion, but I had to get to Astrid's dragon.
I had stepped out into the rain just as she reared back again, wings spread completely out and shot a streamer of white fire straight upwards. Like her fire was going to stop the storm in its tracks. I took another step when a blindingly bright white flash immobilized my feet. A shockwave rocketed through my chest, and my ears felt like they exploded from the pain. Normally, there's a lag between lightning and thunder. On this occasion, they were simultaneous. I quickly crouched and curled into a ball, gripping my ears, screaming in paralyzing agony. I couldn't hear a thing, not even my own voice.
My dad scooped me into his arms and dashed back inside. He slammed the door, which made absolutely no sound at all. A few dishes clattered from the shelves on the wall, adding to the silence of the moment.
Upstairs, I heard something about twenty seconds after that lightning bolt - a muffled roar from Toothless. I felt like I was underwater. My ears had lost most of their ability to hear, and movement just seemed like it was ten times slower for me. Toothless roared at the top of his lungs again, but for all I could tell, he was simply grunting. But I knew for certain he was scared because I heard it in his tone. He began jumping around upstairs, which echoed not only through the house but my head as well.
"Hiccup! Talk to me, son! Say something!"
Another thunderclap, this time from a distance.
"Come on, Hiccup!"
"Oh, for Odin's sake, don't scare me like that again!"
"Wh-what happened?" I asked in a daze.
"You were ten feet from a lightning bolt! You seriously don't remember?"
Slowly, the room stopped swimming. My dad's worried face came into focus as Toothless continued his tantrum. I tried to wriggle away from him, only hearing what Toothless was doing. I was afraid of what he might do if I didn't show up soon.
"Lemme help Toothless!" I said, gaining full movement back. My hearing, though, was going to take longer.
My dad let me go, and I stumbled toward the stairs. I climbed them on my hands, right foot and peg, keeping the wall to my left in sight so I didn’t teeter over the edge. And at the top was a Night Fury named Toothless with his eyes wide in terror. I got to my feet at the end of the staircase, hoping he would see me. I knew better than to rush in and try to comfort him, because that would make me a target. I stood tall, trying my hardest not to show the pain in my ears or the fear I had about Stormfly.
Toothless caught a glimpse of me and leaped in my direction, landing just feet away from my right leg. He almost knocked me over asking for my protection. I cautiously put my hand out, and he rubbed underneath it, thinking I was going to protect him from the storm. But I was just as scared as he was. And it wasn't just that a lightning bolt barely missed my head.
"C'mon, buddy," I said with a quaver in my voice. "L-let's get downstairs." I began trodding back to ground level, Toothless right behind me. I knew he was way closer to my back than he usually was when he followed me around, but I was fine with it. The only thing I could do was stay with him, let him know everything was going to be okay. And deep down, I knew that was a lie. Because of Stormfly.
I sat down on the floor, which was a little trick I liked to use when Toothless was upset. By sitting down, Toothless became taller than me, putting him in a little more of a protective mood. It was a way to get his mind off of being upset or scared.
It worked, just like all the other times. Toothless might have taken a minute or so to calm down, but he finally came back to earth. He nudged me in the shoulder with his snout, grunting slightly. To me, it meant he was asking if I was okay. I tried to pretend like it and scratched him gently underneath his chin. He closed his eyes and murmured quietly.
"That's better," I whispered to him. "It's gonna be okay." I put my hand on his side, feeling his heart race.
Another thunderclap, this time from a little bit of distance. Toothless jumped slightly and tensed. I felt just how scared he was, with the fear of the unknown. To him, he was afraid that one of those explosions might hit him.
"Looks like we can't go out there for a while," Gobber said. "Hope you and your dragons don't mind being stuck with me." Nobody said anything in reply.
Just before Gobber shut the door, I caught a glimpse of Stormfly. She was slumped over, but still standing. Her eyes were glassy, which probably meant she was dead on her feet. To the gods, this was a minor blip for them. Because the rain continued falling. The lightning continued flashing. And the thunder continued rolling.
Toothless curled slightly around my back, his head to my left and his tail to my right. He gave a quiet groan that had a noticeable quaver to it.
"We're gonna be okay, bud," I whispered, stroking the top of his head. He looked at me with worry. I wished I could find something to ease his state of mind, but there was nothing I could do. It was that helpless feeling, knowing your best friend was gonna suffer for a while, and you had to witness every minute of it.
I wrapped my arms gently around Toothless’ neck, just in front of his saddle. It was my way of telling him I wasn't going anywhere. That he was going to be safe as long as I was with him.
The rain continued falling. The lightning continued painting the sky with white. And the thunder continued rolling. But I stayed next to Toothless throughout the entire storm.
If I had to guess, the storm had lasted about four hours, give or take. About normal for one of these monsters. I stood up, my hips and knees groaning from being so stiff for that long. Limped toward the door. My dad was asleep in his bed across the house, snoring much more quietly than normal. Thornado wasn't too far away from him, sleeping. And Gobber was asleep with a small river of his drink spilling out of his prosthetic mug.
I thought it was interesting that Thornado was pretty calm throughout the entire night. I figured all of the dragons in Berk were going to be running amok because of the constant explosions. But I never heard anything come from him.
I quietly opened the door and walked out. Closed it. And looked around, surveying the damage to Berk.
No damage, excluding one dragon. Who was still dead on her feet. I walked closer to Stormfly, my boot and peg leaving a one-of-a-kind trail in the water-soaked land. There was a quiet buzzing around the Deadly Nadder in front of me. The flies around Berk must have gotten the message pretty quickly, because there were several of them around this dragon.
"Oh, gods," I whispered. I had no idea a split-second could do so much damage to one living thing. I almost threw up looking at Stormfly.
She was standing somehow, her body twisted at a disturbing angle. Her neck was twisted about halfway around with her head resting on the grass. Her wings? Tattered. Her left wing was nowhere to be seen; only a bloody stump remained.
But what really shocked me were her feet. The tops of her feet were blown completely open, revealing bone, muscle and tendons. A small amount of blood was pooling around her feet, but most of it had been washed away by the rain. Adding to the savagery of the moment was the sight of blood dripping from her eyes, nose and mouth.
This was bad. Someone had to tell Astrid about this. I slowly trudged my way toward her house, mulling over how I was going to break the news to her. I had about fifty different ways to say it, and none of them sounded good.
I took the steps toward her door. And knocked, hoping somehow I wouldn't have to say it.