I had a hard time believing this was only a thunderstorm. I almost felt the electricity crackling through the air. I huddled with Toothless, who was only getting more frightened by the second. And even after several thunderstorms this week, I still had no idea how to calm him down.
Through the doorway, Freyr's Light seemed like it was getting more intense. From my house, I saw the streamers of lightning arcing out from the statue's horns. They still never connected with anything, but they were constantly feeling around, searching for something to strike.
The lightning and thunder were so frequent I couldn't tell one bolt or thunderclap from another. It was a constant low rumble punctuated by the occasional cloud-to-ground strike and a sharp explosion. Several times, the lightning hit the statue's horns. And as for that roof that was smoldering earlier, the smoke was gone. It was raining just hard enough to put out fires, but not enough to limit visibility.
I looked at Toothless, who was shuddering just behind me. Like I was going to protect him from what was out there. After what we had been through this week, I wasn't sure if we were going to survive another night on Berk. It didn't matter about the weather at all. Mildew and his cohorts had seen enough to justify killing Toothless. They didn't want a repeat of what happened to Barnstadt all those years ago.
Because of my fear about Toothless, sleep wasn't going to happen tonight. I was going to wait for the storm to pass and then leave Berk with Toothless and a small amount of supplies that would keep me alive for about two or three days. Then Toothless and I could survive on our own. And who knew? Maybe I'd get a hold of Trader Johann and become a nomad like him. Then again, maybe not.
Through the open doorway, I was keeping an eye on part of Berk. Making sure nobody came after me and Toothless. My dad was helping shepherd most of the Vikings into the great hall, so it was just me and my dragon for a while tonight. Gobber was helping my dad, Astrid was with Stormfly and Fishlegs was in the great hall, as far as I could tell. At the current moment, I didn't trust anyone else enough to help keep me company.
"What do you think Freyr's Light means, bud?" I asked Toothless out of the blue. It wasn't like he was gonna answer anytime soon, but it helped keep my mind away from Mildew.
Toothless grunted and crept closer to me, wrapping slightly around my back. I felt him shivering as his wing brushed against my arm, followed by his side against my back.
"I thought so too," I said. And I had no idea what I was agreeing to. Couldn't speak Night Fury. But I understood Toothless was scared again. And I was going to stay with him no matter what. I reached out and gently stroked Toothless on the top of his head. He pushed into my hand, as if my attention was going to keep him safe from the storm out there.
I sighed, wondering how long it was going to take this storm to leave.
Through the rain and constant flashes of lightning, I watched as a lone Viking ran across the plaza toward the great hall. Like he or she was late for something. I shrugged, not thinking anything of it. Right now, I was more worried about the example I was setting for Toothless. Not only was this storm unnerving to me, I was also scared about when Mildew and his group would attack Toothless. Not if.
After what seemed like an hour, the lightning was still flashing occasionally, but there was little-to-no sound. It was too far away. All I heard now was the constant patter of the raindrops falling on Berk.
I stood and shuffled toward the doorway, trying to gauge whether the storm was finished or not. The sky was still painted with flashes of dull white. Occasionally there was a low, quiet rumble. But Freyr's Light was still dotting the horns of the statue.
I put my hands on my hips and asked the air in front of me, "Really? That's it?" Toothless grunted at my sudden change of expression. Freyr's Light had simply appeared and…well, that was it. I craned my neck to look around outside. We had a few fir trees dotting the island. And as fate would have it, there were small dots of light on the tips of their leaves as well. So Freyr's Light simply appeared, did its business and left.
My mind automatically started whirring, trying to connect Freyr's Light to what it appeared on. The horns of the statue. Fir leaves. And, from what I had heard, ship masts. Why only those three things? Just to make sure, I glanced back toward Toothless. No points of light on him.
Masts, horns and fir leaves. Masts, horns and fir leaves…
That was it. Anything with a sharp point could host Freyr's Light.
A sudden lightning bolt snapped me out of my thoughtscape. It struck the perch near the great hall, sending a massive thunderclap throughout the village. I reflexively covered my ears and groaned slightly. Toothless screeched and backed away, but didn't run upstairs. But what surprised me was what it did besides hit the perch. The bolt jumped from the perch to the doors leading to the great hall. It disappeared as quickly as it came.
I had no idea what the lightning bolt did after hitting the doors. Couldn't tell if it tore a hole in the wood or not. I let my eyes clear for a few seconds after that surprise. Blinked a few times.
"Oh…gods," I mumbled. "Oh, no."
Resting on top of the perch was a new ball of light, just like Freyr's Light, except for one thing.
It was moving. Not only that, it was drifting through the air, unmindful of the wind and rain.
I watched in horror as the ball of light headed straight for the doors of the great hall and disappeared without a trace. Seconds later, the doors burst open with a flood of panicking Vikings running away from where the ball of light had entered.
"EVERYBODY GET TO YOUR HOMES!" my dad shouted. People ran through the rain to get to their houses. Maybe they'd be safer there, even though they were generally closer to the perches.
A low whuff sound to my left caught my attention. I knew it wasn't Toothless because he was behind me. I turned to look and saw a ball of light inside the house.
Toothless screeched again, trying to escape. Panic was gripping his mind, and he crashed headlong into the wall behind himself, collapsing with a long, painful groan.
I stood in shock, unable to form any words or sounds as the ball of light floated lazily in the air between me and Toothless, who was probably unconscious.
The ball, which was maybe the size of my fist, hovered silently in the same general spot for a few seconds before disappearing with a loud crack. The sound ripped through my chest like a shockwave and left my ears ringing in pain. I was breathing in short, shallow gasps, my eyes darting aimlessly around the house, unable to focus on anything in particular.
From outside the house, I heard someone's voice. "Hurry! Thor's going to destroy Berk if we don't kill the Night Fury now!"
Hearing him brought my mind back to the present tense. I glanced around the house, finding nothing out of place, except for Toothless. He was still lying in the same position as when he collided with the wall. I sprinted toward him, hoping he'd wake up within the near future. Before the horde of Vikings arrived.
"Do you think the dragon's in here?" another voice asked, just on the other side of the front door.
"Toothless, c'mon bud," I pleaded, kneeling by him. I stroked his cheek gently, trying to let him know I was still here with him. "Wake up. Please, wake up." Nothing. This was bad, and it was only getting worse. Toothless had no way to defend himself, and an angry mob of Vikings was just outside.
Behind me, I heard the door creak open. My stomach dropped to my feet when I heard someone tell his cohorts, "Get the boy out of the way."
I stood, ready to face Toothless’ and my fate. I decided that if they were gonna kill Toothless, they'd have to kill me too.
"Move, Hiccup," a Viking told me. I didn't recognize him. Didn't matter if I did or not. I stayed firm.
"No," I said quietly, making direct eye contact with him.
"I said move!" He lunged in my direction, shoving me to the ground. He grabbed Toothless by the saddle and yanked upward. Toothless didn't budge. "Let's get this dragon to the plaza and kill it so that Thor can see." He pulled upward again. Same result.
Somehow, through a miracle, nobody else seemed bent on dragging Toothless out to the middle of town. Maybe they didn't count on the fact that a Night Fury was too heavy for one person to handle? I looked up at the Viking tug at the saddle with a confused look on my face. I had no idea what to think all of a sudden. This entire week, Mildew had been talking people up about ostracizing me and killing Toothless. And now, it seemed like there wasn't a plan at all.
"Can I get some help!?" the Viking pulling at Toothless shouted.
I heard another pair of feet approach me from behind. Mildew grabbed me by the arm and pulled me upright. "Since the dragon won't go with us, we'll have to do this here. You won't want to be here for this," he said eerily. As irritating as Mildew was, I had another reason to dislike him. His breath was as fetid as his appearance. Toothless was still lying on the floor, not moving.
"Oh, gods," I mumbled. "No…No. NO! LEAVE HIM ALONE!"
I noticed Toothless’ right eye open and focus on the Viking above him. The Viking recoiled slightly in surprise. In a split second, Toothless leaped into the air and tackled the Viking working at his saddle. He snarled as he slammed the Viking's head into the floor, knocking him unconscious. Looked in my direction. Roared in anger. And lunged forward.
Mildew stopped dragging me out of my house, yelped slightly and tried to use me as a shield, wrapping his right arm underneath my own. So much for honor, respect and nobility. Toothless stopped short and roared at him again. Each time he tried to get an angle of attack, Mildew pulled me between them.
Not my dragon, I thought. Not Toothless. I had that fluttering feeling in my stomach because a crazy idea just hit me. I knew if it didn't work, I was pretty much dead. But after seeing Toothless do so much to protect me again and again, I figured it was about time to return the favor. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, waiting.
I felt Mildew pause, trying to pay attention to Toothless. I brought my peg straight up with a grunt, like I was going to kick my own back, except Mildew got in the way. I felt the dull thud as my peg connected with his groin. Mildew screamed in pain and agony, bent in two and fell over, releasing his grip on my arm.
Two things happened at once as Mildew collapsed and curled up on the floor. I ran over to Toothless as several of the Vikings just outside my door shouted for revenge and lunged toward us.
"GO, TOOTHLESS! JUST GO!" I ran over to the back entrance and opened the door for him. It was still raining, but we didn't have a choice. Toothless sprinted out, and I followed. Got on his back. And we took off, heading away from Berk. I knew Toothless was worn out, but we had to get off this island now. Maybe forever. Probably forever, considering what I did for my dragon. My dragon, who was the bane of some peoples' existence for this week.
Rain and tears were burning my eyes as I thought about what had happened recently. All because of someone's stupid idea. And it resulted in two injured Vikings, plus anyone else affected by the storms.
"Just keep going, buddy," I instructed tersely. The first island not named Berk was my destination.
There was an occasional diffuse light burst in the clouds, telling me the thunderstorm wasn't quite finished. I had noticed the lightning tended to strike the tallest object nearby, but I had no idea why it favored the statue and perches when only fifty feet away there were trees that were closer to the sky. I didn't have time to think about that now. My only plan was to fly somewhat low. What made this flight really scary for me was that Toothless and I were the only object around. Sure, there was an occasional rock spire jutting out of the ocean, but that was it. And if we were the only thing around, that meant we were the tallest thing around. I hunkered down in the saddle, as if I was now protected from any lightning bolt.
"C'mon, buddy. You can do this," I whispered. Toothless was beginning to tire. He was drawing long, painful gasps as he flew forward. Thankfully, I saw an island in the distance, which quickly became our destination.
"You can make it," I repeated to him. "C'mon, Toothless."
The island was beginning to grow steadily larger. As we got closer, I noticed it had a jagged spire of a mountain in the middle of it. Dragon Island. I shrugged on the inside. There were worse places to be for a night.
Toothless and I were maybe fifty feet away from the coast when time seemed to stop. A foreboding feeling shot through my body just as the texture in the rocky beach revealed itself. A blindingly bright white flash illuminated the area. Toothless seized violently, nearly throwing me off his back just as my ears went deaf. I knew something incredibly painful had just happened to me and Toothless, but as the beach slowly became larger, my vision and mind faded into blurriness.
Toothless crash-landed on the rocky beach, throwing me from his saddle. Time was still moving at a snail's pace as I tumbled slowly across the beach. I heard nothing and felt even less as I skidded to a halt.
I ended with my face down in the rocks, struggling to breathe. I couldn't move anything on my body. My peg even seemed like it was hurting, although I couldn't feel anything at all. I groaned slightly, not hearing a sound. Tried to move. Every joint felt like it was made out of jelly. Nothing would bend correctly.
As I slowly got to a crawling position, I saw a blurry figure shrouded by rain along with a few diffuse points of light.
I crawled forward, wincing every movement along the way, even though my hands and knees felt nothing. As the shape got larger, I saw a wing and a tail. A saddle came into view not long after that. It was Toothless, lying motionless on the beach. I reached out to touch him and collapsed. My sense of distance was completely gone after whatever it was threw us onto the beach.
I struggled back up and continued crawling until my head bumped into his wing. I heard an echoing whoosh as I pulled my head back. It felt like the wing had set my hair on fire. The rain even stung fiercely where it fell on my skin or clothes.
I looked to my right and saw Toothless’ tail. The red prosthetic fin was completely gone, like someone had cut it away. I forced my vision to focus and saw something even more horrifying.
The metal rod that held the fin in place was fused to his skin. Like something had melted the two and pushed them together. Freyr's Light was at the tip of the rod, kind of like a beacon. But it never did anything but light up part of Toothless’ tail, just so I could have a better view of the carnage.
"Oh, gods," I mumbled for the umpteenth time. Moving like I was underwater, I slowly got to Toothless’ head. His eyes were tightly shut, and his mouth was frozen in a painful grimace.
I sat down next to my dragon, overwhelmed by the last few moments. After a few seconds, I realized a lightning bolt had struck either me or Toothless. We were modern-day Barndstadts. Intense thunderstorms, followed by Freyr's Light, then balls of lightning. And to top it all off, Toothless and I were the ones who paid the price for everything.
I stared out into the open ocean. The rain continued to fall. An occasional flash illuminated the clouds above us. And every now and then, there was a low rumble of thunder. Toothless and I were marooned on an uninhabited island, injured and frazzled with no means of survival or escape. And yet, all I could think of was that Mildew got exactly what he wanted.