It had been 6 hours since Astrid and Snotlout left Berk to check on the Berserker ship, and about 16 hours since Hicca was taken. But now they were making progress.
Stoick, Gobber, and a group of soldiers were now rowing round towards the isolated beach, accompanied by Fishlegs and the twins on their dragons. As they rounded an outcrop of rock they saw the missing row boat. They also saw a giant cave opening.
“Do you think this connects to the Whispering Death tunnels?” Fishlegs asked as he rode Meatlug alongside the boats.
“It’s possible. But unlike the other tunnels, that cave looks natural.” Gobber said as they approached the sands.
“So maybe this is where Alvin planted the eggs,” Ruffnut thought out loud.
Stoick agreed with her. Alvin had grown up on this island just like he had, it’s very possible he knew about every blind spot on the island. When this was all over he’d make sure the watch tower nearby was finished.
As the boats beached and the dragons landed, they slowly entered the tunnel. Belch sparked his tongue and Meatlug carried lava in her mouth to give them some light as they travelled deeper. They saw the remains of Whispering Death egg shells that littered the floor, suddenly Stoick heard something and raised his fist to signal everyone to halt. Everyone listened, just underneath the sounds of the sea behind them, they could just make out some quite mumbling. Someone was down here. Stoick readied his sword and slowly advanced.
As they rounded a corner they saw a light at the end of the tunnel, the mumbling was also louder they could just make out the broken accent and gravely tone. Alvin was definitely down here, but who was he talking to?
They quickly but quietly closed in. When they were just close enough Stoick peered round the corner. He spotted Alvin, but to his surprise the person Alvin had been talking to was a Whispering Death. He knew it was possible for Alvin to have learnt how to train dragons using the Book of Dragons but he never thought he’d actually succeed. There was a small torch hanging from one of the walls, but even with its light Stoick couldn’t spot Hicca in the cavern. By the looks of it Alvin was loading the Whispering Death’s saddle bags to make a quick getaway. Stoick wasn’t about to let that happen. He held his hand up and counted down on his fingers, as he got closer to zero the other Vikings and dragons prepared to attack.
With a sudden battle cry the Vikings and dragons flooded the cavern. Alvin as taken completely by surprise, but that didn’t mean he was giving up without a fight, “Spike! Sick ‘em!”
The Whispering Death, so called ‘Spike’, turned and glared at the attackers. With the sound of a thousand tiny whispers its serrated teeth started to turn as it hurtled towards the Vikings. Thankfully the riders had been ready. Meatlug suddenly flew in from the side and threw all of her body weight at Spike.
“Atta girl, Meatlug!” Fishlegs cheered.
Spike hit the wall hard but was only dazed, he shook himself to clear his head and turned back towards them.
“Barf, gas him!” Ruffnut roared from atop the dragon’s head. At her command Barf let out a stream of sickly green gas, it surrounded Spike and the rancid smell made him writhe and twist trying to get the smell out of his sinuses. In his state he didn’t realise that he was heading straight for his master. Alvin dived out of the way as his dragon hurtled towards him. Spike ran headfirst into the wall and this time it was a hard enough hit to keep him down, he slumped to the ground and let out a pitiful whimper.
Alvin was just about to get up from where he’d landed, but he suddenly found a sword point only a hair’s width away from his neck. He slowly tilted his head up to see the owner of the sword. He wasn’t surprised to see it was Stoick.
The chief’s eyes alive with fire, and the look of hatred and betrayal clear on his face. When he spoke his tone was commanding and powerful. “Where. Is. My. Daughter?”
Everything paused. For a moment it seemed like Alvin wouldn’t answer. But then he gave a sigh, he’d already lost, no need to keep up the secrets. “You’re too late Stoick, she’s already on Berserker Island.”
“Impossible, it takes a day and night to sail between these two islands, and their ship didn’t get anywhere close to the island.” Stoick argued, bringing his blade slightly closer to Alvin’s throat.
“Ha, those watchmen and teens were so busy watching out for the ship they didn’t notice me rowboat in the middle of the night, not t’ mention there was a strong westward wind when I left them. If it kept up they should ‘ave reached Berserk quite a while ago.”
As the teens listened to Alvin they remembered the winds he spoke of, they had been fighting against them on their return flight. Strong winds like that would be enough to cut journey time by ship down by quite a few hours. Stoick looked over to the teens and saw the three of them giving worried looks. So Alvin was telling the truth, then he didn’t have time to deal with him right now. He lowered his sword and holstered it, but before Alvin could give a sigh of relief Stoick’s fist came crashing into his cheek. The blow was enough to send Alvin crashing to the ground and out cold, the teens and some of the other Vikings took a step back at Stoick’s fearsomeness.
“Get him and his dragon locked up, we’ll deal with them when we get back.” He ordered, then he turned to the teens. “Round up everyone on the island and tell them to get ready, we’ll prepare the ships and set sail for Berserk as soon as possible.”
“Right, chief!” The teens mounted their Dragons and took off through the tunnels. The other Vikings started tying up Alvin and his dragon and began moving them towards the cave entrance. Stoick stood still for a moment. Hicca had been kidnapped before, but the only time she’d been imprisoned by Dagur, Stoick had been there as well, with just Hicca and Dagur on their own... what would happen to her?
When Fishlegs and the twins exited the cave they started flying towards the forest, it covered most of the southern part of the island and most of the villagers had been sent to search it. If they were going to spread the news as fast as possible then that would be the place to start. But as they started flying up the cliff face, they saw a figure fly over head. A distinct Deadly Nadder shaped figure.
“Hey, Astrid!” Fishlegs called out.
Luckily Astrid heard him and halted Stormfly in her flight. “Fishlegs, did you find anything?”
“Yeah, Alvin was the one who kidnapped Hicca. He took her in a rowboat to the Berserk ship, it didn’t need to come anywhere near Berk.” Fishlegs said once he and the twins were close enough.
“How were we supposed to spot a tiny rowboat in the middle of the night anyway,” Tuffnut complained.
“I’m guessing that was the point. I only came back to tell the chief that the ships no longer there, but I guess that’s redundant now.” Astrid said sadly, she couldn’t help but feel responsible.
“Hey, where’s Snotlout, he didn’t get lost did he?” Ruffnut asked, noticing that the large Nightmare and its annoying rider weren’t with Astrid.
“We didn’t know for sure if Hicca was on the ship or not, so Snotlout went to check out Berserker Island. Maybe he can find where she’s being held.”
“We need to round everyone up, the chief’s ordered the ships to set sail as soon as possible.” Tuffnut said.
“But the winds have died down now, it’ll still take a whole day and night to reach Berserk.” Astrid pointed out. She didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but someone had to point it out.
“This would be so much easier if everyone just used dragons,” Ruffnut grumbled.
“That’s it!” Fishlegs suddenly said in excitement
“Um, no offense Fishlegs, but I really don’t think we have the time to train everyone on the island to ride dragons.” Tuffnut said, obviously confused by his excitement.
“They don’t need to. We just need to get as many dragons as possible to pull the ships. With their combined strength, we should be able to cut the travel time down by half.” Fishlegs answered, still excited that they now had a way to rescue Hicca quicker.
Astrid and the twins were soon exited too. “Well what are we waiting for? Gather the villagers and as many dragons as you can find,” Astrid ordered. With that the riders separated.
On Berserk, Hicca sat in the corner of her cell, her muscles ached but thankfully the pain from the cuts had died down to slight stings. She wasn’t sure how long Dagur had been gone. She had no way of knowing what time of day it was. She gathered that since the only lights source came from the torches outside her cell, she must be underground.
She hadn’t heard from Skadi since last time they’d spoken. That was good, it meant that she was listening to Hicca and not getting too close to the surface. If she did that then Hicca was more likely to break and summon her. That couldn’t happen. For all she knew Dagur was just outside her door waiting for her to summon Skadi so that he could strike. But as the idea crossed Hicca’s mind she realised how ridiculous it sounded. Dagur wasn’t patient enough to wait for anything. Not to mention he was a chief and had an entire tribe to command. There’s no way he as just sitting outside her cell waiting for her to break.
She wasn’t thinking straight, she felt so drained all she wanted to do was sleep. Even as the words crossed her mind she felt her muscles grow heavier, and her eye lids droop. But she couldn’t sleep now... she had to stay awake... stay awake...
It didn’t help. Sleep overtook her completely and her body finally found release from the pain.
But it didn’t last long. After what seemed like only a few seconds, a cold bucket of water was thrown over her. Hicca instantly jolted her awake and shook as the cold crept through her skin.
“I guess I didn’t give you enough yesterday if you’re relaxed enough to sleep.” Dagur glared down at her as he dropped the now empty bucket, making Hicca jump at the loud clang. He pulled her by her hair again until she was kneeling in front of him. For a while Dagur just looked at her. The way he stared unnerved her, so she looked at the floor instead of his eyes.
But his next words surprised her. “Your hair’s too long.”
He said it so casually, as if his insult wasn’t taking place in a dungeon he had tortured her in earlier. Again Hicca didn’t respond, so Dagur took action. He reached behind her head and viciously yanked away the fabric strip she used to tie her hair back. As her hair fell to reach her waist Dagur suddenly grabbed a small chunk of hair, then he pulled out his knife again and sliced right through the strands of auburn hair, he threw the discarded locks behind him and grabbed another random chunk.
In Hicca’s mind this was just as bad as the cuts from before. It didn’t hurt, but with each slice of his knife Dagur was cutting away more of her. She had heard of this being done in war before, the cutting of hair and beards for Vikings was like taking away part of their identity. Now Dagur was cutting at her hair just as he had done to her body earlier.
When Dagur was finally done, he stood back to admire his work. The auburn hair used to reach her waist, but now it was chopped unevenly. Her hair now went from barely brushing the tops of her shoulders to just below her ear lobes.
“There, now it won’t get in the way.” Dagur said with a smirk. He undid her chains from the wall and hung them from the ceiling hook, she was once again forced to stand with her arms held above her. It hurt to have her muscles stretched again but now she also feared what Dagur had planned next, why did he want to see her face?
Then he left.
Hicca thought for a moment that Dagur was just planning on leaving her there. But then he returned with a torch in hand.
Hicca’s body shook as she started to get an idea of what Dagur had planned. “I’m giving you another chance to summon Skadi,” he said as he held the torch close to her face. The flames practically licking at her cheeks, “What do you say?”
Hicca turned her face away, trying to get away from the flame. “I won’t summon her,” she said despite her obvious shaking.
Dagur sighed in annoyance, but thankfully he pulled the torch away and placed it in a holder on the wall opposite. Then he pulled out a long metal rode and held in the flame, once the metal turned and ominous glowing red he turned back to Hicca. She was desperately trying to back away as Dagur approached her, but with her arms bound and only her toes able to touch the ground, she really couldn’t do much at all. Once Dagur was right in front of her he reached up to one of her sleeves. After all the slicing he had done yesterday, Hicca’s tunic already had gaping holes and tears in it. So when he yanked on the material, the sleeve easily ripped apart from the main body, exposing the soft underside of her upper arm.
Hicca turned her head away and shut her eyes tightly waiting for the pain. Then the metal was pressed against her skin.
The searing pain was far worse than the cuts. When he had cut her, the pain followed along the line left by Dagur’s knife and eventually only left a slight sting. But this burning made her scream. As a blacksmith she’d been burnt before, it had become second nature to drop whatever was burning her and apply cold water. But Dagur held the metal against her skin for as long as he wanted to, the heat penetrated deep into her muscles and made her skin sizzle. When Dagur finally moved the metal away, an angry mark was left behind. Hicca could already feel tears building in her eyes, and Dagur had only just started.
Dagur went back to the torch and held the rode over the flames again. This time when it was hot enough he pulled at her tunic to expose her stomach, he then pressed the rod against her belly. She screamed out in pain again as the tears started running. The next one went to her lower back. Then he tore away part of her leggings and burnt her inner thigh. The fifth burn came to her stomach again crossing over the first one. Her screams grew louder as Dagur’s smirk grew wider.
It was barely above a whisper but Dagur heard it. “What was that?” He reached out and pulled at her hair, forcing her to look at him. He planned on playing with her more. “If you want me to stop then I will.”
Her shaking stopped and her eyes grew wide, was he actually going to stop? “All you have to do is transform, and I’ll stop all of your pain.”
Hicca kicked herself for being so stupid. Of course Dagur wouldn’t stop until he got what he wanted. He was just playing with her, making it seem as though she had a choice. Dagur waited for her answer, but all she did was shake her head.
Dagur clenched his fist so hard it started to shake slightly. “How can you be so damn stubborn!?” He punched her across the cheek and brought the other hand around her throat, he squeezed slightly and forced her to look at him. “You have the power to end all of your pain right here and now. All you have to do is transform, so why are you still not doing it!?”
Hicca blinked away her tears and took a deep breath before answering. She looked him in the eye and glared defiantly. “I won’t let you... I won’t let you use the crystals power to hurt my people... You might as well kill me!!” She screamed.
The only word to describe Dagur’s expression, would be complete and utter shock. How in Hel’s name was this small and pathetic little bitch still standing against him!? Dagur flew into a rage at that point, he dropped the metal rode and instead started using Hicca like his personal punching bag. Laying his fists into her stomach, chest and face until he finally wore himself out.
He stood back panting. He hadn’t even realised that during his frenzy he had knocked Hicca unconscious. She looked absolutely wrecked and broken but she still wasn’t giving in. This only made him angrier. He pulled her chains down from the ceiling hook and let her drop to the floor, he kicked her in the stomach a few more times for good measure. He then glared at her bruised and cut face, there was blood coming from her nose and mouth but luckily she was still breathing raggedly.He chained her to the wall again and left her there. She wouldn’t be able to do anything for a while anyway.