The dragons were flying high and heading north.
It had already been 15 hours, and the weather was starting to turn.
Astrid was the first to spot the dark clouds heading in their direction, “If we keep heading in this direction, we’re going to collide with the storm.”
“Maybe we should find somewhere to land,” Snotlout suggested.
“We can’t risk stopping. We’ll go above the cloud line, then we can fly over them,” Hicca called to the others.
The dragons started to climb and disappeared into the clouds, but as they broke through the layer of white fluff, they saw that the problem was far worse than they first imagined. They thought that by flying above the clouds they could avoid the ominous dark mass coming towards them, but the storm clouds still towered above them even at such a distance away. Even if they flew as high as possible, they’d freeze to death before they were able to scale the grey cloud wall.
“There’s no way we can get over that, we have to go around, or wait it out somewhere” Fishlegs pointed out.
Hicca knew he was right. “It’s too big to fly around, we’ll stay below the clouds and keep flying north as long as we can, once we find an island, we’ll find somewhere to take shelter.”
The others agreed and started their decent.
They kept flying for a while and soon reached a small island with a mountain in the centre, just in time too, since they could already hear the thunder breaking. Hicca wanted to keep going, but she knew than in lightning storm, she and Toothless would be a serious risk. She’d already been struck by lightning once, and she had the lightning marks down her arms and body to prove it, needless to say, it wasn’t something she wanted to experience again.
“That mountain takes up most of the island, there’s a good chance we’ll find a cave,” Fishlegs said.
“Good idea, we need to hurry and start looking.” Hicca and Toothless lead the group as they started circling the mountain.
It took them a little while, but they were lucky in their search. The cave they found was small, but the storm would be on top of them soon, and they didn’t have time to search for another. Toothless’s plasma blast alongside Barf and Belch’s explosive gas were soon able to widen the cave, with Hookfang, Meatlug and Stormfly clearing the boulders, Meatlug also gobbled up a few rocks to clear them. Once the rocky shelter was ready, Snotlout and Fishlegs went to gather some fire wood, while the others ran to a nearby lake and collected some fresh water in their canteens. Just as the rain started to fall, the dragons curled up inside the cave, they made themselves as small as possible so that their riders could join them.
They soon had a fire going and the riders huddled round, it was almost like they were on a camping trip, not a mission to save their island. Tuffnut instantly started telling ghost stories around the fire and Ruffnut soon joined in, Astrid and Snotlout pretended to listen, and Fishlegs sat nearby, leaning against Meatlug as he flicked through the Norse Mythology book. They could all hear the rain and thunder outside, and every now and then a flash of lightning would illuminate the cave. Fishlegs turned towards the entrance to watch the rain, and saw Hicca sitting by the entrance, she was watching the rainfall and waiting for it to stop.
As Fishlegs watched her, he realised she was shivering slightly, she was sitting right by the entrance not near the fire or next to Toothless, she must be cold. Fishlegs stood and walked over to one of Meatlugs saddlebags, ever the prepared one, he pulled out a fur blanket and started walking towards Hicca.
He didn’t want to surprise her, so he cleared his throat his throat once he was close enough, she snapped out of her daze and turned towards him.
“Fishlegs, is everything alright?”
“Y-Yeah, I just... I thought you might be cold, so... here.” He handed her the fur and hoped she didn’t see his blush.
“Oh, thank you,” it was like she only just realised she was cold.
He placed the blanket over her shoulders and watched as she pulled it tighter around her. As he looked at her face, he saw that she had removed the bandage from her face, she had a light scar running down her left cheek. It ran from just under her eye to her chin, then another scar crossed over it, travelling from just below her ear, over the first line, then running over her nose. She also had a worried look.
The longer Fishlegs looked at her, the more he wished he was braver.
Fishlegs knew he was large and strong when he put his mind to it, but he hated fighting, only ever using his strength to try and protect others. This was double when it came to Hicca. Whenever she was in trouble, he always fought harder for her. It was no secret between the guys that Fishlegs had a bit of a crush on Hicca, they did tease him sometimes, but promised never to say anything to the girls, something about ‘honour among men’.
He used to be wary of her when they were younger, mostly because of her father, but as they grew, Fishlegs started to understand her better. She was like him and didn’t like fighting, she was an artist and inventor instead, and some of the things she created were incredible. But while Fishlegs admired those qualities, the others made fun of her for them, if it wasn’t for his large size they probably would have done the same to him. Fishlegs admitted being a coward, instead of sticking up for her, he had followed the herd and avoided her.
But then she had changed everything.
As she started to excel in Dragon Training, the others would crowd and gather around her, maybe hoping that she would tell them her secrets. In a strange reversal of roles, she started avoiding them, clearly not used to the attention. But then the true reason for her success had come to light. He heard rumours that Stoick had disowned Hicca, and that her dragon would be used to lead the Vikings to the dragon nest. He wanted to do something, but once again, he’d followed the herd and left her alone.
But she didn’t give up. She’d gathered them together and told them everything, about the dragon and everything she’d learnt, it was fascinating to think about. Then she had proven her skills, leading each dragon from its cage as if they were her pets, and then she’d taught them to ride the former monsters.
It was amazing, and it gave Fishlegs hope.
Hope that the ways of Vikings was changing, and soon the dragons would be on their side, and there wouldn’t be a constant fear of them anymore. That’s exactly what had happened, and now Fishlegs had the greatest companion he could hope for, and he had Hicca to thank for it. But they still had enemies. Other tribes came after their dragons, and rouge dragons still threatened their people. But under Hicca’s watch, they had all grown stronger, and slowly but surely, the number of enemies was dropping.
But Dagur was still at large, and he had caused Hicca more pain than any enemy they’d faced before.
He had to be stopped, and for Hicca’s sake, Fishlegs promised himself he would be brave.
The teens and dragons waited for hours, but by nightfall, the storm was still raging fiercely. It honestly looked like one of the worst storms they’d ever seen.
“This isn’t looking good,” Astrid stood at the mouth of the cave alongside Hicca, looking out at the rough sea and the dark rolling clouds above. “We should get some sleep, we might be stuck here till morning”
“Hmm...” was Hicca’s only response. She couldn’t shake the feeling that Loki had something to do with the storm. But maybe she was just being paranoid. In any case, there was a part of her that didn’t want to sleep, she’d slept alright last night, but the nightmares would surely come eventually. “I’ll stay up and take first watch.”
But Astrid was having none of it, “Oh no, you don’t.”
“Huh?” Before Hicca could say another word, Astrid walk behind her and gripped her shoulders carefully but firmly, she then physically steered Hicca towards Toothless.
“You need your rest, so sleep,” she didn’t leave any room to argue.
But constantly being told to rest was really starting to annoy Hicca, she turned to face her friend, “What I need to do, is keep watch, we can’t let this storm slow us down any more than it already has.”
“Then I’ll keep watch, but not you, not in your state.”
Hicca didn’t like what she was implying, “Astrid, I know I say this all the time, but really, I’m fine.” Hicca tried to get passed Astrid, but she side stepped straight into Hicca’s path. That got everyone’s attention. The teens and dragons all watched as the girls seemed to glare at each other, Astrid may have been slightly taller, but Hicca’s eyes held more fire.
“Hicca, you are definitely not fine.”
“Well excuse me, but I think I know my own body better than you do.”
“Then will you stop lying and saying you’re fine when you’re clearly not.”
“I’m not lying! True, I may not be completely fine, but I will be once we beat Loki.” Hicca was starting to raise her voice.
“See, that proves that you’re not fine!” Astrid raised her voice in return.
“What are you talking about!?”
“You’re still so focused on saving everyone else. It’s like you not even acknowledging what happened, locking away your pain is definitely not fine.”
“I can’t let it distract me. Right now what matters most is stopping Loki, we can deal with my personal problems later.”
“No, we’re dealing with this now.” Astrid suddenly reached forward and gripped Hicca’s shoulder, right over the bite mark. Hicca’s eyes went wide, the pressure on her shoulder sparking memories, she slapped Astrid’s hand away and jumped back. The other’s watched as Hicca stood shakily and looked down at the ground, her hair falling to conceal her face. Astrid realised she might have gone too far and took a breath to calm herself, “You can’t keep pretending like it never happened.”
There was a long tense silence as the two girls just stood there, it the thunder outside sound deafening, the others teens and dragons were all holding their breath. Hicca knew Astrid was right. When she finally spoke, her voice was quiet and almost distant, “So, what do you want me to do?”
“I want you to deal with your problems, and actually talk to us. Tell us everything that happened to you, and let us help you.”
There was another long silence, but Hicca’s guard finally started to crack. “It won’t change anything...”
Astrid’s stern face melted into a slightly sad look, “I know, but it can help,” she said softly. Hicca needed to talk about it, to actually accept what happened to her, it was the first thing she needed to do in order to start moving forward.
Hicca took a few shaky breaths to try and calm herself, and the others waited patiently. “He... He hurt me,” She stared slow and quiet. “Dagur locked me in a cell underground, and whenever he started, he would chain me to the ceiling so I couldn’t move. He slashed at my skin, cut my hair, burned me, beat me, and... h-he almost raped me.” As she spoke, her voice started to shake. One of her hands moved in front of her, almost like some kind of protection, her other hand went up into her short hair. “You all showed up in time, so he wasn’t able to... go through with it... but he did strip me and he did... t-touch and bite me.”
Astrid could see that Hicca was already shaking, but she needed to do more than just say what happened. “Tell me what you were feeling.”
But Hicca started getting defensive again, “I already told you what happened, what does it matter what I was feeling?”
“Because you’re body can heal, it may take a year or two, but they will all heal. The heart and soul on the other hand... those may never heal if they’ve been harmed,” Astrid said with a sad look. For a moment, Hicca wondered if Astrid was speaking from experience.
This was the first time Hicca had tried to remember the events, she’d already told them what happened, but trying to recall her feelings from that time... it was difficult. “... Um... Scared mostly. Weak, alone, hopeless... violated.” The memories were all clawing their way into her mind, and tears were starting to form in her eyes, “I felt like there was nothing I could do, and if I did do anything it would only bring more pain, I’ve never been more scared in my life. I just wanted to escape.”
Hicca finally broke down, and the tears started falling. But before the first tear hit the ground, Hicca found herself wrapped in a tight and warm embrace, she looked up to see who was comforting her, and what she saw truly surprised her.
She didn’t see one single face, but all five of her friends instead.
None of them could bear to see her cry, so when they’d seen her eyes growing damp, they’d all rushed forward to console her. Hicca had been on the verge of crying as the memories haunted her, but having her friends suddenly rush to her aid, had shocked her out of her fear. Even though it was still a little awkward for Snotlout and Tuffnut, it was truly a testament to how close they’d all become. Even the dragons leaned closer and nuzzled closer to their riders, sharing their warmth as well.
Surrounded by affection, Hicca’s horrid memories vanished into the deep corners of her mind, not completely gone, but far enough away to no longer bother her. But it had to end sometime, and one by one, each of the dragons and riders pulled away.
“So? How do you feel now?” Astrid asked as she unwrapped her arms from Hicca.
“Better. You were right, it feels good to get it off my chest,” Hicca admitted, finally showing a genuine smile.
Suddenly another loud lightning clap came and lit up the cave.
“Whoa, it sounds like the sky is exploding,” Tuffnut said with a grin, clearly loving the sound.
“Yeah, but I really don’t think it’s going to stop any time soon,” Ruffnut said, also with a grin.
“There’s no other choice, we’ll sleep here and set off again in the morning,” Hicca decided.
Astrid nodded in agreement, “Alright then, I’ll take first watch.”
“No, leave it to me,” Snotlout said stepping forward. As the two girls turned to him, Snotlout spoke again, “You two could both do with a rest, besides, I was sleeping on Hookfang on the way here.”
He flashed large smile, and the others accepted his offer.
But as Hicca sat next to Toothless, the fear of nightmares as still strong, she didn’t want to risk seeing Dagur again in her dreams.
Strangely, it was Tuffnut who noticed, “You don’t want to sleep, do you?”
Hicca was a little surprised, but nodded, “Nightmares... I don’t want to see him again.” She said it quietly so the others didn’t hear.
Tuffnut was a little slow to figure out who Hicca was talking about, but once he realised, he nodded in understanding. He thought for a moment, then he had an idea. Hicca was taken completely off guard when Tuffnut placed his helmet on Hicca’s head, it was a little too big, and slipped to one side when Hicca turned to Tuffnut with wide eyes.
“It’ll protect you, that’s what helmets do,” Tuff said with a wide toothy grin.
Hicca returned the smile, silently thanking the male twin. Tuffnut then turned and walked back over to his sister and their dragon.
Snotlout stood next to the cave entrance and looked out at the rain and stormy seas, Hookfang lay against the wall, but stayed awake to watch over his rider. The others walked back to their dragons, and leaned against them getting ready to sleep, as they drifted off, Snotlout saw just how differently everyone slept. The twins leaned against each other as Barf and Belch wrapped their necks around them, as they slept they would often nudge each other, but neither woke. Astrid leaned against the wall of the cave with her axe gripped in her left hand, and Stormfly nuzzling her beak against her right side. Meatlug lay heavily on her side, with her tongue hanging out and lazily licking against Fishleg’s feet as he lay peacefully alongside her.
Out of everyone in the group, Hicca sleeping style was the most normal looking, despite the helmet sitting crookedly on her head. Toothless lay on his front with his head resting on one of his front paws, his other one was out to the side for Hicca to use as a pillow, his wing was then spread over her as she slept soundly, a small smile on her sleeping face. She looked peaceful, but the light scar across her nose and her chopped hair would be a reminder of what had happened, at least for a long while.But for now, Snotlout was just happy she was resting soundly.