The Valhalla Crystal

Forge

It wasn’t unusual for Hicca to be working at the forge nowadays, she was always there helping out whenever she found the time. But between learning from her father, teaching at the academy and taking care of Toothless, she had a pretty full schedule. But every now and then, Gobber would be working on something and out of the corner of his eye, he’d spot Hicca walk in, take her apron from the hook and set to work at her desk. He always left a little something for her to work on, something that was maybe a little too delicate for his hammy fingers. This particular time someone had wanted an intricate carving for their wife, it was the perfect job for Hicca’s artistic talents. Gobber always looked forward to having some company from his apprentice and maybe to catch up, and sometime Hicca just needed someone to listen.

This was one of those times.

When Hicca walked into the forge with Toothless, her eyes were down cast and she didn’t say anything to Gobber. She just put on her apron and sat at her desk, Toothless lay underneath the table on a blanket Gobber had laid out for him. Gobber didn’t say anything at first, he had years of practice when it came to Hicca’s troubles. She never asked for help, maybe it was both a pride thing, or that she never wanted to show how vulnerable she felt, but Gobber had soon picked up on the signals. She was a 16 year old girl after all, he’d seen a lot of insecurities come and go, and he knew there would be more to come.

After a little while of Gobber’s hammering and Hicca’s carving she let out her fifth sigh. Gobber felt now was the time to ask. He lowered his hammer and pulled a stool to the side of Hicca’s desk, Hicca glanced at him and went back to work, she hadn’t made much progress in the last hour and a half.

“Do you want t’ talk about it?” It was a simple sentence, but it was all Hicca needed to let her walls crumble a little.

“Yeah, do you have a minute?” He gave a nod and she turned to face him fully. “Okay... I was thinking about everything that happed yesterday, and I know I wasn’t exactly ‘there’ whilst Skadi was in control, but I still felt everything. Skadi is a completely different person to me, and I’m not just talking about the whole goddess thing.... she is so much stronger, braver, more precise, more in control, and she’s more of a leader than I’ll ever be.”

Gobber watched her, as she spoke she had risen from her chair and started pacing back and forth. “So? You’ll keep training and get stronger, become better with weapons, and there’s always something new t’ learn about dragons.”

“But I’m never going to be as good as her.”

“Why are you comparing yourself t’ a goddess, that’s completely unrealistic.” Gobber said, still not quite seeing the problem.

“Because everyone else is!” Hicca yelled. “Everyone at the academy kept calling her the ‘other me’, but she’s nothing like me! And despite everything I’ve done and everything I accomplish in the future, it’s never going to be as good as her!”

Gobber sat quietly and let her yell. Now he could see why she was so angry, she just needed to let it all out. She took a few deep breaths and slumped back into her chair. Toothless shuffled towards her almost nervously, he made a deep humming sound at the back of his throat and nudged Hicca’s leg with his head. Hicca smiled slightly and patted his head before continuing. “Fishlegs was actually scared of me. I’m worried that from now on, whenever people look at me... all they’ll see is her.”

There was a pause.

“No chance,” Gobber said firmly.

Hicca looked at him oddly, “But she’s-” Gobber held up his hand to stop her.

“A goddess, I know. But you said it yourself, she’s not you. Of course she’s strong, she was born that way. But you... when you were a wee thing, everyone said that you would never amount to anything. Just a hiccup. But look at you now!” He stepped back gesturing to all of her, causing her to blush slightly. “You ended the war between Vikings and dragons, you who first trained dragons t’ help us with our daily lives, you changed the way we Vikings think about the world, and let’s not forget your inventions.”

Hicca gave a small smile as Gobber placed a large but gentle hand on her shoulder. “Hicca, you’ve became braver, wiser and so much stronger since you were little. You did all that, not some goddess. Your father and I will keep finding out everything we can about the crystal so that we can get rid of it, and when Skadi is gone everyone will remember how amazing you are without her.” Hicca blushed harder and looked away in embarrassment as Gobber continued. “You’re going to be an amazing chief one day lass, and everyone knows that.”

Hicca hugged Gobber tightly, he always knew what to say. He patted the top of her head and pulled away slightly. “If you want my advice, just act like you normally do. You don’t want t’ use this new power and no one’s forcing you to, so just forget about it for now and just give your friends some time. They’ll soon realise their mistake.”

“Thank you,” Hicca said. There was really nothing more to say, but Gobber knew that Hicca was more thankful than she could express, he could tell just be the look on her face.

“Alright, back to work. Once you’ve finished that engraving, you can give me a hand with those arrow heads over there, okay?” Gobber gestured to a bag of damaged arrows in the corner.

“Sure, no problem.”

They both got back to work after that, the air between them now much less tense. They carried on like old times chatting lightly about nothing in particular, all the while Toothless napped under the table, able to rest much easier now that he knew his rider would be alright.

It wasn’t till after midday when something surprising happened.

There was a commotion coming from outside the shop, Hicca, Toothless and Gobber all looked out the window to see a rather amusing sight. Astrid was stomping towards the forge with a triumphant look on her face. In each hand she was grasping Fishlegs and Snotlout by the ears and dragging them along, the two boys were hunched over and whimpered whenever Astrid gave them a slight tug. At the back of the group, Tuffnut and Ruffnut were both snickering and looking very amused with the situation.

When the group approached the forge Hicca met them outside. “Guys, what are you all doing here?”

“These two idiots,” Astrid started as she glared at the two offenders. “Have something they would like to say to you,” she shoved Fishlegs and Snotlout forward.

The two boys looked between Hicca and Astrid nervously as they rubbed their bruised ears, then they stood up straight and looked at their feet. “We’re sorry,” Snotlout started quietly.

“Yeah, really sorry,” Fishlegs said sounding more sincere. Hicca was surprised and soon realised that Astrid must have ‘spoken’ to the two of them after she left.

“Astrid pointed out to us that what we said may have... upset you,” Snotlout continued also starting to sound guilty.

Tuffnut then cleared his throat behind them. Hicca looked over to him and his sister, they were both shuffling a little also looking guilty. “Um... we’re... you know, we’re sorry too.”

“We shouldn’t have jumped you this morning, sorry Hic.” Ruffnut said sweetly, she normally only let her soft side show when she was serious.

Hicca looked at all of her friends. It was amazing how even after everything they’ve been through together, they could still surprise her. “Thanks guys, this is really sweet of you,” she smiled causing most of the others to blush.

“So... We cool?” Fishlegs asked a lot less nervously.

“Yes, we’re cool,” Hicca confirmed with a small smile. “And I understand. Skadi is pretty scary, and it was stupid of me to think you’d all just be acting as if nothing happened. But can we just not talk about it for a while?”

Her friends all agreed. Fishlegs was so relieved that they’d managed to resolve the situation that he ran over and hugged Hicca tightly, lifting her off the ground in the process. Ruffnut also hugged Hicca allowing more of her secret sweet side through.

“Well,” said Hicca once she was finally let go. “There is one problem though.”

Snotlout immediately looked worried, “What? What is it?”

Hicca stepped back and folded her arms, “Your weapons, let me see them.” She said in a motherly tone, she could practically hear Gobber and Toothless snickering behind her.

Slowly the other teens pulled out their weapons. Sure enough, just as Hicca expected, all of their weapons needed maintenance. Snotlout’s hammer, Astrid’s axe, Fishlegs’ dagger, and Ruffnut and Tuffnut’s spears.

“I knew it,” she said with a sigh. “Seriously, when was the last time you all came for a tune up?”

They looked at each other, all relieved but also guilty that they hadn’t been taking better care of their weapons, especially when they spend most of their time around a trained blacksmith. It was only Gobber who realised Hicca had only brought up their weapons as an excuse for the others to hang around for a little longer. Hicca had the others put their weapons on the table and set to work. Astrid’s axe and Fishlegs’ dagger only needed sharpening, the wood for Ruff and Tuff’s spears needed replacing, and Snotlout’s hammer needed a new handle and the head needed filing to fix its balance.

Hicca was able to finish by the end of the day. All the while her friends kept her company, telling her about all the new things they’d learnt about they’re dragons and what they could do in dragon training tomorrow. Or in the twin’s case, talking about everything they could blow up, and being interrupted by Hicca every few minutes telling them not to touch something.

////////////LINE BREAK/////////////

Unfortunately, Hicca couldn’t keep acting like everything was normal. When she got home that night her father wanted to talk with her.

“Do you know how to summon Skadi?” He asked somewhat out of the blue.

“Yeah, I just need to ask her for help,” Hicca answered truthfully.

She actually hated that fact. She didn’t like asking for help normal, but asking for help from a goddess... it just seemed wrong. “Why do you ask?”

“I want to talk to her,” Stoick said simply, as if he was talking about an ordinary person instead of a goddess. Had they not been sitting at the table its possible Hicca would have stumbled at such a request.

“T-Talk... to Skadi?” She stuttered, just to make sure she’s heard her father correctly. Even Toothless’s ears perked as he looked up from his dinner.

“Yes, I want to ask her some things,” Stoick said seriously.

“What kind of things?” Hicca was curious what kind of questions her father wanted to ask the goddess, but at the same time she didn’t want to know.

“I want to know what her intentions are, and I want to make sure she isn’t going to harm you. She may be a goddess but that doesn’t mean I trust her. I want to make sure she doesn’t just take control of you and cause trouble.”

Hicca looked back to her plate. She hadn’t really been eating, just pushing the food around with her fork. “To be honest... I really don’t think she cares.”

Stoick looked at her curiously, “What makes you say that?”

Hicca paused for a moment. She didn’t know exactly why she’d said that. She didn’t know what Skadi was thinking, but every now and then she got flashes of emotions from her. “She just seems bored most of the time... like she’s just waiting for something.”

“Waiting for what?” Stoick asked calmly while trying to prompt Hicca to say more.

“I think she’s just waiting for me to summon her. I don’t know what she’s doing in the mean time though.” Hicca really wondered what Skadi thought of this whole ordeal. Was she alright with it, or was she planning something? She had no idea. But she did have an idea how they could find out. “Maybe we should make this more public,” she thought out loud. “I’m sure everyone has questions for Skadi, myself included. We should hold a meeting in the great hall.”

“Good idea,” Stoick agreed. “I’ll spread the word. We’ll hold it tomorrow afternoon.”

“Alright,” Hicca said getting up from her chair. She gave the rest of her food to Toothless, who happily accepted. “I’m going to bed now.”

“Oh, okay.” Stoick was surprised at her change in attitude, but he didn’t question her.

Hicca walked over and gave him a hug before climbing the stairs to her room. For some reason she felt very tired all of a sudden, she barely finished getting changed before she collapsed into her bed and pulling the covers up to her chin.

For a moment she wondered if she was going to have another dream of Skadi’s past tonight. But the thought was minor as sleep over took her.

////////////LINE BREAK/////////////

The first sound that greeted her was the sound of seagulls and crashing waves. It was odd to hear them, despite the fact that they lived on an island, seabirds tended not to come near with all the dragons around. Hicca looked up at the sky. Sure enough, she could see the white birds against the blue sky. She looked around and found the she was on a balcony overlooking the sea, it was protruding from a grand looking castle made of white material. She’d only ever seen a castle like this in children’s books, this was definitely a dream. As she looked closer at the walls of the castle, she saw that the walls and floor were actually made from tiny white seashells. But instead of being shape and pointy, the shells were smooth and shiny, making the castle glitter in the sunlight.

Suddenly the calm scene was shattered as the doors to the balcony were thrown open in anger. Skadi herself stormed out onto the balcony and hurled something into the air with all her strength, startling the birds and causing them to scatter. She then stomped back inside and came out again carrying two more items, which Hicca now saw were large seashells. Once again, she threw them into the air where they flew for a short while until they eventually came crashing down into the ocean bellow. Skadi now stood there panting with her fists clenched in anger.

Hicca then realised that Skadi didn’t have on her usual ebony armour, instead she was wearing a simple blue gown. She looked beautiful, but at the same time the dress didn’t quite suit her as her armour did.

“Skadi? Are you alright?” Hicca turned towards the source of the deeper voice and saw a handsome man at the doorway to the balcony. He had shoulder length wavy black hair, ocean blue eyes and sun-kissed skin, his face was also round and soft looking. He looked almost the exact opposite to Skadi with her long white hair and pale angular features.

“Of course I’m not alright!” She roared back. “Every day those stupid birds wake me with their squawking, it’s hard enough to get to sleep with the constant crashing of waves beneath us. If I have to endure one more morning of their screeching I’d happily cut my ears off!!”

The man stood silent as Skadi raged, it reminded Hicca of how Gobber would listen to her as she yelled about her problems. Sure enough when all the anger was gone Skadi stood their panting, her angry expression now replaced with one of pure exhaustion.

The man slowly and calmly stepped towards her and placed a gentle arm around her shoulders. “I’m sorry it aggravates you so much, but just bear with it a little longer. In a few days we’ll head to the mountains and you’ll be back to your old self again.”

Skadi sighed tiredly and turned to the man, “And then what?” She asked. “You’ll complain about the wolves and the cold, just as I’m complaining about the birds and the waves. We’ve been going back and forth for centuries but it’s just not working.” The man nodded and looked out to the ocean. “Let me ask you something,” Skadi placed a hand on the man’s cheek, making him face her. “Are you happy with me?”

Hicca felt a little uncomfortable watching the two gods talk. This was a very intimate discussion, but she couldn’t help feeling that it was important for her to see this. The man took his time and Skadi waited patiently for his honest answer. “No.” The man answered sadly, “I’m sorry.”

Skadi gave a soft smile and shook her head. “Don’t be,” she said. “It just confirms that we both feel the same way.”

“So... we’re going our separate ways now?” the man asked.

Skadi simply nodded.

The two held their gaze and slowly embraced. It was for the best, they both realised that, but at the same time they couldn’t help but feel sadness as they said goodbye to each other. When they finally pulled away, the man lay one last kiss upon Skadi’s forehead and started walking back inside, his head held high.

“Njord... thank you.” The man turned and gave her a short bow and continued inside.

All at once Hicca felt overwhelmed by emotion, as the full force of what she’d just witnessed hit her. She realised who the man was.

Njord, God of the sea winds. And Skadi’s former husband.
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