Just after the sun had set, the dragon riders took off, heading in the direction of Berserker island, as they neared the area where Hicca and Toothless had seen the ship, they rose higher so that they wouldn’t be spotted. Sure enough, after flying for 3 hours they eventually spotted the ship.
“There it is,” she pointed out, Toothless and the other dragons hovering in place, she threw her spyglass over to Fishlegs, “What do you think?”
Fishlegs pulled out the Book of Dragons and turned to the page on the Skrill, there was the insignia of the Berserker tribe on the page, Fishlegs looked through the spyglass and compared the marks on the shields to the one on the page, after a little while of looking back and forth he nodded his head, “It’s definitely legitimate, has it moved since you last saw it?”
“No, as far as I can tell it hasn’t moved at all, even if it is one ship we need to keep an eye on it, if it starts moving towards Berk we need to warn everyone,” Hicca told them.
“How long do we need to wait?” Snotlout asked, bored tone already coming through as he put his feet up on Hookfangs head.
Hicca started counting on her fingers, ‘Around this time of year night time lasts for 9 hours, it took us 3 to fly here, so that leaves 6 hours, which is how long it takes to sail to Berk.’ She nodded and turned towards the others, “If they don’t make a move in the next couple of hours they’ll miss their opportunity to attack under the cover of night. We’ll wait for-Whoa!!” Hicca cried out as Toothless banked suddenly to the left.
“Hicca!” The others shouted in worry.
Thankfully Toothless regained his composure but gurgled sadly as he hovered wobbly, Hicca regained her balance and leaned over so that she could get a better look at Toothless, she was concerned that he’d been hit by something. But she couldn’t see any injuries, Toothless just shook his head and blinked his eyes sleepily, he seemed to be panting heavily as well, “Toothless, are you alright? What’s wrong?”
Toothless just gurgled worriedly, even he didn’t know what just happened, a sudden dizziness just overtook him. Astrid and Stormfly hovered close enough to pat Toothless on the nose, “Hicca, Toothless doesn’t look so good.”
“Maybe you should head back to Berk, we can’t risk you falling out of the sky when we’re trying to keep watch,” Ruffnut pointed out.
“Yeah, we can take care of things from here,” Tuffnut said trying to sound tough.
Hicca looked at them worriedly before agreeing, “Toothless, do you think you’ll be alright to fly back?” Toothless still looked a little shaky but still nodded determinedly.
As Toothless turned to fly back to Berk, Hookfang and Snotlout flew alongside them, “We’ll go back with you, if Toothless falls again Hookfangs strong enough to carry him, right boy?” Snotlout patted Hookfang on the head, the Monstrous Nightmare breathed a small stream of flames in confirmation. Hicca smiled gratefully and the two started heading back, leaving the others to watch over the ship.
It took 4 hours for Hookfang and Toothless to get back to Berk, Toothless’s speed was greatly lessened, all the while Hicca stroked his head and tried to comfort him. They eventually landed on the cliff edge just behind the forge, Toothless slumped down heavily as Hicca quickly dismounted and kneeled in front of her dragon, “Sorry about that bud, we’ll soon find out what’s wrong with you,” she promised.
It was normal for Gobber to be working late at the forge he even slept there sometimes, this was one of those times, but needless to say the sound of two dragons landing heavily just outside his shop soon had him awake and hobbling out the back to investigate, “Hicca? Snotlout? What are you two doing back ‘ere? I thought you ‘ad a mission.”
“We did but-” Snotlout started before Hicca interrupted him worriedly
“Something’s wrong with Toothless,” there was a hint of fear in Hicca’s voice, and despite it being the middle of the night Gobber was immediately awake. He hobbled over to Toothless and kneeled next to Hicca, after years of being a dragon expert, if anyone could figure out what was wrong with Toothless, it was Gobber.
He ran his hand over Toothless’s scales and looked into his mouth and eyes, “Was ‘is flying off at all?” He asked.
“Yeah, it seemed like he was getting dizzy a lot,” Snotlout answered for Hicca who was focused on Toothless.
“No, not-” Snotlout was interrupted as Toothless suddenly jolted and a plasma blast just missed hitting him and Hookfang, “uh... make that a yes.”
“Ah see,” Gobber finally said as he leaned back with a serious look on his face.
“What is it? What’s wrong with him?” Hicca asked almost frantic, Gobber was hardly ever serious.
“Toothless ‘as come int’ contact with Blue Oleanders,” those few words made Hicca and Snotlout both panic, they had all seen the effects of the flowers on their dragons, it had almost killed them.
“But we got rid of all the flowers on the island over a year ago, how could Toothless have come into contact with them?” Snotlout asked moving closer to Hookfang. He was concerned for his own dragon, but unlike Toothless, Hookfang was perfectly fine.
“It’s true they’re not on this island anymore, but they must still exist somewhere. But Ah’ bet Toothless came int’ contact with just the pollen not the actual flower, ‘e’ll be ill for a while but ‘e won’t die,” Gobber said, it was serious, but they were all relieved that Toothless’s life wasn’t in danger.
Toothless cooed weakly and nuzzled his head against Hicca’s cheek, almost as if he was the one reassuring her. Hicca breathed a sigh of relief, “That’s good.”
Gobber placed a hand on Hicca’s back, “Just take ‘im ‘ome and make sure he gets some rest.”
“Okay, thanks Gobber, sorry if we disturbed you,” Hicca apologized.
Gobber just laughed, “Not a problem lass, just look after ‘im alright,”
Hicca nodded and slowly led Toothless back home, “Goodnight.”
The two both gave her a wave, before Gobber then turned to Snotlout, “So, what ‘appened to the others?”
“They stayed behind to take care of the ship, we’re still not sure if it will actually do anything though,” Snotlout said.
“Hmm...” Gobber folded his arms and thought for a minute. “Dagur’s sends a ship t' just sit there? Doesn’t make any sense,” he mumbled, Snotlout watched him for a moment trying to figure out what he was thinking. But then Gobber shook the thought away and turned back to Snotlout, “Anyway, Ah’m going to see if we still ‘ave some of that Scauldron venom, you better get back ‘ome too lad.”
“Sure, see you tomorrow,” Snotlout called as he and Hookfang headed home, Gobber then turned back to his forge, it was going to be a long night.
When Hicca got home she found her father was still up, she told him what had happed and he helped her get Toothless up stairs to his bed, he then went out to check on the watchmen. Toothless tried to rest, but every now and then his eyes would pop open and he’d point his head towards the window as he let out a monstrous sneeze, shooting a blast into the night sky. He let out a grumbling whimper as Hicca stroked behind his ears soothingly, “It’s okay, boy, we’ll see if Gobber has any medicine tomorrow, in the mean time just try and get some sleep.” Toothless gurgled again before falling into a fitful sleep, once Hicca made sure he was comfortable she went to bed herself
The other dragon riders finally returned at sun rise, needless to say they and their dragons were all very tired, after reporting to the chief that the ship hadn’t moved all night, they all went back to their own homes to get some much needed rest.
The next morning came as a surprise to Hicca, she expected to be seeing snowy planes or some kind of grand building from Skadi’s past, but no dreams came to her last night. Hicca wondered if anything was wrong.
‘No, I just decided to give you the night off’
Hicca’s eyes widened and she shot up in bed. The others had told her what Skadi’s voice sounded like, it was hard to mistake that undertone of whisper. But Skadi herself wasn’t in the room... the voice had come from inside her head, maybe this was the dream, she concluded.
‘It’s not a dream, it just took me a while to figure out how to do this,’ Skadi’s voice came again.
“You’re... You’re talking to me?” Hicca asked slowly, just to make sure.
‘Yes. I really don’t see why you’re having such a hard time coming to terms with this, you’re already able to swap places with me and see into my dreams, how is simply talking to me so much worse?’ Skadi asked in a bored tone, Hicca realised she did have a point.
“Sorry, I just wasn’t expecting it.”
‘It’s okay, it was a surprise for me too, I only just found out this was possible, but it seems like I can only do it when you want to talk to me. By the way, I can hear your thoughts too, you look a little strange talking to open air like that,’ Skadi said, Hicca could almost hear the small chuckle in her tone.
“Oh,” Hicca tried again, ‘So did you want to talk about something?’
‘Not really, I just wanted to let you know that we finally have a way of communicating directly now.’
That’s when Hicca realised it, she and Skadi had been together for just under 4 days now, and this was the first time they were able to have a conversation, it was nice. ‘Right, thank you.’
‘It’s no trouble, I actually thought this might be better for you.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You seem to dislike asking for help out loud, so this way, if you need me, you can call to me through your mind instead.’
Hicca stopped for a moment, had Skadi really noticed that quickly? She had never been comfortable asking for help, even when she was little. Back then she hadn’t thought it was right to ask for help, she was supposed to be a Viking, and the chiefs heir at that... she was supposed to be strong, so even as a child she never asked for help and never accepted it from anyone who offered.
At first it was just Stoick and Gobber who realised Hicca’s unwillingness to receive help, Stoick thought that Hicca was just being stubborn so he never questioned it. Gobber wondered if there was a deeper reason but didn’t pry, even so if he saw Hicca needing help, whether she was trying to get something from a high shelf or lifting something heavy, he didn’t offer, he just went over and helped before she could protest. But now she didn’t have a choice, if she ever needed Skadi’s help, she’d have to ask for it, but for Skadi... was asking for help really so minor?
‘I wouldn’t say minor,’ Skadi answered, Hicca remembering only now that Skadi could hear her, ‘the fact is that my main propose here is to help you, whatever you need me to do, just ask.’
‘But...’ Hicca started, but she really didn’t know what to say.
Skadi sighed in annoyance despite herself, ‘Look, I understand that this is a big issue for you. You don’t want to seem weak, or maybe you just don’t want to be a burden to others, but there will be situations you can’t handle on your own,’ she said in a motherly but stern tone.
Hicca and Skadi were both quiet after that, it was quiet a heavy conversation topic. ‘You’re right, but still... Up until a few months ago, some people were still seeing me as a weak little girl, I just don’t want to go back...’
Skadi knew Hicca couldn’t see her, but she still nodded in understanding, she understood what it was like, wanting to be accepted, ‘You know what your limits are, if you ever feel like you’re in over your head, then call me.’
Hicca took a breath to calm herself, ‘Thank you,’ she said with a small smile, Skadi didn’t say anything else, but Hicca just knew she was also smiling. Then Hicca spoke again, ‘By the way, can I ask you something?’
‘What is it?’
As it turned out, Hicca hadn’t gotten the chance to ask Skadi her questions at the meeting, so now seemed like as good a time as any, ‘Are you... well... what do you think about being attached to me like this?’ It’s something Hicca had been wondering for a while, Skadi was a Goddess, but now she was stuck with Hicca until she died, that was a good few decades away.
Skadi took her time thinking of the right words to say, ‘Well...’ Hicca waited patiently, ‘I guess I’m still getting used to it. I always knew it was a possibility. Ever since myself and the other gods gave a drop of our blood into the crystals creation, we always knew that at any time one of us could be chosen to be a servant to a Viking chief or heir.’
‘But are you okay with that?’
It still surprised her. She had seen into Hicca’s memories, learnt about her people and her past, and yet after all of the time she had been called worthless, weak and useless, she never stopped caring or being forgiving, she was genuinely concerned about Skadi. So the least Skadi could do was give her an honest answer, ‘I didn’t at first, the thought of obeying a human’s every command and fighting their battles for them, it sickened me,’ Hicca winced a little as Skadi’s tone turned harsh and the whispering under tones became hisses. ‘But...’ Skadi continued as her tone softened again, ‘you are different, your people are different too, they fight their own battles and are very determined, you are as well, but you’re also... unique. I want to get to know you better.’
It’s strange how those words made Hicca blush, no one had ever said that to her before. She wasn’t sure if unique was a good thing or bad thing, but if Skadi didn’t mind being with her for a while longer, then Hicca guessed it was a good thing.
‘Anyway,’ Skadi continued, ‘you should get up, you can’t stay in bed all day.’ And with that Skadi’s presence left her mind, and Hicca was left to her own thoughts again.
She looked over to Toothless who was still sleeping restlessly, she got up and walked over to Toothless and slowly stroked his head, he gave a low gurgle and shifted slightly in his sleep, she would go to Gobber’s later and see if he had any medicine. She went down stairs and brought up some fish for Toothless in case he woke up, then she left to find her father, she had to know what happened with the ship last night.
Sure enough, despite getting just as little sleep as Hicca, Stoick had already been up for hours attending to his duties as chief in the plaza. She found him giving out orders to some workers who were building a new dragon feeding station.
She waited until he sent the workers off before calling to him, “Dad.”
Stoick turned, “Hicca, you certainly slept in late, how’s Toothless?”
“Still not good, but at least he’s resting, I’m going over to Gobber’s later to see if I can get some medicine. Did anything happen with the ship last night?”
“Nothing according to your friends, the ship never even raised anchor,” they both paused for a minute, trying to think why the ship was there. But neither could think of a good reason, so instead Stoick decided to change the subject. “Any idea what the problem with Toothless is?” he asked.
“Gobber said that Toothless came into contact with Blue Oleander pollen, it’s not fatal but he is going to be ill for the next few days,” Hicca said worriedly.
“I see, what are you going to do without him in the mean time?”
“I’m hoping, Astrid and Fishlegs can take over lessons at the academy, some of the younger children are joining today and we need to make sure everything is ready for them, I also need to go over to Alvin’s later.”
Stoick frowned a little, “What does Alvin need?”
“He’s just having a little trouble with some Terrors on his roof, it shouldn’t take me long to sort out,” she answered. Lately their conversations always sounded like this, no so much a chat between father and daughter, but more like a conversation between equals. Some of the others had noticed the change, but Stoick and Hicca were oblivious to how they addressed each other now.
Stoick paused for a moment before nodding, he may have allowed Alvin on the island again, but he couldn’t help but be wary when Hicca was concerned, “Alright then, just be careful.”
“I will,” Hicca said, as if she’d said it a hundred times before, which she probably had. Stoick watched as she turned and headed in the direction of Astrid’s place.
I was much later in the day when Hicca finally headed out to Alvin’s, thankfully Astrid and Fishlegs were more than happy to take over lessons until Toothless was better, the younger children in the village were taught about the different dragon types and how to pick the right one for them, in a few months time they would be ready to pick their own dragons. She then went over to Gobbers, he had been able to find the last of the Scauldron venom they’d collected, and judging by Toothless’s reaction it still tasted horrible, but at least it would help. She’d stayed with him for a few hours before remembering about Alvin, she placed some supplies into her satchel and headed out.
Alvin’s house was right at the edge of the village, almost in the forest itself, there were some who still weren’t comfortable with Alvin living in the village. Hicca had wondered for a long while what Alvin had done to deserve banishment. Alvin himself had said that a long time ago, before her father became chief, there was a Monstrous Nightmare attack and because Alvin had disobeyed orders there had been injuries, but that didn’t explain much. If it was just as simple as some injuries, then why was her father so adamant about her not knowing, the one time she asked Gobber, he had such a look on his face that she didn’t dare ask again.
But of course she had her own theories, one of which was quite plausible. What if the attack Alvin had spoken of had been the same one that Gobber had often spoken of? The Monstrous Nightmare attack 24 years ago where he lost his arm. Despite being friends for longer that Gobber and Stoick had, everything between Stoick and Alvin changed after that. After Stoick became chief Alvin still spoke against him regularly and even tried to take the title away from her father, the result was his banishment.
Hicca shook the thought away and carried on walking. As she neared Alvin’s home, she started to rethink that term, could the old structure really be called a house? It was a simple shack with no windows and made from splintered wood, to be honest it looked very creepy. Hicca looked onto the roof and saw the problem Alvin had spoken of, three Terrible Terrors were scampering on the roof, as one of them scurried across the beams a small hole opened up under his foot, that shouldn’t be possible with how little they weighed the roof must be incredibly mouldy.
“Alvin? Are you here?” She called as she stepped closer, Alvin had definitely asked her to come today, he should be expecting her, but there was no answer.
Hicca looked round but saw no sign of him, she turned back to the roof and watched the Terrors again, why were they attracted to Alvin’s roof? He said he’d coated the wood in eel oil, which should have repelled them. But then Hicca saw something that made her doubt everything, one of the Terrors sniffed across the roof and suddenly ran his tongue across one of the planks. There’s no way those planks were coated in eel oil.
But before Hicca could think of an explanation, a large muscular arm wrapped around her torso, and a cloth was shoved over her mouth and nose and held there tightly. Hicca squirmed and thrashed around and tried to kick out with her metal leg, but the arm squeezed tighter and held her in place. The ghastly smell from the cloth assaulted her senses, she could feel her eyelids getting droopy and her body started to feel heavy. She made one last attempt to at least try and see who her assailant was, twisting her head just enough she looked up to see the large person’s face.
Her eyes went wide as she realise she had walked right into a trap, before her body went limp and her eyes closed as she fell into unconsciousness. She realised only now that she could have called on Skadi.Alvin moved the herb infused cloth away from the girls face, then he picked her up and threw her over his shoulder, the first step of the plan was complete.