On Berk it seemed as though the whole island had been turned upside down in search of Hicca. The villagers were searching anywhere they could think of, the village, the beach, the forest, the cove, everywhere, Fishlegs and the twins were also flying round the island to get a better vantage point. They had even sent people down into the Whispering Death tunnels, but the twists and turns were near impossible to navigate. Thankfully Mildew had taken care of Whispering Deaths for Alvin, even though it had been somewhat against his will, he’d still learnt enough to better navigate their tunnels.
Stoick was obviously worried about his daughter, but it also warmed his heart to see how much everyone cared about Hicca. It still didn’t seem that long ago that people were glaring at her for all the trouble she caused. But now they were doing everything in their power to find her, they were genuinely worried about her, some were even making sure that supplies were ready in case she was hurt or trapped somewhere.
Stoick was brought back to reality when Gobber placed a heavy hand on his shoulder. Gobber, Mulch, Bucket and himself were heading up the mountain near Mildew’s house, not only to look for Hicca but to also get a better view of the island. The remaining dragon riders were searching over the forest right now, maybe from up here they could see something they’d missed.
“Now’s not the time to be spacing out, Stoick. We need to see if we can spot anything from up here,” Gobber said. Stoick only nodded and carried on trekking. They arrived at the mountain top and started looking around, trying to spot anything out of the ordinary from the higher view point, they also brought along some of Hicca’s spyglasses. But even with their better vantage point, they couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. This was starting to drive Stoick mad, and it seemed he wasn’t the only one.
Stoick turned as he heard muttering coming from behind him. Bucket was pacing from one side of the cliff to the other muttering to himself, he seemed to be... counting? Gobber and Mulch also turned to watch Bucket pace.
“Bucket, what are you doing?” Mulch asked his friend.
Bucket didn’t answer the question and instead asked one of his own. “Mulch, how many ships does Berk have?”
Stoick and Gobber looked confused. Mulch just sighed, this wasn’t the first me he’d been asked this and it wouldn’t be the last. “Bucket, Berk has 10 large ships and 20 small row boats in total, why do you ask?”
Bucket finally stopped pacing and stood in the middle of the two spots he’d been going back and forth from. “Well... um...” He seemed to be thinking really hard about something, so Mulch let him think. “There are 10 big ships in the harbour, but only 19 little ones,” he said gesturing to the harbour.
That caught the others attention, they rushed over to where they could see the harbour. Just like Bucket had said, there were 10 large ships with the Berk Crest on them, but only 19 small rowboats dotted around them.
“Did anyone say they were going fishing?” Mulch asked.
“No, everyone should still be looking on the island,” Stoick answered. He was just as confused as they were.
“Well where’s the last one?” Gobber asked. He wasn’t expecting an answer but Bucket gave him one anyway.
“It’s over here,” Bucket was now pointing to the other spot he’d been pacing from.
The others rushed over to look where Bucket had been pointing. On the opposite side of the island from the harbour was a small outcrop of beach, it wasn’t connected to the rest of the sands around Berk. And there bobbing in the water tied to a small boulder, was the missing rowboat.
“Well what in Thor’s name is it doing over there?” Gobber asked.
“Let’s go find out,” Stoick said with a serious look on his face. They may have just found Alvin’s hiding place, but was Hicca going to be there?
A little while ago, Astrid and Snotlout reached the location of the ship, or rather... the location where the ship had been.
“Where is it?” Snotlout asked.
“It should be right here,” Astrid yelled back. They had flown west for 3 hours, the ship hadn’t shown any sign of moving last night, so where was it? “It must have gone back to Berserk,”
“Then we should go after it,” Snotlout said, already steering Hookfang west and started heading towards Berserk. But Astrid and Stormfly blocked their path.
“Wait a second!”
“Why? We have to rescue Hicca,” Snotlout yelled. Astrid was surprised how worried Snotlout was about his cousin, and to be honest it surprised him too. It was strange to think that after so many years of Snotlouts teasing, their relationship was finally starting to improved. Hicca truly trusted Snotlout now and he seemed to respect her a little more. Not that he’d ever admit it of course.
But right now he was truly concerned, and so was Astrid., “We don’t know for sure that Hicca is on the ship, she could still be on the island somewhere,” she said calmly.
“So what do we do?” Snotlout asked also trying to stay calm.
Astrid thought for a moment, strategy was Hicca’s thing not hers, but right now she had to think. “Alright... You head to Berserk, find out if Hicca is there, and if so where she’s being held.”
Snotlout looked at her confused, “I was just about to do that, why did you stop me?”
“You can’t just fly straight in there! If Hicca is with them and you go charging in then Dagur will think we’re on to him and he might do something... drastic.”
He was about to ask what, but at the look on Astrid’s face he decided not to. Astrid had been raised as a warrior, she was always told stories by her parents about combat and war. She was also told what could happen to prisoners. Astrid knew better than any of them what Hicca might be going through.
“Alright, I’ll find out if she’s there, what about you?”
“I’ll head back to Berk and see if they’ve found anything, I need to tell the chief about the ship too.”
Snotlout gave a nod, “Alright, I’ll head back if I don’t find anything.”
“Don’t get caught,” She said with a small smile.
Snotlout smiled back, then the two separated. Snotlout and Hookfang flying west to Berserk, and Astrid and Stormfly heading east back to Berk.
Hicca felt like she had been sleeping for days. Her eye lids were heavy and her body refused to move, but at the same time she was lying in a very uncomfortable position.
She forced herself to at least open her eyes, the world around her was blurred as if surrounded by thick fog. She tried to move but the ringing in her head began, she lay there and tried to make the dizziness stop, she breathed deeply but the air around her was dry and hurt her throat. She tried again to open her eyes, her vision a little less foggy and she could just make out the colours and shape of her room.
Wait... This definitely wasn’t a dream... But since when was her room made of brick?
She blinked away the sleep from her eyes and tried to wake herself, she also realised that she was lying on her side on the stone ground, this was definitely not her room. Was this even her island? Her mind was so turned around, she couldn’t remember much at all.
Before she could think about it further, she heard someone talking to her.
“Are you finally waking up?” The voice sounded male and arrogant, was Snotlout here too? She tried to move her head to see who it was, but the spinning in her head hit again. She pushed past it and tilted her up to look towards the wall. There was someone standing there, they were too tall to be Snotlout and they were clad in armour, it looked a bit like...
“Are you still tired? Allow me to give you a hand,” the figure moved and started moving towards her. Suddenly Hicca felt pain coming from her scalp as the figure dragged her up by her hair. Once she was finally able to support herself on her shaking legs by leaning against the wall, Hicca tried again to clear her vision. It didn’t take long this time.
The pain had cleared most of the sleep that clouded her brain, and her vision was now only a little foggy around the edged. But now she wished she hadn’t looked. Dagur was standing in front of her, his wicked smirk on his face and an evil glint in his eyes. Hicca looked away from him to instead look around her. She was in a prison cell with thick stone walls surrounding her and a heavy wooden door in the centre of the wall opposite. The room itself was half the size of her bedroom and the only source of light came from a small window in the door. The window was barely bigger than her hand but without it she would have been in complete darkness.
Hicca also became aware of the cold weights around her wrists, she looked down to see thick metal handcuffs around them. Heavy chains were attached to them and connected to a lock on the back wall. She was caught.
“Are you awake now?” Dagur asked impatiently.
Despite the dry air Hicca took a breath to calm herself, panicking would do her no good. In any case she knew what Dagur wanted and he wasn’t going to get it, “You’re not getting the crystal, Dagur.”
Hicca was thankful that her voice didn’t shake. Dagur stared at her for a few seconds before he broke out into manic laughter. His laugh always scared her a little, it started of normal but then tapered out into a dead chuckle. He looked at her again with a knowing look. “Of course I will, you should know this by now Hic, it may take me a little while but I always get what I want. And right now I want that crystal. And I know just how to get it.”
Hicca’s interest peeked at this, did Dagur know how to remove the crystal? She was planning on simply asking Skadi to help her escape, but now it seemed that Dagur knew more about the crystal than she did. “What do you know about the crystal?”
“A lot actually,” Dagur said with a smirk. “Unfortunately the crystal hasn’t fallen into the hands of the Berserker tribe for decades. But my ancestors did their research ready for when it did. One thing we learnt in particular... is how to extract the crystal from someone.” Dagur’s smirk grew a little as he reached to his thigh and pulled out a knife.
Hicca stood ready and did her best to stop herself from shaking, she had to be ready to summon Skadi as soon as Dagur made a move. “Are you going to kill me?” She asked trying to sound calm.
But Dagur chuckled again and tossed the knife back and forth between his hands. “Not at all, if the host dies then the crystal is actually destroyed with them, why do you think all the previous hosts had to die of old age? But when the host dies of natural causes the crystal is released on its own. Subtle things like drowning and poisoning will also caused the crystal to be destroyed.” Hicca listened and felt herself relax, if what Dagur said was true, then he definitely wouldn’t kill her at least.
“But there is a third way to remove the crystal,” Dagur continued, his prideful smirk turning into a menacing grin as he stopped throwing the knife and gripped it tightly. “And that’s if the god dies instead of the host.”
Hicca was startled and confused by that statement, Dagur wasn’t going to kill her but Skadi instead? “There’s no way you can defeat a goddess. Your far more deranged than I ever thought possible if you truly think you’re that strong.”
“It’s not a question of strength,” Dagur lectured her. “It’s all about you.” Dagur and Hicca stared at each other as Dagur paused before continuing. “I’ve known you since you were a little girl Hicca, and you haven’t changed since then, you still hate asking for help from anyone. Even with a goddess on your side, you still can’t do it. I may be deranged, but my skills in combat far surpass anyone else’s. I can see the tiniest weakness in a person and strike them down, even when it comes to a goddess swapping places with a human.”
“What in Thor’s name are you talking about?” Hicca said trying not to raise her voice, but Dagur’s insistence on dragging out his lecture was started to irritate her greatly.
Dagur sighed and decided to get to the point. “When you and Skadi swap places, there’s a flash of energy as the change takes place. And just after that Skadi’s soul then has to join with her body, and that’s the moment when I plan to strike her down.”
Hicca realised that Dagur was right. “But what does that have to do with me asking for help?”
Dagur sighed in annoyance. “Oh come on, I thought you were clever. Even when you actually ask for Skadi’s help there’s always going to be a part of you that doesn’t want her to intervene, and it’s that hesitation that slows down Skadi’s soul as it passes through you.”
Hicca’s mind finally registered what Dagur had said. This was all her fault, if she hadn’t been so scared of needing help then Dagur wouldn’t have found a weak point, and even as she thought this she realised what Dagur had done. Dagur smirked as he watched Hicca battle with herself. Now that Hicca had that fear it would make her even more worried about summoning Skadi, that would slow Skadi down more and give Dagur an even bigger chance to attack her. And that made Hicca not want to endanger Skadi even more. It was a never ending cycle, and Hicca had fallen right into it.
“H-How do you even know all this?” Hicca asked with a slight tremble in her voice.
“Because, believe it or not, you’re not the first person who’s been nervous about summoning their god. A long time ago, the chief of the Lava Louts gained the power of the crystal, but he was embarrassed that as a man he had somehow ended up with a female goddess. He hopped never to summon her in battle, and the couple of times he was forced to summon her, she was frozen for a few minutes before her soul reached her body. Needless to say the Bashem Oiks realised this and it wasn’t long before their chief stole the power.” Dagur’s smirk grew as he turned back to Hicca, “Which brings us all the way round to you.”
Hicca tried to back away from Dagur, but her back was already against the wall. “W-What are you going to do?”
Dagur came closer, his larger form seemed to trap her on all sides. He raised his knife until it was pressed against her cheek. “I’ll make you summon Skadi, and as soon as I have the crystal I won’t have any use for you after that, so you’ll be free to go. All you have to do is call her.”
Hicca knew she was shaking now, but she clenched her fists and gave Dagur her most defiant glare. “I won’t let you get the crystal.”
The two glared at each other, neither one looking away or even blinking. Dagur was the first to move, his face contorted into a look of anger and he yanked the knife across her cheek. Hicca let out a cry of surprise and pain, a burning cut now running across her left cheek. “You will summon her!” Dagur yelled, “I’ll make you feel so much pain you’ll be begging for her help,” he promised.
Dagur reached behind her and unlock the chain from the wall, the chain itself still connected to Hicca’s wrists. Dagur pulled her towards the centre of the room by her chains and reach up to the ceiling. There was a small hook in the ceiling which Hicca hadn’t noticed before, Dagur could just reach the hook and attached Hicca’s chain to it, her arms now held above her head and forcing her to stand on her toes.
There was no way she could do anything in this position, that’s most likely why Dagur was smiling so much. He started circled her like a shark, taking his time to decide where to cut next. He decided on the back of her legs first, starting just above her boot he cut a line all the way up to the back of her knee. It was shallow, but Hicca still cried out again. This was so much fun for him.
Suddenly there was another voice in Hicca’s head. ‘What in Odin’s name are you doing!? Hurry up and summon me!’
Hicca did her best to not let it show that Skadi was present, she couldn’t allow her to be attacked by Dagur. ‘Skadi, please stay out of it.’
‘You expect me to just watch!?’
Dagur made a shallow cut along her arm, Hicca grit her teeth so as not to cry out. ‘I don’t want you getting hurt, just stay back!’
As she said those words, several walls formed in Hicca’s mind and blocked Skadi out. She wouldn’t allow Dagur anywhere near her, she would not give into him.
Dagur continued leaving cuts across her legs, arms, stomach and back. He had cut away her fur vest in order to get to her back, he shredded it in front of her to show just how sharp the knife was. Every now and then Dagur would let out a childish laugh, he was having fun causing her pain like this.
After the first hour of this, Hicca was already in so much pain. Dagur asked her again if she wanted to call on Skadi for help. But she refused. This angered him more, his shallow cuts became deeper and caused her to scream more.
After the fifth hour Dagur finally stopped, this had become boring for him now. He unhooked her chain and allowed her to drop to the floor. Her entire body squirmed in pain as it hit the ground hard, her legs unable to support her anymore. She cried out again as he dragged her over to the wall and attached the chains there again. Then he left.
Hicca was allowed to rest now, she didn’t move from her sprawled out position. She didn’t need to, she could feel every one of Dagur’s marks. The first one on her cheek now had another crossing through it from her nose to the bottom of her ear, there were cuts across both shoulder blades, over the top of her shoulder to her collar bone. Her arms were a mess of slashes running both along the length of her arms and also around them in bloody bracelets, there was a long shallow slice running across the length of her spine and several nicks at her sides running just under her ribcage. Her stomach and lower back had random marks that were small but deep, there was a hack across her hip and another mess of scores running down both legs.
Dagur had gotten very creative a few times. He had cut under her chin and across her raised palms. He had even taken off her boot and tossed it to the other side of the cell before slicing at the bottom of her foot. Her clothes were a mess of holes and blood, she was thankful that they were still holding together. The cuts were plentiful but fortunately it wouldn’t be enough for her to bleed to death. The cuts were specifically placed to cause pain not death, Dagur had made sure of that.Hicca could feel tears gathering in her eyes. She painfully curled into a ball and breathed to calm herself. It hurt but the pain would leave eventually. In the meantime she had to be strong, she wouldn’t call on Skadi, she would not allow Dagur to defeat her. No matter what pain he put her through.