Small, worthless, insignificant. That was the description of young Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III. At least, that was before the incident of the Red Death. After that, he became the dragon expert of the island of Berk. Still, he stayed a scrawny, tiny, squirt-faced, dare we say, dork. Sure, he was respected, but that didn't mean the teasing stopped. It really was a shame that he was an easy target. After all, he was much too kind for his own good.
The wind was cool, winter in air. Light eyelashes brushed against a cheek. Auburn hair swirled and fell, dusting pale freckled skin. A trilling sound came from the boy's seat.
Hiccup found himself waiting. Waiting for everyone to catch up to him and Toothless. They stood at the top of the cliff, the kids still dots in the distance.
"Good job bud." Hiccup pet the side of his mane.
Astrid was next to land. She was in good nature, knowing that Toothless was unfathomably fast. "Wow, Hiccup! You guys totally smoked us!"
"Well, Snotlout wanted a race, and he told me to make it fair!" He said honestly.
"Too bad he's such a sore loser!" She smiled.
The twins managed to widdle into third, followed by Snotlout, and then Fishlegs; who knew that he would lose anyway.
"Snotlout, looks like Hookfang's slowing down." Astrid joked.
"Nuh uh!" The stocky kid argued. "Ruff and Tuff totally cheated!"
"As if!" Ruffnut scoffed.
"You think we're really smart enough to come up with a plan like that?" Tuffnut added. "Wait..."
"The point is, if this were on the ground, we all know who would win." Snotlout pushed.
"Yeah," Said Hiccup, "Astrid."
"Is that a challenge?" The blonde snarked.
"First one into town wins."
"Is that it?"
"Loser has to brush the winner's dragon's teeth. With their own toothbrush."
"Oh, it's on." Astrid narrowed her eyes.
"Um, guys. Two things." Fishlegs interrupted. "One, we all know I would lose anyways, so can I be ref?"
No one argued.
"Two, everyone should have a handicap, since Hiccup has a disadvantage."
"So?" Shrugged Snotlout. "We never had handicaps during dragon races, and everyone knows it's not even."
"What's wrong Snotlout? Afraid he'll beat you?" Astrid defended.
"What do you suppose we do for a Handicap then? Hmm?"
Everyone looked to Hiccup. "Well...If you want to be fair, I say we cut your legs off and feed them to the dragons."
There was a long silence as his joke fell flat.
"Well, we should be fair, so Snotlout and Tuffnut should get heavier weights, while Ruffnut and Astrid have less heavy weights."
The girls didn't argue, knowing that it would be to their advantage.
"Use your weapons." Fishlegs suggested. "Snotlout and Tuffnut carry shields. Astrid carries her axe, and Ruffnut carries her sword and helmet. Sound good?"
Everyone nodded in agreement.
"Here's the starting line." Hiccup drew a line with his prosthetic. "Fishlegs, draw a line at the village when you get back, okay?"
"Runners, get ready!" Fishlegs said mounting his gronkle.
Everyone poised at the starting line.
They raised their backs, ready to launch.
The teens were off in a flash, well, most of them. Despite the mutual handicap, Hiccup fell behind quickly. He pushed hard, trying to use the spring-like release in his leg to his advantage, but it wasn't working.
Fishlegs and Meatlug passed by not too long after. "Keep it up Hiccup!" He called in encouragement.
Hiccup put on a burst of speed and hurried on. The boy hated running, the pressure of his weight on his tiny limbs just made him sore. He always felt like gravity favored him and forbade him to go as fast as his aerodynamic body could go. Then of course, he only ever ran for his life, whether it was from dragons or from Snotlout. Even then, if it was not for clever thinking and handy hiding places, he would had been, dare we say, pulverized, in so many senses of the word.
Wind filled his lungs as he pushed harder and harder. The faster he went, the more intense he felt the weight in his leg, the absolute defeat of disability. His chest ached, his nose burned, and all this because of his cousin's stupid ego. He should have opted out like Fishlegs. He saw the teens ahead of him, and Fishlegs sitting at the finish line. He dared not watch, but stared at the ground as he took the final stretch.
Suddenly, he felt his prosthetic begin to unravel. "No! No! I thought I had it stable this time!" He started to hop on one leg as his metal leg fell off completely.
He took the finish line last, swinging his arms to compensate. As he ended, he fell firmly on his butt.
"Haha! Look who's the loser now?!" Snotlout laughed, puffing out his chest.
Astrid knelt and held his prosthetic while he tied it back on his leg. "Only because his leg fell off. If this had been a fair race, he could have won..." She tried to reason.
"Forget it Astrid," Snotlout chuckled. "We all know that when it comes to being on land, I'm faster, stronger, and all over super-irior! Stumpy is only good in the air because he has a Nightfury."
"Snotlout..." Astrid hissed. "Why don't you quit picking on Hiccup for your own incompetence?"
"Aw, the little Freyja is protecting her Oðr." Tuffnut snickered.
Astrid backed away from Hiccup in embarrassment. "Yeah, right." She pathetically kicked Hiccup in the side.
"No, Snotlout's right, for once." Hiccup said as he stood, ignoring Tuffnut's taunting. "I've always been slow. I'm just fortunate that I have Toothless to help me out."
"What about Fishlegs?" Ruffnut asked.
The teens looked over to the enlarged boy to see a love fest happening with the gronckle.
"I don't think he cares." Tuffnut shrugged.
Hiccup smiled slightly. "He's got brain and brawn, he doesn't need speed."
"But at least he can defend himself. Unlike some scrawny fishbone."
Hiccup sighed, but said nothing to counter.
"Hey, I'm getting hungry. Can we call it a day, Hiccup?" Tuffnut asked.
"Sure. Everyone's dismissed."
With that, the teens went their own way, Astrid walking with Hiccup. "Wow, Snotlout sure was relentless today. Huh?"
"Hmmm…" Hiccup hummed in agreement.
"Why didn't you fight back?"
"With what? He knows how to train dragons too. And all my other skills are useless in viking society. You know that."
"Well, yeah, sure, everyone knows that. But you could deliver some clever quips."
"Nah, Snotlout always has to have the last word. I don't care."
"I think you do." Astrid said gripping his shoulder. "It doesn't make you any more of a viking to let him step all over you."
"Gee, thank you for reminding me." They had arrived at Hiccup's home, and Toothless sat outside where he had been waiting since before the race. "I don't need Snotlout's approval to be a part of this tribe. So what if I'm not a viking? I have Toothless and you, and my father's finally proud of me. I couldn't ask for more."
"Well, don't let him get to you anyway." She punched his arm.
"I'll try." He rolled his eyes as he rubbed his arm.
Astrid's gaze went to something on the hill, behind his house. "What's that?"
"Hmm?" He turned to see the beginnings of a house being formed. "Huh, someone must have gotten engaged. I'll have to ask my dad about it."
"See you tomorrow, then!"
Hiccup watch Astrid as she turned and walked away, with a smile on his face. He couldn't be thankful enough for such an awesome friend. After she turned the corner, he opened the door to his house, where Stoick sat by the fire.
"Hiccup." He said in a very deep, demanding voice. "Leave Toothless outside, we need to talk."
Hiccup patted his dragon on the nose, hauled the basket of fish out for his dinner, and closed the door. "Yeah dad?" He questioned. Then he noticed that dinner had already been made, even though it was his job. "Oh, I was late. I'm sorry…we were on our way back, and Snotlout wanted a race…"
"No, there's something else. Take a seat." Stoick's demeanor scared the boy, the only other time he had seen him like this was back when he was still called 'useless'. "A messenger came for me today, from Outcast island."
"What do they want?" He asked as he dished up a chicken leg.
Stoick was silent a long time before boring his green eyes into his son's. "Your head."
"It's not surprising, Alvin's been wanting me since he found out about the dragons."
"This is different, Hiccup. He said he is willing to sign a peace treaty and create an alliance if we surrender you."
Hiccup looked in shock. His hand lowered as he suddenly lost his appetite. The safety of the entire tribe, suspending on the fragile threads of his existence?
Talk about humbling. The answer was obvious. "Well, dad, I would be honored to sacrifice myself for the safety of the tribe. You know that."
Stoick smiled in pride. "Once again Hiccup, you've got the wrong idea. I'm not going to sacrifice my only son and heir. I know I must look out for my people, but I can see what Alvin is doing. If I give you over to them, I will have no heir. And the Hooligan tribe will fall without a chief, and then the Outcast tribe can attempt to come in and claim it. No, I'm not falling for their tricks."
"Then, what is it?"
Stoick stood, pacing the room with his hands behind his back. "Within two fortnights, you will be turning sixteen years of age. I hate to admit this, but, I'm getting old, Hiccup. I need to make sure the chiefdom is secure if something were to happen to me."
"Don't worry dad, I'm fully prepared to take over, and Gobber can help me as well."
"It's not you I'm worried about, it's your son."
The boy did a spit take on his water. "My…what? Dad, do you know something that I don't? Because I'm pretty sure I haven't impregnated anyone."
"No, Hiccup. What I'm saying is, I need to see you married and produce a child. Say, now."
"Whoa whoa whoa, you want me to get married?! Hello! This is Hiccup you're talking about! Most of the girls on this island are bigger than me! How do you expect me to get married!?"
"That's what I'm trying to say. Most boys get married around this age, but as chief, you need to get married on the eve of your sixteenth birthday. I'm giving you 14 days to find a girl and propose. If you can't then I'll arrange a marriage."
Hiccup was spiraling, walking rapidly back and forth across the room. "And who am I supposed to ask?! I don't know any girl who would willingly marry me!"
"Why not ask Astrid?" Stoick suggested.
Hiccup's face burned. "As-Astrid?! THEE Astrid!? I mean, sure I'm fond of her! And she may have kissed me, once…or twice…" He shook his head. "The point is, she would never accept! She's far too independent! And I bet she'd like a nice strong type to ask!"
"You never know until you try." Stoick smirked.
Hiccup sighed. "Please don't make me do this dad. Can't you give me a few years?"
"No, everything is already prepared. Your cabin is also being built, farther up the hill."
"My house? That's mine?! Oh geez..."
"Feel free to make adjustments as you need."
"But dad, there's nothing to be afraid of! We have dragons as defense from other tribes, you're not in any danger, and neither am I! Can't it wait?"
"I said no Hiccup!" Stoick shouted, pounding his fist on the table. "Why can't you just be the son I want you to be?!"
His son grabbed the wooden plate from the table, a hurt look on his face. "Fine. I see. Whatever you want…father." Then he stormed out of the cabin.
Outside, Toothless saw the angered look spread over his rider's face and followed him curiously. Hiccup went into the back of the forge, his workroom, his safe haven. He slammed the plate down on the counter and savagely devoured the chicken leg.
"Hiccup the Horrendous," he spoke to himself with a full mouth. "The unwanted son."
Gobber peeked his head in. "Ah! There ya are, lad! I though' I'd heard ya mumblin' to yerself. Somedin wrong?"
"No." Hiccup lied, his cheeks still full of meat.
Gobber didn't press it. "Alright. Mind givin' me a hand den? I promised Bucket I'd fix his axe, but I haven't finished me other projects."
Hiccup swallowed thickly, not minding the thought of pounding out some metal. "Sure, Gobber." He came into the main part of the forge, where the glory hole and grindstone sat. Toothless rested his head on the windowsill, lazy eyes observing the work.
"'Er ya go lad." Gobber dropped the heavy and twisted axe into the boys hands.
Hiccup swayed with it for a moment. "What in Odin's name did he do to it?!" He gawked, staring at the bent blade.
"Who knows? It's Bucket after all."
Hiccup shrugged, but removed the blade and placed it in the fires, heating the iron. He worked impatiently and fast, causing the iron to not heat up to a point of malleability. Instead, Hiccup mostly just pounded the Hel out of it, bending it worse.
"Stupid chief. Stupid laws. Stupid traditions. Stupid marriage. You kill a dragon, loose a leg, and for what? A crummy nickname and a dad who nags you about everything." He mumbled to himself as he worked.
Gobber watched in concern. "You know what's going on?" He asked Toothless.
The dragon released a guttural sigh, sensing his friends duress, but not knowing what caused it.
Finally, the poor beat up blade had enough, and sought out vengeance. A large scalding shard exploded from the main body and sliced across Hiccup's wrist.
He dropped his tools and clutched the wound. "IF THOR WAS A WIZARD, HIS SON WOULD BE A PIG!" He shouted.
Fishlegs, who happened to walk past as Hiccup spewed the profanity, poked his head into the forge.
"Hey Gobber." He said casually. "Is Hiccup okay?"
"Something's on his mind." The blacksmith knew. He took Hiccup's injured hand away from him and placed it in a bucket of frigid water. Instant visible relief showed. "Alright lad, what's troublin' ye?"
"Is this about the race?" Asked Fishlegs, "Because I'm sure you were going easy on the handicap, and Astrid won, so Snotlout shouldn't have been such a prick. And I don't think that Astrid will make you clean Stormfly's teeth…"
"No, no no." Hiccup sighed and began to wrap his wound. "It's my dad, and his stupid needs." He sighed. "Wait, Astrid won?"
"Yeah, and did you even see her mention it? No, because Snotlout denied it. Anyway, what about your dad?"
"Want to tell?" Gobber persisted.
Hiccup looked between his three friends in the forge, and then gave a long exasperation. He started from the beginning, and told all the details. Fishlegs and Gobber seemed a bit embarrassed, but sympathetic at the same time. After all the years they had known him, this seemed very uncharacteristic to the boy. Hiccup spoke rapidly, shakily. Absent was his dry humor and poor attempts at jokes, but the worry and fear was prevalent. Hiccup went to stand by his faithful companion as his tale came to a close.
"Well," asked Gobber. "I seem to think it's funny that you would rather sacrifice yourself to the Outcasts then get married."
"They'd kill me. I just know it." Hiccup confessed. "That doesn't scare me. What scares me is being a screw up to my family. Being a useless husband, and a cruddy dad. Just like I'm a bad son."
Gobber sighed. "You're not a bad son Hiccup, you're just…different."
"Yes, yes, but we all know how vikings take things that are different. Now can we get back to the problem at hand?"
"Who does he think you'll propose to?" Asked Fishlegs.
"He suggested…strid…." He muttered.
"Astrid! He told me to ask Astrid!"
The three smiled. "Well, why not? She's your closest friend, besides Toothless."
The dragon purred as the topic of the blonde came up.
"I…I don't know…I mean, she is my closest friend, but that's just it! What if she says no? We're close, but not THAT close! I can't ruin our relationship! She's so wonderful." He stated unabashed.
The two humans looked at each other, thinking. "Yer dad said he'd arrange a marriage at the end of the month?" Gobber asked. "Don'tcha think gettin' married ta anyone would put a damper on yer relationship wid Astrid?"
Hiccup shrugged, scratching Toothless's snout.
"I betcha, if anything, Stoick would make an arrangement with Darla of the Gaul tribe."
Hiccup snapped his head over to stare at him in sheer horror. "Darla the Disagreeable!? That Darla!? Oh, no that's out. That's way, way out! I'd marry Ruffnut before her! Heck, I'd marry Snotlout and have a child! Don't ask how, but I would!"
"Oh she can't be that bad…right?" Fishlegs innocently asked.
Memories of two young vikings came to Hiccup's mind as he distinctly remembered her looking at him with her crossed eyes, her jagged teeth, and unibrow. Then there was the time she pinned him to the ground and tried to kiss him, despite her strange lip fungus…then there was that pustule infection on her neck…Hiccup shook himself out of the vision. "No. There is no way I will even come into contact with her."
"Then, you'll have to ask Astrid." Gobber shrugged.
"How? I don't know the first thing about romance! Unless you include embarrassing yourself and stuttering like a moron, then I'm an expert."
"You already have a foot in the door. She likes you, why else would she defend you and punch you in admiration?" Fishlegs pointed out.
"You have to show her that you care."
"But don't over do it."
"But be honest."
"But be humble."
Hiccup attempted to understand the crossfire of advice he was getting. "Wait, since when are you two the experts on romance?"
They both shrugged. "Do you want help or not?"
"Fine, I'll take your advice. But if this explodes in my face, I'm blaming it on you two."
"Fair enough lad." Gobber took away the mangled axe. "I'll work on this, you have something more important to work on."
Hiccup sighed. "Right, the oath band. I've never made jewelry before though…"
"I'll help ya lad, don't you worry. But I think Astrid would appreciate it more if you made it yourself."
"Agreed." He then turned to Fishlegs. "Would you be willing to help?"
The larger boy shrugged. "What do you need?"
"I need you to get Meatlug to eat a chunk of gold, and then a piece of copper of approximately a quarter of the size. Think you could do that?"
"How big does this gold rock need to be?"
"Just a few ounces, enough to work with in case I make a mistake."
"I can do that." The boy smiled. "Anything to help out a friend."
"Thanks Fishlegs, you're the best."
Gobber acknowledged his plan. "Goin' with a rose gold I see. Hard to work with, you know."
"I know, but this needs to be perfect."
"What are you going to do for the design? Just a simple band?"
"No, the ring needs to be complex, like Astrid. Pure in elements, and strong in make up. Above all, it must be elegant and beautiful."
"Astrid, elegant? I think you're seeing something we don't."
Hiccup ignored that comment. "I'm thinking a cloisonné ring."
Gobber let out a pathetic chuckle. "Cloisonné? Are you sure you're ready for that, lad? I mean, you've only done it once or twice when decorating sword and axe handles."
"What are you going to use for colored stones?"
"I'll use a few scales from Stormfly. They're beautiful, and it will be that more special to Astrid."
"Okay lad, why don't you start on drawing the design tonight, and tomorrow, I'll help you make it."