Axel Hofferson was a man of rigid structure. He loved his daughter deeply, but also saw her potential and raised her to be the best fighter she could be. He didn't hate Hiccup, as most people thought. The man had a respect for the boy's work in the forge. But then when the incident of the Red Death came about, then he decided that Astrid and Hiccup would one day be married. He had been so excited when the boy had come with arms full of weapons and asked, blushing madly, for Astrid's hand in marriage.
But then Astrid had to be difficult and send Hiccup off. Now he was dead. Axel Hofferson was sad. He knew that his darling daughter loved the boy, her behavior during his absence could have said enough. Despite his desire for his daughter to be married one day, he would rather her be a old woman than to marry that…
Oh yes, Wart made his blood boil. Like a few others, he didn't trust the new chief. And he especially didn't like the fact he humiliated Astrid in front of everyone, making her cry.
So it would be reasonable to say the man was livid when the speck of dirt on the white walls of his existence popped over the next morning, an unknown sack on his shoulder.
"Hello, Mr. Hofferson. Is Astrid here?"
"No." The man attempted to slam the door shut, but Hiccup slid his fake foot into the opening. "Well, that's odd. I escorted her home last night, and she told me to meet her to escort her to breakfast. Is she with her dragon?"
Another fishy thing about this man was whatever he had done to Astrid. The day before, right after Wart's announcement, Astrid had come home and ran up to her room. He could hear her sobbing, and it was the most painful thing he had ever faced. Just hearing his beautiful daughter suffering made his heart clench in a tender way. Eventually, she had come out and sat by the fire, wiping her eyes. Her mother asked if there was anything to do to help, he seconded that offer.
Astrid declined them both. "There's nothing that can make me better."
She had bravely stood, evidence of her sorrow all over her face, and announced, "I'm going to talk to Wart." And then left.
Axel Hofferson had sat by the back door and listened. The village was strangely quiet, most likely listening as well. Astrid was heard angrily yelling from up on the hill, but her words were warbled by the distance. Then, she went silent. The couple were quiet for too long, before laughter was heard. Then silence reined once again.
She was gone about three hours, and returned when it was late. She was smiling, tears still fresh in her eyes, but her smile was not any less genuine. When asked how it went, Astrid grinned toothily and said, "I have accepted his proposal."
Unbelievable. His little Astrid, the most stubborn, bullheaded viking on the entire island, had changed her mind on who she was going to marry within just a few hours.
Axel Hofferson glared back at this man, unwilling to answer him. Really, he wanted to deck the chief in the nose, but then there would go the treaty, and he wanted peace just as much as anyone else. He met the boys green eyes, that looked to be smiling. The older man gave up.
"Astrid! The chief is 'ere for ya!" He called up, not too happy about it.
"Which one?" Asked the blonde.
"The one you are…involved with!" He hesitated to say 'engaged' because it wasn't official yet.
She giggled. Giggled. "Be right down!" And she was, opting out of her spiked skirt and other armor for just a simple dress.
Oh gods, she was wearing a dress. Astrid. What sort of black magic was this chief capable of using?
"Oh Astrid!" The mother of the girl interrupted her gallivanting. "Before you go, could you change Pippin? He's been fussin'."
"Of course!" She smiled.
Mr. Hofferson opened the door a bit more and allowed this stranger, his daughter's unofficial fiancé, to come in. Wart nodded in appreciation.
The baby's crib was in the middle of the room, not too far from the fire, to keep him warm. Astrid lifted the infant and set him on the table. Hiccup watched in silent agony as she cooed right along with the babe.
"You made such a mess! Yes, you did!" All said in a sickeningly sweet voice. Children did strange things to people.
"Ma-ma…" Peregrin blubbered back, "Ma-ma!"
"That's right, mama's here." She smiled.
A distinct sniff came from the masked man, and Mr. Hofferson looked at him in question. Hiccup was missing out, another damaging effect of his decision.
"It's so touching to see such a loving bond." Wart stated, in a surprisingly calm voice.
"And you're attempting to take a mother away from that child." The father responded.
The young chief whirled on the man and stared him down. "My mother was taken from me. I could not bare to do that to someone else." In his rage, the masked voice he used slipped and Hiccup was heard.
The man didn't notice it though. He just looked at him with wide eyes and said, "You'd adopt him?"
"In a heartbeat."
"And I thought Outcast's didn't have hearts."
"They don't, but I'm not an Outcast. Not really."
The message was cryptic, but Axel Hofferson didn't have much time to think about it before Astrid lifted Pippin into a wrap and slung it over her shoulder, cradling the babe. "We need to take this little guy to the Larson's before we go. Okay?"
She came to the door, stood on her tip toes and kissed her father on the cheek.
"We're going to breakfast, the meeting about the finalization of the treaty is taking place afterwards, please come, papa." She grinned.
"Fine. If you're really going through with this!" He sighed. "Why Astrid? You were so devoted to Hiccup, what in Migard made you change your mind?"
The couple looked at each other, and Astrid answered without breaking the gaze. "I have my reasons." Then she looked back to her father. "And I will always be devoted to Hiccup. I promise, this is for the best."
He was skeptical before replying. "I'll meet you up there." He then closed the door.
"I don't think your dad likes me." He said as they started walking off.
"Oh, he loves you." Astrid scoffed. "He and mom always talked about how great you were and how one day you would make a great chief, and I a great chief's wife."
"Yes, your dad liked Hiccup, but not me."
She seemed to understand as she 'Ah'ed.
"Maybe it's the mask."
"I think it's sexy." She stated nonchalantly.
He snorted. "I was going for intimidating, not sexy."
"I find intimidating sexy, okay?"
"Well, it's good to know I'm doing something right." The underlying meaning came to light as he was caught looking around. Everyone was staring at them. Hiccup wanted to shrink away into nothing, but Wart continued on proudly.
"When are you going to do the big reveal?" She asked.
"Oh, I wake up every morning thinking, 'today will be the day' but then I chicken out at every opportunity. So you know…never."
"Hiccup!" She whispered harshly. "You can't just not tell people! I love you, and I will still marry you, but everyone will hate me for going against my promise."
"We could just get hitched and then live on the Atolls, where I'm chief and no one would question us."
"You would do that?" She asked sadly.
"No, I've run away from this enough." He let out a heavy sigh. "I don't know what I'll do."
"You could do it during the meeting. That way it's not in front of everyone."
"Do you want my father to have a heart attack?" There was a silence and Astrid imagined him scrunching up his face behind the mask. "I can't help but feel like that would be really mean."
"It'll be mean no matter when you do it."
"Yep. Not helping me to want to do it any faster."
"Hiccup," She whispered again. "Despite what you think, everyone misses you."
He didn't respond, but put his hand in hers. They dropped off the child, and continued in silence.
In the great hall, more eyes turned to look at the couple as they sat at a table. Wart set his bag on the surface, making Astrid curious, but before she could say anything, Fishlegs came up.
"Are you free today? I would like to discuss dragon things." He asked the masked man sheepishly.
"Really? You aren't angry with me?"
"No…you didn't kill Hiccup." He said matter-of-factly. "I feel like people don't understand that."
"Thank you Fishlegs, really, but I have a meeting with the tribal leaders today. To finalize the treaty and uh…um…Astrid's engagement."
And just like that, the entire room went silent.
Fishlegs stood open mouthed, moving his lips like, well, a fish. Then finally, "Smothering Smokebreaths! Astrid!"
"Now Fishlegs, you don't know the full story."
"Oh really?" Snotlout came over, looking very angry. "Sounds like your marrying one man while another's ring is on your finger." Ruff and Tuff came to stand with them, looking equally as peeved.
Hiccup was surprised. "I didn't know you guys were so loyal to Hiccup."
Snotlout scoffed. "Loyal to Hiccup? No. I'm talking about the fact that I've been courting Astrid before Hiccup even noticed her."
Untrue, thought the teen in question. "Oh, I see…" Wart rolled his eyes. "So you're angry that I cut in line?"
Snotlout poked him the chest. "I was. But then, I got over it, because it's evident that Astrid just likes guys in power. She only likes you because you're chief."
Astrid crackled her knuckles in silent rage, but Hiccup stood up calmly. In one stride, he was looming over the bully. Hiccup, looming! It was invigorating! "You want to run that by me again, Snotpout?" His voice was dangerously low.
"Lout; An awkward or stupid person, literally 'Little Snot'. Your name fits you."
"You trying to pick a fight?"
"I'm defending milady's honor. You're the one picking the fight." He cracked his shoulder.
"Oh yeah, what are you going to do about it?" And he pushed the chief.
The interest of the room was focused on the two teens as they came to a standoff.
Hiccup was lucky enough that he had thoroughly improved on his fighting skills during his enslavement. You bump into someone the wrong way, you get punched in the face. It was normal, and Hiccup soon learned to protect himself, and over time, to take down drunks and lesser sized men. He accredited it to his new height.
In any normal situation, Hiccup would have kept calm and waited for the other man to swing first. But this was not a normal situation, this was Snotlout, his cousin, and the bane of his existence. Just once he wanted to give him the butt kicking he so richly deserved. And boy, was he asking for it!
"Are you a coward?" The teen sneered. "I bet you just got this role by kissing ass."
That did it. Wart's fist collided with the stout boy's face, producing a cracking sound. Snotlout fell on his butt, his nose bleeding like a fountain. To Hiccup's surprise, no one ran to his aid, instead, they cheered. Even the twins and Fishlegs. He didn't dwell on the praise though, as he planted his false foot on his opponent's chest and pinned him to the ground.
"Listen here you vomitous mass of disgusting growth." He leaned his weight on his chest. "I have lived my entire life taking orders from others, unlike you, you garish, insignificant tick, you've had everything handed to you. I had to work, slave my life away. I've suffered more than you could possibly imagine, and yet, you have the audacity to think of me as a worm, a parasite. I take pride in my title, and I deeply care about the young woman I am engaged to. So, you impudent rat, I will not sit and listen to you insult my intelligence or my bride." Well, it wasn't a complete lie.
It was gratifying to see the larger teen, the bully of all these years, tearing up and sniveling like a brat. In Snotlout's mind, he was telling himself to refrain from crying.
"Is that understood!?" He nearly shouted.
Oh goody, he was stuttering. Wart leaned off, taking his leg away. "Good. Now get up and wipe your face. You look like a toad that's been away from water too long."
"I like him," Ruffnut whispered to Astrid.
"Now, if you'll excuse me," Hiccup shakily put his arms behind his back. "I need a moment of fresh air." He nodded once and left the room.
"Wooow," Tuffnut said lounging at the table. "I can see why you agreed. He seems pretty persuasive."
"Oh, he can be." Astrid grinned like a cat. "I mean— he's—yes, very persuasive. But he didn't punch me in the face…or anything."
"Did he kiss you?" Asked Fishlegs.
"Not…initially." She blushed.
"You kissed?!" Ruffnut placed her hands on the table and stared, wide eyed.
"But, you don't even know him!" Snotlout had apparently recovered from his attack. After all, it was pretty cool. They were all imagining the fact that Wart's mask separated, just revealing his mouth. Snotlout had the vindictive image of the chief cornering the blonde and taking advantage of her.
"Yeah, what if his face is all nasty?"
"What if he's ugly?"
"What if he's actually Dagur?!"
"There's nothing to worry about…I—I've seen him without his mask."
The teens were all silent until Fishlegs asked in a small voice, "You know who he is?"
"Of course, he's the man I'm going to marry." Astrid replied curtly, not lying.
Ruffnut was impatient. "Okay, spill. What does he look like?"
"Oh, he's very handsome. His eyes are…and his nose…and—his lips…" She sighed.
Snotlout made a gagging sound.
Astrid shook herself out of her uncharacteristic swooning. "Behind that mask is another man entirely. He puts up a front to lead his tribe, but he is really very kind. That's rare, and I'm…I'm okay with it."
The teens heard the collective sound of the 'Thunk' of a peg leg before Gobber joined in. "I was worried. I saw the chief sock Snotlout and assumed that he was running his mouth."
"He was." Tuffnut laughed. "Always entertaining when that happens."
Gobber rolled his eyes. "But to hear from Astrid's mouth that everything is okay, well, I'm glad."
The blonde looked to the mentor of the group. "You don't think I'm betraying Hiccup, do you? Because, I'm not…" She tried to say desperately.
"Astrid. You are a lovely young lady, I know Hiccup would be devastated if you gave up opportunities just because he's gone." He lovingly grasped her shoulder. "Live life how you want to. If you like this man, marry him. If you're just doing it for the good of the tribe, forget it. I've seen his kindness, he wants this treaty, marriage or not."
"Gobber, I—…" She shyly looked back at the doors where Hiccup had entered. "I love him."
He patted her head. "That's that then."
The people dwindled and soon the Great Hall was empty, save for a handful of men and a young girl. They sat at the head table.
"Sir, are you sure this girl can be here?" Savage asked, looking pointedly at Astrid.
"We are discussing the matter of her marriage and the unity of our tribes. It would be cruel to shut her out." Wart said calmly.
"So," Stoick said, "Have you reached a decision?"
Hiccup allowed Astrid to answer. "I have accepted his proposal."
Stoick nodded. "Alright then."
"Mr. Hofferson." Hiccup spoke, interrupting Stoick and the treaty. "I want you to know that I take this engagement seriously, and I know that you don't want your daughter to marry me."
The viking across the table said nothing, but pursed his lips.
"That is why I accept your sacrifice as the dowry. And for the bride price…" He reached behind him and withdrew a bag from his sack on the floor. "I hope you accept this as a down payment. There is more to come, of course." He handed the bag to the man. "I hope it helps."
The bag was fat with gold coins. "This—this is more then we were expecting for the bride price."
"I know, but I want you to be sure that I can care for your daughter."
Mr. Hofferson accepted the prize and shook the boy's hand. "You do well to keep that promise."
Hiccup smiled behind the mask, but it went unseen.
"Sir," interrupted Savage. "That gold belongs to Alvin!"
Wart rolled his head over, acting as if he was talking to a dense child. "Very nice observation. Yes, it was Alvin's. But, since he had a funeral pyre on a boat, he can't very well be buried with it, can he?"
"And I am the new chief, so his money gets passed to me. And I am using it for the betterment of our tribe. Does that makes sense?"
"Y-yes sir…" Savage answered, embarrassed.
"And now Stoick, the treaty. We sign to confirm it, assuring our unity."
The large chief let out a sigh. "I'll be so glad once it's signed."
"Just one more thing."
The man exasperated, but said nothing.
"This belongs to Berk." And from his bag, he extracted a book and set it on the table. The Book of Dragons that was stolen so long ago.
The group was silent as Stoick stood and came around the table. He lifted Wart from his seat and enveloped him in a hug. "Thank you."
Hiccup was smiling unbearably hard as he patted his father on the back. "Let's sign this thing!"
Later, on the hill, Hiccup was washing up. He sweated so hard in his suit, from nerves and because the leather didn't breathe. Mwaba was in the main room, scratching Toothless' head. The Zambian had taken a shining to the dragon, obviously not as much as Hiccup did, but none the less, he enjoyed the reptile's company. The man liked Berk, it was calm and peaceful and the people were friendly. Still, he had a hard time adapting. Sure, he had Hiccup to help out, but the boy couldn't give him full attention. He understood that. Maybe that's why he got along with the dragon, Toothless was trying to be invisible, but still watch over his boy.
In turn, Toothless liked the black man. He sensed that Mwaba had cared for his human when he could not. This huge man was not a viking, as he was peaceful and calm. Toothless liked it, compared to the everyday high strung, ready to attack, hoard of warriors that always surrounded him. Without introduction, Toothless and Mwaba had found friends in each other.
There was a knock at the door.
"Can you get that?" Hiccup asked from behind a curtain.
Mwaba stood and opened the door. A familiar blonde smiled back. "Good evening, Astreed." He smiled and allowed her in.
"Is Hiccup here?"
"He es preenin'" He jerked a thumb over to the curtain.
"You make me sound like a Nadder." He laughed. "Hey Pooh!" He greeted in hello, not showing himself.
"Don't you 'Pooh' me!"
Someone was in trouble.
"I thought you were going to reveal during the meeting!"
He peeked his head out from behind the curtain. "Can we talk about this when I'm not naked? I'm feeling very vulnerable right now."
She groaned. "Fine, just hurry up." And she sat heavily on the bench to await her husband to be.
Mwaba was stoking the fire, while a pot of something was boiling over it. Toothless stared at the bundle she had slung around her shoulders. She smiled back, but said nothing about it.
"Hey...Mwaba, is it?"
The man glanced up to her.
"Where are you from?"
He smiled fondly. "All de way south. As far south as yoo can imagine. I kum from a country called Zambia, es a part of Africa."
"Do you miss it?"
"Somedays I mess de climate. Es too cold heah." He sighed. "I was orphaned as a child." He looked directly to Pippin as he spoke. "I 'ad no one to care fo me, so meh chief sold me into de thrall. And dat is dat."
Astrid simpered. The sound of Hiccup ringing out a cloth and the crackling of the fire were the only sounds as the two sat in awkward silence. Finally, the blonde asked, "How did you get out?" She cleared her throat. "I mean, Hiccup told me how you two met, and then how he got out…but he kind of skipped over the part where you two met up."
"My bad!" Hiccup called from his corner.
Mwaba smiled at the memory. He was working in the fields, pulling a plow like some sort of animal, when other slaves came running over. 'The chief's been killed! His replacement has asked everyone to come forward!' Curious, Mwaba followed the other slaves out to the town square, where a man in leather stood above the crowd. He announced that slavery was now outlawed, and that those in the thrall would work for pay or go free. Many of the townsfolk were outraged at this, but the leader explained the cruel conditions, and that maybe, just maybe, if the master's treated their slaves better, the workers would be willing to stay and help. He then spotted Mwaba in the crowd and ordered him to be brought forward. Ragnar would not stand for it, as he went up ranting and raving. 'I paid good money for him, he's the best worker I've ever had, I'm too old for this work.' Bla bla bla.
It was then that Hiccup took off his helmet and looked at the man with a scowl. His previous master fell on his feet and begged for forgiveness.
'I could put you in jail.' The teen threatened. 'I could have you killed.'
But the man broke down in tears at his feet, volunteering himself as a servant to the chief as retribution. While this transpired, Mwaba stared in amazement.
Finally, the large man approached the chief and simply said, 'Jambo Kwikwi.' And the two hugged it out.
"He came fo me." The giant smiled.
The sound of a curtain swishing back got the attention of the three in the room. Hiccup was only in his pants as he toweled his hair dry.
"You can't do anything halfway," Astrid acknowledged, "I either see you completely decked out in armor, or almost naked."
Hiccup shrugged, "I have nudist tendencies."
The topic of his identity was forgotten as Hiccup caught sight of the clump in Astrid's arms. "Oh gods, is that…?"
She smiled. "You haven't gotten to see him yet, have you?"
He numbly shook his head as he sat next to her, holding out his hands. She gently passed him the babe, and he cradled him close. He fingered his tiny features. "He looks great. Warm, well fed, loved…"
"Hiccup." Astrid tried to console him, but Pippin began to wake up. His little green eyes flickered open as he made gurgling and babbling noises.
"Hey there, stranger. Do you remember me?" His voice was thick with tenderness.
The babe reached up and grabbed his nose. "Da-da."
A tearful laugh was the result. "Yeah, daddy! It's your daddy!" He whispered in excitement. "Did you miss me?"
"Da-da!" The baby sang again.
Hiccup lifted the boy and softly caressed his soft forehead. "Because I missed you." He kissed him. "I love you." His lips quivered and his eyes stung. "I'm sorry I was away for so long." And he hugged the babe close. "But you have a mama now."
Astrid's eyes got glassy as she fought the emotions.
Toothless slunk over to the couple and sniffed the bundle of blankets in his friend's arms. Hiccup noticed the dragon's curiosity and held out Pippin so he could see him.
"This is my son Toothless. My baby." He smiled.
In return, the black dragon gave a toothy grin and licked the top of the baby's head. He could see it now, Pippin would be spoiled rotten.