A little boy with auburn trusses and bright green eyes. The son of the chief, but the smallest in the clan. Astrid was best friends with this boy, loving him for his intellect and humor, not his strength. It was at this moment, that the young woman watched as the child ran around, chasing terrors. Astrid thought it was a little odd, seeing Hiccup so young, while she stayed the same. But she didn't dwell on it, as her focus was guided back to the boy. Teary eyed, he rubbed his cheeks as the chief approached him.
"Man up son, they pick on you because you're weak." He said harshly.
Little Hiccup stood and nodded, his lips quivering.
Astrid tried to say something, but she knew, in this dream world, that her words fell on deaf ears.
She saw herself, growing taller than the boy and flicking the back of his head. She saw Snotlout trip him, Ruff and Tuff wail on him, and Fishlegs pick him up and move him out of the way. She watched in sadness as the others grew like trees, but he remained small. Snotlout grabbed his sketchbook and held it over his head, while Hiccup jumped for it, never coming near the height. Stoick sighed as he passed. Sad little Hiccup trudged by himself to the cliff face.
She aways hated this part. He would stare out at sea, the wind jostling his hair and clothes. He looked back and stared at her before leaning forward and jumping. Almost instantly, his body turned to dust and was swirled by the wind.
Then he was gone.
Astrid sat up quickly in bed. It was the same dream since he left. Over and over, the same nightmare came up. The worst part was that she was there the whole time, but was unable to do anything to help. A man once said that guilt is the most toxic form of poison; didn't she know it. So she got out of bed, as she usually did after the dream, and snuck out of the house by the help of Stormfly.
After the first three days of the reoccurring nightmare, Astrid had had enough and sought out refuge. Using her stealth skills, she broke into the chief's home and slept in Hiccup's bed.
Stoick found her in the morning, and after a short discussion with her parents, she was allowed to sleep there when she needed. Tonight, however, Astrid didn't need to go to the chief's, when Hiccup was home.
She made her way up the hill and peeked in the door. To her surprise, Hiccup was still awake, laying on his back with Pippin sleeping against his chest.
"Astrid?" He whispered, glancing over when he heard the hinges creak.
"You can't sleep either?" She asked sadly.
"No, I haven't slept well in a long time. I have awful nightmares. I call it 'post traumatic stress disorder.'"
"Well, if anyone is going to have a traumatic experience, I believe it would be you." She came and sat on the floor next to Toothless, her back resting by Hiccup's shoulder.
"And what about you?" He asked softly, playing with her hair.
"Nightmare. Same one, over and over."
"Is that why you've been sleeping in my old room?"
She looked at him. "How did you know about that?"
"I spy on you." He grinned. Hiccup slipped his free arm around her shoulders and allowed her to use his shoulder for a pillow. "You can sleep here, no one will notice."
She turned her head to the side and kissed him lightly. "Thank you." And she snuggled into his side.
She stared into the fire, still wide awake. "Hiccup?"
"Will you tell me a story?"
He snorted. "Really?"
"Just to help me sleep."
"Nope, my stories are all too action packed. You'll be awake all night."
"Then make one up."
"Fine. Okay…" He was quiet for a moment then said. "There once was a princess named Astrid."
"Wait, why am I the princess?"
"Because you're a girl…?"
He exasperated. "Fine, once upon a time there was a prince named Hiccup. He was super handsome, and everyone loved him."
Astrid turned and raised her eyebrow.
"Okay! He was super handsome, but he was klutzy, so everyone was annoyed with him. To keep him safe, his father, the King Stoick put him up in a tower, and had a dragon guard it."
"What was the name of the dragon?"
"Toothless, of course." He said matter-of-factly. Toothless trilled in his sleep. "In the kingdom, there was a brave warrior named Astrid. She was as fierce as she was beautiful, and she cared deeply about the boy locked away in the tower. She tried to reason with the king to let him out, but the king said that the dragon was too protective to get near the tower. If she wanted to rescue the prince, she would have to slay the dragon."
"She didn't though, did she?"
"What do you think?" He chuckled. "Astrid approached the dragon, and he growled at her. Astrid's heart was big, and she couldn't kill Toothless. So she talked to him." He pitched his voice high to mimic the girl. "'Excuse me dragon, the boy I love is trapped in that tower. Please let me save him.'" Then he lowered his voice. "'I have to protect the prince from everyone, King's orders.'"
"Since when does Toothless talk?"
"It's my story, I can make him do whatever I want."
"Okay." She laughed. "What happened then?"
"Well, the dragon could see the earnestness in her eyes, so he allowed her in, but followed close behind."
"Because, you know, she was so strong."
"Oh, of course." He grinned. "In the tower, she didn't find the young useless prince that she had been expecting, but instead, a strapping young man who didn't need rescuing.
"'Why are you still here?' Astrid asked curiously. He replied, 'I am not wanted there, why should I go back?' 'I came for you,' she defended. 'I want you.' So, he allowed her to save him and together they flew away on Toothless' back and lived happily ever after."
Astrid was quiet a long time, Hiccup assumed she was asleep, until she stated. "You're really bad at telling stories."
"Well, excuse me! It's all I could come up with on the fly."
"It was cute." She snuggled closer. "Especially the 'happily ever after' part."
"That part will be true in our story." He draped her hair over his shoulder. "I'll make that promise."
"You better." She yawned.
Exhaustion had it's way with her, and soon she was asleep, slumped against him.
In the morning, she blinked awake to find herself laying on the bench he had occupied last night. He was absent though.
"Habari za asubuhi, Astreed." A deep voice spoke.
The blonde sat up, a blanket falling from her form. Mwaba stoked a fire as something cooked over coals. "Where's Hiccup?"
The Zambian opened his mouth to reply, but the door burst open. A masked man carrying logs, and two water buckets hanging from his elbows came in. "Oh, Astrid! You're up!" He dumped the logs by the fire and placed the buckets off in a corner. "Just in time for breakfast." He took off his mask and smiled at her.
"Where's Pippin?" She rubbed her eyes.
"I took him to the Larson's this morning, he was fussing."
"In your mask and everything?"
"Well, yeah. But…I did reveal to her. I know that mothers can be overprotective with children, and I didn't want my access to Pippin to be barred. So I revealed who I was and told her to keep it a secret."
She grinned. "How did she respond?"
Astrid snorted. "Of course." She pulled the blanket around her shoulders, sleep still clinging to her.
"Did you sleep better last night?"
She nodded, a bit drowsy.
"We'll be married soon, so you won't have to worry about those nightmares." He came over and pecked her cheek.
"Wewe mbili kufanya mimi mgonjwa." You two make me sick. Mwaba joked.
"Oh, you're just jealous, you old fuddy duddy."
"When did you learn to speak his language?" Astrid asked, before yawning.
"It was an exchange. I taught him to speak Norse, and he taught me to understand Kiswahili. I'm not as good at speaking it, but I can get by."
"He es a betta student den I am. He es almost fluent." Mwaba looked in pride.
Hiccup shrugged. "I'm a fast learner." He sat next to her as Mwaba took the pot off. "I had to be, with everything that's been thrown at me over all this time. Especially with the allies coming in."
Hiccup exasperated. "The Outcast network spans farther then I could have ever imagined. Within the week that Alvin was killed, I had tribe chiefs from the Danes, the Varangians, Akkadians, Hoarders, Ostrogoths, and…" He laughed. "Dagur. That's where the mask came from. He sent word that he was coming, and I made it up. I used the skills that my dad had been teaching me and delegated the meets with each of them, some of them at the same time. I strengthened our bonds, but told of the changes we were making. Luckily, most of them found the idea of the blood thirsty tribe turning to peace as a good thing. Except Dagur, there's just no pleasing that kid." He sighed as Mwaba handed him and Astrid bowl. "Ah, thank you. And the other thing I had to deal with were the traders. We have Johan, who is our only trader, but the Outcasts, have four others. I'm going to try to get them to come here too, because it's amazing the stuff that they trade. We have two from Rome, like the capital city, then we have one from Persia, he has lots of spices and herbs, and then, my favorite, Maoyi Shang from Seres."
"Seres? I've never heard of that…"
"I didn't until he came. He's a very small man with narrow eyes and dark complexion, though, not as dark as Mwaba. Somewhere in the middle. He comes from a land on the opposite side of the world. He trades silk, ink, a thin ceramic called porcelain, and a green jewel called Jade. Here!" And he went to a chest in the corner of the room. "I thought it would be perfect for me, so I got it!" Excitedly, he took out a tiny hand carved statue of a dragon, but it was unlike one she had ever seen before. "This is called a Feilong, it's what their dragons are like. In their culture, dragons are revered and looked upon as a sign of luck and power."
"Boy, were you born in the wrong place." She laughed.
"No kidding! They even have this phrase, xiwang ni erzi hui bian cheng long, which means 'hoping your son will become a dragon', or that you'll be successful in life."
"That's cool!" She took the little statue and examined it. "We'll have to visit someday. Just take Toothless and Stormfly on a long trip."
"That would be fun." He smiled tenderly at her. "Oh! I have to show you this knife I got from the Persians!"
"I thought you said you didn't bring any weapons." She narrowed her eyes.
"Well…this is a decorative knife. Totally different." He scavenged around in the chest again before producing a 'Ah-ha!' and a sheathed knife. He handed it to her carefully.
"Hiccup…" Her breath was in her throat. It was one of the most beautiful pieces she had ever seen, and she did love her weapons!
"It's for you." He smiled.
"I got it for you. It has you all over it!"
"You know I'm an axe girl."
"I know, but this is special. Look, the hilt has these blue stones in it, they're called lapis lazuli, and they remind me of your eyes. The blade is gold, like your hair. These black stones that frame the outside are called Onyx, and they remind of your cold resolve and determination."
She blushed. Only Hiccup could do that to her. "And what of these red stones?"
"Jasper, and they remind me of your lips…" He faded off and leaned in to initiate a kiss.
Suddenly, the door opened. "Sir!"
It was Savage.
"Do you ever knock?" Hiccup asked calmly. Then he leaned over and whispered to Astrid. "He doesn't know my identity either, don't say anything about it."
"Sir, I need to talk to you about our departure."
"You're leaving?" Asked Astrid, suddenly deflating.
"No, oh no, Pooh!" He touched her shoulder.
"Wait, we aren't leaving?" Asked Savage.
"No, you are. Argh! Sit down, soldier!"
Savage obediently took a seat and Mwaba handed him a bowl.
"Now, no Astrid, I personally am not leaving, as I have a wedding to plan. The rest of my men are going back to Outcast island to gather supplies, and what not. I'm sending Mwaba in my stead as delegate."
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about, sir. It's not that I don't think the general is…incompetent, but don't you think that I would be better suited for this job?"
"I have already given clear instructions on what he is to do, and he is fine with it."
"Yes, but sir, the man doesn't even speak properly."
Mwaba looked up at the man with hurt all over his face. "I dought I was doing a pretty good job at et." He pouted.
"Now, look what you did Savage, you made a grown man cry."
"Sir! He doesn't know all the protocol! I have experience with this matter!"
"Experience doesn't matter right now, I trust Mwaba with my life, and that is what makes him a great general. He follows my orders, and doesn't talk back. Is that clear?"
Savage sneered at the boy. "Yes sir."
"Tell the men that you set sail as soon as the ships are ready. It's best to get there before sundown."
Savage stood, not even touching the food that had been offered, and left without a word.
Astrid clenched Hiccup's hand. "I don't trust him."
"I don't either, that's why I demoted him."
"His Moostache is goofeh." Mwaba added, eating his food. Hiccup snorted.
"Well, we better get down to breakfast."
"What? Why? Isn't this breakfast?" Astrid gestured to her bowl.
"Yes, we won't be eating. We'll be much too busy deflecting questions."
"Oh no, you don't mean…"
The couple stood in front of the crowd in the great hall. Stoick had gathered everyone, saying he had an important announcement. Astrid snuck her hand into his, ready for the wave of discontent.
"Everyone, it is official! In two weeks time, we will have the wedding of these two young kids!" He put his hands on both shoulders to show his blessing. Hiccup was smiling behind his mask, but it obviously went unseen.
The crowd gasped. Some scowled at the boy, others clapped, a still others were confused.
"I know there is question to this unity, but I think this marriage is the right thing." Stoick added.
Astrid attempted to smile, when Hiccup bumped his head into hers with a thump. He snickered.
"What's so funny?" she whispered back.
"I tried to kiss your forehead, but I forgot I had my helmet on."
Then, she genuinely did smile and put an arm around his waist. The people would be so elated when they found out who he really was, but for now, she would enjoy the fact she was finally getting to marry Hiccup.
Because he loved her, and because he wanted her, not because anyone was demanding it.
An hour later found Wart at the docks, with Astrid, Stoick, and Gobber, helping with the final preparations for the trip. Other Berkians were packing food and supplies for the warriors, and it warmed Hiccup's heart to see Berk and the Outcast's finally at peace. He shook hands with all of his men, thanking them for their service and wishing them safe travels. Then it came to saying goodbye to Mwaba.
"Yoo stay safe." The man said pointedly.
"I'm not completely helpless." Shrugged Hiccup. "I'll be fine. See you in two weeks?"
"An' mess yur wedding?" He asked with a grin.
Hiccup chuckled and held his hand out for a shake. Mwaba gripped it, but then pulled him up for a big hug, cracking his back.
"Nitakuwa miss wewe, Kwikwi."
"I'll miss you too Mwaba."
Toothless approached the group curiously and quietly. Mwaba went and gently scratched his nose. "Kuendelea naye salama." Keep him safe.
Finally, Savage gripped his shoulder. "Sir, there is something I need to say before I leave. Over here in private?" He jabbed his thumb back to the ramp.
Wart shrugged. "Sure."
Once they were out of earshot, Savage held out his hand. "You've done the tribe well. It's been an honor."
"Likewise." Hiccup gripped his hand.
"One more thing." And Savage pulled him closer, for a hug. Hiccup heard a distinct 'shik' sound before Savage whispered. "I hate you."
There was a tightness in his abs, as something didn't feel right, but his armor was tight anyway, so he couldn't tell exactly what it was.
"I didn't kill Alvin for some child-slave to come in a take what was destined to be mine. I was waiting for that oaf to leave your side, so I could finish the job, but I guess that wasn't happening. I wished this could have gone over better, Hiccup."
What was this man talking about? Before he had the chance to even process what was happening, a black blur lifted Savage away and the two went rolling. He heard Toothless' angry roar, the same one he had blasted the day they met, and Savage's feminine shriek of terror.
Then he heard footsteps clamoring up the ramp as Astrid shouted 'NO!' over and over and Mwaba cried 'Kwikwi!'
What was all the fuss? As if he was in slow motion, Hiccup looked down to his abs and felt his breath leave him like a vapor of smoke in the wind.
The hilt of a dagger was jutting out from his stomach.
There would be blood, but not until they removed his armor. For that, he was thankful. Then, like a blossoming flower, a sea of tremors raked his body. His jaw shook as his lungs fought for air.
There's no way…
He watched as his friends came running. But the world started to tilt underneath him. Gently, the land moved out of his gaze as he met the bright blue of the sky. There was the cliff face, ah, he was falling. Soon, he would hit the ground. The shock overwhelmed him like a clanging gong. His breath was erratic, fighting, and missing.
Toothless. He had to focus on something to give him comfort, and Toothless was the best for that. The black dragon with so much emotion but no words. So loyal, and so full of love. Hiccup imagined the smooth scales on his hand, wings eclipsing him in a safe haven as he had all those years ago. Then the safety of the beast under him as he climbed higher and higher into the sky. Yes, up to the clouds, pass the sun, up into the stars. Toothless kept going, but he felt himself slip off and start to fall back to earth.
Gentle hands reached out and cradled him as he fell back. Loyal friends that would always be there for him. They were talking, but he didn't understand any of it.
It was like a Monstrous Nightmare suddenly woke up inside of him. Pain radiated from the wound, bubbling up like a violent torrent of molten iron. It flowed forth, till he writhed with pain up to his fingertips. He gurgled, tasting iron on his tongue.
More talking. They were talking to him. His gloves were removed and he felt skin on his palms. He was lifted carefully, the sky moving in his watery gaze.
Odin help me…
Astrid kept her eye on the duo when they went up on that ramp. Hiccup thought the man was untrustworthy, but also harmless. Astrid held different opinions. It was curious enough when Savage pulled him into a hug, but when she saw Toothless suddenly look up and whirl around, she knew something was wrong. It wasn't until the dragon tackled the man that she noticed the handle in his stomach. Mwaba seemed to notice it too as he shouted for his friend the same time she did. It was as if Hiccup didn't even notice he had been wounded, but when he did, he fell backwards. Luckily, the two got to him before he hurt himself.
"It's going to be okay, we're going to get some help." She heard herself say.
His strained breath was the only reply.
"Stay wid us!" Mwaba shouted, lifting the boy into his arms.
Stoick was on the job, as Savage was already in custody. "Put him in the jail. Post men to guard him. He doesn't eat tonight!" He snapped.
One man from the Outcasts and one from Berk held fast to the man and roughly carried him away to the academy. She even overheard one of the other men say, "Stupid, why would he do that?"
"Astrid, get him to Goði's!"
She nodded once and called for Toothless. His attention was taken from the perpetuator to his dear friend and he ran to Astrid. She mounted him quickly before Mwaba handed Hiccup up to her. Then, she was off.
The ride was short, but familiar. It was just like the ride back from the incident with the Red Death. Then, he had lost his leg, and almost died, this time, she would be utterly pissed if he keeled over from an assassination attempt. Regardless, she was very afraid for her love, and held him close. "Don't you dare die on me."
At Goði's, the elder was waiting for them, remarkably. Toothless landed on the elder's porch and Astrid slid off. The dragon was led inside and leaned ever so carefully so that Hiccup slid off onto a mat on the floor. Astrid busied herself making her love comfortable, despite the grunts and groans he was making. Toothless curled protectively around his injured human.
Goði set out supplies next to the boy, and gestured at the knife. If any type of treatment was going to be done, the knife had to go, and Astrid knew she would be the one pulling it out.
She was just thankful that he was unconscious.