It was their wedding day. Couldn't it have just stayed that way? Astrid was glad that the whole problem with Savage and Dagur was being finished in one fail swoop, but why did it have to come to this?
Sadly, if she was to ask him to choose between her and Toothless, the answer was obvious. Astrid had been cruel to him for years. But Toothless…the bond between Dragon and boy was infrangible. He had always been there for the boy, even when no one else was. They depended on each other, trusted each other, loved each other. It was if they were twins, separated at birth and by species. No, they were soul mates. Astrid knew there was an unspoken agreement between the two, to protect each other, no matter what.
Dagur snickered. "You want to fight me? Do you remember what happened the last time?"
"The last time," Wart implored, "was a friendly spar. Lives are on the line, Dagur."
"Fine. I'll play your game. But I get to pick the condition of the fight."
"What are your conditions?"
Dagur beamed. "No shields, no armor, only one weapon." He laughed. "Oh, and no dragons."
Astrid and Stoick looked to the boy, mortified, as he agreed, "Deal."
He stood, his footsteps lingering as a fear bubbled up in his chest. Yet, he would not back down.
Astrid followed behind, dutifully. A buzzing went through the crowd, everyone getting excited.
The four teens in the stands were silent.
Down by the gate to the arena, Toothless and Mwaba were already waiting. The giant held out a hilt of a sword, but that was all it was, a hilt. It was reminiscent of a dragon's head, it's mouth open.
"I brought yoo Inferna, t'ought yoo might need et."
"Thanks, Mwaba, but no. I'm not going to take a weapon in."
Astrid grabbed his arm. "You said it yourself, the last time you faced him, it was for fun. He has something to fight for now. He won't go easy on you."
"I have something to fight for too." With that, he removed his jacket and shirt, folded them up, and set them on the ground. "Astrid, if something goes wrong, please take care of Toothless."
"I will." She said softly. "Just…promise me it won't go wrong." She repeated her promise from the day he was to fight the Monstrous Nightmare. Everything did go wrong back then as well.
He didn't answer. Toothless nudged against his waist, eliciting a low whine from his throat. Soundlessly, the teen reach out a hugged his loyal friend. "It's gonna be okay, bud."
Toothless nuzzled against his shoulder.
"I'm waiting!" Shouted Dagur, seeing the shadows in the entryway. The crowd was getting restless as well, cheering, "Wart! Wart! Wart!"
Hiccup let go of Toothless, but not without a kiss to his snout. Then he turned to Mwaba. "Nilipo Mluzi, mimi nataka wewe kufungua mlango."When I whistle, I want you to open the gate.
Mwaba nodded heavily.
Finally, he held up his hand to Astrid and she grasped it heartily. "You're not going at this alone."
"I never was." He grinned. He pulled away and stepped forward. "Okay."
Dagur leered at the approaching figure. This was it, one last causality, and then the Nightfury would be his. After all, this kid didn't hold a candle to his fighting skills. And above all, he finally would see the face of his opponent.
Of course, his smirk disappeared when Wart stepped into the light, helmet in place. Dagur sneered, "I'm fairly certain I said no armor." He indicated to his own head, sans horned helmet.
Wart was silent and still as the grave. His hands went to the leather, and undid the clasps.
The crowd sat forward in their seats in anticipation.
His helmet hit the ground with a soft 'pac'. Then, it was as if time stood still. Mass silence came over everyone as Dagur studied his face. He came closer, narrowing his eyes. Like Alvin, he was blinded by his view of the runt that Hiccup was.
This young man was strong, brave, and a leader. Hiccup was not. This man had a sharp chin, piercing gaze, broad shoulders, and the scars of a rough life. He was different, but why did they look so similar?
Dagur started to chuckle. "This is going to sound crazy." Well, it was Dagur whom was speaking. "But...you look an awful lot like..."
Wart showed up on Outcast island around the same time Hiccup disappeared. He was getting married to that blonde girl that Hiccup liked. He was fighting for his dragon. It was so obvious, how in Odin's name had he missed it?
Wide-eyed, he stared at the boy. Yes, there was no mistaking it now. Those doofy looking teeth, that big nose, the scar on his chin, and those expressive eyes!
He tilted his head and scrunched up his nose. "Hiccup?"
The teen in mention pursed his lips. "Hello Dagur."
Dagur screamed. Screamed. "YOU!" And then burst into uncontrollable laughter that made his eyes roll back into his head. "Hiccup! Hiccup, you clever little troll! You disgusting, evil, tricksy little bug! You came back from the dead! Hiding your identity from your village!? What is wrong with you!? And I thought I was deranged!" No doubt, he found the whole situation extremely amusing. He called to the chief, "Did you know about this, Stoick!? Did you know about your son's cowardice?!"
Stoick said nothing.
It was then that the crowd came out of initial shock and began yelling at Hiccup, but not in ridicule. "Get out of there! Save yourself! You don't have to do this!" The fear of losing him again was mutual all over the village. No one even paid mind that he was in disguise, just that he was going up to face a madman.
As Dagur threw jibes, Hiccup did his best to ignore each and every one. He stood firmly in his spot, his eyes riveted to his opponent.
"So, did you think I wouldn't find out eventually? Because, you and I have a score to settle!"
"That's what we're doing now." Hiccup remarked.
"Ooo! I'm shaking in my boots! You're so intimidating now, Hiccup!"
"Only now? Hmm, never stopped me from threatening you before." His old wit had returned to him, especially since Dagur was so easy to play off of.
Dagur cleared his throat of mirth and raised his sword, "Surrender!"
"You wish to surrender? Very well, I accept your defeat."
"Where's your weapon?" Dagur chuckled.
"Don't need it." He shrugged.
"Um, did you miss that this is supposed to be a fight to the death?"
Dagur's good nature started to fade. "Are you mocking me?"
Hiccup rolled his shoulder. "Whatever gave you that impression?"
The warrior's nose flared. "If you think you can play your stupid mind games on me, then forget it! That Nightfury is mine."
"If you say so." He responded casually.
"That doesn't bug you at all?"
Hiccup turned the question right around and said, "Are you enjoying your haircut?"
Dagur's eyebrow twitched. "When I said one weapon, I meant something other then your brain, Hiccup!"
The teen chortled, as he began to loosen up and take a few steps inside the arena. "It is duly noted and well known that I posses a extortionate intelligence level in comparison with you, but no, I figured you would not factor my astuteness as a weapon, so I have an advantage."
"How? You just said you didn't have a weapon!"
"No, I said I didn't need it. Totally different."
"Now you're just messing with me!"
He was. "I thought you enjoyed our witty banter?"
Dagur threw up his nose. "Talking is boring! Now we fight!" Without any other warning, he ran at Hiccup, dragging his blade against the stone floor. Hiccup had mere seconds to prepare for the attack. He leaned his weight back on his good leg and evaded the uppercut. The sword pivoted and came around, but once again he avoided it.
Hiccup possessed a happy facilitation for escaping imminent death. When one was big and broad, they could be knocked down and easily bounce back. For Hiccup, not so. If he so much as got bumped, he could be down for the count. In normal viking standards, he was fragile. During the days of dragon raids, he got very good at narrowly slipping pass running men with weapons and hands grabbing at him to throw him back inside.
During his servanthood on the main island, he got even more practice as the Outcasts liked to throw things at each other for fun. Of course, since they liked him and accepted him, he had to dodge axes, hammers, and stray mead mugs.
At this moment, all the practice he had was coming into play. Each movement was fluid, not anywhere near graceful, but for the most part, effective. The only thing not taken into account was his growth. Since he wasn't so agile now, he was faced with an occasional nick or cut. Nothing severe at least.
Dagur was becoming increasingly frustrated as none of his blows landed. "Stand still so I can kill you!"
"Not happening!" Hiccup responded. His plan was working, to get Dagur worked up and angry so he lost control of his movements and used too much energy. Still, it was risky. The attacks that he would unleash would be devastating.
The crowd was so enraptured in anxiety for Hiccup, that they forgot to cheer him on. They sat silent and pensive, listening for every grunt and swoop of Dagur's sword. The only sound was Pippin crying on Gobber's lap.
The deranged teen soon realized that if he wanted to win, he would have to change tactics. Hiccup would last much longer then him if this kept up.
A sword was easy to miss, but not so a whole body. Dagur threw himself at Hiccup, knocking him off balance, and then caught him up in a choke hold, the sword lingering by his neck.
"DA!" Pippin shouted from the stands.
Dagur was irate. "Will somebody shut that creature up?!"
It was Hiccup's turn to be angry. "That's my son!" He barked, prying at the arm that held him. He tensed and threw his hips back, his heels digging into the ground. His tailbone ramped into Dagur's groin and his grip loosened. Hiccup spun out of the hold and elbowed him at the base of his ribcage. When Dagur leaned in on reflex, the teen placed his hands on the back of Dagur's head and bashed his face into his knee.
Hiccup retreated a few steps as the older fighter panted and wiped the blood from his face.
"Who much will it take?" Hiccup asked him, poised and ready to dodge. "How much are you willing to take before you're satisfied?"
Dagur came at him again, this time, more sloppy. "I take what's given to me!"
Hiccup danced away from the weapon as Dagur thrust it into the open air. "So you want my Nightfury. Will that make you happy? Or will you need more?"
"I'm not listening!"
"How vast will your thirst for power grow? Do you want to continue down this path? You can have everything you want, but be totally alone. You'll live in fear, because you'll have no friends, no allies. Everyone will hate you. All for the sake of power!"
"Shut up!" In a frenzied state, Dagur screwed his eyes shut and whipped the sword around, anger rolling off of him like smoke.
Hiccup's next plan of action would require much more effort. He needed to come in close, making it hard for Dagur to attack.
While his agitated attack commenced, Hiccup snaked in and struck him in the neck with the edge of his hand, knocking the wind out of him. Dagur swung his arm out and shoved Hiccup to the side, then nailed him hard in the gut with the hilt of his sword.
The younger teen tasted iron from the hit and gasped to get air. Dagur recovered and lurched, bringing the tip of his blade around. Hiccup saw the movement and flung himself backwards. The sharp edge made its landing, skirting across Hiccup's cheek and leaving a blood trail in it's wake. It overlapped the scar from their last fight, and ran all the way back to scratch against his earring and slice off a lock of fine hair.
The insane fighter lunged forward and tossed his shoulder into Hiccup's chest, tossing him to the ground harshly.
"I'm going to kill you!" Dagur screamed, raising the blade.
In a last ditch effort, Hiccup kicked up to block the blunt. The sword made contact with his shin, and with a loud pang, broke in half.
Dagur looked bewildered at his broken weapon. "What…?"
"Ha!" Laughed Hiccup, unsure if his leg would hold up against the attack. Sure enough though, the metal slabs he had gotten from a trader from Sparta had been worth it. Light and durable, and able to break an iron sword. Fascinating.
Dagur, coming to his senses, saw the gratifying smirk on his opponent's face and shouted. He brought the lasting half of the sword down to strike, but Hiccup threw his arms up in an X-shape and caught him by the wrists. Swiftly, the auburn teen rolled his own wrists upwards and grasped the blade, then twisted and disarmed him. Sure, the blade was sharp and slit his palms, but it was out of the hands of the madman.
Dagur's fingers wiggled in wonder. How had that happened?
Hiccup had distracted him and unarmed him, now it was just a matter of ending the fight. He once again kicked out, but after getting momentum from pivoting on his good foot, and swept Dagur's feet out from under him.
The leader of the Berserker's found his vision blurry for a moment after he hit his head. But when he refocused, he was staring at a jagged blade aimed right between the eyes. He was pinned to the ground by a firm foot on his chest.
"Stand down." Hiccup's voice was ragged with panting breath.
"No." Dagur refused.
The blade dove to the left, slicing his cheek. "Stand down!" He urged, harsher.
"Never!" Dagur called again.
The blade danced right and pierced his eye. Dagur attempted to get up, but Hiccup leaned in closer and pressed harder on his chest. His eyes shone with the wild fire of brutality. Blood seeped from his pores like sweat. His tone was like a serpent, hissing quietly in warning as he dictated on last time, "stand down."
"You'll have to kill me." Dagur spat.
It should have been simple. Drive the sword into Dagur and kill him, and by that, simultaneously rid the archipelago of one of the greatest threats to peace, save his tribe, and keep Toothless safe.
If the idea was so simple, why were his hands shaking with unease? He wanted to kill Dagur, he really did. After all, the lunatic had tried to kill him on more then one occasion. It would be better this way.
Still, Hiccup had never killed anyone before. Even in this brutal world of Vikings, he had never purposefully hurt a human being. His only death, to anything, was the Red Death, and there was no avoiding that.
But this was a human. He had a heart and a soul...somewhere deep down inside. Never the less, Hiccup was pensive. Would killing Dagur make him a murderer?
Dagur grinned a terrible, meaty smile. "Come on, kill me. Kill me!" He egged.
Hiccup's nose flared, but his hands held fast. Dagur did this on purpose. If he couldn't have his army or even a single Nightfury, he wanted Hiccup to suffer in his soul. He knew how he felt about killing. He wanted to bring him to such inner conflict, such compromise, he would feel it for years to come.
Hiccup grit his teeth. It was decided, he would do it. Right between the eyes. It would be easy.
What was he thinking?
So what if this was best? So what if this stopped Dagur for good? Sooner or later, another evil would arise, and then what? Would he kill him, too? Would he justify murder over and over until his hands were stained with blood? Did he have the right to judge the actions of another? To condemn them to death?
He hated the fact he had to justify his actions.
"What in Thor's name are you waiting for, son?!" Shouted Stoick from the stands.
Resolved, Hiccup clutched the knife tighter. "Fine." He knew what had to be done. He raised the blade, and plunged.
The broken sword tore through bone and muscle, snapping ligaments like rubber bands. The target was his shoulder, and it hit its mark. The blade went all the way through and struck into the ground, pinning him to the stone floor like a insect with a pin. Dagur squealed like a pig, in pain.
Hiccup stood. He turned and sauntered away, not sparing another glance.
"Where are you going?!" Howled the boy from the ground, unable to move. "Get back here!"
"I'm getting my weapon!" He called back. Then he stuck two fingers in his mouth and whistled.
The gate opened, Mwaba following Hiccup's signal.
Astrid hurried out, towards her husband, still in her gown, axe in hand. She was enraged, "what are you doing?! Aren't you going to—..."
He stared at her with a desperate look and completed her sentence. "Finish him."
Dagur heard and protested. "This was between us! No one else!"
"Dagur," his voice was even. "My weapon," he turned back slightly, "is my wife."
Hiccup took three staggering steps back to the gate as he listened to Astrid's angry footfalls. They were quick, like taps, and it was like she was barely touching the ground. A sound came from her lips, starting like a growl, and then turned into a scream.
Dagur, for once in his life, felt the fear of a hundred men. Sanity washed over him, only in his last breath. And with that breath, he called for his father.
At that sound, Hiccup's knees grew weak and his legs buckled under him. Before he hit the ground, his weight collapsed on sleek, black, muscle and scales. A warm huff came from the beast as tears leaked from Hiccup's eyes. A mutual feeling passed over both boy and dragon, as an unsaid message was understood.
When Hiccup came too, he was laying in bed. His eyes crusty from the guilty tears. Bandaged and sore, he took in his surroundings, just idly letting his eyes gaze about. He was in his home, according to the drawings on the walls. A weight was on his chest, the weight of Toothless' head resting and waiting patiently for him to awaken. The dragon had fallen asleep, regretfully, as his weight made it difficult to move.
The sound of paper flipping was what got Hiccup's attention. At his side was his ever watchful bride, a book in her hands as she sat calmly on the bed, her back on the headboard. Her face had a small, pulling smile, one that was tell tale of melancholy. He knew why too, the book in her hands was a temporary sketchbook he had toted around while he was with the Outcasts. In times when he was alone, he would practice drawing those from Berk who he missed. Only from memory. When he came home, he compared the drawings to the subjects, only to find that his memories of them were skewed and fuzzy.
He had forgotten what they looked like.
Astrid no doubt had noticed this, and thats what made it so heart breaking. He cleared his throat, which was dry.
She glanced over, a calm look on her face. "Well, look who's finally wake."
Dread came over him. The last things he remembered were gruesome and sobering. Trying to push it aside, he asked, "How long have I been asleep?"
Her eyebrow twitched. "Two weeks."
"What?!" He nearly leapt from the bed, jostling Toothless awake. The dragon grumbled.
Astrid chuckled lightly. "I'm kidding! Calm down." She rested a hand on his shoulder to ease him to recline. "It's only been a few hours. It's not even tomorrow yet."
Relieved, he heaved a sigh and relaxed into the pillow. "What happened?"
She shut the book and set it on the beside table. "I don't exactly know. After—…well, you know...I went to consul you, but you were out cold on Toothless' snout. No one could wake you."
"I must have passed out." Just the thought of that axe falling made him feel dizzy. He reached a hand to his head, only to find both of them wrapped thickly and reminiscent of oven mitts.
"The blade cut you deep when you pulled it away from Dagur. But that's really your only injury."
Toothless was now up and trying to subtlety make himself comfortable. It wasn't really working, as he was much too big for space left on the bed.
Hiccup giggled. "Here Bud, let's do this." He groaned as he sat up, his muscles aching with soreness. It was all that twisting and evading that did it. He scooted back so he could rest with his back against the headboard, like Astrid. With more room, Toothless rested his head on Hiccup's stomach and went back to sleep.
Astrid relaxed into his side. He waited for her to rebuke him, to say he had been stupid for so many different reasons, to remind him of his promise to be more careful, but she didn't. Instead, she rested her hands on his and said, "That was very brave of you."
"Stupid, though, right? Pretty dumb, huh?"
"Not this time." She patted the bandages. "I wasn't worried."
"You weren't about to let him take Toothless. You cared too much."
"So you aren't going to call me stupid and reckless?"
She leaned in and gingerly kissed his forehead. "No."
"Not even for going in without a weapon?"
She shook her head. "There may have been a time when I considered it foolish, but that would be me comparing it to what I would do. Lately, I've learned that you have a different way with dealing with things. A way that's simple, but pure, that no one else would think of."
He watched her carefully, as she was full of uncharacteristic tenderness.
"You're strength amazes me."
He quirked an eyebrow. "Are you sure you're talking about me? I'm fairly certain anyone on this island could beat me in a feat of strength."
"I meant on the inside. You wouldn't let yourself be compromised, even when he was egging you on. As seen, I wouldn't have been able to do that."
"See, I see it the other way around. I wanted to kill him. I wanted to plant that sword in his brain. But I couldn't. It would be the honorable thing, killing him instead of making him live with defeat, but I couldn't justify it. No matter how hard I tried, it was still a life, and it wasn't mine to take." He sighed. "By the way, I'm not saying this to make you feel guilty."
"Dagur never had respect for me. Even when we were at peace those years ago. I had no qualms about what I did. He had to be stopped."
Astrid rested her head on his shoulder. "He's gone now, and it doesn't matter anymore."
"What about the armada? He had a dozen ships sitting in the bay."
"Did you know he had a twin sister?"
His stunned silence was her answer.
"Her name is Agatha. She's been in the background the whole time, but she's very quiet. Stoick spoke with her and they came to an agreement."
"We aren't allies, since we killed Dagur. But she signed a treaty of peace as an apology for her brother's behavior."
He breathed a sigh of relief. "So that's that."
"After that, everyone just kind of fell into a lull. I can bet you're going to be swarmed with questions when you get out there."
"I'd rather stay in here, thank you very much."
"You'll have to face them eventually."
"I know, but for now, I just want to rest."
"Okay," she amended, sitting up.
He touched her arm. "Would you stay?"
She smiled and kissed him tenderly. "Until you fall asleep."
Thankful, he rested against her shoulder. Softly, she smoothed his hair to lull him to sleep. But even after he was out, she stayed, not wanting to be apart from him.