Despite Gobber's plan to help Hiccup in the morning, the teen decided he didn't want to wait. The assignment by his father weighed heavily in his mind, giving him anxiety. He went back home that night, but constantly tossed and turned in fitful sleep. He gave up and came back to the forge and had been working ever since.
Gobber entered the shack to see Hiccup asleep at his bench, his prize sitting on the table.
"Hiccup!" He grasped his shoulder and startled him.
"Uh wha?" Hiccup sat up quickly in shock.
"Have you been here all night, lad?"
The teen swallowed and blinked his bleary eyes. "Yes, who's asking?" He shook his head.
"I was going to offer to help you, but it looks like you took care of everything by yourself."
He yawned, realizing it was just Gobber. "I couldn't sleep. Too worried."
"I see. Where did you get the material? I thought Fishlegs was going to help ye."
"I smuggled Meatlug out, and we went stone hunting by torchlight. Once I found what I was looking for, which was not easy, I brought her back here so she could throw it up, then I took her back without Fishlegs even knowing."
Gobber inspected the piece. "It's good work, very good. Couldn't have done it better myself." He praised.
"Well, I did come up with Toothless's harness and tail all by myself, I can't be that incompetent."
"No laddie, in just a few short years, you've managed to reach my level...just not my strength." He laughed.
Hiccup yawned again. "I can compensate for it."
"That you can." Gobber again looked at the faint salmon metal with iridescent design engraved into it. "And you took these scales from Stormfly?"
"Yep," he laid his head back on the table. "Different spots. Keep in mind, it is very tricky to sneak up on a Deadly Nadder with a squeaky leg."
Gobber chuckled. "Sounds like you had a rough night, aye?"
Hiccup's eyes closed. "I still have to grind it, and then put the glass seal around it..." He yawned. "But that can wait for later. I still have a few days."
There was a knock on the frame of the forge. "Hiccup?" It was Astrid.
"Hmm?" He sat up, his eyes still closed, and covered the ring.
"I thought I might find you here, it's time for breakfast."
"Yeah, uh-huh, okay." He replied, coming to stand.
Gobber came over and whispered to Astrid. "The boy's been up all night. He's a bit out of it." He warned.
She nodded in understanding. "Come on, Hiccup. We're having eggs and mutton."
"Mmm, mutton." He replied, following her out like a zombie.
Gobber took the moment to carefully wrap up the gift and place it in the back for later.
When it came time for dragon training, Hiccup was strangely absent, giving charge of the class to Astrid.
"Where's Hiccup?" Tuff asked.
"Probably crying from his horrible loss from yesterday." Snotlout laughed.
Astrid huffed. "No, he's sleeping. He stayed up all night, something about a project for his dad."
Fishlegs flinched, but it went unnoticed.
"I say since the Hiccup ain't here, we cancel class."
"We aren't canceling training." Astrid argued.
"What did he say he was making?" Ruff asked.
"Probably to make a better leg so he's not so slow."
"Would you stop with the leg thing?!" Astrid exasperated. "I don't know what he was working on, but he said it was secret, and I would know eventually."
"I wonder what it could be...a giant self propelled axe?" Ruffnut wondered aloud.
"Maybe it's a giant flammable arrow!"
"Or maybe it's a super fancy new weapon that Stoick thought of."
There was a long pause as Astrid rolled her eyes and looked to a nervous Fishlegs. "What do you think it is, Fishlegs?"
The boy tensed and froze. He never worked under pressure, and he could feel his hair stand up as he started to sweat. "I don't know..." He attempted.
Tuffnut huffed. "C'mon, you must have some wild guess at what it could be."
"Uh..." He stalled. "Coming mom!" And he hurriedly mounted his Gronkle and flew off.
While all of this was taking place, Hiccup was not in fact sleeping, but finishing his ring, along with some other projects.
"Finished the last sword ya wanted." Gobber said as he placed the weapon on the table.
"Thanks Gobber." The teen mumbled as he worked on a shield.
"Hiccup, you've been working all day, and ya haven't slept a wink. Why don't you take a break?"
"No." He argued. "I'm almost done."
Gobber sighed as he wiped his good hand on a towel. "Well then, what do you need me to do?"
It was well after dinner when he finished. Hiccup dragged himself home, bleary-eyed and woozy. Toothless greeted him at the door, bounding around in excitement, hoping for a sunset ride.
"No, sorry bud." The teen scratched his nose. "Not tonight."
"So..." Stoick asked. "How did it go with Astrid?"
"How did what go?" Hiccup replied.
"The proposal?" He questioned, like he could possibly mean anything else.
A loud grunt came from Hiccup. "Uuhhh, right. I haven't asked her yet. I was making..." He yawned, "...offerings."
"Ah! Right! Of course! Very important! Well, you still have plenty of time, and you seem to know what you're doing, so, why don't you get some rest?"
The sound of sleep was calling to him. He groped for the wall in an effort to find his way up the stairs. Toothless sensed his helplessness and went to his aid. Soon enough, Hiccup was tucked snuggly into bed and he had his good night's rest, not having a single thought in his head.
The next morning proved to be entirely different, however. As soon as he awoke, Stoick was on him like a fly to feces.
"So, oh great blacksmith, what did you spend the day making? Hmm?"
Hiccup groaned in annoyance as he remembered the daunting task ahead of him. But he still smiled for his father's curiosity. "Come on down to the forge, and I'll show you."
The duo went down to see Gobber plugging away at something.
"Mornin' Gobber!" The chief shouted.
"Ah! Stoick!" Then in a more hushed tone, "Wait till you see this!" Then he looked to his apprentice. "Good to see you awake, lad."
"It's good to be awake." He grinned. "I can't help but feel like all I did yesterday will look totally different now that I'm refreshed."
"Nah, I roughed out any kinks after you left yesterday." The blacksmith chattered.
Out on the table, a set of fine decorative weapons lay. Five pieces; a hammer, an axe, a sword, a spear, and a shield. Each piece matched the set in color, design, and emblem. The emblem of the Hofferson clan.
Hiccup knew his father didn't understand the finesse of most things he did, but the man could appreciate a good weapon. The chief examined the gifts with awe. "I know what I want Odin to give me for Snoggletog." He said, slack jawed.
Hiccup smiled in pride. "Now, there's one final thing. I know you won't appreciate this as much as the weapons, but it's important." Hiccup took a small black box out of his pocket and handed it to his father. The older man looked at it inquisitively. "Open it."
Inside lay the oath ring, resting on satin, and sparkling in the fire light of the forge.
"Aye," said he, "the oath ring is very important." Carefully, he picked up the ring and examined the intricate detail on the edges of it. "This must have taken you a while."
"Eh," he shrugged. "An all nighter."
"She'll love it."
Hiccup sighed. "I sure hope so."
Dragon training, Hiccup's pride and joy. If there was ever a place where he could have an ego, it would be when he was teaching. Although, he didn't, he was much too humble.
"Today's lesson is on communication. As we know, communication is important in every relationship, parent and child, siblings, and…husband and wife." The last part was spoken a bit shakily. "We've discussed this before, since we all know that dragons sometimes know more then we do. But today, we're going to study it a bit deeper."
Ruffnut raised her hand.
"That's actually a good question, and I'll answer it in a moment." He waved Toothless over.
"Who knows a dragon's best sense?"
Astrid spoke up. "Hearing, sight being very close behind, then smell. They are very poor in taste and touch."
"As notable in a gronckle." Snotlout chuckled. "They eat rocks."
"Correct and correct. Dragons can hear sounds that we can't, whether it's higher, lower, or quieter, a dragon's hearing is far superior. So, today we're going to practice borrowing our dragon's hearing. I've had Fishlegs hide out in the sea spires with a whistle. The sound is much too high pitched for humans to hear, so your objective is to find him."
"Is it a race?!" Snotlout got excited.
"No. We'll be taking turns."
"Oh come on," he whined. "A little competition never hurt anyone!"
"Because I want you to focus on your dragon, not trying to beat everyone else. In the future, you may not know what you're looking for, so you need to depend on your dragon."
Snotlout whined like a spoiled child.
"I'll go first." He mounted Toothless. "Also, I told him to hide, but I don't know where, so this is learning for all of us." He then took off into the sky.
With Hiccup's help, Toothless flew effortlessly through the many spires, twisting and spiraling in all sorts of fast turns and narrow escapes. It was like every other flight the duo went on, much too mundane. Hiccup's thoughts soon were drifting to what was to happen later that evening. The oath ring in his inside pocket felt unbelievably heavy.
As the teen was preoccupied, Toothless heard the slight ringing of the whistle and turned harshly. As Hiccup had learned a long time ago, an object in motion tended to stay in motion. So while Toothless veered off to the side, Hiccup flung right off Toothless, and went flying into a nearby cliff. Well, he would have if Toothless hadn't flipped, hit him with his tail, and caught him backwards on his back.
A bit out of sorts, Hiccup and Toothless went right back to sitting on the cliff face with the others. His hair sticking out every which way, he grimaced. "Okay, so that's what not to do."
Snotlout scoffed. "Let me show you how it's done!" He said proudly before taking off.
"You okay, Hiccup?" Astrid asked concerned.
"Well, you never have problems flying unless there's something wrong."
"Oh, yeah, it's just my dad. I've got a lot on my mind." He shrugged.
"About that project you were working on?"
"Huh? Oh y-yeah, yes, yes!" He agreed. "That's exactly right!"
"Well, tell me when you can, okay? It's not like you to be all…weird."
Tuffnut laughed. "Did you just say that Hiccup isn't weird?"
"Okay," She admitted. "Weird in this way is not normal."
Snotlout touched down only moments later. "Fifth spire on the left, there's a niche."
"Good job Snotlout. Let's give Fishlegs a few minutes to re-hide." Hiccup said while absently scratching his fake leg.
Tuffnut narrowed his eyes on Hiccup's action. "It's your leg okay?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, it just itches."
Astrid looked perplexed as well. "Your fake leg, not the stub, but the actual leg, is itchy?"
"Yeah." He said it like it was the most normal thing in the world. At their confused faces, he nodded in understanding. "It's a phantom pain. Gobber explained it to me. My brain thinks that my leg is still here, so it's receiving an imaginary signal that my leg itches. We don't really know why this happens, but most people who lose a limb feel pain, itchiness, warmth, cold, and tingling."
The twin's eyes glazed over as he talked.
"You sound like a book." Snotlout sneered.
"Hey, you asked." Hiccup shrugged.
"I'm next," Astrid spoke as Stormfly turned toward the edge. The Nadder burst into the sky, taking it's beautiful rider with her. Hiccup leaned on Toothless's head and watched as Astrid gracefully soared through the sky.
Soon, she would be his bride. Hiccup blushed and shook his head in embarrassment, why was he thinking like that already? He hadn't even asked her. Still, his gaze ventured back to the blonde as she punched the air in victory. She was beautiful, brave, threatening, but also kind, considerate, and smart. In his mind, even her flaws were perfect. He would never admit it to her, but he liked it when she punched him. She had to come in contact with him, right? As the thought transpired, he could only sigh at his own patheticness. Meanwhile, the twins and Snotlout watched in confusion and slight amusement at the boy's changing facial expressions and silent internal battle. Whatever was on his mind seemed to be very interesting. And yet, no one had the guts to ask what it was.
After training, Hiccup began his way to the forge, ready to put the next part of his plan into motion. Astrid caught up to him first.
"Hey, Hiccup!" She smiled. "You've been so busy lately, I was wondering if you wanted to come riding with me?"
He blushed. "No, thank you for the offer, Astrid…but I have..stuff…" he faltered. "But, maybe later tonight? Would you meet me on the beach at sunset?"
Her fading smile came right back when he said that. "Sure! Until then, I'll be out exploring! You're missing out!"
"I know!" He rolled his eyes.
"Catch ya later!" And she was gone.
Hiccup smiled at how perfect this was. Really, with her gone, he could do the next thing without worry. With that, he headed more quickly to the forge.
"Astrid, will you marry me?"
Hiccup was on the beach. It was close to sunset, but not quite. He needed a few moments to prepare himself anyway. Toothless was there for emotional support, and he was also acting as Astrid while Hiccup practiced.
"Astrid, I have something I'd like to ask…will you marry me?"
Toothless's eyes narrowed.
"No good?" He stood tall and puffed out his chest. "Astrid, as your senior, and son of the chief, I implore you to marry me!"
The dragon huffed.
He tried again. "Astrid; you, me, married. Whatcha say?"
Again, the dragon huffed, harder this time.
"My darling, marry me and I'll make you the richest woman on Berk."
Toothless shook his head.
"You're right, she'd be insulted by a bribe." Hiccup got down on his knees. "PLEASE ASTRID, MARRY ME! I BEG YOU!"
Toothless rolled over in uproarious laughter, kicking up sand in giddy.
"That's not the reaction I want…" Hiccup sighed.
"What's so funny?" A voice spoke.
The boy spun on his good foot and came face to face with the person he had been thinking of. "Astrid! W-w-what brings you here?"
She cocked an eyebrow, "Uh, you asked me to come?"
He winced. "Right."
"So," She crossed her arms. "Are you going to tell me what's up?"
Hiccup pursed his lips. "You don't beat about the bush, do you?"
"What's the point of that?" She swayed on her feet, looking out to the water. "I figured you invited me here so we could talk in private. We haven't really had any alone time in a while."
"True, true. And you're right, that is what I asked you here for." He looked away from her curious eyes and ground his foot into the sand. "I just don't know how to say it."
Hiccup chortled, that being very far from the truth. He blew air out of his mouth in anxiety. His eyes flickered around the beach before landing on her face, once again. "Well, I'll just say it." He exhaled deeply and took her hand. "Astrid Hofferson, will you be my bride?"
She looked at him with wide eyes, stunned beyond comprehension. He was pensive, waiting for any reaction. A hug, a punch, anything, just her staring at him made him feel sick.
Finally, she squinted up her face. "Is this a joke?"
"This is one of of your sick jokes!" She accused.
"No, I swear!"
"I kiss you, after you scared me to death, and then, I figured since you didn't tease me about it back then, that you were mature enough to understand! And now you choose to tease me about it? I thought you were my friend!" She started to stalk off to Stormfly.
"I am! Astrid please, listen to me!" He called after. Thankfully, she wasn't running and he caught up to her. "Astrid please, it's not my decision. I have to get married!"
She turned to look at him, but still showed intense anger on her face.
"My dad is demanding I get married, please Astrid, I…" His words ran dry.
"So it's just an obligation?" She said, scarily calm.
"Yes. No. I don't know!" A part of him really did want to marry Astrid, because honestly, he had been in love with her forever.
"Forget it, Haddock." She turned away again.
"Astrid please!" He grabbed her hand.
She turned sharply and snapped it out of his grip. "Touch me again, and I won't go easy on you, just because you're disabled."
That was a low blow, even for Astrid.
"Please…" His voice was just a whisper.
"I hate begging." She sneered.
Hiccup was unable to say anything else as she mounted Stormfly and took off into the sky.
Toothless trotted over after the fight was over and nudged his friend's arm. "Well," he said scornfully. "That could have gone better."
The Nightfury purred in sympathy as he saw the glassy look in Hiccup's eyes. The boy sighed. It wasn't the worst thing to ever happen to him, he was Hiccup after all. He could handle it. He kept telling himself this as he sniveled like a child. "Now to break the news to dad." He sighed. "Come on bud."
Back at the Haddock residence, Stoick sat, stoking the fire. When his son and Toothless came in, he lit up. "So, how'd it go? Do I have a wedding to conduct next Frigg's day? Of course I do! Like she would say no!"
Hiccup said nothing, just looked to the floor.
"Oh." He seemed to get the message. "That bad, eh?"
"She'll never speak to me again." He whispered.
Stoick was less then helpful. "Just give her a few days to calm down, then ask again. If not, I'll find you someone else."
"Dad, I don't want anyone else." He pleaded. "I care about her so much…"
"Then you better find a way to make her agree!" Stoick laughed. "Don't feel too bad, son. You're mother was in love with another man when we wed. But after years, she lost interest in him and loved me instead."
Hiccup knew the story, but it didn't help. His mother had always been so much stronger then him. He didn't know what to do with an arranged marriage.
"Why don't you get some rest son? You look like you just traveled through Niflheim. Things will look brighter in the morning."
Hiccup refrained from arguing the small possibility that he was right. Instead, Toothless and him traveled upstairs, where Hiccup was greeted with yet another sleepless night.
Meanwhile, Astrid had taken a flight around the island to calm down. After she left Stormfly outside, she entered her house, still fuming. Sitting in the main room were her parents, waiting with smiles on their faces.
"What?" She asked.
"Anything you want to tell us?"
"Hiccup didn't ask you something?"
Astrid groaned. "You knew?!"
"Of course, he came and offered the bride price. Just look at this!" Her father excitedly got up from his chair and went over to the table. Astrid looked in guilt at the fine weapons expertly crafted and emblazoned with the Hofferson family crest.
"He made them! Isn't that amazing!" Mrs. Hofferson gushed. She could be so affectionate sometimes. "So, when's the wedding? Did he give you a ring?"
Astrid backed away from her parents and their questions. "I refused." She said softly.
Her father frowned. "What?"
"I refused." She stated again.
"Astrid…" Her mother started. "I thought you liked Hiccup, what made you say no?"
The girl shook her head shamefully. "At first I thought he was making fun of me, but then he said it was obligation…I don't want to marry him because I have to!" Then she grabbed her arm. "I'm not ready to be a bride…when I think about it…I just get so angry! I was training to be a warrior not more then a few months ago. I'm still training to defend everyone from dragon back…I can't just become a little house wife! I couldn't stand it!"
Mrs. Hofferson enveloped her disgruntled daughter. "It's okay, love. Why don't you think about it? Hiccup really is a wonderful young man."
"I don't want to think about it!" She burst free and charged up the stairs. Up in the loft, she leaned against the door and breathed, willing everything to just go away. The young blonde resigned to climb into bed. This wasn't just going to go away, she knew that, she just hoped that it would work out.