Hiccup heard a soft creak. Over the years, he had developed an acute sense of hearing. It was a curse, since more often than not he woke up over something stupid. Though, crazy as it seemed, he could sleep perfectly through his wife's snoring.
Oh Odin, did she snore!
He would admit it was a bit jarring the first night they had spent together. She laid against his chest, and sometime in the middle of the night, hefelt her snore. Still, after five years, the sound was a comfort and he missed it when he had to travel for business matters.
Hiccup focused on his surroundings. First of all, Astrid was still asleep, as she was still snoring. Her fingers were threaded through his hair, pressing against his scalp. Her other hand pressed against his chest, right over his heart, as she hugged him around the shoulders. She was pressed up behind his back, her mouth by his neck. One leg draped over his, forbidding movement. It was like this every morning. No matter how they went to sleep the night before, they always woke up like this.
There was another creak. His eyebrows furrowed. The terrors weren't singing, that meant it was still early morning. He could also hear Toothless's soft crooning in sleep. So the creak wasn't from his wife or his best friend, that meant it had to be…
He felt a pudgy finger poke him right between the eyes. "Daaaddddd…." A voice whispered.
A harder poke and a harsher whisper. "DAADD."
"No Pippin, it's too early. Toothless isn't up yet."
"But you promised!"
"I said, 'tomorrow,' not 'at the crack of dawn.'"
"Oh come on!"
"I know you're excited, but if you want my help, then you don't want me to be cranky. Especially when it comes to dragons." Still in his tired state, he was able to come up with a good argument with a six year old.
In rebuttal, Pippin got up close in his face and burped.
Astrid woke up and rolled over. "That's repulsive. Haddock, get control of your child."
Pippin looked at her sheepishly. "Sorry mom…"
"Ugh." Hiccup replied. "Look, why don't you go to the docks and see if the fishermen have anything for Toothless. After I wake up more, then we can go."
"Okay! You're the best, dad!" And with a smack, he kissed his forehead and romped down the steps.
Astrid rolled back into place, hugging her husband. "Still spoiling him, I see."
"He's a little devil. He knows I can't say no."
"Oh come on Hiccup, your son is excited about training a dragon. His first dragon! That should make you excited!"
"I'm too tired."
"You're always tired."
"Speaking of that," he turned over to face her and gently tucked her hair out of her face. "Are you still feeling really tired?"
"Yeah, but it's still early."
"You know what I meant."
"I'm fine, Hiccup."
"I still say you should go to the healer."
"Oh, stop worrying you ninny." She hit him softly. "You think I'll go down easily?"
"No, but I still worry."
"I know." She kissed his nose.
"I'd just feel better if I knew what it was, since…"
"Yeah yeah. Hiccup, I can assure you it's nothing fatal. Probably just a bug. I'll be fine while you're gone."
"Yes, but can you handle the twerp?"
She laughed. "That's what 'grandpa' and Mwaba are for."
He groaned as he rolled out of bed and sat on the edge. "I'm sure that Pippin is exactly the reason my dad has all those gray hairs in his beard."
Astrid scooted and wrapped her arms around his waist. "I'm going to miss you."
"It's just two weeks. Toothless will be with me, and I'll think of you all the time."
"I'm not worried. It's just a conference with the Bogs. It's nice that they want to learn about Dragons."
He sighed, rubbing a hand down his face. "Why do I have to be the leading authority on the subject?"
"Oh, you know you love it."
The front door opened and a young voice called up, "Dad! Uncle Tuffnut said that he was going to bring up some fish for Toothless in a little bit! Can we go now?"
"Fine! I don't see how I'm going to get any more sleep with you making such racket!" He leaned over, gave his wife a peck on the cheek, and then stood. "I'll see you later."
"Seems hypocritical coming from you."
Wham! Her pillow hit him in the face.
"Case in point." He chuckled. "I deserved that." He smirked and threw it back to her. "Get your rest."
Downstairs, Pippin could barely contain his excitement. "Let's go! Let's go!"
"Calm your shorts, Pip. If we're going to be out all day, we need to pack a lunch."
"Okay..." He amended, taking a seat. Toothless sauntered down the steps and lit the fire.
Hiccup took out a satchel and packed some bread and cheese inside, along with two flasks of water, and a medical kit, just in case. He then took a left over fish from a sack and made Pippin hang onto it.
"What's this for?" The boy asked, his tongue sticking out.
"You have to give the dragon a reason to trust you."
He looked at the dead fish with contempt. "Couldn't we use Dragon Nip instead?"
"We want to befriend it, not sedate it."
"What does that mean?"
"Knock him out."
Pippin replied with a silent 'Ahh.'
"Now, I think a Gronkle would be your type of dragon."
"Nuh-uh! Gronkles are wimpy!"
"Uncle Fishlegs rides a Gronkle."
"Yeah, and Meatlug is more like a mother then a dragon."
Hiccup snorted. "Alright."
If you didn't know, you would think that Pippin really was Astrid and Hiccup's, he was so like them. He had Hiccup's green eyes and fiery red hair that would eventually mellow out to an auburn. But he had Astrid's smile. He also had his father's wit and sarcasm, but his mother's determination and stubbornness. Despite this recipe for disaster, the couple raised him well, to be kind and respectful.
He was still a terror after he spent long periods of time with Snotlout or the twins.
Yes, it seemed as though he was just born to the wrong mother, only to find the correct parents right away. He knew Aisling was his birth mother, and he cared about her as she did for him, but he still loved Astrid as his real mom. Besides, Aisling spent plenty of time with her newhusband and baby, she wasn't lonely. Hiccup thought the only thing more miraculous than the girl settling down was whom she decided to do so with. It was the day of his own wedding, when he was greeting his guests, that he saw Aisling sitting by herself, sad. He found his dearest cousin and asked him to go over and make idle conversation, but warned of her past. He told Snotlout that she was used to being seen as a tool, so to treat her like a princess.
Apparently it worked, because they were married a year later.
As for the others, Ruff and Tuff moved out of their parents home. Tuffnut still helped his father in the fishing business, his dream job, that is, after being a pirate. Ruffnut ran her home with her brother, cooking and cleaning, being pretty much settled down without marrying. Unfortunately for Fishlegs, she probably never would. The large boy was training in taking up his father's construction business, as well as running a nursery for baby dragons. The team regularly banded together for races and what not, even if they had lives of their own.
"Dad," Pippin finally said, building up courage. "I have a specific dragon in mind."
"Oh, you do?"
"Yes, I saw him in the woods and I think he's perfect."
"Okay, well, what type is he?"
"Can't I keep it a surprise?"
Hiccup looked at him. "I guess so. If it's a new species, you know I'll want to study it a bit before letting you train it."
"Oh, no, it's one in the book."
"Okay." He shrugged, shouldering the bag. "There should be no problem then."
Pippin smiled. "Are we ready? Can we go?"
"Yes! Odin's beard!"
Pippin practically skipped out the doors he was so excited. Hiccup had to chase after him. Toothless looked up after his friend as he was leaving.
"Stay." He smiled. "You get the day off." Then he sighed, "lucky."
Toothless purred, almost mocking the young man. Hiccup rolled his eyes and closed the door behind him.
Almost immediately, Pippin grabbed up Hiccup's hand and practically dragged him to the tree line. As they travelled, they passed the chief's house. Stoick was sitting out on the porch, whittling in hand. Mwaba, likewise, was drinking tea, enjoying the early morning.
"Hi Grandpa! Jambo Mwaba!"
"Good morning, Pip! And where are you two off to so early this morning?"
"No doubt Pippin es draggin' 'es fada wid him ta hunt fa trolls." The giant snickered.
"Dad's going to teach me to train my very first dragon!"
"Oh, ya got one in mind?"
"Yeah, but it's a surprise."
"Oh I see." Stoick smiled, humoring his grandson.
"Where es your husband, Kwikwi? Still sleeping?" Yes, the joke was alive and well, and everyone used it.
Hiccup had took the joking in stride and even teased her about it himself. "Astrid hasn't been feeling well, so yes, she is still asleep."
Stoick was suddenly serious. "Is she okay?"
"She said it was just a bug."
"I will bring 'er sum tea lata." Mwaba amended.
"Mom's fine! She's like a rock! Now let's go!" Pippin piped in, becoming impatient.
"She'll be fine." Stoick smiled. "Looks like you have other things to do."
Hiccup grinned. "See you later, dad."
"Bye Grandpa! Next time you see us, we'll be on a dragon! I'm driving!" And the two headed away.
Stoick watched them go. "They grow up so fast."
In the woods, Pippin still held onto Hiccup's hand, a proud smile on his face. He loved these outings with his father. The great Hiccup the Useful. Really, it was cool to be the son of the chief, but it was awesome being able to learn from the greatest dragon whisperer in the archipelago.
And he could call him 'dad.'
"So…" Hiccup started. "How are things with Magnus?"
Pippin's smile shrank. "It's Hildegard, dad."
Hiccup snickered. Pippin corrected him every time he did that. Magnus/Hildegard was the Larson's daughter and Pippin's best friend. When it came time for her christening, Gobber stood in for Stoick. Seeing the, concedingly ugly, baby, he named the child Magnus, despite the Larson's wanting to call her Hildegard. So, to everyone in the village, she was Magnus, and only to her family and Pippin was she Hildegard. Pippin did everything to defend her name, but really, the young girl didn't care either way. She was used to it. Hiccup, of everyone, knew the pain of embarrassing names.
"I heard you two were found up on Mildew's hill, picking some of his cabbage?"
Pippin looked at his father, terrified. "It was my idea, dad. He lets it all go bad!"
Hiccup patted his head gently. "I don't care. But Mildew does. That man has hated me since the day I was born, and likes to complain about me at every chance he gets."
"But you didn't do anything…"
"I'm responsible for you and your actions. I'd hate to see anything happen to you, so just…stay away from Mildew and his rotten cabbage. He's a grump."
Pippin laughed. "Okay, I'll stay away."
"Besides, after today, I'm sure you'll be able to impress Hildegard in different ways."
"DAD!" Pippin blushed. It was not a well kept secret that he had a small crush on the girl. Despite her looks as a babe, she was slowly growing into one of the most beautiful girls on Berk. Hiccup and the Larson's had talked about the two, and the woman suggested to arrange a marriage. Hiccup was hesitant, since his own arranged marriage ended up being a catalyst to tortures he would never put his own child through. In the end, they agreed that they could expect a wedding ten years or so down the road, simply because Peregrin and Hildegard where the only two children in their age group. It was highly likely, but no need for handshakes and contracts. And for Thor's sakes, they were only six.
"Oh come on," Hiccup teased, ruffling his hair. "You look at her the same way I looked at your mom."
Pippin looked up with a pout. "You can't tell anybody, you got that!?"
"I promise." And with that, he grabbed up his hand again.
It was then that they came to a clearing. "That's weird, the last few times I saw him, this is where he was," Pippin announced, breaking the hand clasp.
Hiccup peered around the clearing, looking for any shift in the trees. He assumed his son was talking about a Changewing, but as he looked around, he noticed several sinkholes littering the ground. Walking closer to one of them, he suddenly stopped. It had been quite a few years since he saw one, but this was not a sinkhole.
"Peregrin," he started, his voice dangerously serious. At that, Pippin ran to his side and took his hand. "What kind of dragon is this?"
Pippin looked up with a sheepish smile.
Then came the whispering. It was soft, but menacing, like a message from a thousand lost souls in Niflheim. The ground began to shake, and before it cracked open, Hiccup whispered, "Oh no…"
A demon emerged, screaming in all it's frantic fury. The navy blue dragon was 90 percent tail, covered with sharp Nadder-like spines and serrated edges all around it. The tips of the spikes were a blood red, mimicking the color they would be if one got too close. The last ten percent of the dragon was mouth. A perfect 'O' shaped funnel that disappeared into darkness. Six rows of barbed teeth, rotating at a hundred miles an hour in opposite directions, filled the great maw, allowing for the beast to rip through dirt, rocks, and tree roots like they weren't even there. It's stark white eyes landed on the duo. It released a shrieking roar and then dove back into the ground, it's massive tail snapping like a whip behind it.
Pippin ran forward and called down the crevasse. "Skewer! Come back!"
Hiccup's voice was unusually high as he gasped out. "Pippin!"
He caught his breath then bit back, "You could have had any dragon in the archipelago. Deadly Nadder, Gronkle, Monstrous Nightmare, Changewing…heck, I would have been fine with a Typhoomerang or even a Thunderdrum! But you want a WHISPERING DEATH!?"
Pippin looked down, his foot scuffing in the dirt.
"And that's an adolescent! They don't have control over their jaw or spines! It's like an out of control saw blade! The only thing Whispering Deaths know…is killing! It's in the name! It's one of the most ferocious and dangerous dragons, ranked just under a Nightfury! Can you see why this is a bad idea?!"
Pippin looked up at him. "Too hard for you to train?"
That was low. "I have trained at least six Whispering Deaths in the last six years. Not to mention the Screaming Death."
Pippin's eyes widened. "What's a Screaming Death?"
Hiccup rolled his eyes. "The Screaming Death. It's five times the size of it's counterparts. It's a rare breed of Whispering Death that's all white with blood red eyes and eats islands."
"WHOA! How'd you do it?!"
"A story for another time, Pip." He looked down the hole. A sigh came from his lips followed by a small grin. "Now, we need to figure out a way to lead it out."
"You mean…you'll let me train it!?"
"Yes. After all, you already named it. Skewer? This'll be one for the book…" The rest of his sentence was cut off as a pair of arms wrapped around his neck like a vice. "Oh thank you dad! Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
He hugged him back, "Just promise me you'll be careful."
"I promise." He assured with a nod.
"How are we supposed to find it down here? Isn't this dangerous? I can't see a thing." Pippin whined.
"Patience. And we have to be quiet, if the Dragon know's we're down here, and gets agitated, I guarantee you he will escort us out. This is his territory."
"Then why are we down here instead of up there, waiting?"
"Because sunlight is their weakness. They will avoid it as much as possible. The first time I encountered a Whispering Death, your Uncle Fishlegs and I came down one of it's tunnels, just like this."
"Uncle Fishlegs? Really? I know he likes dragons…but this seems…"
"Snotlout pushed him in."
"Oh, that makes more sense."
"I will admit, that was not the most relaxing excursion I have been on."
"Ohh. No, I'm not feeling very calm either."
"Do you want to go back?"
"No way, Eostre! I want a dragon!"
"Okay, then we press on." He hushed him.
"But it's so dark!" He whispered back, harshly.
"Yes, I would have brought a lantern, if I had known we were going after a Whispering Death."
"I wanted to keep it a surprise!"
"And boy, was I surprised." Hiccup rolled his eyes. "Let's see. I might have a torch in the satchel." He dug through before he found the dowel and held it out. "Toothless, can you give—…oh Freya." He mumbled. "Hold on, there might be a flint." And he stuck the unlit torch between his teeth.
Suddenly it ignited, startling the two. "Oh, well that's—…" He stopped and gasped. One hand held the torch like a weapon while the other wrapped tightly around Pippin.
The Whispering Death was looking right at them.
"Dad, what are—…" Hiccup cut him off by cupping a hand over his mouth.
"Stay very still." He ordered.
The dragon swayed ever so slightly as it looked at them. There was no sign of aggression.
"Okay, I want you to throw the fish to him, as a gift."
"Yes, the one you've been carrying for the last three hours…" He looked down to his empty hands. "Where's the fish?"
"Oh…I left it on the surface."
The urge to smack his forehead was strong, but Hiccup was a patient man. "Okay. Well. Great."
"Don't you have some dragon nip? Can't we use that?"
"I do have nip, but Whispering Deaths are not effected by it."
The Whispering Death opened it's mouth ever so slightly. The whispering sound from its teeth became louder.
"Dad? Are we going to die?"
He patted Pippin's head. "No. He's watching us. If he hasn't blasted us out of his tunnel by now, I don't think he will. Just be very careful not to agitate him. I have another idea." Moving slowly, he stuck the torch in a bundle of tree roots so that he could have both hands free.
Pippin clutched the fabric of his father's pants, terrified of the razor sharp fangs that glittered in the dim light.
"Tell me about the first time you saw him."
"Uh…I saw him in the glen. I was troll hunting, and he popped out of the ground and scared me. I screamed, he screamed, I screamed some more, and he dove back into the ground. I didn't sleep for a week after that."
"And you still wanted to train him?"
"Well, after I thought about it…he seemed just as scared of me as I was of him. So I came back several times to see him."
"Ah, now I see. He's letting us be here because he recognizes you." He grabbed his son by his waist and lifted him to sit on his arm, he was now closer to the dragon's eyes. "Do you know the first rule of dragon training?"
"Training begins and ends with trust."
"Good. Now, he's showing us that he trusts us by not chasing us out. We must return it."
"Hold out your hand, but don't look at him."
Pippin whimpered, looking at the rows of teeth and spines. "Do I have to?"
"Yes, you absolutely do."
Tentatively, Pippin held his hand out and looked to his father. His hand, however, kept flinching back.
"Relax Pippin, you've got to show him you trust him."
"But what if…?"
"I've got you, and I'm watching. It'll be okay. Trust him."
Pippin bit his lip, but stretched his hand out a little further. Many moments passed before he felt a soft leathery texture on his palm. Carefully, the boy looked up to see the great beast bowing it's head, allowing him to pet it.
"Give him a little scratch."
The boy did so, and a rumble came from the dragon. Finally, Skewer looked up at the boy.
"Introduce yourself." Hiccup prompted.
"Uh…hello. My name is Pippin Perilous Haddock. Oh, and this is my dad. We're dragon trainers, and we want to be your friends."
The Whispering Death huffed air out his nose onto the hand that rested on his snout.
"Dad, he can't understand me."
"You'd be surprised how much dragons understand." He glanced over to the torch that the dragon had lit for them. He then set Pippin down.
"Are we going to ride him now?"
"Nooo." Hiccup grabbed his shoulder to stop him from trying to go behind the giant mouth. "The bond you've just established is just a temporary agreement. He won't eat us, and we won't hurt him."
"So, what do we do next?"
"Well, we have no gift for him, unless we want to get the fish and then start this all over again."
Pippin sneered at the idea.
"I thought so. Now, Whispering Deaths use their teeth like we use our hands. What they really like, is to have their teeth cleaned."
"Way ahead of you!" Pippin reached into his vest pocket and took out a boot brush. "I read that in the book of dragons."
Hiccup smirked and came down to his son's eye level. "Okay, smartypants. Think you can handle it?" He took a flask of water and wetted the brush just a little bit.
"Maybe." He provided a nervous smile.
"I'll be here the whole time." He assured. "Restate the bond you just made. Hold your hand up."
This time, Pippin was much more confident. Skewer nudged his hand. Encouraged, the boy scrubbed the brush over the very front teeth.
Skewer opened his mouth wider allowing for better access.
"There you go. He likes it!"
About a half an hour later, Pippin was on the last of the teeth, way in the far back of his mouth. Hiccup actually had to hold him around the waist so he could reach.
"There! All done!" Peregrin announced.
The Whispering Death purred in satisfaction, and Pippin scratched him under the chin.
"Do you like the name Skewer? Can I call you that?"
The dragon nudged him in reply.
"Dad! Dad, look! I trained my dragon!"
Hiccup beamed. "Yeah you did! Now, let's see if he'll carry us." He sided up to his son and held his hand out to the dragon. "How about it? Can you give us a ride home?"
Hiccup had probably ridden almost every type of dragon in his life. Some of them, like Hookfang, trusted him more then they trusted their own riders. He had even ridden a Gronckle upside down and backwards. But there's a first time for everything, and Hiccup was hoping this first time would also be the last. The Whispering Death preferred to travel underground, which was understandable, since it had an aversion to sunlight. But traveling underground was way different from flying. For one, it was pitch black, so they couldn't see where they were going. Rocks and dirt rained down on the riders as the dragon drilled through the ground. Hiccup quickly realized he would have to design a riding shield that his son could hide behind. For now, he would sacrifice himself.
The really strange part was the spiraling motion it made when it burrowed. The tail whipped around, knocking into the sides of the cave. Hiccup had to lay down in order to avoid hitting his head. Pippin was ducked behind the head of the creature, slightly protected at least.
"We're going up!" Pippin declared.
"How can you tell?"
"I have a feeling!"
Couldn't argue with that logic.
Sure enough, only a few seconds later, and the Whispering Death burst from the ground right in the middle of the town. The meager buildings shadowed it from the sunlight, so it didn't return. Instead, however, the village people began screaming in terror.
Luckily, Hiccup hopped from Skewer quickly and restored order. "It's trained! It's trained!" He shouted.
Pippin was laughing horrendously from the dragon's back, hanging onto spikes from it's head. At the sound, the crowd started to simmer down and then dismissed themselves from the situation.
Skewer slithered the rest of the way out of his hole and took refuge in the shade of a porch. Hiccup surveyed the damage with a miffed frown. "I'm going to hear about this."
"Oh, look at that."
Stoick, followed by Astrid and Mwaba came into the square, missing the Whispering Death hiding.
"What on earth is going on!? What's with all the screaming?"
"Oh…it's just a Whispering Death."
Stoick looked grim. "We haven't had one on Berk since the Screaming Death incident."
"Well, looks like one moved in."
Astrid stepped in. "Where's Pippin?"
"Playing with it."
Everyone stopped. Then the blonde asked in a very dark voice. "What?"
Hiccup waved to his son, and the duo slithered over. Pippin dismounted, but kept a hand on Skewer's side for good measure. Then his father began, "This is Skewer. Pippin's dragon."
Stoick and Mwaba looked impressed, but Astrid was livid. "A Whispering Death!?"
"Do you know how dangerous those things are?!"
"Actually, I do."
"And you let our son train one?!"
"I think we've covered this."
"Astrid, I was with him the whole time. Skewer's a good dragon. I think, he may be different from the ones we normally see. They have a bond. Don't make him break it."
She looked to the boy to see him giving her puppy-dog eyes. "Ugh! Okay! But if that thing burrows under the house and makes it collapse, you are grounded until it's fixed, do you hear me!?"
"Are you sure you'll be okay while I'm gone?" Hiccup asked as he secured the final pack on Toothless' saddle.
Astrid rolled her eyes for the umpteenth time. "Positive. Besides, you've been gone longer amounts of time."
"But I wasn't leaving a sick wife behind."
"Hiccup, I'm telling you, I'm fine! Great actually!"
"Yes! And if you ask me again, I'll punch you, right in the nose."
"Got it." Then he looked to Pippin who was idly standing by. "And you be good for her, and everyone else, you got it?"
"You have to keep yourself busy training. When I come back, I expect to see some great progress."
"Oh, you will!"
"Glad to hear it." With that, he ruffled his hair and then mounted Toothless. "I'll be back in two weeks."
"See you then." Astrid smirked. She stood on her tiptoes and he leaned down until their lips met.
"Until then, I am, as I was and ever will be, yours."
As Toothless took off into the sky, Astrid could tell that this was going to be a very long two weeks, as she already missed him. She was okay, as she told him, but there was more to it than that. She had wanted to tell him, so badly, but this conference with the Bogs was very important, and she couldn't have him distracted. Idly, she touched her slightly swelled stomach.
It was time for a new responsibility.
So, you're probably wondering what happens next. Well, I've had many people ask if there's going to be a sequel.
The answer is no.
BUT. It is because I have six or seven different ideas that all want to go up. I already have five chapters written for my next fic, Roses and Lilies, which will be posted next tuesday. Basically, if you follow me, you'll be set on fics for the next year or so.
One more thing before I go. Please, what was your favorite part?